Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

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!




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.


Written by johnwhays

November 11, 2019 at 7:00 am


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Nothing else matters. The euphoria of a team victory in sports is great. Nine of them in a row, some of which were unlikely, starts to get pretty crazy. Especially when a fan-base, a state, haven’t witnessed such a feat in 115 years, …so, not in our lifetimes.

Way to go, GOPHERS!


Hee-hee. Minnesota is partying like its 1904!

I’ve attended a lot of University of Minnesota Gopher football games in my life, starting when I was a kid and my dad would take me to sit on the wooden bench seats of Memorial Stadium in the 1970s. Those season tickets were by the aisle to the press box above us, near where Minnesota Twins baseball great, Bob Allison had seats, so press guys would always pause on their way up to exchange pleasantries.

I suffered through the years when Gopher football games were moved off campus to the echo canyon of the Metrodome, including several when our daughter, Elysa, performed in the drumline of the marching band.

Eventually, the annually increasing expense of four season tickets exceeded our budget and we let them go. I remember how reluctantly the University accepted our decision. They checked thoroughly to confirm our choice to give up our seniority since the seats we held were associated with the original ones my dad first purchased in 1944.

I never even attended a class at the school, but it is the University of MINNESOTA! Our kids learned the words to the school fight song before they knew what it was. The university and its athletes represent the entire state. I am a big fan of all Gopher sports, football most of all.

We’ve endured a lot of coaches and coaching styles in the revolving door that has been Gopher football. P.J. Fleck has brought his boat-rowing meme to town as the latest rendition. So far, so good.

I don’t get to watch many games anymore, because we don’t have cable tv, and historically, Gopher football hasn’t risen to enough significance to earn broadcast on the airwave networks. That made yesterday’s matchup of two undefeated B1G teams (the oldest Division 1 collegiate athletic conference in the United States) extra special for me. From the first interception to the last, and every amazing catch, run, defended pass, or penalty-free play in between, I watched with awestruck amazement.

I’m inordinately proud of the accomplishments of the team this year. We deserve to party like it’s 1904!




Buckthorn Season

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In addition to looking for antlered bucks in the woods this time of year, I am also hunting for buckthorn. Common buckthorn is an invasive tree that I strive to control on our property. In the fall, buckthorn holds its deep green leaves longer than most other growth in our forests, making it easier to spot.

It’s not foolproof though, because I always seem to find a large enough tree that reveals I must have missed it the year before. I think the main reason for this is buckthorn is not the only growth that still has leaves after the majority of the forest turns brown and barren. There is at least one other bush that confuses my hunt.

The main difference I have found is the relative color of green, as can be seen in the picture I took yesterday while Delilah and I were forging our way off-trail to dispatch every invasive we could find. The batch of leaves on the left are a buckthorn I just cut down that must have been missed the year before. The noticeably lighter green leaves on the right are the primary bush that complicates my identifying the unwelcome buckthorn.

When I look into the trees on my neighbor’s unmanaged land, there is an obvious spread of green growth, but ours holds just a fraction of that, only a few of which are the deep green buckthorn.

With this year’s quick jump to Arctic cold and several doses of early snow, the buckthorn hunting season has been shortened. Luckily, I had already done a first-pass through to address the sprouts of growth that are small enough to easily pull by hand before the ground started to freeze.

At that time, I didn’t have my hand saw with me, so I took a mental note of the larger trees I wanted to come back to cut down. When I set out to do that yesterday, I almost failed to find that tree shown in this picture. I needed to get to a place where just the right angle of view made it stand out.

Delilah loves that we need to roam into the middle of the areas we rarely visit, as she is able to find all sorts of disgusting things left behind by the wild forest animals that romp around on our land.

I’m satisfied with the progress this year and ready to consider the hunt complete. There was less growth than previous years, so our efforts are definitely paying off. The view into the adjacent property confirms it.

Our woods look distinctly more managed and that makes trekking through them for year-round forest bathing that much more rewarding.




