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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Anecdotal Evidence

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Before I launch into today’s thoughts and opinions of *This* John W. Hays, let me just report that the re-installation of a battery in our generator was accomplished without difficulty. It went back in a lot easier than it came out. We are once again prepared for any calamity that might knock out power at home.

Today, however, we are not at home.










Can you say, “Lake place?” My favoritest of places (away from home)?

Cyndie and I listened to a podcast about brains, neuroplasticity, and autonomic nervous systems on the drive up, making the trip go by in a blink. We stopped in Cumberland for an ice cream treat and met another couple from the Twin Cities heading to their cabin. They pressed hard to sell us (maybe successfully) on attending the annual Rutabaga Festival in August.

The lake place provided some anecdotal evidence of the changing climate. First, the mosquitos have made an early appearance with an intensity that is much more reminiscent of mid-summer. Second, the trillium blossoms that are usually at their glorious best on Memorial weekend look a little past peak already. Having cleared tree branches last November (when we were up here and Cyndie shattered her ankle) there is a new visibility of trillium on the slope below the house.

Third, the poison ivy that could frequently be found on that slope is making visible gains in both directions, toward the lake below and into the mowed areas above. This expansion mirrors what is happening at home. The growing season is a little longer with the warmup in spring happening earlier and the hard freeze in fall happening later. Poison ivy seems to be thriving with these changes.

We left Asher at home this weekend with a sitter who will tend to the horses as well. Before we left, Cyndie wrote a detailed essay on how to care for Asher so the sitter would know exactly what the pup needs and when. Some of them were simple, like bedtime.

An hour and fifty minutes beyond that time last night, Cyndie got a text with a photo of Asher seated nicely beside the sitter by the fire pit out back of the house. I told her that the dog is going to love it when we go away and leave him with the sitter because all those dang rules the parents have get loosened.

Today is work day and we will probably focus on cleaning the beach. I haven’t checked the temperature of the water yet but if it looks so much like summer around here, maybe it will be warm enough for a swim when chores are done.

The evidence is yet to be revealed.





Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2023 at 9:13 am

City School

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We are enrolled in a dog obedience training series with Asher in St. Paul, MN. The guy gets a dose of the big city every Thursday and he seems more than capable of coping with sidewalks and city streets.

Asher showed no hesitation about adjusting to the city latrines that looked nothing like the trees and bushes he has become accustomed to at home. We are so proud of him.

The hour-long class has probably six other dogs and owners for Asher to ignore while we are trying to listen to the instructor and then practice the routines. It’s a misnomer to call it a dog obedience class because it is really a “hooman” obedience class teaching the time-tested tricks for establishing one-word commands.

You can lure a dog into the desired behavior with food but if you state the command while luring, that is a bribe. They don’t learn from a bribe.

Timing is everything. Commands are to be stated only once. If you repeat it, they tune it out. Successful responses to commands are met by a friendly “Yes!” and then a reward treat is given. For Cyndie and me, the chaos in the training room and the multiple repetitions of exercises lead to forgetting the command or repeating the command, taking too long to serve the treat, and too frequently forgetting the “Yes!”

Asher seems to be learning in spite of our inconsistencies.

The hour is rather exhausting for all of us.

The car ride home is pretty quiet.



Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2023 at 6:00 am

Two Surprises

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Tuesday night as we were falling asleep, our motion light over the deck popped on. I saw a flash of wings moving up by the light and then the little night stalker landed on the railing. Surprise! It was a young owl.

Cyndie got out of bed to snap a photo. Cute little bugger. I think it was literally bugging, as in, trying to grab the big moths flitting around near the light. It’s nice to see there is a new generation of owls in the vicinity.

The second surprise happened yesterday, and it wasn’t as much fun as seeing the owl.

Our backup generator hasn’t been coming on as part of its weekly self-test lately and I finally remembered to look into why that is. Since I so rarely interact with the machine, working on it becomes a bit of a guessing game. Luckily, there was an obvious red LED indicating a problem. Stepping through the menu I found a note indicating there was a problem with the battery.

It’s ten years old, so I’m not going to mess around with anything other than simply replacing it. Unfortunately, there was nothing simple about removing it.

The positive cable came off with minor effort but nothing else was easy about the extrication. I couldn’t reach the nut on the clamp around the negative post and I couldn’t slide the battery around the wall.

