Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Growing Crystals

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It is wet, and the temperature drops below freezing at night, so morning walks offer views of the overnight ice crystal growth. Photo op!

We are enjoying a couple of days with daytime temps climbing above freezing, so our snow cover is dwindling. Walking Delilah along the perimeter trails yesterday, I discovered tire tracks that revealed someone had left the road and driven into the ditch by our property.

Roads in the area are still slippery.

Delilah made a surprise discovery while we were making our way through our woods after I got home from work yesterday. (Interesting coincidence: Ward and I were just exchanging comments related to this subject on my Tuesday post, Feeling Wintery.)

Like she almost always does, she was paying frequent attention toward the center of our woods, obviously picking up the scent of something that interested her. She generally walks a short distance, then stops to look left and sniff at the air, before continuing on for a ways and stopping again.

Sometimes, she picks up a scent on the ground and tries to follow it a few steps off the trail. I tend to pull her back quickly to get her back on task of walking our regular patrol around the property.

All of a sudden yesterday, she bolted to the left as if she was immediately on the tail of some critter, circling around a large tree trunk beside the trail before I could put the brake on her leash. I spotted the pile of fur just as she struck it with a massive bite.

She then let go just about as fast as she had attacked. Uncharacteristically, she didn’t resist one bit when I put tension on her leash to bring her back to the trail.

We walked a short distance and I hooked her to a tree so I could go back alone to see what it was that she had bitten. It was an opossum. I didn’t bother to check for any other detail, choosing to let nature take its course, and us to finish our walk.

If that had been one of our chickens, they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Even though we keep Delilah on a leash, we also need to pay attention to her at all times.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

Kitchen Aromas

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Honestly, I don’t feel worthy of the aromas that greeted me from Cyndie’s kitchen when I walked in the door after work yesterday. She pulled me all the way into some of my fondest November memories with a robust batch of fresh Chex mix roasting in the oven.

Threw me back to Thanksgiving day parades, afternoon football games, and my dear ol’ mom.

I don’t know which came first. Did my love of cereal lead to an overwhelming attachment to Chex mix, or did my fondness for Chex mix lead to my mind-boggling passion for cereal?

No sooner does the mix come out of the oven and Cyndie puts in a pizza crust to pre-bake.

Not one to avoid a challenge, she was working her magic on an untested recipe for an adventurous fresh cranberry balsamic white pizza.

I can sincerely say that this did not bring back a single memory or aroma from my past. I can take, or leave, an arugula salad on my pizza, but ricotta cheese in place of a good salty tomato sauce left this experiment lacking.

It looked tantalizing, though.

Just needed more sauce and maybe a heaping crown of mozzarella cheese for my tastes. And bacon.

What?

That was Cyndie’s idea. We read somewhere that the most common ingredient in contest-winning recipes happens to be bacon flavor in some shape or form.

We both got a chuckle out of that.

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2018 at 7:00 am

Feeling Wintery

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We did not get much of a chance to ease our way into winter this month. This morning’s single-digit low temperature is the second time already in November that we have faced such surprisingly cold air. The average high and low for this area in November is 40°/25°(F).

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My favorite weather blog is predicting a brown Thanksgiving next week, so we are looking forward to a return to more normal high temperatures in the days ahead, to melt away the remnants of last week’s snowfall.

The horses have been quick to develop their thicker winter coats and appear to be adapting to the cold without difficulty. Delilah loves the snow and romps with visible excitement, frequently burying her snout in the powder and coming up with a wonderfully frosty nose.

The chickens are already over most of their apprehension about walking in the snow, so we aren’t too concerned about them. I noticed recently that the size of one roost (there are actually two) seems to best accommodate 8 hens, based on how our current brood situate themselves.

Unfortunately, we currently have 9 birds.

Last one in tends to set off a chain reaction of chickens wrangling for position, with one dropping down when a 9th barges in line. Occasionally, a Wyandotte will choose to hurdle them all and perch against the wall on a stud above the window.

Last winter, we only had three hens and they didn’t have any problem fitting. You’d think they would split up and use both roosts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For the first time in the two years we’ve had chickens, we think we may have a sick hen. Her change in behavior started about the same time the snow arrived, so it wasn’t clear at first that there was any issue beyond not wanting to walk in the snow. Now that the other eight have returned to normal behavior, the malaise of the ninth has become more conspicuous.

She doesn’t want to leave the coop. It is hard to track her eating and drinking, so we are not sure if this is a serious illness or something minor that will resolve itself over time. We’ll start observing her with increased scrutiny to see if we learn anything more.

We have been so intent on tracking the potential predators that threaten the hens, it would be a shame to instead lose one to illness. We hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Totally Busted

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My ruse of relying on snow cover to distract Cyndie from noticing the grass was still carpeted by leaves when she returned home from Guatemala has already been dispelled.

On Saturday, the sun came out for a little while and began to shrink the 3-to-4 inches of snow we received, down to about half that depth. Yesterday, she and Delilah were playing a little leashed version of “fetch the stick” out front and the truth was sadly revealed.

It was interesting. The leaves so thoroughly covered the ground that the grass and soil beneath look unaffected by the snow. I think, if we raked up the leaves today, we’d have an amazing visual of a completely snow-free green lawn, while everywhere else would be snowy.

The chickens would sure appreciate that. This was the first significant snowfall in their lives and they were not at all interested in venturing out from the coop Saturday morning to walk in it.

