Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘woods

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

Nearby Cows

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Walking with Delilah yesterday morning, as we approached the southwest corner of our property where four fence lines meet, we came face to face with a group of neighborly cows on the property kitty-corner to us.

This corner is as far as possible from the barn and feeding area of the neighboring farm and the cows rarely venture out this far, especially through snow. Needless to say, it was surprising to find them there.

Delilah was as curious as I about the unusual presence of company on our stroll through our woods. We stopped at the corner to be sociable. The cows showed a similar curiosity about us and closed ranks on the limited space of the corner. The mutual attraction drew Delilah and I to leave our trail and step through the brush to get closer to the fence.

I don’t have experience with cows, so had no idea how to read their behavior. Did they think we might offer some treats? They seemed exceedingly interested in us. My reaction was to get chatty with them, but they stayed mute for the most part.

As we stood ogling each other, more and more cows decided something important must be going on in that corner and made tracks to join the herd. Some seemed determined to waltz right through the crowd for a position front and center, which offered a comical demonstration of bovine group behavior.

I would translate it as, “Excuse me, excuse me, coming through.”

Followed by, “Hey! I’m standing here! Who do you think you are?”

I offered a few futile “Moo’s,” and decided to resume Delilah’s and my walk before a cow fight broke out.

I felt bad we didn’t have any treats to offer, but it was nice hanging out with the neighbors for a spell.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

Eradication Season

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It’s that time of year again. The invasive Common Buckthorn becomes much more exposed in early November, when the leaves of the desirable trees have just dropped to the ground. The deep green buckthorn leaves hang around long enough to make them easy to find.

I have taken a crack at this every fall since we arrived here, and I still get surprised to discover some really tall trees in our woods that have obviously been missed.

Yesterday, Cyndie offered to do most of the strenuous work if I took Delilah and walked the woods with her, pointing out which green leaves to eradicate. It’s not a perfect science, because there is one other bush that holds leaves this late, and its leaves are just barely less green than the buckthorn.

The challenge is compounded by Cyndie’s insatiable urge to wield the pruner with reckless abandon.

As persistent as the buckthorn invader can be at taking over the understory of our oak and maple forests, I take satisfaction in the comparison between our property and the neighbor’s. I have seen no effort to clear their property, and the results just become more obvious every year.

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Those views above are from one spot on our trail. On the left, looking into the neighbor’s land, and on the right, ours.

I would say, our efforts are proving worthy.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2017 at 7:00 am

Rare Find

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Very few people ever get a chance to see the rare skunk tree in its natural environment. I was taking a shortcut through our woods now that the leaves are down and snuck up behind this specimen before he was able to hide his stripe.

Actually, I think it may have been a Halloween costume. Ever wonder what the trees in the forest are up to when no one is around?

The woods did seem a little spookier than usual last night.

At least it didn’t smell like a skunk outside.

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Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2017 at 6:00 am

Forest Find

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While Cyndie and I were perusing our woods, collecting materials for the stick fence we are making, I came upon a very picturesque tree. Well, the remains of a tree.

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As much as we like to clean out downed branches in an effort to tidy up our woods, it’s nice to find occasional examples of nature’s course playing out without our, at times, overbearing intervention.

There is something very satisfying about seeing an old tree turning back into the dirt from which it grew.

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2017 at 6:00 am