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So which Christmas song would you use to describe today? I’m voting for “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. That is, if we even consider that song a Christmas song. Seems like they have been putting it on Christmas CDs lately, so it probably applies, even though some might think it really doesn’t have much to do with the holidays…but it DOES have lots to do about the cold.
It seems to be freezing all around the United States. I’ve heard complaints from New York City and Nebraska and Georgia and even California (although that western complaint came last week, so they’re probably back to mild and sunny already…)
I didn’t didn’t didn’t want to go outside this afternoon. And, once outside, didn’t didn’t didn’t want to stay outside. It felt too cold at 10 degrees. Even though I was dressed very warmly. I counted the remaining days of the outdoor adventure on both hands. After today, only nine more days to go.
Today’s outdoor adventure involved a) taking pics of apple trees, b) taking lots and lots of snow pics which you’ll have to see later, c) walking around L’Anse and photographing decorated Christmas trees (I know you’ll be holding your breath waiting to see those!), d) walking down and up the road for maybe ten minutes and e) shoveling more snow off the back deck.
A slight emergency ensued during the snowy-tree photography session. OH NO! The edges of camera suddenly seemed to go…black…and I got quite confused. What was happening? The camera wouldn’t dare break now would it? Please, Camera, I need you to work for ten more days, I begged. Do not die now. You’re too new to die. What in the heck is wrong with you?
Fortunately, upon arrival home, with some closer inspection, I discovered that the shutter had somehow become stuck. Ahhh… a simple matter to gently touch it and the shutter quietly closed its gaping mouth. That was what created the black side walls of the photos. Phew… Now let’s just hope it was a random event and not a precursor of anything more serious. (Barry’s assessment after reading this blog: the camera was frozen!)
On the way to town, I saw something really cool. Two really cool things. Here is your “Where’s Waldo” question of the Day. Or rather your “What’s Waldo” question. Can you spot two interesting things in the above photo? And what might they be?
Now, if you would like to listen to It’s Beginning to Look a LOT like Christmas with our dear Bing Crosby, here’s your link. If you prefer Baby It’s Cold Outside with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones click here. I guarantee you will sing this second song all day. Once you’ve heard it, it never goes away…
You would think by looking at that photo that the sky is blue and the temperature is maybe 70 degrees and we’re enjoying a lazy Indian Summer day. Well, you would be wrong. That photo was taken yesterday (was it only yesterday?) before the weather changed and drenched us all into autumn.
We had to start a fire in the woodstove this morning, for goodness sake. Sigh. Fall must be here, for sure. We’ve been so spoiled this September. We’ve rarely experienced a September so balmy, so tepid, so delicious. Let’s stiffen our backs and upper lips and tighten our resolve and remember to…open the door and walk outside!
But not before donning lots of rain gear.
So on go the rain pants and rain jacket and…the heavy winter boots. I don’t have a pair of rain boots, and the thought of soaking a pair of sneakers in two minutes did not sound appealing. Put the rain hood over you head and out you go. Come on now, don’t be hesitant! You snooze, you lose. Get on out that door.
What a shock! Rain pouring from the heavens, the sky a deep shade of lead. What in the world should one do? This suddenly reminded me of the freezing cold days last winter when I would (confession time) bring a clock outside to ensure that I stay out there for long enough. Because the thoughts would cajole and beg, “Haven’t we been outside long enough? Can’t we go in?” So one must be firm with them. “No, we can not go in. Keep walking. Keep looking. It’s only been ten minutes Don’t let a little rain or cold stifle your experience. C’mon now, quit whining. Is it really that cold (or that rainy? or that miserable?)”
You might think the camera would capture images of the downpour. But no. Every digitally-uploaded photo of rain against the garage or trees looks like it’s not raining at all. Go figure.
Smiling suddenly, because I just wrote the above cutline about the leaves on the soggy log and mis-read it to say “Soggy blog”. Which, I suppose, it is. 🙂
One of the useful things I accomplished outside was picking a) tomatoes, b) cucumbers, c) peppers and d) basil for tonight’s dinner. Can you guess what dinner was? Never mind, I shall tell you. It was a garden pizza with salad and leftover corn. The reason for mentioning the picking-venture was this (and didn’t I warn you about it?): the fingers so quickly become frozen ice-cold appendages at the end of soggy hands. How quickly that happens. Even when it’s 46 degrees and not…oh what a daunting thought…32 degrees. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The temperature is still in the 40’s.