By yesterday, they were already overcoming their hesitancy to tread on the white stuff and revisiting some of their usual favorite spaces. They do so at their own risk.

While we were out walking Delilah in the afternoon, I spotted an unidentified bird of prey circling the tree tops around the coop. It didn’t have the classic white tail of the previous eagle that swooped through our trees, but it could simply have been a youngster or even a golden, let alone any other variety of larger hawk.

We split up and Cyndie circled back to directly check on the chickens, while I continued around the perimeter with Delilah. The hunting predator glided up and away almost immediately.

I’m so pleased to have remembered to tell Cyndie that I had turned the electric fence back on while she was away. The horses were growing too comfortable with nibbling on parts of the wire insulation and nearby wood. If the fence had still been off, Cyndie would have ducked between wires and been able to walk straight toward the coop.

While I was cleaning up under the overhang a day or two after turning the electricity back on again, Cayenne took a startling snap to the nose. Mission accomplished. The horses were lolling around idly while I worked and she stretched toward one of the very spots I wanted to stop them from biting.

The horses generally notice from a distance that the fence is energized, so they very rarely get shocked. Maybe we left it off for too much of the summer, and they had grown complacent. I’m willing to bet they have already re-learned the necessary respect that will break any habit of chewing on the wires.

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Problem Solved

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Look! No leaves!

Just in time for Cyndie’s return from Guatemala, 3 or 4 inches of snow have covered up the leaves in the front yard.

She flew to Atlanta last night and texted me from there to bring her a jacket. I grabbed a scarf and mittens, too. The flight from Atlanta left over an hour later than scheduled. It was a middle of the night drive to the Minneapolis airport and back.

Small price to pay to have my baby home again!

Despite a few scares, I kept all the animals alive while she was away. I must say, that’s a welcome relief.

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Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2018 at 7:00 am

So Close

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For once, I saw it with my own eyes. I was up at the house when I heard a commotion down in the trees toward the chicken coop. Chickens squawking, wings flapping, and a large bald eagle swooping through and flying away. I wasn’t able to tell if it had anything in its grasp.

By the time Delilah and I made it down to check on the chickens, they were all happily pecking away at the grass beside the paddock, …except for one.

A Black Australorp was missing. I thought it was possible she was in a nesting box, but upon opening the access door and finding it empty, my heart sank.

The rest of the hens came over in search of a treat. They were such a tight bunch, it seemed highly unlikely the missing bird was off by herself if she wasn’t in the coop laying an egg.

I made the walk to the barn in woe over the loss. Dang eagle. Funny how we have always been thrilled to see the majestic bald eagle in our midst, but since one has now threatened the lives of our creatures, it takes on a different meaning.

When I opened the door from inside the barn to go out under the overhang and clean up after the horses, my woe turned to elation. That highly unlikely scenario of a lone hen mulling about so far from the rest of the brood had occurred. She was cutely cooing away all by herself in the sand under the barn roof.

It made me wonder if she even knew about the close call that had occurred out in the trees just a short time earlier. I had expected those trees would provide cover to protect the chickens from predators, but obviously, most of that protection disappears along with the leaves.

When we decided to get chickens, it didn’t occur to me that doing so would attract eagles.

I wonder if it will be back to try again. Having spotted the eagle perched across the field earlier in the week, something tells me, yes, it probably will make additional attempts.

After seeing yesterday’s close call, I’m thinking I’d rather not be around when it happens again.

For now, we’ve still got nine hens. I guess we better keep our eagle eyes on them if we want that number to remain.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2018 at 7:00 am

Looking Brown

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When I got home from work yesterday, I looked at the thermometer outside to find the high and low temperatures for the day. It ranged from the warmest being 32.9°(F) and the coldest, 32.0°. Yummy.

It’s going to be a struggle sweeping up the wet leaves from the grass if the winter weather that showed up this week decides to stay.

Most of the ground is still too warm for the snow to last. The image of our woods below provides a clear demonstration of the difference between the relative warmth of the ground, compared to the above-ground branches that are cold enough the snow doesn’t melt.

Supposedly, the ground will have a chance to freeze in the days ahead, as the forecast predicts a number of days in a row with high temperatures not making it above the freezing point.

Other than the disaster this will present for me with regard to leaves in the yard, it will be a welcome change from the current swampy conditions on our trails. We’ve got standing water in multiple places. The lime-screenings around the barn overhang are starting to become a mud fest from heavy hoof traffic.

I am ready for it all to become rock hard. The squishing is becoming tiresome.

Look at the color palette of these three pictures. Does anyone else associate November with the color brown?

Last night, I was listening to music on the radio in the house and more than once, Delilah reacted as if she heard something outside. At one point, she barked, like someone was here.

I shut off the radio and let her hear the quiet.

We went to the front door so I could show her there was nobody around. She then ran around to the door to the garage. I’ve seen this routine many times. She was looking for Cyndie to arrive home.

I opened the door to the garage to show her it was dark in there. I made the mistake of turning on the light, which allowed Delilah to see Cyndie’s car and get revved up over what that usually means.

How do I explain to Delilah that Cyndie got a ride to the airport and her car has been parked in the garage for the last eight days?

I guess enough days have passed since Delilah last saw Cyndie that she is beginning to figure mom must be coming home soon.

Just two more days!

That might be all the time needed for enough snow to fall that Cyndie will never know I didn’t get around to removing all the leaves.

Well, never, until next spring, that is.

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