At times when I sit down to write this journal this summer, I feel like I am writing the script for an episode of "This Old House" or something. Nora and I have been really busy up at the property the past week. I have been heading up at about 2:30 after putting my 10 hours in at my regular job and then Nora heads up after putting in her 8-9 hours at her regular job and we end up staying up there until 8:30 or 9 just about every evening. Although we are really starting to lose daylight now. Early last week it was still plenty light out at about 9 pm and yesterday it was about 8:30 and already getting almost too dark to work outside. It was overcast last night too, so that probably had something to do with it, but for sure the minutes of daylight are really starting to go down, which is one of the reasons why we have been working so hard up there recently and the other is just to get past all this darn scaffold work! That was me working on the gable wall on the rear of the cabin last Tuesday. Here I am with an armful of battons for that same wall. I am still enjoying myself, but there are those moment when things just do not go as planned, or a piece of wood or tool is being stubborn and I wish I was doing something else for a moment. That moment passes pretty quickly and I am able to put my game face back on and get back to work.
It has been a hard last 2 weeks of work, but I am happy to report that we have a fully completed rear gable wall and the soffits on both sides of the cabin are done. That means that all scaffold work on the outside is done! At least for me. The guy that has helped me with the roof still needs to put to small pieces on the back of the roof over the end eve. He was suppose to do it this morning, but was MIA. So I will have to get ahold of him to finish that up- now that I am done with his scaffolding! I even decided to do the rest of the little trim work on the front gable and 6 foot overhang so now the front gable is completely done as well. So that means no more scaffolding work on the outside until next spring when we will put the finish on the wood. It probably means no more scaffolding work for at least a few days until I start the electrical and I will probably get the few boxes in the ceiling put in first just to get that scaffold work out of the way.
Yesterday Nora and I had to make a few more pieces of tongue and groove as we had run out. So we headed up there in the evening to make those last few pieces and then put them up. As we were running the boards through the shaper, we looked out to see a deer feeding on some vegetation about 100 feet from the shop! Here we are making all this noise in the shop and this deer just moseys up and has dinner in our front yard. I guess it is safe to say that this animal is plenty used to human noises. It will be neat to live up there and see all the animals that come calling. I know I have seen sign of just about every type of animal there, including bear, coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon, deer, squirrel and we have a few mice in the shop that are going to get their eviction notice this week and I will be sealing up all holes to prevent any further unwanted tenants from taking up residence in the shop.
This morning I went up to the property at 7:30 to meet up with my roofer who never showed. I would have enjoyed sleeping a few more hours seeing as though I actually had to get up at 5:30 to take care of some of my Sunday work for my regular job. But I was able to get some odds and ends taken care of while I waited for him to not come. I then gave Nora a call and she came up and we got all the wood for the siding made in 3 hours. So we now have all the siding for the bottom of the cabin sitting in the shop ready to go and that will start going up tomorrow. I am actually looking very forward to this part of the construction. My feet on solid ground and a very simple process of just attaching the boards vertically one right next to the other. I am putting some home made furrowing strips on first so that the wood siding will have an airspace behind it to allow it to dry and keep it from rotting prematurely. The siding is just regular pine, not cedar or some other rot-resistant wood. It will be getting a coat of a stain/sealer next spring so the siding should not have to be replaced for many, many years.
In any case, it should not take too long to get all the siding up on the first floor walls. Nora will laugh when she reads this because I have underestimated how long just about every stage will take through this whole process. Actually that is not true. My time estimation to complete everything up through the framing was about right on. It has been all of this scaffold work that has taken more time than I thought. We are not behind schedule and by sometime this week will be done with ALL the outside work, so the weather will not bring about any delays from here on out and we are also not wired into a construction loan or have to be out of the house we are living in at any specific time. So we are under no pressure to be living up at the cabin at any set date. However, I am still hoping that somewhere towards the end of October or early November we are close to wrapping things up.
