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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Happy Grazing

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Late yesterday, Cyndie captured some great shots of the horses out on the big field as the sun was low.

Mix was walking around with only one fly sock on.

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It was nice to see Mix out there with the others because she has been lingering back under the overhang for a few days whenever the others wandered out. It’s difficult to gauge her reasons so our concern rises a little bit and we watch for any indication it is health-related.

Maybe she just doesn’t want to venture very far in the heat of the day.

The other possibility might be the low value of grazing that is available during the increasingly troublesome drought.

I wondered if she just didn’t feel like walking that far, so I’m very happy to know there doesn’t appear to be any physical limitation keeping her from moving out there.

I ended the day doing some trimming along the back pasture fence line and by the time I stopped, I didn’t feel like walking any further than necessary.

We are prone to repeating an old phrase around our house with respect to how our feet feel at the end of a long day: “My dogs were barking.”

After getting covered in dog shit shrapnel from the power trimmer upon inadvertently hitting a poo Delilah had previously deposited, I had a strong interest in doing just enough walking to get myself into a shower as fast as possible.

Living a privileged country life isn’t always a glamorous endeavor.

At least our horses maintain a pretty respectable sense of decorum when they are out grazing on the big field by the road.

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Cooking Compost

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Does horse manure attract flies?

Yes, it does.

It also cooks at over 160°(F) given the right conditions. Just the right amount of moisture, air, and shape of the pile trigger the microorganisms to go wild. Unfortunately, at that temperature and above, the microbes start to die off and the pile can go inert.

I did a little cooking of my own in the hot sun yesterday, working in front of the hay shed. I’m cutting up old cedar boards ripped off our deck to make a small woodshed for up at the lake place.

I’m creating a kit of cut boards that I can fit in my car for transport up north where the plan is to assemble it in place. It’s a little tricky because I tend to make design decisions as I go on my building projects. I’m wrestling with the mental challenge of envisioning each step in advance and knowing what pieces and precise dimensions I need for each step in the process.

I anticipate the assembly will stretch over several different weekend visits up north. As if we need excuses to spend more time at the lake in the months ahead.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2021 at 9:57 am

Got Flies?

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Why, yes. Yes, we do. We have so many flies that it makes us want to get chickens to help control the insect population around here.

Oh, wait. Yeah, that.

I had a weird thought about devising a way to put a predator poison around a chicken’s neck in such a way that it wouldn’t bother the chicken but would either take out the predator or teach them that these chickens are no longer desirable prey.

In the meantime, our horses are donning fly masks and leg boots in an attempt to give them a break from the incessant insect harassment.

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Yesterday afternoon I spotted Mix having a little tantrum, running and gyrating to and fro. I suspect something got inside her mask and the poor girl couldn’t just reach up with a hand and remedy the situation. I felt so sorry for her.

I’m not as strong as a horse and nor do I have their keen sense but I do have hands with opposable thumbs.

When we were serving up their afternoon feed, I took the opportunity to use my hands to give Mix a thorough rub down and massage. I imagine after being pestered all day long by little pokes, bites, and tickles, a deep rub with heavy pressure must be a welcome change.

I know I would love that.

I would sure love it if we could have free-ranging chickens and not have them decimated by predators. I suppose it’s time for us to go back to adding fly predators to our property management like we did back when we first got horses and didn’t know a thing about keeping chickens.

We are behind the optimal control by that method as the fly predators feed on the pupa, killing flies before they emerge. They don’t do anything to stop adult flies.

One thing going for us this summer is the drought has reduced conditions that make for more flies, so I guess it could be worse.

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Written by johnwhays

July 24, 2021 at 9:58 am

Home Grown

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Cyndie’s strawberry patch is still in its infancy but we did get a pretty respectable first crop this year.

Toward the end, I noticed a squirrel had taken quite a liking to being inside the netted perimeter fence. Every time I walked by, the intruder would startle and panic, botching several times in his attempt to climb out before succeeding.

I think Cyndie had picked most of the ripened fruit by the time the squirrel developed its interest.

Eating a perfectly ripened strawberry that was picked from the plant that very day has me wanting to evermore avoid the overly-firm, tasteless version of the fruit available year-round in grocery stores.

There is just no comparison.

Of course, my heightened sensitivity to a problematically short window of ideal ripeness for all fruit plays a big role in determining my level of satisfaction. The duration of time between too green and too ripe for my liking when it comes to bananas is measured in minutes. For oranges and apples, it’s more like days.

Texture plays a big part in influencing my acceptance of most fruits. Growing strawberries at home and serving them shortly after they were picked has spoiled me a little.

I may need to revert to only eating fruit that’s in-season like we used to do before global shipping became an everyday occurrence.

