Friday, April 11, 2014

April at Gunflint

Bruce and I were gone for a few days at the beginning of the week. We were both impressed by the amount of snow that has melted in just those few days. Since then it has continued to melt even more. At lunch today, someone told me that the snow has melted a foot in the last few days. Certainly our driveway at Tucker Lake is almost bare. My seven-foot snow banks are down so I can look over the tops of them. Out in the garden I still can't see the outlines of the raised beds but the raspberry canes are now visible. The real day to watch will be tomorrow. The forecast is for 70% chance of snow/rain. Rain would be wonderful but snow is not so welcome. Freezing rain is a terrible forecast so that would be nice to avoid. April is a month when I seem to always be looking forward. We are not very busy and I look forward to getting into the summer season. Reservations are coming in and I look forward to having them come in faster. The ice is getting a little bit dark and I look forward to open water. The snow is still here and I look forward to bare ground. Once the ground is bare then I can look forward to planting my garden in June. Once the garden is planted I look every day to see if any little plant has popped up. But let's get through April first. Some friends on the lake and I are getting ready to start a new project. We want to record all the stories we know about earlier residents of Gunflint Lake. Of course, there are going to be lots of conversations about how we should have asked Justine or Peggy about their stories. It is truly amazing how fast information about people can just get lost. So four of us are going to work on what we know and can find out about those who lived on Gunflint Lake before us. I am betting that we will find some amazing stories to save. At the Tucker Lake house we have two pine martens who seem to have taken us over. Usually just one of them appears but this morning both were here together. Last night they ate the chicken bones Bruce put out. This morning they were cleaning up sunflower seeds that the birds had dropped on the ground. How many sunflower seeds does it take to fill up a pine marten? Now that the Tucker Lake road is down to bare ground, Bruce wants to start walking on it in the morning. We usually do very well at this until Bruce feels that he should be at the lodge at 7:00 a.m. It is a wonderful walk of 1 mile to the Gunflint Trail. He is usually in a race when he does it but I take a more leisurely approach. The nights have been quite warm and we have been able to open our bedroom to fresh, outside air. What a joy it is.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring is in the air

It truly feels like spring today! The thermometer on the south side of the house (sun) reads 55 and the one on the north side (shade) reads 50. Most of the snow has already melted off the roof but now it is softening up in the driveway. I am beginning to get a touch of spring fever. The front door is opened some to try to get a little of that stuffy air out of the house. The one to the screened in porch is also open. Even with an air handler, you just need some fresh air in the house at this time of year. Besides I can hear the birds singing with the doors open. Don’t get the idea that the snow is really going. At my house there are still snow banks taller than I am. The Tucker Lake road is covered with snow. There may be a few spots that are bare gravel but not much. If you meet another car on our road, one of you will have to back up. It is going to take a lot of melting before we have a two-lane road again. While we are ready for spring, the weather man says that Monday night is going to dump a bunch of snow on us. It will probably be as much snow as had melted the last couple of days. I think I will cry if that happens. The deer are getting very nervous lately. Sheryl opened the lodge about 6:30 this morning. She looked out the front windows and there were several deer curled up sleeping on the patio. It is the safest place they can think of to stay away from the wolves. I can’t say that I blame them. While all our thoughts are on spring and summer, my thoughts are partly on the fall. In November we are going on a safari in Africa again. This time we have added nine days on the end in Paris. As soon as we decided, I ordered my Paris guide books and a good city map. They make great reading at the end of a long day at the lodge. My sister and brother-in-law recently spent a long time in Paris. She is giving me information about which area of the city to stay in. It will give Bruce some clues about the different places to look. Judy has also been complaining because the croissants are not as good as they used to be. Well, yesterday in the Wall Street Journal there was an article about the best places to get old fashioned (read exceptional) croissants in Paris. I clipped that article out and put it in the Paris folder. Just an update on the changing colors of the goldfinches. A few, very few, seem to be changing into bright yellow right at the top of where their wings attached to the body. This is a very scientific study that I am doing so stay tuned in for breaking news in future blogs.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring is Here -- Almost

The picture is of Bruce enjoying one of our first days of spring.  That was Friday when we got 6-8 inches of new snow.  Lee and Eva were coming with the kids and he had to plow so they could get into the driveway.  Then today we got real spring temperatures.  It was 20 below this morning.  The snowbanks which were beginning to shrink are now well above my head again.  With these temperatures obviously there will be no melting today.

