Relative Something

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

Alternative View

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This photo begs a caption but I’ve got nothing. Feel free to share your ideas by posting a comment.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Fiber Buried

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The ongoing waiting game notched another step closer to having a fiber cable internet connection in our home when the crew showed up yesterday to run the cable from the pole on the street up to the side of our house.

I found it fascinating to observe the techniques of burying cable from close proximity. They had to bore under the road to bring the cable from the pole to our property. I learned they use a jet of water to carve a path for their piping. There was a rather large crew who took turns doing a fair amount of waiting between moments of busy activity.

They actually start at the house and bury the cable back down to where it gets pulled through a protective tube they install beneath the road.

Wherever they cross a gas line or the buried electric supply line, a hole is carefully shoveled to provide clear visibility of the depth they must avoid.

I attempted to schedule the last step of the in-home connection but jumped the gun because there is one more task that needs to happen first. Today’s crew simply buried the fiber optic cable and mounted a box on the outside of our house. A different person will show up to splice the connection of the cable routed under the road from our house to the feed that comes off the telephone pole.

I’m told that once the splice is done a tag will be hung on our front door with instructions to call to set up an appointment for the technician to run the cable from the box on the outside of the house through the wall to where we will connect the modem they provide.

It shouldn’t be long now until we take a leap forward into the present-day state of streaming content on the internet.

We will finally be able to allow our devices to download software updates whenever they become available, along with other high bandwidth activities. Streaming music threatens to command my attention for more hours a day than I should allow. I may need to actually practice some self-discipline or something.

Before I get to start worrying about that, somebody needs to show up and splice the connection across the road. But, it sure is sweet to have the cable finally buried up to the house. That is a milestone for which we have long awaited.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

Our Day

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A day after we celebrated Julian’s birthday with a family dinner at a Bloomington restaurant, Cyndie and I claimed yesterday for ourselves in honor of our 41st wedding anniversary. Our animal sitter, Grace, was on the calendar to free us up to do whatever we wanted. In the end, we both wanted to stay home and work on our property.

I am thrilled that our first accomplishment involved clearing small stumps, roots, and rocks in our north loop trail that have prevented me from being able to mow that section as low as desired for our walking trails. I’ve been wanting to take care of this nuisance issue for two summers.

In the afternoon, we focused our attention on the labyrinth. I brought down our new favorite tool, the electric push mower to give it a fresh cut.

We rearranged rocks and pulled weeds, addressing only a fraction of the total that is deserving of attention. The progress looks so good it has us both wanting to get back down there again soon to continue the beautification.

Just as we were about worn out for the day, we looked up to find the horses had wandered back to hang out in our proximity. That was all the invitation we needed to stop what we were doing to go hang out with them.

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Throughout the day we reminisced about our wedding day back in 1981, an outdoor service on a day with very similar weather to what we were enjoying yesterday. I remember the trees were starting to turn colors, similar to what is beginning to happen here this week.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Rock Relocation

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When I told Cyndie I was ready to drive the tractor into the back pasture to pick up that rock, she asked if she should move the horses out. I figured they wouldn’t be a problem and suggested she leave them be, without expecting them to be near as chill as they ended up being when the tractor rumbled past them all.

None of them even lifted their heads from chomping away on the grass at their feet. It was a rewarding demonstration of how comfortable they are getting with their environs and our activities around them.

As I was filling the hole with composted manure, the horses took turns approaching the rock and the tractor to see what was going on in their field. I love being able to be in their space and have them so calmly accept our presence.

The labyrinth was the easiest place to put the rock and the easiest spot to set it down was on the outer edge. Without any pre-planning, I grabbed two other available rocks from nearby and placed them on top, reserving the right to switch them out later if we come across ones we like better.

There is something satisfying about this whole process that makes me want to do it right away again. Luckily, there is a known candidate for relocation currently buried on our north loop trail. I know it is there but I don’t have any idea how much of it is buried out of sight.

I’m hoping to find out soon.

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

Birthday Game

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On the occasion of a 50th birthday, many people choose to go big. Our friend, Doobie Kurus, took the number 50 to a wonderful extreme, tying it to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers’ third football game of the season. He bought 50 tickets for friends and family and hosted a spectacular tailgate party four and a half hours before the game.

Yesterday was a hot September day that carried a possibility of an afternoon thunderstorm. Cyndie and I wavered over preparing for rain or not, ultimately opting to carry rain gear based on the thinking that having protection would likely mean we wouldn’t need it. That was easier than finding Cyndie a maroon shirt to show the spirit of University colors.

