Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Delilah

Ground Visible

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The change of seasons is marching full ahead with great results. I appreciate that our snowpack’s meltdown has been happening at a perfectly gradual pace. It’s been cool enough during the overnights that melting pauses so the runoff has been controlled, for the most part.

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Delilah and I found the fields entirely bare when we emerged from the woods where there was still snow covering the ground on our morning stroll.

By afternoon, water was flowing as the melting of remaining snow picked up again. It is very rewarding to witness the unimpeded drainage flowing where Cyndie and I worked hard to correct the grade in front of her perennial garden last year.

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My “swale” in the paddock hadn’t maintained its shape nearly as well and the water was draining randomly across the main travel path of two gateways where hoof prints in the soft earth disrupt any coordinated drainage. While cleaning up manure yesterday afternoon, I did a rudimentary job of stemming the flow as best I could, using the flimsy plastic tines of my fork scoop tool.

I want the water to flow out of the paddock to the left of the gate opening to the hayfield, not across the primary travel pattern of the horses. Any attempts I make toward achieving this goal end up getting stomped on by horses who don’t seem to notice what my efforts are intended to accomplish for them.

It’s almost like they have no idea how much they weigh and the amount of disruption in soft, wet soil they create.

One other creature who has no idea how much of a disaster she creates is Delilah. She prances around everywhere she pleases in the snow and mud and then assumes a little toweling off when we come inside the house and she’s good to go.

Sweeping the floor is an adventure after practically every outing.

Yeah, the ground is visible alright.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2022 at 7:06 am

New Game

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It’s like a board game for dogs! Cyndie gave Delilah a new present to challenge her intrepid canine intellect. It started slowly, with Delilah unclear about the particulars of moving the sliding tiles to uncover the treats her nose was telling her were inside.

When it comes to doggie treats, a certain sense of urgency is demonstrated. Miss D was showing little interest in learning the nuances of this “game” with her intense focus on getting another treat between her teeth no matter what it took.

A little timid at first, Delilah used only her nose to push aside the sliding covers in order to inhale the treat as it was exposed.

Then she rose to her feet for better leverage and tried gripping at the tiles with her teeth.

Before the first session with her new game was over, she was sliding some of the pieces with her paw.

When the game came out again later in the afternoon for a second session, Delilah showed impressive improvement in refining her techniques at solving the challenges of uncovering treats. The treat for us was being able to witness her curiosity and intelligence so visibly demonstrated.

That is infinitely more satisfying than when she thrashes at our windows barking endlessly at a squirrel in the yard.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Tree Dwelling

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Near the edge of the woods at the bottom of the hill behind our house, there is a large tree with three distinct critter access points. I noticed them the other day because Delilah stopped to look up at the tree with excited interest. That almost always means a squirrel was moving around in the branches.

I didn’t see any life in the branches but I very much noticed the three holes in the tree.

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Do you think those are three separate “apartments” or is that a deluxe three-story home with a door on each floor?

Cyndie, Delilah, and I are waking up at the lake place this morning on the weekend of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. Our friends, the Williams family will be joining us, and their daughter, Ella will be skiing it on Saturday for the first time.

It is estimated the event brings 40-thousand people to Hayward for the weekend. That changes things dramatically around here. For reference, the population of Hayward is a little over 2000. It messes up our navigation because they close roads and strive to move everyone by shuttle bus. Foils our desire to sneak down a fire lane road to catch a glimpse of racers in the middle of the woods.

Organizers want all spectators to watch the beginning or the end, or both, traveling by shuttle bus. I’d prefer to not be constrained to standing among the masses. I’m not tall enough to expect I will be able to see anything in a crowd, anyway.

Before we left home yesterday, I needed to finish clearing snow from in front of the big barn doors so I could move bales of hay in for the person tending to the horses while we are away. I also needed to pull snow off the eaves above the front door of the house and then shovel that into a giant mound by the front steps.

Arriving up here hours later, the first order of business was to shovel access paths to the doors. The driveway was plowed and caretakers had pulled some snow off the roof but no good attention had been paid toward clearing snow from in front of the doors.

