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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Cool Morning

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Having noticed the outdoor temperature was in the 40s(F), I was already wearing a long-sleeve hoody sweatshirt when Delilah and I made our way down the big hill trail in the woods into the increasingly cooler air. I pulled the Buff® head gear that was around my neck up so it covered my nose. Having just climbed out of a warm bed, I wasn’t mentally prepared to face such cool air against my skin.

Evidence is mounting that I have lost my robust preference for dealing with cold temperatures over warmth.

The low-lying areas held a haze of water vapor that added a visual perception of a cool morning.

A vocal flock of geese flying in the classic “V” formation punctuated the underlying obvious sense that we are in the season that follows summer.

Some of the visible water vapor in the air was coming from the four exhaling horses. It seemed so cold that I felt a need to bend over and touch a couple of blades of grass to confirm the very white-looking dew wasn’t frozen.

Every time the seasons swing from one extreme to another I marvel over how our sense of the temperatures differs. What was feeling so cold to me this morning would feel almost tropical at the end of winter.

Dealing with the change to cold air is getting increasingly more challenging for me as I age. Time to bring out my obligatory fleece vest everyday wear fashion statement again.

It offsets my increasingly gray hair impeccably.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2022 at 9:50 am

Anticipating Delivery

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We were expecting a delivery of hay bales yesterday but by the time rain reached our region I assumed it wouldn’t happen. A chain of four people communicating, including Cyndie who was on a flight to Boston, revealed it was being rescheduled to today or tomorrow.

That was fine with me. I got some reasonable work accomplished while waiting in the morning, cutting the grass along the fence line down the driveway with the power trimmer. By the time I had exhausted the first tank of gas, a mist was beginning to fall.

I took Delilah for a walk and took advantage of an opportunity to take pictures of the aftermath of conquering the leaning poplar tree up near the road.

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That is the one that took me five angled cuts to bring the top portion vertical and then required I head back to get the pole chainsaw to finish. The job is not complete yet. I need to split the cut wood and haul off the branches to either be run through the chipper or tossed on the natural border fence along our north property line.

That will wait for another day. It isn’t raining right now, and I have just received a message that hay delivery will happen this morning. I am a little anxious about how the steep drop-off of our narrow new driveway will work for the turns required to come off the pavement at the roundabout of our hay shed and then back on again afterward.

I hope to be out there before he arrives to talk out a plan that should work best. Overshooting is a given, so I’d like to pick the most forgiving spot.

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Written by johnwhays

September 10, 2022 at 8:58 am

Her Majesty

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Queen Elizabeth II.

She was the UK Queen for most of our lives, making it a struggle to grasp how things are already different.

There are a vast number of images of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary appearing in memorials to her. This one is a favorite for me:

May her positive influence in the world reverberate forevermore.

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Written by johnwhays

September 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

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Weed Control

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We had two primary goals in mind when we plotted a strategy for what we would focus our efforts on yesterday. The first was something I hoped wouldn’t take a lot of time to accomplish. There were two tipped trees with upper branches hung up in surrounding trees. Using knowledge gained by watching the tree professionals who worked for us last spring bring down similar “widow-makers,” I readied our chainsaw and headed into the woods.

With my mind focused solely on the task at hand, I failed to take any pictures of the leaning trees or the keen aftermath of my success in bringing them down. The big poplar near the road took a lot more time than I anticipated. After five successive cuts ultimately eliminating the lower trunk that had been leaning at a 45° angle, the remaining upper portion of branches stood vertical and was still tangled in the branches of surrounding trees.

I needed to go back to the shop to get our pole chainsaw to finish the job. By the time we finished cutting trees, the day was more than half over.

The second goal was to get the hay field mowed, a job that I knew would take more hours than I really wanted to give to the task.

The growth wasn’t excessively tall but there were plenty of weeds maturing and we didn’t want them going to seed. I finally finished around 7:00 p.m. after almost 5 hours out on the tractor. At one point, feeling like it was taking too long, I tried running in a higher gear to speed up progress. The bouncing and jostling were a bit too much and the high gear made backing up hard to manage. All I could do was plod along at a steady pace in the lower gear and keep making passes until the entire field was finally cut.

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Cyndie took pictures as I headed toward the gate upon finishing. For a relatively small field, it sure is bigger than it seems.

The horses were relegated to the unmowed back pasture for the day. They are doing a fair job of grazing the good grass in that pasture but there are enough unwanted weeds in that field that it will need to be mowed soon as well.

In a day or two, they will be allowed back on the grass in the hay field. Then I will spend the better part of a day mowing the back pasture.

As much as I dread doing the mowing, the fields sure look great with all the weeds knocked down. For now, in our minds, mowing is our preferred method over chemical applications for reducing weeds that are toxic to horses. It may not be as effective, but mowing doesn’t leave a weed killer residue in our soil.

