November 27-
    For those of you that typically check for the latest writing Sunday late afternoon, you have realized I am late today. For the rest of you, I guess it is business as usual, but I am getting a later start than average. The time I usually write was spent making homemade turkey soup from the leftovers of Thursday's feast as well as homemade bread and even some homemade noodles to go into the soup. I have one full belly and hopefully will not fade off while writing!
    Let's see what is first on the docket for tonight...I guess I can start with the bad news first and that is the weather. No new snow and all the snow we had is gone. It actually hung around longer than I thought, but also as I thought, it all finally did melt by early Saturday morning. Initially, the melt led to some pretty scenes around here as snow melted and then re-froze into icicles. That was on Tuesday. Wednesday, things melted further and then by Thanksgiving, temps were in the 50's and we had some sunshine as well. That took us down to around an inch and then most of that melted with Friday's temps in the 40's. The rain and 40's we had all day on Saturday were enough to stick a fork in our snowpack and create some puddles. All that is left now is the snow that was piled up by plows, or in our case, where it piled up after sliding off the metal roofs.
    So we are back to the starting gate. This is not all that unusual for this time of the year. November snows are not something that can be counted on to stick around. However, it was sad to see it go as it was a very nice base, with the snows being wet and heavy. At this very moment I am not that depressed about the snow melt. That actually happened early last week when I could see it coming. I did all my sulking on Monday and Tuesday and then when it actually started to really melt, I had put my head around what was to happen and had made peace with the idea.
    What actually has be a bit down right now- and only a little, is the forecast. I really do not see any meaningful snows for us for the entire week ahead. There could be some snows by next weekend and beyond, but it looks like any thoughts of taking a ride the first weekend of December will have to be dismissed. At least temps will be chilly enough to freeze things back up and the air looks to be dry enough to dry things out a bit as well. I also am starting to remove thoughts of a record snow season for us as well. Not because of where our snow totals are right now, but not a lot is seen in the next 7 days or so and to break the record, we almost have to go full speed ahead from start to finish. It's just very hard to break the record or go for 400 with lulls.
    Even with the mild air, we have been going through firewood faster than I had thought with the additional space (woodshop) we are now heating. So I ordered up a bit more wood and it came this week.  Hee, Hee! Just kidding! There has been some logging going on near by, some days close enough to the cabin that we could hear the equipment. That is one of the decks that they made from the logging operation. If I had to estimate, it looks like about 120 to 140 cord there, which would actually set us up for the next 10 years or so, if we could keep it from rotting in that time. 
    As mentioned, that was just one of the decks that were made from the logging. I talked to one of the loggers and he thinks that they took over 200 cord out of the woods. The really amazing thing is that all of this work was done in less than 2 weeks! The operation was a fully mechanized one, with this behemoth doing all the cutting down of the trees. It's called a feller-buncher and here is a close up shot of the working end of it. That blade is about 5 feet in diameter. The machine grabs the tree in giant tongs and then the blade slices the tree off at the base and then the operator will lay the tree with the trunk pointing towards the way it will be hauled to the staging area (where the deck is). Then a logger on foot comes along and bucks the limbs off the tree and cuts the trunk off at the spot where it will no longer be of use to the loggers. Then this guy (the forwarder) comes along and grabs the tree trunks in bunches and hauls it to the staging area, where this piece of machinery called the processor cuts the trunks to 8 foot lengths so that they can be put on the bed of a logging truck and hauled away. So there you go, that is how logging is done in the Keweenaw. 
    Almost all of the logging done up here is selective logging, meaning they only cut some of the trees and leave others standing. Very little clear cutting is done, unless it is better for the forest in that area to be clear cut. All that is left once the loggers are done are some "tops", the tops of the trees that cannot be used by the mill as well as some rough paths through the woods where the feller-buncher and forwarder went through. In just a few years, it will be hard to even tell the land had been logged unless you get out and walk through the woods and pay close attention to look for the stumps left over from the cutting. Our land was actually selectively cut about 10 years before I bought it and going through it now, you would almost never know.
    If you are wondering where all of those trees will end up, well if you buy a sheet of OSB plywood and it says "Sagola" on it, that could be some of those trees. There is another OSB plant in the Iron Mountain area I believe, but forget the name.
    Trees were not the only thing getting cut around these parts this week. Gracie got her first hair cut this week as well. She did very well as sat still for the beautician and was rewarded with a sucker for her patience. 
    Our Thanksgiving was very nice. One of Nora's brothers and his family were up and we all gathered at our house and had the traditional meal. Then the day after Thanksgiving has always been the day that the Christmas tree was put up, at least for as long as I can remember and that is getting to be a long time! So after my work was done and a failed afternoon nap took place (someone was too excited to put up the tree to take her nap), we commenced on putting up our Christmas tree. I knew that Grace would be excited, but I was really surprised on her level of interest and involvement. She has not developed much staying power for most activities just yet, but she stuck around for the whole putting up of the tree and then helped Nora and I put the ornaments on, with a lot of concentration I might add! Here is one more shot with the tree just about done.
    Yesterday we awoke to a steady rain and the way it looked to me, were were in for more of the same the whole day. So Nora and I decided that we would put together a nice morning indoor activity for the three of us. I don't know how many of you know this, but there is actually a National Park here in the Keweenaw. It is a historical park, but a National Park just the same. It is called the Keweenaw National Historical Park and you can read more about it here. They have been helping to stabilize and even restore some of the old mining buildings and works in the Keweenaw. Several of the old mining buildings in Calumet have been restored and the latest is the old "Union" building. It was built back in the late 1800's to serve as a meeting place for the Free Masons and the Odd Fellas. The national park has gone to great lengths to try and restore things to the way they were when they were first built. The union building is now the official visitor center to the KNHP and that is where Nora, Grace and I went Saturday morning. I did take some pictures, but there is so much going on and so much attention to historic and architectural detail, that pictures really cannot do things justice, but in the interest of not leaving you totally out in the cold on what we saw, I did take this picture of part of the second floor and some of the exhibits set up there. 
