Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘fall

Autumn Arrives

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The autumnal equinox arrives locally at 8:30 a.m. CDT today. Despite enjoying fabulous summerlike temperatures this week, it is truly beginning to feel like fall. For one thing, the ground is dry. I think the ground has dried out only two times in the almost 8-years we have lived here. This has had a big impact on the way our woods look.

The green vegetation is much thinner than usual. The first colorful leaves are just starting to carpet the forest floor. Soon it will be impossible to see the ground and walking will become a crunching rustle of leaves with every step.

With that feature comes the unmistakable aroma of autumn.

Last night, Cyndie had a little scare when arriving at the coop around dusk to close things up after all the chickens were inside. The net fencing where she has the access point to climb inside showed signs of being monkeyed with by some unauthorized character.

Ol’ Rocky the Rooster might need to grow up real fast in order to protect his brood before they all reach adulthood.

Maybe he already did. Cyndie reported all chickens accounted for, safe on the roosts.

The amount of cover in the wooded acres surrounding the coop is quickly disappearing. That gives the free-ranging hens fewer places to hide, but it also gives any potential predators less cover for sneaking up on the girls.

I spotted a stray cat prowling in our small paddock on Sunday in broad daylight while I was walking Delilah. Our silly dog never saw the cat, but the cat saw us and made a hasty exit, stage left, where it ran up our North Loop trail out of sight.

I walked Delilah toward that direction and watched her pick up the scent and go nuts, wanting to follow the trail. I pulled rank and made her come my way, back to the house.

The Light Brahma pullet seems to be reflecting the seriousness of so much drama happening as the change of seasons launches a new batch of adventures. Their nights are getting longer and the air will soon be getting colder.

In the meantime, we are going to enjoy this agreeable autumn to the fullest.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Every Year

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It happens every year, but that never seems to alter the shock. August is gone and September is here. I pulled out a long-sleeved overshirt last night to ward off the chill of the cool evening air. Acorns are falling. Leaves, too.

Cyndie headed down to close the chicken coop after a phone call and found darkness almost got there first. All the birds were snugged in place, including two of the young ones who have taken to making the extra leap up to perch on a 2×4 cross-stud over the side window. Silly girls, but not unprecedented because one of the wyandottes from the last batch used to do the same thing. They’ll get over it after growing wide enough that the perch no longer seems wide enough for comfort.

While Cyndie was down at the coop, she sent me a text with a picture of the moonrise. It enticed me to want to try a similar shot with my Olympus pocket camera. I like them both.

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It didn’t necessarily feel like autumn out there last night, but it definitely felt like the end of summer.

It happens every year.

You’d think I’d get used to the transition by now, but it always seems so all of sudden.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just One

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Found out Cyndie bought eggs from the grocery store the other day. With the hours of daylight reduced this time of year, our hens have dropped production of home-laid eggs a significant amount. Yesterday, the grand total count was one.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.

Speaking of gone, more of our chickens have begun molting feathers, unfortunately, just when the early cold snap showed up. Seems odd that chickens would molt so late in the year. Although, I can see how it might have served as inspiration for early peoples to gather all the shed feathers to make beds or blankets just as the cold temperatures were arriving.

Cyndie chased a squirrel out of the coop yesterday. Maybe it was on a mission to collect feathers for his or her nest.

Chickens are hardly ever in there laying eggs lately, so at least someone is making daytime use of the shelter. Hah!

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

Cold Now

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If we thought winter was coming on a little quick and fierce last week, today it has moved to another level of harsh. Single-digit cold temperatures are not a very friendly way for winter to show up and say hello.

So much for getting to know her first.

We have entered the period when any mechanical device that may have functioned normally in moderate temperatures is now being taxed to the brink of failing to function at all. When I attempted to back out of my parking space like usual after work yesterday, my car protested with unexpected sluggishness.

Oh, yeah. It had been sitting out all day in the Arctic chill. I forgot it’s no longer business as usual outside.

The flurries of snow that fell over the weekend hardly stayed on the ground. There was a small corner patch of the driveway that was the first to freeze and collect snow. The rest of the pavement still held enough residual ground warmth to melt the flakes that landed there.

That won’t be a problem any longer. At these temperatures, the asphalt is plenty cold now.

Our landscape pond is solid ice. If it wasn’t so small, we could use it as a skating rink.

The leaves might make the surface a little rough, though.

The cold air makes for a beautiful evening sky. Cyndie took this picture when making a trip to the chicken coop to close the door for the night. We have the water tanks plugged in to keep them from freezing, but the hens have to fend for themselves to keep warm. They are all winter-hardy breeds and fluff their feathers up in comical poofs of a genuine down coat to stave off the cold.

