Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow

Not Fooled

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April. Really?

Fool me once…

I thought I was going to shovel snow. APRIL FOOLS!

It was more like cement. Maybe stucco. Plaster?

Just to add to the ruse, nature makes it look gorgeous.

I fear this mess will be un-plowable. How fast will it melt? I’m going to clean up around the edges and see how conditions change after the sun shines on it for an hour or two.

I don’t think the horses see much humor in this kind of practical joke. Our trees don’t think it’s very funny, either.

My new zero-turn mower is due to arrive on Tuesday.

Happy April everyone!




Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2023 at 9:09 am

Nests Removed

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After a long delay in my attention to the project of mounting our surveillance camera, I dug back into it yesterday. That digging uncovered the presence of six old hornet nests and one large bird’s nest, none of which I realized existed under the shop entrance roof.

One of the primary things slowing me down in committing to this installation has been the issue of how I would get power to the camera. I decided to pull down the light fixture to gain access to the AC wiring. Deep inside the cover of that light fixture was where one of those wasp nests I didn’t know about was hidden.

I’m happy to be dealing with these nests in the winter when no wasps are present.

Some shopping for supplies will need to happen so I can add an outdoor outlet to the circuit of the light fixture. I will take this opportunity to also add a switch for that outdoor light fixture up over the door to the shop. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why that light never came on. Then I discovered it was directly wired to a circuit breaker that was in the “off” position. There was no switch. Oops.

As I was putting the ladder away after returning from feeding the horses, I noticed the ice mound under the eave in front of the garage was soft enough that I could break it up and finally remove it. One thing led to another and I decided to also shovel the soft snow from the giant mound that remained on the pavement. It would be good to open up that space for plowing the new snow predicted to fall in the next few days.

Shoveling that enormous pile of snow proved to be a bigger task than I should have tried to muscle my way through. I felt a pang in my ribs as I tossed one too many heavy shovel-full and that put an end to moving any more snow. I’m hoping that by stopping right away, the damage will be mild and not infringe on my ability to shovel when this next storm hits.

Today might end up being a day of more desk work than physical activity. It’s not like I needed an excuse to work on our tax returns or anything.



Written by johnwhays

March 8, 2023 at 7:00 am

Accurate Forecast

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The winter storm proved to be just like the weather service predicted, dumping snow in two waves and totaling somewhere in the range of 15-20 inches at our place. It’s hard to measure with the wind creating a variety of depths across our land. I took a walk with my yardstick and found a drift of over 20 inches in one spot.

I make a habit of cleaning off the lid of our food compost bin every time I walk past it so I can use it as a reference of how much new snow falls since the last time I cleaned it. Yesterday morning, there were spots where the dark cover had no snow on it at all yet the ground beside it was covered by 16 inches of powder.

I found a spot in the yard with only 3 inches but the driveway, which I plowed in the middle of the pause between the two waves, had gained 9 inches of new snow overnight.

Based on the frame of our roof rake, I was wrestling to bring down over 18 inches of new snow on the roof of our house. Much of that ended up hitting me in the face as I worked.

The snow was over knee-deep as I made my way toward the barn to feed horses first thing in the morning.

Mia had a new cut on one of her hind legs. It looked like one of the other horses probably kicked her. Cyndie rallied to gingerly make her way down to tend to the wound while I held Mia in place. I took a picture of Mia that ended up looking like she was standing on two legs.

That’s a weird view, isn’t it? If you don’t think about it, she looks normal but once you let your mind see it as only two legs, it gets hard to unsee.

I also took a picture of a rare moment when all four horses decided it was okay to stand together under one side of the overhang. Most often one or more of the horses will demand a wider bubble of personal space and chase others away.

Today we plan to drive up to Hayward to spend the weekend with friends at the cabin and take in the excitement of the American Birkebeiner ski race. I’m hoping the weather will be as perfect over the next two days as the meteorologists are predicting. Before we head out, I just need to finish a little more plowing and shoveling.

After that, I’m actually looking forward to just sitting in a car for two and a half hours. My muscles deserve a rest.



Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2023 at 7:00 am

Slow Slide

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Life for me on the ranch is slowly moving away from needing to be Cyndie’s primary caretaker toward our usual partnership in life’s adventures. Her recent advances in regaining independence, by way of driving again, allowed her to attend a gathering of some of her friends and to spend an overnight with another which granted me a little time on my own.

I found an entirely forgettable shoot-’em-up cowboy movie to watch last night that she wouldn’t have enjoyed.

It was the first time I have been truly alone in the house for over a decade because we no longer have any indoor pets. Of course, I miss Delilah and Pequenita but it would be misleading to imply I don’t love the freedom from the responsibilities of tending to them.

