Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘labyrinth

Venturesome Cows

with 4 comments

We had never imagined this day. It wasn’t unprecedented that Delilah would serve as our alarming alarm clock, with her loud barking outburst at the screen door of our bedroom to disturb the quiet early morning solemnity.

I astutely commented to Cyndie that I was surprised that I wasn’t hearing the usual dog in the distance that typically sets Delilah off.

After the second outburst in quick succession, Cyndie gave up trying to snatch a few extra minutes of lingering in bed and got up.

“There are cows outside our window!”

Oh? I sprung up to witness the spectacle for myself. Yes, indeed. No question about what Delilah was trying to tell us. I spotted three cows standing in the most unlikely place I could think of.

They were by the wood shed, at the top of the big hill trail coming out of our woods.

I sleepily stumbled after my camera, which was on the far side of the house. When I returned to the bedroom, there were no cows in sight. Ghost cows?

Cyndie invited me to get dressed and join her in morning chores, wherein we could also investigate that bizarre sleepy visual we had just witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, from the top of our back yard hill, we could see the rare sight of white animals down by the labyrinth. By the time we got down there, the shifty cattle were gone again, though not out of earshot. The sound of their navigation through our forest can best be compared to a herd of bulls wandering the aisles of a china shop.

Branches snapping left and right, a bovine face appeared out of the trees. Then another, and another. We counted ten at one point, though it was never clear we were seeing the whole picture.

While Cyndie tried to shoosh them out of her garden labyrinth, I set out to see if I could tell where they had come from. Tracking them wasn’t hard, as the 40 heavy hooves left a trail that looked like a rototiller had rolled along our soft wooded trails.

They had tromped everywhere! It made it difficult to determine where they had busted out of a neighbor’s fence, because they had moved to and fro in every direction.

We tried coaxing them into our back pasture to contain them, but the boring grass offerings there must have paled in comparison to the adventure and foliage they were finding throughout the forest. They bushwhacked toward the most difficult wooded passages in lieu of our pasture gate.

Eventually, while trying to get back with the main herd, they busted a strand of wire in the fence and very slowly, one at a time, most of them figured out their own way through. When we found them trying, Cyndie stepped on the bottom wires and lifted the top one, cooing to the stragglers to take that last step.

I tried coaxing them with a branch of leaves. That brought the main herd toward us, which was the opposite of what we wished to happen. I tried my best at novice cow whispering and turned the herd around, bringing two of the last escapees back into the fold.

For some reason, the last cow either panicked or just decided it was never going back. It turned and disappeared deep into the woods.

Unable to find the loner cow, Cyndie and I decided to reattach the broken fence wire (I had learned the neighbor was gone on a motorcycle trip in Iowa) and called an end to the big distraction of our day.

We were hours beyond our planned departure for the lake place.

With a note to Jackie about the possibility of an odd cow showing up while we were gone, we hit the road.

That was one very strange day at Wintervale.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

Peaceful Presence

with 2 comments

With a perfectly timed explosion of lightning and thunder, our peaceful World Labyrinth Day came to a spectacular close last night. Prior to that, we had plenty of sun and warmth to walk the circuitous path of our 70-foot diameter, 11 circuit Chartes labyrinth nestled on the edge of our woods beside a horse pasture.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Even though the “Walk as One at 1” in a global wave of peace was the primary reason for yesterday’s open house at Wintervale, it ended up being the chickens who stole the show.

The kids present wanted to climb inside the fence and feed the growing chicks delectable treats of dried worms and cracked corn right from their hands.

Although the young birds were a bit skittish over all the human energy present on our first visit, Cyndie took the kids back a little later and the chicks were much more interested in exploring the offerings.

Shortly after the last of family and friends had departed for the day, Cyndie and I made the rounds to bring hammocks and chair cushions inside. The sky was growing dark gray on the horizon.

We made the short trek to Clyde’s Corner for cheese burgers to cap off the end of a successful day, while the thunderstorm loomed large. Luckily, we had decided to wrangle the chicks back into the coop before we left.

The drive home was a light-show of streaking lightning bolts, many appearing to be hitting closer to us as the storm moved away. That had Delilah barking up her own storm to bring our exciting day to an appropriate end.

It started peacefully, and ended with quite a bang.

.

.

