A New Chapter

I think all of our lives are like a book. The main character is obviously us. Within the book are chapters, each almost always starting with a change and also ending just before the change happens. Some books might have many chapters, others few. I believe I would easily be into the double digits in my life story so far. I also believe that a new chapter would just be starting.

For you regular readers, the reason for the new chapter is probably quite obvious, but for anyone still wondering, I can say that the new chapter comes the result of the Dee Family moving into their new home. Yes, after all the writing about it in the past eight months, the building next to the shop has become our home!

We officially moved in last weekend. I finished the required cabinets early in the week and then got the closet rods/shelves put up at the middle of the week and the electrician was able to get most of the rest of his duties done. So we started moving in later on Friday and the main move was done on Saturday, with a few things finished up on Sunday.

There is still quite bit of work to be done, as you will see in the following pictures. We have not put up and pictures on the walls or other decorations in the new house. Nora wants to spend some time in the new space before she decides what goes where. I still have the upper cabinets to build, along with the cabinets that will serve as the island. Here is the look of the kitchen on move-in day and here it is after I added the temporary island.

Adjacent to the kitchin is the living room. Right now, I think this room seems to be the most “naked”, meaning in need of some artwork on the walls and a few things elsewhere. We do intend to put a cross I built for the brick above the fireplace in the Mohawk house in the same spot here, we just do not know if we want to put a mantel up or not and the mantel decision impacts where the cross would go.

Returning to the book/chapter theme, it seems like I can point to a moment or two that really stand out at the beginning of each chapter. The chapter that would be about me moving up here has me remembering the first morning, I fed the dogs and went to let them out. When I opened the door, I was met with crisp temps and the boldest smell of pine. I remember thinking how wonderful that all was and then thinking that this was how my mornings would go for the rest of my life! No more constant hum of traffic, no more sirens and the fresh air, oh that wonderful fresh air!

In this latest chapter, I would have to say that the current moment of memory happened on the Sunday we moved in. Most of the required items were brought over from the apartment and put in their place, including our bed. It was mid-afternoon and I felt like I wanted to take it easy for a bit, so I hopped up onto the bed and gazed out the windows, enjoying the beauty and feeling so fortunate to have so many blessings bestowed upon me so that I could be lying in that bed, in our new house in such a beautiful spot. I guess only time will tell if that is the memory that anchors this chapter or not, but I sure do look forward to the rest of the chapter!

One thing we did not do before we moved in was to put up fencing in the backyard to keep the dogs from roaming off. However, we did not wait too long to do that. I believe it was Tuesday that my buddy, Grace and I managed to get the backyard fenced in. It’s funny how such a simple thing can make life so much easier. Now, instead of having to hook the dogs to a leash and walk them out there, we just open a door and let them out like we have done for all the years leading up to this.

So the chapter has changed, but the book is still being written. Our weather has been a bit of a roller coaster lately. Last Sunday, most of the UP saw temps in the 30’s, with many stations getting to or even a bit below freezing. The Baraga Plains was the coldest with a 27! This weekend was a totally different story, after missing out on many of the severe heat events that impacted the rest of the Midwest, we finally joined in on all the fun. We were in the upper 80’s on Saturday, 90 on Sunday and today’s high was 88. Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest of all the days in this event and we are supposed to get to 91 or even warmer. The a cold front and weak low will be sweeping through tomorrow night, bringing us some rain followed by much cooler temps for the rest of the week.

I have to say that even though the Keweenaw did not have too much severe heat and that I spent a good chunk of the summer in the shop, I am ready for that early autumn weather to kick in. The conditions at the beginning of this week were a nice reminder of how beautiful the month of September is up here.

So I have one last day of severe heat to deal with and then my favorite kind of weather looks to move in for at least a while. However, during this current event, I made like the saying goes, when given lemons, make lemonade! Yep that’s right, it has been several years at least, but I did find my way into Lake Superior for a full dunk this afternoon. Might even repeat the process tomorrow afternoon!

Good Night From the Keweenaw..


Eye on the Prize

Sheesh, seems like it’s only been a week since I last wrote. I guess time flies when you’re having fun! Seriously, this summer has just flown by- faster than any I can remember. Hard to believe we are inside of 2 weeks before Labor Day. 

