Red fox and red maple

The chokecherry, maple and birch leaves are starting to turn colors.  A young red fox is hanging around and looks like it’s changing into its prime winter pelt.

I have all the holes ready for the footings and all the rocks and boulders from the holes that I could lift are set up as a sort of retaining wall where the driveway turns into the building site.  The tools I used are pretty basic:  a rock pry bar, a spade shovel and a small pick axe that I bought at a flea market for $4.00.  A post hole digger or earth auger would have been pretty ineffective for this site in my judgement; too many large rocks and too much hard clay.  I ordered some flared, square footing forms that attach to the sonotube forms, and so I’m just waiting for those to arrive and the weather to cooperate before I begin pouring concrete.  I must admit that the foundation has proved to be much more work than I anticipated.  I thought I would hit the granite bedrock at a much shallower depth, but that was really only the case where the bedrock was exposed on the surface.  Lesson learned for next time.

I also took a weekend and went fishing on the Bois Brule in northern Wisconsin with some friends.  We stayed south of highway 2 to avoid the crowds and by doing that, also missed out on the lake-run trout and salmon.  Caught plenty of pan-sized native brook trout though and kept one just to taste.

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Blueberries and black bears

In between rainstorms, I’ve been working on digging the holes for the footings and foundation piers.  I’ve been using a rock pry bar, pick axe, and shovel which has been pretty slow going with the bugs and 80-degree days in the sun.  The boulders I’ve had to dig out are large enough to be a huge hassle yet just small enough that I can’t justify renting a back hoe.  I had to special order concrete footing forms that won’t come until next month so looks like  I won’t be pouring concrete for a while.  I did make sure to orient the foundation so the roof pitch faces south for solar panels.  I plan on posting more detailed descriptions and photos of the foundation process once I’m closer to finishing.  In phenological news, the blueberries peaked around the first week of August and there are a couple of black bears hanging around.  Amazing to see how docile and indifferent to my presence the bears are when feasting on the abundance of fresh berries.

Moose rescue and a building permit

A friend just sent this photo from down the Gunflint Trail at Hungry Jack lake.  Apparently the young moose had fallen through the ice and some folks mounted a rescue mission.  Not sure I would have done the same for a variety of reasons, but this moose seems better off on top of the ice rather than under it.

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Also, received approval from the county to start building (I redacted some info in the picture to honor the privacy of neighbors but most of it is public record anyway).IMG_20170407_145551523

Stay tuned for pouring concrete piers and drilling into bedrock as soon as the weather cooperates!

Grade A medium amber

Finished boiling the sap I collected before the cold front came through last week.  Even though maple syrup is a little off topic for this blog, I decided to post about it because I like how the picture shows the glow of the syrup like it’s some sort of enchanted elixir.  I suppose maple syrup is a bit fantastical in a sense – it’s basically liquid sunshine stored in tree roots until the frozen darkness of winter passes.  And then it gets poured over pancakes.  The sap rising in maples is a true harbinger of spring and certainly phenological.  It would be interesting to know how our changing climate is affecting the springtime behavior of trees.  Perhaps syrup production documentation such as this blog post will provide insight for climate researchers in the future.

And here we go…

I’m starting this blog to document the construction of some timber frame cabins and outbuildings on two adjacent parcels situated on the shore of Saganaga Lake in northern Minnesota.  For those not familiar with the area, Sag Lake is at the end of the Gunflint Trail about an hour drive from Grand Marais on Lake Superior’s north shore.  The U.S.-Canada border passes through the middle of the lake, and the lake serves as an entry point for both the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest and Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario.  Together, these areas contain over 2 million acres of undeveloped wilderness surrounding 1700 lakes.

So, why the blog?  Since this project takes place in such a remote wilderness area, much of the construction will be done by myself using fairly basic tools and methods.  I’m hoping to document the progress both for myself and for others looking to do something similar.  I have found a wealth of information from other sites and blogs on the subject, and I hope in some way I can contribute to this valuable online knowledge collective.  Along the way, I’ll be sure to share all the links from the expertise I happen to stumble upon which I have no doubt will be crucial to figuring out how to do just about everything on this project.

Since I’ll be spending a lot of time in a beautiful wilderness with limited technological distractions, I’m sure I’ll also include various posts about other things I happen to be thinking about.  I have a background in ecology so probably a lot on phenological observations in the area or perhaps a perfect photogenic wildlife moment will occur.  Also, I expect that I may post about other topics of local interest to provide additional context for the cabins and how their design is relevant to the climate, intended use, local businesses, etc.  I’ll try to keep everything neatly categorized in case you’re here simply to get ideas for your own project.  Hope you enjoy it!