July 29-
    Well, we made it. The final entry for July 2012! I just read a little weekly article in our local newspaper where the writer talked about how July was his favorite month. I suppose it may be that way for a good portion of the population in general, but I think it is pretty safe to say that for the majority of the population reading this, July probably ranks somewhere at the bottom of the list of favorite months. I think I would have to probably rank it at or tied with April for the least favorite of my months. 
    So it is with a happy heart that I write the final entry for July and set my sights on August. The month that sees our average daily high go from 76 at the beginning of the month to 68 by the end of the month. August is also the month that ends with the sun having already set by the time my head hits the pillow. There is still some twilight going on, but at least it is not broad daylight like it is at the end of June and much of July! It is also the month were we start to have cooler and cooler overnight temps as the humidity typically starts to wane and we get more hours of darkness. My spirits really start to soar when we move from August to September, but I will save those thoughts for about a month from now.
    It's been a very busy week for me. Not so much in the play department, but in the "getting all our ducks in a row for the building of the addition" department. I have a feeling that in the coming weeks and month or two, more and more of my writings will revolve around the addition and then from about early April through most of next summer, it will be a lot of what I am talking about.
    This week has been spent meeting with contractors to discuss bids, lighting fires under contractors to get the bids and plugging numbers into an excel spreadsheet that I have created for cost estimating. I have to admit that the final number keeps growing and growing and is now beyond what I really wanted to spend, but not to the breaking point either. I can also say that I have tried to be very diligent in my cost estimating, even down to the drawer pulls, hinges and slides that I plan to use in the kitchen cabinets that I will build for our kitchen remodel. I have also used the high end of the price range for things like lighting fixtures and flooring. So I think by the time all the bids are finished coming in and we reach the final estimate, it will be very close to the final price, but of course I will use what ever contingency overrun figure the bank things is necessary. I am working with a very good and experienced loan officer and will really trust her thoughts on things.
    I don't know if I mentioned it, but we plan to put the foundation in this autumn. It will be slab on grade, just like the current home (as to be done that way), so there will be no harm in letting it sit with no building on it all winter. Getting the foundation done this autumn will get us about 6-8 weeks ahead of the game when it comes time to start things back up next spring. We live on a county road that gets "posted", meaning weight restrictions are put into effect to help keep the road from being damaged as the frost comes out of the ground. Those restrictions typically do not come down until the middle to end of May, which means if we did nothing this autumn, we would have to wait until the middle to end of May before any of the heavy equipment could get in to prep the land for the foundation. With the foundation in, we can start framing as soon as the snow leaves the slab- which will most likely get helped by me and my trusty Ariens 1028 when the snows start their spring melting. My hope is to get the addition closed in before the bugs get bad, then I can spend the bug season working on all the inside things and move back outside once the bug, mainly blackfly, season ends.
    Speaking of bugs, the season for deer flies seems to be drawing to a close. They really are only a problem on our morning walks with the pups and mainly a problem for poor Hucky and I- especially Huck. They seem to be attracted to his dark fur more than Millie's light fur and also seem to like to buzz my head. They also come up from behind and like to land on the back of our heads or neck. I got a fisherman's hat with the flaps on the back to keep them off my head and neck, but poor Huck just has to deal with them. At times during the height of the deer fly season, there will be a dozen or so buzzing his head. The good news for him is that his fur is thick enough in most spots to keep them from biting him, with only his snout being vulnerable. Even so, I feel so sorry for him having to deal with them buzzing him, as I know before I got my special hat, even one buzzing me would drive me crazy- especially because they fly behind you and it's very hard to see them. Anyway, on our walks this week, they became less and less problematic and on this mornings walk, not a single one was encountered.
    The other bugs like black flies are long gone and mosquitos are only a problem if you are in Toivola (little joke there, great place if you have not been there since the new owners took over). Actually, the mosquitos are only a problem if you are in the deeper woods around dusk or dawn. So we are not at the best time of the summer to be here. Temps comfortable, water at it's warmest and very little problem with bugs. AND....the berries are delicious!
