Yesterday seemed so
much like a Saturday, that by the time I remembered it was actually Sunday,
I was too worn out to write a journal. So here I am and happy Memorial Day
and a huge thanks to all of those that have served our country!
It's been a pretty busy week, but not all of it I feel
like I should go into great detail on. For example, on Tuesday I had a
medical procedure that had me on a liquid diet for all of Monday and then
had me taking a 2 week dosage of a laxative in 2 hours Monday evening. You
can imagine what came next! The procedure was Tuesday late morning and I was
a little loopy into the afternoon, so I did not do much more than sit around
and be loopy.
On Wednesday, I got back into the swing of things and
built the first project utilizing the assembly table. Ever since we put the
bed on the bed stand I built, Grace no longer has a bed frame to help her
climb up onto out bed. She was using the drawer pulls at first, but I was
afraid that soon she would be too big for them and they would break, so we
asked her not to use them, which left her without a way to get up
unassisted. So on Wednesday, I built her a
little step stool to help
her climb up onto the bed. Like much of NASA's work, there was a design
flaw in the initial version that caused it to be a bit too tippy from side
to side, so I widened the steps and that stabilized it.
My next project is on hold right now as I await the
materials. Ever since we move up here, Nora has had to grow all of her
vegetables in buckets, which has worked OK, but by the end of the season,
many of the plants are so big that they are crowding the buckets and also
are top heavy, so I am going to build her some larger planter boxes for the
vegetables. Grace has really gotten into gardening and loves to water the
plants, so it will be nice to have some decent sized planter boxes for the
girls to grow their vegetables in. With a little luck, I will have them done
by next weekend. However, I will not be able to get started on them until
Tuesday afternoon and will be out of town all day Wednesday, so that will
leave Thursday, Friday and the weekend to get them done. So we'll see!
The weather has been nearly ideal for growing things up
here lately. Temps have been fairly warm (for the most part) and we have
also been getting some regular and decent rains. I really feel sorry for the
folks in the eastern UP that are impacted by the wildfires, but am also very
grateful that we are not in the same boat. Living in the woods really can be
a little nerve wracking when things are dry- especially in the spring and
autumn with all the dead and dry vegetation on the forest floor.
woods have greened up nicely, with the trees fully filled out and the
bushes and ground cover also greening up the woods and helping to downplay
the risk of a wild fire. The
girls flower bed is all nice and greened up and we even have some
buds opening on the lupine. The lupine blooming is always the sign that
summer is here to me. Usually it blooms in early June though. I guess the
mild spring has everything ahead of schedule. We even had to swat our first
few deer flies on a walk yesterday afternoon. Usually they are not an issue
until late June-early July. Hope they do not come on strong too early, they
sure make the walks less enjoyable.
With spring exiting and summer entering, we all did some
final spring cleaning today. Even Gracie
got involved and was pretty good at mopping the floors!
Speaking of Grace, she has entered into the
"why?" phase of life. Everything we say is answered by a
"why?" or "but why?". I am handling each episode
differently. Sometimes I just keep going to see who will give in first, me
by running out of answers or patience or her with running out of a reason to
say why. Most of the time I lose that battle! Sometimes I take the weak way
out and just say "because" and sometimes I pull the old double
cross and ask "why not?". They why not works pretty good and is
actually my trump card right now, so I typically only use it when times are desperate.
We have also been getting out and playing in the times
the weather is nicer. The bugs are not too bad, but also are not totally
absent. I am a little fearful that all this wet weather will bring them out
in hoards when the temps warm for good. Anyway, today we played on the play
ground and she wanted to see how high she could swing on the one swing. So I
got her going quite
high and Nora took some pics. She said she really liked going
so high that her bum came off the seat. I think we have a future
test-pilot on our hands. Of course I guess most kids (and some adults) like
the feel of zero gravity.
Well, I think that about covers it for this one. Short
but sweet. Happy Memorial Day everyone!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
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Another week come and
gone. Boy, time is flying. For as long as it seemed to take April to pass,
May is doing just the opposite. I really cannot believe that next weekend
will be Memorial Day weekend- even though it is a pretty early one.
