Relative Something

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

Archive for October 2021

Bad Chemistry

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I am no chemist, but I know what transpired and the results were annoying and stinky, to say the least. This story starts in the dry days of the past summer. Days that became weeks of dry earth and high heat.

Wait, the story needs to start long before that. Skip all the way back to when we first got horses on this property in 2013. The first years we were here were rather wet ones. Put horses on wet ground and what do you get? Mud. Lots and lots of mud.

In the early years, there were several times when we were forced to put up a temporary fence around part of the gravel between the barn and hay shed so the horses could spend a little time off the mud.

The remedy to that mess came in the form of limestone screenings. Our local excavator suggested the crushed and screened limestone as a solution to the slippery mud. It worked brilliantly, although our slopes lend to a fair amount of erosion of the screenings during heavy rains.

The excavator had a solution for that, too. Keep an extra pile of lime screenings on hand to fill in the ravines. It actually worked for us. The weight of horses packs the surface and the hot sun bakes it to a solid surface that keeps the horses out of the mud.

The only downside I’ve seen is the dustiness of the screenings as a ground cover. Horses repeatedly stomp their feet to shake off flies and flies are relentless, so there is a non-stop kicking up of dust.

Anyone who lives down a gravel road knows about dust kicked up when the road is dry. One trick used to control dusty gravel roads is magnesium chloride. It will absorb moisture and leave the road looking a little damp.

What the heck. We gave it a try. Lo and behold, it reduced the dust the horses were kicking up and breathing under the barn overhang.

Jump forward to this past summer when it was hot and dry for weeks and Cyndie found herself spreading more and more magnesium chloride crystals in the area around the overhang. Maybe we used too much.

Last week we received some solid rain at an even rate for many hours at a time that was more than we’ve seen for months. The limestone screenings just beyond the overhang turned into a mare-urine enhanced stinky slurry of muddy, slippery limestone mush.

I wish we could magically extract the magnesium chloride, but lacking the chemistry knowledge of what substance might absorb those molecules, I opted for covering it with more limestone. It’ll either provide more material for the mush or it will bury the stinky stuff and get packed by the horses as the ground dries and hopefully will last until the next big wet spell.

That leads to the next complication as the temperature drops. When it becomes dangerously icy in the winter, magnesium chloride crystals work well to melt the ice around that sloping area.

Maybe I need to create a concoction of two parts limestone screening and one part magnesium chloride for ice melt to avoid ending up with more magnesium than lime.

The bad chemistry is actually a mixture of horses, big slopes, and slippery surfaces. There are only two of those three that we would seek to eliminate in this case.

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More Rocks

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Shortly after writing that we never have enough rocks, we have kicked it up a notch and collected even more from our woods. Yesterday, our friends Pam and John came out to help us heft many small boulders to enhance our ever-improving labyrinth. The endearingly named Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth was the focus of the day as we strove to replace many of the plaster faux rocks we originally used during the design of the pathway outlines.

When we arrived on this property there were a surprisingly large number of the manufactured rocks stored on a pallet, likely surplus material from construction of the house and shop/garage. We saw no need for continued storage, so took advantage of the rocky appearance to form much of the labyrinth’s path.

Now that we are striving to replace them with real rocks, it is a surprise to us how many there are. I have no recollection of using so many plaster flat-sided faux rocks.

After we paused for lunch and our friends needed to depart, Cyndie and I wandered down to put away the last wheelbarrow and found ourselves drawn to move just a few more rocks while the weather was nice. About six loads later, we had more than enough to occupy the rest of our day placing them around the circuitous path.

During a pause which found me seated on one of the center circle boulders, I thought to take a picture of the view from the inside out.

Most images we have taken are looking in from the outside.

I did a little rearranging of our small stones and petrified wood specimens that grace the center of the labyrinth dominated by the original boulders and then took more pictures.

It was energizing to linger in that space after the day with friends and our tending to the enhancement of the pathway borders.

One obvious takeaway from the day: we will never have enough rocks.

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2021 at 9:36 am

Don’t Crash

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As one who commutes many miles to the day-job, I have a request to all other drivers. More than a request actually. Call it a plea.