    How's that for a segway? Obviously, the strawberry crop has come and gone as it is a late June-early July thing, but the raspberries have been ready for picking for a week or two now and the blueberries are also in full picking mode and even the blackberries are starting to come on line. Kind of unusual for the blackberries to be ripening so early. Usually, they are a labor day berry to pick. At any rate. Nora, Gracie and I headed out to pick blueberries this past Thursday evening. There is a blueberry farm out by Rice Lake and last year Nora picked a bunch and we froze them and enjoyed them all autumn, winter and spring. In fact, we still have quite a few left over. Not enough to last us until next season, so we got to picken'
    This was my first visit to this farm to pick, usually we just hunt down some of the spots where they grow naturally and spend our time picking them. At any rate, the bushes out there were just loaded with berries this year. I did not know if it was always like this, but Nora said the bushes had lots more berries on them this year than last. I don't know how many of you have ever picked wild blueberries or have even seen them, but they are considerably smaller than the domestic variety. Pretty much the size of a pea. They are also more flavorful. Each small wild blueberry packs about the same amount of flavor that it's larger domestic cousin does. Plus, they contain the highest amount of anti-oxidants of any fruit out there. 
    Because of their smaller size, it can take a very long time to pick enough to do things like make a pie or jam. I know a few years ago, Nora and I spend several picking session totaling about 5-6 hours total to pick enough to make a few pints of jam. Very good, but a ton of back-breaking work. At the farm, they have rakes that you use to pull the berries off the bushes. The tines on the rakes are sized so that they pull the berries off, but leave most of the branches and leaves on the bushes. Some of the branches and leaves come off, but not a lot. With the bushes being so loaded and utilizing the rakes, Nora and I were able to pick 20 pounds of berries in about 15 minutes!
   The farm has a machine that separates the berries from the stems and leaves very well and then you just have to do one more sorting to separate the ripe berries from those that are not ripe. I say "just", but it is actually a fairly time intensive process. It took us (mostly Nora) about 2-3 hours to separate the good berries from the bad. Here is a shot of Grace behind a bowl that contained about 1/2 of our pickings that still needed to be sorted.
    After the final sorting is done, we wash them and rinse them and spread them into a single layer on cookie sheets and freeze them. Then we put them into the vacuum seal bags, for storage in the freezer. As said, we still have berries from last season that we are eating and their quality are just as good as the day we put them into the vacuum bags a year ago. We could not let at least some of the fresh ones go without immediate consumption. I actually ate a bunch while picking and then sorting and Nora baked up a pie that lasted about 2 days! I was about the only one eating it as Nora is being very good about what she eats these days and Grace had a piece on Friday. Blueberry pie is my favorite and made with wild berries only makes it that much better. I look to lots of pies in the future with all that we have in our chest freezer in the shop.
    The weather has been beautiful again this week, with very comfortable temps and humidity. A bit warm and sticky today, but that is temps in the low 80's and dewpoints around 60. Hardly warm and sticky to the folks that have been in the 90's and 100's with dewpoints in the 70's. Hang on there folks, we are turning the corner on this summer. Still about a month of potential heat and humidity to go and the forecast looks pretty warm and humid this week, but then by next weekend, cooler and less humid air could be into all areas for around 4-6 days. So we are getting closer and closer.
    I can also add that the annual wood cutting party is being planned for either the end of this month or early September. I know that most of you are very busy at that time of the year and also have lots of better things to do than cut and stack firewood for me, but I will be smoking another brisket and I think we are planning on heading out on the ATV's after the cutting is done on Saturday. So for those looking for an excuse to come up and do some ATVing, you can always tell your spouse that you are coming up to help me cut firewood! :)
    I guess that about covers it for this one. Keep cool everyone, autumn is getting closer and closer!
Good night from the Keweenaw..

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July 22-
    Hi all, hope this will not come as too big of a let-down, but it's back to me, John, writing this week. My big thanks to Nora for taking over last week. She did an excellent job and it was very nice to be able to have a week off. I may just have to send her off on more vacations if it means I can get a break from writing! Actually, it's not that bad. The worst weeks are when I have nothing to say, but yet I know there are so many folks checking in. It is actually a breeze when I have material and through the course of the past 13 years that I have been writing, I have it pretty streamlined, so it usually does not take hours and hours to do either...usually!
