Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘neighbors

Snow Coming

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I’m usually grateful to have advanced notice of coming weather, but sometimes I don’t like knowing we are about to receive large amounts of heavy, wet snow in April.

The snow is predicted to come in a narrow band, so it could shift a little, but we are located perilously close to the highest risk of seeing 6 or more inches of snowfall. Look to the right of the letter “e” in the word Moderate, just above Red Wing. Oh, joy.

I spent yesterday tinkering with the slowly developing berm we are constructing at the edge of our property where the neighboring cultivated farm field drains onto our land. It’s been 2-and-a-half years since we installed the latest version of erosion fencing and much of that has filled with so much topsoil the fabric is laying almost flat in some places.

Granted, the following photos were taken at different seasons, late summer vs. early spring, but the difference is rather striking.









The bales obviously disintegrate. Progress that may not be evident can be found in the number of volunteer plants that have taken root and naturally help to hold soil in place. The thing is, though, that helps to hold our soil from eroding, but we still get large flows of the neighbor’s topsoil washing over our property.

If I can get the berm established enough to pool his runoff, it will serve as a natural replacement for the Polypropylene fabric and, most important to my sensibilities, be a less unsightly barrier.

I have found the use of gnarly dead branches that are too big for my chipper makes for great starter material in establishing a natural barrier. The highly fertilized runoff tends to fuel thick growth of tall grasses that ultimately create a tangled wall of live plants weaving through dead wood.

Looks like I’ll have a fresh opportunity Monday to see how my latest upgrade to the barrier yesterday will impact the drainage of many inches of melting snow.

Wouldn’t you know it, I changed the tires on the ATV yesterday to swap out the aggressive treaded winter tires for plowing snow, with the smoother treads of summer tires that are kinder to our land.

I could be in for a complex day tomorrow of clearing heavy, wet snow that will be a big problem for a day or two, and then melt. Then we can get on with spring, which is on the verge of swiftly getting sprung.



Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2020 at 9:20 am

Seeing Orange

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This morning the firearm deer hunting season opened in Wisconsin. The entire month of November echos with gunshots as hunters engage in some preseason shooting practice and adjustments of their aiming sights. Those sounds rarely happen earlier than sunrise, nor all around us at the same time, so this morning is notably different.

Locally, the hunt legally commenced at ten minutes before 7:00. I heard the first shot at 6:55. The culling of our deer herds is underway. I’d like to imagine it as some of our neighbors now being blessed with food to survive the winter, but I know that isn’t the present reality.

Earlier this week, our neighbor whose family owned much of the land around us, including our twenty acres, called to ask permission to hunt on our property this year. He started by asking what we were doing up here without horses anymore. It occurred to me that he never specifically asked to hunt on our property when we had horses.

The very first time we met him after moving in, he opened the visit by asking in the form of a statement, “You aren’t going to post the property no hunting.” ?

Welcome, neighbor! That was a fine ‘how do you do?’ I remember needing to pause to determine he meant it as a question.

Luckily, both Cyndie and I have a pretty good sense of reading intent and suspended our first impressions, allowing him time to feel comfortable and to get to know us as non-threatening to his way of life. In the seven years since that day, we have had nothing but positive interactions with him. Despite his ever-present initial gruffness, he has always been incredibly generous with helping us in times of need.

There was no way I felt a need to deny him the chance to hunt where he always had before just because we now owned it. Such was the case this week when, knowing there were no horses to disturb, he asked permission to enter our land to hunt deer.

Orange clothes are the fashion fad of the day. Cyndie donned a bright orange vest and put one on Delilah for their morning walk, which was altered to avoid our woods. Down the driveway and around the field to the north and back to the barn to open the chicken door on the coop.

In that amount of time, they heard two gunshots from our neighbor to the south, followed by about eight other reports from the distance around us.

Moments ago, Delilah broke out in a flourish of alert barking at the window in the sunroom, which normally means a squirrel (or squirrels –the other day there were six hopping around in the grass just outside). This time it was a bright orange person walking through the woods owned by our neighbors to the north.

“Good dog!”



Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

Second Cut

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It’s done now. Yesterday the neighbors rolled up some round bales out of the last cutting of our fields. After a long, wet summer, the harvest was finally completed over the opening weekend of November.

I’ll admit I had my doubts it would ever happen. The weather hasn’t offered much of a break for hay growers this year, so we are pleased to have our renters finally enjoying some last-minute success.

While they were doing that, we were preparing the diesel tractor for winter duty by reattaching weights to the rear wheels. That is not an easy task, as there are two weights for each wheel and each single weight is almost more than I can lift.

That’s probably part of what made it difficult. Since I am able to lift them, even though just barely, I decided to try doing as much of it as possible by hand. When I reached my limit, I coerced Cyndie to help me do battle. After a lot of grunting, huffing, and puffing, we got the weights secured in place with bolts.

It was a heroic effort that we had neglected to take before winter last year, which left the diesel tractor mostly useless during some of the late-season heavy snows. This year we intend to be better prepared.

Just maybe, it will result in us ultimately not needing to use the big tractor. Better safe than sorry.



Written by johnwhays

November 4, 2019 at 7:00 am

Other Diversions

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While I have been consumed with our deck refurbishment it might seem like nothing else has been happening around here. That’s almost true. Even though I haven’t touched a vast number of the other projects deserving attention, there is one exciting thing happening that doesn’t require any effort from us at all.

Sunday afternoon the neighbors renting our fields sent someone over to do a last cut of hay after the first frost. I don’t know how it works, but we are happy that our fields will be cropped for the winter months.

There is some evidence that the tractor tires found a couple of muddy spots, but to my surprise, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. The ground is still as wet as a spring day in our region.

I will be very curious to watch how the rest of the raking and baling process plays out. The 7-day weather forecast looks promising for lack of precipitation, other than the light snow flurries we received after dark last night.

When they tried baling during the summer, it rained almost every day and the cut hay never got a chance to dry. That was when they gave up the cuttings to a beef farmer who rolled some ugly round bales out of the mess.

This hay will go to feed llamas. I’m going to guess they aren’t as picky as horses can be about the hay they are served in the dead of winter.

The air on Sunday was filled with tractor sounds as our neighbor to the north was harvesting his field of soybeans at the same time our fields were being cut.

The neighborhood “Next Door” app is popping with a rash of new members signing on in what I assume is a renewed push by someone to generate interest. We posted some of our “for sale” items there and enjoyed meeting several people who stopped by to shop. This weekend we are hosting a dinner with one couple to get to know them better.

In no time the earth will be frozen, snow will cover the land, and everyone will retreat to their winter cocoons for months of semi-hibernation.

It always amazes me we can live so close, but rarely cross paths with most of our neighbors, even when the weather is inviting. Winter just amplifies the rarity of interactions, beyond the sympathetic waves of acknowledgment when plowing out the ends of our driveways.



Written by johnwhays

October 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

Caged Kitty

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It was in the darkness of the wee morning hours Wednesday that I walked past the bedroom window on a trip to the bathroom and spotted a change in the position of the door on our live trap. After days of zero activity, we finally caught something, but it wasn’t the woodchuck.

It was too dark for me to discern what was in the cage, but I could see a small dark spot stuck inside. After my drive to work, I texted Cyndie to have her check the trap, but unbeknownst to me, my message didn’t make it through and I was left wondering for hours.

It didn’t matter. She heard it when taking Delilah for her morning walk. We caught a little kitty.

It was calling out in cute little “mews.”

After Cyndie figured out how to open the door of the trap, the ferocious beast disappeared in a blink. I expect the tight confines weren’t a desirable alternative to the usual wide-open expanse available to a free-roaming cat.

This not-surprising capture is the very reason we chose not to allow the pest control agent to set one of his kill traps outside the window well. We’ve sent him on his way and resorted to trying to trap the woodchuck ourselves. Based on the lack of a capture during the time we’ve had traps set for the pest, I’m letting the live-trap serve as a deterrent to keep the burrowing beast from digging around the outside of the window well.

After two separate incidents of attempted burrowing since we dug out the window well, we placed the trap and haven’t noticed any evidence of woodchuck activity since.

