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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hot Stuff Part I

A long delayed posting is all about one of the new features of our place on Cascade Bluff-- a wood-fired hot tub! Here are some photos of the tub assembly in progress....

Laying out the pieces...

Somebody is muttering... "Cut twice, measure once... or is it measure twice, cut once... aw, dang it..."

"Please to read instructions before attempt of assembly..."

This little guy came with the kit!

The submersible stove in place...

Beautiful patio pavers...

...and voila! The hot tub is assembled and ready to go!

The stove sits under the water behind that slatted fence (in case someone decides to lean against the stove...) It is 4 feet deep, has no jets, just lots and lots of hot water. More like a Japanese soaking tub than a Jacuzzi... or, if you prefer, a cauldron...

High tech "stirring device" ...

The real test: winter!

Here's the tub heating up with its insulated "hat" on. She gets pretty toasty -- 104 degrees!

I had one more shot of an unnamed person actually soaking happily in the hot tub, but I value my relationship more than the blog, so that picture remains private!

Next post: Hot Stuff Part II...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Over the River and Through the Woods

Greetings on Thanksgiving morning from Cascade Bluff! This is the view out our door this morning. We are snug and warm, thankful for beautiful snow, wonderful winter, insulated walls, wood fires, lots of food in the pantry, good coffee, many books, nice music, messages from far away friends and loved ones, excellent cell phone service, gorgeous weather, each other, and for every moment of our lives.

Here is something we have picked out especially for our place up north, and we'd like to share with everyone reading our blog:

Elemental Blessing For Our New Home

Before a human voice was ever heard here,
This place has known the respect of stone,
The friendship of the wind, always returning
With news of elsewhere, whispered in seed and pollen,
The thin symphonies of birdsong softening the silence,
The litanies of rain rearranging the air,
Cascades of sunlight opening and closing days,
And the glow of the moon gazing through darkness.
May all that elemental enrichment
Bless the foundation and standing of our home.

Before we came here, this place has known
The wonder of children's eyes,
The hope of mornings in troubled hearts,
The tranquility of twilight easing the night,
The drama of dreams under sleeping eyelids,
The generous disturbance of birth,
The anxieties of old age unclenching into grace,
And the final elegance of calmly embraced death.
May the life of our new home enter
Into this inheritance of spirit.

May the rain fall kindly,
May the daylight illuminate our hearts,
May the darkness never burden,
May those who dwell here in the unseen
Watch over our coming and going,
May our lives of love and promise
Refine and deepen the mind of this land.

John O'Donohue

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's New At The New World

So what's new up at Cascade Bluff, other than fabulous autumn colors? (More of that in another post to come!) Well, lots of new things are happening. First things we noticed on arrival on Sept 18th were these giGUNDO new boulders. Dean Berneking, who really rocks, liberated these from their former resting place and artistically placed them near our main entrance. The guys were a bit worried that we weren't rock lovers and had left us some anxious messages to call right away and let them know what we thought. We should really give Dean and Chris a tour of Kathy's office back in Bloomington-- she has boxes of rocks, bowls of rocks, jars of rocks... every horizontal surface is COVERED with rocks. No worries, gents, we love the rocks!

A few more of Dean B's great-lookin' big boulders...

We have new stairs from the outside to our deck, with a small landing deck that looks north and west...

...where we have already camped out at night with blankets to watch the stars! Nice!

Here are the guys taking a short lunch break. Kathy and Morgan the Wonder Dog are supervising...

The generator is now fully operational! Brian Bennett and Randy Hodel were so engaged in their work that they never slowed down, not even to pose for a photo for the blog. All work and no play, guys...

We also are now the proud owners of a "new" (actually refurbished) 1000 gallon liquid propane tank, being delivered by Como Oil and Propane. The less often they have to grind the gears and get the tanker truck up our very steep hill, the more they like it!

The itty bitty 500 gal tank is being hoisted away. The LP tank has kind of a nice view of the maples, doesn't it?

And then, in our ongoing attempt to use the least amount of propane imaginable, so that tanker doesn't have to make that climb so often, we had a visit from Jim Mattson the plumber... Nope, no toilets were plugged...

