Rural Life in the UP of Michigan Some stories about life on 160 rural acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

January 30, 2011

Outsides and Auctions

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 8:51 pm

outfit.jpgAlice read the blog entry where I lamented not having a picture of myself in lumberjack attire, so she kindly caught me on the way to the woods this afternoon and made me stand there for some pictures. Franco, ham that he is, also posed with a little coaxing.

It was cold today, so I didn’t stay out too long… about a chainsaw gas tank’s worth. I got two trees limbed and 5 logs bucked up and ready for skidding. I still have two trees hung up that I’ll pull down when I go out there with the dozer. Every time after I work in the woods making logs, I marvel when I see a fully loaded logging truck going down the road. I do appreciate the labor that goes into that pile of logs.

I posted some auctions on eBay for the first time in what seems like years last week. They’ve been ending for the past couple of days now, and I’m happy to be moving some stuff out the door. On eBay the buyer and seller are encouraged to rate each’s experience with a mechanism called “feedback.” One item I sold generated the funniest feedback I’ve ever gotten… the buyer said he, “cried with joy” over the transaction. Now that is a happy customer!

January 29, 2011

Big Honker

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:48 pm

I try not to fell trees when I’m home alone during the week, so I had some pent up tree felling feelings when Saturday rolled around and Alice was home. I have all but one of the previous batch of spruce logs sawed into lumber, and am anxious to get another batch of logs on the rack for some more sawing.

I haven’t figured out a way to get a picture of myself waddling out to the woods yet, but I hope I do soon, because I must look pretty strange. I have my big Carhartt jacket on, an orange chook, and my logging helmet with hearing muffs on my head. I wear my big sorrels, and my logging chaps. Then I sling my chainsaw over my shoulder and walk out to the job. I don’t think I could run in that getup to save my life, which is something I think about frequently out there. If a tree decided to fall the wrong way, I make double sure I have a clear path in at least two directions just in case.

I had my eye on 4 trees for this afternoon’s work. One big, one small, and two in between. I sure do find parts of this project discouraging. The spruce trees on our property were its glory. Tall and straight, and probably growing here since the place was actively farmed, which must be 70 or more years ago. For some reason this past year we’ve lost so many of them…

notched.jpgI cut the small one down first, because it was in the way of the big one I had to cut. This picture shows the big one notched and ready to fall. This is a critical place in the process, because besides the notch, I’ve back cut as much as I dare, and the tree is still standing there. It is tempting to keep cutting at this point, but then you lose the hinge, and the tree can then fall whatever way if feels like. You probably can’t see in this picture, but I have the small felling wedge I carry in my pocket pounded into the back cut at this point, but the tree is still stubbornly standing there.

treedown.jpgSo I used the chainsaw to cut a wedge out of one of the spruce branches lying around and pounded that in. I had to do it several times until finally I heard a snap and got out of the way. While the first picture didn’t give much of an idea how big this tree was, the second one shows the scale a bit better because the chainsaw with its 20″ bar is sitting on the stump. I’ll get some nice lumber out of this tree. Tomorrow I’ll hopefully get them limbed, bucked to length and skidded to the sawmill site.

alicepie.jpgI forgot I had this picture in my camera until I downloaded them. Alice had a birthday this week, and she and I both like pie better than cake. I unfortunately wasn’t able to be home when she got home from work on her birthday day, so I made this pie and had it out waiting for her when she got home. I wasn’t sure how I was going to decorate it, so I just started carving at the crust with a kitchen knife, and I’d say it came out pretty well. It was good too!

January 27, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 3:09 pm

I’ve been kind of lazy about writing lately. What spurred me into sitting down and getting some thoughts on paper was a comment I received today. It got me to thinking about the two types of personalities; the praisers and the discipliners. Of course, no one fits neatly into one or the other, but I think it fairly accurately explains the dichotomy we see in our political system. The praisers believe we (yes, I’m a praiser) make the world better by working together, and by saying, “nice job” when it is deserved. The discipliners seem to believe that things get done by saying nothing when they’re satisfied, and screaming bloody murder when things go poorly. Praisers think about the group, and discipliners think about themselves. So hearing something nice about the blog struck a chord in me that chimed nicely.

