Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

Harsh Environment

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It’s not always easy, carving out survival in all the crazy extremes of weather possible in the great outdoors. It may seem odd at first mention, but I think snow actually softens the blow of winter months, both figuratively and literally. We have received very little this year, and what did fall has mostly disappeared. After the rain and re-freeze, followed by a few days of melting, we settled into a pattern of cold that has created a particularly harsh environment outside.

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The ground is hard as rock and every other step is slippery from spots of ice.

Dezirea showed up with a bloody cut just under the joint of her cannon and pastern bones. If you look closely, there is a less obvious cut similarly located on her other front leg. I wondered if she maybe broke through some ice in the drainage rut that crosses the back pasture.

There isn’t any snow deep enough to have broken through a crust to get a cut like that.

Cyndie is up at the lake place for the weekend, so I sent her a text with the image. She asked if there was any blood on Hunter’s back hooves.

Hmm.

I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, there wasn’t.

Dezi was moving around just fine and didn’t seem any worse for the wear. There has been no further bleeding from the cut, so I am letting time do the natural healing it always provides, while also watching for any changes to the worse.

Delilah and I walked the pasture to look for any possible hazards or signs of a possible cause. Finding absolutely nothing, I’m beginning to think Cyndie may have identified the more likely culprit.

I sure hope Dezirea is dishing out as much as she is taking in the ongoing roughhousing happening among our three-horse herd.

Makes me miss Legacy that much more. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of his departure from this world. I’m definitely feeling it.

Toward the end of his life, Legacy’s poop took on a strikingly loose consistency. In an unsettlingly timed turn yesterday, while cleaning up after the horses in the paddock, I came upon a pile that was uncomfortably similar to what we used to see from the old herd leader.

Maybe the horses are feeling a little sick, too, over memories of what transpired a year ago on that oh-so-cold January thirteenth night.

A harsh environment, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2019 at 11:18 am

Inescapable Icecapades

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Winter conditions on our land have devolved steadily ever since the combination of that day-long rain, followed by a hard freeze. This is despite last weekends’ several days of above freezing temperatures. The melts and re-freezes just seem to compound the disasters of ice that are building up in so many places.

The driveway around the barn is barely navigable.

The paddocks have become practically skate-able.

As I crested the last hill approaching our driveway on my commute home from work yesterday, I noticed debris in the road, but before I could react, I heard the “pop” of glass breaking.

I spent the next half hour with a push broom, trying to clean up the remains of a broken bottle that was scattered across several yards in front of our property, muttering to myself over what goes through a person’s mind that they are willing to toss their trash out the window.

Especially, in front of our beautiful land!

Our weather forecast is suggesting another few days ahead with temperatures expected to climb above freezing. Even with the promise of some partial sunshine, it isn’t clear whether the mild trend will add more treacherous ice to our low spots, or shrink our several skating rinks.

At this point, I think what we truly need to improve conditions is a significant amount of snow to fall. Seems a little reversed logic, doesn’t it?

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Written by johnwhays

January 10, 2019 at 7:00 am

My Being

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I stood alone
among the trees on the hill
just outside the house
in the cold
for a moment
to look and listen
the great outdoors never disappoints
there is no fight for recognition
things just are
smoky wafts of breath rise with every exhale
resounding quiet slowly begins to yield tiny sounds
a titmouse
finch or sparrow
pecking the skin
of a nearby tree
a squirrel
moves in fits and starts
along a route
obviously used many times before
a breeze
rolls a crispy brown leaf
across the top crust of old snow
my being here
motionless
on a winter Sunday
has little influence on these woods
yet the land
the trees
animals
and breeze
imbue a universe of energies
that inspire
my being

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Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2018 at 8:15 am

Dangerous Formula

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Take one part 3-inch snow burst, follow it with a day-long steady rain, and then finish it off with a quick drop in temperature to produce a solid freeze. What could go wrong?

We are currently enduring some of the worst footing since we moved to this property. It has us genuinely concerned about how to best protect our horses from critical injury.

