Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for November 2019

Double Duty

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This is becoming an all too frequent unwelcome occurrence. We had another tree succumb to high winds. This time it wasn’t in the woods, but right along the driveway during last Wednesday’s storm. When the look of winter arrived with a blast of 8 inches of heavy, wet blowing snow, it forced us into the double duty of cutting up the big pine across the driveway before I could plow.

Wind gusts were reaching 40 mph which turned out to be too much for the roots to hold that big beast.

Cyndie asked if we should use it for this year’s Christmas tree. I probably did a poor job of hiding my exasperation when I said she could if she was able to lift it.

Once we were in the middle of cutting it up and she discovered how big it really was, she understood my reluctance.

After I cut the trunk about halfway up, she pondered taking just the top portion. Again, I said that would be fine if she could lift it, knowing full well it was still too much tree.

Fortunately, the very top had split into two competing leaders, which made it an unappealing option when we reached a size that would be barely manageable.

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I offered her the alternative option of saving boughs for making a wreath or other decorative holiday arrangements. That met with her approval. No sense having all that wonderful pine scent going to waste.

Of course, this being a healthy live tree when it was pushed over, there was plenty of fresh, sticky sap to make a wonderful mess of her gloves and everything else around, including her hair by the time she was done moving things around.

An hour and a half later, I was able to start the plowing process, which was no picnic due to the stickiness of the snow. It kept sticking to the plow blade and hindered the winch’s ability to lift the blade. This being the first snowplowing of the season, I needed to establish an extra width by pushing the edges well past the end of the pavement to allow space for subsequent snow events.

I was moderately successful. We may have an opportunity to test this by tomorrow as we are due to get another comparable blast of wind and snow tonight.

Something tells me this is going to feel like a very long winter. Hopefully, I won’t be facing the double duty of lumberjack and plow driver all at the same time again.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2019 at 10:26 am

Guest Guess

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My Thanksgiving was spent with my sister, Judy’s family, the Priebe’s, and along with the fabulous food and excellent jigsaw puzzle fun, I came home with gifts! I received Judy’s famous home-crafted dishcloths and scrubbies, leftover roasted vegetables (thanks, Tricia!) and wild rice, and last but not least, a guest submission for my image guessing game.

Thank you to Scott for providing an image that completely stumped me. We were overdue for another round of the image brain-teaser.

It’s simple to play. All you need to do is guess what is depicted in the image below.

Do you trust your first impression, or ponder the possibilities? Can you hold off long enough to wait for the answer to come to you, or will you look for the solution right away?

You are in charge, but it is strongly recommended you come up with some kind of guess before clicking on the image to find out what this could possibly be. Guess your best, and enjoy the mental exercise! What do you see?

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Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

Endlessly Thankful

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

Other View

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‘Twas the day before the US Thanksgiving, and I’m already home from work. Why? SNOW DAY! Hello, to the first big snow event of this season. All day long yesterday the specter of this looming winter storm hung heavy in the air at the day-job. The dramatic potential was all over the news as the weather service warning covered a multitude of states across the heartland of our country for the day before the national holiday.

Staff started making decisions based on the likelihood of the coming weather disruption, which meant moving some actions up a day and delaying others until next week. Compounding anxiety over the weather was a moderate epidemic of ill health making its way through the workplace.

More than one person decided in advance to stay home today, myself included.

In the hour-long commute home yesterday afternoon, I vacillated between an impression from the heavy gray sky of near-immediacy for the flakes to start falling, compared to another view where the clouds were thin and it seemed almost sunny. The differing views noticeably altered my mindset.

It reminded me of a discussion earlier in the day over the impact our minds have over framing how were are feeling when “under the weather” with illness. Personally, I am inclined to whimper at home with Cyndie when I get sick, lamenting over how critically ill I must certainly be, despite my belief that mentally willing myself to feel better holds more power to improve conditions for me, as well as those around me.

All that needs to happen is a change in how I view things. Imagine if citizens would allow themselves an open mind to view societal issues from an alternate perspective to see how they fit into an ethical and loving framework. What would it be like to be able to engage in a constructively curious dialog with someone who holds an opposing view about important issues?

Conversely, think about how we constrict ourselves when confining our news and information feeds to a narrow array of sources backed by specific corporate interests. No single view holds exclusive rights to absolute correctness.

The weather, our health, the economy, our democracy… all of these look different depending on how we view them.

We would all do better if more people made an honest effort to view these issues from a loving perspective that is not based on fear.

Today, I am going to view all the snow that is falling with an attitude of awe for the transforming beauty it brings to our otherwise barren forest landscapes. I’ll also be viewing the snow from the seat of our Grizzly ATV while pushing it off and away from our driveway.

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter at Wintervale…

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Leo Live

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Wow. Really wow. Last night, Cyndie and I met her parents downtown in Minneapolis for a wonderful dinner at Sanctuary restaurant across the street from the Guthrie Theater, followed by a fantastic night of live music on the Wurtele Thrust Stage.

