April 24, 2016-
    Wowzers. Talk about a snap back to reality, or even beyond. As I wrote last week, we were in the midst of some beautiful weather. 70's and sunshine. Woke up Monday to temps in the 30's and that is pretty much where they stayed all day. So a more than 40 degree temperature swing in less than 24 hours. It was a pretty cold week as well. Tuesday we did warm into the 50's and had some sunshine, so after dinner, the entire clan headed to White City to hang out at the beach for a bit of the evening. With winds out of the east, White City beach was impacted by the cold winds off the big lake, but it was not too cold. The pups even got in their first swim of the season! I think that they are becoming more impacted by the cold water because they did not stay in for very long. When they were younger, the temperature of the water did not seem to phase them in the least. None the less, they were beside themselves with happiness to be at the beach and ran around the entire time, making the occasional dash into the water to cool off or get a drink. The brief swim also helped to wash all the dirt that had accumulated on them since most of the snow melted. They have a visit to the Doggy Doctor on Wednesday for their annual lube, oil and filter, so perhaps I will get them to the beach Tuesday so they can get a good cleaning for the Dr.
    The rest of us also enjoyed the visit to the beach, even if we did have to wear a winter parka. Gracie found a cool piece of driftwood to climb on I found some mysterious tracks in the sand that I believe were from a turtle. I'm not sure what was going on here, perhaps she was trying to make her own "turtle tracks", but she did manage to drag that piece of driftwood down the beach for a few hundred yards before letting it go. I think she was actually thinking she could get it into the lake for the dogs to fetch.
    The sunset these days is at around 8:45 pm, so even though we were at the beach at around 7 pm, it seemed more like late afternoon with the sun still hanging so high in the sky
    Wednesday was not that bad of a day either. We managed to warm to around 60 degrees and in the early afternoon, after getting some chores done, the pups and I headed out into the woods to have a look around and pay a visit to Old Granddad. At that point, our woods were still pretty full of snow, but despite temps being quite cool the rest of the week, we are down to just patches in the woods now. Even the areas where Big Red threw the snow all winter and made it much deeper than the natural snow cover are down to the final foot or two. As much as I love the snow, it will be nice to get rid of the final patches of rotten snow we have hanging around.
    Despite the cooler temps the second half of the week, we did manage to be mainly dry. That allowed me to make a bit of firewood. I officially ran out on Wednesday and that load was made on Wednesday to help get us through the rest of the week and weekend. More has been cut and stacked in the woodshed since and I think we are good for another week. There is still some snow and a big puddle near the wood pile, so I would prefer to wait to cut it all until the area is dry, so will probably go week to week until that is the situation.
    On Thursday morning, I did get a chance to swing by the Laurium Glacier to see how it was doing. Still hanging in there pretty good, but unless we stay unusually cold for an extended period of time, I'd say it has around 3 weeks left to it. The contest is now officially closed to further guesses that count.
    On Friday, I had to take a quick trip to Marquette and was surprised to encounter some snow frosted trees and even a bit of snow coating the ground in eastern Baraga County. We did not have much more than a few sprinkles occur late Thursday into Thursday night, but apparently there was enough snow that fell from the skies to dust things elsewhere. I made a quick stop at Parent Lake to snap a shot of the late season snowfall.
    Earlier in the week, Gracie finished up a school activity that can also be done at home. It is computer driven, so she needs to do it either on a computer or I-pad. She has worked very hard and actually finished the entire program. Typically kids do not finish until the end of 2nd or into the 3rd grade and I believe it is setup so that by the time you are done, you are at the 4th grade level for reading. Anyway, I wanted to show her that with hard work comes rewards, so I said that when she finished the program, we would build her new bed. So Thursday after picking her up from school, we stopped by the lumber yard and picked up the supplies to build her bed
    I was thrilled beyond words when she said she wanted to help me built it. I gave her the option of just me doing it, or her helping and she was pretty animate about helping out. So we have spent some time the past few days working on it. The paparazzi even snuck in to catch us doing some work yesterday afternoon. Rather than having our security detail rough them up, we decided to accommodate them and posed for a few shots. It was then back to work as a certain little girl is pretty excited for it to be done and it is a pretty involved project. You all will have to wait for it to be done to see the final result, but I promise it will be worth the wait!
    She was fully involved in things. I do not let her run any power tools, but she helped me take some measurements, do some hand sanding and when she did not have anything to do, I found her on the floor, using a hand sweep and dust pan to tidy up the shop floor. All without even asking her too. Proud Pappa! Another cool thing was that we needed to mark some of the pieces of wood, as they were going to be paired together. I did the first one, using some masking tape and a sharpie to put the letter "A" on the two matching pieces. I asked if she wanted to do the other three pairs and she gave an excited YES! Then she asked me if it needed to be letters or could it be something else. I explained that it could be anything, as long as the matching pairs had the same symbol. So instead of letters, she let her creativity flow and ended up making things like a 3D tunnel and a diamond. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Good old dad was fully shown up on that one and was plenty happy to be!
