Relative Something

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

Sky Waves

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These are all from the same night when we were out in the back pasture with the horses, just a short distance from the chicken coop where we had spent the day working on fencing two courtyards, one on each side. The waves of clouds and the low-angled sunlight glaring through the hot horizon haze seemed to change by the minute.

They could each provide ample opportunity for a “Words on Images” feature, but since that inspiration has yet to wash over me, the wordless images get featured today, as is.

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If I was a skyscape painter, these are some images I would be pleased to compose. I don’t think I would ever imagine the wild pattern of “shadow” ripples visible in the center-left portion of the last one if I were attempting to paint a version of how it looked to me.

Mother nature painted them. I captured the views with my digital camera.

I reserve the right to repurpose one or more of these should fitting words show up unannounced somewhere down the line.

 

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2021 at 8:00 am

Chicks Grazing

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For your viewing pleasure, hang out with our chicks for a couple of minutes and get a sense of how much fun it is to watch their methods of exploring the courtyard we fenced in this weekend outside their coop door.

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Aah, but they grow up so fast. In no time they will be free-ranging chickens devouring acres of insects.

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Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Heat Advisory

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With the pressure of multiple days of excessive heat driving our concerns, Cyndie and I put in extra hours yesterday to complete the two separated fenced-in courtyards outside the coop for the two batches of chicks. Late in the afternoon, our chicks were scratching dirt for the first time in their lives.

While we worked, we opened their access doors, allowing them to tentatively investigate the strange new opportunity in their own time.

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I appreciate their caution. Being cautious might protect them from risks they will face when ultimately allowed to free-range our fields and forest.

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Getting the chicks out of the coop and onto the shady ground dropped the temperature of their environment significantly. Keeping their water sources filled requires extra vigilance in the heat as those little beaks drink a surprising amount much quicker than expected.

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In no time, I witnessed insects being hunted and devoured. It’s interesting to watch the instinctual behavior of scratching the ground beneath them and then stepping back to peck at whatever might have been revealed. I saw a little beetle rushing to move from one spot to another and wondered how that might play out. The keen eye of one of the chicks spotted that movement and raced over to scoop it up in one smooth move.

Then the great hunter needed to fend off the immediate attention of several other chicks who desperately wanted what she had.

If ever there was a version of “eat and run,” the competition of other chicks defines the phrase when it comes to finding the perfect morsel.

It won’t take long for those birds to change their limited landscapes from green to nothing but bare ground.

At the rate things seem to be advancing, they will be ranging free in a blink. The next big hurdle will likely be figuring out how and when we can take out the barriers isolating the two age groups. I expect it will come after the point of development where it becomes much more obvious which of the Rockettes are noticeably roosters.

Let’s hope high heat pressure will have taken a welcome break long before that milestone arrives.

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2021 at 9:35 am

Rocky’s Progeny

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The 13 chicks that hatched from eggs fertilized by our late New Hampshire Red rooster, Rocky, have now developed enough features to better guess at which breed their mothers were. The batch we’ve referred to as the “Rockettes” will be subdivided to break out six pullets who will eventually be “Baxterettes,” reflecting a plan to share them with my brother’s family in the Brainerd area of Minnesota.

That surprise rooster we were blessed to receive unexpectedly in a batch of egg-layers we ordered online during the pandemic will have quite a legacy from his cut-way-too-short life.

The twenty-five chicks currently sharing the “twin-home” coop divided in half by a plastic netting are all doing well during this span of time when they are confined to quarters. We are currently working to prepare the boundaries of two separate courtyards –one front, one in back– where they will be allowed daytime excursions on real dirt with actual green growth to destroy.

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We aren’t sure yet about how many of the 13 Rockettes are roosters in the making, but we are confident it is more than zero. Looking at the images above, we believe we have the following numbers of breeds:

Quantity 6 Barnevelders; two with darker coloring on head and neck (a difference of gender maybe?). One each of these can be seen on the far left and far right of the image on the left.

