Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘reminiscing

Early Start

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Like a couple of young newlyweds, Cyndie and I got an early start to the holiday weekend and hustled north to the lake by ourselves a day before the massive crowds that will follow. A stop at Coop’s Pizza for our favorite choice in Hayward, then some authentic ice cream decadence at West’s Dairy for dessert, and we were in full lake-place weekend mode before ever reaching the “cabin.”

For the record, I splurged with one scoop each of Coconut Magic Bar and Chunky Musky.

There was some reminiscing about dining at Coop’s on our honeymoon almost 40-years ago, back when it was located in a former gas station on Highway 63. Cyndie burned her lip so bad when hot cheese pulled off the crust that she blistered.

After we unloaded the car, we topped off our night with access to satellite television Tour de France coverage rerunning the stage of day 6 and another Mark Cavendish sprint to the stage victory. We were happy as clams.

It has been longer than I can recall that we have been up at the lake two weekends in a row. This could get to be a habit. Thank goodness we have found a willing animal sitter in Anna, a student at UW River Falls.

It feels particularly summery, which is just as it should now that we are into July. Obviously, we don’t live in the southern hemisphere.

Watching the professional cyclists racing after having just spent some extended time on my bike tour along the Mississippi River in Minnesota provides a valuable perspective. Their accomplishments are so much more amazing than they make them appear.

I hope they get to have ice cream at the end of their daily races.

I visited a couple of Dairy Queens after my days of biking.

It was an early start to foiling my goals of eating less sugar than my addiction longs for. I can attest that doing so wreaks havoc on my attempts to control the brain’s tendency to crave sweetness full time.

Good thing my healthy routine will be able to resume as soon as this weekend is over. My summer brain is starting to think I should have ice cream every day.

I’m afraid the rest of my body takes exception to that kind of thinking.



Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

Recent Past

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While I was working on a project that had me perusing some of my old photos from the last decade, I developed a yearning for the good ol’ days of about 4 years ago. (That’s the time period I was viewing when the nostalgia hit.) It has me missing our horses anew.

That was back before we added doors to the hay shed. I don’t miss the years of sun-bleached hay reserves. Of course, I don’t miss needing to put up a winter’s worth of hay anymore, either.

Our lives and focus of attention in 2015 seem so far removed now, yet at the same time, pretty recent compared to all the years even farther back in our history. I suppose I’m experiencing something of a near-term nostalgia.

I can’t help but think it might also be related to wanting to be back in a time when US politics weren’t a worldwide embarrassment.

I was so much younger then, four years ago. Delilah was, too. In that series of pictures I was reviewing, there were many where I was putting dog and horses in particularly close proximities, hoping to develop a safe and friendly bond between them. They never became close pals, but the horses offered a gracious acceptance of Delilah’s tendencies to nip at their heals or bark vociferously around feeding time if the horses got rambunctious.

Then, there are pictures of me throwing discs for Delilah to chase off-leash in the fields. That was B.C. (Before Chickens). Unfortunately, we can no longer trust the dog to spend any time off-leash, as she has no impulse control over her urge to follow her carnivorous canine instincts.

Ahh, those were the days, four years ago. Remembering those times feels like wrapping myself in a snuggly blanket on a cold day.

I’ve learned a lot in the years since, though (and Delilah, too, I think), so as 2019 closes in on its final weeks, I’m feeling good with our lives. I just need to remind myself to avoid the constant barrage of horrendous news and put my energy toward sowing seeds of love to all.

That will become a memory I would like to look back on in a few years to remember fondly.



Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2019 at 7:00 am

Remembering Woodstock

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Ten years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I wrote a blog post musing about how that event influenced my taste in music. In honor of reaching the milestone of 50 years hence, I’m going to re-post those thoughts once again…

Have I mused on music already here? I don’t remember.

It was 40 years ago now that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held. Three days of peace and music. I was 10 years old. I don’t have any recollection that I had any clue it was occurring.

I’m not clear about what point in my life it was that I got hooked by the music being made by artists like the ones that were so well represented at the Woodstock concert. The first album that belonged to me was a gift from a sibling or siblings (anyone remember?). It was the Monkees, “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. That album was released in November of 1967, so maybe I got it Christmas of that year. I remember they pranked me with the trick where they taped the album to the cover of the box the present was wrapped in so when I lifted it and looked in the box, there was nothing there.

