Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chores

Precious Moment

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There wasn’t anything particularly special about my taking on the afternoon chores after work yesterday, other than it is usually Cyndie who fills that role on days I commute to the far side of the Twin Cities. She was on adventures of her own in the Cities yesterday, so I changed clothes when I got home and took Delilah out for a walk.

The rain shower I had driven through to get home had moved on but it had soaked things enough that the trees were subsequently dripping almost as fast as drops fall from a rain cloud.

Delilah veered off the trail in pursuit of some enticing scent. I had no intention of following her and stood my ground until she figured it out and retraced her steps back to me. She is so funny in the way her face communicates that she understands the drill and quickly resumes her position on the trail ahead of me, as if to demonstrate doing so was her plan all along.

When we came around to the barn, she marched inside to the spot we always hook her leash to and waited patiently while I tended to the horses.

They were all calm and quiet, and a little wet from the rain. After I dumped manure on the compost pile and came back to collect their empty feed pans, Swings approached me at the fence. I offered some scratches and a little loving attention.

She soaked it up and stayed engaged with me for an extended session.

The longer she lingered, the more I wanted to love her up with scratches and massage.

It became difficult to tell who was doing the loving and who was on the receiving end. The warmth was definitely flowing in both directions.

It was a truly precious equine moment.



Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2021 at 6:00 am

Freeze Prep

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I put these chores off for longer than usual this year, but the time finally came last night to blow out the underground water line down to the labyrinth garden and remove the pond pump and filter. We also brought garden hoses into the shop in preparation for this morning’s freezing temperatures.

When it warms up tomorrow or Saturday, we’ll lay those hoses out on the driveway incline to assure they drain and then we can coil them up for winter storage.

I almost forgot about the waterer in the paddock, but Cyndie thought to mention it. We hadn’t been checking since the horses left and rainwater had collected because we didn’t think to pull the stopper out of the drain. The water had gotten a little green.

Thankfully, Cyndie remembered to dump the rain gauge down by the labyrinth so water won’t freeze in there and crack it. We learned about that the hard way. This happens to be plastic rain gauge number two down there.

It feels good to finally have these little chores addressed.

I’ve been a little neglectful of other things around here during the long days of focus on the deck. With the late first freeze, I’ve been able to get away with it until now. The average first freeze for the Twin Cities is October 11.

While working on the waterer in the paddock, my hands got incredibly cold, giving me a vivid dose of the discomfort which awaits in the coming days. That classic biting sting of freezing fingers.

Time to dig out our gloves and mittens.




Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Getting By

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Delilah seems to have finally adjusted to the fact that Cyndie is gone, only running around looking for her once a day, instead of five times a day. We are halfway through Cyndie’s planned stay in Florida, and I think we are going to make the rest of the way on our own without extreme hardship.

I resorted to making a peanut butter, bacon, and pickle sandwich on cranberry walnut bread for lunch today, because that is what I found in the refrigerator. Why grocery shop when there is still edible food on the shelves at home?

I don’t like to grocery shop.

If nothing else, I can always eat eggs. Collected seven fresh eggs yesterday! We are now getting more than a dozen every two days.

I’m starting work late all week, so I can tend to animals in the morning before departing. Our animal sitter, Anna, is stopping by between classes at River Falls, to give Delilah some attention in the middle of the day, and I resume duties again when I get home in the afternoon.

Soloing the morning and evening duties is decidedly easier without the time previously spent with the horses, but their departure has left a stupendous energy void in the center of our compound.

I do appreciate not needing to be concerned with how wet and soft the paddocks have gotten as the ground begins to thaw.

Muddy season has arrived such that the floors in the house are developing a fine coating of silt, as the debris that was once clinging to Delilah’s long hair, dries out and falls away after each walk.

When it warms outside to the point of not re-freezing every night, we will put out the kiddie pool by the door for Delilah to rinse off before coming inside.

In the mean time, yuck.

Our methods may not be pretty, but we are getting by while the matron of the house is away.




Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2019 at 6:00 am

Lone Straggler

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Apparently, a pattern is developing with one of our Buff Orpingtons, that she lags behind the group when it comes time to return to the coop for the night. Cyndie describes a funny scene that happened the other night when she was feeding and cleaning up after the horses.

The chickens tend to congregate under the overhang at times, but we don’t want them in the barn, so it becomes an added hassle to navigate the door while going in and out during chores when they are present. Cyndie had shooshed them out, but one Buff stayed after the others wandered off toward the coop.

After the sun had disappeared below the horizon, that Buff showed signs of wanting to return to the coop, but acted rather timid about trekking through the snow to get there. She would get only so far and turn and run back to the preferred confines with the horses under the overhang… several times.

Cyndie finally made the trip herself, and had to coax the hen to follow her the whole way.

Silly bird.

Last night, I went down to shut the chicken door for the evening, and when I got there in the dim light of dusk, it was all quiet, but for occasional sleepy cooing from inside. I spent an extra minute or two clearing the track for the door so it would slide all the way, and that was enough time to give me the feeling all was settled in there for the night.

It was a pleasantly quiet time and the fading gradient of orange glow transitioning to blue-black of night on the horizon was gorgeous. I was just about to head back to the house when my conscience urged me to truly confirm all were present and accounted for before leaving.

Thank goodness for that.

