Welcome to Paradise (Michigan)


This is Paradise. Really. It is a small town in the eastern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Paradise is the gateway to Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish Point. I’ll be writing more on the area in upcoming posts. One of the cool things about Paradise is that it’s about 3.5 hours from Long Lake. Cross over The Big Mac, drive an hour and 30 minutes, and you’re there.

Paradise is the wild blueberry capital of Michigan. From the 1880s until the 1920s, the area’s huge stands of white pines were logged basically into stubble. The stubble caught fire regularly and wild blueberry bushes thrived in the acidic soil. In June and July it’s low bush blueberries and in August and September it’s the high bush variety. The berries were in high demand back before folks learned how to cultivate blueberries instead of just find them. Wild blueberries are mighty tasty–in a way that’s different from the farm grown ones. They don’t all look like they were extruded from some machine. And low bush blueberries have a violet-colored inside. When you bite into them, they don’t pop out of their skin so easily like the cultivated ones do. That means that when you chew a mouthful you don’t feel like you’re chewing little slimy eyeballs.

Today, Paradise relies on hunters,fishermen, birders, shipwreck enthusiasts, kayakers and those looking for waterfalls and whitefish. We met friendly folks, in a town with one ATM–a dial-up modem inside this combination convenience store, sporting goods store, gas station–guarded by a cool example of modern folk art.

We saw much natural beauty during our two days in Paradise. We also visited some very sobering sites, including the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point and a local cemetery. But I thought I’d start the blogging where our visit started, enjoying one of the more memorable bikers and his dog.

Really, how is somebody supposed to take a biker dude seriously when he travels with his purse dog?

Mini-Belly Button Island

Belly Button Island, our name for the island in the big part of the lake, is a destination spot for pontoons.  Jobbie Nooner it’s not (thank goodness). But on most Saturdays one or two boats “ring” the island. A loon pair nests there every year. They are not bothered by all the poison ivy, I guess. Unfortunately their nest has been unsuccessful two years in a row. I like to kayak around the island, along the drop off, and watch for the big bass that seem as drawn to the area as I am.

West of the island, about half way to the shore, is a major shoal where the water depth is reduced quickly from several feet to about eight inches. Many a propeller has gone to an early grave at that spot. An energetic someone has erected this mini-island to mark the spot. Very useful. And a big hit with the gulls.

My new knitting workshop

I think most every old house has a room that somehow was forgotten down through the decades. My house was built in 1931. Maybe that was the last time my basement laundry room got any real TLC. It received periodic cleaning and occasional painting. Oh yes, also visits from the plumber and the furnace and air conditioning repair person. The ceiling was a maze of gas piping to long-gone furnaces. The plumbing, pretty much the same. I got the idea I really wanted to spruce it up and make it into a very useful room, including as a blocking space for knitted projects and a place where I could permanently keep my swift and ball winder mounted.

First, the before photos:

This was about as good as it got, a cupboard sturdy enough to use as a bomb shelter and a pegboard for tools:

This freestanding cupboard was so heavy it had to leave the basement in pieces. And, you get a glimpse of the paint peeling off the cement floor that had apparently never been properly prepared to receive paint. Because any time it got wet, the paint peeled off. Any scrape across the floor and it shed more paint. The silver heating vents added such a nice touch.

The long black air-conditioning snake slithering across the wall also crossed the ceiling on its way to the heat exchanger in the basement. Such a nice decorative touch.

The laundry tub and washing machine and dryer had partly been re-plumbed when this photo was taken. In the initial phase of the project, and for all the 24 years I’ve been living in this old house, there was even more piping showing.

This was possibly the worst of the worst. My humidifier drained from the furnace to a floor drain. And, at times, it overflowed a bit. It was unsightly, a trip hazard, and unsanitary as well.

So, this was all pretty nasty. Lighting consisted of two bare lightbulbs. Ugh.

How about this for a transformation? The vintage drop leaf table is a Craiglist find and is a great surface for blocking projects. The rug is from Home Goods. The flooring is Armstrong VCT tiles. The swing-arm light is Rejuvenation.com’s Reed in their copper finish. Reed seems to have disappeared from the website and only the cord-hanging Wallace remains, but it’s the same lamp.

In this view, you can also see the six panel screen that now hides my furnace. It can just be moved aside to gain access to the furnace and all its related mechanics. I added a condensate pump to the furnace system, so now the cast-off from the humidifier doesn’t need to drain to the floor. It’s pumped over to the same stand-pipe that my washing machine discharges into. We got rid of as much stray old piping as we could. Instead of my gas-line looking like a pencil-line drawn through a maze, it come in and just goes where it’s needed.

Speaking of the laundry area:

Now the laundry area is well-lit and well thought out. Instead of 2 bare bulbs, the new room has four sets of track lighting (3 lights each), two undercounter lights (each under the cabinets near the new work surfaces), in addition to the swing-arm light by my blocking table.

The new cabinets are great! They are also made in Michigan. Instead of wood that might warp in the humidity this room sometimes dishes up, the doors are coated in a vinyl-type product that is molded onto the cabinet in the last phase of the fabrication. I selected an easy-care formica-like product for the new worksurfaces.

This next set of cabinets is behind my furnace. The tall cabinet in the corner is perfect for my steamer. And the shelf inside holds all my foam blocking boards.

This room previously had one electrical outlet near the appliances that I was afraid to plug anything else into. There was one outlet in the ceiling and the other outlet was near the water meter located about one foot from the ceiling. If I wanted to iron, I’d have to bring a stepstool to the outlet to plug the iron in. Now I don’t have any excuse for not ironing. I’m still 5’3″ but there are grounded outlets all over the place. While I was renovating, I also put in new electrical service. And the entire ceiling was spray painted a very sweet yellowy beige, which has improved the look of the laundry room quite remarkably.

Back in the furnace area is where I photograph my knitting for this blog and to post on Ravelry. I bought a very inexpensive but sturdy folding table, but found it was about 3 inches too small to comfortably hold my Modahaus photo studio. There was a piece of cabinetry that was supposed to be used around my new deep laundry tub, but something didn’t fit and so it was going to be discarded. I unscrewed one side of it, set it on top of my folding table and, wonder of wonders, it fit perfectly, didn’t wobble, and gave me just the few extra inches I needed to create a great spot for my studio.

Now, for the area in the room that is probably my favorite spot. I splurged on a great little workbench and new pegboard. Here’s one view, and then another, and then another (because I just can’t get over how nice it came out):

The steel pegboard is by Diamond Life. It comes in a zillion colors and this one, colonial red, even matched my floor tile. My workbench is a “Duo” from the Swedish maker, Sjobergs. That’s also my 30-year old Swedish swift. It’s really been a workhorse. If I want to collapse it, I cover it with a needlepoint bag that my mother made for me many years ago. The new addition to the knitting tools is a Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder. I’m still in the learning stage as far as the tensioning goes on the Strauch.

I still have my favorite knitting spots upstairs. But I feel like I’ve found a whole new room in my old house.