Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘neighbors

Friendly Visitor

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We knew instantly that there was a visitor on our deck by Delilah’s reaction. I spotted the good-looking Siamese running by the door in our bedroom as Delilah bolted to the living room doors to fire up her most ferocious outburst at the scary beast threatening her sovereignty.

The cutie had a collar on which differentiated it from the multitude of other roaming cats that regularly cross our territory, so I stepped outside to get acquainted. Cyndie is a day away from knee replacement surgery and under quarantine since testing clean from the possibility of Covid infection, so she missed out on all the affection.

The lovely blue-eyed kitty was instantly passionate about rubbing against me. Surely, someone should be missing this feline companion. Cyndie brought some water and a serving of dry cat food for me to offer. Water isn’t hard to find outdoors around here, but the crunchy morsels drove the cat wild. I worried that eating too much too fast would risk not keeping it all down long enough to digest. The cat did not share my concern.

Cyndie posted pictures on Next Door but I assumed the stray must be from one of the immediately surrounding properties and haven’t seen any of those neighbors using the app. I set the friendly visitor up with accommodations in the shop while we waited and pondered our next move.

On one of my visits to check on the kitty it made a leap up to my shoulder and cuddled me as if begging us to let it stay forever. That helped to nudge me toward surveying the surrounding properties sooner than later. The only valid phone number I had was for the neighbor to our immediate south.

It wasn’t his and he wasn’t able to get me the phone number of the folks across the street from him. I was going to need to put the kitty in a crate and go for a drive. The woman across the street from him feeds cats outdoors and on the one occasion we traveled up their driveway ten years ago we spotted ten or more cats wandering their yard around the house upon a hill.

They are a particularly recluse couple so making my second trip up their driveway since we’ve lived here felt rather intrusive. It took several minutes to get a response from my knocking. I was making my way around the house to a different door when I heard a man’s voice calling out.

Wasn’t their cat. They don’t put any collars on the cats that show up to be fed. He suggested I check the property up the road and around the corner.

Another driveway I’ve never entered. Folks around these parts tend to keep to themselves. If we didn’t interact with them in the first year or two, we’ve pretty much never talked with them since. No response from that house.

As long as I was already on that street I decided to check the next driveway up because that farm’s land stretches all the way to our woods on the north and west property lines. Thankfully, he was already outside talking with someone in a pickup.

Twas their collared Siamese.

We stood and chatted at length amidst his excess of pickups and farm machinery while dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks all circled around us. There were goats inside a fence, more dogs in a kennel, and a couple of geese honked as they took flight. The very scruffy-looking Pyrenees guard dog took immediate notice of the possibility the geese needed protection and headed in that direction.

That very same dog seems to get along with all the farmyard tenants except one beautiful Siamese cat. I witnessed a chase around the obstacles that left me thinking I understand why the cat might be interested in getting away.

Something about that ever so affectionate and beautiful cat seems to stir a similar reaction from both Delilah and their Pyrenees.

By the way, he got the dog because foxes were getting his chickens.




Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2022 at 11:02 am

Compare Contrasts

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I have mixed feelings about the comparison of our woods to our neighbor’s when it comes to the obviousness of difference in controlling the invasive Common Buckthorn. Do you notice the contrast in the images below?

















That line of green leaves on the low trees visible in the images on the right is increasingly dominating the understory beyond our fencelines.

It is pleasing to be able to clearly see the progress I have achieved in my vigilance to remove the buckthorn every year. At the same time, it is unsettling to watch the progress of the invasion playing out on the land surrounding ours.

Meanwhile, remember how happy I was to boast of stocking up on woodchips?

Cyndie has already succeeded in decimating the store of chips, distributing them far and wide for mulch around small trees and plants in the labyrinth and beyond.

We are on the brink of no longer being able to see most of the downed branches available for chipping with the arrival of snow season.

Yesterday, the driveway was still too warm to be covered by the first measurable amount to fall, but the leaves weren’t.

