Long Time No See

 

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We are lost in the shuffle of life. Stuck in a time and place that seems to have no end. Rifling through the memories of another. Trying to figure out what should go where and who should get what. A tiring unending job to settle the dust of someone else’s life.

We have been absent from home for months now. One thing after the other seems to be breaking down or just falling apart. It’s the life season of many decisions. Do we sell, rent, buy, replace or struggle along? Notice I didn’t say choices. The options are limited and when you’re in limbo, do you put a bandaide on it or bulldoze ahead and make decisions you may regret later?

Trying to wrap things up and plan our move forward is  overwhelming at times. I think we’re over the fact that you can’t complete this task in 30 days since we’ve gone beyond our expectation. The end is in sight, but there are many steps to get there. This mile of the journey is brutal. There is nothing left here to quench our tired souls.

The freedom of no time tables or caregiving responsibilities leaves a bit of guilt and loss of consistency leaving room for time to just get lost in your own thoughts and dreams and time ticks by and productivity slips away.

We will return home soon regardless, for we have the responsibilities of our future waiting for us to get started. I have garden plans and building projects waiting for my creative energy to once again begin to flow into action. The kitty needs to return home to roam the woods freely and excercise her unbridled need to hunt and play in the underbrush. She has had enough of apartment living. Even the smell of canned food turns her off, when just a short time ago she couldn’t get enough of it. The dog sits in anticipation each time he believes this is the day we’re going back. Anxiously pacing back and forth on the deck just hoping to be loaded into his kennel in the back of the blazer. It’s sad to see his disappointment when he figures out all we’re doing is taking out the trash.

We are all ready to begin our new chapter. We have struggled through the pain and guilt, and the fear of moving on. Now, it’s closing the book on the previous chapter that is so difficult to complete.

All In A Days Work

This weekend at the Rollin’ Rock we had guests and so there really isn’t much time for  me to do anything besides hostessing and caregiving, not complaining, just explaining. I’m not feeling great and there are a few things I’d like to get done since there still is no snow. On our last day, I manage to get some time to repair the row covers for the blueberry bushes. Apparently the wind had whipped them around vigorously and twisted the light weight row covers into useless hours of already completed labor. So, I needed a better plan. We do have a more permanent solution on the drawing board along with the other projects waiting for completion, this just couldn’t wait.

I’m standing out in the garden area we call the east20 and the sun is peeking out just a bit. Not bad for a cold rainy weekend in November. I’m trying to decide how I’m going to make these row covers work to my advantage on a temporary basis. So I gather my tools and cut yards of twine and proceed to cut some small saplings just outside the brush line around the garden area and up runs our woodland cat, Chance. We make conversation and she wants to be loved, so I take time to pet her. She follows me around and plays with the twine I toss to the ground as I’m working on the row cover. I cut six saplings to about 18 inches, pound them into the ground along each side of the row and then stretch the landscape fabric over the top and tie it down. I always have to do and redo because as I’m working I always come up with a better idea, so I’m constantly tweaking as I go, sometimes starting over multiple times. By now, the wind is starting to pick up and the sun is just starting to set. The row covers are blowing in the wind, my hands are freezing, nose is running and I’m a little frustrated, but I’ve got to get this done. Okay, first row redone. I step back to admire my work and Chance takes a flying leap and jumps right on top of the row cover crashing everything to the ground tearing the  landscape fabric at each corner. She is having the greatest time. She thought I had created the best cat carnival she could could ever imagine. As I tried to get her off the kitty hammock ride, she grabbed ahold of my arm and bit my hand and made it known that she would leave when she was ready, and she was not! I was not amused, but she is a cat and she could care less how I felt. After removing her from the row cover, forceably, she decided to move on, for a while anyway. She disappeared into the brushy boundary of the garden to play with something else. First row repaired, again, second row done, third row almost there, and here she comes again. I’m watching her close to make sure no repeats. Alright, third row done. Oh sh..there she is right in the middle of row one…..again! I’m going to…….cuss and swear and fix the damn thing again and call it a day. Vigor has left the body.

