Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog walking

Trail Bulge

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For some reason, the heaving path down the middle of our trails fascinates me. Some days the bulge stands out dramatically. Yesterday, I tried to take pictures that would show how high it had risen, but the two-dimensional images just don’t do it justice.

First, I tried shooting from my eye height when standing. Then I crouched down and snapped a shot for comparison.

I’m not sure there is any difference between the two for revealing the surprising upheaval of earth compared to the ground on either side of it.

The hump is frozen solid, but the very top surface of leaves and dirt melt just enough to get slippery. It becomes a challenge of constantly choosing whether to step on the residual ice or the decaying leaves for the better footing, ever wary that either could result in a slip.

Add in the frequent jolts on the leash when Delilah wants to make haste after some critter ahead and it’s a wonder we ever make it back to the house clean and dry.

When the trail offers better all-snow footing, and during the summer when it’s not very wet, I occasionally allow Delilah to race as fast as she wants and run behind her, but that is chaos for planting my feet. It tends to be at a pace that I can’t maintain for very long, after which she willingly settles down to a brisk walk and I spend the rest of the jaunt gasping to recover my breath.

Over the weekend, I noticed that it is the corner fence posts that are all getting pushed up, despite my having released much of the tension from the wires.

It is easy to push the fence posts back down using the loader on the diesel tractor. Almost too easy. The first time I tried it, I was shocked over how little resistance there was to the hydraulic power and weight of the bucket. The complication is that the period of time when the ground is thawed enough to easily accept the posts being pushed down, the tires sink in and put me at risk of getting stuck and/or tearing up the surrounding turf something awful.

It becomes a classic case of timing being everything.

I’m not going to worry about the fence posts for now, but I will be anxiously awaiting the trails getting back to flat again as soon as the frost goes out of the ground.

Bring on the spring mud season!

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Retreating Snowpack

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Wave goodbye. The snow cover over our fields is fading fast. It is fascinating to watch it slowly progress, day by day as the hours of sunlight grow longer and the temperatures moderate. Winter is loosening its grip on our latitude of the northern hemisphere.

The ground is making its annual reappearance. It is also heaving dramatically where the frost was deep, pushing fence posts and chicken coops to new misalignments. Seriously, the coop has leaned another few inches since I last wrote about it. It’s the new leaning tower of Wintervale.

The trails are rising up in a bizarre center crown where our constant foot traffic packed the path solid all winter and drove the frost deeper than the surrounding earth. I don’t understand the physics of why it pushes up so much in the spring, but I’ve watched it for enough years now that I accept it as a regular routine.

One year it was so pronounced that I worried it would be a challenge to drive the 4-wheeler without bottoming out on the high ground between the wheel ruts. After a few days of thawing, the center of the trail surprisingly flattened out like nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. If I hadn’t watched the changes every single day when walking Delilah, I wouldn’t have had a clue about it.

On the subject of walking Delilah, if I hadn’t been so pressured by her to go out at sunset at the expense of finishing the movie I’d started during dinner, I would have missed the brilliance of Venus glowing all by itself in the western sky over the gorgeous orange glow radiating just along the horizon. The glow transitioned impeccably from that deep orange to a faint yellow that became an infinite variety of baby blues to almost black as the sky made its way toward night.

Opposite the bright spec of Venus, the waxing moon was on full brightness in the east, starting to cast tree shadows on the snow before darkness had barely started to establish its dominance.

I owe Delilah a debt of gratitude for allowing me to experience that early evening show as we waved goodbye to the day.

Frankly, the movie I had been watching didn’t hold a candle to the twilight scenes available outside.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

Winter Walking

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Referring back to my recent post about feeling maladjusted to real cold, this morning’s walk was extremely refreshing at -1°(F). The big moon was low in the west and lit up brilliantly by sun rays that hadn’t crested our horizon yet. I hastily tried to capture a shot with the new Olympus pocket camera while standing on the trail down to the northwest corner of our property.

Nothing spectacular about the image, but that is not the camera’s fault. I didn’t do anything to contribute toward making it a better photo. It was a quick exercise in seeing how well I could pull the camera out of a deep pocket and get a shot with my bare hand while Delilah patiently waited to get on with the more important tasks on her mind.

The pads on her feet are calibrated for the indoor comfort of our house, so the bitter cold snow gets painful for her to stand upon. We made the morning jaunt a short one today, skipping to bother even opening the chicken coop until after the sunshine offers at least a suggestion of possible warmth.

Yesterday, in the bright light of midday, I took some pictures of the snow conditions we are stuck with so far this year.

