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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Happy Chickens

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Our newest chickens are now about four and a half months old and have reached a size that has the two remaining hens from the previous batch mixing with them as equals. As a group, they are behaving as the happiest and friendliest of yard pets. Almost too friendly, in fact. They are showing no hesitation about racing up to us when we are walking Delilah, who would not hesitate for one second to grab a mouthful of feathers.

On an afternoon walk after our Thanksgiving feast, Cyndie made me stop to occupy the chickens while she hustled ahead with the dog.

She paused to look back and see me chicken-whispering to thank them for agreeing to wear face masks for my little photoshoot the day before.

They had been very accommodating, lining up politely for their fitting.

This morning, there was a new level of excitement because Rocky found his voice again and was crowing many times in a row after weeks of silence following his initial experiments.

Rocky’s coloring and sheen are launching him far beyond the splendor of his brood of adoring pullets.

We continue to visualize his protective spirit as one that will include us and any people visiting as non-threats. He could be our ultimate test of the power of our chicken-whispering abilities.

For now, we are thoroughly enjoying the present state of bliss caring for our growing chickens. They seem totally happy, which is making us even happier.



Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Fitting Feasts

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Despite the peculiar Thanksgiving “ungathering” in the U.S. yesterday, brought on by the miserably timed (like there would ever be a good time) runaway community spreading of COVID-19, I am personally aware of many feasts that were had by individual households anyway.

I unwittingly broke a loose promise made to my mother a lifetime ago by not eating our Thanksgiving dinner at the old family table. We were gifted with rights to the table when we bought our first house, with the requirement that we host Thanksgiving on it for years after. Yesterday, since there were just the two of us, Cyndie and I chose to dine at the coffee table in front of the fireplace instead.

Cyndie performed her usual heroics in the kitchen and prepared a turkey with classic side dishes that could have fed a houseful. Luckily, she had baked most of the extras the day before so she could distribute portions to her mom and our kids in advance for a modified version of sharing the holiday feast together. Cyndie did her own custom door dash delivery to each of them.

In true 2020 pandemic fashion, the Friswold clan logged in for a video conference from each of our homes for the chance to see faces and hear voices on a day when we would normally have been together. The typical hijinks ensued.

“You’re muted still!”

“Turn on your video.”

[waving hello]

[all talking at once]

[followed by awkward silence]

Ah, but there is nothing like actually hearing the voices of our loved ones. Priceless.

As Cyndie and I got a few bites into our plates of Thanksgiving goodness, after voicing adoration for each of the fabulous flavors, I turned to her and asked, “Are we supposed to start arguing over politics now?”

Mostly, we just cooed over the fire in the fireplace, the exceptional quality of our holiday feast, and how good we have it despite the national crises simmering all around our country.

Much thankfulness ensued.



Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

Thanksgiving 2020

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

Multiple Pies

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The new oven plays a cute little tune when it reaches the temperature setting. I heard that song a lot yesterday, between the pies and gramma Betty buns Cyndie baked for customers and family members who are on her planned delivery route this morning.

Apple pies, pecan pies, and pumpkin pies (not shown) were options that customers of the White Pine Berry Farm could pre-order for Thanksgiving. Of course, Cyndie chose to make extra in order to have one of each for us to cut into for “testing purposes.”

Based on the results, testing probably wasn’t necessary. They were perfectly delicious.

She caught me in a happy mindset, so I was easy to please. Investors seemed pretty giddy yesterday after the Biden announcement of his cabinet picks, pushing the Dow past 30,000 for the first time ever. I heard some interviews with appointees and the President-Elect himself and witnessed level headed informative assessments of current realities that were completely free of conspiracy theories and hyperbolic rhetoric.

It was awe-inspiring for its complete lack of bombast.

Even as the pandemic spreads like wild around us, there is a growing measure of hope for a new normal that will be devoid of mockery and bullying from the highest offices of the new administration, where staff will no longer be required to parrot the company line or be shown the door.

It’s the honeymoon period. There’ll be time soon enough to call the next administration on their failures to live up to promises. For now, I am enjoying the breath of fresh air.