Cross It Off The List

We had an awesome week at the cabin. We just could not have planned for better weather if it had been our choice. Warm days, a little rain, and a super moon. Who could ask for more?

We worked very hard taking the last opportunity to tie up some of the loose ends before old man winter comes knocking at our door. There is always more I’d like to do, but at some point, time will run out and I won’t be able to finish, and I really hate that. Les was able to get leaf blowing under control, and some major mowing in the east20 with Pinkie and the brush hog. I got the garden space all prepared for the Concord grape plants I bought this fall at a deep discount. It was not an easy job. I dug up an 8X12 spot in heavy vegetation with a pickax and a shovel. The first 3 hours were a piece of cake, that was the first day. The second day, and the last 4 hours, was pretty tough on my hands, and my patience. But it was exhilarating to see the finished plot of ground all nicely hand tilled to perfection. The grape plants have been put aside to rest for the winter and will be planted in the new soil in the early spring.

I also worked on the blueberry patch. I now have 9 blueberry bushes. I have added 3 this fall. The ground around that garden also had to be hand dug and prepped which proved to be a little frustrating due to a large boulder right in the middle of the last row. I made allowances on both sides of the monster rock for the bushes because the rock won out and stayed tightly gripped in the sands of time. No moving that one!  Our property is full of rocks and boulders, and that’s why it’s called The Rollin’ Rock. You can’t dig without having to deal with a few rocks, some the size of a small automobile. In spite of it all, the berry bushes are all tucked away from hungry deer and the chill of winter.  Hopefully, the next growing season will be a good one.

When we return, in a few days, we will be putting the plastic “storm” windows on the inside of the cabin. These are window coverings we made out of 4ml thick heavy plastic to help keep our heat from escaping. We cut each piece of plastic to fit the window, and then outlined each piece of plastic with Velcro strips. Each window casing also has Velcro strips so the plastic can be applied and removed easily and used multiple times. I think we get 3 years out of each set we make. Minimal cost, huge savings on our heating loss.

So, we got to cross a few things off the list. If I think too long on all the things that will need to be done in spring, and all the things I want to add on as new projects, it becomes overwhelming. I have so much I would like to accomplish in the next couple years. I guess I’ll just have to….put it on the list.

 

 

Home Again

November 1, 2016h

We’re finally home once again. November 1st. and 64 degrees, unbelievable! This must be the Indian summer we always hear our grandparents speak of. Well, this is Michigan, and guess what….we were here a week ago and it snowed!!

The sun is just starting to set over the trees on the western edge of the property so it is intensely focused on the eastern border. The color is beautiful. Most of the tall trees are already bare, but the shorter aspen and beech tend to hold their leaves well into winter long after their color has faded.

I hurried around greeting and feeding the cat, got the mother-in-law settled in, the truck unloaded and off Dish and I went into the woods for a walk. We are taking advantage of our last hours of evening sunlight. In a few short days, Michigan makes a time change and we will soon be in the dark by 6:00pm.

There is no wildlife spotted in the brush or in the woods, however, Dish can hear and smell far more than I so he has the whole story. There will be movement soon as the sun sets further into the trees. We do spot a few signs of bobcat, many deer tracks in the walking paths, and an owl calling from deep inside the woods. All good signs we are doing our part to promote harmony here.

Lots of ground to cover before dark, where’s Dish? image

Come on Dish!

It’s great to be here, what a beautiful place in time.

Our Last Goodbye

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It has has taken me 6 months to write this, or anything, except a few words on Facebook. This has left such a deep sorrow in my heart, I really have been at a loss for words to write. I would like to move on now and share the story.

Always in life there is give and take. I think the older you get the more you come to realize this reality in every day life.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you have read about my dogs Dish and Newt, our Cowboys. The rabble-rousers of the north woods. The best of buddy’s, the fiercest of competitors. The best friends to mankind.

