Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘country living

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

Everyday Adventures

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Yesterday afternoon, I was walking from the shop toward the barn on one of my favorite paths when I felt a wave of heightened appreciation for the daily adventures we enjoy as a result of Cyndie’s and my decision to move to the country and become horse owners.

IMG_iP1438eAfter feeding the horses and cleaning up under the overhang, I lingered among them for an extended visit. They each took turns approaching me for some physical contact. Dezirea was the most persistent about moving in so close that I had to watch my feet to keep my toes out from under her front hooves.

They all wanted scratches, each in their own special spots. They spend a lot of time all day long trying to fend off bugs and I imagine the lack of having a hand to swat and scratch must make it a real chore. They swing their heads, stomp their feet, and snap their tails, but none of that is the same as a good scratching with a hand that can reach all the difficult spots.

Hunter tends to favor his chest and neck, Dezirea definitely prefers the middle of her back, Legacy has lately accepted head scratches, and Cayenne will take anything we offer.

It is a thrill and a privilege to have the adventures of horse ownership available to us every day.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2016 at 6:00 am