Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trails

Busted Tree

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In my post on Sunday, I mentioned it was windy over the weekend. Yesterday morning, I found a small dead tree had tipped across one of our trails. Later in the afternoon, we discovered a larger tree had busted off on a different trail. High winds tend to bring down more than just small branches around our property.

Maybe the portion of the trunk that had been chewed up by some scavenger became the weak spot, as it snapped off right in the middle of that gaping wound. Regardless, the upper portion is caught in other trees and will need to be dealt with using the chainsaw.

There are currently four other trees in our woods, one smaller and two larger, that are similarly hung up. I have multiple opportunities to practice using the knowledge I gained watching professionals bring down much larger “widow-makers.”

Our “vertical firewood storage” is looking to be cut up and split, whether I want to do it right now or not.

Overnight Sunday we were visited by a little thunder and lightning along with what sounded like decent rainfall on the roof and skylight. Yesterday morning it was hard to tell any precipitation had fallen by the looks of things on the ground. Luckily, by evening the precipitation on the radar looked much more widespread with a potential of extended duration.

By dinnertime, the deck was actually wet from falling rain. Cyndie successfully got a rain cover on Mia to give her an edge in fending off a chill overnight. It would be just great if gentle rain like we were getting would last for several days.

That would give me more justification for putting off the chainsaw challenge I’m not fired up to tackle.

We have a plan in mind to do some much easier chainsawing behind Cyndie’s perennial garden where we found an eight-foot oak tree that is being smothered by junk trees. Actually, they are more like overgrown bushes than they are trees. In cutting down those nuisances we’ll open a lane behind the garden to continue the last distance for our perimeter trail along our property border.

The length from the west end of the north loop trail to behind the shop garage is so congested with wild growth that we have just taken to the driveway over the last ten years. Clearing that section will be a lot of work but I’ve wanted to create a path there for a long time, so it will be a very rewarding effort for me.

Not that bringing down busted widow-makers and cutting them up isn’t rewarding. Opening up a trail though, offers endless appreciation ever after with each successive stroll.

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Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Noticing Things

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Lately, when Delilah and I step out of the house at the beginning of our walks around our property, I hear a wild turkey gobbling through the trees in the neighboring woods. Just one or two calls and then just quiet. It occurred to me the bird is probably alerting others to our presence. I have yet to spot any gobblers moving around.

At first, I wondered why he would give himself away like that but after failing to ever catch a fleeting glimpse, despite staring intently in the direction of the sound while we slowly made our way down the perimeter path, I realize he hasn’t given himself away at all. He’s just alerting others to seek immediate concealment.

It works.

The narrow path we cleared through the middle of our woods –which we’ve taken to calling the “middle trail”– has become our new favorite. After frequent commands to Delilah to “take the middle trail,” she now hesitates when we approach it, anticipating the call. There are plenty of times when I am more than happy to let her choose our route and leave it up to her as to whether we make the turn or not.

Yesterday, she turned onto the middle trail before I had a chance to consider an opinion. It made me happy thinking that she might like that trail as much as Cyndie and I do. Unlike the main perimeter trail, most of which already existed when we moved here and allows plenty of room for ATV travel, the middle trails (there are now several) are intentionally narrow and a little more winding.

The newest portion was cleared over winter this year so we have yet to experience it when green leaves create a much more dense impression of the surroundings. I’m looking forward to finding out how much that changes the experience of traveling that path.

As we exited the trees and made our way along the fence around the hayfield, I noticed an orange cat walking along in the middle, unaware of our approach. When it finally saw us, the cat immediately went into a crouch position and looked as though it was trying to become as flat as possible. Delilah remained oblivious, so the wind must have been in the cat’s favor.

Since the grass in the field is still short, the orange-ness of the cat stood out clear as ever. I think I may have audibly chuckled at it. I also realized there are probably countless times we have walked past an animal that is crouched just out of view and downwind from Delilah’s keen senses to which we were entirely ignorant.

Sometimes they pop out at the last minute and make a run for it. I figure they must hold out as long as possible until deciding the dog has just gotten too close for comfort. Rabbits, grouse, various other birds, and cats have all startled us at one time or another when they suddenly panicked and ran or flew away from beside us.

I’m always amazed when Delilah fails to notice them first.

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Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2022 at 6:00 am

More Melting

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A local meteorologist on the radio pointed out the previous two days were our first pair of consecutive days of temperatures in the 40s (F) since December when we experienced a tornado in the area. Two days of melting is visibly changing our snowscape.

As we made our way around the north loop trail yesterday, I found it interesting that no old footprints were apparent along the pathway, yet the trail we repeatedly walk was clearly outlined.