I opened the big door to peek in and counted eight bundles of feathers. Luckily, in the low light remaining, I could tell it was a Buff that was missing. Not thinking of Cyndie’s recent tale, I feared the worst. I had already lingered long enough to know she wasn’t anywhere near the coop. 

Where would I look for her body, I wondered.

I stepped away from the coop, toward the barn, and what do I find?

That lone straggler timidly trying to decide if she wanted to walk all the way back to the coop all by herself. Silly bird.

I can’t help thinking how sad it would have been for her to finally make it all the way, only to find the door sealed for the night, if I had dashed back to the house without looking inside to count them first.



Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

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…



Savoring Days

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It’s hard for me to do, savoring time. The minutes tend to blend, one into another, and days seem to keep passing faster than ones before. It’s a luxury problem to have, I expect. In the face of suffering, perception of time is entirely different.

The U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving 2018 is now history. A perceived few minutes ago, I was looking forward to the extra day off from the day-job and gathering with family in the presence of unending food choices.

In my quest to tightly manage my sugar intake, the day of feasting becomes an extra challenge. This year, circumstance worked in my favor to give me an assist on controlling temptation to over-indulge. I was in charge of taking care of our animals at home, while the Thanksgiving feast was being held an hour away in Edina, MN., at Cyndie’s parents’ house.

The hardest part of the whole adventure for me was, making the choice to slip out surreptitiously while most everyone was still at the table(s), finishing first and second servings, and boisterously sharing stories of various adventures.

It went against my every sensibility to not say goodbye, but I didn’t want to cause a fuss and disturb the best part of the day for everyone else. I enjoyed every delectable bite of my sensibly chosen portions of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, giblet gravy, sweet potato, vegetables, cranberry sauce, fruit salad, and Cyndie’s masterful version of my mom’s home-baked buns.

A glance at the time brought me to the fateful moment of planned departure. I had an hour-long drive to factor in, and a time of sunset that was firmly determining the end of my equation. I got up from the table with my plate, just as several others before me had done on their quest for seconds, and I disappeared to the bathroom near the front door.

Amid the sound of many conversations and occasional laughter, I decided to rely on Cyndie to explain my absence, and I stepped out the front door without a word. In my effort to avoid interrupting the festivities for everyone else, I totally disrupted my sensibilities.

Cyndie knew I was leaving as soon as I finished eating, but I had neglected to say anything to others, including my own children. It was a very disconcerting feeling for me to so abruptly depart, but it did save me from facing the decision of how I would avoid eating too much pie for dessert.

Happily, the drive was efficient, despite a surprisingly heavy amount of traffic on the interstate, and the animals were all safe and content when I arrived home. One of the horses was lounging on its side in the paddock while the other two stood watch right beside.

I counted the chickens as soon as I could, because Cyndie reported seeing a badger walking toward their direction from the corn field north of us on Wednesday, as she was leaving to spend the night in Edina. She said it turned around when she stopped and opened her door.

It’s a privilege to have these animals to care for and I want to savor the pleasure they bring, despite the complications of added responsibility. I’m framing the way they altered my Thanksgiving holiday as a feature, not a flaw, since it helped to limit my calorie intake to a lower level than I imagined possible.

It’s certainly not something I would have accomplished left to my own control, if I’d been given a full day’s access to all the flavors available to savor.



Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2018 at 7:42 am

Nice Try

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The weather at home has eased enough to melt the snow in all the areas except shaded spots, but it hasn’t released its grip on the frozen ground. I had a spare ten minutes last Friday while Cyndie was finishing preparations for our visit to Anneliese and George’s house, so I grabbed a rake and tried moving some leaves off the grass on the front yard.

In the time I had, pretty much all I accomplished was clearing a small area of the yard and piling the leaves around two trees. That left a lot of oak leaves still frozen in the grass.

Earlier Friday morning, I also tried raking out piles of composted manure that I had dumped on the hay-field while Cyndie was in Guatemala. I hadn’t gotten a chance to do that before because it rained, then froze, and then snowed on those piles.

On Friday, it was almost warm enough to make me think raking out the piles would be possible. Almost. I worked on it anyway, because it felt like any little progress was better than no progress at all.

I’m counting on the universe giving me points for at least trying, on both the leaves and compost tasks.



Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2018 at 7:00 am

Basically Leafless

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By the time November arrives, our forest is basically leafless. There are always oak trees that hold onto a portion of their leaves all winter long, but for the most part, the rest of the canopy now rests as a glorious carpet gracing our forest floor.

Seems just a blink ago that I was showing off the fall color starting in the trees behind the barn.









I tried matching the picture yesterday without having first looked back at the original image to see that I had stood back far enough to include the hay-field fence in the first view. Some deft cropping provides a pretty close comparison, regardless.

We lucked out yesterday with sunshine all day long, which allowed Delilah and I to pick off a variety of small projects. With her tethered to the loop in my Carhartt pants, or sometimes to a nearby tree, she shows every sign of believing herself an integral partner in accomplishing my goals.

If she only knew.

Ah, but the added hassles it creates for me is a small price to pay for the look in her eyes and spring in her step as she checks with me to determine which direction we go next.

Having a dog attached by leash when doing chores provides unique perspective highlighting how often I tend to double back for some added tool or forgotten task. I can almost hear her thinking, “We just came from here a second ago!?”

Back and forth, I go, crunching through the deep carpet of fallen leaves.



Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2018 at 9:38 am

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