We've installed two solar thermal panels on our roof! These panels collect heat from the sun, and are considerably more efficient than the photovoltaic panels at collecting solar energy.

They are filled with a form of antifreeze and bring a loop of heated material down into the house, into the utility room...

...where Jim has installed a solar domestic hot water tank, powered by the panels! That's the new tank behind him with those big black insulated pipes coming down from above. A loop of heated antifreeze goes into the tank and heats the water. When the sun is out (even in winter--it's the light, not the outdoor temperature), two panels are plenty to heat all the water we need. If the sun's hiding, we still have our propane fired boiler to back us up. The two systems are linked so if we've got lots of sun-charged hot water, the boiler does not need to run, other than in winter for the in-floor heat (which requires a much lower temp.) Slick!

Also new are the pavers Chris and Nick are installing at the entry and around the west and south sides. They look great, and they are quite comfortable to walk on barefoot...

...and they are made of recycled tires and plastic that would otherwise go to landfills. These are made by a company called VAST (see their new link on the sidebar). They're pretty much indestructible, each weighs a few ounces, and they never fade or crack with harsh weather. They install over a premade grid so they don't slide around or shift out of place too!

Nick's preparing the sand bed for the path going to the foot of the new stairway. We'll have a paver patio on the south side of the house, too.

Now don't be thinkin' that all Val and Kathy did was lie around eating bon bons on this trip! This gorgeous photo is actually posted to show you the very nicely manicured entrance to the trail, around 3/4ths of a mile long, that starts off our driveway and goes right through the maple forest, then up to the top of the bluff and back down to the house. Looks inviting, doesn't it?

Here's Val running the Bush Whacker that we borrowed from her Dad--basically an enormous weed trimmer with a blade instead of a nylon string, to speed up the otherwise very slow task of clipping and sawing our way through the forest. Kathy came after with the standard clippers and cleaned up the smaller stuff.

But lest you worry that Kathy didn't get to play with any of the big toys, here she is on Keith's ATV (we're borrowing that for a while, too!) hauling (predictably) rocks! The northland is more or less filled with rocks, of course, but these had to be special rocks... place around the bases of all the big posts that hold up our deck!

That is a LOT of rocks, folks, we have twelve posts! Or is it fourteen...
Whew, those rocks were heavy!

And speaking of mechanical toys, these friendly wind-up creatures (and some not so friendly--you gotta watch out for Nunzilla!) made the journey from our kitchen shelves in Bloomington to our kitchen shelves at Cascade Bluff! Fear not, however--there are still plenty more back at the big city home!

But despite all the hard work, we enjoyed many quiet evenings by the fire...

...and the view isn't new at all... except that it is new, every single moment.

We never get tired of Silvery Superior! More posts coming soon -- yah sure, d'ere's some new t'ings coming at da New Vorld... new HOT things!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Color Extravaganza

This year's fall colors were beyond description! Starting on the road driving toward our cabin, the breathtaking views began...
On nearby Deer Yard Lake, maples abound...
Cascade Mountain, layers of color...

From our deck... Wow...

Hard to say what is brighter, the copper post cap or the trees!
Even in the mist of morning, maples look on fire.

Early morning light...

...and late evening...

...and the penumbra, that pink glow layered over the blue shadow, Earth, Sky and Water.
We're so incredibly lucky!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Of Logs and Laundry

We had a lovely 10 days at Cascade Bluffs at the end of August til the day after Labor Day. As you see, the fall color was just beginning to show.
Clear morning light on the Big Lake...

A few amber jewels, 'designedly dropt', as Walt might say...

...some roadside goldenrod... (aCHHHOOOO!!)

...and fading purple out for the bees!

We spent many hours refining our trails, which are now magnificent, if we do say so ourselves! But it is really hard to get a good image of a trail under the forest canopy... you will just have to visit and check them out for yourselves! Here are our blue tags that mark what we are currently calling the West Boundary Trail...

Don't mess with the USFS!
Their signs are much sturdier and more intimidating than our blue tags...

