Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘farm

Not Hot

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IMG_iP1135eThis is one of the not hot compost piles in our paddock. Not much in the way of decomposition happening there. Maybe that will change this weekend when the mega-melt of February is expected to arrive.

The frozen compost piles aren’t hot, but the temperature of the air will be. Add a chance for some rain in the mix and our lawn may become visible by the end of the weekend.

Mud season!

I suppose I ought to think about getting the garden tractor tuned up and ready for battle.

This early warmup in interesting, but warmth at this time of year is a fickle thing. One moment it feels all summery and promising, and a day later we could be socked in by a foot or two of heavy, wet snow. Do. Not. Remove. Winter. Accessories. From. Your. Vehicles.

The odds of needing them stays high through the first week in May around here. I’m inclined to wait until June before finally choosing to store them someplace safe, where I will never remember to look the following November when I am desperate to scrape frost off a windshield again.

IMG_iP1138eThis past Monday, the horses were enjoying the last hour of our increasingly longer daylight while I was tending to the frozen  manure pile closest to the barn. I have a sense that they are going to enjoy a warm spell, despite the messy footing it promises to provide.

With their coats still winter-thick, I expect it may feel downright hot to them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2016 at 7:00 am

Additional Animals

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We are caring for George’s animals this weekend while he is out of town, so we have additional mouths to feed during morning and evening chores. When we planned for this earlier last week, nobody gave much thought to the approaching polar vortex dropping our temperatures below zero.

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By Friday morning, when we stopped over to review procedures with George, it was clear that conditions would be extreme. George warned us about the hydrant in the barn not draining well and being susceptible to freezing. He listed several other options, should that occur.

That helped greatly when the situation arose Saturday morning at about the coldest hour all weekend. The pump handle did not want to move and I didn’t want to force it. We used the 2nd option, and hardly lost a step in getting everyone their morning rations of food and water.

By last night, after 3 visits in 2 days, the animals all seemed to understand what was about to go down when we pulled up again in my car. Dinner was about to be served! You can almost feel the creatures smiling when you present them with precisely what they are longing to have.

The ducks and chickens were particularly anxious about getting a drink of water. Their pans for water are not currently heated, so when their liquid becomes a solid, they have to leave the relative warmth of walls and a roof, and venture outside the barn to one of the troughs that have heaters serving the larger animals. A number of them seemed to prefer waiting until we arrived, based on their eager impatience.

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After tending to all the animals that needed something from us, it was time to add wood to the furnace. At the temperatures we were experiencing, the furnace seemed about as hungry for wood as the animals were for food and water.

There was not much energy being wasted by any of the sheep, horses, chickens or ducks. Everybody was in full conservation mode, huddling up with each other or hunkering down against the bitter bite of Arctic air pressing down from the clear sky.

George, rest assured that no one was left wanting for anything over weekend, and everybody was well-behaved, despite the harsh conditions.

I’m sure your faucet handle will thaw out again by June sometime.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2016 at 7:00 am

Breakfast Served

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I’m posting a little later than usual for a weekday, but it’s a weekend day for me, since I work a 4-day week at the day-job, so that’s my excuse. The actual truth is that I am busier than usual tending to tasks because my ranch partner is on vacation. Cyndie is lounging by the pool at her parent’s home in Florida for a couple of weeks.

I know! She deserves it, make no mistake.

She threatened to pay me back by taking care of our place and George’s for a few days so we could go up to Hayward, WI and do some skiing. That’s nice, but sounds like a lot more work than lounging by a pool, to me.

I am back in the old routine of waking up alone and giving all the animals the morning attention they require. The first task is cleaning up after the horses in the area of the barn overhang. Then I serve up their breakfast cereal in a dance that has become very routine for them when I am doing it. I love how apparent it is that they understand what I will do, and they wait patiently, for the most part, for me to mosey through the steps.

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You may notice in the images, we are being treated this morning to a picturesque “snow-globe” snowfall that is adding a magical feeling to this winter morning. It doesn’t hurt that the temperature has warmed considerably, bringing more than a magical feeling, it is a very real sensation of being much more comfortable for a winter day.

On the way to the barn, Delilah has already taken care of her first order of business, and then she busies herself in the barn by searching for mice or barking annoyingly at the horses or some distant other dog that is inevitably baying for attention. Delilah is more than happy to oblige the neighbor dogs, regardless the anxiety it creates in me and the horses.

If she would be quiet, that morning time can be incredibly serene. When she’s not, her harsh hollering is exceptionally grating. It usually earns her a short leash in the middle of the barn, after which, I close the doors on her. There. Take that, Ms. Barksalot.

When the hay boxes are topped off and the immediate vicinity is poo-free, Delilah gets what she has been waiting for. I take her for a walk. This morning’s was a shortened version, because when we reached the road, there were empty garbage and recycle bins ready to be returned to the garage.

Delilah is usually more than happy to have a short a.m. walk, because returning to the house means she will be presented with her morning meal.

After all that, the master of the house finally is served. Well, not really served. I have to get it myself. Time for my breakfast!

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Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2016 at 10:38 am

Not Static

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Nothing is as static as my mind tends to imagine it to be. The constant changes and endless activity I have witnessed on our property in the past 3 years are convincing me that my general impression of the world has been a gross oversimplification of reality.