We got Newt in the spring of 2015 as a puppy, hoping to retrain Dish. Dish missed out on learning the skills of becoming a real dog due to spending the first few months of his life in the clinical setting of a veternarian hospital fighting for his life. When we adopted him at 4 months he had just been released and was looking for a forever home and we had just lost our last senior adoption to old age. So, we hoped Newt could show Dish the ropes. Running, chasing, digging, tugging, fetching, listening and responding to basic commands, the whole nine yards, all the good stuff. Newt was one of the smartest puppy’s I have ever had. He was a great teacher!

As Newt grew, so did his curiosity. He pushed the boundaries of our compound further and further. With spring came the arrival of strange new animals and Newt would take the opportunity to chase every chance he got. He was perpetual motion at its finest. One evening as I stepped out onto the deck of the small trailer we have in the compound I could just barely see the road through the now budding trees. I heard and then saw a fast moving pickup truck coming down the road. I also took note of the dogs on the ridge above the road. Newt gave a bark and both dogs took off running. The next thing I heard was a yelp…I knew. That truck hit one or both of the dogs. My husband and I both ran to the road to find Dish running crazy circles and Newtie in the road. He was lying on the opposing side of the road where the truck had crossed over and ran him down.

My husband ran to call the vet and get things secure and I tried to comfort Newt and get Dish under control. It looked bad, and it was a 30 minute drive to the vet.

After careful evaluation the skull fracture he received was going to be the deciding factor. Already he was having some issues with his rear legs and the really difficult decision was made to let him go. We said our last goodbyes to our littlest cowboy.

 

Are We There Yet?

It’s been a long and difficult winter season for us. Since Les has retired, we have spent less time at the cabin than we ever have. We really thought things would be the just the opposite.

We started bringing kitty home because of some of the extreme weather we were having there. I just couldn’t bare to leave her out in the elements while we were down state. Well, let me back up…this all started with vehicle troubles, so it set a pattern of unpredictability. It has worked out the best for all of us. She has been safe and warm and we have peace of mind that we did the right thing. She is an important member of our family and we promised to take care of her.

Kitty came to us one very cold spring. We think someone dropped her off on the road in front of our property. She was a very young cat of about 6 months old, just the time the baby kitty cuteness wears off and puberty sets in. As we all know female cat puberty is not pretty. So, I’m sure it was, “get rid of that cat!” Most ignorant folks think domesticated animals, like cats can survive on their own because they can hunt small rodents for food. While this is all true, if this is not their lifestyle to begin with, chances for survival after being fed by humans is pretty slim, especially during 17 degree weather. The spring she came to us was one of the coldest in recent history. I don’t know how long she had been on her own, but she made her way through huge snow drifts and 12 inches of snow in the woods to our cabin porch.

It was evening and we had been at the cabin for a couple of hours. I was cooking dinner and thought I heard a kitty crying. I heard it several times before investigating. Since it was so cold outside, I really didn’t want to open the door and let the cold air come in.  When you open the cabin door there is no buffer since the cabin is so small. Door open, heat out, cold air in. Just that simple. So I did open the door and here she was. Just a little thing, scared and shivering. I tried to pick her up, but she was so scared she ran under the porch. I guess she thought that if I knew she was there, I would help her. And I did. I put some people food in a dish and set it out. She came up and ate. We played this scenario out over and over throughout the weekend. However, after that first night, we went into town and bought cat food for her. I would put the food out and she would gobble it up and run under the porch. I tried over and over to get her to come in. She was too scared to cross the theshold to warmth and safety.  It took weeks before she would trust us enough to come in. It was heart breaking to have to go back downstate knowing she would be there out in the elements alone without me setting food out each time she cried for more. We left a huge bowl of food on the porch and hoped she would be OK.