Ski racing might be an Olympic sport, but I feel like the shoveling I’ve been doing lately is medal-worthy.

In case you didn’t form an opinion about the tree pictured above, I’d say it’s one palatial three-story home based on the noticeable lack of tracks in the snow at the base. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s some fat-cat of a squirrel luxuriating up there with no reason to come out and get his feet wet.

I think Delilah could smell him.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fresh Blanket

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The old snowpack has melted and refrozen several times and was beginning to look rather sad. It’s been polished by whipping winds and covered with leaves, branches, and shrapnel from trees, knocked down by birds and squirrels. Well, it has a whole new look today. It snowed all day yesterday and everything is now covered with a fresh white blanket.

At the time of that photo, we had about 8.5 inches on the ground. After dinner, when I was out plowing the driveway, it snowed another half-inch.

The horses can always retreat to the protection of the overhang and I closed gates between the two paddocks to give the two chestnuts unrestricted access to one side. Under the overhang is where we hang hay nets, so the hay stays dry. Of course, then the horses can stay dry, too, while eating.

I’m dumbfounded why the chestnuts, Mia and Light, choose to stand out in the snow anyway. Swings, the eldest of the four mares, always chooses the overhang for shade when it is hot and shelter when it is windy or wet.

Here is what the difference looks like:

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That’s Mia on the left and Swings on the right.

Today is my last day of talking to myself for the past nine days because, if all goes according to plan, Cyndie returns from Florida.

I think Delilah is getting tired of trying to figure out what I am saying, as I have been rambling at length to explain my activities to her in the absence of anyone else around for conversation. She has taken to cocking her head a little and giving me a long blank stare. If my jabbering doesn’t ultimately culminate in something she can eat, she tends to sigh and wander away for another nap.

That is, if it isn’t time for one of her walks. She knows when it is time for our regularly planned outings and never hesitates to make herself very available for each precious occasion. Walks are even more special for a while now because of the fresh blanket of powder we get to romp through.

I get a fresh chance to trudge a wider pathway on our trails for several days. Delilah and I will have it looking nicely packed again in no time. Then all the forest critters will commence dropping things everywhere and I’ll start pining for the next new blanket of snow to show up.

Rinse, and repeat until spring.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

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Like Marchruary

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Is it possible that you are able to see that this image was taken when the temperature was below zero on Saturday morning?

It is a reference for the next image that I shot yesterday afternoon.

That outdoor temperature of 45°F was in the range of average for the month of March, not February. Both Delilah and I wanted nothing more than to just be outside in the warm sunshine.

I offered to brush her multiple layers of hair out on the deck, flashing a bag of tasty treats as periodic reward for her cooperation. The only cooperation she offered was to sit down every time I neared her back legs so that I couldn’t be the least bit effective.

It became a game where I offered a treat to buy more time and she would soon after, sit down so I would feel the need to offer another treat to get her up again. I didn’t get much brushing done. I switched focus to tossing some discs for Delilah to chase in the back yard.

She pretty much wanted to sit down after only a few throws of that exercise, too.

I think she is starting to feel all of her nine-and-a-half years of age. Average age for a Belgian Tervuren Shepherd is 10-12 years. She is starting to act as if she is getting old.

My next attempt to make her feel young again was met with complete disdain.

I made a snowball out of the sticky snow and started rolling it down the hill. When it got big enough that it was difficult to push, I stopped and looked up to find her completely ignoring me.

When I decided I didn’t have any interest in making a snowman out of my giant snow boulder, it occurred to me that I was feeling my ripe old age.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2022 at 7:00 am

Nose Knows

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Against my best effort to thwart Delilah getting after something we wouldn’t want her to have, I came out entirely outmatched. It’s not that I doubt her olfactory abilities, it’s just that I’ve seen her get excited over so many spots that turn up nothing that I hoped this would be one of those.

It’s not uncharacteristic for her to venture off-trail to follow some critter’s paw prints, stopping at whatever point I decide to lock her retracting leash. I rarely allow her to go past our property line and usually stop her from forcing me to step off the trail, but generally grant her the added excitement of some varied explorations beyond the obvious path.

