July 31-
   Ahhhhhhh....The last day of July! Tomorrow I will wake up and my least favorite month of the year will be over! One step closer to the end of summer! Actually, I am excited for autumn to come and then especially winter, but I am enjoying summer for the most part. Our weather up here has been pretty enjoyable for the most part, with just a few hot and humid days. We had no really hot days this past week and only one day in which I would consider it really humid and as I type, our temp is 79, with a dewpoint of 56. Nora and I just got out from a 90 minute soak in the pool under clear blue skies.
    So while I am anxious for autumn and winter to arrive, I always am once the snow melts and I am really enjoying this summer we have had up here. Plus, it looks like other than maybe a day or so of humidity this week, the humidity will not be bad and temps look to stay out of the really nasty zone.
    It's been another busy week around the Dee house. No more road trips, but no moss has been growing under our feet either. In addition to the regular rounds of rehab, I was busy rebuilding the wood shed and made some great progress. All the framing for the walls and roof got done and I even was able to get the roofing on. That is actually further than I was planning to get. In fact, I was planning on getting that far by the end of this coming week, but I have been feeling so good that I have been able to work at a pace that was almost like my old self. I was really dreading the roofing work as it really becomes more complicated than working at ground level. For one, you need to set up something to stand on to get you to the level to work at. Then, once you are at that level, you need to make sure you keep your feet on that staging, or you go boom. Third, should you forget something, you have to climb back down and get it and then climb back up and last, should you drop something, you have to do the same thing as if you had forgotten it. I have come to the conclusion that I would love to be a wall framer, but not a roofing framer. At least not unless I had a ton of staging. Nora helped me yesterday with the purlins and today with the roofing, which was a HUGE help. It probably saved me a few dozen trips up and down from the staging and a ton of time. I do still have to put a few more screws in the roofing, but it is secured enough that I can finish it off tomorrow. I also want to put up some metal fascia along the front of the roof and will be wrapping the sides in rough sawn one-by material. However, even if I did nothing else from this point on, we would have a viable shelter for the wood, but I really want to just get the whole thing done once and for all before we fill it with wood for the season. 
    Speaking of filling it with wood for the season. Al will be delivering 3 truckloads of wood the week of August 21 and the annual wood cutting party is scheduled for August 27th. We will have more wood this year to cut than last, but last year it only took us 2 hours to cut and stack all the wood. So anyone looking for a reason to come to the Keweenaw that weekend, let me know!
    Gracie has been a busy Girl this week too. She helped us pick up the cut-offs from all the framing I did this week and she has also been helping Nora keep the plants well watered. She's so cute, she loves to do work and even gets upset now if you try and help her do something that she does not want help with. She chose to put those boots on to go outside and was able to put them on herself.
    She has also discovered Nora's Ipad. She really knows how to use it and we have some apps from Baby First TV that she likes to play with. In fact, Nora showed her how to use the Ipad and work with the apps and I learned from Gracie! I suppose it will not be too far down the road and I will be in stiff competition with GracieDee.com! Perhaps that will lead to an early retirement!
    It has not been all work and no play though. Nora, Gracie, the pups and I have been having some fun too. We have taken some evening and morning walks and Gracie and I hopped on the ATV and did some tooling around the front 40 this week. She really had a fun time and even complained a bit when we went too slow. Perhaps next year she will be able to handle a mini ATV of her own. I know Matt's son has been riding one for a few years and he is only a few years older than Grace.
    Today we even made it to the beach to have fun. This was our first jaunt to this particular beach for this season, but it was just like old times. At leas for Nora, the pups and I. Huck and Millie took to the water and enjoyed romping around in the crystal clear waters of the big lake. It was a wee bit chilly though, so none of the humans of the Dee family ventured in much past our ankles. Although Grace did take a few tumbles and ended up going in pretty much all the way a few times. She also discovered how much fun it is to play in the sand today and spent quite a bit of time making "mud", a mixture of sand and water. She did not want to leave, but we promised her we would go back again sometime. Pretty easy promise to keep!