    The second floor is where the Odd Fellas held their meetings and rituals and the third floor was for the Masons. The third floor is still a bit of a works in process, but they did restore the old lodge room to it's former glory. The first floor was originally rented out to businesses to help generate revenue to pay for the building. One of the main tenants was the Miners State Bank. The first floor now has the desk for the visitors center as well as some exhibits. I was really impressed with all they have done to the building and I really want to go back when I can spend more time looking at each exhibit.
    After that, we all went into downtown Calumet (all of 3 blocks away!) and had a nice lunch at the Michigan House and then came home for a nap. For anyone interested in learning more about this history of the mining era in the Keweenaw or just life in general in the way back times, I strongly suggest stopping in to the new visitor center. It's free and in winter they will be open Thursday through Sunday. You can even drive your sled up to the building. Just exit off the main trail through Calumet where you would for the AmericInn. Then when you get to the AmericInn, you cross over the main road there and head a little to your left and follow the road there. Look for the three story brick building with the words Masonic Lodge on it.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. Sheesh, December 1st is only 4 days away! I sure hope that I can have some snow and even snowmobile pics to share with you in the next entry, but I am not holding my breath and neither should you!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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November 20-
    Here we are, the second to last weekend in November already. Hard to believe that in just 10 days, the snowmobile season will be upon us. The month has flown by, but this past week seemed to be longer than the month has been- if that can make any sense. Time for me always drags by when we are in main firearm deer season. The woods are pretty much off limits to us non-hunters and I also know that the day following the closing of this hunting period is also the first day of snowmobile season, so I am extra anxious. 
    Don't get me wrong, I am all for sharing the woods and I could be a hunter if I wanted to and then these last 15 days of November would go by fast for me too, but I guess not growing up with it as a part of my culture, I prefer to have my meet pre-packaged. Plus, other than in jerky or sausage, I do not care for venison. Spare the trouble of sending me your recipes as well, as I have tried venison done lots of ways and everyone always tells me that theirs is the best and all others are no good, but it always ends up like I am eating shoe leather.
    But I digress. The weather has been very winter-like up here for the past 10 days or so. As I mentioned in the previous entry, we got our first snow and it was a pretty decent one. All but a few patches of it melted by early this past week, but then we got about another 6" of lake effect Wednesday and Thursday. Calumet picked up even more, with a pretty solid 12-14" of snow and I even heard reports that my former stomping grounds of Lake Linden saw as much or maybe even a bit more than Calumet. I did see a dominate band that was impacting areas from just north of Hancock to around Calumet Thursday morning and I also know that the early flight out of the airport was cancelled on Thursday, so it was really coming down. Storm number 2 hit us late yesterday and got areas from around Houghton south the most with about 6-9" of snow, we here outside of the greater Mohawk area picked up about 3". 
    My season's total, total for the month and total in the past 10 days is around 17" of snow. That is pretty good when you think about it. Heck, it's almost half of what areas like Chicago seen in an entire season on average (38" average). The week ahead does not look very promising for snow. In fact it is looking like a pretty substantial thaw is headed our way for the second half of the week. It sure will be a bummer to see the snow melt- especially if we lose it all. I am really hoping to be able to get out for a trail ride the first weekend of December and maybe even some mild boondocking the second week. We'll see I guess. No matter what happens later this week, I will try and keep in mind that things can, and usually do change in a hurry in the snow department around these parts in early December.
    Grace sure does love the snow. Each day this week she wanted to go out and play in it. We did head out most evenings and do a variety of different things- from trying to make a snowman, to taking a nature hike, to climbing trees to playing on the playground.
    Of course, when you compare Grace, me and the pups, it's pretty hard to come up with a clear cut winner in who loves the snow the most. The pups really do get a spring in their step when the snows fly and also when they pile up. They can spend an hour just playing chase and tackling each other in the snow. When inside, they will sit at the door and cry to tell us they want to go out and play, even if we all have just come in from playing outside. I am looking forward to taking some skis with them and we could have this week if it were not for those evil hunters. :)
    I guess the biggest news this week is Grace and I finally took our first snowmobile ride. Yep, I had promised her that when the snow was up to her knees, then we would take our first ride. She did not bother me at all about it, but when she and I were having lunch yesterday at the local Subway, I told her that if we got enough snow overnight that we could go brap-braping (our term for snowmobiling) and she got everyone's attention in the restaurant by yelling YEA! So this afternoon, I fired up the new sled and pulled it out of the garage and Grace and I took a few spins around the yard on the sled. Of course she wanted to do some boondocking in the woods, so we did that too.
    Even though we just putted around the yard/woods at around 10 mph, I did like the ergos of the new sled. They changed the steering setup on this model from the previous setup and I really like how it felt for at least sit down riding. I also like the more rider-forward position of the sled, both while sitting and standing. The real test will be how it handles while being tossed around and how little it will want to toss me around! Hopefully those tests will come sooner rather than later.
   So really not much else to say. We are kind of in a holding pattern until the hunters are out of the woods and the snows are deep enough to play in. Here is to wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

November 13-
    Well, not much to write about or pics to share so..... Just kidding! I have quite a bit to talk about and 26 pictures to share. So I guess I should really be saying settle in and make yourself comfortable. You are going to be here for a while.
