Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

Increasing Production

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It’s March 18 and I’m still symptom-free. I’m measuring each day that I’m not sick as a victory over the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to everyone who is heeding the call for social distancing. One graph I saw at worldometers.info last night indicated the daily number of cases identified in the US has been doubling every few days. Since that data only includes the number of people actually tested, I imagine the total number of cases increasing every day is probably much larger.

I have not quarantined myself yet, but I’m limiting my activity to commuting to work and then coming straight home. I will need to stop for gas twice a week, but I always pay at the pump so there is no need to go inside.

There are only ten people at work, so if we can all avoid exposure from others, the risks at the day-job should remain low.

It’s too bad the virus doesn’t provide obviously visible indications in a person when they get it. That would make it so much easier to avoid people who are spreading it.

While staff at the day-job are giving their all to keep up with the over-filled production schedule (there’s no indication our customers are slowing down at this point), the hens at home are just approaching their highest production rate.

Yesterday was the highest-grossing day of the new season. From our amazing eight hens, we got 7 eggs for the first time this year. I found the last egg out in the sand covering the floor of the coop, not in the nest boxes that all the others have been using.

It seems to me that the color of the eggs from the three different breeds is becoming more homogeneous. We used to get some that were very dark brown and some that were very light. Yesterday’s seven looked surprisingly similar.

The light ones are a little darker and the dark ones are lighter than usual.

Luckily, they are all filled with a brilliantly deep-colored yoke that makes for amazing breakfast dishes and wonderful baked goods.

With the head cook and principle baker living in Florida for a while, I will be stockpiling eggs for a later date.

If things get desperate during the pandemic quarantine, maybe I could trade some for toilet paper.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 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.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2020 at 6:00 am

Plowing Challenge

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Last Sunday, when we left home in Beldenville to drive to Edina for a few days, it was raining outside.

On Monday, the precipitation turned to snow. In Edina, the accumulation was about four or five inches. On Tuesday, Cyndie texted our current animal sitter and asked if she would stop by our place to check on the chickens and Pequenita. The answer was yes, but after she arrived we received a report that there was too much snow for her to drive up the driveway. She walked the quarter-mile up to the house.

That triggered me into action and I drove home to plow.

There was 6.5 inches of snow up by the house, maybe an inch more farther out in the open. It was the most snow at one time that I have needed to plow so far this year. Between the large amount of snow and the icy coating beneath it, I needed to get a little creative about plowing angles. There was a fair amount of time spent sliding sideways as the wheels spun when I attempted to back up after pushing snow all the way off the edge of the paved surface.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside working in the snow, but I needed to get cleaned up and drive right back to Edina so Cyndie and I could attend a New Year’s Eve party with friends who invited us at the last minute when they learned we were in town.

I had successfully managed to drive my Crosstrek all the way from the road to the house without getting stuck, but I didn’t think to clean the snow out of the wheels after I pulled into the garage.

The return trip to Cyndie’s parent’s house was like driving on a washboard because of vibration from the wheels being a little out of balance. On the plus side, it gave my voice a great vibrato when singing along with my music the whole way back to Edina.

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Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Happy Hens

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We are thrilled to report that our hens are acting very happy with the last few days of above-average warmth (above freezing!) around this winter solstice. Tomorrow is Christmas and the hours of daylight started increasing again so the mood is pretty festive around here. A return to home-laid eggs can’t be far off. The day they kick back into that cycle again will bring on its own celebratory moods in our house. We’ve become spoiled with a quality of eggs that the grocery store offerings don’t come close to matching.

During the previous sub-zero cold snaps and bouts of snow, the chickens showed zero interest in venturing outside the coop when we opened the chicken door. Yesterday and Sunday they gladly made the trek back to the barn overhang where there is prime sand-bathing to be had in the sun.

For some reason defying logic, the hens have sequentially been molting for several months now. The two latest raggy looking things are getting their comeuppance for the period they were strutting around looking like award-winning specimens when others were a sorry sight.

Everybody has their day.

We are going to leave the coop buttoned up for a couple of days while we take Delilah with us for an overnight to Cyndie’s parent’s house in Edina. The Christmas tradition for Cyndie’s family involves a big dinner with cousin families on the eve, then breakfast and a gift exchange extravaganza extraordinaire on Christmas morning followed with a big dinner in the evening.

In years past, when we had the horses, I ended up driving back and forth three times in two days in an attempt to be involved in all things at once. This year, we are modifying the plan a little to eliminate a couple of trips.

A nod to taking another tiny step toward reducing our use of fossil fuels for the sake of our warming planet.

I’m not sure the chickens will be so happy about our plan, though, now that they are showing renewed interest in coming out of the coop again when it’s nice.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am

Other View

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‘Twas the day before the US Thanksgiving, and I’m already home from work. Why? SNOW DAY! Hello, to the first big snow event of this season. All day long yesterday the specter of this looming winter storm hung heavy in the air at the day-job. The dramatic potential was all over the news as the weather service warning covered a multitude of states across the heartland of our country for the day before the national holiday.

Staff started making decisions based on the likelihood of the coming weather disruption, which meant moving some actions up a day and delaying others until next week. Compounding anxiety over the weather was a moderate epidemic of ill health making its way through the workplace.

More than one person decided in advance to stay home today, myself included.

