I am a woodchuck

1 and a half stacks done.

1 and a half stacks done.


This had better last for MANY winter visits!

This had better last for MANY winter visits!

Unlike the city, where grocery stores sell bundles of wood in “fireplace season” the grocery stores don’t sell bundles of firewood here. In summer, farmers sell it in bundles at the ends of their driveways to campers.  But it’s December. So while waiting for the heating oil truck to come fill my empty 250 gallon tank, I used up all of the indoor firewood I had and looked through the Yellow Pages for “firewood.” I found that I could get less than a full cord and pay a premium or just buy a full cord. I’ll use it all eventually, right?

Unlike the city, where firewood is delivered to your home all neatly stacked on pallets (and carried into your garage by a small forklift), up here it is just dumped out of a truck onto the spot you indicate. So I didn’t have to carry the wood FAR to stack it. All they had was hardwood – great for long burning fires. Friends, hardwood is HEAVY. I could only carry two, sometimes three logs at a time. I didn’t exactly “chuck” it. Stacking is serious business. If you are stacking outside, the bark side goes up. If you are stacking inside, the bark side is down. (Words of wisdom from my firewood guy.)

In all, I think I put in about 6 hours over the course of the weekend. That includes clean up of all the little bits of wood and bark that will work as kindling.  Having personally handled every single piece of wood, I’m feeling a bond with my chunks of maple (with a dash of birch and poplar).

I am a woodchuck. Hear me groan.


Another facet of the Goddess

I find myself to be different somehow when I’m at Artemisia.  That is why I am so committed to it.  (Please DO roll your eyes as you read this, I am rolling along as well.)

I hate to sound New Agey (rolling yet?), but there is an energy here that affects me profoundly. It’s a high, really (roll with it baby).  I feel things more deeply. The stillness of this place is a stark contrast to the busy-ness of my “other” life in suburban Southern California  (roll, roll,….and rest).

You might think I’m going to go on about the fresh air, overwhelming presence of the Great Lake, the activities of wildlife…bla, bla, bla.  Sure, all of that, but surprisingly its more about the quiet. And so sounds are what get my attention the most. Every one of them is interesting, informative, mysterious, three-dimensional, and personal.

But it’s not just the nature sounds that have taken on a depth I don’t usually notice. What has me bemused is the effect of the place on how I listen to the Radio.

The Radio, something I only listen to in the car at home in SoCal. But here at Artemisia, I have it tuned the local NPR Classical Music Station, with frequent weather updates, and NPR programming out of Minnesota. That means Garrison Keillor on Saturday nights. I have always “appreciated” what he was doing on his show but I never enjoyed it. It  felt foreign and out-of-touch. To my great surprise, I seriously love Prairie Home Companion when I’m up here in the midst of what most people would consider “the-middle-of-nowhere” but all the folks who live here or return here year after year for vacation, this is not just “somewhere,” but it is “the-center-of-somewhere.” And I’ve read this is “God’s Country” – I thought he already had the Vatican. But anyway,  His area code is 906, don’t cha know?

So here I am, hanging around in the “Great Room” of my cottage at Artemisia listening to PHC while a fire burns in the Franklin Stove.  LOL – the size of my kitchen-living room-dining room, redefines “Great” as in “amazing that so many functions can be comfortably combined into such a small space” kind of way.  Small town stories, folk, and even country music make sense. Country Music! Gaaaaaack! Mercifully, Mr. Keillor keeps the Country at a minimum and focuses on folk, folk-storytelling. I NEVER listen his show in Long Beach. {{{shivvvvvvver}}}

BTW, I read the Daily Mining Gazette ( which comes out late afternoon 6 days a week). I’m pretty sure this is the first local newspaper I’ve ever read in which the Obituaries are on page 2. I find it poignant  that there are so many elderly that losing a few here and there makes a big impact on the community. I don’t mean to sound cold. But where I live, there is a seemingly endless number of people. But up here it’s not just that there are relatively a lot of elderly people. In general, there aren’t many people here relative to what I’ve become used to having lived in SoCal for nearly 40 years. Yikes.  Forty Years.  There are plenty of young people too, though, what with Michigan Tech University over in Houghton, the County Seat.  And we have big time National History. Most of Calumet is within the Keweenaw National  Historic Park.

