Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Camp Chicken Crew: Cathy, Arlene, Mary and Tiny Totster!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Weekend at Camp for 2010

We had planned on leaving for camp early Friday morning but the fickle UP weather had something else in mind. You guessed it...high winds and rain then freezing rain then snow and lots of snow.

We did a little shopping and went to the casino for the afternoon then spent the evening hunkered down at home. The forecast for Saturday was pretty iffy.

Saturday morning turned out pretty nice with very little wind. So on the spur of the moment, we packed up and headed to camp. On the way, we called sister Cindy and invited her to our now famous Thanksgiving Dinner at Camp Chicken.

Camp Chicken is beautiful after a fresh snowfall!

We got the generator going and the car unpacked and headed for Arlene's blind, the Cadillac II. We spent the entire afternoon out there staring at the trees. There were no blue jays, no chickadees, no partridge, and no deer. It was eerie!

For the entire hunting season, Arlene has been watching these two giant partridge come in to eat corn at her blind. The partridge have claimed her bait spot as their very own and defend it against all comers. They have driven off the blue jays and squirrels.

The one time I sat in her blind by myself, a small deer came in to eat and the partridge actually flogged him. It was so funny. They dive-bombed him as he came in to eat. He jumped about three feet in the air and looked around to see what the heck was after him.

Once he settled down, he came back in and began eating with the big birds. After a few minutes they flew at him again to drive him off. I've never seen anything like it ever. It was crazy.

But for some reason, the partridge didn't even show up that afternoon.

Soon it began to snow really hard, great big white flakes. We tried to catch them on the camera.

We finally called it quits at 5:30 and while Arlene put our dinner in the oven, I went to call Cindy to see if she was coming up. She was but the road was really icy so I went and picked her up.

As we pulled up to the trailer, we both saw eyes at the end of the clearing. Sure enough the deer were in there having their own feast of apples, corn and carrots. They didn't even run away when we got out of the car.

Arlene had made coffee, so we had some while we waited for dinner to finish. Soon we were sitting down to a huge pan of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, and sweet potatoes smothered in home-made gravy with dinner rolls on the side. Arlene makes this up every year for us so that we can enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner at camp. She puts it all in a big baking pan and heats it up in our little gas oven.

As we were stuffing ourselves the generator ran out of gas. After dinner, I was going to go fill the generator and Cindy decided to go with me. As we got outside, I heard the wolves howling far away to the west. It is an eerie sound in the dark night. I got the generator filled and started and we headed back.

Cindy needed to go to the outhouse so I stood outside listening and watching. As I shined my light around, the deer at the end of the clearing just looked back at me. They are so funny. They know that as long as it is dark out, they are safe. They are so used to us, that we can stand outside and it doesn't even bother them. Sometimes I think that I enjoy watching them more than actually hunting them.

After we had cleaned up from dinner, we got out the Phase 10 cards and had a couple of games. Soon it was 10:30 and time to drive Cindy back home.

Sunday morning I got up early and watched the end of the clearing while I had coffee but no deer appeared. They must have stuffed themselves the night before.

After Arlene got up, we began packing up the trailer. It is always kind of a sad day when we close up camp for the winter. I began doing the outside chores as Arlene finished up the inside. It took less time than we thought so we decided to go to the end of the clearing and follow the deer tracks to get a sense of where they were coming from. The snow makes it much easier to track their movements.

We walked around quite a bit which is a challenge for Arlene right now. She has to have a knee replacement this winter. Finally, it was time to head home. Reluctantly, we headed out. At some time, we'll be back to shovel the snow off the trailer and shed roofs, but that will be it until spring.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Well, it was a great four days at the old Camp Chicken.

We got to camp about 1:00 PM Wednesday afternoon and it was sunny and nice. After we unloaded the car, I took the 4-wheeler and baited our hunting spots.

Arlene was hunting at the Cadillac II and I was going to give the "Cube" a try. We had been hunting about 2 hours when Arlene called on the radio and said that she had a 4-point coming in but he looked a little small so she didn't think she would shoot him. I said okay and returned to scanning my new hunting area.

About a minute later, a loud "BANG" sounded from the direction of her shack. It scared the heck right out of me. I called her on the radio and asked "was that you?"

Turns out the 4-point had turned sideways and was quite a bit bigger than she had thought so she decided to take him. She dropped him right in his tracks and he fell right there. He wasn't a trophy but he was as fat as a hog and in great shape. He'll make "good eatin'".