    The big news this week was the seasons first snow, but before I get into all of that, the pups and I did get out into the woods on Monday and Tuesday before the snows came. I did not bring the cam with me on Monday, but did remember it on Tuesday. The walk started out in typical fashion, the three of us wandering down a Keweenaw logging road. Then it turned into something that I have not been able to do with them much since getting them and that is an all out exploration off any kind of trail and into the woods. Actually, I think we were following a deer trail, as it did seem to be a little worn down, but we were climbing over blow-downs and through thickets at time and no motorized vehicle could have gone where we were going. Anyway, the trek took us to a creek in the woods. I was actually aware that this creek was near by, so that is where I was hoping we would end up. The pups had a blast trouncing through the woods and I felt so good that we all are finally able to get out and do some good old fashioned exploring. They even did their best Field and Stream pose for me before actually jumping into the stream for a swim.
    Then on Wednesday, the skies grew dark and the air took on a chill and around 3 pm, the first flakes of snow started to fly. It started out rater timid, but then intensified after about a half hour and by the time Grace and Nora got home for the day, the ground was starting to turn white. I missed Graces first reaction to seeing the snow come down, but I still got a very neat look at her excitement when she got out of the car and came to the cabin. The joy and excitement in her eyes was just amazing.
    We all got bundled up and headed out to play in the snow. We did not have enough to really do much playing, but still managed to catch some flakes on our tongues and slid down a slush covered slide.
    The snow really started to come down around 5 and kept up pretty good until bedtime. I had to run to the store to get some milk for Grace and it was coming down so hard that I could only drive around 10-15 mph. Then just as we were all heading off to bed, it seemed to let up a bit and I thought that since we were going to just get a glancing blow from it, we had seen most of the snow that we were going to see (about 2-3" at that point). When I woke up and started work at around 4:15, I looked out to see that the vehicle I had taken to the store had some snow on it, so we had picked up at least a bit more overnight, but from what I could see in the pitch black of that early morning, I thought we had only picked up around 2 to 3", maybe 4.
    Then I went to clear the snow off the truck that morning and realized that we had gotten more than 2-3 and even more than 4. When daylight broke, I went out to take the official measurement for this storm and measured an even 6" of wet and heavy snow. I did not bother plowing or clearing the snow with the snow thrower. Both of our vehicles have 4 wheel drive and had no problem getting around in it. Plus, I knew that it was all going to melt by the weekend. So after finishing up my morning work and taking a shower, the pups and I headed out for our morning loop (two mile walk around the neighborhood). It was really something walking around in the winter wonderland that just less than 24 hours ago was just different shades of brown. I think that is one of the things I love so much about snow is how it can transform the landscape in such dramatic and sudden form.
    The snow fell with temps in the mid 30's, so it stuck to everything and when I say everything, I mean everything. Our neighbor is fortunate enough to have cable and the wire feeding it to his house was completely encased in 2-3" of snow and the wire hung so low that trucks could not pass underneath it. I think one finally passed by slow enough to knock the snow off of it and then it returned to it's regular height off the roadway. Of course the woods were well decorated by the frosting as well. That was a shot of our woods and was deserving of the first full sized view of the season. Here is a shot of Gracie's playground.
    When we got home, I let the pups off their leashes and was going to go over and load up the wood boiler. As soon as I let them off the leashes, they took off in a game of chase. For anyone that has seen them do this, you know what I am talking about when I say it really is something to just stand there and watch them do. They run at full speed through the woods and you think one of them would run smack into a tree, but they are very good at object avoidance...at least so far (knock on wood). I followed them around with the camera, hoping for a moment when they would break out into the clear so I could get a shot and was rewarded by this moment of Huck in chase of Millie.
    I had to go to the Dr's on Thursday for a regular check-up, so I did not get to do as much exploring of the snow as I wanted to, but the pups and I did take a quick run up the highway a bit to see what we could see. The drive was really magnificent with all the snow coating things. The roads were actually busier than they usually are and with the shoulders not plowed yet, I could not stop to take much pictures, but I did sneak one in as we were driving into Phoenix. We turned off on the farms road to see what happened in some of the higher terrain. At the bottom of the farms road, the snowmobile trail crosses and here is what it looked like Thursday afternoon.
    We got to the end of the road and very near the top of the hill and the snow was a bit deeper, but not way deeper. In some storms, I have received 6" at our house and the higher terrain has seen nearly double that, but this time around they only picked up around 2 more inches and had 8 on the ground. Some others had been to the top before me, probably hunters getting ready for the season, and it made for an interesting drive if you ventured out of the ruts put in by those before me. On the way back home, we took the Cliff Drive, which was even more magnificent than the main highway.
    Nora had something going on at school Thursday, so I had to take Grace with me to the doctors, which worked out well as we both got the flu shot and only I cried. Anyway, the whole time we were there we discussed how we would build a snowman if we got home before it got dark. As luck would have it, we were in and out of the doctors pretty quick and did get home in time to build a snowman. The only problem was that the air was starting to dry out and cool down and the snow was becoming less sticky, so we did our best and even put a carrot in for a nose as was suggested by her.
    On Friday, as the snow started to melt a bit and got good for packing again, Nora and her went out to play while I made dinner and they made their own snowman. It was a little more deluxe, with a mouth, arms, buttons and a hat. We have also schooled her in the principle of never to eat yellow snow! Only eat the white stuff. It's not all fun and games around here though. We also told her that before she could some in and eat a nice warm supper, she had to finish cleaning the snow off the deck. Luckily for her she got it all done before it got dark and her food got too cold! :)
    Yesterday, Nora and Grace headed down to the Tech campus. They put on something that is called the "Bounce House", or at least that is what Nora and Grace were calling it. Anyway, they have a bunch of inflated slides and trampolines and other fun things for kids to play on. I really wished that I would have gone as that sort of stuff if right up Graces alley when it comes to fun. Here is a shot of her in one of the bounce chambers. Here she is sliding down one of the slides and they even had a wall that the kids could climb up. I understand that she even gave the kid on the right in that last shot a 3 second head start. I will be sure to make sure I can make it to next years bounce house!
