July 25-
    Another week just flew by and I suspect that this week will too. Before I forget, there will be no writing next Sunday. I may sneak something under the wire on Saturday and if not, will write on Monday, but Sunday we are having Grace's first birthday party (her actual birthday is the 4th), so I will be busy Sunday.
    That is also the reason why I believe this week will go by pretty fast. I have some chores to do to get ready for it and time sure flies when you are busy. I'm pretty certain that is why this past week flew by as well. I wake up at a little after 4 in the morning and pretty much go full speed until my head hits the pillow around 7:30 or 8. I sure am not complaining though. It feels so good to be able to go full speed ahead all day rather than run at half or quarter speed for part of the day and then run out of steam.
    Of course keeping up with Grace is part of what keeps me (and Nora) going during the day. She is walking now. Not across the room, but takes around 10-12 steps before falling and it seems like each day she goes a little further. Last Sunday as I was writing, Nora took Grace to the park and we all returned there on Tuesday to play. Grace really loves the swings! Plus she is really quite the dare devil. The higher you would push her, the more she loved swinging. There was a 3 year old that was swinging next to her and that girl was getting underdogs from her Grandpa and Grace seemed to be pretty interested in getting some of those, but I think she needs to get a little bigger before I run underneath her while pushing her on the swing! We spent about 35-40 minutes taking turns pushing her on the swing and then as we were leaving, we tried out the rocking duck. Not quite the effect that the swing has.
    Another thing keeping me busy this week was to work on the hutch for the bathroom, but come Friday- it was finally done! I am happy it is done, but also missing my relationship with it in the shop. I know that sounds kind of funny, but for the past 2-3 weeks I have been spending at least several hours a day with it in the shop, just the two of us, and now that relationship is over. I am happy with how it turned out and it has been put to good use as we really were hurting for storage in the bathroom.
    I have already started in on the next project and it is actually about half done. It is not nearly as complex a job as the hutch was. It is actually just a lift system for the truck topper. We are going to keep it, but I wanted to devise a lift for it to get it up and out of the way. Most of the work for it was actually just planning things out and figuring out all that I would need. Yesterday I bought about one hundred and fifty dollars worth of pulleys, screw hooks, hanging brackets and other hardware needed to build the lift and got to putting it all together this afternoon. I only got to work on it for around an hour, but have much of it done and should be able to finish it off tomorrow. The rest of the week will be spent getting ready for the party.
    One of the parties jobs will be to fire up the smoker and smoke some pork butt and some brisket. Both of my first attempts with those meals went well and I feel plenty confident to them both for the party. I did fire up the smoker this week as well and tossed a slab of baby back ribs in it. They smoked for around 5 hours and at the end the meat was falling off the bone. Here is a look at them moments before I tore into them. They were probably some of the best ribs I have ever had and will certainly be a reoccurring feature in the smoker.
    Other than the fact that in one week July will be done, I have some other good news (for me at least!). The deer flies finally seem to be on the outs. For two days now we have not been bothered by them on our morning walks along side the road or our afternoon walks in the woods. I have to admit that they were such an issue this year that it actually seems weird to be walking and not swatting at them or hearing them buzz your ear. I guess I need to be a little cautious with my optimism as maybe they are just taking a quick break, but there is some real hope that they are pretty much done for the season.
    I really cannot complain about the weather, other than to wish for less humidity and more rain from our rain events. We are having pretty regular rain events and they even last for several hours, but each does not seem to be able to put down more than about .10-.25" of rain. Not that I want the 4-8"+ totals that fell in the central Midwest the past several days, but I watered the lawn 2 days ago and it needs it pretty bad already and will get things going tonight before I go to bed.
    The humidity has not been too bad, but very consistent. In fact this whole summer has been very consistent. Unlike most of our summers, this one has not had too many swings in temps or humidity. It seems like we are stuck in a pattern where the temps run in the upper 70's to mid 80's with dewpoints in the low 60's. Really not all that bad when you compare temps and dewpoints just a few hundred miles to the south, but a run of day's with dewpoints in the low 50's would be nice. That kind of weather is just a little more than a month away!
    One last item before I sign off. The Keweenaw will be having our annual trail brushing event October 22nd and 23rd, that is a Friday and Saturday. I have been meaning to say this for almost a month now, but I suppose there is still plenty of time left for those that want to come. I can also say that unlike last year, I will be there both days, working and having fun alike. The Pines in Copper Harbor and the Lac La Belle Lodge in Lac La Belle are both offering up free lodging for those that come to help out. We will also have free lunches both days and a free dinner on Saturday for those helping out. I think we usually have some breakfast stuff put out as well. So who could resist such a wonderful opportunity to come and have some fun in the Keweenaw at almost no cost!