We have been having some delightful weather since I last wrote. Most days have been sunny and in the 70’s, with a few in the low 80’s. The humidity has behaved itself most days as well. I guess the only complaint I have regarding the weather is that I have not been able to enjoy it as much as I would like to. There have been days where 5 pm rolls around and I have not even been outside! I have been in the shop all day, working on the kitchen cabinets.

Truth be told, I usually can only work around 3-4 hours a day on them and then run out of steam. So I kind of have developed a groove to the day. Wake up by 8, have breakfast and then be a bum for around an hour, take a shower and then go down into the woodshop and put in an hour or two. Then it is back up to the apartment for lunch and then back down into the shop for a few more hours. The evenings are spent chilling with Nora and/or watching a movie with Grace. Plus there are days where I have to go to town and do not get to work on the cabinets at all. 

It’s been a battle of wits to not get stressed by the slow progress of the cabinets. If I were in 100% health, they most likely would have been done a month or more ago, but the reality is, I can only do so much at this moment. I am getting better at just walking away when my body and brain begin to tire, it just can be frustrating sometimes.

The good news is that I am very close to having all of the base cabinets along the walls done. There are already 3 of them over at the house, in place. That allowed the plumbers to hook up the kitchen sink and dishwasher. The other two I am currently working on go on either side of the range. Each has 6 drawers in them, so that is 12 drawers total. Yesterday, as I was putting the actual drawer boxes together, I figured out that there was a total of 120 parts for all of those drawers, that does not include the drawer slides, just the boxes and fronts. I have no pictures of them or the others that are at the house already, but will be sure to take some shots for the next entry.   

The rest of the house is almost ready for move-in as well. The plumbers just need to install the utility sink in the laundry room, as well as to bring in the fridge-freezer and hook the water line to it. There is electrical work to be done. Several lights still need to be installed, as well as some switches. They also need to move the standby generator from the shop to the house and hook it up. We did get the power hooked up to the house around 2 weeks ago, so gone are the days of using extension cords from the temporary power pedestal. 

We also got the main delivery of furniture around 2 weeks ago. Grace has been busy putting the smaller things together and is doing a great job! Here is a shot of her desk in her room. Here she is joined by a friend in the assembly of something for her room. I think that was actually a hammock! Her room is so large, it can have a hammock without crowding things! She deserves it though, as she has not had a real bedroom since 2019.

So, it is looking likely that we could be moving in sometime late this coming week or weekend. Besides the two cabinets I need to finish, I also need to put up some closet rods and shelving in the master closet, as well as Grace’s closets. I also need to put up some shelving in the pantry, but all of those tasks can get done in a days work, even one of my days of work!

While I have used the phrase “I did…” I would be a real jerk not to recognize all the work that Nora and Grace have been doing. In addition to assembling the pieces of furniture that came via UPS/FedEx, they also completed the monumental job of emptying out the shipping container that held all the stuff that is to make the move from the old home to the new. I am also so grateful to the neight bors that have helped me with different tasks. A week ago, two of them, along with one of Nora’s brothers moved some of the larger/heavier things that were in the shipping container into the house. 

This whole building process has really shown me just how blessed my life is. While Nora and I have had some disagreements in the process, the vast majority of things have gone without any friction at all. We are fortunate to have very similar tastes in things. I have nothing but praise for our contractors. They did an amazing job of things and rolled with any of the changes we made along the way. It’s a beautiful house, inside and out. Jake is really a special place, with very special people living in it. Grace is just an amazing daughter. Just thinking of her can bring tears of joy to my face. She is growing up so fast. We all attended a wedding last weekend and she looked so grown up dancing with others on the dance floor. I used to think that when it was time for her to go off to college, I would be just fine with it, but she is now 4 years away and I know they will absolutely fly by and I will be a puddle when she goes off to a university. Just another reason to live each and every second like it is your last. Take nothing for granted and appreciate everything, even the challenges that life throws at you.

Good Night From the Keweenaw..

The Home Stretch

No pun intended, but I can finally say that we are on the home stretch regarding the new home. It started about a year ago, with drawing up the first set of plans. They were 100% freelanced by yours truly. When they were taken to the builder for a review and estimate, the weaknesses of my architectural skills came to light. The main issue being the design of the roof structures. What I thought would be something simple for a truss manufacturer to do turned out to not be true. There were also a few other things I had drawn that caused the idea to be over budget. So Nora and I started looking at designs on the internet and found one we both loved. There were a few changes made to it, but nothing too major.