I knew we were going to see headliner Leo Kottke, but the special guest warmup duo of music legends Peter Asher and Albert Lee was a fabulous unexpected bonus.

The Guthrie asked that no pictures be taken during the performance, so I snapped a shot of the setup for Peter and Albert in front of the Scrooge-ly scenery for “A Christmas Carol” before they came out.

Both Peter and Albert did a pleasing job of sharing tales from their storied past in the music biz to supplant their warm acoustic versions of classic songs from The Everly Brothers and Elvis, as well as several of their own. They offered a fair amount of name dropping from their musical past, not the least of which included Paul McCartney, whom Peter shared living space with for a couple of years.

Then it was Leo’s turn. Stagehands had removed all the gear except for one chair and a couple of microphones. Leo doesn’t even use guitar stands. He came on stage with a guitar in each hand, laid one on its side on the floor by his chair and started right into “Pamela Brown.”

His quirky humor and somewhat convoluted stories were thoroughly entertaining and helped to convey a feeling that we were just hanging out with him in a far less public social setting. His complicated fretwork was as intimidating and inspiring as ever.

I caught myself grinning all evening long.

It really was “Wow.”

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2019 at 7:00 am

Occasional Lapse

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Despite any perception my blogging may lend to the contrary, the path I am on in a quest toward optimal health in mind, body, and soul is not one of unwavering perfection. It is not uncharacteristic of me to fail to live up to my own expectations at random intervals along the lifetime trek of intending to make healthy choices.

The secret to success hides in one very simple and obvious step. Never let an occasional lapse permanently redirect focus away from the primary long-term goal.

In an exercise toward teaching by example, I am sharing today’s post for your reference, but I am really writing this message to myself. I need to take heed of this:

It is okay that I failed miserably on Saturday to control my impulse to eat too much Chex mix. Also, overindulging on the arguably best blueberry scones Cyndie has ever baked, in addition to the generous serving of her banana cake with homemade dark chocolate ganache frosting, and then, come dinner time, agreeing with Cyndie that neither of us felt hungry enough for a meal.

An hour later, giggling like kids left unsupervised, we decided to have a bowl of ice cream as our dinner, instead. Oh, so despicably decadent.

Does this mean I have given up on striving to limit my daily dose of added sugar to World Health Organization suggested levels? No, it does not.

It means I ate more carbs than I should for one day, despite my goal to do otherwise. That’s all.

By the next day, I was back on track measuring my servings to monitor my intake.

Luckily, I have a new taste treat to satisfy cravings on the cereal front, thanks to Cyndie’s willingness to explore the grocery shelves for lower sugar options for me.

Even though it was Gustola Granola I was gushing over a month ago, my desire for variety drives me to seek alternatives to exclusively eating granola for breakfast during the week. Today’s cereal-crush is Heritage Flakes® from Nature’s Path Foods.

It’s got millet! Say no more. I have a thing for millet.

Oh heck, I will say more. Heritage Flakes cereal has only 5 grams of added sugar in a serving size of 1 cup! That’s impressive. I generally need to limit my serving sizes to 1/4 cup of most cereals I like in order to stay close to 5 grams.

That doesn’t mean these flakes don’t have a sweetness to them, though, but it’s a more satisfying sweet coming from the multiple grains. That wonderful flavor is then bolstered by a fantastic crunchiness that really helps to set this cereal apart from most others.

With that, I will say, “Onward toward optimal health,” regardless my occasional temporary lapse!

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Not Christmas

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Not yet. Don’t fall for it. Everyone is not buying each other new cars to put a ribbon on for Christmas. If you happen to pay any attention to the barrage of commercials on broadcast television lately, that is an unmistakable impression advertisers and auto dealers are attempting to convey.

That, along with the perception of needing to stress over an increasingly oppressive societal pressure to outdo all of history by striving in October and November to come up with a better gift than ever before on an ever-earlier date for that one holiday near the end of December.

Somewhere I dream there are people starting a new trend of cultivating a mindset of purposely NOT seeking to buy more things, despite the onslaught of sales pitches bombarding us at every turn.

Maybe it could also include a focus on striving to full-heartedly love all others each and every day throughout the entire year.

Imagine us all exchanging a ubiquitous greeting of “Happy Between Holidays!”

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Seeing Orange

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This morning the firearm deer hunting season opened in Wisconsin. The entire month of November echos with gunshots as hunters engage in some preseason shooting practice and adjustments of their aiming sights. Those sounds rarely happen earlier than sunrise, nor all around us at the same time, so this morning is notably different.

Locally, the hunt legally commenced at ten minutes before 7:00. I heard the first shot at 6:55. The culling of our deer herds is underway. I’d like to imagine it as some of our neighbors now being blessed with food to survive the winter, but I know that isn’t the present reality.

Earlier this week, our neighbor whose family owned much of the land around us, including our twenty acres, called to ask permission to hunt on our property this year. He started by asking what we were doing up here without horses anymore. It occurred to me that he never specifically asked to hunt on our property when we had horses.

The very first time we met him after moving in, he opened the visit by asking in the form of a statement, “You aren’t going to post the property no hunting.” ?

