September 27, 2015-
    So my temp is at 81 and the airport is pushing 80 as I type this, but I can honestly say that the feeling of autumn being here still holds true. We had a beautiful week of autumn weather, with temps in the 60's and 70's for highs an little wet weather. Yesterday and today we did get into the nose bleed section as far as temps go, but the humidity has been able to stay low and thus it feels more like "Indian Summer" with the warm temps, rather than a persistence or, better yet, a return to, summer. 
    While I cannot guarantee that this will be the final 80 degree temp of the season, I would be willing to give it strong odds. 80's to get pretty hard to come by once we get into October and the forecast looks like there will not be a chance of it through the 10th of the month.
    No worries though. I was able to make very good progress on my final outdoor project (minus cutting wood) this past week- more on that in a bit- and I would be ok with some cool and wetter weather settling in.
    I was kept fairly busy this past week with my project, but also found some time to have some fun. By brother Jim bought a place up here and will be moving into it from Chicago next spring. It needs a bit of work done to it, nothing major, but he would like to get that work done before he moves in for good. It will be very nice to have him up here, we pretty much spent our whole childhood playing together and I feel like once he moves back up, we will be able to re-ignite that close friendship. Plus Gracie will have an uncle to play with full time and Nora will be able to sneak out for a quiet dinner every now and then!
    Anyway, I helped Jim do a bit of work on his place earlier this week. Nothing too major, just getting a few things buttoned up to be ready for the winter. He spent a ton of time at the place cleaning it up. The previous owners had moved into another place and also had just had a new baby boy arrive, so they really did not have the free time needed to get the place into spick and span shape, but it is there now and it it amazing to see the difference in it just from the cleaning that he did.
    On Wednesday, Gracie had what is called an "early release" day. That is when all the elementary kids get out around 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier than they typically would. It is done to allow the teachers to have some time with each other and administration to do any of that type of work. Jim, the pups and I picked Gracie up from school and headed north. Way north, to the land of the giants. I do not mean that Gracie and Jim were the giants, but the trees were. We went to the Estivant Pines preserve. It is one of the last remaining stands of old-growth white pine forests in the entire Midwest. It is located just a bit out of Copper Harbor and has always been one of my favorite places to visit, as it gives a good look at what the forest was like up this way before all the clear cutting was done back 100-150 years ago. For what ever reason, these trees were sparred and continue to grow. Their average age is 400-600 years old. Their average trunk diameter is 3-4 feet and their average height is over 110 feet.
    The woods there are not comprised only of these old growth trees. In fact, they are more scattered about the area there, with smaller trees like maple, fir and cedar growing underneath them. It is difficult to take a picture and show just how large they are, but I did try with this vertical panorama of one. They are nothing like the redwoods or sequoias of the Pacific NW, but to think that they have been around these parts 3 times longer than any European settler has and even longer than any European has been in North America is quite impressive. I can only imagine the storms they have seen in that time frame, and to endure them is an amazing accomplishment. The other nice thing is that while some are dying of natural causes, there are others that look to be just a few hundred years old waiting in line to take their place. So it is entirely possible that that stand of old growth white pine will be around for a lot longer.
    Years ago, there were signs up that said that pets were not allowed in the preserve. It always surprised me, as you are pretty much out in the wilderness and there is not much a pet can do to the region that the bear, wolves and other critters were not already doing. So I was happy to learn that pets (one leashes) are welcomed now. That made Huck and Millie happy too, as they were able to take the adventure along with us.
    We lucked out with the weather, as a few sprinkles started to fall as we were getting back into the truck and a light shower even fell as we were driving home. The rain did help to wash some of the dust off the leaves and add a bit more color to the tree canopy, but we are still a long way from our peak, as this shot from the covered drive west of Copper Harbors shows.
    Closer to home, we have one tree in our woods that decided to change this week and is a pretty brilliant shade of orange. However, the rest of the woods are almost a solid green at the moment. From the color of the trees that have managed to change so far, I am hopeful that it will be a better than average color show this season. The past few have not been what we are accustomed to up this way. Still spectacular by most other standards, but just so-so by ours. I am thinking the peak weekend for the colors will also be the 10-11th. Maybe even a bit later than that, but probably not the 17-18th.
    My one brother Jim went home on Thursday and my older brother Ed, and my mom arrived Friday to spend the weekend. We just got in from a nice ride in the Commander. Not a lot of color to be seen in the woods, but a beautiful day to be doing it. I had shorts and a t-shirt on and was totally comfortable. We did make it to the shores of the big lake and then circled back up and around back to our place. I do not know the exact mileage, but would suspect it to have been around 40 miles. 
    I am looking forward to going with the family once the colors really start to pop. That and the usual truck ride on my favorite country roads as well.
