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Day 305 out of 365. Wow! Time is really flying now. Less than two months and…the outdoor commitment will be completed. Finished. Done. Hurray! (And then comes the challenging part of figuring out what to do next. Keep blogging? Here? Elsewhere? Stop blogging? Start a different topic altogether? Escape to the tropics? Sit INSIDE for 365 days? Oh so many options…)
First, before we discuss anything else, the promised shot of Barry’s garage addition:
There you have it. What’s going on outside our front door this autumn. Oh so slowly. It’s because the weather Refuses to Cooperate. It rains and snows without regard to cement-pouring activities. It snubs its nose at all of Barry’s attempts to build the addition before winter. But he’s persevering. He now has the cement floor poured and the cement blocks lining the edge. They are covered with hay and plastic to prevent freezing. In the next few weeks you will begin to see walls and roof beginning to form. We hope.
Even though it’s raining today, I am going to show you sunny pictures from a couple days ago. Just so you can ascertain the state of the autumn leaves in our area. While the vibrant reds have dulled, the yellows are going gangbusters.
So you look at trees like that and breathe, “Wow! How beautiful!” and then you look at another patch of trees and think, “Yep, the leaves are almost gone.” Here’s what the trees look like in other places:
But in case you’re getting depressed thinking about Winter, let’s return to a quick glimpse of Barry’s Studebaker and some more yellow leaves.
Yesterday or the day before I emptied out every last carrot, beet, kale and green onion from the garden. The garden is now empty for the first time since May. It’s lying fallow (in farming terms) awaiting the rototiller to dig it up before winter. Barry will wrestle our giant rototiller with its whirring chopping tines into the garden soil (if it ever stops raining. Although you can’t tell that from these photos that it’s raining, can you?) and he’ll chop up all the weeds and mix the soil well. It will then be ready for next year’s planting. Although, if other winters prove similar to this one, he’ll add in several fish guts and some compost to the mix. To enrich the soil.
The best carrots of our century, anyway. Most years we have teeny tiny carrots the size of maybe your ring finger. Or big toe. Usually we throw these finger- and toe-sized carrots in maybe four bags in our frig and munch on them until January. But this year! This year if carrots were money we would be rich. There are at least eight bags of giant carrots. Maybe not store-sized carrots, but big carrots for gardens in the woods. We’ve given away one bag so far and I’m looking for takers. Anyone want a bag of carrots? You have to come and get them. No shipping across the country or overseas! But any local takers…?
So the gardening season is over. The garden is kaput. Here are our chores which now must be completed before winter:
1) clean septic tank (not us…hire someone)
2) put away deck furniture
3) mow and rake leaves
4) finish garage edition
5) rototill garden
6) oil change both vehicles, put on snow tires, take down electric fence, finish last load of fire wood and I think I’ll stop writing now before I think of too many more things!
Before we even get to the subject of fireworks (human or ant) let’s enjoy a peaceful moment. Look at that sunset in the photo above. Isn’t it beautiful? Calming? Lovely?
We drove over to Baraga about 9:30 p.m. last night. I had a yogurt strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone which dripped ice cream all over the hands while trying to take the following photo. It’s a wonder there’s not smears of frozen strawberry yogurt all over the image.
Hundreds of people milled everywhere, waiting for the fireworks. Along the Keweenaw Bay in every imaginable spot. By the park. Over behind the marina. On Sand Point. Half the community turned out to watch the firework display.
It didn’t start until 11 p.m. We were yawning in the car, but our cameras were ready. A family from Chassell (a town to the north of us) with relatives from Tennessee surrounded our car. We were entertained. Dozens and dozens of private pre-show fireworks boomed off everywhere. We live on a Native American reservation, so fireworks are readily available. Big ones. At one point we sat surrounded by smoke and fireworks, waiting for the main attraction.
Are you ready for the lovely firework photos? Yes?
Well you’re not going to see any here.
You may see something that vaguely resembles a “light show in the sky” but it would be a stretch to call them “fireworks”. My camera simply wouldn’t register anything other than a blur. So let’s call the following images “art” instead.
