Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog

Feeling Wintery

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We did not get much of a chance to ease our way into winter this month. This morning’s single-digit low temperature is the second time already in November that we have faced such surprisingly cold air. The average high and low for this area in November is 40°/25°(F).

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My favorite weather blog is predicting a brown Thanksgiving next week, so we are looking forward to a return to more normal high temperatures in the days ahead, to melt away the remnants of last week’s snowfall.

The horses have been quick to develop their thicker winter coats and appear to be adapting to the cold without difficulty. Delilah loves the snow and romps with visible excitement, frequently burying her snout in the powder and coming up with a wonderfully frosty nose.

The chickens are already over most of their apprehension about walking in the snow, so we aren’t too concerned about them. I noticed recently that the size of one roost (there are actually two) seems to best accommodate 8 hens, based on how our current brood situate themselves.

Unfortunately, we currently have 9 birds.

Last one in tends to set off a chain reaction of chickens wrangling for position, with one dropping down when a 9th barges in line. Occasionally, a Wyandotte will choose to hurdle them all and perch against the wall on a stud above the window.

Last winter, we only had three hens and they didn’t have any problem fitting. You’d think they would split up and use both roosts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For the first time in the two years we’ve had chickens, we think we may have a sick hen. Her change in behavior started about the same time the snow arrived, so it wasn’t clear at first that there was any issue beyond not wanting to walk in the snow. Now that the other eight have returned to normal behavior, the malaise of the ninth has become more conspicuous.

She doesn’t want to leave the coop. It is hard to track her eating and drinking, so we are not sure if this is a serious illness or something minor that will resolve itself over time. We’ll start observing her with increased scrutiny to see if we learn anything more.

We have been so intent on tracking the potential predators that threaten the hens, it would be a shame to instead lose one to illness. We hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Looking Brown

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When I got home from work yesterday, I looked at the thermometer outside to find the high and low temperatures for the day. It ranged from the warmest being 32.9°(F) and the coldest, 32.0°. Yummy.

It’s going to be a struggle sweeping up the wet leaves from the grass if the winter weather that showed up this week decides to stay.

Most of the ground is still too warm for the snow to last. The image of our woods below provides a clear demonstration of the difference between the relative warmth of the ground, compared to the above-ground branches that are cold enough the snow doesn’t melt.

Supposedly, the ground will have a chance to freeze in the days ahead, as the forecast predicts a number of days in a row with high temperatures not making it above the freezing point.

Other than the disaster this will present for me with regard to leaves in the yard, it will be a welcome change from the current swampy conditions on our trails. We’ve got standing water in multiple places. The lime-screenings around the barn overhang are starting to become a mud fest from heavy hoof traffic.

I am ready for it all to become rock hard. The squishing is becoming tiresome.

Look at the color palette of these three pictures. Does anyone else associate November with the color brown?

Last night, I was listening to music on the radio in the house and more than once, Delilah reacted as if she heard something outside. At one point, she barked, like someone was here.

I shut off the radio and let her hear the quiet.

We went to the front door so I could show her there was nobody around. She then ran around to the door to the garage. I’ve seen this routine many times. She was looking for Cyndie to arrive home.

I opened the door to the garage to show her it was dark in there. I made the mistake of turning on the light, which allowed Delilah to see Cyndie’s car and get revved up over what that usually means.

How do I explain to Delilah that Cyndie got a ride to the airport and her car has been parked in the garage for the last eight days?

I guess enough days have passed since Delilah last saw Cyndie that she is beginning to figure mom must be coming home soon.

Just two more days!

That might be all the time needed for enough snow to fall that Cyndie will never know I didn’t get around to removing all the leaves.

Well, never, until next spring, that is.

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Double Coverage

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This morning, on our return from the morning chores of feeding and cleaning up after horses and chickens, I asked Delilah to pause a moment to allow me a chance to capture the image of the sloppy snow starting to coat our house and yard.

It occurred to me that the leaves covering our grass were getting covered by snow. Double coverage!

A couple of days ago, the temperature was cold, but it was dry. I photographed some leaves that were decorating the frosty glass table on our deck.

Is it possible that I have waited too long to sweep up the leaves from the lawn? It seems as though snow and cold are nipping at our heels.

Last night the time changed from Daylight Saving Time back to Standard. We moved our clocks back one hour. For the record, animals do not recognize this artificial frame of reference. Delilah did not know that she was waking up earlier than our clocks indicated she should.

It’s only one hour, but it tends to have an impact that feels more significant that sixty simple minutes.

Speaking of double coverage, I end up trying to meld my adjustment to the new time designations with the animals’ oblivion over the change.

Today’s wet snow provided a distraction from what time breakfast was being served for our animals. The falling flakes also make a point that winter weather is nigh.

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Written by johnwhays

November 4, 2018 at 10:58 am

Basically Leafless

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By the time November arrives, our forest is basically leafless. There are always oak trees that hold onto a portion of their leaves all winter long, but for the most part, the rest of the canopy now rests as a glorious carpet gracing our forest floor.