It would be ideal if it actually worked as a deterrent because we have yet to figure out how we will dispose of the critter if it eventually does climb in to take the bait.

We would most likely visit one of our neighbors to see if anyone would like to solve the problem for us.

I am so glad we caught a kitty and not a wandering skunk.

If I were placing bets, I’d put my money on us most likely snagging a raccoon next.

I don’t actually care, as long as it keeps the woodchuck from digging around the house.



Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Mixed Up

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Yesterday afternoon we had plenty of sunshine that enabled me to get out and mow some grass, not because I wanted to, but because it needed to be cut so bad I didn’t dare wait for another chance. Our grass had grown so much since the last time I mowed, it looked like a June afternoon around here on October 7th.

On top of that, the recent pounding of rain we have been receiving has our property as wet as a spring day. It was rather disorienting to need to mow around certain areas where there was standing water. That is something that used to happen at the beginning of the mowing season. In my lifetime of living in this region, October was not a month where mowing thick grass needed to happen.

This is not the climate of my youth.

Meanwhile, this June-type of lawn growth is days away from meeting up with its first dose of snow for the coming season.

It’s a mixed-up world.

Someone posted in our neighborhood app asking people to be on the lookout for a pink-faced calf that ran off into the woods. I’m not sure if the pink face was natural or the result of some special effects. The calf had been tied in the yard for a “cownicorn” birthday party.

The drama didn’t last long, because they found the calf just a short time later. It may not be all that mixed up for this rural community, but it was unusual enough to contribute more strangeness to the already crazy thick growing grass in October.

I accept that nothing is actually static, so unusual occurrences are always unfolding, regardless of how we perceive and frame our world. It inspires me to strive for resilience in the face of whatever new mix-ups might be around the next corner.

It’s hard to imagine what to expect, other than the obvious fact something new will show up as being totally mixed up.

Unless it doesn’t. But then, would that just seem mixed up, too?



Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2019 at 6:00 am

New Chaos

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We almost made it through two days of calm respite at the lake before the universe dished out a new dose of chaotic drama. My sense of orderliness is getting plenty of exercise, whether I want it, or not.

The idyllic afternoon in the water slowly eased into a delicious dinner of charcoal-grilled burgers with fresh corn-on-the-cob. Stories and laughter around the table topped off dinner and lasted until a call to join others by the lodge.

It was dark outside. There were a lot of people gathering on the deck next door. A bunch more were sitting around the fire at the lodge. Cyndie had Delilah on a leash. I was carrying my travel guitar in its case and arrived on the deck, having just walked up from the fire pit. The neighbors have a white dog that looks like one of the miniature mix breeds. Cyndie had been told the little dog was inside their cabin.

It all coalesced into a split-second explosion of dog conflict that revealed Gracie wasn’t inside. I turned to witness the fracas and ended up using my guitar case as a lever against Delilah as people scrambled to separate them.

Gracie was surprisingly calm, but inspection revealed she was bleeding from a puncture wound. The decision was made to bandage her up for the night and seek veterinarian advice today.

Cyndie and I are frustrated by Delilah’s quick transformations from calm to aggressive, but this degree of conflict is a new level that has us crushed.

The night was already laced with heaviness by reports of a community member in the last hours of life after years of cancer treatments.

I was on a quest for a break from life’s pressures, but the reality of new challenges occurring every day is helping me to adjust my focus toward the art of nurturing an intentional peacefulness that surfs above the turbulence which circumstances perpetually roil.

This morning I am conjuring extra love for people and animals and sending it to all the world. New love to sooth new chaos.




Written by johnwhays

August 11, 2019 at 8:27 am

High Points

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After work yesterday, Cyndie and I hopped in her car and drove up to the lake for the weekend. Leaving on a Thursday night makes for easy driving, in the absence of the typical weekend traffic headed north. Our route took us through some of the damage from last week’s storms that produced near-hurricane force winds and some baseball-sized hail.

It was fruitless to try to capture a representative photo of the large scope of broken trees for miles, but I snapped a few shots on my cell phone through the car window at highway speed.

It was a little easier to capture a sample of some building damage that hadn’t been covered up yet.