Have they promised a pie for everyone’s kitchen counter yet? They should.

I know someone who is pretty good at baking them.

(Oy. Think of how much test tasting that would involve…)



Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

Tuesday Before

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‘Twas the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and all through the house

all the creatures were stirring because they knew something weird was up!

No one is coming and we’re going to stay home

the pandemic is raging so we’ll feast all alone.

A pandemic Thanksgiving is a very strange thing. It does feel like a holiday week, except for the part where it doesn’t feel like a holiday at all. So far, our family has been lucky. Every time I have started to think I might be getting sick, it turned out to be a false alarm. To the best of my knowledge, neither of Cyndie’s nor my family members have needed to be hospitalized.

The reports getting more and more exposure on the news from doctors and nurses who are burdened with caring for the rapidly growing number of patients who need intensive care are heartbreaking. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to head home from a long shift of being over-worked and driving past locations where people can be seen gathering together and/or not wearing masks in behavior that comes across as disrespectful of the perils and subsequent burdens that fall squarely on the front line healthcare workers.

There is such a disconnect among people with varying levels of concern.

One nurse said they have to eat like snakes. With no time to take breaks, they grab food when they can and swallow it in one bite so they can get back to tending to someone struggling to breathe.

Meanwhile, retail industries are advertising holiday sales like nothing is amiss, hoping to avoid financial collapse of their own businesses by propping up a facade that everything is just fine. Keep shopping!

Just don’t hoard paper products or cleaning supplies.

Who would have guessed that toilet paper would become a treasured stocking stuffer for Christmas?

I’m still commuting to the day job, where stress is high, but looking forward to staying away from people for the coming long weekend. Cyndie has stocked our shelves with ingredients to entertain us both with her culinary arts.

The entertainment of watching spectator sports played in empty stadiums hasn’t hooked me as a desired distraction so I expect I will lose myself in more books and movies or take some deep dives in my music library this weekend.

Think of all the gas we are saving by staying home.

Let’s all offer a toast to the doctors and nurses who are working harder than ever in conditions that are riskier than ever this Thanksgiving.

Maintain safe social distances in their honor and remember to give thanks for every blessing that can still be found, even in an otherwise difficult year.



Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Weekend Escape

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With the Wisconsin deer hunting season getting underway on Saturday, I spent the weekend laying low, ensconced in the comfort of our couch and chairs around the fireplace reading about people who were anything but. I had been loaned a copy of Anatoli Boukreev‘s book, “The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest” detailing his account of the fateful events on Everest back in May of 1996.

It was revealing to finally read Anatoli’s version after previously only having been exposed to Jon Krakauer’s descriptions from his book, “Into Thin Air.”

As happens every time I read about what people endure in the death zone of high altitudes, I am dumbfounded that anyone would subject themselves to the insanity.

Reading about the prolonged deprivation they suffered in the high altitude storm while I am comfortably lounging by the fire is mind-bending.

As precious as it was for me to spend time in the Himalayan mountains in Nepal, none of the “death zone” expeditions hold any appeal.

I am satisfied to read the accounts of others while escaping from the realities of being shut in by hunting neighbors and a coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, the outcome for those who lost lives that day back in 1996 always comes out the same, no matter who’s account of the events I’m reading.

My heart breaks for them every time.




Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2020 at 7:00 am

New Oven

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It’s not hard to imagine that sometimes it is hard to imagine. We all have the ability to simply make things up, creating stories that never actually happened. It’s a thought exercise. Like all exercise, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I find I am more inclined to take the easy route and rely on describing what I actually experience. Turns out, it is often less believable than what I could conjure up in invented tall tales.

Case in point, this actually happened… The low-battery warning chirp started on our main smoke detector on the very day we first used a newly installed gas stove/oven in the kitchen. How’s that for timing?

Added context will help to deepen the intrigue.

As Cyndie has amped up her baking in the last few months, the shortcomings of our aging oven were becoming a growing annoyance. We don’t know whether it was one of the original appliances in our 30-year-old home, but the advancing rust and warped door that wouldn’t entirely close helped justify taking the leap of purchasing a replacement.

