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

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Dandelions Anyone?

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It is peak dandelion season and we appear to have a bumper crop. It is also itchy rash season again from nettles and poison ivy. Every day the look of our landscape changes as plants and trees sprout leaves. Some of our varieties of grasses double in size every day. I have been using the power trimmer to clean up the edges of the hay shed and barn as well as areas of grass that were too wet to mow with the lawn tractor.

I am thrilled with how the transplanted maple tree is thriving at the center of the labyrinth.

With some precision trimming last year I have successfully encouraged a favored branch to become the leader and it is growing perfectly.

One day later, the dandelions appeared to be swallowing the labyrinth with their multiplying number beginning to cover some of the rocks defining the pathway. Yesterday afternoon I slowly walked the entire labyrinth with the power trimmer to restore order.

I think we are going to need bigger rocks.

The diameter of the labyrinth is so large there are several different micro-climates. The back half that is shaded in the afternoon is dramatically different from the front that receives sun all day long. Actually, the main change is in how much grass there is. The weeds are pretty consistent throughout.

There is a sumac tree that appears to really want company because new sprouts were turning up very frequently for about 5 rows of the back quadrant near the mother tree.

Maybe the sumac tree can make friends with all the dandelions instead.

There are more than enough available.



Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

First Sighting

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After all the years of hearing them and losing chickens to them, yesterday I finally saw my first coyote on our property. It was mid-morning and I had tethered Delilah to a small tree while I coaxed the horses back into the paddock from the pasture. Actually, Mix and Light were already in by the barn.

Swings was close to coming in but decided she still should kick into a big run, which helped energize Mia, who was much further out in the field, to also accelerate into a run. It saved me from needing to trudge all the way out there to get her. I hustled behind them to close the gate before they might decide to keep running and loop right back out again.

That’s when I noticed the odd-looking gangly juvenile coyote standing in the paddock near the waterer, all ears with spindly legs and an ugly long tail. It didn’t seem very jumpy but looked like the rush of horse energy showing up was enough to convince it to take a walk.

I tried to hurry my latching of the gate chain and rush back to get Delilah so we could add a little convincing of our own to show that intruder it shouldn’t be here. I’m sure that Delilah was clueless at that point, but she definitely picked up my urgency and gladly rushed off in pursuit of anything just as fast as she could drag me.

As we rounded the backside of the barn I caught a glimpse of the lone young coyote moving beyond the hay shed toward the north loop trail. Its pace wasn’t the least bit threatened which led me to feel it was acting with a rather cocky level of self-confidence. Too bad I couldn’t move fast enough to allow Delilah to close much distance on the trespasser.

When we reached the road, I saw the rather mangy-looking youngster trot across the neighbor’s lawn across the street. It looked back to check on our pursuit once before disappearing over the horizon.

I wish it hadn’t looked so comfortable in the paddock before leaving. I take some solace in knowing it won’t find any chicken dinners here for the time being.



Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2022 at 6:00 am

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Lovely Ride

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Beautiful weather, wonderful friends, and an old railroad grade paved trail made for an absolutely lovely bike ride yesterday. We even came upon my favorite word carved in stone. Of course, I just had to pose for a portrait. Rich obliged my request.

Eventually, the whole gang got into the act.

Doobie is not pictured because he is the one taking the picture. Gray is not in the picture because he kept riding when we stopped so that he could get back in time to make another event.

We had arrived at the Big Stone Sculpture Garden and Mini Golf course. Truly a worthwhile destination.

Our little jaunt took us from Wayzata to St. Bonifacious and back again on the Dakota Trail. As we rode the first leg, I became aware that we would be riding right past the house where Cyndie’s and my friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus live. On the way back, I asked Rich to pull off the trail with me to take a quick picture in front of their house. I figured they were out of town for the weekend so I was going to send them a text with the photo.

As Rich and I turned off the trail, I saw a car in the driveway so I rang the doorbell and found they were home! After a quick greeting, it was time to catch up with the rest of the group and get to a lunch reservation waiting for us in Wayzata at The Muni. (Wayzata Bar and Grill.  I recommend the Cubano sandwich.)

As I rediscover every time, the riding is always good but the company of friends is ten times better. The next time I will see that group of folks will be in the middle of June for the Tour of Minnesota. I am really looking forward to a week of biking and camping with them once again.

I love these friends.



Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

More Surprises

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A full day in the woods directing the work of the tree cutters on Friday turned up a couple of unexpected flower surprises for me.

The first was when I came upon these cute little wildflower bunches beneath my favorite hunk of a tree.

No tree trimming of that beast was done that day as our attentions were elsewhere. I just happened to be waiting a safe distance away from where a large leaning tree was being professionally dispatched to the ground when I spotted the flowery accents.

In a somewhat similar situation, only, different, I found this single flowering trillium just after a tree that had been hiding it from view was cut down.

That one is definitely NOT one that we transplanted from the lake place. Finding this is encouraging for our goal of establishing a greater presence of trillium in our woods. If they are showing up naturally, that definitely bodes well.