The extensive damage to trees was a really sad sight. It gave me a whole new perspective on the comparatively minor issues we are facing at home with a few dead or dying trees leaning across our trails. We’ve got it easy.

High point of the day for me yesterday was finding a neighboring farmer working our fields to finally bale some of the cut hay that has been left on the ground for weeks, repeatedly being rained on instead of properly drying out. The past week offered the longest stretch of dry days that I can recall so far this summer.

The second high point was getting a chance to watch portions of Stage 18 of the Tour de France on the subscription TV channels when we got here. At home, we only pick up what is publicly available through the airwaves, and bike racing coverage is minimal.

Two big mountain stages remain, today and tomorrow, and I am thrilled to be able to view all the drama as it happens.

Maybe it will be rainy here as the morning progresses so I don’t waste sunny lake time sitting indoors in front of the glowing screen getting my bike racing fix.

Honorable mention high point yesterday goes to the Coop’s pizza dinner we devoured when we got to Hayward. Oh, so delicious.



Final Touches

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With the big job of moving the gazebo done, thanks to our kids’ help, Cyndie and I made some final tweaks yesterday to complete the new setup. As so often occurs, a plan with one thing in mind expands to several others that need to happen first, to reach the ultimate goal.

Our main objectives were to level the base beneath the bench seat and move the hydrangea tree by transplanting it to a different spot around the labyrinth. We quickly agreed that the place where we put a gracefully rotating section of a tree trunk to stand as a visual attraction would be ideal for the hydrangea.

That old trunk was starting to disintegrate anyway, under the combined pressure of many woodpeckers and natural decay. When we struggled to pick it up, we discovered it hadn’t lost as much mass as appearance led us to suspect, but it looked beat up enough that we didn’t feel bad booting it from its prominent spot.

In the image above, you can see the trunk is now farther out on the left. The hydrangea tree is front and center, garnished with a fresh mulch of wood chips I made on Friday.

Before we transplanted the tree, we wanted to have water available, so I needed to get a hose and turn on the spigot up at the house. That required that the four-way splitter that was removed from the spigot last fall needed to be found. I’m sure we thought we were being obvious when we stowed it away eight months ago.

I was proud of myself when I remembered to grab a level for the bench at the same time I was retrieving a hose from the shop garage. Unfortunately, I needed to send Cyndie back up to find the hose splitter for the spigot.

While she was gone, I trimmed the golden weigela bushes that were on either side of the bench, and now being crowded by the gazebo.

Relocating the hydrangea tree was the most rewarding, as that completely opened up the primary access to the gazebo and bench, which also just happens to serve as an archway entrance to one of our trails into the woods.

It looks odd to no longer see the gazebo in its old spot above the round pen, but we are very happy with the new location beside the labyrinth where it is bound to get much more use.

In addition, this opens up the old spot to easier cutting and raking for hay. We have connected with neighbors who were thrilled with the opportunity to cut and bale our fields for their growing herd of llamas. For a while there, we were a little worried that all the effort we had put into improving our fields would be lost if the weeds were given a chance to return unchallenged.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

Lake Life

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We enlisted the help of recently discovered neighborhood friends to watch over our chickens for the weekend so we could come up to the lake with Cyndie’s parents.

The chickens would be a bit much to haul with us for the trip. The hens and our cat, Pequenita, have been left behind, but Delilah came up with us.

She has only come up here a handful of times, but she seems to have adapted to the unusual surroundings without any anxiety. The first time here, the lake scared her. Now she walks in without hesitation.

Our first patrol around the property revealed eagles in their nest in the tree over the tennis court and a recently hatched turtle by the lagoon.

Cyndie should have put something in this picture to provide some size reference. Like, a thimble. Or a dime. It was a tiny turtle.

I built a fire for cooking a flank steak dinner and snuck in another hour of pedaling my bike before dinner. It was mostly sunny, with brief periods of sprinkling rain. I came upon some pavement that was freshly soaked, so there must have been a small downpour, too.

I can say that I rode in the rain, but didn’t get very wet.

After only a half day up here yesterday, I can say we’ve already settled into life at the lake. Here’s to getting sand in your shoes…



Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2019 at 9:01 am