Relative Something

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

Archive for December 2022

Free Weekend

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Happy last day of 2022! Next year will be an odd year. No, literally, 2023 is an odd number. Duh.

To all you history buffs and genealogy fans out there, this weekend, the Star Tribune newspaper archives are free to view! What’s the first thing I checked? “John W. Hays,” of course.

What I found wasn’t new information for me, since that is also the name of my great-grandfather whom I have searched for many times before, but I had forgotten about this wonderful morsel.

Great-grandpa was a trailblazing cyclist.

08 Sep 1900, 10 – Minneapolis Daily Times at Star Tribune (Minneapolis – St. Paul)

The article was published in 1900 looking back at an event that occurred in 1886 when they road the giant 56-inch wheel.

I have cycling in my blood.

Speaking of wheels, the father of that 1880s John W. Hays was none other than my great-great-grandfather Stephen who lived in Pierce County, WI, and made wagon wheels.

I am such a product of my ancestors.

I hope you will click the link above and check out the article that was beneath that old photo. And, if you are interested in what was in the Minneapolis newspapers going back to 1867, it’s free this weekend at

Happy odd New Year tomorrow!



Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2022 at 10:54 am

Sad Outcome

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After two days in a row of above-freezing temperatures, the trees have finally shed a majority of the giant globs of snow that were caught in their branches. Unfortunately, it has revealed some of the damage caused by the heavy loads of snow.

That is some ugly pruning. Those aren’t the branches I would have chosen to remove.

As sad as it is to find damage like this, it brings a feeling of admiration for the large number of other trees that survived the hazardous weather unscathed. I haven’t trekked through the woods to do a full assessment yet, but of the trees along the driveway, the one pictured above looked the worst and I noticed only one other tree sporting a single broken branch.

Meanwhile, I tested the camera down at the barn for picking up the WiFi signal from our house and got a not-so-sad result. It wasn’t a complete success but I learned the cameral worked outside the front door of the barn but not inside or under the overhang on the backside of the barn.

If we decide to follow through on the idea of adding a camera that will cover the paddocks, it will likely require the addition of a signal booster or repeater of some sort. Having a camera at the barn is not something we urgently need so the level of a priority compared to a few other projects will probably move this down on our list of things to do.

It’s nice to learn how far the functional WiFi signal from the house can reach, at least. Think about all the “How-To” videos I will be able to consult in the shop/garage during my impersonations of a person who works on power equipment.

It sure is great finally having the fiber-optic cable bringing us the connectivity we’ve been longing for over the past ten years.

It feels like we’ve joined the 21st century.



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December 30, 2022 at 7:00 am

Continued Cleanup

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Picking up on the opposite end of the backside of our house from where I left off shoveling on Tuesday, yesterday I decided to work from front to back in removing the piles of snow that I raked off the roof.

The temperature climbed up above freezing as predicted but we didn’t see a lot of sunshine which would have made a difference in the amount of melting that occurred. Still, the trees began losing some of the globs of snow stuck in their branches. To my dismay, it meant repeatedly getting splotches of sticky snow slapping down onto the walkway I had just cleared.

Every time I start to feel too much satisfaction over finishing a portion of the shoveling, there’d be one of those unhappy surprises of a new dump of snow on places I just cleaned. In truth, I am gaining on the overall snow-clearing job. I’m getting more areas finished than are getting re-trashed.

In the morning I got the drifts on the driveway and in front of the barn plowed away again. From there, I went directly to the spot in the photo above and then forged ahead onto the deck until only a small portion was left to go. I took a break when our kids arrived for a visit and helped carry in groceries they picked up in River Falls for us. Cyndie being able to shop for groceries online is saving me from one of my least favorite pastimes during these months of doing all the walking and driving chores for her.

Julian helped me figure out the workings of getting the new surveillance camera he gifted us connected through WiFi. We needed to troubleshoot some squirrelly operations where it worked intermittently. Once we figured out the camera could only communicate on 2.4 GHz frequency and our router was auto-choosing between 2.4 and 5.0, we started making good progress.

We changed the router to stop auto-choosing frequencies and separated them to allow for the selection of one or the other. The kids saved me another trip in the afternoon by agreeing to give Cyndie a ride to an appointment, but that meant they had to go before we made it to the biggest test of the camera away from the house.

Alas, it was easy for me to do on my own because we had already solved all the other issues. I walked down to the shop, plugged the camera into power, and brought up the app on my phone.


WiFi signal from the house reaches the shop/garage.