Upon our return a few days later the first thing we looked for was kitty. When she heard us pull in, she peeked out from under the cabin and when the commotion of us settling in was over, she would come up on the porch for her fresh food. We became attached to our new woodland friend very quickly. It took no time for her to let us pick her up and hold her, but weeks before she would come into the cabin. Once that happened, she would come in for short periods of time and then back out. Other than capturing her to bring her to the Vet for shots and spaying, we continued this relationship over the next year.

The following year, because of our attachment to her, we decided to try and keep her in the cabin during the most extreme weather over the winter. Other than her knocking everything off of the counters and shelves, she did quite well with a good food supply and litter box. However, she would bolt out  door as soon as it was open far enough for her to squeeze through. We weren’t sure if she would come back or hate us for keeping her locked up and not want to come back in. She was upset for a while and then came back in for more food and attention. We continued this throughout the winter and in the spring she would stay out while we were gone. We tried to give her temporary shelter by repurposing an old dog house into a “cat house”, but she never liked it. We would leave her food in the cat house hoping the other wildlife would not find it but the raccoons and chipmunks were delighted to think we were so generous to feed them such good food.

As kitty became dependent upon our companionship, she would hear our vehicle as we pulled in the driveway to unlock the gate and meet us there purring and rubbing on our legs. Although she would not let us pick her up, she made us feel as though she missed us during our absence and appreciated our return. After a while, she had our schedule down pat and would be hanging around the cabin as if she was anticipating our return. Later on, there were times when she would not come back to greet us until the next day which freaked us out thinking the worst had happened. No one is completely safe in the wild woodlands, not man or beast. We all have preditors waiting in the wings, but so far, she has always returned for food and love.

So now, kitty is on her way home, and so are we.

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Chance

 

 

It’s Been A While

 

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been away from our home for almost 2 weeks. Staying down state has been cost effective but very anxiety inducing. There had been a couple of storms which produced freezing rain and a couple of inches of new snow in our northern region and we have been stressed about the food in the refrigerator and the condition of the driveway and the amount of propane left in the tank. The only good thing was that we had enough foresight to bring the kitty back with us knowing our stay down state may be more than just a few days. Thankfully she settled in to the tiny apartment like a champ!

We’ve had the worst luck with our vehicle. First the accident, then a mechanical failure. Not just a simple mechanical failure, it had to be the ultimate out of our budget kind of mechanical failure. So we look for a simple solution, which really there isn’t one, and we purchase a substitute vehicle to get us by until we can make the needed repair to our Trailblazer. Finally we can make the trip home after struggling with getting this, new to us, vehicle on the road while also managing grandkids sporting events (in which we like to participate ).

The Cowboys are crazy to get back to the freedom of the woods. However, they are apprehensive about the new ride. Dish is particularly anxious. He has been really scared to ride since the accident. Now we’re loading him up into a strange vehicle and he is visibly shaken, won’t even take a treat. We had to physically lift him in.

The ride north seemed really long and loud. There are some tweaks that need to be made to the new ride.  As we pass the Cedar Springs exit, the snow on the side of the road is increasing. By the time we get to US10, there is a considerable amount of snow.  As we turn onto our road, it is ice covered and with a soccer mom van, it’s pretty scary. Upon arrival, my husband Les, has to shovel the end of the driveway before our first attempt. First attempt is a failure to get in, then a second and a third failure.  Time to get “Pinky”. Les hooks up a tow strap to the back of our vehicle and after many attempts with the tractor, finally pulls us up the driveway. The very first thing I do is open the back and let the boys out.

Before I can even get to the cabin Newt is circling the picnic table. His eyes are crazy and he is sniffing the ground and running around that table. I walk over close and see an animal under the table and I’m hoping for a raccoon. Nope, it’s a porcupine. A big “porky”. The porky doesn’t seem too ruffeled, but both dogs are excited and trying to get under the table. I yell for Les and he is able to get Dish into the cabin and after numerous attempts, I am able to snatch Newt by the collar, barely, and get him into the cabin too.  We stayed inside while Les took care of the porky, I’m not a participater in the elimination process.