Afternoon Survey

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After work yesterday, I took Delilah for a walk to survey the grounds for the first time since Wednesday morning’s snowfall. There is a combination of areas where the snow has melted in the sun and spots where most of the accumulation remains.

There is evidence the chickens are moving around in the woods but when I found them they were clustered beneath the coop, most of them perched on only one foot. There were two eggs in a nest box that were probably on the verge of freezing.

The back of the barn looks like we’ve hung fake icicles as decoration, but these are all real.

In the woods, we didn’t find any new evidence of buck activity, but there is still a big scrape on the ground along one of our trails that hint of a decent-sized set of antlers. Last week, Cyndie found a hoof print that was almost half the size of her boot, so maybe both came from the same big fellow.

There is enough snow remaining on the trail to make it easy to spot fresh tracks if we get any more activity. Someone has been parking across the road from us and bowhunting in our neighbor’s woods. It is highly likely that any deer moving across our property will also travel through those woods.

The gun season doesn’t start until the 23rd in Wisconsin this year, so we’ve got a couple of weeks before we start seeing blaze orange-clad hunters traipsing around the neighboring properties.

At that point, I intend to refrain from doing a lot of surveying of the far reaches of our property for a while.



Written by johnwhays

November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

Not Subtle

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Mother nature wasn’t subtle about bringing on winter weather this year. The pleasure of warm fall days was a rare occurrence. Now it seems as though harsh, biting cold temperatures are the norm.

Our neighborhood was on the edge of accumulating snow on Tuesday night, which made the first 10 miles of my commute on Wednesday morning a little tricky. The ol’ Subaru didn’t want to stop at the first three intersections of my drive, sliding on the slippery layer of new-fallen snow. Luckily, at the early hour of my departure, there was little other traffic sharing the road.











Delilah was thrilled with the new snow coating, dragging her nose to scrape up some of the precious white stuff. That double-layer coat she wears year-round is a lot more comfortable now than it was in the summer. No wonder she is so happy. It’s finally her weather again.

Last night there was a halo of ice crystals around the moon that evoked memories of the sun dogs that form on the coldest of winter days.

Cold like we are getting this year is a lot more intense when it shows up as quick as it has and we haven’t had time to comfortably acclimatize.

It’s beginning to look and feel a lot like winter. Brrr. Wish I could remember where I stashed my favorite cold-weather gloves the last time I used them eight months ago.



Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2019 at 7:00 am

It’s Like

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It’s like one of those days when you are enjoying a fresh bite of an incredibly delicious meal and your teeth suddenly chomp on your own flesh.

It’s like the time lost waiting for a page to load, watching the progress bar fill to the last little bit where it pauses for far too long before finally jumping to a page that announces the failure to load and suggests the possibility the page has moved. Really? My gmail site has moved?

It’s like the umpteenth time of settling down into a reclined position and then discovering your reading glasses were left somewhere far out of reach.

It’s coming to realize that you can’t remember what it was like when you didn’t need reading glasses.

It’s that second time you bite the swollen wound on the inside of your lip from two days before.

It’s like that moment when screwing in the last of twelve screws to secure the cover of something you just fixed and finding there is one last part remaining to be reinstalled.

It’s like that feeling when re-reading your own business email message included in a reply sent by your customer or vendor and finding a writing error that disturbingly undermines your intended message in the first place.

It’s like waking up to shower for work, getting dressed, and heading out the door before discovering there are still two-and-a-half hours left until your alarm is due to go off.

It’s also like the day you embraced the ability to overcome the chemical reaction unleashed in the brain by these uninvited incidents to frame them in the grand scheme of things as not deserving more than a moment’s chagrin.

It’s like the chemical rush of endorphins that cascade on the first scrumptious bite of your all-time favorite deep-dish pizza pie.

It’s like the rich appreciation possible when pausing to count privileged blessings for all of the times when web pages load without hesitation, a soft chair or warm bed is available for reclining, reading glasses are at the ready, you wrote just the right message in a business communication, and you got a healthy, full night’s sleep.

With practice, we can choose to determine what each of life’s foibles are like for us.

Make a healthy choice!



Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2019 at 7:00 am