Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘woods

Additional Pics

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More images captured over the weekend, checking out Jay Cooke State Park, exploring the woods around Barb and Mike’s cabin, and watching rapid weather swings…

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Sometimes, if you venture deep enough into the trees, you just might stumble upon a stone fireplace in a clearing.

We did.

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(Full disclosure: It wasn’t exactly a surprise, as we knew what we were looking for, having visited it in the past, but it always seems to be farther away than anticipated.)

It was brilliant fun bushwhacking off trail, dodging branches, picking routes, and (re)discovering the long-abandoned remnants of a burned out cabin with an intriguing assortment of metal scraps lying about. The site was so old, the stone outlines of the structure were difficult to discern and trees had grown up through the frame of a bed.

Don’t let the picture fool you. The stone fireplace shown is not from the cabin remains we explored. It’s at the site of a former girl’s camp on Bluewater Lake.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2018 at 6:00 am

Good Times

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When Cyndie and I got home from our respective days last Thursday, we were greeted by the sight of our hay-field being cut. When we got home yesterday from our weekend with Mike and Barb at their lake place, our hay-field was being raked into windrows.

Between those two events, we enjoyed great adventures in the northland woods.

On our drive up toward Grand Rapids, we paused for a picnic lunch and walk along the St. Louis River in Jay Cooke State Park. I had forgotten about the flooding 10″ rain that caused incredible damage in that region in 2012.

It was impressive to see how great the damage recovery looks now, this many years later.

Walking the rebuilt iconic swinging bridge over the river brought back memories of the exhilarating bridges Gary Larson and I walked in Nepal, minus the prayer flags and yak trains.

The trail along the St. Louis River offers great adventure of rough terrain navigation over roots and rocks, with gargantuan slanted rock formations providing fabulous views.

Jay Cooke State Park is a real treasure for the state of Minnesota.

In the evening on Friday, we sat out under the stars and enjoyed a roaring campfire for as long as tired eyes tolerated. Without having noticed that clouds had rolled in while we were out there, we called it a night just as rain moved in.

By morning, there was some snow on the ground, too. Cloud-burst blizzards breezed past around sunrise, interspersed with moments of bright blue sky. It was rather mountain-like conditions, also remarkably similar to weather Gary and I experienced in the Himalayas.

On Saturday, we did a lot of hiking in the woods. The tamarack trees were in glorious golden form. The rest of the fall colored leaves were past prime.

That scene is one I would gladly see made into a jigsaw puzzle.

The weekend was everything we hoped for, and more.

The animals at home were well cared for by Maddie and Lauren, two students at UW-River Falls who we’ve added to our pool of trained sitters.

Good times, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2018 at 6:00 am

Woods Changing

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Fall has arrived and it sure feels like it outside this morning. There is a distinct chill in the air, despite the ongoing global warmup occurring.

Well before the fall landscape color palette changes from green to red/orange/yellow, an inside view reveals the impending change.

There aren’t a lot of leaves on the ground yet, but there is a definite thinning of foliage going on. Delilah and I were traipsing along the soggy trail yesterday when I took the above picture. Times like this bring great appreciation for the “boardwalk” we envisioned in one of the swampy spots of our trails. It is an ongoing installation of blocks I remove from shipping pallets I salvage from the day-job.

Once again, it is getting easier to leave the trail and bushwhack through our woods to explore rarely visited spaces. I think this may subtly contribute to a universal attraction people share for fall, along with the obvious colorization and comfortable dew point temperatures. The woods open up and provide easy accessibility.

Friday night the easy access seemed to invite a noisy visitor to the grove of trees just beyond our house. Delilah spends many precious minutes every day barking in response to the sound of neighboring dogs miles away. Friday, that neighboring bark came from darkness just beyond the reach of our flood light.

Oddly, Delilah felt no need to respond, although she took great interest in our sudden fascination with the mysterious trespasser outside the back door. My guess was the stray visitor had treed a raccoon, or squirrel, or turkey and was “shouting” at it.

