Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘country living

Hunting Hounds

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On a thickly gray Saturday morning, we stepped out of the house behind Delilah and quickly noticed a sharp sound in the distance. Swallowed by the crunch of our boots on the snowy path, the muffle of hats over ears, and the sound of our own voices as we chatted about some minutia, we had to stop in our tracks to identify what we were hearing.

There was a helicopter far in the distance, but that sound just faded. After a moment of no sounds, there was the bark of a dog. Then, several more. The hunting hounds were out early.

We resumed our trek down the trail, but not for long. The echoing bellows were only getting louder, so we reversed direction and headed back toward the house, through the back yard, and on to the barn. Delilah was delighted with the added excitement and romped her way along with us, reversing direction only several times to see if we couldn’t just check on the vocal hounds in the woods.

I wondered if we might suddenly see coyotes sprinting past us in a run for their lives.

With Delilah secured in the barn, Cyndie and I tended to the tasks of setting out food for the chickens and opening the coop. I could see the trucks of hunters slowing moving by on the road while we mingled with the chickens and I cleaned off the poop board. Rocky made a failed attempt to mount one of the Domestiques. We took solace in his acceptance of her objections.

Cyndie continues to offer feed from her bare hand in effort to condition the flock to always accept humans as safe and valuable companions. With respect to the New Hampshire pullet, Cyndie got nipped as the overzealous girl went after a mole on her thumb.

Can’t fault that as malicious, but geez. That hurt.

Returning to the barn, Delilah bursts forth with excitement at this moment because she knows the next phase of this daily routine is to take her up to the house where she will receive her morning meal. We exit the barn door and while I am closing the door behind us I notice Cyndie struggling with everything she’s got to hold the leash.

Delilah is trying to drag Cyndie up to the driveway to where a cute looking hunting beagle is standing all alone.

We decide to let Cyndie take Delilah back into the barn for a bit while I see if I can coax the beagle to get back on the job and find the rest of his pack or the scent of a coyote.

Knowing the hunters were driving nearby, I walked with the happy radio-collared beagle toward the road. A truck pulled up just as we arrived. The hunter said she was one of two that had gone astray.

Meanwhile, Cyndie took the opportunity to pop out of the barn and head up to the house with Delilah on a short leash. They quickly were surprised by the other stray. This time, Delilah was in reach to make contact, and luckily, with wagging tails the dogs met gently, nose to nose.

Cyndie said she offered Delilah the deal of continuing up to the house for her breakfast, and the two dogs trotted together for a bit and then parted without incident as they reached the door.

The hunter I spoke with at the road said our neighbor had alerted them to a sighting of coyotes early this morning, so they were hopefully tracking a fresh scent. By the time we were having our breakfast, nothing but quiet had settled in around us. I’m guessing the trail was lost.

Subsequent calm and quiet was a welcome outcome after the adventurous start to our Saturday.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2021 at 11:12 am

Kitty Homed

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The result is in. Despite breaking Cyndie’s heart in handing off our little surprise visitor last week, the sweet kitty that peeked in our back door is now happily placed in a new home.

None of our neighbors reported missing a pet and our trusted pet-sitter, Anna, just happened to be looking for a kitty to fulfill the request of a friend. It was a match that fit seamlessly for all parties concerned.

One reply we received from a neighbor gave us pause. She texted, “Is this the first pet you’ve had abandoned on your property?”

We’ve been here eight years now, and this was a first. Her question implies it is something that happens with some regularity in the country. We are happy to have been spared this harsh reality of human behavior thus far.

Our attention is back on fifteen chickens who are busy learning how to deal with the increasingly wintery weather, as well as their own pecking order. We feel lucky to have avoided any real violence from the aggressors, but they do assert their dominance as anticipated. Happily, the young ones are not looking defeated by it in the least. They continue to ever so slowly expand their comfort zone of free-ranging our land.

In this time of the exploding COVID-19 cases, take advantage of the healthy excuse to stay home and hug your pets.

Except for free-ranging chickens. They aren’t so fond of that hugging thing.

