October 25, 2015-
    Sheesh, it seems like I just wrote a few days ago! Ok, bad joke and I have probably used that one before. My apologies. 
    In last weeks entry, which was actually done on Wednesday, I mentioned how I did not want to share some of the happenings of Mon-Wed in it, for fear of not having enough material for this entry. Anyway, we got back into the swing of things pretty good after our mini-vacation. Lots of things to catch up on, including the mail. We had received two packages while away and one of them contained Gracie's and my Halloween costumes. yep, you read that right, Gracie's and MY costumes. A few months back I promised Gracie that I would dress up as a particular character and go with her. So, after trying it on, I called Nora at school and told her to video Gracie getting out of the car and her reaction to me surprising her in costume. 
    I have to admit that as the affair was unfolding, it seemed like I may have jumped the gun on my lines, but the finish to things is priceless. Watch and enjoy. By the way, that was the first time that either Nora or I had ever heard her say "dude"!
    The rest of the week was spent either dodging raindrops or cutting firewood, or at least that is how it kind of felt. The big problem in cutting wood for me is now bending down/over. So in one of my chiropractor visits a few weeks back, I dreamt up a solution to minimizing the bending over needed to cut, move and stack the wood. It allowed Big Red to do most of the lifting for me.
    First, I built a "crib" or large 3 sided box fitted to allow Big Red to lift and move all the cut pieces. Then, as you can see in the previous picture, I use the forks to pick up some logs, move them to be over the crib and have them at a comfortable cutting height. Cut them and then haul them over to be stacked. It is a slightly slower process than just cutting them from the pile and then hauling/stacking. However, it did save my back pretty big-time and the hardest thing was to get each log to fall in a manner in which they were all nicely stacked for transport. Just kidding of course. Many fall into the crib and others need to be moved by hand, but I have also devised a way to use a pickeroon to carry the logs without having to bend over. I put a little extra attention into that load to get things perfectly stacked. A more typical load would look more like this. The bin is then at a height where I do not need to bend over to pick the logs from it and so ends the last back-saving features. 
    We did have a lot of clouds this week and cool temps, so there were no issues of overheating while cutting the wood. In fact, I wore a pretty hefty coat many of the cutting sessions. It also rained more this week than it has in the past few months, so I was dodging raindrops fairly frequently and also sidelined from cutting on a few occasions. With the woods now nearly stripped completely of their leaves, the battleship gray skies and cool temps, it was very easy to know what the date was this week.
    Usually at this time of the year, the bare woods can get to me a bit. I guess it is because they do not stay bare from either leaves or snow long, which means that the snow is coming and gets me anxious for it. However, for some reason, this autumn is different. Even the nasty, rainy, cold and windy moments we had at times this week I was really loving the look of the woods. Toss in some sun and a calm wind and I was loving it even more!
    Nora had made plans with friends for last night, so I decided that Grace and I would have a fun daddy-daughter night. I bought two tickets to the MI Tech-Northern Michigan U, hockey game. I figured we could even go out to dinner before hand. Then came the news that get together with Nora and her friends had to be postponed. So the three of us went to dinner and since the game was a sell-out (as far as reserved seats go), Gracie and I went to the game as daddy-daughter. Tech won and looked good. The night before...not so good.
    After our late night, we slept in, took care of some chores, did some shopping and then Gracie did some of her piano practice. She is usually very excited to be doing her piano work all through the practice, but for some reason, she hit a snag about 1/2 way through. So Huck and I decided to come into the room to listen, because it was so beautiful. Gracie seemed to feed off the idea that Huck loved it so much that she finished up her practice, full of energy. It was so relaxing, sitting there listening to her play that both Huck and I fell asleep. He still thinks he's a lap-dog.
    After our little nap, we headed out into our woods to have a look around. With the leaves down, you can now see dozens of yards into them, rather than just a few feet. Which makes it nice for keeping track of the pups, as well as to be able to see more of the woods at one glance. We found our way to Old Granddad, said hi and then did some more exploring. Nora had the eagle eye today, spotting many things that both Gracie and I missed, including this crown, which allowed her to be queen of the forest, rather than I being king or Gracie being princess!