I have to admit that it is glorious outside.  Our ski trails are in perfect condition and the snowmobile trails should also be great.  Neighbor Fred tells me that we have received about 100-110 inches of snow the winter.  Bruce says that our snow will outlast our skiing customers.  Lee says that they have lots of bare ground in the Twin Cities.

The fishing was wonderful this weekend.  We had a group of men in Cabin #27 who really struck gold with Lake Trout.  They limited out and still threw back about 20 fish.  They were fishing right in front of the lodge within easy walking distance.  It is a great way to end of season.

Bruce and I spent most of last week in the Twin Cities with April from the front desk.  It was our regular spring buying trip for the gift shops.  We spent two days just looking and two days buying.  Bruce gets really frustrated buying at these shows.  The reps bring in temporary people who can’t work the computers and don’t know the product lines.  In spite of all, a few new things are going on the shelves that will tempt you all (we hope).

Our biggest spring project – new staff housing – is moving along very well.  All the sheetrock and interior painting is finished.  The ceramic tile is going into the kitchens and bathrooms.  The exterior siding is going on.  Cabinets and closets will be next on the list.  There will be 16 rooms that can accommodate about 35 people.  It is scary to think how big our staff has gotten.  When Bruce and I were first married there were about a dozen people living on the entire lake during the winter.

I have been watching the birds at my feeders.  In particular the American Goldfinches are turning color.  During the winter their bodies are a plain beige color.  During the summer their bodies are bright yellow.  So far I have noticed that the yellow color starts to come in at their heads a progress down the body.  Now I have to watch to see how the color change continues.

Summer reservations are coming in steadily.  As always, the bigger cabins for families are filling in first.  Up at the outfitters we are getting more groups wanting to go out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  In fact that sounds really good to me right now but I don’t think it is going to happen.

Friday, March 07, 2014

I'm Back

The last six weeks have not been good for writing a blog.  We spent two weeks visiting grandchildren.  Lee and Eva with Mae and Grant went down to Orlando with us.  While Bruce and Lee attended a conference, Eva and I took the kids to Disney World.  The guys even got to spend a little time there with us. It was wonderful! Then we came home and drove down to Missouri for Zach's birthday.  Zach is really a great young man.  The only problem is that he is now undeniably 4 inches taller than I am. 

We were back at Gunflint by the 14th.  I tried for a blog but my computer didn't connect.  Just as I was getting ready to move over to Bruce's computer, his had some electrical issue.  At any rate, now things are back working.  At least Bruce's computer is working.  Mine still has issues.

The month of February was a combination of cold, cold temperatures and lots of snow when it warmed up.  Many of the snow banks around the lodge are high above my head.  The lake water levels are going to be very high this spring as things melt.

One of the most interesting things to watch this past month has been the interaction between the wolves and deer.  That is a polite way of saying that the wolves have been eating very well.  We have had several kills that were right at the lodge.  Sheryl came in one morning to see wolves feeding on a freshly killed deer right on the patio.  One night at 7:00 p.m. the wolves took another deer in front of Cabin #8.  The guests in Cabin #5 got up to use the bathroom around 1:00 a.m. and looked outside.  The deer carcass had been dragged onto the ice and there were seven wolves feeding and playing.

Perhaps the most surprising encounter occur during our last storm.  The snow was really coming down and you could only see a little ways onto the lake.  Several deer were on the patio where a guest was feeding them.  They were all concentrating on the guest.  Unbeknownst to anyone a wolf came up and hid just over the lip of the patio.  When the guest came in, the wolf jumped into the midst of the deer.  It was a case of too many animals to pick from.  Finally he took after a deer running to the east.  At the same time a couple guests were walking to the lodge from that direction.  They spooked the wolf and he took off across the lake with no dinner.

Construction on the new staff housing is coming along very well.  All the sheetrock and insulation are in place.  Windows started to go in yesterday.  Interior painting will be finished next week.  A sample room is going to be set up next week to make sure that all the cabinets and furniture fit in correctly.

Work is also in the planning stages for some remodeling on Cabins #18 and #19.  New cabinets, fireplaces and ceramic tile will be going in them this spring.  There is always something to spruce up.

