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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Longest Shot

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We have very mixed feelings about horse racing, given the harsh aspect of the sport taxing thoroughbreds to sometimes fatal degrees, contrasted against the awesome spectacle of the power and beauty of the equine athletes and teams of humans supporting them. The Kentucky Derby race is one of the biggest exhibitions.

Yesterday’s 148th running of the race was epic for the long odds overcome by the winning horse, Rich Strike, and jockey, Sonny Leon. The fact that the horse was 21st on a list of eligible racehorses for a race that only allowed 20 to run right up until the last-minute scratch of Ethereal Road.

The drama of the long-shot win was bolstered by the fantastic way jockey Sonny Leon navigated Rich Strike through the pack from so far back to find space along the rail and outrun the two leaders battling each other unaware of the additional challenger.

I suspect Rich Strike will not be such a long shot in the next race of the Triple Crown series, The Preakness Stakes in two weeks.

Yesterday wasn’t a day when Cyndie did any racing but she did get outside and walk in one direction into the labyrinth at 1:00 p.m. to contribute to the wave of peace for World Labyrinth Day.

She also stepped her way both down and back up the significant hill between the labyrinth and our house, which is an impressive feat all by itself. Between her heroic effort on the driveway the day before, and all of yesterday’s steps, she is looking a lot like a champion in the marathon of knee replacement recovery.

In this case, she was far from being a long shot.

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Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2022 at 10:18 am

Peace Wave

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Okay, so, then there’s this. It’s the morning of the first Saturday in May and that means it’s World Labyrinth Day! There is a rolling wave of peaceful meditations making its way around our planet.

Every year on the first Saturday in May thousands of people around the globe participate in World Labyrinth Day as a moving meditation for world peace and celebration of the labyrinth experience. Many “Walk as One at 1” local time to create a rolling wave of peaceful energy passing from one time zone to the next…

We did not make any plans this year to specifically host an event at our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, so named to memorialize our priceless time and deep connection to Ian and his family and their place in Portugal, because Cyndie is not fully ambulatory. That said, she did do a milestone driveway walking distance yesterday.

When I left for an errand to Elysa’s house in St. Paul in the morning, our recycle bin was still at the end of the driveway waiting to be emptied. When I returned, it was no longer there. I was certain that it hadn’t walked itself back up to our garage, so who could have pulled off such a feat?

Our heroine didn’t just walk the full length and back, more than four times the longest she’d walked up to that point, she took along Delilah on a leash, picked up the mail, and grabbed the empty recycle bin to wheel it the whole way back to the house. By her own admission, it was a very slow and methodical walk, but nonetheless, a significant accomplishment.

As a caregiver, at this point, my primary contribution is working consistently to encourage her to elevate and cool the knee often enough to compensate for the daily increases in the amount she is using it. Cyndie has needed no coaching on exercising.

I spotted a new wildflower in our woods that image searching leads me to believe qualifies as a crocus of some sort.

The dandelions will soon carpet our grassy areas and I am hoping our transplanted trillium will appear in the woods just beyond the house shortly thereafter.

In an update on my new bicycle that was in the shop, the report is that the source of the creaking frame was down in the bottom bracket, not up near the seat tube. Something was not quite right among all the mechanisms of the crank and motor interconnections assembled at the factory. Not a problem that I stood a chance of solving on my own.

On our first day with temperatures reaching 70°F, I was able to put the bike through a thorough test, specifically choosing to leave the motor-assist off for the entire ride so as to learn the response of the marvelous machine when powered exclusively by muscle. It was a very pleasurable experience that will become even easier when electric power is desired.

Think about world peace today at 1:00 p.m. your time, regardless of whether or not you are able to be walking a labyrinth. Help build the wave.

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Written by johnwhays

May 7, 2022 at 9:35 am

Multiple Moves

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For what seems like months, Cyndie has been working on a plan to choreograph a furniture swap between three generations of her family. With her mom’s home sold, there was going to be excess furniture left behind that was available for distribution. Like a scene right out of a movie, family members started putting notes on items they wanted.

