June 28, 2015-
    Greetings from a beautiful Keweenaw. Boy, the weather has been nearly picture perfect for much of the past week. Just enough rain to keep things green, otherwise plenty of sunshine and comfortable temps. Highs in the low 70's with no noticeable humidity. I personally could not ask for better. It just seems perfect to do about anything. Cool enough to take my brisk walks in the morning with the pups (and sometimes Gracie) to not overheat. Then sunny and warm enough to run around with shorts and a t-shirt on and be perfectly comfortable without being too hot. It cools off nicely in the evenings, but does not get too cold to be out and then great sleeping weather. No AC's in the windows and there has never even been the though of putting them in just yet. 
    On Monday's walk, I spotted some ripe wild strawberries. I probably say this every summer when they ripen, but you have not had a strawberry until you have had a wild one. They are quite small, probably about the size of a raspberry, but pack so much flavor and are so much sweeter than their domesticated cousins that they are well worth the long time hunched over to pick not even enough to make a pie. From what I hear, they are truly wild and cannot be transplanted. I have not yet tried to take a few and try and get a patch growing by just spreading the berries/seeds on the ground, but I have a strange feeling that will not even work.
    Because of that unique lack of proliferation ability, they are probably one of the hardest berry to track down up here. Many locals do have their own patches and the berries I saw and pick a few of on Monday were all gone by Tuesday. So either a local human or local critter was also watching for them to ripen! Yesterday we did go by the same patch and did see a few more that had ripened and Gracie picked a few on our walk this morning. We do have a few domesticated plants in the planters in front of our house and they look to reach maturity in a week or so. Hopefully Nora, Gracie and I will be able to get some before the critters, Huck and Millie do! Huck has also discovered he likes leaf lettuce and they are both huge fans of cantaloupe!
    Speaking of the pups, they are also loving the weather as well. With the fence up to keep them from running to the road, they have been able to spend lots more time outside. I think yesterday was the only day that it got too warm for them to be in the full sun for too long. We did hit 78 yesterday, otherwise the temps have been comfortable enough for even them to just hang out in the sun and chill.
    Gracie continues to enjoy her summer break. She seems to jump from one activity to another, but is always busy doing something. The other evening it was taking her hoppy-horse around the driveway, complete with sound effects. She then pretends the fence we built is for her horse's paddock. Puts it in there, gives it water and some "hay" (grass) to eat for the evening.
    With the weather being so nice and the new rule of no TV until we are just getting ready for bed, we have been getting a lot of mileage out of the screened in porch. I cannot go in there and relax without either mentally giving praise to Nora (if she is not there) or actually giving her praise for insisting we make it part of the addition. In the summer, it is by far my most favorite part of the house. We also have some pretty strict electronic rules for the screened porch. Unless you are alone, then no sounds can be made from a phone or I-pad. Mostly we either sit and relax or play games. Gracie and I were playing checkers the other day and had something happen that I have never seen, or heard, happen. The game ended in a draw with only one piece taken by both of us. Just as interesting was the fact that all of our pieces ended up in the same relative spots. Here is a picture of how the game ended, with no more moves for either of us.
    The other evening I was sitting in the porch with Huck and was just relaxing to the sounds of the birds and wind through the woods and almost could not believe how fortunate I am to live in such a wonterful part of the world. Just so peaceful and relaxing...and beautiful. Here is the view I had out of one of the sides of the porch. Not too long after that shot was taken, I headed off to bed, but before doing so, snapped a shot of this view out the bedroom window. The internet has not figured out how to give the scent of smell, but those trees you saw in that last picture were all balsam fir. They are the ones that give off that wonderful "pine-wood" fragrance. 
    So it was not all fun and games this week, but surely other than the regular daily work to do, it has been more play than work. After the past 2+ years, I think we are entitled. I guess you could say that even the work we did was kind of fun. On Thursday I fired up Big Red and tackled the big pile of sand for the pool base. Things went smoothly, I was able to get about 97% of the work done with the tractor and front loader and did not break any more windows in the process! All that was need was a little bit of raking work to get the final leveling done. Then on Friday afternoon, the girls helped me get the new pool put up. Things with that also went "swimmingly-well". Sorry, just had to! Although it is larger, the method for putting it up was the same and they have made some improvements in the elements used and those improvements made it easier to put up as well. 
