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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Even Higher

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Always pushing the envelope, those chickens. On Monday, when Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, she found one of the Light Brahmas had figured out a way to get even higher than the 2×4 ledge above the window. Somehow, she got on top of the netted fencing that we installed to separate the adult hens from the chicks.

She wedged herself up against the quarter-inch hardware cloth that serves as the coop ceiling and was positioned such that she looked down upon the three adult hens roosting beneath her.

The tenacity of chickens to violate every installation put in place to contain them reminds me a little of our horses. Every time I installed something I didn’t think they would mess with, the horses would prove me wrong.

When Cyndie spotted that trapeze artist, she was on a phone call, so she left the bird up there until she could get me to assist with addressing the situation.

With darkness fully upon us, we donned headlamps and barged in on the sanctity of nighttime roosting. After rudely relocating the Brahma, Cyndie asked for twist-ties to stitch that area of fencing tightly to the hardware cloth ceiling to prevent subsequent attempts.

When I shut the coop last night, there was no sign that any of them had tried to mess with that solution. Three pullets were up on the cross-beam framing the window and the rest were spread across the two roost branches spanning the coop.

Maybe they were all tired of working to establish a pecking order. When I had visited them earlier yesterday afternoon, that’s all they appeared to be doing. Skirmish after skirmish between an ever-changing combination of pairs played out with shoving, chasing, posturing, glaring, beak-to-beak staring, and occasionally a rare attempt to peck.

There were no “She started it!” statements possible because all of them were guilty.

I saw it with my own eyes.

I’m thinking maybe the balmy gusting south wind had them riled up a bit. As if they need an excuse.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Puppy Love

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While communing with Cyndie’s family over the weekend, I learned of a wonderful photo captured by one of my fellow Friswold in-laws, Sara (married to Cyndie’s youngest brother, Ben). They are the only other Friswold family with multiple pets in the house. In addition to their three kids, there are two cats roaming the house, (and multiple amphibians and reptiles in a bedroom), and two dogs. Mocha is a 3-year-old mix they got from the Humane Society and Hazel is a 4-and-a-half-month-old rescue puppy.

Given that variety of kid and animal energy, it is easy to imagine the perpetual hum of commotion from ongoing activity constantly underway in the background of their everyday lives. In that setting, it is any sudden absence of activity that causes a person to take notice.

Sara reports just that scenario one day while she was occupied at her computer. She noticed it had gotten quiet and turned around in her chair to glance in the direction of the dogs. This is what she saw:

Puppy Hazel had her paws on Mocha’s chest and they were gazing at each other, nose to nose.

Sara quickly, but subtly, reached for her phone and captured the moment over her shoulder in the split second before it was over and Hazel moved on to other pursuits.

I asked how it might have transpired and Sara said it is not unusual for Mocha to sit upright in that spot and hang a front “arm” over the chair to look out the window. It is assumed that Hazel just took advantage of the position to stage an impromptu up close and personal puppy style greeting.

Everyone who has seen the image has enjoyed it so much, myself included, that I asked if I could share it with my readers, too. Let’s amplify and spread the puppy-love joy it brings.

It’s better than the “chew on everything in sight” puppy energy that is more the norm.

Congratulations, Sara, for the deft achievement of capturing this image in the moment’s notice!

It’s a winner of a photo. Thank you for letting me feature it and your pooch smooches.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pullets Aplenty

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We were only away for two days, but upon our return, it was hard to find any signs remaining in our latest brood of chicks that identifies them as chicks anymore. They are reasonably qualified as pullets now, up until they become actual egg-laying hens. After checking on Pequenita and walking Delilah, and then saying hello to the three adult hens, we climbed into the netted front yard of the coop to commune with the young ones.

Last week, Cyndie constructed an added wing to the enclosure, cutting the old net to create an opening to the added space on fresh grass. That area encompassed an old wooden spool to which the girls all took a quick liking.

A cluster of them gathered up there to preen feathers together after the treats ran out that we had been offering up from the palms of our hands.

One of the friendly Dominiques hopped up to perch on my arm. I’m not sure if she was simply showing off about how comfortable she is with us or if she was specifically intending to lay claim on me and garner something of higher ranking over all the others as a result.

I was more than happy to oblige.

Alas, that only resulted in one of the New Hampshires one-upping the competition to show who’s boss by climbing on Cyndie’s back.

Those legs look like drumsticks. Next thing you know, that young one just might surprise us with practice crowing one of these days. None of the other two-month-olds are anywhere close to matching the pace of development of that one.

