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…you know what we’ll be doing.

Winter chores.  Which usually involves a lot of Snow.

Here’s a synopsis of our outdoor life from November through April or May each year:

Early early in the morning--time to go to work. Boots are preferred for dry feet at work.

Then there is the challenge of scraping the car.  Seems like I even wrote a blog about it back last winter.  Let’s see if it can be found.  Yes, here  it is if you would vicariously like to experience the thrill.

A very kind husband sometimes offers to scrape & brush the car!

This morning proved a very lucky morning.  My dear husband offered to open the door and walk outside to take pre-dawn photography shots.  Wasn’t he kind?  (HE didn’t have to go to work this morning…)  He even scraped and brushed the car after the photo shoot.  Of course, I do believe I scraped HIS car yesterday morning, so perhaps now we’re even. 

As of the last daylight check, it seems like it gets light around here somewhere around 8:15 a.m.  Dark around 5:45 p.m.  Our daylight hours are a little skewed compared to most folks on Eastern time because we’re so close to the Central Time Zone. (Morning observation:  forget the specifics.  It’s hard to determine when it gets light.  Let’s revise to say anywhere between 7:45-8:15 a.m. in the morning.  Or you can click here to get the official time.)

Yours truly shoveling the wood pile

In the afternoon we opted to fill the wood room.  You need to get the wood inside for a couple days before you burn it in the woodstove for prime burning.  Even though we have our wood pile nicely tarped, it still needs to dry out completely.  First, you have to shovel the snow off the tarps.  (This is usually not my job.)  Then one of us stands inside in the wood room while the other hauls logs to the door.  The inside-worker stacks the logs in nice even rows in the woodroom.  Because the inside worker has a cushier job (unless they are putting the logs up high) one must trade off.  I let Barry stack the higher logs and then jump inside to stack the lower logs while he carries the wood in.  Got that convoluted lesson in wood hauling and stacking?

Nothing like building a new garage addition in the snow!

This winter looks extra-challenging for chores because a certain Garage Addition Builder has not yet finished his project.  In fact, it looks like February might be the finishing date.  You never know.  The metal roof is in at the lumber yard.  He’ll drive his ’49 Studebaker in to pick up supplies on Friday.  Before he begins to work on his daily building project, he must shovel the snow off the rafters.  It makes building a garage addition in the summertime look like a piece of cake!

Another very important winter chore involves plowing the driveway with our tractor.  I suggested today that he uncover the tractor and re-plow the driveway for a photo shoot.  He declined.  So you will have to imagine what the tractor and plowing job looks like.  Or, if you’re really bored and missing this blog during the winter, re-read all the entries.  Somewhere in the archives there is a picture or two of the tractor.  I promise you.

My jobs are shoveling the deck and sometimes the front porch.  And…oh yes…we mustn’t forget…emptying the ash buckets.  After you burn enough wood in the woodstove, it fills up with ash which must then be dumped out in the woods.  And now you can visualize this exciting chore:

Emptying the ash buckets

Yep, that’s our winter chores.  I’ve probably forgotten at least ten of them.  So you can see, even if I decide to shut the door and stay inside all winter, it’s not going to happen!  Those outdoor chores will simply have to be done…

By the way, if I eventually start another blog, I am looking forward to being able to post indoor photographs.  For example…looking around furtively…no one is noticing this isn’t an outdoor photograph, are they?…don’t you think this statue of Abraham Lincoln with the cactus growing out of his head looks cool?  (Barry just raised his eyes and did not seem to agree…)  I did not even position that cactus.  Life is amazing, isn’t it?

Mr. Lincoln with a Christmas cactus growing out of his head.


Dentists recommend...playing hockey??


I can’t imagine dentists recommending that folks play hockey.  Only in the Copper Country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula would one glimpse a sign like this.  We laughed for two minutes before I made Barry turn the car around to photograph the sign.  And, I can guarantee you, turning around the car on a day like today proved no easy feat. (Ha ha, I am SO slow to get a joke.  Barry says dentists recommend playing hockey because players get their teeth knocked out and dentists have business.  Now I’m REALLY laughing!) 

Looking out the car window, Houghton, MI


We had to drive up to Houghton.  Barry had to interview someone, and he dropped me nicely at a coffee shop to sip cappuccino and play on my laptop computer, also known as Miss Ellie.  I wore sneakers up to Houghton, the first bad decision of the day.  The good decision involved throwing in a pair of Sorel boots in the back seat of the car.  After getting a good case of frozen sneaker-feet, I switched to the Sorels and clumped around during our later shopping expedition.  

