December 27, 2015-
    I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! The Dee's sure did. We bolted out of town Wednesday morning to head south to my moms in southern WI. The weather could have been better through central WI, as we had a pretty heavy rain and really dense fog from Rhinelander to around Portage, but then the rains stopped and the fog disappeared as we headed south into S. WI and when we got out of the car, we could not believe how warm it was. It almost felt like summer, with temps approaching 60 degrees! Needless to say it was a brown Christmas there, but that did not dampen the spirits. We had fun with family and enjoyed our time while there.
    Santa was quite good to all of us as well. Back in October when we went to South Carolina for a wedding, Nora borrowed a pearl necklace from her aunt and both Gracie and I thought she looked so beautiful in them that Gracie got Nora her very own, along with matching earrings. Gracie and Nora were also busy shopping for me and like me, Nora let Gracie pick out her very own present for me, it was a beautiful ceramic snowflake that will be getting proudly displayed on the wall in my office. I also scored an awesome drone helicopter with camera in it! I have not flown it yet, but plan to watch plenty of instructional videos on it before I do and will get back to you with the results. If there were any clue as to what the typical results for the first few flights were, it did come with 6 extra blades!
    Gracie also made out well in the gift department. Among many things, the two big stand outs were a pair of ice skates and a remote control BB-8. By the time we got home yesterday and got unpacked, had dinner and then opened all of our presents, it was pretty late, so we read up on BB-8 enough to learn how to charge it and then this morning downloaded the app for her I-pad that lets her control it and she was busy all morning sending it all around the house.
    The return trip from S. WI turned out to be better than expected...at the expense of those longing for snow in northern WI. The models were all calling for upwards of 5-8" of snow to fall from around Wausau north into the UP. By late morning, the radar was confirming the forecast, but the ground truths was not. I guess the best name for the storm Saturday (other than a 4 letter swear word) would be the "Phantom Storm". While the radar was showing snow, even moderate to heavy snow, to be falling across the WI Northwoods, it was all evaporating before it could reach the ground. As a result, we had clear sailing all the way until we were just a few miles into the UP. Just before getting to Watersmeet on Hwy 45, the roads became snow covered, but it was not snowing. The snow began to fall a bit north of Watersmeet and kept up the rest of the way home. 
    So our drive home was not too bad, but I do feel for the folks wanting the snow to have fallen in N. WI. The ground was pretty bare from southern WI to just south of Stevens Point, then there was a light coating left over from the change over that happened Thursday night. By the time we got to around Tomahawk, there was around 2" of very dense snow from the Thursday night activity. Rhinelander seemed to have around 2-3", Eagle River 3-4" and Land O' Lakes around 4-5". Again most of that must have been from the Thursday night activity, as the roads were clear and dry as we came through yesterday. Watersmeet had around 6" on the ground, with Bruce Crossing around 7-8". Mass City had around 8-9", with at least half of it being fresh snow. I could not tell how much snow was on the ground much past Mass City, but could tell how much new had fallen and it looked like Twin Lakes had around 6" new, same to just before Houghton, then around 2-3" from Houghton to our place here in southern Keweenaw County. Overnight, we picked up another 3", so all told around 6" from the snow yesterday. Here is a shot of the trail crossing just north of Calumet yesterday afternoon. For the latest, you can check out the Trail Cam 2 on the site.
    The forecast looks pretty good for tomorrow night into Tuesday for much of the west central and northern Midwest. A band of 5-8" of pretty dense snow looks to fall in the western 1/2 of IA, the southern 1/2 of MN, the northern 2/3rds of WI and much of the UP. Areas like eastern IA, southern WI and central/northern lower MI look to see around 1-4" fall. The system snows will be followed up by some LES Wed-Thur and perhaps some more over the weekend. So while it may not be awesome snow play conditions across the Northwoods this week, it does look like with what they have now and will get, most areas will be able to at least support snow play.
    So I am probably wishing for the snows in the Northwoods as much as any. Not because I have much to gain, but because so many businesses/persons will be helped by it and it will bring so much happiness to folks heading there to play in it. For those not wanting it, sorry it's winter!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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December 20, 2015-
    Wow, hard to believe that this will be the last entry for this month and this year! December sure has flown by and here we sit just 5 days from Christmas. Its beginning to look a lot more like Christmas around here. After a somewhat frustrating first half of the week of weather, things finished on a nice note. 
    We did pick up 4 inches of really wet and heavy stuff on Monday. It was about half sleet and when all was said and done, the consistency of the snow cover was about as dense as I have ever seen from a fresh show. It held up reasonably well to the warmer temps and light rain we had on Wednesday.