The next record I recall getting was one that my sister, Linda, allowed me to select for myself, as a gift from her. I didn’t have a clue what to pick and went with what I saw before me when walking the aisle of the local record store. Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” was something that I recognized as having heard on the radio and it was in the front of a stack down at my eye level. I picked it and remember her trying hard to make sure that was what I wanted. I’m pretty sure she could sense it was not a well thought out selection. But I held firm, trying to portray that I was making an informed decision. I wasn’t.

Eventually, I came to revere the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The first concert I ever saw in person was The Allman Brothers Band. I was a fan of The Beatles, Derek & the Dominos, America, Loggins & Messina and a wide range of related groups. I have always liked live recordings and I think my favorite albums from all the above artists or groups are their live concert recordings.

     Impressionable years

Somewhere in my very impressionable music years, I heard the live recordings of Santana, The Who, Richie Havens, Country Joe & the Fish, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, John Sebastion, and I’m sure others who performed at Woodstock, and those songs all locked in my consciousness as foundation blocks.

I probably heard them on the soundtrack of the documentary film released after the concert. From those songs, I built a fascination for Leon Russell and records like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, The Band, “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz”, Little Feat, “Waiting for Columbus”, George Harrison and the musicians he recruited for “Concert for Bangladesh”.

This wasn’t music that was played on popular radio (remember the AM band?). This is what record albums and FM radio were all about. Eventually, I got a job at a retail record store for about a year and became immersed in more albums than I could comprehend.

I wasn’t old enough to be aware that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was happening at the time, but later, it became a very significant part of my music world because of the recordings made there. And the music that was made there came from the spirit of that moment. Woodstock was a very important event for me, after the fact.

Increasingly more so, in the accumulating years following that August weekend back in 1969.



Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

Memory Lane

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I traveled down the depths of some great memories last night for a 50th-anniversary event of the company where I launched my industrial high-tech manufacturing career, as an inexperienced fresh-out-of-tech-school entry-level Electronic Technician. I had the good fortune of working for that company in many different roles over eighteen years, putting me in contact with almost every department at one time or another.

That made this celebration event with current and former employees an extra special treat for me. I talked myself hoarse sharing stories over the clamor of hundreds of other simultaneous conversations all around me. From Assemblers to Scientists, Marketing, Purchasing, Fabricators, Software Developers, Facilities Manager, Calibration Technicians, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers in both Manufacturing and Research & Development, Human Resources, Customer Service and even the First Responders team, I came to know a lot of amazing people, almost all of whom I could describe as friends as much as coworkers.

It was difficult to finish a thought without getting interrupted by another fond greeting of long-separated colleagues. Many people asked if Cyndie was still a Principal and wondered what I was up to. I labored to explain how we moved to the country onto a property to have horses, but that we don’t have horses any longer, and I commute many miles to an unrelated day-job that is not all that different from the old high-tech industrial electronics job I did 20-some years ago.

So much has changed, but not that much has changed.

It was a blast seeing the faces of so many people from my years with that company and recalling some of the adventures and laughs we shared. One person reminded me of the times we used our lunch hour to play wally-ball in the company gym. Those were the days.

For some perspective, during the years I worked for that company, we transitioned from pencil drawings on vellum paper to digital CAD drawings. I interacted with my first desktop computers while employed there. I was part of a team that designed a custom system for 3M that they used to manufacture some of the first compact disc optical storage media.

We were dumbstruck that they would be able to store an entire set of encyclopedia volumes on one little disc. What would they think of next?

One night of being immersed in flashbacks to that previous life is a little disorienting. I sure had no idea at the time that I might someday be dealing with broody chickens. Makes me wonder a little bit about what I might think of doing next.



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July 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

My Day

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Honestly, I never seriously thought I would one day be telling stories about how different things were, back in my day. That’s something old people do.

Last night, there was a news ticker across the bottom of the tv screen announcing school closings for today. At that point, not a single flake had wafted down out of the sky. How does that work?

When I was in school, if we woke up in the morning with mounds of snow covering everything, we would immediately turn on the local radio broadcast and listen for our school to be named in the list of closings. Superintendents waited until the last-minute to announce their decision. We never knew the night before.

Nowadays, kids know before they even go to sleep. They have no idea how easy they have it.

Have winter storm forecasts become so much more reliable that school officials trust them that much farther in advance?

This is what was posted yesterday as NOAA‘s model of what today’s storm would look like:

That was enough for me to throw in the towel on driving the long distance across the entire Twin Cities today.

If we end up with nine inches of snow by the end of the day, it’ll be another feather in the cap of present-day meteorology, for accuracy of their storm modeling.

And, I will feel justified to have voluntarily missed another mid-week shift at the day-job, avoiding the hazards of two rush-hour commutes during a snow event.

