Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Delilah

Happy Animals

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Our kitty, Pequenita, was oh so happy to have me back home again to scratch her neck and belly every which way to and fro. We arrived home mid-afternoon and took Delilah for a walk to survey our property and check on the chicks and horses.

The grasses on either side of our mowed trails have gotten almost as tall as we are. The chicks have gotten almost as tall as each other. There is one exception. One of the Buffalo gals is taller than all the others. We are growing increasingly confident that we received a surprise cockerel in the batch Cyndie purchased from the Buffalo Country Store.

It appears we may have a Buffalo “guy.” In the image above, the obvious contrast in color can be seen for two of the Barred Rock chicks we received. The darker coloring is indicative of hens and the lighter white-with-black feathering more an attribute of roosters. The more advanced growth of his comb and the noticeable size advantage add logical evidence to support our suspicion.

We may keep him to protect his brood of 11 siblings and then let one of the Rockette roosters stay around to watch over whatever hens remain from our hatched group after distributing some to my brother and giving away any extra roosters. We have yet to feel confident identifying how many cockerels are in that hatched batch of thirteen.

I expect that another two or three weeks will make things much more obvious, along the lines of how obvious it has become among the two-week-older batch from Buffalo.

Thankfully, at this point, they are all getting along fine and appear happy and healthy. The Rockettes have enough feathers now and have grown enough in size that we are hoping to experiment with merging the two groups this week. That should be entertaining.

The horses were perfectly calm and appeared entirely satisfied with our return appearance. Last week they received a long-awaited hoof trimming and it has them looking particularly well kept.

Our animals seem almost as happy as Cyndie was when she finally was in the right place at the right time to view the resident snapping turtle that has frequented the lagoon and boat launch area of the lake up in Hayward for probably the last 50 years.

I snapped that photo of the lagoon because the reflection of the tree trunks was providing a wonderful backward K that was particularly eye-catching. Cyndie said that sighting the turtle had been on her bucket list for quite some time, which made it a significant thrill for her that endured well beyond the minutes the old beast lingered in view.

All in all, we’ve got happiness bursting out all over the place.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Claiming Time

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I suspect that our house cat, Pequenita, is the pet that gets the least air-time on Relative Something. As the lone feline around here, she seems to frequently be at odds with the general vibe happening at any given moment. Usually, that is because the dog tends to be the one setting the vibe.

Pequenita occasionally tolerates whatever it might be that Delilah is looking to achieve, but most often the cat is just trying to be wherever the dog isn’t.

When we arrived home from the lake on Monday, Pequenita was noticeably more vocal than usual. I think she was expressing displeasure with our having been gone. Something tells me Delilah was having a field day or days, taking advantage of our absence to mess with the cat more than she is allowed when we are around to interrupt.

There is one thing Pequenita does every day to offset the hours when she might not always be getting what she wants. She claims time with me the moment I climb into bed.

She wants to be scratched vigorously behind her ears, on her belly, under her chin, rolling the scruff on the back of her neck, across her forehead, and over her eyes. When I work her armpits, she stretches her front legs way out and flexes her feet. She also purrs warmly the entire time.

It’s a festival of shedding all the while.

Pequenita gets up and walks away, so she can turn around and come right back for more. She rubs against the edge of my laptop. She tries to stand on the keys. After another round of scratches, she walks away again. The more earnestly I want to write on my computer, the more repetitions she makes to walk away and come right back.

If only I could master the art of typing solely with my left hand in order to give Pequenita the scratches she wants with my other hand and still get some writing done.

Unfortunately, the time I wish to claim for writing before I go to sleep happens to be the exact same time Pequenita chooses to claim for me to put my hands all over her body.

Honestly, it’s not all that unfortunate. We are blessed to have her unique character enriching our lives. I’m lucky to have a pet who shows such deep appreciation for my attention.

The time she claims is not just for selfish reasons. She claims it for both of us.

I just need to remind myself that writing comes second to the art of fulfilling the desires of our cat.

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Coop Cleaning

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The chicken coop received a thorough going-over yesterday as we took the first steps in preparation for moving the twelve chicks Cyndie has taken to identifying as the Buffalo Gals.

As we pulled out the removable portions, it was discovered that a few repairs were in order. A plank sealing a seam in the hardware cloth lining had come loose in the ceiling. A significant gap between the two overlapping segments provided ample room for small birds or rodents to wander inside.

Not any more. With that problem fixed, Cyndie put her attention to cleaning every surface and I hunted down a branch to make a third roost perch.