...and they left us four of these "pins" or USGS survey markers, in reality big capped pipes pounded into the rocky ground with the longitude and latitude and other secret messages engraved on top. This one is at the mid-point of our west border. It was placed in the ground over 20 years ago and I tried to get a shot of the printing on the cap... No go. Again, you'll have to make a pilgrimage yourself to the spot and read the historic etching, that says "This spot marks the western edge of Val and Kathy's future paradise." And that is the absolute truth, folks--come and read it yourselves!

For those who have traveled north and visited our haven in the woods, you know that the road has some... ahem... challenging spots, in part due to Mud Season, 2010, when things got a bit churned up by big trucks. Here is a shot of our road, circa August 2010, smoothed out somewhat and fairly dry, but still kinda rutty...

So we've gone and hired a guy who really wants to get our road in shape: Dean Berneking, AKA Road King. Here's Dean in his element...

...and here's The Mark of Dean... the site of a future culvert...

Speaking of culverts... He brought a bunch... needed to go get a few more...

Here is a real north shore work of art: a culvert that ain't going to wash out or silt up anytime soon! Doesn't it just bring tears to your eyes? Beeyootiful!!

Man, this road looks great even in the rain!

Smooth! Look, no ruts!!

Wow, he even built us a "guard rail" for that steep section, out of local building materials!

Winter follows closely upon fall! While we did enjoy the beautiful autumn weather and color, and had fun (and worked hard) tromping about in the woods, we also had the cold days and nights to come uppermost in our minds. We made a dash down the shore to Val's folks, Matt and Phyllis Ulstad's Lake Superior cabin near Gooseberry Falls State Park. Matt very generously supplied us with a truck-bed full of seasoned, dry birch, already split and ready for the wood stove! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Matt and Phyllis!

Back up on Cascade Bluff, we've been busy with the Husqvarna... our friend the chainsaw. When the septic system and cabin went in, some trees did have to come down (sigh) but we are slicing them up and will put them to use...

That pile is getting bigger! Val's been busy with that chain saw!
Val--- VAL! Can you hear me??

A REALLY big pile, waiting to be split!

And speaking of splitting, this gorgeous "22 Ton" device was our anniversary present to ourselves... a wood splitter! FYI, we are celebrating 32 years since the day we met on Sept 5th, 1978, and 18 years since the day of our commitment ceremony (that also marked ten years together as a couple...yes, we've been a pair-a-docs for a long, long time!)

Val's brother, Keith, procured this for us in the cities and hauled 'er up on the trailer. Here he is with Val's Dad, Matt, unloading it.
The Ulstads, during a break in the action: Keith, Phyllis, Val and Matt!

The splitter in place, with a growing stack of split wood, on the left...
Val hard at work with the splitter hidden behind that huge pile...

One sad moment... This year, we lost two of our sweet old friends, Oscar Wilde and Lauren Bacall, a pair of wonderful kitty companions. We brought their ashes (in these kind of hokey floral tins) up to Cascade Bluff and they have now joined our New World.
Here's Lauren, the prettiest princess of all (and she knew it, too)...

...and Oscar, the best boy ever, and the smartest cat I've ever known...
We will miss you both very much!

All this trail blazing, chain saw work and log splitting leads to achy backs and sore muscles... but fear not, we are planning to put in a hot tub! We took a tour of tubs and saw a couple of styles we liked. The tub is on order and will be wood-fired, so back to the splitter!

All that sweating and mucking about leads to filthy nasty clothes, of course. In the interest of keeping what friends we have and not offending their nostrils, we have invested in a very energy and water efficient stacked washer and dryer. Here is is in the back of Chris's truck, being delivered. Sorry, no shot of it in place...

...but here is the ultimate "Solar Laundry": good ol' fashioned clothesline and sunshine, and the photovoltaic panels in the background, on the garage roof, powering the washing machine and water pump!

We were truly blessed with a stretch of beautiful weather. Actually, all weather is beautiful, but we had some exceptionally fine evenings.
The first few are pictures of the last light of August 31, 2010...

...and here are some of Sept 3rd, just before the misty rainy stuff moved in
for the evening of Labor Day and beyond.


But even our final morning was gorgeous, in its own mysterious way...
We can't wait to get up north again and promise more blogging soon, with updated pix of the fabulously improved road, the outside stairs, maybe a path made of pavers, a screened in porch... who knows what's next. One thing is sure, the adventure continues at the New World!