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Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Really Happening

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It’s happening right before our eyes. The changes currently playing out on our planet are no longer just scientific theories. They are actual events. Record high temperatures. Droughts. Wildfires. Floods. Thawing permafrost. Rising sea levels. Shrinking glaciers.

I’ve tried to mentally prepare for the possibility of any of the first four catastrophes directly impacting our property, but the thing we are dealing with currently is only peripherally related to the wildfires burning in Canada just to our north. Our air quality is so bad the Pollution Control Agency is advising we avoid being outside and breathing the smoke particulate matter.

Measurements are reaching record levels for Minnesota.

We should probably hold more meetings to discuss how we can reduce our carbon emissions to net-zero by some future date. [sarcasm]

I asked Cyndie if we have any idea what to do in the case of a wildfire suddenly bearing down on our location. She said we should paint our phone number on the horses.

I’m sure they would be fine with that if we were able to find any paint and get them to stand still during the highly emotional panic that would be occurring as a fire threat is bearing down on our property.

Even though the dramatic stories of lost lives and property in the recent floods in Germany and China and the ongoing Bootleg fire in Oregon depict the trauma at the epicenter of such events, life at home feels strangely distanced.

Our horses are calm. Their grass is dryer than optimum, the flies are a constant nuisance, the temperatures are getting too hot again, and the smoky air makes breathing less fun, but they aren’t ones to complain. I sense they may still be contemplating whether the situation they now find themselves in –living out their days in comfort and safety with us– is for real, or not.

Based on my assessment of the reality of global climate calamities playing out in plain view right now, I can understand any hesitations they might have about the comfort and safety part.

There should be no denying anymore that the ramifications of human activity causing increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are already playing out.

It really is already happening, whether people collectively acknowledge it, or not.

Every day that I don’t have to drive my fossil-fueled car anywhere is a tiny victory in my effort to reconcile still living with a carbon footprint that reflects how we got into this climate predicament in the first place.

May we all keep looking for individual ways to do something helpful, or simply stop doing things that are hurtful, long before governments and greater society finally get around to enacting more broadly effective changes.

I look forward to that really happening.

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Poignant Reminders

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Buffalo Bill’s feathers were always so photogenic. These few still are, though he is now gone.

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Three Survivors

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It was hard to avoid the harsh reality of our decimated flock of chickens when we returned to Wintervale yesterday afternoon. It was the first opportunity I was able to spend any time in daylight to finally see some of the areas of lost feathers marking where 22 chickens had been snatched.

As I was cleaning up three days of manure in the paddocks, I spoke out loud to myself when I spotted the distinct feather markings of Buffalo Bill. It looked like he didn’t give in without covering a bit of distance.

The poor horses must have seen this whole attack unfold. I hope they weren’t overly stressed by the incursion happening within their fenced confines. Maybe they were able to recognize only the chickens were being targeted.

We had asked our animal-sitter to keep the three surviving pullets shut in the coop until we returned after the weekend so she wouldn’t have to fret over their vulnerability.

Now we are faced with deciding if we are going to continue that practice or not. It’s sad but neither Cyndie nor I seem to have much will to invest any more hope toward an imagined future for them with us. I hate to think this way, but part of me wonders if it would have been easier if these three didn’t survive.

Cyndie buttoned up the fence boundaries of the coop courtyard in the two places where we had created the openings for those couple of days of free-ranging before the attack. We let the three prisoners out into the fenced space for a few hours.

I wondered if the coyotes were skulking around the edges of our property watching to see what we were doing. The last four times we have lost chickens happened shortly after we had gone back into the house. That can’t be by chance. The predators have to be watching to see when we are out and when we are not.

If I thought it would help, and if we somehow decided to have chickens again in the future, I’d make it a practice to always come back outside and check on things a few minutes after having gone in the house.

I wish we could offer the three survivors some consolation for the trauma they endured. Standing within the fencing with them yesterday, it was easy to see the new anxiety they exhibited over sudden movement and unexpected sounds. They were very jumpy birds.

Maybe these three had honed their emergency response hiding tactics better than all the rest. It’s sad that I had just written about the flocks’ impressive rush for emergency cover a mere two days before the massacre. I suspect that would protect them better against an assault from the air than the packs of fangs coming after them on the ground.

If those three survivors could talk, I wonder what they would have to say about the traumatic events of last Wednesday around dinner time.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Nice Distraction

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My hope of forgetting about the distressing loss of 22 chickens in one quick event didn’t really work but yesterday’s attempt sure was a nice try. I have to laugh (though it was more like a whimper) now when I look at the images I posted just a few days before the attack, showing all those birds and me sitting among them. That didn’t last long.

