The Locals are Back

For the past few weeks, the snowbirds have been flying and driving south for the cold season. For some around here, their trek was not too far south, such as Pennsylvania or Ohio, but for others it has been a true heading south, to places like Tucson, AZ, Houston, TX and Okeechobee, FL. I still cannot see myself heading south for the entire cold season, but I could see myself getting away for a week or two sometime in February and I could easily get away for the entire month of April. I suspect that when Grace has left the house and Nora is retired, we will be doing just that. For now we stay and tough it out, occasionally taking the spring break trip.

For some locals, their appearance has just started to take place. They are a much quieter neighbor, mostly keeping to themselves and only swinging by to grab a bite to eat. Most of these locals are actually around all year long, but are even more strict in their ways of keeping to themselves. The other morning, I was looking out one of the picture windows in our living room and happened to spot one of these locals. Some of the ladies of this clan have actually been seen out and about for a couple of weeks, but the gentlemen of the group have only just begun to hang out under the apple trees or other sources of food. That was a pretty healthy 8 point buck and yesterday Nora spotted a 6 pointer. 

It’s actually quite rare to see buck so close to a residence during the daylight. At least here in the Keweenaw. The doe’s are much less shy about being close to human dwellings and the bucks hormones are what is driving them to do what they are doing right now. In around two months or so, that drive will go away and they will go back into hiding. Also dropping their antlers, which makes it difficult to tell the males from the females. I have a feeling that both that 8 point and the 6 point will not make it through the main hunting season that starts November 15th. A buck that is not afraid to wander close to where humans live during the day is not a very smart one. Or, perhaps I have it all wrong. They are super intelligent and know that we are still a few weeks away from the 15th and will go into hiding then!

It is amazing and wonderful how quiet the neighborhood is. Not that I don’t like my human neighbors. Quite the opposite. This is an amazing community, one like I have never been part of before in all of my life. Everyone is respectful of each other and are quick to offer a hand, even if not asked. We also have such good times at our picnics, pot lucks and bonfires. The ladies plan to resurrect the quilting club and the Jacobsville Gent’s club is alive and well. In any case, I do love the solitude of Jake in the cold months. Seems like you have the entire place to yourself. The quiet roads become even quieter and if you listen carefully, you can hear yourself think. There is just such a relaxing feel to things once the summer sun cools.

Speaking of the cooling, we have cooled to where we should be this time of the year and Calumet saw their first snowflakes of the season on Friday and while letting the dogs out before bed last night, I got to be part of Jake’s first flakes of the season. I tried to take a few pictures of the flakes falling, but the camera just could not pick them up. So I tried a short video and for whatever reason, the video setting did catch the flakes falling from the sky. No accumulation, just a broken layer of slush on the windshield of my truck this morning. None the less, those first flakes of the season bring such joy to my heart and excitement for all the winter goodness to come!

There currently is some accumulating snow seen for much of the lake effect snow belts around Halloween. What would a Halloween in the Keweenaw be without accumulating snow?!

The only other items I have to share are that: 1) I will be starting up the winter forecasts by November 15th, sooner if there is a meaningful snow storm possible for the Midwest. 2) I will be moving the writing of the Journal back to Sunday next week. The Monday date is better in the summer when the girls do not have to get up early Monday and that gives me more time with them on Sunday. So be sure to check in a day earlier next week! 

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

Settling Dust

I’m pretty sure this will be a short one. Last week was pretty busy with getting the new Discussion Board going and also putting out the seasonal outlook. My mom is also still here and will be headed home the day after next. Even though she has said she will be fine and I can go about my regular duties, I have chosen to spend most of the day with her and not leave her alone in the house.

The leaves are in the process of falling now. Some areas appear to be nearly bare, while others are about half bare. The weather has still been much more like September than October. Today we look to warm to around 65 and tomorrow are suppose to hit the low 70’s. That will be it as far as warm weather goes the rest of this week and we might even have a bit of wet snow fly by the weekend. The typical, early season lake effect/enhanced stuff, where the higher terrain away from the lake has the best chances and others near the lake almost no chance. It would be pretty cool to see the first flakes and depending on my schedule and where the closest flakes are flying, I may take a road trip to catch them.

