Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Frosty Morning

The sunrise shining through the maple leaves painted dramatic patterns in the mist.

The three raised beds in the foreground contain spinache, chard, kale and lettuce - frost hardy greens that sweeten in cold. In a few weeks we will move the greenhouse over these beds. But there's no hurry - as long as the tomatoes and peppers continue ripening inside the greenhouse, it can stay where it is.

Frost on the pumpkin. We have a ridiculous amount of pumpkins this year.

Frost on the kale.

There is something magical about a frosty morning in September. You need a clear sky with no wind for frost at this time of year. Hence the morning dawns still and clear, and a heavy mist boils out of our pond and covers the landscape.

Savu finishing up on of the 8 chickens we slaughtered the day before. All three dogs ate entrails, feet and feathers until they were stuffed like sausages. In case this is making you feel a little queasy, stop and think - what do you think dog food, or for that matter, sausage is really made of?

Whitman's poem, leaves of grass.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Honkers flying south. The sound of a big flock flying over is thrilling, but there's always a touch of melancholy in it. A beautiful song in a minor key.

Paul Maki stopped by and helped me harvest honey. I didn't get quite as much as I had hoped for as many of the frames were only partially filled and uncapped. I think I erred on the side of caution when I added extra supers before the bees had completely filled those that were on the hives. I was afraid they would swarm without the extra room.
Next year I'm going to buy a pair of leather gloves that bees can't sting through. The cheap pair I have now are made of rubberized canvas that a few determined bees inevitably find a way to stab through. Of course it usually happens when you're lifting a heavy super that you can't afford to drop. If all you have is single frame in your hands like I am holding here you can usually brush off the bee that's trying to sting through the material before it nails you.
One of the interesting things I've noticed about bees is that they seem to get more riled up if you knock them off a frame by tapping it against a super than they do if you simply brush them off with a brush. Not that it makes a huge difference, when you're robbing honey it seems like there are plenty of bees that would like to sting you.

Uncapping frames and cranking the extractor. It tends to run out of balance so the boys took turns holding it while the other turned the crank.

Another spinning machine. The chirp in our dryer got so bad that I was forced to do something. I took it apart and found out that they no longer make the replacement parts I need. I haven't given up on it yet, but at least I don't have to listen to that maddening squeak any longer. I began to understand why some people haul their old dryers out into the woods and roll them down into the steepest ravine they can find. There must be certain satisfaction to that. I'm not advocating it, but perhaps the thought will help you feel less judgmental toward the poor slobs who dump their trash in the woods. Some of them must've really had a bad day.

Marja's sourdough rye bread. As good as anything you'll find in Finland.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Silphium, or Compass Plant, was introduced to me by Aldo Leopold, who wrote an intriguing essay about it in his book, "A Sand County Almanac". Leopold, who wrote in the tradition of Thoreau and Muir, is considered by many to be the father of the modern environmental movement. While I don't agree with him on some things, I greatly enjoy his simple, yet evocative writing style. He uses silphium to show how much of the original prairie has been lost, along with its flora and fauna - and paints a wonderful word picture when he expresses regret that he would never see a field of silphium tickling the bellies of buffalo.

Several years ago I obtained some silphium seeds from a friend in Wisconsin and planted them near our pond - and after a season or two forgot about them. A few weeks ago I was delighted to find this five-foot high specimen reflecting the evening sun. It is a living monument to the long grass prairie where the buffalo roamed, and I feel honored to have a tenant of such distinguished lineage.

The Indians used the rosin from the stem as chewing gum. The early settlers called it the compass plant because its leaves orient themselves in a north-south plane.

I hope to use the seeds to plant more patches of silphium. Who knows, maybe someday I'll have a few buffalo to go with them.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Trimountain Mine

The ruins of the compressor house near Shaft #1, built mostly with mine rock, with brick arches and sandstone corners.

The southernmost of the Trimountain shafts, this site is entirely overgrown by forest. Nearby is a concrete dam, boilerhouse and concrete steam tunnels.

Corners of finished sanstone frame walls of irregular mine rock.

The view from the rockpile near the #2 shaft. Rails were laid on top of the pile so that the poor rock could be pushed further. This resulted in a fanlike series of piles laying adjacent to each other. So far the pile is intact, unlike the poor rock piles near the #3 and #4 shafts which are rapidly being crushed into gravel and hauled off by the Houghton County Road Commission. It would be good if at least one of these old poor rock piles were preserved intact for posterity - as a monument to the men who risked their lives 3000 feet underground to mine the copper it contained.
Green rock, copper oxide.

The smokestack of the boilerhouse serving shafts #3 and #4. Because these ruins lie just over the hill from Trimountain, none of it is visible within the village itself.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


The beginning of another rocking chair, perhaps. I saved a few logs from the firewood pile to saw up into 2" thick slabs, using my alaskan chainsaw mill. Even with a specially ground ripping chain, the wide kerf of a chainsaw makes for slow going. You wouldn't want to do this for a living. Still, it's an inexpensive way to get wide planks of nicely figured wood.

A slab of yellow birch. I stack the planks in our basement and allow them to slowly dry. In a year or two they'll be ready to use for furniture. One of the logs that I sawed before this one was dramatically spalted with dark lines running along the grain. You can create spalted wood very easily - just stand a short long on end on damp ground for a few months.

Several years ago I planted about a dozen smallmouth bass in our pond, ranging from 6-10 inches. Now there are at least a hundred, including some good sized lunkers. Jeni and Mik tried their luck...

..and Jeni won the fishing derby with this pair, 16 & 17 inches.

Diamonds are forever.