Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘country life

Gory Find

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We have been living in rural farm country for eight years and seen some interesting things, but yesterday’s find was a new one for us. As I pulled into the driveway at the end of my long commute home and climbed the first incline, my eyes spotted something in the grass beside the pavement that stood out distinctly for its uncharacteristic color.

My brain quickly worked to make sense of it and toggled in a split second between thinking it could be something that had fallen or been tossed from a passing vehicle or possibly a cluster of brown oak leaves on a fallen branch. I stared toward the image as I slowly rolled past until it was out of view.

Then I stopped the car. My mind couldn’t make sense of what I’d just seen.

I needed another look. Putting the car into reverse, I rolled back slowly until the unidentified object reappeared out my window. It was not a cluster of brown leaves. It was redder in color. Honestly, it looked like a surprisingly large chunk of raw meat.

Logic suggested I might want to get out of the car to take a closer look, but I had no interest in getting any closer to that ghoulish specimen. I put the car back in gear and rolled up over the hill to find Cyndie walking toward me with an arm-length plastic veterinarian glove on and carrying a plastic bag.

Obviously, she had just discovered this spectacle moments earlier. She described walking Delilah back from the mailbox and catching sight of the oddity well before the dog did. Cyndie shortened Delilah’s leash as they neared and when the oblivious dog was almost past it, her nose picked up the scent and she lunged against the leash, hoping to do her own close inspection.

Cyndie walked her far enough ahead to secure the leash to a gate and walked back to see what it was. We are not schooled in such detail, but it was very obviously a large chunk of raw meat and included what looked like valves? She took Delilah back to the barn where she found the glove and bag to go remove the body part from beside our driveway, which is how we came upon each other.

Questions linger. What is it exactly? Where did it come from (wild or farm livestock)? Where’s the rest of the carcass? Who (what animal) dropped it on our property? Why did it get dropped (still plenty of good eatin’ there)? Where was the animal taking its prize? A lone wolf? Pack of coyotes? Mountain lion? Stray dog? A neighbor’s cat?

I agreed with Cyndie that we didn’t need to leave it out for critters to have a second chance at it. It occurred to me that, were I more motivated, I could quickly set up the trail cam to see who returns to the lingering scent in the darkness overnight, but I’m happy to live with the mystery.

For the sake of those who feel no need to see what it looked like, I’ll offer the image in the form of a link: Gory find. There is no size reference, but it was larger than any cut of roast I have ever seen in the grocery store meat departments.

Try counting the tooth mark punctures.

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2020 at 7:00 am

Seeing Orange

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This morning the firearm deer hunting season opened in Wisconsin. The entire month of November echos with gunshots as hunters engage in some preseason shooting practice and adjustments of their aiming sights. Those sounds rarely happen earlier than sunrise, nor all around us at the same time, so this morning is notably different.

Locally, the hunt legally commenced at ten minutes before 7:00. I heard the first shot at 6:55. The culling of our deer herds is underway. I’d like to imagine it as some of our neighbors now being blessed with food to survive the winter, but I know that isn’t the present reality.

Earlier this week, our neighbor whose family owned much of the land around us, including our twenty acres, called to ask permission to hunt on our property this year. He started by asking what we were doing up here without horses anymore. It occurred to me that he never specifically asked to hunt on our property when we had horses.

The very first time we met him after moving in, he opened the visit by asking in the form of a statement, “You aren’t going to post the property no hunting.” ?

Welcome, neighbor! That was a fine ‘how do you do?’ I remember needing to pause to determine he meant it as a question.

Luckily, both Cyndie and I have a pretty good sense of reading intent and suspended our first impressions, allowing him time to feel comfortable and to get to know us as non-threatening to his way of life. In the seven years since that day, we have had nothing but positive interactions with him. Despite his ever-present initial gruffness, he has always been incredibly generous with helping us in times of need.

There was no way I felt a need to deny him the chance to hunt where he always had before just because we now owned it. Such was the case this week when, knowing there were no horses to disturb, he asked permission to enter our land to hunt deer.

Orange clothes are the fashion fad of the day. Cyndie donned a bright orange vest and put one on Delilah for their morning walk, which was altered to avoid our woods. Down the driveway and around the field to the north and back to the barn to open the chicken door on the coop.

In that amount of time, they heard two gunshots from our neighbor to the south, followed by about eight other reports from the distance around us.

Moments ago, Delilah broke out in a flourish of alert barking at the window in the sunroom, which normally means a squirrel (or squirrels –the other day there were six hopping around in the grass just outside). This time it was a bright orange person walking through the woods owned by our neighbors to the north.