    Saturday we had a wedding to go to up in Lac La Belle, but we had enough time in the morning for Gracie to practice a bit more on her new bike. The poor girl really has no place to ride it right around our house. We do have that outdoor hockey rink not too far away, but still have to load the bike into a vehicle (this time the LOL REC Commander got the call). Once the training wheels come off (probably within the next week or so), then she will be able to at least ride it around our parking area if she wants to. 
    So the wedding up in Lac La Belle was for Troy and Cathy's (owners of the LLB Lodge and Bear Belly Lodge) oldest daughter Alex. The ceremony and reception were both held right on the grounds of the lodge/restaurant. The ceremony started at 1 pm and I was thankful that we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there, as we hit a traffic jam on the Lac La Belle Road! In all seriousness, they were quite slow to get out of the way. I stopped the vehicle completely and they just sort of stood there. They then did start moving, but kept going right down the middle of the road. I was a little concerned that a vehicle coming the other direction might not be able to stop in time, so I moved our vehicle a little, gave a quick toot of the horn and momma and her two does took off into the woods safe and sound and we could finish our trip.
    The site for the ceremony was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. It was nestled under some pines along the shore of Lac La Belle. An arbor and some benches for the family members were hand crafted out of cedar by a local craftsman and the rest of the attendees just stood behind the seated families. The weather was absolutely perfect, with temps in the low 70's a nice breeze and clear blue skies. The ceremony was short, but also very special and then we had a few hours between the ceremony and when the reception would start, so we actually headed home for a while to enjoy the weather. The pool was about half filled, so Gracie took advantage of the situation to play in it for a while. 
    The reception was equally beautiful to the ceremony, with a formal tent erected near-by the restaurant and a dance floor put in right next to the lake. Chef Dave cooked up some awesome food, both the appetizers and main course were delish. Somewhere along the lines, a dance was promised to Gracie from Dave. I don't know if Dave initiated the idea or not, but he was a great sport and lived up to his promise by taking the floor with the kiddo. Gracie ended up being quite the dancer and spent most of the evening on the floor. Daddy is not much of a "fast-dancer", but I did get out and did a slow dance with her and one with Nora. At the end the evening, they had the dollar-dance and Gracie did not miss the opportunity to dance with the beautiful bride. I would also like to make a shout-out to some good folks and friends of the site we met and had the pleasure to share our dinner table and evening with. Becky, Jeff, Kathy and Amos. It was a pleasure to meet you and you all helped to make all of our night (especially Gracie's) more special. 
    Today we all got off to a rather slow start, as we did not arrive home until around midnight, but then we did get going, having breakfast and taking the morning walk. The pool was still filling, but was about 80% full, so once the sun hit it, Gracie took to it for a while and braved the frigid water from the hose.
    So I think that about covers it for this one. It will be a busy week for lots of folks up here. The 4th of July is probably the busiest time up here. We do not have anything too special going on. The fireworks, bike parade and probably some swimming. Then in a little over a week, I have some family coming to visit, so that will be fun. So have a happy Independence Day and...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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June 21, 2015-
    I got nothing... Well, that is not quite true, but this will likely be a short one. Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there! It sure is a joy to be able to celebrate it myself! I am so blessed to have such a wonderful little girl, who seems to provide me with serendipity every day. I don't want to gloat too much, but she really is something special. Already a way better person than I could ever hope to be.
    We are continuing to be able to spend a lot of time together, although she did go and spend the day at "day camp" on Wednesday and Thursday last week and will likely do so this week on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. 
    The weather was hit and miss this week, with some rainy and cool weather and some sunny and mild weather. Still nothing that even comes close to hot and humid, which I will continue to take, although we are starting to chomp at the bit to put the pool up and I think I will just go ahead and put it up this week and worry about the perfect pool weather later.
    Besides the usual walks and trips to town for this and that, Gracie and I were able to build a small section of fencing. It is to keep the pups from running out to the road to greet any passers-by. They have been getting better, but will still run out there sometimes- especially if they see someone walking their dog. 
    Besides the sight of two big dogs running out to greet an unsuspecting walker, I am most concerned about them getting hit by a car. We have not had any close calls yet and they probably have only run out to the road a dozen times or less, but it would just take once for disaster to happen. So now their pathway to the road has been cut off and they can now be outside without me having to keep a constant vigil on them. 