    So as mentioned, the progress on the wood shed addition went well this week. I was able to get it all framed up by Thursday and then spent a few hours yesterday putting the roof on. So as it stands now, It would be pretty much ready for the winter. There will be sides on it and I plan to actually pull the siding off the one side of the existing structure and just move it over to the addition. However, I also want to build some storage lofts in the addition (the main reason it is so tall with such a shallow roof slope) and get some things stored in it. It will probably be used more for storing things like the topper for my truck, the pool, the kayaks, the scaffolding and a few other odds and ends, than for wood, but I do also plan to store some wood in it. 
    So I would like to get things stored before the weather turns fowl for good and then move the siding over. If I run out of good weather, I can always put some tarps up for walls for the season and do the siding work in the spring. Although I would really like to be done with it all this season and not have it hanging over my head for next season. Only time and the weather will tell!
    So that just about covers it for this one. One last little tidbit to share. Yesterday was Gracie's final soccer game of the season and she scored a goal! Nora and I were so happy for her, as she really wanted to and came close a couple of times during this season. It was not every reason why she was playing and was never disappointed in any of the other games she did not score, so it was something she was hoping to do and we were glad to see it happen. I was also very proud that she did almost no celebrating and no showing off. She scored the goal and then jogged back to get ready for the game to resume, stopping only to give the coach a high-five.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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September 20, 2015-
    Greetings! I am happy to report that autumn has finally arrived in the Keweenaw. We have not had a frost yet and the color show is still quite muted, but just being out and about the past few days has provided the unmistakable feeling that autumn is here. Perhaps it is the lower sun angle, or absence of humidity, or the color show just starting to unfold, or perhaps all of them combined. No matter the cause, it sure has added a spring to my step and a smile to my face. 
    I suppose for some, autumn can be more of a time of sadness as the passing of the summer has taken place and soon the nights will be cold and dark for longer. However, it has just the opposite. I feel so energized, ready to go. 
    It is probably a good thing, as autumn usually does provide its fair share of chores that NEED to be done. The painting of the shops was completed a little more than a week ago and this week I took down the pool and did the trim painting on the shops. I also got a little start on my next project, an addition to the wood shed. It should not take too long to complete, but obviously needs to be done before the weather turns for good. Once that is done, the final outdoor project is to try and level out the parking area a bit more so that the early season snow throwing does not have as much rock tossing when the blower goes from a low spot to a high spot and scoops up some of the crushed mine rock we have down for our driveway. I also plan to have the local metal working shop fabricate some larger skid pads for the blower.
    So between getting some of the projects done and attending some meetings, doctors appointments and of course the regular work load, I do not have much to write about for the weekday period. However, Nora and Gracie had a camping trip planned with their friends for Saturday night. It was going to be a "girls only" affair, but they came home from work/school Friday and announced to me that they had a great idea. That was that the whole family would go out a night early, set up the tent, spend the night Friday, come back home take care of things that needed to be done Saturday and then they would go back out for their girls only night Saturday. 
    It sounded like a great plan to me, so while Nora ran to the store to pick up some supplies, I chopped some firewood and got some other things organized. The spot that had been chosen to camp at is in a quaint little campground right along the lake and only about 15 minutes from our house. So we were able to get Nora's SUV all packed up and head over to the site in plenty of time to be able to get things set up. 
    This was actually the first time that we had ever camped as a family and even that Nora and I had camped. So it was the first time with the tent and other things to set up, but the tents these days really have come a long way from those of days past. Even though it was our first time, in less than 30 minutes we were putting the final touches to having the tent set up. Not long after that, we had a nice campfire going and the pups were getting into the groove of the camping thing and all was well. 
    Soon after we were all settled in, the wildlife started to come and visit. First, a chipmunk made the mistake of dropping by the campfire in hopes of an hand out, but instead found two Labrador Retrievers more than anxious and willing to give it a different kind of a reception. Lucky for the chipper the campground has a rule that all pets need to be on a leash at all times. Not long after the chipper came and went, Nora spotted a loon floating by in the shallows of Lake Superior. A short while after the loon was spotted, a beaver decided to stroll down the beach towards us. They must have pretty poor eyesight as this one waddled its way to within a dozen feet or so of us, before finally seeing us and skidding into the water and below for its escape.
    The campground was fairly quiet, although there was a scattering of other campers there, mainly in either trailers or motor homes. Nora and Grace decided to go for a little walk and ended up making friends with one of the neighboring campers. They had befriended a chipmunk to the point where it was comfortable taking a treat right from the had of someone. Needless to say, Gracie just HAD to try that!
    When they returned to our campsite, it was time to watch the final bit of glow from the setting sun disappear just above the horizon of the big lake. We then sat around the campfire, had some 'smores and slipped into the tent at around 9:45. I must say that it was very relaxing to hear the surf tumble 50 feet away from us as I drifted off to sleep. Other than a leak in the air mattress, the night went very well. We had some breakfast, gathered our things and then headed home to get ready for Saturday's events.