<We puff out our chests briefly>

But sounds…

After warming up by gathering and breaking up kindling wood, I took a lawn chair out to the side of the house to sit and watch the moon as numerous smallish wispy clouds passed by. All I could hear was my pulse in my head, a little ringing in my ears that I rarely notice…MY PULSE.  For goodness sakes, I could hear my own pulse.

That is quiet.

Not that a car NEVER goes by. But mostly, its quiet.

Today’s first-sighting-of-this-trip-animal is aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Red-bellied Woodpecker. red_bellied_woodpecker_3

We are LIVE!

At long last, we are ready for guests. Well…we will be within a few days. Nate and Barb are finishing up the chores on their lists this week.

After researching several rental listings I chose VRBO – Vacation Rentals by Owner. You can see our listing at http://www.vrbo.com/434858

And I have a small, simple website that my Verizon plan gives me for free (you get what you pay for)  at http://mysite.verizon.net/resqgm9j

Of course, I’m never done. I still have to find out what happened to the WiFi signal booster I ordered and buy a few more things to send to Barb for the kitchen and bathroom. Oh shoot, I was supposed to call the hay man today to get the 100 bales delivered next week for the “fortress” project.  But having the basic advertising up online feels really good – two inquiries already!  I’ve got one ad in a calendar and am looking for other inexpensive advertising opportunities. If you have ideas about people/organizations who might like to stay at Artemisia, please let me know so that I can send them the rental information.

The hardest part of where I am now with this project is being at work in So Cal and leaving the final preparations in the hands of my Michigan crew. Letting go…trusting…always a challenge for me. If I get enough renters this fall I’ll be able to justify the cost of one more visit this year. That sounds really good to me as our heat wave continues.

Still, even though I’m far away, I have only to remember the trees, the lake, the wildlife and my heart is home. 

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I don’t make this stuff up

You’ve heard it before: Be careful what you wish for. I wanted to create a spiritual retreat, and spirited it is. I was open minded when Barb told the story of the door that wouldn’t close until she yelled at Father (Father Srebernak, deceased, a good man, retired priest who lived in the Guest House for many years) to let her shut the door. She insisted that it felt like someone was on the inside pulling on it. I’d been thinking that the pad lock plate just got in the way.  But then there was the paint roller brush that was hopelessly stuck on the roller and Barb called on Father again. Whoosh! It flew off, like a Ouija Board indicator gone wild. I felt like she yanked it off in an amazing show of strength while she thought I had pushed it with brute force. Okay, maybe it was just the right time for it to come loose. Then there was the other door. It had always been tight. But now it had been painted and I COULD NOT close it. Barb had her back to it, yelled at Father to close it, grabbed the handle and swung the door hard. It closed. Okay, that’s not so weird. It just needed to be closed fast. But now that it was closed it surely wasn’t going to open. Except that it did. Easily. Very easily.

Okay, so Barb has a relationship with the house, with Father. And she’s asking, “Why would he be here when there are better places to be?” I’m thinking this is a great place to be if you’re interested in helping the new owner to rejuvenate the place.

