Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trees

Good Times

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When Cyndie and I got home from our respective days last Thursday, we were greeted by the sight of our hay-field being cut. When we got home yesterday from our weekend with Mike and Barb at their lake place, our hay-field was being raked into windrows.

Between those two events, we enjoyed great adventures in the northland woods.

On our drive up toward Grand Rapids, we paused for a picnic lunch and walk along the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park. I had forgotten about the flooding 10″ rain that caused incredible damage in that region in 2012.

It was impressive to see how great the damage recovery looks now, this many years later.

Walking the rebuilt iconic swinging bridge over the river brought back memories of the exhilarating bridges Gary Larson and I walked in Nepal, minus the prayer flags and yak trains.

The trail along the St. Louis River offers great adventure of rough terrain navigation over roots and rocks, with gargantuan slanted rock formations providing fabulous views.

Jay Cooke State Park is a real treasure for the state of Minnesota.

In the evening on Friday, we sat out under the stars and enjoyed a roaring campfire for as long as tired eyes tolerated. Without having noticed that clouds had rolled in while we were out there, we called it a night just as rain moved in.

By morning, there was some snow on the ground, too. Cloud-burst blizzards breezed past around sunrise, interspersed with moments of bright blue sky. It was rather mountain-like conditions, also remarkably similar to weather Gary and I experienced in the Himalayas.

On Saturday, we did a lot of hiking in the woods. The tamarack trees were in glorious golden form. The rest of the fall colored leaves were past prime.

That scene is one I would gladly see made into a jigsaw puzzle.

The weekend was everything we hoped for, and more.

The animals at home were well cared for by Maddie and Lauren, two students at UW-River Falls who we’ve added to our pool of trained sitters.

Good times, indeed.



Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

Autumn Mowing

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I don’t have any recollection of the lawn ever being so “June-like” this late in October. It felt totally strange yesterday to be cutting such long, thick, green grass with the air chilly and the sun at this uncharacteristic low angle.

In addition to the summery grass blades, the standing puddles of water left over from the recent rains were downright spring-like.

When I got done, the fresh-mowed lawn contrasted strangely against the golden hue of fall that the trees now provide for a backdrop.

It also seemed odd to be mowing the grass a few days after we had just received snow.

On my walk back to the house after I was done with chores for the evening, I stopped to take some pictures of the low sun beaming through the golden trees.

That carpet of leaves is a favorite of mine. I wish we could have layers of leaves that look like that as a ground cover, in place of lawn grass around our land.

Guess that means we would need to get busy transplanting more trees.

Spread the wealth!



Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Early Success

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Part of me is hesitant to claim success about a recent transplanted tree, well, trees, but we have decided to enjoy it while it lasts. The truth really won’t be revealed until next summer, as to whether the four oaks we hastily decided to dig up and move out in the open field beyond the paddock ultimately survive the transplantation.

In the weeks since we moved them, these four oak trees have barely showed a symptom of shock. Now they are displaying the best of fall color, just as if nothing had happened to disrupt normal routine.

I don’t know if this apparent good health is a valid indicator of the overall success of our bold plan. I am prepared to discover otherwise next spring, but for now, we are tickled to see the normal fall behavior playing out.

If these work out, I will definitely be emboldened to do more of this to expand the range of oak trees on our property in the years ahead. There are so many little volunteer sprouts that show up every spring where they aren’t wanted or can’t be allowed to grow to maturity, we always have many opportunities from which to choose.

It is part of a long game, dreaming someday of tall trees that will provide natural cooling shade under which our horses can benefit.

It all starts with acorns and involves a little effort to nurture young trees in new locations.

Here’s hoping for success.



Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2018 at 9:59 am

Way Fun

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It’s a little embarrassing how much I enjoyed the ease of large-sized puzzle pieces which allowed me to polish off this beauty in a day at the lake.

I guess a mental break from my routine was due. My brain soaked up the puzzling like a dry sponge takes on water. Nothing like putting things in order and getting a pretty picture to appreciate as a result. It was a nice antidote for the constant onslaught of changes and challenges life routinely serves up.

The convenience of the large pieces were key to enabling me to get this assembled in a single weekend.

It definitely changed both the visual and tactile features of puzzling that appeal to me, but after finishing as quickly as I did, I rate the tradeoff as an acceptable compromise.

With my project complete by early in the morning yesterday, we had plenty of time to get out for a walk in the middle of the day to take in the beginnings of fall colors around the lake.

The dominance of gray in the sky and gray reflected off the surface of the water, served to mute the true beauty of the few trees showing good fall color.

On our drive home, between periods of sun and one rain shower, we noticed the intensity of color ebbed and flowed inconsistently. Brilliance increased for a while, and suddenly disappeared. Then, as we made our way close to home, the fall colors seemed to pick up again.

One tree on our land caught my attention last Friday, because of the way it stood out as an early adopter.

There are a few more trees that decided to join the fun over the weekend. One maple tree by the hay shed is beginning to show deep red in the top third of its branches.

