Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘loss

Thinking Positively

with 2 comments

It makes simple sense to me. Repetitive thought develops paths and synapses in our brains. What we are thinking grows pathways and releases chemical reactions in our bodies. When something difficult comes to us, we can simply be with the experience, but we don’t need to hold on to it. We can let it go and replace it with something positive.

We had a wonderful time with our chickens. Rocky was a great addition to our experience. Cyndie and I are working on filling our minds with the best memories of our hens and the challenge of finding their hidden eggs. We hear their calm chicken conversations and Rocky’s blustery crowing still in our ears.

We have eggs and plans to incubate some of them.

The sooner we release the tragedy of the dramatic losses that happened in such a short span of time, the better. We are noticing the flowers blooming across our forest floor. We are growing pathways in our brains with visions of a world we want to bring into being.

We are thinking positively.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

Unpleasant Reality

with 6 comments

Today’s post is one I don’t really want to be writing, but it’s the story to be told. The ever-present risk of free ranging our chickens played out yesterday afternoon between the hours of 2 and 4 o’clock. We had stepped back into the house to dry off from hours of being out in the rain or slogging away on tasks in the barn.

An unidentified foe or foes, invisible like the ghost of almost every previous such incident we have experienced, attacked our chickens and left us down four hens. A fifth, the old Buff Orpington, was injured and cowering in one of the corners under the barn overhang.

Two of the Light Brahmas stood around her, appearing to offer both comfort and protection. The wide spread of locations where bursts of feathers revealed shadows of the violence that occurred presented a complicated picture of how this incident must have played out.P4090007e

Near the coop, two or three eruptions of feathers. On the other side of the back pasture fence near the round pen, two more, all looking like feathers of a Domestique and the only New Hampshire hen. Near the barn, another Domestique. In the middle of the large paddock, it looked like Buff’s feathers.

Way over on the far side of the barn and around the hay shed, up onto the pavement of the driveway, one more Domestique.

Cyndie picked up the Buff and placed her in a safe space in the barn. There was some blood from her injury. The hen accepted some water with supplemental iron and enzymes. She survived the night, but when Cyndie checked on her this morning, it was obvious she was in distress. While grasping with the difficult decision to end the Buff’s suffering, Cyndie ended up witnessing the sight of the hen’s final spasm of death.

We are down five hens, leaving eight survivors and Rocky. There is no way of knowing what our new rooster may have achieved during the fracas, but one version is that he saved eight. In fact, it’s possible he kept the Buff from being killed and carried away, which is interesting to contemplate since he was usually busy trying to excommunicate her from the group whenever possible.

P4090001eHe shows no evidence of having any of his feathers ruffled. The attacker(s) left behind the fully intact body of the New Hampshire, which means the only missing bodies are the three Domestiques. It is hard to imagine it was a lone fox carrying these three off from such a wide span of distances. Much more understandable if we envision two or three coyotes.

We know coyotes exist in the area, but in all our years here, I have yet to see even one roaming on our land. Even when predators pay us a visit in broad daylight, they remain unseen ghosts for me.

We are granted the privilege of living with whichever chickens they allow us to keep. We still have one hen of the Domestique breed left. While the surviving chickens were wandering around later in the day, I noticed that Domestique trailing far behind the rest of the group.

Poor thing probably wonders where her mates had gone. I was thinking she probably shouldn’t stray far from Rocky’s side. Her breed appears to be a favored one for the local marauders.

.

.

Never Over

with 2 comments

When I looked last night, the COVID-19 death toll for the U.S. was beyond 450,000. Multiply each individual death by the number of people who loved them and the total is easily beyond two million.

While I pine for the day when we can look back and realize this pandemic is officially behind us, the harsh reality remains that for all who will have lost a loved one to the disease, it will never be over.

This moves my impatience to a much more humbled perspective.