I have decided not to build out the rest of the shop this autumn. That will take some pressure off of trying to finish the cabin in a set time and also will allow me to fully finish the cabin before I would have likely gone onto the shop to get a roof on it before winter came. I was going to get things done to the point where we could live in the cabin before I started the rest of the shop, but might have had some painting or other finish work to do, but now I think the cabin will be pretty much 100% done when we move in.
The weather has definitely moved into late summer mode up here. Today we are actually pretty warm. We hit 84 degrees with lots of sun, but it took all afternoon to reach that temp and we have cooled to 55 or lower every night for the past 10 nights in a row. On Friday it was actually cool enough (high of 63 and overcast) that I wore long pants while working and I am one that can tolerate shorts to a pretty cold temp. I could have worn shorts Friday too, but just thought it would be a nice switch to wear long pants for a change. Then yesterday it was still cool, but so humid that I was almost chilled while sweating at the same time. That is the type of weather I think I almost hate the most, when temps are around 65 and the humidity is near 100%. It is cool, but so humid that you sweat like crazy when active anyway. Stop working and you just about freeze, but work too hard and you are dripping wet. Needless to say my attitude working yesterday was not the best at times!
But we got 'er done yesterday evening, today was a new day and got plenty accomplished before lunch, so we took the rest of the day off and went to the beach. We actually headed to one of our favorite beaches. We tried a few weeks ago, but got chased off by flies, so today was actually the first time we have been to that beach all summer. It is actually a stretch of about a mile of shoreline where there are no homes and plenty of spots to sit and play or relax. It has also been a beach that we would pretty much have to ourselves just about anytime we went- the whole thing. Well, it has been discovered and today most of our favorite spots to go to had someone there and we had to find a new spot to go to. We did find one and were able to let Burt fetch sticks and not be bothered by or bother anyone else, but it was sort of a letdown to see so many people out there. Once a spot is discovered, it will never be quiet again. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted and we don't own the beach, so all those other folks have as much right to it as we do. Nora and I have both said that if we win the lottery, one of the first things we would do is to buy that beach, so you never know!
I guess that about gets you caught up on things up here with us. Next weekend is the last hurrah for summer and I am looking forward to having another full day to get work done up at the cabin! I am also looking forward to the weather that September brings us up here. So lots to look forward to.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
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I would like to start this entry by saying thank you to all who have posted notes of condolences on the General Discussion board as well as those who have sent e mails and cards through the regular mail. The healing process continues and while life is not quite back to normal, it has been nice to know that so many people care so much for us. I can say that as nice as it was to see everyone down in southern Wisconsin last weekend, it has been very nice to be back home up here. I really cannot say exactly what it is about this area, but it just relaxes me so and I just feel so at ease and at home. Driving up to the property to do work is still an enjoyable ride even though I must have done it close to 100 times since we started building. Even heading to Houghton to do some shopping was a pleasure. I sure do love this area and it's people and think that the two are therapeutic to my well being.
Nora and I did not waste too much time getting back to work at the property. Wednesday afternoon we both got back up there and got back to work on the exterior siding, eve, trim and fascia work. We put in some pretty long days Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and yesterday, but do have some nice results to show from all of our hard labor. We were able to finish off all the "high up" exterior work on the front of the cabin. Here I am taking care of the last bit of trim work at the peak. I was glad to be able to hang onto the cabins roof while up that high! Although I have become a lot more comfortable with being on the scaffolding. When we first started being up 2 levels was a little unnerving for me and now being up 3 levels feels very comfortable and being up 2 levels is like being on the ground. I am still very cautious when up there as one false step and... But being more comfortable does allow me to at least breathe when I am up there and also work a little quicker as I am not worrying so much about falling. Here is a shot of the front of the cabin taken last night with all the scaffolding down. Before leaving for the night last night we set it all up at the back of the house so that we could get right to business today, which was nice. Here is a close up shot at the underside of the front eve. It extends out 6 feet from the front of the cabin and you can see all the tongue and groove paneling that Nora and I made. All the exterior walls and ceiling in the cabin will be done in that same tongue and groove. That big front eve sure was a lot of work, but now that is is done I am more glad than ever that we decided to do it that way. It will really protect the front of the cabin from the elements as well as provide some nice shade. I still have some trim work to do on the front eve section, but it is not something that has to be done before the winter sets in, so we are going to move on to other areas that need to be done before we can live in it.