   The temps did fall as we went through the day on Thursday and the lake effect kicked in during the morning hours. It was a bit hit and miss at first, but then became more steady and by the time it was time to pick Gracie up at school, it was really dumping good. Even though the snows up our way seemed to come and go, hopes were high that we would be in the main band. The ideas were for the heaviest snow to fall from just south of Houghton to around Calumet. We are less than 10 miles as the crow flies from Calumet, so seemed reasonable. 
    Well, waking up Friday and seeing just a few inches had fallen was a little disappointing, but I was just happy to be getting fresh snow. Then the reports started coming in of the heavier totals to the south and I was happy that someone up here was getting dumped on and that the forecast would not be a bomb. After finishing up my morning work, the pups and I braved the elements for our morning walk. A stiff west breeze was blowing at 25-35 mph with gusts to 40. The snow was squally, coming and going.
    A little later in the day we traveled to Calumet/Laurium and it was clear that more snow had fallen there during the day and while at our house things were still looking more like the very start to winter around here, downtown Laurium was looking more like mid-winter
    The snows kept up through all of Friday and Friday night and began to taper as we went through Saturday morning. I did not go north of me since the snow started falling and I have not heard any reports, so I figure things were as anti-dramatic there as they were here. I did measure around 9.5-10" for the storm, but to look around it would not look like it. The Calumet area picked up considerably more. Probably on the order of 13-14" for a storm total. Houghton maybe a bit less and then once up into the range towns like South Range, Tri-Mountain and Painesdale, it was clear they got a lot, probably 15-18" at least. The granddaddy of them all was the Toivola area where a solid 28-35" had to have fallen. I had to have, as the "official" report was only 20", but that is from a Coop observer and lets just say there are accurate coop reporters and some that perhaps could use a bit more training. Anyway, I ended up riding in the suburbs of Toivola for the day on Saturday and got off my sled and dug down to bare ground with my boot and the snow was 28" deep on the level. More on that ride in a bit.
    In addition to the excitement of the snow, the other excitement around here was the release of the new Star Wars movie. Gracie was really hoping to be able to see it the day it came out, so much so, she made it a point to put it on my appointment calendar. I told her I could not promise it as I did not know the show times or if any of the shows on the first day even had tickets available. I also did not fully know what our schedule was going to be like.
    As luck would have it, I was able to purchase some tickets on line for the Friday evening showing. Nora was not feeling too good and is not a big Star Wars fan, so I only got two tickets and Gracie and I made it a Daddy-Daughter night. First dinner and then the show. I am not going to spill the beans at all about the movie only to say it was excellent. I tried not to go into it expecting too much, but just could not do it, so it met my high expectations.
    So Saturday morning, I loaded the Kamo sled into the back of the truck to head south. I was really looking forward to riding the new one from Rt 12, but as I was running through the checklist in my head before getting out of bed Saturday, I realized I had not insured it yet. So that will be done first thing tomorrow, but did enjoy the ride on the "old" iron.
    Who wouldn't with snow like this! It may not have been epic, but it was just a notch below that and one heck of a first ride of the season. Even though we were riding in snow that had just fallen in the previous 36 hours and it was the powdery lake effect, there seemed to be a bottom to it and I am not talking about the ground. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to just float across the snow as if we were floating on clouds. Another plus to the day was the fact that temps were in the low 20's, not the below zero stuff we suffered through much of the past 2 seasons. It made the little rest breaks that much more enjoyable. If you were wondering what those two were looking at, here is the shot I took while just rotating 90 degrees to my right and looking towards what the sleds were pointed at. We rode fresh, untracked, 28" deep snow all day. Not a bad way to kick off the season at all.
    We turned in out of the snow a little bit early, as I had to get back home in time to catch Santa's visit to our house. Being a "country kid" in the Keweenaw does have its perks. Every year, our local volunteer fire department takes Santa around on one of their trucks and visits the kids in the area. They start at noon and we were told to expect him anywhere between 5-7 pm. So I got home with plenty of time to get things put away from the ride, take a nice hot shower and then have dinner with the girls and then we all were on the lookout.
    Time passed and before we knew it, 7 pm had come and gone and it was closing in on 8 pm. I was getting a little worried that something had happened and he would not be able to make it. Not really for how Gracie might feel, as I knew we would be able to explain things to her, but rather something had happened to stop the visits. After all, Santa does not stop making his visits because "it is getting late". Just then, we heard the scream of the fire truck and saw the flashing lights and Gracie flew to the window to catch a glimpse of the jolly old man himself. Upon first glance, she did what many kids her age do, find a good place to hide! After all this guy knows all! All the naughty and nice!
