July 27-
    So here we are, the final entry for July. I can remember not too long ago that turning the month from July to August was a pretty exciting thing for me. It meant that we were in the final month of summer and that the amount of hot days was getting more limited. This summer has been so absent of the really hot and humid days, that it makes the change over to August less eventful.
    I can say that on Monday we had the hottest and most humid day of our summer so far, with a high of 90 degrees and dewpoints in the low 70's. I did spend quite a bit of time in the air conditioned house, but when I did go outside, I did not find it totally unbearable. I suppose there are those that would think that 90 and pretty high humidity is not that unbearable to begin with, but it is well past what I typically would considerable tolerable. 
    Showers and storms arrived with a cold front on Tuesday and we spent the rest of the week in beautiful 70's and quite a bit of sunshine. The week ahead sees loads of 70's and quite a bit of sunshine as well, so perfect summer weather lies ahead.
    The big doings this week were Nora's dad and step mom coming to visit for a few days and then later in the week, her aunt arrived to spend some time. It sure is nice to have the accommodations for visitors now! We have an official "guest" bedroom and another room that can serve as a guest bedroom, plus plenty of room for us all to get around and not be on top of each other, like we had with the setup before the addition.
    Another big doing this week was the first day of soccer for Gracie on Saturday. I promise to you that she was not coached to pose that way, just as I was taking the picture, she crouched down like that!
    This was not only the first day of soccer for her, but the first time she has been involved in any organized sport. I know both Nora and I were a little curious to see how things would go. She is a sweetie and is not shy by any means, but also has a very strong personality and my concern was that she might try and rule the roost. Things went very well, she got along just fine with all the other kids and as much as she wanted to score a goal, I think she might end up being one of the star defensemen of the league. She is much better at stopping other players from moving into scoring position than taking the ball down field and putting it in the net. Either way will be fine for me and I hope she will learn to be fine with it as well and I can say that she and all the other kids on her team seemed to have a great time, which was great to see. Here is a shot of them getting ready to start the scrimmage game
    As nice as the weather was, we did not use the pool very much this week. Monday would have been a perfect day, but company arrived. Gracie and I did go for a little swim on Thursday, but it has been covered up with the heater off since. It has been a pretty tough summer for pool going, but we sure have made the most of most of the days we could use it. I suppose if in a few weeks, the current weather pattern persists, it will just come down as it will be too cool to use it.
    The bugs seem to be abating a bit. We have been dry enough to allow the mosquito population to level off to a pretty typical level for us in the heart of summer. I know that there are lots of jokes about the mosquito being the UP state bird, and I suppose if you are in the deep woods, they are bad, but in the more open areas they are really not too much of a bother. We can get around pretty freely in our sunny areas without being bothered. Sunrise and sunset is a different story!
    Yesterday afternoon, Nora and her aunt that is visiting as well as he aunt that lives in the UP all went kayaking. We have a ton of spots that are perfect for kayaking and I would imagine that once Gracie is old enough to do it on her own, we will pick up some and do it. More immediate plans (like within the next 2 years) is to get a boat to tool around in. I miss JHIF (Just Happy it Floats) and getting out on the water. So I would say that an 18-22' open bow Boston Whaler is in our future.
    Anyway, Nora did take some neat pictures on her adventure. Here is a nice panorama of the waterway to the south entry. Here is a closer up shot of that barn, it has actually been converted into a residence. I sure wonder what it looks like inside. Perhaps the owner is reading this and will send me an invite! :) Here is a picture of a much older structure, I don't even know what it was, but sure looks to have a heavy Scandinavian influence to it. 
    While Nora was out kayaking, Gracie, the pups and I piled into the truck with fingers crossed to head to the beach. I had not heard any reports in a few days on the ankle biters, so I was really hoping that they would not be bad. I know at our place they really dropped off noticeably, so we decided to try our luck. We got to the beach and I got out of the truck first to "test the waters". The minute I closed the truck door, one flew and landed on the window and I got ready to bolt back into the truck. However, no more arrived and that one flew off and never returned, so I let the pups out and then went around to let Gracie out.
    We were able to spend an enjoyable afternoon at the beach, tossing the new toy out into the lake for the pups to fetch. I don't know if it was the wind, or the fact that we were all moving around a bunch or just if the nasty ankle biters finally were on their way out, but we were fine for most of the time there. Millie did hurt her leg, either twisted an ankle or elbow or something and was limping a bit, so I had her take it easy while we tossed they toy for Huck. The winds died off a bit and there were a few flies that started to bother Millie while she sat on the beach quietly. So I decided to call it an afternoon and we headed back. Millie's ailment was already noticeably better by the time we got back home and she is back to her speedy self today- which we are all thankful for!