The “snowbirds” are heading south one-by-one now. A few left Jake in the last 10 days, another left this morning and I know of some others leaving in the next week or so. It’s been interesting to live here and experience the departure and arrival of those that are only here during the warmer months. I knew it went on all across the Keweenaw, UP and Northwoods, but most of my neighbors in Lake Linden and then when we were up outside of Mohawk were year round residents. It’s almost like a mini season itself, only not as well defined as the ones you would find in a calendar. 

I am taking advantage of these two beautiful days to get the pool put away. It has been mostly drained for about 3 weeks, but the pool pump cannot get all of the water out and I have to use a submersible pump to get the final 5-6 inches out. I am down to about 3 inches right now and plan to have it empty before my mom takes us all out to dinner this evening. Then tomorrow will come the disassembly and packing up and I will be left with one outdoor chore to do, cut and store some wood for our fireplace and one that needs to be done before the real snow flies and that is putting the blower on the front of Big Red. 

Of course there will still be leaves to get up and one or two more grass cuttings, but I guess if they did not get done until the spring, it would not be the end of the world. I am really hoping for the day that we can get a pool that does not have to be taken down. I ALMOST had Nora convinced this year, but then she wisely talked me out of spending that amount of money that needed to go to other things.

I can’t really remember anything else to talk about, so I guess I will end it here. Have a great week everyone and maybe, just maybe, I will have some snow shots for next week!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

Crazy

The weather that is. I’m not going crazy, already made that trip and it sure is nice once you get there! The mild and at times warm temps just will not let go. In the past month, we have had way more days with highs in the 70’s than in the 50’s, with the vast majority of them in the 60’s. We have also had a fair amount of sunshine. There have been some rainy days and we have gotten enough rain to significantly reduce the moisture deficit accumulated over the summer. All the grass is green and the floor of the woods is remaining damp almost through the entire day. That is important stuff this time of the year, as it can be a real fire risk as the leaves fall and all that dead vegetation is on the ground.

As for the leaf situation. Most of them are still in the trees where I have traveled. I have not been south of Houghton in a couple of weeks, but from Houghton north the trees still have most of their leaves on them. The color show is now past peak in most areas. I think it was one of those seasons where the colors were OK in spots and really good in others. Most of the pictures I have seen with really good colors in them were from the interior woods, meaning a logging road or recreational trail. 

The colors have been quite good on Jacobsville Rd this season. Unlike our situation when we lived in Keweenaw County, most of the trees on our property down here in Jacobsville are conifers, with a few birch and even fewer maples. So the color show outside our windows is not like that at our old residence. However, if you look a bit harder, there are some cool things to see color wise. We have some sort of a vine that grows off to the side of the house and it climbs a balsam tree. In the autumn it’s leaves turn a very pretty shade of red and contrast nicely with the other objects around it. We also have some golden raspberries that grow in the garden out back. They ripen in autumn and this autumn they just keep producing due to the mild temps! They are the sweetest raspberries I have ever tasted and one of these years we will have to make some jam out of them.

My mom is up staying with us for a few weeks and she and I took to the roads to take in the colors last Thursday. I have to say that I was surprised that our venture did not produce loads of beautiful colors. As mentioned, there were some great areas and other areas where, for one reason or another, the colors were not as magnificent as I was hoping for. One of the things that might have been handicapping us was the fact that we were touring during the middle of the day and the colors pop better when the sun is lower in the sky. However, the drive up the Garden City road did provide for some pretty sights.

Another road that usually never disappoints is the Eagle Harbor cross cut road, but this go around we hit it too late. many of the leaves had already come off the trees. Strange, as the distance between the last two shots was probably only 5-7 miles as the crow flies. Nor are they that much of a difference in elevation or proximity to the lake. We also did not have as much time as we normally would because Nora and Grace were at a camp, with Bleau and Kashi at home alone. So we did not get up to Copper Harbor or even go into the covered drive, but we did shoot up Gratiot Lake road to see what the colors were like in that neck of the woods. All in all, I’d say they were pretty darn good. The height of the sun washed out some of the colors, but it’s always cool to see the contrast between the autumn colors and the blue of the lakes. We did shoot down the lake shore to take in the views across the lake itself.

