Category Archives: Michigan

A Friendly Push

October 8, 2021 – Leelanau County, MI – Written by Jim

“Pushhhhh.”

That was Diana’s dad’s response back in the 1980’s when she asked him how he was able to find the energy to totally renovate a house in the evening, all while working during the day as a superintendent for a commercial construction firm.

At the time, he was overseeing the renovation of the concrete topping at Buick City, working twelve hours a day and being on call the other twelve. That job was a monumental task in its own right, let alone throwing a home remodel into the mix. Diana and I have thought of Bud’s statement many times this summer, as we’ve had to push ourselves a bit to get our cabin building project to where it needed to be by season’s end. As the days slipped by on the calendar, it seemed at times that we had a bit more on our plate than we could chew.

Enter the friendly push.

Every one of our friends who has stopped by this summer has added to our project in some way, whether it be through moral support or by picking up a tool and digging in. These past few weeks have been a flurry of activity, fueled by the “pushhhhh” of our friends.

One of the deadlines we had to meet was finishing up the mechanical work this year. That involved all heating and venting work, including the ductwork from the microwave oven to the outside. In order to complete that, the microwave had to be installed above the range. I called my friend John who was there in a flash to help me with that project. Of course, I failed to get a photo. But…

…John’s wife Julie was able to photobomb her own photo when she shot this image of our friends Cindy and Jessica, who had stopped by to check out our progress. Julie is in the reflection in the door glass. Cindy and Jessica are neighbors in Kalamazoo, and John, Cindy, Diana and I all lived in the same dorm in college.

A week or so later, our friends Jim and Barb went way out of their way to lend a hand with our build. You may recall that we had stopped at their place in South Dakota to help them with their barndominium in 2019. Details of that project can be seen HERE. This trip, the two of them had been fishing and hunting north of Lake Superior and drove several hundred miles out of their way to lend us a hand.

We started out our long weekend by showing them the local sights. From there, we plotted our course to complete some key projects. First up was emptying the contents of our local storage room, as we had stashed many of our supplies there over the summer. We filled our 16 foot cargo trailer twice, so this was no small feat.

Next up was digging a trench across our driveway for a service conduit.

While I had loosened the soil with a metal tube chained to my tractor, Jim did the lion’s share of the digging. No better way to get to know Leelanau than to dig into it’s rocky soil! Once that was complete, Jim helped me add a support beam to the deck in the above photo that has the tools leaning against it.

We finished up by adding some diagonal braces to the main deck, which took out the sway at the outer reaches of it. When we were all done, Jim pulled out his drone and took some aerial photos for us. Here is one that shows our hideaway really well:

That was a huge weekend. We can’t thank them enough for their help!

The next big events to happen were the electrician and the HVAC tradesmen finishing their work.

It’s exciting to have power and heat! Those were followed by the electrical and mechanical final inspections, both of which were approved.

We also had a visit from our friends Becky and Joe!

They were on a journey from their home in Montana to our park in Florida. We hung out at our place for a bit before going to dinner at one of our favorite places, Hop Lot. It was great to see them!

Now we are on a push to finish a few things before we head south for the winter.

We have been able to complete more of the cabinet work this week. This won’t be totally finished before we leave, but it will be closer than this.

We also moved our appliances inside from the barn. We want to test them out and make sure they work while they are in the same year that we purchased them. That refrigerator was a tight fit!

We have a few more things we want to accomplish before we leave for Florida, so be sure to stay tuned for that. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Prime Time!

Leelanau County, MI – September 17, 2021 – Written by Jim

September has been a bit of a whirlwind for us. When we last posted, we were about to prep the interior of our cabin for priming. After vacuuming the ceilings and walls, we used dry Swiffer floor dusters to go over all of the walls and ceilings. What a dusty job that ended up being!

Once the prepping was done, it was time to prime!

Our goal for this fall was to prime everything and to paint the ceilings. The reason for that was to allow the electrician and HVAC trades to finish their work and get their final inspections. Diana tackled our nine closets while I rolled away at the rooms. It wasn’t long and we had our goal completed. We then decided that I would paint the great room and hallway, as we needed to mount some of the cabinets for the tradesmen to do their work.