The snow is crusty, not very deep, and rather uninviting for romping around. That’s not all bad, though. I’ve needed to do less plowing and shoveling, and walking the trails with Delilah can be done without putting on snowshoes.

On the bright side, there is at least enough snow to offer the classic sound absorption that creates mystical quiet in the great outdoors. Both yesterday and this morning the glory and wonder of a winter walk with just the sound of boots on snow were at a peak.

When I stop moving, the lack of sound slowly reveals the delicate notes of a single bird in the distance or the sound of Delilah breathing in the trace of a scent hanging in the still air.

We live in a winter wonderland, no matter how much snow we get.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2020 at 10:28 am

First Time

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We are on something of a “stay-cation,” in that, we didn’t go up to Hayward with Cyndie’s parents for the New Year celebration, but we are spending a few days with them at their home in Edina. Like we did for Christmas, we’ve brought along Delilah and left the chickens cooped up and Pequenita by herself at home.

Cyndie’s eyelids are showing signs of good recovery and she has begun to only occasionally stray from doctor’s orders to NOT bend over. Most importantly, she has thus far successfully avoided inadvertently rubbing her eyes as the healing process causes them to itch.

I can’t say the same for myself. Since the day of her surgery, I have been rubbing my eyes more than ever out of sympathetic response to her situation.

For the most part, Delilah seems to be taking to our sudden suburban living with impressive ease. I, on the other hand, am being pushed beyond my boundaries. For the first time in my life, I have needed to pick up my dog’s poop. I never thought I would allow myself to be stuck in this situation.

Cyndie and I have taken turns walking her around the neighborhood and both of us are making adjustments to avoid contact with any other dog walkers. She has failed to accomplish successful introductions so many times that we have pretty much quit trying. The only way I would try again would be if someone told me they wanted their dog to be grabbed and shaken like a rag doll. Delilah has proved she is able to offer that service. Otherwise, I’m thinking we are beyond the point of trying to socialize her with other dogs.

While out with her last night in the latest snowstorm, my feet slipped out from under me on the polished packed snow beneath the new-fallen layer on the once-plowed street. Can you say, “Hip plant!”? I’m gonna have a bruise there, I think.

Delilah seems to be doing her best to claim territory on the streets surrounding Cyndie’s parents’ house. Mailbox posts get an awful lot of attention. Safe within the confines of the basement rooms, she boldly barks at the sight of any activity at neighboring properties.

It’s certainly not the first time she has barked at something she sees outside the window.

Here’s wishing you all a safe celebration of the end of a decade and dawn of a new one!

Tomorrow will be the first time we’ve ever been in the year 2020. May all of us experience a new year filled with more peace and love than ever before.

Wouldn’t that be a priceless first?

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

Year Ends

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Today is the last day of 2018. What do you make of that? I think it’s just another Monday, strikingly similar to all the others, no matter where they fall in a year.

Our animals don’t seem to notice any particular significance to the date. The passage of time is doing our balding Wyandotte hen a bit of good. New feathers are slowly growing in.

They have all handled the day of rain and following freeze well enough, mostly by spending the majority of the ensuing days beneath the overhang with the horses. For their part, the horses show signs of understanding the precariousness of the icy slope, but it hasn’t kept them from braving the danger to walk down to the waterer, even though we put a tub to drink from by the barn to save them the trip.

I noticed several marks of slipping hooves which was rather unsettling, but they are choosing to make the trek of their own free will. I trust their horse sense in this instance, partly because the last time we tried to outsmart them, it didn’t go so well.

Walking Delilah around the perimeter trails has become a treacherous exercise of trying to walk like a penguin over very unpredictable surfaces. She hasn’t been slowed much by the conditions, so there is an added challenge of being pulled along by her, faster than little steps accommodate.

When she stopped to give a prolonged inspection to something that caught the attention of her nose, I spotted this single stalk of some plant that was dropping seeds on the snow. It looks like such a delicate process playing out, despite the harsh elements nature has been delivering lately.

It’s just another Monday, and life goes on.

I don’t know if it is something of a placebo effect, but since we are now over a week beyond the shortest day of the winter solstice, I got the impression it was already lighter outside during our late afternoon walk.

Or, it could just be the dawning of a new year.

Farewell to 2018 and greetings to 2019! It’s all just a series of individual moments. May we benefit by paying attention to them all.

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Well, Hello

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Here’s the thing, I was home alone last night, tending to chores while Cyndie was out. I had finished feeding and cleaning up after the horses, and walked Delilah, but the chickens weren’t quite ready to turn in for the night. It was another beautiful evening, so I suppose they were taking full advantage of it.

