Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘pets

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…

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Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2019 at 9:01 am

Weekend Alone

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Cyndie is out of town with her parents this holiday weekend, so I am the sole pet guardian. Was this supposed to be easier after we no longer had horses? A certain high-energy dog has shown no problem filling in the space. The invisible protective border we need to maintain between her jaws and our flock of free-ranging chickens complicates my including Delilah as a companion for many of my projects around the property.

I let her tag along when venturing to the far side of our land with a wheelbarrow (we haven’t replaced the ATV trailer yet) to fetch some black dirt from a pile left over from the first year we moved here and had fence work done. I have been mixing dirt with composted manure to fill some holes in the yard. One was started by burrowing rodents and the other by spinning wheels of the New Holland tractor, both voids then expanded by rainstorm flowing runoff.

I need to leave Delilah behind when collecting compost because that task is a chicken magnet. They love helping when worms and other crawly critters might be involved.

Heading deep into the western woods is far enough from chicken territory that I’m comfortable hitching Delilah’s leash to the wheelbarrow, half hoping she might consider helping to pull in the desired direction. We hauled more pavers to the ever-expanding length of our trail that is messy mud.

Originally, I laid it out with a wider spread, but after walking on it and navigating the ATV on the trail, I’ve changed to more of a single file pattern. Simple stepping stones is all that’s needed in keeping up out of the sloppy muck.

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Do you see how nicely the moss adorns blocks that have been there a while?

All these small projects were diversions from mowing grass, hoping that waiting a day might allow a small fraction of drying to occur. That is despite my knowing from experience that it takes more than two days for the slow flow of excess groundwater to trickle down and out of here.

The sun can be shining bright for two days after a spell of rain and that’s when the low areas will be at their wettest. If we are lucky enough to have two more dry days, the footing starts to firm up again. Too bad that won’t be the case this week.

Delilah will be stuck in the kennel again. I gotta mow today.

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2019 at 8:28 am

Getting By

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Delilah seems to have finally adjusted to the fact that Cyndie is gone, only running around looking for her once a day, instead of five times a day. We are halfway through Cyndie’s planned stay in Florida, and I think we are going to make the rest of the way on our own without extreme hardship.

I resorted to making a peanut butter, bacon, and pickle sandwich on cranberry walnut bread for lunch today, because that is what I found in the refrigerator. Why grocery shop when there is still edible food on the shelves at home?

I don’t like to grocery shop.

If nothing else, I can always eat eggs. Collected seven fresh eggs yesterday! We are now getting more than a dozen every two days.

I’m starting work late all week, so I can tend to animals in the morning before departing. Our animal sitter, Anna, is stopping by between classes at River Falls, to give Delilah some attention in the middle of the day, and I resume duties again when I get home in the afternoon.

Soloing the morning and evening duties is decidedly easier without the time previously spent with the horses, but their departure has left a stupendous energy void in the center of our compound.

I do appreciate not needing to be concerned with how wet and soft the paddocks have gotten as the ground begins to thaw.

Muddy season has arrived such that the floors in the house are developing a fine coating of silt, as the debris that was once clinging to Delilah’s long hair, dries out and falls away after each walk.

When it warms outside to the point of not re-freezing every night, we will put out the kiddie pool by the door for Delilah to rinse off before coming inside.

In the mean time, yuck.

Our methods may not be pretty, but we are getting by while the matron of the house is away.

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Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2019 at 6:00 am

Definitely Cold

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This polar vortex is one heck of a weather event, but we are enduring the harshness with general acceptance. I am always amazed that anything still functions at extremely cold temperatures like -31°(F), but at oh-dark-thirty yesterday morning my garage door opener jumped to life at the push of the button, and my car started without complaint, to roll out into the frigid darkness on its rock-hard tires.

As dramatic as the media are being about the danger of this cold wave, many implying that people shouldn’t spend extended time outside or they will die, I hearken back to stories from the 1986 Steger International Polar Expedition. They spent day and night out in temperatures that reached -70°F at times.

We should be able to handle a couple of days of 30-below.

