Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Winter

Divided Three

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I know there are a lot of divided opinions in our country lately, but what does that have to do with our three chickens? All summer long, that triumvirate operated as an impressively cohesive unit. 

Now, that seems to have changed. The Buff Orpington appears to have decided to break from the group, choosing to stay close to the coop while the Barred Plymouth Rock pair go gallivanting off in search of adventure.

Look at them just struttin’ their stuff on the freshly shoveled path Cyndie cleared of the paltry 1-inch NUISANCE amount of snow that fell yesterday.

I think the Buff is just being chicken.

Is it possible our yellow hen is being rebuffed by the other two?


What can I say?

It was a slow news day on the ranch.



Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2017 at 7:00 am

Clearing Snow

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It’s all my fault. That additional 1-inch of snow being forecast to fall overnight tonight is, I’m sure, a result of my completely finishing the job of plowing and shoveling our driveway, as well as the gravel drive around the barn, the path to the compost area, the roadway around the pasture fence, and finally, the deck of the house.

I even made a little path for the chickens to get to the barn overhang where Cyndie has placed a heated water supply for them.

Not that they are using it all that much. The Buff never made it as far as the barn, choosing to stay nestled in the woods just beyond their coop.

It’s time to rearrange things in the coop to create space for the heated waterer in there, so we can finally make use of the electric outlet we worked so hard to install over the summer.

I’ll have plenty of time to do that today, since I did two-days-worth of chores yesterday. After clearing snow, I loaded the barn with enough hay to feed the horses for a week. With doors on the hay shed now, and to reduce time for Cyndie working out in the cold, it’s just that much more convenient to have bales available in the barn.

We don’t store hay there permanently, because it’s too dusty an environment. Small amounts, for a short span of days, works well enough. While hauling bales yesterday, I was enjoying the fact that this year we aren’t dealing with any hay the horses don’t like. We are down to bales from two different suppliers, both of which the herd willingly consumes.

It’s a much more satisfying experience.

Today, I will savor the freshly cleared grounds before the next nuisance accumulation of snow arrives to mess things up. Maybe I should look into a broom attachment to use whenever there isn’t enough snow to justify plowing.









It’s not so much that I fear the light coatings are hazardous, though it can become so. The first significant snowfall this year occurred as a mixture of rain turning to snow, a situation that is not that uncommon. Unfortunately, it freezes a crusty layer to surfaces that is very resistant to removal, and sometimes slippery.

Basically, for me, leaving fallen snow on walking or driving surfaces is just bad Feng Shui. It radiates an aura of neglect that eats at my sense of order.

The best solution is to have it fall in greater amounts. If it is going to snow, then let’s get a good few inches at a time, in the very least.

I tell ya, if I ran the world…



Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

Venturing Out

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Maybe it was the calmness of the morning, or the fact the temperature didn’t drop significantly overnight, but the chickens wasted little time in venturing out from the confines of the coop for me yesterday morning.

Midway through the day, I stopped back to check for eggs and found two of the hens, almost on top of each other, squished into one nesting box. I decided not to bother them, closing the side door and heading off to another project.

With Delilah leashed to the double swing nearby to supervise, I spent some quality time at the wood shed. First, I needed to re-stack the majority of the last row that had blown over in the recent high-wind event. With that under control, I started into splitting some of the newest wood from the tree cut down last weekend.

I think the fact the wood was now frozen helped the logs to snap in two with relative ease. When Delilah’s interest in watching me work came to its unsurprising end, I dropped her off in the house and headed back to the coop to pick eggs.

The Buff Orpington was still sitting in the nest box, but I invaded her space to grab three eggs she was resting on.

After lunch, I headed out to turn two different piles of compost that are still cooking nicely, despite the arrival of the frozen season.

It seems as though the animals have quickly adjusted to the return of “my” routine of care. Intensified time with Delilah and the horses brings me back to my year sabbatical from the day-job when I managed the ranch full-time while Cyndie was working the Anoka-Hennepin contract.

It’s a very fond memory. It’s satisfying to see how quickly the animals seem to recognize the methodical way I do things, easing into the orderly dance of meal time and clean up with me.

Today, the chores have increased in number, as an overnight snow dusting has added to the previous paltry amount, making it hardly worth a plowing, but a messy nuisance if I don’t.

At least I know Cyndie will be sympathetic. She went to D.C., where they’re getting their own dose of snowfall today.

Happy winter!



Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2017 at 10:12 am

Not Chickens

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It appears our great survivors, the three chickens, are not interested in what winter has to offer. Since Monday night when the weather made that snap decision to swing from balmy to frigid, covering the land with an ice-crust topped with a layer of wind-whipped snow, our chickens have not left the confines of their coop.

Cyndie opens the small door for them, but they don’t venture out.

These little footsteps Cyndie photographed in a framing that looks very “John-like,” are not from our once-brave venturers.

These cute prints are those of a turkey. The wild turkeys haven’t let a little snow and frozen ground stop them from strolling around the property.