After killing a few minutes back in the house with dog and cat, I noticed it was probably dark enough to go close the chicken door. It is such a brief trip, I chose to leave Delilah inside, but did tuck my headlamp in a pocket, just in case it was too dark inside the coop to easily do a head count.

It wasn’t too dark, and I could see that the one Wyandotte that chose to perch against the wall above the window (well above all the others on the roost) just so happened to be the hen missing head feathers. A possible clue that something is setting her apart from the others. Whether it’s her choice or theirs, we don’t yet know.

Anyway, this is beside the point. I didn’t need the headlamp. Well, not until later. After dinner, I wanted to work on one of my creative projects, and noticed my headlamp wasn’t in the drawer where I keep it.

Who took my headlamp?

Oh, yeah, that was me. I had put it in my pocket when I went out to close the coop. But then, why wasn’t it still in my pocket?

This time, I decided to let Delilah come with me. I was guessing the lamp had fallen out of my pocket on the run down to the coop. With a different flashlight in hand, we set out to backtrack my route.

While Delilah mostly obscured my view of the trail, I staggered to keep up with her while scanning the path as best I could. As we got close to the coop, it became obvious that Delilah wasn’t just in her normal rush, she was frantically straining against the leash to get at something.

When I looked up to see what she was after, two little red dots were reflecting the beam of my flashlight right back at me.

Delilah was right in front of it at this point, and I suddenly had to juggle the dang flashlight and her leash to reel her back toward me. The critter just sat, staring. It looked to be about cat-sized, but it seemed odd to me that it hadn’t executed a mad dash in the face of Delilah’s rather threatening level of interest.

Despite our canine’s freaky level of urgency to be granted access, I successfully clipped the locked leash to a tree so that I could make a solo approach for identification.

Well, hello possum.

It stared intensely at Delilah, not up toward me as I stood right in front of it, beside the front door of the chicken coop.

It likely showed up to scrounge the bounty of chicken food off the ground that the hens kick out of the pan we set out during the day.

I got all growly and menacing and the pest finally turned and skittered into the underbrush.

Shortly afterward, I located my headlamp in the snow and everyone lived happily throughout the rest of the night.

No pics of the adventures in the darkness, but this is the lovely face of our wee one who joined me when I crawled into bed at my bewitching hour:

Well, hello there Pequenita!

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Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2018 at 7:00 am

Growing Crystals

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It is wet, and the temperature drops below freezing at night, so morning walks offer views of the overnight ice crystal growth. Photo op!

We are enjoying a couple of days with daytime temps climbing above freezing, so our snow cover is dwindling. Walking Delilah along the perimeter trails yesterday, I discovered tire tracks that revealed someone had left the road and driven into the ditch by our property.

Roads in the area are still slippery.

Delilah made a surprise discovery while we were making our way through our woods after I got home from work yesterday. (Interesting coincidence: Ward and I were just exchanging comments related to this subject on my Tuesday post, Feeling Wintery.)

Like she almost always does, she was paying frequent attention toward the center of our woods, obviously picking up the scent of something that interested her. She generally walks a short distance, then stops to look left and sniff at the air, before continuing on for a ways and stopping again.

Sometimes, she picks up a scent on the ground and tries to follow it a few steps off the trail. I tend to pull her back quickly to get her back on task of walking our regular patrol around the property.

All of a sudden yesterday, she bolted to the left as if she was immediately on the tail of some critter, circling around a large tree trunk beside the trail before I could put the brake on her leash. I spotted the pile of fur just as she struck it with a massive bite.

She then let go just about as fast as she had attacked. Uncharacteristically, she didn’t resist one bit when I put tension on her leash to bring her back to the trail.

We walked a short distance and I hooked her to a tree so I could go back alone to see what it was that she had bitten. It was an opossum. I didn’t bother to check for any other detail, choosing to let nature take its course, and us to finish our walk.

If that had been one of our chickens, they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Even though we keep Delilah on a leash, we also need to pay attention to her at all times.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

Tall Trees

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Since it hurt too much to lift my left leg enough to do any pedaling, and it was hot as a baker’s oven outside in the sun, Delilah and I spent most of our walks yesterday in the woods. With all the leaves back in force, it feels a lot more like what I think “forest bathing” is all about.

We were breathing it in to the fullest.

At one point, I paused to marvel over some of our tall trees.

That one on the right has a lot of character. It is one of my favorites on our land.

Other than the wonderful walks in our woods, this long Memorial holiday weekend has been a bit of a bust for me.

I had hoped to put on some extended mileage in the bike saddle, especially because I was home alone. Instead, I spent a lot of time power lounging.

I didn’t even get around to mowing tall grass with the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor because the heat scared me off.