    One of those events was to attend a benefit for the gal that cuts my hair. A few weeks back, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately passed away shortly after the diagnosis. So was was initially set up as a fund raiser to help with the expenses of the fight against cancer turned into a fundraiser for them to help with the costs associated with the loss. The salon was offering up free haircuts, chair massages, manicures and other things in exchange for donations. I had just gotten my hair cut earlier in the week, but we let Gracie get her nails done and also made sure to heavily support the tent full of bakery goods that had been made for the occasion!
    Gracie also had a birthday party to attend and then we all headed out to the campground for round 2. My brother and I, as well as the pups, were not going to spend the night, but in exchange for cutting and splitting more campfire wood, we were allowed to stay for the sunset. :) Here is a panoramic shot of the campsite we had for the weekend. Quite nice.
    My brother and I chatted while enjoying the sun set. Unlike the night before which was mostly cloudy, Saturday night had the crystal clear skies that often happens in September up here. Which in turn led to a very pretty sunset. So with the sun having set, my brother, the pups and I were kicked out of the campground, but not before I got my good night kiss from Grace Skywalker
    So I think that about covers it for this one. It looks to be a pretty eventful week in many ways. My brother is here until Thursday and then my mom and other brother arrive Friday. So I am sure there will be more stories to tell in a week!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
September 13, 2015-
    This will likely be a short one. For two reasons. First, I do not have a lot of material to share and more importantly, Nora needs to use my computer for an online business endeavor she has started and that happens in less than 90 minutes! 
    What I can say is Ahhhhhhhhh...... Compared to a week ago, I am loving the weather. I think I honestly forgot how much I love autumn weather! I know that in the past few years I have come to enjoy summer a bit more. I still despise the humidity, but am much more tolerable of 80's at least. 
    I was quite excited for the cooler and less humid air to arrive earlier in the week. In fact, just awaiting it early last week, I was much like a child on the night before Christmas. It could just not get here soon enough and nearly occupied all of my thoughts. 
    It actually came in two pieces. The first little cool off and drop off in humidity happened on Monday, although that only dropped our temps into the upper 70's and the humidity dropped a bit, but then actually rose a bit Monday night into early Tuesday, before the main font came through and dropped both our temps and humidity considerably. I had a doctors appointment Tuesday afternoon and when I went into the hospital for it, it felt like a Florida day, with temps in the upper 70's, but more importantly a dew point of around 70. When I came out about an hour later, the temps were in the low 70's, but the dewpoint was in the low 60's and dropping. So I drove to the appointment with the windows up and AC on and drove home with the windows open and a smile on my face.
    The rest of the week was nice, with no noticeable humidity and even some chilly morning temps. We dropped into the 40's most mornings and on Saturday morning hit a low of 37. The week ahead sees a warm up, with highs making it into the 80's and even some humidity, but right now it does not look to get way out of hand. Plus cooler air will arrive on Thursday, so it will be 3-3 1/2 days of the warmth and humidity and then another 4-5 day shot of cooler and low humidity weather. No snows are seen yet, but that is fine by me, as I still have some outdoor chores to get done.
    Speaking of outdoor chores, I did get one of the biggies done this week. It was to paint the shop(s). Technically they are just one building, but are separated by a wall, so are still more like 2 separate shops to me. Anyway, the dimensions are 66 feet by 30 feet and the siding was rough sawn pine. Not a very fun thing to paint by hand. I did paint the screened in porch by hand last year and it took me hours just to do that small amount. The rough sawn really takes a lot of paint to cover it, especially when brushing it on. So for this job I rented a sprayer. Best 50 bucks I could have ever spent. I did use a sprayer for the house 2 years ago, but it was a less expensive model bought from a big box store and the sprayer I rented from the paint store was a nice professional grade unit. 
    So it only took me about 2 1/2 hours to do all the painting, which was much less time than the setup took. Because of the gables, I had to set up staging on each end to be able to reach the higher levels. Here is a look at things the moment before getting going on spraying. Here is a shot of the front of the shop with the staging down. I still have some trim work to do, but the big job is done. We actually used the same color on the shops that we used in the window trim of the house. Both Nora and I like how it turned out and also like the contrast and compliment it makes with the house.
    We did have a little pain left over, so we decided to paint Gracie's swing set. It had not been painted since we got it about 5 years ago and really needed it. So I did all the high parts and then let Grace take over for the spots she could reach. She actually did a very good job. She was watching how I did it- using a burst mode with each sweep, rather than spraying the whole time and she copied it. So I am hoping that the next time the house and/or shops need painting, she will be old enough to do it! :)
    Today the church we attend had a little work session to do some clean up at the park in Mohawk. The park is kept up very nicely and there is very little trash lying around in it, but there were some leaves that needed to be raked in a few spots and we also planted a tree to provide some, future, additional shade by the concession stand.
