Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

First Paths

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Following a new blanket of snow, the next phase could be called “first paths.” As Delilah and I emerged from the woods behind the back pasture yesterday morning, the first thing I noticed was the few very specific routes a horse or horses traveled into the smooth covering of new snow.

I wasn’t able to capture it all in a photo but took a couple of sample shots anyway.

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This is one of those cases where the naked eye can absorb the full expanse of the landscape in a way the camera cannot. However, if I had a drone I’m pretty sure I could have come close.

Turning around to look back in the direction from which we had just come, you can visualize Delilah prancing along beside me as we forged each of our own ways through the deep powder.

After breakfast, I needed to finish the plowing that I had started the night before. It was both easy and difficult all at the same time. The snow was light and dry, making it easy to plow and shovel, but there was so much of it that it became difficult to manage with my little ATV plow blade.

A snowblower would have been a handy tool in this case. I have avoided that purchase decision for many years but the subject comes up more and more as we age.

To clear the areas in front of the barn and around the hay shed when there is so much snow becomes an almost endless iteration of shifting from forward to backward. I push forward with the blade overflowing, going as far as I can into the pile from the last time it was plowed, and then back up so I can make another pass beside the one just prior.

The engine revs, then pauses while the plow blade is lifted. The engine revs again as the ATV backs up. I generally don’t notice the noise because I’m focused on the task at hand but I get the feeling the sound of that on and off throttling would drive me nuts if I wasn’t the one driving.

I tend to wonder if the horses find it completely annoying but they made it pretty clear yesterday that it doesn’t bother them a bit.

While I was revving the engine over and over, Mix and Swings decided to take a little nap. Maybe the engine’s repetitive up and down droning is something they find soothing. They probably fall asleep during long car rides, too.

Speaking of first paths, if you look closely at that last shot, you see how much they’ve already pounded down the snow in the paddock while making just a few treks out into the hayfield. You can also see a skinny trail coming out of the paddock that was probably made by a neighbor cat who frequently visits.

New snow is so much fun for the vivid evidence of travel paths it exposes.

Yeah. Remind me about that next time I start whining about needing to plow and shovel it all.

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 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

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Wind Blown

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If this weren’t a time when the obvious effects of global warming were well known I might think the local weather was some sort of plot by the universe to drive me insane. The dramatic swings between too warm and bitterly cold in a matter of hours every other day is crazy making.

After a biting cold 0°F start to the day, yesterday’s high temperature climbed to 36°F under a hazy sky, but the short-lived meltdown was obscured by the sudden arrival of gale force winds that audibly flexed the integrity of our log home. The gusts whipped in a hasty change of temperature that dropped us to 7 degrees below zero this morning.

Thankfully, the wind has stopped, for now, and the sun is out, bathing the horses in its relative warmth. The forecast for tonight suggests a return of breezy conditions and tomorrow, a high of 43°F.

Freezing and thawing at this rate at this point in winter is harsh.

During the morning feeding yesterday, I heard a strange noise all of a sudden on the roof of the barn. Looking out the door revealed a downburst of what I call “Dippin’ Dots®” snow, which seemed unlikely at the cold temperature.

It looks similar to styrofoam.

The wind was sweeping off any flakes that hadn’t melted into the general mass of our snowpack and leaving much of the “dots” behind.

Coming out of the woods on our walk, Delilah and I stopped to watch the spectacle of dancing “snow-devils” gyrating in the distance across the hayfield where there was no shelter from the hurling wind.

After the evening feeding was complete and the sun was getting low in the sky, we were eager to get back to the house and out of the wind for the day.

Thankfully, Delilah is keen enough to not require a walk when it is time for a bedtime potty break. We stepped out the door, she squats to pee, and we are back inside before there is time to feel abused by the wind.

As the planet warms, the local weather seems to grow increasingly bizarre. It has me wondering what weirdness might be unleashed come spring.

Gale force winds, maybe?

I guess that wouldn’t be all that bizarre. Maybe it will be exceedingly perfect and usual. That would definitely seem strange.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2022 at 11:05 am

Acting Foxy

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I’m not sure what got into Delilah yesterday, but it was Valentine’s Day, after all. She was getting all foxy, pausing to hunt for out-of-sight prey beneath the snow during several of our walks around the property yesterday.

It’s hard for me to tell if she thinks something is lurking beneath the pristine snow cover because she can smell it or hear it. The part that looks so fox-like at the start is how she cocks her head and focuses her ears over the surface, waiting to pounce.

When she thinks the time is right, she pounces and buries her face into the snow.

Either she was getting false signals or the critters under the snow outsmarted her and got away. It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve watched many little rodents make a mad dash escape out the back while Delilah is digging through the weeds for a prize.

In that photo she is searching at the edge of the wash of snow I had plowed off the driveway a short time earlier. We’ve had a series of 1 to 2 inch snowfalls and several days when wind has packed the snow into hard drifts and I hadn’t plowed for a couple of weeks.