Today Nora and I went up about 9 am and worked for 4 hours and then came home and had lunch and took Burt for a swim. It was cool and foggy when we arrived, with temps in the mid 50's, but a hour or two later it was just warm and very muggy. All of that humidity that caused the fog just hung around and when the temps started to rise into the 60's, it just seemed pretty uncomfortable for how cool the temp was. The winds have kicked in and helped to mix down drier air from above and the dewpoint has dropped about 8 degrees and now sits in the mid 50's, which is pretty comfortable. Nora and I plan to head back up this evening and get a few more hours in before coming back and going to sleep. With a little luck we will be able to finish off the siding in the back and then because it has just a standard 2 foot eve on the back, all we will need to do is take the left over tongue and groove cut off's from the front, attach them to the underside and put up the battens on the siding and be done with things "high up" on the back. Then we will take care of the eaves on the sides and then take care of the siding on the ground level and be done with all the outdoor work! I am hoping that we can finish up all the outdoor work by the end of next weekend, but it is not critical that we do- just a hope.
It is really starting to feel like summer is on it's last legs up here. Especially at night as the temps are regularly dropping into the low 50's and even the 40's. Makes for some nice sleeping with the windows open at night although I am still having to use the AC during the day- especially in my office which has all the heat from my computers keeping it warm. It is getting dark much earlier than just a few weeks ago and the morning sun is also taking longer to arrive.
Meteorologically I am also seeing the last gasps of summer take place to our north across Canada. They are dropping into the 40's for lows every day and sometimes are seeing some upper 30's. The real heat and humidity is starting to stay out of Canada too and in a few weeks we will be done with heat and humidity as well. The forecast looks pretty good for us with regards to heat and humidity this week and into early next, so that would mean we might only have about a week to ten days left with any chance for heat and humidity. Once we get to about the 10th of September, you can pretty much write off any nasty heat and humidity. September is probably our month of biggest changes in the weather up here. The beginning of the month usually has temps in the 70's and we will also hit the 80's from time to time and I have even seen a few 90's in early September. By the end of the month we are usually in the 50's for highs, but I have seen a few days with highs struggling to get out of the 40's and our first flakes of the season are usually see in the first week of October. So we seem to go from summer to late Autumn in the span of a month up here in September. I know I am ready for it! Not that this summer has been exceptionally hot around here. I think last summer was even worse, but the only thing better than days with highs in the upper 50's to low 60's and that cobalt blue autumn ski is a day with fresh snow falling and it probably will not be much more than a month before I am seeing the potential for a few flakes to fly around these parts.
Yesterday was cool enough that we could take Burt into the woods for his afternoon exercise. I could not even remember the last time we had been to the School Forest, so that is where we went yesterday. It can be a little buggy in the summer, so we typically avoid it for most of the summer, but it has been so dry up here the past 3-4 weeks and it is late summer, so I figured the bugs would not be too bad. They were not too bad and it was a perfect day to spend the afternoon out at the School Forest. They have not been trimming the trails like they usually do out there, so in spots we were wading through waist deep grass, but did a tick check when we got back to the truck and were all fine. This time of the year is also blackberry season, which is one of my favorites. I think partly because it comes at the end of August and my attitude about the weather and pending changes in it is much better than my attitude is in early to middle July when the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are ripening! In fact, I think just the site of ripening blackberries is a sign that summer is drawing to a close.
There is one more sign around here that summer is drawing to a close. You can see it driving around or just taking a walk in the woods and that is some splashes of autumn color are starting to appear. It is just the trees that are more stressed than others that are changing and we are still about 6-7 weeks away from the peak of the colors up here, but it is still a welcomed sight for this autumn lover. Driving up to the property this morning in temps in the mid 50's and a heavy fog, seeing the splashes of color, one could have thought it was late September and not still August around here.
