We were pleasantly surprised to visit our cabin in northern Wisconsin and find snow had disappeared from our deck, where our grill resides.

That's not to say that we have not grilled at all this winter, rather, when we did, my husband had to shovel the way to the grill. He is learning to grill as I figure this is a prerequisite in cabin living (him grilling, while I cook the rest of the meal).

One time he did a great job of slow cooking a pork loin roast in a covered grill. The next time, he charred it. Oops! But now he knows what he needs to do for another time - not grill it over direct heat.

With home produced pork in our freezer (thanks, Logan) he is learning to grill chops. Last time, when guests were there and pork chops were on the menu, one of the guests did the grilling and they tasted great. I used a simple, 20- to 30-minute marinade that made them very flavorful.

Finally, I have been using the grilling cookbook I had purchased early in our "up-north" career, hoping that grilling would be part of the picture of leisure time away from home. But alas, the grill from back home took a dive off the pickup on its trip north. Fortunately, it hit no one else on the four-lane road, but some pieces were thereafter missing. Like its legs on one side.

But one day, on our way home from the fitness center on a Saturday, when we were back home, we spotted a grill sitting on the boulevard - an invitation that it was being given away. "Yes, take it," said the owner, so we have a new one.

It was the same make as our grill in parts, and so my husband thought it might become parts for ours. But in the end, he discovered the free gas grill could be repaired more easily. So he set it up under the eaves on our deck, just outside the kitchen.

And what a handy location it has been! We've grilled fresh corn-on-the-cob and brats or burgers. Using the grilling cookbook I have tried out some ideas, like the pork chops.

On our last trip north, three weeks prior, the snow had not melted as it had back home. In fact, there was a fresh layer of newly-fallen snow. Our roof had a couple of feet of snow on it. We crept inside and spent most of the weekend continuing putting together a puzzle that I'd started earlier this winter.

But this time, although there was still some snow patches, my raised garden had appeared and the three spruce trees planted last summer had emerged from the snow and, although totally buried at one point, they seemed undamaged.

I made a point of planting some radish, pea, spinach and lettuce seeds in the bed and made sure the areas were encircled in fencing to deter deer snacking on my fresh greens. Admittedly, my up-north gardening was not very successful last summer, but one can always try again. I brought up buckets of compost to add to the soil last fall, so the beds were ready.

Gardening is a fickle enterprise, sometimes wildly successful and sometimes not timed the best with unpredictable weather. But, sometimes, one manages to get things just right and it results in a robust harvest. Besides, it is fun to try.

A local eatery, that's no longer in business, boasted of its "smashed potatoes." Actually, they were lumpy mashed potatoes with some skins left on, and not all that difficult to recreate.

While my husband grilled pork chops, following my instructions, I cooked potatoes, made a vegetable stir-fry and pushed a tray of leftover slices of French baguettes, laden with thick-sliced pepper cheese into a heated oven.

There's nothing like a simple, satisfying meat and potatoes meal. One real nice thing was also realizing that having the meal at 7 p.m., meant we could also be viewing the sky as the sun was going down.

Our table faces the west, with a view through the bare-leafed trees.