    So I guess that about covers it. Oh, if you were wondering what Gracie is going to be for Halloween this year, you will need to tune into next weeks entry. Will she be Princess Leia, R2D2 or Yoda? Or perhaps something not even from Star Wars? Only time will tell!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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October 21, 2015-
    I am telling the truth when I say I really did try to write last night! I sat down, had all the pictured ready to go and then one thing lead to another and before I knew it, it was bedtime! So here I am, Wednesday morning, finally writing what I should have on Sunday! Anyway, I am going to hold off writing about anything that happened since Sunday, just so I do not cheat myself of material for next Sunday!
   So we were out of town from last Wednesday through Sunday evening. We were invited to a wedding for one of Nora's cousins and Grace was asked to be the flower girl. The wedding was in Greenville SC, so we flew down and back.
    The flights were fairly enjoyable. Pretty smooth air for Nora and even though Gracie had taken a total of 4 airplane trips prior to this trip, she was so young for the others that this was like a "first trip" for her. She rolled it just fine, styling and profiling.
    We arrived late on Wednesday, so just got settled in and went to sleep. Thursday we had all to ourselves, so we all went to see the zoo, which was fun for all of us, especially Gracie as she just loves animals. Then lunch and a first for me. I got my first pedicure. I had not planned on it. Nora and Gracie were going to get their nails done for the wedding and I thought I would just hang out and wait, but got talked into a pedicure. Being a man, I do not know how often I will get them (not a manly thing, you know), but I will say my feet felt great after and the bottoms of my feet have not been that smooth for a long time!
    Enough about my nasty feet! After that, we got a little dollied up and went out to a nice steakhouse for dinner. I had promised Gracie that we would take her to a place where she could try lobster for the first time and there was a steakhouse not far from the hotel that got good ratings. Little did I know that as part of the service they actually grab the lobster to be eaten out of the live-tank and bring it to your tableside for you to get a look at. While Gracie loves animals, she is also pretty good about knowing that some have to give up their life so that we may eat and was just fine looking at and touching her dinner.
    Friday was chalk full of pre-wedding activities and with Gracie being in the wedding, we were also invited to all of the activities. I got to miss most of them and was a free man for most of the day. So I took the advantage to go and see a great friend from my high school years and beyond. He joined a professional drag racing crew that is located very close to Greenville so he invited me to the shop to come see what he gets to do everyday.
    It's a very impressive shop, with all the top-line equipment, including two top-fuel drag cars that run on nytro-methane. Fortunately for me, they were just getting ready for a race this coming weekend, so I got to hop into one of the cars and take it for a quick rip through the neighborhood. This is the view from the cockpit. A pretty small car with a lot of engine in it!
    While I was out on my little run, I did notice a little bog going from low gear to high and suspected it might be the Fetzer valve, so I had a little look and sure enough. It was the bypass line. I was able to fix it with some 30 weight ball bearings and Quaker State Antifreeze :). For those of you that never saw the Chevy Chase movie "Fletch", I apologize for sending that one right over your head!
    Just kidding, I did not get to take it for a rip. The cars usually make just one run and then need the engine to be completely rebuilt! I doubt I could have even started the thing had I been asked!
    After the shop visit, we had a nice lunch, were able to get caught up on the past few years and then I had to shuffle on to pick up Nora and Gracie and take them to the rehearsal and then the rehearsal dinner, where I had my second melt-in-your-mouth steak of the trip!
    The day of the wedding was also quite filled with activities. We got Gracie over to the brides hotel room so she could get ready with all the other girls in the wedding and then she came down so I could get a good luck at Daddy's Little Girl. She did an absolutely fabulous job of being the flower girl and also did a great entrance into the reception hall as they called out the members of the bridal party. Here is a nice selfie of the Dee family at the reception.
    We had promised Gracie that if she was a good girl for all of the pre-wedding and actual wedding activities, then she could get her ears pierced. It was more of an excuse to let her do it, as Nora and I did not have much doubt that she would be good, but always nice to have a little insurance! She was a little nervous about the piercing, but more excited and she did not even flinch as it happened. So now she is thrilled to death to have them done and is sporting some paridot (her birthstone) studs.