   I was not able to make it because I wanted to stay home and build my first project in the woodshop. Now before you all go and think I was being self centered by staying home to build something in the shop rather than go with Grace and Nora to the bounce house, I was building something for her. The shop is not even quite ready to go into full production, as I still am awaiting some parts for the dust collection system, but I was able to use the portable one I still have. 
    Grace has been wanting to wash her own hands in the bathroom sink, but had to shimmy up the side of the cabinet by standing on the drawer pulls, so I said to her that I would build her a step stool so that she could wash her hands more easily. I was finishing it up when they got home yesterday and Nora told her that when she woke up from her nap, that she could go see it. So I woke her up from her nap and when I told her that I finished it and she could go down and see it, she flew out of bed and down the stairs, pushed Millie out of the way to get to the bathroom to see it. She went right up it and was tickled pink to be able to stand there and wash her hands. I was a proud dad watching her use it and to know that the first thing built in the new and improved shop was something for her.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

November 6-
    Welcome to November everyone! I'm not sure about the rest of you, but for me, this time of the year is kind of like the day before your favorite team is about to play the championship game. I am all excited about the potential for something very good to happen (record snow year), but I also do not want to pin all of my emotions of the moment on any happiness that may or may not bring. It is still early on, the game has not yet started, but in about 2 weeks, if we are going to have a record breaker, it better start up.
    We are actually in record setting mode right now. We have yet to have at least a trace of snow fall and this is the latest that has ever happened. Now, I suppose many of you are thinking: "Geeze, it's the second week of November and I have not even had measureable snow, how in the heck can I even be thinking of having a record breaking snow year?!" Well, that is because many big snow years up here have a bit of a delayed start. The granddaddy of them all, 1978-79 saw nearly 400" of the white stuff fall, but the first 1" of snow did not happen until November 10th. Another big season, 1995-96, the snow held off until about now and then kept coming. On the flip side, in many years when we have had some big Oct and early Nov snows, the rest of the season seems to fall flat on it's face.
    So that is why I am excited for this snow season, but I also know it had better start getting going in about 2 weeks, or our goal for a record snow season will become harder to achieve. I can say that there are at least chances to see some flakes of snow around here this week and again next week and as I have been mentioning in the 5-10 day portion of my forecast text write up, there do appear to be some changes forecasted for the pattern upstream of North America that could have significant impacts on the weather across North America by the middle of the month.
    Changing gears dramatically here, Grace had her second Halloween of trick-or-treating last Monday. We started asking her what she thought she might want to be back in early September and there were several different ideas being tossed around, but then as we got into October, the answer pretty much stuck to a flower pot. I have no idea where that idea came from, but I did think it was pretty cool that she was being so creative. So Nora got very creative herself and also very busy the week leading up to Halloween and produced one heck of a flower pot costume for Gracie. There were a few tense moments when we were getting ready to head out and Grace was in a bit of a foul mood and was saying she did not want to wear the costume. I cannot verify this with complete confidence, but I believe I heard Nora saying under her breath: "You will wear this costume!". At any rate, Grace's mood came around and she wore the costume with pride. We hit a few streets in Calumet and Laurium and she made out like a bandit. Handfuls of candy were given to her at each stop, not the token, single piece like I always got. 
    There were lots of neat moments we had with her, but the funniest of the night happened right out of the box. We had been coaching Grace in how the whole trick or treating thing went by telling her that you say trick or treat when someone comes to the door with the candy and then you say thank you after they give the candy to you. So we went to the first house and after a little coaxing, Grace said trick or treat. Then like the proud parents we are, we asked Grace: "What do you say now?" To which her reply was "More?" as she held out her bag to the person at the door. Only a two year old could get away with that one!
    The weather cooperated for our trick or treating time. It was pretty chilly, only in the 40's, but the rains earlier in the day had stopped around 1pm and then started back up just as we were climbing into the car to come home. Here is a shot of Gracie and I on the main drag through Calumet and here is Gracie on her way back to the car, trying hard not to step on the crack and break her momma's back.
    In other news, it has been another week of getting cores done in time for the winter to arrive. I really do love living in a place where you actually need to prepare for winter to come. There is no question that it is coming and no question it will be a cold and snowy one based on anyone's interpretation, it is just HOW harsh it will be. As I mentioned in the last journal, Al dropped off a little over 3 cord of logs to be cut for firewood and with the blink of an eye, it pulled a disappearing act. In reality it was a bit more than a blink of an eye, but it only took myself and a very hard working local high school boy 1 1/2 hours on Wednesday and an hour on Thursday to cut, haul and stack the 3+ cord. So I now have a wood shed that is almost chock full of firewood. We probably could have fit another 1-2 cord in it, but I have plenty to make it through. Here is a different shot that shows a better view of how much wood is in there.
    Well, I hope you all are sitting down when I say this next thing, but the pups and I actually got out for a Keweenaw Woods Adventure this week! It took until Friday! but we did it. I have to admit, I have been feeling a little guilty about not hitting the woods much since my recovery from the surgery in May, but it's not like I have exactly been a slouch either. So with ALL the have-to projects out of the way, we piled into the truck and headed out Friday afternoon. I think they actually could sense that this was not the typical truck ride to the bank, post office or hardware store, it was to the woods! When I opened the truck door to let them out, they bounded with so much energy and excitement, it made my whole day. We have been taking our morning walks every day and they do get to spend a lot of time in our woods playing, but there is something extra special to a labrador to be walking in the woods with their keeper. They actually did very little walking, there was a lot of running and a bit of sniffing. It was good to see them running around so well. You would never know Millie had her knee rebuilt back in February and both have lost some weight since we restarted our daily 2 mile walks in the morning about a month ago. I sure hope that the weather will cooperate so that we can take some more hikes in the woods before main firearm deer season comes. I know we will be taking lots of skis in the woods once the snow starts to pile up.