    The arrival of August also means a sharp drop in the pesky flying critters that can be to bothersome up here in the summer. It has been pretty dry the month of July up here, so the mosquitos have dried up with the puddles. Every now and then one might bother you if you are out around sunrise or sunset, but during the day, not a problem, even in the woods. Most importantly to me is the down turn in the deerflies. They have not completely gone away, but I have not had one bother me in a few walks around the neighborhood now and even the dogs only have one or two bother them on the entire 2 mile walk we take. They typically drop off as we go into August, as do the horseflies at the beach and I only had to swat two of them the whole time we were there today.
    So things are looking good in the old Keweenaw. By the end of the month I will actually be going to sleep when it is getting dark out and the nights will start to take on a bit of an autumn chill. Our average high temperature has already started to drop. It did that on Monday the 24th. It is a slow process at first, but by the end of the month, our average high is not even in the 70's anymore.
   So I guess that gets you caught up on things around these parts. Talk to you in a week!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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July 24-
    Another week with the heat. So just how hot was it in the Keweenaw this week? It was thiiiiiiiissssss HOT! Yep, the old "hot enough to fry an egg" trick. That was Thursday afternoon. It took about 90 minutes for the egg to fry up like that, but I think a big part of it was because it came from the refrigerator. However, it did fry. The interesting thing is that not long after that picture was taken, a huge change in the temps and humidity took place. At 3 pm our temp was 91, with a dewpoint of 77. Then the winds shifted and blew in off the lake out of the east, rather than from WI from the SW. 2 hours later at 5 pm, the temps were in the upper 60's, with a dewpoint in the low 60's. That is mother natures air conditioning at work. It did warm back up a bit on Friday, but was not too humid, so it was a whole lot more tolerable and perfect for swimming.
    Both yesterday and today were cool enough to have to wear a long sleeved shirt or even a sweat shirt as both Nora and I did this afternoon. It is just amazing what kind of an influence the big lake has in this neck of the woods. Tons of snow in the wintertime and big time cool offs in the summer. I love them both!
    Not only did we have to deal with heat and humidity for much of this week, but we also had to deal with smoke from some wildfires going on in northwest Ontario. I'm not really sure how severe the fire problem is up there, but the smoke got so thick up here at midweek, that lots of calls were being made to emergency and media outlets to report the smoke and a potential fire nearby. It was even thick enough to smell. We had the strangest evening sky I have ever seen while the smoke was thick. The whole sky turned a dirty yellow color. Not sure why it turned that color, usually smoke produces a red color.
    The mid level winds were out of the west (rather than NW) on Friday, so that did away with the smoke and we have not had it since. It's not really missed I think.
    Well, I have to be upfront with you. Last week's entry was not written from the Keweenaw, it was written from Rochester MN. No I did not have any problems that required a return visit to the Mayo. I actually had my 3 month follow-up a month early there and got about as good a report as I possibly could have. They did some tests and my cardiologist there said that my heart pumping function is nearly perfect now. He said that the sky is the limit as far as what I want to do, but that I should wait another month or two to let the sternum fully heal up before I go trying to bench press 250 lbs. I said that it would probably take me more than a month or two to get strong enough to be able to bench press 250 lbs!
    Truth be told, I was a little worried about the state of my heart. It has been through so much and has so much inside of it, I really was expecting to get a report that included talk of limitations and the potential for future problems, but none of that talk took place. While we were on the topic of my latest valve surgery, I did ask him what shape my valve was in before the surgery and after. I asked him to rank things on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst. He said with a straight face that before the surgery, the valve was an 11! He went on to say that they do not see too many valves in that bad of shape, but that it was now at a 1.5 and could actually improve a bit on it's own. 
    So the news was all good and I have to admit that as I walked out of the examining room and through the waiting room, I don't think my feet touched the floor the whole time. I am not ashamed to admit that I had some tears of joy creep down my cheeks. After all I have been through the past 2 years, it was so wonderful to get such positive news. The tears were created by the thoughts of me growing old and gray with Nora and being around to see lots and lots of Gracie's life's experiences.
