Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Lessons

Freezing Wet

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You know what is worse than freezing cold? Freezing wet. It is one condition for which we would never question whether or not to move the horses indoors. Our horses do a pretty good job of enduring exposure to snow and cold, but when it comes to rain at freezing temperatures, they need shelter.

Regardless the pleasure of early warmth we enjoyed throughout much of the month of March, the trend recently has shifted significantly away from pleasant.

IMG_iP3132eCHIt has us burning fires in the fireplace and cuddling up under blankets, drinking hot drinks.

I suppose there is a lesson for us somewhere in this situation about patience, but I don’t really need to be tempted by early warmth to get the lesson about being patient for the spring growing season to truly arrive. I’m sure I could learn it just as well with winter staying winter the whole time, and lasting well into April.

If I had any sense I’d be using this time to change the oil in the lawn tractor and finish preparing it for the long mowing season that lies ahead. The cold and wet may be lingering, but logic dictates it will eventually end.

When it does, growing things definitely won’t hesitate to respond.

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2016 at 6:00 am

Frustrating Exercise

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Despite my ambitious goals to accomplish many things yesterday (so I could take Cyndie up on an offer to turn my back on projects at home for a day to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with a visit to the lake) I finished far short of the plan. Now I am forced to try to get the grass mowed this morning, long before the dew has evaporated, so we can leave in the afternoon.

Complicating my efforts yesterday, and seriously hindering my progress, was a surprising and very dramatic reaction to something in the air. I started sneezing big time, and my nose began to run like a faucet. That both hindered progress and contributed to my not addressing any of the other things I had wanted to do.

DSCN3490eOn top of that, I ended up needing to make that almost obligatory return trip to Menards for supplies. I was working on patching our deck where boards have gotten soft with rot. The carpenter I called to replace them all is too busy to get to it until later, so he suggested I patch it for now. Following his simplified instructions, I quickly ran into details that required I problem solve.

It took two tries, but I figured out solutions and forged ahead, way behind schedule. Then my nose began to pour and the pry bar I used to pull nails became too worn and wouldn’t grip the nail heads. It was an exercise in managing frustration and rearranging goals. I’ll give myself a C grade for the lesson. (Mike, I needed your nail-puller and expertise!)

It was getting late, and I had all the tools spread out across the deck, so I forged ahead until after sunset to complete the task. I wanted to have one less thing left to do today, and I successfully accomplished that!

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2015 at 6:00 am

Intelligence Gaps

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In the early dark of the first morning after the obnoxiously irritating hour adjustment to Daylight Saving Time, Delilah and I got up and started this day by ourselves. The cats were up, but not being noticeable, and Cyndie was sleeping as if the clocks hadn’t changed. I added wood to the fire and sat down to write, frequently interrupted by Delilah seeking attention.

The melt has started in earnest here and all that accumulation resting on metal roofs was set in motion yesterday, breaking loose and giving in to gravity with startling clamorous reverberations. Scared a few years of life out of Cyndie when it happened on the hay shed while she was inside it.

On the overhang of the barn where we added a gutter to minimize the dripping on the horses, the snow had slid beyond the gutter and was raining down. I had just walked up to tell Cyndie I was going to make a run to River Falls to pick up parts for the lawn tractor, and seeing the problem, grabbed a rake to knock the ice and snow down.

Let that be a lesson to me. I didn’t have a coat on, or a hat, or most importantly, gloves. I knew a little snow might fall on me, but it was a nice day and I took it as a challenge I could manage. What I didn’t anticipate was the damage a little falling ice can do to bare hands. I didn’t notice until I was on the way to town in the car, that my hands had suffered multiple cuts and scrapes. One particularly bothersome spot was missing a layer of skin. Ouch that stings.

IMG_3499eWhile I was looking up at the gutter, and Cyndie was looking down, as she scooped up manure, Delilah decided to harass the horses in the paddock. In our continuing effort to have them learn to accept each other, neither of us chose to intercede on the confrontation. Then we heard Delilah yelp. I quickly turned to see that she looked just fine and was even still hanging around them. I don’t know if she got kicked or not, but we decided it was time to separate them. Time will tell if that will serve as a lesson to her or not.

She can be incredibly smart sometimes, and a bit of a doofus others. She knows that she is not allowed to bring dead animals into the house. We faced off for about 45 minutes one night, she on the deck and me at the back door. If she drops it, she gets to come in. So she drops the remains of this squirrel she caught and I open the door. She picks it back up and I close the door. It’s a wonderful game.

On Friday I saw her running around with the frozen remains of a rabbit, which kept her occupied while I focused on my own projects. As the day warmed up and she gnawed on her prize, I noticed on a subsequent trip between the house and the shop that the rabbit was no longer frozen. I headed in for lunch and in a few short minutes, Delilah showed up at the back door, looking ready to come in.

IMG_3455eI opened the door and she immediately checked for the cats and made a circle around the room. I had barely finished closing the door when she stopped on the rug in front of the fireplace and coughed up a big chunk of that rabbit. She had been carrying it deep in the back of her mouth, obviously to be savored later.

