I walked out into the backyard last evening and sent a wish into the universe: "Please bring my Fluffy home." Less than an hour later our neighbor knocked on the door to tell us they found Fluffy, who had been missing for a week, in the alley behind our house. Perhaps I should have been more specific and asked for Fluffy to be found alive, although at the time I sent out my wish, it was much too late for that.
We are going to bury him in the UP during our family vacation week. He loved it there. And we will learn to live with the Fluffy-sized hole in our hearts. We'll miss the Flufster terribly.
Hunting season is approaching rapidly in Wisconsin. Gun hunting that is, bow hunting season is long underway. I joined my husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law in the woods for the first time in 2011. From sunrise on Saturday morning until sunset on Sunday evening, I would sit in a tiny deer blind with my gun and a little heater, fighting off boredom, trying to stay warm. Some years it was easier than others. But despite diligently going out every year, I have yet to see a buck, let alone shoot one.
This means the question whether or not I can actually shoot a deer has remained unanswered. We hunted in Forest County, where the bucks are few and far between. We saw plenty of does the last couple of years, but nothing with horns. One year I saw a little buck with spikes at dawn, but not worth shooting, even if I could have gotten off a shot.
The buckless hunting frustrated my husband to no end. So last year he embarked on a search for better hunting grounds. Armed with a spreadsheet filled with DNR data, he located the Walhalla of Wisconsin deer hunting land: Buffalo County, where the bucks are plentiful and the racks worthy of mounting. The eighty acres and cabin in Forest County were sold, and the search for new land began.
We found a beautiful forty acres tucked in between Durand and Mondovi, and spent the summer creating a spot for the future cabin, a driveway, and hunting stands for everyone. Mine is the last one to be built. I have a platform but will be spending my ten-year-sitting-in-the-woods-with-a-gun anniversary in a tent. And it looks like this year might actually be THE year. Bow hunting season was off to a good start as you can see.
We were in the UP last weekend, prepping for the winter. Large quantities of wood were cut, split, and stacked. The new sliding door was sealed, and the source of the water leak was repaired. We were just a smidge too late for peak colors, so you get last year's pictures instead. Complete with pre-braces and pre-pink-haired Lola.
Before the houses were ours, they were used as a deer camp. Before that, they housed the men that worked the copper mines in the area. And all these men, hunters and miners alike, would sit on their porch after a long day, drink their beer, and chuck the empty bottles in the yard. It is a sea of broken glass out there.
But every once in a while, we find a treasure. This one was given to us by the Montreal river.
The town of Delaware, MI is a ghost town. The Delaware Mine, a copper mine that once brought business to the area is still there, and you can visit it in the summer for a highly recommended, self-guided tour. Across the road, on Highway 41, are the last two remaining miners' homes.
I found some pictures on Keweenaw National Historical Park's Facebook page that show how our houses used to look in the late 1800's, and the late 1900's when only two homes remained. You can clearly see how much higher the road is now, and why we have foundation issues.
I particularly like the last picture where the two are combined into one. I am not sure who made it, probably someone at the Michigan Tech archives, but I really appreciate the visual of our place in history.
It occurred to me that I haven't shared an update on our Yooper project in quite a while. To be honest, we haven't done much. For the remainder of the summer of 2018 we continued peeling off layers of paneling, lath and plaster, and the likes, only to come across issue after issue. A car went off the road about thirty years ago, for instance, and ended up in the living room. The resulting broken studs were never properly repaired. The foundation was seriously bowed inward due to decades of heavy snow pushing against it. The kitchen floor and joists were rotted through.
So, somewhere in August we decided to temporarily throw in the towel on the one house and focus on the other for a little bit. We cleaned it out, painted the downstairs, and moved in. And that's where we have stayed for the past two years. We did put a new roof on the first home because we feared it would not last another Michigan winter without better protection, but that was about it.
For the past eighteen months we didn't do much more than hang out, enjoy the area, and putz a little bit in the woods. We paddle boarded on the Montreal River, swam in Lac La Belle, encountered a wolf on the way there, and enjoyed the summer weather with family and friends.
But the houses won't fix themselves. And so we've made a plan, along with a budget, for everything that needs to be done. We are currently looking at financing because there is a lot on that to-do list. If we go the bank route, we'll be done at the end of the summer - I remain ever the optimist - and can rent out the houses during the winter sports season. They're perfectly situated for that; right on the snowmobile trail, a few miles from Mt. Bohemia.
If we decide not to finance this endeavor, it will be a ten-year plan with one large project every (other) year. This year's projects, regardless of financing, are putting in a driveway and fixing the foundation. We made a very solid start with the driveway last week, and the foundation repair is done. Onward!