Diana then set out on a mission to put the final coats on the closets.

It’s amazing how many square feet of drywall there are in these spaces. We used the same amount of paint to do the closets as we did to do the entire great room and attached hallways!

Once the great room was painted, I started assembling cabinets.

Check out this old cabinet maker…he’s still got it! We purchased our cabinets through a company named Lily Ann Cabinets. There isn’t a bit of particle board in them. They use a dovetail system to put them together. So far, I am pleased with the quality.

Within an hour, I had the first one on the wall!

These are the cabinets needed to mount the under cabinet lighting and the microwave. With that done, we let the electrician and HVAC tradesmen know that we were ready. It turns out that they were backed up a few weeks, so we kept on painting. One room led to another and before we knew it, the entire place was painted!

Prior to starting the priming, we had a nice visit from our friends Michaelena and Bob!

They winter two sites down from us in Florida. While they were here, we hiked and toured Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, visited a few wineries and caught up on what we’ve been doing with our summers. It was great to see them! We also had a visit from our college friends Paul and Sheryl this week. While we failed to get a photo, we had a great evening with them! 😊

The leaves are turning, which is a signal for us to start wrapping up our projects for this year. Stay tuned to see what we manage to get done before we head south for the winter. Who knows…we might even have a few visitors pop in! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Wrapping Up the Outside

Leelanau County, Michigan – August 28, 2021 – Written by Jim

It’s funny how things seem to come together sometimes.

When we initially planned our cabin project last winter, we knew the first priority was to finish the outside, so the building was weathertight. Our portion of the interior work couldn’t begin until the drywall finishers were done anyway, so we devoted all of our attention to getting the siding completed. Amazingly, those two portions of the job wrapped up within hours of each other.

When we last spoke, we were finishing up the siding on the front of the cabin.

That took a day longer than planned, but it is complete nonetheless. I moved around to the window wall on Monday, August 16, the same day the drywall finishers started.

Siding this wall has been similar to an unwritten song that has played in my head repeatedly for nearly a year. I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to play out until I actually started pounding nails. The wide band between the windows is not in line with the fascia on the front and back of the house, which messed with my symmetrical mind when it came time to locate the dividing board between the shakes and the main siding. At one point, we considered not using shakes on this side at all and siding the entire thing in blue. In the end, it was a non-issue, as we filled the entire space between the windows with white PVC, which made the windows look like one system.

With the divider in place, I began the shake siding. The window angles and the roof angle are not the same, which added to the job’s complexity.

It was at this point that our friends Rick and Linda showed up. We took a much needed break from construction to tour the Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We had a great time!

The next morning, Rick was at our place, ready to work. He helped me erect the scaffolding to full height and then we started siding in earnest.

Having him cut pieces and hand them up to me saved me many trips up and down the scaffolding. He helped out for two days and moved the project forward in a big way.

Thank you for the huge jump start, Rick! We then were fortunate to have a visit from our niece Becky, her husband Dan and our great nephew Miles.

It sure was good to see them!

Meanwhile, the drywall finishers were working in earnest inside.

At one point, the dust was rolling out of every window and door in the place! I was quite content to be working on the outside that morning. It was at this stage that I wondered who would finish first…them or me. I also wondered if I would have enough shake siding.

Luckily, I had three pieces left over from the barn project. I ended up only having one full piece at the end.

Here I am with the final piece, which thankfully meant that I was able to remove the top level of scaffolding, Thats a long way up!

I then went about the process of filling in between the windows with white PVC.

Piece by piece, I worked my way across. When we manufactured cabinets in my working days, our saws would cut within a thousandth of an inch. Houses are not built to those exacting standards. The spaces between each window varied a bit, which added to the challenge of filling the voids. Add to that the fact that the PVC didn’t come wide enough to cover the gap. I ended up slotting the sides of the boards and splining them.

Here I am fitting the last piece into place. I used a little silicone caulk to fill in the gaps and …

…that’s a wrap! In the end, I was competing with a weather system that was rolling in the next day (Friday). That was the day the drywall guys were supposed to get done. They ended up finishing on Thursday a few hours before I did. Friday ended up being a bonus day for us, as Diana and I purchased supplies in the morning and I used the shop vac to suck up drywall dust the rest of the day.