Just throw them some scratch or mealworms and they’ll feel truly loved.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2020 at 10:49 am

File Transfered

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Without further delay, I now present the first recorded audio of one of Rocky’s early crowing practices:

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Cyndie reported that this was his third of three calls he made on Tuesday morning.

You gotta agree, that sounds pretty cute, eh?

It’s going to be interesting getting used to having a rooster for the first time. Seems like not a day goes by that we don’t learn something new living in the country.

Yesterday, Cyndie reported that she hand-delivered our completed ballots for the November election to our town clerk at her home. We have successfully voted! Glad to have that civic duty completed early. In so doing, Cyndie met our town clerk for the first time. It’s only been 8-years since we moved here.

I guess it could be seen in a good light that we haven’t had much need to be interacting with local officials for any reasons.

With the pandemic looming large throughout the entire summer, we have seen very little of any nearby neighbors.

Wintervale Ranch may not be receiving a lot of visitors lately but soon the neighbors will be hearing a lot of crowing coming from our little patch of paradise.

I look forward to learning what winter has in store for us. I suspect many hours will be spent sheltering in place.

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Written by johnwhays

October 1, 2020 at 6:00 am

Magnificent Days

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We are enjoying magnificent weather this week for the month of September, although in the back of my mind the very summery temperatures echo too well some of the anticipated ramifications of the warming planet.

No floods or fires in our region at the moment. Just high heat (80°F!) and evolving colors in the tree leaves.

Wandering down the backyard hill toward the opening to the labyrinth, the leaves are still primarily green. Beyond that, there are brilliant splashes of gold, orange, and red showing up with surprising speed.

Our growing season seems to be ever-lengthening, but the end of this summer’s agricultural period is undoubtedly near. The declining hours of daylight aren’t being altered by the changing climate and plants don’t grow so well in the dark.

On the bright side, I think my lawn mowing might be done for the year.

Yesterday morning at work I received a sweet text from Cyndie letting me know that she heard “Rocky the Roo'” making progress on learning how to crow. She said his call had a definite sing-song inflection that was recognizable as the vague hint toward the ultimate “cock-a-doodle-doo.”

I wonder if the magnificent weather days will be just as mesmerizing with non-stop echos of rooster crowing reverberating across our valley. We didn’t check with any of our neighbors about how they might feel about the prospect. At the same time, none of them have ever asked us if their gunshots, barking dogs, hollering for missing cats, or high RPM farm machinery soundtracks have been any problem for us.

I think it a feature, not a bug, of living in the country.

Where pretty much every day is magnificent, no matter what the sounds.

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Weak Link

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There are many days when the Wintervale connection to the world via the internet is annoyingly flakey. The problem is mysterious and invisible, frequently interrupting progress in the middle…

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Hi, I’m back. That’s the way this works. After a seemingly interminable pause, activity resumes as if nothing is amiss. You wouldn’t notice a thing, unless you were attempting to visit with others via Zoom.

“Your internet connection is unstable.”

 

As soon as that message appears, even as I rush to write a chat message to everyone to explain that I could hear them all even though my image may have frozen to them, my fate is doomed to closing and then immediately reconnecting, minus all the text I had just entered in the chat window.

It’s life in the country. For all the advantages we enjoy living out among farm fields and forests, it comes at the expense of having a reliable internet connection. The industry can’t balance the economics of running fiberoptic cable to handfuls of houses scattered across many wide miles.

We don’t stream. We rent DVDs through the mail.

If we want to accomplish something without interruption, it takes a lucky combination of atmospheric conditions and an absence of too much competition for the limited bandwidth. Oh, and we can’t have already exceeded our cap of monthly allotted usage.

In all of the Zoom meetings I have participated in over the last month, I was the weakest link.

It’s too bad because I love the possibility of connecting with my multiple remote communities, but I love living where we do even more.

Cyndie pointed out that our new openings around the two big oak trees beside the driveway allow for excellent viewing of the rising moon.