The other New Hampshire doesn’t have near the comb or wattle growth yet. However, she does have pretty good balance and wing action going for her.

The feather-footed Light Brahma appears to be doing a bit of a shuffle beneath her, doesn’t she? Look at those dance moves, cha-cha-cha.

There was plenty of action inside the fencing with our dozen pullets yesterday afternoon.

It was a pleasing “welcome home” to rural life once again.

Thankfully, no masks required.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Final Rest

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Under the wearisome pall of constraints in place due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Cyndie’s family orchestrated a laudable graveside service for a small number of family and friends to say final goodbyes to her dad, Fred Friswold, under a mostly cloudy but otherwise dry Saturday. Masks were required and reasonable social distancing requested for the limited 30-minute window of time allowed by Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

We were instructed to arrive at a precise time and remain in our cars until ushered in a parade of vehicles to the gravesite.

The Friswolds have a family plot where Cyndie’s grandparents, her aunt, and her sister have now been joined by her father’s ashes.

In an unfortunate but inconsequential oversight, the canopy ordered to protect from possible rain was missing. The threat of precipitation waned as the appointed hour drew near and by the time we stood as a scattered group to hear various readings and prayers, there were a couple of brief openings in the clouds that revealed blue sky and bathed us in sunshine.

A flock of wild turkeys idly wandered past as if we weren’t there.

Masks served to catch many tears.

From the cemetery, we all drove to the University of Minnesota where the staff of the McNamara Alumni Center –the building Fred and two alumni buddies were instrumental in shepherding to existence– provided a pandemic-constrained space for a meal and program.

It was a day for which I’m confident Fred would approve, partially because only a fraction of the people who would have gushed over his greatness were able to be present so to do.

He touched a lot of people’s lives and impacted exponentially more who never knew him.

I appreciated hearing three different perspectives from people in his world of financial guidance to the YMCA and U of M, as they revealed to me how little first-hand exposure I had to anything but his home and family life.

Fred died in June from a cancer diagnosed the previous December which only compounded preexisting heart and lung ailments. He was clear-minded and fully aware right to the end. In the months since he died, the new reality of his being gone from us was settling in. Yesterday’s events have served to punctuate anew the depths of how much he is missed.

It’s a shame the end of life celebrations are so difficult to hold during a pandemic.

Cyndie’s family did a fine job of achieving all they possibly could under the circumstances.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2020 at 9:06 am

Last Cut

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I know this cat named Pequenita who is highly skilled at showing up for scratches at the precise time that I want to use both of my hands to type on my laptop computer. She seems to know that I can’t resist her demands for attention.

Today, we head to Edina for the weekend to participate in Friswold family activities surrounding a graveside memorial service for Fred on Saturday. Please keep Cyndie and her family in your hearts and beam your love when you think of them.

In preparation for being away from home for the weekend, I jumped on the lawn tractor as soon as I got home from work yesterday afternoon to tackle the project of cutting the grass shorter than normal for the late-season mowing session. The short cut left a lot of grass clippings behind that I am going to need to sweep up.

In addition to the excessive clippings, the early cold snap and noticeably shorter daylight hours brought on dew that had me cutting some wet grass before I was through. The amount of grass stuck to the bottom of the mower deck was epic. I disconnected the mower from the tractor and struggled mightily to lift the deck for cleaning. It weighed a ton!

The whole project was a little too much for the short time I had available, so the finishing touches will come later. I still may end up needing to cut some areas another time before winter, but I’m hoping most of the mowing is now done for the season.

I’m at that point of wanting to use up the last of the gas in the mower before parking that tractor for the winter.

When I was cutting down by the labyrinth, I had to work around a couple of rocks that had tumbled from one of my recent precarious balance installations.

It’s all good fun until you neglect to pick up the fallen rocks. Those two have returned to ground level and interfered with grass cutting in the vicinity. Far be it from me to stop and get off the tractor to move them. I just forged ahead, cutting around the obstacles to keep going uninterrupted.

During our work down at the labyrinth last week, I took a picture of the center boulders and the miscellaneous additions scattered around them.

It wasn’t getting much attention during our sessions of adding rocks to the path borders, but it is the center point destination of the journey inward, after all.

The future star of the labyrinth garden, that maple tree we transplanted to the middle, will someday, long after I’m gone, tower over the paths.

Maybe by that time, the shade it will provide can dissuade the grass from growing so fast beneath its branches.