Well, I think that about does it for this one. I have to finish my Sunday work so that we can head back up to the property to get some more work done. That is if I don't fall asleep after having dinner!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Well, we have had a very busy week or so. When I last left off Nora and I were starting the outside siding, soffit and fascia work on the cabin. Not only do we need to attach all of that material to the cabin, but we also need to make it first! The siding is not too hard to make, but the tongue and groove material for the soffit is a lot of work to make. We spent most of Wednesday and part of Thursday making the tongue and groove and then got started putting it up on Thursday. I thought it would go up fairly easily and for the most part did, but a few boards were stubborn and working high up on the scaffolding also made for some challenges. I can honestly say that at the end of the day Thursday I was whooped and a little discouraged that we were not able to finish the eaves work on the front Thursday, but Friday presented a new day and new energy and then the phone rang.
It was my brother and what he had to say was one of those moments in life where things change and will never be the same. He had called to tell me that my Dad had suffered a massive stroke sometime during the night Thursday night/Friday morning and the prognosis was not good. He had been airlifted from the local hospital near my parents place to a medical center in Milwaukee. I hung up with my brother and made plans to get down there as soon as we could Friday. Less than an hour later my brother called again to let me know that my father had not made it.
I realize that most of you reading this did not ever get the chance to meet my father and it would be nearly impossible for me to fully describe him, but this much you should know. He was a great man and a great father. I cannot imagine having a better dad than he and at times felt sorry for some of my friends who's fathers just did not seem to put as much effort into being a dad as mine did for me. His whole life was dedicated to his family and not once did he ever complain about his duties. In fact he took pride in all the hard work that was required of him to not only be the only source of income for a family of 6, but be there for us whether it be to root us on at one of our sporting events, sit by us in the hospital or take us on a vacation.
One of the activities this past weekend was to meet with the minister that was going to take part in the memorial service and talk about dad so that she could learn more about his life and incorporate some of those life experiences into her message. The whole family sat on the deck of my parents place and for several hours shared tears of joy, tears of sorrow and lots of laughs reminiscing about him. I always knew I was very fortunate to have parents that loved me so much and I have never taken that love for granted and sitting on the deck with my whole family sharing in all of those wonderful moments was a moment in my life that I will never forget. My only regret about moving up here was that it made it difficult for me to see my parents as often as we would have liked. They understand how much I love this place and how happy I am living here and have never ever once made me felt bad about moving away with their unconditional love for me.
It has been a difficult past few days to go through, but having Nora, Burt, my Mom, brothers, sister, niece and nephew to be with helped a ton. It was also therapeutic to see all of my fathers friends come to his memorial. A bit of a testament to him that so many came from so far, with just a day or less notification in many cases. He lived a very full life, went in a way that I think many can only hope for and is in a great place now. I am sure Baileys and him have been busy taking lots of walks on the beaches of heaven. That is something that they both sure loved to do down here with me! I get to carry with me a lifetime of wonderful memories of our time spent together. One of those memories was made a few years ago when my folks visited me in late summer. In his later years he had some problems with his legs that caused him to have surgery and also some pain. Walking was not a comfortable thing for him to do, but when they were up I really wanted them to see a spot that was special to me. It required a bit of hiking to get to, including up hill hiking to get there. Normally this was the type of hike that he would have been perfectly happy to sit out, but because it was important to me that he see it, he went up there. Along the way he did ask "How much further" a few times, but we made it and here is a shot of My Dad and I on top of Mt. Baldy. We stayed up there and watched the sun set and then headed down. Just one of the hundreds of memories that I will be able to reflect upon for the rest of my life.