Nora and Grace both returned Friday afternoon and then Saturday was our 17th wedding anniversary! Nora said it felt more like 25…not in a bad way! I think I know what she meant! Anyway, my mom treated us to an early dinner and then once we got back to Jake, Nora and I headed to the beach for some alone time. It was a VERY enjoyable time. We had the place to ourselves most of the time. The weather was very nice and it’s kinda rare that Nora and I just get to spend time totally alone together. We even managed to sneak in a pretty good selfie. She is such a babe and I am extremely fortunate to have had her in my life for the past 19 years.

So out on front of us, the small waves lapped up against the beach, while just off to our right, the sun slowly fell until it disappeared behind the horizon. The beacon illuminated on the south entry light and it was about as peaceful as it could get. We both remarked at how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place. Sometimes it feels as though we are living in a romance movie or something. The truth is actually better than that and we both know it and do not take it for granted. 

Not much else happening around here. I have not been as busy working on the shop and office the past 2 weeks with my mom being here. She will be here for just over another week and then I will be able to get back on things. I am still hoping to get my seasonal outlook produced by the end of this week, but I make no promises with my limited free time right now. I actually could make the guarantee, but I also was hoping to do a video of it and was planning that video to kick off the new Youtube channel I will have starting this season. It’s the video production that I am concerned about not having ready yet. 

I do have one more photo to share with you before going. It was taken last Tuesday morning, up the road at the north end of Jacobsville Rd. Just another magical moment from the land of the Keweenaw.

Good Night from the Keweenaw..
JD

Was there the whole time.

I have to confess, I would be a perfect case study for instant gratification. All one has to do is take a look around our property and see the tools and toys to know that I am not a penny pincher at al. I suppose I do have at least a bit of an excuse in the fact that I have faced many do-or-die situations in my life. At current count there have been 14. I even keep a list on my phone of the instances (all medical) that I have been in a situation where I needed that medical procedure or treatment, or I was dead There are even two instances where I was not “clinically” alive anymore and was brought back. Sorry, I have no “tunnel with a light at the end stories, but I do believe the folks that speak of them.

Some might think that it is morbid or depressing to keep such a list. I do it to remind me of what I have had to fight through and survived. It helps me to have the confidence to face new challenges, be they medical or otherwise and also reminds me of how blessed I am to still be here.

The point is, I have a hard time holding back on things that I think would be fun or useful in my life. I am by no means a financially wealthy man, so there are times when I cannot act on my impulses and Nora is good about keeping me from throwing us into bankruptcy! So there are times I have to wait to make the purchase or make an improvement to the house.

I think a lot of you reading this can identify with what I have said, but what about having to wait for something to come that is inevitable? Like a baby to be born, or to be released from the hospital, or sunrise on the opening day of firearm deer season, or…this will hit home with A LOT of you…the first snowmobile trip of the season? Seems like it will never get here! Especially when you see pictures or watch videos of others playing in the snow before you get to.

Delayed joy. A very difficult thing to deal with for a lot of us. Why do we have to wait, especially while others are having the time of their life? Sure it can put a smile on our face to see a sled riding down a pristine trail or through snow so deep that it flows over the windshield and cakes onto the rider who is standing up while riding. But there is also a tinge of jealousy behind that smile. I know I have dealt with it, the year I broke my leg in early February and watched it snow nearly every day I was laid up. Or the past 4-5 years when my health kept me from doing much riding at all. It’s been a difficult pill to swallow.

I do have some tricks I have learned over the years and a big one is to stop focusing on the things you don’t have and focus on the things you do. No matter what your situation is, there is always joy to be found. This autumn as I have been driving to and from town, I have watched the trees turn from deep green to pale green to shades of orange, yellow and red. I know I go on and on about the magnificence of the color change up here, so I will spare you the tourism pep talk. However, I never grow tired of the change and am amazed every year. So as I drove down Jacobsville road today, admiring the colors about 70% changed, it hit me that those colors are ALWAYS there. At least while the leaves are on the trees and growing. It’s the death of the leaves that causes the dominate green color from the chlorophyll to go away and reveal the beautiful colors lying in wait for their turn to shine.