Our landscape turned white overnight last night. Animal tracks are clearly revealed this morning. I didn’t go out yet, but Cyndie said there were no bear footprints on the trails she and Delilah walked. Plenty of deer and an occasional bunny rabbit, though.

I’m going to be comparing our new surroundings today to the contrasting snowless world I walked less than 24 hours ago in my wanderings around the grounds.



Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2021 at 10:00 am

Pernicious Invasive

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It never stops. The unending intrusion of Common Buckthorn spreading anywhere that birds perch requires equally persistent vigilance to thwart. While I have given our largest segment of woods the most consistent annual attention, the small grove near the road dominated by poplar trees seems to have slipped my notice last year.

There were a couple of inch-plus diameter trunks that I had cut in the past but forgot to watch the next year. They had sprouted twice the new growth since I’d made that cut. Oops.

When I come upon tree-sized specimens, I often cut the trunk off a few feet above ground to leave the stump visible. The next season, many new sprouts will erupt from around the cut and my plan is to simply break those off enough times the root system finally stops trying and dies. Sometimes I forget to follow up.

In addition to the big ones, there were a frustrating number of little sprouts scattered all throughout the small segment of trees.

Luckily, those little ones are easy to pull out, roots and all, by hand. I just need to spot them and navigate the tangle of undergrowth to reach each one. And even when you think you’ve pulled the last, there’s always one more that I somehow missed.

At least I’ve given this challenge enough attention that it’s manageable at this point and the progress is noticeable. The surrounding woods of my neighbor’s property are filled with many tree-sized sections that haven’t been tended to in all the years we’ve lived here.

The difference is obvious and significant.

Speaking of that property to our north that was supposedly auctioned off on the courthouse steps in July, another neighbor recently mentioned a possibility that the sale never went through for some undetermined reason. Saturday afternoon the guy was mowing the weeds on the field that had been left fallow all summer, supporting the likely assumption of continued ownership.

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.



Written by johnwhays

November 8, 2021 at 7:00 am

Never Enough

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There are a lot of ways that Cyndie and I are wonderfully compatible, and near the top of the list should be our shared appreciation/fascination with rocks. We both agree that you can never have enough rocks. Toward that end, yesterday Cyndie went into our woods where our newly cut trails had uncovered old piles of fieldstone and hauled a bunch out for use in the labyrinth.









Our farmer neighbors think we are weird to hold their old rock piles in such high regard.

Cyndie shared a sweet story from her day. When she dumped one load of stones it made a loud clatter that caught the attention of our closest neighbor who was out trimming branches near his deer stand. He called out to her to ask if she was okay. I’m sure from his location it could have sounded like quite a crash.

It’s very comforting to know neighbors watch out for each other here.

These perfect specimens will get placed around the labyrinth pathways to build up the existing borders and allow removal of more of the artificial rocks we used when first establishing the circuitous route. We had pallets of manufactured stone left over from the decorative veneer plastered around the block foundation below the log walls of our house. At the time, it seemed like a good use of the material, but they don’t hold up well against the elements when laying flat on the ground. Some have broken apart from the moisture and many others are simply getting swallowed by the earth around them.

It was interesting for me to work on the different labyrinth design up at the lake over the weekend because that one has very wide borders that are three times the width of the narrow path.

Our labyrinth at home has wide paths with just a single line of stones as dividers.

After working with both, I now wish we could make our rock dividers wider at home, but doing so would narrow the path more than we want. Maybe by placing larger rocks strategically we can beef up the pathway borders enough to provide more of the visual impression I desire without compromising the walking space too much.

There never seems to be enough time to work on the enhancements we both dream of and there are never enough reasons to stop tweaking the design once and for all.

Our labyrinths will always be growing and changing with time.

And they will never have enough rocks, no matter what.



Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2021 at 6:00 am

Local Drama

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While I was mowing down by the road yesterday, an Ellsworth police vehicle pulled over to speak with me. He got out of his SUV and walked toward me, so I shut off the lawn tractor engine. He asked me to assist in watching for a missing 16-year-old girl walking on the road. After he provided a description of what she might be wearing, I asked if she wanted to be found.

