Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘family

Roof Raking

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It’s a dose of preventive medicine. I pull snow off the edges of the roof of our house to avert possible ice dams that can cause water leaks. It is a project that looms ominously before I can get to it, as icicles grow to incredible lengths. The work is strenuous to execute, requiring extended time with my arms overhead wrestling the rake into position and pulling it back down full of snow. That effort creates a mess below that needs to be shoveled away after it has compacted into a hard and heavy pile. But when completed, it offers a pleasing psychological reward every time I walk toward the house and spot the cleaned eaves.

I cleared the valley over the front door a day earlier and since then, plenty of evaporation has already occurred.

The toughest part of the whole project is that it only lasts until the next snowstorm.

In the meantime, the absence of concern about out-of-sight water problems is a deeply satisfying reward for the hassles associated with raking snow off the roof.

Since today happens to be January 7th, 2023, I would like to give a shout-out to anyone who happens to become old enough on this date to qualify for collecting their social security funds. Happy Birthday, DRH! Hope you don’t have mountains of snow on your roof up in the northland.

 

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Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2023 at 11:03 am

Free Weekend

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Happy last day of 2022! Next year will be an odd year. No, literally, 2023 is an odd number. Duh.

To all you history buffs and genealogy fans out there, this weekend, the Star Tribune newspaper archives are free to view! What’s the first thing I checked? “John W. Hays,” of course.

What I found wasn’t new information for me, since that is also the name of my great-grandfather whom I have searched for many times before, but I had forgotten about this wonderful morsel.

Great-grandpa was a trailblazing cyclist.

08 Sep 1900, 10 – Minneapolis Daily Times at Star Tribune (Minneapolis – St. Paul)

The article was published in 1900 looking back at an event that occurred in 1886 when they road the giant 56-inch wheel.

I have cycling in my blood.

Speaking of wheels, the father of that 1880s John W. Hays was none other than my great-great-grandfather Stephen who lived in Pierce County, WI, and made wagon wheels.

I am such a product of my ancestors.

I hope you will click the link above and check out the article that was beneath that old photo. And, if you are interested in what was in the Minneapolis newspapers going back to 1867, it’s free this weekend at https://startribune.newspapers.com/.

Happy odd New Year tomorrow!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2022 at 10:54 am

Continued Cleanup

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Picking up on the opposite end of the backside of our house from where I left off shoveling on Tuesday, yesterday I decided to work from front to back in removing the piles of snow that I raked off the roof.

The temperature climbed up above freezing as predicted but we didn’t see a lot of sunshine which would have made a difference in the amount of melting that occurred. Still, the trees began losing some of the globs of snow stuck in their branches. To my dismay, it meant repeatedly getting splotches of sticky snow slapping down onto the walkway I had just cleared.

Every time I start to feel too much satisfaction over finishing a portion of the shoveling, there’d be one of those unhappy surprises of a new dump of snow on places I just cleaned. In truth, I am gaining on the overall snow-clearing job. I’m getting more areas finished than are getting re-trashed.

In the morning I got the drifts on the driveway and in front of the barn plowed away again. From there, I went directly to the spot in the photo above and then forged ahead onto the deck until only a small portion was left to go. I took a break when our kids arrived for a visit and helped carry in groceries they picked up in River Falls for us. Cyndie being able to shop for groceries online is saving me from one of my least favorite pastimes during these months of doing all the walking and driving chores for her.

Julian helped me figure out the workings of getting the new surveillance camera he gifted us connected through WiFi. We needed to troubleshoot some squirrelly operations where it worked intermittently. Once we figured out the camera could only communicate on 2.4 GHz frequency and our router was auto-choosing between 2.4 and 5.0, we started making good progress.

We changed the router to stop auto-choosing frequencies and separated them to allow for the selection of one or the other. The kids saved me another trip in the afternoon by agreeing to give Cyndie a ride to an appointment, but that meant they had to go before we made it to the biggest test of the camera away from the house.