I flung that door back open so fast, while shouting out my repulsed objection, that she knew exactly which rule had been broken. Without hesitation, she picked it up and marched back outside.

She’s smart, in that she understands the rule, and connives tricks to get around it, but then she goes and drops it right in front of me! How smart is that?

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

Deep Meaning

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I am greatly moved by what I have enjoyed the past two days here, learning from the horses. There are many words to be written about it, yet, at the same time, few that will convey the fullness of my experience. It is quite an exercise to move from paying primary attention to my mind, and the limited cues modern society relies on, toward giving the heart and gut equal value. There is wisdom, ancient wisdom, in practicing a more informed awareness of the unseen signals of communication.IMG_2255e2

Observing and interacting with untethered horses, offers a special opportunity to become more aware of parts of ourselves that we often neglect, or even, simply disregard.

This is Mystique, who communicated with me in ways I have yet to fully comprehend.

I look forward to absorbing the full depth of what transpired in the sessions with the equine companions here.

I believe it is infused with deep meaning for me.

Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

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Lesson Learned

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Round 2 goes to John, and if I felt more bold than I do, I would declare myself the victor. However, I am calling it a draw.

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The tractor put up a good fight, repeatedly clinging to the snow that would hit the bucket or blade. As my confidence increased, and I became more aggressive, the tractor sensed the opportunity to up the intensity a bit and left me stuck, teetering on the edge of the driveway, with the front wheels down in the soft snow. I had gotten away with the maneuver several times before. You just never know when the big rear wheels will suddenly lose their grip.

IMG_1420eI found myself on the edge of giving in, and shut the engine down to prevent making a bad situation worse. I walked back up the driveway, considering my options. Who would I call for assistance, neighbor to the north, or neighbor to the south? Then I decided to try one last trick before seeking outside help. I remembered an old ice cream bucket that Cyndie had found when we were packing for our move.

The contents of that bucket have been with me since 1980, when I worked as a security guard at a shingle manufacturer in Minneapolis, while I was attending tech school. The manufacturer gave away the ceramic granules that go on top of the shingles, which can be used to provide great traction. It is amazing that I kept that bucket around all this time.

Between those granules and my years of winter driving experience, I was able to ever-so-slowly rock the tractor up out of that predicament. As I looked behind me when I finally got it moving on solid pavement, I noticed the neighbor to the north starting down the road toward me with a bucket of his own in his hand. I was able to wave him off and get back to putting the finishing touches on my work.

Next time down to the road, I took a moment to rotate the back blade 18o° and then backed up to push the snow into the ditch. Lesson learned.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2012 at 7:00 am

Harsh Lesson

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IMG_1408eWell, that was a fine ‘how-do-you-do?’. My first lesson in plowing the driveway with the tractor was a real trial by fire. It just kept snowing and snowing all day long without a break, and I got my butt whipped. The storm chased me back into the garage where I parked the tractor and threw in the towel. We received over a foot of snow. I don’t know the storm total yet, because I am writing this on Sunday evening and it still hasn’t stopped snowing.

Now, I am able to report that there were some successes to claim, buried in the frustration I was experiencing. I was quickly successful getting the blade attached to the 3-point hitch on the back of the tractor. The tractor started easily on the first try. I had already topped off the fuel supply the last time I used the tractor. I pushed some snow with the loader up front. I quickly discovered that I would need chains. I then succeeded in figuring out the exercise of getting them installed. Not bad on that part, for having no clue about the logistics of the process. I made it all the way to the end of the driveway and back again. I avoided getting permanently stuck.

That’s about where the successes end. Remaining for me to learn are: What the ideal balance of power and speed is. Related to that is, figuring out what RPM the engine should be running at. I need to look into  something to keep snow from sticking to the loader and blade. I need to figure out how best to scoop up a pile of snow with the loader. I need to discover the trick to dumping snow out of the bucket, without it landing back on the area I am trying to plow. I need to figure out when to pick up the blade just enough to keep going and skim the top so I don’t get stuck with too much snow on the blade. I need to learn the trick to getting up the steeper parts of the driveway. That is where I got temporarily stuck multiple times, and why I ultimately gave up and went in.

IMG_1406eI am most proud that I was able to prevent the situation from getting totally out of hand. I avoided getting the tractor permanently stuck. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out what to do differently to avoid that bad spot in the driveway. The driveway is pretty narrow, and the edge of the pavement was not visible. When things would start to go wrong, the tractor would slide sideways and put me over to the edge of the paved area.

Monday will be round two of the battle. I am hoping the snow will have stopped falling, and the colder temperatures will give me a firmer base. If I still can’t figure out how to get the job done, the next plan is to seek the services of a professional, …at least for now.

I’ll be looking forward to getting a chance to practice again on a snowfall amount that’s not quite so harsh. Say, maybe 3 or 4 inches MAX! And it wouldn’t hurt if it would be the driest, fluffiest snow possible.  A guy can hope.

Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2012 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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