Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘summer

Very Summery

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No complaints from us with the weather pattern we have been enjoying this week. Warm and sunny during the day and cool and comfortable overnight.

Here are some scenes reflecting the bliss:

A butterfly on our lilac bush and the four horses out grazing in the hay field as the sunlight was about to disappear below the horizon.

One summer trait the horses are not enjoying is the harassment by flies. We put out a fan to provide a minor assist in blowing the pests away.

Swings tends to claim that spot as her own and the others need to ingratiate themselves with her to earn an adjacent position that she will tolerate. I saw Light squeezed in there for a little while earlier in the day.

I claimed a few hours of the warm sunshine for a bike ride through our “Driftless” terrain, which means I sped down some fast descents and struggled to climb up the other side.

I made it out to Elmwood and back, but I wasn’t successful in my quest to ride the entire distance unsupported by battery assist. Honestly, I would have needed to call Cyndie to come pick me up if I didn’t have the motor to help me deal with the last ten miles. I’d lost track of how many river valleys remained and faced an unexpected steep climb that almost broke my spirit.

However, I survived and did so under some of the best weather at the best time of year our latitude has to offer. We live in a very beautiful topography that provides wonderful vistas of rolling farm fields peppered with wooded valleys and gorgeous trout streams where whitetail deer romp and fly fishermen cast their lines.

Very summery, indeed.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Early Start

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Like a couple of young newlyweds, Cyndie and I got an early start to the holiday weekend and hustled north to the lake by ourselves a day before the massive crowds that will follow. A stop at Coop’s Pizza for our favorite choice in Hayward, then some authentic ice cream decadence at West’s Dairy for dessert, and we were in full lake-place weekend mode before ever reaching the “cabin.”

For the record, I splurged with one scoop each of Coconut Magic Bar and Chunky Musky.

There was some reminiscing about dining at Coop’s on our honeymoon almost 40-years ago, back when it was located in a former gas station on Highway 63. Cyndie burned her lip so bad when hot cheese pulled off the crust that she blistered.

After we unloaded the car, we topped off our night with access to satellite television Tour de France coverage rerunning the stage of day 6 and another Mark Cavendish sprint to the stage victory. We were happy as clams.

It has been longer than I can recall that we have been up at the lake two weekends in a row. This could get to be a habit. Thank goodness we have found a willing animal sitter in Anna, a student at UW River Falls.

It feels particularly summery, which is just as it should now that we are into July. Obviously, we don’t live in the southern hemisphere.

Watching the professional cyclists racing after having just spent some extended time on my bike tour along the Mississippi River in Minnesota provides a valuable perspective. Their accomplishments are so much more amazing than they make them appear.

I hope they get to have ice cream at the end of their daily races.

I visited a couple of Dairy Queens after my days of biking.

It was an early start to foiling my goals of eating less sugar than my addiction longs for. I can attest that doing so wreaks havoc on my attempts to control the brain’s tendency to crave sweetness full time.

Good thing my healthy routine will be able to resume as soon as this weekend is over. My summer brain is starting to think I should have ice cream every day.

I’m afraid the rest of my body takes exception to that kind of thinking.



Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

Not Suffering

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Just a little rain up here at the lake yesterday afternoon, but we are living the life of luxury, regardless.

Breakfast on the deck.

But earning it by taking care of that too-long neglected task of tending to the gutters on the backside of the house. Out of sight, out of mind, you know.

After I dug for long enough, I actually found a gutter underneath all that mess.

More family arrived yesterday afternoon and we dined like royalty and stayed up too late playing cards.

It’s another classic summer weekend ‘at the lake.’




Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2020 at 8:15 am

Cloudless Sky

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Yesterday was one of the great ones when it comes to sunny summer days. The neighboring cattle are definitely being grass-fed and made for excellent subjects as I paused to capture some shots of that cloudless sky.

Apparently, some of the grass looked greener on the other side of that fence.



Written by johnwhays

August 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Love

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Certainly, there could be worse things to keep coming back to, but my mind has begun to develop a healthy habit of naturally settling on thoughts about sending and receiving LOVE amid the swirl of good and bad circumstances that wash over us with unrelenting regularity.

We learned last night of an unexpected death among our extended family, all too close to the time of Cyndie’s dad’s passing that has everyone already raw with grief. The increasing infection rate of the coronavirus pandemic is pressing firmly against the frustrations of being locked down for months and disrupting dreams of resuming some previous activity.

Plans for the fall are far from settled as to whether schools will be able to open safely and entertainment venues will figure out a way to host events.

