Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘problem solving

How About

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I’m taking a little evil pleasure in Cyndie’s report that she spotted a lot of fox tracks along the southern trail yesterday, because I know there are no longer any easy pickings to be had here.

Driving home past the neighbor’s farm, I took particular interest in how many of their chickens were wandering about in the thoroughly exposed wide open. I will be completely befuddled if the fox visiting us from the woods between our land and that neighbor’s has been ignoring their flock.

Hoping we get a chance to chat with them about it soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing around with ideas on how we might proceed with our next twelve birds in light of the recent carnivorous outburst by the wild little member of the dog family. How about we domesticate the fox like we do dogs?

Allow me to stretch the boundaries of logic…

Here’s how it could go:

  • We trap the fox and attach a shock collar. We still don’t know if it’s a male or female. Since pups are born needing total care from the momma, it’s the father that hunts for the kits when they are young. Our visitor could be either.
  • We place customized high technology chips into each chicken, programmed to trigger the shock collar within 20 feet proximity.
  • Then we sit back and watch the perfect solution play out.

If foxes are so intelligent, it shouldn’t take long at all for this one to learn that our chickens are now off the menu.

It could even become a money-maker for us. We could offer to “chip” our neighbor’s chickens, too, for a small handling fee.

Maybe, as long as we’re stretching reality here, we could also have the collar release a scent of moles, voles, and rabbits after the fox leaves the chickens alone, to entice it toward a more preferred hunting focus.

In a world where we are moving toward driverless cars, smart speakers that control home life, and robots with unknowable artificial intelligence potential, my simple chicken protection/fox control idea seems downright quaint.

How about that?

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Emotional Health

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It should come as no surprise that I am a person who sees love as the magic ingredient of our lives. Love is the simplest solution to every problem. Then why isn’t everything rainbows and unicorns? Well, just because we know something works, doesn’t automatically guarantee we will put it into healthy practice.

Why do people smoke when they know the physical consequences? Why do we make poor food choices or over-indulge in mind altering substances? Why do we stay up too late? Why do we sabotage our own intentions to become our best selves?

Nobody said it was easy. I do say it is simple, but that’s not the same thing.

There is one critical ingredient to the art of loving ourselves to the fullest, which enables us to then successfully wield love as the key method of reaching a healthy solution… with other people, with situations, business transactions, relationships, governments, and ultimately between nations of our world.

It is emotional health.

I have recently come upon a couple of articles I’d like to share that nicely frame key aspects of emotional well-being. They express opinions in common with my perspectives about emotional health and love.

The first, by John White, describes emotional intelligence as a skill that can be learned and developed.

“Some of the most admired people in the world have gotten to where they are due to their emotional intelligence.”

The second, is a three-question interview in September’s National Geographic magazine with U.S. former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, where he advocates for emotional well-being.

“I think of emotional well-being as a resource within each of us that allows us to do more and to perform better. That doesn’t mean just the absence of mental illness. It’s the presence of positive emotions that allows us to be resilient in the face of adversity.”

White describes emotional intelligence as having five components: Self Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills, and then suggests skills a person can practice to enhance them.

Murthy says we can cultivate emotional well-being with simple tools like, sleep, physical activity, contemplative practices, and social interaction. In his third answer, his words fully resonated for me with his belief that there are two emotions that drive our decisions: love and fear.

I agree.

I hope you will follow the links of the images to read the full (brief) contents of their messages for yourself.

At Wintervale Ranch, we are all about the love, and Cyndie and Dunia offer several workshops that provide wonderful information and guidance about emotional intelligence.

Bolster emotional intelligence and unleash the power of love. The world will be a better place, and the people a happier human race.

That’s my sermon for today. Get out there and share the love!

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Trusting Intuition

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Yesterday, I wrenched success from the jaws of failure after I reacted thoughtfully and purposefully to the engine failure of our lawn tractor in the middle of mowing the hill of our back yard. With barely a minute of pause to simply sit and contemplate the predicament, I decided to spring into action. I was racing the weather.

After a quick test to see if I could push the tractor uphill, I went to get the ATV and a nylon tow rope. It was possible that the mower was just low on gas, but it was way too soon to have used the entire tank, based on previous experience. I was concerned that maybe the engine was working harder than usual and burning more fuel. That deserved attention.

