Welcome to 2019 everyone! I realize I am almost a week late with that welcome and quite frankly, it seems like way more than a week ago when we were getting ready to ring in the new year. In any case, it is here and has so far followed the playbook of the 2018 part of this winter season. A roller coaster ride for sure. I really have no reason at all to complain. We picked up around 8″ of fresh snow from late last night until around noon today. It was like much of the system snow we have seen fall so far this season. Super wet and heavy and good for making a base. We already had a pretty good base, but this was still a good thing to get.
Very difficult to move. Not so much for Big Red, just time consuming. It was so thick and dense that it would clump up into these beach ball sized boulders of snow and just get pushed by the blower and not pulled in and tossed aside. That was especially the case on the ice rink, where it did not have much to hold it in place and as the blower move into it, it would slide across the ice and bunch up. It really did not make clearing more difficult, just time consuming and that was not a big deal to me, as I was sitting inside a heated cab, out of the elements and listening to tunes.
Each winter up here seems to have its own personality and this one sure is unique. We have had only a handful of days that I would consider to be true winter days for us. Meaning the temps are in the low teens and there is a pretty stiff breeze blowing and snow falling. We have had way more days and even evenings where the temps have been in the upper 20’s to low 30’s and it is calm as can be. I have to admit that I am kind of liking that trend…for the most part. Sure more snow or even regular snow would be nice, but the mild temps have sure supported lots of outdoor activity. There have been many nights where we all have gone outside after dinner and played with the pups in the driveway. Tossing a ball or toy and having them take turns retrieving it. It has also been nice to not have to deal with the bitter cold coming and going from the house, vehicle or store.
I suppose that another upside is the fact that we are not using as much propane for heat. Although I have to admit that I do not really track our usage from year to year. I just keep an eye on the gauge and when it gets below 20 percent, give the propane dealer a call. Another upside is the fact that it is highly unlikely that the big lake will get much ice on it this season, which does help provide some protection from the true, bitterly cold air as well as supply the moisture and heat needed for lake effect snow.
I guess the only thing I could really do without is the freezing rain and freezing drizzle we have been getting. We currently have some freezing drizzle falling. The snow changed over to it around 2 or 3 this afternoon. It is not hurting the snow at all, but is making all the untreated roadways and other surfaces very slick. When I was done clearing the snow today, the blower had scraped right down to the old ice surface that existed before the snow started to fall last night. I really do not want to leave any extra snow on the driveway, as it would only make the mat thicker and more of a mess come spring.
It is looking more and more like the pattern we have been dealing with for the past 4-5 weeks will stick around for much of the winter. That would not be too bad of a thing for us, but would not be so good for areas that are not as blessed with snow as we are. So I guess a word to the wise would be to not hesitate this season. If you see good conditions for snow play. Go for it! You may not get a ton of chances this winter. Of course, when I say things like that, Mother Nature loves to prove me wrong, so there is a chance!
So what else has been going on around here? Well, I did take my first snowmobile ride of the season on New Years Eve. I met up with a friend of the site and we did a mini-tour of the Keweenaw. Really a big loop through the bush and we did not get any further north than Gratiot Lake, but the conditions we experienced both on and off the trail were quite good. I will admit that I think we got lucky to have the trails we had once we were on the groomed trail system. Traffic was incredibly busy during the period between the holidays and we had two groomers go down, which led to not as much grooming as would normally take place. Plus they were also training some of the new groomer operators and that happens in the daylight for safety sake. Day grooming helps, but does not hold up for nearly as long as grooming at night when it is coldest and traffic is at its lowest. The good news is that by late last week, they had caught up on everything and were doing the grooming at night and it helped. The warm temps over the weekend did not help much, but we survived.
On New Years Day, we were invited to some friends that are homesteading up here. They have built a yurt type structure, only it has traditionally framed walls and a roof and is built on a slab, but otherwise has the same exact shape and other features of a yurt. The event was called “dessert at the yurt” and the plan was to relax, have some yummy snacks, warm beverages and perhaps even take a ski or snow shoe. Most of the attendees were pretty relaxed and did not exert themselves too much, but there were a few that took a short walk. The three amigos spent a lot of the time outdoors and ended the event with a photo op, joined by three of the bunnies our friends raise.
It was then back to work and back to school for Nora and Grace on Wednesday and for the rest of the week. Which meant that the three pups and I were once again left to ourselves back at the house. Things went extremely well on Wednesday and Bleau was given a grade of A+. Thursday was a bit of a different story, but nothing too out of hand. He ended the day with a C-. Friday was a better day and he received a B. I think that the extra time outside with Huck and Millie really helped his behavior on Friday. He has gotten so big and is very well trained for his age, that we all forget that he is still not even 6 months old yet. I do try my best to cut him slack when he is misbehaving, but also do not let him get away with it for very long. I believe the plan is for him to start spending more time at the school, so that he will be ready for next year and to spend all day there.
Last night we were invited to some friends who live up near Copper Harbor. Technically they are not in town, but close enough to be considered residents of that tiny town. They have a beautiful home with a very interesting feature in it. It is a Tulikivi, or Finnish Fireplace. That was not a picture of the one our friends had in their home, but very similar.
I believe they were invented in Russia, but perfected by the Fins (of course, right?). The way it works, is that you build a fire in it the same way you would build a fire in a standard fireplace. Only the air does not go straight up the chimney. Rather it is circulated through the entire mass of the fireplace and then up. This causes the entire mass of the fireplace (which is massive) to heat up and be a heat source for the home. It can actually heat the entire room(s) that it sits in. The firebox is sealed tight once the doors are shut and the air needed to keep the flames going comes from outside. So you have no draw up the chimney from the heated space in your home. Theirs had a brick oven in it, just like the one in the photo I shared. That oven can be heated up by starting a fire in it and then pulling a lever and allowing the coals to drop into the firebox. Then you can cook in the oven. We did pizzas and they were phenomenal!
If there was a realistic way I could add that to hour current home, I would in a heartbeat. We were told that they only need to toss firewood into it twice a day. Upon waking up and then before going to bed. Since there is so much mass in the structure, it does not cool down very quickly. So when they go to put wood in it in the morning, it is still warm. I was really enamored by this thing. First it is very beautiful and a dramatic centerpiece to the home. Secondly, it works so well! It is not complicated in design, but is brilliantly designed and really throws out the heat. Maybe I should become a Tulikivi dealer!
So our system snows are over for this event, but lake effect snows will start up the second half of tomorrow and continue into Wednesday. Between that LES and the cold temps, we should have some really good conditions for snow play the rest of the week and weekend. Thankfully, it looks like many other areas of the UP as well as some areas of northern WI also picked up needed and welcomed snow, so we will not be one of the only options in the Midwest for snow play. That is very good news, as some folks just do not understand how quickly the trails deteriorate under heavy traffic and unfortunately, I seem to hear from a lot of them!
Good night from the Keweenaw..