It is almost becoming a physically painful thing to not be able to hug people, on top of the ever-awkward absence of a genuine handshake.

Still, we are showered with ongoing blessings that become more precious with each pause for acknowledgment. The gestures of condolence that have arrived in the last two weeks have warmed our hearts.

Last Sunday, Cyndie and I worked on preparing the brooder for the anticipated arrival of 12 new day-old chicks this month. As hard as the loss of birds is on my tender wife, she couldn’t stop herself from ordering more. New life is coming to Wintervale again!

Summer is in full swing in all its glory around our land, regardless of the recent loss of some big trees. We’re preparing to host travelers we’ve not met before from my virtual community, Brainstorms, in the days ahead. We offered a free parking spot for their small RV on their trek home that is taking them right past our neighborhood on the interstate.

I keep imagining how pleasant it would be if the news media took several days off from mentioning anything a certain person says or does and simply focused on news that matters without any distractions or fabricated drama. I do struggle to muster enough love to offset the disturbance that rolls out of the nation’s capital like the irritation of a lingering dead skunk smell.

The high heat and excessively oppressive tropical dewpoint temperatures are hanging around lately even longer than skunk odors, which is definitely exacerbating the angst of those who lack artificial cooling in their homes.

There is good and bad roiling around in a weird mix. What can we do to cope effectively but love?

Just love.

It sure can’t hurt to try.



— special love goes out to Carlos today for his sorrow and loss —



Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Weathering Nicely

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Now that it’s officially summer, a few days ago I got around to removing the firewood rack from our deck that had been in place all winter. Doing so uncovered deck boards that have been protected from direct sunlight and still show the original coloring of the treated wood.

I am much happier with the weathered look of the exposed boards.

We’ve yet to decide what we will do about finishing the wood. I’m hoping to tap the advice of the professional crew we have contracted to seal the log walls of our house. It would be great if they would actually show up.

It’s a company that we’ve used once before, shortly after we moved here. There was an end piece of a log that was rotting and they replaced it and went around the whole house to caulk any spaces that needed it.

Last year they agreed to do the job of resealing the logs of the entire house but were iffy about whether they could fit it in before days got too cold. When it became obvious they wouldn’t make it before winter, they promised we would be early on the spring schedule this year.

When spring (and a certain pandemic) arrived, we contacted them to confirm they were still able to work. Yes, they said, work would begin as soon as days got warm enough.

When warm days arrived and we hadn’t heard from them, we checked again. Yes, we were next in line after their current job. He teased it might be the next week or the week after, depending on the weather.

A week later, granted after some inclement weather, I decided to start removing all the decorative trim from the outside walls in an almost passive-aggressive attempt to will them to suddenly show up.

We will give them one more week before checking anew to find out how many additional weeks remain before they start on our house, seeing as they were going to do it right away in the spring and we were only second in line on their schedule at the start.

At this rate, by the time they get here the logs of the house will be so faded they will match the weathered boards of the deck.

Maybe we should aim for the antique gray color of dried-out neglected wood for our house.

I do like a weathered look.


p.s. Happy Birthday, Elysa! (you are weathering nicely, too!) [Oh, Dad…]



Written by johnwhays

June 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Officially Summer

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We have reached the longest day of 2020. It’s the latest hour when we tuck the chickens to bed in the coop for the night. Our fraction of a flock who have survived free-ranging among the wildlife that roams our countryside look a little lonesome snuggled up on one end of the roost.

Nonetheless, they seem happy as ever with their lot in life and explore a broad swath around the barn and their coop, heroically controlling the fly and tick population. Their egg production is enough to keep Cyndie’s and my demand covered. We just have less home-laid eggs to share with others.

Cyndie’s garden(s) are growing by leaps and bounds. With her away for the weekend, I fear the leafy things may be a chaos of excess by the time she returns tonight.

Summer would normally mean I am on a bike trip or we were going up to the lake a lot, but this year is anything but normal. At the same time, life at home is about as normal as can be. The weather has been on an amazingly even keel, perfectly balanced between hot and cool days with a mix of sunny, breezy, reasonable thunderstorms, gentle soaking rain, and calm dry days.

At the solstice, we are in the middle of this summer-ness. We can enjoy more of this for a few weeks and then begin the slow slide to earlier minutes when the hens return to the coop.

I’m willing myself to soak this time up in the fullest sense possible, in hopes of storing the memories as complete as possible for reference during the opposite time period six months from now. For those days when we go close the chicken door to the coop around 4:00 p.m.

Those days when they don’t bother laying any eggs.

Here’s to all these hours of summer sunlight!

