Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘woods

Sun Spot

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While walking through the woods late yesterday, Cyndie and Delilah came upon one specific spot that was lit up by a ray of sunshine breaking through the otherwise thick and hazy overcast.

Is that cool, or what?

Our trees have been shedding more branches lately than humans shed hair.

It’s as if there was a time-delayed reaction to the thunderstorm last week. I had to pick up a lot of tree branch shrapnel before mowing on Monday. Two days later, we have been finding additional branches on the ground almost every time we go out.

Some of them are much larger than the usual little ones frequently shed.

There is one other phenomenon occurring across our trails lately. Spiderwebs! And not just the usual single invisible strand that we normally encounter when walking Delilah. These have been full-on webs. One even made a sound when Cyndie walked into it. Must have been strung tight like a guitar string.

The thing is, we have been encountering these after having already walked the same path earlier in the day. These spiders are industrious.

We tend to react with the typical flinching and flailing to free our bodies of the remnants and possible attached arachnids.

I suffered one entanglement last week that occurred when I had both hands full of tools, as well as Delilah’s leash. I felt the single strand impact right below my nose, across my mustache.

What the heck. I decided to forge ahead so I wouldn’t have to set down everything I was carrying and pretended I was ignoring the strand while thinking about it the entire way back to the house.

Oh, and also, stepping over all the branches littering the trail.

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

Rewarding Accomplishments

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On a weekend when we squeezed in two evening trips to the Cities for wonderful social occasions and a surprise visit from sister, Judy, and husband, Scott, Cyndie and I also knocked off mowing and trimming the entire labyrinth of some tall growth. Our growing ground cover has made efficient use of the rain we received last week. The lawn grass is so long already, I need to mow again less than a week after I just finished the whole property.

I took a panoramic photo into the sun to show the freshly coifed labyrinth with the adjacent gazebo and its barely alive vines for a roof cover.

We also made short work yesterday of an inspiration I had to open up a new footpath through an untraveled section of our woods. Untraveled by us, that is. We chose to route it primarily along an obvious path traversed by deer often enough that our eyes were able to discern where they have been walking.

Of course, being deer, they seem to magically navigate through downed or low-hanging branches that entangle us. A bit of pruning and sawing provided quick reward and suddenly we had a whole new shortcut between two existing trails.

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We were so pleased with it, we sauntered back and forth along the new route multiple times, just to enjoy the experience.

It was very rewarding to get two projects off the to-do list, even though one of them had just been spontaneously added the day before. Accomplished, nonetheless.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

New Trillium

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This time of year the ground in our forests comes alive in response to the sunlight available before the leaves open fully to block much of it out. We have tried transplanting Trillium from the lake place in Hayward with hopes of establishing a thicket of self-expanding sprouts in the groves of trees closer to the house.

In the eight years we have dabbled with the project, the results have been a little anemic. Some seasons there have been encouraging numbers of flowers blossoming on the plants we relocated, but other years there haven’t been very many. During the first few years after transplanting, I was satisfied just to see the leaves show up in proof the plants were still alive.

Now I am more interested in finding some natural expansion of plants to offer some promise of achieving our goals. Just yesterday, Cyndie made an exciting find. Can you see it?

The interesting fact about that single flowering plant is that it showed up somewhere that we didn’t plant a batch.

Today we plan to audit the areas where we planted sets of three individual plants in little triangles to see how those are coming along. If they are flowering, it is easy to spot them. If not, the leaves can be easily overlooked among the variety of other ground cover thriving under all the sunshine temporarily available.

In a surprisingly short span of time, the forest floor will be predominantly shaded under the canopy of tree leaves that will be fluttering overhead.

Speaking of shade from trees, Cyndie also recently captured this image of a great shadow pattern of leafless branches from this young maple tree by the barn.

That view will be morphing very soon to a much less defined depiction of the branches.

The springing of spring is well underway. It makes the brief appearance of trillium blossoms all the more precious. Once the heat of summer arrives, the trillium tends to disappear from sight. At that point, hopefully, the colonies of rhizomes will be busy at work expanding under the leaf cover of the forest floor.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2021 at 6:00 am

Time Weathered

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What a wind we experienced yesterday! A simple walk around the property was an exhausting struggle. The bare branches of our trees clattered overhead as they bounced against one another, putting me on alert about walking beneath them. Delilah’s ability to smell what’d been going on overnight was visibly altered as a wealth of distant scent information was arriving through the air faster than she could parse and the ground scents were being endlessly scrubbed away.

While deep in the woods near the edge of our property, we witnessed the sound of a large tree cracking and falling. My first impression had me turning to my left to look up the hill toward the direction of our house, but that didn’t sound right. Looking in the opposite direction into our neighbor’s woods locked into the full sound, but I couldn’t see the source.

It was definitely impacting multiple trees and the cracking and crunching made quite an impression. I looked toward Delilah and she was staring intently toward the direction of the sound, after which she looked up at me as if to say, “Whoa!” –as in, ‘that was huge!’