I’m well known for doing too much. I danced too much for my out of shape body at Julie’s birthday party back in July and my knees have been sore ever since. But I’ve kept up my pace scraping, spackling, sanding, wood puttying, caulking, shopping, taping, painting, deciding, hiring, investigating, etc. My Ace bandages and ice packs got a lot of use, as did the cap on the Ibuprofen bottle. Too much to do to lay around. But I did keep up with my nightly sunset viewing. On Thursday it was mostly cloudy but with enough clear sky for yet another awesome sunset. I took some pictures and then ran into the Guest House to get Barb so she could see the last of it. We stood at the top of the bluff enjoying the majesty of the setting sun when, without warning, BIG raindrops began falling. They hit hard, like hail. We screamed like little girls and ran toward the back door. On the way I collapsed in pain against the side of the house. My knee refused to handle the uneven ground, the LCL (lateral collateral ligament) went out on strike. The pain reminded me of the sprained ankles I’ve had. I figured I could limp back to my house, rest with ice and Ibuprofen and be mostly okay the next day. Barb wanted me to go to the hospital. Too busy for that I thought. I said I’d go if I still couldn’t walk in an hour. She gave me the first thing she found as a cane – a six foot metal pole. Heavy! So I grabbed that on my bad side and leaned on her shoulder with my good side and slowly we made it into the house. When we got there we realized that we were NOT soaked. The big rain drops? All gone. Just  a light sky spittle as soon as I injured myself. I was on the couch with the ice pack but we both agreed I should just go to bed so she helped me hobble in there. After I settled in I wondered what had become of my camera. I remembered having it in the hand that had been on her shoulder outdoors. Its my second camera; the one I bought to use as a temporary back-up after my really good camera broke. I’m planning on getting it fixed when I get back to Long Beach. I bought one of those extended warranties. “You HAVE to find my camera, Barb, it will get ruined in the rain.” She took a flashlight and went out. Came back. Nada. I begged her to go back out and to retrace our steps. She went other places. Came back. Nada. So on her third trip I insisted that she take Pigasus. Let’s just say for now that Pigasus is a small toy winged pig that has been traveling with me for about 20 years and is a tool for finding lost things. I know. Its weird. But its my thing. Barb will believe in saints and spirits but not toy winged pigs. But because her beloved friend was laid up in bed in pain, she agreed to tuck it into her shirt pocket and go out one more time. Before she left I decided to go her way and called upon my grandmother (who left FIVE cameras when she died) to help find the camera. When Barb was in the Guest House kitchen she called on Father, on my grandmother, and a couple of saints. A calm, gentle female voice told her to look in my backpack. She replied that she would when she got back to my house but in the meantime she was going to keep searching the house.

She came back in, grabbed my backpack and threw it at me, telling me to look inside. I did. It was there. How did it get there? Was my subconscious in control enough to drop it into the backpack as I basically fell onto the couch? Very weird. Oh. But wait. When I held up the camera to show it to Barb she screamed, threw the BIG MagLite flashlight (it landed an inch from my injured knee) and went to the floor, laughing. We were both laughing and screaming.

When we recovered I noticed the lack of a little black and silver winged pig in her pocket. “Where’s Pigasus?!” Barb is amazing. She took the flashlight back (after apologizing for throwing it at me) and went out. But she said that she didn’t want any arguments now about me going to the hospital. She came up empty, but said that this time (in the kitchen again), she said Father said that the pig was “out there” (outside), but she couldn’t see it.  I went along to the ER without a fight. Poor Pigasus, a city pig out in the cold, windy night. In the forest. I imagined Tammy the dog finding him in the morning. Tammy the dog, part wolf, with a hot drooling mouth, clutching my little friend with her chipmunk killing fangs. Brrrrrrrr

Barb is not known for keeping a closed mouth. So first thing in the morning she went out and told the guys (my three hired hands) and told them that they needed to be on the lookout for my toy pig. Nate (the crew boss) found Pigasus in “Fibber McGee’s” (the basement tool room). Why Barb had been looking for my camera in there, I don’t know. Now all those tough northwoods men know that I travel with a winged pig. “She’s gone all over with that pig. She takes it with her everywhere!” Oh dear. Oh well. There’s no use in feeling humiliated. I am what I am. I am a 57 year old woman who brings her toys with her as she jaunts around the globe.

The next day I was late for the airport (another long story) and the airline said there was time to issue me a boarding pass but not to accept my luggage. WTF? I couldn’t agree to take try to get on a flight the next day AND pay them more money. I was hurting, tired, stressed that I hadn’t been physically able to finish up at the Guest House and missing my cats and boyfriend in Long Beach. Barb called Nate and he said he’d pick her and my luggage up from the airport and would find a way to get my luggage shipped to me.

So if you’re wondering, ala Rocky the Flying Squirrel, “Are they friendly spirits?” You Betcha!

Yeah, I know, I know, you’re thinking “If they are so friendly how come then let you sprain your knee? That is all on me. I needed to be reminded that my body has limits. I only pretend to be Wonder Woman.  And the airline? Since 9/11, anyone showing up late is suspect, and the rules are stricter than ever.  Back at Artemisia Barb, Nate and the guys are hard at work. For me. For Artemisia. With a little help from the spirits.