    I guess that about covers it for this week.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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July 18-
    I don't know about the rest of yous, but this past week has flown by. I guess keeping very busy and having fun will do that. However, for as fast as this week (and last for that matter) has gone by, July is still dragging by for some reason. I suppose it is because it is my least favorite month of the year. Dead of summer, a long way until autumn and even further away until winter. August is a touch better because the light at the end of the tunnel can be seen. Plus, the end August typically means the end of summer, so I can usually deal with that month better than July.
    I can say that we had some nice weather this past week. It never got real hot and we seem to have had a lot more wind this summer than in previous ones. So the breeze is refreshing and helps to keep the bugs away.
    Speaking of bugs, they do seem to be tailing off a bit. In fact we did take a few short ventures into the woods and I think we can now go in there without taking out lives into our hands. Still get pestered by the deer flies some though. Another reason to like August better as they really taper off in that month for some reason. We also made a venture to the beach this week, the same one we were bothered by the ankle biters 2 weeks ago and were not bothered by a single one this time around. So beaches are back on the to-do list with the family.
    July is not all bad though. It is a busy time up here for visitors, so that is good for our economy. There are tons of festivals and other activities to go to if one chooses and the berries start to ripen. Those were blurred raspberries for those of you wondering. For some reason I could not get the camera to focus on the berry and not the leaves on the plant and I had two pups anxiously pulling on the leash wanting to continue walking, so I could not spend the time to figure out the camera enough to put it on manual focus. Of course when they want to stop and pick a few for a treat, I have to wait for them! I did not even have to show them the berries. They remembered from last year and went right in and started chowing down. It is so funny to watch them gracefully go through the berry bushes and pick off the berries one by one. About one of the only things they do with patience and grace.
   Anyway, raspberries are entering into their peak, blueberries the same and on a walk in the bush, Nora spotted a special treat. Cherries! We had a cherry tree growing in our backyard when I was a kid, but they were tart and nasty to eat on their own. I can remember as a kid year after year hoping that for some reason this would be the year the cherries would be sweet and not tart, but nope. A tart cherry tree always produces tart cherries. Nora went over and picked one or two and tried them and said they were sweet. So she picked a few more and shared them with me and WOW! They were the best cherry I have ever had in my life! I am not kidding here, they were like putting candy into your mouth. They were very small, less than half the size of a cherry you get in the store, but what they lacked in size, they more than made up for in flavor. The next day we went back, this time with a little plastic tub in hand and picked about 2 cups. I think we ate half of them on the way back and enjoyed the rest the next few days.
    Nora shared our cherry treat story with a woman that she works with and she said that they had a sweet cherry tree in their yard that we could help ourselves to. Turns out the woman does not really care for them, her husband does, but did not want any and the home is for sale and not being lived in, so we headed over there and that tree was absolutely loaded. There had to be 1000's on just that one tree. We did not bring a ladder, but really did not need it as we filled all of our collection containers in about 20 minutes of picking, all with feet still on the ground. Even Grace got into the action, keeping a close eye on the cherries we had already picked
    All told we ended up with about a gallon and a half of cherries in that 20 minutes. They were larger than the ones we picked in the push and were a tiny bit less flavorful, but still better than any store or farm stand cherry I have ever had and made some great snacks. Plus, Nora backed a cherry pie and I have never been a big fan of cherry pie, but this one was different. The cherries were so good, I could have a lot more of those pies! We still have about half of those cherries and I think Nora is planning another pie or two. We may even head over there and pick some more and freeze them. I know I want to use some of the seeds to start some trees at our place. I did some research and really all you have to do is clean the fruit off the seed. Store them in a warm and dry place until autumn and then toss them in the ground and they will germinate the next spring. It will be about 5-7 years before we have fruit, but I can wait, especially if the trees in the bush keep producing.
    The other excitement to this week was me finally finishing the construction of the hutch for the bathroom. I still need to finish it and hang the doors, but since that picture was taken, have already sealed it and stained it. So just a few top coats and then the big move to the cabin. The bonus of this job taking so long is that I have had time to ponder how I was going to do some of the other projects and have come up with some faster and easier ways to do things. Plus I am very happy with the look of the hutch and know that while I sit in my "branch office" I will be able to admire it and not wish I had done things differently. I should have pics of the finished product in the next entry.