Yeah, that was a “whoa” alright. It was a big one that answered any questions about falling trees making sounds whether anyone was there, or not.

We were out on the second trek of the day and I could see the footprint evidence of Cyndie and Delilah’s first walk at dawn. Cyndie was able to stay on top of the frozen crust. It provided a contrast to the other extreme from her afternoon walk the day before when the soft snow had her boots dropping to the full depth, making a stroll on our trail into a real slog.

At the hour I was traveling over the terrain, my boots were just breaking the surface.

Our snowpack has experienced multiple thaw/freeze cycles in the last week and then yesterday the surface was scoured by the relentless battering of gale-force gusting winds. It barely looks like snow anymore. It resembles the surface of the moon, except for the occasional random foot path trails various wildlife visitors have left in their wake.

This morning’s peaceful calm almost enhances the perception of a lunar location.

It’s a calm before the next storm, we are told. A Winter Weather Advisory is on for tonight and tomorrow morning in our location. That crusty surface will be given a fresh new coat of inches on which we get to tread in the days ahead.

Huzzah to that, we say! Bring it on.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2021 at 10:43 am

Off Trail

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Given the relatively long span of time with no snowfall, getting off the trails to explore our woods has proved revealing of late. Delilah and I came upon at least three hazardous waste sites. Me suspects the local raccoons have a luxurious condominium in the trees above this spot.

That’s more scat than I care to encounter in any one place. Wish they’d learn to bury their messes.

Farther along, it was hard to miss the calling card of one large antler-bearing white-tail deer. This buck also did a fair amount of pawing the ground in the vicinity of this scraping.

As we made our way down a slope where Delilah raced ahead while I scrambled to navigate the leash, and my body, around and under the tree debris she wove through, I thought I saw a big squirrel on the ground ahead. When Delilah ignored it and passed by in pursuit of a fresher scent, I saw that it was simply a long ago dried out scrap of furry hide from what I guessed to be a deer.

Later, after Delilah’s chase instinct had calmed down, I turned us back to look for that fur so I could take a picture. As so often happens in the woods, I couldn’t find it a second time. Unfortunately, we had no problem coming back to unsightly piles of scat, but nothing that stood out like a body of a dead squirrel that was obvious the first time we passed it.

Unless something smells freshly of death or walked by in the last few hours, Delilah’s nose seems to hold little interest. She walked past this bone with nothing more than a glance.

The white color made it stand out distinctly.

Actually, fresh presence doesn’t always guarantee Delilah will notice. Last night in the final walk before she retires to her crate (her “den”) for the night, my high-beam flashlight caught two little eyes reflecting about 50 meters ahead. I kept my eyes and the beam on the two reflecting spots as we closed the distance, while Delilah focused on whatever scent her nose to the ground was picking up.

Eventually, the creature decided to move off the trail and I could see it was a domestic-looking cat. My flashlight beam picked up the reflecting eyes again in the brush just off the trail, so I knew it hadn’t run off entirely. As we came abreast, I stared at the cat in my light beam and it stared back at me, while Delilah just passed right on by with her nose still to the ground, oblivious.

Never a dull moment on our thrice-daily (minimum) jaunts around the property for Delilah’s benefit.

Even more so when I decide we get to venture off-trail.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2020 at 10:56 am

Autumn Arrives

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The autumnal equinox arrives locally at 8:30 a.m. CDT today. Despite enjoying fabulous summerlike temperatures this week, it is truly beginning to feel like fall. For one thing, the ground is dry. I think the ground has dried out only two times in the almost 8-years we have lived here. This has had a big impact on the way our woods look.

The green vegetation is much thinner than usual. The first colorful leaves are just starting to carpet the forest floor. Soon it will be impossible to see the ground and walking will become a crunching rustle of leaves with every step.

With that feature comes the unmistakable aroma of autumn.

Last night, Cyndie had a little scare when arriving at the coop around dusk to close things up after all the chickens were inside. The net fencing where she has the access point to climb inside showed signs of being monkeyed with by some unauthorized character.

Ol’ Rocky the Rooster might need to grow up real fast in order to protect his brood before they all reach adulthood.

Maybe he already did. Cyndie reported all chickens accounted for, safe on the roosts.

The amount of cover in the wooded acres surrounding the coop is quickly disappearing. That gives the free-ranging hens fewer places to hide, but it also gives any potential predators less cover for sneaking up on the girls.

I spotted a stray cat prowling in our small paddock on Sunday in broad daylight while I was walking Delilah. Our silly dog never saw the cat, but the cat saw us and made a hasty exit, stage left, where it ran up our North Loop trail out of sight.

I walked Delilah toward that direction and watched her pick up the scent and go nuts, wanting to follow the trail. I pulled rank and made her come my way, back to the house.

The Light Brahma pullet seems to be reflecting the seriousness of so much drama happening as the change of seasons launches a new batch of adventures. Their nights are getting longer and the air will soon be getting colder.

In the meantime, we are going to enjoy this agreeable autumn to the fullest.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

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

Posted in Chronicle

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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