I told her I was on my way and hustled back to camp to drop off my pack and gun.

I pulled up to her buck and we tied him to the 4-wheeler and dragged him to the meadow to field-dress him. In about 25 minutes, he was hanging from the buck-pole.

It was a good thing that she decided to take the 4-point that afternoon, because the weather changed for the worst for the rest of our time at camp. It was windy on Thursday and much more windy on Friday so we decided to spend the day butchering her deer.

Mary and Tiny had come up to spend Thursday and Friday with us and helped us with the butchering chores. We had Janet's famous venison lasagna for dinner and headed to the casino for Ladies Night.

On the way home we noticed that the wind had begun to really blow and by 3:00 AM Saturday morning, it was a gale. The trailer actually started rocking and Arlene almost woke us up to get out of there.

Saturday morning it was still windy and very cold so Mary and Tiny packed up and went back to the Soo. We decided to give up on hunting for the day and headed to Pickford for a delicious breakfast. On the way back to camp, we saw a nice 6-point running down the blacktop road. We both just laughed. We had been looking in the wrong place for bucks, they are out on the highway.

Saturday evening the wind finally died right at dusk so we sat in the trailer and watched the deer come in to eat. Arlene was hunting out the trailer window, LOL.

We spend the rest of the evening playing Phase 10 and relaxing.

Sunday, I went out to hunt in Arlene's shack while she cleaned up the trailer and packed up. I didn't see a thing because it was still so windy.

We had a great time even though we didn't get to hunt that much due to the windy conditions. Deer just don't move in the wind.

We are going back on the day after Thanksgiving, even though the forecast right now is for snow and .... you guessed it WIND!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finally...Deer Season

Arlene and I missed hunting opening day of Michigan's Firearm deer season for the first time since we started deer hunting at Camp Chicken.

Opening Day was Monday and it was just too difficult for either of us to get off for the day so we decided to take off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to give us a good long weekend of hunting.

We are both getting antsy tonight knowing that we are leaving at noon tomorrow. We have all our stuff piled all over the kitchen and dining room.

The weather is still mild here for mid-November. It was almost 50 degrees today but a cold front is supposed to move in for later this week with some snow in the forecast.

But, the weather doesn't really matter. It is the relaxation of being at camp and the anticipation that at any moment, some big buck will walk out in front of one of us.

Rumor has it that there is a nice 12-point running around up there.

Deer season is always a bitter-sweet time at Camp Chicken, especially Thanksgiving weekend because we know that it is our last time at camp until spring.

I find that with age 60 staring me in the face, time at camp becomes more and more precious. I savor every minute that I am there. I find myself just sitting at looking at the woods and trying to memorize how it all looks.

Last Saturday, we went to camp just for the day to take down our feeders and cameras. When we got home I looked at our photos. We had another buck in our photos.

He has kind of goofy horns. He has three nice points on one side and a long spike on the other. He was in camp a couple of times and once he was in with a doe so maybe the rut is getting going. The full moon isn't until Monday so everyone is saying that the rut is late this year.

But we have 5 days this week and 3 days next week to hunt so maybe one of us will get lucky.

Only 15 hours and 25 minutes and I'm off work and headed to camp.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting Ready!

We have been working very hard getting everything ready at Camp Chicken for Deer Season 2010.

Last spring, we purchased two new deer feeders from Moultrie that feed automatically on times that you can set yourself. It has been so much easier to put out feed for the deer than in the past.

We have been encouraged by the number of deer that have been taking advantage of the regular feeding schedule.

Last Saturday night we actually had 5 deer at the camp feeder at once. It is so much fun watching them.

We have been hearing a coyote pack pretty regularly so we think that the wolves that have been inhabiting our property have moved on. Conversations with some folks who are pretty knowledgeable about these things have told us that wolves won't tolerate any other canines in their territory so the fact that we hear the coyotes is a good thing.

For the first time last weekend, we had deer cam photo of a buck. He is only a 4-point but right now any buck sighting is pretty encouraging.

The raccoons are still pestering us but that is to be expected when you feed with corn. The little buggers just love corn. We even put out tuna fish and cat food and watched them totally ignore it in favor of the corn on the ground.

This guy is trying to figure out how to get more corn out of the feeder.

This past Saturday started out very cold, 14 degrees, but warmed up into the 50's by afternoon so we hopped on the 4-wheelers and just rode around to various areas checking for deer sign and looking at the wind damage.