Seems just a blink ago that I was showing off the fall color starting in the trees behind the barn.

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I tried matching the picture yesterday without having first looked back at the original image to see that I had stood back far enough to include the hay-field fence in the first view. Some deft cropping provides a pretty close comparison, regardless.

We lucked out yesterday with sunshine all day long, which allowed Delilah and I to pick off a variety of small projects. With her tethered to the loop in my Carhartt pants, or sometimes to a nearby tree, she shows every sign of believing herself an integral partner in accomplishing my goals.

If she only knew.

Ah, but the added hassles it creates for me is a small price to pay for the look in her eyes and spring in her step as she checks with me to determine which direction we go next.

Having a dog attached by leash when doing chores provides unique perspective highlighting how often I tend to double back for some added tool or forgotten task. I can almost hear her thinking, “We just came from here a second ago!?”

Back and forth, I go, crunching through the deep carpet of fallen leaves.

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Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2018 at 9:38 am

In Charge

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So, I’m in charge of night-time chores for the next ten days. Well, nine days, because I completed last night’s tasks successfully already. I remembered to shut the chicken door at sunset! Actually, I showed up a little early. The hens were just thinking about heading in for the night.

It’s quite a process that they go through every night. I haven’t noticed if there is a lead decision maker or not, but as a general rule, the group shows little hesitation about gladly following somebody’s example.

As dusk begins, the flock subtly meanders to and fro in the near vicinity of the coop, pecking away at the ground. The first one or two that climb the ramp don’t cause the rest to suddenly stampede inside, but once the process starts, the last one to commit is probably less than a minute behind the first.

Then the fun starts on the roost, and the poop-board platform beneath it. They don’t appear to have a specific order, but something seems to matter to them because there is a lot of thumping and squawking as they jostle for position. I’ve noticed it can take multiple tries to successfully move from the board up to the roost for some of the hens. Their early attempts to squeeze in tight between two other birds are often rejected.

Eventually, calm settles in and the only sounds audible are some quiet contented coo-ings.

When I later took Delilah for her last walk before bedtime, I brought along a powerful flashlight to check out the woods in the total darkness. Right away I spotted at least two sets of eyes reflecting the light beam back to me. I’m guessing it was deer, but they were too far away for the light to illuminate their outlines.

It was just the little dots of my flashlight, reflecting  back toward me. The animals stayed in place while their gaze followed us as we rounded a corner and continued on away from them. Delilah gave no indication that she noticed they were there.

Her nose was frantically tracking something that must have recently wandered the path just ahead of us.

There are plenty of critters roaming about lately. There are a ton of hoof-prints, and some signs a buck has been rubbing trees and scratching the ground in our woods. My morning commute in the recent darkness has produced multiple skunk sightings, a raccoon, deer, and yesterday, an opossum.

I fully expect they are all including at least some of our trails on their regular nightly rounds.

I just hope there are no daytime incursions into chicken territory by any of these intruders while I’m in charge.

My goal is: everybody healthy and happy when Cyndie gets back in over a week.

Stay tuned to find out how my luck holds out.

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Written by johnwhays

October 31, 2018 at 6:00 am

New Prowler

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Cyndie and I understand that we are rarely alone on our evening outings to walk the dog, even though most nocturnal visitors go undetected. It’s usually apparent when Delilah recognizes we have company, if she picks up a fresh scent and strains against the leash with startling urgency, but even she fails to notice sometimes.

I always wonder what might be just out of the reach of my headlamp. Occasionally, the sudden rustling of branches startles me when it is a deer that finally decides it’s time to bolt away from the too interested dog making lunges in their general direction.

Last night, Cyndie didn’t get out to shut the chicken coop until it was pretty dark outside. As she and Delilah arrived near the coop, Cyndie heard a rustling that alerted her to make a hasty approach. She hooked Delilah’s leash to the paddock fence and rushed to close the chicken door.

The scuffling sound moved from the leaves on the ground to the branches of a small tree just two steps from the coop.

Hello there, opossum. What brings you to our free-range chicken’s neighborhood?

We’re thinking we might not want to wait so long to get the coop secured for the night any more.

I wonder if the raccoons, skunks, barn cats, fox, neighbor dogs, and now, opossums around here are all friendly with each other, or if they actually avoid interacting somehow in their frequent evening forays through our territory.

It’s been like Grand Central Station lately with the visiting critters. Maybe they have booked tickets on different successive days.

At bedtime Sunday night, there were two beady masked eyes peering in our bedroom door from 4-inches off the deck. I think the snoop was hoping to get another glimpse of Pequenita. The cat was ferociously trying to scare off a curious raccoon a while back, but instead of fear, that evening the visitor looked rather smitten.

Cyndie said she decided to avoid further interaction with last night’s opossum. With the horses all bunched nearby in the corner of the paddock to see what all the fuss was about, and Delilah tied nearby, Cyndie didn’t know how the tree rat would react if she challenged it.

Might have just “played possum,” but she decided not to tempt a more chaotic result.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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