June 26, 2016-
    Sheesh! Last entry for June! About 10 years ago, this would have probably been a celebration for me, but in my old age I have come to be able to actually like summer! Don't get me wrong, I love a 3 foot snow storm more than anything (except for one that brings more than 3 feet!), but we really do have some beautiful weather up here in the summer.
    This week was nothing short of spectacular as far as the weather goes. Some chilly mornings, with lows in the 40's, but then it warmed into the 60's and 70's most days and even made it into the 80's Friday and again today. We have been blessed with pretty low humidity so far this summer too, so if you need an escape from the heat and humidity, this would be the place!
    It was a relaxing, but still busy week. I kept busy with work, but did not have any deadlines, so that is what made it relaxing. The first order of business was to finish the rest of the planters for Nora's garden. The next task was to repair the lawn where the tractor had torn it up. Now I know why they use turf tires on golf courses! I also picked up the materials for the fencing, but so far, we have not had any critters stepping up to the salad bar...knock on wood! So that will be a project for another day.
    The pool was filled last weekend and has been getting some good swim time. I set up the redneck pool decking and other features I do to make things a little more cozy. The decking is construction scaffolding, but hey, it works pretty good! The heater has been keeping the water in the upper 80's and the addition of the rigid foam insulation underneath has helped a ton in allowing the water to retain its heat. Even with the temps falling into the 40's many nights this week, it was not tough to keep the pool water nice and warm. That helps to keep this face happy, as well as her mom and dad's faces smiling while swimming!
    The girls did some exploring this week and came across a pretty good sized turtle. With as long and cold as our winters are up here, I am amazed that any kind of reptile can survive up here. I guess they sure must make the most of the warm months we have! Here is a shot of Gracie posing with the turtle. As you can see, she was with her mom and was keeping her distance. Had she been with me, I would have probably dared her to ride on the back of it or something stupid like that! That brings up a point, ALL but the first three pics in this entry are courtesy of Nora. I was a real slacker in the picture taking department this week.
    On Saturday, Pasty-Fest was held in Calumet. I'm guessing we are not the ONLY place in the world that holds a celebration for the pasty, but probably one of a handful! Anyway, its a fun time, there is a parade. Complete with marching band, a few "floats" and of course a pasty! It's not Macy's, probably at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but I love it! I love how old fashioned and laid back things are up here. It is truly like living in Mayberry with Andy, Barney, Aunt Bea and Opie. In the next block over, there were a bunch of vendors set up selling crafts and other items. The national park had a little photo stand set up and Gracie and one of her friends stepped into it to pose. I kind of freaked me out, as their faces seemed to fit perfectly in the cutouts and they looked like actual rangers. Well, at least to me, but it could have been one of my meds! :)
    The sad part about the festivities were that they were cut short by a strong thunderstorm. It really moved in quick from the NNW. We were actually standing down by the main stage and were talking with the lead organizer, who we are friends with, and she asked me if I could go to the main stage, take a look at things on the computer they had there and let me know what they thought. 
    So I got to the computer, brought up a radar image in in that short amount of time, the skies went from somewhat threatening, to nearly pitch black, complete with a shelf cloud. I saw a bow in the radar echo and put it together with the shelf cloud and told them there was a nasty storm coming and to tell everyone to seek a safe place to ride it out. 
    Immediately after that, Gracie, Nora and I took off towards the car, which happened to be parked around 8 blocks away. I don't think I have moved that quickly for as long of a stretch since my first open heart surgery and my body sure let me know! We did end up making it to the car just as the first few rain drops were starting to fall and then made our way home through a torrential down pour, with flashes of lightning and some very strong winds. We ended up getting a little over 3 inches of rain in around 2 hours and here is a shot out of one of our front windows during the down pour. No need to water the gardens yesterday!
    So I think that about covers it for this one. Hard to believe that next weekend will be the Independence Day Holiday weekend already. This summer seems to be flying by faster than any that I can remember since moving up here and we still have a ton to fit into it! 
    Have a safe and great week and holiday weekend!
Good night from the Keweenaw..

JD-

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June 19, 2016-
    Happy Father's Day! I feel so blessed and honored to be able to be called a dad. I can honestly say that I will never forget this moment...the second I first laid eyes on our beautiful daughter. There was so much running through my mind at that moment, but I think the biggest two emotions were pure joy and disbelief that this precious gift had been given to me. The look on Nora's face is priceless and speaks volumes. What a moment.