We've had five or six major wind storms in the past few years that have totally changed Camp Chicken. We have so many huge trees uprooted and blown down that what used to be some of the most beautiful parts of our property are unrecognizable. It is sad to see what the wind has done.

We are scouting a spot to move the Skyview Shack to. It is in a nice spot but when we built it, the area was in a drought. Since then we have had very rainy times and the road to the shack has been very wet and at times under water. We plan on totally dismantling it and moving it in pieces. We'll have to see in the spring how that all turns out.

All in all, we are getting excited for the coming deer season. Hopefully, it will be better than last season when we saw so few deer.

We plan on going to camp this weekend to finish up our preparations. Our shacks are ready.

We checked out "The Cube" on Saturday. It is the first hunting shack we built on the property. It is just a 4 x 4 foot cube built on a wooden pallet. We eventually attached it to the old pair of skis that my Dad's old ice-fishing shack was on so that we could tow it around the property.

It is in a really good location on a hillside overlooking the balsam swamp area on the north forty. It hasn't been used since we moved it there three years ago. When I got into it, I found that the front end of the shack had sunk and the windows were looking at the ground about twenty feet in front of the shack.

So Arlene and I attempted to pull it forward up onto a rocky knoll by hand. That didn't work very well as we aren't as strong as we used to be. So Arlene thought that she could pull it with her 4-wheeler. I headed back to camp for a tow rope and she maneuvered her big 4-wheeler into position. She found that she couldn't just pull it, she had to back up and jerk it to get it moving. So she pulled and I pushed from behind and we managed to move it three feet up onto the knoll.

We swept it all out and I think I'll try to hunt out of it in the afternoons.

Of course, Arlene is hunting out of the "Cadillac II" and has all the comforts of home in there.

I'm going to alternate between "The Cube" and the new popup blind that Arlene bought me for my birthday.

Only 8 days until we get to go hunting!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My First Wild Turkey

He wasn't the biggest gobbler I've seen at camp but I was pretty proud of him in any case.

He and two other gobblers and one hen came walking right into camp on a beautiful sunny morning October 3rd, while Arlene, Mary and I were sitting having coffee.

I was so excited that I ran around the trailer looking for my shotgun and shells like a crazy person.

I made so much noise that I scared them and they ran to the end of the clearing. I had to sneak out of the trailer and stalk them. They were about 80 yards away and I had to keep a small grove of birch in between me and them.

I managed to get within about 25 yards and when the gobbler closet to me lifted his head way up to look around, I shot. He immediately went down and I thought I got him.

Much to my surprise, he got up and flew away. I took a shot at him on the wing and was sure that I had hit him.

Mary came out to help me and we started to look for him. Mary spotted him on the ground with another gobbler perched on a log watching him. I had to walk up and finish him off.

It made me feel a little sad that the other bird was staying with him. Mary thought that it was his brother, which of course made me feel even worse.

Arlene thought that he was the lead or head bird and that's why the other bird stayed there.

In any case, I found out two important things about wild turkeys, well, actually three things: 1. they are really big birds, 2. they are really hard to kill, and 3. I don't know enough about wild turkey behavior and need to study them more if I'm going to hunt them.

I think that he may be a younger bird but since I don't know how to age a wild turkey, I'm just guessing.

But, I'm still pretty proud of my first Wild Turkey!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

...More Candles

Friday was a repeat of the Labor Day Storm. We had 4 inches of rain in less than 24 hours and very high winds. We decided to wait until Saturday morning to go to camp.

Saturday was cloudy and rainy but we decided to go anyway. We got to camp about 9:30 AM and got camp open and the heat on. Arlene wanted to put together her deer feeder so we put the kerosene heater on in our shed and soon it was warm and cozy in there. She and Mary and Tiny stayed in the shed putting together the feeder.

We spent the day getting our feeders positioned and loaded with corn and put up our deer cams. The rain finally quit, thank goodness.

We ate the rest of Mary's chili for dinner, that we had frozen from last weekend. Boy, was it good. Cindy came up just as we finished eating so we gave her the rest of the chili.

We decided to go for a ride to look at the deer. It is our favorite thing to do this time of the year. The bucks are still out in the fields so there's a good chance of seeing some good ones.

We weren't disappointed. There was a huge 8-point laying out in the river field chewing his cud. He was perfectly symmetrical and really gorgeous.

We went on to the Moore hill fields but there wasn't much there so we went on to the Town Line road. There were four really nice bucks there. While we were watching them, two of the bucks started sparring with each other. It isn't too often that you get to see a fight like that. It was a rare treat.