In the hour-long commute home yesterday afternoon, I vacillated between an impression from the heavy gray sky of near-immediacy for the flakes to start falling, compared to another view where the clouds were thin and it seemed almost sunny. The differing views noticeably altered my mindset.

It reminded me of a discussion earlier in the day over the impact our minds have over framing how were are feeling when “under the weather” with illness. Personally, I am inclined to whimper at home with Cyndie when I get sick, lamenting over how critically ill I must certainly be, despite my belief that mentally willing myself to feel better holds more power to improve conditions for me, as well as those around me.

All that needs to happen is a change in how I view things. Imagine if citizens would allow themselves an open mind to view societal issues from an alternate perspective to see how they fit into an ethical and loving framework. What would it be like to be able to engage in a constructively curious dialog with someone who holds an opposing view about important issues?

Conversely, think about how we constrict ourselves when confining our news and information feeds to a narrow array of sources backed by specific corporate interests. No single view holds exclusive rights to absolute correctness.

The weather, our health, the economy, our democracy… all of these look different depending on how we view them.

We would all do better if more people made an honest effort to view these issues from a loving perspective that is not based on fear.

Today, I am going to view all the snow that is falling with an attitude of awe for the transforming beauty it brings to our otherwise barren forest landscapes. I’ll also be viewing the snow from the seat of our Grizzly ATV while pushing it off and away from our driveway.

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter at Wintervale…

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Blasted Grill

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For the amount of time I am stuck commuting on Interstate freeways, I should be grateful for the majority of hours I sneak by incident-free. My greatest challenge has been battling fatigue on the drive home in the afternoons. Beyond that, the number of times I have gotten caught in a backup caused by a crash or bad weather in the six years I’ve been commuting from Wisconsin can be counted on one hand.

I’ve rarely even witnessed incidents involving other vehicles occurring around me. I credit much of this good fortune to the off-peak hours I am usually on the road. My early morning departures did lead to a side-impact from a deer that got up close and personal with my driver-side door a year and a half ago, but overall the hazards of early-hours travel are offset by benefits of less actual traffic.

Yesterday morning, my luck ran out in the reduced visibility of early darkness when a pickup truck in front of me ran over a large, flat piece of debris that kicked up into the air so that it slammed into my grill at full freeway speed. In the split second available to consider my situation, I hoped it was mostly harmless light plastic because impact was inevitable.

By the sound it made, I knew it wasn’t light and I was immediately relieved that it had found the grill and not the hood or windshield in front of my face.

There was nowhere convenient to pull over and it was still completely dark outside so I simply continued the drive to work, arriving long after I’d already forgotten the incident had even happened. I walked inside, oblivious.

It wasn’t until I went back outside after the sun had come up, looking for the newspaper that hadn’t been delivered (again), that I suddenly remembered the incident and took time to inspect for damages.

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Aww HECK! The license plate frame (not my real numbers), the grill, and the plastic of the main front cracked and chipped!

On the way home from work, I stopped for a damage estimate and learned the headlight assembly was busted up, too. Do you know how expensive the new-fangled LED headlights that can shine around corners are? This one is almost $900.

I’m glad we saved so much money by fixing the deck ourselves this fall. Some of those savings will now be needed to pay the insurance deductible for auto body repair.

I’m a little ashamed to be whining about such luxury problems. At least I have a new car that will hold value if repairs are maintained. I also have money to afford the expense, even though that is not how I prefer to be spending it. I am able to sacrifice hours from the day-job to deal with the appointment of dropping the car off in 6 weeks and picking up a rental for the 4-days minimum to complete the repairs. I have insurance that includes coverage for rental car expenses.

I am paying attention to being privileged enough that this is what I’m inclined to whine about right now.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2019 at 7:00 am

More Boards

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Are you sick of reading about our deck yet? I’m afraid this do-it-yourself project isn’t one we can conquer quickly, so the subject drags on. Yesterday’s weather allowed us to get back out there and drive a few more screws, but working in short stints like this will result in the end achievement coming in weeks instead of days.

Today I’m back commuting to the day-job, so decking is on hold for a while.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I ran into a few hiccups that kept our progress from soaring ahead into brag-worthy results, but we are both perfectly satisfied with what we accomplished in the time we were able to be out there.

On the plus side, the battery charger that seemed like it wasn’t working on Friday lit up yesterday with a perfect flashing green LED. I don’t know what made the difference, but my drill driver was very happy to have two chargers feeding its batteries again.

The biggest hassle was losing one of the three spacer boards we had been using. It suddenly disappeared and despite searching for too long, there was no sign of it anywhere. I finally gave in and we walked to the shop garage to hunt for another spacer.

Fifteen minutes later, after dropping yet another spacer under the deck, Cyndie found the first one we had lost was hung up down there behind a joist.

At least that made sense for where it had disappeared to because I was starting to worry I had absentmindedly set it down somewhere when I stepped inside the house or thrown it down on the pile of old rotten boards without realizing it.

I have forgotten enough things lately that this seemed like it could too easily have been another lapse by my feeble mind.

Since that wasn’t the case, I’m giving myself a clean slate and ready to assume my memory is sound.

My body, on the other hand, will be happy to have a break from the weekend of hard labor. Now it’s back to trying to stay alert on the long commutes to and from work for a few days.

Instead of focusing on more boards, I will be managing becoming more bored with the hours of driving.

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Written by johnwhays

October 7, 2019 at 6:00 am