I added a PVC extension to reach the ceiling.

I had to repeatedly knock the dust from the filter, as the dust caked on it. A nasty job, indeed. Diana and I are going to Swiffer the entire place today to get it ready to prime. Stay tuned for that in our next post. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

It’s Starting to Look Like a Cabin!

Leelanau County, MI – August 14, 2021 – Written by Jim

We’ve had some funny moments with our subcontractors this summer, and one statement in particular has stood out. One very busy day when a myriad of tasks were being completed, our plumber skipped off our porch, proclaining “S**t’s gettin’ done!” It’s been our mantra ever since…especially these past few weeks.

No sooner did I finish the siding on the west end of the cabin, the insulators showed up. Our choice for wall insulation was blown in cellulose, which is basically ground up recycled paper and cardboard. It’s mixed with a binder that allows it to stick between the studs.

That’s all fine and dandy, but it also means that I wasn’t going to be hammering on the outside of the walls to put siding up, as I didn’t want the insulation to fall out! So that meant waiting for the drywall to get hung before I could resume that activity. Within a few days, the drywall supply truck showed up.

A couple of days after that, the drywall hangers began working. While all that was happening, we decided to tackle the porch ceiling.

While Diana was putting the finishing touches on the pine carsiding, I was working on the soffit on the back of the building. Once the boards were dry, I put them up.

Once that was done, I proceeded to wrap the beams with white PVC. Never needs painting!

By the time I completed that project, the drywall was hung on the inside.

Once that was up, we were able to get the insulators back to blow 14” of cellulose into the attic. The cabin is fully insulated! The finishers start next week. And since the wall insulation is held in place by the drywall, I am able to get back at the siding.

It wasn’t long before the back of the cabin was completed. We will wrap the posts and finish the decks next year. And just how was it that I fastened that little top piece of siding in the peak of the porch? Well, here is a short video that explains the process:

Here I am on my new 12 foot ladder, installing the porch fascia.

Those two large pieces of white PVC in the peak were pretty tricky to get into place. That material is expensive, so it was a ‘measure twice, cut once’ situation. Or was it ‘measure once, cuss twice’?

I finished wrapping the windows on the front of the cabin this morning and put up most of the siding.

I should easily have that completed tomorrow. From there, it is on to the window wall! I will most likely complete that before the drywall finishers are done, so I am hoping to be able to get topsoil and grass seed on our hill below the big deck before moving inside to work. We’ve had a few gully washers recently and we need to stop the erosion.

On the social side of things, we have been fortunate to get together again with Diana’s cousin Jerry and our friends Lane & Patti and Rob, so it hasn’t been all work. Still we are in need of a break, so we have some visitors showing up this week and also next weekend. Stay tuned for that! Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

And the Color is…

Leelanau County – July 26, 2019Written by Jim

As we were finishing up the barn last year, we started picking out colors for this year’s cabin project. We had always intended to tie the two buildings together by accenting them both with the Wicker shakes in the gable ends and the wide white PVC trim, but we wanted each to have an independent field color. We had settled on a horizontal taupe, and even painted the shed doors to match.

Well, the pandemic-affected supply chain had other ideas…

It turns out that taupe pigment was not available to make our siding, so we had to come up with a Plan B. Time to get creative! Our supplier actually suggested the Certainteed brand of siding for availability, which Menards just happened to also carry at a much cheaper price. Lop another 11% off of that with their summer-long rebate sale and they practically gave us the siding! So what color did we choose?

Pacific Blue!

We are happy with the way it looks with the barn. One side done, three to go!

This past week has been a mix of working on the siding and other projects that have to be buttoned up before the insulation and drywall crews arrive. Two of the four insulation crews have come and gone, along with the electrician. The electrical inspector approved the rough electrical and the building inspector approved the rough framing. We are good to go!

Down in the crawl space, I was able to put the top 9” of foam board up along with the silver seam tape. Once the HVAC, plumbing and electric finish work is completed in this area, we will put a reinforced white liner on the floor. The foam board, liner and rim joist insulation are what make up a ‘conditioned’ crawl space, which is required by Michigan building code.

