Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘labyrinth

Caught Up

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For a day or two now, we are caught up with mowing all that is growing at the peak rate typical for June. Yesterday was a perfect day for cutting grass with the lawn tractor. It was dry with a nice breeze and the grass wasn’t overgrown. I was able to mow at high speed, there were no piles of clippings, and the finish looks top notch. I will enjoy it for the rarity it was because I regularly find myself facing one or multiple versions of cutting complications.

Cyndie raked the clippings in the labyrinth after giving them a day to dry out and it is looking its best, as well. Did I mention that, after a good night’s sleep, Cyndie was feeling back to her healthy old self?

I tried wearing my earbuds under the earmuff hearing protection I wear while mowing because I am caught up in a Kris Kristofferson song from 1976 that I just heard for the first time. I’m contemplating trying to memorize it so I can create my own version to play and sing.

“There ain’t nothing sweeter than naked emotions
So you show me yours hon and I’ll show you mine”

I heard Shannon McNally’s version first and then searched for the song origins and found both Kristofferson’s and Willie Nelson’s two versions. It amazes me that I haven’t come across this song sooner in the 46-years since it was written.

All credit goes to MPR’s “Radio Heartland” on the HD2 subchannel of KNOW’s 91.1 MHz. I rarely pursue music beyond my personal library collection anymore, so exposure to new music is mostly limited to what I hear on the radio when traveling in my car. My tastes have begun to age out of MPR’s “The Current” at 89.3 MHz FM so more and more I find myself migrating to the primarily acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk, and Americana offerings on “Heartland.”

“And I wish that I was the answer to all of your questions
Lord knows I know you wish you were the answer to mine”

I am enjoying that this song has finally caught up with me after all these years.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Trimming Minutiae

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There is no drama about our activities yesterday and little in the way of specific goals. The hours passed as the earth rotated and shadows moved while Cyndie and I toiled on a variety of rewarding tasks.

I made the dreaded trip to buy gas for all our small engines and the diesel tractor. Ouch. That’s a burden on the pocketbook.

One way I reframe the harsh rise of the cost of fuel is to remember the time we had been shopping for a while and Cyndie grabbed a 20 oz. bottle of Aquafina water at the checkout counter. It added the paltry amount of $1.68 to our over $500 bill at Lowe’s. It was a purchase of convenience, for sure.

That price for 20 ounces of water is equal to $10.75/gallon. Think about that.

With all gas cans full, I was able to resume using the power trimmer. I had completed all our fence lines over the weekend so the next crucial need was the labyrinth. It didn’t give in without a fight. The stones defining the pathway wreak havoc on the nylon line of the power trimmer.

One technique I attempt to employ to reduce the abrasion of the line against the rocks is reducing the speed of rotation. Maximum speed is not required to achieve an adequate cut. Still, the spinning will deplete line and require the bounce against the ground to advance more length. I can’t count how many times I would release more line and almost immediately the trimmer would catch an edge and torque right up to a rock and eat the new line I just bounced out. Aaarrrrgh.

Just when things are going smooth, the engine runs out of gas. At least I was wise enough to bring the can of gas along this time. I also had a spare spool of line with me, just in case. I needed to use both.

The challenge always seems to be coming out even in completing the intended cutting goal before running out of either line or fuel. When I finished the pathway of the labyrinth, I moved on to the firepit next to the labyrinth, as long as I still had both line and gas. After finishing that, I decided to hit the trail in the woods for as long as the trimmer would run.

It lasted a lot longer than I expected. I cleared a large section of the perimeter trail where the grass had gotten very tall. A bonus accomplishment I didn’t anticipate achieving.

After too many days in a row of trimming for hours, my throttle hand was letting me know it had had enough. That’s a good reason to stop using that tool for a while. Today my hands will be on the lawn tractor steering wheel.

We are in the month of never ending mowing, which is putting the job of never ending sawing and wood chipping on temporary hold.