On an after-supper walk this past weekend, Steve, Franco, and I were lucky enough to observe the aurora. I’m out walking in the dark quite often in the winter, and this is the first one I’ve seen in a good long time. It is a good way to injure yourself, because while looking up in the sky, you can walk off the road and into the ditch.

I started another class for firefighting last night. This one is Firefighter II, which is the second in a series. I’ll be busy Monday and Wednesday evenings through about mid-March. I hope I’ll be able to keep up with everything during the maple sap run, which is heaviest in March. One nice picture of heaven is having lots of things to do that you enjoy. I guess I’m in heaven by that definition.

I watched the State of the Union address on youtube yesterday afternoon. After the 8 years of agonizing addresses during the Bush years, I thoroughly enjoyed most of what President Obama had to say. I laughed out loud several times as I watched John Boehner in the background. There is something about his face that reminds me of an alcoholic that really really needs a drink. I laughed watching him decide when to applaud and when not to. My favorite “hands in the lap” moment was when the president suggested it was time to repeal the billions of dollars of tax breaks the oil companies currently receive, and instead spend that money on renewable energy. VP Biden’s body language said, “Oh yeah!” Boehner’s said, “God, I need a drink.”

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call from the dentist telling me I had an appointment for a cleaning and exam the next morning at 8:15. Yikes! I had no idea this was coming up. Fortunately my schedule was open. I got to drive to Hancock during morning rush hour, which brought back memories of my working days. I can safely say I haven’t missed it a bit. The hygienist I have is a real sweetheart. She is such a gentle person, and has chosen a profession in which she jabs people in sensitive areas with curly pointed instruments. Fortunately, one of my good habits is regular flossing, so my gums are used to it, and as I almost always tell her, the job she does on my teeth feels great. She told me today that I am one of about 3 patients that have told her that is how they feel. The rest dread the experience, and from what she has told me, often have trouble sleeping the night before their appointment.

After that quick trip to town, I drove to Tapiola for breakfast at our local restaurant. For the past several days, I’ve been trying to reduce the junk I’ve gotten into the habit of eating. Oatmeal for breakfast fills you up (briefly) but quickly becomes a breakfast you don’t look forward to. Having a real eat-out breakfast and all the hidden butter it entails, is a pleasure. It kind of reminded me of the last backpacking trip I took to the canyon. On one of the hikes, I was running low on water, so would take frequent sips of water into my dry mouth, and swish it around as much as possible. It almost immediately disappeared down my throat, however. That is what happened to breakfast this morning. Lubricated by the extra fat in the food, that lovely breakfast disappeared down my throat just like a loon swallowing a fish.

January 22, 2011

Lightening Our Load

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 11:09 pm

After our television died this summer, we’ve rethought the entertainment center that sits in the middle of our livingroom. Actually, it is a wooden box with shelves that I put together from wood scraps some year ago, until I got around to making a nicer one. Somehow that project got back burnered. Now the TV that used to sit on top of the center is gone, and the electronic components that are still housed inside are largely underutilized, we’re thinking the whole center can go.

We used to watch lots of VHS tapes through that system, and realized that there were still some tapes we’d like to be able to watch. I looked around online and found there are hardware/software solutions that will accept output from a VCR, and input it to a computer that can record whatever it sees. I wound up buying a Diamond One Touch, and went to work recording the tapes we wanted to keep. This has turned into a lengthy project, as there are quite a few tapes.

Once the data are taken off the tapes, I use the Windows DVD Maker software to burn a DVD, and then I file it away in my Dacal CD Changers. You can fit a whole lot of DVDs in the same space that just a few VHS tapes takes. The Dacal allows me to store information about the DVDs in a database allowing me to search for what I want when I want it.

Today I got several more tapes copied, and threw out a bunch of stuff that we decided we’d no longer use. I’ve been carting VHS tapes off to Goodwill for the past few weeks, and will continue doing that. I also put some tapes up on eBay today. I can tell you it feels good to be lightening our load. When you stay in the same place for decades, things do pile up. Whether you use them or not, your eye seems used to them occupying their space. It is a good thing to take a critical look at your stuff once in a while, and to get rid of what isn’t being used anymore.

