Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow

Delicate Impressions

with 5 comments

There is a new covering of snow that has created a fresh surface for our forest creatures to make their marks upon. I’ve gotten no better over the years at differentiating the identity of the range of little footprints made by squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, and mice, but I know all of them are out there running around.

It starts with one or two crossing our trails while snow is still falling and by 24 hours later, it looks like everyone is out and about. Yesterday, we found evidence of a feathered friend, or friends, dancing around on the white carpet.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I love seeing the gentle wisps of wing feathers adding context to visible footwork scribbled in the snow.

While I had my camera out to capture all this art, I spotted a different sort of impression. I love the combination of the shadow of sunlight and the indented snow impression on either side of this dried plant that wind had pressed down.

No pictures were taken during our last walk of the night because it was too dark, but there were plenty of beautiful views we enjoyed as I pulled the trash bin down our driveway to the road.

I wore a headlamp but never turned it on. With the small crescent moon reflecting light onto the white snow-covered ground, there was just enough light that I could navigate my way.

The sky was crystal clear, which explains the space-like below-zero temperatures we are experiencing again. We put blankets back on the horses earlier in the night after giving them a break for a few days. The stars were so bright we almost didn’t need the reflections off the slice of the moon that was visible.

I noticed the horses were standing at the bottom of the slope from the barn, near the gate to the hayfield, as we passed by. As Delilah and I neared the top of the last rise in the driveway before it drops down to the road, my peripheral vision picked up motion to my right.

Turning my head to figure out what it was brought an unexpected startle of the four horses jogging along the fence beside us. We all stopped as I turned my whole body to acknowledge them and exchange greetings. Delilah seemed unimpressed with having company on our trek.

As I resumed pulling the trash bin along the driveway, the four blanketed horses decided to run off in a beautiful semi-moonlit arc off the rise and back down toward the outer perimeter of the paddock fence line.

The delicate impressions of walking the trash to the road always make the chore well worth the effort, even in hazardous wind-chill conditions.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Cold Start

leave a comment »

In the purest definition of my life memories of what “up north” during a Minnesota winter entails, we have been enjoying gorgeous deep snow scenes and seriously cold temperatures. It stays below zero all day long for days at a time and there is no sign anywhere of the fallen snow melting on the ground. No slush on the rural roads. Just hard-packed snow with occasional areas of sand dropped at higher traffic intersections.

The first day of January offered clear skies and plenty of sun, the common denominator for extremely cold temperatures. With no cloud cover to hold a little of the earth’s heat, the air feels like it is aligning with the temperatures of deep space above.

Delilah’s thick fur coat keeps her comfortable all but the bottoms of her paws. She isn’t a big fan of standing around in the cold. In fact, even if we are walking along with her, she wants to pick up the pace and hustle to get wherever the heck it is we intend on going.

After multiple snowshoeing adventures this weekend, I think she has figured out that the initial extra time she is made to wait at the beginning while we are strapping on the odd contraptions to our boots, comes with a payoff of opportunities to romp in the deep stuff shortly after.

We bushwhacked right from the driveway into the wooded contours of the southern edge of the Chippewa National Forest yesterday and I guided Delilah to select a navigable route atop a ridge, every so often aligned with the tracks revealing deer had already done the same.

It is a treat to watch the glee of Delilah’s leaping through the deep snow. She has no choice but to leap, actually, since it is deeper than her legs are long.

The only setback she experiences is the need to pause once in a while to chew away the snow that balls up between her toes. I can imagine that feels just as annoying as the snow that collects under the cleat of my snowshoes in certain conditions. We didn’t have that problem with the cold powder snow this weekend.

It was a cold start of the year 2022, but a grand one for us. Here’s hoping it proves to be a hint of greater times to come.

It was truly precious to kick off the new year in such a special place with our even more special friends and hosts, Barb and Mike Wilkus.

