Relative Something

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

Archive for July 2020

Same Night

leave a comment »

I am so lucky that Cyndie offers me pictures she took and allows me to post them here. She created some wonderful art out of two very different sky views on Wednesday night. I’m jealous. Her percentages for photographic success are much higher than mine lately.

It was a beautiful evening, but she has taken it to the next level with this combination. They look like paintings.




We are so blessed to have access to such incredible views every night.



Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Everything

with 4 comments

What really gets to me is this: everything! I mean, one minute the threat du jour is murder hornets and the next it’s not. Really. Are they a thing, or not? Can someone just make up their minds on this?

Oh, let’s start playing professional sports games again, except for the teams with too many players testing positive for coronavirus. They can go on quarantine. Those who play can just be careful and take appropriate precautions, except for the baseball teams that opt to do a bench-clearing brawl.

Have you sneezed into your facemask yet? Lovely. Just lovely.

Whatever happened to ethics commissions? Are they still a thing? I heard some politicians don’t even release their tax returns anymore so the public has no idea where financial improprieties may be happening. I guess nothing matters anymore. We can all do whatever we want. Except if you are black, or poor, or an immigrant or your mere presence causes discomfort to small-minded people who have one specific narrow view of how the world should conform to their perceptions.

It’s no wonder this video his so perfect for everything we are facing this year.

How’d that distance learning go for you last spring? It’s a good thing the schools will have a back-to-school plan all worked out by fall so parents don’t have to worry about …everything associated with having school-aged children during a pandemic.

For that matter, everyone should spend a little time with Julie Nolke and her explanation to herself about the pandemic. It’s only been viewed almost 12 million times since April.

I admit I’ve watched it over and over. How does she perform this scene so convincingly? Probably just riffing off the other actor.

Why do white supremacists get so angry when they see BLM protests? Can’t they just feel sorry for other people who disagree with their racism? I mean, if they truly are superior, can’t they just pity the rest of us?

I tend to feel sad and maybe a notion of pity for people who profess their allegiance to hate groups.

In contrast to that, I am feeling a certain sense of outrage over the systemic strangling of our US Postal Services and the abrupt mid-pandemic rerouting of coronavirus data reporting away from the CDC to a private technology firm. It happens right in front of everyone’s noses. A few news stories mention the audaciousness of the questionable actions, but that’s about it. Oh well. That happened.

Why do there never seem to be any consequences for the craziness that flies at us faster than we can drink it all in?

Maybe in the end we will discover the antidote for coronavirus IS the murder hornets.

I want to write a song like the one above that elementary music teacher, Liz of makeshift.macaroni  did.

About everything.



Don’t Stop

leave a comment »

Whether it’s depression-related struggles or simply one of life’s difficult challenges, there is a well-known saying about going through hell: Don’t stop; keep going.

The changes and complications of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic this year, stirred in with an unprecedented series of hassles unraveling my usual activities at the day-job, have been making an impression which holds certain similarities to the concept of hell.

I’m working hard to focus on the practice of not stopping. Despite umpteen repetitions of troubleshooting exercises that have repeatedly produced mixed results alternating between success and failure, I have tried Einstein’s definition of insanity so many times lately that I am growing a little concerned about the clarity of my thinking. (Insanity as: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.)

Luckily, I have a pretty good antidote in the landscape of Wintervale that helps inspire me to keep going.

I’m not gonna stop.



Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Holding Out

leave a comment »

Turns out, our adult Golden Laced Wyandotte layer hen has been holding out on us. Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom, Marie, along with Sara and Althea, stopped by to see the new chicks on their way home from the lake place. While they were here, the group took a stroll to find the three adult hens free-ranging away on the property.

When they heard the Wyandotte cooing in a thicket of growth, closer inspection revealed she was sitting on a batch of seven eggs!

Why that little stinker.

When I got home and Cyndie shared some pictures of the scene with me, the thing that stood out more than the eggs was the appearance of poison ivy leaves around the spot.

That chicken really doesn’t seem to want us to take her eggs.