Over time, small items were moved by personal cars but there were enough large items remaining that professional movers were called in. However, this would be no simple move. Furnishings Cyndie wanted would replace items we already had, so those needed to find new homes.

Same thing for our daughter, Elysa. She needed to jettison items to make room in her house for selected items. At Cyndie’s mom’s house, everything was going, but not to just one location. A portion went to Elysa and a portion to our place.

That meant the truck started at our house, loading items that would go to Elysa or be donated. Next, to St. Paul to deliver a few of our items for Elysa’s house, and after that, the balance to Bridging, an organization that receives donated furniture to distribute to local families in need.

Cyndie and I followed along to direct the action. After Bridging, the truck headed to Cyndie’s mom’s old house in Edina to load up for return trips to Elysa’s house and finally, back to ours. Beds, dressers, desks, tables, chairs, rugs, a gas grill, and a patio table with chairs.

At each stop, the items needed to be loaded in the proper order to facilitate unloading at the subsequent destinations. It was a bit of a circus but the guys understood the drill and Cyndie had prepared all parties well for each step so it was a nicely orchestrated circus.

Even though plenty of measuring was done in advance, there are always some adjustments to consider when given the opportunity to see things for real. The room dimensions in our house are just enough smaller that we are going to move a couple pieces around in search of a more balanced and fully functional layout.

The movers were extremely helpful in freeing us from any heavy lifting. I needed to rely on them entirely because my usual moving partner is using a cane to get around and can’t do any heaving lifting for a few more weeks.

Cyndie continues to wow the physical therapist with her progress. I’m happy that she is remembering to also balance all the walking with a reasonable amount of rest and icing of that new knee.

It really was a flawless day of multiple moves, right up until the last stop at our house. The driver immediately let Cyndie know that he was very sorry for a little slip up he had navigating the driveway. I knew it was probably bad when I saw how much mud was on the truck’s tires.

Delilah and I checked it out on our way to the end of the driveway with the trash and recycle bins.

Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark. The ground is still a little soft.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2022 at 6:00 am

Bloodroot Blooming

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The first bloodroot flower appeared yesterday morning. I wasn’t in the woods late in the afternoon but I bet there were plenty more spreading their petals to join it by the end of the glorious day. All that whining I’ve been doing about how wet it was is a thing of the past, for a few days, anyway.

If you look closely, you can see rolled up leaves cradling the buds of many more flowers about to make their way. The distinctly shaped leaves will fully expand after the blossoms drop and get rather large in size.

Following the appearance of trout lilies and bloodroot will be the trillium we transplanted from the lake place up near Hayward. I’ll be looking for some evidence we succeeded with the most recent transplants by our change to keeping them in a more dense group when replanting.

Attempts from previous years weren’t looking very robust and definitely weren’t thickening up nor launching new sprouts. I got the impression we planted them too far apart from each other and ended up isolating individual plants.

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In an entirely unrelated topic, I had a chance to have multiple staff at the bike shop working together to hunt for the source of the bothersome creaking sound my new bike was making. After patiently listening to my long-winded explanation of what I have been experiencing, one of the guys mentioned that my shoes looked new.

Yes, they are. He grabbed an allen wrench and snugged the screws holding the cleats on each shoe as I presented the bottoms of my shoes to him. Could that have been it?

I hopped on and rode around the parking lot.

Nope. Mystery sound still present.

I convinced the mechanic to step outside and listen as I pedaled. The sound was obvious but the source of the sound was not. As a group of employees stood around offering guesses, the mechanic was trying different things with my bike. Suddenly, I heard the sound.

“You found it!” I exclaimed.

He was putting pressure on the left pedal and torquing the frame to reproduce the sound. Another guy felt all around the carbon frame trying to locate the source and to everyone’s surprise ended up thinking it was coming from up around where the seat post fits in the frame.

Trek has something they call IsoSpeed that “decouples” the seat tube from the top tube to diminish the fatiguing impacts of the road. There is a good chance something related to that mechanism was causing the sound. I needed to leave the bike with them to investigate how it is all supposed to work.