    If you haven't noticed by now, my excitement level for the snow season is climbing. I am not yet at a fever pitch, that will come in about 3 weeks, but there has most certainly been a marked increase in my excitement for the snows to come. A big part of that is because THE NEW SLED ARRIVED this week! I got the call from Rt12 Arctic Cat this week and was told it would be heading up late this week and yesterday morning at about the crack of dawn, it arrived. The funny thing is, I though it was going to be green. I had forgotten that I had ordered an orange one. The other funny thing is, when I was at the snowmobile shows, I saw both the green and orange next to each other and really wished that I had picked the orange one. So imagine my pleasant surprised when the door to the trailer opened up and there was pretty orange kitty inside! Of course you all know who had to be the first to sit on it! My greatest thanks goes out to Rt12 Rental and Arctic Cat for once again giving me a sled to play with this season. Trust me, I really do know just how lucky I am to be given this special treat. They actually make no demands as for exposure on the site, they just tell me to have fun with it, but I am going to say it anyway, if you are in the Chicagoland area and looking for a Cat, or maybe even a special tool to rent for a project, stop by and check them out, a great group of folks.
    So in addition to collecting tons of candy, climbing around on a brand new 2012 Arctic Cat ProClimb 800, Grace has also been busy checking to make sure we have enough firewood for the season. Actually, both Nora and I are trying to instill a good work ethic in here, even at this early stage of her life. She sees both of us work very hard, but also not complain about it and I wanted to show her the fruits of my log cutting labor. So we went into the wood shed and in no time, she was climbing up the pile and actually made it all the way to the top all on her own. I did stand right by to catch her if she slipped, but did not even have so much as a hand on her bottom the entire time. She is one good climber and one fearless little girl. It is fun to watch her go, but also requires us to have 100% constant attention on her.
    So in addition to collecting tons of candy, climbing around on a brand new 2012 Arctic Cat ProClimb 800 and climbing around on the wood pile, she has also been busy riding her rocking horse. Not a staged photo at all, she climbed up on the horse and then asked if I could get her hat for her and started rocking away. I called down to Nora and said she HAD to come up here and bring the camera with her. Never a dull moment with Gracie!
    The Michigan Tech hockey team has been sort of the door mat of the WCHA for the past few seasons, but this year so far they swept a weekend series against then #17 Wisconsin and last weekend won one and tied the other game against #2 Denver. They have a new coach and he wasted no time in picking up some pretty good players and it looks like it is all working for them. So I asked Nora if she wanted to go to a game this weekend and she said yes, so I got tickets for Saturday's game. They won on Friday 1-0, but ended up losing Saturday 6-3. None the less, it was really fun to be at a hockey game again and I am sure once the highs school season starts up, we will be taking in some Calumet games. They are quite the powerhouse in HS hockey. Here is a shot taken while at the game last night, right after that shot, they were called for too many men on the ice.
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. Perhaps next week I will have a few snowflake shots to share with you, perhaps not. In any case, I am ready. Snow Command is standing by, ready to roll.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

October 23-
    Getting an early start this week, as I can feel a nap coming on real soon. I guess it's the result of all the fresh air hard work :). The smiley face was for the hard work part, as I really did not work too hard during the work session, but others sure did. All went very well and we now have some trails that will probably not need any real heavy brushing for a few years, as we got pretty aggressive with our pruning back. Not that most of you will even notice the work done when you are up riding, but for the groomers, they will have better visibility and also not have to worry about trying to sneak under any low hanging branches. We did not get the entire 250 miles of our system done, but I would say that close to half of that was done by the work crews this weekend.
    We sure were blessed with the weather we had as it rained pretty much all last week and then stopped just in time for Friday and yesterday and has threatened rain for most of the day today, although we have been dry. We even had sunshine on Friday to help out with the beauty of the woods. Yesterday was overcast and only in the 40's for temps, but that is not too bad of weather to be out in the woods brushing trails. Thanks to Lac La Belle's microclimate, there were even some leaves left on the trees. Here is a shot of us climbing up into the higher terrain just to the east of Mt. Bohemia, with Lac La Belle in the background.
    I won the bonehead of the year award and gave our work crew something to chuckle at on Friday as we had to go through a mud hole. It was actually the same one that Dave from the Lac La Belle Lodge got stuck in last year, only this year it was driver error and not the depth of the mud that was the problem. As we approached the mud, I leaned forward and thought I was pushing the button to put it into four wheel drive. Only my truck has that four wheel steer and that is what I engaged instead. We actually almost made it out of the mud hole, but one of the front tires hit a rock and we just did not have enough momentum or traction to make it past that. So I backed up and tried again- to no success. About the third or fourth time I tried, we became stuck in the mud, could not go forward or backward. I was pretty surprised that we got stuck because we made it through last year and it was a lot deeper then. I was even more surprised when I got out of the truck to access the situation and saw that we really were not deep into the mud at all. It then hit me that we might not be in four wheel drive and so I hopped into the cab and saw that I had engaged the 4W steer and not the 4W drive. Needless to say the truck came right out on it's own once I hit the correct button!
  If I won the bonehead award, then Zach won the most challenging way to cut a limb award. I was cutting an overhead limb and the hand pole-saw I was using became binned in the limb as it broke and dangled. So Zach shimmied up the tree and whipped out his machete and proceeded to break the limb and free my saw and also finished up with another limb that was overhanging. 
