Cottage on the Lake - Putting in the Dock and Boats

Last week i went up north to our cottage to help put in the boats and docks. Also my dad and i took apart the aluminum boat hoist. We weren't sure how long it would take, but it ended up only taking a few hours.
boat hoist aluminum wire pulley frame build lift shore station crank wheel

A lot of the bolts were rusted from being in the water for several years. Luckily the nuts were at the ends of the bolt, so once we broke them free there wasn't any corroded threads to deal with.
rusted bolts aluminum steel boat hoist shore station loosen

Here is what the boat lift/shore station looked like when it was all taken apart. All of the cables and pulleys are inside of the aluminum beams. And the heaviest part was definitely the white cable crank at the top left.
aluminum boat hoist, disassembled, assemble, put together, how to, parts bolt

Also at night i wanted to try taking more pictures with my homemade ND filter, the stars at night and spinning wool. Here's the links to some of those previous pictures and how they are done:
Here's the pictures i took with my ND filter. I really like the way it makes the water have a glass surface, it's a very calm and dreamlike photo.
bench on the dock, cottage, lake shore, smooth glass water, nd filter, make, how to

With the photos taken using the welding glass there is some post processing in Photoshop. I have 4 or 5 presets saved so it saves a lot of time since now with just 1 click i can fix the colors. But in a lot of cases, converting the picture to black and white is the best way to emphasize the texture and detail.
sitting on the dock at the cottage, looking out to the lake, water

Also you can see in this photo that the ND filter acts as a polarizing filter too. It lets you see right into the water.
homemade nd filter, water, sky polarized dock bench

This was me just experimenting. I had to sit real still for the 30 second exposure.
self portrait, nd filter, water, dock, bench sitting, looking sky

This is a panorama photo of the lake at night. It was created using 6 pictures, each of them at 53 second exposures. Then i processed them all the same way in Photoshop and combined them into one picture using Autostitch.
(click to enlarge)
panorama lake water night stars exposure water

I took several pictures of the night sky, but this one turned out the best. I think at first i had the ISO set too low on the camera. I could have forfeit a little bit of added noise for more vibrant pictures. For the panorama i set the ISO at 250, you can see a couple of shooting stars in there too.

This was the spinning wool photos i wanted to try. If you click on the link above you can see the setup i used to hold and light the steel wool.
spinning wool, on the beach, lake, stars, night sky

I was expecting some amazing photographs from this, but none of them were all that great. I think the hardest part was in being the right distance from the camera. You want to be close to the camera to get the dramatic effect, but not so close that all you see is the sparks from the steel wool.
spinning wool, on the beach, lake, stars, night sky, sparks, lit, fire, steel wool


Nick Lidstrom Retires from the Red Wings

After 20 season s of playing for the Detroit Red Wings, Nick Lidstrom is planning on announcing his retirement later today. He has been one of the best defensemen in the NHL for over 2 decades.
nick lidstrom retire stats all time red wing defense trophy career
He joined the Red Wings in 1991. Born in Sweeden he was the 53rd pick in the draft and has played for the Wings his entire career.

After Steve Yzerman retired, Nick became the obvious choice for captain. Now that he's leaving i'm not sure who will take his roll. Maybe Pavel Datsyuk or Zetterberg.
nick lidstrom red wing stanley cup winner defense best all time

He's racked up tons of awards and all time stats
  • 4 time Stanly Cup winner
  • 12 time All Star
  • 7 time Norris Trophy winner
  • Conn Smythe Trophy winner
  • Olympic Gold Medalist
  • and tons more
Most records are defenseman related but others show just how good of a teammate he was, like Best Detroit Red Wing with regular season plus/minus, career (+450). And the Red Wings did not miss the playoffs once in the 20 years he played on the team.
nick lidstrom trophy norris defense player career retire

He reminded me a bit of Barry Sanders, my favorite football player of all time, super talented but not in a flashy way. He didn't make the spectacular play, he stopped the offensive player before the spectacular play even happened.


How to Grow a Banana Tree

This is only the second summer that i've had my banana tree after receiving it from Amazon in February of 2011. I've been surprised by how well it survived and grew this past year. Here are some of the previous pictures and posts where i've written about it.

Banana Tree - 2011
Banana Tree Update - 2011
Banana Tree Planted - 2011
Winter Seeds - 2011

Now it was time to move the banana tree from my living room, where it had been sitting all winter, to the backyard. It was a pain to move outside, it weighed about 100 lbs. I'm surprised the bucket didn't break. But the tree was alive, healthy and all the leaves looked green.
how to grow a banana tree, growing a banana tree from a seed, michigan, cold climate
but then...

