Relative Something

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

Joking’s Over

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Last weekend, while spending extended time with friends in our home, I came to realize from some comments that I tend to paint an unbalanced portrait of Delilah, which leans toward the harsh. As recently as two days ago I posted a picture that I intended as humorous, giving her a thought bubble that played on my tendency to trumpet her carnivorous nature.

By frequently referring to how ferocious she can be, I have been neglectful of her gentle side. Our little pooch presents with a happy-go-lucky gentleness more often than not. In fact, it is probably why I don’t tend to write much about it. Her good behavior is so common as to become overlooked. We take it for granted.

It’s the exceptional moments of craziness that grab all the headlines.

Well, it’s hard not to write about the exceptional moments.

Today, I am feeling some regret about my attempt at humor over Delilah’s interest in our chickens.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was cleaning up under the overhang of the barn, Delilah could hold back no longer. She lunged hard enough against her leash anchor to break the handle and bend the hook it was hanging on. The handle banged against the siding of the barn and caused the horses to jump, alerting Cyndie to go check on what happened.

In that flash of seconds, we lost our first chicken to a predator. A domestic predator.

We knew all along that having free-ranging chickens around Delilah was high risk, but we simply hoped for the best. It seemed that our gradual controlled exposure to their presence was being accepted with surprising calmness, between bouts of excessive interest.

We knew she wasn’t to be trusted yet, but there were enough moments when she was demonstrating appropriate acceptance of the chickens that we felt hopeful about the chances of further improvement.

We don’t fault her for acting on her natural instinct. Delilah has given us a chance to more closely consider the delicate balance of predator/prey relationships. She is also forcing us to renew our attention to directing her exactly in the manner we need her to behave.

It’s not the dog that needs the most training. It’s her handlers.

To her credit, Delilah’s choice of victim turned out to be the extra Rhode Island Red from the batch of 10 we received for our purchase of 9 chicks. We are now down to three each of the 3 breeds we ordered.

Maybe yesterday’s incident will help me to think twice about joking over Delilah’s carnivorous ways in the future, but I’m guessing my writing will still highlight more of her wild behaviors than her quiet moments. It’s the nature of this beast.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Working Through

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Some chores don’t wait for nice weather, so we ventured out into the constant drizzle on Sunday to open space in our compost area, despite the inconvenience. Cyndie had moved the horses indoors out of the wet on Saturday night, which resulted in soiled wood shavings in their stalls at a time when we didn’t have space in the compost area.

Luckily, there is a spot next to the barn where we’ve been using composted manure and old hay to fill in a drop in the landscape. The area had been a too convenient runway for water drainage that was problematic. Bringing it back to level with the surrounding area will spread and slow water flowing from above.

Out came the Grizzly, after putting air in the leaky front tire, and the metal grate trailer for an increasingly muddier series of loads from the compost area. Very similar to working on moving innumerable bales of hay, as time goes by, the loads seemed to get heavier and heavier and I started to move slower and slower. Cyndie pushed back against my increasing moments of pause, with a goal of getting the job done as quickly as possible so she could get in out of the cold and wet.

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When she proclaimed we were down to just two loads remaining, I corrected her with the estimation of four loads. After I tried to take out a small load to assure my estimation would win, she suggested we could toss some of the last bits into the woods around the compost area, leading to an outcome of three loads completing the task. It was declared a tie.

We were wet, it was muddy, but we had worked through the nasty weather to accomplish a necessary chore. We now have open space for composting again.

And not a moment too soon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

Chicks Exploring

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I have no idea whether the raccoon Delilah alerted us to outside our sunroom in broad daylight yesterday afternoon had anything to do with the new presence of our 8-week-old chicks roaming the property. It was certainly a surprising and uncharacteristic sighting.

Daily, our chicks have expanded their excursions from the coop, and yesterday achieved milestones that gave me great satisfaction. Cyndie found them marching along the edge of the woods toward the compost area where they quickly unleashed their best chicken behavior on the piles.

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Later, after running with Delilah to follow the scent of the raccoon, we moved behind the barn to check on the birds. When they spotted us, they scooted from the paddock over toward the coop. The paddock is the other spot I hoped the chickens would frequent. My two primary goals realized in the same day. Huzzah!

While I am grateful that Delilah is attentive enough to call out the presence of a raccoon threat in our yard, I’m not yet convinced her concern for the chicks is as altruistic as we would wish. While Cyndie was cleaning the barn, Delilah held an uncomfortably intense focus on the compost area.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2017 at 6:00 am

Daylong Soaking

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In the hours that I had dreamed my friends and I would be enjoying the surrounding countryside from our bicycles, the atmosphere was crying cold tears. It was a cruel follow-up to the flash flooding we endured two days prior.

It rained and rained here yesterday. Sometimes waves of serious drops fell for a few minutes, but before and after them came a steady drool of H2O that mercilessly soaked an already over-saturated landscape.

