Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trees

Hearty Impression

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What might the message be from this tree with an old wound that it is growing around in the shape of a heart?

I don’t know, but I’d like to think it is something heartwarming.

When we were cleaning out the landscaping around the back side of the house over the weekend, I discovered that a tie holding a maple sapling to a support stake was too tight and had begun constricting the tree’s growth. What a sorry sight to stumble upon; an occasion where my efforts to help a tree had ended up hurting it.

Trees seem to grow slowly, in general, but at the same time, there is a dramatic amount of activity happening in relatively short time spans. I think the trunk of that sapling has doubled in size since it was tied. I would have liked to see a time-lapse of that progress.

Just a week ago we were digging out from beneath a huge snow storm, and yesterday, on my drive home from work, I could already see the tops of tree clusters developing a green tinge from sprouting new buds. It warms my heart to know the leaves will soon be making an appearance.

Ever wonder how many leaves grow on the branches of mature trees? There are a lot of variables, but an oft-repeated average seen in the results of a Google search is around 200,000. That number makes my heart flutter like the quaking leaves of our poplar trees.

At the extension class we took last month to learn tricks of identifying trees, (did I already write about this?) we found out the thing that makes some leaves oscillate in the wind is the square shape of the leaf stem. It isn’t round, it has four flat sides.

Fun facts for people who love trees. Hopefully, that includes everyone. How could anyone with a heart, not love a tree?

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Written by johnwhays

April 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

Eyes

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

April 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Snow Going

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We dodged a spring snow storm overnight. That’s what it feels like, anyway. Obviously, we didn’t do any dodging. We stayed right where we are and didn’t flinch, while the white stuff slid past a little bit to the south of our region. Too bad for those folks.

I guess we all get a turn at weather adventure.

This leaves us with the adventures of watching snow melt. I am fascinated by the way anything of color absorbs the solar energy and melts a perfect pattern into the otherwise reflective snow.

Meanwhile, that reflective snow mass is radiating an amazing chill that offsets some of the best efforts of warm air to tip the balance. Taking a walk across the crusty surface in our open fields feels like a trip down the frozen foods aisle in the grocery store. The sun is shining warmth, but, brrrr, there’s a cold draft wafting up from everywhere!

We can now see where my winter plowing has torn great gouges of turf from the edges of the driveway and sprayed rocks in a wide array across the grass. New cracks in the old asphalt of our neglected driveway look another significant degree decayed.

I’m amazed anything survives unscathed. The concrete apron in front of the house garage looks to have moved its slope another degree in the wrong direction, inviting the snowmelt and rain runoff to drain toward the foundation instead of away.

And in terms of heaving earth, the waterer for the horses in the paddock has shifted dramatically off-kilter so that one side overflows and the high side holds inches less water.

Where is all the hope and renewal of spring?

It’s waiting. Biding its time beneath the surface. We must be patient. It will come.

The trillium we have transplanted will bloom again. Volunteer maple trees will sprout in mind-boggling numbers everywhere we turn.

The snow is going.

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Written by johnwhays

March 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

Leaky Tree

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I’m reporting from a remote location this morning, having stayed a night in the cities to attend an event honoring students and staff at the old alma mater. Instead of driving home, only to turn around in a few hours to drive back to work, I spent the night at Cyndie’s parents’ house in Edina.

It was a real treat to see some of the accomplishments of the present-day people at Eden Prairie public schools. That is where both Cyndie and I graduated from, as well as both of our children, and where Cyndie worked as high school principal for several years.

The number of young, new-to-me faces of staff being given special recognition by the Foundation for EP Schools last night was inspiring, yet caused me to become acutely aware my advanced age. The years of our involvement seem like a really long time ago now.

At the same time, a few of the music teachers present were the same people who taught our children, and they were excited to pass along greetings to their former students. So, I guess it wasn’t that long ago.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

Cyndie sent me pictures and stories of the antics of Cayenne sneaking through one of our web fences, twice!, yesterday; the chickens came in the barn and totally ignored the cheep-cheeping chicks; and the chicks are another day happier and healthier.

She also captured this picture of an impressive dual-pronged sap-cicle on a branch of one of our young maple trees. I don’t know why this one is leaking at that spot, but there is no mistaking the fact that the sap is flowing strong.

Syruping season is here.

It may not feel like spring yet, but when the pure maple syrup starts getting boiled down around these parts, nice weather can’t be far off.

I’m feeling ready for some of both.

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Written by johnwhays

March 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

Grand Transition

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It is beginning to feel like the transition from winter to spring is swinging significantly toward the latter under our present weather system of warm, sunny afternoons. The snow cover is receding with increasingly visible change apparent each time I travel up the driveway when arriving home from the day-job.

What a difference we are enjoying in comparison to the east coast where it must seem like spring is nowhere in sight, with their region getting pummeled by the third nor’easter in two weeks.

We are less than a week away from the March equinox marking the start of astronomical spring. Thus brings on the half-year of days longer than the nights for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

Already, our three existing chickens have returned to their daily production of eggs. The increasing daylight hours are working their magic.

The trees are even beginning to develop buds.

As exciting as that is, it brings on one of my great fears. The warming climate is extending the growing season beyond what was usual for the many years of my youth. Over the last five years of living here, we have seen too many occasions when the early warmth has triggered early growth on the trees that was subsequently obliterated by a brief return of an overnight freeze.

That doesn’t usually kill the tree, but it wreaks havoc on growth for that year. It’s something that breaks my heart to see. So, as happy as I am to see the leaves sprouting, I don’t breathe easy until the nighttime temperatures are convincingly done dropping into the 30s(F).

Getting to that point is definitely a grand part of the transition from winter to spring.

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Written by johnwhays

March 15, 2018 at 6:00 am

Tragic Breakup

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The beautiful snowstorm of last Monday is mostly a memory. The 14-inches of accumulation that poured down on us in a matter of hours during the day has been drastically reduced by a few subsequent days of an above-freezing thaw.

Grass became exposed where I plowed or shoveled, pavement showed through on the driveway, and the deck got as clear as a summer day.

I was gazing out at that deck yesterday when I spotted a tragic result of all that snow.

One of the prominent pine trees near the house had lost its top, as the two main leaders split apart and toppled away from each other.

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Meanwhile, despite the areas of pavement that were dry, the slope beyond the shop garage remained an icy challenge that a FedEx delivery truck was unable to successfully cross.

Moments after delivering his package, Delilah’s barking alerted me to the driver trotting back up toward our house. He’d slid off the driveway into the snow bank and wondered if I could pull him out.

We tried several options, seeking the least complicated solutions first, but everything led his truck deeper into trouble until I got out the diesel tractor. Using the trick of wedging the loader bucket against the driveway and using the hydraulic force to “walk” the tractor backwards, we successfully got the truck out of the snow and back up on the icy driveway surface, which we had smartly covered with grit from our pile of lyme screenings.

That allowed the driver to roll forward off the riskiest segment of ice and out of the most hazardous section of the driveway.

We shared a laugh over how nice yesterday’s warm weather was and how far removed it was from the drama of Monday’s storm, yet the results of that storm were still having all this impact on our lives.

The ditched truck was a quick resolution, but the tragic breakup of our tree will linger as a long-term reminder of the harsh realities that come along with the beauty of these big snowfalls.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2018 at 10:57 am

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