There was evidence to support this possibility. You see, I was in a hurry to beat the coming rain, so I started early enough in the day that the dew had not dried off the grass. There were sticky wads of wet cuttings littering the lanes where the mower had already passed. It was likely the bottom of the deck had become caked with dirt and grass that was severely hampering the efficiency of the whole operation.

Despite the time pressure of impending precipitation, I disconnected the deck to pull it out and flip it over to clear the debris. Working quickly, I did a perfectly imperfect job of sufficiently completing that task. With the deck out, I wanted to grease the three spindles, but remembered I hadn’t reloaded the grease gun last time it sputtered out on me.

What better time than right then. Usually, for this kind of task that I rarely deal with, I struggle to recall how I did it last time, and make six mistakes before figuring out the simple technique. Yesterday, my intuition was strong, and I got it right, first try.

About then, Cyndie arrived to report the line on the power trimmer had run out. I popped off the spool for her, grabbed some remaining lengths of nylon line I’d been wanting to use up, and wound both the upper and lower spools without my usual mistake of starting with the wrong one first.

Since I had the nozzle on the compressor hose to blow off the mower deck, I also blew off the business end of the trimmer for Cyndie and sent her on her way before finishing the task of remounting the deck under the tractor.

We were both back to work after minimal delay and the lawn tractor worked like almost new.

Honestly, the smooth sailing I experienced was in sharp contrast to the norm of multiple struggles to make minimal progress. Tasks certainly do get incrementally easier with repetition.

Despite the unplanned delay right in the middle of mowing, I squeaked out finishing the entire job just as the first drops of rain arrived.

Now, if only this run of success will carry on into figuring out why the pond pump doesn’t turn on again after Cyndie shut it off to clean the intake filter.

Come on intuition, stay with me…

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Paving Paradise

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We are experimenting with a new way to improve a particularly wet and muddy portion of one trail through our woods. Originally, I was hoping we could simply cover it with wood chips. It worked for a while, but we haven’t been chipping branches frequently enough to produce the supply needed to cover all of our trails.

dscn5245eThe piles of wood blocks that I have been pulling off pallets salvaged from the day-job are suddenly proving valuable. Instantly, we have gone from having too many of these lying around, to not having enough to cover the muddy lengths of trail that need the most help.

It is interesting to consider the path (no pun intended) these pieces of former trees have traveled. Somewhere, trees are cut down and milled into boards. Then the wood gets cut into these shapes and nailed to pallets. The company that manufactures the products we receive at the day-job mount their units onto the pallets for shipment and charge the end customer for the wood.

We have asked if they wanted the pallets returned for reuse, but like so many other things in today’s world, since already paid for, they apparently weren’t worth the trouble. We end up with perfectly good, single-use pallets out of brand-new wood, albeit with four odd blocks nailed to the tops.

I’ve been pulling the nails to remove the blocks and using the pallets as a floor in my wood shed and beneath stored hay in the hay shed. I also claimed boards off some pallets to build hay feeding boxes for the 4 stalls in the barn. All the while, the odd blocks that were removed have been piling up.

dscn5244eWhen Cyndie started looking into a boardwalk as a way to get up out of the mud on our trails, we landed on the idea of using the blocks. She wanted to add some words of inspiration and enlisted Anneliese to join her in creating the enhancements.

Yesterday we laid down the first test run. So far, so good. Only a couple more miles to go. I hope there will soon be a lot of new orders for that equipment at the day-job.

It is poetic justice that we’ve found a way to ultimately bring this pallet wood full-circle, placing it on a forest floor once again.

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Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2016 at 9:05 am

Tractor Timber

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IMG_iP1462eDespite the inherent risks in dealing with trees that have blown over, but remain hung up in the branches of other trees beside them, I chose to see if I could push them over using the loader on our tractor.

Whether or not it made any sense to try, I forged ahead on the idea that it just might work.

First, I needed to attach the loader bucket that I’ve recently taken to storing at one end of the hay shed.

The following is pretty much how the previous week unfolded for me, in terms of frustrations.