Happy Father’s Day all you dads and children of dads! And moms who put up with the dads.



Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2020 at 9:35 am

Coop Sprucing

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Yesterday, I finally got around to attaching the summer window awnings on the coop. During the winter we install plexiglass panels over the hardware mesh openings, but in the summer it’s wide open to the weather. For a little protection from wind-blown rain, I add some window-well covers.

Last year, one of the plastic covers was bashed full of holes by a hail storm. Luckily, I had a spare.

While I was tending to the coop, I also added some cross-beams to the chicken ramp because Cyndie felt the chickens needed better footing going up and down.

The Buff Orpington that had been inside laying an egg when I first showed up to work, came out to test the ramp after all the drilling and hammering stopped.

Initially, she seemed hesitant about even coming all the way out the door, but eventually scampered down the ramp without delay. I think she likes it.

After Cyndie came in from tucking the hens in and shutting the chicken door later in the evening, I asked her if she noticed the ramp improvements.


“Well, did you see the window covers?”


She had been at her parent’s house while I was sprucing up the coop and I hadn’t mentioned anything about it after she got home.

I guess this demonstrates the changes weren’t overly ostentatious, since she didn’t even notice a thing.



Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Clinging

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We have arrived at the week with the earliest sunrise in our location and the weather is at its most wonderful summer-est. Our doors and windows are open and the ceiling fans are turning, yet the warmth hovers around the edge of too much. Tank tops and loose shorts, bare feet and a tall glass of ice water put things right.

The cut hay in our fields was raked and round-baled on the same afternoon yesterday. If you look close, Cyndie captured a lone deer crossing the image view as the field became draped in the shadow that was replacing the disappearing sunlight.

For as much as we are forbidden to wrap our arms around our fellow friends and family, we are striving to wrap the summer up in a grandiose hug of epic proportions. Despite the chaos of a political circus, a global pandemic continuing its invisible spread, and citizens bellowing for justice against centuries of systemic racism against indigenous peoples, immigrants, and the entire spectrum of non-white human beings, I am just clinging to the precious moment of a few glorious quintessential summer days for their faint distraction of nature at its finest.

We are doing so without a rambunctious picnic of music and food and a hundred of our favorite people. I am doing so without my annual week of biking and camping somewhere around Minnesota with hundreds of friends and brilliant like-minded adventurers. We are doing so without concerts enjoyed among thousands of similar music-loving fans or sports competitions with hoards of supporters cheering on the efforts of athletes at every level of skill.

There will be no county fairs and ultimately, no Minnesota State Fair. Graduations have already been morphed into sometimes blessedly shorter shadows of the usual pomp and circumstance, and weddings and funerals constrained to unrecognizable whispers of the emotional extravagance they deserve.

Navigating the days that turn to weeks and then months of the COVID-19 pandemic is dragging us all into a marathon of paying heed to the best-practice precautions of constraining the spread to manageable levels despite our preference that it just be a short duration fast-walk competition among friends.

My dentist’s office called and left a message that they are now accepting cleaning and checkup appointments scheduled for the fall. My rather feeble home plaque-scraping exercise since my appointment in March was canceled is now going to need to suffice until autumn. Thank goodness I won’t need to waste a beautiful summer afternoon splayed back in the reclined chair getting my teeth cleaned and inspected.

The best medicine I have right now for the pandemonium of current events is the natural summer surroundings of our little paradise. I love it. We love it.

It helps fuel our ability to nurture and grow that love for beaming out into the great big world.

Here is Wintervale LOVE to all who are willing and able to receive it… <muwah>

Cling to that.



Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Plenty Tall

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When we were on the road to the lake for the Independence Day weekend earlier this summer, we found the farm fields to be shockingly underdeveloped. Many didn’t show any sign that a crop had even been planted. Where corn was visible, it was barely six inches tall.

The classic rhyme of “knee-high by the 4th of July” was far from being met this year.

On the way home from work on Monday, as we approach the middle of August, I suddenly became aware of the dramatic growth finally achieved by local farmers of field corn.

It’s well over a head taller than me.

That picture shows the field immediately to the south of our property.

Having 8-foot walls of corn stalks arise along our rural roads really changes the ambiance of those portions of my commute.

I once read that genetic engineering of corn plants has changed them to be more tolerant of crowding. An acre of land can produce higher yields of corn if you can plant seeds closer together.

The stalks are now planted so tight with one another that I can’t even fit between them.

They’re also so tall that I can’t see over them.

A cornfield would make for a really fine maze, wouldn’t it?



Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2019 at 6:00 am