Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘forest

Woods Changing

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Fall has arrived and it sure feels like it outside this morning. There is a distinct chill in the air, despite the ongoing global warmup occurring.

Well before the fall landscape color palette changes from green to red/orange/yellow, an inside view reveals the impending change.

There aren’t a lot of leaves on the ground yet, but there is a definite thinning of foliage going on. Delilah and I were traipsing along the soggy trail yesterday when I took the above picture. Times like this bring great appreciation for the “boardwalk” we envisioned in one of the swampy spots of our trails. It is an ongoing installation of blocks I remove from shipping pallets I salvage from the day-job.

Once again, it is getting easier to leave the trail and bushwhack through our woods to explore rarely visited spaces. I think this may subtly contribute to a universal attraction people share for fall, along with the obvious colorization and comfortable dew point temperatures. The woods open up and provide easy accessibility.

Friday night the easy access seemed to invite a noisy visitor to the grove of trees just beyond our house. Delilah spends many precious minutes every day barking in response to the sound of neighboring dogs miles away. Friday, that neighboring bark came from darkness just beyond the reach of our flood light.

Oddly, Delilah felt no need to respond, although she took great interest in our sudden fascination with the mysterious trespasser outside the back door. My guess was the stray visitor had treed a raccoon, or squirrel, or turkey and was “shouting” at it.

Last evening, during our last big walk of the day, I let Delilah’s nose direct us off-trail through the woods along the many odd paths frequently traveled by a variety of resident critters.

I also put fresh batteries in the trail camera to resume monitoring the night life visiting the chicken coop.

It was a very quiet night there last night. No motion until almost 6:00 this morning, when a cat wandered past.

We took down the netting around the coop yesterday, making it easy again to clean the poop board, so maybe traffic will pick up with time. Not that we wish for that. I just see it as inevitable.

Inevitable like the end of summer growing season, which is marked by the first real overnight freeze. I’m in no particular rush for that, other than a desire to be done mowing the grass for another year.

With the woods changing noticeably, and the noted chill greeting us this morning, we sense the big freeze isn’t far off.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

Now Ten

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I didn’t hear anything from Cyndie yesterday, before she headed to the lake with Melissa and her girls, so I’m guessing there was no sign of what happened to our two missing chickens. Now there are ten.

Before Cyndie left, she was very industrious and constructed quite a netted courtyard around the coop for the chickens, so they weren’t confined to quarters all day after all.

The second I got home from work yesterday, I hopped on the lawn tractor to mow all our grass, so I didn’t even chat with Jackie for more than a brief moment to make a plan for Delilah. From the looks of things, I’m guessing she probably assisted in the installation of the coop fencing.

While I was mowing, she headed off to her night job at a local pub/eatery until closing time, so it was just me tending to all the animals, getting them tucked in for the night.

It was a gorgeous August night. It feels a little like nature is at a plateau lately. Even while putting conscious effort into focusing on the immediate moment, there is an unmistakable hint of summer’s end teasing of what comes next.

While walking one of our trails through the woods, I noticed the view through the trees is already opening up beneath the canopy. The late summer shade of our forest has brought an end to many of the lower plants that had started out strong in the early season sun.

That shade provides valuable air conditioning which takes the edge off days like yesterday, when the heat index was climbing into the 90s. It felt a lot hotter while I was commuting through the cities on the steamy pavement than it did when I finally arrived home.

Ahhhh. Living in the country. Huzzah!

It’s a real blessing. But you do have to keep an eye on your chickens.

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Written by johnwhays

August 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Forest View

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I’m no expert, but I’m willing to venture a guess that a tree that sprouts leaves in the spring, but can’t get them to grow any larger than the tip of a finger, is going through the slow process of dying.

I’ve been watching this tree out our bathroom window for several weeks. It is particularly noticeable because all the rest of the trees around it opened up gorgeous full-sized leaves on their branches.

That standout stalled at the earliest stage of sprouting leaves.

I’m now doubting its likelihood of catching up.

Looking out that window yesterday, it occurred to me how many months of the year that view opens deep into the wooded slope, looking across a carpet of brown fallen leaves covering the ground.