Alas, it was easy for me to do on my own because we had already solved all the other issues. I walked down to the shop, plugged the camera into power, and brought up the app on my phone.

Ta-Daa!

WiFi signal from the house reaches the shop/garage.

Now I need to figure out a precise location to mount it where I can see as much of the driveway as possible and secure a more permanent power cable. Actually, before I do that, I will be interested in seeing if it will be possible for the WiFi signal to reach the back side of the barn. Being able to see the horses under the overhang would be a real bonus.

It will also drive the need to purchase the next camera that will further our vision of improving surveillance of our property from within the house or remotely on my phone.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2022 at 7:00 am

Meandering Paths

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We wait all year long for Christmas to get here and just like that, it’s over. Happy December 26th. Today is my half-birthday. To keep me humble, the skin by my thumbnail has split so that it constantly stings. One of the ways I deal with painful cracks in the skin on the edge of my fingernails is to apply germ-killing New-Skin. It occurred to me that, as I was wincing at the stinging pain of that antiseptic feature, it wasn’t much different from the constant sting of the cracked skin.

Cyndie and I made two trips to Bloomington, MN for Christmas gatherings of her family over the weekend. Driving was entirely nerve-wracking on Saturday and a little less-so yesterday. It’s really unsettling to be rolling along on what looks to be dry pavement, traveling at posted speeds, and constantly coming upon vehicles that have recently spun into the ditches.

I have no idea what they were doing to end up in their predicaments, but not knowing made it a guessing game about what I could do differently to avoid a similar fate. (Can you say, “black ice?”) Luckily, we completed all our driving without incidents.

Yesterday, to join the family at her mom’s place, we decided to skip giving the horses the noon feeding they have become accustomed to receiving. As we pulled up the driveway when getting home around the time for the evening feeding, the horses gave a little show of their opinion on the matter. One might describe them as looking a little “hangry.” (Irritable or angry because of hunger.)

Upon making my way down to the barn, I was happy to find their gesticulation had been more dramatic than necessary. They were much less rambunctious than I expected them to be and barely fussed over my choice to do some housekeeping before serving pans of feed. Conditions in the paddocks and under the overhang are stabilizing now that wind and snowfall have abated for a couple of days.

It isn’t much, but having the temperature climb to single digits above zero is at least a psychological improvement over the brutal conditions we’ve been dealing with over the last… I’ve lost track of how many days. Feels like it’s been a month or two.

I always enjoy seeing evidence of the horses’ meanderings out into the fresh snow on the fields. You can almost visualize the four mares heading out in a parallel formation before making some loops. These tracks appear in the mornings which tells me they go on these adventures in the dark of night.

My nighttime adventures are all in the dream world but feel a lot like the way those meandering pathways look.

The Monday after Christmas on Sunday feels like we have to wait 364 more days to find out if we were naughty or nice enough to get our wishes wrapped up and delivered under the tree.

Now that’s a long meandering path.

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Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2022 at 7:00 am

Blown Leaves

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While large areas of the country are suffering the brunt of the blizzard, as of last night, the most brutal winds were not impacting our region. That doesn’t mean it was completely calm here. Yesterday, snow was drifting across our road and small branches were coming down out of the trees. Our winds were stripping the brown leaves out of the oak trees and scattering them over the snow.

But it wasn’t a hurricane-force wind battering our trees.

The horses stayed close to the protection of the overhang all day and seemed to be tolerating the extreme cold with relative ease which made my work a little easier during feeding times. It’s all business when they are seeking fuel for their furnaces and there are fewer shenanigans and less bullying when eating is the priority and there is food in front of each of their noses.

I have been granted a break from feeding duty tonight as we will be traveling to Cyndie’s mom’s place for her family’s Christmas Eve dinner and our handler, Johanne, will be coming to check on Mia and will be able to serve the horses their evening meal.

Here’s hoping the drifts will be plowed all the way to our destination.