It’s growing tall enough that it looks like July out there already. With a head start like this, I’m very curious what the un-mowed areas will look like in a couple of months.

As always, it will come down to how much, and how often, rain falls.

For the time being, after that 4-plus inch deluge last week, it appears as though we are right where we want to be. The tall trees, and every other growing plant it seems, are all looking happy as ever.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2018 at 6:00 am

Her Story

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This is what she said: “If we were in the tropics, I would swear the sound we heard came from a tiger.”

When I got home from work yesterday, Cyndie described a morning adventure she and Delilah had. Due to a morning breakfast date with her dad in St. Paul, Cyndie rousted Delilah a little earlier than usual for a morning walk.

When they stepped out the front door into the pre-dawn light, the “tiger” unleashed a roar that stopped them in their tracks.

Cyndie said Delilah looked back at her as if for instruction, or possibly to check if maybe they could go back inside. They stood there, frozen and then the cat snarled again. Amid the sound of breaking sticks, Cyndie noted there were also unhappy sounds from an unwilling critter victim.

Delilah took a step forward, as Cyndie described it, as if her instinct was leading her to chase, but then quickly thought better and looked back again for direction. The sounds of the fracas started and stopped a few times while they stood there, but Cyndie could not make out any sign of where in the woods the action was occurring.

Deciding it felt prudent to put more space between themselves and the wild cat, Cyndie directed Delilah to turn around and head for the driveway, instead of down the trail in the woods.

“Raawwwoooooowwwrrr…”

It’s a good thing our chickens aren’t out roaming around when it’s dark. At the same time, I sure hope this predator continues to find enough meals in the hours when our hens are safely roosting in their coop, so it won’t need to do any supplementary hunting during the day.

Oh my.

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Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Different Bad

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We thought Sunday morning was bad, what with its dose of a slippery ice-glaze over every surface turning navigation from the house to the barn into a risky balance-testing feat.

Yesterday’s winter storm was very different. School districts around the region started announcing closures before bedtime on Sunday night! Since we were watching the Academy Awards show, it was impossible to miss the added drama of concern about the weather, as it constantly rolled across the bottom of the screen.

The number of school districts grew with each pass of the alphabetically sorted scroll. When the names of the biggest districts in the state showed up, it lent significant credence toward the probability I should plan to avoid trying to travel to work.

I hemmed and hawed over my options, ultimately making the decision before going to sleep. I would stay home.

After sleeping past my normal alarm time for a work day, I woke to discover I could have made the drive in if I’d gotten up like usual. I knew that was a possible result when I decided the night before to stay home, so I wasn’t too frustrated with myself at that point. The real concern was going to be the drive home.

Since I didn’t drive in, the plan was that I wouldn’t need to worry about the drive home.

Except, the real onset of the accumulating snow ended up happening late enough in the day that I could have worked a full shift, after all. I would have been home before things really began to get hazardous.

It was odd having stayed home from work all day when the view out the window looked so harmless. Postings on the local Live Weather Updates site of our public radio network kept warning that the onset was still coming, just delayed a bit from original guesses.

Their warnings ultimately proved totally justified.

Before the precipitation, the wind was gusting to startling degrees. Cyndie reported hearing a tree falling, but wasn’t sure about the location. I was a little nervous about venturing through the woods to look for it while the gusts were still raging.

The snow finally showed up for us around 3:30, and by 4:00, it was already hard to see beyond our property borders. We were suddenly isolated from the world, and being battered by unrelenting swarms of stabbing snowflake blades.

I succeeded in making it to the mailbox and back with Delilah, but she looked like she thought the expedition was a ridiculous idea, gladly retreating indoors when we made it back to the house. Cyndie was tending to the horses and chickens, and I figured she would be in shortly behind us.

Ten minutes later, I looked up from what I was doing and realized the visibility outside had dropped down to almost zero. The snow was coming so thick and wind-blown, I became concerned about how Cyndie was coping. I decided to gear up and go check. This wasn’t just bad weather, this was wicked!

Careful not to blindly pass her, in case she came up a different route than I went down, I squinted for signs of her outline. She was at the chicken coop. The hens had jumped one of the half doors into the barn and didn’t want to return to the coop. Who could blame them? She was hand carrying them back.

I helped to get the last two and we closed up the coop and then the barn doors.

Had I driven to work, I was planning to stay overnight at her parent’s house. Given how crazy, and sometimes even a bit scary it got yesterday afternoon and evening, I’m glad I stayed home.

Regardless how bad it wasn’t earlier in the day, it was worth it so that Cyndie didn’t have to face all this bad weather drama alone.

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