    As mentioned, we did make it to the beach this week and the pups got some well deserved swim time. It had been two weeks since they last got to swim and I was feeling kind of guilty about it. So we made up for it with an hour long play at the beach and they were plum worn out by the end. They were not the only ones that had a fun time at the beach. Grace was all smiles, watching her puppies play and playing in the sand as well. She even took her first "walk" with daddy down the beach. She is not walking totally on her own just yet, but does take a few steps all on her own, can stand all on her own for about as long as she wants and will also walk pretty far while holding onto your hand. Walking down the beach with my dad in the morning while on vacation in Florida is one of my favorite memories of him and I sure hope that I can make such moments with Gracie.
    After the swim, we came home had an awesome dinner with homemade cherry pie for dessert and then I decided to brush out the pups. Grace is VERY interested in everything Nora and I do and loves to mimic us. Wouldn't you know know it, she came over, wanted the brush. I gave it to her and she started brushing out Hucky! She just amazes me every day. Now if I can just get her to mimic me when I am picking up the wave of destruction she leaves behind when she is playing with stuff, life will be just about perfect!
    About the only other good thing about mid-July (at least as far as I can see) is that it is Bootjack Chicken time! I almost messed up and forgot to get tickets, but we lucked out as they still had a few Friday evening and we cashed in and picked them up. The BBQ is on Sunday, so we piled everyone into the truck and headed down. We made a side venture to the Bootjack Boat Launch to let the pups swim. The first things I noticed when we got there was that the lake level was up quite a bit. It's the Portage Lake, so it is connected to Lake Superior, which means that lake is up too. 
    Nora and Grace walked over to some friends camp near by and soon the pus and I got a visit from one of the camp owners, inviting us to come over as well. They had two dogs (labs), which provided even more entertainment for Huck and Millie and I think all 4 dogs will sleep well tonight. We stopped into the Bootjack Fire Department and picked up our dinners and headed home. I think the only thing harder than opening a pizza box and sneaking a piece as you drive home with a ton of hunger is driving home with Bootjack Chicken on your lap while very hungry! Made it home without cheating and chowed. Only about 8-9 months to go until we can have that treat again during the "off season" BBQ.
    I was hoping to take a bunch of pictures of the operations to show you all the volunteers and how they can pull off giving out 2500 chicken dinners and a person never has to wait more than 60 seconds to pick up their meal, but the batteries in the camera went dead. Oh well, next year!
    I guess that gets you caught up in things for this week. Still two weeks to go until August, but hopefully they go by as fast as the past two have.
    Late Breaking...This just in... Nora took Grace to the park to play while I wrote the journal and she e mailed me this little movie taken with her I-Phone. Not a big deal, but I thought I would share.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
July 11-
    Geeze. That was a quick week! For me it was a shortened work week, with having Monday off, but many times those 4 day work weeks seem to take longer. Anyway, seems like just a day or two ago I sat down to write. I ever realized that I had not taken a single photo all week to boot. Thankfully Nora took some shots of Grace and I can share them with you.
    It was a pretty warm week. Not as hot as last weekend, but we hung onto the humidity and saw temps in the low 80's through Wednesday and then broke the humidity on for Thursday and Friday and it was cooler those two days as well. Yesterday was hot, with a high of 85, but the humidity stayed low and today has only been in the 70's with clouds, but it is also quite humid. Humidity leaves tonight and should not be back for most of the week ahead, with just a touch of humidity later Wednesday.
    Friday was a perfect day in my book, with lots of blue skies, temps in the mid 70's and dewpoints in the upper 40's. I think I could grow to like summers if every day was like that and then it rained about a half inch every 3rd night. Oh well, we only have about a little over a month and a half and we can stick a fork in this summer for us up here.
    We stuck pretty close to home most of the week. The deer flies on our walks along side the road are still pretty bad, which tells me they are even worse in the woods. Although on Thursday I found myself in Houghton with the pups and we had an hour wait while something was put together for me, so we took to the MI Tech trails and were not bothered much at all by deer flies there. Not sure why because the woods are pretty thick there, but it was nice to be walking in the wood with the pups and not get harassed by bugs. Made me that much more anxious for late summer and autumn to come when the bugs are gone. 
    We also did not go to the beach as I was a little afraid of running into the ankle biters like we experienced last Sunday. My brother in law did go to the exact same beach with his family this past week and was not bothered by them, so I may give it a try this week.
