Sunday, March 24, 2019

This was the morning commute through rush hour traffic the other day. Traffic will be this heavy for another month and a half, before the summer home people and tourists arrive. As you can see the snow is melting and the roads are bare pavement again making driving less of a challenge. The local deer (white tail) population is hanging around the roads and is being picked off by motorists along the North Shore on a daily basis. While they don't go to waste it is still sad to see their carcasses by the side of the road.

It has been above freezing nearly every day and below freezing at night which are the conditions favorable to tapping maple trees for sap. Syrup season is in full swing and I can't wait to taste the results! I dream of salmon on the grill after soaking in a marinade of maple syrup and lemon juice. Yummy!

Not much exciting to report, but it is interesting to watch as people slowly come out of their winter "hibernation" dressed in lighter clothing with their shoulders relaxed instead of hunched up around their necks.

Things are melting on the farm and the horses are shedding buckets of fur which is picked up by the birds to use for nesting material. It is organic and recyclable, so highly desirable building material.This is what it looks like this morning. Still a lot of snow in the woods and around the edges of everything.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Last night we played for a dance. Since it is St. Patrick's Day weekend it was fitting for us to start the festivities for the next couple of days. Here is a photo from the dance floor.
That was taken by our cello player during a break. She left out herself and our bodhran (drum) player. I am the one with the genuine Irish tweed hat in the middle.

The dance floor was small as the Wunderbar left tables there to serve food and beverages. At least we were dinner music, too, and the place was pretty well packed to capacity. One of these days I will find a recording of decent quality, but this cell phone video will give you an idea of what we sometimes do for these dances. It is always fun no matter what. At least it has been for the last 25  years or so. I love the way cell phones only seem to pick up the trebly sounds and everything else is just muddled. No, I don't, but here it is anyway. I hope it works!
So while we are having fun the Big Lake is finally starting to lose its icy cover. The wind, rain, and above freezing weather has already put a dent in it.

The snow pack is melting, the flood warnings are around and the road bans are being put on this week. That means no trucks with axle weights of over 5 tons on my road starting Tuesday. So I got a load of hay yesterday and the weekend project is to put it in two places. Some in the barn and some in the hay shed. That is about 7 or 8 tons (230 bales) and I intend to start after I finish writing this. Most of it will wait until tomorrow, though, as I have a couple of young people coming to help. That is a very good thing, otherwise I will be tired for days and still won't be done. With help we usually get it done in less than two hours.+
Spring in the Northern Hemisphere will officially arrive with the equinox this week. It is a good thing to have gotten through one more winter. We'll be slowly warming up as opposed to you all on the other side of the equator who will finally be cooling down. That is the way it has been for billions of years and I hope it continues for a while.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ice and Icebreakers

The Big Lake is officially 90% frozen as of the 7th. I don’t think it will get much farther, though. The temperatures threaten to be around freezing or warmer this week and there is some wind. That will cause the demise of the ice sheets.  It also means that we can all dress in lighter clothing again! 
 (Detroit Free Press)

Shipping season will probably be delayed, too, as they usually like to get rolling around the 15th of this month, but I doubt the icebreaker’s ability to open and maintain shipping lanes in these conditions. I guess we’ll wait and see.

The USCGC Mackinaw is the icebreaker used to do this and I haven’t heard that it is out there working yet. I have seen it go by a few times in previous years. She has a distinctive shape and color and so is easy to identify. At 240 feet in length it is about one quarter of the size of some of the freighters it works for, but it does what it does to keep them all going. 

 (Photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

Note that I referred to the Mackinaw as a “she” in the tradition of sailors. That terminology has been losing favor since the 1700s and continues the downward spiral away from chauvinistic tradition. “Since 2002, Lloyd's List, which began reporting shipping news since 1734, has referred to all vessels as "it", and many news sources have adopted this new convention. Happily, most sailors have not.” ( There is a surprisingly large amount to read about this, should you be so inclined. Any internet search will take you there.

I wonder if the U.S. and Canada will continue with ocean going icebreakers to keep the Northwest passage open as the sea ice continues to dwindle? It opened in 2017 in August and was passable without the use of an icebreaker for the first time in many years. Of course, there is some controversy about who has the rights to use it. Does it belong to Canada or is it international waters? I am thinking it really belongs to Canada, but I am sure every country with an economic interest will disagree with that. It should be an interesting "discussion."

And for a little entertainment about the Northwest Passage I bring you one of, if not the greatest Canadian folksinger of the last century, Stan Rogers.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Lake Superior Ice

Lake Superior ice is always changing and is always fun to watch. Sometimes it’s dramatic and sometimes it is just frozen water. As of Thursday the official NOAA announcement was that the lake was 86% ice covered. Just so you know, here are a few interesting facts about the lake.

The surface area is 31,700 square miles or 81,270 square kilometers and contains 2900 cubic miles or 12,100 cubic kilometers of fresh water, 10% of the earth’s fresh surface water. The average annual temperature of the lake is 40F (4.4C). I could bore you with more facts, but you can just look them up if you are interested. 

This winter it is getting close to freezing entirely, but I don’t think it will. While the next few nights will be sub zero Fahrenheit there will also be a strong wind that will move the ice sheets around and break them into pieces. If you like ice in your drinks, this is a good time to go get a few shards for doing so. Be sure to get one you can actually lift and be careful you don’t get hurt or fall into the water. You won’t last long if you do.