    After a bit of coaxing, we were able to get her out from behind the chair and to open up to Santa and it was all fun and games after that. Well, almost all was fun and games. I too warmed up to Santa and tried to make good with him at the last moment, but it was too late. He had his list and had checked it twice and knew what I was all about and said I would be better off with someone that I can relate to best. So the Grinch and I spent some quality time exchanging notes, while Gracie told Santa what she wanted for Christmas. One of Santa's elves was on hand to take down the details.
    It was time for them to go on to visit the next child, so hugs were given, but when the Grinch asked for his hug, Gracie was having none of that! So getting creative and letting his instincts take over, he decided to take Gracie's iPad. There comes a time in everyone's life where the fear of one thing becomes secondary to a new fear and Gracie wasted no time getting close enough to the Grinch to snag that iPad back! She was able to wrestle it back from him, but still wanted nothing to do with a photo-op with him. He did give it one last try, but Grace was prepared. Poor Grinch. Maybe next year buddy!
    So it certainly looks a lot like Christmas up here. The forecast for us does not look as good for this week as I would like it to. It looks like a system on Wednesday will put down snow close to us, but perhaps just to our west, mainly northeast MN into NW WI and far western UP. There is still a chance that it could scoot east a bit and put us in the 3-6" band of snow. There are also ideas that perhaps it will change over to snow in time for not much loss to occur and 2-3" to fall before finishing up. There are also some ideas of a good sized storm in much of the Northwoods of MN, WI and the UP by next weekend. I know they are doing limited grooming up here right now and if we were able to have a net gain of around 4-6" of a fairly dense snow, then just about all areas would be good for grooming. I guess this week will be a pretty important one for forecasts and I do plan to put them out every day this week, except for Christmas. Speaking of which...Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
December 13, 2015-
    The good news is I am feeling better, the bad news is that means you are stuck with me for this entry! The truth is I am still not at 100%, but feeling better and good enough to get back to most of my regular chores. I am not sure if the weather is literally and/or mentally impacting how I have been feeling the past 2 days or so, but I can say this... I would be able to describe that weather with one word, but would be breaking my own rules of the site on keeping the content family friendly!
    Ugh, 37 degrees and pouring rain all day? What the?! I suppose if it were a month ago, it would have been much easier to swallow, but not December 13. I guess the only silver lining is that we did not destroy a perfect base of snow. That would have been much. much worse.
    To tell you the honest truth, the lack of snow the past 2-3 weeks has been a bit of a good thing for me personally. Being sick and having the snow would have been both frustrating and a bit of a pain. Frustrating because I did not feel good enough that I could have had any fun in it and a pain because it would have brought the work of moving it around, which would not have been much fun being sick. But lets get one thing straight...had we gotten a ton of snow in the past 2-3 weeks, I certainly would not have complained either!
    With all the mild and wet weather, the ground that froze back in mid-November has thawed and the puddles have grown even larger. Part of the problem in that last picture is that some decent sized trees were removed from there when I was making room for the woodshed addition. So some dirt was lost in the removal of the root ball and water that was taken up by the trees themselves is having to stay in the soil. 
    So with it being mild and snowless enough to not need to put the blower on Big Red, I called in some fill to help make that ground more soild...and level. More on the level part in a bit. I had actually taken the loader off a few weeks ago, thinking that the blower might be needed, but with each passing day and no signs of needing the blower, I just kept things in limbo, in case I did get time and the weather to be able to put in the fill. 
    While taking the loader off few weeks ago, I did not follow the instructions as well as I should have. The ground was a bit un-level and in the process of dismounting the loader, one of it's arms jumped back and managed to shatter the front window! So I have now managed to break the rear and the front windshields! Both being dumb or careless. I have been very diligent about the rear window and any other parts of the tractor while backing up and I know I will be much more diligent and careful when I mount or dismount the loader. 
    That has already started by taking some of the fill as well as some crushed mine rock and making a perfectly level spot to take the loader off for long term storage. When the girls found out about my latest mishap with Big Red, they had their own remedy they wanted me to try. I keep you posted on how things go.
    Along with the fill, I also got a load of crushed mine rock. The parking area right in front of the house had a bit of a dip in it and that caused the blower to dig right through the snow and into the driveway material. So after finishing up with the fill, I spread the mine rock out and made things much more level. Not perfect, but much better. Huck was just in the process of finishing up his inspection.