Besides gardening, and walking to the mailbox, and wandering in the ravine behind the house, I tossed some scraps into the woods. One of these scraps was a bleeding heart root. We pulled up one of our overgrown bleeding heart plants yesterday and said, “Fare thee well!” The roots looked so interesting and almost mystical. It seems like they might be medicine for some malady; who knows? Perhaps we should Google it. Here we have it from a possibly reliable or unreliable site (and for heavens sake, never try to use a bleeding heart root medicinally without extensive research!) It is apparently known as the “nerve root”.
Nerve root is used orally for insomnia; emotional tension; hysteria; anxiety states; agitation; nervousness; and specifically, anxiety states associated with insomnia.
Nope, I’m not that agitated about the rain or cold weather. In fact it’s kind of cozy sitting inside the house tonight listening to the rain pitter-patter on the roof and trees in our woods. But that’s because I opened the door and walked inside. Thank goodness that was an option today!
P.S. for anyone else experiencing rainy weather, here’s an entertainment suggestion. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition. Click here. There are at least six stories (or more) about our beloved Upper Peninsula. Go listen if you’d like!
Today it was pouring rain, then drizzling rain, then weeping rain, then soaking rain. You get the picture. It was raining.
I haven’t had to fulfill the outdoor commitment in the rain for some time. Today is the eight month anniversary of going outside every single day since the Winter Solstice. Four more months to go.
The first necessity: find the umbrella. We country folks aren’t necessarily like city folks. We country folks don’t use umbrellas too much. You either wear rain gear with a big hood or hat, or stay inside, or run from the house to the car through the raindrops. You don’t usually wander casually around beneath the comfort of a large umbrella.
Unless you’re doing an outdoor commitment and need to take photos in the rain. Then you undertake the search for an umbrella and finally find it in the back of the car. You then check it to see if it works, having some vague memory of an umbrella failure during the pouring rain in Munising in June.
That was not an enjoyable saunter in the rain. If I remember correctly, my fingers were frozen numb against the umbrella handle on that trip downstate. Never mind that it was June. It was a Upper Peninsula night in June. Which meant barely past frost.
Today’s rain felt almost balmy. Although it was in the 50’s, so it wasn’t that balmy. But I did enjoy sauntering around the yard, twirling the umbrella and humming.
Looking at all the puddles and drizzly leaves and getting my shoes and pant legs soaking wet.
Suddenly it became clear that the rain had momentarily ceased. Why carry around the umbrella? I tossed it on the lawn and headed out to the road for further exploration.
Umbrella-less (and hoping another downpour might be postponed) I ventured down the road and then veered off unto a logging road to further look at nature’s offerings.
So many of the plants and flowers lay beaten down by the rains, tumbled over from the downpours. Rain water collected everywhere: on the path, in flowers, against leaves. You could tell the soil felt appreciative. The roots beneath the surface sighed in collective relief. We’ve had too many years of drought not to appreciate this summer’s gift of rain.
The rain began to drizzle more gustily again and I turned back toward the house. Scooped up the umbrella and listened to the raindrops beat their dance atop it for awhile. Looked at our cozy little home in the woods with its warm and dry interior and headed in for a cup of tea.
Question of the evening: What are those five white plastic chairs doing sitting out in front of the house? Any guesses?
Interesting fact of the evening: You’ll never imagine what ran in front of our car tonight on the way home from Houghton! Yes, you’re right. It was a black bear. The first one we’ve seen in a long time. It scampered across the road never the Silver River Hill and then ducked into the woods. I was swatting around for the camera in vain, only finding the cell phone. The camera, of course, was buried in my purse. Just when it was needed. However, the likelihood of actually getting a shot of that fast-moving bear was not a lot. Better luck next time!
Dear Mother Nature,
Some of us are a little disturbed. It’s July 30th today and we are wondering…can you send a little warmth our way? Just heat up the summer a bit more? Pretty please?
Our beaches are empty. The picnic tables look lonely. The temperature so often stays in the 60’s and barely ventures into the low 70’s. We’re dreaming of some hot weather. Just a few days. Before the summer ends.
Can we strike a deal? How about five days with temperatures above 80 degrees? (That is, if you can’t spare any more.) Did you see how we so nicely handled those fifteen below zero days? We didn’t even sulk, or complain (too much). Some of us even went outside! Don’t we need something to balance out our long cold winters? Some heat waves? Some days when we let the fans whir the air around the muggy house? Can’t you take pity on us? Winter will be back soon. Give us some summer.