To everyone coping with the permanent loss of a person to the virus, I pause to contemplate your grief and lift up my heartfelt love as a soothing balm for your pain.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 1, 2021 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , , , ,

Incredible Person

with 2 comments

There are some things I find difficult to write about, even though writing my thoughts is what I am most often inclined to do. It’s been on my mind for some time that I should consider writing something to honor my father-in-law, Fred Friswold, but the task seemed too daunting. How could I do justice to such a heroic specimen of a human being? Especially when I know some of his flaws.

Well, in the end, I understand that attempting to do justice counts about as much as actually achieving it. And, his flaws are few and rather frivolous.

I’ve already written about the fact I won the jackpot in the in-law lottery. That tells much about the way I feel to have had the privilege of being granted the highest honor of becoming a member of the Friswold family.

Fred Friswold was an incredible person. Often, the first thing people think of about Fred is the robustness of his greetings and the reverberating heartiness of his laugh. It seemed an incredible injustice that his voice was taken from him in the last months of his life. However, not once did I witness him give in to self-pity or anger over the loss.

Suddenly we found ourselves needing to quiet down and look to him in order to hear what he had to say. It became an endearing thing to process the sound of his whispers. It has made the sound of his raucous pronouncements and booming guffaws all the more precious in our memories.

In the absence of my own father, who died shortly after I married Cyndie at my ripe old age of 22, it was Fred who became my reference for figuring out how to be a husband and a dad. It didn’t make things easy for me. When I struggled to navigate challenges that required repair around the house, realizing I didn’t know how to fix things the way my dad did, Cyndie would suggest we do what her dad did. Look in the Yellow Pages.

The man knew his limitations. Not that he didn’t tackle a few of his own do-it-yourself projects. He painted their house once. And, accidentally, a little of the neighbor’s house next door, too, using a sprayer. He must have liked spray painting. Late in life, he enlisted my labor to do a quick job of painting a new baseboard around their deck. Wouldn’t take long. He had all the stuff necessary for the job.

A can of spray paint. I spent 90-minutes taping up newspaper to protect the light-colored siding from the dark brown deck for the 10-minute job of painting.

One thing Fred never did was make me feel like I didn’t belong or wasn’t meeting his expectations, despite his high regard for academic achievement and career accomplishments. I didn’t receive the frequent queries seeking to hear what the 5-year plan was. Maybe a few “What did you do for your country today?” queries, but if my answer was that I rode my bike a respectable distance, he found a way to work with that.

Of course, we are absolutely heartbroken that his life has reached its end, but it pains us even more that it has happened at a time of the pandemic when we are unable to gather the throngs who also knew and loved him in order to process our shared grief.

Fred Ravndal Friswold was a truly incredible person for whom my words are insufficient to adequately describe.

He was an endearingly loud person who went out in a whisper.

We will, and do already, miss him in the extreme.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2020 at 7:36 am

Luck Ends

with 4 comments

Our surprising run of luck with keeping our latest eight free-range chickens in the wilds of rural Wisconsin farm country ended yesterday in a very similar fashion to our first attempt a couple of years earlier. In the waning hours of daylight, when Cyndie went out to close the chicken door on the coop, there were only three hens on the roost.

A cursory survey of the surroundings turned up one body and one pile of feathers. No other clues were found.

Some predator or predators had a good meal last night. It, or they, made off with four gorgeous hens.

It was a real joy while it lasted. Unfortunately, it is not joyous at all when lives come to an end. The cycles of natural life can be harsh.

The unwelcome drama made for a pretty crummy end to an otherwise rainy, gloomy day.

And then there were three…

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Different Sense

with 3 comments

I suppose this is related to the concept of “opposites attracting,” but living with someone who perceives the world differently from you has a way of complicating otherwise straightforward coexistence. Several times in the last week, Cyndie’s and my dramatically different abilities to sense smells has been made vividly obvious.

She brought a horse blanket into the house to be mended the other day. When I stepped inside after a day of work, I immediately commented, “It smells like a barn in here!”

She didn’t notice it.

Friday night, she put a pork roast in the slow cooker before going to bed, to let it simmer while we slept. The longer it cooked, the more intense was the appetite-triggering aroma that filled our home. When my slumber was interrupted by a full bladder in the wee hours of the morning, getting back to sleep amid that incredible smell, was like trying to go to sleep while someone continuously knocks on your door.

I couldn’t do it. Cyndie barely sensed the aroma.

There are other differences –or opposites– that tend to have greater significance. The way we process grief, and the intensity with which we experience it, is a particularly hefty one of late. The horses aren’t even gone yet, but the mental anguish over rehoming them started way back when the idea of doing so was first brought up.

The torment over their departure is deeper than just coming to grips with them no longer being here, it delves into the original vision that brought us to this land in the first place.

The difference in the way Cyndie and I perceive this whole development, and the varying degrees of processing our personal grief over it, can make for a difficult… life together.

It would be great for me if I could just deal with all of this my way, but then I would miss out on life lessons that are the gift of living in relationship with another person.

Cyndie and I got to where we are today, together. We intend to get to where we are going next, the very same way.

We’ll discover it together, even though she doesn’t smell half the things I do.

.

.

Not Easy

with 7 comments

It’s not easy to write about moving our horses… There are a lot of emotions built up regarding the next change in store. After weeks of consideration, Cyndie and I recently decided we need to find another home for Dezirea, Cayenne, and Hunter.

Last week, we learned that the previous owners of the herd are willing to accept the horses back, and we have now begun the process of detailing the specifics involved. Although an actual date of transfer is yet to be determined, just verbalizing the idea, and now having the outcome decided, has already triggered powerful emotions for both of us.

The horses are such an integral part of our lives that we struggle to imagine what it will be like after they are gone. We are each looking forward to regaining a little of our independence again, but it remains to be seen whether we will stay on this property for long without them.

I’ve been mentally revisiting the day the horses arrived here back in September of 2013. That was a pinnacle of thrills that barely compares with any other in my life, except maybe the day Cyndie and I got married. The ensuing years have included more incredible experiences than I can count, having gone from zero experience owning horses, to developing intimate knowledge of our herd.

They have definitely provided me with plenty of things to write about over the years.

Yesterday, while I was tending to the cleanup detail near their evening feeding time, Dezirea suddenly laid down and rolled around in her blanket. By the time I got around to thinking it would have been a good photo, she was already back on her feet.

Then Hunter walked over to the same spot and started pawing the ground. I knew he was going to lay down as well, so this time I scrambled to dig out my pocket camera. In my haste to capture him while he was upside down, I accidentally pushed the power button to turn the camera off again.

By the time I got it back on, he was upright.

It is going to be incredibly difficult to adjust to no longer having them live with us.

Horses have a powerful energy, and I don’t think we will ever be able to replace it.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2019 at 7:00 am

Somehow Nothing

leave a comment »

Somehow, I have nothing to report in terms of storm related damage to our property. We survived relatively unscathed beyond the quick return of runoff rills in the paddock lime screenings. After having just bladed and filled the rills last weekend, the chore now needs to be done all over again.

As tornadic weather goes, the impact can be very localized. We were lucky. Jackie reported that the property where she boards her horse, just a few miles down the road, suffered a much sadder fate. Two sheds were blown over, one of which killed a horse.

Our trees wiggled a little bit, but we hardly lost leaves or branches.

The soil is now like a soaked sponge, so I chose to stay off it with any wheeled vehicles. I’m gloating over having gotten the main drainage ditch mowed last week when it was good and dry, providing a clear path for the flash flood runoff from Thursday’s storm.

Instead of driving tractors around, I occupied my time cleaning up the old lawn tractor and accessories and taking pictures to advertise them for sale on Craigslist.