    So with all the material spread, I drove Big Red into the side of the woodshed and dismounted the loader without incident. It will be there, safe and sound, out of the elements, ready for mounting the next time I need it. With the loader off, I mounted the blower. So I am now fully ready for the onslaught of winter! Well, almost. I need one more small piece of windshield and then will call the local windshield guy to come and install it. I will still be able to blow snow without the windshield. I will just have to be way more aware of when I point the chute forward!
    We did get some snow this last week. Thursdays rain changed to snow overnight and kept up most of the day Friday. Not a ton, only around an inch at our house, although you did not have to go too much higher in the terrain to double or even triple that. Calumet is only about 100 feet higher up in elevation than we are, but Friday afternoon they had around 2-3" on the ground
    I was in Calumet Friday afternoon because Gracie's piano teacher was doing some playing at an assisted living home there. She also invited some of her students to play a few songs towards the end of the event and after the kids had gotten out of school. So Gracie was one that was invited and was excited to play in front of all the grandmas and grandpas.
    On Saturday I headed south a bit. Pats Motorsports in Greenland was having an open house, so I thought it might be fun to head down there. I knew of a few visitors to the site that were planning to go and thought it would be a nice opportunity to meet them. Pats had just recently finished a brand-new addition and it was good they did, because the turnout was terrific and I am not sure everyone could have fit without the new space!
    Upon getting back from my visit to Greenland, I put some wood in the boiler, got a little freshened up and then Gracie, Nora and I made the trip to Copper Harbor for the Christmas lights celebration. Even though the day was not a pretty one weather wise, it was nice to be driving up Hwy 41 and enjoying the scenery. No matter the weather, this place is always a very magical and beautiful place to live.
    We got there early enough to have dinner and then head over to the community center to browse a small crafts fair and visit with friends. Not long after the sun had fully set, the call went out for everyone to go get into position to see the lighting of the lights. The best view was from the front of the Mariner, so that is where the three of us went along with most others to stare into the dark park and await the official countdown. After an exciting countdown from 10, our wonderful sheriff (he truly is!) did the honors of setting the park aglow in Christmas wonder. There was a pretty good crowd there for a dreary December evening at the harbor with lots of other things going on around the Keweenaw and it was agreed upon by unanimous vote that this would be a new yearly tradition for the Dee family.
    I really should not put down the weather too much last night in the harbor. Although it would have been nice to have some snow on the ground and even better to have some also falling from the sky, it was not raining, there was no wind and temps were in the upper 30's. So we were all very comfortable walking around and getting a close up look at the lights. A little angel and a pair of sugar plum fairies were even spotted! Even the Grinch and little Cindy-Loo Hoo made a brief appearance! 
    Even the local television news crew was on hand to capture the moment and the interviewer was kind enough to interview a lot of the kids. Gracie even got her time as a reporter. Although the interviews were really just for the thrill of the kids as none of them actually made the broadcast. Although all of them were really good and TV6 should think of a way to put them out there. Folks would eat it up!
    So, here we stand with bare ground and some light rain falling. The good news is that we have not and will not pick up as much rain as was once thought with this system. We have picked up around .30" so far and might get another .10" or so. There were ideas of 1-1.5" to fall. In addition, it looks like the pocket of snow currently falling in the panhandles of OK/TX and into western KS will head northeast in the next 16-20 hours and we might even be fortunate enough to pick up a couple of inches of wet snow the second half of tomorrow as it head through. An inch or two might also fall in the rest of the UP as well as into the NW 1/2 or so of WI. Another system is seen for later Tue-Wed and while much weaker than the current monster, it does look to bring mostly snow and most of the northern Midwest is under the gun for those couple of inches of snow. Then temps look to turn cold enough to get the lake snow guns going for the second half of the week and some of the following weekend. So there is a slim chance that those wanting to play in the snow might be able to in some of the lake snow belts of the UP. Some areas of northern MN have seen snow with this current system and will get more Tue-Thur and it might be enough to allow for some fun in the snow there too. So the forecast is looking promising, lets hope it holds and I can share some shots of us playing in the snow in next weeks entry!
One last thing I almost forgot. I have FINALLY gotten on the ball with some ThinkSnow! stickers. They were ordered last week and are being made. I should have them ready for shipping this week and will make it known on the main page of the site as well as on the Facebook page for the site when you can order.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
December 6, 2015-
    So still battling this illness. I did go to the Dr and we have a name for it. Sinusitis and Bronchitis, at least that is the thought at this point. On some meds that are suppose to make me feel like "a million bucks" pretty quick, but not happening yet, so Nora is going to give me a night off (I love my wife!) and entertain you with her stories of the Keweenaw. I can say that for those of you looking for a tip of my hand in the forecast department. Looks like we have 5-6 more days of biding our time and then some reason for hope. Be sure to check the forecasts! Oh, and I am going to try my hardest to get some ThinkSnow stickers done up this week!
