Archive for October, 2010

Still Brewing

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

The headache is still brewing in there, but my sense of such things is that it will be gone by morning. Maybe we maigrainishiners are just an optimistic lot. It is a strange thing to look at the world through this lens. Today was a sunny and relatively warm day, perfect for those end of the fall projects. The poop necessary to accomplish anything is lying somewhere beneath that clot of muscles in my shoulders that keeps the energy from getting to my brain.

Franco and I just returned from our after supper walk. It is dark enough during our walks to see the stars if the clouds cooperate. What a lovely show it makes. We had nice star viewing in the canyon too. The first thing I noticed was how much lower the big dipper is to the horizon down there. What a luxury it is to put some money down on a table, and within a few hours of one day, move far enough that the stars have perceptively shifted in the sky.

Kindling

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

kindling.jpgToday I got the sawbuck load of cedar slabs cut into stove length and put away in the storage building. When dry, this is great stuff for starting wood stove fires. If you split it small enough, you can light it with a match. For the past few years, I’ve been using a lot of this “waste” material for maple syrup boiling, but this year I have plenty out there already, and the stockpile of dry kindling in the storage building was getting a bit low, so I stacked this batch up for future kindling use.

tomatoes.jpgYesterday I spent about an hour in the greenhouse garden. The tomatoes out there have been nipped by frost, but some are still going strong, even though they haven’t been watered in a month or so. Some are even still blossoming. Now that is optimism! I got all the tomatoes picked I could find, and even found a half dozen or so butternut squashes. I cooked two of them for supper last night, and they were great.

This weekend I figure I’ll pull the dock sections apart and drag them onshore for the winter. It is probably time to take in the hammock and the laundry lines. It has been such a nice summer that it seemed like it would go on forever. I stretched it out artificially this year by spending about 10 days in Arizona. But reality is upon us. I even thought about putting the plow on the Scout today, except I think I’m having battery problems. If I read the label on the battery correctly, I bought it in 2002, so it is understandable that it might be going bad. I’ll have to add that to the list of things to do in town next week.

Mailbox Ads

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

mailbox.jpgI’ve noticed a few of these signs attached to mailboxes on my drive to and from town. It seemed to me like an effective way to make a statement, so it got me to thinking… if I were to use this technique to make a statement, what would it be? I pondered until I struck upon an inspiration. One neat thing about the internet is that before you have a chance to have second thoughts, you can see your project through. I found a site called buildasign.com, and in about 5 minutes had composed and ordered the sign. It was waiting for me when I got home last Friday, and it took until today to get the frame built for it and get it installed.

mailbox3.jpgI have to admit it looks pretty darn good, and for the 3 or 4 cars that drive down this rural road per day, it may give them something to think about.

Migraine

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Perhaps I spoke too soon. When I got home from the trip, I told Alice I didn’t have to take any Maxalt for headaches while I was gone. I was busy all day Friday (the day I got home) and Saturday was “Make a Difference Day” at the Estivant Pines… another busy day. Sunday I was able to sleep in, and even got an afternoon nap in. I didn’t feel right all day Sunday though. This morning I had a full bore headache going. I was short with the creatures I love, unable to make a decision; generally out of it.

Alice and I tandem drove to town this morning because the tail lights on her car seemed to be out. It was dark and foggy, and driving behind her I can attest to the fact that she was not as visible as she should be to the cars coming up behind her. After we got her to work, I peeled off and did the morning errands. One involved stopping by the State Farm office to pay our home owners insurance. Mike Lahti happened to be there, and he stopped by to shake hands. I told him how disgusted I was with the attack mail I was receiving about him. He seemed pretty upbeat about the whole thing, and shared my belief that his opponent was shooting himself in the foot with the falsehoods he was attempting to spread.

When I got home from the errands, I took a hot bath, some ibuprofen, and a snooze. I felt a lot better when I woke up, and feel I’m definitely on the mend. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Make a Difference Day

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

makeadiff.jpgMichigan Tech’s 2010 “Make a Difference Day” was yesterday. Alice and I were lucky enough to have some students assigned to our project at the Estivant Pines. I got busy sawing enough cedar lumber for completing one boardwalk, and starting two additional ones. I had staged the 3′ treads for the boardwalks at the pines before I left for my recent Grand Canyon hiking trip. Before I left, I had also sawed up enough 2x6s for the stringers for the project.