We will spend the rest of today on the road, heading home to see how the horses are doing in this coldest weather since they arrived with us last April. Having dreamt about horses this morning, I’m feeling a heightened urge to get home to see ours.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2022 at 10:14 am

Hello 2022

leave a comment »

Happy New Year! Good Riddance, Old Year! Let’s hope the coming year will bring the ultimate demise of the current global pandemic so we can better focus on dealing with the growing weather calamities caused by the ever-warming planet. We find ourselves under the spell of a deep freeze of -31°(F) this morning here just north of Grand Rapids, MN.

We celebrated the last day of 2021 yesterday with a hearty snowshoe hike in the woods on nearby Wilkus’ property before the temperatures plummeted well below zero.

They have christened the property with an acronym’d designation garnered from Barb and Mike’s grandchildren: Maggie, Allie, Jackson, Jack, and Caleb.

It is a perfect name for the magical plot of varying elevations with thick tree growth and a pond nestled in a bowl surrounded by a prominent ridge.

With almost two feet of relatively fresh snow accumulation creating iconic winter landscape views, we let Delilah bounce ahead to break a trail that we widened with our snowshoes.

For some reason, I kept noticing a mental image of a steamy cup of hot cocoa forming while we clomped through the powder. Barb made my dream come true after we got back to the cabin.

As you might imagine, Delilah was in her glory, pouncing about like “T-i-double guh-er” of Winnie the Pooh fame in the deep snow.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It took extra effort to dissuade her from a fixation on a tree in which she spied a nut-weilding squirrel energetically climb. So many new sights and smells for her to explore.

She didn’t seem all that fired up about our staying up late to hoot and holler over the Times Square ball dropping in New York at 11:00 p.m. our time. As long as it was midnight somewhere, it was good enough for us to call it a night.

May the new year treat you all with big love in all the best of forms that can be manifest!

Peace!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 1, 2022 at 10:36 am

Different Lake

leave a comment »

We are up at the lake again, but not our lake place. Last night we met our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus at Marie’s house in Edina and they drove us, with Delilah, up to their cabin near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. We all agree that it is more fun to wake at the lake.

Very quickly, we recognized there was plenty of snow up here.

Maybe all that snow will provide insulation against the predicted deep freeze. We have a warm fire to keep us comfortable indoors, so we may be playing more cards than trekking in the woods as we mark the end of one calendar year and the beginning of the next.

Delilah traveled well for the drive that lasted an hour longer than our usual trips to Hayward and was thrilled over the new environments’ sights, sounds, mounds of snow, and exciting smells. She quickly gained a new friend in Mike, who likes to serve dog treats to good dogs.

There was a lot more sitting politely and offering of a paw in a shake happening last night than I usually see at home in a month.

Hope you have a wonderful last day of this year wherever you are!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2021 at 7:00 am

Fresh Snow

leave a comment »

While hiking with Delilah on our trails in the freshly fallen snow, I noticed this uncharacteristic specimen hanging about head-high on a tree.

Maybe the handiwork of some ingenious squirrel?

When we emerged from the woods and continued around the perimeter of our pastures, I caught sight of three of the horses standing out in the open. Only Mix appeared to have enough sense to stay under the overhang. I’ve never understood why horses choose to stand out in the rain or snow when they have the option of cover available.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Mix was still a little wet, so she hadn’t spent all of her time sheltered.

Thus far, all four horses appear to be coping well with the winter weather we have been experiencing, but the real test comes next. We are expecting a cold spell for a few days that threatens to go below zero (F) at some point.

I went out late last night to plow before the temperature dropped too much for comfort. Clearing snow in the limited illumination of the ATV headlights is an imperfect science. I’ll find out this morning if I missed some spots. Not that I plan to spend much time racing around on the four-wheeler to finish cleaning up when it’s wickedly cold out.

This is “stay indoors and work on jigsaw puzzles” weather.

If we are lucky, Cyndie will return from her mom’s today and it will get a little more festive around here. I’ve been alone since the day after Christmas and the isolation is starting to get old, especially coming on the heels of all the socializing of the holiday gatherings.