I need to figure out if I remember how to visit with people again after months of horses being my primary companions.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2022 at 7:00 am

Blind Spot

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In my opinion, eyewitness testimony is not as reliable as it is generally made out to be. After a recent incident of missing puzzle pieces, I have lost all confidence in my own ability to see what’s right in front of my face.

Upon completing the first of the latest puzzles my sister shared with us, there were two missing pieces. Having knocked plenty off the table while assembly was in progress, my initial response was to search the rug below. I laid down to scan the surface but found nothing.

A day later, we spread out the 2000 pieces of the next puzzle. I assembled all but one piece of the border and started wondering if that last piece might have fallen to the floor. By merely bending over to scan the floor, I instantly caught sight of one of the missing pieces from the previous puzzle.

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Where the heck was that piece when I looked for it the day before? More importantly, how did my eyes fail to see what was laying out in plain sight?

A short while later, between drying baking bowls and utensils, I spotted the last border piece that had been evading my eyes up to that point. I had abandoned the Vikings game after it became an obvious losing effort to join the party going on in the kitchen. Since my skills aren’t in the preparation of food, I make my contribution by cleaning up afterward.

Our friend, Melissa and our daughter, Elysa came for the day to help Cyndie in a second round of Christmas Cookie baking.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t seem to have any difficulty seeing the expanse of cookie options covering our countertops. My A1C levels might not be at their preferred number for a while. 

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Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2022 at 7:00 am

Cookie Help

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A couple of Santa’s Helpers stopped by for a visit yesterday and cheerfully volunteered to assist Cyndie with baking some Christmas cookies. Sara and Althea did a heroic amount of the legwork getting loaded cookie sheets into and out of our double oven. That’s a lot of squats since the bottom oven is at about floor level.

My legs were getting tired just standing around helping with occasional cleanup. I think they baked almost ten different kinds of cookies. It seemed like that’s how many I test-tasted. Cyndie had prepared much of the dough in advance and refrigerated it overnight.

Each oven was set at a different temperature and the multiple varieties of cookies needed different baking times so it was quite a challenge for four people to keep track of pertinent details. I worked on the jigsaw puzzle while using the timer on my phone to track baking times.

Not that Sara really needed help with that. At one point, she asked me how much time was left and when I looked there was 1 second left on the timer. Her intuition was spot on. She also demonstrated a good sense of when the suggested baking time wasn’t enough. Several of the kinds of cookies took a little longer in our oven to reach the desired golden brown.

I learned that the inside light blinks on when the oven reaches the set temperature. It also emits a little tune, but I already knew about that. Sara conducted most of the orchestrations of the baking while Cyndie consulted recipes and prepped the different doughs for the cookie sheets with Althea’s support in cutting, sprinkling and spritzing.

At about the time maximum baking was being accomplished, I slipped out to feed horses and discovered a gorgeous moon illuminating the early evening. Once the horses were taken care of, I strolled down to pick up the mail. This is an activity that used to always include Delilah and it feels strange to walk down there alone.

Along the way, I took note of a variety of tracks in the snow from a prowling cat and either a fox or coyote. I could see where the snow along the driveway is getting peed on. I wonder if the local animals are noticing that Delilah is no longer marking this territory. 

As a punctuation to this thought, last night our motion-sensing light popped on over the deck and I looked out to find a fox on the top step of our deck. We never saw any fox on our deck when Delilah was alive. As soon as I spotted it, it noticed me, did a hasty about-face, and “noped” outta there.

Not long after that, a pack of coyotes started howling up a noise storm from very close proximity. Maybe they were howling at the moon.

Thinking about it, that moon looked a lot like one of Cyndie’s fresh-baked Russian tea cake cookies.

Howl-worthy, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

December 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Welcome Distraction

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Despite how it feels to me lately, my role as the only fully ambulatory person on the ranch is not without occasional opportunities to pause and reset my attitude. Last week we were treated to a visit from my sister, Judy, and her husband, Scott. They came bearing a range of gifts, not the least of which was lunch for the day.