I got home early on the 22nd, and got to work loading the pickup with the 2x6s, as well as the necessary tools for the project. We got up early on the 23rd and headed north, with the red flag dancing merrily on the longest boards on the pile. We stopped at Slim’s Restaurant for breakfast and then drove the rest of the way up to the pines. One student was there already, so we put him to work unloading and organizing materials.

We were in pretty good shape by the time the rest of the students made it. In addition to Bill and Nancy Leonard, and Alice and I, there were 19 students in the group. It was an awesome couple of hours. Not only did they carry all the lumber for the 3 projects, they camouflaged it too. We then hiked both trails with the chainsaw and pulaski. I cut all the downed trees into chunks, and they moved the chunks off the trail for me. They also cleaned *all* the waterbars. We walked out of the pines that day leaving things much better than they were when we got there.

We’ve put together a few pictures of the days events which you can access by clicking HERE.

Hiked Out

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

hikedout2010.jpgThis is the picture of us starting our Grand Canyon hike at the trailhead of the Tanner Trail on Wednesday October 13. Notice how clean we are. When we hiked out 6 days later we were not so clean. I’ve started writing up our adventures, and hope to post them soon.

Meantime, I just got back home this AM. I rode the Indian Trails bus from Lansing to Baraga, and had Lynx Transport taxi me home from there. Franco was one happy puppy to see me. No one says I missed you quite like a dog 🙂

All My Bags Are Packed…

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I spent much of yesterday with my list getting everything ready for the trip. It took most of the day as usual. This is important, because I always forget something anyway, and the trick is to have some sort of backup plan for every crucial item. For example, I’m bringing my trusty MSR water filter/pump, a veteran of many a back country trip. Just in case, I pack a tiny bottle of iodine tablets so we can treat our water safely. I’ve carried that little bottle around with me over the years, and thankfully have never had to use it. I’d rather have it than not.

After this year’s Wilderness EMS course at NMU in Marquette, I spiffed up my first aid kit too. I had some left over antibiotic from a tooth problem a while back, and also brought a cravat in case of a fracture. Again, I’ll probably never use them, but I feel good having them along. That is the trick with backpacking. When you take your first step off the trail, you’d better have what you need for the duration of the trip, because there are no stores down there. But if you took everything you think you’ll ever need, that first step might be the last because you’d have 100# on your back.

I’m doing the food a bit differently this year. I bought a book called Backpack Gourmet by Linda Frederick Yaffe that stepped me through some good recipes and the proper technique to dehydrate them at home. I made a couple of batches for regular meals first, then dehydrated some and rehydrated them at home. They were good, and not so salty/fatty/expensive as the store bought freeze dried stuff. Plus there is less packaging going to waste too. I used ziplock vacuum bags. The vacuum part worked poorly for me, but the bags themselves seem pretty robust, which is a necessity on a long trip.

food.jpgI always lay everything out on the table before I put it away in my varmint-proof containers. This time, as often happens, I looked at the food and thought, “will this be enough for 2 hungry guys for 5 days?” I’m sure it will be because I’ve gone over and over this. But still you wonder. We’d survive in any case, but I’d hate to take the edge off our enjoyment by having insufficient food along.

I’m taking a cab to the Baraga Pines Convenience Center this evening, where I’ll catch the bus to Lansing. From there I’m being met by my brother, who’ll drive us to East Lansing where we’ll catch the Michigan Flyer bus to Detroit Metro, where we’ll catch a shuttle to our hotel. Next morning, the shuttle will take us back to Detroit Metro, where we’ll hopefully catch our plane and be on our way. I’m pretty excited.

The Printing Press

Friday, October 8th, 2010

My goodness, what a day!

Last night I put the finishing touches on the FOLK newsletter, and went to bed knowing all I had to do was get up, print, fold, and tab the sucker, and drive it in to the post office in Houghton, and I would be done with one more project. Easy as pie. Mmmm pie.

This morning start like so many others. I let Franko out of his kennel, and like usual he came out to greet me, and couldn’t put any weight on his front right foot! He got quilled several days ago, and we removed a couple of quills from one of his feet. His recovery from that mishap was remarkable until this morning. When he did walk it was with a heavy limp. It we tried to touch his front right foot, he growled. Shoot.