That spot is a favorite for rambunctious squirrels that put on Ninja Warrior obstacle course demonstrations, bringing Delilah to an uncontrollable outburst of window-screen destruction and flurries of loud barking in the front porch.

This time of year, that section of forest becomes an enchanting mystery. I love the darkness that develops under the canopy of shady leafed-out trees. When the sun is really bright, it makes that darkness even more intense.

Last year, in August, I posted about the Inviting Portals that beckon a visit into the benefits of breathing the forest air. I find those darkened openings irresistibly captivating.

I’m convinced that I receive equally beneficial psychological rewards simply from absorbing the glorious views of the walls of trees that tower along the edges of our forest and fields.

It’s never clear what the change from bare trees to leafy ones will bring. Branches along the trail that were overhead all winter will often surprise me with how much they droop under the added weight of leaves come spring.

After a brief, yet energized thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, some of the young trees around the house failed to hold their posture under the added weight of wetted leaves.

So, we’ve got trees with not enough leaves and trees with more leaves than they can support, but they are each an exception. The rest of the forest is as picturesque as ever now, providing views that invite and inspire.

Forest views that feed my soul tremendously.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Come Walk

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Tomorrow is World Labyrinth Day!

Here is how you can participate: Wake up nice and early to take full advantage of the day. Pick one thing on your long list of projects you want to accomplish on Saturday and tackle it with gusto, bright and early.

Your early start will afford you plenty of time to finish and clean up so you can take the afternoon off. The drive to Wintervale Ranch from most of the Twin Cities area is around an hour. If you leave about 11:00, you can arrive in plenty of time for the 1 p.m. peace walk in our beautiful Rowcliffe Forest Garden labyrinth on a day that could reach 80°(F).

In honor of the “Walk as One at 1,” we are holding an open house from Noon to 3 p.m., offering light refreshments, full tours of our trails through the woods, and especially, visits with our horses and chickens.

We hope you will fit this awesome opportunity into your Saturday goals to be accomplished this weekend.

Just contact Cyndie (cyndie@wintervaleranch.com) to let us know you are coming and she can offer direction details if you need. It will help us to plan accordingly.

Where else can you find so much excitement and peace all at the same time?

Wear your hiking shoes.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Eradication Season

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It’s that time of year again. The invasive Common Buckthorn becomes much more exposed in early November, when the leaves of the desirable trees have just dropped to the ground. The deep green buckthorn leaves hang around long enough to make them easy to find.

I have taken a crack at this every fall since we arrived here, and I still get surprised to discover some really tall trees in our woods that have obviously been missed.

Yesterday, Cyndie offered to do most of the strenuous work if I took Delilah and walked the woods with her, pointing out which green leaves to eradicate. It’s not a perfect science, because there is one other bush that holds leaves this late, and its leaves are just barely less green than the buckthorn.

The challenge is compounded by Cyndie’s insatiable urge to wield the pruner with reckless abandon.

As persistent as the buckthorn invader can be at taking over the understory of our oak and maple forests, I take satisfaction in the comparison between our property and the neighbor’s. I have seen no effort to clear their property, and the results just become more obvious every year.

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Those views above are from one spot on our trail. On the left, looking into the neighbor’s land, and on the right, ours.

I would say, our efforts are proving worthy.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Rare Find

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Very few people ever get a chance to see the rare skunk tree in its natural environment. I was taking a shortcut through our woods now that the leaves are down and snuck up behind this specimen before he was able to hide his stripe.

Actually, I think it may have been a Halloween costume. Ever wonder what the trees in the forest are up to when no one is around?

The woods did seem a little spookier than usual last night.

At least it didn’t smell like a skunk outside.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2017 at 6:00 am

Forest Find

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While Cyndie and I were perusing our woods, collecting materials for the stick fence we are making, I came upon a very picturesque tree. Well, the remains of a tree.

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As much as we like to clean out downed branches in an effort to tidy up our woods, it’s nice to find occasional examples of nature’s course playing out without our, at times, overbearing intervention.

There is something very satisfying about seeing an old tree turning back into the dirt from which it grew.

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2017 at 6:00 am