Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘trees

Toppled Over

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Back in April, I wrote about the derelict birdhouse properties bespoiling our otherwise stellar reputation for well-kept homes in the area. A hole in one roof and siding falling off another. Well, before they even got around to fixing that sagging siding, the whole foundation gave out. This is how we found the situation after sunrise this morning:

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Some raccoon probably got curious about what might be residing inside that aging bird home and tried climbing up to take a peek.

That’s what they get for building on an unsound foundation.

Luckily, it appears there was no one home at the time of the toppling.

Maybe someone should consider putting their birdhouse on this foundation:

It’s about twenty-five feet tall.

After clearing out small trees beneath two of our big oaks near the house, the trunk of a similar oak that had snapped off in a storm last year became clearly visible.

It’ll be a while before what’s left of that tree tips over and falls to the ground. Unfortunately, it’s beyond my reach to mount anything on top of it. The winged creatures are on their own to build a nest up there if they so choose.

We’ll find a new place for our little birdhouse catering to cavity-nesting birds that prefer heights I can actually achieve.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2020 at 8:52 am

Garden Salad

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I didn’t expect it this soon after planting, but over the weekend Cyndie served up the first salad with kale and spinach from her garden. It was fabulous tasting, as well as a wonderful reward to be eating something she has grown right here at home.

Our other weekend meal was a last-minute decision to order take-out from our nearby destination restaurant, Shady Grove. We have not been to a restaurant since the pandemic outbreak and have only had pizza and Chinese takeout up until now. When Cyndie stepped in the door to pick up our haute cuisine food, she found she was the only person wearing a mask.

Hope the patrons weren’t all traveling long distances to congregate in close proximity for a couple of hours of conversation and food. We aren’t aware of any reported cases of COVID-19 in the immediate area and most of the people we have seen are responding with understandable casualness over the risks, but who knows what might arrive undetected with travelers from afar.

Interested in protecting those around us in other parts of our lives, we opt for not sitting inside with the rest of the unfamiliar folks and dine at home for now. Neither of us is very concerned about our risk of getting sick, but we each are very interested in not becoming an unwitting carrier who could spread the illness to her family or my coworkers.

When I was down in the woods on Sunday cutting up the latest of the fallen trees, I had a thought that we should probably be focusing on planting new trees to make up for all the ones we lose. Then I realized that we find uncountable numbers of new trees popping up every spring, to a fault. They show up everywhere, particularly noticeable in places we don’t want them. In our landscaping around the house, underneath preferred mature trees, and too close to buildings.

Nature plants more trees than we ever could. We just need to figure out how to manage them.

While writing about the salad and all the new trees sprouting, I thought it would be perfect to include an image of each. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of either. Instead, you get two recent versions of our sky overhead, one taken by Cyndie and one by me. Guess which one is from me.

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We’ve been blessed with a pretty good balance of rainstorms and warm sunny days. It has made for some pretty good progress in growing salad greens and baby trees.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Inverted Stump

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In the ongoing saga of finishing what we started with clearing growth from beneath two large oak trees near the driveway, I resumed the weekend lumberjack role on Saturday. Wielding the Stihl chainsaw like it was an extension of one of my limbs, I spent the day cutting up downed wood from the week prior.

Some of the main trunks were so heavy that we couldn’t lift them, which presented a challenge when it came to cutting them into fireplace log size. I don’t like cutting on the ground. We came up with a solution using a pry-bar, but I have since realized I could have made partial cuts down the full length of the heavy trunk and then rolled it over to finish each one.

I can test that method next week. There is one downed tree trunk left to be cut into logs.

While I was cleaning up the area, I decided to cut some of the leftover stumps closer to ground level. That exercise led to a need to change the chain on the saw. One particular stump was hollow and very resistant to my effort to saw it off. Turns out the bottom portion was filled with dirt and debris that quickly destroyed the sharpness of the chain.

We decided the abuse was worth it in the end because that stump is going to make a wonderful planter and we have the perfect spot for it. I flipped it over and showed it to Cyndie who was instantly sold on the idea.

The grape-vine covered bird feeder that tipped over this spring due to a rotted cedar post created a void that Cyndie had planned to fill with flowers. Now, the inverted stump-turned-planter is going to be the centerpiece of that new display.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

Incremental Change

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Like a slow train crawling along a track, I am seeing multiple signs of the changing seasons unfolding with an unstoppable impetus. I wish it would all take a pause long enough to give us added time cleaning up fallen trees and branches that are clearly visible in our woods now that the snow is gone. The clock is ticking toward the explosion of green leaves that will quickly obscure the views on either side of our trails.

What looks like a relatively simple effort now will soon become too thick with growth to effectively navigate for cutting and hauling.