That’s all I got. Short and sweet this morning because I am off to drive for an hour to meet friends for a morning bike ride. Further tree work and lawn mowing will need to wait for another day. I’ve been granted a day off to pedal!



Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2022 at 7:30 am

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Trees Trimmed

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It was a lucky Friday the 13th for us yesterday. The professional tree trimmers we contracted with finally arrived to spend a day felling and trimming multiple large trees. When the job was quoted, it was easier to see the many trees in our woods that had tipped and become hung up on surrounding branches. Now there is just enough greenery beginning to sprout that the views are a little more obscured.

When the two-man crew arrived, the horses were highly curious about the mysterious-looking machinery that rolled over the first hill of our driveway.

They just as quickly came to accept the racket made by dueling chainsaws as no big thing, even though the bucket mechanism the guys were using looked a little creepy.

That big willow looks so much less neglected today. That’s one tree species that prodigiously sprouts random new branches every which way along the full length of its trunk.

Two of the largest and oldest maple trees that have been slowly dying received a different bit of serious pruning as we strive to prolong the glory of their stature on our landscape.

It’s getting to the point there isn’t much left of them. One large limb broke loose last year and landed on the equally large limb just beneath it. I’ve been yearning to take that extra weight off the lower branch but the job was beyond my capacity. Work like this, since there were plenty of other tree issues that deserved attention as well, made it easy to justify bringing in the professionals.

One of the other things we focused on was bringing to the ground any trees that had tipped but didn’t make it all the way down. Nicknamed “widow makers,” they can be tricky to deal with since the entanglement above can lead to unexpected movements of the tree being cut. I was more than happy to leave the stress of that challenge for someone other than me.

As long as they were here, I gave them full permission to cut down any tree that had been marked with red by our DNR Forester who paid a visit several years ago. There were so many marked trees that I haven’t been able to put a dent in the number. Watching how much work it took for a professional to cut them all in one particular section helped me to justify why I haven’t cut them all myself.

Also, it leaves a monumental amount of work to ultimately clean up off the ground, which I chose not to pay them to do. We have an endless supply of chip-able sized trees littering the forest floor now.

There is work enough to keep me busy in the lumberjack role full time. Too bad that I am also the lawn groundskeeper, fence mender, equine fecal relocation specialist, dog walker, home maintenance amateur, hay bale hauler, horse feeder, labyrinth tender, and Stihl power trimmer user extraordinaire.

I only get to do the lumberjack work in my spare time.



Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2022 at 9:04 am

Should Be

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This is as it should be. The horses are peacefully enjoying the fresh green pasture. Simply idyllic.

I am very happy to report that the horses have been very calm about moving through the gate to the pasture when I open it. They have also been self-policing their minutes on the field. When my timer has gone off reminding me to usher them back to the confines of the paddocks the last two days, I have found they had already returned on their own.

Yesterday they were all willing participants in receiving their spring dose of dewormer medication. By all indications, they have become well adjusted and are at peace with the accommodations we are providing. It is interesting to think back to how they presented in the early days after their arrival a little over one year ago.

It’s been rewarding to witness the slow changes as they began to grow more comfortable with us and their surroundings with the passing of each month. They are beginning to take on a look that says they agree that this is exactly where they should be at this point in their lives.

They must be happy that the close calls with severe weather recently have all turned out well for us. There was nothing visible yesterday morning to indicate a big windy thunderstorm rolled over us the night before. At least, in terms of trees and branches that is. There were plenty of hints we had experienced a flash flood.

The diagonal line through the field in the image above is where the runoff flattened the grass on the way to the drainage ditch along our southern property border. We really need to find our rain gauges and get those set up again. I prefer knowing how much rain falls from big storms.

Cyndie recalls storing one of them last fall in a very smart place where we would be able to find it again in spring. So far, no luck.

Her new milestone of knee replacement recovery for yesterday (just over 3 weeks out) was, taking her first walk on a trail through our woods. She did it without a cane or any supporting devices. She’s not pain free yet, but she is definitely making good progress on using that leg more and more. The machine providing compression and icing is a godsend that really helps the rest periods between all the exercise she is getting.

I think I would like one of those fancy machines with a sleeve that fits over my whole body. I suppose I could always take an ice bath.

Okay, that just changed my mind. I don’t want to take an ice bath.

Although, yesterday’s heat and humidity was rather oppressive…



Stormy Again

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Not that I’m counting but last night was the third time this spring that we have been under a strong thunderstorm with a tornado warning issued and found ourselves in the basement as a precaution. We were lucky the last two times, and the worst of the storms slipped around us to the north and south. Last night seemed more intense in terms of rain and minor hail but we won’t know about the ultimate impact until I get out and walk the property and check on the horses.

It was one of those storms that boggle my mind with the non-stop flashes of lightning. I understand the build-up of static charge and the dissipation of the charge in the massive bolt of electricity. What doesn’t make sense is how the charge builds up again so fast and there is another flash and another flash and an endless number of flashes after that with no time between.