    It was a pretty busy second half of the week in the woodshop. I did not do any work on Monday or Tuesday, but got in there on Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday and today and was able to get almost all of the doors done. All but 4 are built, finished and mounted.  Two of the 4 still left to do are for the corner cabinet and two are for the upper doors are . I was able to construct all but one of the upper cabinet doors this morning and will hopefully finish and mount them tomorrow. The other 2 uppers will contain glass panels at the top, so they need a bit more construction work to be done. Once all the doors are done, there are just two more custom drawers to do and then the toe kicks and the kitchen will be all done! It sure is nice to see the kitchen almost finally done and I think it will really change the look of things once all the uppers have their doors on.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one, other than to say that I have been able to set the dates for the Keweenaw Trails work session. They are Friday and Saturday, September 10 & 20. This year we will be re-building and repairing bridges. So no brushing. Leave the loppers and chainsaws and bring your hammers. I will be making more details known in a little bit, including where the workers will be able to lodge for free, but did want to get the dates out so that folks could make plans.
    Until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..

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July 20-
    I need to start out this entry with an apology. In last week's entry, I called the owner of Land O' Lakes Recreation "Tom". To this moment, I have no idea why! There is a Tom that works there, but I honestly do not think that is the reason why. I just had a major mental lapse and called Bruce by the name of Tom!!! I have already personally apologized to Bruce, but I also wanted to make a public one, as it was a public gaff! I bet I never do that again! At least I hope!
    Speaking of LOL Rec, they are having a swap meet on September 27th and I will be there. So if you are in the Wisconsin Northwoods that weekend, be sure to stop in and say hi and perhaps pick up a deal. I can also say that if you are in the market for a tractor such as I picked up this spring and are interested in the same make, but do not live in the WI Northwoods, but do live in southern WI or northern IL, you can stop by LOL Rec's "branch office" just off I-94 in Kenosha. It's not really their branch office, but it is a new Mahindra dealership in Kenosha also owned by Bruce.
     Speaking of Mahindra Tractors, I used mine again this week. I have been making firewood in a hand-to-mouth fashion this summer. With heating the pool and the cool temps so far this summer, I have been burning almost as much wood as we do in the winter. Last week I went and cut down a big old birch tree that was dead standing. It was over 40 feet tall, as I cut five 8 foot sections and still had some of the top above that. I have less than one 8 foot section left before I am out of wood again. The good news is that there is another, similar sized dead-standing birch in the same general area I can cut and use Big Red to haul over to the wood boiler, plus I found a dead-standing maple not too far from the pool and wood boiler that I can also drop.
    The other good news is that it looks like we are done with the unusually cool temps for a while. This week was "deja vu all over again", as we had soup for dinner on Tuesday because it was so chilly. Temps dropped into the low 30's in areas away from the lake Wednesday morning and then temps warmed by the end of the week. We are currently at 80 and temps look to make a run towards 90 early this week, before they back down into the 70's for the second half of the week.
    It was kind of an uneventful week for us up here. I continued to chip away at the remaining kitchen cabinet work. I switched gears and went from the solid door fronts to the frame and panel type, which will also be how the doors were done. Once things were all set up in the shop, the construction of the frame and panel pieces went very smoothly and quickly. I had actually cut up the panels in spring of 2013, so it was nice (and a bit amazing) that they all fit the frames perfectly! Here is a bank of three drawers and one single, large drawer. Inside the large drawer is a set of plastic bins that we are going to use for recyclables. The bins could also be used for garbage, but we were afraid that even with a setup that had a lid, the stink would show up. So we are going to go with paper and aluminum recyclables.
    I got one door done and still have about 14 or so to do, but the construction goes pretty quick, it is just the finishing that takes longer, as they need to be finished on both sides, rather than just one like the door fronts did. We are having some of Nora's family up early this week, so I am not sure how much I will be able to get done, but hopefully I will be able to get most of the lower doors done by next week at this time and then finish things off next week.
    Last week I talked about how the strawberries were at peak. We have a few plants in above ground planters at the front of the house and all week I kept looking for ripe ones, but they were disappearing. I figured a critter like a chipmunk, squirrel or perhaps rabbit was eating the ripe ones. Then this week I was outside with the pups and the culprit was revealed as I watched Huck saunter over to the plants, stick his nose in and start eating them. The funniest thing about the whole deal was that he was able to smell which ones were ripe, as he passed up all the green ones and picked only the red ones! I got quite the laugh about it and did not stop him. I figure if he is smart enough to figure out they are good to eat and which ones are the ones to eat, he can go ahead and have them. I do have plans to have a big patch of them in the near future and he will not be allowed in there when they are ripening up!