Been busy this week in the wood shop. The last project
really was tough on my knees and back with all the bending down and working
on the ground. I do have a workbench, but it was not nearly large enough to
handle the bed stand. Plus, in many of my projects, I will run out of space
on my workbench as I try and finish parts for what ever it is I am building
as well as do partial assembly. So for a while now, I have been planning on
building an assembly table for the shop. In the thinking out process for
that assembly table, I thought about how nice it would be to have it at
different heights...Up high when doing most of the assembly, but then have
the table height be low for doing work on the top of a piece or even getting
it off the workbench and to the ground.
So an idea came to mind. I have a motorcycle lift that I
outfitted with extension wings to make it wide enough to hold a sled or ATV
and I thought I could get another one of those lifts and outfit it with a
tabletop that would be large enough to serve as an assembly table for
woodworking. The problem is, those hydraulic lifts are like $800 and
shipping can be another hundred or more. So I started looking into possible
ways to build my own and came upon a guy on E bay selling plans to build
your own lift. It was done using all steel parts and required welding. I do
not weld, not yet anyway, so I decided to just convert those plans into one
using wood instead and came
up with this.
It uses an 8 ton hydraulic ram to lift the table from
around 8" off the ground to 34" off the ground. That height is
equal to the height of my table saw, which will come in handy when cutting
4x8 sheets of plywood by helping me to support the back edge of the plywood
while I feed it through the saw. The top is made up of 2 sheets of MDF, with
the top sheet having a laminate on it. It is 4 feet 1 inches wide by 8 feet
1 inches long and should be plenty big enough for most of the projects I
build in the future and for any that are bigger, then I can always add an auxiliary
table to give me the size I need. I was actually hoping to use it today to
work on the next little project I have on tap, but think I will be running
out steam by the time I finish this journal and will just take it easy the
rest of the day.
The weather has been quite spring-like up here since I
last wrote and even the past 2-3 days summer-like. When I last wrote, the
trees were still mostly bare and then interestingly enough, overnight last
Sunday night, they opened up in an explosion. When I looked out Monday
morning, the trees were probably half filled with leaves and spent the rest
of the week trying to fill out completely. They are still a little shy of
their full summer shade, but the woods are green and are providing a decent
We also picked up a bit of rain and have some showers and
thunderstorms rumbling off in the distance as I type, but we need lots. We
are in the midst of a 9 month drought and things are very dry. It's not that
I want things to get real rainy, but it would be nice to have regular rain
events this summer and help bring the water levels back to where they should
I took an ATV
ride with friends on Friday and we passed a
swamp area that was nearly dry. At first I thought that it must just
have been drained by either a culvert being put in, or perhaps a beaver dam
being torn out, but then we passed 3 more swamp areas that looked the same
and realized it was due to the drought and not draining. I also noticed last
Sunday when we were at the beach that the big lake was down significantly.
Perhaps we will have a summer with good, regular rains and a very snowy
winter and help bring those water levels back up.
Our ATV ride on Friday did bring us to the big lake
itself. Temps were in the low 80's, which was nice for riding with shorts
and t shirts on, but then we got to the shore of the big lake and things got
a lot more chilly. Even standing
on the shoreline and not moving on the bikes we all were chilled. So we
decided to get in "out of the cold" have a snack and then ride
back inland away from the lake.
Saturday I took part in an all day ATV
ride down in the Twin Lakes area. It is a ride that takes place every
year in the spring, but I have never been on it before yesterday. I also did
not know too many of the folks on the ride, but it did not matter as
everyone was friendly and I got to chat with most of them. The day started
out great for a ride, but then got a bit warm- for me anyway. Our temps
topped out in the low 90's which is pretty warm. Especially when you are out
in it all day and also in the sun for most of the day. Our leader did a
great job of keeping us off most of the trails that were dusting and we
found some good mud holes to get through as well. The final trip did find us
on the snowmobile trail heading back to Twin Lakes and that was a total dust
storm, but I had come prepared with goggles and a bandana and so I did not
have to eat any dust or get it in my eyes, but the rest of me sure was
dusty! All in all, it was a fun ride and I'll have to see if my schedule
permits me to be on it next year.
