Relative Something

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

Red Marks

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For months now we have been walking past trees in our woods that are marked for removal with a red spot. It was more subtle when the forest was lush and green. Now that there aren’t any leaves on the trees, those red marks are impossible to miss.

When our local DNR agent responded to our invitation to walk our woods, we learned our most valuable trees are the oaks, and that they will be kept healthiest if we remove competition growing directly beneath their canopy. I mentioned it would be a challenge for me to identify what is good and what is bad.

You know how much of an aversion I have to cutting down live trees.

He was quick to volunteer to return later and mark trees for removal. Most of them are relatively small diameter and will be easy to bring down. Cyndie and I decided yesterday was a good time to start on the project.

Heck, I can’t drive the tractor anywhere yet, so we may as well create piles of branches to be chipped at a later date.

About those red marks… When you get a chainsaw in your hands, suddenly trees with red dots show up at every turn. Maybe that is because I just chose to start with the trees right below the driveway. Some of our biggest oaks are right there (hence the thick carpet of leaves that land on the yard) and that meant a lot of trees to be culled all the way around each of the large oak trunks.

I took some solace in being able to see visible evidence of just the problem our DNR forester described. Oak trees stop feeding lower limbs when other growth begins to encroach from below. That can lead to a lopsided or top-heavy oak.

When we pulled down the smaller trees, it was easy to see the number of bottom oak branches that had already been left for dead.

Unfortunately, we grew weary after just a couple of hours of cutting up and piling branches of the easiest trees felled. Several substantial sized red-marked trees remain. That will be a project for another day.

I may just move on further into the woods where I know there are a lot of small (easy) red-marked trees, before returning to take down the larger diameter encroachers by the driveway.

That project will be delayed a little bit now, though, as the more immediate pressing need is for plowing and shoveling snow. We received a decent amount of sticky flakes yesterday afternoon and overnight.

So much for easily spotting those red marked trees…



For Sibs

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This one is for my siblings. First of all, if any of you have seen the movie, “The Meddler” and not told me about it, I will be very surprised. Second, I am tempted to urge you to watch the flick, but Cyndie and I both experienced such conflicted reactions to it that I’m inclined to suggest you use the hundred and three minutes of your time for something more constructive.

Our general reaction was along the lines of, “Meh.” We like Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons a lot, so their acting was a reward. We chose to add this to our Netflix queue after the trailer for it caught our attention in the previews segment on another movie we had rented. The premise wasn’t particularly gripping for either of us, but we thought it looked like a light and funny flick.

The movie was okay, but we didn’t love it, except for this: a bullseye.

Not just the bullseye, but for us, it’s also what led up to the penultimate scene that had us so gobsmacked over what we were seeing that we couldn’t contain ourselves.

We were basically tolerating how the movie was plodding along for us until J.K. Simmons’ character mentions his chickens. He pulls an egg out of his pocket to show Marnie (Susan Sarandon). They go back to his place and walk in the chicken run where he introduces his hens by name.

Eventually, he offers her a half-carton of eggs to take home. This resonated because Cyndie has cut cartons in half like that to facilitate picking the four to six eggs at a time that show up in our nest boxes throughout the day.

We were tickled by all this, but had no clue what writer Lorene Scafaria had in store next. In this case, the slow development of scenes which had underwhelmed us in the first part of the movie made us sit up in awe over what we were witnessing.

Now alone at home and contemplating this new “friend” Marnie has met, she opens the little carton of eggs and pulls out the blue one. Cyndie and I already know what this is all about, but we had no idea it was going to be conveyed so brilliantly.

Butter in a frying pan. A slice of bread. She picks up a glass and presses it on the bread to cut out a hole. She fries up a perfect version of what our family called a bullseye.

Then she stands at the counter and takes the first bite. Obviously, this is an egg like no other she has ever tasted before in her life. Lorene Scafaria directed a perfect depiction of savoring every bite. Susan Sarandon knocks it out of the park, sopping up every last drop of that egg with the fried bread.

Now that I write this, I think the whole movie is worth that one scene.

You guys should check it out.

p.s.: Guess what we had for breakfast this morning.



Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2018 at 10:41 am


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there’s life and there’s death
and stupid funny things
that don’t even matter
happening all the time
all at once
it’s no wonder
we don’t know
whether to laugh or cry
ecstasy and agony
pleasure and pain
not always discernible
one from the other
when they keep coming
again and again
amid the hilarity
of laughing to tears
the same tears
that are shed
in a sorrowful cry
in the darkest of hours
or bright light of day
on the razor’s edge
separating life and death
and all those stupid funny things
that don’t seem to matter






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Words on Images



Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2018 at 7:00 am

Confused Snake

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I forgot to mention last weekend, after we finished raking the front yard and playing with the chickens, I was about to go inside when I spotted this unlikely sight:

Sure, it was above freezing enough that we were able to rake up the leaves, but was it really warm enough to entice a snake to slither out and lay on the cold pavement? Not in the world I was familiar with, but apparently this little critter is just fine with temperatures hovering around the freezing point. The snake was moving a little slow, but luckily the chickens didn’t seem to notice its existence, so I didn’t have to witness any crazy unsettling nature scene play out.