The coop provides shelter from the wind where they can smoosh together on the roost overnight to share their body warmth. I never watched to notice if the ones on the end are given a turn in the middle at some point. Seems only fair.

The harsh cold we are getting blasted with today is a fine ‘how-do-you-do?’ from winter, but maybe we can look at it as a bit of tough love that will serve us well as the season progresses.

After this start, returning to normal temperatures for November will feel absolutely tolerable!

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

Buckthorn Season

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In addition to looking for antlered bucks in the woods this time of year, I am also hunting for buckthorn. Common buckthorn is an invasive tree that I strive to control on our property. In the fall, buckthorn holds its deep green leaves longer than most other growth in our forests, making it easier to spot.

It’s not foolproof though, because I always seem to find a large enough tree that reveals I must have missed it the year before. I think the main reason for this is buckthorn is not the only growth that still has leaves after the majority of the forest turns brown and barren. There is at least one other bush that confuses my hunt.

The main difference I have found is the relative color of green, as can be seen in the picture I took yesterday while Delilah and I were forging our way off-trail to dispatch every invasive we could find. The batch of leaves on the left are a buckthorn I just cut down that must have been missed the year before. The noticeably lighter green leaves on the right are the primary bush that complicates my identifying the unwelcome buckthorn.

When I look into the trees on my neighbor’s unmanaged land, there is an obvious spread of green growth, but ours holds just a fraction of that, only a few of which are the deep green buckthorn.

With this year’s quick jump to Arctic cold and several doses of early snow, the buckthorn hunting season has been shortened. Luckily, I had already done a first-pass through to address the sprouts of growth that are small enough to easily pull by hand before the ground started to freeze.

At that time, I didn’t have my hand saw with me, so I took a mental note of the larger trees I wanted to come back to cut down. When I set out to do that yesterday, I almost failed to find that tree shown in this picture. I needed to get to a place where just the right angle of view made it stand out.

Delilah loves that we need to roam into the middle of the areas we rarely visit, as she is able to find all sorts of disgusting things left behind by the wild forest animals that romp around on our land.

I’m satisfied with the progress this year and ready to consider the hunt complete. There was less growth than previous years, so our efforts are definitely paying off. The view into the adjacent property confirms it.

Our woods look distinctly more managed and that makes trekking through them for year-round forest bathing that much more rewarding.

Huzzah!

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October Snow

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I’d like to act all surprised over all the snowflakes flying this early in October, but we’ve had so many days of warnings this was coming that it’s something of a feigned surprise.

How can there be global warming? There is snow falling in October!

For those of you who think this way, go talk with the people suffering more wildfire calamity in California today or any of the record-breaking typhoon/cyclone/hurricane intensities over every ocean on the planet with each successive formation.

I’m sure these incidents and all the melting glaciers and polar ice are just a coincidence.

I grabbed a screenshot of the Weatherbug radar image with our location southeast of the Twin Cities showing the spread of falling snow from Buffalo to Beldenville.

The wintery weather has me thinking I should have already blown out the water line to the labyrinth and drained all of our garden hoses. Cyndie reported the water for the chickens was frozen this morning. At least she had already installed the plexiglass window panes over the metal hardware cloth in each of the openings earlier this week.

It’s probably a good thing the Twins got booted from the baseball playoffs so they don’t have to play games in this kind of weather.

We’ve got a fire in the fireplace and I am gazing out at the deck collecting flakes with trees full of leaves as a backdrop. It makes me think of a certain Halloween blizzard (1991) for the drastic cross-mixing of fall and winter.

Of course, I also have a vivid memory of the Halloween night it was so uncharacteristically warm I went for a long bike ride to enjoy the late taste of summer.

Luckily, today our location won’t get much in the way of an accumulation from this system, but it definitely serves as an attention-getter for what lies ahead.

Much as I love winter weather, I’m in no hurry to get there this year.

It would be so nice to have time to actually finish the deck resurfacing project before snow shows up for good.

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Written by johnwhays

October 12, 2019 at 10:10 am

All Hands

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It’s that season when the fields come alive with humans and machines. A call must go out for all hands and able bodies for harvesting before the weather messes things up significantly. On my way home on Tuesday I came upon a batch of pickup trucks and workers busy in the fields around the corner from our driveway.

They were gobbling up soybeans and filling the big truck and trailer. It always seems odd to see such a big rig driven into the dirt fields. I don’t understand how they avoid getting stuck.

These fields are so devoid of attention all summer long, it’s startling to suddenly see them become such a hub of activity.

Our house experiences a burst of activity of its own when the soybeans fields are cut down. Suddenly our back doors become the new gathering place for Asian beetles.

The bugs were enjoying the warm sunshine around the backside of our house around the doors to the deck. I know that because I was back there, too.

Cyndie and I did a little more work replacing boards on the deck while the weather was still accommodating.