It feels really good to have this finally done, because I have been neglecting it since last November when I bought the new replacement. Now, if I could just reach the desired fruition of someone seeing the ad and giving us some money to haul it away, I’ll be overjoyed.

I will appreciate the space it will free up in the garage, on top of the decluttering sensations of ridding ourselves of unused equipment that is just sitting idle.

If I actually end up with financial compensation, that will be icing on the cake!

The post was published last night and soon after I received the first text query asking if it was still available. I was tickled by the attention happening so quick and gleefully responded in the affirmative.

The response… somehow, nothing.

Really? Why wouldn’t they follow-up after finding out it was still available?

This is not my favorite phase of the process of selling things we no longer want or need.

I am going to focus my visualizations on the moment when the lawn tractor is loaded and rolling down our driveway and then on down the road. Hopefully, it will happen sooner than later.

 

.

.

Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

No Idea

leave a comment »

It’s a complete mystery to us, and an entirely unexpected circumstance for the demise of another chicken. I fully expected it would be a predator killing and running off with our next victim.

Jackie found an ominous scattering of black chicken feathers inside the barn yesterday afternoon when she arrived to tend to the horses.

We leave the bottom half of the split doors closed all day to dissuade the chickens from getting inside and leaving their calling cards all over the barn. They are certainly capable of hoisting themselves high enough to get up and over the half doors, but we have yet to catch them doing so.

Our first question is, then how did she get inside? Did she come in of her own accord?

The scattering of feathers were generally confined to two separate spots. What caused the loss of feathers?

Eventually, the trail of feathers led to the discovery of a body, curled up like a little napping kitty, back behind a stack of rakes and shovels leaning against the wall. The deceased hen was completely intact, with no visible wounds.

What was the cause of death?

We have no idea.

Did it get inside on its own and then have a panic attack? Did a predator chase it inside? Carry it inside?

Would a potential predator leap over the door? A cat would.

Did the chicken come inside and then surprise a predator inside? Most likely guess would be a neighbor cat that was trespassing in our barn.

This would have happened sometime in the middle of the warm sunny day yesterday. Cyndie and Jackie said it was really windy around here during the day. Did that have anything to do with how or why the chicken ended up in the barn?

No idea.

We are now down to 9 chickens, three each of the three breeds we purchased. In fact, we only paid for nine. We received 1 extra chick for each breed back in March. This marks the end of the spares provided to cover for possible loss due to any hardships for day-old chicks traveling through the US Postal service.

We received other news from Jackie last night. After a couple of weeks back in classes at UW River Falls, she has decided she needs to move back on campus. Our live-in helping hand will no longer be available to provide the coverage for us like she did through the summer. Jackie has allowed us a good number more weekends away than we’ve been able to achieve previous years.

Our basement “apartment” may be back on the market for someone who knows and loves horses. Also being able to handle a diva of a Belgian Shepherd would be an added plus.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quick Fox

with 20 comments

That didn’t take long.

From the looks of the feathers that flew, the Buff put up a fight yesterday morning.

Cyndie found the lifeless body beyond the hay shed, not far from our property border to the north. That is a long way from where the trail camera captured the fox crossing our trail in the woods, but it is in the same general northerly direction. We think we have a pretty good idea about what direction from which the threat originates.

Meanwhile, my relocation of the trail cam did not produce the hoped for results. I’m guessing the motion of moving branches was triggering the captures. I scanned 722 images and found one with a nice face shot of a squirrel and one blur of a smaller squirrel leaping through the air. Nothing else, beyond wiggling branches.

Having read about the superb cunning of fox behavior, and their ability to learn patterns of our movement, I’m even more impressed over the great snapshot we have from the morning last week when the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens were dispatched.

It is not lost on us that the elusiveness of this predator has kept us entirely blind to its presence, beyond the one picture. Even though it has obviously been active during the day when we are out and about, neither of us has ever seen it with our own eyes.

Foxy, indeed.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am