Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘change

Drying Firewood

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For the record, drying firewood shrinks. I have yet to devise a stacking system that stays upright for a full year of shrinking. First, it starts to lean, and then it pushes against an adjacent stack. Eventually, they tend to topple over into a scrambled pile of split logs. I have resigned myself to simply climbing in there to pile firewood back into an orderly stack, regardless the odds it would probably just tip over again later.

I used to strive to push the stacks back into balance before they tipped over, but now I accept they are going to lean. My odds of causing it to tip over the other direction by pushing it upright are high enough I have forced myself to get over being annoyed with how it looks and just leave it be.

Yesterday, we moved half of a stack of the oldest logs onto the wood rack on our deck for premium proximity to the fireplace. It’s interesting to be handling wood that I stacked two years ago. In that amount of time, some impressive rodent nests get built, probably chipmunks. It would be reasonable to assume the critter activity in the stacks contributes to destabilization.

As I am splitting logs to refill the right side of the woodshed, it occurs to me that I could just toss them all into a big pile and forego the tippy stacks.

Why is that such a difficult decision for me?

  • I believe it wastes less space to stack the wood tightly.
  • I can better gauge how much firewood there is when it is stacked.
  • I can easily tell how long each stack has been drying.
  • Stacks appeal to my sense of order.

At the same time, I know from past experience how much we use per winter season, so the volume of a pile filling one half of the woodshed would give us two years. I could stuff a jumbled pile to fill the space to a greater extent than I achieve with individual stacks.

Since I already started a new stack on the right side of the shed yesterday, I’m now thinking about doing a bit of both. I could put down a base layer of individual stacks to cover the space on the right half and then switch to just tossing split pieces on top of those short stacks.

If only I can convince myself to follow through with such a random-looking storage choice.

It would be something of a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” solution of intentionally tumbled drying firewood.



Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Change’s Sake

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My immense aversion to changes in software that was working just fine for me leads me to think that perhaps I am getting old.

Is it a problem for you, dear readers, that I don’t have little icons on this blog for sundry social media sites of the latest trend? Has my neglect to format the appearance to best suit the portrait orientation of mobile devices left you frustrated?

Ever find yourself wondering why my blog doesn’t include links to sites for purchasing products I promote, or a button allowing you to donate money to sustain my lifestyle?

These are all features that I have chosen to ignore, despite frequent WordPress marketing messages encouraging me to incorporate.

In March of 2009, I searched for a platform to publish my “take on things and experiences” and found a template ‘theme’ that matched my tastes. I’ve seen no reason to change since.

The word-cloud I selected for the side margin of my posts slowly changes over time, not always to my ideal, but it’s simply a reflection of what I write about the most, so I let it go.

Truth in advertising.

After some trial and error tinkering, sometimes requiring mystery clicks on vague icons with unclear popup titles, I have reached a mostly functional equilibrium that reasonably matches my previous editing experience.

I do miss the running word-count information that previously displayed at the bottom of my view as I typed.

With time, I will learn whether or not that’s a feature I can add back, as I explore the myriad other repackaged ways WordPress has changed my blogging experience to make it so much better.

Okay, never mind. I just clicked the “help” icon at the bottom of my view and learned I can click an information icon at the top of the screen to find that information.

That was at 308 words, if you care.

Which is more than enough to call for an end to my whining about change for change’s sake.

How about a bit of boasting about the other burden I so often face as the spouse of one who loves to bake?

I keep getting asked to sample and review the latest delicious morsels being baked under a constantly changing mix of ingredients and techniques.


My judgements might be influenced unfairly by the fact I usually enjoy the advantage of performing these tests on goods fresh and warm from the oven, but the taste analyses are probably universal.

Cyndie is gaining proficiency with each refinement she makes.

We make a pretty good team.

I credit our ability to change with the times, albeit sometimes kicking and whining all the way.



Written by johnwhays

October 3, 2020 at 8:28 am

Breathing Room

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There is a lot of effort required in felling every single tree surrounding a large oak tree, but when the job is finally complete, the result evokes a rewarding feeling of satisfaction every time you walk past it. The newly opened space beneath the crown of the oak inspires increased visual energy solely on the oak. It’s nice to reclaim the more pronounced prominence these dominant trees deserve among the vast number of surrounding volunteers that naturally sprout and eventually rise up to become pests.

We are literally providing them more breathing room.

Over time, my perspective of managing a wooded lot has evolved from a basic belief that there can be no such thing as too many trees to one of being able to sacrifice some toward a goal of a healthier forest overall.

That’s not a simple transformation.



Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2020 at 6:00 am

Incremental Change

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Like a slow train crawling along a track, I am seeing multiple signs of the changing seasons unfolding with an unstoppable impetus. I wish it would all take a pause long enough to give us added time cleaning up fallen trees and branches that are clearly visible in our woods now that the snow is gone. The clock is ticking toward the explosion of green leaves that will quickly obscure the views on either side of our trails.