Here are some “art” shots.
Oh, OK. You’re wondering if there is anything half-way resembling “real” fireworks. Not really. But here’s a shot that almost captures the essence of the light show that entertained hundreds of us during the 4th of July celebration in Baraga last night:
And now it’s time to share about the Ant Fireworks.
This morning we were splitting up a truckload of firewood, as usual. We are really roaring through that huge pile of wood with, maybe, only four truckloads left to split and haul and stack. We decided to split some cedar kindling today. Easy, right? Cedar cuts like a knife through butter. It’s a breeze to split.
We split maybe a half dozen. Then hauled another log onto the splitter…and…broke it open…and hundreds of ants burst out of that log. Red ants. Fire ants. Biting ants.
You should be glad you don’t have any pictures of what happened next. The ants started crawling up our jeans, in our shirts, under our sleeves. We (well, mostly me) started jumping and swatting and trying to kill the fiercely biting red ants which were attempting to bite and sting and attach to our skin.
Between the noise of our yelps as the ants bit and the streaming ants scattering all over it looked like massive fireworks! And yes, I had to take my jeans off in the driveway, hoping to high heaven that no one would choose this particular moment to come visit. Off came the jeans! Off came the shoes! Off came the socks!
And finally the Ant Fireworks stopped.
I’m hoping never to personally experience ant fireworks of that nature again. As for firework “art”…or maybe real firework photos!…we’ll try again next 4th of July.
Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend.
Because we spend so much time outdoors splitting, hauling and stacking wood these days, it’s only fair to share the process. Just in case anyone is dreaming of burning firewood. Let me explain what’s involved.
First, you have to either A) cut down the trees yourself, which has been our modus operandi for a few decades. This is very hard work. Dangerous. Challenging. Especially in mid-winter with knee-deep (or deeper!) snow. Barry and his friend Tom mostly completed this phase of the project for many long years. Or B) you put a log-truck load of wood. Which is what we did this year, for the first time.
The wood pile is delivered in your driveway, or somewhere handy for the wood splitter. Then you buy a heavy-duty wood splitter, if you don’t have one. We did that this spring. Barry found a great deal for minimal cash, and then utilized his skills to get in working in tip-top shape.
Next, you find two willing people ready to concentrate very intently on hoisting the logs onto the splitter, operating the lever and loading the split logs in the truck. You must focus and not dream away about random subjects. If you do, you might split a finger or injure your partner. Better to focus on the task at hand.
(The red woolen jacket was a mistake. The temperature lingered in the 40’s and I couldn’t decide what to wear. Within five minutes of this photo, I abandoned post, ran inside, and donned a hooded sweatshirt. Much better choice.)
Once you’ve determined your proper wood-splitting apparel, adjusted for appropriate temperature, you continue splitting. Your partner takes the split logs and tosses them carefully into the 1949 Studebaker truck, determined not to scratch the paint job. That in itself is quite a task. At least two or three logs have proven delinquent and glanced off the fender or paint thus far. But one tries.
When the truck is full, one turns off the splitter, making sure not to forget the gas. It is not wise to forget this step, as the gas then leaks onto the splitter and…well, that’s simply not good. Unplug the battery. Then drive the truck around to the back of the house and back it up to the wood pile.
Now comes the work of unloading and stacking. The lever operator must now do some physical labor. The truck loader has already worked up quite a sweat. You heft the heavy pieces of wood from the truck and pile them–just so–making sure your rows are balanced and will not topple.
There is a science to every step along the way, but I think we’ve covered the basics. Except for the parts previously covered in earlier blogs in which you then take the split logs off the wood pile and stack in basement wood room. Followed by starting fires, stoking fires, tending fires, emptying the wood stove, cleaning the chimney, chopping kindling…all of which brings you around to starting the year-long venture all over again!
