Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘spring snow

Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Clean Driveway

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One of the really great features of a spring snowstorm is when the snow melts on the driveway as fast as it falls. When Delilah and I set out on our first walk after I got home from work yesterday, there was no snow falling. After circling the majority of our acres, I parked her in the barn while I tended to chores at the chicken coop.

While I was down with a couple of egg-laying hens, the sky opened up and poured out a downburst of snow. It quickly became a mini-blizzard with little spinning snow-tornadoes that made my trek back to the barn into a heroic expedition. From the barn, Delilah and I hustled our way up to the protection of the house and turned our focus toward each of our respective dinners.

The next time I looked out the window, the cloudburst had ended. It went from everything to nothing in about ten minutes time.

But it wasn’t done yet.

Before dinner was over, flakes started flying again. This time, it lasted much longer. So long, in fact, I started to wonder if I was going to need to shovel. Delilah started getting antsy to make her obligatory after-dinner outing, but I kept delaying her in hope of waiting long enough for the snow to stop falling.

Not only did my plan succeed, but we were subsequently gifted with an outbreak of sunshine! The icing on the cake of this whole mini-drama was stepping out to the sight of a clean driveway. It was downright photogenic.

Take that, winter snowstorms…

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Snow Coming

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I’m usually grateful to have advanced notice of coming weather, but sometimes I don’t like knowing we are about to receive large amounts of heavy, wet snow in April.

The snow is predicted to come in a narrow band, so it could shift a little, but we are located perilously close to the highest risk of seeing 6 or more inches of snowfall. Look to the right of the letter “e” in the word Moderate, just above Red Wing. Oh, joy.

I spent yesterday tinkering with the slowly developing berm we are constructing at the edge of our property where the neighboring cultivated farm field drains onto our land. It’s been 2-and-a-half years since we installed the latest version of erosion fencing and much of that has filled with so much topsoil the fabric is laying almost flat in some places.

Granted, the following photos were taken at different seasons, late summer vs. early spring, but the difference is rather striking.

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The bales obviously disintegrate. Progress that may not be evident can be found in the number of volunteer plants that have taken root and naturally help to hold soil in place. The thing is, though, that helps to hold our soil from eroding, but we still get large flows of the neighbor’s topsoil washing over our property.

If I can get the berm established enough to pool his runoff, it will serve as a natural replacement for the Polypropylene fabric and, most important to my sensibilities, be a less unsightly barrier.

I have found the use of gnarly dead branches that are too big for my chipper makes for great starter material in establishing a natural barrier. The highly fertilized runoff tends to fuel thick growth of tall grasses that ultimately create a tangled wall of live plants weaving through dead wood.

Looks like I’ll have a fresh opportunity Monday to see how my latest upgrade to the barrier yesterday will impact the drainage of many inches of melting snow.

Wouldn’t you know it, I changed the tires on the ATV yesterday to swap out the aggressive treaded winter tires for plowing snow, with the smoother treads of summer tires that are kinder to our land.

I could be in for a complex day tomorrow of clearing heavy, wet snow that will be a big problem for a day or two, and then melt. Then we can get on with spring, which is on the verge of swiftly getting sprung.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2020 at 9:20 am

Wintry Spring

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The weather prank that would have fit nicely on April Fools’ Day happened two days late for that honor. Yesterday afternoon the flakes started flying and, beautiful as they can be, didn’t stop until there was an ugly couple of inches covering everything.

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Overnight last night, the temperature dropped to 22°(F) making it not only look like winter but feel like it, too.

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. Well, April snow just might be an improvement on that because the snow tends to stay in place and soak the ground as it melts. If the forecasts are correct, this snow will disappear quickly.

The temperature shows signs of reaching 70 by Tuesday they are saying.

Growing things should find that enticing.

My reaction is to give the lawn tractor attention in preparation for the season ahead.

It is always startling when the number of days between putting away the snow shovel and getting out the lawnmower can be counted on the fingers of my two hands.