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Sunset during rain

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I’m still bummed about my good camera breaking down but the back-up camera is on task documenting the progress here as well as a few nature photos. Tonight just as I was finishing up for the day inside the guest house, the showers began. “There’s our twenty-percent chance of rain,” I thought. The northwestern sky was peachy pink with the setting sun while storm clouds converged overhead, and far out on the lake it was raining seriously. Now, as I write, it is seriously raining here. The thunder and lightning, along with classical music from the public radio station are adding to the sound of rain on the roof to give a delightfully cozy feeling to the end of a busy day.

Regardless of the weather report I never quite know what to expect. Yesterday was windy and the waves were large, leaving me happy that I spent so much money last year to get the cribbed seal wall built on the beach. If I had the money to extend it across the rest of my beach front, I’d do it, but I’m just going to have to hope for another good winter…or two or three.

This morning we may have had a bear visiting nearby. Tammy the dog, who is NOT known to be a “barky” dog, smelled/heard something that got her going. Normally if she senses a critter, she’s all over it, but this creature was not one she wanted to go after. This is why I do not compost my kitchen leftovers.  If a bear wants to come through looking for berries, that’s fine, but I’m not setting up a smorgasboard for them. Barb’s response to the story when I met her for lunch in town: “Well what do you expect? Bear Lake is right across the road!” Okay…

Lammas 2012

Lammas is the celebration of the first harvest, traditionally celebrated with corn or bread. Last night I remembered that I hadn’t yet sampled any of the foccacia loaf I’d picked up at the Farmer’s Market last weekend. Oh. Yum. Olive oil, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes. Mmmmmm……

It has been a hard-working holiday here at Artemisia. Yesterday we enjoyed the fruits of our labors as we waved good-bye to 3 pick-up-truckloads of junk that had been pulled out of basements, garages, and sheds and the picnic gazebo. There is still a huge pile of cardboard and paper that I’ll burn,  and rotting old wood that the guys will use as fill for the project on the bluff.

The project on the bluff. Oh my. This place is so hungry for attention, so fertile a project site that just mentioning one project gives rise to at least three more. I was just going to pay the workmen to fix the roof and bathroom ceiling of the guest house and then put up a temporary cover on the eroding hillside. Then came the list of related projects for the guys. Then came the post-it note with more tasks. Now a fortress of cedar logs is growing down the hill toward the lake, winding its way down, creating a switchback walkway that may eventually replace the very steep old stairs at the other end of the beachfront.

Today I finally started painting inside the guest house (something I thought I’d be doing on day 3 of my visit; it is day 13). Its all good. I’ve been working away at cleaning and sorting when not working on my online summer school class.  Progress is slow but steady. And you shouldn’t worry about missing out on all the fun. The project list grows faster than we check things off.

Love, light, and tasty bread to you this Lammas.


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Does a bear tweet in the woods?

Story in my Los Angeles Times today — http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-glendale-bear-new-20120716,0,35675.story

I would so love to have a compost pile at Artemisia but I just don’t think its a good idea to feed the wildlife.

I’ll be back at camp next week – lots more work to do to get the guest house and grounds ready for visitors.

I Confess

Nobody PLANS to create a monster…well, maybe Dr. Frankenstein did.

It all started out so innocently. I stashed a few in my pocket and headed out. It was fun. It was a rush. And  I was making friends.   I felt safe.

Its not like I did it by myself. Trusted friends where there, encouraging me. “Try it again!”  “Make them beg you for it!” “You can’t stop NOW.”  Lots of laughs. And the photos. Close-ups. OMG.

Later, I started doing it every day, when nobody else was around. I didn’t go anywhere without the stuff. There was a yearning that I knew I could fulfill. I was “haunted” by a hunger that seemed inextinguishable.

I guess you could say its a family thing. My grandfather (“Boppa”) was into it big time.  People used to talk about him with awe. My grandmother didn’t get as close to the action, preferring to let others go out on a ledge and just watch the show. But you know me, I’m a bit of a dare-devil.