He said, “No, she doesn’t want to be found.”

If I spotted her, he just wanted me to call the non-emergency number to report it and hopefully keep an eye on where she goes.

The next few times I was in a position to view the road from my seat on the lawn tractor, I saw no walkers, but I did notice several vehicles moving very slowly along the road and the police SUV making a return pass from the opposite direction.

While I was showering before dinner, Cyndie reported there was a man in our yard asking if we’d seen his daughter. Cyndie said he had come out of our neighbor’s woods and was disoriented. He didn’t add much detail to indulge our curiosity except for the fact she had been missing for three days, plus the interesting morsel that there were about 30 volunteers currently searching the woods who may also pop out onto our property.

A short time later, a couple who live up the road showed up at our house with a little more detail. The girl had been reported in a camping trailer on the property of the neighbor whose woods border our land on two sides.

The police showed up and saw her run off into the woods.

That is why all the attention is in the woods around us.

The neighbor couple urged us to secure our outbuildings. Cyndie locked our shop but not the barn.

I don’t know what to think. I feel for both the girl and her family, but not knowing anything about the circumstances, it’s difficult to frame how I want to respond if she turned up on our property.

We now have both the father’s contact information as well as the police.

If this girl decides to hide somewhere on our property, I’m pretty sure Delilah will sniff her out long before we would notice. We will be paying more attention than usual for a while to all the times Delilah starts barking for reasons that evade our perceptions.



Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Beyond Control

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The lesson I am being given the opportunity to absorb this week involves the concept of accepting things that are beyond my control. I can lure a raccoon to my trap but I can’t force it to step inside.

That’s one version. There is another that is having a much greater impact on my sensibilities. We just learned that the 20-acre plot adjacent to ours along the northern length was sold by foreclosure this month.

So many questions. How come we failed to discover anything about the situation in advance?

I have subsequently stumbled onto a document that reveals the judgment of foreclosure was entered in early April. The notice of foreclosure sale was drafted in May. The public auction sale at the front entrance of the Pierce County Courthouse was scheduled for July 6th at 9:00 a.m.

Did the property sell?

Who might the new owner(s) be?

Might they plan to build a home on the otherwise forested and cultivated acres?

Could we be at risk of losing our precious natural forest boundary that provides a priceless level of privacy?

I have half-seriously pondered many times how special it would be to purchase the forested acres that surround our rectangle of land on two sides, but never imagined it would be feasible.

To find out now that there was an opportunity I failed to notice is something of a gut punch.

If it was purchased successfully, what happens next is largely out of my control.

I’ll imagine that the new owners will strive to drive off the fox that we think lives in those woods and will be prudent about controlling the raccoon population that probably includes the smart one who seems to know all too well to not fall for my baiting tricks.

If they decide to build a house, I will visualize it being located up on the high ground where I’m sure the cultivated fields offer many prime options. That would be well out of sight from our house so that we wouldn’t be a bother to them, you know.

I plan to do more sleuthing to learn if the sale was recorded, and when/where details were, or will be, made public.

I have no idea what the lag time might be for land record details to be posted online, but nothing new is currently showing at the online land records portal on the county web site.

Meanwhile, a third thing that is now painfully obvious for being out of my control is wild predation on our attempts to free range chickens. I do believe, certainly based on our opinions as of last night, we are done trying. Around dinner time, we lost 22 of our 25 birds.

Sorry, David.

Since Cyndie said this time she has had it for good, I suggested we give you the three survivors.

She said, “They won’t last that long.”

I can’t argue with that assessment.

She did say that you can take our bags of chicken feed, variety of feeders, and multiple waterers.

I’ve seen her change her mind before, but this time I am ready to lobby strongly that she not start over another time.