If the snow accumulation doesn’t measure up, I’ll be reminded of the old days, when we never knew how much snow we were going to get, until it had actually fallen.







Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

Six Years

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Somehow, six years have passed since we moved from our home of twenty-five years in a suburb of the Twin Cities to this amazing property in western Wisconsin.

Happy 6th Anniversary, Wintervale!

What an amazing time we’ve had figuring out a completely different life from the one we had previously known.

Looking back on our arrival here, we now laugh about the week-long struggle we endured to accomplish the actual closing on the property, while being granted access anyway by the sellers and moving our furniture in as if it was already officially ours.

We put our trust in a local fencing company to help design a layout for our paddocks and pasture fences and were rewarded with a much-loved result. They also helped us accomplish the addition of the hay shed, overcoming repeated weather delays caused by one of the wettest springs locals had experienced.

Five years ago September, our horses arrived and really brought this place to life. That started an ongoing lesson in the art of composting manure, among many other more romantic attractions of owning horses.

This time of year, we are probably composting as many leaves as we are manure.

We are in our second year of having chickens around to control flies and ticks, while also enjoying the secondary benefit of unbelievably great eggs.

We have learned a lot about baled hay and forest management.

We dabbled a little in trying to launch a business.

We’ve stumbled through trying to train our first dog, while simultaneously working on keeping one of two house cats we adopted from a rescue organization.

Every time the leaves fall from our trees and cover the trails six inches deep, it throws me back to that first year when we arrived.

That leads to thoughts about all the things I’ve listed above and gives me an opportunity to acknowledge the number of things we have accomplished since moving here.

I also have a tendency to contemplate what life might have been like had we not made this move. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be in as good of shape as I am now. Caring for animals and managing many acres of hilly fields and forest has a way of keeping a person off the couch for long stretches of time.

I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s been a great six years.

Here’s to diving into our seventh with wonder and glee over whatever adventures it may bring!



Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sibling Dinner

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My Hays siblings don’t gather often, but whenever we are all able to be in one place at the same time, it’s a real treat. Last night, we met at Elliott and Wendy’s house in Richfield for dinner.

The weather was HOT and HUMID at the beginning of the evening, but just as the grill was getting ready for cooking, heavy rain began to fall and that cooled things off a little. Elliott braved the downpour, beneath his hanging umbrella over the grill, and prepared chicken and burgers. The rest of us were to bring the sides.

The delicious coleslaw and a spicy white corn concoction that Judy and Mary brought were dwarfed by the massive collection of desserts that they and Cyndie laid out on the table.

It ended up being a little dinner, and a LOT of dessert.

I particularly enjoyed some of the reminiscing about the different memories of mealtimes when we were young. I asked if there was pressure to clean our plates, because I don’t remember any, yet have always tended toward that behavior. Apparently, there was some history there. Mary recalled Auntie Kay was one source of that message.

I remember our father at mealtimes asking if there was a fire, or “Where’s the fire?” in the sideways manner of getting us to notice how fast we were eating. Elliott said that eating fast offered the best chance of getting any seconds.

It’s been a heck of a lot of years since we were all kids eating around the same table, but for a few minutes last night, I enjoyed a glimmer of some of those times with my brothers and sisters.

I feel very lucky to have such wonderful siblings.

What’s not to like? They remind me, in so many ways, of me.



Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Venturing Out

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Maybe it was the calmness of the morning, or the fact the temperature didn’t drop significantly overnight, but the chickens wasted little time in venturing out from the confines of the coop for me yesterday morning.

Midway through the day, I stopped back to check for eggs and found two of the hens, almost on top of each other, squished into one nesting box. I decided not to bother them, closing the side door and heading off to another project.

With Delilah leashed to the double swing nearby to supervise, I spent some quality time at the wood shed. First, I needed to re-stack the majority of the last row that had blown over in the recent high-wind event. With that under control, I started into splitting some of the newest wood from the tree cut down last weekend.

I think the fact the wood was now frozen helped the logs to snap in two with relative ease. When Delilah’s interest in watching me work came to its unsurprising end, I dropped her off in the house and headed back to the coop to pick eggs.

The Buff Orpington was still sitting in the nest box, but I invaded her space to grab three eggs she was resting on.

After lunch, I headed out to turn two different piles of compost that are still cooking nicely, despite the arrival of the frozen season.

It seems as though the animals have quickly adjusted to the return of “my” routine of care. Intensified time with Delilah and the horses brings me back to my year sabbatical from the day-job when I managed the ranch full-time while Cyndie was working the Anoka-Hennepin contract.

