Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘neighbors

Venturesome Cows

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We had never imagined this day. It wasn’t unprecedented that Delilah would serve as our alarming alarm clock, with her loud barking outburst at the screen door of our bedroom to disturb the quiet early morning solemnity.

I astutely commented to Cyndie that I was surprised that I wasn’t hearing the usual dog in the distance that typically sets Delilah off.

After the second outburst in quick succession, Cyndie gave up trying to snatch a few extra minutes of lingering in bed and got up.

“There are cows outside our window!”

Oh? I sprung up to witness the spectacle for myself. Yes, indeed. No question about what Delilah was trying to tell us. I spotted three cows standing in the most unlikely place I could think of.

They were by the wood shed, at the top of the big hill trail coming out of our woods.

I sleepily stumbled after my camera, which was on the far side of the house. When I returned to the bedroom, there were no cows in sight. Ghost cows?

Cyndie invited me to get dressed and join her in morning chores, wherein we could also investigate that bizarre sleepy visual we had just witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, from the top of our back yard hill, we could see the rare sight of white animals down by the labyrinth. By the time we got down there, the shifty cattle were gone again, though not out of earshot. The sound of their navigation through our forest can best be compared to a herd of bulls wandering the aisles of a china shop.

Branches snapping left and right, a bovine face appeared out of the trees. Then another, and another. We counted ten at one point, though it was never clear we were seeing the whole picture.

While Cyndie tried to shoosh them out of her garden labyrinth, I set out to see if I could tell where they had come from. Tracking them wasn’t hard, as the 40 heavy hooves left a trail that looked like a rototiller had rolled along our soft wooded trails.

They had tromped everywhere! It made it difficult to determine where they had busted out of a neighbor’s fence, because they had moved to and fro in every direction.

We tried coaxing them into our back pasture to contain them, but the boring grass offerings there must have paled in comparison to the adventure and foliage they were finding throughout the forest. They bushwhacked toward the most difficult wooded passages in lieu of our pasture gate.

Eventually, while trying to get back with the main herd, they busted a strand of wire in the fence and very slowly, one at a time, most of them figured out their own way through. When we found them trying, Cyndie stepped on the bottom wires and lifted the top one, cooing to the stragglers to take that last step.

I tried coaxing them with a branch of leaves. That brought the main herd toward us, which was the opposite of what we wished to happen. I tried my best at novice cow whispering and turned the herd around, bringing two of the last escapees back into the fold.

For some reason, the last cow either panicked or just decided it was never going back. It turned and disappeared deep into the woods.

Unable to find the loner cow, Cyndie and I decided to reattach the broken fence wire (I had learned the neighbor was gone on a motorcycle trip in Iowa) and called an end to the big distraction of our day.

We were hours beyond our planned departure for the lake place.

With a note to Jackie about the possibility of an odd cow showing up while we were gone, we hit the road.

That was one very strange day at Wintervale.

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Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

Sad News

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On our way home from dinner last week, we stopped Cyndie’s convertible to visit with our neighbor from across the road, who was out for a walk. In the middle of general chit-chat, she asked if we’d heard about the woman who lived behind their property.

We hadn’t.

The 68-year-old woman had been out in her pasture spraying weeds when her ATV rolled, ending up on top of her. When her husband finally discovered her, she was dead.

Just like that.

It’s stuck with me. One moment she was tending to a chore, and the next, her life was over.

Swanson was operating a four-wheeled ATV with a chemical sprayer attached to the back rack while spraying weeds on a hillside in a cow pasture. The ATV lost its footing, rolled down the hillside and came to rest on her. The Pierce County Medical Examiner pronounced her dead at the scene.

Any day, an unexpected accident could happen. Have I been complacent on our property? I probably have, but never feeling my life was at risk.

It’s sobering.

Be careful out there.

Yeah. I will.

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Written by johnwhays

July 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Rode Again

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The momentum is going in the right direction for me. I got on the bike for the second day in a row yesterday. As expected, my butt was not entirely happy with the pressure of the seat, carrying a little tenderness from the day before. But, after a few miles, that faded in with the rest of the aches and pains of resuming a different exercise after a long hiatus.

My legs were noticeably stiff about pushing the pedals so soon after the previous workout.

To keep things interesting, I planned a route in the opposite direction of my Tuesday ride. It did turn out to be very interesting, but my ultimate plan was foiled by an unexpected gravel road —a constant threat to random exploration around these parts.

I was headed north when the pavement ended, so I turned around and backtracked my way south, visible as the single line up to nowhere on the map.