    Anyway, I have been writing all summer about how wonderful our weather has been and how I was in no hurry for it to come to an end, but there are some cracks in the armor starting to develop in that thinking. Not that I am totally sick of summer yet, but am starting to think more and more about autumn and especially winter and am growing more and more excited for it to arrive. I think the whole process might have been helped along by the weather we had on Monday. Now, I realize that I am "preaching to the choir" to many of you when I say what I am about to say, but please bear with me. Monday started out innocent enough, with clouds, temps in the low 60's and even a bit of rain late morning, but then the clouds broke, the temp and humidity spiked and it was downright nasty. A high temp of 91 and a dewpoint of 76! 
    Again, you can spare me the stories of misery from the land down to the south of us. I know what you all have been going through and you have my deepest sympathy. I have lived through several of these types of summers and it just gets to be such a difficult thing for someone who is not fond of heat and humidity. On the plus side, I have talked with several business owners up here and they say they are having a very good summer, so the word must be out on how wonderful the Keweenaw has been to be this summer. 
    I can say that the nasty stuff we had on Monday was shore lived and we did spend pretty much the rest of the week in the beautiful Keweenaw summer weather, with highs in the 70's and 80's and low humidity. Overnight lows into the 50's as well. Ok...I'll stop rubbing it in for now.
   I am going to back up a bit now, to before Nora wrote last week, but after she returned from her fishing trip to MN. The day after she got back, we had my Mom and Niece come up to visit us for a few days. My Niece lives in FL, so we do not get to see her much. She is a teacher and has the summer off, so she has been on a bit of a nation-wide visiting spree, seeing her brother in Washington state, my mom in WI and then swung up here with my mom to visit for a few days. 
    I think they had a good time. Nora took a day off so that she could play tour guide and I joined in on the fun when I was off from work. Here is a shot of the two of them with Gracie and I in Eagle River one evening. The big lake has warmed up nicely this summer and Gracie was all too happy to don her yellow bikini and model for us on the beach.
    Fast forward now to this past week and we will keep the beach theme going. We have actually been spending LOTS of time at the beach. Saturday of last week, I went with the pups to a beach between Gay and Lac La Belle and was really bummed that I did not bring my swim suit and my camera. The winds were blowing out of the south and that allowed the water that really warms up in Keweenaw Bay to flow north and I swear it had to be in the upper 70's to low 80's. It was not shocking at all, but yet was refreshing. I am going to keep my eyes out for another stretch of southerly winds and if able, we will head there again and hope for similarly warm water.
    Anyway, we are moving forward with our plans to add onto the cabin and make it a "house". The plan is to get the foundation in before winter arrives and then resume the building process next spring and summer. So, I have been very busy getting all the ducks in a row so that we can move some dirt and get the foundation in this autumn. That has included making some trips to the county courthouse in Eagle River. Well, you can't go to the lakefront on business with the pups in the truck without making a stop a the beach as well and that is exactly what we did a few times this week. Up until a few weeks ago, we had not spent much time at the beaches, but the pups did not forget how to have fun there, with Millie chasing down her tennis ball and Huck swimming out to retrieve his "fetch". Occasionally, they share in the retrieval of the fetch.
    Today, the forecast called for temps to top out near 90 (it's 88 as I type), so plans were made for the Dee clan to pile into the truck and head to the beach and have some fun. The plan was carried out to near perfection. As is typical on many of the stretches of the beaches of the Keweenaw, we had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there.
    We commenced on the beach fun by having a little picnic, then the dogs moved onto doing their thing. Here is a shot of Huck in action and one of Millie.
    We were actually very near where the pups and I experienced the wonderful, warm water last week, but with the winds out of the west the past few days, it was noticeably cooler today than last Saturday. Even so, I did decide to see if I might be able to pull off a swim in Superior. So I headed out and the pups were quick to follow. Gracie joined in to make it a quartet and we headed out into deeper water. Of course the water got deep enough for Grace to swim before it had even reached my waist and so we did not go out too far, but we did go far enough and initiated the countdown and Nora timed it perfectly to catch my reaction to the drop into the big lake. It actually was not too bad. I think what makes it worse is that my skin got so warm from the sun and warm temps, that initially, the lake felt colder than it really was. Once in for a bit, it was not that bad to be in it anymore. With that said, it's not a heated pool like this old dog is used to, so we did not stay out there too long!
