Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snowshoeing

Missed Again

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If you take a lot of pictures, you know what it’s like to miss a shot. Like most things, there are more misses than hits when it comes to the spectacular capture. If you want to nail the perfect picture, beyond some good luck and good equipment, you need a lot of patience.

I came up short on all three yesterday while out on a walk with Delilah. Cyndie wanted me to give our little shepherd a workout to burn off some extra energy, so I strapped on the snowshoes and headed out to pack some of the trails that haven’t been walked since the last snow storms.

Delilah didn’t get the deep snow workout I had intended, because she was just light enough to stay on top of the wind-packed, partially melted blanket of beautiful snow, but I had a plan for that. We would be hiking many routes and doubling back on several of them.

If I can snowshoe both directions, it makes for a better packed path.

The first time we approached the road from our southern fence line, two hawks were up to something, putting on an air show with vocal enhancements that intrigued Delilah greatly.

From there we continued across our driveway and traversed what we call the “north loop” trail that pops out at the big willow tree famous for tripping Cyndie up when she stomped on the rake. Normally, this route would be followed by traveling up the driveway to the house. Delilah was locked into that program to such a degree that my instruction to turn around and head back in the other direction was met with quite the expression of complete confusion.

It’s was laughable, especially because that was quickly followed by a sprint that said, “Let’s do this!”

As we returned to the road from the opposite direction, it wasn’t a hawk that caught our attention, it was a big eagle flying away. With my eyes skyward, the silhouette of another white-headed dark bird perched in a tree was easy to catch. Even though I was limited to what my pocket camera could achieve, I stopped Delilah and tried to zoom in for a photo.

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It didn’t provide much in the way of opportunity, so after a couple shots my attention shifted to Delilah at the end of her long leash in front of me. She was staring across our field, holding a gorgeous pose that was definitely photo-ready.

As I lifted my hand with the camera and my finger reached for the shutter button, I missed and pushed the power to “Off.”

Delilah moved as I fumbled to get the power back on and the spectacular sound of large flapping wings made a couple of snaps into flight. That beautiful bald eagle pushed hard against the air to soar into the sky away from us.

It won’t be the last beautiful photo I just missed.

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Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

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Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Which Way

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In the months following Cyndie’s knee replacement procedure at the end of November, I admittedly neglected the labyrinth. Contrary to previous winters, this year I haven’t bothered to walk the path each time it snowed. On Sunday, Cyndie mentioned that she wanted to use the labyrinth again. It was time to tread that pattern.

It wasn’t as easy to execute the proper turns as I had hoped. With the rocks mostly buried, I needed to start from both the outer entrance heading in, and then from the center, heading out, before I figured out precisely where I needed to be.

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Once I had figured out the correct route, as we walked the path and chatted I began to notice a lift in my spirits. Cyndie pointed out something I had completely overlooked: she was walking on the snowshoes with her new knee. It was a noteworthy achievement.dscn5770e

I also discovered something else that was occurring.

My neglect of the labyrinth for the previous months had been intentional, giving me one less thing to tend to during Cyndie’s convalescence. During those months, I felt a small sense of pleasure over not spending any energy on it. What I didn’t realize was, ignoring the labyrinth was contributing to my feelings of hopelessness.

There was this duality again. (See comments with Jim on my post “Being Me.”) I didn’t want to have the labyrinth, and I did want to have it. Both feelings were present at the same time.

It feels like having Cyndie and the labyrinth both functional again is helping me to find my way once more.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

Teamwork Challenged

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Yesterday, I experienced a classic example of a frequent challenge Cyndie and I have been navigating to varying degrees over the 35+ years of our life together as husband and wife. Our minds sometimes tend to operate out of sync from one another, despite our best intentions.

dscn5761eIt was a beautiful winter day outside, with a lot of blue sky and sunshine, a comfortable temperature, and minimal breezes. We headed out to give Delilah some exercise by letting her run loose in the pastures while throwing discs for her to chase. We walked right past the horses, cutting through their paddock to get out into the hay-field.

