Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chores

Two Masters

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There are currently two different masters vying for my time, excluding the myriad other commitments, like the day-job, commuting to the day-job, a decent night’s sleep, doing my plank exercises, and some longed-for idle down time to give my weary head a break.

Those things are all secondary to the two essential priorities at present: time on the bike, and mowing the lawn.

I’m pretty sure Pequenita would add, lavishing her with non-stop attention, but she doesn’t get to vote.

The afternoon weather was warm yesterday, but otherwise perfect for both mowing and cycling. Despite my idea of riding every day for the month leading up to my week-long trip, I chose to start with mowing. The grass was just growing too fast to wait another day.

Now that I have the new lawn tractor all figured out, the task of mowing has gotten downright pleasant. However, to be fair, the credit for pleasantness isn’t solely due to the tractor. The weather since snow stopped falling has provided growing conditions drier than any other spring since we moved here.

We’ve had some rain recently, but no gully washing downpours (yet). Precipitation has fallen gently and slowly, giving everything a good drink, but not too much, which has allowed the soil to dry up nicely afterward.

That has pretty much made mowing a hassle-free endeavor.

After finishing all the areas that needed cutting the most, I cleaned up the mower, parked it, and looked at my bike. I had no intention of putting on all my gear and heading out for a real ride, but it struck me that I could, at the very least, see how my butt felt against the seat.

I hopped on without the right shoes and pedaled up to the house. My backside didn’t feel as bad as I thought it might, especially given the un-padded regular shorts I was wearing.

I rolled down the driveway and pedaled my way back up. Then I did it a second time, to log about a mile, just for the record.

That was good enough for me. I’ve now ridden three days in a row.

I also served both masters within a precious short few hours at the end of a work day.

I wonder how long I will be able to keep this up.

Time will tell. Stay tuned…



Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Various Snippets

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There are days –I bet you have them, too— when there isn’t one main story of the moment to tell. Just random tidbits that may, or may not, be related. Snippets.

Starting Thursday after work last week, Cyndie and I had a goal to get a lot done in preparation for World Labyrinth Day the following Saturday. I had it in mind to relocate a cold compost pile to a low spot we are building up. I told Cyndie it would just be 4-6 wheelbarrow loads. It turned out to be double that.

While huffing the loaded wheelbarrow up to the dump spot, I saw the stack of 15 pallets waiting to be stowed. By the end of Friday, we had built the fenced courtyard for the chicken coop, raked the round pen with the ATV, put the cover on the gazebo, raked, pruned, hung hammocks and a dozen other small simultaneous tasks.

It occurred to me that the number of spring chores we accomplished felt equivalent to annual Work weekend at Wildwood, except instead of a full community of six families, it was just Cyndie and me.

During one of my passes by the paddock that Friday, I stopped to take a picture of Hunter taking a serious full-sleep nap. I thought it was funny that in his complete unconsciousness, his relaxed lips produced a pearly white smile.









As soon as I set down my tools and pulled out my camera at the fence, Cayenne walked up to meet me. Dezirea was quick to follow suit.

Yesterday, I was walking Delilah past the chicken coop when she reacted with unwanted interest in the chicks milling around inside their fence. I decided to try an exercise of getting her to lay down right next to their enclosure in calm submission.

The plan was to get her to engage directly with me, and disregard the (incredibly enticing) chicks. It was comical watching her struggle against her insatiable predator urge. This exercise will take a LOT of repetition if we have any hope of ever lulling her into a state of being able to regard the chickens as “friends, not food.”

Back to thinking about Wildwood again, while walking Delilah through the woods near the house, I paused to search for signs of our transplanted trillium blooming.

For the last several years, while up at the lake place for Memorial work weekend, we have collected samples of the trillium that carpet the forest floor around the property and brought them home to plant as ‘starters’ in hopes of replicating a similar display here.

We always plant them in sets of three in a triangle shape to help keep track of our success ratio. The results have been pretty good.

If you look closely at the image, there is a non-flowering trillium just behind and to the right of the lone blossom commanding all the attention.

It will be a thrilling sight when we finally find evidence of new sprouts from spreading rhizomes showing up among our original groups of three.



Happy Splitting

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With additional flurries making their way across our region overnight, I didn’t waste time yesterday cleaning up the random inch or two of snow that had accumulated over the previous week. That will be today’s project.