Please don’t crash.

Simple as that. Just don’t.

Beyond the risk of personal injury and hassles of damage to your vehicle, crashes create traffic jams. I hate traffic jams.

On Wednesday, there was a road closure outside River Falls that forced a detour to unfamiliar territory because of a crash. Crunched cars, a battalion of emergency vehicles, and I had to make a left turn where I wanted to go straight.

Yesterday, I checked the traffic congestion before leaving work and saw that a crash had backed up progress so much I needed to pick an alternate route. Too bad someone crashed on my second option just moments before I arrived. Our little traffic jam needed to open a lane for a fire engine responding to the incident.

Stop crashing, you guys!

The recent rash of crashes helps me to recognize how much luck I have had for quite some time that traffic jams haven’t been an issue for me. There is one section of construction that creates a slowdown but people have done pretty well at executing the zipper merge where lanes get reduced from four to two.

Not crashing is laudable.

My only other idea would be to find a way to no longer need to commute.

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Written by johnwhays

October 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

Disinformation Averse

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I assume that no one intends to become misinformed but it sure seems like there are a lot of people with a propensity to gobble up disinformation like it was candy. Speaking of candy, has it become universally recognized yet that early health campaigns by the sugar industry weren’t on the up and up when it came to weight gain?

In the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat…

Those of us (me) at Relative Something do our (my) best to avoid spreading false information and always avoid using algorithms to direct my most outrageous posts to the forefront. There are no angry emoji’s added to trigger more engagement and keep eyes on these pages for the sole purpose of gorging on profits.

While I will admit to occasionally enhancing reality when it comes to tales involving our amazing wonderdog, Delilah, I strive to describe our Wintervale adventures with utmost accuracy.

Like that giant tree that slammed to the ground across one of our trails yesterday.

It must have made an enormous crashing sound that probably worried our neighbors, if any of them were out. I love that Cyndie described the location as “cow corner” when she texted me the photo. This is near the one corner of our property where four different owners’ fence lines meet and the pasture diagonal to our land is home to a good-sized herd of cows.

I try not to get tangled in the ongoing, always see-sawing debates over whether coffee is good or bad for health, or eating eggs every day, or one glass of red wine, or reading in low light or on a lighted mobile device. Should gerrymandering be allowed or not? Is pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps really a viable fix for what ails us? Does hypocrisy in a politician reveal a flaw in their trustworthiness? Is the uncontrolled urge to scroll social media apps detrimental to our healthy productivity?

It all depends on who is financing the research, no?

If U.S. lawmakers somehow actually succeed in getting our wealthy citizens to pay a reasonable share of taxes, will it be rich people who have the greatest say in where the funds will be used?

Luckily, there is no confusion about the logic of vaccinating or the risks of uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels for decades on end.

Those topics are totally disinformation averse. Yeah, no.  -_-

You can trust me to be genuine because I know how to make things up that don’t bring me political power or financial gain.

Unbelievable, I know. Like how I needed to risk my fingers prying Delilah’s jaw open to force her to give up the shard of bone she found from what was left of that deer leg as we were about to depart from the lake. Suddenly my hands –all fingers intact– were covered with a stink that triggers a gag reflex and the water had just been shut off in the cabin.

Some things I write actually happened.

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Never Enough

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There are a lot of ways that Cyndie and I are wonderfully compatible, and near the top of the list should be our shared appreciation/fascination with rocks. We both agree that you can never have enough rocks. Toward that end, yesterday Cyndie went into our woods where our newly cut trails had uncovered old piles of fieldstone and hauled a bunch out for use in the labyrinth.

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Our farmer neighbors think we are weird to hold their old rock piles in such high regard.

Cyndie shared a sweet story from her day. When she dumped one load of stones it made a loud clatter that caught the attention of our closest neighbor who was out trimming branches near his deer stand. He called out to her to ask if she was okay. I’m sure from his location it could have sounded like quite a crash.

It’s very comforting to know neighbors watch out for each other here.