    A bonus to the work we did both Friday and yesterday was that I was able to come out of the woods with enough firewood to give us heat and hot water for about 2 weeks in the dead of winter. Typically it is illegal to cut firewood on the land company land, but we all figured that what we were cutting had to be cut to open up the trail and it was just going to get tossed aside to rot in the woods, so may as well make use of it.
    After all the work was done yesterday we all got together at the Bear Belly Bar and Grille to enjoy some brisket and pulled pork that I had smoked for 14 hours on Thursday. I think everyone enjoyed it, as I cooled up two huge slabs of brisket and two huge pork shoulders and there were only a few scraps left. Cathy from LLB Lodge also made some coleslaw and provided a carrot cake. The firefighters from SE WI also brought along some cringles and I cannot leave out Ken and his wife from the Pines/Zik's in Copper Harbor that made us sandwiches to eat both days for lunch. So a huge thanks to everyone that came up as well as to all the folks at the Lac La Belle Lodge and the Pines/Zik's in Copper Harbor for all they did to make this another very successful work party!
    Before we left for the evening, Nora took Grace out to play outside for a bit and I broke free for a moment to join them and watch the sunset by the lake and even toss a few stones into the water. Today we got to enjoy two more bonuses from the work party and that was our own private cringle, courtesy of the boys from SE WI as well as a nice new book to read from "Willie".
    So other than the work party, there really is not a lot to talk about. Grace and I survived the bachelor status we had for Monday and Tuesday. The weather was too junky to really do much outside all week. I had other stuff to tend to so I did not do any work in the shop, but the HVAC guys did come on Friday and got most of the work done. It looks like they have just an hour or two left and then I will have heat in the wood shop and I do plan to do some work in there this week, getting things straightened up.
    I did get to use the chain saw during the work session and did not have the defibrillator go off, so all is well with that. I even cut up the tree that fell a few weeks back and had been sitting on the side of our driveway. The heat did kick on last night as I noticed the floors were warm this morning as we made breakfast. I am really surprised that we made it this long without needing heat.
    The entire week was not a total wash out as Grace did get to play on the playground a bit. Although gone are the days of wearing a t-shirt and shorts. It is jeans, a jacket, gloves and hat wearing weather now. Makes it a little more of a challenge, but not impossible to play peak-a-boo.
    Or course Huck and Millie love the cooler temps and have been having lots of fun with us outside. Their stick collection is really growing. It's funny how they will have a few dozen stick on the ground in the same spot, but when they want to play chase with a stick, will go into the woods to find a new one and will then deposit it with the others when they are done. My only wish is that their drop off spot was closer to the wood boiler! Not sure if you noticed in that last shot, but I asked the pups to say: "Cheese" when I was taking their picture and this was Huck's response. What a bugger!
    Well, I guess that about does it for this one, it's nap time!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 18-
    Sorry about that, but yesterday was like Grand Central Station around here. I don't know what causes everything to have to happen on one day, but yesterday was it. To add to that, I am a bachelor for a few more hours as Nora had a conference for school to go to in the WI Dells, so we dropped her off on our way home Sunday. So any free time in the evenings has been spoken for the past two days. 
   Anyway, here I am and it is great to be back. It was really fun to be at the Milwaukee Snowmobile Show again and see so many of you. I see the numbers of visitors to this site from the web statistics, but I am just amazed at how many folks go to it and appreciate it when I meet them in person. I realize I did not meet everyone, or even close to everyone that comes to the site. That would number in the 100's of thousands, but it really is a treat for me to meet all of you. It also really rings home the idea that I have that this site is more than a website, it really is a kind of family. 
    The trip down and back went very well. Grace is a very good traveler and never once complained on either trips. We do have one of those portable DVD players that can work in a car and that REALLY helps to keep her entertained, but still, to have to sit in a car seat for over 7 hours is not much fun and she just troopered right through it. The dogs also travel amazingly well. Hucky gets pretty excited the first hour or so of the trip, but then realizes this is going to be a long one and then joins Millie in laying down and sleeping for the rest of the trip. So we are very lucky to have such good travelers, it makes the trip down to southern WI a whole lot better.
    Things sure were windy around here while we were gone and the strong winds lasted through yesterday as well. We did not have any trees come down and best I can tell, little in the way of branches either, but the wind did strip all the leaves off the trees. On the plus side, the strong winds also blew all the leaves into the woods, so there will not have to be any raking or leaf blowing this year. I do plan to cut the grass as soon as it stops raining around here, but that does not look to happen until Friday and then I will be busy with the trail work session Friday and Saturday, so looks like the grass will have to wait until Sunday. 
    Temps have been holding in the 40's for the past 4-5 days, but amazingly our heat has not kicked on yet. I thought for sure when we got home on Sunday that it would have been on already, but the house was nice and toasty and the pex for the in floor heat was not hot yet. The shops are a different story, they are quite chilly. I am waiting for the HVAC company to come out and hook up the heat for the woodshop before I turn the heat on in the front shop as the two are now really just one, with an 8 by 7 foot hole in the wall between them where the garage door used to be. Hopefully that will be soon, or I may need to toss something up to cover the garage door opening and start heating the front to make sure nothing freezes.
    Last week before we left for southern WI, we went and did some pumpkin picking. Hard to believe the weather was still so nice just a week ago, but I guess it's October in the Keweenaw, so 40's and rain are pretty much expected. In any case, Grace had a blast at the pumpkin farm. Both Nora and I wish we had a child that was a little more happy. :) Just kidding of course. The smiles you see on her are all natural and are on her face most of the time. She has her moments, but I actually wish I had a smile on my face as much as she. I think that is something I need to work on and something that she is helping me with and does not even realize it!