What looks like a relatively simple effort now will soon become too thick with growth to effectively navigate for cutting and hauling.

On the drive home yesterday I noticed many of the farm fields are already being prepped with applications of manure fertilizer. One neighbor was out on his lawn tractor dragging something across the yard that looked like a way to break up the gopher mounds and molehills to smooth things out for that first mow of the season.

New shoots of green groundcover leaves are making an appearance all over the floor of our forest. It won’t be long and we will get a chance to see how many of our transplanted trillium plants are still surviving.

Even though there are still many places along our trails where there is standing water from the complete saturation of the soil, there are areas where some quick-growing grasses are sprouting taller than what my mower would cut off if I was able to be out mowing already.

The changes in the natural world are ongoing, day and night. Every walk around the property reveals something new that is growing or drying out. The trees are beginning to form the early hint of leaf buds that will soon create a fresh tint of yellowish-green crowns that are the precursor to the burst of actual leaves.

Many years of commuting have provided repeated evidence of how that new green glow shows up across the treetops in a matter of a day. One day, nothing. The next day, visible buds everywhere!

Every day the natural world is evolving, but I sense the locomotive of change from winter to spring is gathering much more spring-like momentum at our latitude this week.

Maybe we should start getting ready for summer while there’s still time.



Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

Morning Surprise

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When I pushed my nose up against the glass of the door to the deck in search of the critter that was setting off our motion light on Tuesday night, all I could report seeing was a few surprise snowflakes floating down. It was only a surprise in that I hadn’t noticed any other precipitation starting before that. My impression was that the predicted weather event would start with light rain that might eventually include a mix of snow.

Waking up yesterday morning with a two-and-a-half inch layer of sticky snowflakes coating everything was quite the surprise.

It made for some fabulous morning scenery.

I was darting off on my morning commute to the day-job in the Daylight Saving Time darkness of the early hour, so I didn’t get much chance to ogle the spectacle. By the time I reached the far side of the Twin Cities, there was no evidence anywhere that any new precipitation had even fallen there.

Knowing the snow at home wouldn’t last very long after the sun came up, I sent a message to Cyndie asking her to take pictures.

I’m really glad she did because, by the time I returned home in the afternoon, all the new-fallen snow had disappeared completely. It was if it had never happened.

My, how quickly things can change.

Early on, Cyndie reported the chickens appeared highly miffed over the sudden return of the cold blanket of white covering their stomping grounds. Happily for them, the annoyance was short-lived and they were out on patrol scouring their surroundings in execution of their primary responsibility as insect pest controllers when I got home.

It’s very rewarding to have them get after that task at the very instant bare ground begins to reappear from beneath the winter snowpack. They are champions of natural fly and tick reduction.



Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2020 at 6:00 am


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deep in the recesses
of everyone’s long, long ago
the kernels of familiar
hold a comforting glow
a phrase
or just words
visions of places
unmistakable smells
the chestnut tree
toward the tennis court
beside the barn
where we lost hours of days
both in the sun
and deepest of snows
it stands in such sharp contrast
to the very right now
full technicolor hues
vast barrages of digital things
virtual carnival barkers
hollering uninvited
on phishing expeditions
mining hapless victims
through pocket devices
more powerful
than old fading minds
can hardly conceive




Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2020 at 7:00 am

Slowing Down

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I’m going to try something new. With apologies to those of you who have told me how much you enjoy checking in every morning to read or view my daily “relative somethings,” I have decided to readjust my energies to free up time that I have been holding in reserve every day for over a decade.

I am not going to commit to how this change will play out, other than to announce that I am moving away from my old priority of striving to assure a new post every single day. This isn’t the first time I have considered making this sort of change, so I already have some ideas I may try out going forward.

One possibility I have favored in the past would be to post a single picture. That seems like it wouldn’t take much time. However, I have learned from experience that my picture-taking often goes in spurts and days can pass when I don’t get out with the camera. If I committed to posting a daily picture, I would still be in the mode of reserving some time every day to achieve that.

There are also fewer daily stories to tell about our adventures here since we returned the horses and Wintervale activity has dwindled, so, to spare you repeating versions of ‘me walking Delilah’ or ‘me plowing snow’ (two things that have commanded my time and energy recently), allowing some quiet time between tales will hopefully germinate new content of more intriguing substance.

One can hope.

Of course, one other option I considered was to just cease blogging altogether, but being so “all-or-none” extreme was an older trait of mine that has softened with time. There is no reason I can’t keep this blog space open for use as more of a periodical. Weekly? Monthly?

Who knows?

That sort of mystery is one of the fun aspects of creativity. I will be creative about slowing down my rate of publishing posts.

Before I step away for my initial pause from daily posting, I’ll leave you with two images that made their way onto the SD memory card late yesterday afternoon…









No critters were harmed in the recording of that adventure (but not for lack of intent).