On the drive home yesterday I noticed many of the farm fields are already being prepped with applications of manure fertilizer. One neighbor was out on his lawn tractor dragging something across the yard that looked like a way to break up the gopher mounds and molehills to smooth things out for that first mow of the season.

New shoots of green groundcover leaves are making an appearance all over the floor of our forest. It won’t be long and we will get a chance to see how many of our transplanted trillium plants are still surviving.

Even though there are still many places along our trails where there is standing water from the complete saturation of the soil, there are areas where some quick-growing grasses are sprouting taller than what my mower would cut off if I was able to be out mowing already.

The changes in the natural world are ongoing, day and night. Every walk around the property reveals something new that is growing or drying out. The trees are beginning to form the early hint of leaf buds that will soon create a fresh tint of yellowish-green crowns that are the precursor to the burst of actual leaves.

Many years of commuting have provided repeated evidence of how that new green glow shows up across the treetops in a matter of a day. One day, nothing. The next day, visible buds everywhere!

Every day the natural world is evolving, but I sense the locomotive of change from winter to spring is gathering much more spring-like momentum at our latitude this week.

Maybe we should start getting ready for summer while there’s still time.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

Long Time

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It has been a long time since I did a jigsaw puzzle at home. After visiting Judy’s and Mary’s houses over the holidays and seeing their puzzles in progress, I felt a renewed motivation to get out one of my own again. Luckily, I had a very special new puzzle in my queue.

For the first time ever, I’m building a puzzle of a picture that I took. Elysa had this made for me as a gift after I mentioned that I thought the image would make a great jigsaw puzzle.

I’ve only spent a little time on this so far, but already I can sense the difference of studying pieces of an image that I captured. The location is a northern Minnesota forest on land owned by our friends, Mike and Barb Wilkus. We were hiking through the woods on a beautiful fall day and I stopped to snap a shot of the small lake surrounded by trees.

I’m going to love working on assembling this puzzle.

It will become a battle of wanting to make quick progress even though I also don’t want the project to end soon.

I suspect this will be a puzzle I have no problem assembling over and over again, although I feel it also deserves a turn or two up at the Wilkus cabin. Hopefully, both scenarios can be achieved over time.

That part of my brain that loves jigsaw puzzling is very happy indeed, especially because it’s been a long time since I’ve built one.

Maybe even more so, because I stood in this very spot.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2020 at 7:00 am

Lost Limb

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Well, just as I’d hoped, that unlikely balanced broken treetop has come down on its own in the wind. At least, that’s what we assume happened. I have no proof because we haven’t been able to find it again. While that horizontal segment was resting on the fracture point it was hard to miss. The straight flat line it created stood out like a sore thumb within the canopy of random vertical branches around it.

As soon as we discovered the horizontal segment was no longer up there, I started looking for the “topped” stub that should have remained. Can’t find it.

I’ve looked twice. It’s possible the bottom half has now toppled, as well, but there wasn’t obvious evidence of a newly fallen tree, either.

My next plan is to bring the photo with me to see if I can identify the trees around the trunk in question.

No matter how many times we walk our woods, the constant changes keep us confused about which tipped trees are new and which are ones we’ve already seen.

Jumping to another subject, one we would prefer disappeared on us… In the early morning darkness yesterday, Cyndie was in the barn getting feed for the chickens. She was going to put out a food pan under the overhang and flipped on the light before opening the door.

That must have startled the skunk that was out there, because when she opened the door to find Pepé Le Pew about a foot away, it blinked at her in confusion, giving her time to hastily retreat and close the door.

By the time she gathered her courage to open the top half of the door to see if a photo would be possible, the skunk had already disappeared.

I would like to find that mysterious missing limb, but I really don’t want to find that skunk again.

What do you think the odds are that Le Pew was making a one-time visit on the way to somewhere else?

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Written by johnwhays

November 22, 2019 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Showing Preference

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It’s been almost two years since a DNR forester walked our woods marking trees to be cut down to improve the overall health of the forest. Certain trees tend to have higher value for their qualities, oaks and maples chief among them, but also trees of a certain maturity. The biggest trees definitely stand out as our most impressive.

To show our big, old oaks the respect they deserve, the forester painted the smaller trees beneath them, marking which ones to cut down. It seems counterintuitive to cut down trees to save trees but considering the bigger picture, it is understandable.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I set out to make overdue progress on culling more of the red-dotted clutter beneath some of our preferred oaks. It was invigorating, exhausting, rewarding work.

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It’s not real obvious, but if you click on those images you can see more detail of the before and after of our effort around one particular majestic oak on the edge of our property.

Cutting down a relatively small tree is a simple act, but there is a surprising amount of follow-up work necessary to deal with all the branches suddenly on the ground. We’ve only just begun to cope with all the wood and branches the hours of work brought down yesterday. There is now a wealth of raw material awaiting our chipper and splitter.

