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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

No Break

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Even on a day when no snow fell from the sky, snow fell and I needed to shovel. I can’t catch a break.

The roof of the shop garage is not a concern for ice dams so I don’t pull snow off with a roof rake. However, it is a metal roof and the snow eventually slides off on its own. After the rain and warm temperatures of the past few days, the thick blanket of snow began moving enough that a large amount broke off and covered the cement apron in front of the garage door.

Since we are under a storm warning for a possible 5-9 inches of new snow today, I felt it prudent to shovel the mound in front of the garage before it got buried with even more snow. I need to be able to get the ATV out to plow.

I enjoyed a wonderful surprise yesterday morning after I got in from feeding horses and doing some of that shoveling. Cyndie tried out a recipe for Welsh cakes after seeing them made on one of the episodes of “Welcome to Wrexham.”

They were fabulous! The recipe called for currants, but she made additional batches with dried cranberries and some with golden raisins. It took me extra effort to stop eating them before I overdid it. What a treat!

I’m a lucky guy that Cyndie is so adventurous when it comes to food prep.

Maybe today I will eat leftover Welsh cakes while watching our next episode-binge of the documentary series, between the hours I’m outside shoveling away the new snow accumulation. For a guy who hasn’t been able to catch a break lately, that would be a welcome break from working outside while the winter storm is delivering its punches.

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Written by johnwhays

January 19, 2023 at 7:00 am

Warmed Winter

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So, this is what it’s going to be like on a warmer planet then. January at latitude 44°47’04.1″N will offer periods of rain that will convert any snowpack previously existing into a slushy mash that resembles wet cement in many ways. It’s ugly, annoying, problematic, and just plain no fun to deal with.

For all the times I have grumbled about it being too cold or having too much snow fall all at once, I offer my apologies. The wet slop that has become our current reality is what I really mean to be grumbling about. I am NOT looking forward to the possibility of 5-8″ of heavy, wet snow falling on top of the existing mess tonight and tomorrow, which is what the current National Weather Service “weather watch” alert is threatening.

In protest of the lousy “winter” conditions outside yesterday, I decided to spend the afternoon indoors on a frivolous pursuit that celebrates the freedom of retirement by binging a docu-series in the middle of a weekday afternoon.

Cyndie and I finally started watching “Welcome to Wrexham” and have quickly learned more about the country of Wales than I’ve ever known before. Despite this show being a confusing echo to the fictional series, “Ted Lasso,” which we enjoy so much, we are finding it fascinating in a different way because it is a real story.

There are many fans represented thus far in the series who describe how much the football club means to them and to the surrounding community as a whole. Descriptions of being born into a world immersed in the Wrexham football club trigger my memories of the influence on my early life of my parent’s passion for the NFL Minnesota Vikings football team.

The Vikings just lost a game that knocked them out of this season’s playoffs (like so many times before) and local media is already going on about what needs to happen over the off-season to bring success next year. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I, as a fan, had to face the stress of possible relegation out of the NFL if the team finished at the bottom of the standings.

Watching the quality of the documentary “Welcome to Wrexham” has me feeling swiftly connected to the fans, players, and club staff presented on screen. I feel invested in their concerns, making it hard to interrupt the binge-watching for our own lives.

One reason that is quite all right with me is: It had me forgetting about the rotten weather outside for a few hours in the afternoon.

I hope the warming planet is providing Wrexham with pleasant weather for watching football matches at the world’s oldest international football stadium, The Racecourse Ground.

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Coffee Carafe

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It appears that the “answer” image to yesterday’s guessing game was not as revealing as I suspected. The pictures are of a thermal coffee carafe.

One thing you can be sure of, I didn’t recently become a coffee drinker. Why was I carrying the carafe with me on my walk through the woods the other day? The simple answer is that it was holding warm water for soaking Mia’s serving of cereal, but I have an insatiable urge to make short stories long.

Travel back in time with me to the bitter cold days in December when Mia experienced an episode of choking on her feed pellets. It was recommended that I soak her feed in water to soften it for her. With below-zero temperatures quickly freezing everything, I put hot tap water in the thermal carafe and brought it with me to the barn.

I’ve asked a couple of times about how long I need to continue doing this for Mia and without telling me explicitly to do it forever, the consistent advice has been to continue soaking Mia’s feed indefinitely.

To me, that seems a little like doing it forever.

I haven’t decided if I believe Mia needs her food softened from now on, but at this point, who am I to make that decision? So, thus far, I have continued to bring warm water with me when feeding the horses. On the day I decided to walk through the woods on my way to the barn, I carried the carafe with me. I set it down in the snow to take a picture of the trail where one measly branch lay across it in the snow.

When I looked down to pick up the carafe, I saw the fish-eye reflection of the trees above and experimented with a few iPhone camera pictures.

I figured a thermal coffee carafe would not be the first guess that occurred in people’s minds.

Thanks to all of you who played along on yesterday’s edition of my image-guessing challenge!

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2023 at 7:00 am

Lonely Walk

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I took a walk on the perimeter trail through our woods yesterday for the first time since Delilah died. That path was getting footsteps (boot steps) up to three times a day with Delilah to give her exercise that would expend her high energy. Sometimes I wasn’t all that interested in making the trek for a third time in a day, but I never regretted the opportunity once I was out there getting my own exercise and experiencing our precious wooded acres.

Without Delilah needing to be walked, I have been avoiding wandering our trails, partly out of respect that it was her thing and she isn’t with us anymore, but also because it would poke at my grief over her passing. Yesterday, I decided to trek through the crusty snow for the first time in almost three months to see if any trees have fallen or what wild animal tracks might be visible now that there isn’t a dog living here.

There were a few branches down and several spots where limbs burdened by snow had tipped over, now frozen in place. No large trees have come down in all the winter weather we’ve received thus far.

It was a lonely walk and it did poke my grief.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2023 at 11:30 am

Trickster Fox

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We are now in our 11th year living on this rural property and yesterday was the first time I finally saw the local fox with my own two eyes. The first year, contractors were showing up regularly to work on fencing and building the hay shed. One of the guys would tell me he saw a fox on our driveway every morning as he arrived.

Two years ago, the guy we hired to seal the logs of our house caught the fox trying to take one of our chickens and chased it off, screaming and hollering like a wild man.

I captured the fox on our trail cam back in 2018.

Delilah and I tried to track that fox through the snow into our neighbor’s woods that time but the trail led to a junction that looked like Grand Central Station and the multitude of alternative routes was more than we could follow.

Until yesterday morning, I had never set eyes upon the cunning critter. There I was, standing in our sunroom, stepping into my treasured Carhartt insulated bib overalls when I noticed something moving in the neighbor’s field, coming our way. As soon as I recognized it to be the fox, I pulled out my phone to take a picture.

The camera wouldn’t focus. It kept oscillating in and out of focus. The fox was coming right into the yard. I switched to video in an attempt to at least record some blurry movement as the fox walked past the windows of the sunroom. When I looked at the screen while the phone was supposed to be recording, the fox wasn’t showing up at all in the oscillating focus. I wondered if it was because I was trying to shoot through the window.

There is no recording for proof of what I saw. This fox must have magical powers that messed up the camera app on my phone. Now with no fox around, the camera works just fine.

I’m under the impression that the absence of our dog, Delilah, has given the fox confidence to walk right in front of me as if I wasn’t there. That’s okay. I don’t mind seeing him or her now that I know there will be no chickens harmed on our property.

I’ll even celebrate the visits if the little trickster will do something to reduce the number of gopher and mole tunnels that are taking over our turf.

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2023 at 7:00 am

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Hay There

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We woke up to an icy coating yesterday that ranked in the top 4 slipperiest conditions we’ve dealt with since moving here. The saving grace was how quickly the temperature warmed to a level where everything softened and footing was a little less treacherous. I needed to transfer some hay from the hay shed to the barn but decided it could wait until it wasn’t so slippery.

Our hay stores are down to a little under half the total amount delivered last year.

I’m hoping we won’t need another delivery until after the snow melts because the plowed mountains around the turns won’t accommodate the poor turning radius of our hay guy’s lengthy truck and goose-neck trailer.

In the early afternoon, I moved three bales per trip from the shed to the barn under the watchful eyes of the horses. Mix seemed to be counting the bales as I rolled back and forth. Maybe they were just looking to see if I’d slip.

Twelve bales in the barn is a number that works to keep me from feeling like I’m constantly making this transfer. Any more and the stack would be over my head.