These perfect specimens will get placed around the labyrinth pathways to build up the existing borders and allow removal of more of the artificial rocks we used when first establishing the circuitous route. We had pallets of manufactured stone left over from the decorative veneer plastered around the block foundation below the log walls of our house. At the time, it seemed like a good use of the material, but they don’t hold up well against the elements when laying flat on the ground. Some have broken apart from the moisture and many others are simply getting swallowed by the earth around them.

It was interesting for me to work on the different labyrinth design up at the lake over the weekend because that one has very wide borders that are three times the width of the narrow path.

Our labyrinth at home has wide paths with just a single line of stones as dividers.

After working with both, I now wish we could make our rock dividers wider at home, but doing so would narrow the path more than we want. Maybe by placing larger rocks strategically we can beef up the pathway borders enough to provide more of the visual impression I desire without compromising the walking space too much.

There never seems to be enough time to work on the enhancements we both dream of and there are never enough reasons to stop tweaking the design once and for all.

Our labyrinths will always be growing and changing with time.

And they will never have enough rocks, no matter what.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2021 at 6:00 am

Selective Attentiveness

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What we pay attention to matters because the influence of what we let occupy our minds goes deeper into our unconsciousness than is easily noticeable. We are what we consume, or we are becoming what we consume.

Conversely, my selective attentiveness means I was too focused on my immediate predicament to notice Cyndie was hoping for my assistance to open a door. I have a tendency toward tunnel vision sometimes. Rarely when I am functioning at my best.

Yesterday, I found myself immersed in a design and build project that became an obsession after returning from the lake Sunday and two hours easily slipped away without my notice.

While I was shopping for lumber at my stash of old deck boards stacked in our hay shed, I took a moment to pay attention to what the horses were doing behind me.

It was nap time. The peacefulness was deliciously infectious.

After that, I worked for what I expected would be maybe an hour before I was jolted to reality by Cyndie pointing out it was after 2:00. This didn’t leave as much time as I planned for the afternoon winterizing projects we had on our list, but somehow we ticked off more line items than expected.

Window covers are installed on the chicken coop, the pump is pulled from the landscape pond and a leaf cover installed, and a  bonus accomplishment, all our deck furniture has been stowed for the season.

I feel like we are paying more attention to timely preparedness for winter this year. Something tells me (I do have a pessimistic streak) this might mean we won’t end up needing it.

As it is, there are sections of grass that really deserve to be mowed another time, even as the morning frost should be signalling the end of our growing season. It’s hard to know what kind of weather the changing climate is going to deliver these days.

Even when we try to pay specific attention to it.

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Written by johnwhays

October 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

So Happy

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We were only away a few days but Pequenita seemed extra happy over our return yesterday. It seems as though she understands the routine of our leaving for days at a time and so maybe the occasion of our return is becoming something of an increased expectation for her.

She was rather comically clingy for the first part of the afternoon and then again when I sat on our bed and opened up my laptop.

I don’t mind giving her extended scratches when she shows so much appreciation for the touch, despite the limitations it creates for getting any real writing done.

The horses weren’t what I would describe as clingy when we showed up at the barn. Mix was in “bossy-mare” mode and preferred to pay amped-up attention to the two chestnuts, Mia and Light. They all looked noticeably more shaggy as their winter growth is filling in nicely.

Our weather is holding in “uneventful” mode while vast swaths of the country are experiencing events. The precipitation spinning around the low-pressure center in the middle states is staying just to our south. This buys us time to continue the process of winterizing Wintervale.

Today we plan to pull the pump from our landscape pond and cover the water with netting to capture leaves during the off-season. We also will remove the plastic awnings over the windows of the chicken coop and place solid plastic panels over the screens. Even though there won’t be any birds in there, we still want to keep it from filling up with snow.

We pulled in our plastic rain gauge to keep it from getting cracked when water freezes in it. We’ll be in the “in-between” season for a while, where precip can fall as rain and snow on any given day.

I’ll be happy to stay inside and give Pequenita scratches during weather like that, thank you very much.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2021 at 6:00 am

Glorious Days

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We have been blessed with three incredible sunrises as well as glorious October weather days at the lake this weekend.