After we got Alice off to work, I started the printing process. The newsletter is double sided on 8 1/2 x 11″ paper. My printer is an old HP 4SI MX. This is the same kind of printer I used in the student computer labs I ran 15 years ago. I bought it surplus from MTU probably 8 years ago, and have used it heavily since then. It has a duplexer, which means I can print both sides of a page on one pass. That is if things work properly. Much of the time, the paper flies through the printer without a hiccup. Sometimes there is a hiccup or two. Sometimes, the printing process is like pulling teeth with a rusty pair of pliers.

I have about 280 pieces to print, and I started the project off in grand style. The printer is in the basement, so I leave the door to the basement open and listen fondly to the printer clicking away down there. Over the years I’ve learned what to listen for. And for the first 75 pages or so, the sounds were joyous. Then disaster struck. I could not get another single page to print. Every one I tried jammed. And I tried a lot of them. While this was going on, I was upstairs folding, stuffing, and tabbing the letters already printed. As soon as the vet clinic opened, I called them and begged them to see us today. They said sure come in at 10:00. We processed newsletters, while trying many different things to get more to print until about 9:15, when we loaded up and headed in to town. I brought along a package I had to drop off at the UPS store, so we left a bit early. When we got there, the sign on the door said they opened at 10:00. Sigh.

When we got to the vet, we were welcomed like usual. All the ladies at the vet clinic love Franko and he laps up all their attention. Today, he wasn’t himself, though. We got in to see the doctor and he poked and prodded, and said he thought the foot was acting like it had a fractured bone. So Franko went in for an x-ray. The picture indicated to the doc the possibility of a fracture, so he prescribed a pain med and an antibiotic. We stopped at Wal-mart on the way home to pick up some canned dog food to use as a meatball to deliver the medicine.

When we got home I got Franko to take his medicine, and went back to work on the newsletter. I found an option where I could print just the odd numbered pages, so did that and got every page 1 of the letter. Then I told the printer to print just page 2 of the document and use the manual feed. I did this because all the page ones came out upside down, and in order to get it printed correctly, I would have had to flip every page over. That was doable, but even then, with the pages curled, there would have been jams, so I decided to just do them a page at a time.

This went ok until I goofed up and fed some in upside down. Then I had to redo the ones I goofed up, figure out where I was in the process, and restart the whole thing. Each side of the newsletter has the member’s name and address information on it somewhere, so I can’t just print any page 2 on the page ones. They had to match up. So every 6th page I fed in by hand, I spot checked and miraculously, they all matched.

Once they were all printed, I brought them upstairs and restarted the folding etc. process. I should also explain that each page had some toner splotches along the edges. The splotches did not obscure the print, but they were very obvious. By now it was getting on to late afternoon. I put some Fresh Airs on my ipod player and folded and folded. About the time I ran out of return envelopes, Alice came home from work. She walked her into the house, looked at the printed newsletters, and exclaimed, “boy are these ugly!” She was referring to the toner splotches along the edges of each page. While I couldn’t deny that the weren’t as perfect as I’d like them to have been, they looked beautiful to me laying there all printed, after all the work I’d done. My answer to her? “Yes, they sure are ugly.”

folding.jpgAfter Alice changed her clothes and came downstairs, I ran out of return envelopes, one of which gets stuffed into each folded newsletter. I print the return envelopes on another laser printer that is even older than the one that I print the newsletters on. I use that one because it has a reliable envelope feeder. Let me put a hypothetical question to you… Do you think the printing of the return envelopes went smoothly?

It didn’t. I struggled to get even one of them to print properly for about a half hour. When they did start to come out of the printer as they should, they pretty much did that until I ran out of envelopes. This printer is attached to a computer that is upstairs, so I had to keep running up and down to deliver envelopes to the stuffing station, and to add more envelopes to the machine, and fix the normal jams.

With Alice’s professional help (she has helped me with nearly every newsletter I’ve ever printed) we got the folding done, and now all that is left is to take the tray to the post office, give them a check, and let them work their magic. I’d go and do it myself, but tomorrow is our chimney cleaning day with the fire department, so I’ll have to do that while Alice runs them into town for me. I nominate Alice for the Nobel prize in sweetiehood.

