Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Showing Preference

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It’s been almost two years since a DNR forester walked our woods marking trees to be cut down to improve the overall health of the forest. Certain trees tend to have higher value for their qualities, oaks and maples chief among them, but also trees of a certain maturity. The biggest trees definitely stand out as our most impressive.

To show our big, old oaks the respect they deserve, the forester painted the smaller trees beneath them, marking which ones to cut down. It seems counterintuitive to cut down trees to save trees but considering the bigger picture, it is understandable.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I set out to make overdue progress on culling more of the red-dotted clutter beneath some of our preferred oaks. It was invigorating, exhausting, rewarding work.

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It’s not real obvious, but if you click on those images you can see more detail of the before and after of our effort around one particular majestic oak on the edge of our property.

Cutting down a relatively small tree is a simple act, but there is a surprising amount of follow-up work necessary to deal with all the branches suddenly on the ground. We’ve only just begun to cope with all the wood and branches the hours of work brought down yesterday. There is now a wealth of raw material awaiting our chipper and splitter.

There are also plenty more small trees with red dots yet to be cut. So much opportunity on just 10 acres of wooded land.

We laughed yesterday over the time we spent years ago clearing one section of all the downed branches and grinding them through the chipper. At the time, we thought maybe we could clean up all our land. When the following season revealed as many or more new branches filling the area we had previously cleared, we realized the folly of our intentions.

After cutting trees yesterday, we were dragging some of the trimmed branches into the middle of our woods to deal with them.

When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2019 at 10:57 am

Precarious Perch

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I would love to have been watching the action when this unlikely balance resulted. We’ve got a new “situation” not far off-trail in our woods today.

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It is so high that I’d rather not mess with trying to bring it down. Imagine what must have happened when that snapped off, tipped into the adjacent branches and then dropped back onto the trunk from which it had come. Impressive.

I would prefer that we soon have another high-wind event to wiggle the trees enough to dislodge that precarious perch so we don’t have to do it ourselves.

We probably have enough rope to toss a line over to pull it down, but I’m not too keen about spending much time beneath it.

For all the “widow-maker” half-fallen trees we endlessly see in our small acreage of woods, this one is a rarity.

Maybe our forest bathing excursions should require hard hats.

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Written by johnwhays

November 16, 2019 at 9:49 am

Just One

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Found out Cyndie bought eggs from the grocery store the other day. With the hours of daylight reduced this time of year, our hens have dropped production of home-laid eggs a significant amount. Yesterday, the grand total count was one.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.

Speaking of gone, more of our chickens have begun molting feathers, unfortunately, just when the early cold snap showed up. Seems odd that chickens would molt so late in the year. Although, I can see how it might have served as inspiration for early peoples to gather all the shed feathers to make beds or blankets just as the cold temperatures were arriving.

Cyndie chased a squirrel out of the coop yesterday. Maybe it was on a mission to collect feathers for his or her nest.

Chickens are hardly ever in there laying eggs lately, so at least someone is making daytime use of the shelter. Hah!

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

Special Aroma

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Imagine walking in the door after a long drive home through heavy traffic on a day when the roads are a mixture of snowy and not, and being immediately greeted by the intoxicating aroma of fresh-baked buns just out of the oven.

Such are the hardships I am forced to endure again and again living with a woman who creates magic everywhere her energy gets directed.

Guess what I ate for an afternoon snack. Mm, mmm, good.

If this isn’t living a blessed life, I don’t know what is.

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

Missing Teeth

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It was news to us. After Cyndie found a cat tooth on our bathroom floor, she scheduled a vet appointment for Pequenita. Yesterday, the coldest day of the week, they headed out for Nita’s big adventure.

Our wee little indoor cat has not been to the vet since we brought her home from the adoption agency. We haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary in her behavior, so there has never been a reason to have her seen, until now.

She has been eating normally, so it was just that unexpected tooth on the floor that alerted us something might be up.

We learned it wasn’t the first tooth she had lost. It was one of “quite a few” missing teeth according to the vet. Oops. I feel like a bad cat-parent, but I have learned that it’s not an uncommon occurrence for cats to lose teeth.

Pequenita is classicly stoic about hiding any discomfort she may be enduring. I guess that just means we will need to pay close attention for any hints she needs something new from us.