However, history reveals this as another thing that is beyond my control: Countering her amazing ability to recover enough to regain her glimmer of hope after the immediate pain of the loss eventually eases.

For now, it feels like neither of us wants to repeat this highly unsettling routine one more time.



Looking Around

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Our neighbors appeared to be having a pretty big barbecue last night. It was curious because we couldn’t see or hear any human activity around the vicinity of that rather large bonfire. Thankfully, the gale force springtime breezes of the previous few days had calmed significantly.

Between sessions of pounding down fence posts yesterday, I tinkered around with the Ritchie® waterer in the paddocks to see if the last few days of dry weather had dropped the groundwater level below the valve lever. I haven’t been able to turn the water back on and I suspect the valve is seized in the closed position by corrosion.

The problem with solving this conundrum is that the valve is below and behind so many obstructions that it involves a blind reach that would be best facilitated by having one or two additional joints between my wrist and my elbow. When I finally achieve a grip on the lever, the fact that it doesn’t easily turn leaves me frustratedly defeated.

Yesterday, I took a fresh look with a bright flashlight to see if I could figure out a different way to approach the challenge. What the flashlight revealed was that my previous attempts had sheered the line off just above the valve. At this point, I’m really glad I wasn’t able to open the valve the last time I tried.

Time to have the original installer visit with his tools and we will lift the upper portion off the base and repair the valve and water line when it will be easy to reach.

As Cyndie approached the house last night after closing the coop and barn doors, the dark silhouette of the house was nicely complimented by the fading color in the evening sky.


I was already inside, watching a bit of NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball. How ’bout that Minnesota kid, Jalen Suggs’ overtime buzzer beater 3-point desperation shot for the win last night! Spectacular.



Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2021 at 9:38 am

Hunting Hounds

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On a thickly gray Saturday morning, we stepped out of the house behind Delilah and quickly noticed a sharp sound in the distance. Swallowed by the crunch of our boots on the snowy path, the muffle of hats over ears, and the sound of our own voices as we chatted about some minutia, we had to stop in our tracks to identify what we were hearing.

There was a helicopter far in the distance, but that sound just faded. After a moment of no sounds, there was the bark of a dog. Then, several more. The hunting hounds were out early.

We resumed our trek down the trail, but not for long. The echoing bellows were only getting louder, so we reversed direction and headed back toward the house, through the back yard, and on to the barn. Delilah was delighted with the added excitement and romped her way along with us, reversing direction only several times to see if we couldn’t just check on the vocal hounds in the woods.

I wondered if we might suddenly see coyotes sprinting past us in a run for their lives.

With Delilah secured in the barn, Cyndie and I tended to the tasks of setting out food for the chickens and opening the coop. I could see the trucks of hunters slowing moving by on the road while we mingled with the chickens and I cleaned off the poop board. Rocky made a failed attempt to mount one of the Domestiques. We took solace in his acceptance of her objections.

Cyndie continues to offer feed from her bare hand in effort to condition the flock to always accept humans as safe and valuable companions. With respect to the New Hampshire pullet, Cyndie got nipped as the overzealous girl went after a mole on her thumb.

Can’t fault that as malicious, but geez. That hurt.

Returning to the barn, Delilah bursts forth with excitement at this moment because she knows the next phase of this daily routine is to take her up to the house where she will receive her morning meal. We exit the barn door and while I am closing the door behind us I notice Cyndie struggling with everything she’s got to hold the leash.

Delilah is trying to drag Cyndie up to the driveway to where a cute looking hunting beagle is standing all alone.

We decide to let Cyndie take Delilah back into the barn for a bit while I see if I can coax the beagle to get back on the job and find the rest of his pack or the scent of a coyote.

Knowing the hunters were driving nearby, I walked with the happy radio-collared beagle toward the road. A truck pulled up just as we arrived. The hunter said she was one of two that had gone astray.

Meanwhile, Cyndie took the opportunity to pop out of the barn and head up to the house with Delilah on a short leash. They quickly were surprised by the other stray. This time, Delilah was in reach to make contact, and luckily, with wagging tails the dogs met gently, nose to nose.