The phrase about March "comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb" didn't really seem to be true this year. The end of March was cold and so was April. The temperatures dropped down to the 30's at night. My banana tree died. I guess that's why there aren't a lot of banana trees in Michigan.
cold temperature killing banana tree, cold temp, winter , kill banana tree

It's not actually dead, the root system will hopefully send up a new tree when it warms up. But just the fact that i moved it indoors all winter just to move it outside too early and let this happen, is a bummer.

So i cut it down to a stump.
dead banana tree, tree stump, how to care for banana tree in winter

As it warmed up during the month of May, two new shoots came up. So i decided to transplant it from the big green bucket to the ground. You can see the new banana tree shoots on either side of the stump.
grow banana tree, summer, shoots, buy tree, can i grow a banana tree
So hopefully in the next month i will see one or maybe two new banana trees growing in my backyard.

How to Grow Bamboo in Cold Climates

I've written several blog post about the bamboo in my backyard here in Michigan. The 5 links below are some of the past history, starting back in 2009.

Bamboo in Heavy Snow - pictures after a big winter ice storm
Bamboo - 2011 - a much harsher winter meant lots of dead leaves in the spring
More Drain Pipe - trying to route a roof gutter drain around bamboo roots
Bamboo 2 - the first winter, hoping my small trees survive
Bamboo - the original grove of trees in West Virginia where i brought the trees home from

Here are some pictures from the past 4 years:

This was the original grove of trees in West Virginia where i traveled for work and ended up bringing trees home. I believe that they are Yellow Grove Bamboo but that is my non-expert opinion. I also brought home Cane Break Bamboo from Kentucky but it is a lot slower growing in my yard.
yellowo grove bamboo in west virginia kentucky
This was one of the largest trees i saw there. Probably 2-3" in diameter and at least 40' high.huge bamboo growing in the united states climate zone west virginia temperature

The first winter after transplanting the bamboo to my yard. As long as the roots don't get below -15 degrees they should survive.
growing bamboo in cold climate, snow, temperature
This was created from several pictures of my Moso Bamboo stitched together. I grew the Moso Bamboo from a seed. And like the Cane Break Bamboo, it's a slow grower here in Michigan.
animated gif, moso bamboo tree, growing, shoots, seed

After a winter ice storm my bamboo trees were completely bent over. But i don't think i lost a single one. The trees are really strong and can withstand a lot of stress.
bamboo covered in snow, michigan, growing in cold climate, winter storm bamboo
Now, onto this year.

Bamboo shoots coming up March 22nd. About a month earlier than any previous years.
bamboo shoots, 2012, new shoots, backyard, michigan
If i'm lucky and the summer last long enough, they might send up shoots a couple of times this year.
new bamboo shoots growing by the fence, invasive,
The bamboo continued to send up shoots through the early part of April. The warmer the weather the faster they grow.
cat guarding the bamboo shoots, animals, backyard, trees
growing bamboo trees in cold climate zone 5, zone 6, temperature

One thing i'm worried about is that, usually the shoots grow all at once during the first warm month. This year they grew half way, then it got super cold, they stopped growing, then when it warms up they will grow to their full height. I'm not sure how that will affect them.
clump of shoots, bamboo, trees, spring, rhizomes
But there were tons of new shoots and their diameter was slightly thicker than the previous year, which is what i hoped for. Each year more more trees = more leaves = more energy stored in the roots (rhizomes) and that = bigger trees for the next year.cold climate bamboo, shoots, trees, temperature, zone
They are also taller then any of the tress from the previous years.
how to grow bamboo in cold climates, growing, michigan, winter, snow

I noticed a lot of bent or broken shoots. I've seen this before and i think it's from ants that chew on the stalks. Sometimes they survive and the stalks have this weird bend in them. But most of the time they fold over and die.
bamboo tree bent over from bugs, insects, disease, stalk

bamboo damaged from wind, insects, bugs, disease

But that damage only happens while they are soft. Once they grow a bit and harden up they can't really be hurt.
bamboo trees, mulch, roots, rhizomes, culms, grass


How to Make Fondant for Cake or Cake Pops

A few weeks ago Karrie tried making cake pops, where you attach sticks to balls of cake then dip them into melted chocolate. While looking up how to do that, she saw a lot of videos on how to make your own fondant cake. Fondant is a type of dough like frosting which consists of marshmallows and powdered sugar. It can be rolled flat then draped over a cake to create a smooth surface. So here is what it looked like to make a fondant cake.