The worst part is…it’s June 8th and we’re still starting fires in the woodstove each morning.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? P.S. Christopher, when ARE you coming home? We have a fun job waiting for you. 🙂
I feel like I’m on a small emotional roller-coaster the last couple of days. One minute happy and joyful and buzzing…the next minute kind of sad and cranky. The above leaf picture described my mood as of Friday afternoon. (By the time this is published later tonight after a dinner with friends maybe everything will be fine again.)
Two nights ago I felt a little overwhelmed about our rather large wood pile that needs to be split, hauled and stacked. But last night I tried to “play” with the work and turn it around into a fun chore. It actually worked.
The bugs are out and crazed and sucking blood and biting. Nothing unusual for June around here. You put a log in the splitter, swat at a mosquito, take the log off, scratch your bite. Oh well. We all expect this at this time of year.
It’s been a cold spring. Our garden vegetables are very very slowly poking their heads above the soil and leafing out. Peas, lettuce, spinach, onions, kale, collards, beets, green onions and carrots sit in the garden wishing for rain. They have to settle for cold sprinkles from our hose. They’re not happy about it, but have no choice if they wish to drink some water.
Do you ever wonder if Nature herself gets moody? I think she perhaps she does. That’s when the hurricanes and tornados roar through and whip us around and mess things up. When the Earth gets fussy, perhaps It quakes. Swallows entire towns as it shakes and shifts. One minute Nature is hot and then she’s cold. She weeps buckets of tears on us sometimes, and then coldly withholds her rain making the poor pea plants suffer. Sometimes she freezes us with ice-cold snow and bakes the tropics. What an emotional lady, do you think?
Then again, Nature is probably neutral and we’re the ones telling stories about her motives. She’s just shaking herself, blowing up the winds, shifting toward and away from the sun.
Maybe the “truth” lies half-way between both stories. Maybe she’s more than scientific, but less than our fanciful tales. Maybe she does feel emotions, or responds to the emotions and thoughts on this planet. Who knows?
Maybe this goose family has a clue…
P.S. writing this blog always makes me happy, strangely enough. Maybe Nature is happy about it, as well.
Mr. or Mrs. Bear scored a hit the other night. We think it’s the same rather large bear that Barry saw a couple weeks ago at 3:50 a.m. He (or she) swiped the bird feeder. We awoke yesterday morning to this sideways view.
Someone suggested it might be a raccoon. But Barry thinks a raccoon wouldn’t have enough heft to bend the pole at such an angle. I think he’s right! Definitely, it was a bear. (We’ve seen similar behavior over the years in regards to the bird feeder and compost bin…and once we actually saw a huge black bear pawing in the compost.)
Today’s outdoor activity involved splitting more wood. However, I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just say we finished the un-split pile behind the house (six sessions thus far) and now we’re ready to move to the huge pile in the driveway. Sigh. Seems like most of my outdoor adventures in June will involve some sort of wood splitting.
Since we won’t be talking any more about wood splitting today, can I just show you some leftover photos from the “end May” folder on this computer? Photos not yet posted, but perhaps interesting to some folks.
The above photo depicts our friends Bertha and Bob’s horses. They were casually munching grasses and weeds in the field yesterday while we lingered at their house enjoying a great potluck dinner. One of the horse’s names is Dawn. I believe that’s the white one. I may have even ridden her years ago. The other horse may be named Ben. I am ready to stand corrected on that name. They are good friendly horses. It would have been lovely if they wandered closer, for a better photo opportunity.
The woods green up daily. When you look beyond our deck, the forest is starting to take on its impenetrable green hue. Look at the growth on the spruce! Who knows, they may even double this size before the growing season ends.
Finally, a garden plant. From our perennial garden, facing the north in front of our house. It is the primrose plant. Sweet with the morning dew, it beams its red beauty into the world. Hoping you’re enjoying all the lovely blooming flowers this season…and hoping bears aren’t knocking down YOUR bird feeders!
Let’s set the scene. Inside the house the wood-stove hums in the basement. It’s warm and cozy and toasty. Heavy blankets hang against our deck and basement windows, encasing the heat. Sun glimmers through other windows, creating patterns on the rug. Water boils in the tea kettle. A pot of pinto beans simmer on the stove.