    So this has been a great week for me. As I wrote last week, my whole family traveled north to pay a visit. What I did not mention was that they all made the trip to help me celebrate my 50th birthday! I have to admit that in the months leading up to this one, I did think about it and anticipate it more than any other birthday that I can remember. I can also admit that I NEVER had a single negative feeling associated with the event. I am actually very excited to be 50 and do not feel a bit older than I did before. I consider it a gift from above to be able to have made it this far! My poor body has cheated death 7 times so far, but I am also happy to say that I feel as good as I have in nearly 10 years. I have no idea how many more trips around the sun I have, but have loved the ride so far and look forward to as many as I have left...hopefully quite a few!
    For my birthday, Nora treated myself and all of my family to a delicious meal at the Harbor Haus in Copper Harbor. The weather was perfect and after dinner we went outside to greet the Isle Royal Queen as she returned from the island with her load of passengers. The Harbor Haus has a neat tradition in which they ring a giant bell and the waitresses line up and do a little dance to welcome everyone back to the other island.
    It was a great dinner with fantastic company. It's not easy to get all of the Dee clan together in one spot and I am very grateful to my Mom and brother Ed for making the trip up from S. WI and especially to my sister Jeni for making the trip all the way from OK! My brother Jim, who lives here, was actually in Chicago for an art fair and woke up before the sun on Monday to get back nice and early to join in on things. Although they did not have to make a special trip to join us, it was no less special to have my two beautiful ladies with me on my big day as well.
    After dinner we came home and relaxed while having cake and opening presents. Nora stepped up to the plate and knocked it clear out of the park with my gifts. One was an autographed MI Tech Hockey jersey from this years team and the other was a top of the line smoker to replace the one that got smashed in a roof clearing avalanche a few years back. She tried to time it so that the smoker would arrive on my birthday, but that was a pretty hard trick to pull of as it was coming freight from Louisiana. It did arrive on Wednesday and I was so pumped to take Big Red out to the road to unload it off the semi and bring it to it's new home.  
    Part of what makes it such a special smoker is that it is build entirely out of ceramic, so it holds the heat extremely well. Plus, it is very easy to regulate the temperature from the low 200's (for smoking) to 700-800 degrees for baking bread or pizza. Needless to say I did not waste too much time un-boxing it and putting it together. The assembly was pretty easy and although they strongly recommended two persons put the main body of the grill on it's  stand, I could not wait and was able to get it done without breaking it or my back! Nora showed up just in time to watch me put the finishing touches on the assembly. So without further adieu, let me introduce you all to K-Joe. That is short for Kamado Joe, the brand of smoker it is. 
    They strongly suggest that you use lump charcoal in it rather than briquettes. The two main reasons are that the lump charcoal will last a lot longer than briquettes. One load of lump will be enough to get you through an entire smoking period (12-14 hours). The second reason is that briquettes will only heat things to 600 degrees, while the lump will allow you to go way beyond that for that "stone oven" replication. Lump charcoal proved to be pretty hard to find in my immediate location, so I ended up ordering some from the Ace in Calumet. I was also able to get the fire starters that they suggest be used. Those were scheduled to be arrive on Saturday, which they did, so the plan was to fire it up today and smoke a brisket. So last night, I gave a nice slab of brisket a spice rub down and wrapped it up to spend the night in the fridge. Then today at around 4 am I woke up, got the grill started and put the meat in it when it was ready. We are around 2 hours away from "go time", but it is all I can do to keep from ripping off a part of the "bark" right now. To those that have never seen a brisket smoked, they look pretty nasty on the outside when done. The spice rub mixes with the fat and other juices from the meat and forms what looks like a burnt piece of meat. However, it is not really the meat that is burnt, just the rub and a millimeter or two of the outside of the meat. The rest is this pull-apart miracle of cooked meat that has a flavor you cannot replicate in any other fashion. 
    The thought of eating the brisket has reminded me that the Keweenaw Snowmobile Club will be having a trail work session this autumn. We will not be doing any brushing, but rather will be re-building a bridge in our system. In previous trail work sessions, I cooked up some brisket and pulled pork and I see no reason why that will not be done for this one! I do not know the date of the work session just yet, but it will not likely be as late as others have been. Perhaps the end of Sept or early Oct. I will be sure to let you all know the specifics when they become known.
    The other big deal this week was the putting up of the pool. I am still hoping for the day when I just say the "opening of the pool" and not putting up, but it really is not that big of a deal. I had lot of help this go around. My brother Jim came over and helped with things and even Gracie got into the action. We like to keep the pool very warm (upper 80's), so this year I decided to put down some rigid insulation underneath the pool to help with the insulation as well as provide for a nice soft, but firm surface to stand on. I don't know who had more fun Gracie hauling the insulation over (it weighs all of about 2 lbs) or Jim and I watching her do it! Even Huck jumped into the work session and helped to hold down the insulation until we got the pool on it.
