Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trails

A Chance

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Have you noticed the lone lopsided tree left standing to the right of the ones we took down over the weekend? A number of people have suggested it would make sense to cut that one down, too.

There are plenty of reasons it would be a logical choice, but who am I to let logic get in the way of my emotions?

One key reason I am letting it stand is that it isn’t dead. Not yet, anyway. It has carved out its meager existence and endured despite the shadow of the larger tree. Now that it is no longer crowded out, I’d like to see how it will respond.

I want to give it a chance to take advantage of the unobstructed afternoon sunlight and the uncontested space to spread out in every direction. It is very birch-like, but I haven’t specifically identified it. Black birch, maybe.

What does it cost me to wait a year or two to find out if it shows signs of renewed vigor? Just some ongoing questioning of my decision-making process, but that’s something I can tolerate.

Cyndie and I were surveying the space left after the trees were removed and discussed whether it would make sense to transfer some of the multitudes of volunteer maple seedlings that sprout all around our place each spring.

It’s an odd little corner of our property. The primary drainage ditch that nicely defines the southern border for most of the span of our open fields takes a little turn inward and orphans a fair-sized triangle of grass up to the road. The neighbor to the south is more than happy to tend to it, and he cuts that grass when cutting his adjacent strip along a cornfield there.

Honestly, I have reasons to believe he would consider it madness to plant new trees in that spot. He once offered to come cut down trees behind our house to create a larger space of lawn for us. Our opinions of what is more valuable are in stark contrast.

If we plant new trees, we will start by placing them along, or close to, the drainage ditch. I’m happy to work slowly and give him time to adjust to our changes.

The chickens show no sign of needing time to adjust. They showed up instantly when we drove to one of our trails to distribute a load of wood chips. I think they wanted to help spread them around.

In reality, what they were really doing was, scratching away the chips to get down to the dirt below, which was comical. They could do that anywhere. In fact, it would be easier to do it where we hadn’t just laid down a new cover of wood chips. Instead, they looked as though the new chips were a real bonus.

I’ll give them the benefit of doubt. Maybe there were bugs in the chips that dropped to the dirt below as soon as the chips got tossed on the trail.

There is a chance there is a logical method to their madness.

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2017 at 7:00 am

Inviting Portals

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When it comes to forest bathing, we have a wide variety of enticing portals inviting one to dip a toe…

It’s enough to make a person want to dive right in to breathe the immunizing forest air.

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Can you feel yourself inhaling deep at the sight?

We also have portals leading to open and airy trails along the borders of our fields.

Stepping through this last opening brings you to the entrance to our Rowcliffe Forest Garden Labyrinth, a large 11-circuit Chartes labyrinth. It lies just out of sight to the right of the opening, which I think makes this portal the most enticing of all.

Plus, the labyrinth is tucked up against the edge of our main forest, so walking the circuitous path provides an added side-benefit of breathing the health emanating from the trees.

Our paradise beckons with irresistible enticements. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to figure out I’m not dreaming.

This morning, the trees are silent in the calm, moist summer air. Out our open windows and doors I hear the mesmerizing music of the pond waterfall, singing birds, and chirping insects. Most importantly, that is all I hear. There is no sound of traffic. No planes, trains, or automobiles.

Mornings like this are priceless.

It’s not that we are immune to the sounds of mechanization. We do experience the occasional passing of small planes. Warm weekends might offer up the roar of a passing train of motorcycles buzzing along County N toward the El Paso Bar and Grill. The neighboring fields get plowed, planted, and harvested by large farm tractors as the season dictates.

Finally, if it’s not the neighbors, it’s our own doing to be shattering the bucolic ambiance with the droning whine of small gas engines with a trimmer, chainsaw, or lawn mower.

It’s a necessary evil of creating and maintaining the inviting portals that grace our little nook in the beautiful countryside of western Wisconsin.

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Stepping Out

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It it possible to pull into our driveway and roll past the barn and horses with hardly a notice when they have tucked themselves under the overhang. You can make your way to the house and get inside where a comfy chair awaits, plop your butt down and prop your feet up for the rest of the night, never having any sense of what is going on outside.

I know this, because I’ve done it.

With Cyndie able-bodied again, it is possible for me to come in the house after work and crash on the recliner while she takes Delilah out for a walk and tends to the evening horse chores. When I am over-tired, it is a real blessing, but it comes with a cost.

Just a day or two away from a walk in our woods and visiting with the horses creates a surprising disconnect from the healthy flow of energy each provides.

Like so many things, I became aware of this yesterday when I needed to cover for Cyndie’s absence when I got home from work. It’s not hard to do, once you get the body in motion. After a quick change of clothes, I was out the door to retrieve Delilah from her kennel in the back yard and off we went, exploring the trails that are a strange mix this time of year. They are snowy, though melting, getting muddy around the edges, yet still frozen just below the surface.

It was a function of being out of the house again that made me realize how insulating it can be when I remain inside.

After a tour of a few trails, Delilah and I made our way to the barn. The herd was wonderfully calm and serene. I did my best to match their energy and control my excitement to walk among them again.

After I had cleaned up the area and served their afternoon feed, I paused to capture a snapshot of the landscape showing the mixture of turf and melting snow cover. Dezirea must have sensed I was standing there and poked her head out from beneath the overhang to check on me.

I was happy to include her in the shot.

You can see she is sporting a fashionable facial mud mask that she applied all by herself.

I returned to the seclusion of indoors with a renewed energy of having paid a precious visit to the paradise that is always ready and waiting. All we need to do is step into it.

