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

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Same Result

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Last fall I bought a new yard tractor to mow grass. It’s a level up from the model we took on from the previous property owners, with a much sturdier mowing deck and improved steering. Now that I’ve had an opportunity to use it a couple of times, I’m able to judge its worth.

Performance is improved in all areas except one. Despite the inclusion of hose fittings to wash the underside of the deck with water, it collects grass and needs cleaning just the same as the previous one.

Since it was new, I decided to give the suggested water cleaning steps a chance, despite everything I’ve heard debunking the method. It just seems wrong to be getting the nooks and crannies of metal parts wet.

The results were as underwhelming as I’d expected.

Having mastered removing the deck for cleaning on the old mower, I figured it would be just as easy on this one, allowing me to turn it over to see the results directly.

In total neglect of checking any instructions, I boldly forged ahead to remove clips at the attachment points. Right away I realized, there was no handy lever to release tension on the belt. That didn’t stop me from getting it apart, but I knew it was going to complicate getting it all hooked up again after I was done.

Flipping the deck quickly revealed the gross limitations of the water method for cleaning. That might work if all you did was cut a short length of grass blades from a lush lawn. My reality involves a lot more weeds, small branches, dirt, and dust, combined with occasional areas of thick, too-long grass which packs on a complex brick of debris to the underside of the deck.

The sprayed water didn’t come close to being effective enough.

When it came time to reattach the deck, I made multiple futile attempts before finally wrestling all the clips in place at all the attachment points. All that remained was to get the belt over the pulley.

No matter what contortion of positions I tried, I didn’t have enough hands or leverage to muscle that belt in place. I knew there must be a logical procedure I wasn’t figuring out.

Yeah. This is the part where I went inside and consulted the manual again.

Surprise! There is a little square hole on the arm of the tensioning pulley intended for the post of a ratchet driver that would allow for enough leverage to get the belt over the engine pulley. Brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that?

I also learned that I had removed two clips too many, which complicated the task unnecessarily.

So, cleaning the deck ends up being the same result as the old yard tractor, but properly informed, it will ultimately involve an easier process of removal and re-attachment.

Overall, I’m happy to report being very satisfied with the upgrade!

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

They’re Out

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It wasn’t a great escape. It was a controlled release. Yesterday, the fencing was removed and free range of the grounds has been granted, along with the heightened risk of exposure to predators that goes with it.

Boy did the chicks have fun. They romped to and fro through the woods, eventually stumbling on the composting piles of manure. Their next move was back into the thick growth on the edge of the woods, but at least in the right direction, toward the coop.

Mildly anxious about their first day out, I decided to go sit beside the coop and hope for their return. In no time, they emerged from the underbrush with a flurry to reconnoiter around the comfort of their home.

I sat with them and enjoyed the bliss of the moment, as they happily explored the areas just beyond the border of the old fencing.

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At dusk, Cyndie found them all in the coop, although reporting the good news with frustration that they still are showing no interest in roosting. I’m hoping that natural chicken instinct will get them up there eventually. Last year’s young coop residents needed no encouragement to seek the highest possible perch.

We have no idea why these twelve are behaving differently.

Looks like the Golden Laced Wyandottes like having their picture taken.

I don’t blame them one bit.

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Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2018 at 6:00 am

Love Rules

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Love rules the day. I was going to write a blog post this morning, and then a royal wedding showed up. The wedding of Harry and Meghan is so far away from my world, that I had no intention of bothering to watch it, despite the almost universal broadcast coverage being made available.

Cyndie wanted to watch it. Not long ago, we did a binge watching of early seasons of the show, “Suits,” where we came to feel Meghan Markle was someone we knew. She set an alarm so she could get up early to see the wedding.

I had no idea that I would end up having dreams of getting ready to view it in my parent’s bedroom in the house on Cedar Ridge Road in Eden Prairie, and that my dad would be there among others who had gathered. As dreams do, it later morphed to my being on a roadside curb looking to reserve some space with Cyndie’s brother, Steve, to watch the procession move past.