    After all that excitement, it was time for a break and to return some pink color back to my lips! Grace broke out her Cinderella doll and gave her a bath. All told we spent about 2 hours at the beach and had a blast. We are so fortunate to be so close to so many beautiful spots to go and hang out at the lake and the drive to get to any of those spots ain't half bad either!
    The summer weather has not only been good to us humans, but the woods look very good, the thimbleberry crop is a bumper one and I think Nora has plans to go pick some raspberries this week. Gracie and I picked a few on the side of our driveway this morning for a nice little snack and it looks like the blackberries will be ready in just a few weeks, typically they are not ready for picking until Labor Day. The tiny little tomato plants that we put into the planters I made back in early June have exploded into monsters and Nora picked her first tomato of the season today and this one looks like it will be ready for picking in another day or two.
    So, I guess that about covers it for this one. The summer is flying by and it's kind of hard to believe that in just over a month, it will be over in this neck of the woods and that in a little over 2 months, we could be seeing the first chance of snow in the forecast. As mentioned at the top of this entry, I am not quite ready for all of that to happen, but the anticipation of the changing of the season is growing.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
July 15-
    Well, it’s that time again. John is taking a much needed break from writing a journal. I must admit that I still don’t really like writing journals. I wish I did because it would put me in the "best wife ever" category, but my not so good writing skills, and lack of anything much interesting to say, keeps me away from volunteering each Sunday afternoon.
    I guess I should start this entry by thanking my husband. I turned the big 40 this year and as my gift he sent me, along with my brothers, on a fishing trip to northern Minnesota. I had mentioned a few years back that it would be fun to go fishing with my brothers….just the three of us. Some of you may remember from a past journal that my brothers and I have been fishing since we were kids. And we have a long outstanding tradition of me catching the first fish. When thinking about where to send us on our "sibling only" trip, John knew just the place……Ash Trail Lodge! John and I spent our honeymoon there 8 years ago and had such a great time. We had planned to go back to the Lodge for our 5 year anniversary but unfortunately we were at the Mayo Clinic instead. Having been to the Ashtrail Lodge before, I knew we were in for a treat! We arrived at the Lodge and were greeted by the good folks, Debbie and Steve, who own the Lodge. It didn’t take long for us to settle into our cabin and head out to the river. While at the lodge, you can rent a boat and have some fun exploring or you can also hire a fishing guide. We were booked on Saturday to do some fishing with Travis from another lodge and then Sunday we went out with Tom from "The End of the Tail" fishing guide. The Lodge’s pontoon was free Friday evening, so we headed out to the river to do some exploring and a little fishing. It was a beautiful afternoon/evening and before long the first fish was on the line. I know my brothers will be reading this journal so I’m going to try really hard to be humble and not rub things in. Let’s just say that the long standing tradition was not broken on this trip. Before long we were all catching fish and having some good laughs. The walleye regulations are a little different in MN than MI so we spent some time trying to figure out what were keepers and what weren’t. In Michigan the bigger the better….but that is not the case in Minnesota. In MN, walleye between 17 inches and 28 inches must be released. You would not believe how many fish I…um…er…… I mean we caught that were just a smidge over 17 inches. After a quick stop at the Ash River Falls, we headed back to the lodge for supper. We had worked up quite the appetite and boy did we have some good food! Debbie kept our bellies full all weekend with some very delicious food!
    Saturday’s adventures found us fishing with our guide Travis on Kabetogama Lake or "Kab" as it’s called by the locals. Kab is 1 of the 4 major lakes that make up the Voyageurs National Park. We were on the lake by 8:30 and ready to fish. But, before we drop our lines, we were instructed by Travis on how to fish for walleye in MN. The only way I’ve fished for walleye is get a bite, set your hook and reel er’ up. In order to actual catch some fish on our trip I needed to get that system out of my head. We were told to wait at least 10 seconds before setting the hook. I know we each missed a few fish at first just because we didn’t wait it out. The fishing in the morning was fun but we weren’t catching much. But, there was no complaining from any of us. We were on the lake, enjoying the beautiful scenes, having a great time. We were all a little surprised to see a funny looking bird on a big rock. When we asked Travis what kind of bird it was, we thought he was joking when he said, "pelicans". But, as the boat got closer to the rock we realized they were indeed pelicans. I never knew there were pelicans in Minnesota. Which made us all wonder, "Why are there no pelicans in the UP?"….I question we still don’t have a solid answer on. We were told they did a study years back and found that most of the pelicans were young males.