The kids in the Upper Peninsula want to go swimming. The garden plants dream of heat and sun. The zucchini and the beans look oh-so-sad. You’ve been kindly sending rain. Today you blessed us with over a half an inch of rain. A couple years ago we begged you for rain so fervently. And now you’ve complied. But, could you turn up the heat? Even a 79 degree day would feel heavenly.
Someone around here started a fire this morning. At the end of July, for goodness sakes. Only a small fire in the woodstove with a couple pieces of firewood, but this is against all official rules and regulations of summer. This shouldn’t have to happen!
Here’s our dream: to wear a sleeveless shirt and shorts a half dozen times before the first frost. Please?
OK, OK, Mama Nature, if you crank it up to 90 or 95 degrees, we MIGHT complain. We’ll try not to. We’ll think of February. But we might get a little fickle on you if we’re really sweating. But then again, maybe we’ll go to the beach. Maybe there will be fifty people there! Maybe little kids will be swimming and families will be grilling hotdogs and hamburgers and frisbees will be flying…
80 degrees. That’s all we want. For a few days, at least. What do you think?
Sincerely and with Love,
Some Upper Peninsula Friends
The above photo comes to you from inside the house, before opening the door, before walking outside. If I would have cracked the basement door even an inch the spotted fawn and its mama would have leaped off into the woods. This particular fawn is a rather active jumpy fellow. It leaps on long legs and prances around mama with a particular spazziness. We glimpsed it ambling about a dozen feet away behind the garage the other day. What courage! What daring! Then it scurried back to Mama begging to stand beneath her and nurse.
Today is Day 193 of the Outdoor Commitment. Yes, another day of rain. Another day of cold in the 50’s. People are getting snarly in town. It is suppose to be July 1st, isn’t it? Isn’t this suppose to be our warm weather for the year? (I suppose it’s because we complained a week or two ago about it being too hot. We’ll try to behave for the rest of the summer if it just warms up a little.) We had to start two fires in the woodstove today. In July!
Our official rain tally: 3.9 inches since Monday. The last count measured 1.5 inches in the rain gauge. That’s a lot of rain.
We split another load of wood this afternoon. Guess what. I am suddenly really truly enjoying this wood splitting. You get in a rhythm of hoisting, pulling the lever, tossing the split logs in the truck. Honestly, it sometimes feels like a dance. Very satisfying. Remember when I was not anticipating this task? How many times do our thoughts try to convince us that we’re not going to like something? When, in actuality, we discover that we do!
The relentless rain has tossed around some flowers, toppled some garden plants and sprouted mushrooms on the lawn. Slugs crawl up the trees and on logs. I tried to photograph the mighty slug but he ended up looking fuzzy and out-of-focus at least three times. Perhaps tomorrow you’ll be entertained by slugs and mushrooms, but not today.
Everybody knows when to pick spinach and lettuce, right? Before it bolts, or flowers. Our spinach has just barely grown to an appropriate height when I noticed that it was already bolting. Shame. It seems too early. I brought the colander out in the drizzly rain and pinched the flowers off (after photographing) and then harvested a mess for a salad.
Nothing better than eating food fresh from the earth. Supermarket food rarely compares. Our taste buds explode upon munching into fresh vegetables. You can almost feel the nutrients soaring into the cells, deeply nourishing the body. If you don’t have a garden, try to find a farmer’s market. It’s worth any extra effort.
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. 🙂
The used wood splitter we bought a couple months ago is finally ready to split up our humongous pile of wood lying in the driveway. We bought the splitter for $250 and Barry has labored on it faithfully to get it in working condition. Today was the day for its maiden voyage to the wood pile.
Except. The weather has been just frightful. It’s truly bi-polar these days. Yesterday it was in the 70’s and lovely and sunny and we planted garden seeds. Today the wind howls fiercely, spits snow, and features temperatures in the 30’s. Not pleasant. I did not want to go outside. Did not want to split wood. Almost wanted to whine… (well, only for a few minutes, mind you, before straightening the old backbone and opening the door and walking outside bundled up with two pair of pants, hooded sweatshirt, old flannel jacket, winter hat, boots and gloves.)