I woke almost every fifteen minutes after 5:00 a.m. and wondered when Cyndie was going to turn on the tv in our bedroom. Eventually, I heard her getting up and assumed she was going to sneak out to allow me to sleep. I let her know that she could turn it on here.

As the pageantry played out, we exchanged fun banter over the spectacle of the event. Then love burst forth in the form of one Michael Curry. The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the presiding bishop of the American Episcopal Church gave the perfect wedding sermon.

You can read the text online, as Kensington Palace released the transcript immediately following his delivery. However, it is his delivery, including small enhancements to the script, that is necessary viewing to grasp the full impact of emotion and truths of which he spoke.

Love is my “religion.” Remove all the technicalities of each and every religion with their variety of origin stories and various traditions, and beneath it all there is love.

Bishop Curry boiled it down nicely. Watch it. Then go out into the world and love.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2018 at 8:19 am

Two Masters

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There are currently two different masters vying for my time, excluding the myriad other commitments, like the day-job, commuting to the day-job, a decent night’s sleep, doing my plank exercises, and some longed-for idle down time to give my weary head a break.

Those things are all secondary to the two essential priorities at present: time on the bike, and mowing the lawn.

I’m pretty sure Pequenita would add, lavishing her with non-stop attention, but she doesn’t get to vote.

The afternoon weather was warm yesterday, but otherwise perfect for both mowing and cycling. Despite my idea of riding every day for the month leading up to my week-long trip, I chose to start with mowing. The grass was just growing too fast to wait another day.

Now that I have the new lawn tractor all figured out, the task of mowing has gotten downright pleasant. However, to be fair, the credit for pleasantness isn’t solely due to the tractor. The weather since snow stopped falling has provided growing conditions drier than any other spring since we moved here.

We’ve had some rain recently, but no gully washing downpours (yet). Precipitation has fallen gently and slowly, giving everything a good drink, but not too much, which has allowed the soil to dry up nicely afterward.

That has pretty much made mowing a hassle-free endeavor.

After finishing all the areas that needed cutting the most, I cleaned up the mower, parked it, and looked at my bike. I had no intention of putting on all my gear and heading out for a real ride, but it struck me that I could, at the very least, see how my butt felt against the seat.

I hopped on without the right shoes and pedaled up to the house. My backside didn’t feel as bad as I thought it might, especially given the un-padded regular shorts I was wearing.

I rolled down the driveway and pedaled my way back up. Then I did it a second time, to log about a mile, just for the record.

That was good enough for me. I’ve now ridden three days in a row.

I also served both masters within a precious short few hours at the end of a work day.

I wonder how long I will be able to keep this up.

Time will tell. Stay tuned…

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Rode Again

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The momentum is going in the right direction for me. I got on the bike for the second day in a row yesterday. As expected, my butt was not entirely happy with the pressure of the seat, carrying a little tenderness from the day before. But, after a few miles, that faded in with the rest of the aches and pains of resuming a different exercise after a long hiatus.

My legs were noticeably stiff about pushing the pedals so soon after the previous workout.

To keep things interesting, I planned a route in the opposite direction of my Tuesday ride. It did turn out to be very interesting, but my ultimate plan was foiled by an unexpected gravel road —a constant threat to random exploration around these parts.

I was headed north when the pavement ended, so I turned around and backtracked my way south, visible as the single line up to nowhere on the map.

Actually, it was probably a good thing, because my legs would likely have objected had my original plan worked out. The shortened ride turned out to be plenty enough exercise for day two.

Other highlights included a close encounter with a yapping lap dog who completely ignored the fervent screams for obedience which emanated simultaneously from everyone in the family who happened to be out on the lawn at the time.

I was thrilled to find a variety of locations where wild trillium is growing among ferns in the ditches of nearby roads. It bodes well for our plan to establish a carpet of our own in the woods by our house.

There was nary a home that didn’t have someone out mowing grass or planting fields. It is the season of growing and the farmers are all in a hurry to get their crops to join in the explosion of growth that is visible in how high the grass is advancing by the hour.