They also picked up, much to my surprise, a couple of bags of my new favorite guilty pleasure snack treat [thank you, Carlos], PopCorners (BFY Brands). Cyndie had surreptitiously texted a special request to Judy after our latest grocery order wasn’t able to fulfill that line item on our order. Snack-errific!

It was refreshing to have Judy’s company on my noon trip to feed the horses where she tolerated extra time out in the elements while I made a few trips back and forth to the hay shed to restock the barn stash of bales.

The one treat that is lasting longer than the chocolate-covered pretzels Judy made is the hand-me-over jigsaw puzzles they left for us. A jigsaw puzzle is a gift that keeps on giving. They brought us three options and while eating dinner the other night, Cyndie and I debated which one to do first.

After we finished eating, I decided to just dump out the pieces of the puzzle we settled on. Without getting up from the table, we spread out and flipped up all 2000 pieces and started working on the outer border. Jigsaw puzzling soothes my brain like a Zen meditation. It is bringing order to chaos. There is a specific place for each piece and finding and placing those pieces is a series of mini-rewards set on repeat.

I woke up the next day and all I wanted to do was work on the puzzle some more.

It’s funny, the whole goal is to finish, except I don’t really want to. Going through the steps of finding and placing pieces ends up being more fun than actually completing the entire puzzle.

It’s a mental distraction that is very good for what ails me these days.

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2022 at 7:00 am

Growing Bones

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We made it through that holiday. With Marie and Elysa taking on the majority of kitchen responsibilities, we succeeded in holding Cyndie to a moderate amount of upright activity. Seated on a chair with her leg propped up, she partnered with Elysa to sculpt a precious turkey cheese ball appetizer.

Nobody wanted to be the first to start deconstructing the little gobbler. Looked too good to eat.

It was pointed out that the injury we are nursing on Mix is her right leg, just like Cyndie’s. Coincidence?

I’ve been given permission to show what her ankle is looking like so far.

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At our appointment last Monday, the surgeon decided to leave the stitches for another week because the residual swelling was still putting pressure on the wounds. That swelling has come down nicely in the days since. He anticipated that the numbness Cyndie was experiencing would diminish as the nerve root-like structures that were disrupted grow back.

Hopefully, a turkey dinner with all the fixin’s helps to grow both bones and nerves.

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Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Worst Combination

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I’ve been dreading this possibility for months. The worst combination of plowable amounts of snow falling before the ground is thoroughly frozen played out yesterday right before our eyes. The unfinished shoulders of our new driveway are too soft to support driving on them, let alone scraping them with a plow blade.

Since we didn’t receive a huge amount of snow by the end of the day yesterday, I’m contemplating just pushing what snow there is to the edge of the asphalt to create small snow banks over the existing shoulder. Before the banks freeze too hard, I might try flattening them enough to create a base layer over which I could drive and plow after future snowfalls.

In the beginning moments of accumulation yesterday morning, I headed outside to clean leaves off the pavement in front of the shop. It’s a job I intended to do a week ago but a certain person’s emergency and follow-up surgery have disrupted a lot of the before-snow plans we had hoped to fulfill.

Nothing like raking leaves that are already getting covered by snow. By the end of the day, the area in the picture became a parking spot for my car. I moved my car out of the garage so I could put Marie’s car under a roof. If the snow lets up today or tomorrow, it will save me from needing to scrape windows if she decides to brave the winter driving back to her place in Minnesota.

With the two of us watching over Cyndie, the metal-jointed woman has been making pretty good progress managing her pain and healing her incisions. With Marie running the kitchen, I have been freed up to take the dog outside and to keep the horses well-fed.

And now, I’m adding the role of chief snow shoveler to my other primary duties.

🎶 It’s beginning to feel a lot like… winter.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2022 at 7:00 am