I started trying to remove screws from panels with the hopes something would shift just enough to free the battery. Too bad I didn’t even know if any of the hex head screws would serve my purpose until they were out. Too bad they weren’t in positions where one could actually turn them easily with a wrench. Less than a quarter-turn movement before needing to reposition the wrench over and over is frustratingly tedious.

It’s like salt in a wound when the screw finally comes out and the panel doesn’t move one bit. It wouldn’t even flex.

I looked for other alternatives. The third try was the charm. After two long but fruitless battles of unscrewing, I found a plastic guard that moved enough to give better access to the negative terminal. Two screws were holding it, both of which took painfully long to wrench out.

There was only one battle left. Holding the plastic guard up and out of the way. Of course, removing the screws didn’t mean the guard could be pulled out entirely. After I suffered a couple of ill-fated attempts to work around the stupid guard, Cyndie showed up with an offer of assistance.

I asked her to hold the guard up while I got a wrench on the clamp of the negative post. Once both cables had been disconnected from the battery, I was able to tip it up and finesse it around the end panel to get it out.

I will not be surprised if the installation of a replacement battery ends up being just as difficult as the removal of the old one.



Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2023 at 6:00 am

Exploring Gravel

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Morning chores were done, breakfast was eaten and the paper read. It was time to commit to whatever work deserved to be accomplished for the day. Thinking that I needed to use the power trimmer, I asked Cyndie if it mattered to her what I started on.

She said, “Why don’t you go for a bike ride before the air quality gets any worse?” Man, I love her.

I got ready as quickly as I could and stopped to look at a map on my laptop for a new route to explore. 410th Street going north out of El Paso looked like a good option. (Did you know there was an “El Paso” in Wisconsin? I didn’t until we moved here.) A marker on the map for Driftless Farm Sanctuary caught my eye. I could check it out.

Being well familiar with the roads to El Paso, my exploration didn’t really begin until I reached 410th. Oops. It was gravel.

That wasn’t in my plan, but at the moment, I was feeling brave enough to ride the rough stuff. I turned onto the gravel and employed a little battery assist. What a smart idea it was to get an e-bike. The gravel continued for more miles than I expected, and every road that intersected 410th was also gravel. I learned that there are a lot more gravel roads nearby than I was aware of.

I came upon a very busy harvesting operation with two huge machines cutting and six trucks arranged for filling of what appeared to me would be processed to become silage. They probably didn’t expect to see a bicyclist passing by on that road.

I wasn’t aware there was growth already available for harvesting. This is the kind of discovery that comes from exploration.

There was another noteworthy find further on up the gravel roads. I came upon one of those places where you can’t roller skate.

When I left the gravel and rolled onto pavement again the pedaling became noticeably easier but the direction I was going took me to the big hills of 690th Avenue. I touched the control to increase my battery assist by two levels and sailed home with ease.

After lunch, I decided to test the idea of using the new zero-turn mower to cut along the fence lines from inside the hay field and back pasture to simplify trimming beneath the wires. I usually mow in there with the big tractor pulling the brush cutter but if the small mower can do the job, it would be easier.

Well, the little battery-powered beast was more than up to the challenge. That cutting, which knocked down grass much taller than I should have been trying to mow with the Greenworks CRZ426, will make the final cleanup with a power trimmer a breeze. I’ll be done in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken.

What a smart idea it was to buy that e-mower.



Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2023 at 6:00 am

Plans Change

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I changed my mind. I wasn’t going to show my latest sculpture project until I was done but apparently, I’ve used up all my patience trying to train Asher lately. I’m not waiting any longer. It may seem like an illogical time of year to begin an idle pleasure that has the potential to occupy many hours when spring growth is happening faster than can be managed in a day.

Since when is artistic whim logical?

The trigger for me was the accommodating weather allowing me to work outdoors on creating wood shrapnel and sanding dust. I decided to see if there might be a heart shape hiding in this Y-section of a maple tree we cut down at some point.

It’s lopsided, so I’m trying to decide if I’m feeling moved to compensate for that or let it remain imperfectly balanced.

I chose to give it more attention yesterday because the air quality was poor due to Canadian wildfires and I didn’t want my lungs to suffer from my panting away on a bicycle. Since the air made wearing a mask worthy, I figured I might as well work on something that is incredibly dusty.