I think I’ve already written about my amazement over how relatively fluid the “solid ground” actually is. I know that farmers who need to pick rocks out of their tilled fields year after year are well aware of this ‘fluidity.’

DSCN4325eYesterday, a day that was about as plain as an uneventful winter day can be, I was trudging up one of my shortcut paths through the trees between our barn and the house when I suddenly became aware of all the debris collecting on the snow covering the ground.

It is a blaring announcement about how much activity is actually occurring in the seemingly static days that have followed last week’s snow storm. I’m guessing that squirrels are responsible for much of the shrapnel that has fallen from the trees, but I expect there are plenty of other less visible actors in the constant change taking place.

I need only look to the manure pile to witness evidence of the microscopic players at work in a feat of perpetual transition. Even though growing things all appear to be in a winter state of dead or dormant, the manure pile continues to cook at 140° F. There is an amazing amount of activity going on in the center of that pile.

I used to think there were two states of a mouse trap: tripped, or not. Now I know there is a third one. It is called, gone. I have lost too many mouse traps to count. Before we went out of town last Thursday, I added new peanut butter bait to the two traps in the garage. It had been too many days in a row without any evidence of activity, and I knew better. The mice had definitely lost interest in the traps.

The tally upon our return was, one trap with a mouse in it, and one trap gone. I don’t know if a mouse got caught in the trap and something else hauled it off somewhere, or the trap snapped on a mouse that could still run away, dragging the trap with it.

My response to all this is that I am not going to devise any single solution to situations that arise. I will endeavor to change the way I deal with things just as often as the challenges morph in new and different ways.

It’s not any spectacular new innovation. I’d say it’s pretty much how things have been throughout time. I’m just coming to a realization that I can choose to frame my perspective differently.

You could say I am planning to observe and respond to situations with more fluidity.

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Written by johnwhays

January 4, 2016 at 7:00 am

Again, Anticipate

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I’m thoroughly under the weight of the oppressive symptoms of a cold, and have grabbed an old “Words on Images” for today in place of boring you with the gory details of my day in bed. Here’s to better days ahead…

Anticipate.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

Contagious Contentment

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There is no way to adequately describe how amazing the ambiance can be here on a calm and sunny morning. Last Saturday, I wandered toward the barn and found the horses luxuriating in the warm October morning sunshine. Their contentment was mesmerizing and contagious.

I stopped and gazed at them for a good long while. There were no sounds from automobiles passing or from farm work around us. Occasionally the sound of a bird accented the otherwise silent atmosphere.

It was priceless. And I was there to experience it.

This is what I saw…

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Written by johnwhays

October 21, 2015 at 6:00 am

Disappearing Delilah

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My inability to master the art of dog training is revealed in our lovely canine’s increasing confidence in behaving any way she pleases. Just two days ago, I was lamenting our failure thus far to stop Delilah’s behavior of jumping up on people engaged in hugs during greetings or departures.

She just wants to participate in the hugs, of course, but her nails on unprepared backsides are not something we feel our guests should have to deal with when they are otherwise occupied. Both Cyndie and I recognize that we have failed to gain the upper hand on demanding compliance with our instructions. The formula of training by way of rewarding good behavior, as opposed to a focus on punishing bad behavior, evades us when it comes to the current challenges.DSCN4015e

Cyndie has been doing a heroic effort of conditioning Delilah to stay close to us when we allow her the freedom of being off-leash, frequently calling her back for check-ins and rewarding her with treats when she promptly complies. It had been working well for quite some time, until I distracted Cyndie in the barn yesterday when I sought her assistance installing my first half-sized slow-feeder box in Cayenne’s stall.

That brief period of our distraction from Delilah’s whereabouts led to the hunter girl wandering off in search of irresistible prey beyond the borders of our property. Cyndie didn’t want to give up without a fight and scoured our trails, blowing her whistle and calling Delilah’s name.

She even drove the truck in a search of the roadways immediately surrounding us. The only thing that came out of that effort was a texted greeting from George, after he saw her drive past their place. Once again, Delilah was in the “dog house” with us. From past experience, I knew our dog would eventually show up at one of the doors, happy as could be, covered in burrs, and clueless to the level of transgression she had pulled off.

After a long spell, just as I expected, Delilah did return home. We treated her matter of factly, allowing her a long drink at her water bowl, after which, Cyndie took her outside to remove the burrs.

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I don’t know how, but she seemed to recognize our displeasure. Her behavior for the rest of the day and evening was akin to her having put herself on a “time-out” all on her own. She didn’t demonstrate any of her usual playful behaviors, repeatedly seeking attention by bringing a ball or other toy to us, or simply walking up and putting her head in our laps.

She demurely laid low the whole time. I can only hope she was using that time to think about what she had done wrong, and was feeling entirely remorseful. Sadly, the other possibility is that she was just so exhausted from having had such a fantastic getaway that she needed the rest and was saving up her energy for the next opportunity to do it over again.

Trust me, she is back on full-time leash protocol again, and will be for the foreseeable future, whether she understands the correlation, or not.

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Written by johnwhays

October 5, 2015 at 6:00 am