Rain saturated the new snow on Thursday, creating an amazing amount of soupy slush. The snow on the ground absorbed as much water as possible while still being considered snow. It was basically thick water. After an overnight hard freeze, the conditions on Friday morning morphed into an uneven, rock-hard maze of slipperiness.

The splattered wake of tire tracks in Thursday’s slush are now locked solid in a bumpy, slippery, frozen echo of that rainy day.

The ground just beyond the barn overhang in the paddocks slopes down quickly enough that we sometimes worry about the horses staying safe on it on good days.

They were inside for the night when everything froze up, after getting miserably cold and wet the day before. We feared how they would handle the insane slipperiness if we put them outside without warning. The grassy footing of the back pasture seemed like a much better place to start.

They would still need access to the automatic waterer, so we opened a gate that would allow them to walk the flatter ground into the paddock as needed.

All good, in theory, but there would need to be a trick to the execution that we totally failed to consider.

Our plan was to take them out the back door and walk across the grass, past the chicken coop, to a double gate that they probably have never used. The catch was, with three horses, and only two of us, we wouldn’t be moving them all at once.

Without anticipating the consequences, we took Cayenne first. I walked her, while Cyndie managed the gate. Cayenne was expectedly cautious about the odd scene we were leading her through, so we took our time. Back in the barn, Hunter immediately voiced his dissatisfaction with our strange departure with one of the herd.

This also was to be expected, so we weren’t concerned. We would be back to get him and Dezirea soon enough.

Once inside the back pasture with Cayenne, I removed her halter.

Can you guess the next part?

She immediately headed back to familiar territory and Hunter’s call, and not as carefully as we wished. Since we had already opened the gate to allow them access to water, Cayenne trotted quickly back into the icy paddock, running right up that slippery slope to get under the overhang.

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To avoid further running, we decided to bring the other two out under the overhang to join Cayenne like normal. Unfortunately, just as we feared, Hunter lost footing on the icy slope right away. A back hoof slid out from under him, and in an athletic reaction to catch himself, he stomped on Cyndie’s foot with the opposite front hoof.

She yelped, he pulled off instantly, and calm was restored. Nothing broken, but definitely bruised.

This morning, when Cyndie went down to open the barn and let them out, she reported the horses showed no interest. They appeared quite satisfied with the safe footing in their stalls, despite the cramped quarters.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2018 at 9:51 am

Snow Wrecker

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The worst thing to happen during snow season is a rainstorm. Dry snow is so much better than wet snow. Wet snow becomes slush after a time, and after the day-long rainfall we experienced yesterday, we ended up with nothing but a soupy slush.

The ground is frozen enough below the snow that water won’t soak in. Instead, it pools until the water reaches an outlet to the next lowest spot.

The drainage from the paddocks that flows across the back pasture was running like a river when Delilah and I braved the rain for her mid-day walk.

She made it across without much effort, but my big feet were going to make a definite splash. I stopped to gather my courage and plan my maneuver. Delilah busied herself with a face wash while waiting for me to take some pictures.

Everything I tried to do was made significantly more complicated by the umbrella I was fumbling to keep over my head.

As we neared the road on this typical trek around the property, I spotted the stump where our mailbox is usually mounted. That meant a snowplow must have roared past and tossed up a blade-full of the slush; a mass that packs more punch than my plastic mailbox can survive.

We found the box portion unceremoniously discarded upside down in the ditch, soaking up rain. Luckily, the plow had blown by before the mail delivery arrived, so there were no drenched bills inside.

Delilah growled at the odd scene as we approached.

I guess I kind of growled, too. Expletives.

The paddocks are a disaster of packed down slush, transformed into a dangerously hard and slippery wet surface against which the horses struggle to maneuver their hefty weight. We didn’t bring them inside overnight Wednesday, despite it ending up being the smarter thing to have done.

I brought them inside last night, with hope they might appreciate it even more, after their previous misery.

Even Pequenita was able to express her opinion about the nasty conditions outside yesterday, even though she is supposed to be an exclusively indoor cat.

Before the rain had totally destroyed the several inches of new snow that had fallen on the deck at the beginning of this weather event, I was preparing to light a fire in the fireplace. I opened the door to grab some kindling from the box out there, without noticing the cat had positioned herself right in front of me.