Quantity 2 Light Brahmas; mostly yellow with white wing feathers and a hint of feathers growing on feet, seen second from left.

Quantity 4 yellow-headed chicks with reddish-brown feathers that look a mix of New Hampshire Red/Barnevelder, third from left.

Quantity 1 Dominique; easily identified for being black head to toe and almost disappears in the image on the right.

Cyndie has reported seeing pairs of the Rockette chicks chest-bumping already but I saw nothing but happy romping siblings in my extended watching yesterday.

We housed the Buffalo Gals on the backside of the coop where the chicken access door is located, but that lacked ventilation in this record-setting hot weather. I rigged a way to temporarily cover the opening with 1/4″ mesh hardware cloth so we could leave the door open during the day.

The high heat will inspire us to hasten preparations to get their courtyards secure so we can let them out into more open air.

The wild pigeons choosing to nest in our barn lost about a half-dozen chicks yesterday that we found sprawled out on the ground in multiple places, so this heat needs to be taken seriously.

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Written by johnwhays

June 5, 2021 at 9:35 am

Birthday Treat

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I didn’t realize the destination restaurant just a couple of miles from our house closed by 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. Maybe that’s a function of COVID times. I wanted to surprise Cyndie for her birthday with Shady Grove’s delectable Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart.

When Cyndie stepped out to walk Delilah and check on the chicks in the coop, I raced to phone Shady Grove to make sure they had a tart available. That’s when I learned they had closed half an hour earlier.

Luckily, my request was simple and I promised I was only a few minutes away.

Without saying anything to Cyndie, I opened the garage door and raced off like a crazy man, wondering if she would see me and be concerned about what the heck I was doing without telling her.

Five minutes later, I was driving up our driveway and came upon Cyndie and Delilah. She hadn’t seen me leave, so was completely flummoxed upon seeing my car arriving.

“Surprise!”

And Happy Birthday today, Cyndie. (We celebrated early last night because there was no holding her back from that caramel and chocolate favorite once she found out.)

Go ahead, sing along… “Happy Birthday dear Cyndie, happy birthday to you!”

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Written by johnwhays

June 4, 2021 at 6:00 am

Claiming Time

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I suspect that our house cat, Pequenita, is the pet that gets the least air-time on Relative Something. As the lone feline around here, she seems to frequently be at odds with the general vibe happening at any given moment. Usually, that is because the dog tends to be the one setting the vibe.

Pequenita occasionally tolerates whatever it might be that Delilah is looking to achieve, but most often the cat is just trying to be wherever the dog isn’t.

When we arrived home from the lake on Monday, Pequenita was noticeably more vocal than usual. I think she was expressing displeasure with our having been gone. Something tells me Delilah was having a field day or days, taking advantage of our absence to mess with the cat more than she is allowed when we are around to interrupt.

There is one thing Pequenita does every day to offset the hours when she might not always be getting what she wants. She claims time with me the moment I climb into bed.

She wants to be scratched vigorously behind her ears, on her belly, under her chin, rolling the scruff on the back of her neck, across her forehead, and over her eyes. When I work her armpits, she stretches her front legs way out and flexes her feet. She also purrs warmly the entire time.

It’s a festival of shedding all the while.

Pequenita gets up and walks away, so she can turn around and come right back for more. She rubs against the edge of my laptop. She tries to stand on the keys. After another round of scratches, she walks away again. The more earnestly I want to write on my computer, the more repetitions she makes to walk away and come right back.

If only I could master the art of typing solely with my left hand in order to give Pequenita the scratches she wants with my other hand and still get some writing done.

Unfortunately, the time I wish to claim for writing before I go to sleep happens to be the exact same time Pequenita chooses to claim for me to put my hands all over her body.

Honestly, it’s not all that unfortunate. We are blessed to have her unique character enriching our lives. I’m lucky to have a pet who shows such deep appreciation for my attention.