As we were preparing to put away tools and call it a day, I remembered the window covers that needed to be installed over the two side windows. I recalled seeing the flimsy plastic forms, covered in dust, stashed in the barn among a lot of other dangerous-looking objects.

Working together, Cyndie and I delicately, and successfully, lifted the covers out of the debris and headed out the back door of the barn to wash them. I was so happy these things had survived the hazards of removal and storage intact.

While I was washing the first cover, Delilah, the oblivious canine, walked up and stepped on it, busting it in three places as I shrieked at her, frantically shoving to get her off so I could pick it up.

That one now has some funky-looking tape on it, but it should still do the job of preventing rain from coming in the window.

At least the coop is clean! For the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2021 at 6:00 am

Wandering Around

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There are days when I step outside in the morning to walk Delilah without having any idea what will command my attention for the rest of the day, but something always does. There are just as many times, maybe even more, when I set out to write something without having any idea what point I hope to make. Of course, here’s a good idea. Have a point.

“He’s got a point there!”

That is a mashup of Steve Martin’s character, Neal Page, ranting at Del Griffith the shower curtain ring salesman in “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” combined with a line from Harry Nilsson’s animated movie, “The Point.” Both tremendously worthy works of film entertainment.

I would say that my great affection for those two movies reveals something about the way my mind works.

It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say it works when mostly my mind tends to just wander around. It’s like a sticky sponge that gladly picks up whatever happens to reach my eyes and ears.

Last weekend I melodically vocalized that I was getting silverware and it came out sounding like I was singing “Silver Bells.” By the end of the meal, as I was picking up placemats from the table on the deck, I caught myself humming some other Christmas song. I’ve since forgotten which one but at the time it was startling for being such an odd thing to be contemplating.

It would seem likely that the first song could have triggered the second, but still… What the heck?

Cyndie was out overnight last night, on the road for a consulting gig, leaving Delilah and me on our own to keep each other occupied. Delilah did her share by alerting to a raccoon climbing down a tree off the backyard well before yesterday even started to seem dusky outside. I grabbed my newest toy, a slingshot, and hustled out onto the deck to take potshots at the critter. I hope to make it feel completely unwelcome living so close to our house.

It made a hasty return to its apartment high in the upper limbs.

I am encouraged in my harassment efforts by apparent success on the other side of the house. Two days of flinging stones and steelies toward a young raccoon in a tree out our front door have resulted in zero sightings since. That doesn’t necessarily mean it left entirely, but at least it stopped coming out before dark.

The masked bandit would pop its head out and watch the world for a while before climbing out on the big branch to take a tongue-bath in preparation for its night of adventures. I think it didn’t like suddenly becoming the target of my aiming practice.

That was totally the point. I’m hoping he or she received the message I was sending.

It will be very satisfying if they are now off wandering around the woods looking for a quieter neighborhood with friendlier neighbors.

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Popular Nest

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We have four nest boxes in the coop for the hens to lay their eggs. History has revealed the box closest to the chicken door is the most popular.

I suppose when ya gotta lay, the first box might be a welcome necessity.

Cyndie is suspecting we’ve got a rogue who has chosen a spot other than the coop, based on the daily total of eggs collected falling a little short of expectations. She reports a pattern of suspicious chicken “call-outs” that frequently occur post egg-laying now emanating from a location other than the coop.

A cursory survey yesterday afternoon didn’t provide any evidence supporting her theory, but the fact this situation has occurred twice before feed our belief it is not only possible, but likely.

I told her she should let Delilah search using her incredible scent-detecting nose, but then we both felt a hesitancy over offering any encouragement to our intrepid tracker for predatory behavior toward our chickens or the eggs.

If it turned out to be just one hen choosing a remote location, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. Since the egg counts have seemed to be down by more than one a day this week, we are a little concerned that allowing this behavior to go unchecked might inspire more hens to participate in laying eggs in a nest of their own making.

Maybe it is unlucky we’ve seen such little evidence of predator pressure on this latest brood of birds and it has nurtured a complacency about their level of risk. Sure, they are domestic chickens, but they need to realize they are living in the midst of actual roaming wildlife.

A lone hen sitting on a nest in the woods of the neighbor’s property behind our shop garage (where Cyndie senses the familiar clucking outbursts have been coming from) will be no match for the fox that has been caught on the trail cam crossing onto our land from nearby.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Work Ethic

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Our dog, Delilah, is a consummate shepherd with a profound protective instinct for her primary caregiver, Cyndie. She also demonstrates a boundless work ethic. Delilah is a Belgian Tervuren Shepherd we brought home as a 9-month-old pup from a breeder about an hour away from our new home almost eight years ago.