I guess one of the reasons it was acceptable to go outside was that we had lost our power around 11 a.m. The electricity has been going out a lot this spring. One minute you’re sitting cozy at the computer or washing dishes or listening to the woodstove hum…and the next minute the lights flicker out and you’re planned activity needs to be altered. You never know when it will start working again, although two to three hours is a good guess.
Here’s what you do: Start the splitter motor. If it’s a maiden event, this might involve a little smoke when the oil overflows. Never mind. Put on your ear protection. The stronger of the partners lifts the heavy logs onto the splitter. The weaker…no, the person with more manual dexterity…handles the lever. That would be me. I pull the lever to the right until it connects with the log and pushes it against the splitting wedge. The wedge cuts the log into two chunks. If you want to cut it into four chunks, you feed it through again. The lever-operator must push the lever to the left to return it to its starting position.
Both the lever-operator and the log-carrier throw the finished pieces of split wood into another pile. Which eventually must be loaded into the ’49 Studebaker pickup truck, driven around to the wood pile, and stacked in even rows.
Yep. That’s the fun we go through here in the North Woods. Today we worked on load number one. We split it all. And loaded half the truck. However, due to various time restraints and other constrictions, we haven’t even loaded the second half of the truck and stacked it in the pile. Alas. This is going to be a long season, isn’t it?
Strangely enough, by the time we finished for the day (about an hour and fifteen minutes after starting) I was having a lovely time. Felt like a good work-out. It didn’t even feel the slightest bit cold. Barry even threw off his jacket.
Nothing like spring chore season. It must almost be time to go on another trip… 🙂
You people who live in spring-country. You people who are enjoying 40 degree or 50 degree or 60 degree days. We’re all envious of you now. Because do you know what the weather was like today in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?
The thermometer barely nudged 30 degrees. A cold biting wind nipped in from the northwest. And the skies stayed leaden gray all day. (Well, make me a liar. My husband said the temperature has inched up to 33 degrees as evening settles in…and the sun is poking through the clouds. Go figure. Just when you start stating facts, things change…)
Anyway, you get the drift about the weather most of the day. It was so gray it settled into everyone’s spirits. People here are ready for spring. They’re ready for sunshine. They’re ready for green. This is the season where we wait it out. We are prepared for spring, but we settle for this in-between season. Sometimes cheerfully. Sometimes with gritted teeth.
We traveled up to Houghton today to buy organic vegetables, grains, beans and other supplies at the co-op. We drive there once every week or two to get supplies that can’t be found in our small town. We planned to stroll leisurely around town, maybe along the canal, snapping photos and enjoying an outdoor experience in the “real” city.
But no. It was too cold. We weren’t dressed properly in heavy winter coats. The thermometer up there mocked “24 degrees”. The wind whipped around buildings. Snow covered the path by the icy canal and we wore shoes rather than boots.
Instead, I walked through the woods after returning home. You’re sheltered in between all those trees. It’s almost pleasant. You have your boots and warm winter coat and mittens. Besides the gray skies attempting to envelop everything, it’s almost pleasant.
Yesterday we experienced sun. So don’t think it’s always gray here. I sat in the woods on a log and watched shadows play. Look at the balsam shadows dancing on this fallen tree:
But back to our gray discussion. Maybe if we experience a good rain the dust and dirty snow might disappear. In the meantime, we wait. It’s only April. One year, who knows what year, the temperature reached 90 degrees in late April. No fooling. It happened. (My husband just said it was April, 1980, and my parents came to visit with cross-country skis atop their car.)
Anything is possible!
The stream behind our house is running merrily with melted snow-water down toward the bay. Doesn’t it look cheerful? I’m guessing we’ll be warm soon. If we get beyond tomorrow’s possible lake-effect snow forecast, that is…
I felt so excited to show you this photo yesterday, but the ice fishing expedition needed discussion first. What do you think of this? The Annishnabe (Ojibway) call this beautiful bird “Migisi”. Once almost extinct and on the Endangered Species List, it has now made a comeback in the United States. For more information about our national bird, follow this link to a Bald Eagle Fact and Information page.
Birds are notoriously hard to photograph. They move so quickly. You focus your camera and they’ve fluttered out of range. You move too close, they fly away. You snap their picture from far away and they look like tiny dots in the sky or tree.
This fellow perched in a tall tree near Second Sand Beach yesterday afternoon. I glimpsed it less than five minutes from our ice fishing rendezvous. I thought, “Should I get out of the car? Of course it will fly away. Of course the camera won’t focus appropriately. Of course….”