“Good dog!”

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Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

Venturesome Cows

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We had never imagined this day. It wasn’t unprecedented that Delilah would serve as our alarming alarm clock, with her loud barking outburst at the screen door of our bedroom to disturb the quiet early morning solemnity.

I astutely commented to Cyndie that I was surprised that I wasn’t hearing the usual dog in the distance that typically sets Delilah off.

After the second outburst in quick succession, Cyndie gave up trying to snatch a few extra minutes of lingering in bed and got up.

“There are cows outside our window!”

Oh? I sprung up to witness the spectacle for myself. Yes, indeed. No question about what Delilah was trying to tell us. I spotted three cows standing in the most unlikely place I could think of.

They were by the wood shed, at the top of the big hill trail coming out of our woods.

I sleepily stumbled after my camera, which was on the far side of the house. When I returned to the bedroom, there were no cows in sight. Ghost cows?

Cyndie invited me to get dressed and join her in morning chores, wherein we could also investigate that bizarre sleepy visual we had just witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, from the top of our back yard hill, we could see the rare sight of white animals down by the labyrinth. By the time we got down there, the shifty cattle were gone again, though not out of earshot. The sound of their navigation through our forest can best be compared to a herd of bulls wandering the aisles of a china shop.

Branches snapping left and right, a bovine face appeared out of the trees. Then another, and another. We counted ten at one point, though it was never clear we were seeing the whole picture.

While Cyndie tried to shoosh them out of her garden labyrinth, I set out to see if I could tell where they had come from. Tracking them wasn’t hard, as the 40 heavy hooves left a trail that looked like a rototiller had rolled along our soft wooded trails.

They had tromped everywhere! It made it difficult to determine where they had busted out of a neighbor’s fence, because they had moved to and fro in every direction.

We tried coaxing them into our back pasture to contain them, but the boring grass offerings there must have paled in comparison to the adventure and foliage they were finding throughout the forest. They bushwhacked toward the most difficult wooded passages in lieu of our pasture gate.

Eventually, while trying to get back with the main herd, they busted a strand of wire in the fence and very slowly, one at a time, most of them figured out their own way through. When we found them trying, Cyndie stepped on the bottom wires and lifted the top one, cooing to the stragglers to take that last step.

I tried coaxing them with a branch of leaves. That brought the main herd toward us, which was the opposite of what we wished to happen. I tried my best at novice cow whispering and turned the herd around, bringing two of the last escapees back into the fold.

For some reason, the last cow either panicked or just decided it was never going back. It turned and disappeared deep into the woods.

Unable to find the loner cow, Cyndie and I decided to reattach the broken fence wire (I had learned the neighbor was gone on a motorcycle trip in Iowa) and called an end to the big distraction of our day.

We were hours beyond our planned departure for the lake place.

With a note to Jackie about the possibility of an odd cow showing up while we were gone, we hit the road.

That was one very strange day at Wintervale.

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Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

Inviting Portals

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When it comes to forest bathing, we have a wide variety of enticing portals inviting one to dip a toe…

It’s enough to make a person want to dive right in to breathe the immunizing forest air.

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Can you feel yourself inhaling deep at the sight?

We also have portals leading to open and airy trails along the borders of our fields.

Stepping through this last opening brings you to the entrance to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, a large 11-circuit Chartes labyrinth. It lies just out of sight to the right of the opening, which I think makes this portal the most enticing of all.

Plus, the labyrinth is tucked up against the edge of our main forest, so walking the circuitous path provides an added side-benefit of breathing the health emanating from the trees.

Our paradise beckons with irresistible enticements. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to figure out I’m not dreaming.

This morning, the trees are silent in the calm, moist summer air. Out our open windows and doors I hear the mesmerizing music of the pond waterfall, singing birds, and chirping insects. Most importantly, that is all I hear. There is no sound of traffic. No planes, trains, or automobiles.

Mornings like this are priceless.

It’s not that we are immune to the sounds of mechanization. We do experience the occasional passing of small planes. Warm weekends might offer up the roar of a passing train of motorcycles buzzing along County N toward the El Paso Bar and Grill. The neighboring fields get plowed, planted, and harvested by large farm tractors as the season dictates.

Finally, if it’s not the neighbors, it’s our own doing to be shattering the bucolic ambiance with the droning whine of small gas engines with a trimmer, chainsaw, or lawn mower.

It’s a necessary evil of creating and maintaining the inviting portals that grace our little nook in the beautiful countryside of western Wisconsin.

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