The other day, she fervently wanted to go after something that she sensed while we were still on the trail. With a complete lack of interest in her goal, I waited as she made her way as far as the leash reached into a tangle of growth. I waited and waited.

We each held our ground until I finally decided to tug the leash and talk her into coming back to the trail. She reluctantly came out, took a couple of steps on the trail, and then headed right back into that tangle from a new angle. She really wanted something in there, so I decided to take a look for myself.

I pulled her back until I could clip her leash to the nearest tree and then I wove my way through the mess to look for the most likely attraction, typically, something dead.

Finding nothing, I came out again to let Delilah have her wish and allowed her to get all the way in there so she could sniff around and find nothing, too.

She rushed back in there and made her way directly to an undisturbed spot of snow, put her face in it and immediately started crunching on some bones. That was exactly what I didn’t want to happen.

I had to go back into the tangle again because she showed no interest in coming out to the trail at the moment. I negotiated a release of her clenched jaw holding what looked like a rib bone.

It was about fifteen feet from the trail under the snow and her nose absolutely knew it was there, most likely dropped by some predator who had cleaned the meat off and left it for other scavengers.

With the fresh bone now tucked into the back pocket of my overalls, I had Delilah’s full attention all the way back to the house. In reward for her letting me take the precious find away from her, I served up a sanctioned purchased bone in place of the wildlife remains of unknown condition.

Her nose didn’t seem at all disappointed in the difference.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2022 at 7:00 am

Blown Snow

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On Monday, I was plowing the driveway to clear the gradual build up of 1-to-2-inch accumulations from the previous couple of weeks and it was wonderfully calm. Yesterday, the latest two inch accumulation of powder on top was being blown across our fields while I wasn’t looking.

I took Delilah outside with me when I needed to do some cleanup shoveling that I had skipped after plowing on Monday. She patiently waited while I worked at each stop: up at the house in front of the garage doors, in front of the shop/garage, and down at the barn to clear in front of the big doors.

While I had the big doors open, I moved a few bales into the barn from the hay shed and then tidied things up in the barn. We were down to our last two bags of feed for the horses and I was anticipating delivery of more any day. I like to have things neatened up for the arrival of more feed.

Upon completion of all my intended tasks, I wanted to reward Delilah’s patience with a long walk to wherever she wanted to go. When we popped out of the woods behind the back pasture, I was surprised to find the path completely filled in by blown snow.

The whole time I had been shoveling around buildings I had been oblivious about how much wind was blowing and the open fields offered up a lot of snow to sweep into drifts.

I trudged through the deep snow, wishing I had my snowshoes on. But then, coming around the corner, the path was nothing but packed snow where no drifting had occurred.

I totally understand why some cultures have many words for snow.

The blown snow made a nice pattern around some stacked rocks near the labyrinth.

Later in the day, when we returned to the barn to set out the afternoon feeding for the horses, there were eleven new bags of feed freshly stacked on the pallets. There’d been a visit from the feed-fairy while we were up in the house having lunch.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2022 at 7:00 am

Acting Foxy

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I’m not sure what got into Delilah yesterday, but it was Valentine’s Day, after all. She was getting all foxy, pausing to hunt for out-of-sight prey beneath the snow during several of our walks around the property yesterday.

It’s hard for me to tell if she thinks something is lurking beneath the pristine snow cover because she can smell it or hear it. The part that looks so fox-like at the start is how she cocks her head and focuses her ears over the surface, waiting to pounce.

When she thinks the time is right, she pounces and buries her face into the snow.

Either she was getting false signals or the critters under the snow outsmarted her and got away. It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve watched many little rodents make a mad dash escape out the back while Delilah is digging through the weeds for a prize.

In that photo she is searching at the edge of the wash of snow I had plowed off the driveway a short time earlier. We’ve had a series of 1 to 2 inch snowfalls and several days when wind has packed the snow into hard drifts and I hadn’t plowed for a couple of weeks.

Our driveway looks so nice cleaned up after days of having neglected it. Dare I say, it’s downright foxy!