The warm February weather has restarted the snowpack’s slow slide from the shop/garage roof. In the shadow of late afternoon yesterday, I saw that a chunk had fallen to the concrete apron below.

This morning, the crust on the snow was frozen enough to support my weight as I pulled broken branches out of the pine tree that suffered the most damage from one of the heavy snowfalls. There were a LOT more branches than I realized.

The tree looks a little worse for the wear but not as bad as I feared. I plan to trim the remains of the broken limbs back to the main trunk. Don’t know if that will make it look any better, or not.

Yesterday afternoon there were hunting dogs roaming our woods and howling off and on between scrambling around with their noses to the ground. These are from the coyote hunters that patrol the area and as such, are always a welcome sight. From my vantage point, it looked like they were roughly following the usual traffic pattern of the elusive fox that roams this area. That doesn’t mean the coyotes don’t travel the same pathways, but I’ve yet to catch sight of those ghostly predators.

At least I’ve seen and have pictures of the fox.

Never did hear any gunshots so their level of success yesterday is unknown.

It feels like we are on a slow slide toward the end of winter. Knowing full well that doesn’t mean we won’t experience more winter weather in March or April, I am holding back on any wild plans for our landscape post-snow.

I’m just going to lean back and enjoy riding the slide.



Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2023 at 11:26 am

Every Step

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I spotted an impressive phenomenon of nature after heading down to the barn yesterday morning.

Each and every small animal footprint through the snow had captured a fallen oak leaf.

The latest air mass of bitterly cold temperatures has left us for the east coast. At noon today, I plan to give the horses a break from wearing blankets again. Other than the off-and-on annoying sounds of snowmobile engines passing by, it is calm and quiet under the hazy sunshine in our valley.

As the air warms it becomes obvious that the thick snowpack becomes its own refrigerant, radiating cold from below. Even though the daily high temperatures are forecast to rise above freezing, it doesn’t guarantee it will feel as warm as thermometers indicate.

However, with all things being relative, any above-zero temperatures offer welcome relief after extreme cold spells like we endured Thursday night/Friday morning. The horses seemed to begrudgingly tolerate the pain, gritting their teeth and standing still in a meditative state that hid any spark of life in their eyes.

This morning, they looked much more alive and were a smidge more active. I think they will be as happy as me to be granted several days of ease, free of the brutal grip of dramatically cold air masses.



Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2023 at 10:55 am

Mostly Fine

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For the most part, we are good for now. The driveway is plowed, including the circle around the hay shed, allowing vehicle traffic. The weather looks to be settled for a few days of gray skies and temperatures below freezing. The thing that nags at me is that a change in either direction will produce complications I would prefer to avoid.

Here is a shot revealing the amount of pavement that has been lost to the mounds on the sides of the driveway that have gotten too high for my plow blade to be effective:

Ideally, I would plow the snow one blade width beyond the pavement to have room for the next big snowstorm.

Conversely, when temperatures climb above freezing and our snowpack begins to melt, I will be faced with a long period of water draining across the slope of pavement by the shop garage because I gave in and left a large amount of snow on the asphalt.

Water draining across that slope re-freezes most nights and becomes a real nuisance.

I suppose I could crank up the diesel tractor, scoop up the snow in the loader, and dump it on the downhill side of the pavement. I’m a little wary about the chains on the tires abusing our new asphalt. It’s like not wanting to see the first scratch in a new car’s paint.

More in the moment, this morning’s session with the horses was a delight in the magical frosty calm of a perfect winter day. After making it through the last storm without blankets, the herd seems content with their situation. They are all (mostly) dry and the footing is reasonable –not icy, not too deep or sticky.

When no vehicles were traveling past our place it was particularly calm and quiet. Not even a single neighboring dog could be heard making its usual announcement of existence.

“I’m here! It’s ME! Can you hear me barking over and over?”

After devouring their feed, the horses showed zero urgencies about switching to munching hay. There was nothing except a powerful sense of contentment.

I stood silently observing them for a few minutes before quietly making my departure toward the house for my breakfast.

For now, everything is perfectly fine.



Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2023 at 11:34 am

Roof Raking

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It’s a dose of preventive medicine. I pull snow off the edges of the roof of our house to avert possible ice dams that can cause water leaks. It is a project that looms ominously before I can get to it, as icicles grow to incredible lengths. The work is strenuous to execute, requiring extended time with my arms overhead wrestling the rake into position and pulling it back down full of snow. That effort creates a mess below that needs to be shoveled away after it has compacted into a hard and heavy pile. But when completed, it offers a pleasing psychological reward every time I walk toward the house and spot the cleaned eaves.

I cleared the valley over the front door a day earlier and since then, plenty of evaporation has already occurred.