I was thinking it would be nice to have a canine companion to hang out with us on our 20-acre property. Turned out, Delilah isn’t really one to “hang out.”

Yesterday, we were all out on the deck enjoying the warm sunshine. There were squirrels, songbirds, and fresh spring aromas in the breeze. Plenty to entertain our senses. When Cyndie stepped inside to do some meal prep in the kitchen, she left Delilah out with me to allow more time in the great outdoors.

As I worked on shaping my latest wood sculpture, I waited for Delilah to figure out that Cyndie wasn’t coming right back outside. I was hoping she would sense that I wasn’t going anywhere and we could both settle down and enjoy the beautiful, warm, fresh air the day was providing.

Minutes passed. Fifteen more. I sanded and sanded. Adjusted my glasses. Sanded some more. Another fifteen minutes and Delilah had not wavered.

It may have been a combination of the ubiquitous canine food-motivation and Delilah’s passionate devotion to Cyndie that kept her at a constant vigil of staring into the house the entire time, but it was girded with a heroic work ethic intensity that underlies everything she does.

Whether it is alerting us to the presence (permanent presence, mind you) of squirrels in the yard, barking back to the neighboring dogs’ calls, or seeking to warn off the potential threat of distant gunshots or rumbling thunder, Delilah is ALWAYS on duty. She will jump up from a sound sleep to race to the door and bark at something that only her ears picked up.

It occurred to me that we should have taught her a command to give her permission to be “off-duty.” Something along the lines of “at-ease, soldier.”

“We need to tell her to ‘Golden Retriever’ every once in a while,” I said, imagining her gaining the skill of becoming easy-going upon request.

That’d be like telling water not to be so wet.

Come to think of it, it would also be like telling Cyndie not to work such long hours every day.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a correlation here.

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Written by johnwhays

March 14, 2021 at 10:07 am

Time Weathered

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What a wind we experienced yesterday! A simple walk around the property was an exhausting struggle. The bare branches of our trees clattered overhead as they bounced against one another, putting me on alert about walking beneath them. Delilah’s ability to smell what’d been going on overnight was visibly altered as a wealth of distant scent information was arriving through the air faster than she could parse and the ground scents were being endlessly scrubbed away.

While deep in the woods near the edge of our property, we witnessed the sound of a large tree cracking and falling. My first impression had me turning to my left to look up the hill toward the direction of our house, but that didn’t sound right. Looking in the opposite direction into our neighbor’s woods locked into the full sound, but I couldn’t see the source.

It was definitely impacting multiple trees and the cracking and crunching made quite an impression. I looked toward Delilah and she was staring intently toward the direction of the sound, after which she looked up at me as if to say, “Whoa!” –as in, ‘that was huge!’

Yeah, that was a “whoa” alright. It was a big one that answered any questions about falling trees making sounds whether anyone was there, or not.

We were out on the second trek of the day and I could see the footprint evidence of Cyndie and Delilah’s first walk at dawn. Cyndie was able to stay on top of the frozen crust. It provided a contrast to the other extreme from her afternoon walk the day before when the soft snow had her boots dropping to the full depth, making a stroll on our trail into a real slog.

At the hour I was traveling over the terrain, my boots were just breaking the surface.

Our snowpack has experienced multiple thaw/freeze cycles in the last week and then yesterday the surface was scoured by the relentless battering of gale-force gusting winds. It barely looks like snow anymore. It resembles the surface of the moon, except for the occasional random foot path trails various wildlife visitors have left in their wake.

This morning’s peaceful calm almost enhances the perception of a lunar location.

It’s a calm before the next storm, we are told. A Winter Weather Advisory is on for tonight and tomorrow morning in our location. That crusty surface will be given a fresh new coat of inches on which we get to tread in the days ahead.

Huzzah to that, we say! Bring it on.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2021 at 10:43 am

Regal Visitors

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It isn’t at all surprising that Delilah gets alerted to something and starts barking at the doors and windows. Happens multiple times a day. Yesterday afternoon, seconds after one such flourish, Cyndie commented about all the birds making a racket. She joined Delilah at the door to the deck and quickly exclaimed there were eagles perched in our trees. Four of them.

She stepped out to take a picture and one of the four took flight, no sound but the whoosh of wings.

I joined her at the door in time to see another one fly off.

After several minutes, a third one launched into a gorgeous glide. We fully expected the last one to fly and that would be that, but suddenly two of the flyers zoomed back on the scene. One appeared to consider a landing but the big branch it picked snapped off and fell toward the ground.

With that, all three spread their wings and flew away into the distance.

