Summer Cabin

Summer Cabin
The Castle

Monday, July 2, 2018

Here We Go Again

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog will know this fact about me, I DISLIKE House Wrens!  They have caused me so much grief over the years.  They kill other bird's eggs especially my beloved bluebirds.  They squawk (more like a loud twitter) constantly.  Some people think they have a nice song, but I do not.  They dart around like they have had too much caffeine.  Every spring I follow them around.  They build mock nests in every birdhouse they can find so no other bird can use the houses.  If you find a birdhouse stuffed completely full of small sticks, it is most likely a house wren's mock nest. The house wren is protected so you can't hurt or kill them, but you can discourage their nest building and make life miserable for them .  Last summer they finally left our yard and went elsewhere.  I think they were planning their strategy because this spring they were back with a vengeance.  I kept the birdhouses clear.  I saw one now and then but they weren't causing problems until NOW.  They decided to build a nest in a decorative birdhouse I have hanging by my front door.  About three years ago our grandson painted a birdhouse for us that his other grandpa had made.  He was five years old at the time.  I decided to hang it on our porch near our front door and out of the elements.  One day I looked up and saw sticks coming out of the hole and feathers poking out.  I was blindsided, those wrens had tricked me.

I heard the wren, but I never actually caught her going in or out of the house.  She would squawk (or twitter) at me from the bushes or porch rail, but it didn't occur to me that she had laid eggs in that house until I saw all the junk in the house.

She chose this location for her nest, so she has to put up with us coming and going.  I think she got comfortable during the time we were gone on vacation, so now that we are back home she is doubly irritated with us.  She is constantly making noise.

I think it will be over soon.  Today I saw the young ones yelling for mom.  They look as big as her.

If you look closely you can see a baby peeking out.

Then mom showed up.  She is so flighty I had to take the photos through the window.

I only see two but there may be more.

This afternoon things got really quiet.  Hopefully the young birds have fledged*, and I can clean out this birdhouse.  Then I will plug the hole so she can't pull that trick again.  Although taking care of her own babies didn't give her time to destroy our bluebird eggs.  The bad news is that something else got to the baby bluebirds.  One week after they hatched, I went to check on them.  They were gone.  The house and nest were completely in tact with no sign of anything disturbing the nest.  I think a raccoon would tear apart the nest so the only thing I can think of is a snake.  More than once I have chased a snake away from a bird's nest.  The robin nest is empty too.  It is sad, but nature is sometimes so cruel.

*Update...I was wrong.  The wren babies have not fledged.  It was just wishful thinking.  I just saw the mom bring a giant size bug or worm.  If those babies can eat that, then they are old enough to leave the nest.  I'll keep watching.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What is a Switch? What is a Labo?

Every summer is hard for working moms.  My grandchildren are getting older and most of them don't need child care anymore.  Our youngest is fortunate to have his other grandparents who always step up to take care of him.  Our second youngest, Jack, is going to be ten years old in a few days and usually stays home with his brother and sister.  Once in a while for a break, he wants to spend the day with us.  Last Thursday was one of those days.  He always wants to do projects that are way over my head, but fortunately he has a grandpa who is there to help.  He is kind of like Mighty Mouse..Here I come to save the day.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Nintendo Switch, I'm with you.  I still am not exactly sure what it is.  I surely don't know how it works.  I think you have to be younger than sixteen to understand it.  The Nintendo Switch is basically a video game console.  The main unit fits into a docking station which can connected to a television or a tablet.  It also has wireless controllers which sense motion and direction.

The switch on the docking station.

This is the unit with controllers.

The controllers can be removed.

The switch has an extension called a Labo.  The Labo has a variety of cardboard cutouts that can be assembled to work with the Switch controllers or console.  Jack did a lot of chores around the house to earn money to buy this extension.  The cardboard shapes have to be assembled and the switch controller or console is inserted into it.  You can actually play a piano with the piano shape, you can drive a motorcycle or catch fish to put into your saved aquarium. 

You can play games.  

All this being said and probably not explained very well, Jack wanted to create his own Labo made out of cardboard.  He searched the internet and found a youtube video of someone making dice.  The problem was that it was a video in another language, and it had no instructions.  After watching it, Jack said "I get it.  I can make it work."

The next step was to find some cardboard.  Grandpa went out to the garage and came in with a big piece of cardboard.  They cleared off the dining room table and began.  They had to make a cardboard cube.  Grandpa was a math teacher for a long time so he knew how to accomplish that and he drew it out.

They carefully cut it out without cutting the dining room table.  When it was cut, it looked like a cross to me.