Last evening, during our last big walk of the day, I let Delilah’s nose direct us off-trail through the woods along the many odd paths frequently traveled by a variety of resident critters.

I also put fresh batteries in the trail camera to resume monitoring the night life visiting the chicken coop.

It was a very quiet night there last night. No motion until almost 6:00 this morning, when a cat wandered past.

We took down the netting around the coop yesterday, making it easy again to clean the poop board, so maybe traffic will pick up with time. Not that we wish for that. I just see it as inevitable.

Inevitable like the end of summer growing season, which is marked by the first real overnight freeze. I’m in no particular rush for that, other than a desire to be done mowing the grass for another year.

With the woods changing noticeably, and the noted chill greeting us this morning, we sense the big freeze isn’t far off.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2018 at 9:38 am

Now Ten

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I didn’t hear anything from Cyndie yesterday, before she headed to the lake with Melissa and her girls, so I’m guessing there was no sign of what happened to our two missing chickens. Now there are ten.

Before Cyndie left, she was very industrious and constructed quite a netted courtyard around the coop for the chickens, so they weren’t confined to quarters all day after all.

The second I got home from work yesterday, I hopped on the lawn tractor to mow all our grass, so I didn’t even chat with Jackie for more than a brief moment to make a plan for Delilah. From the looks of things, I’m guessing she probably assisted in the installation of the coop fencing.

While I was mowing, she headed off to her night job at a local pub/eatery until closing time, so it was just me tending to all the animals, getting them tucked in for the night.

It was a gorgeous August night. It feels a little like nature is at a plateau lately. Even while putting conscious effort into focusing on the immediate moment, there is an unmistakable hint of summer’s end teasing of what comes next.

While walking one of our trails through the woods, I noticed the view through the trees is already opening up beneath the canopy. The late summer shade of our forest has brought an end to many of the lower plants that had started out strong in the early season sun.

That shade provides valuable air conditioning which takes the edge off days like yesterday, when the heat index was climbing into the 90s. It felt a lot hotter while I was commuting through the cities on the steamy pavement than it did when I finally arrived home.

Ahhhh. Living in the country. Huzzah!

It’s a real blessing. But you do have to keep an eye on your chickens.

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Written by johnwhays

August 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Venturesome Cows

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We had never imagined this day. It wasn’t unprecedented that Delilah would serve as our alarming alarm clock, with her loud barking outburst at the screen door of our bedroom to disturb the quiet early morning solemnity.

I astutely commented to Cyndie that I was surprised that I wasn’t hearing the usual dog in the distance that typically sets Delilah off.

After the second outburst in quick succession, Cyndie gave up trying to snatch a few extra minutes of lingering in bed and got up.

“There are cows outside our window!”

Oh? I sprung up to witness the spectacle for myself. Yes, indeed. No question about what Delilah was trying to tell us. I spotted three cows standing in the most unlikely place I could think of.

They were by the wood shed, at the top of the big hill trail coming out of our woods.

I sleepily stumbled after my camera, which was on the far side of the house. When I returned to the bedroom, there were no cows in sight. Ghost cows?

Cyndie invited me to get dressed and join her in morning chores, wherein we could also investigate that bizarre sleepy visual we had just witnessed.

Unsurprisingly, from the top of our back yard hill, we could see the rare sight of white animals down by the labyrinth. By the time we got down there, the shifty cattle were gone again, though not out of earshot. The sound of their navigation through our forest can best be compared to a herd of bulls wandering the aisles of a china shop.

Branches snapping left and right, a bovine face appeared out of the trees. Then another, and another. We counted ten at one point, though it was never clear we were seeing the whole picture.

While Cyndie tried to shoosh them out of her garden labyrinth, I set out to see if I could tell where they had come from. Tracking them wasn’t hard, as the 40 heavy hooves left a trail that looked like a rototiller had rolled along our soft wooded trails.