It’s fair to say, the colorful fun is getting ready to break out all over around our place in the very near future.

Sure hope we get some sun and blue skies to enhance the annual spectacle!



Written by johnwhays

October 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

Rock Work

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Yesterday was one of those days when the things we thought we might do when we talked about it at breakfast, ended up being different than what we chose to do after stepping out into the day. It was funny that both Cyndie and I lobbied for a refocus to something different.

I wanted to do some rock work and she wanted to transplant some trees.

We started out by the road where the recent tree clearing by the township maintenance crew had uncovered an old rock pile and decaying fence post that marked our property boundary. I wanted to stack a cairn of stones to more purposefully indicate the spot.

We also dug up a couple of rocks that were pushing their way above ground enough to become a nuisance when mowing. What do I do with extra rocks? Find somewhere to balance them.

I picked Cyndie’s perennial garden.

We moved from there to transplanting volunteer oak trees from places they shouldn’t be to just outside the fence line of the paddock. If they take, the ultimate goal would be for them to provide natural shade for the horses. It’ll take a year to see if they survive the shock we put them through today, but it will take a lot of years to become tall enough to offer real shade.

I’m honestly skeptical about the chances, but if we never try, we’ll never have even a possibility.

The biggest hurdle is the soil. The trees were extricated from sandy soil at the high point of our property and replanted into heavy clay soil by the drainage ditch that crosses our back field.

Time will tell.

Maybe I should think about stacking rocks to make a wall high enough to offer shade. It would probably take as much time as growing trees, but the odds of success are probably better.



Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

Old Wood

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Yesterday was mostly consumed with diesel tractor maintenance, complimented with a brief session of lawn mowing, but there was still time for a stroll through the woods when Julian and Allison stopped by to visit. We came upon an interesting fungal conk growing on the bark of one of our old trees.

This tree suffered significant damage in a tornado that passed over this property two years before we arrived. The top broke off, and I expect the gaping wound that resulted is where the fungus made its way in. Plenty of new growth has sprouted in the years since, but this tree is probably on borrowed time.

It has been here so long that it grew around an old barbed wire fence that was probably put up before the tree had sprouted from the ground.

That can’t be all that good for the tree, either.

In the morning yesterday, while following Delilah on her first walk of the day, I noticed a newly toppled-over dead tree much further into our woods, looking to the left from this tree with the barbed wire and conks.

It is the second one to fall in about a week. I’m wondering if, in the absence of any obvious wind events, maybe the dry spell we are in has contributed to the falling timber.

I’m overdue to be putting in hours as a lumberjack around here. Maybe the old wood is just trying to get my attention.

At least the diesel engine has fresh oil, a clean air filter, and the tractor has new grease in all the fittings. The wood chipper accessory is going to get called to duty relatively soon, I believe.



Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2018 at 6:00 am

We’re Dry

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During my commute home yesterday afternoon, I watched clouds thicken and grow dark to the south. When I exited from I94 east and turned toward the southeast heading to River Falls, the view looked a little threatening. Then the radio reported there was only one noteworthy storm worth mentioning. With possible heavy rain amounts, high wind, and hail, in Goodhue and Pierce counties, it included the communities of Red Wing and Hager City.

We live in Pierce county, a short distance north of Red Wing.

Good, I thought. We could use the rain. I just wasn’t fired up about driving in the pouring rain.

When I finally reached Beldenville, the road was soaking wet, but the rain was already done. It must have stopped just before I arrived.

We live a couple of miles north of Beldenville proper, and when I turned onto County J, the pavement was bone dry.

We didn’t get a drop at home.

I stepped out on the deck to take a picture of the drooping sunflower for a representation of how the plants are feeling about our long spell without rain.

As I stood there, I noticed there was a lot more than just the sunflower that would show up in the frame.

This sunflower made a surprise appearance, most likely growing from birdseed that fell from the feeder nearby. It shot up with robust energy at first. When the ground started to dry out, the growth stunted significantly. It hasn’t looked very happy ever since.

There used to be a big pine tree here. I’m guessing it might have been root bound, based on my recent discovery about the pines out in the field north of the driveway. We left it standing until it was good and dead, then I cut it down, leaving enough of the old trunk to have a nice support for a balanced rock. Using this chiseled stone for a base (probably a remnant from the construction of the field stone chimney on the house), I balanced a large rock that I was only barely able to lift up to the necessary height.

It eventually fell down.

I’ve yet to decide whether to put a different one up there, but I’ve definitely chosen to leave the too heavy one safely on the ground where it landed.

Even though the big tree died, the ground seems to be fertile for a new generation of pines sprouting in its place. There are at least three rising up around that stump, taking advantage of the sunlight available since I cut the big one down.

And where do baby trees come from? The number of pine cones remaining from the now-removed tree seem to offer plenty of clues.

Maybe if we come out of this dry spell, more of those seeds will sprout.



Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2018 at 6:00 am