   I am not sure when the bed will be done. Monday's are busy for us with piano lessons and Awana right after school, then by the time we get home it is bed time. I might be able to get some work done while she is at school (she is fine with that) and I think we will be able to get some work done the rest of the weeks afternoons/evenings. So perhaps by the next entry the construction will be done and I can share a few pics. Her and Nora are then going to paint it, so I will be sure to share pics of it when it is all painted up as well.
    I guess that about covers it for this week. Looks to be a pretty cool week with some rain, but no snow. Talk to you all next month!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

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April 17, 2016-
   
Welcome to the Keweenaw spring! Heck, both today and yesterday have been more like summer than spring. Highs in the 70's and loads of sunshine. If there were no snow lingering and leaves on the trees, it would even look like summer around here! However, such is not the case. We still have snow on the ground and the trees are bare. We are probably around 4 weeks away from the trees beginning to fill out, but I would guess around a week to ten days away from getting rid of all the snow. Natural snow that is. The piles made by man will hang on for a bit more.
    The entire period between last weeks entry and this weeks entry was not spring like however. We did have snow on Monday and Tuesday. It did not amount to much. None the less, the flakes were flying as can be seen in this pic from the Monday morning walk
    The weather did follow the script laid out last weekend though. Wednesday we turned the corner. After the snows and high temps in the 30's Monday and Tuesday, we had some sunshine and a high of 49 on Wednesday. Things only got better from there, with a 63 on Thursday, a 67 on Friday, 74 on Saturday and so far we have made it to 76 today.
    There are many different things that happen as we get ready for winter up here and a similar amount of things that happen in the spring. One ritual that is still relatively new, but will be around for the rest of my career of living up here is the changing of the tractor. In the autumn, the blower gets put on while the loader goes into storage. In the spring, it is the blower that gets put into storage and the loader that gets put into action. In between the transition, Big Red always looks so naked. I am happy to report that the transition went well, no broken windows this time. It is amazing how well things can go when one follows the directions!
    I did put the blower to use one last time before taking it off. I cleared a path to the pile of wood that lays in wait to keep us and our water warm once we run out. However, we have not run out yet. I was able to turn the heat off in the shops on Wednesday and that combined with the warmer temps since Wednesday has allowed the wood usage to drop to near summer like levels. Since Wednesday, I have probably used as much wood as I would use in just 24 hours in the dead of winter. That feels pretty good too. It has me thinking seriously about putting the shops on a regular boiler by next heating season. I think that I am losing a lot of heat in the tubing from just the short run from the boiler to the shops, as the shops are well insulated and I do not keep them too warm. That line was replaced 2 seasons ago and the usage and the snowmelt above the line has been way up since. It would fit in with the long term plans for our heating season as well. Once our wood boiler no longer works, it was my plan to put a traditional boiler in the shop and one in the house. Anyway, we'll see what transpires, but it would be nice to not have to make as much firewood in the autumn and load as much into the boiler all winter long.
    By Thursday afternoon, it was nice enough for all of us to be out without jackets on. That is the first time in at least 6-7 months and it felt really good. It was fun for Nora and I to watch Gracie play with the pups. Funny how they had quite a bit of places to play that did not have snow, yet they chose to play on a remaining snow pile. I guess the habits formed over the past 5 months are hard to break for everyone.
    This weekend Nora went away on a little retreat. A friend of hers holds these little retreats where she teaches photography. Nora has always loved photography, but wanted to learn more about the different settings you can use to get different effects as well as to pick up some tips in photo editing software. So that left Gracie, the pups and I to fend for ourselves. We do pretty well fending for ourselves. We miss Mom when she is not here, but also have lots of fun. On Friday, Gracie and I piled into the SxS for its inaugural ride of the season. 
    There was still some snow on the trails, but also some open spots. We only had trouble in one spot and were able to get through by switching over to 4 wheel drive. Most of the snow was still firm enough that the SxS would ride right across the top, while the melted and muddy areas provided some of the most challenges. We did not go too far, but did pass over the Gratiot River and stopped to take in the view of the waters. It's always amazing how full the creeks, streams and rivers get up here during the spring melt. No where is it as dramatic as the Eagle River Falls. Those roar like a jet engine during the thaw.
    That picture was taken yesterday evening while Gracie and I were enjoying a nice Daddy/daughter dinner date. After dinner we relaxed on the beach and some of us even took off our shoes and got our feet wet. Others wimpped out. There was even a fella that stripped down to his shorts and waded out and dove right in. I am sure glad that he came back up and got back to shore, as I was the closest adult to making a rescue if one was needed and really did not want to be a hero. They had been hanging out on the deck of the restaurant that we ate at and I believe some "liquid courage" did play a role in him going all the way in, but I give him a lot of credit as it still took a lot of courage to do what he did!