I am proud of her ingenuity in crafting the look of the University mascot, Goldy Gopher, on a maroon tee shirt that has an image of Julian’s cat on the front.

Doobie was serenaded with a “Happy Birthday” song by a subset of the marching band that was making its way through the rows and rows of tailgaters. His daughter, Emma, plays saxophone in the band.

For Cyndie and me, much of the activity brought back our pleasant memories as band parents during the years Elysa played one of the big bass drums in the drum line.

I felt compelled to greet a few of the current members of the drum line as the band began gathering for formal inspection before pregame performance.

After the game, which Minnesota won by almost reaching the number fifty against Colorado, 49-7, Doobie arranged for us to get on the field where we milled around before posing on the 50 yard line for a final portrait with the birthday boy.

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While visiting with Doobie, I learned the actual day of his birthday is tomorrow, the nineteenth of September. He’s in good company, as tomorrow is Julian’s birthday and Cyndie’s and my 41st wedding anniversary.

It was quite a day. Felt very celebratory and somewhat exhausting for all that good food, high heat, endless sunshine, walking, standing, and communing with close friends and fellow Big Ten college football fans.

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Written by johnwhays

September 18, 2022 at 10:23 am

Rock Up

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When I was mowing the back pasture a couple of days ago, I was startled by what almost sounded like a gunshot when the brush cutter struck I rock that I didn’t know was there. In pure reaction mode, my foot hits the clutch as my right-hand grabs the lever to lift the mower.

I hopped down off the tractor and checked everything over, then walked off to grab a step-in stake to mark the hazard. With the blades looking no worse for the wear, I resumed the pasture cutting and finished without further interruption.

Yesterday, I grabbed a shovel and a pry bar to bring the troublemaker up out of the ground, not yet knowing if it would even be possible. All that was visible was the freshly nicked tip of a proverbial iceberg. What could be lurking beneath the surface might be so large it would require a backhoe to dig out.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case and I was able to employ my solo technique of bringing large rocks up to the surface where I can scoop them up in the loader for relocation.

While the horses grazed nearby, I began probing to find the edges of the rock. Relieved that the borders seemed reasonable, I began shoveling scoopfuls around the perimeter until I got deep enough to use the pry bar to get some movement of the rock.

It’s a slow but completely effective process of tipping the rock enough to shove dirt under it. At first, it seems ineffective but after enough iterations, the progress speeds up. Alternating back and forth on opposite sides of the rock, I pry it up and shove the dirt previously removed to fill the small gaps that open up.

If I had a time-lapse recording it would look like the rock “rocks” back and forth, gaining a little height each time.

The white portion is what the brush cutter chipped off. The darker portion around it is the area that was above the surface. The rest was the mystery encased in dirt.

It looks suspiciously shaped as if it had been formed at some time for a particular purpose but I have no idea why it was buried out in the middle of an open field if that was the case.

Now I am left with a significant void on the surface of the pasture. Before I come out to retrieve the rock with the loader bucket on the tractor I will need to fill the bucket with some replacement soil. Now, where will I find some natural fill around this place?

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2022 at 7:00 am

Waves-2

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Cutting Pasture

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It feels like I have been cutting grass non-stop for days. I used to think that growth slowed to a crawl after August but I saw a chart at the State Fair this year that indicated grass growth in September can be compared to what happens in June. There is a slump in July and August when grass might even go dormant before reenergizing in September.

It used to confuse me that September was a recommended time to seed new grass but now I can understand why that is.

Our land is still overly dry but we have had just enough rainfall between dry spells that the greenery looks pretty lush and the grass seems as happy as can be. The reason it feels like I’ve been doing a lot of mowing is that I have been playing with our new electric push mower, and I cut grass in the labyrinth, then used the brush cutter pulled by the diesel tractor to mow the hay field, and yesterday, the back pasture.

In addition, I have been cutting beneath the fence lines with the power trimmer. On top of that, I knocked off the second phase of a twice-a-year mowing of the drainage ditch along our southern property line.

When it’s dry, the mowed ditch becomes an alternate trail for Delilah to explore. In that image, she has her nose to the ground exploring any animal trails hidden beneath the mass of cuttings. The months of growth in the ditch were four to five feet tall and it is a blind cut on the first pass. My foot is poised to hit the clutch to interrupt the power to the mower if anything that wasn’t supposed to be mowed is encountered.