   There was one more event to go to Saturday night, a fun barbeque at a friend of the bride/grooms house. They served some awesome smoked, pulled pork and after just one bite I was reminded very clearly of just how wonderful smoked pork is. Our smoker got destroyed in a roof clearing two winters ago, so it has been nearly two years since I have made any smoked pork or brisket. Leading up to the trip, I was on the fence about wanting to get a replacement smoker, but am not fully convinced to get one, the question is: Now, or wait for spring! It sure is hard not to get one now, as I can use it during the winter too!
    The flight home also went very well. We had a very short layover, but it worked out perfect, as we walked from one gate to the other and arrived about 3 minutes before they started boarding. We all had missed the first snow of the season at home Saturday, but did get to see the first snows of the season still on the ground in spots across NW lower MI.
    The other thing we missed while we were gone was some strange activity out in our driveway. The next morning, after it got light, I spied these strange tracks in the driveway. It was a little difficult to ascertain what kind of a critter would make such unusual tracks, but I got my answer when I opened the shop door. The new ride from RT 12 Arctic Cat arrived while we were gone! I have been reading a lot of good things about the changes they made to the mountain sled for this year, so I am excited to try it out! I will try to take good care of it for you, but no promises! :)
    The only other thing I wanted to cover before I sign off is that I am proud to be one of the founding partners of the Keweenaw Snowmobile Club. It is setup to raise funds for the grooming and trail maintenance up here. Our are has the largest amount of trail miles to take care of in the entire state, nearly doubling the next club. The funding has been slowly on the decline and we are thus setting this up to help out with the snowmobile trail system up here. There is a way to become a club member on the website and being a member will also allow you to take part in a membership rewards program being setup with local businesses. You will also be able to sign up at certain businesses in the area when you are up. 
    The rewards program is still being set up with the local businesses and the membership cards will be in shortly, but please sign up to help support our efforts up here! One of the first things on our list is to build a new "barn" for the groomers, as the one we have not was not designed for it and is in a state beyond repair. It's only $25 for a membership for the year and due to the rewards program, we are not doing a family membership at the current time. Please sign up and support!

Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
October 19, 2015-
    Got back into town yesterday eve, from a quick trip to the south. Been a busy day today. Will write tomorrow. -John

October 11, 2015-
    It seems kind of weird to type October 11th given the day we have had today. We awoke to an early morning low of 54 and the temps only warmed from there, reaching 84 degrees at around 4:30 this afternoon. It has cooled all the way down to 78 as I type this at around 6 pm. However, I am doing it in shorts and a t-shirt with the windows wide open. 
    We had another week of spectacular weather and it has been a long time since we have had such a wonderful autumn. Just today, Nora mentioned how wonderful both this summer and autumn was and how once the cold weather locks in for the season, we will not feel jipped as we have the past few seasons. We did have rain most of the day on Thursday, but that was probably a good thing, as I really had to get some "indoor" work done and the weather was so nice the other days, I just could not bring myself to stay indoors.
    For the life of me, I cannot remember all that I did outside this past week, but I do know I was busy most days. The main thing, I guess, was to get ready to start filling the wood shed with wood. There was quite a bit of stuff laying around in them that just sort of got casually tossed in there during the summer. So it all got put in its proper places and I even built some custom hanging/storing systems for a few things. So by the time Saturday arrived, the wood shed and its addition were ready to start storing. In comparison to previous years, especially last year!, when we had a large crew to cut, yesterday it was just myself and two local college boys. I had no intention of cutting and stacking all 16 cord in yesterdays work session. Just cut until tired and then rest. So we went at it pretty good for around 3 1/2 hours. Nora ordered/picked up some pizzas and after stuffing my face, I knew I was done for the day! Actually, my back was starting to get a little sore and I did not want to make it too sore. So we did call it a day, but were able to cut around 4-5 cord and get it stacked into the woodshed addition. So that leaves around 3 cord of the first load, which was the birch and another 8 cord of maple still needing to be done. The boys seemed interested in having another cutting session in a few weeks and I know I will also chip away at it every day for an hour or so. 
