Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow

Spontaneous Trip

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With only the briefest of forethought, yesterday afternoon I decided to drive up to the lake with the fire-pit benches I built last fall. It was windy and a little wet at home, but I didn’t give much consideration to how different it might be a hundred miles north. I drove right into some serious falling snow that occasionally dropped visibility to nothing but the car in front of me.

In addition to the wild weather, I rolled up to a road closure that offered very poor signage about a detour option. A simple trip to the lake place became an adventure I hadn’t anticipated.

Ultimately, I made it to the intended destination safe and sound, but as I traveled up the gravel entrance toward the house there were branches down everywhere on the ground. Then, limbs. Then, trees! There must have been quite a wind event up here recently.

Between the snow and branches, I decided not to bother immediately placing the benches I brought. They can stay in the garage for now, if  I can even get them out of the car. It took me four tries to reverse Jenga® them far enough inside that the hatch could close.

They were built for the fire pit, not to nest inside of each other cleanly. The increasing width of the legs combined with the lower cross supports makes navigating the opening an exercise in advanced geometric problem-solving.

Or, in my case, trial and error.

It worked to get them in there. It’ll work to get ’em out again. No matter how many tries it takes me.

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Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

Spring Scenes

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Among the range of memories lingering from our night out to see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk about a cosmic perspective, these have been prominent: The earth wants to kill us and the universe wants to kill us. As if supporting evidence for these statements were even necessary, Neil provided simple lists.

Earth:

  • earthquakes
  • volcanoes
  • hurricanes
  • tornadoes
  • droughts
  • wildfires
  • floods

He introduced this segment with a reference to people who rhapsodize longingly about flowers and trees and all the romance and beauty in Mother Nature’s spectacular displays. Brings to my mind amazing sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls, ocean waves, golden fields, and gorgeous forests.

The contrast provided one of the many chuckles evoked throughout his presentation.

Universe:

  • solar flares
  • radiation bursts
  • black holes
  • supernovas
  • asteroids
  • meteors

Bringing this information forward in my consciousness had me looking at things with a fresh reference on our walks around the property yesterday. It’s impressive to survive long enough that we generally grow callous to most all of these hazardous natural threats. Some of the earth weather risks don’t get buried all that far away in our minds, but I have tended to view them as more neutral threats than as earth’s intended attempts to snuff me out.

The spring scenes we came upon in yesterday morning’s snowscape included the barn towels that were hanging out to dry from the day before.

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When the horses don’t finish eating before we head back to the house, we leave the feed pans out. It makes for some interesting finds upon our return.

Muddy hoof prints are the least offensive version of soiled pans we’ve had to clean out.

After the sun showed through the thinning cloud cover, the snow evaporated except for places that were shadowed. It made for some cool scenes in the woods.

This morning there is no snow left and we haven’t received new precipitation in the last 24 hours. A big sigh of relief for a day or two.

It looks to be another day when the earth won’t kill us. I can’t say for sure what the universe has in store.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2022 at 9:38 am

More Melting

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A local meteorologist on the radio pointed out the previous two days were our first pair of consecutive days of temperatures in the 40s (F) since December when we experienced a tornado in the area. Two days of melting is visibly changing our snowscape.

As we made our way around the north loop trail yesterday, I found it interesting that no old footprints were apparent along the pathway, yet the trail we repeatedly walk was clearly outlined.

I suspect that blowing snow had filled the path while we were up at the lake over the weekend and now it’s all being glazed level with the surrounding snowpack. We trudged through it seconds after I took that picture, taking the first steps toward reestablishing our typical packed trail.

The first week of March is predicted to bring us melting temperatures during the days and several chances for a mix of precipitation.

We noticed yesterday afternoon that the horses are starting to shed a little bit of their winter coat. The prospect of wet precipitation and near-freezing temperatures is an unwelcome combination when it comes to horses. As is our normal practice, we have closed some gates to separate the herd into two groups of two so there will be less competition over access to the protection of the barn overhang.

After the anxiety they showed the last time we moved them into stalls in the barn, I am not as quick to choose that option for keeping them dry. We are going to make the overhang as available as possible and leave it up to them to take advantage of it, or not.

You know the old saying… “You can provide a horse some shelter from the rain, but you can’t make him (or her, or them) use it.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2022 at 7:00 am

Driving Home

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In a rare change of routine for a weekend at the lake, we stayed overnight Sunday and drove home yesterday a little before noon. Why? Basically, because we could, although the added benefit of avoiding typical Sunday traffic returning to the Twin Cities was a welcome bonus.

It was a bit of a surprise to see a new inch of snow had fallen while we were gone. By the time we got home, the temperature had climbed into the 40s (F) and the snowpack was morphing from individual flakes into one smooth slushy.