For that matter, I suddenly have very little interest in handling that hen! Her feathers are probably covered in poison ivy oils. I start to feel phantom itches all over just thinking about it, and I didn’t even touch any of the hens or eggs yesterday.

I touched a lot of cute little “henlets,” though.

Whose idea was it to allow our chickens to free-range around here, anyway? A fenced run off the coop would be a lot simpler than all the risks due to predators and the hens’ creativity with laying locations.

Speaking of predators, I believe there is now one less fox we need to worry about. Yesterday morning, just as I turned off our street on the way to work at the crack of dawn, I saw a roadkill fox in the oncoming lane.

I’m a little surprised no other marauders discovered the pile of eggs free for the taking from the ground in the last week. Maybe that bodes well for the chances of continued good luck for the last three surviving hens from our 2018 batch.

If it weren’t for the occasional random incursions of passing bands of coyotes, our regular number of free-ranging adults might increase from the usual three that we always end up with toward the end of their productive egg-laying years.

When we were in this same situation two years ago, with 3 adults and a new brood of twelve young-uns that we expected would need merging together, the adults all got taken by a fox over a series of a few days. Sad as that was, it saved us the hassle of introducing the different aged birds to each other.

This time, I may need to actually follow through on a plan to remodel the inside of the coop to add a barrier that will provide shared-but-segregated accommodations for some period of introduction.

We never run out of new things to learn around here. Particularly, how to outsmart a hen that decides she’s too good for the silly nest boxes in the coop for laying her precious eggs.



Counted Wrong

leave a comment »

I thought Cyndie had counted the chicks when they first arrived and she thought I had. Somehow, we had it in both our minds that we had received 14 chicks. Yesterday, while Cyndie was cleaning the brooder she commented that the chicks had grown so active, she needed to count to make sure one of them didn’t get rolled up in the paper she was removing.

Since one chick had died the first day, we were under the impression there were 13 chicks remaining. As she rolled up the paper, I counted chicks.

“1, 2, 3, …8, …12.”


“I count twelve.”

Poor Cyndie. She became very stressed over a concern she might have rolled up a chick. I couldn’t imagine a way we would have unknowingly lost another chick, so I said we should go back and review our pictures to confirm the original count.

Sure enough, we had gotten the count wrong from the very start.


We have twelve chicks, one of which continues to lag significantly in her development.

That’s 12, …with photographic proof.

But who’s counting?



Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Eleven Days

leave a comment »

Check out this video clip from yesterday and see if you can detect the change of a few days’ growth:


In the background of the audio of that clip, you can hear one of the three remaining adult hens making a racket, probably announcing she laid an egg or seeking to reconnect with the other two after having just done so.

The one Barnevelder chick who was lagging in growth has been receiving special support from Cyndie in hopes of boosting it over the hump of disadvantage it would otherwise face. Simply providing extra hydration quickly results in more energy and more interest in eating. We are happy whenever we see evidence the little one chooses to eat on her own or pushes back at others as often as they push her away.

As long as she keeps improving, we’ll keep giving her support to help her along.

When she settles down to nap, which they still all do with relative frequency, others snuggle up with her nicely until some doofus walks all over everyone and wakes the whole bunch. I snapped the photo above because they were all laying together with heads down, but just my motion to move in for the snapshot caused them to pick up their heads again.

They are doing a lot more flapping of wings and jumping up on things.

I’m almost ready to stop calling them chicks.

They’re becoming little “henlets.”



Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

Night Sky

leave a comment »

Last week, Cyndie and I wandered down the driveway to the high spot beside the hayfield about a half-hour after the sunset to watch the stars come out. We were seeking to view the comet, Neowise as it appeared to our northwest. It was the time of night when the mosquitos were thrilled to welcome our presence.

For that reason alone, I chose to remain standing (and walking back and forth) on the pavement instead of stirring up any additional flying terrorists from the fields on either side.

As the duskiness progressed, I struggled to perceive stars that Cyndie was noticing. The first spot of light I picked out was the planet Jupiter according to the night sky app on my phone. I was surprised about how long it seemed to take for the stars to appear even though we enjoy a luxury of having very little in the way of local nighttime light pollution.