    Around noon we decided to stop for lunch at Ellsworth Rock Gardens. Jack Ellsworth, who was a carpenter from Chicago, spent roughly 20 years building the gardens. He built 62 beds which had over 13,000 lilies of all sorts of variations. Jack passed away and the Park took over the grounds in the late 1970’s. It was a perfect spot for a photo op.
    After lunch we headed back on the lake and before long we started catching some fish. The last spot we fished, gave us the majority of our keep and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the cabin. We were sitting around the bar telling Steve and Tom about our great day of fishing, when we realized that MN regulations are that you can have no more than 4 fish on your possession. Which meant, we either needed to "gift" a few fish or eat them up. It wasn’t long before Tom decided we would head up to Kettle Falls the following day, and there we could have a shore lunch with the fish we had caught on Saturday. Before I tell you about Sunday’s trip, I must say that we were all pretty excited for what Sunday could bring…..a portage, a shore lunch, Kettle Falls….Sunday morning couldn’t come soon enough! Saturday evening we decided to head out for a walk and we weren’t disappointed by the views we saw. We had breakfast at the lodge and met Tom and Jenna (Tom’s sweet girlfriend) on the dock. The ash river is host to many cottages, house boat rentals etc. We arrived on Rainy Lake and immediately started to catch a lot of fish! At one point, Jeff, Tom, and I all had fish on. A nice problem to have! It wasn’t long before we were joined by a few other boats out fishing. And let’s just say they were not shy at getting as close to us as possible. Jenna caught the first fish of the day, and then our side of the boat sort of slowed down in the catching department. Which was ok by us, because the boys side of the boat was facing all the other boats….who weren’t catching anything. I say that is what you get for trying to weasel in on someone’s fishing space….you must be punished by watching someone else catch all the fish. Throughout the day we caught a lot of fish….some small and some big. Before long it was time for lunch at Kettle Falls. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I thought the portage to Kettle Falls was so cool! Tom called ahead saying that we would need a portage. Within a few seconds a gentleman shows up in his truck, Tom drives the boat onto the trailer and you are riding in the back of your boat through the woods. It was so cool! There were many times over the trip that I had wished John was with us, and this was one of them. With lunch in hand we jumped off the boat and headed down a wooded path to the Kettle Falls hotel for lunch. Our shore lunch with our fresh catch from the previous day was just delicious. After lunch we walked around the hotel and got a little bit of a history lesson from Jenna. Jenna works for the Park and it was cool to have her with us. We walked down to the Falls and boy they were really roaring. It surprised me that on such a beautiful day that we seemed to be the only tourists by the falls. Interesting tidbit is the boundary between the US and Canada runs through the middle of the Falls. 
    The rest of the afternoon was spent catching fish. Tom was an excellent guide and found us some awesome fishing! And he was so kind as to hold my fish for me too. I had dropped this poor guy a few times and I didn’t want to hurt him. And I knew I was going to need some proof that I actually caught a fish or two. I hated to see the day end but we had our limit and it was getting into the evening so we headed back to the lodge.
    On the way home, Jenna showed us an eagles nest. She had the opportunity to go with the folks who band the baby eagles so she knew just where all the nests were. Notice a little feathered friend here?
    We got back and Tom strung up our catch before he retreated to his "sanctuary". A quiet little shack where he cleans the days catch. Not only does he clean them but he packages everything up so nice….labeled and all!
    Thank you Steve, Debbie and Tom for sharing your little piece of paradise with us. We had a great time and are already planning our next trip!
    And John Dee….thanks for the awesome present and manning the fort while I was gone. You are the best!
    PS….How’d I do Steve?
July 15-
    Well folks, it looks like our guest writer for this week is still busy entertaining some friends in town, so you will have to check back tomorrow or Tuesday to see what she has to say. 'Till then...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
July 8-
    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. That is how best to describe our weather. I can remember back to when I was getting ready to move up here and was most excited for the snowy winters, but also excited that I would be leaving the long, hot and humid summers of IL for the cooler, less humid summers of the UP. Then, in a strange twist of fate, the first few summers up here, were some of the warmest the region had seen in many years. I can remember those summers, looking at the thermometer rise into the upper 80's and 90's with regularity and also feeling the nasty humidity... all the while looking at the average high temp for those days (mid to upper 70's) and wondering when I would get to live a true UP summer.