I hate even the thought of killing an animal, even a mouse, but porky’s are very destructive. During the winter for the last two years they have eaten the tender boughs at the top of several hemlock trees which eventually kills them and have destroyed many trees in the compound by eating the bark off. They are also notorious for eating the siding off cabins and outbuildings causing thousands of dollars in damage. Most often, I make Les trap the raccoons and one time, even a skunk (under his most adamant protest) and then release them out of harms way. But a porky is a different deal. Their tails are down right treacherous. One swipe and you could be pulling quills out of your legs or arms or the nose and mouth of your dog for hours. Or worse yet, a stressful, costly visit to the vet or ER to have them removed properly so infection doesn’t set in.

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So, with the porky now deceased and dusk setting in, I cook dinner, and we can finally crash for the night. The end of  yet another interesting day at the Rollin’ Rock.

Saturday brings sunny skies and warm 39 degree temps. On go the snowshoes and off we go into the snowy northern woodland we call home. The dogs are at their best running free through the snowy forest. I can tell I’m 2 weeks out of shape, but it’s great to be home again, even for just a short while.

 

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Everything Changes

We depend upon our vehicle to commute back and forth to our cabin. The Chevy Trailblazer that we purchased in 2010 has been a great vehicle for us due to the amount of supplies, dogs, mother-in-law and an occasional grandchild that we take along. This vehicle transports us north 120 miles each way twice a week. We depend on it to get us “home”. That all changed during the holiday season this year.

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As we were traveling some back roads on our trip north, we hit a band of snow blowing across the countryside. The pavement became slippery very quickly. I tried to creep along, but just as I crested a hill, the trailer I was pulling lost gripe on the road and started to swing around. The blazer was pulled into the opposing traffic lane and just as my husband says, “this is not going to be good”, we plunged into the ditch. It seemed as though we were dangling off the Grand Canyon. The angle we rested at literally had us held away from the windshield by our seat belts. The cowboy’s were in the back cargo area, smashed against the front of their kennels. They were so scared. Luckily, my 90 year old mother-in-law was seat belted in the rear seat, had she not been, she would have been thrown into my husbands lap or worse. She was shook up, but no injury.

 

Our lives changed in that instance. Even if it was only temporary, it changed.

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Chance

We were thankful we decided to bring kitty home while the blazer was being repaired. We considered trying to make a couple of trips back to check on her and feed her, but due to caring for my husband’s mother and bad weather, we would not have been able to make it. So, kitty’s life changed too. She has been forced to stay indoors with a litter box and two big dogs to chase her around a small apartment. She is safe, warm and has all the people contact she can stand. Good thing it’s only temporary. If you could see her staring out the window, you would know she is dreaming of the day she returns home to the woods. Hopefully soon our circumstance will change again, but this time hopefully, back to a close normal.

 

A New Blog For A New Year

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Skinner Lodge is an off grid 12×24 Amish built cabin on 30 acres in beautiful northern Michigan. We are off grid currently using solar with a wind turbine waiting for installation. We are miles from the nearest utility pole, so electricity is not an option. Our bathroom remains a nicely built privy with a shower not far from the cabin. No indoor running water, but the well we had drilled in 2011 has been one of our greatest assets so far. As we develop our garden it helps to have available water on site instead of trying to carry it all from the city, which was very painstaking and costly I may add.

Our goal was to retire to the Rollin’ Rock in 2019, but things just haven’t quite worked out that way. My husband has taken an early retirement and as of this writing we are not able to live there full time due to family obligations, but soon, we hope!

I’ve started Cabin Life News for the new “blogging 101” class , to get blogging once again and to gain new tips to become better at what I like to do. I thought this would be a great way to share up to date progress at Skinner Lodge and the Rollin’ Rock in general, some new things I’ve learned over the past year and introduce some very interesting and talented people we’ve met. Most of all, I’d love to promote the beauty of northern Michigan and all it has to offer.

You can also follow our historical journey, in progress, at SkinnerLodge.com.