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

November 20, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 7:59 pm

oldculvertAbout a year and a half ago the culvert under the road by our mailbox gave up the ghost. These things can fail in various ways, and this one chose to rot out from underneath. I think it had been rotten for a while, but we really didn’t notice it until the spring runoff of 2014, when about 1/3 of the road washed away. The road was still passable, but if you missed, your car would have fallen into a 4′ hole in the road.

The guys from the county road commission were very good about coming out and replacing the old culvert with a shiny new plastic one that probably won’t rust out in our lifetimes. The problem that still remains regards all the dirt that had been part of the road. It washed through the broken culvert and into another one that goes into our front pond. It deposited yard after yard of road dirt into the area of the pond where only water usually flows. It was a mess.

culvertAll that summer, I floated the idea to my friends with appropriate machinery that I’d be willing to pay them to dig out this mess. I must not have been forceful enough, because I had no takers. This summer I worked at it a bit harder, and did find a friend with an excavator with enough of a reach to do the job. He was too busy to do the work himself, but I found an operator the owner of the equipment trusted, and he agreed to do the job for me.

One thing led to another, and getting the equipment moved over here was delayed. I spoke with my operator friend the other day, and we talked about the possibility of still getting the job done this year. Note that we have had a very warm fall, so the possibility did exist.

As we talked about it, he asked me if I thought the discharge into the pond would handle 2016’s runoff. I told him I thought it probably would. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at.

Then he said, “I was thinking that in all that soft dirt, there are probably a lot of frogs hibernating.”

Not at all sure what this had to do with anything, I agreed with him that this might be a distinct possibility. Then it dawned on me. He was concerned that all that digging would probably kill all those peacefully sleeping frogs. He wondered about the next year’s spring runoff because he was thinking it might be better to postpone the operation until the frogs had awoken and gone about their froggy lives. When I understood, I wholeheartedly agreed to postpone the project. Who says heavy equipment operators don’t have tender hearts!

November 16, 2015

Tending the Soil

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 8:13 pm

drivewayOn my trip to town this morning, one of my stops was at the gravel pit to get a load of crushed concrete. I’ve been buying this stuff for a couple of years now to refresh my gravel driveways.

I’ve found that I achieve a certain Zen while shoveling gravel. My body works hard, so the blood is flowing, the lungs are pumping, but the brain doesn’t really have much to do. So the thoughts start to come, and sometimes they are nice thoughts. Today I was likening the spreading of the gravel to the preparation of the garden soil. By making the effort to prepare the soil, the plants will hopefully feel welcome, put down their roots, and eventually bear the fruit we’ll benefit from.

I thought about this driveway too. It is our “guest” driveway. Alice and I use the driveway that connects the garage to the street, while our company generally uses this other one. I spend time each winter plowing this driveway, so our guests will know they are welcome… that they can pull in confident that they’ll be able to get out. Especially during the “mud-time” of the year, having a firm foundation for our driveway gives one the confidence to pull in.

Some of the best times of my life have been proportional to the parking of certain vehicles in this driveway (you know who you are.) As shovel after shovel of gravel came off my truck, and as rake-strokes smoothed the bumps, I clearly saw that the preparation of the garden soil and the driveway gravel as one and the same. Where a seed lands is often a matter of chance. If it happens to land on hard weedy soil, its chances of bearing fruit are limited. If it lands on well tended soil, the fruit potential is all the greater. It is up to the gardener to make the difference.

November 14, 2015

Squirrels Climb Trees

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:26 pm

I’m an avowed tender-heart. But I have my limits. When we first moved out here, I hoped we could coexist with all the critters whose territory we were invading. And we’ve pretty much succeeded in this. Even those cute red squirrels got some attention from me. I used my hippie vibe energy magic waves to try to tell them you can live here as long as you don’t wreck anything. They seemed to hear the “live here” part, but not the wreck stuff. As they chewed through the insulation and damaged wires, I contemplated getting a gun as my neighbors had, but I just couldn’t bring myself to kill them.

The solution was live traps. We’ve had two of them, and the little guys can’t seem to resist a few tablespoons of sunflower seeds planted on the pressure lever inside the trap. Usually once I see a red squirrel rooting around under the feeders and put out the trap, I have the little guy within an hour. Then what?

I’ve chosen a secret location about 5 miles from our home that is as far away from anyone else’s home as possible. Franko and I load the trapped squirrel in the back of the truck and drive to our deserted spot. I then open the cage door, and out it shoots, eagerly looking for the nearest tree and safety.

