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Cuddling up next to the fire is a great way to stay warm as the fall and winter cold creeps in and there’s nothing better than a bonfire built in the backyard.

Bonfire in our homemade pit!

The best bonfires have the greatest bases. Place a layer of crumpled paper into the fire-pit, top it with kindling, and add a little more paper – a great way to reuse old Pulse’s. There are differing opinions on design – “log cabin” and “teepee.” Make a “log cabin” by stacking logs perpendicularly on top of each other until you have reached the desired height. Fill the center with paper. Make a “teepee” by placing logs vertically, touching in the center. Add some additional paper and then place more logs around it. Start either style build by lighting the paper; you may need to add some additional paper to get it blazing. Using small and medium logs to start will get your fire going quickly. You can increase the heat by adding large logs once the coals are roaring.

Enjoy s’mores year-round by toasting marshmallows over your bonfire. For a special treat, use peanut butter cups in place of chocolate bars. If there isn’t snow on the ground, it’s a good idea to have the hose handy and always be sure to spray or topple your fire before going inside.

Invite your friends, family or neighbors to enjoy starry skies even as winter beckons while the crackles and pops of your backyard bonfire keep everyone soothingly warm long into the night.

Spice Cabinet

We started tearing apart our downstairs bathroom in March ’10. Unfortunately the tree falling and rebuilding of our mailbox had to take precedence. With the bathroom gutted down to studs, sub-floor and in some areas joists, there is no insulation to keep the cold out as winter approaches. As the weather quickly cools, we are working to prepare for the remodeling.

First stage of demolition - Kitchen View

Ryan has been diligently planning the plumbing so that it will be easier to remodel the upstairs bathroom and kitchen. We have already purchased the floor tile, water resistance drywall for the tub/shower, toilet, sink and fixture, sink light, replacement studs, sub-floor boards, and electrical requirements. We still need to buy the whirlpool tub, tub fixtures, paint, plumbing supplies, a window and framing, a door and framing, and a fanlight.

First stage of demolition - Bathroom View

Ryan has a computer program that he has used to map our house. It is proving to be very helpful in planning the plumbing, electrical and remodeling. Aside from a few discrepancies, it is a great tool that assists us in staying as accurate as possible.

Old Kitchen Floor

Our most recent achievement was tearing out the spice cabinet in the kitchen in order to move the bathroom door, which was not only hidden behind the spice cabinet but also made both rooms smaller. When we removed the cabinet and drywall in the “hallway” to the bathroom, we found that the wall was hiding a foot or more of space.

After Demolition

We also removed a small portion of the floor down to sub-floor and again found 3 layers of old flooring (as we had found in the bathroom). We were also saddened to find that someone had painted the beautiful old brick fireplace black, which we regretfully can not undue because of additional holes made installing drywall around it.

As each day passes, we move a little closer and get more ideas. We have a long way to go and realize more everyday that there is still a lot to demolish, rebuild and remodel. Our thoughts are racing to construct the perfect house both on budget and within a reasonable amount of time, neither of which is easy.

While I remember canning applesauce as a child, the specifics of it escaped me. Recently, we were blessed with a wonderful apple harvest and canning became a necessity to preserve pounds of apples. Luckily, I have an old-fashioned applesauce strainer. Despite my lack of specific directions, the first and second batches came out fantastic.

On the other hand, my apple pie filling did not work out as expected. Vague directions lead me to over syrup the apples. This worked slightly to my advantage as the recipe said 2 quarts are needed for one pie; now I only need to use one-quart jar with additional fresh apples. It will mean that I have to mix my sweet, delicious Door County apples with ones purchased at the store in the off-season but at least none of the apples we harvested this fall will go to waste.

Applesauce and Apple Pie Filling

I made an apple pie the other day, mixing one-quart of pie filling with about 24 apples. The pie rose inches above the 10” pie pan, I was even able to make a cool sunburst with my cuts in the wheat crust. For my second apple pie, I received excellent feedback – high fives and “perfect crust” comments – thank you taste testers!