    I can say that the past few summers have provided an absence of any sustained heat and humidity, but while northern IL was warmer and more humid than us, it was also not seeing exceptionally hot and humid summers. So it goes without saying that this summer I finally feel vindicated as we have been running in the 70's for highs much of the summer, with a few days into the 80's and the number of days in the 90's being counted on one finger- June 10th we hit 91. All this while seeing the nasty heat and humidity to our south. Actually, much of the UP has seen some pretty hot temps recently, but the good old Keweenaw, being nearly surrounded by Lake Superior, has been nice and cool.
    I hope that I don't sound like I am rubbing it in, because that is not my point here. My point is that I am finally seeing the type of weather setup that should be happening and I am also very grateful to be able to live where I live and have such wonderful summer weather to enjoy. I do feel very sorry for all the folks that have had to endure the torturous heat and humidity the past week and am happy that it all has eased a bit for you all for now.
    This past week was one of our warmest of the summer, with temps regularly in the 80's. We also had some humidity to contend with, as dewpoints rose into the upper 60's and even some low 70's. The humidity broke on Thursday evening, with my dewpoint crashing from an early evening high of 72 to 52 just a few hours later. That allowed overnight temps to crash too, with Friday morning lows in the upper 50's. I was actually hitting the hay when the humidity crash happened, so was not able to take advantage of mother natures air conditioning and slept with the windows shut and AC on, but have slept with the windows open and AC off the past two nights. As much as I love what AC does, I really prefer natural cooling.
    We have also been blessed with rains lately. Lots of rain. Monday night and Tuesday morning I measured 2.7 inches of rain and then late Friday we picked up another 1.35" of rain. That makes over 4" of rain alone this week. My grass went from looking like the desert to nice and green again. At least in most spots. The pool even overflowed with each rain event, but was not a problem. Most of the UP is actually in the midst of a multi-year drought, so while I can certainly sympathize with folks enduring the dryness to our south, I am thankful that we are chipping away at deficits that started over 2 years ago. Perhaps this winter will really make up for lost ground!
    So enough about our weather. The summer is just flying by. Hard to believe that the Independence Day holiday has already come and gone. We partook in the festivities in Mohawk this year and I am glad that Nora made the decision to do so. They do not have fireworks, nor a really big parade and things do not last all day. However, most of what they do centers around the kids and it was nice to be part of a celebration in our own community that was pretty much all about the kids. I was pretty surprised how many kids live in our general area. Nice to see too!
    Anyway, Mohawk puts on a bike parade for the kids and so Nora went to town decorating her bike and her helmet. We first asked Grace if she wanted to be in the bike parade and then when she said yes, we asked if she wanted to ride her tricycle or her bike and she surprised us by saying her trike. In fact, we asked several times and the answer was always the same. 
    The parade started at 10 am and Grace was so excited that she actually climbed into the truck and got herself all buckled into her car seat all by herself and asked Nora if we could go early. It was not that much earlier than we were planning to leave, so we granted her wish. It was probably a lucky thing that we left a little early as we were able to get a great parking spot and just a few minutes later, that situation had changed a lot. With a little time to kill, Grace was gracious enough to pose for the camera a bit. Then it was time to saddle up and start the show. Here is a shot of her peddling into position.
    Before long, all the participants were in place and the atmosphere was filled with electricity in anticipation for the parade to start. Things were actually a little chaotic at first, as we were all packed in pretty tight and many of the drivers were not the best at holding a steady course, but as the parade wore on, things spread out nicely and we had fun. Grace did awesome peddling the few blocks on her tricycle and it's a rare event when you can safely ride a tricycle down highway 41 through Mohawk.
    I had no idea that there was any kind of judging that went on with the parade and it's participants, but as we were finishing up, Nick's wife came running up and told Grace that she had won first place in the bike decorating department. Grace thought it was pretty cool and was happy to show off her winnings ($15).
    The event organizers also put together some prize bags for all the kids and have some fun games for them to play, like a candy toss. There is also a pretty new concession stand that was build in the park and it was open and they were selling things like hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, pop, water and... ice cream! It wasn't super hot, but warm enough that a nice cold ice cream cone under the shade of a big maple tree was the perfect thing to be doing.
