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I have been wishing there were such buttons for the world the past few days. So far 2020 has not been dull, but not good for the world. In addition to the virus and the rioting that has developed in a host of cities across our nation, there have been far deadlier riots in several countries around the globe so far this year. I am going to refrain from going too deep into my personal feelings on the events since Monday’s tragedy, other than to say one of my rules of life is that two wrongs do not make a right. 

As is the case with many of the issues that plague the densely populated areas, our little piece of the country has been void of any issues. It even seems like there is not much talk about it. I suppose since most folks are in agreement on the major points.

Before I get on with this weeks activities, I need to back up and share a picture from last weeks entry that failed to make it in somehow. While Nora and I were helping Tim and Lisa put up their high tunnel, Grace and Flora (Tim/Lisa’s daughter) were picking dandelions. Not to flip the heads off of them like I did when we were kids, but to bring back to the picnic table and pull the petals off. The whole purpose of that was to make some dandelion jelly. If you have never tried dandelion jelly, you are in for a pleasant surprise. My only recollection of the taste of dandelions is that of being bitter. That is because I was always putting the stalk of the plant into my mouth. The petals actually have a lemony taste and when mixed with sugar and pectin, you end up with a jelly that tastes like lemon/honey. I am not much of a tea drinker, but if I were, I would think it would be a real treat to add it to a cup. It might even be a great way to help get some medicine down the hatch. 

Not a whole lot else very noteworthy happened during the meet of this shortened work week. We all were busy with some smaller projects, but they must not have been too important, as I have forgotten what even kept us busy. I do know that it was a much warmer week. We hit 84 on Wednesday, and were in the 70’s for Tuesday and Thursday, but then cooled into the 50’s for Friday and yesterday and are in the low 70’s today. The big lake has warmed up significantly to the east of us in the past 7-8 days ago. Before Memorial Day weekend, the entire lake’s surface temperature was 38 degrees. On Thursday, it was 52 from around the tip of the Keweenaw south to Big Bay. It has cooled a bit with some winds and sits at around 48. None the less, the east wind is not as bone chilling as it was and is actually quite refreshing. 

On Friday, I had an appointment in Marquette. A friend who makes maple syrup had invited me to visit his sugar bush and syrup making operations a while ago. Since the sugar bush is a bit north of Channing, which is sort of between the Keweenaw and Marquette, I decided to visit him after my appointment. He met me at the highway and took me up and then down into the sugar bush. We drove to the sugar camp and then parked and he walked me around showing me the different aspects of the syrup making process. He calls his a “small” operation and I guess as far as commercial operations go, it probably is smaller than many, but as we walked through the woods, I observed all of the lines traversing through the trees and was amazed at how much work went into that. He said that he has several miles of tubing in his operations. The smallest lines connect to the taps in the trees. They are not your normal taps, they are made of plastic and have valves in the to let the sap only flow out and not in. He told me that in the evenings, the flow reverses and that would suck sap out of the lines. At the end of the season, the taps are removed from the trees. The next season, the taps are put into new holes in the trees.

Those small lines that connect to the trees then connect to larger lines and those lines connect to even larger lines and then the final line runs to the collection tanks. He also told me that during the sap collection process, a bit of carbon dioxide is given off and gets pulled into the lines. Because of this, he has several separators in the lines like this one to let the CO2 out of the lines and let the sap continue to flow.

The collection tanks he has are huge. I believe each one can hold 4000 gallons of sap. The sap then has most of it’s water content removed and that 4000 gallon collection tank makes just enough syrup to fill this tank! The process he and his wife use to thicken up the sap to make syrup is more than just boiling. The first process actually uses a reverse osmosis device. I believe he said that the RO device will remove 30 percent of the water, or maybe it was take the sap down to only 30 percent water. Either way, that is a pretty clever way to do it and uses a lot less energy. The next and final process to get the sap down to syrup level is boiling. Even that piece of equipment is a far cry from a large pot on a wood fire. They do use wood to boil the sap, but their boiler is setup in a way in which no smoke gets into the syrup. I have had more than my fair share of smoky syrup!

