Relative Something

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

Yep, Snow

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Well, we got that out of the way. The first snowfall of the season arrived and decorated our place with a light frosting of white yesterday.

Made for a great Sunday afternoon of lounging in front of the fireplace and watching football games on television up in the loft.

There will be plenty of other days to be out in the elements when flakes are flying in the months ahead. I elected to spend the first one indoors.

Am I showing my age?

Yeah, probably.

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2018 at 6:00 am

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Pecking Order

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Oh, yes, there is a pecking order among the chickens. The horses, too, for that matter, although there isn’t so much pecking involved with those three. It’s more like a big bite.

Lately, Cyndie has noticed that Hunter is taking issue with Dezirea. The other day he kicked in her direction with both legs to make his point.

I got frustrated with the horses’ antics a few days ago while doing the regular “housekeeping” under the overhang, so I established a horse-free zone until I was finished. I pinned my ears back, figuratively, and ushered them all out with big energy.

There is no question about their understanding. After a few tries to return, which were met with my same high energy message, they resorted to pacing along the imaginary boundary I had established. Several times, when I turned to deposit a scoopful into the wheelbarrow, Hunter checked to see if the order was still in effect, by trying to step in behind me.

I simply turned back from my task to assure him I wasn’t done yet and the area was still closed to them.

After Cayenne’s little nip on my shoulder last week, they have been receiving fresh messages from me that I am above them in the pecking order around here, and demanding the respect that a herd leader deserves.

Yesterday afternoon, I puttered in the compost area with the chickens, moving piles around to create new space. Two chickens, in particular, a yellow Buff Orpington and black Australorp, appeared to be in some sort of contest to outdo each other to see who could eat the most of whatever the disturbed piles revealed.

It’s fascinating to watch the chickens work, actually. They have a very keen eye for the movement of crawling and wiggling creatures. When I slide the pitchfork into a pile and lift out a scoop, there can be quite a few worms or centipedes uncovered and the chickens pursue them with gusto.

At first, the birds are jumpy about my activity and they flinch and startle over my movements, but with each successive rotation of my coming in with the fork or scoop, and then pulling out to turn and dump it in a different spot, they show more confidence.

This allows them to remain close –I would even call it, in the way– so that they are in prime position to make the most of the easy pickings when my fork suddenly uncovers many different delicacies all at once.

I actually adjusted my task to accommodate them, splitting my attention between two piles to give the chickens full access to one whenever so many birds showed up at once to feast that I couldn’t dig around them.

I saw that same Buff Orpington and an Australorp pair get into a wrestling match over one morsel. Eventually, I noticed the Wyandottes get picked on and chased away by both other breeds. They seem to be the lowest in the pecking order.

This adds intrigue to the fact that one Wyandotte often chooses to perch on the tiny space of a cross stud against the wall above the window in the coop at night.

That spot is well above all the rest of the hens on the roost. Maybe she is making a statement to all the others by  spending the night alone up there.

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It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Temperature Driven

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Some chores don’t wait for a time when I actually feel like doing them. Draining hoses is one of those chores. Of course, who decides to coil up their garden hoses when it is warm and sunny outside? Not me.

It would be a treat to do it while the hoses were still pliable. That’s never been my experience. More often than not, I let the chore wait until the forecast suddenly predicts sub-freezing temperatures for the coming night.

Yesterday, that led to my needing to wrestle stiff coils in the damp and chilly fading daylight after I got home from work and tended to the animals.

Can you say, long day?

Delilah was very patient and stayed out with me while I worked, even though it pushed back her dinner to a later than normal hour. It demonstrates how much she treasures being out with us on a task. It is distinctly different from going for a walk.

She totally understands we are ‘working’ on something. We walked to the different locations where the hoses were being used, and after dragging each one back to the shop, she would look up at me to determine if it was time to go in the house, or if we were setting out after another hose.

After letting her in the house to have dinner, I stepped back out before it got dark to bring the air compressor up so I could blow out the buried water line that runs down to the spigot at the labyrinth garden.

With that chore accomplished, the only task left in preparation for serious freezing temperatures is to pull the pump and filter out of the landscape pond. I’m not worried about that for this first freeze tonight, because that water is moving and is unlikely to lock up with this first, brief dip below 32°(F).