Instead, I made my way back to the wood shed to put in some quality time splitting firewood.

Hoping to keep me from wandering off to some other more enticing opportunity, in case the splitting didn’t turn out to be rewarding enough, I decided to build a fire.

It helped to create an inviting atmosphere and an occasional distraction which enticed me stay on the task for most of the day. Working alone, my momentum wasn’t very consistent, so the day-long effort only produced a fraction of a day’s result, but it proved to be mentally rewarding.

Any progress is good progress.

Throughout the process of trying to make piles of logs disappear, it occurred to me how our focus changes depending upon what we are trying to achieve. When cutting limbs and branches of a fallen tree, the goal is to get the wood into manageable pieces, working at whatever angle is available. The focus is on not getting the saw pinched or having a limb fall on you.

When my focus shifts to splitting, I want logs with a flat, square cut that will stand nicely on the base of my splitter. It would be great if I had avoided leaving a joint right in the middle of the piece, too. When splitting, I quickly discover the cutting involved a very different focus.

The same thing happens when I’m plowing snow. In the winter, the goal is to get the snow removed from the driving surfaces. Sure a few rocks might get pushed into the grass. It just isn’t enough of a priority to matter that much.

In the summer, when we are trying to rake all the rocks out of the grass to facilitate mowing, the focus is very different. Suddenly I care a lot more about that detail.

Similarly, when I am stacking wood in the wood shed, I just want to fill it to the top, grabbing whatever odd pieces are in reach and plopping them on the row. As the wood dries, it shrinks. The stack shifts. The wind blows. The stack leans. Eventually, the stack topples over into a messy jumble.

As I am re-stacking the firewood, I always question why I couldn’t take the time to split the logs cleanly so I could stack the pile sturdy enough to hold up.

Pay for it now, or pay for it later.

I wonder what I’m neglecting to appropriately pay for today, that will show up demanding collection later. Gosh, it’s almost like a life lesson.



Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2017 at 9:35 am

Clearing Snow

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It’s all my fault. That additional 1-inch of snow being forecast to fall overnight tonight is, I’m sure, a result of my completely finishing the job of plowing and shoveling our driveway, as well as the gravel drive around the barn, the path to the compost area, the roadway around the pasture fence, and finally, the deck of the house.

I even made a little path for the chickens to get to the barn overhang where Cyndie has placed a heated water supply for them.

Not that they are using it all that much. The Buff never made it as far as the barn, choosing to stay nestled in the woods just beyond their coop.

It’s time to rearrange things in the coop to create space for the heated waterer in there, so we can finally make use of the electric outlet we worked so hard to install over the summer.

I’ll have plenty of time to do that today, since I did two-days-worth of chores yesterday. After clearing snow, I loaded the barn with enough hay to feed the horses for a week. With doors on the hay shed now, and to reduce time for Cyndie working out in the cold, it’s just that much more convenient to have bales available in the barn.

We don’t store hay there permanently, because it’s too dusty an environment. Small amounts, for a short span of days, works well enough. While hauling bales yesterday, I was enjoying the fact that this year we aren’t dealing with any hay the horses don’t like. We are down to bales from two different suppliers, both of which the herd willingly consumes.

It’s a much more satisfying experience.

Today, I will savor the freshly cleared grounds before the next nuisance accumulation of snow arrives to mess things up. Maybe I should look into a broom attachment to use whenever there isn’t enough snow to justify plowing.









It’s not so much that I fear the light coatings are hazardous, though it can become so. The first significant snowfall this year occurred as a mixture of rain turning to snow, a situation that is not that uncommon. Unfortunately, it freezes a crusty layer to surfaces that is very resistant to removal, and sometimes slippery.

Basically, for me, leaving fallen snow on walking or driving surfaces is just bad Feng Shui. It radiates an aura of neglect that eats at my sense of order.

The best solution is to have it fall in greater amounts. If it is going to snow, then let’s get a good few inches at a time, in the very least.

I tell ya, if I ran the world…



Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

Venturing Out

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Maybe it was the calmness of the morning, or the fact the temperature didn’t drop significantly overnight, but the chickens wasted little time in venturing out from the confines of the coop for me yesterday morning.

Midway through the day, I stopped back to check for eggs and found two of the hens, almost on top of each other, squished into one nesting box. I decided not to bother them, closing the side door and heading off to another project.