    The pool liner arrived on Tuesday, so I got it up and running and by Thursday my niece and her friend were swimming in it. Yesterday was a perfect day to be hanging out in the pool, so we all got suited up and ready to hit the pool. Here is a shot of Gracie in her new swimsuit, waiting to go outside. Once outside, she was in a pretty big hurry to get into the pool. Here she is standing at the pool ladder, wondering who the heck designed this and how is a baby suppose to get up it!?
    Eventually Nora and I got our act together and got her into the pool. That was one of the floaties that we brought to Florida and made sure it made it home with us to be used up here. She enjoyed that for a bit, but saw the others floating in the pool and wanted out of the baby foatie and into the big girl one. So I put her on one of the adult foaties and we made motor boat sounds as she cruised around the pool. She lasted about 45 minutes in the pool and then seemed to be getting a little cold, so her and I went inside while Momma got a well deserved rest on a raft in the pool for a while.
    Not much else exciting happened this week. I continue to work on the hutch, but did not spend nearly as much time on it as I thought I would. Regular daily events took up quite a bit of time, it was a short week and I also do not like to go out and work on it unless I can be out there for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours minimum. I am not one of those that can just jump into wood working. I seem to need to get into that mode of thinking and doing before I really start in on my current project. I usually will spend 15-30 minutes cleaning up the tools or work space a bit and getting some tools ready to use. That seems to get the woodworking juices flowing and then I can get on to crafting. So with the dogs, baby and other life doings, it is much harder to find 1-2 hours of free time. That will all change in a few years when Grace is older and can even play with the dogs and entertain them, but for now, I just need to use my time when it comes.
    I did cool a brisket in the smoker for this weekend. I hate to brag, but it really turned out awesome. I have had brisket at 3 different places in Texas and loved it there, but what I ate yesterday evening was even better than what I had in TX. I guess the main problem is there really is no such thing as a small piece of brisket, so we will probably only have it when we have some company over. We have a bunch of left overs, so I am looking forward to having it again tonight and maybe for lunch tomorrow. I think for Grace's birthday bash we will have both the pulled pork and the brisket. A regular BBQ bonanza!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this time. Sorry I did not have much exciting to write about, but it is that time of the year when the weather and just regular life can combine to produce a rather mundane life. 
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

July 4-
    Happy Independence Day and welcome to July everyone! Boy, I forget how the saying goes: July, in like a sauna...out like a... but I hope it does not go out like it came in. I guess I should not really complain too much. So far this summer we have only had 2 hot spells and by that I mean temps above the mid 80's with humidity, but I have had enough of this current one. The week started out plenty cool, especially in the mornings. Cold enough to see your breath Monday through Thursday morning and even too cold for any of the bugs to bother us on our morning walk. It also made for some great sleeping weather. Nothing like sleeping with the windows open and having to be buried underneath the covers to stay warm.
    The heat arrived Friday, with a high of 90. Yesterday it was 93 and today 89. Along with the heat has come the humidity. Dewpoints in the upper 60's to low 70's. Funny how I hear so many folks talking in advance of the warm temps and humidity how they can't wait for it to get here and then once it does, I don't see them out. I guess they are inside enjoying the air conditioning. I know I have been limiting my outdoor activities during this heat spell. I just do not do well in it, especially like we had yesterday, with low 90's and high humidity. I just feel like my head has been put into a vice and someone is turning the screw to tighten it.
    It looks like the next few days will be a little cooler and less humid and then by the second half of the week we could be back into the 70's with low humidity. 
    Earlier this week I went to put the pool up and saw that a mouse had decided to take bites out of the bottom of the liner. I could have tried to patch it, but there were so many tiny little holes and if patching those things is anything like patching a bicycle tire tube, then that pool would have leaked like a sieve. So later in the week, I was getting ready to haul the pool down to the transfer station and then it hit me that I could probably get a replacement liner for the pool rather inexpensively and a check of the web and sure enough. A new liner was less than 200 dollars, so I ordered it up. The only bummer is that we did not have the pool up during this heat wave and it will probably arrive in time to put up when the cooler temps arrive later this week! Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes.
    I did work on the hutch for the bathroom a bit, but not as much as I wanted to and did not finish the construction. I did work on it Monday, but then got caught up in daily household chores Tuesday. Then on Wednesday a smoker I ordered came in, so I put it together. Thursday I did more work on the hutch as well as Friday, but yesterday and today were just too hot to be in the shop. It is still not insulated and the metal roof gets so hot that the shop is almost like a sauna. It has to get over 100 degrees on a hot and sunny day. Early mornings and in the evenings it cools down nicely, but mornings I am working and by the late evening I am too tired to be doing that kind of detail work. 