At the hour the store was closing last night, I received a message that my bike was ready to be picked up. I’ll stop by later today to get it and hopefully learn more about what they needed to do to solve the problem.

I’m really looking forward to pedaling a much quieter (new) bike.

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Written by johnwhays

May 5, 2022 at 6:00 am

Survival Tactics

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After two weeks of recovering from knee replacement surgery, Cyndie returned to be seen by the surgeon’s assistant and have the bandage removed from the incision. Now able to walk with only a cane for support, she let me wait in the car and navigated her way to the appointment unassisted.

The prognosis was excellent and the incision looks fantastic. Apparently, all my tender loving care is doing wonders for her. That, and the fact she has been downright heroic about balancing exercise and rest.

I was saved from needing to do the grocery shopping because Cyndie shopped online and we were able to pick up the order from the store on our way home from the doctor’s appointment. She is reclaiming some of the meal prep roles which eases some of my caregiving stress. There is nothing more challenging for me and my limited kitchen prowess than becoming responsible for feeding the head chef at a time when healthy meals are more important than ever.

And Cyndie even prepared and froze many meals in advance of her surgery to help me out during her convalescence. The master of reheating faced new complications in dishing up servings for a person other than just himself. In real estate, it’s “location, location, location.” In the kitchen, it’s “timing, timing, timing.” Heating more than a single portion of a single item threw a wrench into my old solo living survival tactics.

After getting groceries put away and laundry dried and folded and lunch dishes cleaned up, I snuck in another version of a test ride on my new bicycle. New shoes tested very well. New pedals needed tension adjusted on the clips. The seat needed to come up another fraction. The new computer sensor is working for speed and cadence. I’m starting to get the hang of brake lever shifting.

Only one problem remains. Something in the drivetrain is making a noise when I put pressure on the pedals and I have yet to figure out what it is. I can’t even say for sure whether the creaking sound is coming from the crank or bottom bracket or further back by the rear derailleur. A return visit to the bike shop is planned.

All this activity culminated in a brief rest when I returned to the house. I just wanted to sit down for a moment and check messages on my phone, maybe play a few rounds against my frenemies in “Words with Friends.”

That didn’t last very long. I conked out. Cyndie thought it looked cute that Delilah and I were napping together.

My nap seemed to energize Cyndie because after Delilah and I got up, she walked downstairs for the first time in over two weeks, went for a walk outside in the sunshine down to the shop, and later cooked dinner on the grill out on the deck. She then proceeded to recline with her leg raised and cooled by the fancy rented machine to control swelling after all that exercise.

She’s like the perfect patient wielding her own excellent survival tactics.

I’d like to know what she did with my wife.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

Limbing Up

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We have a fair number of big trees that need professional attention to bring down high branches and widow-makers. I received a quote for the work but the guy said they can’t start until the ground dries up enough to support their machinery. I don’t know if it will ever get that dry.

While he was here, I asked his opinion about pruning the lower limbs of our evergreen trees. Some trees are getting so wide at the bottom, that I can barely get around them on the garden tractor when I’m mowing. He offered no objections to limbing up the trees about 3-4 feet.

For all the years we’ve been walking our property, I’d never noticed that our neighbor’s evergreens are all “limbed up” 4-6 feet until I started thinking about doing it to ours. I see that as a good sign, that I didn’t notice. It never looked “wrong” to me on their lot so I trust I won’t dislike the look on ours.

I’m starting with the trees that most annoy me when mowing and then will decide about doing more of our others after I see how the first few look. It’s really a great problem to have, trees getting so big.

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One of the challenges of pruning so many branches is that it creates large piles of cuttings that need to be dealt with later. Right now I am thinking about trimming off the smallest portions of the cut branches and creating a pile of the woodiest cores to be run through the chipper. The needles and small ends can be tossed into the brush piles I’m creating as a natural hedge fence along part of the northern border of our property.

Working on the second tree yesterday using our cool Stihl mini chainsaw, I was cutting so many limbs, one after another, the machine shut down because it got too hot.

Too much of a good thing, I think. This handy little chainsaw is a really slick addition to our cutting tools. The problem with it is that it works too well.