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2020 at 9:23 am

As Predicted

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The weather on Saturday and Sunday played out just as the forecasters predicted. Windy, cold, gray, wet, snowy, lightning & thunder, and did I mention, windy? I have to go back to work today, and what are meteorologists saying about how today will shape up? Sunny and mid-50s (F). It figures.

We had standing water in the labyrinth. That’s a rarity.

The next shot is not the drainage swale, it’s the North Loop trail. I coulda used a kayak.

The water was even making its way into the barn.

Delilah and I did the morning walk yesterday in a snow shower.

She had her eyes on a robin that seemed oblivious to the presence of a potential predator. I think the birds act that way around Delilah because they know they can fly out of reach in the nick of time.

The presence of robins in the yard is a sure sign of spring. Another inspiring sight to witness is the first shoots of allium making an appearance.

I have a feeling the greenery is going to burst forth with dramatic swiftness when the sun finally replaces the gray skies of the last two days.

It would be a welcome bonus if we could get a decent number of dry days in a row, as well.

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Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2020 at 6:00 am

No Thanks

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I wish there was a reason to believe I would never have to endure another storm like this one. It started nice enough, Wednesday, with a reasonable burst of good old garden variety spring snow.

Then the wind started to increase. That makes a big difference in any weather event. Wind takes everything up a few notches of intensity. It continued to snow, and the wind howled intensely, all night long. By morning we had 8 inches piled on the deck railing, in the small section blocked from the harshest gusts.

And harsh, the wind was becoming. The first thing I noticed when I got out of bed was a plastic roof panel on the end of the woodshed was flapping loose. The way the wind was raging, that panel would not last without some intervention.

We stepped out into the heart of the storm and struggled to fashion a quick, makeshift fix with rope and a couple heavy pieces of firewood. Meanwhile, the morning sky was growing darker and darker. I paused to clean the sticky, wind whipped snow on the front steps just as we got our first of several rounds of lightning and thunder.

It was scary to be outside. Actually, it was scary to be inside, too. The precipitation oscillated between snow, rain, sleet, and hail while the raging gales surged to frightening levels of intensity.

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The sunrise and stormy sky created a strange, ominous glow that seemed to color the snow on the ground. Later, we learned that the orange-brown hue was actually Texas dust carried here by high winds.

This was a really big storm.

I fear the extremes we keep experiencing are soon to become the norm.

I wish I could say, no thanks, and just opt out when these inland hurricanes blow, but I don’t think that choice is available.

Feels a bit like living in a Hollywood disaster film.

I don’t recall, do those tend to resolve with happy endings?

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Horses Endure

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Our horses seemed about as pleased with the monumental April weekend of snow as we were. Despite the weeks of being confined to stalls at the beginning of the year, the relentless onslaught of blowing snow had them eager to get back indoors again.

In the picture above, you can see that Cayenne seems to have stepped up to the front position, which hints at her moving into the leadership void that was left by Legacy’s departure. We’ve noticed several instances lately where this new hierarchy appears to be normalizing. Dezirea, the senior mare, looks to be comfortable maintaining her usual position as the assistant manager, overseeing things from the back of the line.

There was a fair amount of urgency in their attitudes when it came time to bring them in each afternoon. Once inside, out of the wind and wet, the horses calmed significantly.

In the mornings, they willingly step out again for some fresh air, but after a few hours in the storm, they start to look for signs we are preparing to bring them back in.

When we didn’t get to it as quickly as they wished on Sunday when the snow was falling fast and furious, we started to hear a fair amount of vocalizations from them, expressing rather clearly that they felt they had endured enough of the harsh conditions.

It’s going to be a muddy mess out in the paddocks for a while now, but I think the arrival of some sunshine today, and again later in the week, will go a long way toward soothing their recent frustrations.

As it will for us all, I’m sure.

I can’t wait for April weather to actually get here for real.

As for this “Apruary,” we’ve had enough.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

Cuttin’ Wood

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The weather on Friday started out just right for getting outside and doing some work in the woods. The air temperature was comfortable, and the ground was frozen, so traversing our terrain was clean and dry. I decided to cut some wood.