    I developed a technique to keep me from having to bend over a lot. I use the forks on Big Red to lift up the logs to a comfortable cutting height. The boys then did the nasty work of picking, hauling and stacking. I plan to build a fairly good sized crib that the logs will fall into and can then be picked up and moved into the woodshed at a comfortable height so that I do not have to do as much lifting. I guess the bottom line is that I still have around 5-6 weeks at least to finish cutting and stacking the wood and am not worried about it in the least. When there is no pressure to get a certain amount done in a specific time, it is actually kind of therapeutic. So I still have a ton of gratitude for those that have made the trip up in the past several years to help me make wood in the past, but am in good shape (at least for now) this year.
    After a little rest and letting the pizza settle, Nora, Gracie and I piled into the LoL Rec Commander and headed off to get our pumpkins for the season. The colors are now very close to peak. Tomorrow or Tuesday may be the true peak, but the past few days have been nothing short of magnificent up here and here is what we were treated to as we cruised through the woods yesterday. We picked out our pumpkins at a local stand and returned to the woods for the trip back. We took a little detour to swing by one of the ponds left over from the mining. While there, Gracie found one of the original rocker/recliners. She had fun looking for some pieces of quarts mixed in with the poor rock and I spotted a rock with a touch of the element that caused all the mining to take place in the first place. Copper.
    As mentioned, this morning was quite mild at daybreak and by the time we headed out for our morning walk, it could be done without a jacket on. Here is a shot of Gracie amongst some of the trees in our neighborhood. It was a beautiful, cloud free, morning and with the sun still creeping up from the horizon, the tips of the trees on our road were glowing, while the lower parts still in the shade were still a bit muted.
    After getting some morning chores done, we had a quick lunch and then headed out with the pups for a color tour in the SUV. The first road to get the call was Cliff Drive. The sun was not in the best position for most of that route to look real good, but we still found a few spots where the trees were aglow
    After that, we headed down into Eagle River and then up the Garden City Rd. While making the climb from the lowlands down by town up into the higher terrain just inland a bit, Nora spotted a beautiful sight from here rear view mirror, so she stopped and let me capture it for you all. A little further up the road we came to a nice tunnel of yellow
    The predominate color up here is probably yellow, with the birch, aspen and many of the maples taking on that color when the chlorophyll departs the leaves. However, my favorite are the oranges and the fluorescent reds. 
    We interrupted our color tour in the vehicle with a nice little walk in the woods down to a pond. It is an amazing place anytime of the year, but was particularly beautiful today. Having my whole world there made it that much more special.
    After that, it was on to the Delaware cross cut road for some more colors via vehicle. There is so much to see, I probably should have just shot a video of the entire route trip down that road, but if you can imagine mile after mile of this, that is what we experienced. 
    It was another marvelous color tour and we are so blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world. The funny thing is, with all of our travels today, both Nora and I came to the conclusion that the best color show was happening in our own yard! I guess that makes us exceptionally blessed!
   So that is the color show edition of the journal for 2015. I will most likely be able to get some more shots this week, as things progress, but it looks like the weather will be turning more like it should be up here in mid-October. No snow, but temps around 35 degrees cooler than they were today and even some rain.
    Nora and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary on Friday. Gracie had some things going on Friday evening, so we put off the celebration until Saturday night. We all had a great time and a great meal and on the way home spotted a gaggle of wild turkeys. They seem to be starting to really flourish up here, which is pretty cool. Hopefully they can become a permanent fixture.
    Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-   

October 4, 2015-
So here we are...October already! My how time flies. It was a beautiful week of autumnal weather up here. Highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's and even our first hard frost. That pic was taken Wednesday morning, but we had several mornings with some frost. It was nice taking out early morning walk with some frost on the pumpkin. Even the pups seemed to have a bit of a spring in their step. I was thankful for the fact that it did warm into the 50's every day and we also enjoyed beautiful sunshine all week as well.