    We sure are getting lots of mileage out of the screen porch. I am really glad that Nora insisted on it. It has become a pretty regular thing for all of us to go and sit and relax in after dinner. We do have a rule that no electronic sounds (radio, tv, or sounds from iPad/iPhone) are allowed, but things like the iPad/iPhone can be used to read or browse. I mostly either sit and relax, or will read a book or magazine. Gracie loves it out there too and at times can be seen just chill'n with Huck.
    So I guess that covers it for another week. Probably not the most engrossing entry I have ever written, but I guess sometimes that is the way things go.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
July 13-
    In one way it seems like this week flew by and then when I think back to what was going on at the beginning of the week, it seems like that happened 2 weeks ago. So I guess I can take my pick... either it flew by, or took forever!
    The weather this week was very similar to the week before. Quite chilly and raw early on and then beautiful for the end. I had some errands to run Tuesday morning and it was so chilly that when I got home for lunch, I actually made a bowl of soup to warm me up! I think our high on Tuesday was only 53 and we had overcast skies and even some light rain. Wednesday it started to improve, with clear skies, but was still on the cool side. The clear skies Wednesday night/Thursday morning led to temps in the mid 30's in spots up here, with one locale in the eastern UP getting down to 32! It did warm up nicely by Thursday afternoon and we were actually able to get into the pool by the late afternoon. Friday and Saturday were also both good days to hit the pool and this afternoon could have been, but we found ourselves doing other things.
    We sure have been getting a lot of mileage out of the pool this summer, thanks largely to it being heated. If it were not, I doubt Nora and I would even have gone in! I am sure Gracie would have gone swimming many time, but would not have lasted as long. We have plans to upgrade to a bigger pool for next season. I am debating on taking an above ground and sinking it a bit below or perhaps even building an in-ground using insulated concrete blocks. The advantage to using the pre-made above ground unit is it would be easier to build, although I also want to create a deep end, so having that and sinking the pool partially below ground would be a little more work, but I basically see it as more time in Big Red! The advantage to using ICF's and something like gunite sprayed onto them is that the pups would be able to join us in that type of pool. If we use a liner, then they would not be allowed in because of their nails tearing the liner. I am interested in learning as much as I can about all the different ways to go, so if anyone has experience, let me know!
    So the summer keeps rolling along and we are now about halfway through. To me, the second half is usually the best half. Usually the worst of the bugs are over, the waters are warming up, both of which make the beaches more enjoyable. Plus, the second half of the summer is berry season! The berry season is kicked off by strawberries, which this year seem to have been a bumper crop with all the moisture we have had. Nora picked up 16 quarts earlier in the week. Here is a shot of 8 of them. No we did not pick through and toss out the un-ripe or over-ripe ones. That is the beauty of getting fresh picked berries, they are all picked at the peak of ripeness (am I sounding like a TV commercial?!). Because they are all at the peak of ripeness, they also are much sweeter than you can get at a grocery store. So no sweetening is needed.
    Now I suppose many of you are wondering, "If those berries are so ripe and you got 16 quarts, how do you eat them all before they spoil?" The answer is to freeze them. Nora rinses them and then cleans them all. Then they get put into vacuum seal bags, which Gracie efficiently puts the date on, so we know what year they are from and then they are vacuum sealed and frozen, providing bags and bags of Keweenaw sunshine all year long! I will admit that once thawed, they are much softer (mushy even) than when frozen, but we tend to use them in things like smoothies and baking, so the texture is not important and the taste is like the day they were frozen. A real treat in the dead of winter up here! We also do the exact same thing with blueberries and have done raspberries and blackberries too.
   The next berries to be ready for picking will be the raspberries. They will come on line at the end of July into early August, then the blueberries will overlap them, with picking in the first few weeks of August. Blackberries are at the end of August and sometimes can even be threatened by an early frost, but that is pretty rare and usually confined to the Traprock Valley.