As I approached the hay shed on the tractor, I realized the trailer on the back of the truck was parked directly in front of the spot I needed to reach. Keys to the truck were up at the house.

I caught sight of Cyndie just crossing the yard and shouted to ask if she could grab the keys.

She turned the key and the starter stuttered the staccato clatter of “not enough battery.”

“Not again! Not now!”

IMG_iP1493eFor some unidentified reason, this happens at very unpredictable odd intervals. The truck needed to have its battery charged again. It was parked far enough away that it would require an extension cord, and then I realized the nearest outlet was dead because I had borrowed the circuit breaker last fall to use for the waterer over the winter.

I swapped out the breaker, got the battery charging, and decided to do some lawn mowing. All that served to do was intensify my frustration over the odd problem of the middle blade not cutting and the outside blades cutting low. Something more than just a broken bracket must have gone wrong when it failed last week.

I did the bare minimum of ugly mowing and then put it away to start the truck.

All that frustration before I could get to the task I intended.

Compared to those hassles, the rest of my project went swimmingly. I pulled up to the trees, lifted the bucket to test the weight, and after an initial slip, successfully pushed the trees over with a resounding crash.

IMG_iP1494e

Yikes. It was both scary and satisfying.

Most of all, it wasn’t frustrating.

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Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2016 at 6:00 am

Brake Lesson

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It was another one of those days when I started with one thing in mind, and quickly ended up with a whole new project demanding attention. Starting with a goal of filling another low spot by using old hay bales that have some mold and the composted manure and bedding from the barn, we were going to use the Grizzly ATV.

Before using the Griz, I needed to remove the plow blade and change the tires to the less aggressive summer tread. I pushed the button to extend the cable so I could disconnect it from the plow, but nothing happened.

Hmm. It worked last time I used it, …about 2 months ago. Oh well, that was easy to work around. Next, I jacked up the Grizzly and removed the front tires. That’s when I noticed one of the brakes wouldn’t release. I have never done any work with disc brakes. The only things I know about brakes are the words, caliper, brake pad, and brake fluid.

I called George for advice. At dinner on Thursday, he described the work he was doing on a tractor he recently bought, which reflected just the kind of skills my new problem needed. With him giving me the confidence to start removing bolts, we started analyzing the situation.

DSCN4638eThere is definitely a problem with the right brake not releasing. Unfortunately, there is also a problem with the caliper slider pins being seized in place. The left side wasn’t much better, but at least we were able to get the pins out. That revealed the pads were definitely in need of replacement.

With George’s help, I now have a good idea of what needs to be done. All I have to do is find a way to break the corrosion bond in the right brake so I can get the dang thing apart.

Freeing corroded bolts seems to be a theme developing with this machine. If I can win that battle, this will be a chance for me to finally learn the nuances of working on hydraulic disc brakes.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2016 at 6:00 am

Frustrating Exercise

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Despite my ambitious goals to accomplish many things yesterday (so I could take Cyndie up on an offer to turn my back on projects at home for a day to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with a visit to the lake) I finished far short of the plan. Now I am forced to try to get the grass mowed this morning, long before the dew has evaporated, so we can leave in the afternoon.

Complicating my efforts yesterday, and seriously hindering my progress, was a surprising and very dramatic reaction to something in the air. I started sneezing big time, and my nose began to run like a faucet. That both hindered progress and contributed to my not addressing any of the other things I had wanted to do.

DSCN3490eOn top of that, I ended up needing to make that almost obligatory return trip to Menards for supplies. I was working on patching our deck where boards have gotten soft with rot. The carpenter I called to replace them all is too busy to get to it until later, so he suggested I patch it for now. Following his simplified instructions, I quickly ran into details that required I problem solve.

It took two tries, but I figured out solutions and forged ahead, way behind schedule. Then my nose began to pour and the pry bar I used to pull nails became too worn and wouldn’t grip the nail heads. It was an exercise in managing frustration and rearranging goals. I’ll give myself a C grade for the lesson. (Mike, I needed your nail-puller and expertise!)

It was getting late, and I had all the tools spread out across the deck, so I forged ahead until after sunset to complete the task. I wanted to have one less thing left to do today, and I successfully accomplished that!

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2015 at 6:00 am