Welcome, neighbor! That was a fine ‘how do you do?’ I remember needing to pause to determine he meant it as a question.

Luckily, both Cyndie and I have a pretty good sense of reading intent and suspended our first impressions, allowing him time to feel comfortable and to get to know us as non-threatening to his way of life. In the seven years since that day, we have had nothing but positive interactions with him. Despite his ever-present initial gruffness, he has always been incredibly generous with helping us in times of need.

There was no way I felt a need to deny him the chance to hunt where he always had before just because we now owned it. Such was the case this week when, knowing there were no horses to disturb, he asked permission to enter our land to hunt deer.

Orange clothes are the fashion fad of the day. Cyndie donned a bright orange vest and put one on Delilah for their morning walk, which was altered to avoid our woods. Down the driveway and around the field to the north and back to the barn to open the chicken door on the coop.

In that amount of time, they heard two gunshots from our neighbor to the south, followed by about eight other reports from the distance around us.

Moments ago, Delilah broke out in a flourish of alert barking at the window in the sunroom, which normally means a squirrel (or squirrels –the other day there were six hopping around in the grass just outside). This time it was a bright orange person walking through the woods owned by our neighbors to the north.

“Good dog!”

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Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

Lost Limb

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Well, just as I’d hoped, that unlikely balanced broken treetop has come down on its own in the wind. At least, that’s what we assume happened. I have no proof because we haven’t been able to find it again. While that horizontal segment was resting on the fracture point it was hard to miss. The straight flat line it created stood out like a sore thumb within the canopy of random vertical branches around it.

As soon as we discovered the horizontal segment was no longer up there, I started looking for the “topped” stub that should have remained. Can’t find it.

I’ve looked twice. It’s possible the bottom half has now toppled, as well, but there wasn’t obvious evidence of a newly fallen tree, either.

My next plan is to bring the photo with me to see if I can identify the trees around the trunk in question.

No matter how many times we walk our woods, the constant changes keep us confused about which tipped trees are new and which are ones we’ve already seen.

Jumping to another subject, one we would prefer disappeared on us… In the early morning darkness yesterday, Cyndie was in the barn getting feed for the chickens. She was going to put out a food pan under the overhang and flipped on the light before opening the door.

That must have startled the skunk that was out there, because when she opened the door to find Pepé Le Pew about a foot away, it blinked at her in confusion, giving her time to hastily retreat and close the door.

By the time she gathered her courage to open the top half of the door to see if a photo would be possible, the skunk had already disappeared.

I would like to find that mysterious missing limb, but I really don’t want to find that skunk again.

What do you think the odds are that Le Pew was making a one-time visit on the way to somewhere else?

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Written by johnwhays

November 22, 2019 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Blasted Grill

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For the amount of time I am stuck commuting on Interstate freeways, I should be grateful for the majority of hours I sneak by incident-free. My greatest challenge has been battling fatigue on the drive home in the afternoons. Beyond that, the number of times I have gotten caught in a backup caused by a crash or bad weather in the six years I’ve been commuting from Wisconsin can be counted on one hand.

I’ve rarely even witnessed incidents involving other vehicles occurring around me. I credit much of this good fortune to the off-peak hours I am usually on the road. My early morning departures did lead to a side-impact from a deer that got up close and personal with my driver-side door a year and a half ago, but overall the hazards of early-hours travel are offset by benefits of less actual traffic.

Yesterday morning, my luck ran out in the reduced visibility of early darkness when a pickup truck in front of me ran over a large, flat piece of debris that kicked up into the air so that it slammed into my grill at full freeway speed. In the split second available to consider my situation, I hoped it was mostly harmless light plastic because impact was inevitable.

By the sound it made, I knew it wasn’t light and I was immediately relieved that it had found the grill and not the hood or windshield in front of my face.

There was nowhere convenient to pull over and it was still completely dark outside so I simply continued the drive to work, arriving long after I’d already forgotten the incident had even happened. I walked inside, oblivious.

It wasn’t until I went back outside after the sun had come up, looking for the newspaper that hadn’t been delivered (again), that I suddenly remembered the incident and took time to inspect for damages.

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Aww HECK! The license plate frame (not my real numbers), the grill, and the plastic of the main front cracked and chipped!

On the way home from work, I stopped for a damage estimate and learned the headlight assembly was busted up, too. Do you know how expensive the new-fangled LED headlights that can shine around corners are? This one is almost $900.

I’m glad we saved so much money by fixing the deck ourselves this fall. Some of those savings will now be needed to pay the insurance deductible for auto body repair.

I’m a little ashamed to be whining about such luxury problems. At least I have a new car that will hold value if repairs are maintained. I also have money to afford the expense, even though that is not how I prefer to be spending it. I am able to sacrifice hours from the day-job to deal with the appointment of dropping the car off in 6 weeks and picking up a rental for the 4-days minimum to complete the repairs. I have insurance that includes coverage for rental car expenses.

I am paying attention to being privileged enough that this is what I’m inclined to whine about right now.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2019 at 7:00 am