In addition to canning, we also dehydrated some to make apple chips. Since we can freeze the chips, we made gallons of them and even shared with friends. My canning inexperience has not stopped us from testing the waters and is truly rewarding. We are looking forward to harvesting more apples next year and expanding our canning quantity.

Made with handpicked Door County apples.

Finding Windows

Our house is approximately 90 years old and has a plethora of character; nooks, crannies, odds and ends embrace its interior.

Original Bathroom

Original Bathroom

Since the downstairs bathroom was leaking, rotting, and overall in poor condition, we decided to remodel it. We thought it would be a great way to find out what lies within our ceilings, walls and floors.

We had our first surprise when removing the tub and shower walls. A  full sized window was hidden behind a layer of bright green wood. Somehow we never realized the small window in our bathroom was actually a full sized window, which was visible from outside. Regrettably, as with the rest of the room – all the way down to and including the sub-floor – it needs to be replaced.

Removing Layers

Removing the tub and shower wall

Our second discovery came when we trimmed and removed the bushes on the north side of our house (the same exterior wall as the mysterious bathroom window). We are working on completing electrical updates. To determine how we are going to run the new conduit we needed to remove a board at the base of our house. The board was wedged in and sealed with expanding foam. Ryan popped the board out with the crowbar and there was the top of a window.

Basement Window

Basement Window

We dug out some of the bushes and a large area around the two sets of glass. Unfortunately, we will not be able to salvage one of the windows; however, we are hopeful that we will be able to use the second window with a new frame.

New plans unravel as we decide how to rebuild the window into the basement. We are also excited to begin envisioning landscaping ideas for next year. The best part is that we intend to do all repairs thoroughly so our house will be like new!

Close up

Close up

Ryan and I took our beagle/basset hound, Gizmo, for a hike and swim in peninsula state park with our friend Colin and his dog, Logan. We had just finished a short swim with the dogs as the thunder rolled in. We packed up and headed back on the Eagle Bluff Trail towards the car. We were only halfway back as the storm surged. Thunder and lightening roared. The rain poured down on us.

We made it back to the car and tried to dry off. Our wet warmth fogged the windshield. We left the park and headed home. Just before turning onto our road, a large truck pulled in front of us with lights flashing and a rescue boat in tow. We followed behind until it stopped just north of our house. A police car pulled next to us and informed us that we could go no further because a tree was down on the road.

Tree on the Road

Tree on the Road

I knew instantly that it was our tree. We quickly found that the tree had fallen during the storm, along with hail and heavy winds. Luckily the only house affected was our own. The phone pole had snapped like a toothpick and our power-line was ripped from the house.  Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) disconnected and cut the power line before the Gibraltar Fire Department could remove the tree, which was blocking the road. In less than 45 minutes the fire department cut and pushed the tree aside and had the road cleaned up.

Aftermath

An electrician came to assess the damage to utility connection. Due to the age and condition of our power input, we needed to replace the existing meter box. Action Electric came out the next morning to upgrade our home to 200amp service and worked with WPS to get our power reconnected. A big “thank you” to the Gibraltar Fire Department for lending us a portable generator; you saved our saltwater fish tank.

We should have heeded our own advice and had the tree removed right away. We are no longer taking chances and had all of the trees around our house and cottage inspected, trimmed, cabled and some removed. We understand the risks associated with procrastination and hope to be more proactive in the future.

For more photos of the second half of the tree, visit our photo album.

That's a big tree

Wet and windy weather has caused unstable trees to fall, impacting houses and homeowners throughout Door County. My husband and I are no exception. A tree was our alarm clock on June 23, 2010.