For this night, we are now prepared to experience the possible freeze worry-free.

I think I’ll be a little disappointed if it doesn’t end up actually happening.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

Following Up

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Picking up right where I left off yesterday, the story is rain and more rain, and a raccoon that needed to be dealt with once and for all.

Tuesday was a crazy day for Cyndie at home. First, she had to move the horses into the barn for an appointment with Marcus to trim their hooves early in the morning. After cleaning up from that project, she started calling around to see what interest our local authorities might have in our ailing masked bandit.

Since no humans had come in contact with the raccoon, Public Health referred Cyndie to the DNR. They said they didn’t have anyone who could come out, but gave out the number for their biologist. They also suggested she could call the Sheriff.

The Sheriff’s office suggested she call the DNR. Figures.

Eventually, the dispatcher offered to pass on the issue to a Deputy who would call Cyndie back.

Cyndie said she was finally trying to have some breakfast around 10:30 when Delilah started a barking fit at the front door. It was a Deputy Sheriff.

The officer asked if we had any firearms. Nope. Then she offered to shoot it for us.

In her estimation, there was a good chance the coon was suffering from distemper. Regardless the affliction, ailing wildlife is not something you want around for other predators to eat, so she assured Cyndie that it was the right decision to call.

The Deputy elected to use a shotgun, so she could keep a distance. Cyndie said the weapon was almost as long as the petite officer was tall. After several warnings that the shot would be loud, the results possibly messy, that it would startle our horses, that it would be very loud, and that Cyndie didn’t have to look if she didn’t want to, the deed was done.

By the way, this was all accomplished in the rain.

The very kind and helpful officer stayed around to give Cyndie a hand triple-bagging the body and putting it into a closed garbage can for storage until our trash gets picked up.

One good thing about the rain is that it washes away any residual mess that might appeal to our dog on her many walks past that spot in the days ahead.

Delilah is more interested in the sound running water makes as the mini-waterfalls pour over the edges of washouts in the drainage ditch cutting across our fields.

Seems like that water is going to be flowing for days, so she’ll have plenty of distraction.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Soaking Wet

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A flood watch has been issued for a wide area around us through Wednesday because they are expecting we could receive between three or four inches of rain. It’s not that big a deal except, we are already saturated beyond belief. There was an inch in the rain gauge when I got home from work yesterday.

The trails are like soup and the drainage ditch is flowing like a spring melt.

At least our trees are going to be well hydrated heading into winter this year. That’s a bonus I’ll be happy to take.

I don’t think it’s rain that is bothering the raccoon that has become a permanent fixture in the grass beside our north loop trail.

We are leaving it alone because we aren’t sure if the problems it seems to be having might be related to rabies. There is an outside chance it was hit by a car and made its way from the road to that spot, but we are keeping our distance and letting nature take its course, regardless.

The first time we took notice was because it was out and about during the day. It was walking, although not in a completely normal way, and never moving very far away from that area on our property. After three days of seeing it out during the day, we surmised it was not healthy and started giving it a wide berth.

We are careful to keep Delilah on a very short leash because she is very interested in checking out the mysterious visitor.

I’m half hoping some other nocturnal predator might show up to carry the raccoon away so I don’t have to deal with it. If it stays in sight, I’m eventually going to need to check to verify it is no longer living. I’m under the assumption it will not suddenly recover, based on what I’ve witnessed thus far.

I’d like to relocate the body far from our trails so Delilah will no longer be tempted to investigate.

While researching to find out if our local authorities would want us to report possible rabies in wildlife, Cyndie came upon an announcement from September that reported a dead crow was found to have West Nile Virus in our county.

The concerns all seem to focus on actually being bitten, either by a mosquito or a rabid animal. We didn’t come across anything that indicated concern for the possibility of sick animals or a need to report on them.

Maybe all the rain will wash away any germs.

I bet that giant crayfish Cyndie saw a few weeks ago is pretty happy with the moisture. Do crayfish get rabies?

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Written by johnwhays

October 9, 2018 at 6:00 am