When I got home from work yesterday, the horses were peacefully standing out in the paddock, soaking up the sunshine through their blankets. They are spending nights inside during the super-chill. Cyndie said they now all walk in on their own, one after the other, making their way into their appropriate stalls.

The chickens showed no interest in coming out after the snow last Sunday, so, now that it’s also wicked cold, we don’t even open their door. Yesterday, Cyndie found one beautiful egg in the nest boxes, unfortunately, cracked and frozen.

Cyndie dug out booties for Delilah’s paws, which we haven’t tried since the first attempt was met with total rejection years ago. The results were no different this time. She didn’t like them, but allowed Cyndie to put them all on. A few steps out the door and black boots were kicked in every direction.

It appears the wild rabbits in our vicinity are using activity to keep warm, as their footprints are pounding well-worn paths in the snow. I found a not-so-subtle entrance to a den dug into the snow beside the shop.

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As fast as this vortex from the pole has settled upon us, it will also recede. In its place, the forecast for the coming weekend offers a difference of 70 degrees, with Sunday’s high reaching the mid 40s.

That will definitely feel warm.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

Finally, Snow

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So, if you are going to return north from a week in Florida, in January, you might as well dive head first into the coldest and snowiest days all winter, to make sure you will absolutely and thoroughly miss where you’ve just been.

Luckily for us, our animals so completely missed us that the love and attention they have showered over us has gone a long way to offset the angst of the painfully adult dose of winter that has greeted our return. (We still have all 9 chickens! Although, they weren’t all that fired up to show us any love. They may be hardy winter birds, but they don’t seem hardy enough to want to venture out of the coop when it is really cold, or the ground is covered with new snow.)

Instead of driving to the day-job, I stayed home and plowed snow drifts yesterday. It is hard to tell how much snow fell around here, because the depth ranges from about an inch in some places, to two feet in others.

I took a picture with Delilah in it, but I was focused on showing the fine pathway I cleared around the back pasture fence line.

Then I noticed that interesting cloud bank in the sky.

That was some pretty distinct delineation of cloud and clear sky right there. Nature sure makes cool stuff.

As Delilah and I walked the path around the pasture, I noticed the horses had made cute little circle tracks in the fresh snow, leaving little visible spots of where they foraged grass to graze.

It almost looks like they were on cross-country skis, as they moseyed along.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, as Delilah and I started our walk from the house, breaking trail in the new snow, we came to the spot where our trail cam captured a view of the fox last year. Something had just entered our property there within the hours since this overnight snowfall.

I decided to let Delilah follow the trail into the neighbor’s woods, in case we might find where the fox has a den. She was thrilled to have been granted access to this forbidden land and leaped through the snow to explore where the tracks led.

Well, even though it had been less than twelve hours since the majority of the snow fell, there were already a dizzying web of trails crisscrossing the wooded slopes. The snow was fresh and just deep enough that identification was difficult, but there were so many different pathways that I soon realized the chance we were following one fox had become very unlikely.

We reached a spot where tracks were everywhere, and the leaves beneath the snow were turned up in a wide variety of places. For a second, I wondered if it was a pack of coyotes, but then I deduced it was much more likely to be a flock of turkeys.

No wonder Delilah was so excited over that particular location.

I convinced her to reroute our exploration back toward our property and gave up on hunting for a fox den.

At least we finally have a snow cover that offers better footing than the icy glazing we had battled the previous month.

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

Snow Wrecker

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The worst thing to happen during snow season is a rainstorm. Dry snow is so much better than wet snow. Wet snow becomes slush after a time, and after the day-long rainfall we experienced yesterday, we ended up with nothing but a soupy slush.

The ground is frozen enough below the snow that water won’t soak in. Instead, it pools until the water reaches an outlet to the next lowest spot.

The drainage from the paddocks that flows across the back pasture was running like a river when Delilah and I braved the rain for her mid-day walk.

She made it across without much effort, but my big feet were going to make a definite splash. I stopped to gather my courage and plan my maneuver. Delilah busied herself with a face wash while waiting for me to take some pictures.

Everything I tried to do was made significantly more complicated by the umbrella I was fumbling to keep over my head.