After watching for a while, we headed back to the river fields and in the little field by the Moore Hill, we spotted this little four point about 50 yards away. He posed for a couple of photos for us. He was still in the velvet.

We stopped at the river fields again but the big buck was gone. I took a nice photo of the sunset on the trees with the deer feeding in the fields.

On the way home, we decided to go down to the big field at the end of the road. There were no deer there, but the sunset was incredible. Arlene took some really pretty photos of it.

We headed back to camp and played cards until after 11:00.

Sunday turned out to be as beautiful as Friday had been lousy. Plenty of sunshine. The moon was still high in the sky at 10:00 AM.

Mom, Dad and Cindy were coming up for my birthday celebration at 12:30 PM. Arlene was cooking steaks, boiled red potatoes, and baked carrots on the grill with cheesecake for dessert.

While she prepped lunch, Mary helped me cut up the ironwood that we had pulled down last weekend.

My birthday lunch was the best ever. Mom said that she had never had a steak that good in her life.

Dad had brought the pickup so he left after lunch to go watch the Lions game and Mom stayed until almost 3:00 PM visiting with us. It was a perfect day.

After she left, we decided to go for a 4-wheeler ride. I rode with Arlene and Mary and Tiny took my 4-wheeler. We rode through all of our trails. The woods are so beautiful this time of year. The yellow and orange leaves give the light in the woods a golden glow. It is like being in a fantasy land.

When we got back to camp, Arlene decided to take a ride down to the big field. She punched the big 4-wheeler and had me screaming on the back and we raced out of camp. Mary and Tiny followed at a more sedate pace and caught up with us at the field.

Tiny was warm and cozy tucked in Mary's jacket and seemed to be enjoying her ride.

Sadly, our time at camp was over and we had to close up everything and head home. We decided to check out the fields on the way home. The big buck wasn't in the river field but the four bucks we had seen the previous night were in the same field on the Town Line.

We watched for a while and then headed on home.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wood and Candles

Another big wood cutting weekend at Camp Chicken!

Friday night, Arlene, Mary and Tiny, and I got to camp about 5:15 pm and hustled around opening up camp. Ronnie Leach was supposed to drop off the wood splitter at 5:30 pm. When 5:30 came and went, we decided to load up the chain saw and start cutting up the big logs into 14 inch blocks to get a head start on the wood splitting crew.

We cut up one good sized pile of logs and as it was getting pretty dark, we called it a night. Back at camp, Arlene cooked us up some polish sausage and just as we finished dinner, Ronnie and his wife Wava pulled in with the splitter.

I had a nice chat with them and after they left, we decided to take a run to Hessel for the rest of the evening. We were home by 10:30 PM and hit our beds.

The next morning we were up bright and early. We were just finishing our second cup of coffee, when the rest of our "crew" pulled in. Arlene's daughter Janet drove out from the Soo to give us a hand.

It was raining but not too hard so we headed for the woods. Mary and Janet were the wood splitters, Arlene was the measurer and I was the cutter. We had our system down just like a factory.

The sun came out around 11:00 and it turned into a really nice day. We hauled our first trailer load down to Mom and Dad's around noon. We all had to stop at the trailer to take Tylenol and Motrin before we headed out again.

We cut wood all afternoon. When Arlene and I finished cutting up the blocks we helped Mary and Janet with the splitter. Cindy came up just after noon and gave us a hand.

We had a huge load on the trailer by 4:00 pm and loaded the rest onto Arlene's small trailer that was hooked to her 4-wheeler. Then we all headed to Mom and Dad's.

Apparently, we overloaded the trailer and the tires began to smoke half-way to Mom's. I had to ride the 4-wheeler the rest of the way and have Mom bring the pickup back.

We unloaded half the trailer onto the pickup and the whole convoy went to Mom's to unload. We finally got most of it into the woodshed and left some on the pickup for Dad to unload into the new garage.

Arlene headed out early to ride the 4-wheeler back to camp to get the chili on. Mary, Janet, Cindy and I went back to camp for dinner. Boy, were we tired.

Mary had made chili for us and it was really delicious. We were starved. Janet had to eat and then head to the Soo to babysit Chayse for the evening. The rest of us stayed at camp and played cards.

After I smoked everyone at Phase 10, we headed to bed.

Sunday, we didn't get up until 8:00 am and with no work to do, took our time having coffee. Mary and I built a fire and we just sat and rested.

Mom, Dad, and Cindy were coming up at 12:30 pm for lunch and cake for Cindy's birthday.