Franko likes squirrels, and has a very poor record with them around the house. They are very fast, and can climb a tree before his nose is completely out the door. He still runs up the tree and looks up at the squirrel with a longing that is hard to describe. The squirrel, of course, chatters tauntingly at Franko from the safety of the branches.

Franco has learned that when we stop at the secret spot, that a squirrel will be released. And that it will be vulnerable. I try to wait until he is otherwise occupied until I release the squirrel, because once it runs out of the trap, it can’t always find a tree right away. Today I waited for my moment, opened the cage door, and the squirrel took off. Franko, being pretty quick himself, was there in a flash, and the squirrel, all 3 pounds of him (compared to 90 pounds of Franko) climbed the nearest tree that was available… me!

I didn’t actually see it, but I could feel it running up my pants, and around my back as Franko chased around. Finally the poor squirrel seemed to realize the mistake it had made, and jumped down and found a close-by tree to climb to safety. I have been compared to trees in my life (ie stately, tall, brilliant) but today was the first time I’d been mistaken for one. I felt quite honored.

November 7, 2015

Walking Around With Ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:56 pm

Although possibly large numbers of people have pondered this question, only a very few have asked it to me.

“Ted, where do you get your ideas for these blog posts, and how do you know when they are ready to type?”

I’ll save the rest of you the trouble of hunting me down to ask me, and just answer the question here. I walk around with them.

This works for story ideas, and for projects around the farm. I spot something that needs doing and that might be within my skill set, and I file it away. Next time I walk by it, some potential solutions may have presented themselves, and the project may even begin to bubble up the long job queue I maintain. And sometimes these ideas just drop out the bottom and are not heard from again (I wonder where they go?)

woodpileToday I finished a project that has been in the works most of the summer. I’ve had trouble with woodpiles falling over out at the maple syrup operation for all the years I’ve been doing syrup. I came up with a scheme to store the firewood in pallets so they can’t fall over. The first two I put out there, got a makeshift roof arrangement (the two on the right in the picture.) The two on the left are the newest, and have a much better roof system; one I walked around with for a couple of months. It just consists of a 2×4 (sawed on my sawmill from logs from the farm) down the center, and some boards forming a V down to both edges. The metal roofing came off our house. It has been stored in an old collapsed barn all these years, because I just knew I’d have a use for it. Now it can rain and snow, and I’ll have dry wood come maple syrup season.

It works the same for me with stories. I’ll toss an idea around for a while, and somehow I just know when it has the potential to be written down. I’ll often sit at the computer, and the story will almost write itself. This is not true, I think. I believe I’ve subconsciously gone through several drafts and finally sent a subconscious-to-conscious message that it is time to try to commit it to the screen. And most of the time it works too.

Occasionally I get busy enough that I’ll have an idea, and while I’m walking around, I’ll realize I have no clue what that idea was. It kind of drives me crazy because while I can’t remember what the idea was, I can remember that it was a pretty good one. OK, walking around with ideas doesn’t work every time.

November 4, 2015

Texting While Walking

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 11:03 pm

One thing I have never been guilty of is texting while driving. I don’t text much anyway; only to a select few people. If Alice is with me in the car when my text signal goes off, I’ll hand the phone to her. If not, I’ll either pull over or read it when I get home.

Yesterday evening I was walking Franco after supper… a ritual Franco and I have observed since he was a puppy. Since the end of daylight saving time, and because the tilt of the earth is trending away from the sun, these walks are in the dark. Besides dark, it was also misty and foggy. We’ve seen all sorts of weather on our walks, so we were undaunted. {If I had the power to do so, at this point I would start some ominous music, and begin to build it gradually}

As we were walking down the road, I remembered I needed to send a text to my sister. I got my phone out, and, what do you know? Two bars! This is great reception for the place where we live. I started typing the short sentence, and noticed my feet felt kind of funny. I was right in the middle of a crucial word… a word that could make or break the meaning of this important message, so I determined I’d finish that word.

When I looked up from my phone, I was about a step away from falling into a pretty steep ravine with a pool of water at the bottom of it. My jaw dropped. This was not a novel I was typing, just a short sentence. I got so flustered by this event that I stepped back onto the road, looked back down at the phone, continued typing, and walked in the wrong direction from home! When I finished the text and closed my phone, I realized I had no idea where I was. I had to stand there for a minute in the dark fog to puzzle out my location. When I figured it out and headed the right way down the road, I made a pact with myself. I will not text while driving ever. Period. I almost killed myself texting while walking; imagine if I’d had a steering wheel in my hands.

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