Outside it’s 12 degrees. The wind blows snow sideways, capturing it, gyrating it into mini whirlwinds. It’s a blustery wind, a fierce wind, a vicious wind. It’s whirled in from the north with ferocity, banishing temperatures in the 40’s. The weathermen lower their voices, using phrases like “wind chill warning” and “advisory”.
Take heed. Do not venture out unprotected. Who wants to hazard out at all with such a cozy inside world? Unless one has a commitment to spend time each and every day outside. Then one must enter that white and blowing world.
And of course, as always, it’s not as terrible as the Mind has conjured. Allow the feet to guide you wherever they want to go. And it’s OK if you return to the house to warm up. Just go outside again for your allotted time.
Snow shadows never cease to fascinate. I never really noticed them as vividly until this winter. No two shadows look alike. They have a personality almost separate from their physical counterpart. A shadowed world exists with vague look-alike caricatures parroting solid reality. Watch out! You never know where a shadow is lurking…and what it might try to communicate.
Trees speak their own language, one mostly unintelligible to us humans. We must listen very slowly to even catch the edges of what oak or poplar or maple or spruce might whisper. Every once in a while they communicate in hieroglyphics. I almost know what this fallen log, stretched over a frozen stream in our ravine, attempts to say. Any ideas?
The snow spoke today. In no language we’d understand verbally it said: walk on my back. You won’t sink in! The Moon of the Crusted Snow sits fat and white in the night sky, providing ease for local folks tapping maple trees for sweet syrup. No sap runs today. One waits for ideal conditions (cold nights and warm days? or warm days and cold nights?) and the inner sap-life of the tree begins to swim in the veins and corpuscles, moving outwards towards its dream of summer leaves. The sap drips into buckets pegged on trees, or into lines attached together, until it’s finally boiled fiercely to sweeten our cookies, our grain, our pancakes.
I walked by these cedar logs in the driveway and thought about last weekend. I was jabbering away on the phone to someone, probably my daughter, when a knock rapped on the door. A fellow from across the Keweenaw Bay stood, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He wanted to know if my husband was home. “No,” I said, but he was already nodding, “Yep, bet he’s out fishin’.”
That husband of mine has a reputation. Of course he was out fishing.
“I brought him some cedar,” he said.
Brought him cedar? What? The fellow turned back toward his truck. I tossed the phone on the table and scurried after him a bit. “Do we owe you any money?” I called.
“No,” he said, “I was out in the area. The logs on the log truck were from my property, I’m just delivering some cedar for kindling to go with it.” (As some of you know, we bought a load of logs a couple weeks ago.)
Amazing! I thanked him profusely and retrieved the phone. I am sometimes awed and amazed at the kindness and giving-ness of folks. People who stand ready to offer a hand, to share, to help. That’s one of the best parts of living in a rural area. There’s angels like this fellow, giving of himself, without asking anything in return. May he be blessed…
Yesterday afternoon the deer ambled up the driveway toward the oak tree. We often toss out scraps of vegetables for them to eat, but they haven’t been around regularly recently. When the snow gets too deep and temperatures plummet, they bed down in the cedar swamp. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see the mom and her yearlings approach near the house again.
Then I noticed the mama was limping badly. It was Lempi! Remember hearing about Lempi from an earlier blog? We named her a couple years ago. She was hit by a car, or somehow injured, and limps terribly. We worried about her making it through the winter. But it looks like she survived! Unfortunately, her front leg looks pretty bad now. But she’s still alive and moving and rummaging beneath the oak tree for scraps.
They didn’t stay long. I took a photo shoot, they munched for awhile, then took off through the woods. Hasn’t this been the week for wildlife on this blog? Just when I thought “we never see animals around here lately”…this week we’ve glimpsed lake trout, eagle, chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, woodpeckers, ravines, porcupine, squirrel and deer. Let’s see what else presents itself in the upcoming week.
I have a delicate subject to broach, considering the above photo. It involves killing. Animals. Specifically, deer. Do you know that the traditional Native Americans prayed before they killed an animal? They talked to its spirit, apologizing, entreating the animal to share of himself with the hungry hunter and his clan.