It is fun and interesting to watch the changes, especially this time of year. This is about the time of maximum ice as it takes all winter for the surface to cool down enough to freeze, but with the days lengthening and the temperatures about to start warming up it is a fleeting moment in the overall scheme of things. That makes it fun for a geek like me to watch the constant changes. 

The first one is Five Mile Rock which is, oddly enough, about 5 miles from town.

I live about ten miles from town, where I work, and about 7 or 8 miles of that is along the lakeshore. All the pictures in this entry are taken between home and work. I am also pleased to note that I don’t usually need my headlights on to go either to or from work now, although daylight saving time (DST) may screw that up a bit next weekend when we move our clocks ahead by an hour. Don’t get me started on that idiocy.

Here's one from the deck this morning. More open water due to the wind.
 For a better look at the photos just click on them to embiggen.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Going Downhill

We have lots of hillside up here. The Lake Superior basin could hold a lot more water if the lake needed to fill up some more. In our general vicinity the initial rise is as much as 1000 feet (300M) and goes up some more before settling down a bit. What this does is create some opportunities to go downhill. There are numerous ways to do that such as walking, but using some kind of mechanical means can get you back down to the lake in a real hurry. It is not unheard of for large trucks to lose their brakes and go crashing down, sometimes through a building, before hitting the water. At least no one has been killed yet doing such an involuntary stunt. 

As you may know, or at least heard about, is that snow and ice are slippery. We can have those for as much as 6 months of the year in these parts. The most basic form of transportation, other than falling and rolling, would be a sled or toboggan. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy just sort of smooth. I have personally used cardboard, cafeteria trays (poor college student), the hood of a motor vehicle (removed from the vehicle), or an actual store bought sliding device. Most of the North Shore of Lake Superior is just one big sledding hill.

 Mostly it is a lot of fun except maybe the going back uphill to do it again. Occasionally someone will get hurt, but the snow can be somewhat forgiving. The ice, maybe not so much. In fact, an acquaintance of mine had a mishap last winter and broke her leg doing a foolish maneuver on a store bought sled. While I was not there I suspect alcohol may have been involved. It took her nearly a year to stop limping as she is only a little younger than me. This brings me to another piece of local history, recorded in our local fishwrap (newspaper) from 90 years ago, February 21st, 1929. It goes like this.

“Earl Zerbach and Esther Isaacson were sliding down the street in front of the Arrowhead Hotel and Clarence Eliasen tried to stand with his feet astride at the bottom of the hill, so that Earl and Esther could slide under him.
They were coming with such speed that they hit Clarence, and he received a bad jar and was thrown into a sitting position. He sat where he had fallen for just a few minutes and then fainted.
Amy Backlund revived him by putting snow on his forehead. He managed to get home, although he was quite dizzy. Earl and Esther received no injury.” 

Poor Clarence! While it wouldn’t say so in the story (propriety, you know) I would imagine that Earl and Esther didn’t get their heads down low enough for a clean shot between Clarence’s legs. I also believe without looking into historical records that Esther was one of the kids living on my farm as Issacson’s homesteaded it back in 1915.

This is just another fine example of how we pass the time in our Winter Wonderland.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Better days are comin'!

It has been at least 45 days since we have had an above freezing temperature. Not even one ‘teaser’ day!  At least we haven’t had much additional snow since last week, but some nasty winds blowing at over 50 mph. That can get annoying, but I think of the early white settlers in North Dakota and remember reading reports of them occasionally going insane in the relentless winds. Then I feel much less self pity. 

Now I just watch as the ice sheets move back and forth toward and away from the shoreline. That is where I appreciate the wind when it blows the sheets toward the U.P. of Michigan. I hope they appreciate our little gift. This morning there is some open water again, but it comes and goes and changes hourly. Watching it is a relaxing affair, just a tad more interesting than watching paint dry and more contemplative, too.

This frozen phenomenon occurs more now as the lake has warmed up noticeably in the last century. To illustrate this I give you a blurb from our local fish wrapper from 90 years ago, February 21, 1929.
“Fritz Oberg drove from Grand Portage to Reservation Bay by way of the lake ice in 15 minutes. It takes about an hour via the road.” While I am not sure of the exact bay that refers to (no longer on the maps) I would imagine that distance would not be more than 15 miles as top speed on a Model A Ford at that time was 65mph and I believe that is wishful thinking for the most part. A better assumption would be about 10 miles which also tells of road “conditions” such as they were back then. Roads and driving were a relatively new thing in this part of the country. I know the girls living on this farm at that time walked the ten miles to town and back every Saturday to do their shopping. And I thought I was being somewhat active taking a two mile walk yesterday along with the regular farm chores. Times have changed!
You can see that the modern road was opened in 1966.

Pardon my digression. Meanwhile, the snow isn’t melting any time soon. Here is a shot of the garage and my well loved tractor to give you an idea. I think I'll go skiing later.

Long ago I worked on a golf course with an interesting, but illiterate old guy we affectionately called Hillbilly because, well, that’s what he was. He always had a bright outlook and often said, “Better days are comin’!”