    The fence is in a snow drop zone from the cabin roof, so I actually had to construct it in a manner in which it can be partially dismantled and moved during the winter. Even though the view of the road gets clearer in the winter, because the snow gets so deep, they do not run out to the road. So taking it down in the winter will still keep things safe. 
    Yesterday was one of the not-so-nice weather days, with rains from around mid-morning through the rest of the day. We did take advantage of it though by doing some house cleaning. My office and Graces bedroom were the main targets. So after completing those chores and then relaxing a bit, we decided to head to town to do the weekly grocery shopping. While on that trip, it was discussed what to do for Fathers day dinner. The topic gravitated towards going out and a few places were mentioned and Grace lobbied for the Eagle Harbor Inn to have "ribs on the bone". My arm did not need to be twisted too hard and Nora was a pretty easy sell and before we knew it, we had actually decided to have the dinner celebration a day early. 
    So after shopping and putting the groceries away, we were headed down to feast. We were all starving. Gracie managed to put away a half slab in quick order and it did not take me much longer to polish off a full slab.
    This morning I was treated to some fresh blueberry muffins and a card and gift from both Gracie and Nora. All of them were very special. Gracie's gift was handmade. Earlier in the week at day camp, they all made neck ties to give to their dads, so here I am posing in mine that I wore to church this morning and received tons of compliments!
    I really do not have too much more to say. The bug report includes a complete absence of blackflies. They, I believe, are done for the season. It was a couple day season thanks to the cold back a few weeks ago and I sure would welcome similar cold shots in future years! The mosquitoes at our place have not been to bad at all. We have been able to be outside without any repellant on and not be bothered. However, just today, we headed down to a beach not far from Jacobsville and they were so bad once we pulled up that Nora and Gracie did not even get out of the vehicle. The pups and I braved it, but did not last much longer than 60 seconds. There had to have been 100's of them swarming us and unfortunately for all of us, we probably brought a dozen or two into the vehicle with us as we scampered back in. We were able to dismiss all of them in one manner or another, but boy, I have never been swarmed like that before. 
    The beach is not far from some swampy areas and we also drove through some standing water on the way to it, so I suspect it was the perfect environment for them to flourish, but take that as a warning if you are heading up and plan to be in areas where they can flourish. Otherwise, I would say that so far this bug season, the bugs in general are as small of a problem as I can remember. 
    I guess that covers it for this one, so...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
June 14, 2015-
    Happy Flag Day! 
    Well, a weak later and not much different weather. Low clouds and even some fog. Temps are a bit warmer this Sunday than last though, with readings in the upper 50's, rather than low 50's. Funny how the weather does like to repeat itself every 7 days or so. I often wonder if that is how we ended up with 7 day weeks in the calendar. At any rate, we did have some beautiful weather during the week and the weather was also beautiful up here yesterday, so I certainly cannot complain.
    So far this summer had been very agreeable, with daytime highs in the 70's, lows in the 50's and little to no humidity. We have had some cloudy and rainy weather as well, but not nearly as much as other areas in the Midwest the past few weeks. 
    The other good news is that the bugs continue to be fairly muted. Blackflies remain fairly absent and I have growing confidence that they were really hit hard by the cold temps a few weeks ago and will not likely be a major problem for what is left of their main season (the next 2 weeks). Mosquitoes are holding their own, but really not any worse than what you would encounter anywhere else they hang out. Deerflies have not hit yet, but their main season is July.
    It was a pretty big week. I was able to finish up all the clean up from cutting down the trees a few weeks ago. I have been showing pictures of the wood piles created by all the work, as well as the truck loads of brush, but I have not shown the actual brush pile itself. So here it is. The picture really does not do it justice as it is actually around 25 feet in diameter and around 10-12 feet high. Not sure if we will burn it with the first snow or not. It sure would make a big fire and I would hate to have all the neighbors calling the fire department, thinking that the house was on fire. It is tucked away in a far corner of the property, so cannot be seen and could also provide some shelter for critters, so I think we will just let it be.