Ground was officially broken in October, with the foundation completed before deer season. Then things sat for a planned waiting period for the concrete to cure and for the holidays to pass and the crew returned to start the framing soon after the first of the year. If you have been following long, you know that the framing and weathering-in of the place went smoothly and quickly. The progress in the past month or two has been slower, but it was ok with Nora and I, as I had the kitchen cabinets to do and we had lights, plumbing and furniture to pick out.

Well, I can report that the wall of base cabinets that will include the kitchen sink, dishwasher and fridge/freezer is just about done. The cabinet that will have the sink on it needs to have the doors (already made) installed and then all of those cabinets need the finish put on them. However, the finish could almost not be easier. There is a fairly new product out there called Rubio Monocoat that can stain and seal in one simple coating. It can be applied by brush, rag or even things like a squeegee if you are doing a big surface such as a floor. Just apply it, wait a few minutes and wipe any excess off. It cures 80% in 24 hours and takes about a week to fully cure. I have already tested it out on a scrap of the cherry I am using for the cabinets and it was a breeze to apply and looks awesome.

The base cabinets for the wall that has the range on it are built and most of the drawer slides have been mounted, which leaves me to have to build the drawers and then the drawer fronts and door frames and finish them. The uppers will go fairly quickly, as they will just be the cabinet boxes, face frames and doors. Nora has said that we can move into the house once all the base cabinets along the walls are done, so that could very well be next week sometime. Here is a shot of one of the cabinets completed, with just the finish needed. The scrap of wood that I tested th Rubio on is leaning against it on the bottom left.

Grace and Nora have been busy assembling some of the new furniture, things like tables, chairs, etc… Grace is actually doing most of that assembly work because she loves to do it and is also very good at it. Plus Nora has to work during the summer too, so is not around as much. Today, Nora started to empty the big shipping container that we were able to use to store a lot of things that were in the old place and will be going into the new and this Thursday the shipment of the big furniture pieces is arriving and will be installed by the furniture company. So a week from now, we should literally be within spitting distance of the finish line for moving in. There will still be quite a bit of work that will need to be done once we are moved in, but it will be so wonderful to be living in the new digs. We all feel so blessed to have been able to do this project and it really could not have gone much smoother…except for me spending all of last September in the hospital while Nora and Grace pretty much emptied the old house and filled up the shipping container.

If we do get moved into the new place sometime next week, we will not be in it too long before we have to go out of town. We are all going to the Mayo Clinic so that I can have a cardio MEMS put in on August 15th. It’s a device that measures the pressures in my pulmonary artery. They install it much like a stent and is done on an outpatient basis. It will give my cardiologist some great data to help with improving my heart failure. Since it takes less than a half hour to do, our plan is to come home the day I have it put in.

There really has not been too much more going on up here. The weather has been nearly ideal, with highs in the 70’s and some low 80’s and comfortable humidity. This past Thursday we did hit 89 degrees with a dewpoint of 75, but I barely noticed, spending the whole day in the shop!

We have also gotten enough rain to let the grass seed fill in nicely. Here is a shot of the yard behind the shop, taken a few days ago and here is a shot of the front yard of the house, taken this afternoon after I cut it for the first time. Still needs to fill in a bit and the straw needs to decompose, but seeing as though it was planted just a few weeks ago, I could not ask for more.

I think that about covers it for this one, I will try my best to write next weekend and share with you the progress on the house. Thanks for stopping by and…

Good Night From the Keweenaw..

Flying By

I don’t know about you all, but this summer sure seems to be flying by for me. I suppose it’s because of the buy schedule I have, but it seems hard to believe that July is already half over. As I look forward into the second half of the season, I really cannot see it slowing down, perhaps even going faster. It sure seems like it has not been 2 weeks since I last wrote and maybe that is why I am not writing every week right now. The weeks go by so fast, I forget to write. If you are buying that story, I have a bridge I can sell you!