Other than that, not much else going on up here. Summer
seems to be taking a foot hold in the weather department and that is fine by
me as Grace, Nora and I are itching to put the swimming pool up!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
To all the moms out
there...Happy Mother's Day! Hope you all are being spoiled rotten today. It
is a beautiful day here in the Keweenaw and we are on our 3rd day in a row
of beautiful weather with more on tap for the next several days at least.
Even with the mild winter we had, it's been a long time coming for spring to
finally get here and I know that I am very happy it has arrived and so are
all the rest of us folks living up here. Snow is a wonderful thing and I
love it dearly, but I also need the change in seasons and am growing to
enjoy summer more and more. I think a lot of it has to do with Grace being
around and how much fun we have with her once the weather turns warmer.
I am in particularly good spirits right now. The weather
does have something to do with it, but I think most importantly, I have been
thinking back to the events going on in my life just a year ago. This past
Thursday (the 10th) was the year anniversary of me getting to ride in the
back of an ambulance for 7 1/2 hours on my way to the Mayo and a year ago
today, I was waiting for Nora and Grace to come down to be with me while
staring down the barrel of another open heart surgery. So to not be stuck in
a hospital bed, looking out the window on the rest of the world going
through every day life in good health, is a great feeling.
I am also one day shy of my 13 year anniversary of moving
to the Keweenaw. In ways it seems a lot less than 13 years and in other ways
more, but 13 years ago at this very moment, I was extremely busy packing a
giant U-Haul truck up with all of my worldly possessions in preparation for
the big move on the 14th. I still have very vivid memories of much of that
day and the day's that followed. I think the one that is most vivid is going
to let Burt and Baileys out to go potty in the early morning, opening the
door and smelling the pine in the crisp morning air and almost breaking down
in tears to think that I was actually going to be able to experience that
same smell of nature every day. I had made it, I had finally arrived.
Back to present day, it has been a pretty productive
week. I was able to finish the stand for the bed. So on Wednesday, I took
the bed down and was amazed at all the stuff that had been put under it in
the past 6 1/2 years! As I went through it all, I was half expecting to find
Jimmy Hoffa. Mostly though, I just found lots of pairs of shoes, some dog
toys and dust. When Nora and Grace got home, I was already done with the
de-construction and clean up and was in the process of construction. Grace
immediately spied a pair of pink fuzzy slippers and just
had to have them!
The assembly of the stand in the bedroom went very
smoothly and in less than an hour, it was ready for the top and then the
bedding. Before I put that on, I took a picture, just so you all could see the
guts of this thing. 7 drawers for as much storage as possible. Here is the
finished product. I am very happy with the way it turned out and both
Nora and I are happy with the extra storage we have. It also helped to serve
as inspiration to swap out the winter wardrobe with the summer stuff for
both Nora and I yesterday.
I have to admit though, that as happy as I was with how
it turned out, it was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be! I
figured I would just cut up some plywood, make a few interconnected boxes,
toss a few drawers into some of the boxes and be done with it. Which I guess
in reality, that is exactly what I did, but there are tons of right angles
in that thing and it had to be built with each one being perfectly square,
or the drawers would not fit properly and would bind. Plus, I decided to go
with some fancier raised panel drawer fronts, rather than just some flat
ones. So what I thought would be about a 7-10 day process ended up being
about 3 weeks, but the net result is a good one and now I am onto my next
project, which I will keep under wraps until it is done as it is my own
invention. For those that might want detailed plans for that stand, I have
to admit I really do not have any fully detailed plans. I have some very
rough sketches and 2 pages of messy notes, but no official cut lists. That
is usually how I end up building things from scratch. Plan as I go!
Whenever I finish a project, I like to fully clean and
straighten the shop up. While the project is underway, it can get quite
messy, but I really love to start a new project with a shop that looks like
new as well. So I cleaned and straightened up the shop the end of this week
and as I did so, I looked around at all the things I would still love to do
with it and wished I could just retire now and disappear into the shop for
the next few years, but I guess I will just have to enjoy the anticipation
of all that I have, and want, to build in the future.
As mentioned, the warmer weather has finally arrived.