Arlene cooked her famous burgers on the grill and we had cole slaw, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and chips. It was so good.

We surprised Cindy with a cake and sang Happy Birthday to her. It was a really great day.

Mom and Dad headed home and the four of us just sat and relaxed.

Of course, we aren't much for sitting. I decided to take the 4-wheeler and trailer and pick up the good scraps that were left from the wood splitter. When I got back to camp, Cindy was holding Tiny and Mary and Arlene were over in the woods by my bow shack. There has been an ironwood tree hung up over there for about three years and they decided they would throw a rope over it and try to pull it down.

After several attempts involving a ladder, clippers and a long pole, we decided to tie the rope to my 4-wheeler and yank the thing down. Finally, success. Next weekend, I'll cut it up for Mom and Dad's stove.

We puttered around camp until about 4:00 pm and closed up camp and headed home.

Arlene has to have a lump removed this week so we aren't planning any projects for next weekend that would involve heavy lifting.

We'll put together Arlene's new deer feeder and get our cameras ready and up. I want to take the saw down to her shack and trim up trees and get her area ready for hunting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Woodchucks at Camp Chicken

The weekend weather looked pretty iffy. A front bringing lots of rain was supposed to roll through the area about noon on Saturday. We needed to get Mom and Dad's winter wood cut, so we decided to go to camp anyway.

Friday was really nice, sunny but cool. We made it to camp about 5:15 and got our woodcutting gear ready and the big trailer hooked up to the car. We headed to the area near Arlene's deer shack where we had a pile of wood that we had gathered the spring before.

About 3/4th of it was still good, so we managed to get it cut up before dusk. We went back to the trailer and decided to go see if the big buck was out in the field again. We saw does with fawns (a good sign) and two small 4-points but no big bucks. So we headed back to camp for dinner.

Arlene made our Friday night favorite: sliced polish sausage, baked beans and fried potatoes all mixed together. It was delicious! We ate it out of our new "cowboy" bowls that Arlene's sister Judy bought for us in Ohio. They are made from metal with a white enamel coating and remind us of the kind of bowls that cowboys use around the campfire.

Saturday morning we were up at 6:10 AM having our coffee and we were out in the woods by 7:30 AM. We knew that we had to beat the rain that was coming by noon. We were really hustling. I think we only took one break. We cut up all the piles of wood that we had collected and loaded them in the utility trailer.

The rain had held off so far. Mom came up for a visit just as we finished and we headed to her house to unload our trailer. We finished up about 2:00 pm and headed back to camp. We just got in the trailer and changed our clothes when the rain came down. After a warm cup of coffee, we opted for a nap. We were pooped!

Cindy came up for supper and we had Arlene's famous hamburgers. Wow, were we hungry. After dinner, we played Phase 10 until 10:00 PM and hit our beds.

Sunday we slept in until 8:00 AM. We had our coffee and headed out for Phase Two of our woodcutting weekend. There were about six large, dead, peeled, maple trees near Arlene's shack that we thought we could cut down.

Now we have a new Husqvarna chain saw and it is a really good saw, but I've never taken down a tree bigger than eight inches and these babies were over a foot in diameter. But, we figured we could try it. I cut it just the way the manual that came with the saw had described and it fell exactly where I wanted it to. I was pretty proud of myself.

We felled at least eight or nine of those big trees and cut them into lengths of four blocks. Then we had to move those big logs. They were to heavy to carry so we flipped them end for end. What a lot of work.

Cindy came up just as we were about half-done and helped us move logs. We put them in piles near our trails and the road so that we can cut them up and split them. Our neighbor at camp, Ronnie Leach, is kind enough to let us use his wood-splitter to split them up.

After our chore was done, Arlene grilled us up some Polish Sausage and we had them on a bun. We were starved. Mom came up for a visit as we were eating.

It was a beautiful sunny day. We took our time closing up camp and left about 4:00 PM. We stopped at Cindy's and put more Round-up on the poplar gads we had cut off. We knocked on her door but when I peeked in, it looked like she was asleep in her chair. So we went to the BP for an ice cream cone and headed home.

We got about two miles when Mary noticed that a large black cloud had come up out of nowhere to the west of us and was moving rapidly toward us. We joked that we had been trying to beat the rain all weekend and now we had to race it home.

As I drove faster the cloud seemed to be gaining on us and by the time we hit 9-mile road it had almost caught us. We hurried to get to the Soo before it hit. We dropped off Mary and Tiny and hustled home. We made it into the house and got everything unloaded as the rain hit.