So the end of another chapter of my life has come. A chapter that I never wanted to end, but knew it would some day. I will never be able to fully express how lucky I was to be his son and can only hope to be a good a person as he was, but will honor his life by trying my best to be the man he was. Thanks for everything Dad and I love you very, very much.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
I'm here! Sorry for the long absence, but we have been a busy crew up here. The building process is rolling right along and Nora and I are still having a good time with things and not at each others neck. I think that is a true testament to our love and relationship that we can get through such an undertaking and not just be still be talking to each other, but enjoying each others company. I have done some work alone, but enjoy it much more when she is up there. Not just for her company, but for her help. She has really been a huge help and is learning to use all the tools too. I guess if she ever needs to find a new job, she could get a job in the construction industry! Even Burt has been helping out by making sure no intruders get into the shop while we are up there. The other day it got a little warm, so he just dug himself a pit in the sand up there and laid down in the cool sand. Sometime he just amazes me how smart he is.
Last weeks goal was to get both end walls done in anticipation of getting the windows and doors. It was one job that I really was not looking too forward because it included two of my least favorite things about this building process- working with large and heavy materials and doing it all above ground. Thankfully much of the framing of the back wall was able to be done while on the loft and then we set up some scaffolding to make working on the front wall easier. However, it still required some fancy footwork at some fairly lofty heights. Some reaching on the tippy toes as well. Good thing I was not an inch shorter!
With golf league interrupting things last Tuesday I was beginning to worry that we would not be done with the front wall by Thursday evening, but as luck would have it, things went pretty smoothly on Wednesday and Thursday and by early evening we had all the framing and sheathing up on the front gable wall and about an hour had it all wrapped and ready to go. Now, before I get inundated with emails and posts in the discussion board as to why we do not have any windows in the front gable wall, let me explain. It was thought of and discussed, but we are really trying to keep the cost of this structure down. It is something that we plan to live in for just a few years and then we plan to move into a log home built about 100 feet away. Putting a low cost factory made window up there would not have looked right and going with a custom made large picture window would have been quite expensive. Not just for the window itself, but for the install. So we just opted to keep the wall solid. We will have some lighting illuminating the inside and will put some decoration on it so that there is not this massive blank wall looming from above. Plus the wall is just a balloon wall and is not load bearing so it would not be that big of a deal to cut an opening to put a picture window in and I did make the wall below it load bearing just in case we decide to put some windows up there at a later date. So we have the bases covered in the future if we want, but for now, no window up there. There is one at the back of the house in the loft.
Friday was a travel an shop day. I have tried to spend locally for as much of the materials for the cabin as possible. I do believe in supporting my local businesses and have actually become friends with many of them. However, there are times when so much needs to be purchased and it can be done under one roof at prices considerably less expensive that it warrants going to one of the "big box stores". So Nora and I headed to Marquette on Friday after feeding Burt. We had contemplated taking him along with us, but it was a good thing that we did not as it is a 4 hour round trip and we ended up spending about 3 hours in the store and then almost another hour loading things up. An hour to load things up you ask? Well, we got all the doors and windows except for one entry door, all the flooring for the first floor, all the plumbing fixtures (including the toilet and shower), lighting as well as some plumbing and electrical supplies. I was anticipating all the stuff we got and actually rented a trailer from the local U-Haul place. It was a good thing because we just about filled the trailer up and the back of the blazer could not have held much more either. On the way home Friday night there was a flash in the sky off to the west- the direction we were heading and I was really hoping that it was a left over firework and not lightning. A few more miles down the road and there was another flash and then more and I was worried that we were going to get rained on. Most of the items in the open trailer could handle the rain, but we did have the interior doors as well as all of the flooring in there. The flooring was in containers that were shrink wrapped and were also underneath all the other stuff, so my main concern was for the interior doors. We got to about Champion and it started to rain. It rained lightly at first and the lightning stopped and I thought maybe we dodged a bullet, but then some heavier rain and some more lightning about all the way to L'Anse. A few sprinkles between L'Anse and home and I nervously inspected the load when we got home and found that all had survived pretty well. Some of the printing on the box that one of the interior doors came in bleed onto the door, so that make take some light washing or light sanding to remove, but I think we will be ok. If not, we went with pretty inexpensive interior doors and it would not be a huge loss to have to get another.