I will be happy if we’ve already made the last cut of labyrinth grass for the season. We will be making tracks in snow down there again before too long.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

Purple Sky

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I’ve seen some amazing images of what the daylight looks like in Oregon and California this week with the smoke from all the fires. We don’t have anything like that here, but something gave our sunset some added color last night.

Was it the filter of light all the way from the west coast?

While heat and flames were raging across the states in the west, Minnesota set a record for the lowest maximum temperature on September 9 yesterday. We may have areas of frost by the time the day dawns this morning.

What a difference location makes.

 

Written by johnwhays

September 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

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Delilah Helping

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While Cyndie and I were playing around with building more robust stone borders in the labyrinth over the weekend, we enjoyed some special company from Delilah. Even though she couldn’t pick up any of the rocks, she made a very notable point of being as present as possible in a clear gesture of moral support.

Normally, when we secure her leash somewhere while we are focused on a project, she sets off exploring every distance she can reach, seeking out any potential burrs she can collect in her thick coat or digging ferociously after some tunneling rodent in pursuit of entirely selfish entertainment.

On Labor Day Monday, she came over as close to “in my way” as possible, at the farthest reach of the leash that strained against her harness, and laid down to “supervise” my work. It was such uncharacteristic behavior, I paused to take a picture of her.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was also going to capture Cyndie in the background setting down a rock the size of the soccer ball with such little apparent effort that it looked to be as light as a soccer ball, too.

I assure you, none of the rocks that size were light. My back and legs second that assurance. We moved some heavy stones over the weekend.

We worked so hard, I think we tired out Delilah.

A short time later, I noticed she had laid her head down, using a rock for a pillow, and closed her eyes for a little nap, still at the far reach of her leash.

I think she was telling us the labyrinth is a very comfortable place to be.

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Written by johnwhays

September 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

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Balance Lost

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I arranged three stones as an example of how they can be stacked.

While taking a picture, I also captured an example of how they can fall.

It’s a temporary art form, after all.

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Second time’s the charm, though.

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Written by johnwhays

September 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Chick Socializing

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Was hangin’ out with the chicks yesterday to further our ongoing exercises of socializing them to be friendly with people. I served up some extra treats in my palm that brought everyone up close for a piece of the action.

Those who didn’t want to fuss with the crowd wandered around behind me to peck the rivets on my pants.

All four breeds are developing nicely and everyone appears to be getting along reasonably well. We’ve reached a plateau of little change in our daily operating procedures for them that will likely last weeks. We are under the impression that they need to grow closer to the size of the adults before we take out the divider in the coop and merge young with old.

There are signs of a comb beginning to show above the beaks of all of the chicks, but one girl, in particular, is well ahead of the rest. One of the New Hampshires has me wondering if it’s possible she’s not actually a girl.

This one has always been bigger than all the others and already has both comb and wattles well developed. If we start hearing some crowing sounds one of these days, it will be a confirmation. Either that or we could be getting our first new eggs much sooner than anticipated.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

Heavy Lifting

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For our Labor Day holiday three-day weekend during this pandemic, we have chosen to stay home but we wanted to spend some time together working on a project that was as much fun as it was a productive accomplishment. With no negotiation required, we both felt an equal desire to put some focus on collecting more rocks for our labyrinth.

There are several very old stockpiles of rocks in our woods from past farmers clearing their fields that we periodically mine for ideal specimens. It is difficult work because the adjacent wooded acres have expanded to swallow the piles and years of accumulating sediment have buried all but just the top portion of some wonderful rocks that need to be excavated.

Since the extra effort it takes to get rocks from these locations tends to limit progress at any given time, we expanded our range yesterday to piles on the edge of our neighbor’s property so we could make a bigger impact on the labyrinth enhancement. It paid off handsomely.

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It was quickly apparent how much the previous rocks defining the labyrinth path have settled into the earth, some almost disappearing from sight.

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I don’t know why I would choose to wear a white shirt to wrestle rocks all day long. That’s an image of a guy who hugs dirty rocks.

By the end of the day yesterday, we were physically exhausted but emotionally energized to see a least two rows improved one step closer to the vision we share of how we’d like the borders to look someday. It will continue to be an ongoing project that advances in fits and starts.

Like building a jigsaw puzzle, the urge to make progress arises in proportion to the progress recently made. This morning, all I want to do is go back down there and add more rocks.

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Written by johnwhays

September 6, 2020 at 9:57 am