It quickly became apparent to me that my peripheral vision was picking up more specific starlight than my direct gaze. That became my trick to spot Neowise before Cyndie did, just about a full hour after sunset.

It was the tail of the comet that my off-center vision detected. It stood out uniquely compared to the individual dots of light from stars. Once we knew exactly where to look, our binoculars provided valuable magnification to fully appreciate the view of Neowise.

By the time it showed up, we’d been staring at the sky so long my neck was tired, my back and ears were over-stimulated by mosquito irritations, and my eyes wanted to be asleep, so we didn’t linger long enough for the view to glow with adequate visibility for a photograph.

The reward of having looked directly at something passing through our inner solar system which wouldn’t return for many lifetimes (estimated 6,766 years from now) was plenty.

I was ready for bed.



Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2020 at 10:16 am

Eight Days

with 2 comments

Yesterday, our chicks reached the mighty age of eight days old. I recorded another video for Judy.


I’m afraid there is one chick who has not kept up the pace of growth with the rest of the brood and that may spell doom for her, in terms of longevity. Otherwise, the rest are exercising their little wings and sprinting about, eating and drinking with gusto, and appear to be having a rollicking good time with their present confines.

We are not counting the eggs that they will eventually produce yet, but we are feeling hopeful for their chances of growing to the next level.

Oh, they grow up so fast.



Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

Star Baker

leave a comment »

This week’s star baker on the Wintervale Baking Show is, Cyndie!

She nailed the technical challenge and remembered to proof the dough and chose a perfect combination of organic berry flavors for fillings.

The White Pine Berry Farm called again, this time with a request for full pies. Cyndie was more than happy to oblige and I was the beneficiary of testing tastes. Try as I might, I always fall ridiculously short of copying the expert critiquing commentary Paul Hollywood dishes out on The Great British Baking Show.

I think it’s my lack of that accent.

That, and I have a vested interest in preserving our marriage.

My beloved multitasked caring for her 13 [Hah! Baker’s dozen!] baby chicks in the brooder down at the barn throughout the day while also flinging flour, measuring butter, and exercising the oven door hinge back in the kitchen.

Oh, and throw in serving up parmesan chicken for dinner, during which we checked out the local PBS rebroadcast of the season 3 quarterfinals of the GBBS.

It sounds exhausting, but she is not the only one working hard around here. I had to drop everything I was doing after dinner last night just so I could join her in the kitchen to test samples of her lemon-blueberry, and the strawberry crumble pies.

“Take that!” mister precisely measured reduced-sugar diet guy.



Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Wagon Wheels

with 4 comments

All these years, I’ve been walking past them. Mounted as handrails on either side of the steps to our front door are two wagon wheels.

They don’t actually make for great handrails, so I’ve never been all that enamored with them. In fact, I suspected they were simply replicas. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never really looked at these wheels closely, despite shoveling snow around them every winter.

Last week, when Matthew was here sealing the logs of our house, he pointed out that the wheels deserved some attention, too, and that they were simply screwed into the steps with three lag bolts each. He advised I remove them to sand each one down and put a couple coats of sealer on them myself.

So, I removed them.

It didn’t take long for me to discover these are REAL wagon wheels. Given the fantastic discoveries this past February that three families of my ancestors lived just about ten miles south of here in the 1860s-70s, and that my 2nd-great-grandfather, Stephen W. Hays was a wagon maker who managed a factory that manufactured wheels… having my hands on these beautiful relics is synchronous to an exponential degree for me.

I doubt it would be possible to verify the provenance of these wagon wheels, but I’m happy to just marvel over the weird coincidence of my working on these genuine wheels, given all I’ve learned about what was happening here 150-years ago that my ancestors’ hands were involved in creating.

I’ve got a second coat of sealer to apply and then I will remount these two to the front steps, and I will never walk past them again with the same cavalier regard as I had before.

Of all the features to find mounted on the front steps of a house we bought while entirely clueless about the history of the region and my ancestors’ contributions to it… It just boggles my mind.



Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2020 at 6:00 am