    It was also nice to be in Rochester on a volunteer basis. I was able to see a little of the city and do a little shopping. It was very hot there Sunday and Monday, but the same tunnel system that allows patients to get from building to building and avoid the cold in winter also kept me from having to go out in the heat and humidity this past trip. It was also felt really good to drive by and look up at the window I looked out of for a week while in the hospital this past May. I can remember standing at the window and watching folks come and go in their every day life and I wondered if they knew how lucky they were to be able to be walking to work, or driving to an appointment or any of the day to day activities that healthy persons so often take for granted. While looking up at the window this time, I could not help but think about the poor person that was on the other side of that window and said a prayer for a speedy recovery for them and everyone inside the hospital.
    Another thing I did while at the Mayo (and feeling nearly normal) this time around was to casually observe all the others that were riding elevators with me or walking the subway near me or sitting in the waiting room with me. I wondered what was wrong with them. I mean most folks visiting a medical center are sick, but to just get into the Mayo, you have to be some of the sickest of the sick. I can say that I felt good to be one just visiting for a check up, but also worried for those that were around me and were facing some really tough challenges. 
    I have been trough a lot in life, cheating death nearly a half dozen times so far on my ride in this world. Since my first fight for life, I have never taken life or what it has to offer for granted. Nor have I taken my health for granted. These past two years have not been much fun at all, but it is all behind me now and I sure do appreciate good health.
    Not only was my report from the Dr good, but I have really started to feel better and better and am closing in on feeling back to 100%. I am not quite there yet, I still tire a little sooner than I should and still have a few other issues to deal with from time to time, but the rehab has really been helping me get back into shape and this week I felt strong enough to start chipping away at the massive "to-do" list that has built up in the past 2 years. The first thing on that list is to re-build the wood shed. As you all know, it collapsed when snow went to clear off it this past winter and it is probably the most important item to get done before winter arrives. Actually, it needs to be done sooner because in about a month I will be taking delivery of the wood supply for the winter and it will be a lot easier to build the shelter without wood under it. So this Friday I got started on the re-build. The footings were either already there and this spring I had built them up a bit more. I am not in a big hurry to get it done and truth be told my body is not yet ready to work for hours and hours on it- especially after working out for about 90 minutes at rehab or doing some rehab work here at home.
    It is nice to be doing that kind of work again. It is almost completely in the shade, so even on warm days (not hot!) I can do some work there. All the materials are now on site and the plans I drew up this spring to make it stronger and better are going to be followed and perhaps improved along the way if need be. As long as the weather holds, I can see it being done in another two weeks or so.
    Mohawk was quite the happening place today. The park was jam packed with people and we even had a parade. It was actually very nice weather for all of the festivities, with temps in the 60's and a little bit of an overcast. As mentioned, Nora and I even wore sweat shirts and Grace wore a light jacket. Here is a shot of Grace and I waiting for the parade to start. So what was all the hubbub about in Mohawk you say? Well, we were celebrating Keweenaw Counties Sesquicentennial. 150 years of being Michigan's most northern county. I am a little embarrassed to say that it is actually the first parade I have taken in in Mohawk, but I can say it will not be the last. It is fun to see so many folks you know both watching the parade and in the parade. Nothing like a close knit community. While the parade had the typical entries like the flag corps, police, fire, festival honorees and elected officials, I think only in Keweenaw County will a parade include snow plows. Just as fitting as anything else in the parade if you ask me.
    So I think that is about it for this entry. I sure am happy to be able to share the good news on my health and future health with you all and this time when I say it, I really mean it...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

July 17-
    I realize that I am preaching to the choir, but man-o-man is it hot out! We have not had this kind of heat and humidity in a long time. When I stepped outside at around 7 am this morning, it felt like Florida did in the summer and I could tell that it was going to be a nasty one. Not only is it hot (temps in the 90's) but it is also very humid, with dewpoints in the mid 70's. We rarely see that kind of humidity.