With Delilah leashed to the double swing nearby to supervise, I spent some quality time at the wood shed. First, I needed to re-stack the majority of the last row that had blown over in the recent high-wind event. With that under control, I started into splitting some of the newest wood from the tree cut down last weekend.

I think the fact the wood was now frozen helped the logs to snap in two with relative ease. When Delilah’s interest in watching me work came to its unsurprising end, I dropped her off in the house and headed back to the coop to pick eggs.

The Buff Orpington was still sitting in the nest box, but I invaded her space to grab three eggs she was resting on.

After lunch, I headed out to turn two different piles of compost that are still cooking nicely, despite the arrival of the frozen season.

It seems as though the animals have quickly adjusted to the return of “my” routine of care. Intensified time with Delilah and the horses brings me back to my year sabbatical from the day-job when I managed the ranch full-time while Cyndie was working the Anoka-Hennepin contract.

It’s a very fond memory. It’s satisfying to see how quickly the animals seem to recognize the methodical way I do things, easing into the orderly dance of meal time and clean up with me.

Today, the chores have increased in number, as an overnight snow dusting has added to the previous paltry amount, making it hardly worth a plowing, but a messy nuisance if I don’t.

At least I know Cyndie will be sympathetic. She went to D.C., where they’re getting their own dose of snowfall today.

Happy winter!



Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

Prudent Preparations

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I did salvage my pride on Sunday by getting out in the warmth to knock off a few more winter preparation steps. After getting the Grizzly back from the shop with fresh fluids and cleaned up brakes, it occurred to me that I had yet to install the new beefier cable on the winch. That’s a chore that would be much nicer to do when it’s not freezing cold outside.

The primary use for that winch is to raise and lower the snowplow blade. That involves a heavy repetition of back and forth on a very short length of the cable. The original was old and brittle which made it susceptible to breaking, which it did, frequently –almost always at an essential time while clearing snow.

Fixing that usually involves working in the cold and after dark. A broken cable is always an unwelcome incident, but at a critical point in plowing, the impact is intensified.

When all else fails, get a bigger cable.

I hadn’t been working long when the chickens showed up to see if my project involved anything they could eat. I’m guessing they were disappointed by not finding anything. I stepped into the shop for a second and when I returned, there was a fresh pile of chicken sh*t on my pliers.

That’s a skill, dropping it so squarely on the tiny surface of the tool. I was duly impressed and totally disgusted.

With the new cable installed and ready to lift the plow, I moved on to the swapping out the summer tires for the winter set. That beast is now ready for the snow season.

Before we even get to that, the ATV and its trailer will be put to use this weekend transporting chainsaws, ropes and gear down by the road. It will also be hauling loads of cut wood back up to the wood shed, and picking up the inevitable forgotten tools that were missed the first and second trips of the day.

If a winch and heavy-duty cable turns out to be needed, it’ll be ready for that, too.

I just hope the more aggressive winter tires don’t completely chew up the not-so-frozen ground. I didn’t think to prepare for top soil that has been re-melting in the late November 60° afternoons.



Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Open Call

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Dear Twin Cities friends and family, if you have been longing to get out in the fresh air of the countryside to put in a good day’s work helping take down a couple of dead trees, I have an opportunity for you!

On either Friday or Saturday this week, depending on the availability of a majority of hoped-for volunteers, I am plotting to finally bring down a crown of dead branches located at a particularly prominent front corner of our property.

It doesn’t appear be a complicated project, but it has potential to be a chore that many hands will greatly ease and likely expedite.

My plan involves using a chainsaw to cut down each of the 5 “trunks” sprouting from the common base of the first tree, and then grinding the multitude of small branches in our chipper. We will point the chute of the chipper into the bed of our pickup truck and haul the bounty to the storage nook by the labyrinth garden.

Any limbs larger than 5-inches diameter will be cut for firewood and hauled up to be stacked beside the wood shed.

When the first tree is out of the way, we will toss a rope into the second tree and repeat the routine with that skeleton.

The weather forecast six days out is looking promising to accommodate outdoor work.

Volunteers will be rewarded with food from Cyndie’s kitchen, your choice of take-home bags of wood chips or Wintervale soul-soil, and an invigorating workout in the great outdoors with bountiful good fellowship.

If you are ready, willing, and able for this one-day lumberjacking adventure, let me know as soon as you can.

Be all that you can be.

Just do it.

Advance and be recognized.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!



Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2017 at 7:00 am