Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve.. I can remember when New Years Eve was always at least 30 below zero. It looks like we will get a bit below zero, they are saying -12 and it is dropping now... I suspect it will get a bit colder than that just because it is clear and it just feels like it is going to get cold, but then it looks like back above zero tomorrow and all is well... but those week long spells where it is 40 below at night with a high of 20 below have not happened in a long time. 

Maybe I just remember things wrong. Maybe winters were always like this... Maybe it's just my old guy equivalent of saying we used to walk 6 miles to and from school in three feet of snow, uphill both ways...
I am not crazy about cold weather and snow. I could probably live somewhere where there is no snow and get along just fine. But here, In Ely... I think there should be a lot more snow right now and it should be a little bit colder. 
Maybe a month from now we will have 30 below and 4 feet of snow and I will wonder why I ever had these thoughts...

But winter is here, there is no question about that.

Spent some time by a fire tonight. about a 3/4 moon. Clear starry sky. About 10 below zero.
A can of beer will freeze in your hand, but if you nestle it in the snow it will be alright...

So where am I at? 
It's been a good year for the most part. We have managed to stay busy with projects... Going into the winter here, though, things have slowed up a bit. A couple projects have fallen into place at the last minute, as usually happens, and I think we will get through to spring OK. The problem in northern Minnesota, of course, in the construction business, is you need to get the projects started before things totally freeze up in order to get any footing or foundation work in. Sure, you can do some siding, remodeling or roofing, but the new complete home or cabin project is nearly impossible to start up.

For my own part, I have plenty of shop work to do and, in fact, I am way behind on that. I have a door project that should have been done in October and another that should probably have been done long before that. I have a hard time getting these projects done when my main focus is on keeping the construction business going and the guys busy.

Looks like there are some things brewing now...some good projects, and we will be plenty busy going into the spring. Whenever that is...

In 2012 we lost a a few great artists.
One who's music is very strong in my life is Doc Watson. one more from Doc to end the year:

Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21st, Winter, Ely, etc...

Such a beautiful sunny winter day today, the Winter Solstice. Temps were about -3 this morning when I left the house. A perfect crisp winter day.

An old beaver lodge in winter, Burntside Lake,
Animal tracks, I'm guessing fox, down on the shore by the old beaver lodge...
Sunny winter solstice on Burntside lake,
The now frozen Burntside Lake looking out from one of the vistas on the Passi Road up the Echo Trail...
 Sometimes, the aging cynic in me wants to fight the cold and the snow as if it is an enemy, intentionally engaging in antagonizing me... But on a day like this, just driving to a job-site up the Echo trail, if I can just stop a moment and breathe...

A Burntside Island, winter solstice,
Another view from one of the overlooks on the Passi Road as I was driving to work this morning...

Winter road through the trees near Burntside lake,
There are worse commutes, I suppose...
We can complain... I certainly can, I do it all the time, the world is not a perfect place by a long shot... I don't know why things happen as they do. When the time comes for me, you can bet I will have some questions to ask, but in the mean time, I need to try to focus on quieting my mind, finding the peace, taking the moments one by one...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

quick blog post: new small winter project

Here is a small project we will be starting on this winter some time.
The homeowner of this log home decided they would like a covered porch entry way area built on to their existing log home.
The porch roof will come out at a 45 degree angle from the intersection of the existing roofs.

This is a typical start to a project like this. Here is a picture of the house as it sits now, where the porch will be added:

Log home before porch project
Picture of the house as it is now with the existing entry.
CAD elevation of covered porch project
This is a CAD elevation of the proposed new roof over the entry deck.

covered porch project, pencil
A quick pencil sketch...
I'm not sure when we will start this exactly, but we got the footings in before the ground froze solid so we can start and time during the winter...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Watching winter come on Burntside Lake near Ely Minnesota

...watching Burntside Lake start to freeze over.
Even though we have had lots of cold and even a brief below zero night, Burntside Lake has remained largely unfrozen so far.
I was at a spot on the west end every day this week. On Tuesday it was all open with ice capping the rocks on the shoreline. I took these pictures, very cold:
icy ricks on Burntside,

Icy capped rocks on shore

Then on Tuesday night the wind died down and a smooth but presumably thin layer of ice covered everything as far as I could see. It looks like open water out there, but it is smooth ice:
Newly frozen Burntside Lake

Burntside Lake newly frozen shoreline,

On Friday, 12/7/12, this picture was taken. Things are solidifying, but I could still break a hole in the ice easily along the shoreline:
Ice all the way accross,

I thought that was it, but then I stopped in at another job-site on Burntside lake, on the larger part of the lake near Burntside Lodge, and the water still looked pretty wild. This picture was taken on Friday too:

Icy rock on Burntside Shoreline,

As I write this on Sunday morning, 12/9 2012, it has started snowing. There are a couple inches on the ground. They are predicting a storm that will ultimately bring 6 to 10 inches with strong winds.