    The other big story this week was Gracie's final day of kindergarten on Wednesday. It was actually just a half day, so Nora and I took her out for lunch to celebrate. We all had a great time and I think we have stumbled upon a new tradition for the next 12 years. We actually were not the only ones doing that, as while we were there, the restaurant got pretty busy with several families doing the same thing. Here is a shot of the girls and here is Grace and I
    Grace sure did love school and her teacher and Nora and I were a little worried about the last day being rough, but we were able to prepare her for the final good byes to her teacher as well as her classmates for the summer and things went very well. In fact, if you view the first day of school picture and then the last day of school picture, it looks like she was quite happy for it to end. 
    Gracie will be splitting time with me at home as well as going off to others for the day during the summer. Thursday and Friday she stayed home with the pups and I and we all had a blast. Because I start so early, I do have some free time in the morning and then am done with most of my "have to do" work by a little after 1 pm, so there is time for us to do things. This week, she helped me on Thursday with the final firewood moving as well as as brush removal and Friday we did some housework to clean things up a bit so momma would not have to worry about too much when she got home. I am so proud of what a hard worker she is. I have little fear that she will be able to achieve all that she desires in life.
    I also gained a shadow on my morning walks with the pups. I was a little concerned about that being a part of my regular routine, as I really do use it as a work out, walking just under 2 miles in around 25 minutes every morning. That is way too fast for her and is closer to a full running speed for her at this point. Plus, when she and Nora would join the pups and I on the walks, she had a tendency to fall into a very casual stroll or even stop quite a bit. However, we settled in on a nice compromise and call it the "perfect walking speed". She is walking steadily and not too fast and I am walking a more casual pace. Not a great work out for me, but it will not happen every morning and perhaps the pups and I can work in another, more brisk walk on the days we do not get in the more rigorous one in the morning. I wish that Grace could just ride her bike with us, but I just do not feel safe at all having her ride her bike on the road we live on. While it is not busy, there is some traffic and a few spots where there could be an accident if both her and the driver of the vehicle were not paying 100 percent attention. Besides, if she is riding her bike, who is going to hold onto Huckies leash
    The Keweenaw woods are in full summer glory. All of the trees are fully filled out and the wildflowers are also taking their turns coloring the forest floor. Right now it is the lupine that is blooming, as are the wild strawberries and the thimble berries. Nora said she stumbled upon a secret patch of wild strawberries a week ago, so I will monitor the patches in our neighborhood and when they ripen, we will head down to do some picking. If you have never had a wild strawberry, you sure are missing out. They are way smaller then their domestic cousin, but pack way more flavor too. Almost like candy. I hear that they do not take well to being transplanted, but I may try and take a few berries and use them as seeds to see if I can get a patch growing by the house. One of the tasks for next spring is to build some raised beds for planting. I plan to put in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and I think Nora/Grace will be going the veggies and flowers. 
    This past Friday was a beautiful day, with temps in the 70's and tons of sunshine. Nora took a half day and so she and Gracie went down to the big cities (Houghton/Hancock) to do a little shopping and then later that afternoon we all headed to the beach to let the pups do some swimming and ball fetching. I believe that this was the first time this summer for that activity and the pups sure did not forget what driving on a particular stretch of highway meant as they were about jumping out of their fur as we approached the beach and then had a ton of fun retrieving the fetch tossed out into the big lake
    On Saturday, we took full advantage of some great weather to head to the big lake to do some kayaking. We had picked up a pair of kayaks a month or two ago and have been waiting for the time to be able to go as well as the water and weather conditions. The lake is still just a few degrees above freezing, but was nice and calm for the first trip. We put in at Cat Harbor and decided to paddle over to Isle Royal. Just kidding! Cat Harbor is actually protected by a line of rocks that jut up out of the lake a little off shore and that is what we paddled to. It was pretty cool to paddle out there and see the rocks. They are exposed to the full brunt of Lake Superior as well as the wicked weather that can happen there, yet some lichen and even a small plant is able to grow on them. 
    With the water being so cold, it was a little unnerving to be in the kayaks, but they are quite stable and the waters were well protected, so we were able to have a good time and also returned to shore safe and sound. After paddling Gracie around in my kayak for the afternoon, she decided she wanted to paddle Nora around for a while. Actually, it will be fun in the future to let Gracie have her own kayak and then the three of us can go on some fun adventures. Although we had a ton of fun yesterday and are looking forward to more adventures, even on some of the inland lakes around here. I know Medora, Gratiot, Bailey and perhaps even Torch Lake would be fun to tool around on.