As much pre-planning as we did, some things came up that required some quick thinking. Placing backing to mount the vanity lights and mirrors were one thing we hadn’t considered. A rainy day trip to Menards to pick out the mirror and lights gave us the measurements we needed to mount the backing board.

While we were there, we decided on our porch ceiling, as that needs to be done before we can put the siding up on that wall. I’m on the upper level of the wood storage rack getting ready to hand down 32 pieces of wood to Diana in this photo. We chose 1 x 6 pine carsiding that we will finish with a clear spar urethane. Stay tuned to see how that comes out.

We also realized that building a shower niche requires knowing the measurements of the tile that will surround it. After picking out our tile, we decided on the size and placement of the niches in our bathrooms.

Here is the one in our main bathroom. I have to wait until the outside wall is insulated before I can put up the rest of the cement board in this room.

Our master shower cement board is nearly complete, as these are all inside walls. I will trim out the niches in both baths when the drywall behind them is installed.

This past weekend, we bid a Leelanau farewell to our friends Rod and Mary, as they sold their cottage here and will be living full time in their Florida home.

Patti and Lane arranged an evening at The Ridge at Verterra Winery and then dinner at Nittolo’s in Lake Leelanau. From right to left: Mary & Rod, Paul & JoAnn, Lane & Patti and the two of us. We all met at Wild Cherry Resort back in 2015. We sure are going to miss having Rod and Mary here, as well as their dog Gracie. Fortunately, we will catch up with them in Florida!

Our friends Terry and Diane also stopped by with their grandson on their way north to the Upper Peninsula to go fishing. It was good to see them again!

Stay tuned for our next post where we will hopefully have insulation and drywall installed, as well as more siding. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Seeing What is Not Normally Seen

Leelanau County, MI – July 16, 2021 – Written by Jim

When building a structure such as our cabin, there is a unique opportunity to go through and inventory what is within the walls. There is a short period of time between when all of the plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are installed and when the insulation and drywall go up to take photos of what is between the studs. We’ve never done that with past houses, and were left wondering if there was a wire or pipe where we wanted to put a screw in the wall. For us, that inventory takes place this coming weekend.

There is a lot going on in these walls! We are happy to report that we have our rough plumbing and mechanical inspections complete and the rough electrical and framing inspections happen on Monday.

Here is our crawl space during the plumbing and mechanical work. Once all of the contractors are done with their final connections, we will install the floor liner.

While all that was going on, we were able to get the fireplace framed.

In this photo, I am holding two small maple logs from our property that will act as supports for our mantle. The two small squares in the framing is where those will go. The small square boards in the back of those spaces are pieces from a board that Diana’s dad had a vice mounted to. When I mounted that vice to my bench, I kept the board. I cut the squares so that each contained a hole that Bud drilled to mount the vice. I will put a screw through them to help hold the logs. So in essence, his work lives on in our cabin. We know that he would’ve loved to have helped with this project.

Above the fireplace is where the TV will be. Until we are able to get HGTV on the screen, you will have to settle for my mug. 😊

Our other project over the past week was to get started on the siding. We want to get the one end of the building completed so the mechanical team can install the outside air conditioning unit. Since that side involved a very tall gable, the scaffolding was called into action.

After doing the first section, I realized how many times I would have to set up and tear down the scaffold to complete the project. I had to come up with a plan. When the roof trusses were delivered, they had a 40 foot long I-joist underneath one side to help secure the load. When the trusses were rolled off, the I-joist came off with them, ending up on the bottom of the pile. Since it was essentially scrap, I just tossed it aside on the edge of our driveway to cut up at a later date. Well I am glad I saved it.

I cut it in half and made a set of skis for my scaffold! Good thing I did this, as I had to move the structure many times in both directions.

It slid along nicely using the tractor and a tow strap.

Working at these heights, I secured the scaffolding to the wall with those large deck screws I showed you in our last post.

After a week (including two rain days), I installed the last piece yesterday! With all of the climbing up and down, I will be very happy when the other gable is completed. I’ll do the lower sectional this side this weekend in a different color. That will be revealed in our next post.