Once everything is gone through, we’ll be able to take the entertainment center apart and reclaim some space in our livingroom. I’m looking forward to that day.

sundog.jpgWe’ve had cold weather the past week or so. It was a very nice sunrise this morning, complete with what we call a sundog. Rarely it goes all the way around the sun. Today’s was more typical in that it had arcs on both sides of the sun. I got a picture of one of the two arcs this morning. I’m told they are formed when there are fine ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. There is a lunar counterpart called a moondog too. These are harder to get pictures of.

January 19, 2011

Odds and Ends

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:44 pm

I think I’m coming down with something, because my energy has been low the past couple of days. I did get out yesterday evening to go to the firehall for training on our SCBA systems. We practiced putting them on and taking them off and also worked on filling them as shown in the next picture:

Fellow firefighters watching and learning how to fill our air tanks

I also emptied the ashes from our big Jotul stove. If I think of it, I like to put them in one of the gardens if possible for the nutrients they contain. Here I made a spiral pattern in the snow that came out kind of nice looking.

This picture shows a log that has been converted into 2x4s. If you have ever wondered where your lumber comes from, this picture gives you a pretty good idea.

Here is a batch of 16′ 2x4s that I’ve piled on an existing lumber pile. I’ll put 5 “stickers” perpendicular to these boards, and then put on another row of 10 boards on top of that when I get them sawed.

January 16, 2011

Walk Stick

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:25 pm

Our after dinner walk each evening has its props. Franco’s is definitely his stick. I usually let him out before I’m completely ready, because once he sees me start getting ready, he goes in circles. When he gets out he races around the house until he locates the last place he left his current favorite stick. Then, when I come outside, he greets me stick-in-mouth.

Tonight started out typically. We commenced our walk and he dropped stick for me fairly close to the house. Most of the time I throw the stick for him in the direction we’re walking, so he’ll often cheat the distance, like a runner at first hoping to get a jump on stealing second. Now and then I’ll spin quickly and throw it the other direction, making him have to make up the distance he cheated. Tonight I did the old spin-aroo on him. Unfortunately my throw went wild because of the mittens I had on, and the stick got stuck in a tree.

This common tragedy often does not end well. Our conifer branches are so thick that the stick is often lost in the upper branches. Tonight I shined my headlamp up the tree and walked around it. I was just about to give up when I spotted it. It was probably 17′ off the ground. I told Franco we could probably get it for him, but that we needed a poker. He looked at me with such loving trust that I walked into the garage and looked around for one. I came up with a boat hook; an almost perfect tool for the job.

We walked out to the offending tree, me in a more or less straight line, and Franco in circles roughly in the same direction. We looked for the stick and couldn’t find it! It took us about 5 minutes to spot it again. It was laying on a couple of branches almost parallel to the ground. I got under it and reached up with the boat hook. There was no way I could reach it, so I cocked my arm and underhanded it up the tree, hoping to nudge the stick out of its crotch. The very first toss, it arced up to the stick and hooked itself onto the stick, and stuck up there. If there were an Olympic stick hooking event, I would have won the gold with that toss. The handle of the boat hook was now out of my reach even if I could still jump.

My next response was predictable if you know me at all… I stood out there and laughed out loud. I didn’t quite fall on the ground laughing, but laugh I did, loud and long. Wiping my eyes, I walked back into the garage and found a 10′ section of 1/2″ plastic pipe and brought it back to the site. I was just able to reach the stick with the pipe if I stood on my toes. The fact that the boat hook was holding it down against the tree crotch made it difficult to move. I poked and prodded for about 5 minutes until finally the stick fell. Franco was happy!

Unfortunately the boat hook stayed in the tree. It was now hooked on the branch that formerly held the stick. Franco looked at me as if to say, “what are we waiting for? We’ve got the stick so lets WALK.” I poked the bottom of the boat hook several times with the plastic pipe I had until it fell down. We put the stick pokers away and continued with our walk.