    I guess I really cannot complain as first we do not see this kind of weather that often and there are folks reading this that see it at least one spell a year, if not more. Plus, the air conditioners are keeping the cabin nice and cool and we also have a pool to enjoy and keep us cool while outside. 
    To tell you the honest truth, we did not use the pool much at all this week, due to the fact that it was a bit too cool when combined with the clouds we had for much of the week. Had we seen sunshine those days, then we could have enjoyed the pool as air temps in the low 70's or even upper 60's is swimming weather when the pool temp is 88 degrees. However, when there are clouds, it is just too chilly. The pool did get used plenty yesterday and again today though and it looks like it will be getting a work out all week long as temps look to stay in the upper 80's to low 90's all week and humidity looks to stay up there as well.
    It was another busy week of rehab and work and a little play. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures to share with you as they were all on Nora's camera and for some reason have been lost in cyberspace somewhere. She thinks she might have some on another computer, so perhaps I will be able to share this weeks pics with you next week!
    As mentioned, temps were in the very comfortable range all week, with highs in the 60's and 70's and dewpoints in the 40's and 50's. Great daytime weather and also great sleeping weather. We did take a walk around the neighborhood with the pups yesterday morning before it got hot and were pestered by the deer flies. I actually bought a fishing hat that has "flaps" of fabric that extend off the back of the hat to protect my neck. It looks a little goofy, but worked like a charm. I could hear the deer flies buzzing around back there, but was not bitten by any. The poor pups really attract them and at any one moment had 3-5 buzzing them. Thankfully their coats are too thick for the flies to bite through in most cases and when one lands on their nose or ears, I will swipe it away. Still, I sure wish there were no flies in the first place. Hopefully they will take their seasonal drop off come August and we will be left with the relatively bug free month that August usually is.
    Not much else going on up here. They are really starting to work me at rehab, which is good, but just when I think I am going to have an easy day, they up the time or resistance or both to the machines and I am pretty well worn out for much of the rest of the day. I am too embarrassed to say exactly what I am doing and how much resistance I have right now as it would be a walk in the park for most folks, but if the trend I am now on continues, then the next 6 weeks will see me finish up at levels that would give anyone but the most fit a real work out. I also think that as long as the current trend continues, I will be in good shape for riding. It's a good thing the snow is not falling right now, or I would probably be pushing it too much!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. Keep cool and just think, in about 3 months I will probably be sharing the first snow pictures of the season with you all.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
July 10-
    I'm not sure about the rest of you, but summer sure seems to be flying by. Here we are a third of the way through July already and in another month and a half, summer will basically be over in these parts, or at least in the final stretches. If the rest of the summer can go as nicely as this past week has, then I might actually miss it a bit when it does decided to leave. We had absolutely perfect weather in my book. Temps in the 70's for highs and 50's for lows, with low humidity and lots of clear blue skies. Up until today, we had only had to run the air conditioners once and for folks who know how I like my house to feel in the summer, that is saying a whole lot!
    Then came the weekend. Yesterday was overcast and we had some scattered showers in the morning and midday and then a more steady rain in the late afternoon and then back to showers in the evening. Highs in my neck of the woods were only in the low 60's yesterday, but you did not have to go too far south to find some 70's and I believe Houghton and Hancock saw those temps occur yesterday. Today has been overcast for most of the day, with the sun just starting to peak out. The humidity has really jumped too, with dewpoints in the low 70's right now. The humidity looks to break tomorrow and most of this week looks nice and comfortable again.
    With the sunny skies and temps in the 70's, the pool got a lot of use this past week. In most cases, 70 degree temps might be a little on the cool side for swimming, especially with dry air, but the pool was a balmy 88 degrees, so as long as you stayed in it, you were nice and warm. 