On the social side of things, we were treated to the music of Mulebone, a group we spoke of in past years. This blues/roots duo hails from New York City and is a pleasure to listen to. We also had a get together with our friends John and Julie. John was a suite mate of mine in college and they also own a home in Leelanau County. On top of that, we got together with several couples at George and Grace’s new place farther north on the Leelanau peninsula.

Stay tuned for our next post to see how much further we get on our project! Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Zig-zagging with the Subs

July 5, 2021 – Leelanau County – Written by Jim

One thing we’ve found on the cabin build this year is the fact that things don’t always move in a straight line. Just about the time that we will think we have our day planned, one of the subcontractors will have a need that requires our immediate attention. It’s all good, as problems and solutions are forward progress! With that being said, excuse us if this post zigs and zags a bit, as it is representative as to how the past few weeks have played out.

Since we last posted, our build has been dominated by the HVAC (heating/vent/air conditioning) team and the plumber. Wanting to stay out of their way, I went to work installing the deck posts and bracing on the large deck. As I was framing, “hey Jim…can you come here for a minute?” would ring out from inside. So far, every issue has had an adaptation`. 🙂

The twelve posts around the deck perimeter are installed, as is most of the blocking in between the floor joists. The unusual blocking at the outside of the deck is needed for the triple picture framing method we are planning for this particular deck. More on that in a future blog post when we install the deck boards. In order to secure the deck posts, we had two products available for us to use. Both were made by a company by the name of Simpson Strong-tie. As the inspector was looking over our place during the deck footing inspection, he had noticed some splitting in a few roof trusses, caused by the screws we used to tie them to the walls. He said “Simpson makes a screw that doesn’t do that”, so we decided right then and there that we would use Simpson products from then on.

The brown screws with the big heads on them are what we chose as our fastening method. The chart we used to determine the length called for 5” and 8” screws, but since our deck has double beams extending out from the cabin, we needed to use 10” screws to go through those.

That is one formidable fastener! No pre-drilling required and, true to what the inspector said, they did not split the wood. At a dollar each, we would hope that they wouldn’t!

Meanwhile, the plumber and HVAC guys were busy drilling holes in the walls and floor.

This photo is taken with my back to our wall of windows on the one end. All of our rooms have vaulted ceilings and each of our closets are capped at 8 feet high. That allowed us to open up the area above the closets to give the hallway a more open feel. The closet on the right (you are seeing the back of it) is where the first issue arose. The washer, dryer and utility sink live in there. As you can imagine, the water, sewer, electric and dryer vent all have to go through the back wall. The problem arose when it was discovered that a I-truss floor joist was directly below that wall. That meant all of those utilities would have to jog around the I-joist. The closet isn’t deep enough to scoot the washer and dryer further from wall, so our only solution was to build a platform for them. That allowed the piping to jog around the truss under the platform and go back into the wall.

Now we won’t have to bend over as far to get into the front-load machines!

Next up was the bathtub. While the framers made sure the drain didn’t land on an I-joist, they forgot to take into account that the tub had an overflow drain that hung below floor level. You guessed it….it ran right through the top of an I-joist. Our only choices were to either raise the tub and put molding on the front edge where it meets the floor, or notch the joist. Not wanting a molding on the front of our tub, we chose the latter. That involved an engineered repair from the I-joist company.

After several emails back and forth with Menards corporate, we had an engineer stamped document in our possession that detailed the fix. I immediately went to work on that. A little side note: when hammering boards into place between floor joists, be sure to wear hearing protection. The first whack of the hammer cranked up my tinnitus threefold, and it took a few days for it to return to baseline!

By the time I finished that, we met with the electrician to discuss switch and lighting placement. That was an exciting process to discuss where our lighting would go! One situation cropped up in the main bath had me tearing apart a doorway and moving it over 4 inches to make room for switches. By this time, I decided the deck would have to wait and that I needed to concentrate on the interior walls. That’s when Kris from HVAC requested blocking on the exterior of the house to allow the piping to exit.

