Learning Curve

My apologies for not writing last week, but still in a very, very busy time right now. I am not complaining, actually loving it, but it really is incredible all that still needs to be done to get back to a sense of normal around here. I have not touched a thing in my office or shop. Still no lighting at all in the shop or the lean-to’s. My office does have light and has had it since I move into it, but still no wall coverings, no flooring, no ceiling and a couple of my computers are still not going and that explains why there is no updated weather bug on the website and no woods cam.

I do hope to get the woods cam going early this week, along with adding the rest of the cams to the new NCN.

What has been keeping me so busy? Well, it is actually a number of things. Just my daily work duties, as well as anytime I need to get something from a store, it is a bare minimum 1 hour affair. It is a beautiful and relaxing drive north to civilization, even meditative, but does eat into the working time of the day!

Another thing that has been keeping me busy both around the house and having to travel is the building of an ice rink in our backyard. When we found out we would be buying the house we moved into, it was decided early on that the backyard would be a perfect place for an ice rink. Very flat ground and no trees in most of it. So back on December 5th, I brought big red into the backyard and started clearing snow to put the rink in. There was about 14″ of very dense snow on the ground and I did not have the blower on Big Red (still don’t), but Big Red and it’s loader did a great job of moving the snow out of the way.

I was really having a good time. Sitting in the heated cab, listening to tunes and moving the snow. About 90 minutes later, the snow was pretty much cleared and it was getting close to my bed-time, so I called it a night. As I put Big Red away for the night, I was thinking to myself: “boy this is going to be great! All I need to do is put some plastic down and then a flood and we will be skating in no time!” Ha Ha, UGH!

The next day I brought Big Red back and had the plastic sheeting in it’s bucket. Grace and I spread the plastic down. The biggest sheeting I could find I had was not big enough to cover it with one piece, so we overlapped 3 pieces. We overlapped the pieces by around a foot and I knew we still might get some seepage at the creases, but not too much.

So then the next day we set about putting water down. The first sign of things to come happened when I tried to attach the hose to the outdoor spigot. I had problems threading the hose on and upon closer inspection, I saw that when someone had put some rot stopping material on the bottom of the wood siding, some of that had gotten onto the threads for the spigot. So we started looking inside for a suitable spigot. The only one we found that would work and was close enough was the one in the sauna. So we hooked up the hose to that and let the water flow.

We had about 200 feet of hose the water had to flow through to get to the site of the rink. I am not sure if it was the friction from all of that hose, or just low water pressure, but the water came out way too slow to be able to flood the rink before spring came. So I went to the shop to fetch my booster pump. We used in Mohawk to boost the pressure to water the garden. It worked, but still the water came out too slowly to seriously consider using that setup. Plus, I was worried about running the house well dry. So I dropped the intake hose for the pump into the surface well we have in the back and the pump could not draw it up. It was only designed to boost pressure, not lift water.

So the next day, I went and picked up a motor driven transfer pump, along with the hosing. Unfortunately, I was given (and did not inspect it myself) the wrong sized siphon hose. It has rigid walls so that it does not collapse under the suction pressure of the pump. Again, too late in the day to go all the way back to Houghton and pick up the correct size, so it had to be done the next day.

In the mean time, we picked up 8″ of fresh snow and now the rink was covered in a thick blanket of snow. I did get the pump going and gave it a try, thinking that the water might melt the snow, as it was the pretty light and fluffy type. No such luck. Actually, had the pump not drained the surface well in around 3 minutes, it might have worked. However, the volume of the well was less than I had hoped for and could only sustain the pump for around 3 minutes. The well would refill in about an hour, but that was too much time to hope to melt the snow.

So I used Big Red to move the snow. Even though I was as careful as I could be to not move the plastic around, it did move some. I tried to get all the seams back together, but with the snow and all, I could not get it perfect.

So the next day I got to flooding again and managed to get a layer across all of the ice, but also picked up another 8″ of snow. So I again had to move snow off the rink before flooding. This time the layer of ice kept things in place. I did set up a pretty good system with flooding, going back to work on other things and then after 60 minutes, putting another flood on. By last night, the water was actually beginning to puddle up enough in spots to give a nice, flat layer of ice. That was only about 10 percent of the rinks surface, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel!

Sorry for rambling on so long about the trials of my ice rink building in the past 10 days, but I figured if I had to go through so much hard work, I was going to make you all suffer a bit with me! With a little luck, the next entry will have pics of us out playing on it. Pray for me though!

All the snow getting in the way of the rink building this week had me seriously hoping for a bit of a break. I continue to be amazed at how much snow we have gotten here in Jacobsville so far this season. Just this week alone, we picked up 27 1/2″. So much for the banana belt reputation! Actually, other areas have picked up much more. In just 3 days this week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the official measuring location for the Keweenaw County Road Commission picked up over 30″ of snow and I know that they have been hit pretty hard in the past 2 days as well. The web cams in Twin Lakes are showing 4 feet on the level! Crazyness all over the UP! Even northern WI is sporting some serious snowcover for this time of the year.

The fresh snow does make it fun to check out what critters are roaming around. On our walk the other day, Huck and I came across a set of coyote tracks and a little further up the road, a fresh set of deer tracks. The deer tracks are really not that much of a thrill, seeing as how they come right up to our living room window to pay a visit to their buddy Bleau. Nora and her eagle eye caught this cute little one hanging out in the doorway of our garage door yesterday. It was a weasel and I hope he is not planning on making a home out of our garage! I do plan to set a live trap just to make sure though.

With all the snows have some some strong winds too. The big lake is still at record high levels, so anytime a big blow comes around, shoreline is lost in quite a few places. We have neighbor friends that go to warmer weather in the winter, so Nora and Grace went to check on their place recently. All was well. A few trees down from the Thanksgiving eve storm, but none on the house.

With all the wildness of the weather up here, mother nature also presents us with some magnificently calm weather. Such was the day that the girls went off on ski and snowshoe to check on the neighbors place. With shots like that and this next one of the Jacobsville Lighthouse, I think she should be the official photographer for JohnDee.com!

Gracie has been enjoying Jacobsville and the weather. Getting together with her friends that live down here and even having some friends that live back in the high country down for sleep-overs. The Thanksgiving eve storm took down a couple of large cedars in our back yard and she has been having lots of fun climbing on them with her friends.

A sure sign of how busy the Dee’s have been of late is that we JUST put up our Christmas tree yesterday! That might not be a big deal for a normal person or family, but we many times have our’s up by or immediately following Thanksgiving. Had we not done it yesterday, it might not have gotten done until next weekend!

For some reason, we had decided to hang onto the tree we had in the cabin in Lake Linden. It was a 7 footer and very beautiful, but once we had the high ceilings of the addition, we picked up a 10 footer. A good thing we kept it, because the 10 footer would not have fit in our new home and the new owners of our old home did not have to get a tree for themselves, as we left it there for them.

No matter what is happening in our lives at the moment, our family always relaxes, laughs and reflects as we decorate the Christmas tree. A very beautiful tradition that well all cherish. So Christmas can now happen this year, we have our tree up!

The final picture I have to share with you is from the Calumet Figure Skating’s Christmas program. It is different from the season ending show in March. In this one, the skaters choose if they even want to be part of the show, as well as what they want to do while on the ice. They also choose what to wear and the music they are skating too. Some do it in groups, while others do it solo. Grace did a solo this year and did a great job. It is amazing how calm she is in front of an audience. She actually seems to feed off of their energy. All smiles and no fear. Nora and I are truly blessed.

Good Night from the Keweenaw..