Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘labyrinth

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

Glorious Days

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We have been blessed with three incredible sunrises as well as glorious October weather days at the lake this weekend.

The crisp morning air was colder than the lake water and produced mesmerizing steamy accents to the brilliant colors of the sunrise.

Most of the boats and docks have been pulled out of the water, but this poor orphaned catamaran was still awaiting attention.

It made for an appealing subject for a photo.

We didn’t spend much time near the water because there was so much fun to be had creating the new labyrinth path in the woods.

I was able to successfully route the path around the trees to form a shorter rendition than the 11-circuit Chartres pattern we made at home. Cyndie worked tirelessly to dig up rocks and move them to the edges.

There remains a fair amount of time needed to position more rocks and branches to better define the pathway in a manner that will endure through the seasons. Next spring, I envision a need to selectively remove ferns and trillium that cover the ground here in order to preserve the visibility of the path.

Since we usually are trying to transplant trillium from up here to back home in Beldenville, this has the potential of providing plenty of plants for the task.

Before we get to that point, this labyrinth will need to survive the winter, so I guess we’ll just have to make sure to get up here for the glorious days of the snow season and walk the path frequently enough to maintain the definition.

A labor of love.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2021 at 9:48 am

Forest Fun

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Notice: This post includes content of carnivorous canine detail.

Walking in the woods at the lake is easy now that all the undergrowth has gone dormant for the winter. Allowing Delilah to explore every scent is a spectacle of mania. She can hardly contain herself in a rush to discern and follow the myriad options. Eventually, she did come upon one smell that overrode all others, a recently detached leg of deer.

After she closed her jaws on that prize, nothing else mattered.

We let her gnaw on it for a while and then I took her for a walk to see if she might decide to bury it somewhere for safekeeping. It was a long walk while I explored the wooded slope near the driveway in search of remains from a fort the kids and I constructed out of branches some twenty years ago.

I never found any evidence of our creative efforts now decades past and Delilah never let go of her prize.

When we finally made our way back to head indoors for a drink of water, I negotiated that leg out of her mouth and covered it with leaves beside the driveway for her.

Content with that for the moment, she gladly led the way inside. The next time we took her outside, we figured that would be the first thing she headed for, but we were wrong.

Now with both Cyndie and me setting out for a stroll with her, she seemed very willing to leave those bones for another time. We strode into the deep leaves covering the ground in search of the next great find among the trees. What we came upon this time was a new idea.

We want to create a small labyrinth path around existing trees in an area that is almost level.

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There are a lot of rocks available and a fair bit of old trash to clean up that contributed to our urge to pursue the possibility. It appears the old fishing lodge that existed here originally may have used the woods as their dump for trash at some point.

I stepped out dimensions and aligned an initial orientation with the four directions north-south/east-west and with each accomplishment, our idea gained merit. Late last night, we scanned labyrinth design options for something simple yet interesting and now will try to visualize fitting one of them around the trees.

This will likely be a project that develops over years to become fully established as we intend to keep the woods as natural as possible and have the circular pathways be noticeable, but subtly so.

A forest bathed meditative walking labyrinth seems like a very fun idea. Here’s hoping we can bring it to fruition up at our favorite place.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2021 at 9:13 am

Sunrise Serenity

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It was about as peaceful as our place can be this morning as Delilah and I made the rounds. The serenity was only interrupted once when Delilah felt the need to respond to the distant barks from a dog far across the valley. The only other sounds humming along were the cooing of the barn pigeons and the munching of four horses happily chomping their feed.

Our labyrinth is glowing with the fall colors in the trees that surround it on three sides.

We are looking forward to a run of several warm and sunny fall days ahead.

I intend to soak up as much serenity as I am able. [big sigh]

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2021 at 9:38 am

Rewarding Accomplishments

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On a weekend when we squeezed in two evening trips to the Cities for wonderful social occasions and a surprise visit from sister, Judy, and husband, Scott, Cyndie and I also knocked off mowing and trimming the entire labyrinth of some tall growth. Our growing ground cover has made efficient use of the rain we received last week. The lawn grass is so long already, I need to mow again less than a week after I just finished the whole property.

I took a panoramic photo into the sun to show the freshly coifed labyrinth with the adjacent gazebo and its barely alive vines for a roof cover.

We also made short work yesterday of an inspiration I had to open up a new footpath through an untraveled section of our woods. Untraveled by us, that is. We chose to route it primarily along an obvious path traversed by deer often enough that our eyes were able to discern where they have been walking.

Of course, being deer, they seem to magically navigate through downed or low-hanging branches that entangle us. A bit of pruning and sawing provided quick reward and suddenly we had a whole new shortcut between two existing trails.

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We were so pleased with it, we sauntered back and forth along the new route multiple times, just to enjoy the experience.

It was very rewarding to get two projects off the to-do list, even though one of them had just been spontaneously added the day before. Accomplished, nonetheless.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Trouble Starting

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Despite the ongoing dry state of our soil, we’ve got areas of grass that well deserved to be mowed over the weekend, but I never got the chance. The ol’ Craftsman lawn tractor wouldn’t start. Actually, it tried to start several times until it stopped rotating the flywheel and just made a whiny sound. That set off days of trial and error troubleshooting. I thought it was the solenoid, but I was wrong. Then I wondered if it had something to do with the battery. That didn’t appear to be the case.

Next, I wondered if the Kohler engine might be seized, because I couldn’t move it. Then I removed the starter and discovered the engine wasn’t seized. The starter seemed okay, so I mounted it back in place, and lo and behold, the engine spun again. Twice, in fact, before it resumed doing nothing but whining.

Now I have a replacement starter on order.

Since I couldn’t mow with the tractor, I switched to the Stihl power trimmer and headed for the labyrinth.

Once again, we are finding that the earth is slowly swallowing the stones we placed to mark the pathway. Even with the ground hard and dry, the rocks seem to settle ever-deeper, and the grass gladly works its way to cover their edges, pushing them down even more.

The horses are doing their part to keep the paddock grass beautifully mowed.

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It crossed my mind that I could use their expertise on the runaway growth of grass between the barn and the chicken coop while the mower is waiting for its starter.

In the amount of time it would require to install temporary fencing around that area, I could take care of things using the power trimmer. If the ordered part doesn’t arrive on the day advertised, I just might do that.

The starter will be here about the same time the weather is predicted to possibly bring rain. It’s frustrating because we really need the rain, but, at the same time, I really want to get the grass cut.

I may not have trouble starting, at that point, but I just might run into trouble finishing.

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2021 at 6:00 am