I can live with giving two afternoons of my precious time to bouncing along on the diesel tractor a couple of times a summer.

It’s easier than chainsawing widow-makers!

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Season’s Bounty

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As always, we arrived home yesterday with a royal greeting from our animals. After unpacking the foodstuffs that made the trip home with us and then gobbling up some of it for lunch, we granted Delilah her wish and headed outside to survey the grounds.

The first thing I noticed was how much some of the grass has grown since I last cut it. At the same time, the ground seems incredibly dry. Parched and cracked enough that I don’t understand the hearty growth of some areas of grass.

The next noteworthy thing that caught our attention was the incredible buzzing sounds of a striking number of bees busy in the yellow flowering tops of goldenrod beside one of our trails.

Cyndie did a great job of capturing a photo of a couple of the happy visitors.

Not far down that same trail, we made another surprising discovery. Tucked behind a large viburnum nannyberry bush was a volunteer apple tree with an impressive amount of fruit on its limbs. It’s the first time I noticed it, which is surprising because we usually pay a lot of attention to the volunteer trees showing up beside our trails.

We made our way out into the pastures to say hello to the horses and quickly decided they were telling us the flies were bothering them. Cyndie went back and got their fly masks. The growth in the pastures is a mixture of good grass they looked very happy to be munching and a disturbing number of problematic weeds.

I will be mowing the pastures to a pretty short height as soon as I can get to it in attempt to control some of the weed propagation.

I re-stacked the dwindling number of hay bales in the shed to make room for the next delivery, now expected to arrive on Friday. By then, Cyndie will be on her way to Boston with her mother to visit Barry and Carlos. I will be stacking bales by myself.

The last stop for Cyndie on the tour of our property was her garden. She came in with quite a bounty of a photogenic variety of vegetables.

She thinks some of the growth was stunted by how dry it has been, but the overall variety of produce sure looks impressive. Pretty good for a year when her planting was hindered by knee replacement surgery back in the spring.

We’re just happy to have any bounty at all.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2022 at 6:00 am

Leaving Us

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It’s Tuesday after Labor Day and plenty of fall activities that haven’t already kicked off will be starting today. Our guests left us yesterday for the next leg of their journey in a vehicle that looked to be packed with everything a college freshman would need to get started.

The Birgens awoke in the morning to the news that the Kenyan Supreme Court has ruled that the candidate, William Ruto, was properly elected President in the 2022 general election. One less thing to be concerned about for them at a time their oldest son is starting a new job and the youngest is starting college.

I find myself thinking about how nice it is to be well beyond the years of taking kids to their first year of college. Feels similar to when I began to appreciate getting past the years when September meant “back to school” during the K-12 phase of our kids’ lives.

The few connotations September holds for me now are the onset of fall colors, Cyndie’s and my anniversary (41 years!), Julian’s birthday, and the start of MN Vikings football –despite my best efforts to stop caring about anything having to do with the modern-day NFL. Nothing about getting prepared for school.

I have already noticed the return of school bus traffic on our road at home twice a day, but the impact from that on my life is negligible.

I tip my hat to all of you who have school-age children starting a new bus and/or classroom experience today.

My time with access to television coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament is ending today as we leave the lake place and return home.

For some reason –probably related to wanting to witness Serena Williams make one last attempt for a major victory at the end of her illustrious career– I was inspired to watch as many live matches as I could this year. I was lucky to have captured a few dramatic matchups that were really exciting and very competitive.

A couple of them were almost as exciting as the end of the Florida State vs. LSU college football game I stumbled upon Sunday night during a break in the tennis.

It’s probably a good thing we are leaving the lake place and all the cable sports channels I have access to here so I can take a break from spectator sports and get outside and give this gorgeous September weather the proper respect it deserves.

It’s my favorite time of year, right up there with my other favorite, winter!

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Written by johnwhays

September 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Last Hurrah

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Taking full advantage of immersing ourselves in the last Sunday of the summer season up at the lake, we hiked, swam, boated, feasted, visited, and began putting away water toys. Hosting members of Friswold’s adopted family, the Birgens, we had added reasons to wander the grounds and socialize with fellow “Wildwooders.” Wildwoodites? Member clans of the incredible Wildwood Lodge Club (WWLC).

The holiday weekend inspired an additional reason to gather members, so Cyndie and her mom invited everyone to our place for a 5 o’clock cocktail party with socializing around the fire. With flashback memories of the way it was done when Cyndie was a kid up here, that fire was then used to cook burgers for our dinner.