    Not much else going on, I guess this will be the final call out for anyone interested in helping out in our trail work session this weekend. We will be working both Friday and Saturday, starting around 9:30 or so and will be staging out of the Lac La Belle Lodge. Free lodging is available through the Lac La Belle Lodge or the Pines in Copper Harbor. Also, if those planning to attend did not see, I do have a roll call on the discussion board that you can chime in on and let me know you are coming, so we have enough smoked brisket and pulled pork Saturday. Also, we will mainly be doing brushing, so bring your saws, loppers and work gloves and we get to leave the post hole diggers and spud bars at home!
    Guess that covers it for this one.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 16-
    Trying to get settled in from the trip back from the Milwaukee Show, so will write tomorrow.
Good Night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 9-
    Wowzies! What a week! Lots to talk about this week, in fact I have a list. First on the list is to wish my beautiful bride of 7 years a Happy Anniversary. I like to joke about having 4 years of marital bliss, but it is just a joke. 7 years ago my life changed for the much better and each new day is a good one and I feel blessed to have her by my side. It's funny that sometimes it can feel like a certain amount of time is either more or less than it has been, but I remarked to Nora as we were headed out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary a day early that the past 7 years has really seemed like 7 years, which I think is a good thing. So happy anniversary sweetie, here's to many, many more happy days and memorable years.
    The color show up here went into full swing this week and I would have to say that either Friday or yesterday was the peak. I always brag about the colors up this way, but they really are something to behold. At times, your eyes seem to be lying to you, as if someone has "photoshoped" what you are seeing live. I guess the best example of that is this picture I took of the view out of the front of our cabin on Friday. Not bad- eh?
    The timing of the peak seemed to be right about on time, but the one thing that seemed to set this year apart from others is that the leaves did not seem to stay on the trees as long once they changed. In most years, we get at least a few days from when they change to when they drop, but this year we seem to be getting a day or two at most. I do not have a picture of our woods right now, but about half of the leaves in that last shot have already dropped.
    Of course I am using that unusual leaf drop as my excuse for not having a treasure trove of color shots this time around, but it really is true. I was planning on taking a bunch of pictures this weekend, but the show was already in the latter stages of the final act and things were just not as dramatic as they were on Friday. I did bring the camera along with us on our trip to dinner yesterday and here is a shot of the "covered drive" between Delaware and Copper Harbor. That is a road that is absolutely gorgeous any time of the year, but I think my favorites are after a big dump in the middle of winter and during the color show. Here is one more of the covered drive. That unfortunately does it for my shots of the color for this week. We still have some color up here and I will make it a point to travel with the camera this week, so I still may have some goodies for the next entry, but we have hit and are at past peak and I would not be surprised that in a week most of the trees will be bare.
    The weather has been big news up this way this week. We have actually been having summer weather for the week- including a record high on Tuesday of 75 and a record high yesterday of 83. We also rose into the 80's on Thursday and Friday, but did not set records. I have to say that it was really nice having this weather. As much as I like the snow, it can wait. It is always a treat to see the first snows fly and that has happened many times by this time of the year up here, but it was nice to be able to get out and around all week in the comfort of summer like weather. My only complaint was that Friday night and Saturday night the house did not cool down enough to my liking, even with all the windows open. The rest of the week we had perfect daytime temps and great sleeping weather.
    It has been fun to be basking in our beautiful summer weather while watching the Rockies get their first significant snows of the season. Most of the webcams out there were turning white with the big storm that hit at the end of the week. I can honestly say though that I was not yearning for it or even jealous. October snow is about as useless as it gets and I am content to wait it out until it can stick around.
    Most of my week has been spent in the woodshop, trying to get it finished out. I can say that on Friday, I finally hung the last piece of trim and thus the construction phase of the finishing out is officially done. There was a Yaaaaa Hoooo! upon completion and that last picture was taken on Friday and since then all the lights have been re-hung and I got the wood storage racks up today. I can also say that I sure am glad to be done with that phase of the project. For some reason it just seemed to fight me the whole way. Just about everything that could go wrong or be complicated seemed to and there were moments that I just had to stop, take a deep breath and regain my composure and will to finish. I think one thing that really helped was remembering to be grateful for the fact that my health is good enough to be working like that and that I also have the free time to be out there working like that. I forgot to mention last week that it was just 2 years ago to the day that I was opened up for the first heart surgery and although I was not coherent, there were moments where things were touch and go. So running into a few challenges hanging sheets of plywood or finishing out electrical or fitting some squirrely tongue and groove suddenly did not seem like such a bad thing. I plan to bring the wood that has been in temporary storage in the lean-to back into the shop and put it on the racks tomorrow and that will be the last of the grunt work. The rest should all be pretty much fun things like setting up tools and getting things organized. I love to have my shops really clean and highly organized, so that kind of stuff is fun for me.
    A neat thing happened on Friday too. I was doing some work in the shop when Nora and Gracie came home. They came into the shop and I was showing them my work and when I finished talking about everything, Gracie looked up at me, smiled and said: "Good work Dadda". I just about melted. She is such a sweetie and so sharp, it just amazes me.
    It's a good thing that I am getting the woodshop finished as I got an e mail from Rt 12 that the sled is in and all put together. All that needs to be done is to put in the Boondockers pump gas turbo.....Er.....I mean the proper clutch components for this altitude and it will be all ready to make the trip up north. Pump gas turbo... did I really say that??? Hmmmmmm.......;)
    When I sat down to write, I realized that I did not have a single picture of Grace to share this week, so I went and borrowed Nora's camera and have some goodies. She, Grace and the pups went out into the woods this morning when I was working on the shop and Nora took some nice pictures. For a while a month or two ago, Grace developed a case of camera shy, but what ever caused that to happen went away and she once again is happy to look at the camera and give a smile and I sure am happy for that as you all can see her happy nature. Of course when Nora sets out on a photo mission with Grace, there is usually some kind of a wardrobe change that takes place. This time around it was just a hat change.
