Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘neighbors

More Bales

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With all those fat windrows laying in our fields, there was more than enough for us to take a wagon load of bales for ourselves. It took a little creative arranging to fit them in the shed, with our recently purchased bales already stacked to the ceiling, but we found a way to make them fit.

Jody successfully completed baling the last of the windrows, leaving our fields with the clean look of being freshly cut.

Cyndie climbed the mountain of bales in the wagon and heaved them out for me to stack.

We won’t need to go to a gym to get a workout, that’s for sure.

There’s nothing like putting in a full day of work and then following that up with an intense effort of throwing more than a hundred bales in the July heat.

Since we wanted to keep bales from our back pasture, I had some time to kill while Jody finished filling one wagon with bales from the hay-field. I took advantage of the time to turn and rearrange our composting manure piles.

While I was nearing completion of that task, Cyndie called me to meet a neighbor who volunteered to take our miscellaneous metal scrap that was slowly accumulating. That was a wonderful happenstance, allowing me to clean out a pile of ugly metal trash that we’d piled up over the five years we’ve been here.

It was a rewarding three-for-one night of accomplishments that left little time for much else.

Dinner didn’t happen until 8:30 p.m., and bedtime was a little later than usual, but we were buoyed by the satisfying accomplishments we’d achieved.

Once again, we are feeling happy to be done with stacking bales for a while. This time, that joy should last for a much longer span of weeks.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Making Decisions

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With everything around here growing at warp speed, now would be a really bad time to lose the services of our Stihl power trimmer. Isn’t there a law of probability about this?

While Cyndie was making headway against the grass jungle taking over the gazebo on Monday, the trimmer became “wobbly.” She discovered the main drive shaft tube had suffered a metal-fatigue fracture.

That’s not good.

I dropped it off for repair in the evening, but their backlog of work is running at two weeks. It’s scary to imagine not being able to trim for that many days.

Cyndie thinks we should buy another one, and I am hard pressed to argue. There have been many times when we both could be trimming at the same time.

Pondering this. Something about it doesn’t feel right. I’m driven to balance the logic of a cost-benefit analysis, a crystal ball vision of what our future is here, and that unsettling gut feeling about the expense. Then I need to deal with the fact there is no right or wrong answer in the end.

You know me and decision-making. It’s not my favorite thing to manage.

One thing that I’m glad that we weren’t relying on me to decide, yesterday we got the details from our neighbor about his plan for the hay-field. It makes total sense to me now.

While he was cutting on Monday night, he was listening to the weather forecast. The outlook for rain all day Thursday was holding strong, so he smartly stopped cutting any more than he thought he could get dried and baled by the end of today.

We received encouraging news from him about our fields. He said the grass is real thick underneath, likely due to the mowing we did all last summer. In addition, he clarified that the tall grass going to seed was not Foxtail, as Cyndie feared (which is not good for our horses’ mouths), but the premium horse hay staple, Timothy.

We still have a long way to go in our transition from suburbanites to Ag-wise country folk.

(Brings to mind my stuttering pause into the phone when I was asked what kind of cows were trampling our property a couple of weeks ago. Um, big ones?)

Amidst the angst of dealing with equipment failures, it is refreshing to learn some good news about the outcome of our efforts to improve the quality of what is growing in our hay-field and pastures.

Despite all the challenges that continue to arise (and decisions thus required), Wintervale continues to evolve in an encouraging way for us.

Hurrah!

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Barely Started

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I don’t know why I would expect this year’s weather to be any better for getting our hay-field cut and baled in a timely manner compared to the previous five summers. It’s past the middle of July and we are still waiting on the neighbor who volunteered to tackle the job for us.

All the mowing I did last year to discourage weeds and give the grass a boost looks to be marginalized by the vast number of new weeds reaching maturity out there today.

I had hoped the field would get cut in June while I was on my bike trip, but Cyndie reported rain almost every day I was gone. Then there was the 4th of July holiday week, followed by more days of rain. The window of dry weather this week is very short, but Cyndie spoke with our neighbor and he confirmed our field is still in his plans.

I expect he needs to get his fields cut first. When I got home yesterday, I spotted him cutting a field on the corner.

Finally, last night we heard the tractor in our field. By the time I got out there to witness the scene, he had cut three passes inside the fence and was driving away down the road.

Did something fail on his equipment? Did he just run out of time? We’re hoping to talk with him later this morning to learn his status.

From the looks of the forecast, more rain is expected on Thursday. This doesn’t leave much time for drying, based on my understanding of the process. At least we have a spell of dry Canadian air over us currently. That goes a long way in determining how quickly the cut grass will dry.

Last week’s mid-70° dew point temperatures weren’t doing much toward helping anything to dry out.

Meanwhile, we have already purchased and stored enough hay for the year, so we don’t actually need this as much as we simply want the field cut, and are hoping someone could use the bales.

While walking the three freshly cut rows last night, Delilah was in her glory to investigate the scene. In no time at all, she had sniffed out the body of a decent sized rodent and consumed it faster than either Cyndie or I could react to dissuade her.

That’s really queasy-making, I tell ya.

Here’s hoping our neighbor’s barely getting started cutting last night will change over to completely finished by the end of today.

 

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

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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