Since our internet browsers weren’t having much success loading pages, we were more available to get out and enjoy the lunar view.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Out

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It is very easy to be out and about on 20 acres while maintaining appropriate social distance from other people, especially when our property is surrounded by fields and forest. Yesterday afternoon when the sun warmed things up a bit, I took a crack at a few chores in the great outdoors.

My first order of business was to do something about the increasingly dilapidated ramp to the chicken door. I don’t know whether the main culprit is the hens or some other critter, but somebody doesn’t like my weaving of willow branches.

I tried monitoring the ramp with the trail cam, but there is so much chicken activity that I get a couple of hundred photos during the day while capturing nothing after dark. I haven’t had the patience to keep trying long enough to see what animals are nosing around during the nighttime.

I think part of me doesn’t want to know and part of me doesn’t really care. My fix will be the same, regardless of whoever is messing with it.

I had collected a bag full of downed branches beneath the willow tree with a plan to redo the bad parts of the ramp but ended up having a change of heart. I decided to try cutting some finger-sized trees from our forest to weave bigger green wood through the existing frame.

A lot of the willow branches I originally used were dead, so they just dried out more and got brittle, making them easy to break. I think the thicker and greener sticks will stand up much better to abuse.

Around the shop garage, I chopped down the dried shoots of tall ornamental grass, pulled out the failed sheet of plastic water barrier that was supposed to redirect drainage, and then detangled the broken cedar post and bird feeder from the cage of vines that covered it.

It felt a lot like warm weather yard work, which was strange just a day and a half after the blast of snow we had received. At the same time, it was a glorious distraction from the mindset of sheltering in place and the unending gloom and doom news that is the other hard to avoid attention-getter of the moment.

My health is still good, my hands are washed, and I’m physically isolated all weekend at home. Today, I return to the day-job and will strive to avoid infectious invisible droplets.

I hope you all find an opportunity to get out wherever you are to spend some time beneath the open sky. It’s good medicine for long-term in-place sheltering.

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

Afternoon Survey

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After work yesterday, I took Delilah for a walk to survey the grounds for the first time since Wednesday morning’s snowfall. There is a combination of areas where the snow has melted in the sun and spots where most of the accumulation remains.

There is evidence the chickens are moving around in the woods but when I found them they were clustered beneath the coop, most of them perched on only one foot. There were two eggs in a nest box that were probably on the verge of freezing.

The back of the barn looks like we’ve hung fake icicles as decoration, but these are all real.

In the woods, we didn’t find any new evidence of buck activity, but there is still a big scrape on the ground along one of our trails that hint of a decent-sized set of antlers. Last week, Cyndie found a hoof print that was almost half the size of her boot, so maybe both came from the same big fellow.

There is enough snow remaining on the trail to make it easy to spot fresh tracks if we get any more activity. Someone has been parking across the road from us and bowhunting in our neighbor’s woods. It is highly likely that any deer moving across our property will also travel through those woods.

The gun season doesn’t start until the 23rd in Wisconsin this year, so we’ve got a couple of weeks before we start seeing blaze orange-clad hunters traipsing around the neighboring properties.

At that point, I intend to refrain from doing a lot of surveying of the far reaches of our property for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

Never Dull

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There is rarely a dull moment in our lives with acres and animals. Yesterday was a particularly full day. Before I get to that however, I really must post more pictures from our great cow adventure last Friday. These belong with Saturday’s post, but I was up at the lake, and just didn’t have the bandwidth to support my intentions.

Here is my view of the main herd as their curiosity brought them over to see what we were up to at the fence:

I didn’t want them to get any ideas about joining the remaining escapees, so I worked to convince them they’d be happier going the other direction.

This is Cyndie, holding the opening as wide as possible while cooing sweet nothings to woo the last stragglers back into their pasture:

It was a hard sell. The second wire from the top was the only broken one, but holding them open provided plenty of clearance, if only the overly cautious (now they decided to be cautious!) bovine would step through.

After a busy morning at the lake yesterday, tending to minor chores before heading home, we traveled in Cyndie’s car with the top down in the beautiful sunshine, joining a LOT of other vacationers for the trek home.

