Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘woods

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

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Afternoon Survey

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After work yesterday, I took Delilah for a walk to survey the grounds for the first time since Wednesday morning’s snowfall. There is a combination of areas where the snow has melted in the sun and spots where most of the accumulation remains.

There is evidence the chickens are moving around in the woods but when I found them they were clustered beneath the coop, most of them perched on only one foot. There were two eggs in a nest box that were probably on the verge of freezing.

The back of the barn looks like we’ve hung fake icicles as decoration, but these are all real.

In the woods, we didn’t find any new evidence of buck activity, but there is still a big scrape on the ground along one of our trails that hint of a decent-sized set of antlers. Last week, Cyndie found a hoof print that was almost half the size of her boot, so maybe both came from the same big fellow.

There is enough snow remaining on the trail to make it easy to spot fresh tracks if we get any more activity. Someone has been parking across the road from us and bowhunting in our neighbor’s woods. It is highly likely that any deer moving across our property will also travel through those woods.

The gun season doesn’t start until the 23rd in Wisconsin this year, so we’ve got a couple of weeks before we start seeing blaze orange-clad hunters traipsing around the neighboring properties.

At that point, I intend to refrain from doing a lot of surveying of the far reaches of our property for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

Like This

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It’s like this every year. The forest is constantly changing, but it becomes apparent suddenly all at once. It’s not as thick as it was before. Sightlines start to open up. It becomes easier to see deeper into our woods and I discover new and interesting spectacles.

This dead tree had sloughed its bark, but a vine prevented the old skin from dropping all the way to the ground, creating an eye-catching visual.

It’s also like this when deciding to go outside on a day of varying weather conditions. Our sky was a mix of sun and clouds yesterday, resulting in dramatic swings between cheery and gloomy. When I finally rallied to head outside to get something productive accomplished, the air was suddenly wet with waves of heavy mist.

My timing was off by about ten minutes. As fast as that precipitation arrived, it departed.

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Those two views were taken at the same time, first looking east, then turning around to the west.

The swings of dreariness messed with my motivation, such that I ended up puttering the day away nipping at the edges of doing something significant, but never really making much progress to speak of.

Some days, that’s just what it’s like around here.

At least it’s a beautiful place to be when not getting all that much done.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am

Coolish Fun

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For a weekend at the lake, we are spending more time away from the water than in it. That hot summer sun is not so prominent and the temperature of the lake is a little chilly, inviting us to pursue alternative activities. Cyndie and I started with another exploratory trek through the forest across the road with Delilah.

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Julian brought up his Onewheel and provided Steve an introductory lesson on the basics of starting and stopping. No participants were injured in the exercise.

Julian and Allison also brought up custom-made cornhole boards that were a groomsman’s gift from a friend whose wedding Julian was in. With a fire in the firepit and pork chops on the grill, the bag toss game fit nicely as further entertainment up and out of the chilly lake.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

Wild Treat

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We took Delilah on a deep woods explore across the road from the lake place yesterday and came home with a new chew toy to occupy her time for a while.

I’m guessing the old deer skull wasn’t giving off much of a scent because we had paused with Delilah almost standing on top of it when I spotted one side of the antlers sticking up. She was busy looking elsewhere, oblivious to the exciting treat below.

Rodents had already gnawed much of one antler, but it’s a safe guess that it was at least a 6-point buck.

I knocked off the remaining portion of the snout with teeth in it and let Delilah have what was left for a chew treat out on the deck all afternoon.

She seemed very happy with the adventure in the wild woods up north that make our little tract of forest at home seem like a postage stamp. It made it worth my having to suffer wearing long pants, long sleeves, and the annoying smell of bug repellant required to survive more than a brief minute under the canopy of the towering trees.

Walking in these woods turns people into wild treats for the mosquitos unless properly protected.

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2019 at 8:10 am

Angry Skies

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When I opened the door to take Delilah for a walk yesterday afternoon, the sound of endlessly recurring thunder from the southern horizon instantly notched up her excitement to 11. She wasn’t sure what to do with the fact it didn’t end. The rumbles just kept rolling over, one on top of the other.

Our assessment of the tipped tree across one of the trails in the woods was akin to the old “We will rebuild” memes with a lawn chair tipped over post-earthquake.

Removal of this hazard will barely require the chainsaw, but that is not a complaint. Not by any means. I am thrilled this is the worst we suffered. The bigger tree leaning from the right side of that image is from our neighbor’s property and it was blown over in a previous storm. I will probably tend to that at the same time I get around to dealing with the little one across the trail.

It is wet enough around here again that the mosquitoes have become a nuisance that will make lumberjacking a less pleasant endeavor. There may be a rudimentary trim that happens in the short term, leaving the ultimate cleanup for more inviting fall-like weather in a couple of months.

The chickens were undisturbed about the angry sky rumbling almost overhead and came out of the tall grass to be sociable when I stopped by to pick eggs.

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The cut fields from last weekend haven’t even been raked into windrows yet. They just haven’t caught a break this summer for getting enough consecutive rain-free days to allow the grass to dry sufficiently for baling. It’s really sad to watch. I would really be suffering emotionally if we were depending on it to feed horses.

I can’t imagine how all the others who need hay are dealing with it this summer.

By luck, our fields were missed by the round of cloudbursts that moved past just to our south yesterday, but chances don’t look promising for later today.

The angry skies seem to echo the vibrations coming from my news radio covering U.S. politics.

Boy, do I miss blue skies, dry days, sunshine, and benevolent leadership.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Two Trails

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Did I mention how beautiful the weekend sticky snowfall was? See for yourself.

Which trail would you choose?

Heading south?

Or heading north?

I love the extremity of contrast between scenes like these, compared to how these woods look in the summer.

We aren’t teasing when we brag about doing all four seasons of the year around these parts.

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2018 at 7:00 am

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