I hesitate to reveal the vision I have for the bottom portion because I don’t have a firm plan on how I will accomplish it. Maybe if I state it, doing so will add incentive for me to keep after it, one way or another.

I hope to achieve the appearance of a melting heart. There are so many times when I feel moved to say that something melts my heart. A visual representation makes sense to me.

Somehow, I will need to try to fit the next level of sculpting in between mowing and trimming sessions, because if I stop now, I may never finish. It would get added to my trophy case of umpteen other art projects that I started but have yet to complete. I’m guessing this risk is why I was considering not talking about the melting heart until it was actually a thing.

Well, self, the plan has changed and the challenge accepted.




Meeting Again

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How did you find this blog? Back in 2009 when I started, I emailed family and friends to invite them to check it out. WordPress folks with no previous knowledge of me have slowly grown my followers to over a thousand and I regularly see visiting traffic from countries all around the world. In March of this year, I learned of a regular reader whose name I recognized from high school in 1977.

Patty was in the class behind mine and I think we agree our interactions were somewhat limited. She doesn’t recall the exact path she followed to discovering my blog but the probable route through links from old Eden Prairie people and social media sharing seems logical. Her affinities for log homes, horses, and dogs drew her in but she didn’t exactly remember who I was. Since she was in the same class as Cyndie’s brother, she recognized the Friswold connection.

Honestly, I don’t always know who I am writing for, and learning of people like Patty who resonate with my stories the way she does is a real treat that inspires me to write even more.

When Cyndie’s brother, Steve, sent a text (re)introducing us to Patty with a mention she and her husband, Steve (a different one; don’t get confused) would love to visit Wintervale, we were thrilled. Checking calendars produced a target date for a get-together in April. How many nice weekends do you remember occurring in April this year? We rescheduled twice due to precipitation of the slush variety under cold temperatures and unpleasant winds.

Yesterday, the third time was the charm. The weather was so much better, the wait was easily justified. Plus, there are now leaves on the trees!

Asher couldn’t get enough of Patty and Steve, usually wanting to climb all over them. The horses –mostly Swings– showed more interest than usual in receiving attention.

We enjoyed brunch on our deck and then did a walking tour of the grounds that I hoped would bring all my writing to life for them. It’s hard for me to imagine what sense of the place readers get when they only have my words and pictures to rely on. Patty tells me their real-life visit was very much like the sense they had formed in their minds.

I firmly believe our sanctuary becomes more precious when visitors spend time here. Yesterday, the preciousness was cranked up to 11 with the presence of Patty and Steve’s energies resonating with all that Wintervale has to offer.



Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2023 at 6:00 am

Favorite Antidepressant

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First of all, the weather yesterday was idyllic. That alone goes a long way to soothe a person’s angst. Beyond that, my favorite antidepressant is getting outdoors for exercise with a group of people who I know and love. I have known most of the people who showed up to ride for almost thirty years from the annual June bike trip called the Tour of Minnesota.

Our route along the Dakota Rail Regional Trail took us right past the home of my good friends, Mike and Barb Wilkus, so I brought a bunch of the riders off the trail to say hi to Mike.

He opened his garage to show us the camping trailer he was packing for a little getaway they have planned.

My biking group did this same warm-up ride last year but I failed to realize we were going right past the Wilkus’ place. Upon figuring it out, Rich Gordon and I stopped to surprise them. This year, I warned Mike that I’d be coming by, not mentioning the part about bringing 8 other cyclists with me.

The other thing we did yesterday on the ride was revisit a stop at the Big Stone Sculpture Garden in Minnetrista. A number of us reenacted last year’s pose in front of the word Love carved into stone.

We pedaled and visited for 30 miles which served to rekindle my deep appreciation for these precious friends.

Thank goodness Rich is adept at capturing pictures of us as we ride. Thanks for all the photos, Rich!

The joy of biking with these folks is the primary reason I have returned to the annual June biking and camping event year after year. Yesterday served as an excellent primer to inspire my preparations for the trip that will start in Albany, MN this year. Riding the country roads around my home all by myself isn’t as rewarding but getting in some preliminary hours on the saddle always goes a long way toward minimizing discomfort for a week of riding in the middle of June.

NOT having sore butt bones when you will be riding day after day is also an antidepressant, if you know what I mean.

I would be even happier if the week in June isn’t rainy or stormy, but I won’t frame that as a requirement. I’ll throw that inspiration out there as a potential bonus.



Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2023 at 9:00 am

Telling Trail

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Our darling puppy was up to mischief while I was showering yesterday. When I opened the curtain I discovered a trail of evidence strewn across the floor. Somebody was nosing around in a waste basket where they weren’t supposed to be. Who would do such a thing?

Well, our little troublemaker wasn’t smart about hiding his tracks. Asher left behind a critical piece of evidence that gave away his presence.

On Monday, it will be three weeks since we brought home our adopted pup. Cyndie shared a graphic with me that refers to a general 3/3/3 guideline of the adjustment period for a dog after adoption. Three days to decompress/three weeks to learn our routine/three months to start to feel at home.

I didn’t really notice Asher needing to decompress during those first days, but I did wonder what he must be thinking about the change. He is definitely learning our routine and adjusting to it very well, for the most part. There have been several times when he has tested our boundaries. In a couple of months, he will feel at home and hopefully by that time he will have accepted all the boundaries we established.

Today, I am on another kind of trail. I will be joining some of my cycling friends for a ride on the Dakota Rail Regional Trail, heading west out of Wayzata. I need to get serious about putting in saddle time in advance of my annual expedition on the Tour of Minnesota which happens in the middle of June.

In just a couple of blinks, June will be here. I hope the ground dries up enough by then that I will be able to mow the areas I’ve been skipping because they’re too wet.

Here’s hoping the smoke from Canadian wildfires won’t make breathing difficult for bicycling today. I rarely find myself riding with friends at the beginning of my cycling season and I’m looking forward to the chance to visit with folks while pedaling along.

At least we finally have a weekend with pleasant weather to be outdoors without a raincoat.



Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2023 at 7:00 am

Obedience Training

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Asher’s first day of obedience training happened yesterday. Consistency and repetition will be a challenge for us but he is a smart enough dog I think he will find a way to overcome our shortcomings and get us wrapped around his paws in no time. The hour-long session was almost too much for my stamina but Asher did fairly well despite having ingested a meal’s-worth of treats by the end.

Some of the things we worked on were made a little more complicated by Asher’s historic pattern of behaviors and the variety of commands he’s already learned before coming to live with us. Still, the routines the trainer demonstrated produced results for us that will serve as a good foundation for the lessons to come.

Asher would perform the desired action but we were usually off in our deliveries of the gestures or verbal commands or treat rewards. He is definitely treat-motivated. Our challenge lies in effectively tying his behavior to our commands and not allowing him to figure out how to get treats by recognizing our unconscious signals and playing off of them.

We want him focused on our commands and not on the bag of treats.

One initial exercise that I found impressive was when the trainer said the word, “Puppy” and none of the dogs reacted. She then repeated the word but in a two-tone high voice like the “ding-dong” of a doorbell. I didn’t notice all the other dogs but Asher instantly turned his attention to her.

Asher already knows the “Sit” command but we made great strides in moving from that to having him lay down on his stomach at a “Down” command.

It quickly became apparent to Cyndie and me (when the trainer pointed it out) that we need to stop using “Down” when we are trying to get Asher off the couch or the bed or from putting his front paws on people’s shoulders. Using the word “Off” will become our goal.

Now all we need to do for homework is to practice today’s routines roughly a hundred more times in approximately 5-minute sessions throughout the week before next Thursday.

I’m trying to picture both Cyndie and me consistently delivering precise commands one hundred different times.




Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2023 at 6:00 am

Minds Boggled

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Remember the drama of the blue/black dress that looked gold/white or the audio exercise of hearing Laurel or Yanny? Did you know our eyes only look at a very small area and your brain fills in a guess of what the rest of the surrounding area looks like?

Cyndie set a timer to remind her about a Nova episode on PBS last night but somehow still missed it. I pointed out that as a member of public television, she can stream the program at her convenience. The program she wanted to see was season 50/episode 9: “Your Brain: Perception Deception.”

Our perception of the external world is much less objective than we’d like to believe.

If you have access to this program, I encourage you to spend the time to have your mind boggled about our brains and how conscious awareness manifests.

It is so packed with information that I could watch it over and over and still not believe everything it reveals about how my perception works.

I am so glad there are people who study these things and share what they learn in programs like Nova.



Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2023 at 6:00 am