    Nora had volunteered to help with things and so had to help man the concession stand for the final hour it was open. So Grace and I hung out at the play ground for most of the time and then when things ended, we headed home to float in the pool the rest of the afternoon.
    Nora is actually out of town right now. She left for the boundary waters region of MN early Friday morning to fish with her brothers at the Ash Trail Lodge. She has always wanted to go on a fishing trip with her bros, so I gave it to her as a birthday present this past March. I have talked with her a few time since she left and they are having a ton of fun and catching lots of fish. Perhaps with a bit of arm twisting, I can get HER to write next week's entry and liven up things for at least a week!
    Nora is coming home tomorrow and then we have company coming up back to back this week, so that should keep us busy and also take us through the next 7 days pretty quickly. Before I know it, we will be into August and turning onto the home stretch of summer. I keep saying how beautiful it has been, but I also am getting excided for autumn and then winter to come.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
July 1-
    Welcome to July! Boy, 2012 is already half over and I was just thinking to myself that in 3 months we could already be seeing our first flakes of snow. I should really have my mouth washed out with soap for saying such a thing with the beautiful summer we are having up this way. I realize the same cannot be said for areas to our south (and not even too far at that), with all the nasty heat and humidity, but we have had one nearly perfect summer day after another, with temps in the upper 70's to low 80's and fairly low humidity. Such is the case today, with clear blue Keweenaw skies, a temp of 82 and dewpoint of around 56.
    Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much of the past week enjoying the beautiful Keweenaw weather, but rather got to take part in the heat and humidity while visiting Rochester MN for most of the week. Yep, made another visit to my good friends at the Mayo Clinic, but this time drove myself down and for the first time in history...it was not heart related. Ever since recovering from the latest heart surgery, I have dealt with some chest tightness. It comes and goes and also have degrees of discomfort, ranging from just feeling like I did too many push-ups at the mild end to occasionally being so debilitating that I have to go and lay down. The tightness was very similar to the tightness I had when I did have heart issues, but have to my cardiologist several times and have had a pretty good battery of tests and they all show my heart is pumping just fine.
    So back in April, I started keeping a pretty detailed diary of how I felt during the day as well as my weight that morning. That helped and it was discovered that the tightness seemed to manifest itself most after eating and strangely went away after a good workout. That really pushed the investigating away from the heart and to the GI area and back in May I had a scope done on my esophagus. Since I am closing in on 50 and have quite the medical history already, we went ahead and did a colonoscopy at the same time (different scope!). The scope at the top end revealed that I have what is called Barette's Esophpagus and the bottom end revealed a few polyps. The surgeon that did the scopes is a general surgeon and not a GI Dr and recommended that I see a GI specialist and so having good luck with the Mayo, we chose to be referred to them. 
    It was thought that I would go down there and have the biopsies done on my colon and esophagus, but because of me being on a blood thinner, we have to address that issue before the surgery can be done, which meant that I would likely have to stay at the Mayo through all of next week too. The Dr at Mayo said he had no problem with me coming home and having the biopsies done here and then the results sent to him. At $100+ a night and being away from home, it took no prodding to get me to come home!
  While at Mayo I had a Esophageal pH test done, which is where they run a pH sensitive catheter down your esophagus via your nose and keep it there for 24 hours to measure for reflux. We already knew I had reflux as I have been on medication for it for years and the Barette's was caused by it, but it was hoped that it would be confirmed through the test that the reflux is the culprit behind my tightness. The Barette's would not cause the tightness. The pH test was inconclusive, mainly because I was so stressed out that some other symptoms caused by the stress seemed to overshadow the tightness and I was not able to hit a button to mark when I was feeling tightness as often as I might have with out the stress.
    In any case, they are going to start me on some super secret, high power, reflux medicine. Actually not so much secret, but I will say that when I went to go get the prescription filled, the pharmacy did not have it on hand and the assistant there said he had never even heard of the medicine and it was not even in their system. So I have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to pick it up. Hopefully it will get rid of the tightness or at least lower it to a level that I can live with on a daily basis. I will have the biopsies done here in a few weeks and hopefully they will come back fine. I am not too worried about them. The surgeon here said that the polyps did not appear to be problematic and all the info on Barette's says it morphs into cancer about 1-4% of the time.