An added incentive, having tolerated the dissatisfaction of cooking on an electric range in the 8-years since we moved in, we could finally change back to gas burners that we have both always favored.

I needed to change out the 240 VAC, 50 Amp circuit for a 120V/15A, and we needed to hire a professional to add a new gas line from the furnace room up to the kitchen. That was all rather straight forward to accomplish. Timing and doing the purchases online were the harder parts of the project.

Everything ordered seems to take longer than expected during a pandemic and getting all the specs right with clicks on browsers is not a given. Cyndie originally thought she was getting a dual-fuel double electric oven with a gas range. She succeeded on the double oven, but not the electric part. The difference was not a show-stopper, so all gas it is.

The oven arrived before the gas line had been installed, so the gas plumbers were the ones to install the LP kit on the oven when they arrived. Here is how that all went:

  1. They cut an electric wire while drilling through the kitchen floor.
  2. At their expense, an electrician would arrive the next day to repair.
  3. Cyndie ran the double ovens for an hour or two per manual instructions to burn off and season the surfaces.
  4. Owner of plumbing company showed up following day to fix wiring.
  5. Cyndie demonstrated for him how the bottom oven sounded like a jet engine and he freaked out and turned it off in near-panic.
  6. By that afternoon, first guy returned to discover he missed installing the LP reducer in the second oven.
  7. We all envisioned the several catastrophic calamities that had just been narrowly averted.

The day when everything was finally correct and Cyndie used the range for the first time to boil potatoes, the smoke detector beeped. The occasional beeping seemed inconsistent to me, leading us both to suspect it had something to do with the new gas range. Maybe there was some problem with the adjustment of the burning flame that needed to occur?

There wasn’t smoke, but could it be carbon monoxide?

Well, no. It was the low battery beep. Installed new batteries and have used the stove and ovens without mishap since.

How’s that for timing?



Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2020 at 11:14 am

Virus Mania

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It’s as if there is some sort of pandemic or something. The coronavirus is everywhere. That invisible little bug that half the people think is being way over-hyped while over a million others are dead from and hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity is not magically disappearing in the way some hoped.

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

Radio on-the-street interviews capture a scary number of people who complain they are tired of the pandemic and frustrated with officials who are struggling to mandate protocols that can limit the spread. Not the proudest moment for the human race.

Staying home all the time is too hard. Really? How hard is it?

What if we had to practice avoiding others for a whole year? I don’t know. Maybe try imagining how hostages who are held for four times that long muster the ability to cope.

We have the promise of vaccines to look forward to, so the beginning of the resolution of the pandemic is within sight. It would be nice if people could rise to the occasion of not making things any worse than they already are while we work through the process of vaccine distribution on the way to achieving herd immunity.

Try pretending that it isn’t a hoax. Play along with us for a little while, for the good of the rest of the world population.

After it’s all over, maybe all the people who have lost jobs and businesses can be retrained to become firefighters or search and rescue EMTs to deal with the increasing wildfires and flooding hurricanes that global warming has continued to exacerbate while we have been distracted.

Just call me little miss sunshine this morning.

Forgive me. I’m just reacting sideways to the unending reports of GOP and White House lunacy stinking up the remnants of our democratic election here in the U.S.

I trust there is hope for a better day hiding out there somewhere. [Insert joke about expecting to find a pony in here someplace.]

I’ll keep digging. And staying home as much as possible.



Written by johnwhays

November 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

Flashing Back

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I was looking for an image last night and found myself exploring a folder of photos from five years ago this month. Brings back memories.

My, those horses kept that pasture well-manicured.

It is interesting how we adjust our lives to the changing circumstances swirling around us in each given moment or situation. I’ve already forgotten the daily routine of caring for our horses. It’s been 20 months since we returned them to their previous home and herds. They are dearly missed, but I certainly appreciated the freedom from managing concerns about hay and wild weather and daily manure scooping under the overhang.

We still nurture dreams of finding a way to make our pastures available to nearby rescue organizations during summer months in the future.