    Well, the talk around the town is certainly about the weather. Unfortunately, not because of the huge snow piles or snow falling like silver dollars. It's interesting to hear so many people happy about the mild temperatures. I suppose having a couple hard winters back to back is really making folks  appreciate the milder temperatures. I know that most of you reading the journals love snow. I get it. I love it too! But, there are alot of local people who are welcoming the break. I give it another week and if there isn't snow in the forecast the talk will then be about not having snow for Christmas. 
    It seemed that we had a pretty busy week. John's brother was in town to work on his place, an impromptu get together with friends mid week and the Friday was the kick off to Christmas in Calumet. We decided we would head downtown on Friday and see Santa and also catch the First Friday events in Calumet. It's really a nice time and as nice as it was to walk though town and barely need a jacket, it was missing one thing....snow! 
    Our first stop was the Vertin Gallery. I remember going shopping with my Grandma at Vertin's. She purchased alot of my "special" dresses from Vertin's. It brought so many memories walking through those doors. The old display case in the front is still used and behind the counter is a huge roll of tissue paper with "Vertin's" written on it. Funny how one small thing like that can take you back 35 years in time. Once we arrived we didn't need to wait very long to see Santa. This is the first year that Gracie was really excited and not afraid. On the way to town, she had a moment of panic when she realized she had forgotten her letter for Santa. Luckily, we had some paper and pen and she was able to scribble a quick note in the car. On this years list, "walkie talkies" and ice skates for her and her friend Evelyn. We thought it was sweet that she included her friend on one of her list for Santa. Gracie needed a few prompts but then sat right down next to Santa. We chuckled as she quickly threw her list at him. There was time for a few quick photos and we were off! Next on our list was to do a little window shopping and then head over to the Calumet Theatre where the tree would be lit. There wasn't a huge crowd but enough to make the event seem very festive. Of course when you have a brass band playing Christmas songs and carolers strolling the streets how can it not feel festive...the only thing missing...snow!
    We continue on for some more shopping, stopping along the way for hot chocolate and a little treat. I wish we would have snap a picture or 2 of the store fronts in Calumet. They are pretty impressive and get better and better every year. With a busy Saturday approaching we decided to head home.
    On Saturday the fun continue with the Keweenaw National Park putting on activities for the children throughout the morning. We planned to meet our good friend Liv and her mom Susie there to take in some of the fun. The girls had so much fun making home made Christmas tree ornaments and hanging them. The activities were on the 3rd floor which has a stage. The stage was a perfect back drop for the kids while they danced and danced while enjoying some live music with fiddles and such. Gracie's friend Gavin was also there and they sure had a fun time tearing up a rug! Some of the kids were a little shy about dancing and needed a little encouragement but before long they were all out on the floor dancing up a storm. I don't know if it's because Gracie and I had watched the video clip earlier in the day about the Italian Hall disaster but watching the kids dance, and make ornaments etc. made me really think about all those children who lost their lives celebrating. Such a sad piece of history. 
    Gracie had a birthday party to attend in the afternoon so we needed to keep on moving if we were to get everything done that we wanted. Next on our list...Santa again! Liv wasn't so sure if she wanted to see the old guy in the red suit, but after Gracie said she'd go with her, Liv was excited! I snapped this picture as the girls walked up to meet Santa. Cute to see them supporting each other. Gracie walked up with Liv and then split! Thankfully, Liv did a great job and wasn't afraid at all.
    Now the big excitement of the day (if the rest hadn't been enough) was the horse and sleigh ride! Oh the kids were so excited and couldn't wait to see the horses arrive. We jumped on the buggy and took the first trip around the town. Pretty neat to hear the clip clop of the horses on the brick streets along with their jingle bells. Only one thing missing....snow! That was about the only time that one really needed a jacket. I had a down vest and long sleeve shirt and was just fine all day. 
    After a lunch date we said good bye to our friends and were off to the birthday party. After a long and busy day I thought for sure she'd fall into bed of exhaustion. For a moment I forgot who I was dealing with. Around 10 pm I woke up and opened my eyes only to see a little grinning person about one inch from my face. Talk about startling! She climbed into bed and snuggled right up. For a minute I thought I'd put her back in her own bed but then decided that these days will all to soon be gone and for now I'll welcome her cold little feet against me.    
Good night from the Keweenaw..
ND-

 

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