4 Rows o’ Garlic

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

garlic.jpgToday was one of those days. You know the kind I’m talking about. If you drop a rake on the ground, there is a 50/50 chance it will settle tines up or tines down. On days like today, they always settle tines up. And you won’t notice that fact until you step on the rake and wap yourself in the nose. Planting the garlic was the first project I accomplished today that didn’t cause me to hold some part of my body and dance around for a while. The potential was there, because I dig the holes for the garlic cloves with an heavy iron bar shown in this picture. The way things went for me today, I’m surprised I didn’t clunk my foot with the point of the bar, and then pull it out of the way and right up into my chin. But I didn’t.

I finally got the cleanouts for the 4 chimneys emptied today. Climbing up on the roofs and brushing out the chimneys is a project in and of itself, and often when I finish, I don’t do the last step and empty the “clinkers” out of the cleanouts. Today I got it done. Two of the four cleanouts had almost nothing in them. The third had a couple of shovel-fulls. The fourth was packed. It was so full that I’m thinking I may not have emptied it last year. It was packed such that when I cleaned it out, the clinkers didn’t fall down. I had to reach up there with my arm and scrape away at the clinkers with my fingers. I got up about as high as I could, but there was still more there, so I went out to the shop and grabbed a piece of flexible plastic tubing, which I shoved up the chimney and rattled around until all the rest of it fell down. How did I know it was all cleaned out? I have a special backpacker mirror I stick into the cleanout and angle up so I can see the opening at the top of the chimney. If it is square, I’m good. It was square.

I also did get the FOLK newsletter finished. I’ve been struggling with this thing for several weeks now, and I think I finally put it to bed tonight. Tomorrow I’ll print, fold, stuff, and tape them, then drive them to the post office. It is always a great feeling to get this project done.

A Gift From The Ignorance Gods

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

One of the longtime firefighters in our department lost his 86 year old dad last week. I was one of the first responders on the call, and had been there several times earlier this year for other calls. I learned at last night’s fire department meeting that the visitation/funeral would be this morning. So I decided to go to the funeral, and mix that with a trip to Copper Harbor to drop off the treads for the boardwalk project. Franko got to go along this time.

truck.jpgThe visitation/funeral was fine, and after that we headed north. I stopped at Peterson’s Fish Market for lunch, and learned the restaurant was closing for the season on the 8th of this month. We’ll miss those folks. Then we headed on up to the harbor. We managed to back the truck up between the MNA sign and the big boulder we placed in the middle of the trail to keep trucks out. Apparently, the boulder only keeps the faint-of-heart out.

spahn.jpgWhile I was unloading, a couple walked purposefully out of the trails and right up to me. I didn’t recognize them, but they recognized me. It was Judy Spahn and Bruce Wolck. Both knew Steve from his K-12 school days, and we had a nice chat. They asked about Steve, of course, and about the volunteer work I was doing for the pines. I talked them into posing for a picture at the kiosk at the trailhead. I learned they spend their summers in the Copper Country, and their winters in the Bahamas, where Bruce has a nice home.

Interestingly, while I was continuing my work up there, another couple came up that I knew. This was Nathan, who is a paramedic from the Bay Ambulance Service in Baraga, with whom I’ve made several runs. There were probably 5 groups of people coming and going while I was there, and I knew about half of them.

quill.jpgOn the way back home, Franko was resting his head on my lap and I was stroking his fur. I found yet another porcupine quill. When we got home, I had him lay down and we pulled it out like the couple of pros we were. He doesn’t even wince anymore.

Alice and I ate our supper in front of the computer screen as usual, and were watching what we thought was our last episode of “The Big Bang Theory” until season 4 comes out a year from now. We had gotten some scuttlebutt about what the last episode of season 3 would be, and when we came to the end, we realized that this was not the episode we thought it would be.

Now I want to make it clear to everyone that this is an educated household. Between the two of us we have 4 college degrees, several certifications, and numerous years as professionals in higher education. Upon careful examination of the main menu of the DVD we were watching, we noticed a menu selection labelled “NEXT.” This menu selection was not hidden on the page. It was probably in a 40 pt. font to boot. Clicking on NEXT, we found 4 more episodes of Big Bang on the DVD. This means that while we’ve watched the DVDs for all 3 seasons, we’ve only seen half the episodes. While we both felt pretty stupid, we were grateful to have such a bonus of excellent episodes to watch. Thank-you, Ignorance Gods!