I’ll be back before long. In the meantime, send your precious love out into the world during the minutes you would have been perusing new Relative Somethings in the days ahead.




Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Big Think

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I’m not sure about the trick of living in the moment while trying to make big decisions that have the potential of dramatically changing the rest of my life, but that is the reality that simmers beneath my every minute lately. As Cyndie slips ever deeper into focusing her time on caring for her parents, decisions being contemplated have the potential of defining whether we will stay on this property or go.

There is a challenging balance in a committed relationship of cultivating what we want together as a couple while also honoring each of our individual desires. That would be made a little easier if we both definitively knew what it was we wanted the rest of our functional years to look like.

I had no idea that our empty-nest years would lead to the gorgeous property we found that became our Wintervale. The seed for this dream originated from a supernatural meld of both Cyndie’s and my interests and experiences, but I would not have arrived at this point without her energy driving most of the outcomes.

That same inclination has me leaning toward following her lead again as her focus has changed, despite my heart increasingly being gripped by the sanctuary of the forests and fields, and beautiful log home where we’ve been living for the last seven years. If I could figure out a way to afford it, I’d stay here even if she moved in with her parents –sighting the year we lived apart when she moved to Boston as a case study precedent– but that might be at odds with achieving our best long-term joint effort.

Neither of us knows how well our health will hold out, how climate catastrophes will impact the coming years, whether our meager retirement accounts will protect us from the next recession, or what future life events will demand our attention, but those unknowns are all lumped into our thinking as we consider the big “what next.”

I want to also include the simple joys of standing still in the woods and listening to the natural sounds that surround me. Breathing in the forest aromas and feeling the reality of temperature and precipitation against my skin. Walking over the rise in our open fields to feel the wind when it blows, or the stillness when it doesn’t.

At the same time, I’ve lived in town and know the conveniences associated. I would welcome the opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and return to riding my bike more than driving my car.

I tell ya, living in the moment of planning the future is one heck of a big think.



Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

Sun Rises

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Today marks the return of Standard Time for most people in the U.S. but the sun paid no attention. The earth and sun did nothing unusual to change our circadian rhythms today.

Cyndie captured this image a few minutes before the sun appeared. It didn’t matter to the universe what time our clocks were set to read.

We will reconcile the adjustment to an apparent hour-earlier darkness because we must. Society has yet to reconcile our differing opinions about changing clocks twice a year, but science appears to be leaning toward the conclusion that better health and well-being is possible by eliminating the bi-annual clock adjustment and maintaining Standard Time year-round.

I have a good friend who never hesitates to remind me how much he likes that we adjust the clocks twice a year to alter the daylight for our routine activities. He is not alone, which explains why the repeated debates arise twice every year in the spring and fall yet nothing seems to come of it.

It’s not the kind of thing that we can each just choose for ourselves. It’s a lot like our national leadership. Independents don’t hold much sway in our two-party system and we can’t each choose to follow our own preferred President. We need to function in a system whether we agree with it or not.

The sun and the earth don’t care either way. For some reason, I find solace in that. Knowing the universe pays no heed to our trifling clock settings helps me cope with a system to which I disagree.

It hasn’t helped as well with tolerating national leadership that shows no interest in helping shift us away from abusing the planet to everyone’s detriment. I suspect the universe will have the last laugh in that contest.



Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2019 at 11:05 am

October Snow

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I’d like to act all surprised over all the snowflakes flying this early in October, but we’ve had so many days of warnings this was coming that it’s something of a feigned surprise.

How can there be global warming? There is snow falling in October!

For those of you who think this way, go talk with the people suffering more wildfire calamity in California today or any of the record-breaking typhoon/cyclone/hurricane intensities over every ocean on the planet with each successive formation.

I’m sure these incidents and all the melting glaciers and polar ice are just a coincidence.

I grabbed a screenshot of the Weatherbug radar image with our location southeast of the Twin Cities showing the spread of falling snow from Buffalo to Beldenville.

The wintery weather has me thinking I should have already blown out the water line to the labyrinth and drained all of our garden hoses. Cyndie reported the water for the chickens was frozen this morning. At least she had already installed the plexiglass window panes over the metal hardware cloth in each of the openings earlier this week.

It’s probably a good thing the Twins got booted from the baseball playoffs so they don’t have to play games in this kind of weather.

We’ve got a fire in the fireplace and I am gazing out at the deck collecting flakes with trees full of leaves as a backdrop. It makes me think of a certain Halloween blizzard (1991) for the drastic cross-mixing of fall and winter.

Of course, I also have a vivid memory of the Halloween night it was so uncharacteristically warm I went for a long bike ride to enjoy the late taste of summer.

Luckily, today our location won’t get much in the way of an accumulation from this system, but it definitely serves as an attention-getter for what lies ahead.

Much as I love winter weather, I’m in no hurry to get there this year.

It would be so nice to have time to actually finish the deck resurfacing project before snow shows up for good.



Written by johnwhays

October 12, 2019 at 10:10 am