Somewhere between those two, I keep intending to add never ending bike rides, but that keeps failing to happen.

Could someone slow down the earth’s rotation a little bit, please?

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dandelions Anyone?

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It is peak dandelion season and we appear to have a bumper crop. It is also itchy rash season again from nettles and poison ivy. Every day the look of our landscape changes as plants and trees sprout leaves. Some of our varieties of grasses double in size every day. I have been using the power trimmer to clean up the edges of the hay shed and barn as well as areas of grass that were too wet to mow with the lawn tractor.

I am thrilled with how the transplanted maple tree is thriving at the center of the labyrinth.

With some precision trimming last year I have successfully encouraged a favored branch to become the leader and it is growing perfectly.

One day later, the dandelions appeared to be swallowing the labyrinth with their multiplying number beginning to cover some of the rocks defining the pathway. Yesterday afternoon I slowly walked the entire labyrinth with the power trimmer to restore order.

I think we are going to need bigger rocks.

The diameter of the labyrinth is so large there are several different micro-climates. The back half that is shaded in the afternoon is dramatically different from the front that receives sun all day long. Actually, the main change is in how much grass there is. The weeds are pretty consistent throughout.

There is a sumac tree that appears to really want company because new sprouts were turning up very frequently for about 5 rows of the back quadrant near the mother tree.

Maybe the sumac tree can make friends with all the dandelions instead.

There are more than enough available.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2022 at 6:00 am

Longest Shot

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We have very mixed feelings about horse racing, given the harsh aspect of the sport taxing thoroughbreds to sometimes fatal degrees, contrasted against the awesome spectacle of the power and beauty of the equine athletes and teams of humans supporting them. The Kentucky Derby race is one of the biggest exhibitions.

Yesterday’s 148th running of the race was epic for the long odds overcome by the winning horse, Rich Strike, and jockey, Sonny Leon. The fact that the horse was 21st on a list of eligible racehorses for a race that only allowed 20 to run right up until the last-minute scratch of Ethereal Road.

The drama of the long-shot win was bolstered by the fantastic way jockey Sonny Leon navigated Rich Strike through the pack from so far back to find space along the rail and outrun the two leaders battling each other unaware of the additional challenger.

I suspect Rich Strike will not be such a long shot in the next race of the Triple Crown series, The Preakness Stakes in two weeks.

Yesterday wasn’t a day when Cyndie did any racing but she did get outside and walk in one direction into the labyrinth at 1:00 p.m. to contribute to the wave of peace for World Labyrinth Day.

She also stepped her way both down and back up the significant hill between the labyrinth and our house, which is an impressive feat all by itself. Between her heroic effort on the driveway the day before, and all of yesterday’s steps, she is looking a lot like a champion in the marathon of knee replacement recovery.

In this case, she was far from being a long shot.

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Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2022 at 10:18 am

Driving Home

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In a rare change of routine for a weekend at the lake, we stayed overnight Sunday and drove home yesterday a little before noon. Why? Basically, because we could, although the added benefit of avoiding typical Sunday traffic returning to the Twin Cities was a welcome bonus.

It was a bit of a surprise to see a new inch of snow had fallen while we were gone. By the time we got home, the temperature had climbed into the 40s (F) and the snowpack was morphing from individual flakes into one smooth slushy.

Some short-legged critter left a trail of footprints in the deep snow by our labyrinth. In stark contrast to the mini-labyrinth among the trees at the lake, our circuit at home hasn’t been walked for months, making the path mostly invisible beneath the white covering.

Around the corner, we found an even more interesting pattern melted into the snow in the shadow of the fence of the back pasture.

Somehow, the lines of the wires were clearly reflected on the surface of the snow. I’m guessing it had to do with the angle of the moving sun aligning just right with the wires as it made its way across the sky.

By the time we got there, the sun was being obscured by a rather distinct change of cloud cover in the sky.