I also finally located the bison herd that George had told us about on one of the nearby properties. The first clue was the height and robustness of the fence around the pasture. I had to search for the animals, because they were congregated at the far end from the road, right before the elevation dropped and I zoomed away down another hill.

I’m proud to report that I successfully silenced the squeak in my shoes, so it was an all around splendid ride, with nothing but the sounds of nature and tractors to serenade me.

I also got the bike computer back up and running. Based on the data from the app on my phone, I got the settings right on the computer, because results matched very close for speed and mileage.

It’s always nice on a bike when the feedback about speed is accurate. It’s bad enough when the number reveals I’m going so slow the tip-over alarm might go off, but finding out the speed is artificially high or incorrectly low can be very unsettling to otherwise mild-mannered cyclists.

May the road roll past our tires…

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Green Everywhere

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For the first time since last October, we can’t see the chicken coop from the driveway. The green of innumerable leaves has returned in a blink.

Complimenting all the green exploding in every direction was the blue sky. Just the kind of weather that would be perfect for an inaugural bike ride of the season, when a person has failed to take advantage of any previous chances.

That meant I needed to hustle home from work, and focus exclusively on cleaning and re-assembling my bike. That is to say, no more disassembly allowed. Unlike my usual self, I somehow made short work of getting the trusty two-wheeler back into riding shape.

After a break for a quick dinner, I decided to see how it rode. I mentioned out loud that I wouldn’t have my bike computer because the battery was dead, and Cyndie reminded me I could use my phone.

It had been so long since using the “Map My Ride” app, I needed to reset my password to get logged in, but once that was done, I was ready to ride.

I like a quiet bike, and I’m proud to say that my bike didn’t utter a single annoying mechanical peep. The problem with quiet bike though, is anything else making unwelcome noises becomes that much more noticeable.

I’m pretty sure it was my shoes. I have a cleat mounted in my shoes that snaps into my pedals. The longer I rode, the more I became aware of what sounded like a squeaky chair as I muscled my way up hills.

Those cleats will get a serious snugging before my next ride.

I made it home just as the sun was dropping below the horizon. By that hour of the day, the low spots on the road take on a dramatic chill compared to the rest of the air. I paused on top of the first high spot of our driveway and checked the app.

Eight miles in 36 minutes, including several fair-sized hills. Minimal traffic and only a couple of farm tractors to pass. Startled someone’s horse napping in a pasture and got stared at by a lot of cows.

That’ll do just fine for a starter.

Now if I could just do that every day for a month, maybe I would be in reasonable shape at the start of the Tour of Minnesota.

The first day mileage will be 80 miles, so I’d rather not show up under-prepared for that.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

Not Progress

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You’d think that, with my annual bike trip in June fast approaching, I would be riding often in preparation. Actually, I have not ridden once yet this year. It was a long winter!

Now that it has warmed up, it would make sense for me to get out and log some miles, but what did I choose to do instead? I started dismantling my bike to give it a much deserved cleaning.

Do you think there could be some subconscious factors at play that have me sabotaging my preparations for this year’s trip?

Why didn’t I do the bike maintenance when it was snowy and cold?

I am my own worst enemy.

In case you didn’t notice, my post for yesterday didn’t publish in the morning as I had intended. I don’t know what step I may have missed, but I have no reason to believe it was anything other than an unconscious oversight on my part.

By late afternoon, when my sister, Judy, checked in with me to learn why I hadn’t posted, it only took one swipe to publish from my phone. I had been that close. Just missed the last step.

I was probably distracted by thoughts of how I could be dismantling my bike down to the raw bearings to clean and grease everything so that I could then start riding it in preparation for the trip.

I wonder if my diligent planking exercises twice a day to support my ailing lumbar discs will translate to biking fitness. What I should really do is rig up my office chair to mount my bike seat on it so I can start building up calluses on my caboose while working at my desk.

It seems like the only progress I am making is in complicating my preparations for the Tour of Minnesota bike trip this year.

That’s a lot more like Not progress in my book.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2018 at 6:00 am