Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘learning

Feeling Love

leave a comment »

In my lifetime, the art of feeling love has been a struggle to fully achieve. Luckily, I have had plenty of opportunity to practice. Most precious of all has been having Cynthia Ann Friswold around to repeatedly offer her guidance.

Quite frankly, some of that guidance comes across in a disguise that deftly pushes buttons that I’d rather not have pushed, but that’s part of the secret. Love isn’t always rainbows, flowers, and chocolate. True love is much more complex than that.

As a depressed person, I was distracted from being able to fully love. A combination of treatment for depression and couples therapy for our relationship was key to opening my eyes and my heart to love’s true potential.

Adding animals to our family has expanded my understanding of love to even greater depths.

Last evening, as I was holding our Buff Orpington hen while Cyndie worked diligently to remove globs of dried poop from the chicken’s tail feathers, I silently conveyed our love to the bird imprisoned by my grasp. Between a few isolated moments of flinching in discomfort, she generally rested her head against me and waited out the task.

We can hope she was able to tell our motives were pure.

Cyndie wanted me to offer the hen a red raspberry treat in reward for her patience of enduring the awkward procedure, but the Buff showed no interest. She just gave it the eye, with total detachment.

I had no idea that owning chickens might involve needing to bring them in out of the cold in the winter to wash and dry their butts. It’s a good thing they have gotten us to fall in love with them.

Owning horses is a whole ‘nother level of love.

Before our four Arabians had even arrived, back when we were having paddock fencing installed, a water line being buried, and a hay shed being built, the excavator arrived in his giant dump truck and chatted out his window with me at our first meeting. He asked what this project was about, and I told him my wife wants to get horses.

In a high-pitched voice of alarm, he exclaimed, “HORSES!?! It would be cheaper to get a new wife!”

Yes, there are costs to owning horses, but the rewards are pretty much immeasurable.

How do you measure love?

All I know for sure is, I’m feeling an awful lot of it in this latest phase of my life.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Incredible Awareness

leave a comment »

It is common to hear the term “watchdog” for a dog that guards property, but I’m finding our “lookout horses” surprisingly valuable in alerting me to activity on our perimeter. Over time, my interpretation of their equine reaction to the environment has changed from one of superiority to one of much more humble respect.

I used to think the silly horses were just being hyper-sensitive when they startled over triggers to which I was oblivious. My response early on was to try to assure the horses that there was nothing to worry about. Like I knew better than them.

With enough repetition, I began to learn that I was not more fully aware of reality than they were.

Last week, as I was beneath the overhang, the horses suddenly all turned around and looked out in the exact same direction. My eye quickly spotted the movement of our neighbor on his riding lawnmower. Chuckling at their intensity over this innocuous activity, I spoke to assure them the mower wasn’t worth the attention.

Yet they didn’t sway from their focus. I stood with them and watched the mower, barely visible through some trees, and suddenly movement in the much closer cornfield caught my eye.

The horses weren’t looking at the mower at all.

I had a split-second view of a good-size deer as it hopped over corn stalks.

I’m still learning.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 29, 2017 at 9:49 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , , ,

Watched, Learned

with 2 comments

Last month there was construction on the parking lot at the day-job and I found myself transfixed by the quick and efficient bucket work of a loader. Over and over I watched how the driver scooped up loads from a pile of asphalt debris in a smooth motion.

Last weekend I was able to practice copying what I had seen. I used our diesel tractor to move lime screenings from the pile dumped beside the hay shed, into the paddock to fill rills and washouts on the slopes beneath the overhang.

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I succeeded in improving my technique.

The last time I tried this exercise, I had a hard time keeping the bucket from digging into the turf and dirt beneath the pile, and I had trouble with spinning my rear tires and scarring the ground beneath the wheels with deep divots.

.

Striving to emulate what I had seen weeks earlier, I focused on lifting the bucket through the pile in a single fluid motion, not worrying about trying to get the absolute most material in every scoop. I also practiced sliding the bucket into the pile from a few inches above the base, instead of right at the ground level.

It was easy to come back later and use a hand shovel to reshape the pile and scrape screenings away, down to the grass level.

My improved technique resulted in a lot less fuss for me and a lot less muss to the grounds.