    So that about covers it for this week. Even though the week looks to be a warm one, the mornings look to be cool enough to be able to get going on my second (of three) large outdoor projects do be completed before the weather turns for good. Who knows, with a little luck, at my next writing, I may be able to show a completed project! If not, at least some solid progress!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
September 6, 2015-
    Welcome to a new month and a new season! I realize that as I type this, it is feeling anything like autumn for many of you reading this, but the season is upon us and for many it will feel more like autumn later this week.
    As much as I would have enjoyed 60's, low humidity and sunshine, the past week has been more tolerable than I would have expected. First, we did not get as warm on several of the days as anticipated. Secondly, the sun is setting around 2 1/2 hours later than it does in mid-summer, so things start to cool down around 4 pm and by 7 pm are usually comfortable enough to open up the windows again and shut off the air conditioning. The sun is also rising around 3 hours later than it does in the summer, so things do not begin to heat up until around 9 or 10 in the morning, so the period of really nasty heat and humidity is not as long as it is in the heart of the summer.
    None the less, I am very excited for cooler and less humid air to be headed our way. It looks like it will take a bit longer than anticipated, but only by around a day. So far, in the past 7 days, last Monday, yesterday and today have been the worst to have to endure. Temps solidly in the 80's and dewpoints into the 70's. My time outside was pretty limited all of those three days, although we were able to sneak in our early morning walks before things got too out of hand.
    I did get some indoor chores done and am now chomping at the bit to be able to get outside and get 2 rather large projects out of the way and several small ones. 
    A few weeks back, I mentioned how some hornets had built a rather impressive next inside of the wood sheds roof. Well, this week, some critter decided to get into it a little bit. I looked up and saw that a fairly large hole had been made in the bottom of the nest. Then a few days later, I noticed another hole had been made in the nest, this time closer to the top. I really have no idea what has been doing that, as it could be a host of different animals. I have not seen any bear prints around the woodshed, so I am currently doubting it is one. Perhaps more along the lines of a raccoon. In any case, I am still going to wait for the first real cold of the season to come before I brave knocking it down. Then at least I will have enough clothing on that they should not be able to sting me if any have survived. I have seen a few drop in the past few weeks.
    So this was the final week of having Grace with me at home all day. School starts back up on the 8th and then it will be all quiet around here for the pups and I. I have mixed emotions about that, as does she, but she is very excited to get back to school and see all of her friends again.
    On Wednesday, we did have a touch of rain up this way. Not much, enough to settle the dust and be a little bit of a nuisance for doing something outdoor. However, we were on the northern fringes of some steadier rain. It did ran quite constantly from around Calumet south during the day on Wednesday, so Gracie and I took the opportunity to do some indoor activities. Chief among them were to head down to Houghton and take in the AE Seaman Mineral Museum. It is part of Michigan Tech and being that MI Tech started out primarily as a mining college, they have amassed quite a collection of rocks and minerals. About a year and a half ago, they moved into a new location, up the hill by the football field and ski trails and the facility is well suited for the displays
    When we first walked in, there is a gift shop in the front and then the displays in the back. A first I though that the only displays were the ones that I could see from the gift shop room, so Gracie and I took our time and studied the rocks and minerals in all of the cases. We turned a corner and then I saw that the room we were in was just a small portion of all the space where displays were located. Inside each display were numerous items for viewing. So we did pick up the pace a bit, but still only managed to see about 1/2 of the displays in the 2 hours we were there. Some displays only held one specimen, but they were quite large and in some cases...super large. There was actually one that was so big (a Guinness Record) that it was displayed in an outdoor pavilion. It is a piece of float copper and is the worlds largest specimen of that type and was found just off shore between Eagle River and Eagle Harbor up here.
    On Friday, we all headed to the beach to help cool down. We chose the east side of the peninsula as the winds were out of the east and the on-shore breeze would make it a bit cooler. Upon arrival, we were not only treated to the on-shore breeze keeping things more comfortable, but also the sight of a large EPA research vessel. I am not sure what it was doing, but it did have a cable extended down into the water off the stern of the vessel, so they were doing something. 
    Back on shore, the pups had fun swimming out to get the fetch toy and bring it back. Gracie had fun swimming around and even catching a ride in on the pups. Here is a short video of her doing that. Nora and I enjoyed one of the final days of summer here in the Keweenaw, watching the pups and Gracie play, the waves lap up on the shore and the Tobacco River travel over its final set of falls before dumping into the big lake.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. With how warm and humid it is out right now, it is hard to believe that in a month, we will be moving into the peak of the autumn color season and may have even seen our first flakes of snow!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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