The time she claims is not just for selfish reasons. She claims it for both of us.

I just need to remind myself that writing comes second to the art of fulfilling the desires of our cat.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Precious Sight

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We are so lucky to have these beautiful horses living with us. It’s been a month and a half since they arrived and each day brings them a little bit closer to recognizing us as well-intentioned caregivers. Seeing the four of them quietly grazing together without any fuss is a precious sight.

Just the change from how they originally stood well out of reach when we showed up at the fence to now greeting us with their heads over the top board to smell our breath and accept some touch when we arrive is such a demonstration of their increased comfort.

We’ve taken to temporarily closing gates between pairs during the times we set out feed pans to minimize food related interaction among them, but immediately after open all the gates to allow total freedom of movement. They don’t always regroup and wander off together as a foursome, but when they do, it warms our hearts.

A much less precious sight was discovered upon our return from the lake on Monday. The little pine tree that we transplanted on the rainy Thursday before heading north looked thirsty, with the sprouts of new growth all sadly toppled over. As I was watering it, I suddenly noticed there were two branches smothered with caterpillars that were devouring the older needles.

An internet search revealed these to likely be larvae of the sawfly. The dang things have denuded the upper half of the tree.

If this little pine survives I will be very impressed. We yanked it out of the ground just as it was sprouting new growth, we let it get too dry in its new location, and then it gets infested with needle-eating bugs.

Maybe it will make a good “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” next year.

That could actually turn out to be a precious sight… at least, for fans of that classic 1965 animated television special.

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Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

Chicks Moved

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We left the lake place yesterday morning with the weather doing everything possible to make our departure as conflicting as possible. Alas, tasks at home beckoned, energizing us to focus on hitting the road before lunchtime.

Upon greeting our animals, we immediately turned our attention to planting the trillium we brought home with us. Instead of planting in spread-out sets of three, this time we are experimenting with planting them all together in a closer bunch.

They were pretty droopy by the time we got home, but most stems appeared to stand back up after we got them in the ground and watered. Time will tell whether they accept what we’ve done to them and go on to establish themselves 125 miles south of their previous location.

Next order of business was to complete the dividing of the coop space and then move the chicks from each of their separate brooder locations.

The Buffalo Gals went first and acted rather unwilling about getting picked up for the transfer.

We decided to move both sets of chicks to the coop on the same day, combining the shock of a new location and the first exposure to other birds to happen all at once.

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It was hard to tell which troubled each batch more, the new digs or the strange other chirping birds suddenly appearing in close proximity.

By nightfall, they all seemed to be doing just fine with their abrupt change in housing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Leave It

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There are multiple meanings to the title, Leave It. There is always a little sadness in needing to leave the lake place, but today that is what we will be doing. There is also the old adage about poison ivy: Leaves of three, Let it be. Lastly, leaves are the theme of images for today’s post.

Starting with a sprout of poison ivy in a very inconvenient location.

A leaf shadow that seems about as perfect as the leaf itself.

There was an old oak leaf stuck to the side of this aging stand-up paddleboard.

Finally, a frame-filled immersion in the wonderful patterns of hosta leaves.

I’m going to leave it at that.

Happy Memorial Day to readers in the U.S. We will spend the day driving home and hopefully transplanting a few trilliums after we arrive.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2021 at 6:00 am

Spot It

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Can you find the secondary features hiding in plain sight in these images captured throughout my day yesterday?

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How many did you identify?

That was purple-tinted trillium alright, but did you notice the poison ivy directly beside it on the left?

There was some complex chirping coming from the pine tree. Is that a nuthatch? You tell me. I didn’t have a long lens.

The coiled-up young fern was the focus and I didn’t notice the mosquito until viewing the image on my computer.

What was that lurking beneath the water, obscured by the wavy reflections? The old snapping turtle hanging out on the boat lift.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2021 at 9:08 am