Now I need to figure out a precise location to mount it where I can see as much of the driveway as possible and secure a more permanent power cable. Actually, before I do that, I will be interested in seeing if it will be possible for the WiFi signal to reach the back side of the barn. Being able to see the horses under the overhang would be a real bonus.

It will also drive the need to purchase the next camera that will further our vision of improving surveillance of our property from within the house or remotely on my phone.



Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2022 at 7:00 am

Wind Chilled

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On my way back to the house from the barn yesterday morning, I looked up and laughed at the sight of the evergreen trees still swallowed by almost two feet of snow. It’s hard to discern actual branches under those massive globs of snow stuck to them.

Even though the temperature made its way above zero and was expected to climb into the 20s(F), a sharp wind kept the “feels like” number in the minus range. I did not wear my face mask when I went out to feed the horses at dusk and regretted it. I walked down the driveway to the mailbox and my cheeks and nose let me know they were not happy with my decision to do so without protecting them.

My intention at the start of the day had been to remove the blankets from the horses after I fed them breakfast but after they gobbled up what was in the pans, all four of them walked off to the far side of the back pasture. Maybe that was their not-so-subtle way of telling me they didn’t want them off yet. They could tell the wind was counteracting the effects of the rising temperature.

On Monday, I plowed and shoveled away the snow drifts on the driveway and felt pretty pleased with myself. Yesterday, the new winds filled things right back to the point it looked like I hadn’t done any clearing the day before.

I’m not going to let the winds have the final say. After I feed the horses this morning I’m going to plow the edges another time. Tit for tat.

I finally got out to start shoveling the mountains of snow that poured onto the deck the last two times that I raked the roof. Much of it was over my knees in depth until I got to the corner where two roof slopes meet into one valley. That pile was about as tall as I am and as dense as snow can get. I forgot to take a picture before I started.

Now that I have it trimmed down to a reasonable size, finishing clearing the rest of the deck should be possible this afternoon. I’m feeling plenty of empathy for what the people of Buffalo, NY are dealing with after the paralyzing and deadly amount of snow they received.

The forecast predicts we will get above freezing today. If it does, I sure hope it feels like it’s above freezing.



Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2022 at 7:00 am


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I’m not on that train
the names have faded
through the years
but ideas they had
a splotch that doesn’t decay
one that looks like a rose
looping rings
roundabout circles
dissolved crimson
sweet and warm
luscious even
triggering vague memories
of a feeling
about a time
when everything was
teeming with possibility
toward a horizon
that will never arrive



Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2022 at 7:00 am

Meandering Paths

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We wait all year long for Christmas to get here and just like that, it’s over. Happy December 26th. Today is my half-birthday. To keep me humble, the skin by my thumbnail has split so that it constantly stings. One of the ways I deal with painful cracks in the skin on the edge of my fingernails is to apply germ-killing New-Skin. It occurred to me that, as I was wincing at the stinging pain of that antiseptic feature, it wasn’t much different from the constant sting of the cracked skin.

Cyndie and I made two trips to Bloomington, MN for Christmas gatherings of her family over the weekend. Driving was entirely nerve-wracking on Saturday and a little less-so yesterday. It’s really unsettling to be rolling along on what looks to be dry pavement, traveling at posted speeds, and constantly coming upon vehicles that have recently spun into the ditches.

I have no idea what they were doing to end up in their predicaments, but not knowing made it a guessing game about what I could do differently to avoid a similar fate. (Can you say, “black ice?”) Luckily, we completed all our driving without incidents.

Yesterday, to join the family at her mom’s place, we decided to skip giving the horses the noon feeding they have become accustomed to receiving. As we pulled up the driveway when getting home around the time for the evening feeding, the horses gave a little show of their opinion on the matter. One might describe them as looking a little “hangry.” (Irritable or angry because of hunger.)

Upon making my way down to the barn, I was happy to find their gesticulation had been more dramatic than necessary. They were much less rambunctious than I expected them to be and barely fussed over my choice to do some housekeeping before serving pans of feed. Conditions in the paddocks and under the overhang are stabilizing now that wind and snowfall have abated for a couple of days.

It isn’t much, but having the temperature climb to single digits above zero is at least a psychological improvement over the brutal conditions we’ve been dealing with over the last… I’ve lost track of how many days. Feels like it’s been a month or two.

I always enjoy seeing evidence of the horses’ meanderings out into the fresh snow on the fields. You can almost visualize the four mares heading out in a parallel formation before making some loops. These tracks appear in the mornings which tells me they go on these adventures in the dark of night.

My nighttime adventures are all in the dream world but feel a lot like the way those meandering pathways look.