    As far as the bugs go, the mosquitoes are still around. We keep getting rain, so they keep sticking around. They are not torturous, but if you find yourself in the deep woods, you will want to be coated with a decent repellant. I do not know what the beaches are like as we did not go to one this week. I can say that those nasty ankle biters have found their way to our neck of the woods. Not nearly as bad as at the beach, but we have had to swat a few while being in the pool or working outdoors. The deerflies are also numerous in spots where they tend to congregate (near bodies of water with vegetation). On our walk earlier this week, poor Huckie got bit several times by the buggers. A bite on his nose and on his left eyelid even swelled up. We put some medication on the bites and in about a day or two he was back to normal. Poor guy though, his one eye was almost swelled shut!
    I had a pretty productive week with projects around the house. Our peach tree was lost to the severe winter we had. It basically split at the first main branching of limbs and that was enough to kill the whole tree. So on Tuesday, I fired up the chain saw and cut it down and then fired up Big Red and used the borrowed backhoe to dig up the root ball. 
    That went smoothly enough that I then decided to take out two of the three stumps that were created when I cut down the maple trees a few weeks back. The peach tree was tiny and the stump cam out with ease. The maple trees were not so tiny and provided a bit more of a challenge, but still not an insurmountable one.
    I used the backhoe to dig around the stump and also break its roots. Then used the backhoe to lift/drag the stumps out of the holes. There were some pretty big holes left behind! I then used the forks to lift the stumps up and carry them off into the woods where they will rot away in time. Short of paying someone to come in and do all of that, I really am not sure what I would have done. Thanks Big Red and thanks Bruce from Land 'O Lakes Recreation for letting me use the backhoe. I have one last important job to do with the backhoe and that is to lay some drain tile from the front of the house, past the front of the shop and then down the side of the shop where the lean-to will go for Big Red. Pretty much an afternoon project, but I need to get it done before Bruce wants his backhoe back!!!
    The rest of the week was spent working on the kitchen work. In between the outdoor work and playing in the pool, some pretty good headway was made. I was able to make 5 more drawer fronts and have just 7 more to go. I am awaiting some solid stock cherry and then will be able to finish out 4 of the drawers this week. The other three are going to be done like the doors, in frame and panel, so they will get done at the same time as the doors. Anyway, here is a shot of a bank of three of the drawers done this week. I think that the kitchen is really going to look great once everything is done and the penciled in date is around 10-14 days from now. Once that is done, we can stick a fork in the addition/remodel work!
    So my final item for tonight is that there are some plans afoot to see about making the work sessions for Keweenaw Trails Services be repairing/re-building some of our bridges. We have several that need work done on them and so we have talked seriously about making them jobs to do during the work session. However, late October is when we usually have those work sessions and the weather might not be so pretty for that kind of work, so we are thinking on making the dates either late August or sometime in September. Initially I was thinking late August as that is when the weather is truly awesome up here and workers could take advantage of it by hanging out at the beach or other sightseeing when not working, but I have also thought about later in September, to catch the early stages of the color and hopefully some still nice enough weather to get the work done. There is a little thread going on the discussion board about it here. If folks want to chime in on what might be more desirable/feasible for them feel free, but I guess instead of loppers and chain saws it looks like we will need folks with hammers and saws!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
July 6-
     Happy Independence Day, plus 2! It's been a pretty busy week for us. Nothing highly unusual, just lots of little things. In addition to the 4th, I had to go to Marquette on Wednesday for my annual pacemaker check up. All went well and it is behaving as it should and I am in good shape. Not much of a surprise, as I can say I am feeling as good as I can ever remember. I feel like I should knock on wood when I say that, but perhaps I am in a well deserved break from health issues. What ever the case may be, I am feeling really good and sure to appreciate it- every day!
    One of the other items that kept me busy this week was I finally got my rear in gear and started hammering out the final work to be done on the kitchen. Truth be told, I was really waiting for a 2-3 week window where there would be no major interruptions. A day or so is not a big deal, but I knew there would be quite the re-acquaintance  with the exact dimensions and details to be done before I could even start to work the wood. Then I figured once I was back into the swing of the numbers, it would be around 18-20 days of semi-interrupted (beaches, pools, walks, etc...) work that would be needed to finish it off.