Cyndie and her brothers have been working to move furnishings to her mom’s new residence in the Friendship Village community and clean up and stage the old residence for filming by the realty company. That meant immediately stashing any and all Christmas decorations. I wasn’t surprised when Cyndie’s plan for a one-night overnight mushroomed into three nights away.

Too bad I can’t bring the horses inside the house to keep me company and get them out of the cold.

They’d probably prefer to go out and stand on the deck, anyway.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Ice Breaking

leave a comment »

Oh, the weather outside is frightful… My first clue was that the door didn’t open when Delilah and I intended to step out yesterday morning and she bonked her nose on the glass. We had been out that door the night before on her final walk before bed and stepped into a windy snowstorm. At that time, I decided we should walk down and check on the horses.

Delilah wasn’t really all in for that because she just wanted to do her business and race back inside. We trudged through the blowing snow to the barn and I made her wait while I attempted to convince the two chestnuts they should come over to the big paddock so I could close some gates and split the herd in two for the night.

That would have given them each a better chance of commanding some space under the overhang, as the alternative allows Mix to pull rank and make the chestnuts stay out in the precipitation.

Well, neither Mia nor Light wanted to come into the big paddock so, after several aborted attempts to coerce them, I spent the next fifteen minutes relocating hay nets to get the bags under the roof. Then I filled them with extra hay to give the horses plenty to eat in case they got cold during the storm. Delilah politely tolerated the long wait.

I wasn’t aware that the overnight precipitation eventually turned to rain which froze into a half-inch glazed crust on top. To push the front storm door open required enough force to shatter that crust covering the snow on the front steps.

The next thing that stood out about the overnight accumulation was the noise it made when walking.

Each step broke the crust and sent fragments sliding across the icy surface around us. Poor Delilah ended up standing in her own pee because it flowed in every direction on top of the glass-like surface beneath her.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The horses seemed to navigate okay since their weight kept them from sliding on the surface, but they made a clattering racket when they walked around. Delilah occasionally had a paw slide out from under her if she didn’t break through on some steps.

Today we are due to receive 2 to 4 additional inches of snow on top of that crust. I’m not sure we will like the outcome of that scenario, but I’ll hold out hope it ends up not being problematic.

At least I have no pressing need to drive in it!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2021 at 7:00 am

Snowy Footsteps

leave a comment »

Today is the start of winter. It feels closer to the middle of winter. Although, we did just have strangely warm temperatures and a weird December thunderstorm. Still, cold temperatures have become the norm and we have a slim inch of flakes dominating most surfaces.

The labyrinth hasn’t had more than a few stray animal footprints disturbing its blanket of white.

Delilah and I have been methodically distributing our footprints along most of our trails. I have a tendency to neglect seeing the depth of our woods when I am busy plotting my footsteps to widen the traveled snow path. I catch myself staring exclusively at the ground right in front of me.

I rely on Delilah’s nose to alert me that we might have some company nearby. On Sunday afternoon, Delilah was intently focused on something in the interior of our woods. As we approached  an intersection of trails, I knew she wanted to go left based on the direction her nose had been pointing.

It took me a while, but eventually I decoded the camouflaged young doe’s big eyes and ears, frozen in a stare directly at us from around the large trunk of a tree. The longer I looked back at her, the more I was able to discern the rest of her body visible on the other side of the tree, too.

If Delilah hadn’t signaled someone was there, I would have been oblivious.

I would have noticed deer hoof prints in the area, though.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

Snow Cope

leave a comment »

In a day of glorious sunshine yesterday, I labored to move what felt like an endless amount of snow. I succeeded in burying the Grizzly 660 ATV over the edge of the gravel drive around the hayshed. That forced me to get the diesel tractor started, but it wouldn’t be any help unless I could get chains mounted on the tires.