    We spent about 30 minutes hanging out on the beach, soaking in the evening sun and picking some rocks and even a bit of beach glass. Gracie is a rock hound and we have a nice rock garden growing in a spot along the front of the addition with all of her finds. It will be neat to see it grow over the years...right along with her!
    It looks like the weather is going to cooperate this week too. Not 70's, but still some above average temps and not a lot of rain. Perfect for dinking around the yard while the snow finishes melting and even great for getting into the woodshop. I did not do much in the woodshop this week, as I had turned the heat off and did not want to work in the cold. They have warmed up nicely now and even with the heat off, I will be able to spend time out there, so am looking forward to that.
    So I guess that covers it for this one, but I am happy that the seasons are changing and that I also have some interesting stories and pictures to share with you all. Lots more in the coming weeks/months!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
April 10, 2016-
    Hello....Spring....Can you hear me? If so, we are all pretty much ready for you to show up in the Keweenaw. That tease you gave us in early March was pretty cruel. Got us all excited for the warm weather to come and also made a mess of our nice snowpack. So now even those of us that enjoy playing in the snow are ready for this old and crusty stuff to give way to green. So if you could, please stop by and stick around! Actually, it looks like that is exactly what will be happening this week. More on that in a bit. 
    This past week was still way more like winter than spring. Or perhaps more like mid-December than almost mid-April. We had several days when the temps sat in the low 20's all day and some mornings with lows in the single digits. All of the precip that fell in the past 7 days was snow. We did not get hit as hard as other areas of the UP, but still got our fair share. I believe schools were closed at least twice, perhaps 3 times, this week- just off to the east of us in the Marquette area. Most locals know that we are very close to breaking free of winter weather, but sure are tired of waiting!
    As mentioned, it does look like some pretty dramatic changes in the overall pattern as we head through this week. Still some cold and snow through Monday, but then cool and dry for Tuesday and the warm up begins Wednesday. We might even sneak into the 60's by the very end of next week or weekend. That would put smiles on lots of faces around here. 
   I have still been putting on a smile...for the most part anyway. I suppose I might have not been sporting a smile when temps were in the single digits on our morning walks, but the freshly fallen snow will always be something I find beautiful. 
    The wood pile is down to the bottom of the barrel. That is all that remains of what was cut and stacked last autumn. I still have some that is not yet cut, but also remains buried in a few feet of snow. I have a strong suspicion that we will run out before that pile is becomes easily accessible. There is a plan in place to use Big Red and the blower to make a path to it and then sort of cut it as we need it until it is fully exposed and then cut the rest and get it stacked in the wood shed. 
    Despite the wintry weather the past 2-3 weeks, there are signs that spring is not far off. The buds in the maples are starting to swell, the robins have returned and they are getting ready for the spring track meet in Calumet! I took that picture just yesterday. It's still pretty deep up here! Another sign is that I will be starting the Laurium Glacier meltdown contest tomorrow. Here is a sneak peak of it yesterday. I will start the contest in the Miscellaneous section of the discussion board tomorrow at 9 am eastern time. 
    I did not do any woodworking this past week. With the wood supply so low, I did not want to use any of it by warming up the woodshop. The shops are kept at around 44 all winter long, but it does take a bit more fuel to bump the woodshop to 64 or so. With the warmer temps later this week I might be able to get back out there and finish up the storage units I was working on and then can move onto a new fancy-pants bed for Gracie.
    Gracie had her Grand Prix at AWANA this past Friday. She sure was excited to finally be able to race it. Here is a shot of her with the car just before the races started. The design was totally hers, right down to the color and other final details. We did add a few items this past week to try and bring the weight up a bit more. It turns out that we should have brought the weight up to the maximum allowed, as that was the trick for making it faster than the others. She held her own in the races, but did not qualify for the finals. None the less, she still had a blast being with all her friends and watching the races
    They had trophies for first, second and third for a couple of different classes. In addition to the trophies for speed, they also had some for design. There were lots of different designs done, but the one that stood out against all the others was this one. I cannot tell if that was made by hand or perhaps CNC. If it was by hand, I am flabbergasted by the craftsmanship in it. If it was CNC, I am still very impressed, as it was not done by the single block of wood they give you, the car was wider than that to accommodate the fenders. It was also pretty fast. I don't think it won a trophy for speed though. I was just glad that it was in the other class, as it gave Gracie a fighting chance for a trophy in design for her class. 
    As it turns out, Gracie ended up being given first place in design for her class. She was so thrilled with that, it was awesome to watch. I was very proud of her for winning that, even though I did all the construction work (she is just too young for the tools in my shop), she really was responsible for the design and was also with me for almost every minute it was being made, so this was not just a car that dad made and she took the honors for. She was very much involved, including nixing the design ideas I had! Good thing!