So when I last wrote, we were 2 days shy of Independence Day. That has obviously came and went, so I can share with you the festivities we had in Jake. As has become a tradition, around the midday, we have a parade. Probably the shortest parade in the country, both in participants and in length, but it’s also a lot of fun. This year the parade was led by Mike on the bagpipes and then followed up by some of the kids (and kids at heart) on their bikes. we also had a classic Datsun convertible and an old army jeep. We decorated our golf cart and Grace drove it, while I was the passenger.

After the parade, we have a potluck picnic. Last year the weather was horrible on the 4th, with temps in the 50’s and rain. So the potluck picnic was held inside. This year it was perfect and was held outdoors. The first two were also held outside and on our front lawn and we will be returning to our place for next year and as many more as we can host…weather permitting.

The other main news is of course the continuing house build. The builders are on the home stretch. All of the landscaping has been done, more on that in a bit. Most of the plumbing fixtures have been installed. Here is one of the things I insisted the new place have. Ever since it got fully plumbed, I have been wanting to try it out, but we are still waiting for power to be brought to the house. I could run an extension cord from the temporary power setup to the boiler and fire it up, but will just be patient and wait for the power company folks to do their thing. Actually, we are both waiting on the sub contractor to dig the trench and lay the wire. Then the power company comes and does the connections.

The stone for the fireplace has begun to get installed. It’s a little further along than in this picture, but still has about 80% to be done. It is really looking nice and will really enhance the look of the living room, plus be a wonderful feature when the weather gets cold. We all loved the fireplace we had at the last home and this one has all the same features, but is a bit larger.

Now onto the landscaping. Two weeks ago, the did all all of the landscaping behind the shop, where the new septic field was built. It actually sits directly next to the one for the shop, but they are separate systems. Last week, they did all the landscaping around the house, which included spreading topsoil over the dirt what was there, planting seed and covering it all with straw. At one point, I was really wanting to use sod, but Nora was wanting to avoid the cost and go with seed. So we made a deal, there was a new home built on Bootjack Road last year and they planted seed. We agreed to use their lawn progress as a guide as to which way we should go. Well, much to my surprise, their seed sprouted and filled in quite well and they have a pretty full lawn. So that is why we went with seed. It was really good we did too, because I watered the seed late last week, not even the entire front yard, only about 35% of it and ended up sucking our well dry! It has since recharged, but had we gone with sod, we would have likely lost of a lot of it by not being able to water it.

The watering I did late last week got some of the seeds to sprout, but the rains we got a few days ago was great and has gotten most of the yards around the house to sprout. We have more rain on the way Wednesday and Thursday of this week and that should get the rest going and give enough moisture to allow for some growth too. Even though the seed was planted around 10 days ago, here is a shot of the front yard. As mentioned, the area behind the shop was planted around a week before that around the house and has had more time to get going. Here is a shot of it. The bald spot in the middle is a low area that had some standing water in it. We still have a good amount of topsoil left over, so in late August or early September, I plan to fill in the low spot and plant seed there.

Another thing the crew did as part of the landscaping was to put down some really nice gravel for our driveway at the house. Most of the gravel that you get up here is spoil rock from the copper mining. It makes for a pretty good driveway, especially if it has a lot of “fines” in it. Fines are very small particles that range in size from a kernal of wheat to a grain of sand. They help to lock in the smaller pieces. The gravel we got was pieces all smaller than a marble and mostly fines. It also seems to have a limestone kind of characteristic, by getting well compacted as vehicles drive over it. It also is the color of limestone, so looks pretty nice too.

The final piece of landscaping they did was to relocate the “red shed”. Previously the shed sat in the back, right corner of our backyard. However, since the new home was built back further away from the road, the red shed was sitting right at the end of the driveway and we really did not care to have it there. So they were able to skid it up onto a trailer and drive it over to the shop, where it was placed near to the shop, but away from the snow clearing zone.

I wish I could say that I am on the home stretch with my contribution to the new house, but I’m not quite there yet. I am working my way closer and closer to it, but still have a good chunk of work to do. I forget where I was when I last showed you pics of the cabinets, but as things stand right now, I have all the face frames done and about half of the drawer boxes built and installed. To give me some credit, in actual time needed to finish the drawer boxes and mount them, I am way past halfway. That being because to build the boxes it only takes around 35-40 minutes. The time needed to figure out their exact dimensions and make sure that those dimensions are correct takes even longer. So I have actually built and installed one drawer for each cabinet and now all I need to do is to go into assembly line mode and use the dimensions for those drawers on the remaining.