In order to do that, we needed to first install our skirt board, the white decorative band that separates our siding from our foundation. That required a phone call with our inspector, as we are not supposed to side the building before the rough framing is approved. That comes after the rough plumbing, HVAC and electrical. Thankfully, we have a great relationship with our building inspector, as he knows we like to do things right. Once I had permission, I zig-zagged to that installation. The plumber jumped in and requested blocking for the outside faucets, so I took care of those at the same time.

About the time I finished that, Kris informed me that he could set the outside air conditioning condenser if I finished the siding on that end of the house. Another call to the inspector confirmed that we indeed could side the ends before the rough framing inspection, just not the front and back. I quickly called the siding supplier to get the shakes for the gables (same as what’s on the barn), only to find out that they were out of stock. Surprisingly, this was one of the few Covid-related stock issues we’ve had, as the supply chains are still out of whack on siding. Not to worry, as their Grand Rapids location had plenty for us to pick up. So we made the six-hour round trip to GR on my birthday to get material! It was a gorgeous day for a drive. 🙂

Before I could take the scaffold down from the inside of the cabin, I needed to finish installing the jambs on the trapezoid windows.

I can almost see Traverse City from up there! I finished that and all of the interior blocking for towel rods, cabinets and grab bars…as we aren’t getting any younger. I am going to frame the fireplace today and move on to exterior siding from there.

Jumping back to the space above the closets, our master and guest closets are back to back and sit directly below the peak of the cabin. Not wanting to lose that space, we came up with a plan:

We built a solid floor directly above both closets which is open to the master bedroom side. Our closets have two-panel mission style doors, with one panel being larger than the other. We made the opening the size of the larger panel, and we will cut a set of bifold doors to fill that space. They will line up directly above the ones below. We’ll access that area with a step ladder and put long term items in tubs up there. Our attic access hole is also up there.

On the social side of things, we celebrated the return of Music in the Park in Northport! This weekly event was cancelled last year, due to the pandemic.

Patti, Lane, Rob, Diana and I chilled to the reggae group Soul Patch on the shore of Grand Traverse Bay. It was wonderful to be able to enjoy live music again! We also enjoyed a great afternoon on Independence Day with Diana’s cousin Jerry.

Stay tuned for our next post, when we should hopefully have our rough permits approved. Once that happens, we can get the insulation and drywall started. Our plan is to finish the siding and decks while all that is happening. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Launches Galore

February 2021 – Melbourne Beach, Florida

Written by Jim

If you’ve assumed that we have rocketed off of the face of the Earth, you can rest assured that we have not. We have been hanging out in our winter hideout on the Space Coast of Florida in what can only be described as the oddest winter yet. Several of our neighbors decided to remain home this year, due to the continuing pandemic. The park has a different feel, as a result. We sure do miss seeing our friends! And even though Florida is pretty much ‘open for business’, many of the activities we would normally do (Bingo, weekly lunches, meat shoot at the Moose Lodge, etc.) aren’t happening. We choose not to go into restaurants or indoor venues right now, and our grocery trips are stealth…early and fast.

With that being said, this season has been anything but a bust. SpaceX and ULA (United Launch Alliance) have been busy providing us plenty of free entertainment, and we’ve taken a few drives to see what’s happening in the area. One of those drives was to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Kennedy Space Center. As is usually the case for us, the wildlife provided us a few new gems.

This gator was showing off his two-step shuffle for us.

This Great Egret found a nice shady spot to hang out.

These Roseate Spoonbills were tempting fate hanging out with this large gator. There were quite a few spoonbills, alligators, herons ducks, and a Bald Eagle to be seen that day. We even saw an armadillo, but couldn’t get a photo of it. Always worth the hour drive up there.

As we mentioned, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have been busy! Most of the activity has been centered around SpaceX. They have two launch pads at their disposal, and they keep them hopping.

We’ve seen eleven SpaceX missions launched since we’ve arrived on November 1. One of them had four astronauts on board, which adds a whole different dynamic to watching it. We feel the night launches are the prettiest, although the one shown above was pretty cool. It was a polar launch that flew almost directly over our heads! One of the launches landed its booster back at the Cape (which we could see) and it produced two loud sonic booms as it came back in.