On our way back in, Cyndie said she wanted to pay a little visit to the horses. While milling around with them, Cyndie decided to scoop some of the fresh manure under foot. That inspired me to grab a pitch fork and clean the edges of the large pile we have been creating during the snow season.

When she was done cleaning up, Cyndie said she would take Delilah out for one last session of running loose in the back pasture. In a very short time, I was commenting on their quick return.

“Delilah’s tired and I’m getting cold, so we are going to head up.” she reported.

I told her I would finish what I was doing and then follow them shortly. Earlier, Cyndie had asked me what shovel I had used in the past to make a winter path through the labyrinth. I told her the trick is to just walk the route wearing snowshoes, implying we could do that later in the day, after lunch.

As I walked up to the barn to put away my pitch fork, Cayenne turned and approached me for some loving. I soaked up her attention and lingered for what seemed like a long time to me, staying engaged as long as she maintained interest. It’s funny how much hot breath, wet nose, and sloppy tongue seems perfectly acceptable when a horse is choosing to nuzzle and mingle. I searched for a sweet-spot of scratching for her, moving between her ears, neck and chest.

Eventually, what ended our little love fest was Legacy, coming over from the other side of the overhang. I don’t know what reason he had to finally interrupt, but I tried spending a little time with him to see if he was just hoping for similar attention. Since he’s not as accommodating to hands-on affection, it comes across more as though he just doesn’t want her to be getting all the fun.

I finally made my way up to the house, ready for a break and some lunch. Stepping inside, I found no one there. Cyndie must have gone down to the labyrinth already, I thought to myself. Looking out back, sure enough, I spotted Delilah moving around down there. I rallied my energy and decided to join her.

First, I looked in the garage for the snowshoes, but couldn’t find them anywhere. Did we leave the second pair at the lake? Oh well, I’ll grab the plastic shovel, just in case I can find a way to use that to help. The shovel wasn’t where I keep it, either. Frustrated that I couldn’t execute my plan, I walked down empty-handed.

I arrived just in time. Cyndie said she needed my help with figuring out where the turns should be.

Imagine this, it turned out she had brought down the second pair of snowshoes and the plastic shovel, in case I wandered past on my way up to the house.

Now, why didn’t I think of that?

Welcome to my world.

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Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Regal Eats

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My, oh my, are we ever living the high life this weekend. Maximum leisure, luxurious surroundings, and food delights so regal, it seems like there should be servants delivering them to us. There are no servants. Cyndie and Barb are the ones creating the spectacular culinary delights. It’s a challenge to find ways to burn as many calories as we are taking in.

Despite some recently posted “no trespassing” signs on the edge of my favorite woods to the north or our property, we conjured up a route to skirt around toward the large tracts owned by a forest products corporation. As the temperature climbed to uncomfortably warm for our winter clothing, we snowshoed through the increasingly heavy white stuff on a great adventure of discovery.

There are a great variety of animal tracks, one of which I suspect looked like it may have been a big cat. I haven’t heard if there is a likelihood of any around here. We found graphic evidence of a porcupine at work. They gnaw the bark off of trees, doing permanent damage. It’s a bit jarring to see an entire tree skinned alive.

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We trekked through the woods to old service roads and junk piles with old appliances and the smashed shell of a vintage car. The hood ornament looked like a 1940s Oldsmobile, based on a quick search. The engine had been removed. (Update: Further searching brought us to a 1937 Ford Coupe as the most likely match.)DSCN4489e

After slogging through the heavy snow, we took our rest on the deck, literally on the deck, because there was no furniture. While languishing in the early season sun bath, we decided to have lunch out there, too.

The coffee table and a few chairs from the porch were put to use for our impromptu picnic. More delectable food!

More food meant more exercise was in order. This time we dressed down a bit, better prepared for the summer-like temperatures, and headed out without snowshoes, down our driveway and out on the lake.