I believed that I said these cabinets would have some special features, some of which I have never seen done with kitchen cabinets and others only on high end cabinets. One of the features that I have never seen done is the use of “cloud lifts” on the bottom rail. This detail was something invented by the brothers Greene and was used in a lot of their Greene and Greene furniture. I gotta admit, I almost abandoned the idea. It probably took me half a dozen tries on scrap stock before I finally figured out the best technique and another 3-4 tries before I was in the groove and satisfied with my results. I also have to say, it was such a joy for me to master the making of these features and I really had a lot of fun making them once I was good at it. They are things I will want to include on furniture pieces I make in the future and it will be nice to be able to just whip them out, rather than feel intimidated them. 

The weather up here has been mostly good to magnificent. We seem to be avoiding a lot of the rain that is impacting other areas of the eastern 1/2 of the US, while getting just enough to keep things from drying out. ost other days have us in sunshine and temps in the 70’s to around 80. Friday was one of those days, the temp was around 80, with a bit of a breeze and as I sat in my lounge chair, taking in the big lake, I thought to myself it just does not get any better. I do not say this or share the pic to try and brag or cause jealousy, only to illustrate just how wonderful this place is and to take the opportunity to say just how blessed I am to live here. It really is a dream come true!

We are also at the magical time of the year where the fruits of the Keweenaw become ready for consumption. We have a sweet cherry tree in our front yard and it was mandatory that it not be removed or even hamed in any way while tearing down the old home and building the new. The crew did a great job of seeing to our wishes and it is now rewarding us with some beautiful fruits. I spent a few minutes under it this evening and picked enough to snack on and share with the dogs. Bleau must have remembered what they smell like, because when I got into the house, he was wanting to take them right out of the pocket of my hoodie where I had put them for transport to the apartment!

In a few weeks, it will be time for the blueberries and raspberries and then at the end of August the blackberries. Mother nature really does produce the best candy.

I believe that gets you all caught up for now. Until next time…

Good Night from the Keweenaw..



Independance Eve, Eve

I really need to break this cycle of posting every three weeks. I kinda have an excuse for not writing last week. Nora and I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN because I was scheduled to get restarted on a med for afib and possibly have a caThe culprit is a medication I take to help my heart work better and when I am on the full dose, I feel really good. Probably better than I have felt since my first open heart surgery in 2009. However the med also does not play well with my kidneys, so for the past 5-6 months we have been playing a game of finding the sweet spot where I am taking as much of the med as I can without aggravating my kidneys. In August, I will be headed down to Mayo again so that they can insert a device that will measure the pressure in my pulmonary vein and give them great data to show how my heart function is going.

So Nora and I drove down on Saturday, arrived in time for dinner. Then went back to the hotel and I went to sleep soon after, as I needed to be at the hospital by 6 am. I got checked into a room, had a visit from my nurses and a doctor, they drew blood and about 30 minutes later, the doctor came back and told us the news about my kidneys. So we waited while they worked on the discharge paperwork, which kinda cracked me up, seeing as though all I did was have my blood drawn, but rules is rules I guess. Nora and I got back on the road at around 1 pm central time and arrived back in Jake by around 9 pm eastern time. 

So I was too pooped from all the traveling to write Sunday and even pretty tired Monday, so I figured I would just put it off until today. So here I am!

Not a whole lot of excitement has happened since I last wrote. The day after my last entry I celebrated another trip around the sun. My tally is now 57. I’m getting up there! I remember how 57 seemed like such an old age, probably until I was working through my early 50’s and then each year I get older, the age does not feel that old. Anyone else feel that way? I can tell you that my aches and pains are more noticeable, but one of the meds I am on also enhances that. My heart stuff also impacts my physical abilities quite a bit. I and SO thankful that I have not had to do an ounce of work at the new house. I really am not sure what I would have even been able to do if I had tried. I am building the kitchen cabinets, but more on that in a bit.