In another throwback to a bygone era, I got out my little travel guitar and “strumgled” [strummed and struggled] a few songs from the cobwebs of my fading memory. It was sufficient to punctuate the culmination of a fabulous day at the lake honoring the last events of summer.

Today, the Birgens will head out on the last leg of their journey, taking their youngest, Jonathon, to his first year of college. Cyndie, her mom, and I will linger one more night and head home tomorrow.

In the wee hours before dawn this morning, our gentle slumber was serenaded by the wistful echoing calls of an owl in the woods outside our window. It truly feels like we are experiencing summer’s last hurrah.

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Written by johnwhays

September 5, 2022 at 8:47 am

Nature’s Magnificence

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It was a beautifully warm sunny afternoon that found Cyndie and me splashing in the lake to clean duck shit off the inflated floating platform in the swimming area. A thankless task because not long after we leave, the ducks return and make themselves at home again. A price we pay to co-exist with wildlife.

At the time, we had no idea stormy weather might be lurking nearby. As the dinner hour approached, pizza from Coop’s was chosen and I got elected to drive into town to pick up our order. Emerging from the trees onto the road to Hayward, a view of the open sky revealed a most spectacular display of roiling cumulonimbus clouds that were so engaging I struggled to pay appropriate attention to my driving.

While waiting at the bar to pick up our par-baked circle of deliciousness, the two tv screens overhead began to display ominous-looking warnings about a thunderstorm in Sawyer county. Based on what I had just seen in the sky, I wasn’t surprised in the least, but the folks around me who were oblivious to what it looked like outside were caught as unaware as I had been 10-minutes earlier.

It just didn’t feel like a storm-threatening kind of day.

With the pizza box safely stowed on the seat beside me, I checked the radar view on my phone before setting off and saw we were on the backside of this long line of storms that were percolating just to the southeast and moving away from us.

I called Cyndie and suggested she check out the view, knowing her deep appreciation for cloud formations. By the time she was able to see it and take pictures, the clouds had lost some of the initial splendor of the freshly blossoming thunderstorm that I was able to witness, but because we were granted a rear view of the event, it still looked impressive.

As the rotation of the earth moved the sunlight closer to our western horizon, the storm in the distance began to glow and bounce vivid color off the lake for a whole nother visual presentation.

Isn’t nature magnificent?!

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Written by johnwhays

September 3, 2022 at 9:16 am

Edges Covered

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With little in the way of fanfare, yesterday we raked up gravel over the last of the exposed asphalt edges of our new driveway. By that point in the exercise, I had lost much of my ability to care about the level of perfection we were achieving compared to when we first started. It’s going to be good enough for all intents and purposes.

The next phase of the driveway finishing project involves backfilling some of the steeper edges with dirt or composted manure but that detail is not as essential. It won’t worry me if we don’t get that all done prior to the arrival of the snow season.

We did make a point of celebrating the accomplishment a little later in the day with a leisurely game of CrossCrib out on our deck. A nod to the vacation-mode feeling of being up at the lake, it occurred to me we have the same game board at home and a deck that offers everything except a view of a lake. We can play at home just as well as up at Wildwood.

We tend to forget sometimes, what with all the landscape and animals vying for our time and attention. A card game in the middle of a beautiful afternoon can be a healthy diversion.

Since today is the Friday of a holiday weekend, we will be traveling north to the lake place again, leaving the dog behind to be cared for by our house and animal sitter, Grace.

This is a routine that has served us well this summer. Labor Day weekend is traditionally the last gasp of summer activities up at the lake. That doesn’t mean we will stop making the trek up there, though. A few trees were already showing signs of fall color on the drive home last weekend. That spectacle provides plenty of incentive to get back up to the lake after Labor Day.

First things first. We have a long weekend to enjoy some very promising-looking weather predicted for the northland.

It will be even nicer knowing the edges of the new asphalt driveway at home are now completely covered with a gravel shoulder.

Huzzah!

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2022 at 6:00 am

Big Blade

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We had a close-up view of a wind turbine blade outside the Eco Experience building at the Minnesota State Fair. It provided a dramatically different perspective from how these blades appear when slowly turning a great distance away.

I framed this picture to remove any visual references that reveal this blade was attached to the ground and pointing straight up into the sky. These blades are massively large.

I’ve been telling myself the image is well-suited to become a Words on Images creation but that moment hasn’t materialized yet. In the meantime, I am posting it today, as is, because I didn’t have anything else to write about.

I mowed the lawn for the last time in August yesterday. Wish I could say it would be the last time this year but predictions for September warmth hint the growing season will last well into the fall again this year. After the significant amount of rain we received last weekend, there are areas on our property where the grass is as long and lush as we’ve ever seen it.

The big blades I’ll be spinning in the weeks ahead will be all about cutting grass, not generating electricity.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2022 at 6:00 am