Next it had to be folded.  Jack was good at that because he had made every item in the Labo kit he bought.  He had already made a piano, a fishing pole, a race car and other things.

When the cube was made, they had to make a pocket inside to fit the Switch controller.  We hot glued it all together and added magnets to close the box.  The magnets may need to be replaced, but for now they will work.  The only ones we could find to use were some rock-like magnets we bought when we visited the zoo.

The box is glued together, the controller put inside and the magnets glued on.

Put down the lid.  It stays attached because of the magnets.

Then it was time to test the die.  We set up the screen on a plate rack so we could see it.  Jack had already programmed it.  He made sure the numbers on a real die were in the same position as the ones on his cube.

Then he rolled the die and the number showed up on the screen just as it would be on a real die.

This time he rolled a five.

I can't believe it really worked.  It is scary where technology is going, and how much ten year old kids know.  I'm not saying kids now days are smarter than we were, but they certainly are using their brain in a different way.  I watched this whole process and watched him play, but I really don't have a clue how it's done.  It was fun though.  He said next time he wants to make a guitar.  Oh boy!!!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Lake Superior Circle Tour-Day 6 , 7 & 8 to Munising, Michigan and Home

We had a nice hotel breakfast, packed up our luggage and left for the border.  Canada was nice, but I was looking forward to getting back in the United States.  In many parts of Canada we didn't have any cell service.  For most of my life, I wasn't connected all the time to family and friends, but now it feels really strange not to be able to contact someone.  Our cell phone costs for international calls are expensive.  Calls are $0.99 a minute, texts cost to send and receive plus you pay for each MB.  Fortunately  Verizon has a travel pass for $5 per day to use your own plan.  I also usually used the wifi in the motels so I only had to pay $10 extra and that was because I got a couple text messages coming in.   In case of an emergency, Canada did have wifi and pay phones available at some of the travel centers.

I hadn't seen a functioning pay phone for a long time.

We started out using our GPS to find our way to the border, but it did not follow the actual signs.  We decided to trust the signs instead.  We ended up going around the block a couple times before we figured out where to turn.  We could see where we needed to go but didn't figure out how to get there at first.

When we were finally going the right way, it was pretty easy although the American border patrol  was not nearly as friendly as the Canadians when we entered Canada from Minnesota.  They make you feel like you are smuggling and being dishonest when there is no reason to feel that way.

We entered the United States into Michigan.  We had seen the big ships go through the Soo locks a few times before so we continued on.  If you haven't seen it, it is pretty amazing.  We had arranged to meet my sister and her husband at Tahquamenon Falls.   We had been there before, but they had not.  We were there in the fall, and it was beautiful.  This time was nice but not nearly as pretty.  I highly recommend visiting in the fall.

The great part was seeing my sister and her husband.  We hadn't seen them for almost a year.  After leaving the falls we found a local restaurant for lunch.  Three of us ate the local faire, pasties.  Then we all headed to Munising, Michigan.  We were staying there for two nights to see the sights and have time to visit.  Dinner was at The Dogpatch Restaurant which had a Li'l Abner motif. 

We headed for bed anticipating day 2 in Munising.

In the morning we went over to the docks.  We had purchased tickets to take the Pictured Rocks boat trip.  It is a two hour trip on Lake Superior to see the Pictured Rocks up close.

It was a cloudy day but at least it wasn't raining.   Pictured Rocks is a United States National Lakeshore on the Lake Superior shore.  It was the first National lakeshore.  It has fifteen miles of sandstone cliffs, rock formations, waterfalls, caves and some sandy beach areas that can mostly be seen from the water.  The different minerals in the stone gives it different colors.  The iron shows red, manganese is black, limonite is yellow, copper is green and others.  The pictures we have seen in books and online were brilliant like the pictures in this free book we received from the motel.

Though the formations were amazing, the colors weren't this bright.  Maybe if it were a very sunny warm day and if I would have used my good camera, I could have gotten a better result although cell phone cameras do a pretty good job now days.  It was still worth the trip, and I'm so glad we could see them.  I took so many photos that I couldn't include all of them.  This is just a sampling.

If you look carefully, you can see a small pile of snow in the cave.

One of the interesting sights was a huge lone tree appearing to grow out of a rock spire.  At one time the spire was connected to the mainland and the tree root ran horizontally.  Through erosion the rock fell away leaving the root crossing the gap and giving the tree life.  If you look closely the root can be seen on the left side of the picture.

The sun came out for a short time so we could see the beautiful aqua colored water.

The East Channel lighthouse built in 1868.

It was lunchtime by the time the cruise was finished.  We still hadn't had any freshly caught Lake Superior whitefish.  We found a food truck serving the fish and walked over for lunch.  It was very good.