Cyndie said she offered Delilah the deal of continuing up to the house for her breakfast, and the two dogs trotted together for a bit and then parted without incident as they reached the door.

The hunter I spoke with at the road said our neighbor had alerted them to a sighting of coyotes early this morning, so they were hopefully tracking a fresh scent. By the time we were having our breakfast, nothing but quiet had settled in around us. I’m guessing the trail was lost.

Subsequent calm and quiet was a welcome outcome after the adventurous start to our Saturday.



Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2021 at 11:12 am

Dramatic Difference

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Despite those who continue to cling to a belief that the global COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax dreamed up to make the outgoing President of the United States look bad, the amount of impact on the world is unsettling. In our little valley in Wisconsin, U.S.A., I have yet to hear about anyone who has tested positive.

Of course, due to social distancing, I’ve not seen or spoken to our neighbors for about ten months. They could be sick and I’d never know.

For the first, oh… seven months of the pandemic, I didn’t learn about anyone I knew who had tested positive. In the last month, that number has jumped up to around ten. I’ve heard about two coronavirus associated deaths from people I know, but otherwise, the reports have all involved minor symptoms.

The dramatic difference in impact swinging from asymptomatic to causing death is perplexing. For the many cases of obvious underlying risks bringing about the fatal outcomes and the healthy people barely suffering, there are smatterings of too many descriptions of unexpected miserable results.

When my turn eventually comes, how will it affect me?

I may have written about the story that startled me from a doctor, when asked by NPR to share a personal example of one case that had a profound impact on him, in which he talked of preparing to discharge a patient who had recovered enough to go home but before they processed him out, his symptoms returned and he ended up dying before the end of that day.

Sure, a large percentage of deaths are occurring in elderly people in group care facilities, but kids and healthy adults are dying, too. Other healthy adults who survive are being walloped by weird and prolonged complications.

Meanwhile, most people I know take it easy for two or three days and then get on with their activities with no ill after-effects.

I’d prefer to be one of the latter, thank you very much.

I guess this dramatic difference will be one of the main memories I will carry from this pandemic. Particularly because the economic impact of the outbreak looks to be similarly disparate. While many have lost jobs and are facing incredibly difficult financial challenges, others have actually profited and are in a stronger position than if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

A global pandemic is one thing, but its impact is innumerable.



Written by johnwhays

December 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Peeping Kitty

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Monday afternoon, leaning back in my favorite recliner, my eye sensed movement out on our deck. Was that a very large squirrel that just went past the glass door? Nope. Soon, a cute little kitten was peeping in at us with a look that strongly hinted at coming from one who preferred the indoors to the wintery temperatures this October has been serving up.

Cyndie stepped out on the deck to do a little grilling and soon showed up outside the door with that bundle of cute curled up in her hands.

It quickly turned into a rescue operation. Now we have a converted chick brooder tub housing the adorable visitor under temporary quarantine in the somewhat heated shop outbuilding.

According to Cyndie’s reports, the little bugger displayed a voracious appetite for foodstuffs offered. A post with photo was created for the online neighborhood group in search of a possible owner. Phone calls to immediately adjacent properties brought no positive identifications. It’s hard to picture this little one traveling over the large rural expanses beyond visible neighbors to reach our door, but we are guessing that is the situation.

Last night we received a reply from the wider online neighborhood saying, “Let me know if she needs a home,” so we have that solution awaiting the possibility nobody else shows up to report having lost her.

Meanwhile, although she says she is putting in a bold effort to not fall in love, I sense Cyndie is already past that point.

Pretty much saw it when she arrived at the deck door with the kitty curled up in her hands.

The resolution of this peeping kitty unexpectedly sheltering with us is unscripted. Feel free to place your bets on the eventual outcome.

I’ll provide follow-up details as the adventure unfolds.



Written by johnwhays

October 28, 2020 at 6:00 am