Eleven very very very very cold degrees


The snow was still coming down in white sheets in the Copper Country.  Once you drive across the Houghton County line, you can expect the weather to worsen. It almost always does.  Usually within a mile or so of the county line sign.  People in the coffee shop moaned that the weather forecaster predicted up to ANOTHER two feet of snow up there in the next day or so.  Yikes!  We can always thank our lucky stars for living in the “banana belt” of Baraga County, especially in our locale near the Huron Bay.  After all, our storm abated after about fifteen inches of snow.   

Not very good roads today, but we're headed "south" toward L'Anse


I was glad Barry drove.  The roads were not stellar.  They combined ice, snow and slush into a mixture that kept us alert and cautious.  The white-out conditions in the Copper Country added to the fun.   

However, we did accomplish all our work and shopping.  After we turned around to drive home, passing by the county line, out came the sun!  Houghton County may still be getting lake effect snow, but we’re feeling like the tropics down here.  After all, our thermometer read 14 degrees!  Welcome winter!!  

The sun breaks through! We're back in Baraga County.


P.S.  Today’s outdoor adventure (besides running between stores) involved shoveling most of the deck.  A very good upper body workout.  I wonder if four out of five dentists would recommend shoveling?  Hmmm….

Up on the roof, hugging the chimney for safety

Up on the roof, hugging the chimney for safety

OK, so I admit it.  Sometimes it’s rough to open the door and go outside.  It’s even rougher to write a blog about something….anything….that might sound the slightest bit interesting. 

Every morning I think:  there’s nothing interesting to write about.  There’s nothing interesting to say.  How many more times can I write about bird wings or deer tracks in the snow?  Do I have to run the length of the Upper Peninsula searching for entertaining tidbits?  What possibly could there be outside the front door which is interesting, funny, challenging, beautiful, awful, wonderful?

Every day something presents itself.  Something interesting (at least to me!) begins to wind itself into some sort of monologue.  It’s very intriguing to watch one develop a discipline.  One plows along ahead, even though every thought, emotion and physical indication may be attempting to hijack the commitment. 

Today I shoveled the deck.  As you may recall, my husband has been shoveling the roof.  The heavy icy snow from the roof then falls down on the deck, and must  be re-shoveled down to ground level.  New snow has been predicted, so the shovel has been the most popular item in the household this week.

So I spent at least a half hour tossing the heavy chunks of snow downward.  It was a beautiful blue sky afternoon.  Relatively warm at 20 degrees.  Afterward, Barry came cheerfully in with The Announcement.

“You must come up on the roof for your blog,” he said. 

Now he knows I am a height-challenged soul.  What is he saying?  What is he insisting?  My first response is:  “NO!  Absolutely not!  I have tried this before and my body freezes in fright up there.  They won’t be able to move from the ladder.  What are you thinking?”

However, something else inside says, “You need a bigger view.  A higher vantage point.  You need to look at this daily commitment from a different angle.  Come on up.  You can do it.”

Who can say no to that voice when it sounds so wise?  Shaking in my boots, I climbed that ladder.  (I really don’t want to describe the fear that accompanied all this.  It was heart-pounding, scary and downright challenging.)  The hardest part was planting the foot from the ladder onto the roof without toppling back towards earth….way….down….there…..

But Barry helped and suddenly I was on the roof!!  Mission accomplished!!  The vista expanded.  Through the trees you could even see the infamous Huron Bay!

The astounding view of the Huron Bay from our rooftop!

The astounding view of the Huron Bay from our rooftop!

Can you see the bay?  It’s only a quarter mile away.  As soon as the trees drop their leaves in autumn, the shiny lake’s surface shimmers through the stark branches.  I love it when this view appears.  And from the roof top, it’s even more awesome.

I’d like to say I was courageous and mature and stoic, but the truth of the matter was that I reached the top without much dignity.  Every step scared me.  I began to appreciate even more the shoveling Barry has been doing twenty to thirty feet from the ground.

There is something positive to report from the high vantage point of the roof.  I feel something new is hatching.  My friend said it takes 40 days to form a new habit, 40 days in which to change one’s attitude and embrace a new commitment or resolution.

It will be 40 days tomorrow of spending time in the great U.P. outdoors.  I am thinking….almost….that it’s going to be fine.  That it’s time to give the voice “You can do it!” a bit more credibility than the voice which insists it can’t be done.