Cyndie said Nita was a perfect little patient at the vet and received a vaccine update shot without protest.

I’m a little jealous of our cat. I wish I could look that unaffected when I have dental issues.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2019 at 7:00 am

Cold Now

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If we thought winter was coming on a little quick and fierce last week, today it has moved to another level of harsh. Single-digit cold temperatures are not a very friendly way for winter to show up and say hello.

So much for getting to know her first.

We have entered the period when any mechanical device that may have functioned normally in moderate temperatures is now being taxed to the brink of failing to function at all. When I attempted to back out of my parking space like usual after work yesterday, my car protested with unexpected sluggishness.

Oh, yeah. It had been sitting out all day in the Arctic chill. I forgot it’s no longer business as usual outside.

The flurries of snow that fell over the weekend hardly stayed on the ground. There was a small corner patch of the driveway that was the first to freeze and collect snow. The rest of the pavement still held enough residual ground warmth to melt the flakes that landed there.

That won’t be a problem any longer. At these temperatures, the asphalt is plenty cold now.

Our landscape pond is solid ice. If it wasn’t so small, we could use it as a skating rink.

The leaves might make the surface a little rough, though.

The cold air makes for a beautiful evening sky. Cyndie took this picture when making a trip to the chicken coop to close the door for the night. We have the water tanks plugged in to keep them from freezing, but the hens have to fend for themselves to keep warm. They are all winter-hardy breeds and fluff their feathers up in comical poofs of a genuine down coat to stave off the cold.

The coop provides shelter from the wind where they can smoosh together on the roost overnight to share their body warmth. I never watched to notice if the ones on the end are given a turn in the middle at some point. Seems only fair.

The harsh cold we are getting blasted with today is a fine ‘how-do-you-do?’ from winter, but maybe we can look at it as a bit of tough love that will serve us well as the season progresses.

After this start, returning to normal temperatures for November will feel absolutely tolerable!

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

High Wire

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I got in a fair amount of ladder time over the weekend. Cyndie recently dreamt up inspiration to try hanging a line in the yard to allow Delilah to run a bit more freely while still leashed. Her simple prototype worked well enough to spur me into action on an idea we’ve been tossing around for years.

We haven’t completely eliminated all the concerns that have kept me hesitant about doing this before, but as long as we stay in the vicinity when we connect her to it, I’ve decided to give it a try.

I discovered an old roll of twisted-pair fence wire in the shop garage that had more than enough length on it to reach the bottom of the hill and back again, so I decided to double the run for twice the strength. I expect that was probably overkill, but other than making installation a little more work, it doesn’t cost anything at this point. That spool of fence wire was left here by the previous owners and in seven years we had yet to find any other uses for it.

After I had selected the two trees and found enough wire to reach between them, I needed to devise a way to protect the trunks as much as possible. To keep the wire from girdling the trees, I placed a short segment of an old fence post on the far side of each to absorb the extreme tension. This will also spread the wire pressure across a greater area of the trunk.

We ran out of daylight on Saturday before I could finish, partly because I spent the better part of the day absorbed by the Gopher football game on television, so the final challenge of getting the wire taut and secured to the fence pully (which I stole from one of the anchors on the woodshed) became yesterday’s project.

I mulled over how I would possibly rig a way to clamp the wire so I could pull it tight with a come-along, which would then allow me to anchor it around the fence tensioning pully. It occurred to me that all this was a lot like putting new strings on my guitar.

Starting the day yesterday in the shop, I was thinking about bolting two boards together around the wire as a clamp when I spotted a better idea. I don’t know why I never threw away the broken metal tines of an old rake, but it turned out to work perfectly for this task.

I pushed the rake tines through the twists of the fence wire and hooked the come-along to it for pulling.

With that, I was able to get the rig secured and crank the wire tight to my desired result. It is high enough overhead to be out of the way and reaches from the top of the hill to the bottom.

Delilah was a little tentative on the first test, not sure how much distance this would allow her and a little uncertain about the sights and sounds coming from overhead, but she’ll figure it all out soon enough.

Now we can really put the hill to work as an energy-draining workout for our high-energy breed of dog. Afterwhich, we can all rest easier when we head back inside.

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Written by johnwhays

November 11, 2019 at 7:00 am