    So yesterday was my 49th birthday and we celebrated in the typical fashion with presents and then a nice dinner and cake. Nora snapped a few shots while I was blowing out the cake and the expressions Grace had in two of them were so precious, I just could not choose which one, so I have decided to put them both in. I guess the first could be called "anticipation" and the second "a tiny bit of help". It was a great birthday spent with my family and a perfect finish with the Blackhawks winning game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, to go up 3-2 in the series.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
June 7, 2015-
     Welcome to June everyone! As I type, it sure does not look or feel like June out there. A low overcast (even some fog in spots) is occurring and temps are in the low 50's. We did, however, have some nice June weather this week. We were in sunshine for most of the week and did rise into the 70's for most of the week as well. So I certainly cannot complain about the weather. 70's, sunshine and low humidity (which we had as well) is my perfect summer weather. I can also tolerate the warmer and more humid weather once we have the pool up :).
    Speaking of which, I did do more towards getting the site prepped for the pool to go up. I have an ETA of around a week to ten days before we will be putting it up and I am about 90% of the way towards having the area all set. As I mentioned in the last entry, the site where the pool will be this year is a little further away from the house and also closer to the woods. Because of that, the new site would have had the pool sitting in the shade for most of the day. Not a good place. So I took down around 8-10 trees to allow for the pool to sit in the sun for most of the day. 
    Gracie and I were able to spread some fill the previous week and then the sand for the pool area and some crushed mine rock for the parking area were delivered this week. In the background of that shot, you may have noticed the truck sitting with a load of tops sitting in it. That process continued this week and I was thankful to have two faithful helpers for that work. It really is such a joy to have them around all day with me and they also love to hang out with their old dad. We are like the three musketeers. Along with moving the tops, we also moved a lot of the "bottoms" too. The work of cleaning up the trees was actually a lot more work than I had anticipated. Partly because the trees had already filled out before I was able to drop them and also because I just plain underestimated the amount of work!
    The up side to all of the work was two fold though. Not only did we open up the pool site to the sunshine, but we also ended up with a nice supply of firewood. There is still a small amount of wood to be stacked, but I figure we already have around 2 1/2 cord of wood stacked from the trees that were cut down. I also tried to harvest as much of the useful wood from the branches as possible. They got stacked in their own pile and will provide a few days of heat for the pool water as well. 
    Gracie and I did use Big Red to spread the crushed mine rock around and I am happy by how it expanded the parking area a little as well as better connected the lean-to that Big Red sits in with the main parking area and driveway. Should make moving snow a bit easier, as I will not have to make a hard left turn after pulling out of the lean-to and will also give a bit more parking for when friends/family come to visit. I have not moved the sand yet, I figure it will probably be best to wait until just before we put the pool up to do that. 
    It was not all work this week. After school on Friday, we all piled into the LOL Rec Commander and headed out to dinner. It was a beautiful evening for such an excursion. Clear blue skies and temps in the upper 60's. Even though they do not bother us too much when we are riding in the side-by-side, the bugs have not been too bad at all this week. I believe that the cold temps we had last weekend in the mornings really did kill of a lot of both the black flies and mosquitoes. While I am not thinking they are down for the count for the rest of the season- especially the mosquitoes, I will take any break from them that I can get. Especially the black flies, as they more of a pain than the mosquitoes and also have a shorter season. If their population really was knocked down and not just delayed, then we really only have around 3 weeks left and they will be pretty much done with for the rest of the summer. Fingers crossed!
    The Keweenaw ATV club really has done a great job of sprucing up the trails for ATV's and SxS's. Many of the bumpier trails have been graded and the signage is also very good. We had a really fun trip Friday evening. We ended up at the Eagle Harbor Inn, but went all the way up to Delaware, then took the cross cut road down to Eagle Harbor. After a wonderful dinner of "ribs on the bone", we headed back, this time taking the trail from Eagle Harbor to Eagle River and then back home. I was not the only one taking pictures on the trip. Nora was busy with the Nikon shooting the wildlife that she saw too. It was such a beautiful and fun trip through the woods to dinner, I think we may have to try and make is a fairly regular occurrence. 
    The week ahead looks to be a busy one with baseball games Tuesday and Thursday, Gracie's last day of kindergarten on Wednesday and who knows what else! What ever it brings, I am looking forward to another fun week from this wonderful place!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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