Near the bottom of that image, tiny specks of what happens to be our four horses can be seen hanging out in one of their favorite areas of our fields. As we made the last turn toward the barn, they started their journey up to the overhang for the afternoon feeding.

We were happy to find things in good order after a long weekend of care by the very capable horse person Cyndie found to cover for us when we are gone.

It was a wonderful weekend away, but as always, we are really glad to be home again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 1, 2022 at 7:00 am

Snowy Footsteps

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Today is the start of winter. It feels closer to the middle of winter. Although, we did just have strangely warm temperatures and a weird December thunderstorm. Still, cold temperatures have become the norm and we have a slim inch of flakes dominating most surfaces.

The labyrinth hasn’t had more than a few stray animal footprints disturbing its blanket of white.

Delilah and I have been methodically distributing our footprints along most of our trails. I have a tendency to neglect seeing the depth of our woods when I am busy plotting my footsteps to widen the traveled snow path. I catch myself staring exclusively at the ground right in front of me.

I rely on Delilah’s nose to alert me that we might have some company nearby. On Sunday afternoon, Delilah was intently focused on something in the interior of our woods. As we approached  an intersection of trails, I knew she wanted to go left based on the direction her nose had been pointing.

It took me a while, but eventually I decoded the camouflaged young doe’s big eyes and ears, frozen in a stare directly at us from around the large trunk of a tree. The longer I looked back at her, the more I was able to discern the rest of her body visible on the other side of the tree, too.

If Delilah hadn’t signaled someone was there, I would have been oblivious.

I would have noticed deer hoof prints in the area, though.

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Written by johnwhays

December 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

Visiting Mia

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Saturday afternoon brought us visitors who wanted to see how Mia was doing and their first impression was oh so rewarding. To hear people say how good the horses are looking is wonderfully validating of our intentions and efforts.

This family had owned Mia when she had her eighth and final foal in 2018. After a thoroughbred broodmare is done having foals, the level of attention and care drops significantly. This owner was already living up in this region and Mia was still in Kentucky. Confident the horse would receive better care up here, they worked with This Old Horse to move Mia north.

When she first arrived from Kentucky that year, Mia hadn’t had a reason to naturally develop a heavy growth of winter coat and so she needed to wear a blanket through the cold season. Seeing the healthy growth Mia now sports brought them much comfort.

We have finally learned the foal count for each of the four horses we are fostering:

    • Swings  –  4
    • Mia        –  8
    • Light      –  3
    • Mix        –  3

It has given us a new perception of what Mia lived through after her racing career.

I wouldn’t say that Mia was overly demonstrative of recognizing her previous owners, but she was definitely more “present” than normal. She stayed at the gate in contact with us, while we chatted and gave some attention to the other three, for much longer than she ever does when it’s just Cyndie and me.

Since our visitors were eager to know what kind of place Mia had landed in, I guided them in a short walk around the bend of the back pasture to see the labyrinth. They showed great interest and were eager to spend some quiet time strolling the route to the center.

We had segretated the horses so that the chestnuts only had access to the hayfield and the other two could be on the back pasture, but my wish that horses would show up to stand close while the visitors were in the labyrinth didn’t pan out. The four horses had stayed up by the barn, which actually made it easy for our guests to connect one last time before they departed.

They are happy to see Mia has landed a good place and we are happy to know Mia has people from her past who still care about her.

I am extremely pleased to know that others believe our horses look healthy and appear thoroughly content with the home we are providing for them.

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Written by johnwhays

November 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Blocking Weeds

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Still attending classes for Master Gardener, Cyndie has already put some of the information gained into practice. Over the weekend, I moved multiple bucket-loads of compost with the big diesel tractor to her newest raspberry patch where Cyndie had laid down a layer of cardboard to block weeds.

Yesterday, I was moving wheelbarrow loads of woodchips to the labyrinth where she was applying a paper covering that we buried with four inches of mulch.

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We’re going to need to chip more downed tree limbs. As fast as the chips were created, they can get distributed even faster.