    Grace picked up where she left off with the swimming thing in Florida this spring, meaning she loves it and is very comfortable in the water and actually not a bad swimmer for a 23 month old. She has even taken to jumping off the pool ladder. She goes completely under and comes up all smiles. I think we used the pool 5 out of six days since last Sunday, which sure makes it worth putting up. Plus I am really glad that I can heat it off the wood boiler, as it is not that big of a deal to toss a few more logs in the boiler every day and is certainly less expensive than heating it with propane.
    With the summer weather comes the fruits and vegetables of summer. Not much has ripened up in these parts yet, but our peach crop this year looks to be headed in the direction of a bumper one. The tree must have a few dozen peaches on it and we have been spraying it to keep the bugs and other nasties from ruining the fruit like happened last year. There is a stand in Calumet that sells things that come up from downstate and I believe early in the season like this they even get some stuff from further south like southern IN and perhaps even further south than that. I sure love the fresh fruits of summer and is about my only complaint about winter. I wished like liked more vegetables, but I just have not been able to get my taste buds to like them. One of the vegetables I do like is sweet corn. I guess that's because when it is really fresh and sweet, it is almost like candy. The stand had some, so we picked it up and Gracie helped husk the corn yesterday before dinner. She sure is turning into a big little girl and really loves to help out when Nora and I are doing different chores around the house. When it comes to who loves sweet corn more, Grace or I, the race is pretty close. She put away an entire ear all by herself yesterday- in a very short time too. It is the cutest thing to watch her bite that corn off the cob.
    There are some things growing up here that have reached their peak of ripeness. The main item at the moment is the strawberries. The highways are dotted with roadside stands manned mostly by children that have picked the berries and are trying to make a little spending cash. You really do not have to drive more than about 5 miles before you reach the next stand- especially when you are driving through the berry producing areas around here, which stretch from south of Chassell up through Houghton/Hancock and just north of Calumet. We have already stopped to pick up a few pints and will continue to do so as long as they are available.
    The strawberry growing is so big down in the Chassell area that they have a big festival every year at the time the berries become ripe. I am a little embarrassed to write that in the 12 years that I have lived up here, I had not made it to a single strawberry festival. That is until this year. Grace, Nora and I piled in the car and drove down in time to catch the parade. Grace has become quite fond of parades, I think especially because they toss out candy at them. I love parades too. It's neat to see all the community members come together and either stand on the sides to watch or participate in the parade and because the community is so small, you usually know quite a few folks in both capacities- even for out of towners all the way down in Chassell. I did not know the fella driving this entry, but it was unique!
    Today we got an early start on the day and headed down to the beach. The temps were already pretty warm in the morning and we decided to beat the rush and nap time by heading down to play on the shores of the big lake. Gracie was the first ready (other than Huck and Millie) and was chomping at the bit to leave while Nora and I gathered all that is needed for her and the pups.
   With the humidity so high and the lake temps so low, there was some fog down by the lake, but the temps were still warm and the biting flies were not an issue- except for the one fly out there that got Nora on the ankle. The pups lost no time in partaking in their favorite activities at the beach. For Huck that is fetching a stick or in the case this morning, a brand new fetching toy. For Millie it is chasing a tennis ball tossed down the beach. Based on the blazing speed at which she was running after the tennis ball, I'd say that the surgery she had back in February was a complete success. For Grace, it was showing off the latest swimwear from Paris and blowing some bubbles in the big lake.