Some short-legged critter left a trail of footprints in the deep snow by our labyrinth. In stark contrast to the mini-labyrinth among the trees at the lake, our circuit at home hasn’t been walked for months, making the path mostly invisible beneath the white covering.

Around the corner, we found an even more interesting pattern melted into the snow in the shadow of the fence of the back pasture.

Somehow, the lines of the wires were clearly reflected on the surface of the snow. I’m guessing it had to do with the angle of the moving sun aligning just right with the wires as it made its way across the sky.

By the time we got there, the sun was being obscured by a rather distinct change of cloud cover in the sky.

Near the bottom of that image, tiny specks of what happens to be our four horses can be seen hanging out in one of their favorite areas of our fields. As we made the last turn toward the barn, they started their journey up to the overhang for the afternoon feeding.

We were happy to find things in good order after a long weekend of care by the very capable horse person Cyndie found to cover for us when we are gone.

It was a wonderful weekend away, but as always, we are really glad to be home again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 1, 2022 at 7:00 am

First Paths

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Following a new blanket of snow, the next phase could be called “first paths.” As Delilah and I emerged from the woods behind the back pasture yesterday morning, the first thing I noticed was the few very specific routes a horse or horses traveled into the smooth covering of new snow.

I wasn’t able to capture it all in a photo but took a couple of sample shots anyway.

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This is one of those cases where the naked eye can absorb the full expanse of the landscape in a way the camera cannot. However, if I had a drone I’m pretty sure I could have come close.

Turning around to look back in the direction from which we had just come, you can visualize Delilah prancing along beside me as we forged each of our own ways through the deep powder.

After breakfast, I needed to finish the plowing that I had started the night before. It was both easy and difficult all at the same time. The snow was light and dry, making it easy to plow and shovel, but there was so much of it that it became difficult to manage with my little ATV plow blade.

A snowblower would have been a handy tool in this case. I have avoided that purchase decision for many years but the subject comes up more and more as we age.

To clear the areas in front of the barn and around the hay shed when there is so much snow becomes an almost endless iteration of shifting from forward to backward. I push forward with the blade overflowing, going as far as I can into the pile from the last time it was plowed, and then back up so I can make another pass beside the one just prior.

The engine revs, then pauses while the plow blade is lifted. The engine revs again as the ATV backs up. I generally don’t notice the noise because I’m focused on the task at hand but I get the feeling the sound of that on and off throttling would drive me nuts if I wasn’t the one driving.

I tend to wonder if the horses find it completely annoying but they made it pretty clear yesterday that it doesn’t bother them a bit.

While I was revving the engine over and over, Mix and Swings decided to take a little nap. Maybe the engine’s repetitive up and down droning is something they find soothing. They probably fall asleep during long car rides, too.

Speaking of first paths, if you look closely at that last shot, you see how much they’ve already pounded down the snow in the paddock while making just a few treks out into the hayfield. You can also see a skinny trail coming out of the paddock that was probably made by a neighbor cat who frequently visits.

New snow is so much fun for the vivid evidence of travel paths it exposes.

Yeah. Remind me about that next time I start whining about needing to plow and shovel it all.

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fresh Blanket

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The old snowpack has melted and refrozen several times and was beginning to look rather sad. It’s been polished by whipping winds and covered with leaves, branches, and shrapnel from trees, knocked down by birds and squirrels. Well, it has a whole new look today. It snowed all day yesterday and everything is now covered with a fresh white blanket.

At the time of that photo, we had about 8.5 inches on the ground. After dinner, when I was out plowing the driveway, it snowed another half-inch.

The horses can always retreat to the protection of the overhang and I closed gates between the two paddocks to give the two chestnuts unrestricted access to one side. Under the overhang is where we hang hay nets, so the hay stays dry. Of course, then the horses can stay dry, too, while eating.

I’m dumbfounded why the chestnuts, Mia and Light, choose to stand out in the snow anyway. Swings, the eldest of the four mares, always chooses the overhang for shade when it is hot and shelter when it is windy or wet.

Here is what the difference looks like:

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That’s Mia on the left and Swings on the right.

Today is my last day of talking to myself for the past nine days because, if all goes according to plan, Cyndie returns from Florida.

I think Delilah is getting tired of trying to figure out what I am saying, as I have been rambling at length to explain my activities to her in the absence of anyone else around for conversation. She has taken to cocking her head a little and giving me a long blank stare. If my jabbering doesn’t ultimately culminate in something she can eat, she tends to sigh and wander away for another nap.

That is, if it isn’t time for one of her walks. She knows when it is time for our regularly planned outings and never hesitates to make herself very available for each precious occasion. Walks are even more special for a while now because of the fresh blanket of powder we get to romp through.