Perhaps not for good, but also not just for a few hours at a time. On our
morning walk this morning at around 9 am, both Nora and I ended up with
jackets off and just t-shirts on and were fully comfortable. The plants have
responded to the warmer temps, with most of the trees bursting their buds
and leaves starting to open up. The dull and lifeless woods are
coming alive again. This is actually about 10-14 days earlier than we
typically see the buds open around here.
Down by the lake where the climate is a little more
mellow, the trees have been opening up slowly for a few weeks and down by
the monks place, it looks like full on spring with flowers
and trees in full bloom.
The warmer weather also means that we have been outside
with Gracie lots more. She just loves the outdoors and I know both Nora and
I are big believers in that kind of activity, rather than TV or video games.
Everything in moderation, but I loved playing outside over anything inside
as a kid- and still do, and I am happy to see Grace being the same way. Of
course, she has not yet experienced a video game yet, but she is fully
versed in computers and the games on them.
With Grace's birthday not until early August, we are in
the situation where we cannot really wait for it to come around to give her
something to play with outside in the warm months, so this week we got her a
pedal bike and she
took to it like a fish to water. This morning after our walk, we were in
the shop and I looked over to see her setting up a race course with some
small race cones that came with the bike. She is really something. Always
going full speed ahead and always finding ways to have fun. She has also
learned how to steer her electric pickup truck and has been having fun cruising
around the yard in it. Maybe a
little more practice is still needed in the steering department.
Today we took advantage of the beautiful weather and
headed down to the
beach. I don't know who was more excited to get there, Gracie or the
pups, but we all had a blast while there. Grace
tossed some rocks into the lake, while Huck
and Millie did
their things. The pups and I have really been getting more exercise the past
month or so, ever since my leg healed up again and it really showed today
with the dogs. On our last visit to the beach back in March, they both
tuckered out after about 20-25 minutes of fetching and today were still
going strong after about an hour. I am so happy to see Millie so well
recovered from her surgery of 14 months ago and Huck is doing very well too.
One of the side benefits to taking the pups to the beach is that they come
back all nice and clean. Well, today they decided to forgo that idea by rolling
in the sand just before we left!
Well, I guess that about covers it. But before I go I
just want to brag one last time about Gracie (a dad can do that right?).
This morning while I was doing my work upstairs in my office, Nora and Grace
were in her room playing and I heard all this excitement and them yelling
for me to come see, come see. So I went in there and they showed me a
drawing of me that Gracie had just done. Not too bad for a child that is
still several months shy of her 3rd birthday! She even drew me with a smile
on my face!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
Welcome to May everyone. Not sure
about you, but I am glad to put April behind me. It is my least favorite
month and pretty much always has been. It's the month where we usually
lose our snow and are left with a muddy mess. Of course the snow left in
March this year and April has not been to muddy, but I just knew that
despite the 70's and even a rare 80 back in March would just lead to lots of
40's in April and that was the case. While most of the rest of the Midwest
has been enjoying shorts and t-short weather, we are still running around
with winter cloths on. I have even had to wear a hat and gloves on the
morning walks with the pups.
We did have one warm day this week, but it did not warm
up until late in the day and was such an insignificant event, I cannot even
remember what day it was that it occurred! I guess the bright side to all of
the cold temps is the fact that the bugs have been kept at bay. Although
that one warm afternoon and evening we had did bring a few blackflies
(midges) out. Not the swarms that are likely to appear in another week or
so, but even a few are a pain to deal with as they prefer to buzz your head
and go for the back of your neck or behind your ears to bite. A few will
even be brave enough to fly into your ear or nose. Yes, these are really
nasty creatures. Thankfully they only stick around for a few weeks and are
gone by the 4th of July- even in the worst of infested seasons.
We picked up some pretty decent rains this week as well.
Thursday morning we had some healthy thunderstorms develop along a warm
front. The airport only reported .60", but other stations in the
Keweenaw reported 1.5-2.5". My gauge is plastic and thus will break if
we get rain and then freezing temps before I empty it, so it is still
sitting in the garage and I don't know how much rain we got. Regardless of
how much rain we got officially, I am thankful as it is keeping the fire
danger low. It would be greening up the lawn, but we have been too cold for
that. A few of the trees are starting to pop- mostly the birch and poplar.
The maples never open up until the end of May.
