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Tag: family fun (page 1 of 32)

cabin dreams underway

So the day has come! We’ve been planning for our log cabin project for a while now—well for about 20 years actually; however, we’ve been making the dream a reality now since June 2011 when we purchased 40 acres of northern woods just outside of Marquette, Michigan. We had taken a road trip the summer before through the UP and fell in love with the place. After a year of searching, we found our land and have been trying to move a building project forward ever since. There have been a number of challenges and delays. We had to work with our neighbors (whose private property we cross to get to our land) for deeded easement rights over their property. It took a while to build some trust there, but in the end they were very gracious and granted us these rights in perpetuity.

[singlepic=1225,300,center]Print of Camp McGuire

We then had to figure out where we might build on this chunk of wilderness. While it’s a nice 40 acre piece, there are really just 3 and a half acres that are “buildable” in any sense of the word, as the rest is cut off by creek and granite ridge. We decided that if we moved the existing road back away from the creek, we could open up a nice building site for our cabin so that it would overlook the creek nicely and give us a little privacy from the road (a private dirt road that sees maybe 3 cars a year). We spent about a year trying to get permission to cross about 30 feet of land owned by a timber company in order to avoid unnecessary hairpin turns in our rerouted road, but they were not very reasonable, so we thought hairpins are fun.

There was some significant delay in getting the required permits from the DEQ to lay a temporary bridge to cross the creek on the way in. (The existing bridge wouldn’t take the weight of the construction vehicles.) Dan from Oberstar was really helpful in this matter. He contacted a logger he knew who had a bridge we could use, worked with an outside consultant to write the permit application (apparently it’s got to be just right for the DEQ, and it isn’t cheap), and consulted us on how to make it all work within our budget.

The fun part has been working with Hiawatha Log Homes out of Munising. We’ve been designing the cabin with them all the while we were working out the many other details. Garrett from Hiawatha has been great. He helped us take our vision and adjust in such a way that it made good building sense and became financially feasible for us. On July 23rd, they delivered the logs to our property.

Finally, this July, everything was in place and we broke ground. First the road—a bit of a challenge given the rocky terrain—and then clearing and excavation for the cabin foundation. Days later, Scott, our builder from Northland Builders had the foundation and subfloor in place with his crew stacking the walls the next day. How exciting! It’s underway. We hope for the exterior cabin to complete by November.

love, canine style

A few weeks ago Chris and I got it into our heads that it might be a good idea to get a family pet—a dog. I’m not sure exactly what we were thinking. At first, I was totally against it. A dog?! Ahh, man, I didn’t want to have one of those “dog houses;” you know the  Briggs, our New Friend type–hair everywhere, scratches all over the floors, the persistent stink of dog at every turn. And then there’s the yard–patches of yellow from concentrated dog piss, piles of poop awaiting the unsuspecting shoe, craters of mud where the neatly manicured lawn once grew. But then Chris wore me down.

I started looking at the photos of the dogs available at local shelters and rescues. I got my mind wrapped around it. Aidan had been asking—despite his mild fear of dogs. We thought this would be a chance for him to overcome this fear, to learn responsibility, and to have a truly loyal friend and companion growing up.

After much searching and several visits to adoption events, foster homes, shelters and rescues, we found Briggs (formerly known as Pilgrim and then Copper). We found him through the All Herding Breed Dog Rescue of Illinois, and first met Briggs at the home of his foster family. We arranged the meeting and spent a good bit of the afternoon getting to know him at their home. We threw the ball with him (fetching came preinstalled), fed him treats, walked up and down the street, talked with the family to learn more about his disposition and overall personality. It was clear that the foster family loved him very much. In fact, it was their intention to adopt Briggs (they called him Copper) but as it turned out their older Lab didn’t like sharing their attention and the match wasn’t quite right.

Once we decided to adopt Briggs, I could sense the mix of feelings coming form his foster family. While they were happy to find him a good home, they didn’t want to let him go—especially the college-age daughter. She would always dress him up in different colored bandanas, cuddle him like a child, and love him like her own. As we stood their in the driveway and the family said their goodbyes, it was hard. Clearly they loved him so much. We asked if they wanted more time or if maybe they wanted to reconsider, but they said no and assured us that it was for the best at that they were just happy that we could provide a good “forever” home for him. We were sure going to try our best.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.
– Anonymous