The crisp morning air was colder than the lake water and produced mesmerizing steamy accents to the brilliant colors of the sunrise.

Most of the boats and docks have been pulled out of the water, but this poor orphaned catamaran was still awaiting attention.

It made for an appealing subject for a photo.

We didn’t spend much time near the water because there was so much fun to be had creating the new labyrinth path in the woods.

I was able to successfully route the path around the trees to form a shorter rendition than the 11-circuit Chartres pattern we made at home. Cyndie worked tirelessly to dig up rocks and move them to the edges.

There remains a fair amount of time needed to position more rocks and branches to better define the pathway in a manner that will endure through the seasons. Next spring, I envision a need to selectively remove ferns and trillium that cover the ground here in order to preserve the visibility of the path.

Since we usually are trying to transplant trillium from up here to back home in Beldenville, this has the potential of providing plenty of plants for the task.

Before we get to that point, this labyrinth will need to survive the winter, so I guess we’ll just have to make sure to get up here for the glorious days of the snow season and walk the path frequently enough to maintain the definition.

A labor of love.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2021 at 9:48 am

Forest Fun

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Notice: This post includes content of carnivorous canine detail.

Walking in the woods at the lake is easy now that all the undergrowth has gone dormant for the winter. Allowing Delilah to explore every scent is a spectacle of mania. She can hardly contain herself in a rush to discern and follow the myriad options. Eventually, she did come upon one smell that overrode all others, a recently detached leg of deer.

After she closed her jaws on that prize, nothing else mattered.

We let her gnaw on it for a while and then I took her for a walk to see if she might decide to bury it somewhere for safekeeping. It was a long walk while I explored the wooded slope near the driveway in search of remains from a fort the kids and I constructed out of branches some twenty years ago.

I never found any evidence of our creative efforts now decades past and Delilah never let go of her prize.

When we finally made our way back to head indoors for a drink of water, I negotiated that leg out of her mouth and covered it with leaves beside the driveway for her.

Content with that for the moment, she gladly led the way inside. The next time we took her outside, we figured that would be the first thing she headed for, but we were wrong.

Now with both Cyndie and me setting out for a stroll with her, she seemed very willing to leave those bones for another time. We strode into the deep leaves covering the ground in search of the next great find among the trees. What we came upon this time was a new idea.

We want to create a small labyrinth path around existing trees in an area that is almost level.

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There are a lot of rocks available and a fair bit of old trash to clean up that contributed to our urge to pursue the possibility. It appears the old fishing lodge that existed here originally may have used the woods as their dump for trash at some point.

I stepped out dimensions and aligned an initial orientation with the four directions north-south/east-west and with each accomplishment, our idea gained merit. Late last night, we scanned labyrinth design options for something simple yet interesting and now will try to visualize fitting one of them around the trees.

This will likely be a project that develops over years to become fully established as we intend to keep the woods as natural as possible and have the circular pathways be noticeable, but subtly so.

A forest bathed meditative walking labyrinth seems like a very fun idea. Here’s hoping we can bring it to fruition up at our favorite place.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

Respite

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leave work early
pack last minute things
ride in the back for hours
surrounded by how many bags
only going for the weekend
to the usual place
how much do we really need
doesn’t matter at this point
the scenery is terrific
all the way to the lake
pick up a home-bake pizza
from our favorite pizza place
multiple hauling trips inside upon arrival
build a fire for ambience
heat up the oven
put up our feet
with a sigh of relief
being right where we want to be
a gift beyond measure
oozing with pleasure
joyous
peaceful
lovely
happiness
we will never take for granted
respite from the grind
perspective refresher
inspiration injector
refueling hope in each of our minds
living our dream
broadening our scope
strengthening our abilities to cope
our beds beckon
and we gladly accept
seeking the best-est of rest
eager to sleep
the deepest of sleeps
in order to wake
exponentially refreshed
delighted to once again be
at this most spectacular of all special places
we are definitely absolutely up
at
the lake

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Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2021 at 6:00 am