I plan on sitting inside and putting wood on the fire.


In other meaningless news, I turned 51 recently. 
It was OK because I had been 50 for about a year and I was getting tired of it.

Somewhere along the line, I can't remember exactly when, I stopped getting a cake that has individual candles and started getting a cake with just two... like one in the shape of a 5 and one in the shape of a 1.

I'm not sure how significant of an event a birthday is anymore. Or ever was.
I have always had trouble with birthdays. I don't ever remember having one that was significant in any way. I don't have any great birthday stories... wait...well maybe one... But mostly they just passed quietly...

...anyway, I will just mark it here by saying, sometime in the past week or two, I did get another year older.
But I feel pretty much the same.


Hand carved doors, butternut panel,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some pictures of a door I built a few years ago. I was digging them out to add to my galleries.
It is a double door built out of Cherry.

Cherry carved door by
Half circular windows, double entry door, custom built for a home in Northern Minnesota. Ely MN
The uncarved interior side of the doors before finishing.

Carved custom door, Ely MN, John Huisman,
The lower left carving on the door. It is a lower relief carving of a trunk of a birch tree.

Ely MN carved doors,
The upper right carving on the custom built Cherry door. It is lower relief than what I usually try to do. The carving is of the leaves of a birch tree.


Winter came in Ely over the Thanksgiving Holiday.
I thought it was here a couple weeks before but the week preceding Thanksgiving saw temperatures in the high 40s and even 50 at one point. The frost that had settled into the came back out resulting in a spring like mud...

But, perhaps it is here to stay this time.
It sure feels like winter now. Several inches of snow fell over the Holiday weekend and it seems like it is here to say.

The chickadees pretty much have the feeder to themselves now. Little tufts of energy... I still don't now how they survive...An occasional nuthatch stops in but, for the most part, the other birds seem to have left us.

..Looks like we are supposed to get a couple warm days here and then back below freezing. That's fine with me. As hard as it is to get used to winter, once it is here I would rather it just stay till it's done. I am not excited about the deep freeze coming in the next couple months, but this flirting with mid 30s temps just not very enjoyable.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A few more shots of this recently completed renovation:
The family room was separated from the back area by this log interior partition wall with the stairs going up along side it. To the right of this picture you can see what was the old bathroom.
This is the "after" shot. The log partition wall and stairs have been removed to open up the whole area to be one large family room. The stairs are now where the bathroom was in the "before" picture.
Another shot of the stair wall before the renovation.
The landing and the old bathroom before the renovation.
In the place of the old bathroom, we have the new stairway going up to the loft and a closet under the stairs. There is a landing up top over looking the great room and to the left up above there is a bedroom where before it was an open loft area.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A short post today.
A couple before and after shots of the 3 season porch on this recent renovation:

3 season porch before renovation by
This is the view looking to the main entry door into the 3 season porch before we started the renovation... quite dark.

after remodel of 3 season porch by
This is basically the same view after the renovation... new windows, new wood, new slate floor


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some more shots of the recent remodel project.

Log home renovations
This is the lakeside exterior of the cabin before we started. The dormer on the far end is just on the outside and does not offer any interior space.  

Renovation of old log kit home by
As we can see here on the interior... the exterior dormer does not show through. Back there to the right side is where the new master bedroom will be. 
Loft space before added dormer
Another look at the area before the dormer.

Renovation "after" picture, new "doghouse" dormers
After the remodel the exterior of the roof looks quite different. We have added two small dormers for light over the living room area and that larger dormer that opens up to the interior now to offer room for the master bedroom. We have also added thickness to the roof for additional insulation value.

Interior bedroom, view of lake, added dormer by
Here is the interior of that larger dormer, the bedroom, with a nice view of the lake. It is a low vaulted ceiling to be sure, we had to conform to height restrictions because of zoning regulations, but it is adequate for a cozy master bedroom at the lake cabin.

Specail doorway needed for low dormer ceiling by
The door to the master bedroom had to be custom made with that "clipped" corner in order to be able to open into the low ceiling planes.
Added light coming through added dormers after renovation by
The two smaller dormers add a great amount of light to the living room area and offer considerable charm over other lighting options like skylights.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

I am going to start posting some more "before" and "after" shots of the remodel we have been working on. For the most part, it is completed now. Appliances and furniture moved in etc. I know I started this before and got side tracked, but I was looking around the other day and realized was an interesting project this was as I thought back over the progression...

This is the loft area, some shots before. It was a very low roof-line and basically just a sleeping area for younger folks. There was just an unfinished plywood floor there.

Log rafters in the old loft area,
"Before" shot of the small sleeping loft area. That back area where the bed with the blue pillow is becomes the new master bath.
old sleeping loft in "kit" log home,
"Before" shot of the small sleeping loft area. That back area to the left where the bed with the blue pillow is becomes the new master bath.