The toughest part of the whole project is that it only lasts until the next snowstorm.

In the meantime, the absence of concern about out-of-sight water problems is a deeply satisfying reward for the hassles associated with raking snow off the roof.

Since today happens to be January 7th, 2023, I would like to give a shout-out to anyone who happens to become old enough on this date to qualify for collecting their social security funds. Happy Birthday, DRH! Hope you don’t have mountains of snow on your roof up in the northland.




Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2023 at 11:03 am

Day One

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‘Twas the first day of the new year and all through the house
the possibilities are endless like the droppings from that dang mouse.

The blessings we are able to enjoy tend to feel somewhat diminished by the harsh realities being suffered by people around the world who live in war zones or are enduring other oppressions. Mice in our house seem like such a minor hassle in comparison.









The morning frost highlighted horse hair snagged on the overhang support beam that gets used as a scratching post. It also made our evergreen trees look like the flocked white Christmas trees that I always thought were ridiculous when I was a kid. In my limited knowledge, trees weren’t white. Why would they make them that way?

Plenty of life lessons available in that example of limited perspective.

The weather service has put us under a winter storm watch for Tuesday. The first new snow of the year! The old snow we already have is starting to show its age.

The squirrels out our windows are going gangbusters after the acorns under the snowpack.

Sure wish there was a way to harness their energy and put it to good use. I wonder if they could be trained to ward off the mice that get into our house.

Happy New Year 2023!

Written by johnwhays

January 1, 2023 at 11:18 am

Sad Outcome

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After two days in a row of above-freezing temperatures, the trees have finally shed a majority of the giant globs of snow that were caught in their branches. Unfortunately, it has revealed some of the damage caused by the heavy loads of snow.

That is some ugly pruning. Those aren’t the branches I would have chosen to remove.

As sad as it is to find damage like this, it brings a feeling of admiration for the large number of other trees that survived the hazardous weather unscathed. I haven’t trekked through the woods to do a full assessment yet, but of the trees along the driveway, the one pictured above looked the worst and I noticed only one other tree sporting a single broken branch.

Meanwhile, I tested the camera down at the barn for picking up the WiFi signal from our house and got a not-so-sad result. It wasn’t a complete success but I learned the cameral worked outside the front door of the barn but not inside or under the overhang on the backside of the barn.

If we decide to follow through on the idea of adding a camera that will cover the paddocks, it will likely require the addition of a signal booster or repeater of some sort. Having a camera at the barn is not something we urgently need so the level of a priority compared to a few other projects will probably move this down on our list of things to do.

It’s nice to learn how far the functional WiFi signal from the house can reach, at least. Think about all the “How-To” videos I will be able to consult in the shop/garage during my impersonations of a person who works on power equipment.

It sure is great finally having the fiber-optic cable bringing us the connectivity we’ve been longing for over the past ten years.

It feels like we’ve joined the 21st century.



Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2022 at 7:00 am

Wind Chilled

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On my way back to the house from the barn yesterday morning, I looked up and laughed at the sight of the evergreen trees still swallowed by almost two feet of snow. It’s hard to discern actual branches under those massive globs of snow stuck to them.

Even though the temperature made its way above zero and was expected to climb into the 20s(F), a sharp wind kept the “feels like” number in the minus range. I did not wear my face mask when I went out to feed the horses at dusk and regretted it. I walked down the driveway to the mailbox and my cheeks and nose let me know they were not happy with my decision to do so without protecting them.

My intention at the start of the day had been to remove the blankets from the horses after I fed them breakfast but after they gobbled up what was in the pans, all four of them walked off to the far side of the back pasture. Maybe that was their not-so-subtle way of telling me they didn’t want them off yet. They could tell the wind was counteracting the effects of the rising temperature.

On Monday, I plowed and shoveled away the snow drifts on the driveway and felt pretty pleased with myself. Yesterday, the new winds filled things right back to the point it looked like I hadn’t done any clearing the day before.

I’m not going to let the winds have the final say. After I feed the horses this morning I’m going to plow the edges another time. Tit for tat.

I finally got out to start shoveling the mountains of snow that poured onto the deck the last two times that I raked the roof. Much of it was over my knees in depth until I got to the corner where two roof slopes meet into one valley. That pile was about as tall as I am and as dense as snow can get. I forgot to take a picture before I started.

Now that I have it trimmed down to a reasonable size, finishing clearing the rest of the deck should be possible this afternoon. I’m feeling plenty of empathy for what the people of Buffalo, NY are dealing with after the paralyzing and deadly amount of snow they received.

The forecast predicts we will get above freezing today. If it does, I sure hope it feels like it’s above freezing.



Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2022 at 7:00 am