I am started to get excited about my garden.  We are still eight weeks before anything can go in the ground.  Looking out the house windows, you can't even see where the beds are.  It just makes me feel good to think about planting stuff.

Summer reservations are coming in very well for both the lodge and the outfitters.  Bruce has a lot of packages (as usual) to pick from.  If nothing seems to fit you, just talk with him.  Bruce will make up something special just for you.

As I have been writing this it has started to snow.  Who knows how much we will be getting.  Bruce will bring the plow over and I will have my shovel to clean up the edges.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Animal Encountes Everywhere

This last week was another snow week.  On Wednesday and Thursday we got several inches of new snow.  It has been many years since we have had snow banks as high as they are now and there are several snow months still to come.  On Friday after everything the newly groomed, the entire Gunflint Trail was glorious.  Our weekend guests knew they had stepped into a winter wonderland.

It seems in the winter we have lots more animal sightings than in the summer.  I always feel that winter is when we truly know that this forest is shared with all the resident animals.   The new animal this year is lynx.  One of the neighbors spotted a lynx chasing a squirrel.  Both animals were distracted by the car.  The lynx recovered just a couple of seconds quicker and he caught the squirrel.  Our squirrel and rabbit population had gone down as the lynx population has increased.

Sunday morning the guests in Cabin #2 had a surprise.  They stepped outside their cabin to walk down to the lodge for breakfast.  Who should be on the road to greet them but a lynx.

Of course, not all is sweetness and light with our animal population.  The guests down by Cabins #17 and #18 woke up Saturday morning to find a freshly killed deer outside their windows.  They had not heard anything.  The kill was so fresh that at 7:30 in the morning the animal’s remains were still steaming.  Sunday the staff dragged the remains down to the lake.  I am sure that it is almost gone today.

On Friday one of our guests checked in all excited.  When she was six years old, she had seen a moose in Wyoming.  Since then she had never seen one.  Driving up the Trail on Friday she saw five moose.  You can’t imagine how excited she was.

Our neighbor Dave Tuttle also had a close encounter with a moose.  He was driving home in his pickup with the plow on it after dark and south of Swamper Lake.  Suddenly he realized that the black lump in front of him was the butt of a moose kneeling down to lick the salt on the road.  Dave couldn’t stop so he headed for the center of the road.  There he can react to the way the moose moves.  By an inch he missed the moose but now his truck’s rear end is sliding an may hit the moose.  Dave steers out of it, doesn’t hit anything and stays on the road.

The fishing season for lake trout opened on Gunflint Lake on Saturday.  We had a fair number of fishermen out in front of the lode.  It seems like people were getting fish.  I talked with a family who got five trout on Extortion Lake.  They worked for them walking down and up the big hill to get to the lake.

Great progress is being made on the new staff housing.  It is a huge building with 16 rooms.  Each room can accommodate 2-4 people and has a bathroom and kitchen.  For seasonal staff it should work out very well.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Perfect Winter Weather

It has warmed up around here.  Early this week was supposed to be the worst state wide.  Our worst was the week before.  Now we are sitting in the mid-twenties.  We should be getting some snow with this warm weather but nothing is happening.  At least the furnace in the house has stopped running forever.  The ski trails are in perfect condition with plenty of snow.

Today is the day of lynx sightings.  When I drove over to the lodge for lunch, I spotted a lynx at the top of the Gunflint hill.  He was just walking across the road and was not concerned about the car coming.  After lunch I walked to the car to go home.  Two guys had just come in by snowmobile from Grand Marais.  They had seen the lynx as soon as they got on the lake by the public landing.  Both of them were really excited about it.  Of course, we have been seeing tracks all over the place.  It really is a thrill to see these cats.

Over at our house, Lee and Eva’s dog Tucker has been vacationing with us.  Last summer Tucker tore his ACL.  With two small children in the house, he was forever moving around.  Things are much quieter on Tucker Lake.  This is especially true when Bruce and I are at the lodge.  Tucker just sits and sleeps.  We have not seen him limping at all.  When it is time to go outside, he just bursts out the door barking loudly.  Bruce and I can’t figure out if he hears something or is just barking to announce his presence.  It is good to have a dog around but hard to take care of him when we leave.