Come Walk

leave a comment »

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Syrup Again

leave a comment »

Since moving to the country and discovering some of the local treasures around us, Cyndie has purchased pure maple syrup only once a year. It’s that time again! Just a few miles south of Ellsworth, the Stockwell family taps 35 acres of maple trees and collects enough gallons of sap to supply folks with a full year’s worth of syrup, if you have containers to hold it.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

We’ve figured out the routine and bring two 2-quart Mason jars to be placed under the spigot of the large tank and filled with the dark amber bliss every April during the S & S Sugar Bush open house pancake breakfast weekend.

It’s hard to find an event pancake breakfast that isn’t pretty darn good, be it firefighters, boy scouts, legions, or service clubs, but I gotta say the fresh, hot blueberry cakes, sausage, and pure maple syrup combination we enjoyed yesterday morning tasted about as good as I can recall ever experiencing.

Our friends Mike and Barb Wilkus accompanied us, having also joined us for the live Climate Cast at MPR Thursday night and then sleeping over to be available for the Sugar Bush open house. After the scrumptious breakfast, we took a stroll through the woods to witness the number of tapped trees that were supplying the sweet maple sap.

It is impressive to consider the hundreds of gallons of sap running up through the roots of these trees when the spring temperatures are just right —warm during the day and below freezing at night. One of the Stockwell sons described how the percent of sweetness drops in time, but his grandpa would collect the later sap for a vinegar.

The syrup open house has become so precious to us, Cyndie invited more friends to stop by today so she could go again and share the event with them, too. I reckon the delicious pancakes might have something to do with her zeal, as well.

There is another precious annual event that will be happening next week for us. For the second year in a row, Wintervale Ranch will be holding our own open house as a host site for The Labyrinth Society’s World Labyrinth Day Peace Walk. Walk as one at 1.

Around the world, at each location, people will walk and visualize peace at 1:00 p.m. in their time zones, creating a wave of peaceful energy flowing around the globe.

Cyndie has been working to spruce up our labyrinth, despite the lack of growth from the barely thawed landscape. I noticed when Barb and Mike were here and we did a moonlight walk Thursday night that the overnight freezing and daytime warm sunshine was still conspiring to tip over plenty of my rock arrangements.

It sounds like we can expect some rain showers this coming week, so maybe new growth will be exploding in spectacular glory for visitors on Saturday. If the day dawns nearly as spectacular as today, World Labyrinth Day will be a wonderful opportunity to experience the best of Wintervale Ranch.

If you are reading in the Twin Cities area, I hope you will consider joining us!

Saturday, May 5, 2018 between 12:00-3:00 p.m.  Please email cyndie@wintervaleranch.com to register and receive directions.

.

.

Nice Out

leave a comment »

It seems like I have fallen into a heavy rotation of posts about the weather, or at least, heavier than what I’ve normally referenced since starting this blog so many years ago. Living in the country with acres to tend and animals to care for has a way of amplifying the significance of the weather, particularly when the conditions are extreme or out of the ordinary.

As we enter the last week of April, finally having warm sunshine be the order of the day is unleashing a sense of urgency for getting into the outdoor spring chores. We started first thing in the morning yesterday, building a fire outside to burn combustibles from Friday’s garage clean-up that didn’t fit in our trash bin.

While we were out on that side of the house, we also moved all our outdoor furniture back on the deck, trimmed shrubs, and raked around the landscaping.

The afternoon was focused on the labyrinth. Cyndie did some plant pruning and raking, while I busied myself with reorienting and balancing rocks that had been felled by the long winter.

I was in the woods, digging up some additional rocks, I felt something on my eyebrow that I thought was debris that had kicked up, but when it didn’t just brush away with the back of my gloved hand, I paused. Removing my glove to better reach behind my sunglasses, my bare fingers were able to extricate a tiny tick. Most likely, a deer tick.

Happy spring!

At least it’s finally nice outside.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2018 at 6:00 am

Clutter Rearranging

with 2 comments

With the weather finally making a turn for the better, yesterday Cyndie spoke about possibly cleaning up in the garage to find gardening tools. The May labyrinth Peace Walk is only two weeks away, and she wants to trim back the winter-kill on the plants before the big day.

I spent the morning rearranging the gigantic winter manure pile in the paddock, while she brushed the shedding horses as they munched hay. They are definitely ready to be done with their winter coats.

I hope that means they know the cold temperatures are done for the season.