When I started blogging, well over a decade ago, I really enjoyed learning all aspects of the use of social media. I had the two blogs, each with their own corresponding Facebook page, a linked Twitter account, you name it. I spent quite a bit of time trying to grow my audience, teaching myself the use of analytics, and actively participated in the blogging community. Our circumstances at the time were a bit challenging to put it mildly, and acquiring new skills, as well as writing the posts themselves, made for great, not to mention cheap, therapy.
Over time my need for therapy diminished, and with it the number of blog posts, until eventually it all fizzled out. Purchasing the two miner's homes in the UP, however, renewed the urge to write and keep you abreast of our Yooper adventures. What I don't have the time for this time around, nor the inclination, is expanding my social media skills. Due to some Blogger issues last year, I ended up purchasing a Wordpress blog and a new domain. But to be honest, I am not happy with it. I don't like how it looks, I don't know how it works, and I just don't care enough to do something about it. I overcame my Blogger troubles so I moved the handful of Wordpress posts over and am calling it a day.
I am not sure if I am going to keep the blogs' Facebook pages going. They only exist to call attention to new posts. And for that I can use my personal Facebook page just as easy. These updates go remarkably well with posts about the kid and the cat, some random funny videos and memes, and the occasional demonstration of intense displeasure with the lawless grifters that currently occupy the White House. Right?
We returned to the UP just about every other week last year, to work on the cabins. After cleaning the first one out, we started gutting the inside, focusing on the downstairs. Most of it was lath and plaster which was covered with wood planks in the bar and kitchen, fake wood paneling in the living room, and dodgy sheet-rock in the upstairs bedrooms.
We ripped out the kitchen ceiling, exposing a vaulted ceiling with rough cut rafters. Next we tackled the living room walls. First went the paneling, followed by the ceiling with fake wood beams, and finally the lath. The squirrel that lived in the beams was most displeased with the noise and the dust and decided to move out. It’s quite possible he has moved back in the meantime, but I haven’t seen any evidence of him.
After we cleared the bedrooms of everything but a wood stove, an antique iron bed frame, and a dresser, we set up camp upstairs with cots, blow up mattress pads, and sleeping bags we could leave behind. Once I figured out a semi-permanent solution to keep the mosquitoes out, it was really quite comfy up there. And relatively clean.
To collect all the debris, we had a thirty or forty ton dumpster delivered, I can’t remember the size but it was huge, which we filled up at an alarming speed. We made great big campfires with the wood we cannot reuse, everything else went in the dumpster.
It wasn’t all work and no play, much to Lola’s relief. We finally stopped at the Hanka Homestead, an outdoor museum depicting life of Finnish immigrants in the Upper Peninsula one hundred years ago. We used to drive by it every time we came up from Milwaukee, and it has been on my to-do list forever. It is a very well maintained homestead with several barns and a spring house, looked after by volunteers, and I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. Bring bug spray!
The original idea for the cabins was to fix them both up at the same time, but that turned out to not be financially viable. Instead we focused on the house that was in desperate need of a new roof and siding. For two reasons, really: 1) without a new roof, it would not last much longer, and 2) it had a working wood stove. We contacted a local contractor by the name of Walt to quote us a metal roof and siding, as well as new windows and a driveway.
Unfortunately the price of steel increased substantially between the initial quote and our order. So much in fact, that we decided to change course altogether. We still contracted out the roof because we’re afraid of heights, but are seriously considering doing the rest ourselves. One room at a time, we will remove the old lath and plaster, and put in insulation and tongue and groove planking. New windows, new flooring if needed, and finally new siding, starting with the front because that needs it most.
We butted heads a little on the insulation. Ryan was a big supporter of spray foam insulation, while I felt using fiberglass or foam sheets would allow us to scour CraigsList and save some money. While I agree that spray foam is the superior product, it requires the whole house to be done at once. I was still making my case for fiberglass when I removed the old insulation in the kitchen, encountering a snake nest with live occupants. Needless to say, I instantly saw the light. Spray foam insulation it is.
After the initial cleaning in April, we returned in May to find the snow gone, in its place a lot of previously buried treasures. We discovered a decrepit golf cart, piles and piles of lumber, an unusually large number of utensils, and tons of beer cans and bottles. In short, more to clean up. Cleaning would be the recurring theme for the Summer of 2018. We cleaned the yard, the upstairs, and even the outhouse. We then moved the outhouse further back on the property because it’s just not that great a thing to have in your outdoor sitting area.
We had help. One of Ryan’s high school friends came up to give us a hand, bringing his daughter to keep Lola company while he and Ryan broke up the bunk beds and chucked a dozen mattresses, old chairs, and other random furniture out the window.
Progress is slow, but it is being made. And every now and then we’re getting a glimpse of what it will look like when it’s done.