Of course one must completely ignore when the Mind starts rambling about why things won’t work. So I grabbed the camera (while backing up the car in good multi-tasking mode) and opened the door. The eagle flapped upward and I snapped the picture. And, miracle of miracle! the photo turned out.
I couldn’t wait to show you.
You wouldn’t want to walk in our driveway today. It’s not pleasant. It resembles an ice skating rink. You place your feet very carefully, one cautiously in front of the other. You pause frequently. You know you’re very close to slipping and sliding and tumbling down. You wonder if you should return to the house and attach “creepers” over your boots. Diligent blog readers remember the definition of creepers: attachments one places over boots to assist when walking on ice. Mine have spiral metal coils which dig into the ice, hopefully keeping the walker more upright. When Nancy and I pulled the tent out on Lake Superior’s ice yesterday, we both wore creepers on our boots.
Once you reach the end of the slippery driveway, the main roads look more navigable. They’re mostly ice-free. A few patches here and there. It’s still warm, 42 degrees. Our Georgia company has been blessed with some nice weather. He may come back to visit again in the winter time!
It rained or sleeted earlier this morning. Which, along with the warm temperature,explains the ice skating rink in the driveway. It’s not particularly fun to walk in the woods now, either, as the snow is heavy, wet and slushy. The road is your best bet. Except when you stand too close to the edge, in which case your boots cover rather quickly with a good layer of mud.
Yes, spring is slowly announcing her arrival. Slowly. She’s a leisurely lady around these parts. We’re almost in that in-between season, halfway between Winter and Spring. It usually stretches from March to April and (sigh) sometimes into May. We call it “Mud Season”. Bet you’re looking forward to those muddy pictures coming your way soon…
Sit down. Are you ready for this? I am about to explain the theory of relativity to you.
If you believed that one, you’re at the wrong blog! What I’d like to discuss today in the theory of weather relativity. Temperature relativity, to be precise.
As I was wandering around outside this morning, with the temperature warmed up to a toasty 20 degrees (soared upwards from a frigid seven below zero) I marveled at the warmth. Tropical. Comfortable. Almost time to shed the heavy warm winter coats for lighter fleece jackets. Forget snow pants! Forget toasty-warm mittens and neck warmer! It’s balmy.
Now take a fellow from Georgia who comes to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He lands in this balmy 20 degree day and do you think “balmy” is the word he’ll use to describe it? (He actually might when he arrives on the plane tonight as there’s been SNOW in Georgia this week, but we’re discussing ordinary March Georgia weather behavior….)
A person arriving to our snow-covered land from 50-70 degree temperatures is NOT thinking 20 degrees is toasty. His body may be shivering. He may be bundling up in the warmest possible attire. He may be thinking he’s reached the North Pole.
How could two perceptions be so different? Same temperature. One thinks it’s warm; the other knows it’s cold. Therein lies the theory of temperature relativity: the body adjusts to whatever temperature occurs in the particular climate where it lives.
People in Alaska probably think seven below is tropical after a cold stretch at 40 below. They’re probably wearing shorts to the post office at zero. (I still wish I had that photo of the guy wearing shorts to the post office back in December…)
I’m suddenly thinking of trips down to Florida. Especially my first trip in second or third grade. We flew into Miami in the middle of the night. Unsuspecting, we stepped off the plane, walked through the terminal and opened the door. Sultry hot temperature immediately infused throughout our entire beings. Our bodies gasped with the shock of it. Then, melted completely. It was as if we stepped from a freezer into a furnace. Yet the furnace didn’t burn…it suffused with delightful warmth and pleasure.
I still feel that during middle-of-the-winter trips to Florida. Not with such intensity. But it’s still present. It feels like we northerners burrow deep within during winter months. We’re not even fully aware of what deep internal insulation we carry. We’re not fully aware of our body’s work to protect itself from ice and snow and cold. Until, suddenly, we’re standing in 70 or 80 degrees and wearing shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and feeling like we’re shedding layers and layers and layers. We remember Summer as a body-sensation.
Hmmmm, do I sound like I’m dreaming of summer? Just when I’m trying to explain to you how tropical twenty degrees felt this morning? It’s all relative, dear reader, it’s all relative…
P.S. just picked up that relative from Georgia at the airport in Marquette. Barry’s brother-in-law is here for five days of ice fishing. Hope he enjoys the “balmy” weather…