Actually, it was probably a good thing, because my legs would likely have objected had my original plan worked out. The shortened ride turned out to be plenty enough exercise for day two.

Other highlights included a close encounter with a yapping lap dog who completely ignored the fervent screams for obedience which emanated simultaneously from everyone in the family who happened to be out on the lawn at the time.

I was thrilled to find a variety of locations where wild trillium is growing among ferns in the ditches of nearby roads. It bodes well for our plan to establish a carpet of our own in the woods by our house.

There was nary a home that didn’t have someone out mowing grass or planting fields. It is the season of growing and the farmers are all in a hurry to get their crops to join in the explosion of growth that is visible in how high the grass is advancing by the hour.

I also finally located the bison herd that George had told us about on one of the nearby properties. The first clue was the height and robustness of the fence around the pasture. I had to search for the animals, because they were congregated at the far end from the road, right before the elevation dropped and I zoomed away down another hill.

I’m proud to report that I successfully silenced the squeak in my shoes, so it was an all around splendid ride, with nothing but the sounds of nature and tractors to serenade me.

I also got the bike computer back up and running. Based on the data from the app on my phone, I got the settings right on the computer, because results matched very close for speed and mileage.

It’s always nice on a bike when the feedback about speed is accurate. It’s bad enough when the number reveals I’m going so slow the tip-over alarm might go off, but finding out the speed is artificially high or incorrectly low can be very unsettling to otherwise mild-mannered cyclists.

May the road roll past our tires…

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Syrup Again

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Since moving to the country and discovering some of the local treasures around us, Cyndie has purchased pure maple syrup only once a year. It’s that time again! Just a few miles south of Ellsworth, the Stockwell family taps 35 acres of maple trees and collects enough gallons of sap to supply folks with a full year’s worth of syrup, if you have containers to hold it.

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We’ve figured out the routine and bring two 2-quart Mason jars to be placed under the spigot of the large tank and filled with the dark amber bliss every April during the S & S Sugar Bush open house pancake breakfast weekend.

It’s hard to find an event pancake breakfast that isn’t pretty darn good, be it firefighters, boy scouts, legions, or service clubs, but I gotta say the fresh, hot blueberry cakes, sausage, and pure maple syrup combination we enjoyed yesterday morning tasted about as good as I can recall ever experiencing.

Our friends Mike and Barb Wilkus accompanied us, having also joined us for the live Climate Cast at MPR Thursday night and then sleeping over to be available for the Sugar Bush open house. After the scrumptious breakfast, we took a stroll through the woods to witness the number of tapped trees that were supplying the sweet maple sap.

It is impressive to consider the hundreds of gallons of sap running up through the roots of these trees when the spring temperatures are just right —warm during the day and below freezing at night. One of the Stockwell sons described how the percent of sweetness drops in time, but his grandpa would collect the later sap for a vinegar.

The syrup open house has become so precious to us, Cyndie invited more friends to stop by today so she could go again and share the event with them, too. I reckon the delicious pancakes might have something to do with her zeal, as well.

There is another precious annual event that will be happening next week for us. For the second year in a row, Wintervale Ranch will be holding our own open house as a host site for The Labyrinth Society’s World Labyrinth Day Peace Walk. Walk as one at 1.

Around the world, at each location, people will walk and visualize peace at 1:00 p.m. in their time zones, creating a wave of peaceful energy flowing around the globe.

Cyndie has been working to spruce up our labyrinth, despite the lack of growth from the barely thawed landscape. I noticed when Barb and Mike were here and we did a moonlight walk Thursday night that the overnight freezing and daytime warm sunshine was still conspiring to tip over plenty of my rock arrangements.

It sounds like we can expect some rain showers this coming week, so maybe new growth will be exploding in spectacular glory for visitors on Saturday. If the day dawns nearly as spectacular as today, World Labyrinth Day will be a wonderful opportunity to experience the best of Wintervale Ranch.

If you are reading in the Twin Cities area, I hope you will consider joining us!

Saturday, May 5, 2018 between 12:00-3:00 p.m.  Please email cyndie@wintervaleranch.com to register and receive directions.

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Nearby Cows

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Walking with Delilah yesterday morning, as we approached the southwest corner of our property where four fence lines meet, we came face to face with a group of neighborly cows on the property kitty-corner to us.

This corner is as far as possible from the barn and feeding area of the neighboring farm and the cows rarely venture out this far, especially through snow. Needless to say, it was surprising to find them there.