I have to fight the urge to cut too many branches because it is so easy. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean I should.

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Written by johnwhays

May 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

Broken News

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If every report is labeled “Breaking News!” it kinda dilutes the meaning of breaking, doesn’t it?. The breaking news from Wintervale is that Cyndie has switched from using a walker for getting around to walking with a cane. Tomorrow marks two weeks since the knee replacement surgery. She is making really good progress toward healing and recovering full function in the weeks ahead.

Already, I am enjoying the benefits of some assistance in the kitchen from her with meal prep.

Beyond that news, it feels like I would describe that it’s been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone. It’s muddier than ever after two more days of rain. I recently saw an amusing comment from a meteorologist distorting the old adage that April showers will bring May flowers. This year, he predicted, April showers will bring May showers. Oh, joy.

Honestly, as much as I am averse to suffering from drought, I think my attitude is more strongly opposed to the disgustingly muddy conditions brought on by endless rains. Too much, or too little has become the norm.

I sincerely hope all the underground roots are sucking up the maximum amount of hydration they can. A limited number of growing things are popping out some greenery regardless of the continued pattern of clouds, rain, and cooler than average temperatures. I trust there to be a spectacular burst of budding greens upon the next visit of warmth and prolonged sunshine.

I am growing increasingly weary of trying to keep the horses comfortable amid conditions that are anything but.

It’s an excellent opportunity to practice mind over matter and allow mental space for a positive spin on a grim spring weather pattern. I’ll get right on that.

Breaking News!: It’s still cold and wet outside today. Happy May Day everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

May 1, 2022 at 10:21 am

Happiness Abounds

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Yesterday afternoon I had the most spectacular time granting the horses a special treat by allowing them a token of grass beyond the confines of the dwindling blades available in the paddocks. Delilah and I showed up early and went immediately to work in the round pen while the horses were up near the barn wondering what we were up to. I rigged up some web fence to allow for an isolated alley limiting access to just the pen.

After that, I spent time scooping old remains of manure left from the time we allowed them to be in there over winter. By the time I was done, it was the normal hour for their feed pans to be served. While they finished that and then munched on some hay, I pushed the wheelbarrow across the paddock and scooped manure. When I was near the gate to the round pen, I undid the chain and opened it up to provide them clear access.

Not one of them paid me any attention down there, so I kept making my way around the paddock and scooping poop. Finally, I looked up to see that Mia had wandered away from the barn into the middle of the big paddock. I took a pause from my scooping and walked toward the gate to demonstrate it was open.

I would describe the look on her face as one of surprise as she cautiously approached at an angle to get a closer view. I walked inside the pen and she followed.

It didn’t take Mix long to notice.

She made her way toward the wheelbarrow to make it look like she was only partially interested and then joined Mia in the pen.

When Light figured out what was going on, she immediately ran down to join the other two.

So far, so good in terms of those three remaining agreeable in the confined space. It didn’t take long for Swings to realize where everybody went and show up for the fun.

I stepped away and watched for a while to see if they would continue to be friendly and freely share the new opportunity.

Satisfied, I wandered off to dump the wheelbarrow and rescue Delilah who was waiting patiently in the barn. It was time to take her up to the house for her dinner. As we came out of the barn to get one last look at the horses, they put on quite a show to demonstrate how happy they were.

They took turns at first, running out and back in… because they could. Then they all joined together to do some tight quarters racing from the round pen up to the barn, around the small paddock, and back through the large one into the pen again. Swings came out and stood up on her hind legs, looking about twenty years younger than her age, as the others romped.

I’m not sure who was having more fun at that moment, the horses over their good fortune, or me being able to witness their excitement.

Pure happiness, all around.

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2022 at 10:52 am

Calm Existence

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It is a blessing indeed to make it through a day with animals and a wife recovering from surgery and experience no unexpected drama. Maybe I am feeling particularly appreciative because the day before yesterday was noticeably less so.