It’s a very fond memory. It’s satisfying to see how quickly the animals seem to recognize the methodical way I do things, easing into the orderly dance of meal time and clean up with me.

Today, the chores have increased in number, as an overnight snow dusting has added to the previous paltry amount, making it hardly worth a plowing, but a messy nuisance if I don’t.

At least I know Cyndie will be sympathetic. She went to D.C., where they’re getting their own dose of snowfall today.

Happy winter!



Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

Rusty Hue

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The changing season has taken a very noticeable shift in a short span of days, from brilliant to subdued, in terms of color palette. Last week, the color was electric, but yesterday the landscape looked like someone had unplugged the power and all the trees have begun to rust.









Those pictures were taken just four days apart. Our forest is quickly becoming transparent, as you can see.

It kinda gives the impression that winter is on the way, which is mind-bending because yesterday the temperature was so summer-like. How it looked, and how it felt were not quite in alignment.

Naturally, I base my perception of what kind of weather to expect, on what I’ve experienced in the past, but the planet hasn’t been itself lately. With all that humans have done to muck up the natural order, we’ve made the art of prediction less predictable.

It has me trying to reclaim the naiveté of my youth, when I didn’t have a clue about weather and seasons. Each day was just something to be explored. I’m sure it was magical. I don’t actually recall. Though, of course, I didn’t need to plan and prepare for what would come next.

This has me longing for the benefits of childhood freedom from needing to be concerned about preparing property for the freeze and clearing snow, having enough fuel, getting vehicles winterized.

Oh, to just wake up one morning and exclaim, “Snow!” with pure joy about going outside to play in it.

That is, if it still gets cold enough for snow in coming days.

It’s getting hard to predict.




Written by johnwhays

October 21, 2017 at 8:24 am

Looking Back

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Last week we reached the milestone of the 3rd anniversary of making Wintervale Ranch our home. Lately, Cyndie and I have found ourselves randomly recollecting some of the early days here and marveling over the variety of things that have since changed.

It feels a little —what is it? Presumptuous? Gratuitous?— somehow inappropriate for me to request, but I urge you to sneak a peek at one or two posts from the Relative Something archive (Previous Somethings) for the month of October 2012. There are too many gems depicting our arrival for me to do justice to them by trying to produce links, or re-posting to bring them forward to current posts this week.

PequenitaBarely a month after we finally closed on the purchase of this place, we adopted the cats, Pequenita and Mozyr. After about a year, we came to the realization that Mozyr was not happy with his situation, and we returned him to the shelter, but Pequenita has proved to be compatible with the random chaos that arises here from time to time.

In July of 2013 we added 10-month-old Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah, to our family, purchased from a breeder nearby. From that day on we have tended to find ourselves in a battle between her training us and us training her. It’s fair to say there have been a smattering of victories on both sides.Delilah

Just short of 3-months after Delilah joined us, in the last week of September in 2013, our horses arrived. That was a monumental occasion for us, and came after an intense effort over the previous 11-months to be appropriately prepared.

We removed rusted barbed wire, installed new fencing, built up protective cover on barn walls (previous owners had miniature horses), buried a water line to an on-demand waterer in their paddock, and built a hay shed, along with a variety of lesser noteworthy projects.

IMG_2816eI knew so very little about horses at that time. They have taught me a lot in the ensuing years, and come to mean the world to me. Just standing among them, passing time, has become one of my favorite things to do.

I have built a wood shed, twice. After it blew down in a storm, our friends Barb and Mike Wilkus came by and helped me to put it up a second time. Any time we weren’t working on something else, we were creating the spectacular 70-foot “Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth.”

Speaking of storms, we have endured a variety of dramatic winter weather events. Two of them particularly stand out for me.

The first one involved 18-inches of heavy wet snow in early May and snapped a lot of tree branches. Two pine trees that tipped over during that storm eventually died, even though I tried standing them back up and staking them.

The second snow storm blew for days and eventually filled the space between the 4-foot banks on either side of the driveway. It took me two days to dig us out, even with the assistance from both of our closest neighbors. What did I learn from that storm? The neighbor to our south told me he had plowed his driveway twice during the storm, so it never got to the extreme that ours did.

Lesson learned.

An awful lot has changed in the last three years. It is hard for me to imagine what might be different, three years from now, but I expect the changes won’t be near as dramatic as what transpired when we first arrived and worked to establish the infrastructure to support having 4 horses and fulfilling a dream of creating our Wintervale Ranch & Retreat Center.

What fun it is to look back once in a while.












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October 27, 2015 at 6:00 am