After the tour of the syrup making setup, we headed back into the woods for part 2 of my visit. That was to collect some wood and make boards out of them. Back in late September or early October last year, they had a micro-burst (strong straight line winds) topple a bunch of trees in their woods. He as already cut many of them into wood that can be used for differing purposes. Some has gone on to make veneer, some to make OSB plywood and other to make pallets. He has kept quite a few logs to mill himself and use the boards to build with. He was kind enough to bring one down to his portable saw mill to combine with a few others he already had down by the mill to make some boards for me to take back to my shop. 

I have seen videos of the sawmills in use, but have never been around one to watch it in action. The two of us (mostly him) positioned the logs on the mill and squared them up on four sides and then cut them into boards. The logs we cut were hard maple and basswood. We cut most of the boards at 8/4, which means 2″ thick. I chose that thickness because I can saw them down to the thickness I need using the machines in my shop, but you cannot put them back together to thicken them very easily! It will take the boards at least a year to dry on their own, but I plan to help the process a bit by circulating the air and maybe even using a dehumidifier in the wood storage room where they will be stacked to dry. I am tentatively planning on using the maple to make a new desk top for my office and I plan to use the basswood for some projects using the CNC machine.

With the warm temps, things continue to green up and grow. The trees are not fully filled out yet. Looks like another week or so for most, but the oak in our front yard has not even begun to open it’s buds, so will be more than a week. Nora did more planting this past week. Mostly in containers and one of them she put in a pot and then on top of an old chair and placed that setup under a tree and next to some bushes in our front yard. In the natural department, we have a bunch of Lily of the Valley growing under some trees in the front yard. A few even have flowers that will be opening up soon. By the looks of the cherry tree in the front yard, we could have a pretty good crop of cherries this summer. They are the sweet kind, so I am looking forward to picking them off the tree and eating them right away. Here is a close up shot of the blossoms.

The rest of the front yard is looking pretty good. I have cut the grass a couple of times and while I was hoping to get a nice zero turn mower to cut the lawn, we just did not have the finances to do it. However, just 3 cuts into doing our yard and my brother in-law’s down the road have me already wishing for that zero turn! It takes me around 2 1/2 to three hours to cut our lawn, front and back and about an hour to cut Nora;s brothers. I don’t mind cutting the lawn on our rider, but am looking forward to cutting the time down. Perhaps next season! The back yard is coming along. Still some patches that are not green, but they are filling in and also the seed I planted about a week ago is starting to come up. I just need to water more.

Last, but not least, on the list would be the dogs. All 4 of them! They are all doing good. The newbies, Kashi and Dune, continue to get used to their new home. They are become a bit more mischievous as well. Nothing big, but they like to chew on anything soft that has been left lying on the floor and Dune has taken to grabbing the dog toys that are in the back yard and burying them. I have not seen him do that yet, but Nora has told me about it. I have actually never seen a dog bury something, so I am anxious to see it! Dune has adopted the “dog window” as his spot. He hangs out there most of the day and sleeps there at night. They both are shedding, but Dune is not fond of the process at all, while Kashi let Grace brush her out a bit today. The hair did not only come out in clumps, but took to the air as well! The other day, she had some clumps going airborne as she ran around.

Bleau finally got a hair cut! His last one had been way back in early January and he was in severe need of a cut. The hot weather had really been impacting him and Nora had to stop taking him on her walks with her friends. He has been a crazy guy since getting it cut. Running around the house and being his good old pest to poor Huck. No picture of Huck this week, but he is still getting around pretty good for his age and joint problems. Kashi is most certainly Grace’s dog, while Dune’s favorite is Nora. Huck has always been my boy and still is, although Bleau has really taken to hanging out a lot with Huck and I. No matter which way you look at it, we are a happy home and grateful.

Good Night from the Keweenaw..