Those chains have been hanging in storage on nails in the back of the shop garage for two years and are so heavy that I can barely lift them. That is one reason I have found every possible reason to avoid using them for so long. Alas, necessity forces muscles to do what it takes and chains quickly became an afterthought while attention moved to dragging the ATV out of the snow and carefully maneuvering the Ford tractor to scoop snow into small mountains without getting it stuck, too.

By the end of the day, I was about halfway done with cleanup. Today I resume clearing snow off the eaves of the house roof and then shoveling away everything that drops onto the deck.

The horses appear to be coping well with the quick transition to deep snow cover and tracks reveal they are making gradual advances on excursions out into the hayfield and back pasture.

The snow up around the overhang is well-trodden so it doesn’t seem all that deep but frozen clumps clinging above hooves provide evidence of the depth they are negotiating out in the fields.

We expect a few more days with highs above freezing and moments of sunshine that will give the horses plenty of opportunities to dry out between their journeys out into the powder.

Coping with all the snow is what we do, even when it requires effort at the limits of available strength at any given moment.

Robustness r us.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2021 at 11:20 am

Chronological Order

leave a comment »

We did not experience deadly tornadoes last night, just a pleasant blast of big snow that has thrust us fully into what winter is usually like around these parts. Here is my photo exposé chronicling the views.

I did a little “pre-plowing” last night to break the project up into two episodes of medium depths instead of one massive task.

Just like the meteorologists were boasting, it was coming down at 1-to-2 inches per hour, but I would say the flakes were pretty small.

The pre-dawn light was enticing and the muffled sound in the woods was accented with sweet songbird melodies.

There was a hint of a labyrinth pathway under the fresh blanket of new snow.

The horses appear to have dealt with the storm well. We treated them to some sweet apple-flavored biskets after their morning feed to celebrate the novelty of their new deep-snow landscape.

There is a lot of plowing to be done between the barn and the hay shed. I didn’t spend any time last night pre-plowing that area. The driveway has about 5 new inches on it, not accounting for the areas where drifts will be much deeper.

The depths vary greatly depending on where we check but 11-inches was a pretty common reading I found up by the house.

There is a lot of snow to be pulled off the eaves of the roof. I would like to do that as soon as possible to take advantage of the bright sunshine we expect today but there is a lot of plowing that I’ll work on first.

It will be a gorgeous winter day to be outside, which is a good thing because I expect my snow clearing work will take me all day long to accomplish.

I will be thanking the universe the whole time that I am not cleaning up debris from tornado destruction instead.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2021 at 10:48 am

Remembering Winter

with 6 comments

It has been a couple of years since we’ve had horses over the months of freezing temperatures and blowing snow. I’m finding it a little comical that neither Cyndie nor I remember how we handled the nuances of our barn chores during the winter months.

It’s not difficult to make it up as we go along, except for the nagging knowledge that we already had a smoothly functioning routine once before. Seems like we shouldn’t have to start anew.

Yesterday, we found the waterer was freezing up, leading me to believe one or more of the heating elements are failing. At least that is a new problem because we never needed to worry about that before.

Manure management is a little wobbly. Sometimes, frozen poop is easier to scoop up. A lot of other times it isn’t. I keep telling Cyndie we used to leave it all in place until spring but she doesn’t remember it that way. The difference, I believe, is that we haven’t received much snow yet and we can still roll the wheelbarrow around. She’ll be happy to leave it all when/if real snow begins to accumulate.

I’ve reminded Cyndie that we plowed a path from the barn to the compost area and only scooped under the overhang and in the stalls over winter. Since we don’t have any snow yet, the obvious limitations aren’t there.

I’m already trying to recall my routine of resuming active composting after winter releases its grip. Those of you who keep dogs in your backyard in places where snow covers the ground for months know what the ground looks like when the snow first melts. Multiply that mental image by the volume four horses produce.

We are getting hit with seriously cold temperatures and aggressive winter winds already. The unknown element of snow accumulation remains to be revealed in the weeks ahead.

I’m waiting to find out if this will turn out to be a winter like the snowy ones I remember most from the recent past.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 7, 2021 at 7:00 am