The wind was docile and a few sprinkles persisted. An elongated rolling thunder shook our house as the massive maple tree in our front yard fell on it. A 10-foot limb pushed its way through the porch roof, greeting us at our front door. The cottage power-line detached from the siding and hung under the trunk. Our main house’s power-line was missed by a few inches. Wisconsin Public Service disconnected the hanging line. Tree removal was scheduled for the following day.

Removal

Storms continued into the evening. Plaster and lathe walls and ceilings in our bedroom had buckled. We were thankful to find our home standing the next morning as father and son team Dave and Todd Burke of Dave’s Tree Service arrived. Four ropes and a chain held the tree trunk while four men began sawing and removing “small” branches.

Todd prevented further damage by holding the remaining 50-foot trunk with a log lifter as two men sawed and dropped logs until they safely lowered a 30-foot section onto the front lawn. The largest section was cut into three logs, hoisted onto the truck like a giant claw machine and then hauled away.

We used a blue tarp to bandage the roof holes until all were repaired. The next day we split the wood and cleaned up the yard. The second half of the tree fell just over a week later.

The Trunk is the Heart of the Tree

Be mindful of what’s swaying in your yard because it doesn’t take a powerful storm to bring down a tree. It is more expensive to wait until damage has been done than to be proactive. Homeowner’s insurance only covers a portion of tree removal and home repair costs, especially with older homes.

We estimate the tree was over 100 years old. A nine-foot stump still rests in the middle of our front yard. We hope that someone artistic will create something wonderful from our wooden canvas.

There are no guarantees when it comes to nature, but here are some tree tips from Todd Burke.

Aftermath

Look Up:  If a tree has multiple stems or shoots close to the house, it will have problems sooner or later so check these trees on a regular basis. Big mature trees get rotten centers when branch intersections fill with water and wetness becomes visible, running down to the trunk base. If things are growing on the tree, like fungus, it’s a sign of rotting. A certain amount of dead branches are natural. If a lot of dead branches are visible something is wrong. Big woodpecker holes can be large enough for raccoons to get in!

Inspect:  Healthy trees should be inspected when they are full of leaves because it’s easier to see if there are dead branches or areas that need trimming. Old, large or suspected “sick” trees should be inspected when leaves are off because major cracks, splits, rot, holes and other problem areas can easily be seen. There are a lot of things you can do to prevent major problems just by going outside and seeing what the tree is doing. If you’re concerned about a tree, don’t hesitate. Have someone come out and look at it.

Hole Bandage

Care For:  It is important to have someone come out with a trained eye because every situation is different. Depending on which way the tree is leaning you can do things not requiring whole tree removal – such as cabling or removing certain parts. Trees hanging over the house should be trimmed and trees that are leaning towards the house should be removed. Keeping dead boughs to a minimum is best because it eliminates weight that could be hanging over your house. There are a lot of things to take into consideration such as power, phone and cable lines, roads, and neighbors. Dave’s Tree Service will thoroughly check the health of your trees and provide a free estimate.

Todd Burke is the Owner of Dave’s Tree Service Inc and certified by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) as an Arborist and Utility Specialist. Dave’s Tree Service is member of the Wisconsin Arborist Association and ISA. Visit them at www.davestreeserviceinc.com or call 920-823-2259.

To see additional photos of our tree ordeal, visit our photo album.

New Mailbox

In winter, we received a notice from our mail-carrier that we needed to raise our mailbox. We could do nothing about it until the weather was warmer. Spring came, as did another note.

There was no way that we could salvage the existing mailbox so we started to make plans for a new one. We bought a new box and began drawing designs. Then, the maple tree came crashing down on our plans. We had barely cleaned up after the first half of the tree when the remaining portion fell. The incident took us about two months to handle and we still have a few things to mend.

As cool weather has been approaching, we realized the mailbox couldn’t continue to wait. We made our lumber list and purchased supplies. We came home and started building.