Two weeks ago, Nora and Grace were in Eagle River for the week so that Grace could attend a figure skating camp. This camp is pretty cool, coaches from not just around the US, but around the world come to instruct the skaters. This time around, Grace started working on a move in which she does 1 1/2 revolutions during a jump. To aid in the learning process and keep the skaters from falling and hitting the ice, they put the skater in a harness. That gives the skater a lot more confidence performing the jump, until they no longer need the harness.

When Grace was not skating, her and her friends were having a lot of fun hanging out at the campground they stay at, playing games, bike riding and swimming, lots of swimming. They are burning the candle at both ends, but are also young enough to be able to pull it off. Although it does not take Grace long to crash out on the drive back to Jake.

While the girls were gone, we had a pretty crazy thing happen. I had gone to the grocery store and picked up some things. One of them was a glass jar of monterey jack cheese. The jar had a steel lid that holds the vacuum seal to keep the cheese from spoiling. I had put the jar on the counter in the kitchen, thinking I would have it later. I then went down into the shop to do some work and when I came back up, the jar and lid were sitting on the floor in the bedroom. The lid was off the jar and the jar was empty! I could not believe my eyes! I knew Bleau was the culprit, as he has pulled other things off the counter to feast on them. But how did he get the lid off! I am 100 percent sure that I had not taken the lid off and there were some bite marks on the lid, but still, getting those lids off can be a challenge for even species with an opposable thumb! I feel like I should set up some cameras and recreate the scene to see if he an pull it off again!

So as mentioned, I have been working on the cabinets just about every day now. The going is pretty slow, as my poor heart/body just cannot work like it used to be able to. It’s a little crazy to think that I was able to do so much work on the addition in Mohawk, even after two open heart surgeries and a couple of “regular” heart surgeries. However, those days are gone. I can still do the cabine work, but can only last a few hours most days, before I feel like I have just completed a triathlon. Most evenings, every joint and muscle in my body seems to ache and the deeper and deeper into the evening I go, the harder it becomes to just walk to the bathroom!

Now, not feel sorry for me. Even though the work is much harder than it used to be and I really hurt by the end of the day, I am still enjoying the process of making the cabinets. As things sit right now, I have all the boxes for the base cases done that will be along the walls done and almost all of the face frames on them done. The bottom rails still need to be done for each unit and I will be starting them up tomorrow. Typically that job would be an hour or two process, but these bottom rails will have some special details to them, so they will take a bit longe. Once I finish them, then I need to make the doors and drawers, mount them, put a finish coat on everything and they will be ready.

I’ve pondered the thought of not doing the special details on the bottom rails and using either pocket screws or dominos to join all four sides of the drawers together, but I am going to be living (and seeing) these drawers for the rest of my life and I know I would really regret not using dovetail joints at each corner. I also would really regret not having the special detail on those bottom rails. Once these cabinets are done, I still will need to build 5 upper cabinets for the walls and 6 more bases for the island, but really need to get the bases along the walls done so that the counter top folks can come and get their measurements and fabricate the tops. I don’t have any pics of the cases as they sit right now, but here is an “action” shot of my friend helping me surface the cherry boards to thickness before I cut them up into the face frame parts. I’m pretty confident that the next time I write, the cases and face frames will be all done and will be sure to take pics then.

Over at the house, the progress has slowed a bit as well. It’s the heart of building season up here and the contractor has to spread his workers out to the varying jobs they have. I totally get that and am fine with that. We are getting so close at the house that sending a whole workforce would be too many bodies anyway. I can’t remember where we even stood the last time I wrote, but I know for sure that the stairs were completed since then, the backer board for the fireplace brick has been installed, all of the interior doors have been hung and about 90 of the trim is done.

Really, all that is left is for the trim to be finished, the stone to go up on the fireplace, some electrical work needs to be done and electricity still needs to be brought to the house. Last week, they did landscaping over the new septic field and tank, with grass seed planted and straw put over it. The landscaping around the house still needs to be done, but that will be a one day job for them. After that, I guess they will be waiting for the cabinets to get installed so that the appliances can go in and after that, it will be move in day(s)!

Nora, Grace and I are all very excited, but not antsy to get moved in. There are just so many things that will be better for us all once we get over there. Also, we all feel so blessed to be able to make this dream come true. I can’t imagine what I will do with all my free time once it is all done! Well…maybe I can!

Good Night from the Keweenaw..