And so if you are bothered by the change that this has brought to Artemisia, I have to accept the blame. I’m the one who fed the “beast.”

But there isn’t just one. In all there have been 3 chipmunks, 3 red squirrels, and a blue jay coming to expect peanuts (unsalted, in the shell) whenever they see me…and sometimes when they see other humans.

Barb just tells them plainly, “I don’t have any nuts; you have to ask the nut lady. It’s not ME!”

So now I’m “the nut lady.” When the squirrel doesn’t get my attention by chirping at me through the kitchen window (he’ll be on the garage roof), he’ll run across the kitchen window screen to make more noise; making his impatience clear. The blue jay hasn’t shrieked at me yet but I figure it’s only a matter of time. I’ve known blue jays before.

The chipmunks are this nut lady’s favorites. They will come right up to me, stand on their hind legs with their front paws in front of their bellies and give a look of trusting hopefulness. They’ll accept a nut from my hand.  Since Alejandro and I fed them nuts off our shoes, they learned to do a little “dance” on my shoes to get my attention. I’ll be sitting in my folding chair, quietly enjoying the sunset and something will tickle my foot. I yelp and they run for cover. Then we all calm down and I make peace with a nut tossed right to them. We love this game!

My grandfather? He was known for teaching them that when he was sitting on a certain bench they could run up his pant leg and take a peanut from his pocket!

My grandmother, as an old lady, had her care-giver (my friend Barb) put nuts on the fence rail outside her bedroom window so that she could watch the squirrels collecting their treasure.

My neighbor, Mrs. Hoffman (aka Frannie Oakley) hates to be bothered by critters and will shoot at red squirrels and raccoons. I didn’t care to ask if she uses “deadly force;” she has a right to do what she sees fit on her own property. But Artemisia is a wildlife sanctuary…as long as the beasties stay outside of my house(s).  The buggers can do a lot of damage if they get into your house.  So I am vigilant about keeping them out. I’m a wildwoman with Gap Filler in my hands.

I plan on stocking the Guest House with an initial supply of peanuts in case my guests share my interest in fattening up the little guys for the winter. If they don’t, they can do as Barb does and just tell them plain and simple, “Scram!”

Chippie snacking atop Ale’s foot

Rocket the Squirrel enjoys a peanut

Chippie in the peanut basket

Seasons of Aremisia – June 2012

June is an amazing month at Artemisia. In nearby Houghton (the county seat), they hold their annual “Spring Music Festival” in June. I thought it was odd to have a “spring” festival in JUNE  last year but this year I get it…I think.  I arrived late on June 2nd this year, and only a few flowers were blooming along Highway M-203 between Calumet and my place. But every day there were a few more, and by the time I left to return to Long Beach 3 weeks later, the slopes of my favorite section of two-lane M-203 were covered in delicate daisies, tiny yellow somethings, and the first buds of Queen Anne’s Lace that will dominate the roadside in August.

Migratory birds were just beginning to show up in the Keweenaw for summer. We saw Sandhill Cranes on a golf course off of Hwy 41. Sandhill Cranes! I’ve seen them in Florida in December! I’m not much of a birder so I don’t know the names of the songbirds high up in my forest, or those very colorful little chaps I glimpsed while walking the Nara wetlands trail (a nice elevated wooden walkway). A cool day in June is a good time to walk the various Nara trails (just SE of Houghton) because the mosquitoes haven’t woken up yet. We didn’t even bring any bug spray. Didn’t need it.

Hummingbirds showed up to feast on the short-lived blossoms of pink and purple lupines.  This summer most of the lupines on my land didn’t last long because of a short hot spell, I guess.  And the bugs changed. Every couple of days I was seeing a type that I hadn’t seen before. (All Hail the God/dess of screens!) On that hottest of days, the biting flies appeared. Not fun. I took that as my cue to be glad that I was only staying for 3 weeks and would be missing the worst of the biting fly season (generally the last two weeks of June, sometimes into the first week of July).  But then the weather became more springlike and the flies went back to sleep. I am assured by the locals that there are only about 3 bad weeks for flies; these two and one in late August.