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Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2017 at 6:00 am

Liquid Water

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Even with the temperatures back under 32° (F) all day and night again, there is water on one of our trails that hasn’t re-frozen. I can only guess that it might be because there is enough volume moving past that spot toward lower ground. Flowing water is more resistant to freezing.

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It takes a long dry spell in the summer for that spot to completely dry out, so it is no surprise that water is present now. I just find it odd that there isn’t more freezing going on.mondayweather

Walking along on the crunchy snow of the trail, it’s weird to suddenly come upon a splash and a squish on a cold winter day.

I suppose I should get used to it. Seems like this winter we are getting as many rain events as snowfalls. Today’s weather forecast includes chances of rain and snow with a high temperature of 38°.

This ain’t my daddy’s winter weather.

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Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2017 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Cold Blow

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The prolonged warm spell this autumn has finally come to an abrupt end. We swung from warm sunshine to blowing snow in about a day, making it feel colder than it probably is. I had planned to avoid the expected precipitation by holing up in the shop and working to restore some order after days of dumping piles of tools and lumber used on the chicken coop construction project.

After a morning of some lightning, thunder, and hail, I stepped out to find a temporary reprieve. It was almost sunny for a moment. I decided to postpone the shop tidying and wander down toward the chicken coop to look into fixing the ramp we have in mind for the chicken door.

Cyndie had tried weaving some grape vines but bailed on that idea after discovering the vines she collected were not supple enough for her methods. I suggested we simply slide small branches over/under a center strut as an alternative.

After finding and attaching the integral strut, and testing my concept with 10 or 12 of whatever sticks and twigs I could find lying around, I switched modes to collect a bigger batch of raw materials for the weave. Conveniently, I had planned a new route through the trees between the coop and trail to the shop garage which needed to be cleared of saplings. These will be ideal for making the ramp.

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Those shots are dark because I can’t seem to finish anything around here before the sun sets anymore. By the time I finished clearing the trail and thought to snap an image, there was barely enough light left. A fact which also makes it difficult to discern the horizontal flying crystals of frozen rain that were happening at the time.

I found it surprisingly disorienting to have a new opening in our woods where one had not existed before. It was shocking to suddenly have the feeling of not knowing where I was for a second.

What doesn’t show in the path is the old rusty wood stove that I had just hauled away. It is a relic of days when they tapped the maple trees here and boiled off the sap for syrup. It wasn’t visible through all the greenery during the summer months, but for the last 5 years it has been very conspicuous during the fall and winter, looking like a sad neglected relic.

That’s one more thing taken care of that I’ve wanted to do since we got here, discarding scrap and making this place ever more our own.

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Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2016 at 7:00 am

Canine Visits

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So much for using our trail cam to capture images of all the wildlife wandering our trails. Nothing but dogs this last time, traveling in pairs, even.

I have a whole new respect for what Delilah’s been sensing every time we walk our paths. I’m sure she is entirely aware of these scofflaws who regularly take advantage of our easy access to wherever the heck it is they are going.

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There are 3 different dogs that have been making themselves at home on our trail at the southern edge of our property. I suspect that 2 of them are likely owned by a close neighbor. Driving past their place last week, I noticed a line of white flags across the front yard that looked a lot like the kind used to mark invisible fence installations.

Maybe they are working to keep the dogs off the road. Apparently they’ve left the back door toward our place wide open.

There’s no real harm done by their trespassing, but after all the fretting we have done over Delilah doing the same thing to others, it feels like they are getting away with something that they shouldn’t.

At least I now have a better idea of what Delilah is up to when she goes astray. I always figured she was chasing wildlife, or neighboring livestock. Now I suspect she is probably trailing along on the route of other dogs, returning the favor of marking each other’s passage.

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I have no idea what this guy is carrying. It looks like a big branch, but it brings to mind the mysterious frozen cow’s leg we found laying in the middle of the trail down in that area last winter. It gives me new insight into how it could have possibly gotten to where it was that we stumbled upon it.

Other than the weekend we had two strange dogs show up by the house last fall, we haven’t been aware of how many and how often we have had uninvited canine visitors.

There have been tracks visible on occasion, but we weren’t quite sure whether it was coyotes or domestic dogs leaving the impressions. From now on I will be much more inclined to suspect stealthy dogs are the ones cuttin’ through.

At least, until our trail cam proves something different.

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Written by johnwhays

March 14, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Forest Cleaning

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DSCN4504eIt wasn’t too muddy beyond our trails, among the leaves carpeting our woods, so we took advantage of the favorable weather and did some “forest-keeping” yesterday. Since we were already picking up the branches I had pruned from trees, we got inspired to keep going and clean up some of the years of accumulated fallen limbs and dead growth.

It’s like magic. Once you decide to start picking up branches, there suddenly becomes more branches deserving to be picked up.

We collected a wide variety of them into piles at the side of our trail, to make it easy for chipping later. We can grind them up right where they lay and spread them out to pave the trail for better footing during the muddy season.

DSCN4505eWouldn’t it be nice if we could bring the tractor in there now? But the ground is too soft for the time being.

Timing is everything.

While picking up some branches that had lain there for years, I found myself wondering how I would know when enough was enough. It looked really good in the areas we had cleared, but I felt a desire to avoid trying to make it too pristine.

Cyndie agreed with me that we should seek a good balance of making it look well-tended, while maintaining a certain amount of natural character from the few oddities of limbs or saplings that grow askew or have reason to fall.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2016 at 7:00 am