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

May 6, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:20 pm

We have room for maybe 20 tomato plants in the space available in the greenhouse. Therefore, being a careful person by nature, I planted a few more tomato seeds than that in case some didn’t make it. Tomatoes, BTW, almost always make it. The seeds are such that no matter how careful you are, what looks like one seed can be two seamlessly welded together with tomato snot.

tomato.jpgI planted the tomato seeds weeks ago in one small flat with the goal of having maybe 40 plants. Today I repotted the plants from their small flat to larger cottage cheese containers that we’ve saved over the years for that purpose. It seemed to be taking a rather long time. I do have to say I indulged myself on more than one occasion by burying my nose into those plucky little plants. I really like they way they smell, and almost every experience I’ve had in life to which that smell is associated has been a good one.

By the time the plants were repotted, watered, and moved upstairs near the big windows, I counted them up. There are over 90 plants. I may have some spare tomato plants this year if you need some.

Bad news came over my email today. My Aunt Winifred, who is my Dad’s older sister, passed away. Our sympathies go out to Aunt Winifred’s family. Winifred and her husband Bob had a cottage on Pratt’s Lake in Gladwin, and we had a cottage just up the hill from them. As kids we Soldans spent much of every summer at the lake in Gladwin. To this day I think it was one of the best things my parents did for us. I had a nice group of friends and relatives up there. My Grandma also lived in Gladwin, so we were able to spend a lot of time with her we otherwise wouldn’t have. And then there was the lake. We were not a boating family, but my Dad did build us a nice dock with a diving board. Most of the kids in the neighborhood came out to our dock to dive off.

May 5, 2011

Ah Facebook

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 8:01 pm

Over the past couple of days, I was contacted via Facebook by a woman whose name sounded familiar. It turns out we lived within a few streets of each other during the K-12 years, I used to deliver newspapers to her house, and we were in at least one gradeschool year together. It also turns out she, like me, is also an environmentalist that has taken on big players who wanted to make money by mismanaging water resources. Unlike some of my friends, I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I surely do see the benefit of it. May the connections continue!

It was a day of changing weather. It started out blue and sunny, and ended up with lovely intermittent light rain. This is my favorite kind. It doesn’t necessarily keep you inside, and the plants love it. After supper Franco and I did our evening walk in the misty rain. We walked back to the sugar shack and checked on things, then back to the north boundary of the 40 acres. This is the area where I’ll be getting this year’s firewood, and I’ve been taking a trip out there now and then to plan my strategy for lengthening the farm trail to get the Scout and trailer out there to haul the logs back home.

The Scout still won’t start. We looked at it yesterday, and determined the coil had exploded. I had mistakenly left the key on after trying to start it the other day. I also left the battery charger on as well. There must have been an open circuit to the coil somewhere, because the combination of the above events did the coil in. I’ve ordered another one and it should be here in a few days. I hope it fixes it, because I really need it. The farm trails in the woods are starting to dry up, and it would be nice to get some work done out there before the bugs get too bad.

May 4, 2011

The Endless Ironies of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 8:37 pm

The fire hall for the Otter Lake Fire Department is located in downtown Tapiola, right next to the ball field. Ever since we moved here in the mid 70s, there have been signs on the side of the road across from the hall and ball field telling people not to park there because it was a fire lane. I’m guessing that during some popular softball games, people parked on the road blocking access, and making it hard for the firetrucks to maneuver if they needed to. Well, over the years, the signs rusted as steel signs will do. I noticed that none of the signs were even legible anymore, so I asked the township maintenance man if he could get me some new ones. I spend $9 on some galvanized nuts, bolts, and washers, and started putting them up. What a difference!

Three of the four signs went fine. I sprayed all the bolts with PB Blaster, and then wrenched the nuts off each one. They squeaked and squawked, but eventually came off. The new bolts were given a coating of “anti-seize” which should make the job easier for the next person that removes them. The fourth sign was installed using carriage bolts, which presents a rounded surface on one end of the bolt. It was impossible to get the rusty nuts off because I couldn’t get a wrench on the carriage end of the bolt.

So, I came back this afternoon with my acetylene torch set tied onto the back of my pickup, and proceeded to burn the bolts off. Here is where the irony comes in.