I was in the shower when the thunder and lightening started. I got out of the shower and went downstairs to check the weather on the Internet because the sky looked really weird. Sure enough, we were under a severe thunderstorm warning.

It was a humdinger too. Some areas near us got baseball sized hail. Mom and Dad had lightening strike so close to the house that it blistered the paint on their back door and the wind was so bad that it blew their storm door open and broke one of the hinges.

Thank goodness we made it home before the thing hit. The storm was pretty severe.

We are hoping for better weather for next weekend.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day weekend was a bust! Friday night we had heavy rain and 60 mph winds and it was really scary here in the Soo.

Arlene had gone to Ohio with her sister, so Mary, Cindy and I planned a night at camp for Saturday. But, Saturday's weather wasn't much better than Friday's weather. We had rain and more wind so we canceled our Saturday stay at camp.

Sunday was a little better so when the rain cleared out by 11:30 am, I called the girls and we decided to head to Pickford. Mary, Tiny and I stopped at sister Cindy's trailer first to give her a hand.

We cut away the small poplar trees that had sprouted around her trailer and soaked them with Roundup to see if we can get rid of them. Then we fixed her screen door and back door so that they would latch. Mary fixed her tub faucet so that it would turn on without using pliers. We tried to fix her bathroom door knob but I think it needs a new knob.

Having finished our chores, we all got in the Blazer and headed to camp. It was cool but sunny so we sat outside for awhile and relaxed. I had brought burgers to cook out so I got to try out the new cook shack. My culinary skills are not in Arlene's class but I managed to cook the burgers without burning them.

By then, it had become a little chilly so we decided to eat inside rather than outside. Dinner was pretty good. Burgers, chips, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

After dinner, we opted to stay in and play Phase Ten.

I did remember to take some photos of the new tables we had made from the deck lumber leftover from the "Cluck Shack". They look pretty good if I say so myself.

It had begun to get dark so we closed up camp and decided to take a ride down the Three Mile Road toward Moms. Cindy had to drop off some books for Mom. We saw deer out in the fields near the river. Unfortunately, I only had the little binoculars that I keep in the Blazer console. We saw several nice bucks in the river fields.

We continued on toward Mom's and saw two does with fawns out in the fields. We turned around and started back and noticed some good sized deer that had joined the does and fawns. One deer seemed really large to me so I had Mary and Cindy take a look at it with the little binoculars. It was hanging at the edge of the field about 150 yards from us. Suddenly Mary said "Oh my gosh, that is a big buck".

I took the binoculars and sure enough, he was huge. Biggest buck I've ever seem. I had the camera in the car but it was too dark to get a photo. He seemed unconcerned with our presence and proceeded to walk majestically along the edge of the field.

We watched in awe until he disappeared into the brush at the end of the field. Wow! It was really a thrill to see a big buck like that.

We reluctantly headed to Moms and then home.

Hopefully, we'll get nicer weather for this weekend. We have wood to cut and lots of other chores at camp to get done.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"The Cluck Shack"

We had to tear the old side deck off of our house this summer and replace it. The new deck boards looked so nice that we decided to put new deck boards on the rest of it.

We hauled all the old lumber to camp and Arlene got this brainstorm for a lean-too for her grill. The grill is under a spruce tree and tree trash falls on it all the time. So she thought if it was under a shelter, it would stay cleaner and she would be out of the sun and rain while she was cooking.

So she drew up the plans for this lean-too and last weekend at camp we started building it. We used the 2 x 6's for the floor and used landscape timbers for the supports.

We used the old deck boards for the roof and for the floor.

This weekend, we headed back to camp to finish her lean-too. Mary and Tiny came up too so we had the whole crew.

Last weekend was cool and it rained off and on so we couldn't finish. We managed to get all of the boards cut so all we would have to do this weekend was screw them on. After a few glitches, we got the sides and the back on.

We had so much lumber left that we decided to make a small table to put by the fire so that when you are sitting in your chair you would have something to set your coffee or whatever on.

We used to use milk crates but they are really low and in the dark you can't see them very well and I always worry that someone will trip over them. Many times, I've set my cup down on what I thought was the crate and totally missed and dumped my coffee.

So I wanted a table and I thought that with the old deck boards it could look really rustic. So we started with an idea of how tall and wide we wanted and it turned out perfectly. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it. Oh well, next time.