New Mailbox

On Thursday, we worked from the afternoon until the end of dusk; sawing and screwing. Ryan had drawn blueprints and we worked together to measure twice and cut once. We used 2″x6″ Cedar boards for the flower box, a 4″x4″ post, and 2″x6″ pressure treated boards for support. We dug and leveled the flower box base just off the shoulder of the road. On Saturday morning, we finished assembling the supports to the post and got them situated in the base.

One trip to Nelson’s True Value and we were ready to install the mailbox. A big thanks to Maria at the Sister Bay Mobile for an awesome lunch! We really enjoyed the short break before the final stages of building.

In addition to installing the mailbox, we also attached “The Sherman’s” sign. We are so proud to be able to display a piece of Ryan’s family heritage on our new post. It was his grandparents sign from their southern Door County home, High Cliff.

In the end, the project reminded me how much two people can accomplish when they work together. And what a wonderfully handy husband I have!

On Saturday we were delighted to see Ryan’s graduating class of 2000 at the AC Tap. We had so much fun catching up and getting to know his classmates and their significant others. Pulled pork sandwiches, homemade mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon, amazing pasta salad, excellent veggie tray, and more filled our bellies.

Ashley, Rachel and Eric did a wonderful job planning, decorating, and making sure everyone had a blast! Beer Pong, tippy cup and bag toss capped off the festivities.

It reminded me why I love living in a small area. You may not see some people for years but somehow you begin right where you left.

Some of my fondest memories are going to southern Door County with my mother, brother and grandmother,  filling large coolers full of cherries, stopping to have lunch at a wayside, and then returning home to pit them. Many years had past between my childhood visits and my current love of the area.

My husband, Ryan moved to the area just before his 13th birthday when his parents purchased the Village Green Lodge in Ephraim. He attended Gibraltar High School in Fish Creek before going to Carroll College (now Carroll University). After graduating with his Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science in 2004, he started working at Paragon Development Systems (PDS).

Mr. & Mrs. Sherman with Celebrant Rev. Scott Sherman

Working at PDS required Ryan to move from Waukesha to Madison. Thanks to our wonderful and mutual friend, Phoebe, we met during spring my junior year at UW-Madison. On our first date Ryan said, “I’m going to Door County this weekend, would you like to come?” I asked, “Where do you stay when you’re there?” He responded, “My parents live there.” With additional encouragement, I met his parents a few days later.

Our first trip together was amazing. We hiked, went bowling, did more hiking, swimming, and hit the music and bar scene. I still tease him that Door County men get their wives to move here by introducing them to the county early in their relationship; the beauty is so stunning that we never want it to go away. We visited his parents and friends as often as we could until I graduated.

Ryan moved to New Berlin and I joined him after graduating. He proposed a couple of nights before we moved into our first (and only) apartment. We could think of no better place to start our lives as husband and wife than in Door County.

We were married at the Ephraim Moravian Church September 6, 2008 by Ryan’s uncle, Rev. R. Scott Sherman, and had our reception at the Gordon Lodge in Baileys Harbor. Cocktails and hors du ‘oeuvres were served at Ryan’s parents home and the Village Green Lodge. The weather was gorgeous and made the perfect setting for our trolley ride through Peninsula State Park after the ceremony.

Our love of each other was heightened by our love of the land that day. We kept it in the back of our minds that we would move here, someday. Someday quickly became today. We began visiting more and more often. Ryan and I were looking for homes and not satisfied with what we found in the Milwaukee area. We starting looking in Door County and soon found our perfect house.

Sunset

I moved to Ephraim at the end of August and starting working for Ryan’s parents. Ryan had some loose ends to tie up at PDS before changing positions within the company in order to work from home. With a little finagling, we were able to purchase our home on this beautiful peninsula and we spent Halloween transporting our 75-gallon saltwater fish tank.

Since moving here, I can list countless experiences that have increased my fondness for this community. We truly look forward to sharing the blessings we have found here with you.

To see more photos of our wedding visit our photo album.