This is a volunteer firefighter spending his time installing signage to make the community safer because people will know not to park there. While burning off the bolts with the torch, some of the hot metal fell into the ditch and started a fire! By the time I noticed it, it was burring quite cheerfully in the ditch a few inches from my truck. I could picture the headlines: Ex-Firefighter Causes the Destruction of all of Tapiola With Unsafe Use of Tools!

I jumped off the truck and stomped out most of the fire. Then I remembered I had my 5 gallon backpack water extinguisher in the back of the truck. I carry it in the spring in case I arrive at a fire before any trucks arrive. I used about half the water I had inside to wet down the entire area where the fire was burning. So fortunately for me, the newspaper will have to get their headline somewhere else today.

till.jpgI also started the rototiller and gave a good tilling to both gardens. I always enjoy the first tilling of the year. We dump all sorts of stuff like ashes from our woodstove into the garden all winter, and come spring, it can look a bit tatty. Also, lots of dead foliage from last year’s garden is there too. Once over it with the tiller, and it looks so nice and rich and neat.

One other sure sign of spring… the wood ticks are out. I put the medicine on Franco which is supposed to discourage the ticks. They don’t seem too discouraged to me. I’ve also found several on me as well. I wish them no ill will, but by the same token, I do take offence when a fellow creature things my blood belongs somewhere other than in my body. So they wind up wrapped in a scrap piece of paper which is burned in the woodstove. I’m sure I’ll have some karma to pay for it someday.

May 1, 2011

Been a While

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 5:14 pm

At least I have been thinking about writing at the end of the day. The other night I was finishing things up and deciding whether to shut the computer off, and I thought I might better write something in the blog. My mind was blank. I couldn’t think of a single story to tell. Now we all know there are stories out there, but for some reason, none came to mind. I think the nightmare I had getting my domains moved from my stinker host to the wonderful folks I’m working with now took its toll. I got so frustrated by the way I was treated that I was taking it out on the blog. Well, I’m telling myself I’ll do better from now on. Especially since the springtime is such a fertile place for stories.

alicecrane.jpgIt was two Saturdays ago that Alice and I did our annual crane count. All across the upper Midwest, people get up before daylight and spend two hours watching for and recording any Sandhill Cranes they spot. For years now we’ve been parking just at the edge of a farmer’s field about 1/4 mile from our house. This year, the weather was cold. We both bundled up as best as we could, but standing still from 6:30 am until 8:30 am tests the mettle of even the best winter duds. We did see a pair of cranes flying about a quarter of a mile away from us, but that was it. No crane sounds at all. I think the cranes may have been as cold as we were.

tedcrane.jpgThe watch hands moved slowly that morning, and fortunately by the time 8:30 rolled around, I still had enough circulation in my hands to start the truck. We drove to our local restaurant and had a good breakfast with plenty of hot coffee. There is something about braving the elements that sharpens the appetite, and makes overindulging ok for a change.

Today was blustery and cold outside. No snow, but too cold for being out without winter gear. My friend Ryan came over the other day and we went through the Scout again to see if we could figure out why it wasn’t starting. We checked the timing and electrical, and all seemed find. The only conclusion we came to was to try the spark plugs. I happened to have a set, so I changed them today. The battery was low, so when I tried it, I didn’t have many turns before it died on me. The sounds were encouraging, and I’m hoping when the battery is off the charger, that I’ll have my farm vehicle back again. The projects have been piling up for it too. I’m glad we had relatively light snow this winter, because I had to move all our snow with the scoop.

One major project I hope to get to this summer is clearing a field east of the house for a larger fenced in garden. I’ve walked the place and I think it is the right place for the garden. There are a lot of Scotch Pine and Balsam Fir out there that I’ve planted over the years. I hate to just tear them out of the ground, but I think the ends will justify the means. This garden should be below the level of our front pond, which means I can use the plumbing that already exists to provide gravity watering to the garden. And I’m planning a 10′ high fence to surround the whole thing. Of course, I need to get going on the firewood project too, and it is always a temptation to sneak another project in front of the firewood. I fight that battle every year it seems. I’ll keep you posted.

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