It looked so great that Arlene thought we could make a tall one so that she could put it by her grill shack and have a place to set things as she is grilling. For some reason, the table didn't go together as well and the first one but we got it built.

Mom came up for a visit while we were working and we were telling her about the idea we had for the sign for our grill shack. She said that she would go home and make the stencils for us on her Cricket machine.

Today, we got up and had our coffee and packed up our suitcases and got them out of the trailer. While Arlene cleaned the trailer, Mary and I bravely tackled building another small table to set by the swing so we would have a table at each end. We managed to get the sides assembled and with Arlene's help put it together. It turned out so nice that Arlene had us move the old round table to the other end of the swing and she claimed the new table for her end.

Shortly after we finished it and were putting away the outside things, Mom pulled up. She had the stencils and her Sharpie markers and was ready to make our sign. Mary and Tiny had to go so Arlene and I visited with Mom while she sat at the old picnic table in the shade and made our sign.

It turned out really great and I think she was really happy to put her stamp on the new shack. After it was finished she wanted to see it up on the shack so I got my tools out of the car and attached the sign to the cook shack which we had named "The Cluck Shack". The sign really makes the shack look great.

Mom thought that the "Cluck Shack" sign turned out so well, that now she wants to make a "Camp Chicken" sign for out by the gate.

She had to go so Arlene and I finished packing up and closing up camp. It was 85 degrees today and really hot so we got in the car and turned up the A/C and headed home.

After unloading the car in the heat, a nice cool shower felt really, really good.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Family Visit July 2010

Well, we haven't been able to spend much time at camp this year.

We had to repair the north foundation of the house this spring, then we had to build a new side deck and then replace the boards on the back deck and Arlene had knee surgery, and then the summer has been very, very hot and humid.

The week of July 12th, my brother Chris, his wife Judy and my nephew Ross came home from Spokane, Washington for a nice visit.

They had flown into Minneapolis and rented a car and drove the rest of the way. On the way through Wisconsin, they bought fireworks and these really cool sparklers. Here, Chris and Ross are lighting them at the fire.

They spent two days at camp. We played croquet and badminton and had a nice fire both nights. The weather was a little cooler than it had been so evenings were pretty comfortable. The second evening the mosquitos got really bad so we went down to Mom and Dads to set off the rest of our bottle rockets and light more sparklers.

We went to Mackinac Island for a day, too. It was nice but pretty warm. We went to the Fort and the Butterfly House and had dinner at the famous Horn's Bar on Main Street. Here's some photos of us on the ferry return.

Friday, Chris was going to a golf scramble for his LSSU Computer Science and Math reunion, so Judy, Ross, Cindy and I went to the beach for the afternoon. The wind was really blowing so the waves were pretty big for Lake Huron. We had fun but as the afternoon wore on the wind just got stronger and stronger so we packed up and headed to Cedarville for supper.

We had a wonderful time but all too soon, their visit was over. Hopefully, they will be able to return next year and we can spend more than just two days at camp.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday Trip to Camp

We took a trip to camp on Saturday to burn our brush pile while there is still snow on the ground and everything is still really wet.

We were up bright and early and after loading the car, picked up Mary.

When we turned onto the road that heads up to camp, we noticed that something was on the road. It was a large flock of wild turkeys. They were right in the middle of the road and in no real hurry to cross. I got some nice shots of them in front of the car.

On the way up to camp, Arlene spotted a deer standing completely motionless in a thicket by the road. It always amazes me how long a deer can stand perfectly still.

We got to camp and there was still snow left but not enough that I couldn't get through it with the Blazer. We had brought two fire sticks to get the brush pile going but the pile was so wet that they had little effect.

Arlene, ever the firebug, decided that we needed to try gas, so I drove to the storage shed to get the gas. But even that wouldn't get the pile going.

I decided to try a more traditional method so I walked to camp and got some maple and cedar sticks and then gathered birch bark. Finally, we managed to get the thing started.

Arlene and Mary tended the fire as it slowly burned away. It was quite windy, which helped fan the flames and kept things moving along.

As the pile began to really get going, a small mouse came scurrying out of the inferno and flopped on his back to "Stop, Drop, and Roll". Apparently, he had seen the video! He dived under the pile of birch bark and huddled there. We peeked in at him and found him to be shaken but largely unhurt. I'm sure he'll be inside our trailer in a few days, looking for a new home.

The fire finally died down to one stubborn wet spruce log and a pile of coals so Mary and Arlene rolled the spruce log into the wet snow to extinguish it and we poured two big cans of water on the coals and covered them with snow.