The day went fast.  We had a little altercation with Big Foot, but we resolved our differences and moved on.  

We took a little sightseeing ride, visited some more and finished out the day.  In the morning, we said our goodbyes and headed for home.  Hopefully it won't be so long until we see my sister and brother in law again.

We still had one more Circle Tour stamp to pick up in Marquette, Michigan.  The travel center was in downtown Marquette so we found a parking space and walked to it.  We couldn't believe it.  It was CLOSED.  We were one stamp away from getting our certificate.  I took a picture of the sign and submitted it anyway.  In a short time, we got the certificate anyway.

We left on a Sunday and returned home on the next Sunday.  We put on over 1500 miles and saw so many interesting and beautiful sights.  I have wanted to make this trip for a long time and finally we were able.  Another thing to check off our bucket list.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lake Superior Circle Tour-Day 5 to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada

Wawa, Ontario to Sault Sainte Marie was about 146 miles so we had all day to enjoy the drive.  Our first stop  was a place I was looking forward to.  It was the Agawa Pictographs.  It is a group of Indian rock paintings that are hundreds of years old.  They can be seen on a cliff towering above Lake Superior.  The hike is short but rather wet, rocky and steep.  We entered the park and made our way to the beginning of the trail.  There was a park fee for this.  It was self service so I went to fill out the registration and pay the fee.  There on the board were two things that got my attention.  The first notice said that there was a rock slide that was blocking some of the trail.  The other notice said there was a bear sighted in the area and to proceed with caution.  Even with those two pieces of information we were trying to decide if it was worth it.  Then a lady came over to us and said to be really careful if we do the trail because in order to get a good view of the pictographs we would have to walk out on a narrow ledge of some sort.  I know we had recently walked the long suspension bridge but it had a lot of safety features built in.  It looked scary but was relatively safe.  In this case we were not about to take our life in our hands just to see some pictures on the side of a cliff.  She said the best way to see them was from the water, and we obviously didn't have a boat so that was out.  I went on the internet and saw them just fine.  Most of the photos have a copyright so I can't show them on this blog.  They would have been nice to see, but that's how it is sometimes.  We took a photo of the boat launch and were on our way.

I can't say which leg of our journey was the most beautiful.  It was all gorgeous.  The road was curvy and went up and down hills.  I can see how building this highway was a huge undertaking.  Apparently this section of the highway was one of the most difficult.

At times it looked like we were going to drive off the edge of the earth.  

Notice how all the signs are also written in French.

Before we knew it we were at the next stop.  We needed a break and there was a wayside park at Chippewa Falls.  This is not the Chippewa Falls we are familiar with as Wisconsinites.  In fact, it is the exact middle of the Trans Canadian Highway.

There was another plaque that describes how Dr. Perry E. Doolittle was one of the first people to identify the need for a Trans-Canada Highway.  He was one of the first Canadians to have a car and in 1925 took his car and drove across Canada.  When there was no road he used railway wheels which were fitted to his car and he travelled the rail tracks.  Over 500 miles of his journey were travelled this way.  Even though he was the "Father of the Trans-Canada Highway", he died thirty years before it was officially opened.

Can you imagine traveling all the distance in a Model T Ford?  It's hard enough on a good highway in a modern car.

Chippewa Falls is a small falls compared to the huge falls we have already seen, but it fun to walk to the top and look down.  The pink granite at the falls is so hard it won't erode as quickly as some other rock types can.

You can see the remnants of log jams from days gone by.

Canada uses solar energy.  We saw big solar panels sitting out in fields.  Even this wayside park was lit with solar panels.  Each yard light was powered by a solar panel.  It seems like a very good idea to me.

It was supposed to be a 45 minute drive to Sault Ste Marie.  It ended to be a little longer because of road construction. Just before we got to Sault Ste Marie we had another unfortunate happening.  A big semi passed us by and kicked up some rocks.  A couple hit the windshield and cracked it.  A rear fender bender and now a cracked windshield.  Hopefully they both will be easily fixed.

Before we knew it, we were seeing signs of a metropolitan area.  We were entering Sault Ste Marie.  I didn't realize how large the Canadian city was.  It has close to 80,000 people compared to a much smaller Sault Ste Marie on the Michigan side.  Since we would be crossing over into the United States early the next morning, we did a little sightseeing.  We went to the canal and happened to see a couple of the tour boats go through the locks.

We saw the boats at the top of the bridge.

In a few minutes we could see the doors start to open.

And there they were.

We went to eat and spent the last of our Canadian money.   Then we settled in for our last night in Canada.