    We were able to get everything done in a little over an hour and began to fill it. It's becoming a tradition for Gracie to get into the pool as it is filling and have some fun and she kept the tradition going this season. That was actually Uncle Jim squirting her with the hose water, not me, although from that distance we could probably pass for each other. Poor guy!
    It is now completely filled and the heater is going full blast. Last I checked, at around 10 am this morning, it was at around 75 degrees. The heater can usually raise the water temp around a degree an hour and it is 88 degrees outside, so it may be in the 80's already and I might just brave things. Otherwise, the weather looks pretty good for swimming in the days and weeks ahead.
    With it closing in on 90 degrees, it's hard to believe that on Wednesday evening I was cutting firewood in my Carhart winter coat and not getting overheated at all! Crazy Keweenaw weather!
    Well, I guess that about covers it for this one. Have a wonderful week everyone!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-
June 12, 2016-
    Greetings from the Keweenaw! We have company in town, so this will probably not be too long. I guess I can start out with the weather. Autumn arrive early this week, with highs only in the 30's on Tuesday and lows in the low 30's Wednesday morning. Some of the favored cold spots around here even dropped into the upper 20's and there was some frost. No frost here, which was a good thing as the girls planted the gardens. They got the 6 already made pretty well filled up with berries, veggies and some flowers. We got the rest of the soil needed for the final three and I plan to get those made and filled this week.
    Despite the cold temps earlier this week, we did not turn the heat on. It did not get real cold inside, but I know I was reaching for an extra blanket on two of the nights! We did warm up nicely by the end of the week and hit 83 by Friday, with loads of sun. 
    We also were getting to the last few logs for the wood boiler, so I ordered up a short load to get us through the summer. We do not need it for heat obviously, but do heat the domestic hot water with it and also warm the pool water with the boiler. We have more than enough to get us through the summer and I am looking forward to putting the pool up and getting it all nice and warm.
    This week was the last week of school for Gracie. Nora works all summer, but does have a bit more flexible schedule and a little lighter work load for most of the period. The last day of school was Thursday and it is only a half day. Last year we started the tradition of taking Gracie out for lunch and repeated it again this year. Those two beauties!
    Friday was a bit of a down day and then late in the day on Saturday, my mom, older brother and sister arrived. I knew my mom and brother were coming up, but my sister lives in OK and has only been here once before and that was for when Nora and I got married, so I was very surprised and happy to see her show up with my brother and mom! 
    Today we got a little bundled up and headed down to the mouth of the Gratiot River for some rock picking. Here is a shot of myself with my brother and sister. It's in the low 60's here, but down by the lake it was only in the low 50's, so we were all very glad to have brought a jacket and/or sweatshirt. Grace has been pretty much stuck to my mom ever since they all arrived and they both are loving their time together. We all love where we live, but it would be nice if it were not so far away so that we all could visit more often. 
    Most of the gang settled into rock hound mode and looked for agates and any other interesting rocks. Gracie loves rocks and gems and came back with a couple of tubs of them for her rock garden. I chose to lay down, get out of the chilly breeze and soak in some rays. Everything was going fine until the pups saw another dog arrive and decided to take off to say hi to it. They were on their extension leashes and I awoke out of a deep sleep trying to keep them from getting away. Too little too late. They were able to pull the leashes out of my hand and go and pay a visit. I never worry about them being aggressive with other dogs, but do not like them running free to say high to total strangers, especially total strangers with a dog! All turned out fine. The other dog was probably a little overwhelmed by Huck and Millie's greeting, but seemed fine and after shaking the cobwebs out of my head, I went over and got Huck and Millie and brought them back to where we were relaxing. 
    I think the pups were extra pumped up at the beach today, as this was their first visit in at least 4 weeks. Huck is still recovering from his knee surgery and is doing quite well, but we still have to keep him (or try and keep him!) from running or doing too much. They were able to go for a little swim and drink down some of Lake Superior's goodness. A couple of more weeks and Huck will be able to do even more.
    So I think that about covers it for this one. Looks like a pretty nice week up here and I am sure I will have more to write about next week.
Good night from the Keweenaw..

JD-
June 5, 2016-
    Welcome to Summer! Although for those of you reading from a near-by location, that might be a bit of a stretch. Our topsy-turvy weather has us in the cold phase right now. It rained most of the day yesterday and saw a high in the low 50's. The sun is just trying to peak out as I type this, but all of today we have been in rain and temps in the 40's and low 50's. By the end of this coming week, we could be solidly in the 80's. Welcome to June in the UP!