January 14, 2011

Icing a Joint

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 11:05 pm

My Mom and I exchange email almost every day. Yesterday I told her my knee was sore and I “iced it.” She wrote back to tell me that she had never heard of this, and wondered if it didn’t make a mess when the ice melted. I decided it might be useful to write down the steps involved in this marvelous treatment for joint pain.

The first step is to have the proper equipment. Years ago ice bags were use, which had a removable cap on top through which ice cubes were placed, after which the cap was replaced. This worked ok, except that the cubes were so big that the bag did a poor job of getting the cold on the joint. Other methods involved using plastic bags of frozen peas, which worked better but defrosted the peas.

The method I’ve used for years is a product called a “hot cold pack.” It is an inexpensive sealed plastic pouch with a gel inside that when frozen retains the cold for a half hour or so. These are purchasable in most pharmacies.

The cold packs in the freezer

You are cautioned not to put the cold pack right next your skin, so I use a kitchen towel. In this picture, I have everything laid out for icing my left knee.

On the very bottom layer, I place a large handkerchief folded across the diagonal. On that I place the first cold pack. Next to my leg goes the towel. I then wrap the towel around my leg and put the second cold pack in place.

Then I bring both ends of the handkerchief together and tie a square knot.

I tie it tight enough so I can move around a bit if I need to without the whole thing coming apart. Then I make myself comfortable for about 20 minutes.

If the pain you are feeling in the offending joint is due to swelling, cooling it with ice may just do the trick for you. It is sure worth a try and it costs a lot less than the many drugs we’re encouraged to try.

January 12, 2011

Two By Fours

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:23 pm

I’ve had a pretty good run lately in the negative headache department. It surely feels good to have ideas and the energy to do something about them day after day. Today was my trip to town. I started off by stopping at my neighbor’s home to pick up a Lazy Boy chair they didn’t want anymore. It was too nice to throw away, but they had no way to haul it, so they asked if I knew of anyone that might like one. I asked around and learned the Calumet Theater would like it for the fly loft. All I had to do was get it up to Calumet, figure out a way to haul it up to the loft (about 30′ from the stage floor,) haul the old chair down from the loft and dispose of it.

So around 7:30 I pulled my truck into the neighbor’s driveway with my 2 wheel cart. After some tugging and grunting we got out out onto the porch, and from there I was able to wheel it out to the truck, and lift it onto the bed. Then I tarped it, covered it with a cargo net and headed to the Feedmill Cafe for breakfast. It was just me and one other guy at the restaurant, and we had a nice visit while we ate. Then I took off for town. I arrived at the theater just in time, and between me and the theater manager, we got the chair off the truck and onto the stage floor. Then I headed up to the loft and sent down the service line. My partner tied the chair onto the line and sent encouraging words up to me as I grunted on the line and hoisted the chair.

In this picture the chair is about eye level to me in the loft, but is probably 35′ above the stage floor just a few feet from where I’m standing. My challenge at this point was to spread the ropes aside so I could squeeze the chair between them, then lower it to the ground, untie it, and put it in its new home.

Here the chair is tastefully arranged in its new (color-coordinated) space. One bonus… when I hauled the old throwaway chair down to the stage, a quarter fell out of the crack. I scooped it up.

I forgot to take a picture of the old chair in order to give you an idea what a massive upgrade this furniture swap was. I finally remembered to snap a picture when I dropped it off at the Waste Management trash compactor this morning.

After I got home and liberated a joyous dog, I put away the groceries and got my work duds on. We fired up the sawmill and attempted to make some lumber out of the logs I’ve been hauling. I got two fairly good sized logs done this afternoon after about 2 1/2 hours of work.

One reason it took so long is the sawmill has been sitting for a while now, and there are always kinks to work out. As you can see, I got some pretty nice 2x4s from these logs.

The new 2x4s are the whiter colored ones on top. I think I got 23 done today. I think I’ll need another 100 10′ ones and about 40 16′ ones for the fenced in garden project I’m working on.