The Monday after Christmas on Sunday feels like we have to wait 364 more days to find out if we were naughty or nice enough to get our wishes wrapped up and delivered under the tree.

Now that’s a long meandering path.



Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2022 at 7:00 am

Christmas Love

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December 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Blown Leaves

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While large areas of the country are suffering the brunt of the blizzard, as of last night, the most brutal winds were not impacting our region. That doesn’t mean it was completely calm here. Yesterday, snow was drifting across our road and small branches were coming down out of the trees. Our winds were stripping the brown leaves out of the oak trees and scattering them over the snow.

But it wasn’t a hurricane-force wind battering our trees.

The horses stayed close to the protection of the overhang all day and seemed to be tolerating the extreme cold with relative ease which made my work a little easier during feeding times. It’s all business when they are seeking fuel for their furnaces and there are fewer shenanigans and less bullying when eating is the priority and there is food in front of each of their noses.

I have been granted a break from feeding duty tonight as we will be traveling to Cyndie’s mom’s place for her family’s Christmas Eve dinner and our handler, Johanne, will be coming to check on Mia and will be able to serve the horses their evening meal.

Here’s hoping the drifts will be plowed all the way to our destination.

I need to figure out if I remember how to visit with people again after months of horses being my primary companions.



Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2022 at 7:00 am

Mostly Coping

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Yesterday was something of a between-day. We enjoyed a break because no new snow fell and the winds had yet to kick up significantly when I walked the trash bin down to the road last night. At the start of the day, Mia seemed to be functioning normally and all the horses appeared to have dealt with the overnight cold just fine. Mix wanted to show off her frosty whiskers.

I wanted to take a picture of her cute frozen eyelashes.

Even though the temperature stayed below zero all day long, they warm up enough in the daylight to melt all the frost off themselves.

I filled my day yesterday by plowing about six inches of light powder from the driveway before pulling snow off the roof over the front entrance. Plenty more snow remains to be moved today but if it gets as windy as predicted, I may just wait one more day.

As the sun was about to set, it glowed through a haze of snow blown airborne across our horizon.

I was on my way down to re-attach the mailbox to its post after it got knocked off by the wash from the township snowplow blade. For the moment, what wind we were getting was coming from the west-northwest which is ideal for the orientation of our barn. Under the overhang, the horses can enjoy the relative calm.

With no wind chill complicating their ability to cope with the extremely cold temperatures, they seem to accept the conditions better than we do. I wonder if it is because they have no other choice, while we keep going back inside warm accommodations as much as possible.

Do they keep hoping for a day when the bite of bitter cold loosens its grip? If there is such a thing as horse sense, I hope they do.



Written by johnwhays

December 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

Mounting Stress

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Things started out normal when I served up the evening portions of feed for the horses last night. Would that I be so lucky to experience no more drama from the horses while I’m the sole caretaker. Mia spilled some of her food, which is not out of the ordinary, but she walked away from it, which is. Her abnormal behavior held my attention long enough to recognize something was amiss. Fresh drama ensued.

She didn’t appear to be in pain but she definitely wasn’t feeling right. She laid down and rocked on each side, got up and walked a bit, then repeated. I feared she may be experiencing colic. Eventually, she began to cough up and indications aligned more with an instance of choking. I made a phone call to consult with our handler from This Old Horse, Johanne, and we agreed on a plan.

As dusk rolled to darkness, I set about haltering Mia and getting her to walk, separating her from the other horses and then removing the hay I had just set out a short time earlier. I had to run up to the shop for an extension cord so I could plug in a water bucket to give her easy access to water under the overhang. When I got back, I caught Mia scrounging for hay off the ground.

Then she made a trip down to drink from the usual waterer as if all was back to normal. Normal for her maybe. I was drained by another dose of stress on top of all the doses before in the last two months. Why do our animal issues always arise amid bad weather? Thankfully, we didn’t need to call and ask the vet to come to examine Mia.

Since she seemed to want hay, and it would serve her well for keeping warm, Johanne agreed I could make a small amount available.

I went to check on Mia one last time before going to bed and found her to be doing just fine. It seemed okay to bring Light through the gate so they could share space through the cold and snowy night.

It was snowing heavily but there was no significant wind yet. That is predicted to start later today. I don’t know if the horses have a sense of the blizzard that is about to hit but conditions are expected to get much worse for them.

Since I am on my own with the horses, we have agreed thus far on avoiding a move into the stalls and everything that entails. If the overhang proves insufficient in offering adequate protection when the winds kick up, I may be forced to make that move anyway, despite my aversion to dealing with any more stressful challenges.



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December 22, 2022 at 7:00 am