Other than worrying a little about the health and well-being of our chickens, we are thrilled whenever the majestic bald eagles pay us a visit. More often it’s one or two coasting overhead in the sky making a brief appearance. Finding them perched is a bit of a rarity and offers extended viewing, but four at a time was a first.

I liked that they showed little concern about Delilah’s barking.

Sometimes I wonder what they must think about us and our activities down below them.

I suspect they find us a lot less fascinating than we do them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2021 at 7:00 am

Forging Ahead

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The bite of persistent extreme cold weather continues to oppressively dominate life for us and our stoic chickens. There is little in the way of frivolous activity from the hens, beyond the brave layers who make extra trips between the nest boxes in the coop and the nook under the barn overhang where they have been spending the rest of the daylight hours.

Surprisingly, this cold snap does not appear to be stifling the continued development of the maturing hens into the egg-laying phase of their lives. Yesterday, we were gifted with six eggs, the most in one day so far from this brood. Unsurprisingly, not all of the eggs were found before freezing to the point of cracking.

Not all of the eggs were laid in one of the nest boxes, but at least four of the layers chose the same box.

As of yesterday, we hadn’t yet made the transition to using egg cartons when collecting eggs. When it is only one or two eggs, both Cyndie and I tend to slip them into pockets for the trip back up to the house. Once we start finding a half-dozen or more at one time, our stash of old egg cartons definitely comes into play.

As Cyndie multitasked yesterday to walk Delilah, collect the emptied trash and recycling bins, and collect eggs from the coop, she was suddenly met with —

SQUIRREL!!!

With Delilah’s leash quick-clipped to the handle of one of the bins and Cyndie’s grip on each of the two bins, eggs in her jacket pocket, our alerted canine unexpectedly bolted 90° sideways over the snow piled along the edge of the driveway.

The jolt on the leash yanked so powerfully it pulled both the bins and Cyndie into the bank of snow where she toppled over and unceremoniously landed headfirst in the snow, resulting in one broken egg in her pocket.

She made her way back to upright and got Delilah under control and forged ahead for the warmth of the house.

Today is even colder than yesterday and tomorrow is due to be colder than today.

We’ll just keep on keeping on, uncertain of what frigid adventure might result next.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

Another Saturday

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Another Saturday morning when I get to choose what will get my attention. It’s hard to ignore the most prominent fact imposing its way over almost everything we pick. Our weather has entered a cold spell. In our region, winter cold spells mean below zero Fahrenheit. Not quite polar region craziness of 70-below, but days of any number below-zero bitter cold might as well have the same impact.

Preparing to exit the home module for any length of time involves donning garb that rivals climbing into a spacesuit. If you don’t like wearing a facemask for protection from spreading the coronavirus, you won’t like going outside today.

Delilah paces semi-patiently at the front door while we methodically navigate the fine art of adding multiple layers of apparel and accessories in precise order. She takes several slurps from her water bowl in preparation for the impending outing.

It occurred to me this morning that, if we didn’t have a dog or chickens, we wouldn’t need to get out of bed and go outside when it is so wickedly cold. Some people don’t have to go outside if they don’t want to. I didn’t want to go outside, but I didn’t mind that we had to.

The snow squeaked under our boot steps. Eyelashes occasionally stick together as they frost up. Moving air starts to sting exposed flesh. Every few steps, Delilah will keep one paw up and hop once or twice to give that foot a break from contacting the snow. She emphatically rejected our several attempts in the past to offer her winter booties.

The chickens seemed nonplussed by the harsh conditions. We added some extra straw to the coop and installed a radiant heat source to ease their burden a little bit. They seemed to be demonstrating their winter hardiness, as advertised for our variety of breeds.

Accomplishing our goals with minimal distractions allowed us to promptly return to the safe warmth of our spaceship where Cyndie prepared an omelet for breakfast that rivaled a 3-star chef’s and I ignited an inspiring fire in the fireplace.

I am leaving the decision for later about whether I will interrupt my indoor endorphin-producing hobbies to go outside and finish clearing the snow off the deck that I pulled down off the roof eaves yesterday.

It’s Saturday. Morning cartoons, hot cocoa, snuggling under a blanket, giggling with family, listening to music, reading a book, writing inspirations, laughing at our foibles, assembling a puzzle, staring at the fire, it’s the best day of the week type of stuff.

Baby, it’s cold outside, but that is just the way things go sometimes.

There are plenty of ways to cope and we are going to employ several of them and enjoy this Saturday to the fullest. I invite you to do the same, whether you are experiencing a polar vortex or reside somewhere closer to the equator than we do.

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