Our driveway looks so nice cleaned up after days of having neglected it. Dare I say, it’s downright foxy!

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2022 at 7:00 am

Winter Leaves

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2022 at 7:00 am

Least Favorite

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We are on the back side of one of my least favorite winter snow weather events this morning. Basically, I dislike it for the resulting conditions that make clearing the accumulation so annoying. It doesn’t make for pleasant conditions for animals that have to endure the tribulations of dealing with the wide range of precipitation, either.

It starts like this:

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The temperature climbs well above freezing and a light mist of wetness falls to get everything good and wet. The warm temperature also starts to melt the snow already on the ground.

Next, big snow moves in and falls in gorgeous flakes that make the world look like every favorite winter snowscape scene you’ve ever witnessed.

That puts you in a gleeful state of mind that becomes a set up for the other shoe that is going to drop when it comes time to shovel or plow when the precipitation is over.

The wet snow sticks to every surface and paints trees with a beautiful white accent that makes the forest look like something from a fairy tale.

This is the time when the tide turns and the temperature begins to plummet while the wind kicks up to uncomfortable speeds. The flakes that aren’t already stuck solid to surfaces are whipped up into little missiles that embed themselves into every nook and cranny available to create a stucco concrete finish that would be the envy of many a cement craftsman.

Clearing the front steps is difficult without the aid of chemical assistance and sharpened heavy metal tools.

Alas, there is an excellent antidote for crummy weather conditions that experienced winter-hardened folk who live near destination restaurants can employ to compensate for any angst-inducing hassles of unfavorable snow conditions.

Last night, Cyndie and I had an early Valentine’s Day dinner at the Shady Grove restaurant just two miles from home and dined like royalty, finishing with our highly favored dessert treat that they expertly prepare.

With only seconds to spare before there was nothing left to show for it but a sticky doily, Cyndie snapped a photo of the remains of their salted chocolate caramel tart for posterity. My sugar ratio was definitely knocked way out of balance by the end of the day yesterday.

And that, my faithful readers, is how you go from a least-favorite to a most-favorite in just a few hundred words.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2022 at 11:05 am

Chaos Ensued

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It wasn’t a stellar start of the day for my unnecessarily grumbly countenance yesterday morning. We are ensconced in a pattern of dry, cold winter days that can tend to chip away at a person’s stoicism against the elements. The temperature reading began with a minus sign once again and we steeled ourselves as usual for the “spacewalk” to exercise Delilah and feed the horses.

It was a wonderfully calm morning and the only sound from the trees was occasional cracking in response to the cycles of freezing and thawing we have had of late. My mood was perfectly balanced between not wanting to be out in the cold at the crack of dawn for another consecutive day and being thrilled to witness the beauty and wonder of a new and beautiful winter morning.

Under the barn overhang, I was met by evidence the horses had been under there all night. If they spend time out in the fields, I don’t scoop up the piles. Under the overhang, we try to remove their manure as fast as they produce it. Maybe it was because there was poop everywhere that one of them decided to do their business over one of the hay boxes.

Half-frozen to a wrought iron corner bracket, it defied convenient clean-up. While dealing with the mess I discovered the box has been kicked enough that it is barely holding together. It kind of took the wind out of my sail of cheerfulness.

Once back in the house, I recovered nicely with a spectacular breakfast of perfectly poached eggs on toast that Cyndie served and I was reclining under a lap blanket absorbing the stories in the daily newspaper. It was deliciously serene when Delilah leaned into my chair to request some scratches.

While I focused on what I was reading, Delilah would rotate her body to move my hand where she wanted me next.

Suddenly, she yelped and snapped at me when I inadvertently pinched her in my overzealous massaging/scratching. I jumped and professed my apologies.

Before we had barely begun to settle ourselves, Pequenita showed up out of nowhere, attacking Delilah with punches and swipes while hissing in anger. Delilah instantly responded in kind with growls and glaring canines. We bumped the side table next to me and knocked my full tumbler of ice water to the floor where the top blew off and cubes and water went everywhere.

Cyndie was on top of Delilah instantly to scold her to get off the cat. She pulled Delilah away and was making the dog lay down in submission and the cat showed up again in full fight mode of hissing and swinging paws at the poor pooch. I was yelling that it wasn’t Delilah’s fault and Cyndie was hollering at both pets.

We have never, ever seen this type of aggression from Pequenita. It seems most likely to us that she was reacting to defend me from Delilah’s reaction to my having pinched her.

It was unprecedented madness of a surprising degree.

Helped me totally get over the angst of the busted, pooped-on hay box.

I got the water and ice cubes cleaned up and both pets calmed down and found themselves separate corners.

Ultimately, our calm serenity was restored, but geesh! Took me a while to get my pulse back to restively reclining mode.