After killing the animal, the family attempted to utilize every bit of the deer for sustenance. Nothing was wasted, if possible. The meat filled the belly, the hide was tanned into clothing, the antlers made into tools, the toes tied together to wear around the ankles while dancing. Traditional hunters believed that if the Great Spirit provided sustenance, to waste would be unthinkable.
I like that attitude. I like when it’s possible to utilize scraps and tidbits, to recycle, to think about the Earth in a sacred way instead of easily tossing things in the garbage. I like to live as simply as possible (although that doesn’t always work…but it’s an ideal.)
Today we had a little incident in the driveway. Just before I went outside for my walk. Barry sort of…well…slipped and fell. Not once, but twice. I told you the driveway was a skating rink! (Are you wondering what this has to do with the sacred utilization of all parts of the deer? Please read on…)
So what did we do?
We carried our buckets of ashes from the woodstove and sprinkled the ashes over the driveway ice. Result? You can now walk on the driveway without slipping and sliding and falling. One drawback: the ash tends to track into the house, so it’s necessary to take off shoes or boots immediately upon entering.
I like the thought that we’re using all of the trees, or as much of the trees as possible. We use the logs to as firewood. We use branches and bark and small pieces of wood for kindling. Even the ash, the burned end product of the log, is utilized to keep us upright…
Add to that: trees provide beautiful photo opportunities! Look at that color of green moss growing on that rotting log. Beauty even as the tree decays.
Guess what I did outdoors today?
Stood around for a half hour and watched a log truck delivery of next year’s wood. My husband inquired, “THIS is your outdoor adventure?”
For many years Barry has scrounged in the woods, cutting and chainsawing and skidding out logs. This year we’ve chosen the “easy” route. We’ve paid for the delivery of wood.
The one hundred inch long logs now need to be chainsawed to appropriate length and eventually split. We’re pondering buying or making a splitter. (I will not be making the splitter.)
As we watched the deft operator handling and stacking the logs, I felt somewhat melancholy. An elderly neighbor’s funeral was this morning. She was a woman who loved the woods, spending hours exploring the thickets and ridges. We met twenty seven years ago when she served coffee and goodies to a young mother with a brand new baby boy. She shared hundreds of stories about this area before paved roads existed. She worked at a logging camp. I truly admired her humor, her wit, her fortitude. It was sad to say goodbye today, although it’s been many years since she recognized friends and family.
Snow, rain and freezing rain fell today. A foggy mist rose from the snowbanks at times. I’m feeling simultaneously happy about our new load of logs, and sad for the loss of an old friend.
I’m debating whether to describe this day as “half full” or “half empty”. You know what I mean? The optimist looks at a glass filled halfway with water and calls in “half full”. The pessimist looks at the same glass and labels it “half empty”.
So here’s the February scenario for you. Gray heavy clouds sink down from the skies, drizzling dampness on everything. Sodden. Gray. Ominous. It feels like you’re moving in a dismal ashen world. A shivering clammy dank humidity surrounds and penetrates everything and everyone. The driveway has turned to deep slush and mud. Everything is soaked, bleak, saturated. (Doesn’t this sound like describing the glass as “half empty”?)
Let’s try again to describe the day as “half full”. The vaporous mist blankets the forest, its silvery beauty rising up against the oyster skies. The moistness of the drizzling pearly mid-winter melting etches the world in lovely filmy artistry and allurement. Everywhere shades of gray rise against the bare bone landscape of tree branches. Three fat mourning doves appear magically beneath the spruce tree, pecking amongst the spruce cones.
Which scenario is the “truth”? Gray dull moody world or lovely drizzling shades of silver?
To tell you the truth, most of the day I labeled it all just gray and heavy. But somewhere in the afternoon while we were filling the wood room, my inner view shifted. And suddenly it all looked so beautiful. Interesting how a simple shift of perspective can change everything. I sure felt better as my awareness changed.