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2022 at 7:00 am

Just Me

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Starting today and lasting for a little over a week, it’s going to be just me managing the ranch as Cyndie is flying today to visit her mother in Florida. I’ve been through this solo routine many times but instead of that making it easier, I think the last few times have increasingly revealed how connected Cyndie and I have become at this point of our lives.

Throughout the last week, we have been watching the athletic Olympic performances available on NBC together. It won’t be the same all by myself. I have been frustrated over the number of events, especially hockey, we haven’t had access to that have been broadcast on USA network.

I will particularly miss her editing service for these blog posts. She continually provides helpful feedback on my writing that always makes my posts read better.

Tending to the animals is always half as much work when we share the duties. Now I only have Delilah to help me with the horses until Cyndie returns and what Delilah does down at the barn is never really all that helpful. Mostly, she starts barking a lot if she thinks the horses are misbehaving.

Delilah did a great job of alerting us about someone showing up at our front door yesterday. It was one of the local coyote hunters asking if they could cross our land during a hunt. I made sure to get his contact information this time, in case we have future evidence of the pests lurking on our land.

Surprisingly, Delilah didn’t get riled up over the sound of the hunting dogs cutting through our woods. Later, when I took her for an afternoon walk, she was very interested in all the new foot and paw prints in the snow. I heard a couple of gunshots while the hunt was active, but did not receive any word about whether they were successful or not.

It just eventually gets quiet, the pickup trucks disappear from the road, and the horses stop looking all spooked. At that point, I feel safe to take Delilah outside again.

Now it’s going to be quiet around the house for the next nine days.

Not that I’m counting.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2022 at 7:00 am

Big Between

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We have been living in a pretty peaceful time of late at Wintervale, one I tend to label, “the big between.” Whenever we get a significant block of days without a major weather event or an unexpected life disturbance, it becomes the time between the last one and the inevitable next one.

Delilah was her best-behaved self all day on Saturday. She responded surprisingly quickly in obeying a “drop it” command that she normally resists. She had just made a lightning-fast dash and discovery of a recently departed squirrel just over the snowbank of the driveway. We were on our way back from the barn after feeding the horses and Cyndie was just telling me about startling a hawk when she came out of the house at right about that same spot.

Poor bird didn’t get the benefit of its kill. That is, unless it was keeping an eye on where Cyndie tossed the limp tree rodent over the property line into the neighbor’s woods where it will be out of reach of our dog.

Delilah was rewarded with a fully sanctioned dead animal chewy treat that Cyndie purchases, not made out of squirrels.

Heavy napping soon followed.

A couple of days ago, just as the horses were finishing their pans of feed pellets, I was blessed with a precious interaction with Light toward the completion of my manure scooping.

She approached the wheelbarrow, which they often do, and was checking things out as I walked up with a full scoop. She stepped as close as physically possible to impede me from being able to grab both handles. I dumped the contents of the scoop into the nearly filled wheelbarrow and set down the tool to give Light my full attention.

Not yet confident that I am reading the signals from any of these mares, I attempted to see what combination of hand contact, intensity, and location appeared to meet with her satisfaction. Scratches behind her ears? Under her jawline? Massage her neck? Slide my hands under her blanket?

Scratching her forehead and jawline seemed to elicit the best reaction of eyes closing as if in bliss, with ears happily relaxed. The routine I am used to with these four Thoroughbreds is for them to move away rather soon after we put hands on them, but this time Light was more inclined to lean her forehead into my torso with no hint of wanting to be anywhere else.

It is such a treat to be given so much attention from a horse. Surprisingly, I ended up being the one to break the spell. We had been standing together like that for about ten minutes and I really was on my last scoop and ready to dump the wheelbarrow so I could join Cyndie up at the house for breakfast.

I moved toward the far handle of the wheelbarrow and Light read my intention and slowly backed up so she could turn and mosey over for a drink of water.

I’m hoping the time between that session and my next opportunity to receive similar love from any of the mares is not anywhere as long as the number of quiet days we’ve been enjoying around here lately.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2022 at 7:00 am