Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chores

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.




Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

Ship Shape

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Lately, we are all about keeping up appearances. As I was mowing our gorgeous landscape yesterday, with the long driveway winding past the barn and paddocks, the beautiful horses grazing the grass arena, the wood-paneled shop garage with the bright red Ford F150 parked in front of it, up to the beautiful log house on top of the hill, I felt it must give the impression that we are rich.

Well, richer than we actually are. Of course, “rich” is a relative term, and compared to many of lessor means, we certainly are rich. We have been blessed with opportunity and are humbled to be able to live in this paradise, with means to commute the distances necessary to reach family, friends, and employment an hour away.

At the same time, there is another level of rich that comes to mind for me that would look a little different.

The first clue would be the condition of the driveway. Yeah, the fractured old asphalt with weeds and grass growing throughout doesn’t convey financial excess. Nor the age and condition of the rusted shell of a rolled pickup truck with the custom spray painted dents on the roof.

Of greatest significance, but probably not obvious to a passing traveler, Cyndie and I wouldn’t be the ones doing all the maintenance and grounds keeping. This weekend we did a LOT of work to keep this place looking sharp.

After a double day of projects on Friday, we started Saturday with the chain saw, cutting down a variety of standing dead trees that have been tainting the lively appearance around here for quite some time.

How many times do you walk past a chore (or chores) and pass it (them) off as a project for another day? Obviously, we can’t do everything at once, so some things have to wait. And wait. And wait.

There was a large spider web across the front of the shop garage one morning, but opening the big door didn’t disturb it. A couple of times, I had to stutter step my path to avoid getting a face full. Why didn’t I just knock it down? I was busy doing something else. So, the web stayed. For days.

This weekend, it came down. Spider webs are getting swept, equipment is getting rearranged in the garage, the paddock surfaces are scraped smooth and the rills created by runoff have been filled. The round pen sand has been raked and dead trees in the north field have been cut down, many carried to our makeshift natural barrier we are creating along our property border to the north. The grass has been mowed and the trails cleared with the power trimmer.

In high heat and humidity of the last full weekend of summer, the wealthy owners have done all this work by themselves, while also tending to the needs of horses, chickens, a dog, and a cat.

It saves us from needing to pay for a gym membership to keep ship-shape.

Maybe I can save that money up to pay for a new driveway someday.




Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2018 at 8:57 am

Wrong Number

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Yesterday was like two days of work in one, all because of a wrong number. I finally experienced my first wrong number when attempting to send a text message, and fell prey to a prankster who toyed with me rather than let me know.

After the fact, I discovered I had two records in my contacts for my sister, Judy. Who looks at phone numbers any more? I just look at a name on my phone and connect to that. Apparently, I don’t initiate very many texts to my sister.

Last Wednesday, I tried sending her an invite to come visit us before they pack up to head south for the winter. The ruse worked because the initial answer was completely believable as something my sister might say, and it was what I wanted to hear.

The second answer threw me for a loop.

Was that a typo and she meant 11:00 a.m.? What kids was she referring to? Their dogs, or grandkids?

So I asked.

The reply was rather uncharacteristic, but still possible.

I don’t think Judy uses “omg” so much.

How was I supposed to respond to this? What my uncertainty reveals is that am not so good at keeping in touch. Any number of possible changes could have occurred since I last talked with my sister. I just didn’t know if there was maybe something I should know, so I was feeling awkward.

I let some time pass without a response, basically because I didn’t know what to say. Then, after a perfect pause, came a follow-up that let me off the hook.

Except, this just didn’t feel at all like I was texting with Judy. Thus, my reply. Had she been drinking? Did Scott grab her phone and was having some fun with me?

The final reply mentioned our chickens and making sure they were getting enough water because it’s so hot out, so I felt like it had been a weird exchange, but it must be my sister. It was hot out.

Funny how the mind works, because reviewing it later, I realized my previous message mentioned closing the coop, so I had obviously provided that morsel of feigned familiarity. I’m a pretty easy mark.

The result of all this? Cyndie and I operated under an assumption that Judy and Scott would come for the afternoon yesterday. We dove into some heavy work early in the day, clearing out the brush by the road and raking the round pen.