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We were all hands on deck. Hah!

Now we hunker down for a few days of expected rain and even the first falling snow of the season. The deck project goes on hold until the next dry day shows up. Our bodies will be happy to have a break. I have done so much kneeling lately, I feel like a little kid on the floor playing with my Matchbox car collection.

Thank goodness I’m noticing my knees because that means my back hasn’t been grabbing attention. Knock on deck boards (wood) that my lower back has not flared up from all the leaning over for long periods of time.

What? Me superstitious?

Sending love to my lower back…

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

Late Season

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A day away from the calendar start of autumn has us checking out the lake place in transition and it is as glorious as ever this weekend, despite some gray and rainy weather.

We went to dinner last night at the recently reopened restaurant located about a block away from our driveway. The new name is Tavern at White Stag Farm. The atmosphere hints at old European with a delicious menu to match. Fred and Marie treated us in celebration of our anniversary. It was grand!

When we aren’t feasting on luscious meals, we have been competing in mixed teams at the cribbage board game, “CrossCrib®” taking turns claiming bragging rights. This morning will likely bring the challenge for weekend supremacy.

The other excitement has been the close proximity of our resident eagles and their fledglings. They have taken to perching on the pine tree right outside our window.

We have seen the young ones fly, but it appears they may still lack some confidence. They spend a lot of energy being highly vocal on their perch, crying out for something. Research reveals a common training behavior is for the parent eagles to withhold food as an enticement to the fledglings to fly.

That scenario is easy to ascribe to what we have been witnessing.

I can report that the eagles are not bashful about screeching loudly before the sun has broken the horizon.

Maybe they are feeling some urgency to get this flying thing mastered before the fall season ushers in the freezing of the lake where they have been enjoying easy pickings of fish all summer.

Despite the unusually warm temperatures this weekend, there is no denying that the summer of 2019 is behind us now.

Here’s hoping it will soon usher in the bright colors and brisk temperatures of fall.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2019 at 9:22 am

Friendly Fun

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Yesterday, we joined our friends, Mike and Barb for a range of adventures around town, highlighted by a stop to see their grandchildren play the classic little kids “magnet ball” soccer.

After lining up and doing some individual drills, the teams took the field for a 4v4 game that ends up looking like the ball is magnetic and pulls all eight players into a tight group around it. I remember those days with our kids, but that was a long time ago.

Between matches for the two kids, we had time to stroll the main drag of Excelsior and grab a sandwich for lunch. That brought back memories of the year I worked in an office there with my friend David Keiski to publish “City’s TONE” monthly magazine.

Our walk extended to the municipal pier from the opposite end of town and back again.

The latter part of the afternoon found us strolling again, this time in Edina, exploring the “Fall into the Arts Festival” at their Centennial Lakes Park.

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The art was gorgeous but exceeded my financial resources. We fulfilled my fix for fried cheese curds while we were there, though, so now I don’t feel bad at all that I didn’t go to the state fair this year.

Our day was loads of fun with friends that filled a particularly fall-ish day with very fashionable frivolity.

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Written by johnwhays

September 8, 2019 at 8:47 am

Packing Up

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Even though today is Labor Day holiday in the U.S., our group all headed home from the lake a day early yesterday afternoon. There is plenty to deal with at home for families kicking off the fall season, and driving yesterday served to avoid many of the camping and boat trailers that will be returning today. Traffic was hardly an issue on our route.

This being the end of summer activities at the lake, before leaving, we took the bittersweet step of packing up most of the inflatable water toys.

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We set up a station for cleaning and deflating, and each large floating toy was detached from its anchor and brought into shore. Many hands made for small work and we washed, dried, deflated, and rolled up the big trampolines for winter storage in the garage with impressive efficiency.

While we occupied ourselves with that project, Cyndie took the initiative to scour her family’s small cabin to pull off and bag bedding and remove foods and cleaning supplies.

Before hopping in their car, Julian and Allison deflated their small floaties.

Just like that, in a blink, summer is over once again. It happens every year, but each time seems to come faster and faster.

It also always seems too soon to be seeing trees turning from green to red/yellow/orange, but on our drive yesterday, there were multiple sightings.

I think I spent more time in long sleeves over the weekend than I did in short. I may not pack up my summer attire yet, but I will start bringing out my warmer clothes.

It’s the season of doubly crowded closets and dressers. Too soon to put away all the warm weather clothes, but too chilly to avoid pulling out the fall and winter gear, too.

I’m not complaining, though. It’s a small complication in the otherwise glorious advantage of enjoying the full range of 4-seasons weather we experience.

It develops strength and character, both physically and mentally.

This time of year is actually my favorite, so I am in my glory right now. Happy September everyone! (Does it show that I don’t live in a hurricane zone?)

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2019 at 6:00 am