Our nice distraction yesterday of friends flying in for a day and the wonderful summeriness of dining on the deck and playing in and on the lake was quintessential lake life. We paddled kayaks and stand-up boards around the island and into the nearby bay, pausing to visit with folks on a neighboring property.

We soaked in the luxurious water and absorbed oodles of solar energy while chatting away the hours. It goes without saying that the food Cyndie and her mom served up was plentiful and divine.

One particularly noteworthy moment of the small-world phenomena came as Mike and Barb were headed down the steps toward Marie’s car for the short drive to the Hayward airport. We had invited a neighboring Wildwood member, Julie, to join us for dinner since she was here alone this weekend. Having visited all day and through the meal on first-name introductions, it wasn’t until we were leaving and Cyndie and Julie were inside cleaning up after the meal that Cyndie mentioned Mike’s Architecture firm does restaurants.

Julie asked what his last name was and then rushed out to re-introduce herself using her last name to reveal Mike and Julie had been working together, albeit, remotely, on one of her restaurants.

Surprise, surprise. And an electric moment for all.

Marie and I watched Barb and Mike’s plane lift off into the hazy air as they departed on their return flight to their lake place in Grand Rapids, MN.

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Mike reported the visibility as “Hayseeee.”

Their visit and the grand day at this lake place were a really nice distraction. Unfortunately, the reality I want to be distracted from remains a cold, hard fact… Still.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2021 at 7:50 am

Getting Away

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We have made a quick change of scene, which comes at a convenient time to allow our minds to stray from the heavy angst associated with Wednesday’s violent upheaval in all things chicken-related.

Yesterday, Cyndie’s mom drove out to our place and the moment I arrived home from work, the three of us packed up Marie’s car and headed up to the lake.

We picked up a take-n-bake pizza from Coop’s that tasted more scrumptious than ever and turned on the replay of the 17th stage of the Tour de France on the satellite TV.

It served as a balm for my wounded psyche.

Festivities for today involve a visit from special guests. The Wilkuses are flying to the Hayward airport from their cabin near Grand Rapids, MN. How fun is that?!

Primary objective: Swim in the lake. Followed closely by eating too much fun food, gabbing away for hours on end, and probably one more dip in the lake, just because it’s there.

We’ll try to pretend this getaway keeps us from thinking about the loss of almost all of our chickens.

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Written by johnwhays

July 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Beyond Control

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The lesson I am being given the opportunity to absorb this week involves the concept of accepting things that are beyond my control. I can lure a raccoon to my trap but I can’t force it to step inside.

That’s one version. There is another that is having a much greater impact on my sensibilities. We just learned that the 20-acre plot adjacent to ours along the northern length was sold by foreclosure this month.

So many questions. How come we failed to discover anything about the situation in advance?

I have subsequently stumbled onto a document that reveals the judgment of foreclosure was entered in early April. The notice of foreclosure sale was drafted in May. The public auction sale at the front entrance of the Pierce County Courthouse was scheduled for July 6th at 9:00 a.m.

Did the property sell?

Who might the new owner(s) be?

Might they plan to build a home on the otherwise forested and cultivated acres?

Could we be at risk of losing our precious natural forest boundary that provides a priceless level of privacy?

I have half-seriously pondered many times how special it would be to purchase the forested acres that surround our rectangle of land on two sides, but never imagined it would be feasible.

To find out now that there was an opportunity I failed to notice is something of a gut punch.

If it was purchased successfully, what happens next is largely out of my control.

I’ll imagine that the new owners will strive to drive off the fox that we think lives in those woods and will be prudent about controlling the raccoon population that probably includes the smart one who seems to know all too well to not fall for my baiting tricks.

If they decide to build a house, I will visualize it being located up on the high ground where I’m sure the cultivated fields offer many prime options. That would be well out of sight from our house so that we wouldn’t be a bother to them, you know.

I plan to do more sleuthing to learn if the sale was recorded, and when/where details were, or will be, made public.

I have no idea what the lag time might be for land record details to be posted online, but nothing new is currently showing at the online land records portal on the county web site.

Meanwhile, a third thing that is now painfully obvious for being out of my control is wild predation on our attempts to free range chickens. I do believe, certainly based on our opinions as of last night, we are done trying. Around dinner time, we lost 22 of our 25 birds.

Sorry, David.

Since Cyndie said this time she has had it for good, I suggested we give you the three survivors.

She said, “They won’t last that long.”

I can’t argue with that assessment.

She did say that you can take our bags of chicken feed, variety of feeders, and multiple waterers.

I’ve seen her change her mind before, but this time I am ready to lobby strongly that she not start over another time.

However, history reveals this as another thing that is beyond my control: Countering her amazing ability to recover enough to regain her glimmer of hope after the immediate pain of the loss eventually eases.

For now, it feels like neither of us wants to repeat this highly unsettling routine one more time.

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