Cyndie’s mud-swamped garden became more of a fountain of running water, moving her to proclaim the location a loss for her flowering vision.

We will contemplate a different spot for her dozens of perennial beauties, somewhere as eye-catching as that bend in the driveway, but not so directly in the line of drainage.

The afternoon lent itself to some serious power-lounging around the fireplace. I closed my eyes and happily entered dreamland on the couch, then woke up to do some virtual shopping and curious research on lawn tractors. I have found multiple ways to nurse along the used Craftsman tractor that we acquired with the purchase of this property four mowing seasons ago. I think it’s had enough.

I think the engine blew a gasket last Friday. Diagnosis and repair of this malady deserves someone more learned than me, and the time constraints I am facing. The grass cutting was only partially completed when the engine revved and the white smoke billowed. Growth is happening at maximum speed this time of year.

We’re gonna need a new mower fast. There is no shortage of water providing thirsty blades of grass with all they care to drink. The front end of our property needs mowing almost before I’ve finished the last rows at the back.

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The Unride

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So, today was to be the long-planned for warmup bike ride for the annual trip that happens in June. We’re doing mental preparation. The cold rain was enough to shut us down from putting ourselves through unnecessary misery.

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We ate, we laughed, we sat around the fire and soaked up each other’s glorious energy.

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The chickens were an attraction and the horses put on a pretty good demonstration of herd behavior for the morning audience.

I guess the non-biking camaraderie can count as preparation, because that is one of the major attractions of our week of biking and camping. Part of me can’t help worrying that dealing with this nasty weather is a form of preparing for what lies ahead. Instead, we are all preferring that I frame the rain and cold as happening now so it won’t need to happen later.

Come June, we are visualizing warmth, sunshine, and calm winds.

May it be so.

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2017 at 9:39 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , , ,

Flashingly Flooded

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Tears. I could feel them through the text message I was seeing on my phone. Cyndie was getting a first look at the results of Wednesday’s heavy rains. Her flowering perennial garden had suffered a direct hit from the flood of water that poured onto our property from the farm field to our north.

In my pre-dawn departure for work, I had not noticed the extent of topsoil slop that had washed over our land. The much more obvious evidence I did see, which revealed the significance of overnight flooding, came in the form of field debris coating the roads.

I also spotted the dramatically high level of water overflowing the banks of the small creeks and waterways as I traveled the roads away from home.

Nature’s wrath has little regard for our feeble efforts to confine the actions of our environment.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2017 at 6:00 am

Frequent Downpours

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I hope this isn’t an omen. This coming Friday and Saturday we have scheduled a custom event at Wintervale for close friends that is intended to serve as a warmup to the annual Tour of Minnesota bike and camping week in the middle of June. I didn’t mean it to become a conditioning exercise for nasty weather.

I don’t want the weather we are currently burdened with to be representative of what we can expect in a month’s time. The good news is that the last few days have provided several quiet moments of time when it is not raining, between the cataclysmic outbursts of over an inch-per-hour gully-washers festooned with spectacular flashes of lightning and heavy rumbling thunder that roll overhead in gargantuan waves.

The forecast for Saturday: ** Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 56. East wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three-quarters of an inch possible. **

A temperature of 56° with 100% chance of precipitation is not the kind of weather in which I want to ride.

Our rain gauges are getting a good workout, needing to be frequently dumped of the inches accumulating by the hour. It’s crazy making.

Meanwhile, animals just seem to deal with it. Our horses usually choose to stand out in the rain, but occasionally they will stay under the overhang. I wonder if it might be that they are growing used to the roar from the metal roof.

The wild animals are usually hunkered down far from sight, but yesterday Cyndie came across this beautiful fawn curled up on the edge of our north trail.

She reported that Delilah had completely missed sensing the little one and walked right past, oblivious. The momma must have done an excellent job of cleaning the newborn to minimize any scent.

There was no sign of the mother, but she was probably nearby, observing.

When I got home from work, Cyndie took me out to see if the fawn was still there. She held back with Delilah as I moved ahead and scanned the trail. I kept asking her if we had reached the spot yet, because I wasn’t seeing anything. We figured it had probably moved on.

Just as I was about to head back, my eye caught a glimpse of the brown color. It had definitely moved, but not very far at all. The fawn had settled in a new spot, a little off the trail, so that it was better surrounded by the tall grass.

I reached out to snap a shot looking down from overhead and then we stepped away. We didn’t have much time to tend to the horses before the next deluge.

As the rain pounded down with dramatic intensity, I wondered about that fawn folded up in a tight little ball among the tall grass. I was hoping the momma had showed up and guided a route to the woods for better cover.

Or at the very least, higher ground.

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Written by johnwhays

May 18, 2017 at 6:00 am