I have known this fact for many, many years, so it is not an earth shattering revelation for me. However the fact that the beauty is always there and I just need to be patient and it will always show is now a new reminder for me to be patient. That things will change, if I just am patient. 

As for the color change, I have not been all over this great peninsula, but I have seen pictures and gotten reports that much of the inland areas south of Houghton hit peak this weekend. Sunday was a very rainy day up here, but without a lot of strong wind, so my guess is that the leaves have not yet been stripped from their branches, but if you want to see the colors there, best not wait very long at all. I have been to Houghton/Hancock and Calumet today. The colors there are nearing peak, but I would say that this Thursday through the weekend will be their peak. Some areas will be a little later than that. The Jacobsville area being one of them, although, when I say Jacobsville, I mean the immediate Jacobsville area. Go north just 4-5 miles and the peak will be the same as Houghton, Hancock and Calumet. Probably areas like Mohawk north as well.

The upcoming weekend look kinda wet, but hopefully that will change. Tomorrow through Thursday looks to be very nice up here and that is when I plan to take my color tour. My mom is visiting us for a few weeks and the last time she saw our color show was when Nora and I were married 17 years ago!

In last weeks entry, I talked about the coming changes to the website. One of them was an upgrade to a better forum software for the discussion board. That migration will be taking place this Friday, so the board will be shut down while that takes place. The good news is that I did find someone that has done this type of migration many, many times. So odds are quite good that it will go off without issue. All user profiles and posts will also be transferred. I hope to move the AL Cam this week as well. Still not even a hint of snow in the forecast. In fact we are suppose to be in the 70’s for the rest of the week. I am formulating my ideas for the seasonal outlook and plan to have it out late next week.

That just about covers it for this one, but I do have one last item to share with you. That being John Dee is getting a new sled! Yep, that’s right. I’m sure many of you are now thinking of the instant gratification theme I was on earlier in this entry. However, the sled currently in my stable is a 2012 model. It runs fine and only hs 2004 miles on it, but is extremely difficult for me to start when the engine is cold and would be impossible for me to pull start when the engine is cold in the winter. So a sled with electric start was a must. So what about a used sled? Well, as anyone who has looked has seen, prices for used sleds and just about anything outdoor recreation related are very high. So high that when they do correct themselves (I have no idea when), any used sled will instantly lose 10-20 percent of it’s value. So to be buying new makes more sense. Sure a brand new sled loses some value the minute it is used, but that is nothing out of the norm. The prices of used are. The final selling point was the ergos of the sled itself. I will get to that in a second, but first, I introduce to you my new ride for this season, and likely many to come! For those of you not into snowmobiling, that is an Arctic Cat Riox X. The think that sold me on it most was the fact that is has a single slide rail on the rear suspension, rather than two. That makes leaning the sled over to one side or the other in soft snow much easier. At this point in my riding career, easier is better for me. I am feeling much better than I was the past several seasons, but am still not strong enough to be carving all day long on a traditional suspension. I have asked several people that have them and the answer was unanimous that they would be a good fit for me. Last but not least was the fact that I got an absolute, huge deal on the sled. My good friends at Rt 12 Arctic Cat in Arlington Heights came through in a BIG way and made the decision to get that sled from them a no-brainer. If you recall, they were the same folks that let me ride a sled of theirs for many, many seasons. So if you are in the Chicago area and looking for a great group of guys to work with, head there! I CAN”T WAIT FOR IT TO SNOW!!!

Now, I guess that covers it for this week. Have a great one and I will talk to you all next week.

Good Night From the Keweenaw..
JD

Go Time

I have reached the time of the year when it’s “All Hands on Deck”. Not quite “Battle Stations” yet, that comes in about another month, but I have two main areas to concern myself with. First is making sure all that needs to be done outside before the weather turns is done. Second is to fire up the big engine that is JohnDee.com. On the first item, I am about half way there. Still on the list is to take the pool down, make a bit more firewood for the fireplace in the house and prepare the golf cart for winter storage. In the short term, the leaves that have fallen already need to be swept up and the grass has to be cut.