I suspect that blowing snow had filled the path while we were up at the lake over the weekend and now it’s all being glazed level with the surrounding snowpack. We trudged through it seconds after I took that picture, taking the first steps toward reestablishing our typical packed trail.

The first week of March is predicted to bring us melting temperatures during the days and several chances for a mix of precipitation.

We noticed yesterday afternoon that the horses are starting to shed a little bit of their winter coat. The prospect of wet precipitation and near-freezing temperatures is an unwelcome combination when it comes to horses. As is our normal practice, we have closed some gates to separate the herd into two groups of two so there will be less competition over access to the protection of the barn overhang.

After the anxiety they showed the last time we moved them into stalls in the barn, I am not as quick to choose that option for keeping them dry. We are going to make the overhang as available as possible and leave it up to them to take advantage of it, or not.

You know the old saying… “You can provide a horse some shelter from the rain, but you can’t make him (or her, or them) use it.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fresh Blanket

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The old snowpack has melted and refrozen several times and was beginning to look rather sad. It’s been polished by whipping winds and covered with leaves, branches, and shrapnel from trees, knocked down by birds and squirrels. Well, it has a whole new look today. It snowed all day yesterday and everything is now covered with a fresh white blanket.

At the time of that photo, we had about 8.5 inches on the ground. After dinner, when I was out plowing the driveway, it snowed another half-inch.

The horses can always retreat to the protection of the overhang and I closed gates between the two paddocks to give the two chestnuts unrestricted access to one side. Under the overhang is where we hang hay nets, so the hay stays dry. Of course, then the horses can stay dry, too, while eating.

I’m dumbfounded why the chestnuts, Mia and Light, choose to stand out in the snow anyway. Swings, the eldest of the four mares, always chooses the overhang for shade when it is hot and shelter when it is windy or wet.

Here is what the difference looks like:

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That’s Mia on the left and Swings on the right.

Today is my last day of talking to myself for the past nine days because, if all goes according to plan, Cyndie returns from Florida.

I think Delilah is getting tired of trying to figure out what I am saying, as I have been rambling at length to explain my activities to her in the absence of anyone else around for conversation. She has taken to cocking her head a little and giving me a long blank stare. If my jabbering doesn’t ultimately culminate in something she can eat, she tends to sigh and wander away for another nap.

That is, if it isn’t time for one of her walks. She knows when it is time for our regularly planned outings and never hesitates to make herself very available for each precious occasion. Walks are even more special for a while now because of the fresh blanket of powder we get to romp through.

I get a fresh chance to trudge a wider pathway on our trails for several days. Delilah and I will have it looking nicely packed again in no time. Then all the forest critters will commence dropping things everywhere and I’ll start pining for the next new blanket of snow to show up.

Rinse, and repeat until spring.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Rewarding Accomplishments

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On a weekend when we squeezed in two evening trips to the Cities for wonderful social occasions and a surprise visit from sister, Judy, and husband, Scott, Cyndie and I also knocked off mowing and trimming the entire labyrinth of some tall growth. Our growing ground cover has made efficient use of the rain we received last week. The lawn grass is so long already, I need to mow again less than a week after I just finished the whole property.

I took a panoramic photo into the sun to show the freshly coifed labyrinth with the adjacent gazebo and its barely alive vines for a roof cover.

We also made short work yesterday of an inspiration I had to open up a new footpath through an untraveled section of our woods. Untraveled by us, that is. We chose to route it primarily along an obvious path traversed by deer often enough that our eyes were able to discern where they have been walking.

Of course, being deer, they seem to magically navigate through downed or low-hanging branches that entangle us. A bit of pruning and sawing provided quick reward and suddenly we had a whole new shortcut between two existing trails.

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We were so pleased with it, we sauntered back and forth along the new route multiple times, just to enjoy the experience.

It was very rewarding to get two projects off the to-do list, even though one of them had just been spontaneously added the day before. Accomplished, nonetheless.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2021 at 6:00 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

Brain Freeze

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Yesterday was a very inviting glorious blue-sky sunny day for a walk. There were just two primary hazards to trekking our trails to walk the dog. The first was slippery footing on the packed and polished snow tracks we were precariously perambulating. [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.] The footing is really risky on the inclines, especially going downhill. The repeating cycles of melting and refreezing we have endured this winter have turned the oft traveled packed paths into uneven glass-like surfaces.

One alternative is to walk just off to the side of the glossy path, but that becomes its own adventure of struggling to soft-shoe your way on top of the occasionally stable crust, faltering frequently as a boot collapses 6-to-10 inches into the loose old snow below.