    Just so that you don't think I am making all this up, I did take some pictures of the Mayo Clinic. Actually, I did it because it is quite an impressive place and one that hopefully none of you will have to visit. The Mayo Clinic is actually a bunch of different buildings, most of them connected by underground walkways and even some skyways. St. Mary's Hospital is also part of the Mayo Complex. It is about 1/2 mile down the road and is actually where all of the surgeries take place. It is where I had my two open hearts. Anyway, the two most impressive buildings (in my opinion) are the Mayo and Gonda. They are connected and actually look like one building. Here is a shot of the front of the Mayo/Gonda buildings and here is a shot of the other side. The inside is just as, or even more, impressive than the outsides and here is a shot of the main floor between the two buildings
    I arrived in Rochester late Monday evening and then left right after my last appointment on Thursday. I drove about has far as I could Thursday evening and over-nighted in Wausau and then after doing my morning work Friday, I finished the trip Friday morning and got home in plenty of time to do the rest of my work for the day on Friday. Needless to say it was great to get back home. I do not like to leave home in the best of circumstances and being away from home, my family and then at the Mayo to be looked at put me at some pretty high stress levels. Getting back home was like pulling the cork in a shaken up bottle of sparking wine. All the stress just gushed out of me and I could get back to living the good life. 
    While I was away, Nora, Gracie and the woman that takes care of Grace during the day Monday through Friday went strawberry picking. It is berry season up this way. Actually, strawberry season is waning and raspberries will be next in a few weeks. Blueberries will also come on line at the end of the month and then blackberries will be towards the end of August. Nora said that Grace is a very good berry picker. She sent me a bunch of photos while I was in Rochester. In this one, Grace looked so grown up
    So we have a nice big bowl of fresh, local strawberries in the fridge and Graces sitter made some homemade jam and we have a jar of it in the fridge, although it's half gone already! I need to get down to the jam lady in Eagle River to see if they have any wild strawberry jam. Talk about good! Wild strawberries have about twice the flavor of domesticated ones and the jam is just incredible. Ok, don't anyone go and get any until I get a chance Monday or Tuesday this week!
    Yesterday was Pasty Fest in Calumet. I'm going to assume that because you come to this site, you love the UP, so I do not need to explain what a pasty is. If not, look it up. I am talking about the Cornish beef pie here, not something you might find on the strip in Hurley!
    Anyway, one of the big events at Pasty Fest is a parade, so Nora, Grace and I picked our spot on main street (in the shade) and waited for the parade to start. Grace is so cute, she is so full of life and things like parades just get her so excited. Here favorite part seemed to be the Calumet High School Marching Band. It looked to be a downsized version because school is out and some of the band members were probably out of town. None the less, as the band approached, both Nora and I spotted Grace tapping her toes to the drums and waving her arms like a majorette. At one point, she was just frozen in amazement. I may be wrong, but I think the UP is probably the only place you will find an entire festival to honor the pasty and probably the only place where a parade float will be of two grandmothers making pasties (no they were not tossing pasties to the parade viewers) and a pasty mascot
    Of course there were the typical parade entries like the politicians (and wanna-be politicians) and then the brand new fire truck that Calumet got last month. That was meant purely as a joke and not an insult. ALL the fire departments up here do a great job and are manned by dedicated VOLUNTEERS and they also have some really nice fire fighting equipment. The Allouez Township Boys were here lickidy split when we place a 911 call when I was not feeling so well after my first heart surgery and I am grateful to then for their service and assistance.
    As mentioned, no pasties were thrown from the parade participants, but lots of candy was. Gracie did pretty well in her collecting yesterday and mommy and I helped her taste test some of it! Here is one last shot of Gracie and I at the parade yesterday.
    So that pretty much covers it for this one. I get to stay put for the entire month of July, but Nora will be heading to the Ash Trail Lodge in northern MN to do some fishing with her Bro's late this week through the weekend. Even though I hate to leave the Keweenaw and have already been away far too much this summer, I am a little envious of her going to the ATL. It is where Nora and I honeymooned and had fun getting to know the wonderful and fun owners and she is going to have a blast. Hopefully catches some whoppers too! Before I sign off, I will leave you with one last picture of Grace and her body-man sleeping together in my spot of the bed while I was out of town.
Good night from the Keweenaw..


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