‘Nita walked outside before I had a chance to corral her.

Two steps into the sloppy snow, she just stopped. It was not a good day for an escape.

Maybe not good for her. Escape is pretty much all I want to do from this weather fiasco.

Rain has no place in our northern snow belt during winter. Bah, humbug!

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2018 at 7:00 am

Festivities Underway

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The week after the winter solstice has become a time of amplified car commuting in my mind, ever since we moved an hour away from family in the Twin Cities, to rural countryside in western Wisconsin, where we have animals that need tending.

For some occasions, we have been lucky to find sitters to live in our house and care for our horses, chickens, and dog, but holidays are a tough time to ask others to do the job, at the expense of their own family gatherings.

Generally, that means we do the hour drive to participate in a few hours of holiday festivities, and then duck out early to make the hour drive back home again. Although the commute has become second nature for me to get to the day-job, the short time between trips each day around Christmastime makes the driving seem much more significant.

And, on Christmas day, we do it twice in one day.

It is not ideal, but it is always worth it, on both ends. We never regret time spent with our animals, and the time with family is forever priceless.

This year, we have an added bonus of relatives visiting from Norway. That wouldn’t be my relatives. The Fisknes family are from the Ravndal clan on Cyndie’s family tree. Cyndie’s great-grandmother was a Ravndal. We drove out to Eden Prairie last night to greet the family of five who are initially staying at the home of Cyndie’s brother, Steve.

After Christmas, the plan is for them to spend a night or two with us at Wintervale.

We don’t have oodles of snow to show off, but that might just change right in the middle of their visit. Precipitation is coming, but there is a sad chance it could be rain and snow mixed. Yuck.

The horses are enjoying the lack of snow cover during their brief forays onto the frozen grass of the back pasture. Yesterday, when I opened the gate for them, Delilah and I lingered in the field with them to appreciate the moment.

All three horses emptied their bladders in quick succession, and then followed that up a short time later with a rambunctious roll on the ground. Seemed like a very business-like routine in preparation of an afternoon of free grazing.

I am getting prepared for some free grazing of my own. Our kids will visit us this morning for our little personal family Christmas brunch, and then we drive to Edina for Christmas eve gathering with Cyndie’s cousins on her mom’s side.

I will sneak out early to drive home. Christmas morning, I finish chores and drive back for the Friswold gift exchange extravaganza.

The festivities are definitely underway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2018 at 8:11 am

Balding Wyandotte

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I don’t really know what a normal day is for raising chickens. Pretty much just like all other normal days, I guess. There’s always something of interest readily available to the observant caretaker. I’ve noticed we aren’t getting very many eggs, now that the short days of winter are upon us.

Yesterday was extremely sunny and mild, as winter days go, and our chickens were soaking up the warmth under the barn overhang.

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Beyond the two Buff Orpingtons who seem to have a problem keeping their butts clean, the most notable anomaly we are witnessing is the balding of one Golden Laced Wyandotte. I zoomed in on a healthy looking hen on the left, below, for comparison to our featherless-headed chicken of interest on the right.

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If this is one of those teenage phases where she is trying a different hair style from the rest of the crowd, we get it. Beyond the one photo I’ve seen of a young Cyndie with a permed afro, and my early attempts to get my hair to grow long and straight against its natural tendency to curl, we also parented two children through experimentations with very creative, and far from subtle, color changes.

Our Wyandotte looks like one tough bird.

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In all seriousness, we don’t believe she picked this style by choice, so she is under observation for clues as to what is occurring with her.

There haven’t been any signs of targeted aggression from the rest of the group, and we haven’t noticed any other evidence of ill-health that might be contributing to the loss of head feathers, so the cause is undiagnosed at this point.

For now, we are standing by and relying on the universal cure-all of the passage of time with hope it will bring a return of normalcy for her.

It would be nice if it could happen soon. Winter officially arrives on Friday, and those feathers will come in handy when the next inevitable cold snap arrives for a visit.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2018 at 9:36 am