Once on the flat of our paths out of the woods, the second hazard became the greater of the two challenges. The old snowpack covering our land no longer holds much air. It’s like one giant iceberg that radiates cold that would make a walk-in freezer jealous. The face-freezing chill was made even more emphatic by the warm sunshine from above offering an opposing reference sensation. The relatively warm air was dramatically losing the battle for dominance.

With the slightest hint of a breeze moving that radiating cold-cold-cold from the massive surface surrounding us and pushing away the comparatively weaker not-as-cold air in the warm sunshine, we both noticed the increasing sensation of a brain freeze.

“Ice cream headache!” Cyndie exclaimed.

Yes, it was that kind of cold.

The thermometers were displaying the mid-to-upper 20s(F), but our brains were registering something much more Arctic.

Happy Leap Day, 2020!

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Written by johnwhays

February 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

Future Arrives

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The kids stopped by yesterday for Cyndie’s day of canning pickles and Julian brought along a new commuting vehicle that bridges recreation and transportation. Have you heard of Onewheel?

I suppose it could be compared to a skateboard, but it gives more of an impression of snowboarding… only without the snow.

The device just recently arrived and he wanted to practice riding while wearing his computer bag to get ready for “boarding” (I’m told the term being used is “floating”) to work. He lives and works downtown in Minneapolis, so mastering our hills and uneven terrain would go a long way toward building strength and confidence for the urban surfaces he will more often encounter.

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He started down the driveway.

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Then turned onto one of our rough trails.

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He popped out in the back yard and rolled down the hill.

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Into the woods again.

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Floated through the gazebo beside the labyrinth.

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Along the back pasture fence line and around toward the barn.

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He picked up speed as he reached the weed-covered gravel around the hay shed.

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After that, he turned onto the asphalt driveway again and completed a very successful first attempt at adjusting to the added weight on his back. I think he will do just fine on the streets and sidewalks in the city. With each outing on the board, he will gain strength and skill.

No, I didn’t try it out myself. I’ll stick with two wheels and pedals. However, I am not against the possibility of an ebike somewhere in my future.

All these budding electric-assisted modes of transportation popping up definitely make it feel like the future has arrived.

I’m wondering if I will be able to catch up with it.

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Written by johnwhays

August 26, 2019 at 6:00 am

Angry Skies

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When I opened the door to take Delilah for a walk yesterday afternoon, the sound of endlessly recurring thunder from the southern horizon instantly notched up her excitement to 11. She wasn’t sure what to do with the fact it didn’t end. The rumbles just kept rolling over, one on top of the other.

Our assessment of the tipped tree across one of the trails in the woods was akin to the old “We will rebuild” memes with a lawn chair tipped over post-earthquake.

Removal of this hazard will barely require the chainsaw, but that is not a complaint. Not by any means. I am thrilled this is the worst we suffered. The bigger tree leaning from the right side of that image is from our neighbor’s property and it was blown over in a previous storm. I will probably tend to that at the same time I get around to dealing with the little one across the trail.

It is wet enough around here again that the mosquitoes have become a nuisance that will make lumberjacking a less pleasant endeavor. There may be a rudimentary trim that happens in the short term, leaving the ultimate cleanup for more inviting fall-like weather in a couple of months.

The chickens were undisturbed about the angry sky rumbling almost overhead and came out of the tall grass to be sociable when I stopped by to pick eggs.

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The cut fields from last weekend haven’t even been raked into windrows yet. They just haven’t caught a break this summer for getting enough consecutive rain-free days to allow the grass to dry sufficiently for baling. It’s really sad to watch. I would really be suffering emotionally if we were depending on it to feed horses.

I can’t imagine how all the others who need hay are dealing with it this summer.

By luck, our fields were missed by the round of cloudbursts that moved past just to our south yesterday, but chances don’t look promising for later today.

The angry skies seem to echo the vibrations coming from my news radio covering U.S. politics.

Boy, do I miss blue skies, dry days, sunshine, and benevolent leadership.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Muddy Trail

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Despite all the sprouting greenery, there is more moisture in the soil lately than the growing trees and plants can absorb. That is making our trails rather treacherous. It is very advantageous to have our custom boardwalk for a short span in the middle of the woods.

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Obviously, it’s a little short on both ends. We have a greater length of mud than wooden blocks to pave over the path.

Out in the grassy field, the dandelions are thriving, despite our general shortage of warm sunshine compared to most springtimes I’ve experienced. Now I read that the National Weather Service is predicting a cooler than average summer along with more than a usual amount of rain.

It is uninspiring to envision months of weather like this dragging on throughout the summer.

I don’t blame a dandelion for giving up early.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2019 at 6:00 am