It has been a pretty uneventful week, which given all the
events getting ready to unfold in my life around a year ago at this time, I
am perfectly happy with uneventful! I have been plugging away at the
bedstand, but am not yet finished. The construction is all done and I have
some of the staining done. With a little luck, I will be able to finish the
staining and finish work early this week and then bring it in and set it up.
The completion should coincide well with the changing over from winter
cloths to summer cloths and it sure will be nice to have the extra storage!
The next project will be something for the shop (top
secret) and then some planter boxes for Nora and Grace. After that I will
probably meddle in the shop a bit, but take some time off from any major
projects as I want to rest up for the beginning of a major project that is
currently slated to start this autumn.
As many of you know, the plan has always been to build a
new, separate structure that would become our main home to live in. We went
back and forth on whether it would a log home or traditional (stick) framed
home. The initial plan was for that home to be built about 3 years ago, but
life has a way of changing plans. None the less, we are on top of each other
now with the pups and Grace and that problem will only grow worse as Grace
gets older. So the time has come to get rolling on things, but as much as I
have always wanted to live in a log home in the woods, the more I thought
about it, the less sense it made to build a totally separate building. First
is the cost savings. A separate building would require it's own utilities,
including it's own septic system.
But the real kicker was the future. What really bothered
me was the thought of having to heat and maintain two homes, one of which
would sit vacant for about 90% of the year. So my thoughts started going
towards the idea of just adding onto the current "cabin". To do so
would mean two losses. First, no log home. Because logs settle, you cannot
connect a stick framed structure to a log structure, at least without major
structural considerations. Secondly, no basement. Because the cabin is built
on a slab and that slab is floating a moves a bit with the seasons, we
cannot attach the cabin to a structure built on a foundation with a
basement. My main reason for wanting a basement was to have a place to put
the utilities and have a rec room for Gracie and her friends (and me and my
So back in February I asked Nora what she thought about
just adding onto our current place rather than building new and she said
that she had no problem with that- as long as the addition contained the
things she wanted in the new place.
So that settled, I started to try and envision
just how we would add onto the current building. It's not as simple as
saying we will bump out this wall and add on here... One side of the cabin
absolutely cannot be added onto as that is where the septic system and
utilities are. It would also be pretty difficult to add onto the front as
that is where the driveway/parking area is that leads to the shops. That
leaves the back and the side where the driveway comes into parking area.
Other things that complicate an addition is how the cabin was built and the
considerations of snow loads and snow drops off roofs. I was really stumped
as to how it could be done best, so we called in a pro and he came up, saw
the situation, took some measurements and is working on plans for us.
While here, he tipped his hand as to what he thought would work
best (angle off the current building towards the driveway) and that helped
me be able to come up with some ideas. We sent those ideas as well the rest
of our wants/needs to him a few weeks after the meeting and both Nora and I
are excited to see what he comes up with!
Our plan is to actually do any driveway relocation work
and get the foundation in this autumn before the building season ends. Then
next spring we will be about 6-8 weeks ahead of the game if we had waited
until then to start everything. The road we live on has spring restrictions
put on it and that keeps contractors from being able to come in with the
heavy equipment needed to do any earth moving and foundation work. So we
would first have to wait for the restrictions to come down, which in an
average year is sometime in the second half of May. then get going on the
driveway/foundation work, then start framing. Whereas if we get the
driveway/foundation work done this autumn, then we can start framing as soon
as the weather permits in the spring and will not have to wait for the
restrictions to come down to do that.
So that is why I plan to rest up some this summer as the
autumn will provide a healthy dose of work and next year at this time I will
have more work than I know what to do with! Like with the cabin, I plan to
do a lot of the work myself, but will be getting help with things like the
concrete and also the trickier parts of the construction like roofing.
Drywall will definitely be subbed out as well and we will be for sure bring
any rough sawn wood to a friend with a 4 sided planer to make tongue and
groove than do that ourselves! Holy WAH!
So that my friends is how I turned a journal with almost
nothing to talk about into one with a lot to talk about. I have been waiting
to play that card for a few months now and am glad the cat is out of the
bag, but also will be working without a net on future, featureless entries!
I don't have any pictures to share with you this week
either. I promise I will do my best to have different results for next week!
Good night from the Keweenaw..