We were finally able to have our first, post covid gentlemen's weekend from 23 September 2021 to 26 September 2021. It was greatly needed, both to get everyone back to the Cabin and to get the grounds cleaned up. Heavy snow and a couple of years of not collecting all the dead branches meant there were a lot of downed limbs and topped trees close to the Cabin. A number of standing dead trees needed to be removed. This coupled with needing to restock the woodshed led to one of the main projects for the weekend. We were heading up a little earlier in the season than we had for many of these trips. Leading up to the trip the weather looked good. Of course as we got closer and closer the threat of rain increased. As is usual for this trip, it rained for at least almost one complete day. At this point that is expected. In fact, one wonders how the Great Lakes stay filled in years that we do not come up for gentlemen's weekend!
As usual, I drove up from Cleveland Wednesday night, again leaving around 3:30 PM and expecting to arrive around midnight. Unfortunately something on the turnpike jarred some heat shielding loose under my car. I stopped at Gary's to rig a fix. This delayed me about an hour. Incredibly, the means when I stopped for gas in St. Ignace I saw Jon, Jim, and Ed coming up from Kalamzoo! They had finally decided to take my advice and drive up over night. (Not sure they all agree it is the better way to do things.) It was an incredible coincidence to be at the same gas station at the same time. They had planned on surprising (scaring) me by sneaking in. Not sure if it would have worked since I slept in my hammock outside for the trip. In the end we drove the rest of the way together, opened up the Cabin, had the traditional shots of Krupnik, played a bunch of Euchre, and stayed up way too late.
The main project I was interested in was restocking the woodshed. To get an idea of what we started with, see the June 2021 pictures. We have had a hard time finding a reliable provider of split wood. Cutting and splitting all the wood by hand is very time consuming. Even though we have spent some time doing this during prior gentlemen's weekends, it was always a lot of work without seeing much wood added to the pile. Although the Cabin is in the middle of the woods, it is still difficult to find suitable (dead and/or already fallen) trees and cutting and splitting them all. This year was a perfect opportunity to rectify this. We desperately needed to restock the woodshed to have any chance of a reasonable winter trip. The timing was ideal. winter 2019 had started with an early wet, heavy snow which broke off the tops of a number of trees right near the Cabin, including along the driveway. (Fortunately the top did not fall across the driveway.) It also brought down a number of large branches. Over the years we had done a very good job of cleaning out much of the downed branches in an ever widening circle around the Cabin to feed the "ever burning fire" we build. The winter weather conditions and the fact that we had skipped a year due to covid meant there was plenty of wood in close proximity to the Cabin.
The plan was to bring up a wood splitter from Kalamazoo. That did not happen, so Jon rented one from nearby (Curtis). We used this split a few cords of wood over the weekend. This included finally finishing processing the downed (very hard) maple from behind the out house. It also included cutting down a couple of dead trees.
One was the topped tree along the driveway. The top of this tree had come down in winter 2019 and fortunately had fallen parallel to the driveway. The tree itself was still quite large and part of a pair of trunks. Bill brought the tree down, just barely missing the peg we had lined up for him to drive into the ground. The tree was dragged back to the Cabin, cut up, and split.
Another large tree was the one with the "Do Not Enter" sign Frankie (Sr.) had hung up decades ago. This tree has been dead for years. Though it probably would have remained standing for many more years, eventually it would have fallen, possibly across the driveway. Mikey took this tree down, we processed it, and it will now be used to heat the Cabin over the next few years. The sign was rehung on a trunk right behind the old one.
Yet another major issue was a large, heavy branch hung up in the large tree outside the kitchen (a widowmaker) which looked like it could easily fall onto the woodshed (or the gas tanks) and cause significant damage. It was high up in the tree and it was hard to see how we could get it down. Jon was convinced he could throw a rope with a weighted end over the branch. It was very high up with other branches in the way; I seriously doubted this. Not only did he succeed, he did so on his first try, with height to spare. With this, we were able to get ropes around the branch and safely pull it down. There is even a video of the branch coming down.
There was much other wood collected. Many other fallen branches or smaller trees were pulled in, either to process for storage in the woodshed or to feed the fire. All-in-all, everyone worked hard and we have stocked the woodshed more full than I ever recall seeing in, particularly with wood we processed ourselves. The results are incredible. Now we just need some winter trips to start burning this wood!
Not all the time was spent processing wood. An adhoc project was started to try to melt aluminum. There were plenty of, let us say beverage, cans made of aluminum so the idea was to try to melt them. It turns out that the melting point of aluminum is rather high, upwards of 1000°F. We still have the pile of bricks from taking down the chimney so that served as the basis for building a furnace to retain the heat. Using wood and charcoal was slow going. To stoke the fire, Mikey had a gas powered leaf blower in his van. (Who would not have a gas powered leaf blower when going to a cabin in the middle of the woods?) This provided extra oxygen to really get the fire going.
After a first attempt with limited success, the problem was attacked in earnest with a better furnace being built. In the end this succeeded in extracting a surprising quantity of molten aluminum from the cans. This was poured into a rough plate and is a new decoration at the Cabin. If this is attempted in future trips, perhaps something can be cast from the aluminum.
Of course much more happened during the trip. Some fishing was done, a bike trip to Barfield Lakes, and finishing the cedar shake. As is also often the case, the departure day was beautiful, the best weather we had. The day started with a nice clear blue sky to highlight the turning leaves. As always it was a great trip and I am looking forward to the next one.