    When we got home from the beach, I got the sprinkler going to try and keep the grass green. This is only the second time all summer that I have had to run the sprinkler. Usually I am battling to keep the grass green by early June. There must be some sort of instinct in little kids that tells them that sprinklers would be fun to play in, because as soon as I got it going, Grace came running over and said: "play, play". She was already in her swim suit, so I could not turn her down, so she had fun dodging in and out of it for a while before we went in and had lunch.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. My weekdays are actually quite busy, so I still am struggling to get out and do much that would be of interest to you. I have cardiac rehab on Monday's, Wednesday's and Thursday's and that takes up every second of free time I have in the morning and actually eats into some of the time I really should not be giving up. That means that I have to spend some time in the afternoons keeping up with things that I could not get done in the mornings. They are starting to work me harder and harder (at least for a guy less than 2 months out of open heart surgery) and I find that I am a little tuckered out in the afternoons and need to save my energy for when Grace and Nora get home and we hit the pool. I do have about 2 more months of rehab left, but would suspect that as I get stronger, I will not be so tuckered out in the afternoons and will be able to get out.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
July 3-
    In the interest of exciting content, I really should have delayed this entry for at least one more day. I have actually been out of town for much of the past week. I left town on the 25th of June to travel to Iowa to speak at a conference and did not return until the week morning hours on the 28th (yep, the previous journal entry was written in Iowa). Then on the 29th, Nora, Grace and I traveled south to southern WI and northern IL to attend my uncles funeral and did not get back up here until yesterday evening. So in the past 8 days, I have spent a little over 48 hours in the Keweenaw. Not exactly what I would have liked to have done, but sometimes we can't always do things the way we want to.
    So unfortunately, due to my travels, I do not have a lot of stories to share and I do not have any pictures either. There were some pretty strong thunderstorms in the area Friday night and in a small section in Calumet, there was some pretty impressive damage. I had wanted to get over to take some pictures of the damage this afternoon, but was not able to break free. I did get a picture sent to me of a tree that was blown over during the storm, so at least I have a little to share with you. The damage was a lot more extensive than some trees being blown over though. The roof on the old drill house in Calumet was completely ripped off. This building was the one that is used for the curling events every winter. The roof has been on it for a long time, so I shows you how strong the winds were there. A little further to the east and north, a car port was picked up and carried across the street and destroyed as it smashed into the church across the street. There was damage done to a few other roofs and as mentioned, quite a few trees knocked down. 
    I was not able to tour the entire damage area, but did get a good look at a significant portion of it and to me it looked like it was done by straight line winds from a micro-burst. I did not see any asymmetry to the damage, everything seemed to be blown in the same direction, which is the signature to straight line winds. I will say that straight line winds can cause a lot more damage than is done by a weak tornado. I think lots of folks almost wish that when damage is done by a storm, they can claim it was due to a tornado because it sounds more dramatic, but straight line winds can do some nasty damage. Entire sections of forest have been completely leveled by straight line winds and I have read of stories of massive damage to towns due to straight line winds as well. For those of you wanting to do a little research on just what straight line winds can do, you can google microburst or even deracho. 
    We did not have any damage here at our house, but I did read in the NWS storm reports that Eagle Harbor recorded a wind gust of 66 mph. I am no expert in determining wind speed from looking at the damage it caused, but I would have to say that what hit that section of Calumet sure could have been at or above 100 mph.
     I really am at a loss of what else to say. I can't really comment on the weather up here because I have not been here for most of the past 7 days. I can say that late yesterday and all of today have been beautiful. I can also say that it was very warm and humid on Friday. Temps rose into the upper 80's and dewpoints were in the upper 70's! It is not that often that the dewpoints hit the upper 70's in this neck of the woods and I am glad that I was not around to experience it. Our dewpoints are in the 40's now and temps have been in the upper 70's to low 80's the past 2 days. The bugs are not bad at all. It looks like the blackflies have run their course and a few mosquitos are around, but nothing bad at all. In fact, not as bad as they were in southern WI. There was one horse fly buzzing the dogs this morning, but it flew off and we were not bothered by any more of them or deer flies the rest of the day.
    We do plan to go to the parade tomorrow and I am sure that I will take the pups to the beach some day this week. It looks like beautiful weather all week, with low humidity and temps in the upper 70's to low 80's. I really owe the pups some fun time as they had to spend the three days we were gone in a kennel. The kennel is a nice one and the owner is great, so their setup was as good as it gets for being in a kennel, still it is not home.
    I guess that about covers it for this one, other to say that I do plan to start up the summer forecasts this week. I am finally feeling good enough and also done with my travels for a while, so can settle in and get to all of my responsibilities. Have a safe and happy Independence Day everyone!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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