As we neared the road on this typical trek around the property, I spotted the stump where our mailbox is usually mounted. That meant a snowplow must have roared past and tossed up a blade-full of the slush; a mass that packs more punch than my plastic mailbox can survive.

We found the box portion unceremoniously discarded upside down in the ditch, soaking up rain. Luckily, the plow had blown by before the mail delivery arrived, so there were no drenched bills inside.

Delilah growled at the odd scene as we approached.

I guess I kind of growled, too. Expletives.

The paddocks are a disaster of packed down slush, transformed into a dangerously hard and slippery wet surface against which the horses struggle to maneuver their hefty weight. We didn’t bring them inside overnight Wednesday, despite it ending up being the smarter thing to have done.

I brought them inside last night, with hope they might appreciate it even more, after their previous misery.

Even Pequenita was able to express her opinion about the nasty conditions outside yesterday, even though she is supposed to be an exclusively indoor cat.

Before the rain had totally destroyed the several inches of new snow that had fallen on the deck at the beginning of this weather event, I was preparing to light a fire in the fireplace. I opened the door to grab some kindling from the box out there, without noticing the cat had positioned herself right in front of me.

‘Nita walked outside before I had a chance to corral her.

Two steps into the sloppy snow, she just stopped. It was not a good day for an escape.

Maybe not good for her. Escape is pretty much all I want to do from this weather fiasco.

Rain has no place in our northern snow belt during winter. Bah, humbug!

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2018 at 7:00 am

Well, Hello

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Here’s the thing, I was home alone last night, tending to chores while Cyndie was out. I had finished feeding and cleaning up after the horses, and walked Delilah, but the chickens weren’t quite ready to turn in for the night. It was another beautiful evening, so I suppose they were taking full advantage of it.

After killing a few minutes back in the house with dog and cat, I noticed it was probably dark enough to go close the chicken door. It is such a brief trip, I chose to leave Delilah inside, but did tuck my headlamp in a pocket, just in case it was too dark inside the coop to easily do a head count.

It wasn’t too dark, and I could see that the one Wyandotte that chose to perch against the wall above the window (well above all the others on the roost) just so happened to be the hen missing head feathers. A possible clue that something is setting her apart from the others. Whether it’s her choice or theirs, we don’t yet know.

Anyway, this is beside the point. I didn’t need the headlamp. Well, not until later. After dinner, I wanted to work on one of my creative projects, and noticed my headlamp wasn’t in the drawer where I keep it.

Who took my headlamp?

Oh, yeah, that was me. I had put it in my pocket when I went out to close the coop. But then, why wasn’t it still in my pocket?

This time, I decided to let Delilah come with me. I was guessing the lamp had fallen out of my pocket on the run down to the coop. With a different flashlight in hand, we set out to backtrack my route.

While Delilah mostly obscured my view of the trail, I staggered to keep up with her while scanning the path as best I could. As we got close to the coop, it became obvious that Delilah wasn’t just in her normal rush, she was frantically straining against the leash to get at something.

When I looked up to see what she was after, two little red dots were reflecting the beam of my flashlight right back at me.

Delilah was right in front of it at this point, and I suddenly had to juggle the dang flashlight and her leash to reel her back toward me. The critter just sat, staring. It looked to be about cat-sized, but it seemed odd to me that it hadn’t executed a mad dash in the face of Delilah’s rather threatening level of interest.

Despite our canine’s freaky level of urgency to be granted access, I successfully clipped the locked leash to a tree so that I could make a solo approach for identification.

Well, hello possum.

It stared intensely at Delilah, not up toward me as I stood right in front of it, beside the front door of the chicken coop.

It likely showed up to scrounge the bounty of chicken food off the ground that the hens kick out of the pan we set out during the day.

I got all growly and menacing and the pest finally turned and skittered into the underbrush.

Shortly afterward, I located my headlamp in the snow and everyone lived happily throughout the rest of the night.

No pics of the adventures in the darkness, but this is the lovely face of our wee one who joined me when I crawled into bed at my bewitching hour:

Well, hello there Pequenita!

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Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2018 at 7:00 am