But actually making the fondant is pretty simple. It's basically just 3 main ingredients, lots of work mixing and rolling, but when you're done you end up with something like this.
instructions, ingredients, kit, shapes, fondant cake, homemade, how to

So back to the beginning. Here's Karrie's ingredients and list of steps. She read a lot more about it and watched several Youtube videos.
list of ingredients for making fondant, cake pops, how to

Here are all the ingredients set out.
all ingredients set out to make fondant, fondant cake, cake pops, how to make cake pops

The first step is to bake the cake. This was used as the bottom layer of a 2 layer cake.
how to bake a cake, steps, cake pops, oven, store bought

No for making the fondant. Add 1 tablespoon of water and microwave the marshmallows for 1:30. When they come out of the microwave they look the same, but when you start stirring them they turn mushy and are very sticky.
fondant, marshmallows, melt, microwave, bowl, water

Here's what the stirred up marshmallows look like. Next you pour them into the bowl of powdered sugar.
melted marshmallows, making fondant, cake, powdered sugar

Stir everything together well. This is the tough part, making sure all the powdered sugar is incorporated.
mixing fondant, marshmallows, powdered sugar, how to make

Dump it out onto the counter.
is it hard to make a fondant cake, smooth cool cake like on tv

Then start kneading it like bread dough. And use the powdered sugar to keep it from sticking. But don't use too much or else it drys it out. That seemed to be the trickiest part. The balance between too sticky and too dry.
kneading fondant for a cake, frosting, smooth, how to make fondant

Almost done kneading. That flat plastic scraper tool was great to clean off the counter from sticky fondant.
steps to make a fondant cake, ingredients, directions, cake frosting, cake pops

When you are done it is very smooth and fairly soft.
what is fondant, cake covering, frosting, how to make fondant, cake pops

Cover it with Saran wrap so it doesn't dry out. At this stage it can be stored for a long time, several weeks i think.
homemade fondant, keep from drying out, sticky, marshmallows, saran wrap

Here's the pattern for the cake.
cool cake pattern, firework, cut out shape, cake decorations

Cutting it out the pattern with a special serrated cake knife.
cake knife, cut out pattern, shape, how to make cake pops, fondant

Here's the final shape of the base. There was lots of scrap pieces as well.
cool cake pattern, cut out, store bought cake, shape

This was the 2nd (top) layer of the cake. There was enough room on this cake to use a cookie cutter and make star shapes. They could be used to make fondant cup cakes.
top cake layer, multi layer cake, shape, dough, frosting, fondantlayer

Now it was time to dye the fondant. We separated the fondant to different size pieces and add water based dye to get the color. It didn't take much, maybe 10-15 drops depending on the size.
how to dye fondant, die, coloring fondant, water based dye

To even out the dye, the fondant was kneaded and rolled out. Again watch out that you don't use too much powdered sugar.
kneading fondant, how to color a cake, frosting, fondant

Then Karrie cut out different shapes with a cookie cutter. They would be used to decorate the cake.
cookie cutter, fondant, shape, star, blue, cake decorate

All of the small fondant pieces cut out.
all shapes to decorate a cake, fondant, cookie cutter, heart, star, red, blue

This was the cake covering for the bottom layer. It was suppose to be purple but combining yellow and blue came out a bit dark. This picture makes it look gray but it was more of a dark purple.
fondant frosting, cake covering, smooth, fancy cake,

And this was where we learned about getting the fondant too dry. It wasn't pliable enough and when we tried to form it into the tight corners it started to crack. If we would have been making a big round smooth cake it would have been ok but sharp edges were tricky.
how to cover a cake with fondant, homemade fondant cake

But after it was smoothed out it looked fine.
making a homemade fondant cake, purple frosting, smooth cake

And Karrie did some creative decorating to hide the cracks.
decorate fondant cake, shapes, heart, star, sticky

This is the top layer of the cake. Karrie is about to lay the fondant over it. This time we knew to keep the fondant soft and a little bit sticky.
laying fondant over a cake, roll flat, how to make fondant, like cake show on tv

It was a lot easier to form to the cake shape. Then using a knife, Karrie cut off the excess.
making a fancy smooth cake, like on tv, pictures in magazines, fondant

Then she took that excess fondant, kneaded and rolled it out, and cut out additional shapes.
steps, ingredients to make a great cake, fondant covered

Here are those cut out pieces being added to the cake.
cake decorating, decorations, fondant, smooth, fancy, colors, dye, cake

Just adding some final touches. As you can see there's lots of extra pieces and quite a mess.
everything you need to know about making a fondant cake, decorating, how to

Here is the finished cake. The key is with the moisture of the fondant. Too wet and it's sticky like a melted marshmallow. Too dry and it starts to crack.
finished fondant cake, colors, shapes, hearts, stars, kit, box

I think the cool part is the rounded edges and being able to basically create any smooth shape you want.
how do you make a fondant cake, one of those smooth cakes, decorate

It turned out great for the first time making a fondant cake.