I get a fresh chance to trudge a wider pathway on our trails for several days. Delilah and I will have it looking nicely packed again in no time. Then all the forest critters will commence dropping things everywhere and I’ll start pining for the next new blanket of snow to show up.

Rinse, and repeat until spring.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Blown Snow

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On Monday, I was plowing the driveway to clear the gradual build up of 1-to-2-inch accumulations from the previous couple of weeks and it was wonderfully calm. Yesterday, the latest two inch accumulation of powder on top was being blown across our fields while I wasn’t looking.

I took Delilah outside with me when I needed to do some cleanup shoveling that I had skipped after plowing on Monday. She patiently waited while I worked at each stop: up at the house in front of the garage doors, in front of the shop/garage, and down at the barn to clear in front of the big doors.

While I had the big doors open, I moved a few bales into the barn from the hay shed and then tidied things up in the barn. We were down to our last two bags of feed for the horses and I was anticipating delivery of more any day. I like to have things neatened up for the arrival of more feed.

Upon completion of all my intended tasks, I wanted to reward Delilah’s patience with a long walk to wherever she wanted to go. When we popped out of the woods behind the back pasture, I was surprised to find the path completely filled in by blown snow.

The whole time I had been shoveling around buildings I had been oblivious about how much wind was blowing and the open fields offered up a lot of snow to sweep into drifts.

I trudged through the deep snow, wishing I had my snowshoes on. But then, coming around the corner, the path was nothing but packed snow where no drifting had occurred.

I totally understand why some cultures have many words for snow.

The blown snow made a nice pattern around some stacked rocks near the labyrinth.

Later in the day, when we returned to the barn to set out the afternoon feeding for the horses, there were eleven new bags of feed freshly stacked on the pallets. There’d been a visit from the feed-fairy while we were up in the house having lunch.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2022 at 7:00 am

Acting Foxy

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I’m not sure what got into Delilah yesterday, but it was Valentine’s Day, after all. She was getting all foxy, pausing to hunt for out-of-sight prey beneath the snow during several of our walks around the property yesterday.

It’s hard for me to tell if she thinks something is lurking beneath the pristine snow cover because she can smell it or hear it. The part that looks so fox-like at the start is how she cocks her head and focuses her ears over the surface, waiting to pounce.

When she thinks the time is right, she pounces and buries her face into the snow.

Either she was getting false signals or the critters under the snow outsmarted her and got away. It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve watched many little rodents make a mad dash escape out the back while Delilah is digging through the weeds for a prize.

In that photo she is searching at the edge of the wash of snow I had plowed off the driveway a short time earlier. We’ve had a series of 1 to 2 inch snowfalls and several days when wind has packed the snow into hard drifts and I hadn’t plowed for a couple of weeks.

Our driveway looks so nice cleaned up after days of having neglected it. Dare I say, it’s downright foxy!

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2022 at 7:00 am

Winter Leaves

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2022 at 7:00 am

Treading Widely

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Our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah, being one high-energy dog, gets multiple opportunities per day to burn off energy in walks around our property. If not, she gets a little stir-crazy in the house. As such, we tread on our paths repeatedly –from every direction, because I like variety.

In the last week, we have received a series of overnight snowfalls when the temperature has been very cold, bringing an inch or two of light powder each time, which has been enough that the trails we walk have needed to get re-packed every other morning. If we were to walk down the middle all the time we would end up with a rather narrow “aisle” of travel through the accumulating snow cover, so I make a concerted effort to walk the edges after new snow in order to keep the packed path nice and wide.

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It makes it look like a large crowd has been taking Delilah for a walk, but it’s just me, three or four times a day.

Once the width has been re-established, I focus my boot steps on knocking down as many high spots as possible with each subsequent pass until the path is groomed smooth like an excellent fat bike trail.

The local wildlife has shown an affinity for following our packed trails as opposed to the deeper snow so Delilah often has a variety of enticing scents to track as we progress. Of course, that means we frequently find ourselves pausing to wait for her to come back to the trail after she followed some footprints that wandered off to the left or right in pursuit of alternate destinations.

When we get the big dumps of snow around a foot or more at a time, I break out the snowshoes to pack these trails. Just a few inches at a time are easy enough to walk through with just boots, which are easier to navigate when we stop to tend to the horses on our morning and late afternoon jaunts.

The middle of the day usually involves a route past the mailbox to pick up the daily snail mail.

When I’m feeling generously adventurous, I’ll grant Delilah the opportunity to bushwhack through the woods wherever her nose leads. Those trips don’t happen as much once the snow gets deeper. Since we just cut a new trail through the middle of a portion of our woods last year, I more often let that be her treat for alternate exploration.

That path doesn’t get the same attention toward widening. It’s more like a rustic side road to our perimeter trail’s main expressway.

Winter tail maintenance at Wintervale is an art! What can I say?

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2022 at 7:00 am