At noon, we showered and prepared for company. I texted Judy again to check status.

This time, no response.

Cyndie texted and got an immediate response. They were already on the road to Arizona, having left the day before I had tried to send the invitation.

That’s when I discovered I had two entries in my contacts for Judy. One was probably so old, she didn’t even recognize the phone number I had used.

With our afternoon now open, we changed back into grubby clothes and headed out to move piles of compost and spread fresh lime screenings in the paddocks.

It was a two-shower day. A different day than we had planned, but with twice the accomplishments than we had expected when we started out. Plus, Judy, Cyndie and I got a good laugh out of it.

Oops, wrong number!






Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2018 at 9:49 am

Demanding Attention

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All I can do is what I can do today. Mentally, tasks pile up beyond my ability to execute, often resulting in my getting even less accomplished than I otherwise could. Just like excessive heat will sap strength and endurance, the visualized burdens of work that should be done drains my energy and motivation.

This summer, there are signs of neglect at every turn that have me on the verge of choosing to simply ignore them in hope of recovering at least enough impetus to accomplish one deserving chore per day. The problem with that solution is that my gift of intentional ignorance is susceptible to getting out of hand. 

It would be far too easy for this place to take on the appearance of neglect run amok.

Might be time again to make a list and establish priorities. I’m more inclined to allow tasks to grab my interest as I’m treading from one thing to the next, but working a prioritized list does help keep me from completely ignoring things that shouldn’t be neglected.

I do have a default priority of seeking to at least maintain an ‘appearance’ of fastidiousness here, by maintaining the landscape by the road well enough to fool passersby. The recent coarse shredding of growth along the right-of-way has left a gaping mess that I hope to improve, but for now is nothing but an eyesore.

Yesterday, I dipped my toes into the project and was disheartened to discover how much work it will be to get it to the state I would like to see. That machine they use twists and shreds the branches into a tangled mess, and there are a lot more of them left lying there than I was aware.

In addition to pulling out and disposing of those, I need to cut off all the sharpened short spikes of growth left behind where the operator didn’t cut all the way to the ground. Some are small enough to be snipped with a lopper, but others deserve the chainsaw.

There is plenty of debris that could be run through our chipper, but I’m inclined to haul it the short distance to my project of a border wall of branches creating a hedge barrier to the cornfield just to our north.

The rest of that hedge wall needs to be trimmed, as well.

The diesel tractor needs an oil change before I put it to work on a big project.

The diesel tractor is needed to mow the dry creek drainage along our southern border.

Also need to move lime screenings to the paddock.

Want to blade the gravel drive around the barn.

The trail along the outside of our fence needs to be cut back with the power trimmer.

The fence line needs to be trimmed.

The trails need to be trimmed.

Dead trees recently fallen in the woods and on one trail need to be cut up.

Standing dead trees could be cut down, too. Would help look less neglected around here.

The arena needs to be mowed.

The round pen needs to be raked and grass around gazebo mowed.

The back up generator needs an oil change.

That’s what needs to be done today. I’ll start tomorrow’s list later. Right now I need to go out and see what grabs my attention to work on so I can avoid everything else that is on today’s list of chores demanding attention.



More Bales

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With all those fat windrows laying in our fields, there was more than enough for us to take a wagon load of bales for ourselves. It took a little creative arranging to fit them in the shed, with our recently purchased bales already stacked to the ceiling, but we found a way to make them fit.

Jody successfully completed baling the last of the windrows, leaving our fields with the clean look of being freshly cut.

Cyndie climbed the mountain of bales in the wagon and heaved them out for me to stack.

We won’t need to go to a gym to get a workout, that’s for sure.

There’s nothing like putting in a full day of work and then following that up with an intense effort of throwing more than a hundred bales in the July heat.

Since we wanted to keep bales from our back pasture, I had some time to kill while Jody finished filling one wagon with bales from the hay-field. I took advantage of the time to turn and rearrange our composting manure piles.

While I was nearing completion of that task, Cyndie called me to meet a neighbor who volunteered to take our miscellaneous metal scrap that was slowly accumulating. That was a wonderful happenstance, allowing me to clean out a pile of ugly metal trash that we’d piled up over the five years we’ve been here.