They had tromped everywhere! It made it difficult to determine where they had busted out of a neighbor’s fence, because they had moved to and fro in every direction.

We tried coaxing them into our back pasture to contain them, but the boring grass offerings there must have paled in comparison to the adventure and foliage they were finding throughout the forest. They bushwhacked toward the most difficult wooded passages in lieu of our pasture gate.

Eventually, while trying to get back with the main herd, they busted a strand of wire in the fence and very slowly, one at a time, most of them figured out their own way through. When we found them trying, Cyndie stepped on the bottom wires and lifted the top one, cooing to the stragglers to take that last step.

I tried coaxing them with a branch of leaves. That brought the main herd toward us, which was the opposite of what we wished to happen. I tried my best at novice cow whispering and turned the herd around, bringing two of the last escapees back into the fold.

For some reason, the last cow either panicked or just decided it was never going back. It turned and disappeared deep into the woods.

Unable to find the loner cow, Cyndie and I decided to reattach the broken fence wire (I had learned the neighbor was gone on a motorcycle trip in Iowa) and called an end to the big distraction of our day.

We were hours beyond our planned departure for the lake place.

With a note to Jackie about the possibility of an odd cow showing up while we were gone, we hit the road.

That was one very strange day at Wintervale.

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Written by johnwhays

July 7, 2018 at 8:41 am

Tall Trees

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Since it hurt too much to lift my left leg enough to do any pedaling, and it was hot as a baker’s oven outside in the sun, Delilah and I spent most of our walks yesterday in the woods. With all the leaves back in force, it feels a lot more like what I think “forest bathing” is all about.

We were breathing it in to the fullest.

At one point, I paused to marvel over some of our tall trees.

That one on the right has a lot of character. It is one of my favorites on our land.

Other than the wonderful walks in our woods, this long Memorial holiday weekend has been a bit of a bust for me.

I had hoped to put on some extended mileage in the bike saddle, especially because I was home alone. Instead, I spent a lot of time power lounging.

I didn’t even get around to mowing tall grass with the brush cutter behind the diesel tractor because the heat scared me off.

It’s growing tall enough that it looks like July out there already. With a head start like this, I’m very curious what the un-mowed areas will look like in a couple of months.

As always, it will come down to how much, and how often, rain falls.

For the time being, after that 4-plus inch deluge last week, it appears as though we are right where we want to be. The tall trees, and every other growing plant it seems, are all looking happy as ever.

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2018 at 6:00 am

Her Story

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This is what she said: “If we were in the tropics, I would swear the sound we heard came from a tiger.”

When I got home from work yesterday, Cyndie described a morning adventure she and Delilah had. Due to a morning breakfast date with her dad in St. Paul, Cyndie rousted Delilah a little earlier than usual for a morning walk.

When they stepped out the front door into the pre-dawn light, the “tiger” unleashed a roar that stopped them in their tracks.

Cyndie said Delilah looked back at her as if for instruction, or possibly to check if maybe they could go back inside. They stood there, frozen and then the cat snarled again. Amid the sound of breaking sticks, Cyndie noted there were also unhappy sounds from an unwilling critter victim.

Delilah took a step forward, as Cyndie described it, as if her instinct was leading her to chase, but then quickly thought better and looked back again for direction. The sounds of the fracas started and stopped a few times while they stood there, but Cyndie could not make out any sign of where in the woods the action was occurring.

Deciding it felt prudent to put more space between themselves and the wild cat, Cyndie directed Delilah to turn around and head for the driveway, instead of down the trail in the woods.

“Raawwwoooooowwwrrr…”

It’s a good thing our chickens aren’t out roaming around when it’s dark. At the same time, I sure hope this predator continues to find enough meals in the hours when our hens are safely roosting in their coop, so it won’t need to do any supplementary hunting during the day.

Oh my.

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Written by johnwhays

March 30, 2018 at 6:00 am