With regards to the second item, the best I can say is: “work has commenced”. The biggest job at hand with regards to the website is the transition of the discussion board from it’s current train wreck software to a first-class one. There have been issues with the discussion board since day one, but most of the problems were not too big and were able to be rectified fairly quickly. About a year ago, the problems started to become more numerous and dramatic and it finally reached the point this spring when it just had to go. So I have been busy the past few months researching and demoing many different forum software packages and I am pleased to announce that I found a winner.

The current board is so large and the current environment that the website works on is someone unique, it took some real digging into to come upon the best possible solution. So last Friday I got the ball rolling, but it is not going to be a “flip the light switch” type of transition. There are three main phases that are involved here at the beginning. First was to find a host server capable of handling the new forum. That took some digging and research. The second phase is to get the new forum installed on the new server and third will be to get all the current user profiles, forum topics and at least 30 days worth of posts moved over. 

With regards to the first task, it is done. I just got the word from the folks at the hosting service that all is set. It took over 30 emails between myself and several persons at the hosting service to work through things. If I knew anything about setting up a domain and all the behind the scenes settings that need to be configured, that number of emails might have been 2-3! Thankfully the hosting service was super nice and had LOTS of patience walking me through my blindness. 

Rather than try and install the forum software on the server and configure it myself, I have opted to have the makers of the forum software do the install and configuring. I just notified them that the server was ready, so hopefully in the next 24 hours, the forum will be out on the internet. Unfortunately, the makers of the forum do not provide the service of migrating data from one forum to theirs. They did provide me with a link to a forum topic on their website where I can put out a “wanted” notice to find someone that can do that. The migration is by far my biggest concern. I am sure it can be done, but it must not be too easy because the folks at XenForo (the new forum software) do not offer that service! It could be an outright disaster to ask everyone to re-register. I currently have over 20,000 user profiles on the old board. I realize that not ALL of them are active, but would guess that 80% of them do come to the board from time to time to check things out. So say a prayer that I can find a competent programmer that can move the profiles and some of the posts to the new forum. If you are reading this and are thinking: “Moving that data from Vbulliten to XenForo is a piece of cake!” PLEASE contact me! Needless to say the new discussion board will not be going live until the migration has taken place or I have exhausted ALL avenues to do it.

Other things going on with the site will be a relocation of the AL Cam. It is just not in a good spot for much of anything. I put it there because I was able to have the camera in my office and look out the window. Last season I switched to an indoor-outdoor camera and it has proven to be extremely reliable, so the new location will be in the backyard of our house. The view will include the snow gauge as well as a picnic table that will help to show the depth. I will also be clearing off a section of the table to show the new snow in the past 24 hours. I may even create sections where I do the last 24 hours, week to date and month to date. The woods cam will also be finding a slightly better location and will be upgraded to the same type that the AL Cam is. 

Last, but not least will be a change in format for the Snowscoop Video. I am going to be re-naming it, but am not quite ready to give the name out yet. The change in format will be from a paid subscription to a free YouTube channel. I have absolutely no experience with doing a YouTube channel, let alone having it provide income. I know half the world seems to be doing it, so hopefully it is not that hard! I plan to have other videos than the daily forecasts on the channel. So if there is someone that has experience with the marketing and monetization of a YouTube channel, I will welcome any and all advice. I do plan to have the channel up within the next week or so and will announce with that happens.

As far as the goings on outside of JohnDee goes…I really have no clue! Haha, just kidding, sort of. I really have been busy with getting things ready for the new season. The color show is most certainly progressing. I have not traveled too far. I did go to Houghton/Hancock today for a Dr’s appointment and to pick up a few things. I pulled off onto a side road between the airport and Calumet to snap this shot of the colors there. I did the same while heading down Jacobsville Rd, about 5 miles from Jake. The colors are still less changed here, but that is par for the course. I would guess that the peak WEEKEND for the higher terrain south of Houghton will be this weekend. It may not be a full peak, but by the next weekend it could be past. The peak for most other areas in the Keweenaw will be that of the 9th-10th. Come on up, you will be BLOWN away!

Good Night From the Keweenaw..
JD