I back up the full length with the brush cutter tipped up a bit and then lower it for the return trip in the forward direction toward where I started. It isn’t a straightforward simple cut because there are washouts where fast-moving water has eroded the soil and they meander back and forth so the tractor wheels occasionally drop down or the mower bottoms out as travel progresses.

So, it is a blind cut on a completely unpredictable terrain. It is a great relief when that task has been fully accomplished.

It is also extremely satisfying to have both big fields mowed. If you’ll recall, it isn’t so much the grass that we need to cut as much as the weeds we want to prevent from going to seed. Cyndie and I don’t want to use toxic chemicals so mowing is our chosen method of control. We also pull a lot of weeds but that is similar to trying to empty a lake of its water by removing a spoonful at a time. Although, it is very satisfying, psychologically, to yank a weed out by its roots.

The horses took great interest in my activity in the back pasture and gave me the impression they wished I would hurry up and finish so they could get back on it.

I’ll keep the gates closed for a couple of days to dry out the cuttings and give the grass a little time to sprout new growth before giving them access again. Meanwhile, they have the entire already-mowed hay field at their disposal.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dew Drenched

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You know, I could get a lot more mowing done in a day if I didn’t need to wait so many precious hours for the grass to dry out from the overnight soaking of dew.

On the other hand, the wet hours during the first half of the days lately have given me a chance to knock off a few other miscellaneous chores that otherwise get passed over for the larger jobs.

I finally took a wheelbarrow into the woods to pick up a big pile of half-buried landscape fabric that had been dumped years before by previous owners. I discovered a piece of it several years ago in a most unsuspecting place off a trail, pulled up what seemed like an endless amount and then walked past it over and over through the seasons ever since, always thinking, “I should haul that out of here one of these days.”

Well, now it’s been hauled. Dew is not a bug, it’s a feature!

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2022 at 6:00 am

Confidently Incorrect

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It was a simple mistake. It could happen to anyone. They look so much alike.

The farrier appointment was scheduled for 1:15 yesterday afternoon and I had gates closed and halters on all the horses by 1:08. She showed up on time and I was ready to hold horses while she trims and files hooves.

However, at the very same time, a very large pickup pulled up, and a person from the cable installation company hopped out with flags in his hand to mark the route for burying fiber cable up to our house.

I excused myself briefly from the barn and talked fiber route as I walked the guy up to our house, pointing out the buried hazards that must be taken into account.

As soon as I could, I returned to the paddocks to find the farrier trying to deal with Mix, who had allowed only one hoof to be trimmed before deciding the flies were too annoying for her to remain standing still. A little fly spray on the legs and my hands on the lead rope allowed Heather to get on with trimming Mix’s other three hooves.

Next was Swings and everything went flawlessly for her turn. Meanwhile, two staff from This Old Horse arrived to provide additional support. While holding horses, I noticed one car was coming up our driveway as the cable guy was driving his truck out and they each decided to drop one wheel over the steep edges to pass one another. Not the way I’d have solved it, but it avoided either one needing to back up. (Backing up is what I would have done.)

I’m feeling increasing pressure to have the driveway shoulders sloped by the excavating company that raised the base so high in the first place. But that’s another issue.

As the trimming progressed, I was still holding horses for the farrier, now working on number three of four. That’s where I screwed up. Somehow I mistook Mia for Light. They are both very similar-looking chestnuts with the main difference being their blaze.

I thought I was holding Light, who usually stresses out over the trimming process. Heather and I were so impressed it was going as well as it was. Of course, she had no clue who she was working on and was relying on me to identify them. Then came time for me to get the last horse, who I mistaking still thought was Mia.

She did not want to come up under the overhang. Sometimes Mia can be like that so the behavior supported my confusion. But it was Light and she really did not want to stand and have her hooves worked on. I got subbed out to let Tom from This Old Horse hold Light and I went to calm Mia (still thinking it was Light) who had been removed from the workspace and was temporarily trapped between paddocks.

Are you following all this?

At this point of the increasing panicking by Light, I figured out my mistake. It’s funny, I first noticed the name on a halter and assumed I put the wrong halters on each of the two. Then I took a closer look and realized the halters were correct, I was completely convinced which horse was which for the longest time, but I had been confidently incorrect.

I blame the distraction of simultaneous demands on my attention from the fiber cable installation guy and horse duty. Oh, and the fact my lovely wife wasn’t present to catch my goof and correct the identifications.

We eventually gave up on trimming Light this session. I feel bad because we probably would have handled it better if we all knew precisely which of the two chestnuts were being trimmed at the time.

My mistake. A rather humbling misidentification.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2022 at 6:00 am