There is a big void here without the presence of horse energy vibrations.

Now we allow the chickens a greater amount of our attention and this year of 2020, with its protests, pandemics, and politics, combined with the final months of Cyndie’s dad’s life, have commanded a bulk of our limited mental resources.

It’s invigorating to think back to better times and remember how different life was only a half-decade ago.

With the pandemic spreading unchecked we are in for a strange couple of holidays this season. Home alone is taking on a whole new meaning.

I think I’ll be diving into multiple flashbacks of Thanksgivings and Christmases throughout my life in order to distract from how odd this year has turned out.

Do you wonder if all the U.S. Thanksgiving Day Zoom gatherings will bog down the internet next week? If ever there was a time to have “smell-o-vision” built into the app, the aroma of the turkey feasts wafting from kitchens around the country would be a particularly valuable addition to the virtual family visits.

Trust me, if I could share the incredible smells when Cyndie bakes my mom’s sweet bread bun recipe (Gramma Betty’s Buns), I certainly would. It’s too much for one man to consume. I’ll be on aroma overload.

Come to think of it, that just might be a way to overwhelm the coronavirus. I need to contact the vaccine research people and let ’em know I may have stumbled on to a solution that doesn’t require insanely cold freezers during distribution and storage.

With Cyndie’s tendency to bake enough for millions, we could be looking at a way out of this “stay at home” protocol much sooner than currently predicted. Although, one side effect to note, I think I gain weight by simply breathing in the scrumptious smell of these fresh-baked morsels of goodness.



Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

Gory Find

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We have been living in rural farm country for eight years and seen some interesting things, but yesterday’s find was a new one for us. As I pulled into the driveway at the end of my long commute home and climbed the first incline, my eyes spotted something in the grass beside the pavement that stood out distinctly for its uncharacteristic color.

My brain quickly worked to make sense of it and toggled in a split second between thinking it could be something that had fallen or been tossed from a passing vehicle or possibly a cluster of brown oak leaves on a fallen branch. I stared toward the image as I slowly rolled past until it was out of view.

Then I stopped the car. My mind couldn’t make sense of what I’d just seen.

I needed another look. Putting the car into reverse, I rolled back slowly until the unidentified object reappeared out my window. It was not a cluster of brown leaves. It was redder in color. Honestly, it looked like a surprisingly large chunk of raw meat.

Logic suggested I might want to get out of the car to take a closer look, but I had no interest in getting any closer to that ghoulish specimen. I put the car back in gear and rolled up over the hill to find Cyndie walking toward me with an arm-length plastic veterinarian glove on and carrying a plastic bag.

Obviously, she had just discovered this spectacle moments earlier. She described walking Delilah back from the mailbox and catching sight of the oddity well before the dog did. Cyndie shortened Delilah’s leash as they neared and when the oblivious dog was almost past it, her nose picked up the scent and she lunged against the leash, hoping to do her own close inspection.

Cyndie walked her far enough ahead to secure the leash to a gate and walked back to see what it was. We are not schooled in such detail, but it was very obviously a large chunk of raw meat and included what looked like valves? She took Delilah back to the barn where she found the glove and bag to go remove the body part from beside our driveway, which is how we came upon each other.

Questions linger. What is it exactly? Where did it come from (wild or farm livestock)? Where’s the rest of the carcass? Who (what animal) dropped it on our property? Why did it get dropped (still plenty of good eatin’ there)? Where was the animal taking its prize? A lone wolf? Pack of coyotes? Mountain lion? Stray dog? A neighbor’s cat?

I agreed with Cyndie that we didn’t need to leave it out for critters to have a second chance at it. It occurred to me that, were I more motivated, I could quickly set up the trail cam to see who returns to the lingering scent in the darkness overnight, but I’m happy to live with the mystery.

For the sake of those who feel no need to see what it looked like, I’ll offer the image in the form of a link: Gory find. There is no size reference, but it was larger than any cut of roast I have ever seen in the grocery store meat departments.

Try counting the tooth mark punctures.



Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2020 at 7:00 am