It was a rewarding three-for-one night of accomplishments that left little time for much else.

Dinner didn’t happen until 8:30 p.m., and bedtime was a little later than usual, but we were buoyed by the satisfying accomplishments we’d achieved.

Once again, we are feeling happy to be done with stacking bales for a while. This time, that joy should last for a much longer span of weeks.




Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

No Mow

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I leave for vacation today whether I am ready, or not. I’ve got it covered well enough… I’m sort of ready.

Yesterday was my final day of work before departure, and I tried in vain to get everything completed to my satisfaction. I had hoped to leave early enough to fit in one last cutting of the lawn when I got home. I didn’t hit either target. I didn’t get all the work done before I had to go, and I left work later than I wanted.

As a consolation prize, I was going to get the mowing completed so I wouldn’t have anything that demanded my attention this morning except for finding and packing everything I want to have for the Tour of Minnesota bike trip.

It should come as no surprise that I couldn’t get the mowing done, either.

After a mere 2 or 3 minutes into the job, the power to the mower stopped abruptly. I thought it was possibly the seat interlock, but nothing I did re-enabled the PTO to engage. Then I spotted the belt was completely loose from the engine pulley.

Closer inspection revealed the idler spring had broken.

Really? After 12 hours of operation? This is how new products get a bad review.

I couldn’t find a replacement spring in stock anywhere near us. Everyone was happy to order one for me, but that wouldn’t solve my problem. The grass is long, now. I’m leaving home today for a week of vacation.

I thought maybe I could steal a spring from the old mower, but it didn’t have one matching the size I needed. The mowing did not happen. Unless I get lucky and find one in stock this morning at the one place I couldn’t check last night (because they had already closed for the day), this will be another thing I am leaving behind for others to deal with while I’m gone.

So, I’m sort of ready to leave my responsibilities behind for a week, and I’m sort of packed.

I would venture to say this is the least prepared I’ve been of all of these bike trips I have done over the years. I wish I could say that previous experience allows me to prepare less, but I don’t believe that is the case.

Right now, it feels like previous experience is informing me that I will soon be missing the comforts of home.









Why don’t I ever take a vacation where I just stay home and relax for a week?



Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2018 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ There

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Well, in case you haven’t noticed, today is June 14th. It just so happens, the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week starts on June 15th. Holy COW, that’s tomorrow! I suppose I better start getting ready to go.

Today is my last day at the day-job before starting this annual biking adventure. After that, it’s a quick stop for some supplies, a rush home to get some grass cut, and then it will be time to start packing.

Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Bike, check. Helmet, check. Bike shoes, check. As long as I pack those essentials, I will be functional. The rest is just superfluous accoutrements.

Okay, maybe I’ll bring a camera, and some clothes, a sleeping pad, sunscreen lotion, and ibuprofen. But that’s it. That’s all I need.

Oh, and a toothbrush. Spare shoes. A raincoat. A hat.

I found our old original Foxtail toy. I’m bringing the Foxtail

After dinner yesterday, in order to check off a couple of chores from my pre-departure list, I pulled out the diesel tractor and attached the loader. Cyndie and I transferred three large piles of composted manure to a remote location, to provide plenty of open space in the compost area before I go.

Whenever I was off dumping a full bucket, the chickens would show up to check out what Cyndie was doing. I could see them scamper away each time I returned. Eventually, I paid them a visit on foot to offer my regards.

They are just starting to show hints of what they will look like when they mature and start producing eggs.

As of last night, we still have all twelve birds. This kind of success is what breeds our willingness to keep trying the unencumbered free-range life for them.

After they start getting hunted again, our thoughts will change, I’m sure.

Speaking of them getting hunted… while the world was all caught up in the escapades of the downtown St. Paul raccoon that scaled a 23-story building in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we had our very own varmint contemplating a climb up the side of our 1-story coop.

I admit, it wasn’t nearly as exciting, but it made for a cool capture on the trail cam.

You can almost read his mind, as he computes the potential reward of maybe gettin’ up there.

I wonder if I should be electrifying the hardware cloth that covers the windows. I’m hoping there is no reward whatsoever should he or she actually decide to make that climb.



Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2018 at 6:00 am