Heck, there was also that fat, green caterpillar that one of the hens picked up right in front of me that day, so maybe the ground isn’t as cold yet as we thought it was. The air sure feels cold this time of year. With the slightest breeze, and air temperatures in the 30s(F), we have been feeling chilled to the bone because we haven’t fully acclimated yet for winter.

That’s frustrating, because the natural response to the start of cold weather is to bundle up excessively, but by the time we have walked Delilah around the perimeter and started doing horse chores, we get too hot. Then we have to wrestle out of all the extra layers.

The horses seem to be adjusting well enough. I think it helps to avoid putting blankets on them when cold temperatures first arrive, if that can be achieved with minimal stress, because then their bodies naturally respond with a thicker growth of winter hair. They are doing their part by finally becoming (after only 5-years {sarcasm}) comfortable enough with the sounds under the overhanging metal roof to stay under its protection from wind and wet.

I understand any auditory aversion they have with it. I was shocked at first by how much the sound of the slightest amount of precipitation is amplified to levels evoking high drama. It seems like it must really be coming down with intensity, but then stepping out into the open proves just the opposite.

It’s all relative, of course!

The forecast for the next week is currently offering more of the same variety of early winter. Some snow tonight, warmth near 40°(F) on Friday, and teens/twenties over the nights.

Maybe this will just confuse the snake further.

If I had my way, the legless masters of surprise would be long into their dormancy by now. I’m not a fan of the involuntary adrenaline jolt when suddenly startled by their presence just as I’m about to set foot where they happen to be hiding/sliding/sunning.




Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2018 at 7:00 am

Well, This

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So, I mentioned in Sunday’s post that it’s been many years since we had a real Christmas tree in the house. I guess we forgot to appropriately prepare for the interest our dog and cat might have in this incredibly natural smelling specimen suddenly appearing in their living space.

Cyndie was away for a few hours yesterday morning, and this is the scene to which she arrived upon her return home:


Live tree went topsy-turvy.

I might need to rig some wiring to hold the trunk in a vertical orientation, regardless the added few pounds of feline that might be exploring the branches. Or the canine who would obviously be interested in shepherding the cat back down out of said tree by means that would likely exceed the simple norm of just barking incessantly.

Maybe, if wires are going to be required at all, I should just hoist it up in the air and let it hang from the rafters.

It is so strange to hear myself say this, but… I think I already miss the artificial tree.



Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

Messy Calamity

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I had been told about just this type of disaster, but filed it away as something that happens to other people, not me. Saturday, I joined the dubious club of tractor owners who’ve experienced a catastrophic failure of the valve stem on a large rear tractor tire filled with corrosive calcium chloride.

It actually started calmly enough. I stepped in the garage to do some organizing and discovered a small puddle under the deforming sidewall of the tire. Now, this was an issue I’d been hoping to address before it reached this point, so I did have a plan.

First, I wanted to remove the weights bolted to each rear tire. Next, I hoped to jack it up enough to take pressure off the tire and rotate it so the valve was at the 12 o’clock position. Then I would try adding air.

The only other time I had tried to add air, the pressure of fluid was greater than the compressed air I was trying to add, and escaping fluid corroded the air chuck fitting something awful.

Worried that the tire needed air, I asked around for advice. I was repeatedly told it looked fine, so I kept pushing the issue for some future day.

Well, that day arrived and I needed to take action on the plan I had contemplated. I grabbed a big wrench and a hammer and started turning those bolts on the weights. It didn’t take long to realize they were just spinning because there was a nut on the other side that needed to be held.

That required getting Cyndie for help, because I couldn’t reach both at the same time.

Then, calamity.

As I reached behind the wheel to put a wrench on the nut, the valve stem let loose from the rusting hub and the gallons of calcium chloride began spraying out all over everything. At first, there was no putting a bucket under it, because it was shooting everywhere.

All my brain could come up with was profanity. I paced around in a total useless panic because I had no idea what to do while that yucky fluid was quickly making a mess of everything.

Eventually, I noticed the spray had turned to a flow and it might be possible to catch it in a bucket. Then it struck me. I could put my finger over the hole and stop the leak while we figured out a plan.

We tried, and failed a few times to plug the corroded hole. A foam ear plug worked for a while, but for some reason it got sucked inside. I had already jacked it up a little to keep the weight from pushing fluid out, which made sounds of pulling air in, but that didn’t stop the flow.

For some reason, there was a pulse to the continued escape of fluid.

In the end, we used a tampon to slow the leak to a manageable drip, while I lifted it as far as my inadequate equipment allowed to put blocks under the axle. I’ve removed all the components of the 3-point hitch, and detached the loader bucket from the arms in preparation of whatever happens next.

That will be determined in a call this morning to the service department of the local implement dealer.



Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2018 at 7:00 am