    The beautiful weather kept me working outside. I decided to go ahead and finish out the addition to the woodshed. That included moving the siding from the wall of the old shed to the outside of the new. It also included building a loft area for storage on the front. What to I plan on storing up there? Well, the topper to the truck of course! I bet you are wondering how I might go about getting the topper up here. Well, have tractor with loader and forks? let it do the heavy lifting! I actually had to build a little structure that extends the reach of the forks, as well as keeps the forks from hitting the rear window, but it all turned out well and the topper fits nicely in its little cubby. I did get the rear wall sided and hung some storage for things on the back of it. The opening in this picture will be filled in by a giant sliding door. The opening is large enough to be able to drive Big Red into, in case I need to. Also in that last picture was the crude device I made to help facilitate the lifting of the topper.
    So now all that is left is to build the sliding door, I already have the hardware left over from when I thought I would use a sliding door between the shops, as well as getting things organized inside the wood shed to be ready to accept wood next Saturday. That is when the first wood cutting "party" will be taking place. I did receive the second load of wood, another 8 cord. So I have just under 16 cord that needs to be cut and stacked. I figure we will get the first 8 done this Saturday and then I will either take care of the second 8 myself, or see if the local boys want to have another cutting party. Either way, I am not worried about getting it all cut and stored...at least not yet!
    Besides admiring the frost on our morning walks, I have been enjoying the changing color show as well as some of the other beautiful sights that mother nature provides. The color show is still progressing, although I would put it at no more than about 35% or so. Our woods are even further behind, but the trees that have popped have really been majestic. I would have to say that in general, the weekend for the best color will probably be next, although as long as we do not have a strong wind storm right after, the next weekend could also be very good.
    This past Friday, Gracie, Nora and I went out on a dinner date and then went up to Calumet. There is a nice artist community growing there and they have what is called "First Friday". All the galleries are open late and some have special happenings going on in them. In one of them, Gracie got to do a little artwork of her own. Although it probably did not look too impressive in that picture, I was pretty impressed with her creativity and ability. She is already firmly beyond my skills in both!
    On Saturday, some friends from both WI and IL came up and we did a little brushing of the snowmobile trails. It was decided not to have an official work session this autumn, as one of our groomers has been outfitted with a brush hog on an articulating arm, so it can do pretty much all of the brushing work and ever since the rules change for signs in MI, the signing is not much of a task before the season either.
    In any case, we have enjoyed our times in the woods in previous Octobers and so we took to them again this October to do a little brushing. Most of my day was spent riding in the back of the Commander, pole saw in hand, taking down any low hanging branches that might cause damage to the groomers. It was a pretty fun thing to do, but my back is really not happy with me today! My arms were sore last night, but today, it has been my back causing me to grunt and groan and even struggle to breathe with some spasms. My wonderful wife has offered up her chiropractor appointment on Wednesday to me if I need it. I may just have to take her up on it! We both use the same Dr and I sure could use it right now! The good news is that I will live and I also got to take in some beautiful views while out in the bush yesterday.
    Today, the Dee's all headed out into their own woods to pay a visit to Old Granddad. I was afraid that the rest of the family might thing it was corny to be wanting to pay such visits to a tree, but I am glad that they share my love for that old birch and the rest of his companions in our woods. During our visit, Gracie had fun climbing some cedars next to Old Granddad and both Millie and Huck had fun doing some woods exploring of their own. They both have showed some signs of slowing down, but still get around about as good as any lab even half their age does while in the woods.
    After our walk in the woods, Gracie decided to do some leaf raking. She worked quite hard for around 30 minutes and was able to make a pretty decent sized pile for her to jump into. Nora joined her and the two of them took a nice selfie, which Nora shared with me and I am sharing with you. My two beautiful girls!
    So that just about covers it for this one. As I was sitting down to write this weeks entry, I found a message in my e mail from a friend and local photographer. I have had the pleasure to be able to share his work with you in the past and he sent me a dandy of the Northern Lights show put on last night. Here is an explanation he provided along with the picture: "Northern lights with a exiting cloud bank being illuminated by the moon rise! Plus the orange on the left are the lights from Thunder Bay Ontario. Also notice the shadow from the cloud on the water and the big dipper is about drown out by the brightness of the lights, a lot going on here!" I agree Mark. Lots going on in that shot and thanks so much for sharing! It most certainly is deserving of a full sized version!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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