    Yesterday I was also pretty busy trying out the smoker for the first time. I decided to make North Carolina Pulled Pork, so I tossed a pork shoulder in the smoker and let it smoke away. The smoker I got is one from Weber and is really a very nice one. You can really dial in the temperature right to where you want it, but there was a tiny bit of a learning curve in getting all the vents and water level set to where it would run at 225-235 without fussing with things. I did manage to get things dialed in by around midday, but it still took about 12 hours for the shoulder to reach the temp is should to be tender enough to be pulled apart by a fork or by hand. So I was finishing things up at around 10:30 last night. Here is a shot of the shoulder in the smoker around 8 pm last night.
    It turned out excellent. The smoke ring penetrated the meat to a depth of around 3/4" and the bark (the layer of crisp meat on the outside) was packed full of flavor. I pulled it apart and put it in some of the serving sauce last night and we had it for dinner tonight and it was a big hit with everyone. We plan to have the pulled pork for Graces first birthday party coming up next month and this was the shake down for that. I am glad I did the practice run, as I learned a ton about how to run the smoker and next time I should be able to load it with coals, fire it up and leave it for 5-6 hours before I need to add more coals. Next up I hope to do a brisket later this week and then some ribs next week. Nora wants to try some fish, which I do not care for, but will be happy to smoke it for her.
    It's July in the Keweenaw and that means two things: lots of visitors and berry time! That was 6 quarts of locally picked berries that got turned into jam this week. Nora then picked up another 3 quarts Friday. One of which became daiquiris last night and two of which became shortcake for dessert today. Of course a few handfuls were consumed just plain as well. To me fresh picked berries like that are like candy. Better actually. The taste is just so pure and then while you are munching on them, you also know you are eating something healthy. I only wish that the seasons for each berry lasted longer. Strawberries will be finishing up this week (a week or two early) and then things like raspberries, blueberries and thimbleberries will be ready in a few weeks, with black raspberries at the end of August. From the looks of the bushes I have seen in the bush, it is going to be a bumper crop for all of them. I have never seen the bushes so loaded down with raspberries and thimbleberries, but have not checked out the blueberry patches yet.
    Things are pretty crazy up here right now. The 4th of July is like homecoming for the entire Keweenaw. Many schools have reunions and tons of displaced locals, family members from out of the area and tourists all flock to the region. With good reason, the 4th really is a big deal up here. There are 4 separate fireworks displays in the area, probably a dozen or so parades or other celebrations, which may not sound like a lot, but it is a lot for the number of people living up here. I was a bum this year and did not partake in any of them. Millie is a little skittish of loud noises and the time of the fireworks is way past Graces bedtime, so I stayed home while Nora and some of her family went down and took in the fireworks in Lake Linden. Not that I really need to show you all what fireworks look like, but what the heck, here is another shot. Nora said the show was really great and that the grand finale lasted almost as long as the main show. I think next year we will get the whole family down there, perhaps minus the pups.
    Lake Linden then has it's parade the next morning and Nora headed down there with the same family members and Grace to take in the parade. I was afraid it would be too hot for the dogs, so we stayed back. I guess for most of the parade it was cloudy and comfortable, but got sunny and hot at the end, so probably a good thing we did not go. Plus I have seen a good half dozen of the Lake Linden parades, so missing one here and there is excusable.
    Nora said Grace loved the parade, especially when the band went by playing loud music and when the fire trucks went by with their sirens blasting. She cracks me up. I wonder if there is going to be anything that this girl is not afraid of. I guess she did start to get a little worn out by the end of the festivities yesterday morning and pretty much crashed out completely on the car ride home.
    The deer flies are till a big pain up here, so we stayed out of the woods on our walks. I could have gone out in the morning when it was so cool, but can only take our regular 2 mile loop around the neighborhood in the morning. We did manage to get to the beach yesterday. Unfortunately we did encounter some ankle biters out there. Not swarms, but just a few can make the experience rather unpleasant. We went past other beaches on the way to ours and I saw tons of folks at them (the reason why we did not stop at those), so perhaps the flies were only a problem at the beach we went to. Anyway, the dogs got in a good swim and the rest of us had a pretty good time as well, minus the ankle biters.
    Well, I guess that will about do it for this one. Hope you all are having a safe and wonderful holiday weekend. Just think, the next holiday will be labor day and summer will be ending!
Good night from the Keweenaw..

-
JD-

 

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