    The re-acquaintance went around as well as it could. I was actually quite amazed at how it all came back to me, seeing as though it had been around 14 months since I halted work on the cabinets to get going on the addition and remodel. The proof of things was when I went to go fit the drawer bottoms that had already been cut back in April of 2013 with the drawer sides that were made this week. All fit like a glove and the drawers fit the cabinets fine. All told, 8 drawers were made and fitted and there are only 2 more to do. Then the fronts will go on and things will look like those already done. The final task will be to make the doors and mount them. That should actually take less time than the drawers, as I have done all the drawers with dovetails, even though the dovetails will only be seen when the drawers are opened. Once I have the bits setup for making the door rails/stiles (frames), then it will be a pretty quick process to make them and fit the panels, which were already made back in April 2013. All of the lower cabinet doors get mounted with the same setup, so once one door is setup, then all the others will follow that setup. The same goes for the upper cabinet doors. Once one is done, then the others will follow the same setup. I am not going to put pressure on me by giving a complete date, but if all goes as planned and I am able to get in a few hours a day, perhaps in 2 weeks, the kitchen will be done at last and we can call it a wrap!
    The weather has been a bit of a challenge this week. We had rain a couple of the mornings, so that knocked out the morning walk with the pups. I suppose I could have taken the walks in the afternoon, but it is usually getting warm enough out that I do not want to overheat them. Then, on Friday, we took our morning walk, but were swarmed by deerflies. Actually, I was OK, just had a few buzzing my hat, but the poor pups had at least a dozen buzzing them. Both got bit a few times and poor Hucky even had a bit of a reaction to two of the bites. He got one in the eyelid and one on the bridge of the nose and both swelled up pretty good. The one over his eye almost caused it to be completely shut. Nora and I did attend to him and it did get better, but took around 24 hours for the swelling to completely go away- but he is back to his hansom old self again. It was kind of a strange thing, as he has never had a reaction like that before.
    The 4th of July holiday is always a big one up here. Lots of folks come back to visit family and lots of other come to just visit the area. It's great to see all the folks up here, as it really is a big shot in the arm to the businesses up here. Some of the motels actually make most of their income between the 4th of July and Labor Day. Being such a big holiday, there are several fireworks shows to be able to see and on different days to boot. On the 3rd, Lake Linden always has their show down at the village park. It is probably tied for 1st as far as attendance, with several thousand folks going to it. Gracie, Nora and I could be counted in those numbers this year. We did not go into the park, but rather chose to watch the show from the "old fairgrounds". It is about 1/3rd of a mile northeast of the park, but gives a pretty good vantage point. 
    My 3rd of July started a little after 4 am, so I took a nap from around 6-8 pm to be able to stay awake. Gracie ended up falling asleep before we left as well, but we woke her up to ask if she wanted to see the fireworks or just stay sleeping. She chose to go, but then promptly fell back asleep on the way down to Lake Linden. Sometimes the old fairgrounds site can fill up, so we left pretty early to make sure we got a spot and were there probably 90 minutes before the show was to go on. So we let Gracie sleep for another hour or so and then work her up in time for the show. The bugs were a bit of a nuisance, but not so bad that we were chased back inside of the vehicle. The three of us sat on the back of the Honda Pilot and enjoyed the show.
    On the 4th itself, there is the kids bike parade and games in the park in Mohawk. Gracie really gets excited for the parade and loves to decorate her bike with Nora and I. So we got it all dressed up again and here is a shot of Gracie posing in front of the handiwork. Here she is all set for the start of the parade and here she is in action. Yea, I know, it's time for a new bike for her, but I was really hoping to be able to hold off until she did not need training wheels anymore. That way she could learn to ride without them on this smaller bike and be able to move up to one that will be larger and not have to be replaced as quickly. We'll see I guess.
    There are lots of kids that partake in the parade and lots of smiles. It is one of those gifts and joys of living in small town America. Most everyone know each other and there is such a strong sense of community. Bringing up the rear of the parade this year was last years Wish Child and some of his family, traveling in the Side-by-Side that was his wish, towing a boat full of relatives.
    Once the parade is over, they have some games in the park for the kids, as well as some food from the concession stand. Gracie took part in the sack race and did pretty good. It was her first time and did not fall once. I think she even managed to come in 3rd. After the games were over, we came back home and gave the beach a try, but the biting flies, beach flies, or ankle biters, which ever you call them were out. In fact, we had heard that they were out, so when we got to the beach, Nora and Gracie stayed in the car and let the pups and I be the guinea pigs for testing the presence of flies. It took all of 10 seconds to be swarmed and Nora said three flew into the car while we got out, so needless so say we abandoned that idea and came back home and floated in the pool. Rough life! Although I did feel sorry for the pups, which have not been able to get any real exercise quite a bit lately.
    Even this morning it was raining, so the morning walk was suspended and Gracie and Nora had fun doing some crafts. It is not raining at the moment and it looks like there are some storms headed our way in around 45-60 minutes, so perhaps I will finish this up, sneak out with them before the rains hit.
Good night from the Keweenaw..


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