After lunch, we started poking around in the garage. One thing led to another and pretty soon we found ourselves into a full-fledged spring cleaning effort. The kind that uncovers boxes of things that haven’t been touched since we moved in.

I finally got around to sweeping sawdust off the yard tools stand which had been there since 2014 when we had carpenters build the storage room in our basement. That’s four years of not bothering, for those keeping score.

They did the majority of sawing in the garage, and everything got covered in dust, but that tool stand was right in the line of fire and was buried. With all the rakes, shovels, pruners, loppers, and brushes hanging on the portable stand, the sawdust was deemed harmless and not worth the time.

My Achilles heel of order happens to be flat surfaces. After much of the garage clutter had been pulled out and sorted, Cyndie took advantage of our momentum and went after the workbench in the back corner that is a catch-all to a monumental degree.

Old fluorescent light bulbs, some associated fixtures, screws and brackets left over from purchased assemblies, a broken staple gun, boxes, bags, gloves, old shoes, metal rulers I didn’t know I had, an electronic work light I don’t remember.

It’s great to dig into all of this stuff, but the questions that lead to things landing on that flat surface in the first place still remain. Do we throw away or keep? If we keep, where to put it that will be of any value to us in the future? If we throw, how to dispose of the electronic or hazardous items than can’t go in our weekly trash bin?

Unfortunately, way too much of the stuff that we cleaned out of the garage yesterday made its way down to the shop, where the flat surfaces are now doubly cluttered.

The house garage now looks pretty nice, but it wasn’t really a great clutter busting effort in the end.

It was clutter rearranging.

But it’s a start.

We need to go prune some plants in the labyrinth. The shop clean up will be a project for another day, hopefully sooner than in four years.

.

.

Leaning Over

with 8 comments

The heavy rock that took five people to lift into place on the boulders at the center of our labyrinth has survived the worst that winter tossed its way. It didn’t fall out and roll to the ground. However, it did lean over to a significant degree.

I think it might be a metaphor for how Cyndie and I feel after the number of challenges we have faced in the last few months, starting with the unexpected death of our lead horse, Legacy.

Just as we began to think we were coming to terms with one thing, another challenge would blow in on us. It all pretty much tipped us over to a similar degree. It occurred to us, more than once, that one way to avoid falling to earth would be by simply choosing to jump down of our own volition.

It’s funny. In a way, it took a leap of faith in the first place to get where we are today. Now we have wondered about taking a leap right back out of here, to be done with the struggles confounding our original vision.

The thing is, as crucial a part of our dream as Legacy was, I don’t want his dying to linger as the insurmountable disturbance that extinguished the flame of possibility for good. It doesn’t do proper justice to him or his name. Losing Legacy can be a powerful lesson for us to grasp and embrace.

Really, anything we might accomplish going forward, will be in honor of him and all he contributed here.

This past weekend, for the first time since he died, we witnessed the three chestnuts execute a completely unexpected “Emergency Response Drill.” It was a big deal to us. Legacy, as herd leader, used to initiate these surprise escape drills at feeding time as a way to see he could get the herd moving in a moments notice, even if it meant leaving their food.

They all run away with a full-speed urgency that implies all lives are at stake. At about ten paces away, they pull up short, turn around to assess the situation, and then walk back and finish eating.

It’s invigorating to watch, especially when you just so happen to be standing in the vicinity with a manure scoop, at risk of being inadvertently trampled by their frantic departure.

Neither Cyndie nor I spotted who initiated the drill, but simply knowing the herd is resuming their group behaviors was comforting. I don’t know if this will culminate in a clear establishment of a new leader, but I’m pleased to see they are working on some kind of arrangement.

Cyndie reported that the mares initiated another drill yesterday, while Hunter just happened to be rolling on the wet, muddy ground, which forced him to abort his plan and get back to his feet, pronto.

Yes, they are definitely working on something. Poor guy is outnumbered now, so I won’t be surprised if either Cayenne (who has always behaved like a big sister with him) or Dezirea end up filling the role as primary head of their household.

We’ve all been pushed over a little bit since the start of the year, but we haven’t hit the ground.

Knowing the horses are working things out, and having a brood of new chicks to fawn over, helps provide inspiration for us to visualize righting ourselves and doing Legacy proud.

I think we are making strides toward steadying ourselves to lean into whatever might unfold next.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am