    The other thing that I was equally proud of was her sportsmanship during the event. She was very excited to win the trophy, but did not gloat or show off at all. Plus, while the races were going on, she was hooting and hollering in support of her friends when their names were called as winners of the various heats. I know I am being one of those parents at the moment, but her sportsmanship really did make me a proud parent!
    So, I guess that about covers it for this one. Be sure to drop by the site tomorrow and head to the discussion board to make your guess for when the Laurium Glacier will melt. You do need to have a profile on the board to post there, but the profiles are free and I will check to make sure there are no profiles waiting to be approved before I start the contest. I can say I am looking forward to sharing some pics and stories of what we did with the warm weather in next weeks entry!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
April 3, 2016-
     Greetings from a snowy Keweenaw. I can't remember how March came in like, but I can say that while it may not be best described as a lion, it could sure be described as wintry. We picked up around 3" of snow Friday and Friday night, then another 2" yesterday and today it looks like at least 4" of fresh snow has fallen and it continues to snow at a pretty decent clip. At this rate, maybe we will be playing in the snow on Mother's Day again! I sure hope not!
    Along with the snow, it has also been cold, well, at least for this time of the year. Our high yesterday was 24, we dropped down to 10 above this morning and have only warmed to 23 so far today. Not a good thing for our dwindling wood supply, but like I said last week, I am not going to worry about it too much, but I would have preferred not having to cut any new wood for the boiler until all the snow was gone. Looks like I may have to clear a path to the back up pile and perhaps even move snow off of the logs to get at them.
    This sure will go down as a strange winter. A very slow start, then full speed ahead from the second week of Jan through all of Feb. We hit the brakes hard in March, with the exception of the St Patty's day storm and now the first 3 days of April have brought us almost more snow than we saw in all of March (we did not get hit too hard by the St Patty's day storm up this way). If the snow we have picked up were not enough, it looks like at least one more solid dose of snow will fall later Tuesday into Wednesday, with the possibility of some rain changing to snow late next weekend and early next week. Time is certainly against us hanging onto wintry weather for too much longer, but I also do not see any true spring weather to impact us anytime soon. 
    I can say that while I am certainly ready for the warmth of spring, I still am finding the falling snow to be pretty. Here is a shot of the snow as it was starting on Friday. It was enough to coat everything and even provide some fresh for some hard-core riders that made the trek north to ride. One of those riders was from Rt12 Arctic Cat and was up riding with his buddy. On Friday evening, they stopped by and picked up this years demo sled. It went back with only 184 miles on it! Now, that is not the total amount of miles I put on this season. However, the combination of a late start to the riding season and a period when I needed to get the clutching fully changed over (there was more to the conversion from high altitude to sea level than just changing weights on this years model), kept me from riding it a lot. I think I probably put more miles on the KeweenawKamo sled than I did the demo.
    I actually do not have any regrets on the low miles this season. They were all top quality, spent with good friends. Plus, the trade off of spending time with Nora, Gracie and the pups rather than riding was a very good one for me. There will be time to ride more in future seasons, but I will never get these days back to spend with my family. Plus, the day will likely come when Gracie (perhaps Nora too) will be joining me on most of my rides.
    Speaking of Gracie riding, she did get out yesterday to make some tracks in the fresh snow. We had some friends come over with their boy who is a little more than a year younger than Gracie. He brought his sled along and the two of them did not waste too much time getting on them for a ride. They had a blast cruising around in the cleared out spot of the property we purchased a year and a half ago. It's about perfect for them to ride in. Plenty of space to ride, but not so big that if one has an issue we have to travel a long distance to help out. The problems were fairly small in numbers and I think that Gracie took the price for the most dramatic incident. Came into a corner a bit too hot and spotted a pile of logs, she tried to turn hard right to avoid them, but just could not hold the rubber to the snow. No harm done, she was laughing about it and even managed to repeat the trick at least once more before the riding was over.
    So, other than watching the snow flakes fly, we did manage to get Gracie's Grand Prix car assembled. I brought it in from the shop yesterday morning and she was playing with it on the kitchen counter and it ended up going off and hitting the floor and having some minor damage done. It has been fixed, but the glue is drying and then she is going to decorate it with a number and some hand painted flames, so I will share a pic of it with you all when it is all done. The big race is this Friday.
    I have also been building some storage units for the wood shop this past week. Things are going well with that and my woodworking bug is really starting to come on full steam again. I have just a few things I want to do to the shop before I start making things for the house. Plus, Nora and I are going to put in a bunch of planters this spring that we will grow fruits and vegetables in, so I have plenty to keep me busy until we start spending time in the pool, at the beaches and this summer, riding our bikes. For now, I guess that about covers it!    
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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