I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear we have no shortage of piles to be shredded. I did some clean-up by the road when I was clearing the buckthorn there and the result created one more collection of trees and branches for chipping.

We have a new tool to augment the ratchet pruner we previously used when trimming branches and cutting up fallen trees.

After hearing our friends, Pam and John rave about this slick little battery-powered chainsaw pruner, Cyndie bought one the next day.

The first day we used it, we drained the battery and needed to get the ratchet pruner to finish the job. At least that taught us the workload it can handle. It worked great for me the next time I used it and only dropped to half a charge on the battery.

This is going to be a wonderful addition to our assortment of tools.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2021 at 7:00 am

More Rocks

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Shortly after writing that we never have enough rocks, we have kicked it up a notch and collected even more from our woods. Yesterday, our friends Pam and John came out to help us heft many small boulders to enhance our ever-improving labyrinth. The endearingly named Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth was the focus of the day as we strove to replace many of the plaster faux rocks we originally used during the design of the pathway outlines.

When we arrived on this property there were a surprisingly large number of the manufactured rocks stored on a pallet, likely surplus material from construction of the house and shop/garage. We saw no need for continued storage, so took advantage of the rocky appearance to form much of the labyrinth’s path.

Now that we are striving to replace them with real rocks, it is a surprise to us how many there are. I have no recollection of using so many plaster flat-sided faux rocks.

After we paused for lunch and our friends needed to depart, Cyndie and I wandered down to put away the last wheelbarrow and found ourselves drawn to move just a few more rocks while the weather was nice. About six loads later, we had more than enough to occupy the rest of our day placing them around the circuitous path.

During a pause which found me seated on one of the center circle boulders, I thought to take a picture of the view from the inside out.

Most images we have taken are looking in from the outside.

I did a little rearranging of our small stones and petrified wood specimens that grace the center of the labyrinth dominated by the original boulders and then took more pictures.

It was energizing to linger in that space after the day with friends and our tending to the enhancement of the pathway borders.

One obvious takeaway from the day: we will never have enough rocks.

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2021 at 9:36 am

Never Enough

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There are a lot of ways that Cyndie and I are wonderfully compatible, and near the top of the list should be our shared appreciation/fascination with rocks. We both agree that you can never have enough rocks. Toward that end, yesterday Cyndie went into our woods where our newly cut trails had uncovered old piles of fieldstone and hauled a bunch out for use in the labyrinth.

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Our farmer neighbors think we are weird to hold their old rock piles in such high regard.

Cyndie shared a sweet story from her day. When she dumped one load of stones it made a loud clatter that caught the attention of our closest neighbor who was out trimming branches near his deer stand. He called out to her to ask if she was okay. I’m sure from his location it could have sounded like quite a crash.

It’s very comforting to know neighbors watch out for each other here.

These perfect specimens will get placed around the labyrinth pathways to build up the existing borders and allow removal of more of the artificial rocks we used when first establishing the circuitous route. We had pallets of manufactured stone left over from the decorative veneer plastered around the block foundation below the log walls of our house. At the time, it seemed like a good use of the material, but they don’t hold up well against the elements when laying flat on the ground. Some have broken apart from the moisture and many others are simply getting swallowed by the earth around them.

It was interesting for me to work on the different labyrinth design up at the lake over the weekend because that one has very wide borders that are three times the width of the narrow path.

Our labyrinth at home has wide paths with just a single line of stones as dividers.

After working with both, I now wish we could make our rock dividers wider at home, but doing so would narrow the path more than we want. Maybe by placing larger rocks strategically we can beef up the pathway borders enough to provide more of the visual impression I desire without compromising the walking space too much.

There never seems to be enough time to work on the enhancements we both dream of and there are never enough reasons to stop tweaking the design once and for all.

Our labyrinths will always be growing and changing with time.

And they will never have enough rocks, no matter what.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2021 at 6:00 am