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Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2022 at 7:00 am

Out Cold

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It wasn’t what I would call a warm day yesterday, but the roads were dry enough that I finally took the chance to pedal the new road bike just enough revolutions to say I did it. As far as I can tell, the bike is everything I hoped it would be, despite my test ride not being the least bit representative of how I intend to ride.

First of all, the gloves I used made it very difficult to push the little pads controlling the motor assist. The shoes I wore were not rated for the cold temperature. The chilly air made my nose run something fierce. The wind made it almost impossible to hear the bike as I shifted or the sound of approaching traffic (I saw two vehicles the entire time I was outside). The long pants and extra layers made it difficult to judge if I’ve got the seat located precisely where I want it, front-to-back.

Regardless, that Domane+ LT rolls along as smooth as silk. The brakes work great. It shifts like a charm. When I didn’t want electric assistance, it was as if it wasn’t there. When I did get the button pressed, the bothersome wind became much less bothersome.

I am looking forward to the day I can ride it on a warm, sunny day when the roads are dry.

I’m also looking forward to being able to ride my new bike on the Tour of Minnesota in June. Registration for the ride opens today!

Happy February!

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Written by johnwhays

February 1, 2022 at 7:00 am

Winter Serenity

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Location, location, location. While up to two feet of snow was falling in places on the east US coast over the weekend, we were enjoying two rather idyllic winter days. When I stepped outside with Delilah yesterday morning as dawn was starting to ramp up the daylight, the calm outdoor air offered a definitive aroma of winter that triggered treasured memories of years spent in the woods up north.

When the temperature isn’t so extremely cold that it feels like we are being bitten by it, walking through the woods on a winter morning is one of my favorite pleasures.

We took the blankets off the horses to let them have a break from that constant contact on their hides. They’ve done incredibly well wearing them for over a week with almost no problems. One of them ripped a bite out of Mia’s blanket and Mix unbuckled a strap under her belly leaving half the blanket sliding off to the side Saturday, but those were the only issues that occurred this session.

It would be just fine with everybody, I’m sure, if blankets wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the year.

Our snow is getting to be old snow and is filled with a clear chronicle of animal activity since the last significant accumulation. It’s great being able to see everywhere the horses have been in the two fields we almost always have open for them. They are still finding grasses to munch on underneath the snow out there.

Yesterday afternoon, I let Delilah wander to her heart’s content in the hayfield, thinking the horses might come out and join us but they were positioned around the waterer in the paddocks when we arrived and showed no interest in moving from there.

Everything felt divinely serene.

There is hardly any snow left on the roof of our house, making it seem like spring might be just around the corner, even though history tells us that is just wishful thinking at the end of January.

Living in the moment, we’ll take what we’ve been given for these last few days, especially given the type of weather New England was experiencing during the same time period.

There are still plenty of chances left for us to need our plows and snow shovels before the season ends this year.

Over the last weekend, I fully appreciated the serenity of our late-January winter days outside, largely aided by the fact I didn’t need to clear two feet of freshly fallen flakes in our neck of the woods this time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2022 at 7:00 am

Treading Widely

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Our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah, being one high-energy dog, gets multiple opportunities per day to burn off energy in walks around our property. If not, she gets a little stir-crazy in the house. As such, we tread on our paths repeatedly –from every direction, because I like variety.

In the last week, we have received a series of overnight snowfalls when the temperature has been very cold, bringing an inch or two of light powder each time, which has been enough that the trails we walk have needed to get re-packed every other morning. If we were to walk down the middle all the time we would end up with a rather narrow “aisle” of travel through the accumulating snow cover, so I make a concerted effort to walk the edges after new snow in order to keep the packed path nice and wide.

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It makes it look like a large crowd has been taking Delilah for a walk, but it’s just me, three or four times a day.

Once the width has been re-established, I focus my boot steps on knocking down as many high spots as possible with each subsequent pass until the path is groomed smooth like an excellent fat bike trail.

The local wildlife has shown an affinity for following our packed trails as opposed to the deeper snow so Delilah often has a variety of enticing scents to track as we progress. Of course, that means we frequently find ourselves pausing to wait for her to come back to the trail after she followed some footprints that wandered off to the left or right in pursuit of alternate destinations.

When we get the big dumps of snow around a foot or more at a time, I break out the snowshoes to pack these trails. Just a few inches at a time are easy enough to walk through with just boots, which are easier to navigate when we stop to tend to the horses on our morning and late afternoon jaunts.

The middle of the day usually involves a route past the mailbox to pick up the daily snail mail.

When I’m feeling generously adventurous, I’ll grant Delilah the opportunity to bushwhack through the woods wherever her nose leads. Those trips don’t happen as much once the snow gets deeper. Since we just cut a new trail through the middle of a portion of our woods last year, I more often let that be her treat for alternate exploration.

That path doesn’t get the same attention toward widening. It’s more like a rustic side road to our perimeter trail’s main expressway.

Winter tail maintenance at Wintervale is an art! What can I say?

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2022 at 7:00 am