Have you ever wondered where wild turkeys are laying their eggs? Maybe we should invite the wild birds to stop by our coop to convince the chickens that winter isn’t so bad, and while they are there, they can lay an egg for us.

Cyndie also captured the shot below of a loner on its way off our property, into the underbrush of the neighbor’s woods.

They certainly don’t have that same friendly demeanor as our domesticated chickens. The excited wobbling sprint toward us that our chickens do when they find us outside is really something to behold.

I’m hoping we don’t have to wait for spring before they come out of the coop and run around again.

The weekend forecast is hinting of a possible above-freezing high temperature on Sunday, so maybe that will inspire a chicken outing.

I’m home today and on my own for the weekend, because Cyndie is traveling out-of-town for a conference. The chickens won’t have momma home to look after them. I expect it will be no shock to them that I do things differently than Cyndie.

I’ve witnessed the horses adjusting their behavior to our different styles of processing the steps to feed and clean up after them. I think the chickens probably respond similarly.

I suppose the same thing is happening with Delilah, but my perception of the change in her is a little different. It seems less like she is reacting differently to me and more like she is moping at the door for hours on end in desperate anticipation that momma might be returning soon.

Hopefully, I won’t be bothering the dog with all my ‘bachelor-weekend’ wild behavior. I’m gonna drink milk out of the bottle and leave my stuff on whichever surface it lands. I may walk in the house with my boots on and leave drawers open in the bathroom.

By Sunday night, it’ll be back to the disciplined life of being a well-fed married man and the chickens can get back to their pleasure of in-coop full-service hospitality.




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December 8, 2017 at 7:00 am

Hello Snow

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Well, that was fast. Monday was awkwardly warm for December, but we knew what was coming. After dark, it started to rain, so we headed down to the barn to bring the horses inside for the night.

We’d hardly shut out the lights for the night when the pinging on the bedroom window reflected an obvious transition from raindrops to ice crystals. By morning, the landscape had flipped to an unmistakable winter scene.

What’s not to love?

Cyndie captured some views on her walk with Delilah yesterday morning.



Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Prudent Preparations

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I did salvage my pride on Sunday by getting out in the warmth to knock off a few more winter preparation steps. After getting the Grizzly back from the shop with fresh fluids and cleaned up brakes, it occurred to me that I had yet to install the new beefier cable on the winch. That’s a chore that would be much nicer to do when it’s not freezing cold outside.

The primary use for that winch is to raise and lower the snowplow blade. That involves a heavy repetition of back and forth on a very short length of the cable. The original was old and brittle which made it susceptible to breaking, which it did, frequently –almost always at an essential time while clearing snow.

Fixing that usually involves working in the cold and after dark. A broken cable is always an unwelcome incident, but at a critical point in plowing, the impact is intensified.

When all else fails, get a bigger cable.

I hadn’t been working long when the chickens showed up to see if my project involved anything they could eat. I’m guessing they were disappointed by not finding anything. I stepped into the shop for a second and when I returned, there was a fresh pile of chicken sh*t on my pliers.

That’s a skill, dropping it so squarely on the tiny surface of the tool. I was duly impressed and totally disgusted.

With the new cable installed and ready to lift the plow, I moved on to the swapping out the summer tires for the winter set. That beast is now ready for the snow season.

Before we even get to that, the ATV and its trailer will be put to use this weekend transporting chainsaws, ropes and gear down by the road. It will also be hauling loads of cut wood back up to the wood shed, and picking up the inevitable forgotten tools that were missed the first and second trips of the day.

If a winch and heavy-duty cable turns out to be needed, it’ll be ready for that, too.

I just hope the more aggressive winter tires don’t completely chew up the not-so-frozen ground. I didn’t think to prepare for top soil that has been re-melting in the late November 60° afternoons.



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November 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

So This

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I admit, I have never done this before. I have never been as old as I am today and faced everything that November 2017 is presenting. Is that why this season’s onset of freezing temperatures feels more jarring than ever before? My blood is definitely not winter-thick yet.

Maybe I’m off my game because of how unsettling the last year under the current U.S. leadership has been. The increasing turmoil of extreme storms from the warming planet has definitely contributed.

Sometimes, looking back for reference provides some insight on present day issues, but there are so many unique technologies now woven into our lives, it feels difficult to compare events from decades ago. This weekend, our Netflix queue offered up a documentary DVD about the Freedom Riders of 1961.

I was two years old at the time of those civil rights dramas playing out in the deep south. I suppose the white supremacists at that time were terrified their racist version of society was being threatened.

It has me trying to fathom how history might perceive people and events of 2017 some fifty or a hundred years from now.

The next movie that showed up was a documentary about the Rwandan cycling team that rose from the ashes of genocide that country experienced in 1994. Nineteen Ninety Four. I wish such human carnage wasn’t something that still occurs.

It all serves to put my travails in perspective. Feeling weak against the cold air? I’ll get over it.

I can go out and hug our horses, absorb some of their warmth, and see if I can pick up some of their energy and perspective on the present moment.

They can help me to breathe and get back to grazing.



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November 20, 2017 at 7:00 am