Satisfied that everything was completely out and the coals were cold, we went to check the trailer. We did have a couple of mice in our traps, so we cleaned that up.

Instead of getting warmer, it began to get colder so we headed to Hessel to gamble.

As usual, Mary and I had no luck and Arlene was pretty lucky.

About 7 o'clock, we decided to get something to eat. Arlene thought we should try out the food at the "Runway" Bar.

Now let me explain about the "Runway". When I was younger, the Runway Bar was a notorious "Dive". There were fights in there every single weekend and one time, someone got mad and tried to drive his car through the front door. My Gram called it the "Beer Garden", and would jokingly say "want to stop and hoist a few?" every time we passed there on a ride. Most people wouldn't be caught dead in the Runway.

But several years ago, new people bought the bar and completely remodeled and expanded it. Now it is very nice in there and really clean. The decor is what we call "North Woods" and they have old snowshoes and skis on the walls along with deer heads, a stuffed raccoon trying to open a Cracker Jack box, a stuffed squirrel, a coyote and even a martin.

I was reluctant to go there but Arlene convinced us and I was pleasantly surprised. It was really nice and the burger and fries were first rate. It was real hamburger made into patties not the frozen stuff from Gordon's foods.

We had a nice dinner and headed home. It had been a really long day and we were all ready for our beds.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gladys Susie Rutledge - We Miss You Gram!

Today is my grandma, Gladys Rutledge's birthday. She would have been 106 years old. She passed away at the age of 100 on April 18th, 2004.

It is because of her and my grandpa, Elmer Rutledge, that Camp Chicken even exists. It belonged to them and when Gram passed, it was passed on to my mother, Gloria Smith.

Gram lived through many trials and changes, the Great Depression and all of the major world wars to name a few. She saw America change in so many ways. The things we take for granted today; cars, telephones, indoor plumbing, electricity, radio, and television were all "new" things in her lifetime.

Gram loved Camp Chicken, only she called it the "Forty". She liked to sit in a chair outside at camp and listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. She loved the sound of the wind in the trees and would always remark that "the trees are really talking today".

Camp brought her peace, I think, and good memories of the times she spent there with Gramp. They had huge gardens at camp and helped Mom and Dad cut wood to heat our house.

I think of her often when I'm at Camp and sometimes, I feel her presence there. Arlene, who has what I call "Native ESP", sometimes actually sees her spirit there. I think she comes to see what we are up to and to just make sure that we are all right. It is a comforting feeling, really.

I miss her and even now, I'll pick up the phone to call her if there is something on TV that I know she would like to see. Sometimes when I'm driving to Pickford, I'll think, "Oh, I should stop by and see Gram". Then I realize that she is gone.

She had a huge influence in my life. She told us stories about our family history and because of that, we know where we came from and how we got here. She taught us to be frugal with a dollar and to work hard.

Gram loved to read and passed on that love to our Mother, Gloria, who passed it on to us. My brother, sister and I all love to read and my nephew, Ross is a voracious reader. Ross gets his love of reading from his Mother, Judy and from our side of the family too.

Gram also loved the outdoors and was an avid birdwatcher all of her life. She took great pleasure in nature and all of the plants, trees, and animals that inhabit our world.

Gram was a wonderful cook and baker. She made the most incredible ginger/molasses cookies, chocolate chip cookies and my favorite, apple pie. I really miss the apple pie made from the transparent apples that grew on the apple trees at Camp Chicken.

I know that my sister Cindy really misses the ginger cookies.

One time when Gram and Gramp were away, Cindy and our cousin Sandie Nettleton got into Gram's large cookie jar and ate all of the ginger cookies. Boy, were they sick!

When Arlene was desperately ill with cancer and couldn't eat anything at all, Gram baked her ginger cookies every week, and told her to eat them because ginger helps settle your stomach. Arlene says that Gram's ginger cookies helped save her.

Oh Gram had her moments too. She had an awful temper and could be difficult. When she got very old, sometimes the bad seemed to outweigh the good. There were times when I know she drove my poor Mother crazy.

To my Mother's great credit, she still went to Gram's house every day after my Grandpa passed away in 1983 and made sure she was all right, brought Gram her mail, and did countless chores for her. I know it wasn't easy for her to be Gram's caregiver for so long.

But, as is usually the case, we tend to remember the good times we had with Gram and all of the wonderful things she did in her lifetime.

Happy Birthday, Gram! We sure miss you.