The only other news of the day yesterday was that Cyndie drove herself to and from her physical therapy appointment with me in the passenger seat in case needed. My assistance was not required, but she did send me to fill the car with gas while she was inside working on reclaiming strength in her leg muscles.

Every day is a milestone of recovery progress for that woman.

If I discover anything interesting during this morning’s reconnaissance trek around the property, I’ll update this post. It’ll give me an image to include for the otherwise lack thereof.



Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Full Afternoon

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When we reached the driveway yesterday after a couple of errands in the Cities, I stopped the car to check for mail and let Cyndie move over to the driver’s seat. Her new right knee was no trouble for her as she tested a quick stop and then piloted the vehicle up to the house and into the garage.

She just keeps checking off new firsts every day. After resting with the leg raised and wrapped with the cooling/compression machine while we had some lunch, she made her way out to assist me in getting our landscape pond cleaned up and the pump pushing water over the falls again.

That’s a milestone we were overdue to accomplish. It feels super to have that off our list and even better to again hear the soothing sounds of the splashing water.

Speaking of milestones, yesterday also marked the day Cyndie stopped using a cane when walking.

Activity moved from the pond to the paddocks and Cyndie walked all the way to the barn and back to the house after spending time with each horse and offering to brush them.

I went from the barn to the shop garage where I successfully fired up the lawn tractor for the first time this season. There will be no such thing as “no mow May” at our place. I mowed the two spots around the paddocks where the grass grows fastest.

Two of the more urgent projects on our spring to-do list have been checked off and both happened on the same afternoon. When spring growth finally kicks off, it doesn’t pause to wait for anyone who meant to get some things done before the leaves pop open.

I am thrilled to be able to move on to the next big thing. Friday, weather permitting, we are scheduled to receive a visit from the tree service. That’s another task I am hoping will happen before the leaves all fully open. As it is, that project is already about a week late in terms of the buds popping on branches.

Spring is springing out all over the place, and delayed though the warmth and sunshine may be, higher heat than my body is adjusted to is now showing up in force. I forgot what it was like to move hay around while working with sweaty bare arms.

I was very ready for a shower after the full afternoon of spring projects we successfully handled yesterday.



Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2022 at 6:00 am

Impressive Sky

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There was no missing the approach of a significant change in the weather yesterday afternoon. It didn’t come as a surprise after a dramatic jump in temperature and humidity that was combined with a strong, gusty wind. All the ingredients were there for a bumpy end of the day.

I was moving the horses back into the paddock from the back pasture when the leading edge of a line of thunderstorms arrived overhead. A short while later, our cell phones announced our county was included in a tornado warning.

This was the second such warning to occur in this county during the past three weeks. Something tells me it’s going to be a long year for severe weather. It would be just fine with me to be wrong and have these two close calls be nature’s way of using up the threatening storms right away in early spring so the rest of the warm months will be safe and calm.

In addition to the weather drama, I got a little shock when an itch on my side turned out to be a small wood tick latched onto my flesh. Makes me miss our chickens free-ranging all over the place and controlling insects like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Sure wish the rest of the busy wildlife around here would pick up the slack and eat more flies and ticks.

The horses are also going to miss the fly-control the chickens were providing. All the wet weather of the previous weeks is harbinger of a high fly population this year. Flies have shown up early and are already making pests of themselves around the horses’ eyes.

As the sky began to look gloomier and doom-ier, we checked weather radar maps and watched as the worst looking blobs on the screen approached. Fear not, this wasn’t to be our day for damage. Just like the storms a couple of weeks ago, our location was spared as the worst-looking masses passed on either side of our property.

At one point, it began to rain in the backyard while the other side of our house remained dry.

That’s what I call really riding the edge.



Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Fresh Grass

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The horses have had a few days of brief visits to the back pasture now and it just makes them yearn for more. On the first day, they only got 15 minutes to munch. We increase it by 15 minutes each day for about two weeks, after which we can leave the gate open and they can come and go as they please.

Judging by their poop, none of them appear to be having any digestion issues upon the change in their diet, but it’s early yet. Hopefully, they will adjust without a problem, but it’s something that deserves our attention and we’d rather be over-cautious than have them suffer any ill effects.

When I opened the gate that first day, Mia was again the first to notice. She cautiously eased her way through the opening and quietly grazed just a short distance inside the back pasture.

Curious about whether they would stampede their way out into the field, I started recording a video when Light and the other two finally showed awareness that Mia was out there without them.

Their entry was actually rather tame but it is still fun to watch them make their way through the gate for the first time this spring. The audio is marred a bit by the sound of the breeze but after the view changes direction, you can hear all four of them snorting, which is kind of endearing.

When I went out to move them back into the paddock on Saturday after an hour, Mix and Swings had already come back on their own. I always like to see the horses making good choices that free me from needing to force them into the desired behavior.

A horse that limits its own time on green grass is a real convenience.



Written by johnwhays

May 9, 2022 at 6:00 am