    Before I go on, I need to give some photo credits from last week's entry. Nora has been a very active photographer of late and has been kind enough to share them with me, so I can share them with you. So photos 11, 12, 17 and 18 were her doing. I really do not know of a way to give her credit in a seamless manner, so may just blockhead it out until I can think of something creative! No submissions this week from Nora, although I know she has taken some.
    So despite our cool weather of late, the amount of sunlight during the day is very much summer-like for the UP! Our sun rose at exactly 6 am this morning and will not set until 9:45 this evening, That is 15 3/4 hours with the sun visible. If you want to take it a step further and go for civil twilight (the time before sunrise and after sunset when there is enough sunlight to clearly make out all details), then that time gets boosted to 17 hours and 4 minutes. Nautical twilight is the period before and after civil twilight when there is still enough light to make out the shape of objects, but not see the details clearly...Usually the time when, as kids, would get called inside because it was getting to dark to play on the highway anymore. :) The final type of twilight is astronomical twilight. That is the period before and after nautical twilight when the sky is illuminated by the sun, but you cannot make out any shapes of things here at the surface. Including astronomical twilight, we have some form of sunlight for 21 hours and 22 minutes. Or maybe put more easily, it is only pitch black out for 2 hours and 38 minutes this time of the year. We still have 2 weeks until the solstice, so all of those numbers will grow until then. 
    Unless you don't need sleep, it is pretty important to have some good shades in your bedroom windows! We do and is also the reason why I designed our addition to have the master bedroom in on the east and north side of the house to try and limit the amount of sunshine that gets in as well. For the record...I sleep pretty good during these days, or at least am not impacted by light getting into our bedroom. 
    So now that the lesson in twilights is over (you are welcome for that!), I can talk about what has been going on since last Tuesday! I wrote the entry in the early afternoon and soon after finishing, the girls came home from school. We are in baseball season up here, so almost every Tuesday and Thursday she has a game. She is still in the league where the coach pitches to their own team and each player gets to bat each inning, with the final batter cleaning the bases. They get 3-4 pitches and if unsuccessful, hit off the T. It is a great way to go for the kids at this age. They all get to hit when their team is on offence and all stay at home plate until they hit the ball. Most are quite good at hitting it off a pitch, and only a few of the very young ones end up hitting it off the T. They also play for only 60 minutes. If you ask me, they should have a 15 minute warm up and then play for 45 minutes, as most of the kids start to lose focus after 60 minutes of playing. Most teams so up 15 minutes early to practice as well. 
    Nora, Uncle Jim and I have all been working with Grace on her throwing, catching and hitting and she is really coming along. I think if she wants to stick with it, she will be able to play at the HS level. They have brought back baseball for the boys and softball for the girls at the HS level and it is really catching on. I guess it was dropped around 20 years ago or so. 
    The weather can be a little touchy this time of the year. A game was rained out last week and both games were played this week, although Tuesday's game was played in temps in the 40's, overcast skies and a brisk NW wind. Actually, not too bad for the players, but pretty brutal for the observers!  Here is a shot of Gracie in the "On-Deck" circle at Tuesday's game. Thursday's game also had some chilly temps, but not much wind and the sun was out...big difference! So far her team is undefeated! Little joke there.
    After a dry spring, things sure have turned wet in the past 2-3 weeks. I don't know the exact amount of rain we have picked up, but it would be safe to say that in that time frame, we have picked up 60-80% of our average rainfall for June-August! No flooding issues like in other parts of the country, but the woods sure are green!
    Despite the rains, I have been able to get 6 out of the 9 planters done for Nora's garden. The first one took the most time as the learning curve was under way, but I have gotten it down to the point where it takes me around 45 minutes to an hour to build one. They are then light enough for me to pick up and move if I am alone. On Friday, we got 20 yards of topsoil delivered and then Big Red was put to good use moving the soil into the beds. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would have been like to have to use a wheel barrow and shovel. Each bed took 8 bucket loads of dirt from Big Red! So we currently have 6 done and 3 more to go. We used up all of the topsoil, so I will be ordering up another 10 yards, but it might not come for a while as it will need to try out some from the weekend rains. None the less, there are enough planters done that she can get a lot of things planted until the rest are done. A fence will be needed in the future, although this year we may forgo it, just because we are getting a late start and many of the berries will not even produce this year.
    So not much else going on. This is the final week of school for Gracie. She has tomorrow and Tuesday as regular days, then Wednesday is an almost all day picnic and Thursday is just a half day. Then she is all mine for the summer! Well, I have a feeling that she will also be hanging out with Uncle Jim quite a bit and though Nora works through the summer, she uses a lot of her vacation time, along with going in early to be able to get out in the early afternoon. With the warmer temps promised for the end of this week, I might even get going on putting the pool up!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
JD-

 

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