Delilah was as curious as I about the unusual presence of company on our stroll through our woods. We stopped at the corner to be sociable. The cows showed a similar curiosity about us and closed ranks on the limited space of the corner. The mutual attraction drew Delilah and I to leave our trail and step through the brush to get closer to the fence.

I don’t have experience with cows, so had no idea how to read their behavior. Did they think we might offer some treats? They seemed exceedingly interested in us. My reaction was to get chatty with them, but they stayed mute for the most part.

As we stood ogling each other, more and more cows decided something important must be going on in that corner and made tracks to join the herd. Some seemed determined to waltz right through the crowd for a position front and center, which offered a comical demonstration of bovine group behavior.

I would translate it as, “Excuse me, excuse me, coming through.”

Followed by, “Hey! I’m standing here! Who do you think you are?”

I offered a few futile “Moo’s,” and decided to resume Delilah’s and my walk before a cow fight broke out.

I felt bad we didn’t have any treats to offer, but it was nice hanging out with the neighbors for a spell.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

Getting Started

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Preparations are underway for our trip with Cyndie’s family to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been enjoying creating the early posts in the series I have planned to explore events that led up to this latest adventure, starting way back with the first time I met Cyndie.

To give myself more time for planning and packing, I have decided to begin the series tomorrow. I hope you enjoy my trips down memory lane.

I will take advantage of the early break from daily posting to finish making lists and actually start packing.

Sounds like we will be getting away at a good time, as temperatures are expected to drop precipitously in the days ahead. I’m hoping that it won’t snow enough to require plowing until after we return, but it’s okay with me if the cold snap happens while I’m gone.

There was a little extra excitement around the ranch yesterday as the neighbor on our southwest corner reported he was going to be hunting coyotes and might cross our property.

Early in the morning, Cyndie came upon some lone tracks in the snow that just might have been those of a coyote scout venturing out on its own overnight.

If our neighbor is worried about his cows, I wonder if we should be concerned for our surviving three chickens.

We are really hoping the young woman who has agreed to take care of our animals while we are away won’t have any difficult problems to manage.

It’s just seven days. One week. Is that too much to wish for? An entire week at Christmastime of calm and quiet?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I need to go find my battery charger for the camera. When we get back, I’m going to want to post lots of pictures of the tropical beach, palm trees, sun, and surf.

I hope you’ll be entertained by the stories I have scheduled to post while we are gone.

I intend to return to live, daily posting by the end of the month.

Bon voyage!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

A Chance

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Have you noticed the lone lopsided tree left standing to the right of the ones we took down over the weekend? A number of people have suggested it would make sense to cut that one down, too.

There are plenty of reasons it would be a logical choice, but who am I to let logic get in the way of my emotions?

One key reason I am letting it stand is that it isn’t dead. Not yet, anyway. It has carved out its meager existence and endured despite the shadow of the larger tree. Now that it is no longer crowded out, I’d like to see how it will respond.

I want to give it a chance to take advantage of the unobstructed afternoon sunlight and the uncontested space to spread out in every direction. It is very birch-like, but I haven’t specifically identified it. Black birch, maybe.

What does it cost me to wait a year or two to find out if it shows signs of renewed vigor? Just some ongoing questioning of my decision-making process, but that’s something I can tolerate.

Cyndie and I were surveying the space left after the trees were removed and discussed whether it would make sense to transfer some of the multitudes of volunteer maple seedlings that sprout all around our place each spring.

It’s an odd little corner of our property. The primary drainage ditch that nicely defines the southern border for most of the span of our open fields takes a little turn inward and orphans a fair-sized triangle of grass up to the road. The neighbor to the south is more than happy to tend to it, and he cuts that grass when cutting his adjacent strip along a cornfield there.

Honestly, I have reasons to believe he would consider it madness to plant new trees in that spot. He once offered to come cut down trees behind our house to create a larger space of lawn for us. Our opinions of what is more valuable are in stark contrast.

If we plant new trees, we will start by placing them along, or close to, the drainage ditch. I’m happy to work slowly and give him time to adjust to our changes.

The chickens show no sign of needing time to adjust. They showed up instantly when we drove to one of our trails to distribute a load of wood chips. I think they wanted to help spread them around.

In reality, what they were really doing was, scratching away the chips to get down to the dirt below, which was comical. They could do that anywhere. In fact, it would be easier to do it where we hadn’t just laid down a new cover of wood chips. Instead, they looked as though the new chips were a real bonus.

I’ll give them the benefit of doubt. Maybe there were bugs in the chips that dropped to the dirt below as soon as the chips got tossed on the trail.

There is a chance there is a logical method to their madness.

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2017 at 7:00 am