Avalanche from the front roof

Avalanche from the front roof

Roof shoveling day!  Time to get the heavy compressed icy snow off the roof-top.  Why, you ask?  Because neglecting to shovel roofs in this part of the world may result in collapsed dwellings.  Those desiring intact homes must bring out the shovels, snow scoops or snow rakes and get to work removing the snow.

Barry’s our roof shoveling guy.  Kathy’s the photographer.  Kathy gets kind of dizzy, wobbly and nervous up there twenty to thirty feet from the ground, and prefers solid footing underneath.  Barry worked hard for about 35 minutes this afternoon while Kathy cheered him on with frozen fingers attempting to catch photos of the blocks of snow careening from the roof.  Seventy five percent of the photos failed to capture any snow showers or blocks spraying down from overhead.

It was 8 degrees.  I’m assuming all you readers from foreign countries realize these numbers come in the Fahrenheit variety.  The sunshine and blue sky makes it look deceptively warm.  It was not. 

Our roof often needs to be shoveled several times a winter.  There’s one-shovel winters, two shovel winters and this year might even be a three-shovel gala season.  We’ve debated buying a metal roof (as exists on our garage and shed) but still can’t decide about re-roofing or removing the shingles from the house.  Metal roofs are not infallible.  Usually the snow slides cheerfully off the metal surface as it builds momentum, thereby eliminating the need for manual labor.  But sometimes the snow sticks and requires prodding.  Our roof pitch is not designed for friendly snow removal, so we often debate future roof plans as we sit on our deck sipping drinks on balmy summer afternoons.  Not today.  Today was Shoveling Day.

Another detriment of the metal roof design exists.  Sometimes the snow determines to exit from the metal all at one time.  A hundred (thousand?) tons of snow slides off and buries any passerbys meandering beneath.  We wouldn’t want buried family members or guests, would we?

Barry’s fishing partner actually suggested today that a blog-writer about roof shoveling should be up on the roof doing the work.  I am not pleased with this suggestion.  Fortunately, he assured her that was not the way blog-writing worked.  A blog-writer has the option of waiting down beneath, thinking up entertaining and informative ideas to share with the readers. 

Ice blocks fall from the back roof

Ice blocks fall from the back roof

Barry has roof-shoveling expertise to share with you readers.  He says it’s preferable to shovel after the snow has compressed into icy weights.  Then one can shear off an entire block with little fuss or hassle, watching it slide effortlessly off the roof.  If one attempts to shovel fluffy snow, it simply doesn’t work as efficiently.  However, if one waits too long, the house begins to strain under the snow-load.  It’s really a science.  One learns the best timing to remove snow from roofs if one lives in the North Woods long enough….

Dawning of a new day

Dawning of a new day

The 44th president of this beautiful United States was inaugurated today.  I was proud to be an American, proud to be part of a country embracing diversity, idealism and hope for the future.  No matter what the future may bring for Barack Obama, I feel great joy that we elected someone with at least the possibility of turning the tide of the nation towards unity, prosperity and hope for all of us.

OK, having said that, it almost feels like a teeny new day has dawned for this outdoors blog as well.  I made it through the first month!  Thirty one days of spending time out in nature, exploring outside the four walls of this house.  It was hard, it was easy, it was fun, it was challenging.  But it happened!  Only eleven months left to go.  🙂

Today, driving into town, I contemplated the many ways in which we interact with the outdoors.  Some of us use it as a hunting ground, others play in it, while others spend hours admiring its beauty.  There’s probably a hundred intentions with which we interact with nature.  But how many of us actively protect it?  I know I sometimes attempt to protect it; other times I take it for granted.  With this new hope and energy soaring in our country, I pondered new ways in which I might help make a difference….when suddenly….

…heading directly towards my daydreaming self within the car appeared another car.  And it wasn’t in its proper lane!  It was driving directly towards me.  In my lane!  I slammed on the brakes and my car began to fish-tale back and forth.  The oncoming car careened across my path and landed in a big snowbank.

Wake up call!  I pondered stopping to assist, but already noticed rescuers in the rear-view mirror.  The other driver was already out, safe and sound.  Amazing that the road (which looked dry and navigable) was actually slippery and icy.  I drove much slower from that moment on.

The afternoon’s outdoor activity was shoveling the deck.  This is in preparation for the shoveling of the roof, in which huge amounts of hard icy snow will be shoveled down upon the deck.  A second shoveling will then ensue.  The winter’s in full swing now.  Even the wood in the wood room downstairs shrinks daily.  Almost time to fill up the wood room.

No more playing outside and wandering around in the woods, at least for a couple of days.  There’s work to be done.  Anyone want to visit?

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