While filling hay nets a few days ago, I felt a wave of summer memories as I pulled flakes off a bale. I pondered about what the field was like where this grass had grown and how hot it was when they were raking and baling this hay.

I wonder if the horses can tell the difference between bales from different parts of the hay field as they chomp bite-fulls through the nets or from the hay boxes. They certainly know when a bite is good to eat or deserves to be dropped to the ground.

Hopefully, they are sensing the solar energy stored in the dried blades of grass. Maybe that contributes to how horses eating hay helps keep them warm when the weather is cold. They are eating that echo of warmth from back in the hot summer days when the hay was baled.

There must be something to it. I tend to get warmer when I’m breaking open bales and stuffing flakes into net bags, one after another.

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2023 at 7:00 am

Best Thing

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It was a farrier day on the ranch yesterday. That is when the horses get the 8-10 week growth of their hooves trimmed back. One of the best things about farrier day is that Cyndie always wants to serve treats to the farrier and the two folks from This Old Horse who show up to facilitate the process. That meant I took off my “horse wrangler” hat for a couple of hours in order to wear my “baker’s assistant” hat in the kitchen.

The aromas in Cyndie’s kitchen when she is baking cookies always beats the aromas wafting around down at the barn.

Imagine, if you will, the smell of the ginger biscuit cookies, mingling with the almond spritz, and the chai spritz cookies fresh out of the hot oven. Really, the cookies aren’t the best thing as much as the aroma of the cookies is the best thing. Anticipation usually beats out a real event when it comes to our perceptions.

The satisfying crunch and the explosion of sweet flavors certainly deserve plenty of votes for the best thing, but that aroma is tops. Maybe it’s because the delicious smells show up first and hang around longer than it takes to finish baking them.

I was able to receive a moment of satisfaction after putting my “horse wrangler” hat back on, upon successfully getting halters on all four horses before the crew showed up at the appointed hour. I started with Swings but ended up leaving her until last when she made it clear she wasn’t interested. The other three accepted their halters without hesitation, much to my relief. Swings required my patient persistence before she finally stayed still long enough for me to get a strap over her nose and another one over the back of her neck to slide through the buckle.

She just needs to flaunt her bad self several times until she can convey that she’s choosing to wear the halter on her terms, not ours. There’s probably a term for humans who behave that way but I hesitate to assign any such labels to our mares, especially since Swings is the oldest.

She’s probably earned the right to demand a little extra respect.

I could argue that the best thing about the day was that the farrier succeeded in hitting all 16 hooves within the hour she had available because it might be the first time one of the horses (can you say, Light?) didn’t pitch a fit and lose trimming privileges on one or more feet by the end of the session.

Granted, Light did end up receiving only rudimentary filing on her fronts, but none of the horses’ hooves required much more than that this time around so we are calling yesterday’s session a victory.

Plus, there are cookies left over for John and Cyndie to enjoy. That’s just the best, don’t you think?

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2023 at 7:00 am

Second Greatest

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As I stepped out our front door to get my shovels for clearing off the deck yesterday morning, I heard the sound of a car engine in front of our garage doors. I came around the corner to find a gentleman walking around his car and we exchanged greetings. He said he lived just five miles away near the Rush River and added that our place looked really beautiful.

Dawn, Sunday morning.

Then he said he wanted to tell me about three things in the Bible… I politely interrupted him to let him know he didn’t need to finish. He asked how long we’d lived here and we shared a few more tidbits about ourselves. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do a little proselytizing, myself.

I said that I am all about love. He lit up and said love was what Christianity was about. My response is that love is what all religions are about.

My second greatest accomplishment after taking action to treat my depression is my enlightenment about embracing love as the single most important intention humans should focus on every single day in our thoughts and actions as we navigate our way through life. Love for other people, ALL people, animals, nature, the planet, ourselves, the universe, and mysteries in planes of existence we can’t even prove exist.

When you allow yourself to truly love, it makes it easier to forgive.

Love is magical.

Yesterday morning was a foggy one. It was a freezing fog, actually. While feeding the horses and cleaning up, I made my way in and out of the barn many times, getting their feed pans, filling bags of hay, getting the wheelbarrow and scooper, and retrieving their empty feed pans. Each time I came out of the barn, the fog had increased.

Dusk, yesterday afternoon.