 To the left of that area as we see it in the above photos, we have the master bathroom, to the right is the master bedroom. We accomplished this with the construction of dormers. It is hard to show exactly how that works, I will have to get some better exterior shots, but here are some interior shots of the new finished master bath:

New master bath area, Marvin window, pine paneling,

New master bath area, pine paneling, 12x12 slate,
New master bath area with the changed pitch of the roof that gave us the headroom we need to create this space.

Custom built tiled shower, 2x2 slate floor,
A new tiled shower with glass doors was installed.

reclaimed oak vanity, soapstone top, slate floor,
Again, you can see the changed roof pitch resulting from the new shed dormer. It is not a high ceiling by any stretch, but it gave us the room we needed to pull this off without violating the height restrictions with the county planning and zoning department. The vanity here is built with reclaimed oak, the counter top is soapstone and the floor is 12x12 slate.     


Huisman Concepts is a design build firm located in Ely Minnesota.
We also build some pretty cool doors:

Awsome, custom, carved, entry door,
Custom entry door, built and carved by John Huisman of Huisman Concepts

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nothing much happening here this week.

I found this cool article on natural building from the 14th century. In the interesting of keeping my blog active I will cheat this week and post somebody else's material:

I posted a picture gallery of a log gazebo I built a few years ago here:

Cool log gazebo/screen house.

custom log and stone screen house by

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A room in a recent remodel project need a door with a clipped" corner, in order to open into a low pitched ceiling. This is the door opening from the inside of the room. It will hinge on the left side and swing into the sloped ceiling on the left. The ceiling can't be seen very well here because of the angle, but in order to open all the way, the corner will need to be angled like that for clearance.

this is looking at the door from outside of the bedroom: this is what I have been working on in the shop... a door with a clipped corner. It is a simple pine door to match the factory made doors that we have in the rest of the house:,among other things, that is one of the projects I have been working on in the shop.

Recently I had the opportunity to drive past the house that I grew up in in Inver Grove Heights. 

I was in the area for other reasons, but while I was there, I thought I would visit an O'reily Auto Parts store and buy some things I needed. I punched in the address on the GPS and set off. Turns out it was located at the location of what I had known in my teen years as the Village Square Mall. It was still called the Village Square, but the mall was gone, there were a lot of businesses located there, more or less, in their own buildings. The Auto parts store was among them...

The house I grew up in looked the same though it seemed much smaller than I remembered it. I think it has been 20 years since I was there last. The neighboring houses all looked pretty much as I remember them.

There was a Simon's TV and Appliance store still there half a block down Cahill Avenue. I thought that would have changed, it always seemed like such an odd store to be located there in that residential setting. I remember when it came. It took over the old Pixy-Pak store where we used to go to buy Cool Pops for a dime and Bazoka Joe bubble gum with the little comic strips for a penny.

Down near the Village Square area there was Drakulas Bowl, pretty much as I remember it. The bowling alley/ bar where we used to go play advanced digital video games like Pong on big machines for a quarter.

The woods across the street from the house was still there. Still a park, though when I was a kid it was just a wild place that I could roam around in at will, rarely seeing another human being. I think that was where I started thinking about eventually moving to a place where the wilderness seemed to go on forever...

Still, now, sometimes when I am in the city, I think... there is something going on here that seems interesting too... sometimes I think maybe someday I could try living there again...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I had the opportunity to be up early this morning and saw the night illuminated by the huge, full, or almost full, moon. I watched as it slowly gave over to the sun, slowly sinking in to the south west as the sun gradually came up in the east.The days are getting noticeably shorter now as we ease into fall.

Autumn colors near Ely MN,
 I have not hunted in many years, but the colors and the smells of the northern Minnesota woods this time of year, more than any other time, makes me want to just stop what I am doing and go for a walk... not on a trail, but in to the woods.
Of course, that is not what I did today... the business of life steers me away from that more often than not it seems.
Ely Minnesota fall colors,

...but the beauty of it all is intense and it is impossible not to notice. A good many of us who live here have jobs that take us on wonderful drives down winding roads through the colored trees and past the picturesque waters.
 Colors near Ely Minneosta,
Yesterday I even had the opportunity to meet some nice folks and go for an unhurried boat ride across Burntside Lake to look at their potential building site on their boat access property.  Boat rides have to be somewhat unhurried this time of year as the buoys that mark the hazardous rocks have all been pulled out for the winter and the pace was welcome.  The lake was very calm and quite. I saw one lone canoeist but otherwise, not a boat in site.

All to often I let the stresses of daily life get to me. Some days I am better than others at just breathing in life and appreciating it all... I have been on this planet now for just over 50 years and this still takes a constant effort.
Fall colors in Ely Minnesota