DSCN4503eThere are a lot of standing dead trees awaiting my saw, and plenty of dead branches that could use pruning. I started with our apple tree. There were a couple small branches that were easy to reach with my pole saw, but one fair-sized limb up high enough that I needed to throw a line and use a rope saw.

The apple tree was a treat to cut because it smelled marvelous! It also offered a beautiful visual of enticing rings. Such an artistic depiction of the history of the tree. How can I not spend some time creating something worth keeping out of this? With any luck, hopefully something I would actually finish.

I cranked up the chainsaw and successfully dropped a standing dead butternut tree. It was a great victory for me because I needed to first get a line over a small tree in the way so I could pull it aside to make room for the felling. The butternut fell right where I wanted it.

DSCN4500eI had barely sliced the trunk into logs when the perfect day turned into a spring-like snow squall. It forced me to gather my gear and hustle indoors. When I got back out there yesterday, the temperature was hovering just above freezing and the wet new snow began to turn the trails into hazardous, muddy slip-slides.

It is time to minimize travel on our trails for a while in the afternoons.

Maybe that will give me a chance to make good progress on a few art projects in the days ahead. Sounds fun!

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2016 at 11:12 am

Reality Check

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I am going to pause today in my ongoing chronicle of our Guatemalan adventure to provide some perspective that I think will show why I choose to describe our 10 days with the Morales family in such specific day-to-day detail. This is the April reality that we have returned to at our home, latitude 44.7739° N:

IMG_iP0774eYou may be able to barely make out the silhouette of our horses in the distance through the falling flakes, but you won’t find any palm trees and I can attest that there was absolutely nothing similar to a balmy Pacific breeze.

IMG_iP0777eDo you blame me for wanting to relive every precious warm moment of that visit with our great friends in their beautiful country? It’s winter-cold here again and the wind is gusting mini-blizzards straight out of the Arctic circle this week!

Seriously, tomorrow I am going right back to describing our last days at the beach house and then our return to Guatemala City in preparation of boarding the flight home. Maybe it’s escapism. I’m not proud. I do it because I can.

Aw, heck. I can’t even wait.

This is what I am talking about…

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2015 at 6:00 am

Nature’s Course

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There is no getting around the fact that we are at that time of year when the weather can flip from enticingly spring-like to “as winter as ever” in a single day. It can be a tough blow at the end of a harsh winter to be walloped by storms that give the impression the weather is headed in the wrong direction. Today is expected to be one of those tough blows, but it is not clear what the precise position of the storm will be. We are on the edge of a suspected path which could swing either to freezing rain or heavy, wet snow.

IMG_3535eFor the time being, I’m going to enjoy this image of our paddock from Saturday, when the snow had been cleared off the ground and the clouds were gone from the sky. We’ll have more of this type of enjoyment in the days ahead. We just need to tolerate a small setback to a winter storm for a few days.

That’s Dezirea munching hay, with Legacy standing by, on watch.

A couple of days later and it looked like this (although, in fairness, this one was taken with my phone looking through a dirty window from inside our sunroom):

DelilahDeerLegAt Delilah’s desperate urging, I let her outside to chase a squirrel, or squirrels, which had been tugging mercilessly at her predator instincts while she was trapped indoors. I followed her with my eyes as she sprinted deep into the neighbor’s woods to our north, much farther than she normally explores. The unconscious chase left her in new territory, and I would have been surprised if she just turned around and came back into our yard.

She disappeared for quite a while. When Delilah finally reappeared outside our windows, it wasn’t a squirrel she had as a prize, but the bottom portion of a deer leg. It is most likely that she happened upon a carcass that was left by some other predator(s), but she looked so much like a wolf out there, gnawing on that limb in the heavy falling snow, I felt a renewed appreciation for why our cats appear so wary of her.

She’s just doing what comes natural, but it can be almost scary seeing how incredibly proficient she is about it.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2014 at 6:00 am