In addition to the SpaceX launches, we saw two ULA missions. One was a Delta IV Heavy, which is three boosters strapped together.

Copyright 2021 Rocket.com

That one was not only bright, but very loud.

This particular ULA launch occurred at sunset. It used a single liquid-fueled booster with several solid rocket boosters attached to it that leave a long contrail. The setting sun (out of the picture to the left) really added to the colors of this one.

One day, while running errands, we spotted a SpaceX booster in Port Canaveral when crossing the Cocoa Causeway. We detoured up to the port to check it out.

To the right, the sooty cylinder with the legs on the bottom is Falcon 9 booster #1060.5. The “.5” means it has flown 5 missions. In the foreground is the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which is basically a large barge that the booster lands on in the Atlantic Ocean. “Large” is a relative term, considering the fact that SpaceX parks it off of the coast of North Carolina, launches the rocket 120 miles into space and lands the first stage booster on it. Kind of like looking for a grain of sand in a roomful of thick carpet. Most times the landings are successful, saving the company millions of dollars. Some of the launches don’t require as much fuel to be used, so they are able to reverse the direction on those boosters and land them back at the Cape. Simply amazing.

As most of you know, we are planning on building a cabin on our property in Michigan this summer. That project has been the main focus for us this winter.

It won’t be long before a structure appears on the bare spot of land in the above photo. Having built the barn last summer, we know the drill, as far as permitting and securing our subcontractors goes. As of this point, everything is on schedule. The biggest hurdle has been the tremendous increase in lumber prices. The housing market is booming. As a result, those lumber prices aren’t going down anytime soon…so we bite the bullet and keep moving.

We’ve also been getting ideas watching home improvement shows on HGTV. One of our favorites is Home Town, which is set in Laurel, Mississippi.

Copyright 2021 – HGTV

Ben and Erin Napier take on a different run-down house in their hometown of Laurel and restore it for the new homeowners during each episode. Their ability as craftspeople to create something from nothing is really fun to watch. We have picked up a few ideas from them to incorporate into our place, also with some new ways to refer to things we already had planned. We already were going to use vinyl plank flooring, but learned that the correct term is LVT…or as they say in Mississippi, “Luxury VAHHHnl TAAAAHhll”. 🙂 Watching these two is much more entertaining than most of the other programming choices these days! Check them out, if you haven’t already done so.

So until next time, here’s to staying healthy and well. Stay tuned for updates on our cabin and, as always…safe and happy travels to all!

Autumn Maples in All of Their Splendor

September-October 2020 – Leelanau County, Michigan.

Written by Jim

Knowing we had a lot of things to do to wrap up our summer in Leelanau, we set a mid-October departure date. Not only would that allow us the time to finish up our projects, but it would provide us the treat of seeing our trees in all of their autumn splendor. Hopefully we wouldn’t push it too far to where we had to descend our steep driveway in the snow!

One of our projects was to take down four dead trees that could have posed a problem over the winter. The last thing we wanted was to arrive in the spring to a tree across the driveway.

We will have plenty of campfire wood next year!

Diana built a compost bin and has been filling it for the last month or so.

We should end up with some good mulch from this!

We also found time for friends and family. Lane & Patti and Rod & Mary joined us for happy hour, and Diana’s cousin Debbie came up for a weekend. Diana’s cousin Jerry has visited three times over the summer and cousin Reed visited twice. Our friend Tim also visited while he was in the area on vacation from California. We failed to get photos every time!

Also, our friends Terry and Diane came up from Grand Rapids and were our inaugural RV guests for a night! We had a great visit with them.

One of the interesting discoveries on our property was an old split rail and barbed wire fence that runs ten feet inside the west property line. We did some research and found out who owned the property in 1870…the earliest we could find. That family continued to keep the property into the 1970’s, making it a centennial farm. There were two other owners between them and us.

The fence is much older than 1970, and we have made contact with the family who originally owned it. More on that in another post. We are most interested with who may have put up the fence and also who planted the apple trees. A few of those are still producing fruit, despite their advanced age.

Most of the fence had fallen down, so we are installing metal posts on the hidden side to keep it off the ground so it won’t rot as fast. It’s not intended to act as a barrier; it’s more for asthetics and history.