Spring-boarding from that success, I took the tractor out again on Wednesday after work to mow the waterway and fence line along our property border to the south. With a dash of lucky good fortune, I executed maneuvers with minimal hassle to complete the mowing in extremely tight space limitations.

That worked so well, I was done with plenty of time to spare and continued positive momentum that led me to steer my attention to the leaning frame of the gazebo.

It is time to put the shade tarp over the frame, so I figured it best to first look into addressing the two bent top frame members. Ad-libbing a plan, I started taking out bolts to remove one section of bent frame. After multiple trips walking back to the shop for needed tools, I got the piece separated.

That led to another trip to the shop to see if I could figure out a way to bend the square tube back to straight and press out the kinks. My luck held and the first try brought success, just as time was running out for the day.

With my concerns about fixing the top tubes assuaged, I decided it would be most prudent to address the settling that has occurred at the base of the four vertical supports, in order to take away that additional play which allowed the structure to lean in the first place.

It just so happens I have a surplus of pavers that should work very nice in creating a new level footing under each of the four legs of the structure.

That’s one of the main projects on my plan for today. That, and wielding my new loader skills to move a large amount of old compost to make room for new.

There’s nothing like putting new skills to good use.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Equine Perception

with 5 comments

This weekend, our friends, Mike & Barb, visited for dinner. Before sitting down to a sumptuous feast, we took a walk around the property that culminated in a visit with the horses. Mike brought some apples, so I opened a gate to serve up treats from within the paddock. Being unfamiliar with horses, Barb was more comfortable waiting just outside.

When it comes to treats, the horses are never bashful. Cyndie, Mike, and I moved among the herd to assure each of the 4 received a fair share. After they’d eaten all the apples,dscn5786e Legacy walked right up to Barb at the gate.

.

I commented that he was probably fond of her color scheme.

.

Especially considering the color pallet that Mike was sporting.

.

.

dscn5789e.

Hunter seemed to pick right up on Mike’s playful spirit and soaked up his smell with big yawns and an outstretched tongue.

Cyndie pointed out that as herd leader, Legacy’s role is to make sure everyone is safe, connected, and part of the group. He chose to connect with Barb as a way to include her and acknowledge her reticence and sense of vulnerability over being among such large, and sometimes unpredictable animals.

As we discussed this, I was struck by the memory that I was in that very same place of unfamiliarity with horses when we bought this place. I would never think of stepping inside a fence with such large animals.

After one weekend of lessons on horse communication, and learning to understand my energies of mind, heart, and gut, I was significantly transformed. Before the end of the very first day of that weekend, I had moved from being completely naive about anything to do with horses, to finding myself successfully interacting with a horse I had no knowledge of, alone with him within the limited confines of a round pen.

dscn5787eIt was monumental for me. It laid the foundation for everything I’ve learned since, now living as a co-owner of four beautiful Arabian horses.

I feel like I’ve come farther than should be possible in such a short time. I also feel like I still know so little. Every day there is more to grasp about the remarkable dynamics of equine perception.

More often than not, I get the sense that they know more about me than I do.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2017 at 7:00 am

Fly In

leave a comment »

For years, I lived within bicycling distance of Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, yet I never attended any of their events. Yesterday, I walked among planes and talked with pilots at my first fly-in. It has me marveling over what I missed all those years.

IMG_iP3742eCH

It also has me appreciating all the money I have saved by not becoming a pilot. 🙂

IMG_iP3774eCHWith the Battle Lake airstrip within walking distance on a beautiful paved path past the Glendalough State Park, Cyndie and I hiked under the series of incoming aircraft to take in the spectacle. George was already there with an orange vest on as a volunteer helping direct traffic when planes taxied past the wandering spectators.

The incoming civilian small planes floated in with little fanfare while the louder, larger, and faster military planes made speedy passes and garnered the bulk of attention. I was filled with questions about the difference of all the designs and found an excellent teacher in George’s friend, Ed.

DSCN5118eI first met Ed at an impromptu drop-in visit for dinner at George’s house. He had become a mentor for George during his time of instruction to earn a pilot’s license. While chatting about the typical first-meeting details that define us, we quickly surmised that Cyndie and I had purchased our home and property from his sister. We had an instant bond.

I also quickly learned why he made for a good mentor. He was not only an experienced pilot, but he had spent his career directing planes as a flight controller.

