Relative Something

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

Archive for April 2022

Happiness Abounds

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Yesterday afternoon I had the most spectacular time granting the horses a special treat by allowing them a token of grass beyond the confines of the dwindling blades available in the paddocks. Delilah and I showed up early and went immediately to work in the round pen while the horses were up near the barn wondering what we were up to. I rigged up some web fence to allow for an isolated alley limiting access to just the pen.

After that, I spent time scooping old remains of manure left from the time we allowed them to be in there over winter. By the time I was done, it was the normal hour for their feed pans to be served. While they finished that and then munched on some hay, I pushed the wheelbarrow across the paddock and scooped manure. When I was near the gate to the round pen, I undid the chain and opened it up to provide them clear access.

Not one of them paid me any attention down there, so I kept making my way around the paddock and scooping poop. Finally, I looked up to see that Mia had wandered away from the barn into the middle of the big paddock. I took a pause from my scooping and walked toward the gate to demonstrate it was open.

I would describe the look on her face as one of surprise as she cautiously approached at an angle to get a closer view. I walked inside the pen and she followed.

It didn’t take Mix long to notice.

She made her way toward the wheelbarrow to make it look like she was only partially interested and then joined Mia in the pen.

When Light figured out what was going on, she immediately ran down to join the other two.

So far, so good in terms of those three remaining agreeable in the confined space. It didn’t take long for Swings to realize where everybody went and show up for the fun.

I stepped away and watched for a while to see if they would continue to be friendly and freely share the new opportunity.

Satisfied, I wandered off to dump the wheelbarrow and rescue Delilah who was waiting patiently in the barn. It was time to take her up to the house for her dinner. As we came out of the barn to get one last look at the horses, they put on quite a show to demonstrate how happy they were.

They took turns at first, running out and back in… because they could. Then they all joined together to do some tight quarters racing from the round pen up to the barn, around the small paddock, and back through the large one into the pen again. Swings came out and stood up on her hind legs, looking about twenty years younger than her age, as the others romped.

I’m not sure who was having more fun at that moment, the horses over their good fortune, or me being able to witness their excitement.

Pure happiness, all around.



Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2022 at 10:52 am

Calm Existence

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It is a blessing indeed to make it through a day with animals and a wife recovering from surgery and experience no unexpected drama. Maybe I am feeling particularly appreciative because the day before yesterday was noticeably less so.

Not surprisingly, the Siamese cat with the pretty blue collar showed up on our deck again. I figured a return visit was likely given the way the neighbor’s big Pyrenees guard dog chased after the kitty when I returned it the first time. We chose to pay it no attention in hopes it would return home on its own.

All was going well, in terms of our ignoring it until Delilah got up from a nap and went ballistic over the presence of the uninvited feline visitor. I don’t know what it is about this cat that the dogs become so worked up over while other cats nearby walk around unnoticed.

Ultimately, the plan appears to have worked because there was no sign of the Siamese anywhere yesterday. I didn’t want to do anything that might invite continued future visits.

I also didn’t see the barn cat that we thought might be living in our hay shed, but I wondered if it might be hiding in there somewhere and had possibly been near a skunk. The unwelcome aroma was vague but present when I opened the big door to the shed. Something about the presence of the odor led me to believe it wasn’t coming directly from a skunk. Seemed more believable that it was a “second-hand” stink.

It was time yesterday afternoon to move more bales to the barn, even though there are moments when the horses are showing more interest in biting the fence boards than eating more hay this time of year. They loiter near the fence to the pastures and hope I will notice and give them what they want.

Cyndie has approved a plan I devised yesterday to rig up a way to allow them access to the round pen later today. With little activity in there the last few years, grass has overtaken the sand. It would be just fine with us if they grazed that grass down to nothing like they are doing in the paddocks.

That should buy us a little time of entertaining their cravings until we deem the grass in the back pasture ready for being stomped on and eaten. The first day they get on that tall grass, they will only have 15-30 minutes to munch. Access will be granted after they have already eaten the morning or evening servings, so they don’t feel overly hungry in the moment.

Each day their time on the pasture will be increased by 15-30 minutes. The microbes that inhabit a horse’s gut vary depending on what is being eaten. We want to allow time for the microbial population to change in balance with the new green grass being offered.

They’ll be excited enough as it is to be grazing in the pasture. We don’t want to spoil the otherwise calm existence by introducing new digestive problems.



Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Wanting Green

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The horses are starting to seem a little hangry with the amount of grass surrounding the paddock that is turning deliciously green.

I’m wondering if they will be so excited when we open the gate to the back pasture that they will take off running as if they were in a race like they did last year. The other option, which I’ve witnessed more often than not, is that they will take one step through the gate and start munching grass like they may never get another chance.

At present, they are twisting their necks to reach under the bottom boards of the fence to nibble any blades they can reach and then they look at me like I must be thick-headed not to understand they want out.

I tried cleaning up manure before the next series of predicted rainy days and made it about halfway through the paddock before the wheelbarrow was full and I was out of time. I see again more evidence proving an off-handed comment our fence installer made about the ground being high along old fence lines.

My mind tried to imagine why there would be a build-up of earth along a fence over the years but now, having heavy animals, I see they compress the dirt everywhere except under the fence, leaving that as the higher ground.

The horses pack the ground so densely that it’s hard for the grass to grow. Never mind that grass seems perfectly able to grow through our asphalt driveway.

Even when an odd tuft of grass does overcome the compacted soil and start to grow, the horses kill it by munching it down to a nub.

Given enough evolutionary time, I wonder if horses could learn to leave enough grass growth that it doesn’t all die so that they always have some fresh green blades to eat.

I suspect they’d prefer to not be confined to a paddock or any fenced boundaries so they wouldn’t have to worry about overeating in one limited space.

Won’t be too much longer before we can open up the pasture for them. I offered to drive Cyndie down along the path around the back pasture so she could watch them in case they take off in a gallop again. Even though she is making good progress a week and two days after her knee replacement surgery, she isn’t ready to walk the uneven surfaces of our property yet.

Her first physical therapy appointment was last Tuesday and the therapist gave her permission to take a stroll outdoors on our driveway with her walker as soon as the weather takes a turn toward warm and dry. It was a pretty safe grant to make since Cyndie is healing well and the weather shows little sign of improving for quite some time.

She’s going to get a little hangry herself, waiting to get out of her post-surgery confinement so she can walk outdoors again.

Soon, I say.

Relatively, that is.



Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2022 at 6:00 am

Noticing Things

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Lately, when Delilah and I step out of the house at the beginning of our walks around our property, I hear a wild turkey gobbling through the trees in the neighboring woods. Just one or two calls and then just quiet. It occurred to me the bird is probably alerting others to our presence. I have yet to spot any gobblers moving around.

At first, I wondered why he would give himself away like that but after failing to ever catch a fleeting glimpse, despite staring intently in the direction of the sound while we slowly made our way down the perimeter path, I realize he hasn’t given himself away at all. He’s just alerting others to seek immediate concealment.

It works.

The narrow path we cleared through the middle of our woods –which we’ve taken to calling the “middle trail”– has become our new favorite. After frequent commands to Delilah to “take the middle trail,” she now hesitates when we approach it, anticipating the call. There are plenty of times when I am more than happy to let her choose our route and leave it up to her as to whether we make the turn or not.

Yesterday, she turned onto the middle trail before I had a chance to consider an opinion. It made me happy thinking that she might like that trail as much as Cyndie and I do. Unlike the main perimeter trail, most of which already existed when we moved here and allows plenty of room for ATV travel, the middle trails (there are now several) are intentionally narrow and a little more winding.

The newest portion was cleared over winter this year so we have yet to experience it when green leaves create a much more dense impression of the surroundings. I’m looking forward to finding out how much that changes the experience of traveling that path.

As we exited the trees and made our way along the fence around the hayfield, I noticed an orange cat walking along in the middle, unaware of our approach. When it finally saw us, the cat immediately went into a crouch position and looked as though it was trying to become as flat as possible. Delilah remained oblivious, so the wind must have been in the cat’s favor.

Since the grass in the field is still short, the orange-ness of the cat stood out clear as ever. I think I may have audibly chuckled at it. I also realized there are probably countless times we have walked past an animal that is crouched just out of view and downwind from Delilah’s keen senses to which we were entirely ignorant.

Sometimes they pop out at the last minute and make a run for it. I figure they must hold out as long as possible until deciding the dog has just gotten too close for comfort. Rabbits, grouse, various other birds, and cats have all startled us at one time or another when they suddenly panicked and ran or flew away from beside us.

I’m always amazed when Delilah fails to notice them first.



Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2022 at 6:00 am

Spring Progress

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Or lack thereof… We are sorely lacking in the warmth and sunshine department but spring growth is beginning to emerge, not all of it desirable. We are already seeing a growing collection of sediment beginning to fill in where we dug out dirt last year to improve drainage in front of Cyndie’s perennial garden.

Two steps forward, one step back.  -_-

The water pressure in the saturated ground pushes up little geysers in random places and that flowing water is carrying topsoil from the farm field just uphill from us. Just lovely.

The forest floor is about to burst forth with trout lilies along our paths.

These are the earliest of the wild ground cover that carpets certain areas of our woods. Soon to be followed by bloodroot.

Delilah and I walked through the back pasture to get a closer look at the new grass sprouting. Cyndie wants me to wait for the blades to get more than six inches tall before beginning to slowly give the horses access to grazing green grass.

The only thing we are missing is heat and sun. I know it’s out there. We just need to be patient. There is a reason dull things get compared to watching grass grow but seeing the steady progress every day in the spring is joy to behold. A dull joy sometimes, but still… joyous. 🙂



Written by johnwhays

April 26, 2022 at 6:00 am

Thinking Thinks

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Some thinks I was thinking while walking the dog recently.

  • Of all the great things in this world, think about a time when you blinked your eyes and they failed to open again for an awkwardly long time as sleep was trying hard to bring you under its spell. When this happens and you are free to give in without a care, it is just the absolute best. Let sleep win.
  • With the wind blowing rather fiercely as I walk along the slippery, muddy trail, my eyes are fixed on picking a place for each step. High above me, I could hear the dramatic clacking of branches smacking into each other out of my view. Unnerving, to say the least.
  • I have been seeing the tiniest hints of spring growth becoming evident throughout our forest. It seems like it takes a long, long time to reach this point, and then it seems like the growth explodes in a matter of days. That is the point when I wish I had accomplished more pruning in advance.
  • No matter how much control I think I have over managing our landscape, the natural world is infinitely more complicated in its functionings. I cut and prune and sometimes plant things anew, but everywhere trees and plants are growing and dying in innumerable ways beyond my comprehension. We have a variety of new mosses growing on our pathways this year.
  • I estimate we are just days away from being able to give the horses access to the back pasture and front hayfield for grazing. It’s a week later than we opened those gates last year. I wonder if the horses will run like they did that time.
  • I’m contemplating the “No Mow May” campaign to help pollinators coming out of hibernation but I can’t imagine how my mower will cope with how tall and thick the grass will be by June if I participate. I also wonder if I can stand the appearance of neglecting our property. I take pride in keeping things looking well kept.
  • It’s only been one week since Cyndie’s surgery but I’m deeply missing her company when walking Delilah. Cyndie would share her viewpoints on tending to property issues and possible improvements which helped direct our attention to what we should do next. I definitely miss splitting the jobs of feeding and cleaning up after the horses twice a day. I feel bad she doesn’t get to watch from up close the growth explosion of new buds and opening leaves. Our landscape will look so completely different by the time she starts walking outside again.
  • If it wasn’t for Cyndie’s surgery, I probably wouldn’t be having so many solo thinks while walking Delilah. I would have to come up with something else to write about. Hee!



Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Getting Swampy

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We haven’t put out our rain gauges yet because the nighttime temperatures have continued to drop below freezing with annoying regularity. As a result, I don’t know how many inches of rain have fallen in the last few days but Friday some of our drainage ditches were flowing incredibly high so we’ve received a significant amount.

In deference to the conditions we are experiencing, I fixed the Wintervale logo.

We might as well call the place, Wintervale Swamp.

There is even a new lake that formed in the small paddock. I don’t know if it will show up in the satellite view, but if the DNR allows it, I think we should call it “Willow Lake” for the tree under which it formed.

For as much of a disaster the excess moisture is for the paddocks, the lawn above it is looking mighty happy and has greened up noticeably in the last few days.

For the time being, we are keeping the horses off the pasture grass to give it a chance to recover from winter before facing the heavy pressures of their hooves and voracious grazing. They can see and smell the greening and the growing and I think it is making them increasingly tired of flakes of baled hay.

I certainly don’t want to have things dry up to a crisp and turn into a drought, but it sure would be nice to move things closer to a happy medium. Any name changes to “swamp” are meant to be very temporary.



Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2022 at 8:30 am

Little Busy

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I have been asked to prepare waffles for breakfast today. After walking the dog and feeding the horses, cutting melons, and heating up a scone from the freezer to tide Cyndie over while she waits, I’ve used up my time previously claimed for writing.

If you still have an urge to read something possibly relative, I’ll toss in the ol’ wayback machine for you to explore a random post from the archives. May you rediscover a gem from the past that aligns with your immediate present. I always find it a special treasure when that happens for me.




Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2022 at 9:48 am

Double Shifts

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It’s only been four days since Cyndie’s knee surgery and I’m already longing for the day she can lose the walker, get off narcotics, and become even fractionally more self-sufficient. Between responding to her needs for assistance, becoming the (previously prepared by Cyndie) head food-reheater and server at mealtimes, and covering all of the animal care jobs myself, I’m getting dizzy.

Every time I find myself cast in the role of needing to feed Cyndie, I am reminded why I never looked for work waiting tables in a restaurant. My poor brain doesn’t like trying to remember multiple requests delivered all at once. And thinking about those words, “all at once,” how in the heck do people get the timing down to prepare a meal with all the food ready at the same time?

I find myself repeatedly choosing to feed us one at a time. Assemble a plate for Cyndie and then come back and do it a second time for me.

Cyndie is very patient and understanding, so most of the frustrating pressure I’m feeling is self-induced. I know that. But knowing that doesn’t do much to calm my stress in the critical moment of assembling a meal on the plate for serving. When the stress is magnified by a last-minute request to watch an episode of “Ted Lasso” on the tv monitor brought out to the coffee table by the couch while she eats, my circuits start to overheat a bit.

You see, the computer-to-tv cabling had yet to be worked out so I needed to hunt down an HDMI cable, get the necessary power cables, and then search through on-screen menus to figure out how to mirror the laptop screen to the tv. I could always deal with the audio later.

As it was, I begged to deal with it all later and resorted to simply watching it on her laptop for the time being. …After she had already finished her dinner and before I had started mine.

Last-minute timing is not my strong suit.

I will work on mastering the temporary computer-to-tv setup in the living room later today, once I’ve got all the animals fed and Cyndie’s coffee and breakfast served.

Onward. Double-time.



Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Uncharacteristic Behavior

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Yesterday was a soaking wet rainy day. A good day to nap, which Cyndie did a lot and I did a little. As time passed, I witnessed the progress of Cyndie getting control of the pain that had the better of her the day before. In a prudent attempt to start with the lowest dose of pain medications after the initial anesthesia fully wore off, she ended up getting behind the level of pain the procedure caused.

Subsequently increasing the dosages takes time to ultimately catch up to a desired level of relief. However, once that point is reached, it is possible to move back to the lower dose at precise intervals to maintain the desired pain control. That relief allowed Cyndie more and longer periods of beneficial rest.

Meanwhile, the cold rain presented the horses with their own challenge. I had left the two paddocks open to each other which historically led to Mia and Light being pushed out from under their preferred overhang by Mix. When we separate pairs by closing gates, the two chestnuts have their own side to seek cover without being harassed.

As Delilah and I came upon the horses yesterday afternoon, we found all four horses squeezed under the overhang on one side. With the promise of food about to be served, I knew the congeniality under the one side wouldn’t last. What I didn’t expect was that an odd pairing of mares would happen while I was inside filling the feed pans.

Swings had uncharacteristically moved to the north side and had paired with Light. That left Mix paired with Mia on the south side; the two least expected to get along. I decided to do away with convention and set out feed pans in random order in the spots they had chosen.

For a while, as I cleaned up manure around them and refilled nets with hay, they all munched calmly in those positions. As I was pondering the novelty, it occurred to me that I should take a picture. Before I was able, they rearranged themselves back to the usual positions.

With the chestnuts back together on the north side, I closed all the gates for the duration of the rainy weather.

Just to finish off the oddities of the experience, as I was completing my tasks and preparing to head back up to the house with Delilah, I noticed Light was making things difficult for Mia and she kept retreating back out into the rain. I don’t know what leads to these periods of orneriness every so often but from what I’ve witnessed over time, the horses tend to get over whatever it is that’s bugging them a lot quicker than humans do.

Maybe they were just irritable because they didn’t like being cold and wet. I can’t blame them for that.

I’m choosing to cling to the memory of the brief moment in time when all four of them appeared to be getting along just fine squeezed together under one side of the overhang.



Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2022 at 6:00 am