After all that walking, more food was in order. Cyndie wanted to christen her brand new pasta maker, so pasta it was. Many hands and several iterations, one teetering on failure, produced an ultimate result that was stellar. Seriously, a meal fit for a King. And his Queen. Two Kings and Queens, in fact.

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Written by johnwhays

February 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

Grooming Trails

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In response to a suggestion from George about making a trail groomer, I dug out a piece of goat fence and a pallet to see if something that simple might do the trick.IMG_iP1130e

Not wanting to leap all the way to the commitment of trying to navigate the 4-wheeler through the deep snow we now have, I decided to test it using my own two feet.

The results met my expectations. It can be done on foot, but it was a LOT of effort after the short amount of time when my muscles wore out. In the end I was spending more time stopped for a rest than I was moving forward toward my goal. Using the ATV will be much easier, but I will need to plan to hit the trails early and often in the snow season, to develop and maintain a packed base to drive over.

There are a few corners where it will be tricky to negotiate the dragged groomer around trees, and I will need to plot a route that doesn’t involve backing up, but I think I can come up with solutions.

The effort to drag a groomer behind the ATV is different, but not significantly less than the effort of hiking the trails several times on snowshoes. The main advantage of the ATV is that more ground can be covered in less time.

IMG_iP1128eHowever, since I enjoy snowshoe hiking, I find the extra time it takes to walk all our paths multiple times brings me a lot of pleasure.

The primary advantage of using snowshoes is ease of mobility. I can quickly and easily make intricate maneuvers to establish paths with sharp turns and short routes.

I expect the long-term version of winter trail maintenance will always involve a combination of the two. I envision establishing a perimeter circle that I can easily drive with the ATV, with a few options connecting the labyrinth and the back yard to a couple of the easy trails toward the barn.

In addition to that, I will snowshoe the routes from the house to the wood shed and Delilah’s kennel, and a few paths through the woods that are intentionally too narrow for machines to drive through.

We should be able to have the best of both versions.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2016 at 8:55 am

Nuisance Flurries

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The weather of late has been a repeating series of nuisance snow flurries that irk me. We get just enough in the way of accumulating flakes that it makes the place look neglected, but hardly enough to warrant plowing or doing any serious shoveling. A few days ago, it became necessary to clear about 6 feet around the door to the barn, because it was blowing into an accumulation that was twice as deep as what actually fell from the sky.

Last weekend I scraped the driveway clean to freshen things up, and then Monday night we collected another inch, just to mess it up again. When I got home from work yesterday, it became evident that we received a little more during the day, making it just deep enough that I felt it needed to be plowed.

IMG_iP1118eWhile waiting for a ride to my favorite auto repair shop, I shoveled the sidewalk and cleared snow away from the house to simplify the details for plowing later.

I was getting my car back from the shop, where they had changed another sensor in the catalytic converter to get everything working properly again.

After walking Delilah and taking care of chores for the horses, then pausing briefly for my dinner, I was ready to do some plowing.

I brought Delilah outside with me and tethered her near the shop while I cleared snow around the building as the ATV warmed up. It was dark, so I couldn’t easily see whether Delilah was happy with her situation, or not, but I decided to plow more than just up and down the driveway a few times.

Getting around the barn and hay-shed require a lot more monkeying around than just the straight shot running up and down the driveway. It becomes a series of short distances forward, followed by lifting the plow blade, shifting into reverse, re-establishing a position, and then dropping the blade, shifting back into a forward gear, and repeat.

I can do the driveway in about 10-minutes. The rest takes about an hour.

I made Delilah wait. It was easy to justify in my mind, because I fully intended to treat her to an extensive walk before we went back into the house. I don’t know whether she sensed it, or not.

After parking the ATV, I donned snowshoes and hit the trails with the dog. She immediately set off after what I would guess was the trail of a cat. She was in such a hurry that she almost pulled me over several times when my snowshoe would catch partway through my stride.

I’m glad we were doing this in the dark, so nobody could see my awkward stumbling gyrations as I struggled to keep up with our dog in her race after some prowler that was probably already long gone.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2016 at 7:00 am