Flying, like so many other pursuits, holds an allure that can easily pull a person in all the way. Despite that, I learned, the number of pilots is on the decline. There are less young people entering the field than the number of flyers who are aging out.

DSCN5127eDSCN5128e.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve survived the pull of that flying thrill several times before, with pilot-friends Mike and Rich both bringing me along on flights, and the time when our son, Julian, was investigating the possibility. I think I’ll be able to withstand the pull again with George and Ed.

I wouldn’t help the averages, anyway. At this point, I’d just end up being another pilot in the 60-year-old bracket.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

September 4, 2016 at 8:41 am

Sand Box

with 2 comments

IMG_iP1467eAfter work yesterday, I went outside to play in our sand box. It wasn’t pretty. There were a few expletives expressed in the execution of the task.

We had an extra load of lime screenings dumped beside the hay shed for use in filling low spots and rills in the paddock. The horses kick constantly in response to flies on their legs and their doing so digs out the area around their hay boxes. The rills on the slope are created by water runoff from heavy rains.

Both issues require trying to get the tractor up the incline to the barn, with a heavy bucket load of lime screenings. I have yet to acquire the skills and knowledge to efficiently navigate the 12 forward gears of the New Holland to get it to go where I want to go and do what I intend to achieve without spinning the wheels and creating almost as much damage as that which I am trying to mend.

It’s crazy-making.

It should be fun, playing in sand with my big tractor. Problem is, it is also a bit dangerous and can be costly.

Right off the bat, with the first scoop of screenings, I got stuck at the bump built up to divert water runoff at the gate into the paddock. I didn’t approach with enough momentum to get over it, and since it is downhill from the driveway, I suddenly couldn’t back up, either. The rear tires just spun when trying both directions, digging me deeper into being stuck with each attempt to coax out some progress of escape.

I ended up dumping the bucket right there and using the hydraulic loader to pry my way out of the predicament, as I have learned to do from my farmer neighbors. It would be nice if I took it as no big deal, but it pissed me off something fierce and set the negative tone for all my subsequent struggles of getting up the slopes to where I wanted to drop loads of screenings.

I couldn’t figure out the right combination of speed and power to make it up the hill with all the weight in the bucket. Halfway up the slope the rear wheels would start to lose grip and I would try to solve it with cursing.

Okay, cursing isn’t an attempt to solve the problem, it is a venting of frustration over having the problem and not succeeding in achieving a solution. But it feels like it helps.

Eventually, enough material was moved close enough to areas where it could be tossed by shovel to the spots most in need. The divots created by spinning tractor wheels were filled in and smoothed. The tractor didn’t tip over or smash into the fence, the barn posts, or the tree.

I got “back to grazing” pretty quickly and shed the negative vibe.

I suppose it’s not all that different from any kid playing in a sand box. Sometimes fun is mixed with frustration. The trick is learning how to deal with it constructively and come out ahead in the end.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2016 at 6:00 am

Growing Accustomed

leave a comment »

I had a moment over the weekend when I became aware of just how much comfort I am developing with many of the things that were beyond my sphere of exposure just a few years ago. That’s not entirely a surprise. I expected to get the hang of things in time. But, there is relief in being able to notice the progress.

I changed the oil and replaced the mower blades on the lawn tractor on Saturday. Detaching and sliding out the mower deck has become so simple and routine for me that I laughed to myself over the change of perspective about the task.

When we got the horses, I didn’t have any experience caring for a horse. It was a daunting feeling to be responsible for their well-being when knowing so little about them. I’ve grown a lot more comfortable reading their general health in the ensuing years.

I have been composting the horse manure long enough now that I am getting much better at recognizing progress, both when it’s happening, and when it’s not. It was interesting yesterday to discover that I needed to add water to piles I was turning, even though we had been receiving rain showers throughout the preceding 18 hours.

IMG_iP1340eThe micro organisms that generate intense heat while breaking down the manure, do an amazing job of drying out the material at the same time. If I neglect to turn the pile often enough, the composting process doesn’t transpire nearly as efficiently as it otherwise would.

Luckily, I’ve grown accustomed to having manure management be a significant part of my contribution here.

What can I say? I’m good at shoveling it.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2016 at 6:00 am