    Once the photo session was over, then it was time to get back to work and we do not let the fact that Grace is only a bit past being 2 years old stop us from putting her to work raking the entire yard. She is still out there and we will let her in when it gets dark, but she did stop to take a break and play in a pile of leaves. Just kidding of course. Grace is being taught to be responsible by having to do things like put her toys away, but the real work like raking the entire yard will probably not happen until she is closer to being 3 :) For now, life is full of fun things like chasing the pups around the driveway in her F 150.
    So I guess that about covers it, except for a few quick announcements. First, I talked with the trail boss and it looks like most of the work at this years trail work session will be brushing. In the past it has mainly been signing, but this year we have a lot of brushing work that needs to be done, so folks planning to attend can feel free to bring their chain saws, loppers and work gloves. I for one would rather clear brush than try and dig a hole in the rocky Keweenaw ground. The next announcement is that I will be putting out my seasonal outlook tomorrow, so check the forecast text page for that and lastly, I hope to see all of you in Milwaukee next weekend at the show! Be sure to stop by the Togwotee booth and say hi!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
October 2-
    Welcome to October everyone! After what seemed like a solid week of rain, we are having a beautiful day and yesterday was beautiful as well. That clear blue Keweenaw sky and temps around 60 degrees. As mentioned, it rained a lot up here this week. The same upper air low that plagued the eastern Midwest all week also kept us in clouds and scattered showers much of the day. The weather was unsettled enough that I was really worried about having much content for this entry.
    On Thursday night we had a big blow up here. Not the biggest and quite honestly pretty much a run of the mill autumnal wind storm for this neck of the woods with sustained winds of 35, gusting to 55. We did not lose power, but there were power outages- including our neighbor down the road. We did however have a tree come down and block the driveway. Truth be told, we were able to drive around it, but Friday morning I did trim off enough of the top to allow us to drive on the driveway and be able to get around it. I will be firing up the trusty Husqvarna to make firewood out of the rest. Yep, you read right. I can play with chain saws again!
    On Monday I traveled to Marquette and met with my cardiologist there and got a glowing review from him and also was able to get the defibrillator deactivated. So I can once again play with gas fired power tools. I also ordered up another 3 cord of firewood, so anyone that was feeling left out from the wood cutting party a few weeks back is welcome to come on up and help with the 3 cord I have coming this week. Actually, I am just kidding. I will be able to cut that up and get it stored with out any help and will be grateful for being able to cut the wood myself, but also be thankful to those that came and helped with the 12 cord back in August.
    The inclement weather this week really did not impact my spirits much as I was in the shop working on getting it finished out. Still not done yet and it really has been a lot more work than I had thought. Plus I am taking my time and not rushing things (like I did with the first wood shelter!). However, I was able to get all the framing done between the trusses and also got all the fiberglass insulation in place. My next step is to put up another layer of insulation, only this stuff is like foil lined bubble wrap. It will go between the fiberglass insulation and the ceiling material. When combined with the fiberglass, I will have close to an R-30 in the ceiling. Not bad for a 5 1/2" cavity to work with. Most of the area above that shop is storage space, but where there is no storage, then I will double up on the fiberglass to give another 19 "R's" of insulation. As long as there are no surprises and I am able to rent a drywall lift this week, then by next writing, I should have all the construction work done.
    The color show is underway up here. It is not at peak yet, in fact I think that next weekend will be the prime time for leaf peeping in most areas of the Keweenaw. Some spots to our south look to have reached peak and I know on my trip to Marquette on Monday that most areas between L'Anse and Marquette were also very near peak.
    I did bring the camera along on my morning walk with the pups and here is a shot of some maples glowing even before the sun was above the horizon. Here is a shot taken just about an hour ago of the woods surrounding the wood shed and boiler.
    Nora's dad and stepmom are up visiting us and we all went out to the School Forest this morning for a walk. It was the first time in about a year that the pups and I had been out there and the first time since this past winter that Grace and Nora had been out there. I doubt that the pups even remember the place as we have not been there much since we do not live too close by anymore. However, it did not matter, they took off and had an absolute blast running around in the woods. It sure is great to watch them play and I am so happy that Millie's knee surgery put her back to 100%. The colors there were not nearly as far along as up our way and look to be even more than a week away from peak.
    Gracie had her hiking boots on and made good use of them today by hiking a good half mile or so. It will be so much fun to take full length hikes in the woods with her in a few years. Towards the end of the walk, we happened along some apple trees that had some treats waiting for us. Some of the better apples were up too high for me to reach, so Grace and I teamed up to pick a few. About a second after that picture was taken, an apple fell from the tree we were under and nailed me right on the upper lip. No blood, no foul, but it gave everyone there a good laugh. Here is a picture of Grace examining the fruits of her labor and here is a shot of her enjoying the fruits of her labor.
    Before leaving, I snapped one last shot of the developing autumn color. It sure is a beautiful time of the year and if anyone here has not been up this way to see the colors, you really should consider it. I am not trying to sound like the Tourism Board or anything, but the colors up this way really are something to behold and are for some reason more vivid than I have seen anywhere else. But you must not delay because in about two weeks, the show will be all but over. For those that cannot make it, I will try my best to give you some glimpses of the show.
    I guess another sign of the season is that I have stopped producing the warm season forecasts and will take the month of October off, except to produce my Seasonal Outlook. Have already been doing some work on that and will be releasing it on October 10th, so stay tuned for that. Funny how the more I seem to tell everyone to not put a lot of faith into any seasonal forecast (including mine) the more excited they seem to be for me to put mine out! Anyway, that will be out in 8 days, so hang tight.
    So I guess that covers it for this one.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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