There are also plenty more small trees with red dots yet to be cut. So much opportunity on just 10 acres of wooded land.

We laughed yesterday over the time we spent years ago clearing one section of all the downed branches and grinding them through the chipper. At the time, we thought maybe we could clean up all our land. When the following season revealed as many or more new branches filling the area we had previously cleared, we realized the folly of our intentions.

After cutting trees yesterday, we were dragging some of the trimmed branches into the middle of our woods to deal with them.

When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2019 at 10:57 am

Golden Leaves

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Once again I find myself mind-boggled by the space-time continuum, as I perceive it, currently placing us in the middle of October when September seems like it didn’t even exist. For that matter, what the heck happened to August? It was here just a minute ago.

The 2019 autumn weather has not spawned a particularly noteworthy color display in the tree-lined vistas of my commute, but some of the trees on our land are sporting a fair amount of golden hues.

Looking out our kitchen window over the sink, this view caught my eye yesterday:

The magical enhancement of direct sunlight kicks up the attention-getting aspect of fall colors to 11. I stopped what I was doing (preparing Delilah’s and Pequenita’s dinners, much to Delilah’s dismay) to step outside with my camera to try for a capture of the spectacle before the light changed.

Honestly, the camera didn’t do it justice compared to the glory of naked-eye viewing, but it is still rewarding to see the dramatic difference from the wealth of deep greens the foliage in that scene usually provides during the summer.

I played with some post-processing for two additional views.

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Fall colors are so much fun. The best is when there are as many reds and oranges bursting at the same time as the golden yellows, but that mix is lacking this year.

Somehow, I would like to exercise a deepest possible comprehension that it is October 15th today, whatever that is. I blame my date disorientation on needing to plan months ahead all day long at the day-job. The fact that I am currently scheduling work in November seems like it should make time go slower for me when I notice we are still only in October, but for some odd reason the result is just the opposite.

Living in the moment is a luxury that I usually struggle to fully accomplish.

Giving our golden leaves my rapt attention is one way I can strive to absorb a fuller recognition of what day it is today.

It would help if the low spots around here weren’t still wet as a spring day. I must admit, my muddy wet boots are another reason my brain struggles to reconcile we are in the middle of the tenth month of the year.

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Always Falling

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I never realized before owning acres of forest how consistently trees fall over. Something is always falling, whether we are around to hear it or not. Behind the barn sometime overnight an old dead snag gave up its vertical position to gravity.

I am glad it wasn’t any taller or there’d have been a dent in the barn roof.

This morning dawned soaking wet. Delilah had no interest in an extended walk before her breakfast and took every shortcut possible to show me her goal of getting back to the house after she had taken care of all her important business. I would have been happy to accommodate her, except we had some chickens also interested in a morning snack.

At least that gave Delilah a chance to take a pause inside the barn while I was opening the chicken door and throwing out some feed. She busies herself with futile attempts leaping toward the rafters in naive hope she might catch one of the pigeons roosting up high. I figure it’s good exercise for her.

Due to the rain, my deck project is halted just as I was beginning to get some momentum in removing screws and nails. I’ve decided to leave the boards in place after detaching them, giving something to [carefully!] walk on in place of just the joists. By flipping the boards over, it is easy to see which are no longer attached.

Step on at your own risk.

I also slid in one of the new boards to confirm the dimensions are what I was expecting. These are not what are considered deck boards by today’s standards. The person delivering the lumber called me with concern there might have been a mistake on the order, after Cyndie told him it was for our deck.

The deck was built long enough ago that they spaced the joists 24-inches on center and used 2×6 boards for the top surface. Now decks use 1-1/4-inch thick boards and require narrower joist spacing. The cheapest fix for our rotting boards was to replace them with treated boards in the original dimensions.

It’s like falling off a log, if you know what I mean.

And I know a lot about falling “logs.”

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Written by johnwhays

September 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

All Quiet

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All quiet in our little corner of Wobegon world this week. I was right about my suspicions that the burrowing woodchuck would show up again somewhere. Since we secured the window well, the pest spent time messing around the outside edges in search of a new way in. Just lovely.

Cyndie leaves for the lake today with friends of hers for the weekend and I will be partying at home alone with the pets. Maybe I’ll see if I can get Delilah to help me pull up the old deck boards. The new lumber has been purchased and already delivered in two stacks on the driveway.

So much for paying someone else to do the job. Think of the money we will save!

Mike has volunteered to help with installing the new boards, and we have a plan to hit that task next week. I would like to make some progress before then by pulling the old boards, if my bulging discs will allow.

That’s about all the news I have today. I’ll leave you with a scene of our skinny trees that Cyndie captured to show how the property is beginning to make the transformation toward leaflessness.

Peace!

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2019 at 6:00 am