So, it’s been about five weeks now. Briggs is getting adjusted. He’s so smart. I got a few books and do my best to work with him everyday to keep him learning and stimulated mentally. We plan to enroll him in some training classes at the end of this month. Briggs is coming along just fine, but I’m not sure we can say the same for Aidan. About a week or two back, Briggs found his voice and now will bark on occasion. His barking sends Aidan into a panic; he runs squealing from the room or—believe it or not—scrambling for higher ground atop our kitchen table. Briggs, of course, finds this alarming and so barks more; thus begins the cycle. Aidan skulks around, scurrying here and there, which kicks off Briggs herding instinct and he begins to bark at the unusual little “calf” running about. Aidan squeals and runs, Briggs barks more and chases him, and on and on. This may sound a little amusing, but it’s actually quite troubling and is causing all kinds of stress. We’re hoping either Briggs and/or Aidan adjusts to one another soon.

I, for one, would hate to give Briggs up. First of all, I would feel like a complete failure contacting his previous foster home and telling them it didn’t work out. But more significantly, I would certainly feel the loss of a truly loyal companion and good friend. I’ve only known Briggs for a little more than a month, but we’ve really bonded. He is a smart, loyal dog—always so happy to see me. We’ve become fast friends, running partners, confidants. I know I sound like one of those crazy “dog people” now, but what can I say, he won me over. I just hope he can do the same for Aidan.

675,000 gallons per second

Wanderlust has overcome me again, and so we’ve headed east. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the Atlantic; we are ocean bound. With as little a plan as possible, we are easing our way along the southern edge of the Great Lakes—Michigan, Erie, Ontario. No such trip could be complete without a stop at Niagara Falls. Chris and I first saw the [singlepic=1207,300,300] Evening comes over the Falls Falls during our Canadian road trip in college. I remember it was our first major stop of the journey, as well, eager to get someplace beyond our familiar worlds.

Slow as we are (the near-noon departure doesn’t help) with our desire to drive secondary roads as much as possible (not much of a road trip on the interstate), we arrived in Buffalo, NY after 11pm, so we packed it in and set our sites on the Falls for the morning. We didn’t want to stay in the immediate Niagara Falls areas, as too much kitschy tourism can be pretty expensive, not to mention irritating, so we opted for the 30-minute drive or so from our hotel to the Falls—not too bad.

In the morning (okay early afternoon), we drove north to the Falls. After the battle for affordable parking, we took our time strolling around; the high temps and crushing humidity ensured we didn’t move too quickly. I’ve got to say, while the beauty of the falls is stunning, it was tough for me to see through the tourism and truly pushy people. Seriously, I’ve been to a few tourist destination in my time but haven’t been pushed around (literally) as much as I was at Niagara Falls. There were a lot of people in a big hurry, jockeying for the best views, to get to the front of this line or that, or just to shoulder their way past you. I grew tired of the experience rather quickly.

Chris and I had been to the Falls years before on the Canadian side. I remember tourism being pretty thick then, too, but I don’t remember it being quite so tacky. Perhaps we Americans like our garish gimcrack a tad more than our neighbors to the North, but even so, all those years ago Chris and I spent only a few hours seeing the Falls before moving on. (We couldn’t even afford the local campsites.) It all makes me a bit sad, because they are indeed beautiful. Why the beautiful Niagara Falls had to become the “Niagara Falls Theme Park,” I will never truly understand. It seems beauty alone isn’t enough without snow globes, overpriced tee-shirts, and souvenir DVDs. (Ahh, now I’ve turned all negative. I didn’t mean to.)

Honestly, I really was looking forward to experiencing the natural beauty of this landscape with Aidan for the first time. There is something pretty cool about sharing something you’ve experienced years before again this time with your child. Funny, though, as we walked around the park, Aidan mentioned that he’d thought it would be more remote—somehow more “natural” in its setting. It seems he and I aren’t so different in some regards.

Still, determined to make the best of it and embrace all the tourism (maybe not all) the park had to offer, we queued up for the hour and a half wait to board the famed and historical Maid of the Mist (dating back to 1846). This would be a new experience for us all. Despite the unbearably long wait (again in the heat and humidity), the 20-minute-or-so tour nearly under the falls really was worth it. It was a blast. Both Aidan and Chris screamed with joy and we all got soaking wet. Of course, Aidan never even put on his souvenir raincoat, being too cool to stay dry. Honestly, they did very little to keep anyone dry and it was so much fun feeling the force of the Falls so close and the mist covering us in all her glory.

In the end, we had a nice day at Niagara Falls, but we all agreed that one day was surely enough and set our sites on the next stop of our easterly, impromptu road trip.

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