It was as if our full day had barely gotten started. I was able to connect with our next-door neighbor to borrow his large trailer for hauling hay. Our first source of bales reported a shortage of availability, due to a new client who required 4000 bales. Five minutes after that sorry news, he called back to say his brother had bales we could buy, but needed to get them out of the wagon by the end of the day.

Cyndie whipped up an early dinner and then we set off to begin this summer’s hay bale escapades, the first of multiple expected trips.

Thankfully, due to our previous experience, the loading and transport went smoothly, and we got the load stowed in the shed while there was still daylight.

As the last light faded, I found Cyndie out picking black raspberries because there are still so many berries ripening.

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From inside the house, I heard branches breaking in the woods. I called out the window to Cyndie and she said she was hearing it, too, but didn’t see anything. She prolonged her berry picking to see if that last stray cow from Friday still might be roaming around, but neither a deer nor a cow materialized before she quit to go secure the chicken coop for the night.

We are happy to report, all twelve birds were safely inside.

Honestly, the fullness of our day was the epitome of the saying, “never a dull moment.”

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Written by johnwhays

July 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Manipulating Neurochemistry

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How are your stress levels today? Don’t think about the answer. Feel it.

Cyndie and I have faced some questions about how we are doing lately. It hasn’t been as easy to answer as usual for us. It was a tough winter, but listing our grievances doesn’t feel good to share. It doesn’t paint the picture as accurately as we know it to be.

Our move to the country and accumulation of animals for which we need to tend has put distance between us and our friends and family. Some connections with people and activities have broken, and only a fraction of new local connections have sprouted in their place.

We have gained a brilliant wealth of new relationships with our animals, and precious though they are, it is not the same.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to drive the suburban roads again that consumed our everyday back when we lived in Eden Prairie. The dramatic contrast to our present-day environment was revealing.

Is it worth it? The struggles to cope with the never-ending challenges of weather and the unrelenting daily routine of required chores to care for our horses, chickens, dog, and cat? Some days, more than others. It’s life. It’s something we chose. (By the way, that’s a luxury –having the choice– that is not lost on us.)

Our challenges can be framed as onerous and laborious; burdens that could be lifted by giving up our animals and moving back to the conveniences and camaraderie of our life-long friends and families in the suburbs.

The difficulties of the last few months, and the years of owning and caring for our animals can also be framed as invigorating, rejuvenating, inspiring, and fulfilling. It is adventure of a very high order.

When we choose to frame the ups and downs of life in the positive, we manipulate our neurochemistry in healthy ways. That is a choice we have power to control. I spent an unfortunate number of years manipulating my biochemistry in the opposite direction by mentally framing my life in the negative.

We won’t prevent harsh realities from challenging our decisions by simply thinking positive all the time, but we will be better served to meet those challenges when we give our brains the healthiest balance of on-going positive neurochemical support possible.

Life here is challenging, but we are doing well. Really well. Thanks for asking.

It feels right.

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Good Fortune

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Some days we count our blessings in terms of the number of potential catastrophes that haven’t happened. Yesterday, in terms of all the things that could go wrong, none of them did.

On the other hand, nothing spectacular happened, either. It was just another day, which is its own sweet blessing of good fortune.

We feel awash in love from all of you who have been sending energy to us since the day in January when Legacy came to the end of his time with us.

It’s hard to tell if we are waiting for something to happen, or simply living what is supposed to happen. Is this it? Is this what our life in the country is all about? Are we living in the moment, giving and receiving everything possible?

It would mean a lot to us if we were to discover we are paying good fortune forward to the universe. The rabbits, squirrels, and song birds seem to be happy enough with having survived another winter. We’ll have to wait for the ground to thaw before we find out if the flora of our property did as well as the critters.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind pulling a Rip Van Winkle until the growing season starts. I’m tired. Wake me when the grass needs to be mowed.

Ah, but it is my good fortune that such thinking is just for fantasy. The truth is, there is something in every single late winter day to enjoy, like the light across the melting snow in the minutes before the sun drops below the horizon.

I wouldn’t want to miss it, even if it involves days that are otherwise unspectacular.

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Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2018 at 7:00 am