January 11, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:48 pm

Today I decided to skid the logs I’ve been making for the past few days. I wanted to get them on the rack so I can start making the 2x4s I’ll need this coming summer for the fenced-in garden I hope build. I started with the two big trees I took down along the power lines that had such an unanticipated consequence the other night.

Here I’ve pulled the tree down that the power company topped for me, and have branched and bucked it. I’ve backed up to the edge of the woods and have payed out the winch cable and wrapped the chokers around the logs from the other tree I cut down. Once these are out of the woods, I unhook and rehook so I can skid the logs back to the rack.

Here I’m skidding the logs down the road to the rack. My dozer is not fast, so I usually have plenty of time to contemplate as I’m hauling loads. Franco can not tell the difference between me walking, and me driving the dozer, so he continually drops his stick right in front of the dozer hoping I’ll throw it for him. If I were good enough with the bucket, I could probably flip it up in the air for him, but I usually just run over it.

Once both loads (about 9 logs) were skidded up to the sawmill area, I attached the forks to the bucket and positioned the dozer in front of the logs. Using a canthook, I rolled the logs onto the forks, lifted them up, drove over to the rack, and then dumped them. When it comes time to saw these logs, I’ll roll them one by one onto the mill (usually by hand, but sometimes with the canthook) and cut them up.

January 10, 2011

Sometimes They Fall Where They Shouldn’t

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:07 pm

Yesterday I was doing some more work in the woods on the dead spruce trees. I had two large ones fairly near the big power lines that form the eastern boundary of our property. They were joined to a single stump. I cut the smaller of the two first and it went right where it should have. I branched and bucked it, and had enough gas in the chainsaw to work on the other one.

As I looked this one over, I decided that it could fall in an arc of about 300 degrees without hurting anything. If it fell onto the power lines, it would be bad. These are not just residential lines; they are transmission lines that carry tens of thousands of volts. They are high up and have a corridor of cleared trees all around them for good reason. This fall our fire department got a call for a tree that blew onto this same set of lines. The tree exploded in flames.

Sizing this tree up, I located the most likely direction it would fall, and spent probably a half hour cutting a small dead tree out of the way, and piling up the branches that were in the way. In the chainsaw training I’ve had, I learned you need to make sure you have a couple of clear paths of escape when the tree starts to go over.

tree.jpgI notched the tree so it would fall south, and then did my back cut. Things were going fine. I watched the gap open up which told me the tree was falling, so I quickly got out of the way. After the fall was over, I turned around and beheld a nightmare. The tree fell exactly east, directly toward the power lines. Fortunately, there were some other trees between it and the lines, which stopped the tree from falling all the way onto the lines. I’m sure I stood there for some time with my mouth open. Then I gathered up my gear and moved quickly away from this place. I felt the tree could fall any minute, and if it touched the wire, I didn’t want to be anywhere near.

I moved as quickly as I could with the saw on my shoulder and all my protective gear on. I got to the garage and put everything down, then walked inside and called UPPCO. It being Sunday afternoon, I think I got someone that was pretty new at the job. She was very calm, which helped calm me down a bit. After I explained everything to her (it took a while) she prepared to end the conversation by saying, “someone will be out there within 3 days.”

I told her I thought she didn’t understand the gravity (ha!) of the the situation. Were the tree to fall and tough the line, the tree would either burst into flames, or tear the line down, or both. Since these lines essentially power the whole Keweenaw, I thought maybe waiting up to three days was waiting a little too long. “Let me talk to my supervisor,” she said.

tree2.jpgWhen she came back she asked for my phone number. She said I could expect a call soon from the emergency crew. “That’s more like it,” I thought to myself. Sure enough, a guy called me back in about 10 minutes for instructions on how to get out here. I told him I could sent him a picture of the tree so he could determine for himself how bad it was. He said that would be great so I did. I never heard from them again, but I can tell you that trucks and lights went by until almost 11:00 pm last night. When I looked things over this morning, I saw evidence of a tracked vehicle driving up to the tree, and the dangerous sections of the tree cut up and on the ground.

I’m glad to report this story had a happy ending. It was exceedingly bad luck that the tree fell 90 degrees from where I told it to, but very good luck that nothing else bad happened.

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