The hummingbirds were around for about a week, alternating between lupines and the feeder I put up, but then they moved on. I guess they were enroute to points north. My “local” hummingbirds will arrive later, I expect. We get the little ruby-throated ones with the iridescent green backs. Magical!

June is supposed to be a good bet for Aurora Borealis but there were no shows as far south as Lake Superior’s southern shore during the first three weeks of June. I bided my time with a 550 piece puzzle of the AB that kept me busy for about a week.

Summer Solstice was cool and rainy. You couldn’t tell that it was the longest day of the year. But the week before and the days just after there was plenty of Sun to admire. Sunrise is around 6am and sunset just before 10pm, with light in the sky until 11pm. I am blessed to be on a length of coastline that faces northwest so we get sunset over the lake. Gorgeous! Sunrise is likewise gorgeous, turning both sky and lake into a salmon color. The first time I woke up and saw it I thought the world must be coming to an end; nuclear holocaust or something.

Right, I’m not much of a morning person so I don’t have a lot of experiences with sunrises. I’ve compromised my insistence on sleeping through them by waking up long enough to enjoy for about 4 minutes and then back to sleep.

Thunderstorms have been one of the things I’ve missed most about Michigan weather since moving to California after high school. Most seem to come from the southwest so I can watch them coming up the coast and moving off to the tip of the Keweenaw. One day during my 3rd week there was a severe storm warning – strong winds, heavy rains, possible hail, and even a chance for a tornado. A tornado?! This far north? Hmm…the day HAD alternated between swelteringly hot/humid and downright cold. (I’ve been told by many a local “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes and it will change.” That day I counted 10 minutes between the time I put my hair up because I was hot and when I felt the need to close the window because of the cold wind.  So, maybe a tornado COULD happen. Not likely…but hey…the world climate is changing and all sorts of unusual things are happening.

Nate (my roofer) and I stood out in front of the guest house at the top of the bluff and reveled in the power of the storm as it passed us by. He had just come off the room after hurrying to get the big hole covered before the rain. The clouds were nearly black and moving fast, clearly having an important mission somewhere to the north. Then came the rain. Hard. We decided that it was a good time for a work break and a sandwich.

The lake – and the beach – change daily. Living near the ocean for so many years, it never ceases to amaze me how placid the Great Lake can be, barely causing a ripple at the shore. Of course its too cold for swimmers in June, unless you have a wetsuit. But I did let Alejandro tug me around in a little inflatable kid’s boat. I don’t know how he stood in that water for so long. I would have had full blown hypothermia.

On other days the winds whip the surface water into a frenzy, with lots of little waves crashing into each other. Lots of “whitecaps.” And on still others, the waves emerge from deeper source and come ashore almost like ocean waves – tall and long.

I love June at Artemisia. Life is doing more than stirring. It is leaping. It is joyful. It is ever-changing and growing larger.

Oh…the roofer? He was called in because we discovered that raccoons had been nesting in the Guest House attic over the bathroom. I guess its a good thing(?) because in examining the situation we found that the roof over the same area was seriously rotted. So now I have a new roof AND a new ceiling over the bathroom. And that awful stink is GONE.

Raccoons “nest” in spring to have their babies and then they move on when the babies are weaned. I’m not sure what happened. The first raccoons seen were two dead babies, fallen through the hole in the ceiling. Barb took them out to the woods where they composted very quickly. A week later when the plumber was there, he called out, “Callista! Come here, you have a boarder!” A live baby was in the shower, wishing for a way out. Since I had work gloves on and there was nobody else to do it, I (AFTER running to my house to grab my camera to take a quick photo) grabbed the little one by the scruff of the neck like you would a kitten. I got snarled at most sincerely until we reached the back porch. As far as I know, the little one had never been outside before. I put her down next to the house but she was done with human dwellings and scampered off into the woods. The woods continues to have a good feeling; I’m hoping she survives…and survives Frannie Oakley too!

June Sunrise over the Lake

June 2012 baby raccoon “boarder”

Light show at Artemisia!

Unfortunately we were not there to see this but someone captured it from our neighbor: McLain State Park. Awe-inspiring!

You can see the video at http://player.vimeo.com/video/40296783?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=969696