First, I couldn’t see the evergreen trees across the road. Then, I couldn’t see the road. Eventually, I couldn’t see anything around us. It didn’t last long but it was around long enough for delicate ice crystals to form on everything the fog touched. I loved it!

While I was visiting with the guy in front of our garage, the icy crystals started snowing down off tree branches all at once. It created a fairy tale scene that made it seem like we were in a snow globe ornament.

At noon, I went down to the barn and worked on freeing the big sliding doors from ice that formed after the last storm of freezing drizzle and rain/drizzle/snow. A little calcium chloride helped get the job done.

With our winter hours, I’ve been feeding horses in the morning before the sun comes up and in the afternoon after the sun has gone down.

I sure love the views we get to enjoy.

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Written by johnwhays

January 10, 2023 at 7:00 am

Greatest Accomplishment

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I’ve been contemplating a life well-lived after remotely participating in a funeral online last week and then learning of an anticipated death in our friends’ family. Being in the phase of life when I’m closer to my death than I am to my birth, it occurs to me that my greatest accomplishments are quite possibly behind me as opposed to yet to come.

Most days, I feel that my greatest achievement happened when I took action to get treatment for depression. After many years of self-denial about what I was battling, receiving the confirmation of a professional diagnosis was the key that opened the door for my journey toward healthy thinking. Initially relying on medication and talk therapy to interrupt a life-long pattern of dysfunctional thinking, I eventually gained enough command of my faculties to cope on my own, medication-free.

One book I found helpful is “Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You” by Richard O’Connor.

I still need to treat my natural inclination toward depression every day with healthy thinking, a reasonable diet, regular exercise, and good-quality sleep habits, but reaching the point where I don’t require support from the medical health industry is something I am proud to have achieved.

Last November and December brought a fresh challenge for me in managing the chemicals bathing my brain in the face of grief and fatigue. The combination of needing to first put down our cat, Pequenita, and then our dog, Delilah, mixed with striving to cope with Cyndie’s unexpected injury pushed me to my limits. I was the sole person tending to the horses (during which two highly stressful horse-health challenges arose), cleared snow after two significant snowfall events, and took over all tasks caring for Cyndie and the house while she is laid up.

The physical fatigue left me susceptible to allowing my old familiar depressive behaviors to return. I don’t find that worrisome because years of good mental health have provided a fresh setting for “normal” that I use for reference, allowing me to notice when intervention is warranted. I have a variety of options to employ but the key to being able to self-treat my depression is the “noticing” and consciously changing something in response.

Mostly, I change my thinking. My thoughts are a major trigger to the chemical reactions going on in my brain and body. Sometimes I just need a nap. Often times I just need more time. Especially when the trigger is grief.

Speaking of grief, the horses were giving me some grief recently. This is a case where it would have been nice to have a camera recording what goes on under the overhang when we are not around.

Somehow they picked up the grate in one of the slow feeder boxes and turned it sideways. I guess they’ve got some great accomplishments of their own to neigh about.

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Ice Roads

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After a week and a half of being homebound, Cyndie and I set out yesterday to pick up groceries she ordered online, get her prescription meds from the pharmacy, drop off packages at UPS, and fill gas cans for ATV fuel. We got our first look at how the rest of the area has dealt with the messy winter weather I’ve been battling at home.

The evidence of what freezing drizzle followed by rain, followed by snow, a little more freezing drizzle, and then snow and more snow over two or three days was clearly revealed in the condition of our township roads. We felt like we were on an episode of the reality television series “Ice Road Truckers.”

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I feel a lot better about the accomplishments I have achieved on our driveway road, walkways, and roof eaves. No wonder it seemed like such a Herculean task.

Thankfully, once we reached the larger highways, the pavement was clear and dry, relieving us of continued transportation stress as we tended to all our errands. On the return home on the icy roads, the threat of spinning into a ditch wasn’t as scary because we had all the provisions we might need to survive until help arrived.

We catch a break for at least a week, based on the published forecasts void of new precipitation probabilities. I plan to remove blankets from the horses this afternoon to free them from the unneeded coverage. With temps in the single digits this morning, I chose to let them enjoy the morning feed without additional disruption.

With the weather having such an impact on our activities day in and day out, is it any surprise that it ends up being the first topic of conversation when people gather?

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Written by johnwhays

January 8, 2023 at 11:15 am