Saturday morning was spent unloading all of the stuff we got and we were able to get a few windows in. It was suppose to be a very hot and humid day Saturday and by late morning that promise looked like it was going to pan out, with temps in the low 80's, high humidity and partly cloudy skies. I figured we worked pretty hard all week last week and it would be nice to take a little outing to the beach on Saturday afternoon, then head back up and get in a few more windows in the evening when it cooled down. It turned out that the clouds thickened up and we even had a few showers Saturday afternoon, but we still got to the beach and it was warm and humid enough that we ALL took a dip in the big lake. That was the first one for Nora and I, but certainly not for Burt- although he did enjoy us swimming with him. We also got the grass cut and bushes trimmed Saturday before heading up and putting in a few more windows. In fact, we got the rest of them in.
On Sunday I headed up to the property in the morning solo to do some work with the wood we plan to use for the siding, while Nora went grocery shopping for the week. Sunday afternoon was cooler and less humid and there was a good breeze, so we decided to take a walk in the woods rather than take Burt for a swim for his afternoon exercise. I wanted to pick a shady place to walk as the afternoon sun is still very strong and remembered riding on the ATV a week ago through a section of the snowmobile trail not far from the house that was nice and shaded. The conditions were perfect. Temps in the low 70's, a dewpoint in the upper 40's and a nice breeze. If only conditions could be like that all summer! I guess I really cannot complain. Other than a few brief periods of heat and humidity, the weather has been pretty good this summer. Really good for building as we have only been rained out twice that I can remember.
I am not taking that nice weather for granted though as my plans are to finish up all the outside work first. I figure it will take about 2 weeks to get all the siding, fascia, soffit and trim work done. Then the weather will not have any impact on us working. I might even steal the window AC out of our living room (as it is almost never on) and put it in the cabin if it gets hot again. That way I can work in more comfortable conditions inside if need be. Although I can say that the cabin is already a pretty comfortable place to be in. The large overhang on the front helps to keep the midday sun out of the inside of the house and the 2 foot overhang on the side facing the late day sun does the same. If I figured things correctly, the lower sun angle in the winter will allow the sun to get into the inside of the cabin and help warm things. We'll see about that one.
The drier weather has once again put us under a fire risk- especially at the tip of the Keweenaw which did not see the 4 inches of rain back in mid July that I saw. In fact there has been a fire burning up at the tip of the Keweenaw. I have not heard much about how it is going. The paper did have a story on it last weekend, but I have been so busy I have not listened to the radio news or watched the Marquette news to see if they are saying anything about it. It is way out in the sticks and actually in some of the spots we rode on ATV's a week or so ago. Most of the fire cannot even be reached by motorized vehicles, so they are having to walk in. It does not really threaten any structures and as long as we do not get even drier and have some really strong winds it will probably just eventually burn itself out or get doused by a good rain storm.
I don't know if it's my imagination or what, but it really seems like the summer is drawing to a close. I know we can still have some heat and humidity up here for another 3-4 weeks, but the sun is setting over an hour earlier than it did just a month ago and will soon be setting about the time my head hits the pillow! It seems like the cool punches of air we get in from Canada have a little more kick and staying power. We are creeping up on my second favorite time of the year up here. Those awesome days of late August and September when the temps are warm enough to do summer activities and cool enough to do them in full comfort.
I guess that about covers it for this one. I am actually writing this in the early afternoon before golf. I hope to get up to the property to do some work this evening after golf. I hope my game goes better than last week. Last Tuesday I had my worst round of golf ever. Well, except for when I was first learning to play the game. I have never shot as poorly as I did last Tuesday, not even close! I had a feeling that I was going to play poorly as I really did not want to play and my head was up at the property. Anyway, I shot a 61! Which included not one, but two 11's! Back to back! Right after making an 8! So in the course of 3 holes, I had 30 strokes! So to shoot 31 for the rest of the 6 holes is really not too bad I guess.
I will leave you with one last shot of the cabin, with all the windows in as well as the sliding glass door in the front. I also have one building proverb that I have discovered to share with you. That is if you want the wind to blow while building a home, start putting up housewrap!
Good night from the Keweenaw..