It wasn’t long and Leelanau’s leaves started changing color.

We were hearing from the locals that it was the prettiest fall they had seen in a long time.

The trees were ablaze with autumn hues

Scenes like this, no matter which direction we looked!

Even the sky got in on the action. 🙂

A caramel apple, cinnamon donut and some hot apple cider would complete this scene.

Here is the view looking down our road towards Grand Traverse Bay. The bay can be seen in the distance, along with the bay’s eastern shore near the tip of Torch Lake. A mere 15 miles as the crow flies; it takes an hour to drive the 46 miles around the bottom of the bay to get there.

And with that, we bid adieu to Leelanau for the winter! Our cottage is staked out, plans are drawn and we hope to start our build in the spring. We are currently in Alabama, and we are headed to warmer latitudes to sink our toes into the sand…and to check out some cool rocket launches to share with you. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Goals Set and Goals Achieved

September 1, 2020 – Leelanau County, Michigan

When we left Florida this spring, we had a set of goals in place to install our utilities and build our barn on our property in Michigan. With the onset of COVID-19, we figured that we might have to scale those goals back a bit. Well, here we are at the beginning of September with all of our plans completed and more. It has been a great summer for us, despite the pandemic!

We last left you with siding on west side and back of the barn. Since then, we’ve finished the east side, then moved the scaffolding around the front.

The peak was a real trick to reach. Good thing we had the extension levelers for the bottom!

Here I am with the last piece of shake siding.

It was tippy-toes to get that up there!

Before long, we had all of the siding complete! Coach lights and gutters put the finishing touches on the exterior…

…while lights finished off the interior. That officially wrapped up our goals for the summer! We didn’t stop there though. I added a workbench inside the barn and then focused on finishing our shed that I rushed to build last summer.

I tacked on the batten strips, painted it and then roofed it to match the barn.

Another project we had was to cut up all the logs from the trees we had cut down along the driveway. We gave the wood to Lane and Patti, as they had helped us out earlier by supplying us with water the first month we were here.

Lane and I had a couple days of cutting.

We ended up with three loads like this. Diana and I saved two nice logs and took them to the sawmill near us to make into some pieces for the cottage. More on that in a future post.

While Lane and I were doing that, Diana had noticed that a bush she had trimmed earlier had sprouted a bunch of new shoots. Looking it up, she discovered that it was Autumn Olive, a highly invasive plant that takes over the forest edges. Turns out that it was a suggested planting for erosion control in the mid 20th century…until it started taking over everything. Diana went on a mission to rid our property of it.

Here she is, loppers in hand! Per the NW Michigan Invasive Species Network and her own research, she is cutting them and chemically treating the cut stems.

We pile them up and chain them to the bucket of the tractor…

…and stack them on our burn pile.

We will wait until there are no leaves on the trees to torch this…preferably on a rainy day. We still have a lot more to add to this pile.

We are also trying to grow grass in several places. That means spreading topsoil, seeding and putting straw on top.

It’s nice having a car hauler for a trailer, as I can drive right up the ramps and scoop off the dirt with the tractor.

Here I am spreading it out before seeding it. While I am doing that, Diana has been planting Daylilies that Mary gave us and Iris that Lane and Patti gave us.

Here are the Daylilies…

…and here she is planting the Iris.

So as you can see, we’ve accomplished a lot this summer! It hasn’t been all work though. We’ve had several physically distanced get-togethers with several friends and family, along with a day of kayaking at Sleeping Bear Dunes. We even got to meet our great nephew for the first time!

Miles is wearing a little outfit we got him at RonJon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. Becky and Dan couldn’t be happier, and Charlie even approves. 🙂

As we reflect on the summer, we look back to a photo Lane and Patti sent us the week before we arrived on May 2nd:

Our place was nothing but our little shed and a building site in need of leveling. Compare that to this photo I took today from the same place, a mere four months later:

We are thrilled with where we ended up. Hopefully our cottage build next summer goes as smoothly as this year’s barn build did. 🙂

Be sure to stay tuned for our next post, as we wrap up our summer here in Leelanau. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!