Not surprisingly, the Siamese cat with the pretty blue collar showed up on our deck again. I figured a return visit was likely given the way the neighbor’s big Pyrenees guard dog chased after the kitty when I returned it the first time. We chose to pay it no attention in hopes it would return home on its own.

All was going well, in terms of our ignoring it until Delilah got up from a nap and went ballistic over the presence of the uninvited feline visitor. I don’t know what it is about this cat that the dogs become so worked up over while other cats nearby walk around unnoticed.

Ultimately, the plan appears to have worked because there was no sign of the Siamese anywhere yesterday. I didn’t want to do anything that might invite continued future visits.

I also didn’t see the barn cat that we thought might be living in our hay shed, but I wondered if it might be hiding in there somewhere and had possibly been near a skunk. The unwelcome aroma was vague but present when I opened the big door to the shed. Something about the presence of the odor led me to believe it wasn’t coming directly from a skunk. Seemed more believable that it was a “second-hand” stink.

It was time yesterday afternoon to move more bales to the barn, even though there are moments when the horses are showing more interest in biting the fence boards than eating more hay this time of year. They loiter near the fence to the pastures and hope I will notice and give them what they want.

Cyndie has approved a plan I devised yesterday to rig up a way to allow them access to the round pen later today. With little activity in there the last few years, grass has overtaken the sand. It would be just fine with us if they grazed that grass down to nothing like they are doing in the paddocks.

That should buy us a little time of entertaining their cravings until we deem the grass in the back pasture ready for being stomped on and eaten. The first day they get on that tall grass, they will only have 15-30 minutes to munch. Access will be granted after they have already eaten the morning or evening servings, so they don’t feel overly hungry in the moment.

Each day their time on the pasture will be increased by 15-30 minutes. The microbes that inhabit a horse’s gut vary depending on what is being eaten. We want to allow time for the microbial population to change in balance with the new green grass being offered.

They’ll be excited enough as it is to be grazing in the pasture. We don’t want to spoil the otherwise calm existence by introducing new digestive problems.

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Wanting Green

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The horses are starting to seem a little hangry with the amount of grass surrounding the paddock that is turning deliciously green.

I’m wondering if they will be so excited when we open the gate to the back pasture that they will take off running as if they were in a race like they did last year. The other option, which I’ve witnessed more often than not, is that they will take one step through the gate and start munching grass like they may never get another chance.

At present, they are twisting their necks to reach under the bottom boards of the fence to nibble any blades they can reach and then they look at me like I must be thick-headed not to understand they want out.

I tried cleaning up manure before the next series of predicted rainy days and made it about halfway through the paddock before the wheelbarrow was full and I was out of time. I see again more evidence proving an off-handed comment our fence installer made about the ground being high along old fence lines.

My mind tried to imagine why there would be a build-up of earth along a fence over the years but now, having heavy animals, I see they compress the dirt everywhere except under the fence, leaving that as the higher ground.

The horses pack the ground so densely that it’s hard for the grass to grow. Never mind that grass seems perfectly able to grow through our asphalt driveway.

Even when an odd tuft of grass does overcome the compacted soil and start to grow, the horses kill it by munching it down to a nub.

Given enough evolutionary time, I wonder if horses could learn to leave enough grass growth that it doesn’t all die so that they always have some fresh green blades to eat.

I suspect they’d prefer to not be confined to a paddock or any fenced boundaries so they wouldn’t have to worry about overeating in one limited space.

Won’t be too much longer before we can open up the pasture for them. I offered to drive Cyndie down along the path around the back pasture so she could watch them in case they take off in a gallop again. Even though she is making good progress a week and two days after her knee replacement surgery, she isn’t ready to walk the uneven surfaces of our property yet.

Her first physical therapy appointment was last Tuesday and the therapist gave her permission to take a stroll outdoors on our driveway with her walker as soon as the weather takes a turn toward warm and dry. It was a pretty safe grant to make since Cyndie is healing well and the weather shows little sign of improving for quite some time.

She’s going to get a little hangry herself, waiting to get out of her post-surgery confinement so she can walk outdoors again.

Soon, I say.

Relatively, that is.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2022 at 6:00 am