I recommend giving this a try whenever labeling the weather as undesirable. Go outside and look around for the beauty. Or, better yet, just intensely look around, instead of allowing the thoughts to label indiscriminately. Beauty is bound to show herself.
You may be wondering why we needed to fill the wood room again. We really didn’t. Except this melt was the perfect time to re-stock our supply. If we wait for another week or two, a foot or two of snow may cover up our dwindling pile. We spent at least 45 minutes hefting the split logs from one set of arms to another, and then stacking on top the pile in the wood room.
It feels a good accomplishment to finish that chore this afternoon.
Speaking of weather, I’m actually starting to hope for colder weather. Yes, you heard that right. Mostly for the sake of the ice fishermen. You see, my brother-in-law is arriving in early March for his first-ever ice fishing spree out on the Big Lake. We need to have good thick ice for him. We really do. Although I might selfishly pine for warmth, the fellows need deep ice. So….that’s my weather order. A couple weeks of colder weather, eh?
The wind howled outside our bedroom window this morning. It sounded like a freight train or mid-winter blizzard and made me want to cuddle deeper beneath the warm flannel sheets. It was a deceptive wind, for the temperature was above freezing. The energy had shifted the wind so it blew gustily from the south, bringing up warmer air from Wisconsin.
Bleary-eyed, I wandered by the kitchen window a little later. The sky appeared stained beautiful shades of orange and purple and pink. A photo opportunity! I threw on Grandma’s old snowmobile suit from the early 1970’s and my boots over jammies and drove down to the bay to get some dawn photos. However, my husband thinks the above beautiful shot may be his. After I returned to the house, he commandeered the camera and continued snapping pictures.
Our outdoors plan for the day involved driving way up in the “bush” to wrestle logs out of the snow for fun. We met two friends (one of whom is a logger who knew the “secret” of where the wood was located. Yes, he had permission to cut….) and off we drove.
It was snowing and cold. It got colder by the moment. That temperature above freezing plummeted faster than one could contemplate. We finally left the snowy paved highway and then proceeded to drive slowly up a logging road for ten miles. Ten miles does not take ten minutes in the woods. You drive about 10 mph (if you’re daring) and keep an eye peeled for logging trucks. These guys work hard, even on Sundays. You’d think all log truck drivers would be settled in front of the TV watching the Super Bowl but, nope, we started too early.
How many log trucks did we pass? How many log trucks threatened our truck, our road, our sanity? The official count is six loaded trucks and trailers. If you meet a log truck on a narrow back road, there’s no way both vehicles can comfortably pass. One vehicle (and it’s not the log truck) must carefully inch its way over to the edge. The edge of the road is covered in feet of snow, or conceals a drop-off, so it’s not a pretty meeting.
Fortunately, the Logging Gods were with us today. Whenever a log truck came careening down the road, a handy pull-off presented itself. Only once were we forced to back patiently up for far too long until we found a side road. The log truck drivers showed remarkable patience with us.
Of course we were driving the pride of the family’s fleet, a 1949 four wheel drive Studebaker pickup truck. My husband spent 14 years fixing up this baby to make it road worthy and last winter put it on the highway. He rarely drives it too far as it eats gasoline like candy. However, today we needed the trusty fellow to haul our logs.
And such fine logs they were! Hard maple. Premium hard maple. Barry said he’s never carried home a load of wood comprised completely of hard maple. Usually there’s other varieties tossed in like soft maple, ironwood, even a few poplar. Not today! We were grinning like kings and queens at the thought of next year’s warmth.
The day was not without challenges. Our friend smashed his finger and it wasn’t pretty. 😦 Our tailgate picnic, complete with sandwiches and fruit, lasted about nine minutes because the two women were near frozen into icicles by the relentless frigid wind–and so was the food!
Then we hit a deer on the way home. (It appeared out of nowhere, galloping fiercely out of a three foot snowbank too close to our truck.) No damage to the truck, but the deer was not so lucky. We said a prayer for the poor doe….
We’re now home safely complete with a truckload of prime firewood for next season. You can view our gleanings below: