Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trees

Numbing Cold

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It is cold outside again. It might be ridiculous trying to parse the subtle differences in how cold feels between tens of degrees further below the freezing point, but they are there. When temperatures drop to single digits (F) or negative numbers, the impact on activities at the barn doesn’t feel all that subtle. Extremes of cold tend to complicate things that are usually simple.

Yesterday, there was an incredibly quiet calmness during the long pauses between snowmobile traffic on the local trail that passes our southern border. There was no breeze and the birds and squirrels were out of sight and silent. With the horses standing completely still, the quiet was dramatic.

Silence like that outdoors is almost enough to distract me from the numbness developing in my fingers and toes. Sometimes I forget. Is it better to be able to feel the sting of cold in my fingers or the absence of any feeling at all?

I couldn’t resist lingering against the gate with the horses for a while after all my work was done, enjoying the peacefulness despite my body growing ever more chilled.

The sun had come up and was beaming brightly through the clear sky above, complementing the cold air with its cheery rays.

On my way back up to the house, I stopped under an oak tree and looked up at the remnants of leaves beneath the deep blue sky.

As if taking note of my hands being out of my chopper mitts, old man winter brought up a little breeze for variety. At -2°F, numbness returned in a blink.

Stepping back inside to the warmth of the house on mornings like this is such a wonderful relief. Top that off with a plate of fresh waffles Cyndie just prepared and my numb fingers are suddenly nothing but a fading memory.

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Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2023 at 7:00 am

Lonely Walk

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I took a walk on the perimeter trail through our woods yesterday for the first time since Delilah died. That path was getting footsteps (boot steps) up to three times a day with Delilah to give her exercise that would expend her high energy. Sometimes I wasn’t all that interested in making the trek for a third time in a day, but I never regretted the opportunity once I was out there getting my own exercise and experiencing our precious wooded acres.

Without Delilah needing to be walked, I have been avoiding wandering our trails, partly out of respect that it was her thing and she isn’t with us anymore, but also because it would poke at my grief over her passing. Yesterday, I decided to trek through the crusty snow for the first time in almost three months to see if any trees have fallen or what wild animal tracks might be visible now that there isn’t a dog living here.

There were a few branches down and several spots where limbs burdened by snow had tipped over, now frozen in place. No large trees have come down in all the winter weather we’ve received thus far.

It was a lonely walk and it did poke my grief.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2023 at 11:30 am

Perfect Aim

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You can color me duly impressed by the grand tree-cutting performance for which we had front-row seats yesterday. A large crew of workers with an impressive assortment of equipment showed up at sunrise and started their third day of work on the collection of properties that make up our Wildwood Lodge Club association.

They had saved the more complicated trees requiring a boom truck for yesterday and they began with the most challenging one while they were fresh. It was a tree that had a deck built around it so it was close to the house and didn’t allow for letting cut chunks of the trunk to just free-fall.

By the time they got to our place, they’d already brought down more trees than I could keep track of, and the choreography of their process had people spread out across multiple properties, tending to all phases of cleanup behind the guy in the bucket truck. He was a one-man wrecking crew. Said he’d been doing this for 34 years and his ease of working the controls of the bucket and cutting with the chainsaw provided visible confirmation of the proficiency that decades of experience provide.

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After a period of contemplation before he started, bucket-guy wandered off to recruit an assistant to place some tires and plywood at the base of our tree to protect some shrubs and the pavers. Then he proceeded to drop every last limb and section of cut trunk in a pile directly on top of his target. Only one piece rolled away after landing. Everything else stayed right where he put it.

His only faux pas was letting go of his handhold on the chainsaw one time when he thought it was in the pocket of his bucket, but it wasn’t. Luckily, it landed harmlessly in the pile of debris below and he calmly navigated the bucket down to the truck, climbed out, walked around the truck to pick up the saw, and then when right back up to finish the job as if he meant to do that.

I discovered the attachment I need for the skid steer I don’t own yet. Hah! I worry that I would find it hard to learn how to drive a skid steer. I doubt I would live long enough to also operate a claw device like they used to pick up everything that lands on the ground.

I’m pretty sure that guy could successfully pick up a penny off a glass surface with that clamp and not scratch the glass. He grasped bundles of branches and twirled the jaws to drop them on top of other debris so he could then scoop up the larger pile and haul off in reverse to the vicinity of the giant wood chipper.

I told Cyndie’s mom, Marie, that I should probably put one of those machines on my Christmas wish list.

I took a picture of the tree before they started and then again after it was removed.

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We were surprised that it didn’t appear like there was a gaping hole after it was gone. With the big tree no longer there, the surrounding trees that weren’t as noticeable before suddenly took on a new stature and prominence.

Upon completion of their day’s work, it was the bucket guy’s perfect aim that left the greatest impression on me. I’ve cut some big trees and I know how tricky it can be to get them to comply with our humble intent.

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Pretty Peak

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We are witnessing pretty close to peak colors around here now. It’s hard to tell if the next day will become even more brilliant or if leaves will have abruptly dropped to the ground en masse.

There are a few straggling trees still holding green leaves but the ones that blaze the best colors are maxing out. We are doing our best to soak up the scenery with full in-the-moment appreciation, never knowing when the polychromatic party might end. The critical ingredient for maximum spectacle is direct sunlight, so the degree of cloudy skies in the next few days will play a significant part in prolonging the autumnal glory we have been blessed with this year.

Complicating the situation is the extreme degree of parched soil we have been dealt, so we are also longing for an extended soaking rain. I guess one way to look at it is that either way, we win.

If it gets rainy, we will rejoice over the moisture. If it stays sunny, we continue to enjoy the wonderful fall colors.

(For the purposes of this positive-thinking exercise, I will be ignoring the possibility of the skies clouding over without ever providing a measurable amount of rain.)

As of yesterday afternoon, we were peaking out and loving it!

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Written by johnwhays

October 7, 2022 at 6:00 am

Changes Underway

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There is no denying the trend that is underway. Our trees are beginning to reveal what their true autumn colors will be as the change inches toward its peak.

Will it be a week or several? Time will tell. We often get hit with strong winds just when the colors are about to be their best, which knocks much of the glory to the ground sooner than we want. Yesterday’s wind wasn’t as dramatic as I feared. Brought down more twigs and sticks than leaves, probably because not many leaves have changed yet.

I walked past the willow tree in the paddock and realized that I’d only seen a horse eating a branch one time yet the bottom of the branches end perfectly at the height they can reach. They are keeping it trimmed. Look at the willow tree in the background to see the difference of one beyond their access.

We gave up trying to protect the one in the paddock and didn’t expect to see any new leaves on the branches this summer so it has already outlived our expectations. The horses chew on the bark and roots in our presence, but I guess they wait until we aren’t around to prune the growing branches.

I think they will miss it when the tree no longer provides much in the way of shade. We have been trying to nurse along some new shade trees we transplanted just beyond the paddock fence but they won’t be providing much shade until a decade from now. I mean, if they even survive this first-year shock of having been moved.

We’ll find out next summer whether any of them might have a future of someday adding colors to our glorious autumn seasons.

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Written by johnwhays

September 26, 2022 at 6:00 am

Superb Escapades

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Superlatives. Yesterday was as wonderful as the day before and served to amplify the pleasantries we enjoyed tenfold. The weather helped to accommodate anything and everything we found to do, including replacing an ailing screen door.

It looked simple enough until the door Mike and I picked up at the lumber yard in Hayward proved to be an inch taller than the one we were replacing. It appeared the old one had been cut down to fit so we borrowed a circular saw and did the same thing. After much searching, we found an old can of still viable stain and successfully completed the unplanned project.

We also received new insights about our trees from an arborist whose services were enlisted to analyze the health of trees around the group of properties that form the Wildwood Lodge Club, of which Cyndie’s family are long-time members. Near the end of winter last year there was a storm that brought down a lot of big branches and a few trees. The size of some of the limbs was enough to inspire seeking professional advice.

Between those events, the day allowed for paddle board and kayak excursions, we swam and sunbathed, and played a mini-tournament of games. Horseshoes, ladder golf, corn hole bag toss, darts, cards, and an encore round of “Fishbowl,” the triple-game of Taboo, Charades, and Password.

On a walk around the property, we twice enjoyed a close encounter with a doe with three very young fawns. They did not stray far after we came upon them the first time such that we found them again, a little further along in the woods where they were munching on ferns.

Cooking dinner on the fire was so good on Friday that we ended up doing it again yesterday.

Today will be a smidgeon less superlative as we adjust to the early departure of our friends, Barb and Mike as they head back for time with their grandkids this afternoon.

Superb, nonetheless.

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Written by johnwhays

July 31, 2022 at 9:48 am

Unexpected Sprouts

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After cutting up one of the trees recently felled by the pros we hired, I put two chunks in the shop garage to dry out. They looked like potential pieces for a future sculpting project.

Yesterday, we were surprised to find there was still life energy stored in those cut sections of the tree.

Despite a lack of sun or moisture, sprouts of new green growth have burst forth from the bark. Meanwhile, the leaves on the trees we tried transplanting a couple of weeks ago have all shriveled up and look like absolute goners.

I completely understand why the leaves on the transplanted saplings turned brown and wrinkled (even though we have continued to water them) but it seems unfair that the two cut-up sections of the trunk sitting on the concrete floor of the dark garage should sprout new growth that looks so full of life and green optimism.

Nature is fascinating.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

New Idea

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Every spring we discover so many unexpected sprouts of new maple and oak trees in places where they can’t be allowed to remain and every year we talk about transplanting a select few instead of just cutting them all down. Most often, time passes before we get around to taking appropriate action.

Last year we made a rather late-season attempt to transplant a maple and a pine and both failed miserably. With hope springing eternal, I spontaneously pulled up a young oak sapling on Saturday and moved it to the spot where last year’s pine attempt had been located.

Without knowing if that would even succeed, both Cyndie and I were inspired to make more attempts, so yesterday we suddenly set about moving both oaks and maples to the fence line beyond the paddocks where we have long dreamed of adding shade trees.

This is the same place we tried planting many acorns a couple years ago to avoid needing to transplant but not a single one sprouted. Alas, we are back to transplanting, but this time with a new idea for a compensation-in-advance in case none of the relocated trees survive the shock of being moved.

For every tree we attempt to transplant, we have vowed to find a different sapling that happens to have sprouted in an acceptable location and give equal nurturing attention to encourage robust growth right where it started. Without any disruption to the roots, logic dictates we should have a high percentage of success in these cases.

I’m considering them a backup plan to assuage my grief any time one of the transplanted trees don’t survive the shock of being moved.

The effort is minimal and primarily involves cutting away all surrounding competitors to the saplings we select. It’s not that different from what we are doing on a much larger scale to clear out competition beneath the towering mature oak trees in our woods.

With the saplings, we add a step of providing woodchip mulch around them to discourage competing weeds or grasses and also slow the surrounding soil from drying out.

It’s a good exercise for me to learn better acceptance of culling some young trees guilt-free with an eye toward the bigger goal of improving the healthy growth of sprouts that showed up where they are wanted and there will be room to flourish.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

More Surprises

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A full day in the woods directing the work of the tree cutters on Friday turned up a couple of unexpected flower surprises for me.

The first was when I came upon these cute little wildflower bunches beneath my favorite hunk of a tree.

No tree trimming of that beast was done that day as our attentions were elsewhere. I just happened to be waiting a safe distance away from where a large leaning tree was being professionally dispatched to the ground when I spotted the flowery accents.

In a somewhat similar situation, only, different, I found this single flowering trillium just after a tree that had been hiding it from view was cut down.

That one is definitely NOT one that we transplanted from the lake place. Finding this is encouraging for our goal of establishing a greater presence of trillium in our woods. If they are showing up naturally, that definitely bodes well.

That’s all I got. Short and sweet this morning because I am off to drive for an hour to meet friends for a morning bike ride. Further tree work and lawn mowing will need to wait for another day. I’ve been granted a day off to pedal!

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2022 at 7:30 am

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Trees Trimmed

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It was a lucky Friday the 13th for us yesterday. The professional tree trimmers we contracted with finally arrived to spend a day felling and trimming multiple large trees. When the job was quoted, it was easier to see the many trees in our woods that had tipped and become hung up on surrounding branches. Now there is just enough greenery beginning to sprout that the views are a little more obscured.

When the two-man crew arrived, the horses were highly curious about the mysterious-looking machinery that rolled over the first hill of our driveway.

They just as quickly came to accept the racket made by dueling chainsaws as no big thing, even though the bucket mechanism the guys were using looked a little creepy.

That big willow looks so much less neglected today. That’s one tree species that prodigiously sprouts random new branches every which way along the full length of its trunk.

Two of the largest and oldest maple trees that have been slowly dying received a different bit of serious pruning as we strive to prolong the glory of their stature on our landscape.

It’s getting to the point there isn’t much left of them. One large limb broke loose last year and landed on the equally large limb just beneath it. I’ve been yearning to take that extra weight off the lower branch but the job was beyond my capacity. Work like this, since there were plenty of other tree issues that deserved attention as well, made it easy to justify bringing in the professionals.

One of the other things we focused on was bringing to the ground any trees that had tipped but didn’t make it all the way down. Nicknamed “widow makers,” they can be tricky to deal with since the entanglement above can lead to unexpected movements of the tree being cut. I was more than happy to leave the stress of that challenge for someone other than me.

As long as they were here, I gave them full permission to cut down any tree that had been marked with red by our DNR Forester who paid a visit several years ago. There were so many marked trees that I haven’t been able to put a dent in the number. Watching how much work it took for a professional to cut them all in one particular section helped me to justify why I haven’t cut them all myself.

Also, it leaves a monumental amount of work to ultimately clean up off the ground, which I chose not to pay them to do. We have an endless supply of chip-able sized trees littering the forest floor now.

There is work enough to keep me busy in the lumberjack role full time. Too bad that I am also the lawn groundskeeper, fence mender, equine fecal relocation specialist, dog walker, home maintenance amateur, hay bale hauler, horse feeder, labyrinth tender, and Stihl power trimmer user extraordinaire.

I only get to do the lumberjack work in my spare time.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2022 at 9:04 am