We spent a few days early this week meeting with five other resorts.  It is a great time to share our experiences from the summer.  Also everyone seems to have new ideas to tell us.  Bruce has a good sized list of things to try out at Gunflint.  Some work and some don’t but you only need one thing to work for it to be a worthwhile meeting.  Also we find that our problems are usually the same ones others have.  You don’t feel quite so stupid when we all have the same issues.

We are going to a conference on canopy tours in Orlando.  Lee and Eva are also going for their canopy tour.  They are bringing Grant and Mae.  That just means that I will never see much of the conference.  You know where I will be – Disney World.  Grant wants to see Pirates of the Caribbean but he is not sure what it is all about.  Mae is going to see the Little Mermaids Sea Shell tour or something like that.

I remember the first time we took Robert and Lee to Disney World.  Robert got lost on Huck Finn’s Island.  He thought we had gone and he took the ferry back.  Bruce and Lee were scouring the island for him.  I look across the water and saw Robert.  Like any good mother, I yelled at the top of my voice for him to not move until we got there.

There will probably be some adventures from this trip too.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Animals and Weather

Our good friend Kevin called today. He complained that I wasn’t writing enough blogs because we were traveling too much. So, this blog is for Kevin.

Our biggest news is the weather. Mother Nature has taken control again. The past several days have been cold. This means morning temperatures of -30, -35, -40, and -30. I am not talking about wind chill. These are absolute temperatures. Luckily there was no wind on any of these days. It warmed up some each day but nothing to brag about. We have large south-facing windows in our house and the sun did a great job of raising the living room temperatures.

Our guests are a hardy lot. They were out skiing, dog sledding and walking during the entire time. Bruce even had one of them tell him that at -13 it was really nice outside. Luckily we don’t have any fashion patrol around here. The only fashion was to wear as many layers as you could fit on.

This morning it clouded over. The temperature was zero at 7:00 a.m. So, of course, it started to snow and the wind started to blow. There is so much blowing wind that it is hard to tell exactly how much snow has fallen. We will see what happens tomorrow. It will be time to start plowing and shoveling.

Chris and Lance, our two maintenance men, were the heroes during those cold days. Cabins and cars all froze up. Except for one car that sprung an oil leak, the two guys got everything working. At those temperatures just surviving outside is an accomplishment.

Bonnie’s housekeeping staff were another group of heroes. There is no joy in hauling sheets and towels all over to keep cabins clean. The past two weeks have been exceptionally busy and the girls have been putting in some long hours. Bonnie has been out working right alongside of them.

Our other big news flash is that animals are out all over to be seen. One of the neighbors stopped by and bought all our cards with a picture of a lynx on them. She had just seen a lynx on the road and wanted to tell all her friends about it. There is a family of lynx hanging around our side road.

Lance drove into town with recycling the other day. Right in Grand Marais at the water tower, he saw a wolf. It was a big, black one. Everyone in town should be watching their small dogs when those animals are outside.

About ten miles outside of town Heidi, our bookkeeper, saw a bobcat when she was driving up this morning. It had a smaller bobcat with it that Heidi thought was under 50 pounds. We were not sure when bobcats are born or how fast they grow.

All these other animals make our moose, deer and snowshoe hares seem pretty boring. To our guests, however, they are just as wonderful to see. It is hard to beat a deer eating corn out of your hand.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Friday, December 27, 2013

In Between Christmas and New Year's

Christmas was quiet at our house. Tucker, Bruce and I relaxed for most of the day. After a 1:00 dinner, we took a walk down the back road. It felt good to get out and stretch our legs. Then it was time for a short nap before Bruce beat me in three games of cribbage. All in all, it was a very relaxing day which was just what we needed.

Meanwhile December has continued to provide us with plenty of winter weather. There has been weather that is below zero. Those clear days may be cold but they are beautiful and the nights are filled with stars. Then there are the overcast days with snow coming and going. Today is one of those days. Who knows if we will get and inch or six inches?

Our guests have been enjoying all the facets of winter. It seems that just walking across the lake is the top activity. There is a little snow but no slush on the ice. Some of the days have had no wind which makes it particularly nice on the lake.

Skiers have also be making tracks on Gunflint. There is just enough snow to making skiing easy. Although the woods trails are groomed and in excellent shape, there is a certain allure to skiing across to Canada.

Winter reservations continue to come in regularly. I guess the news of great snow conditions has encouraged people to come north for a visit to the northwoods. They are not going to be disappointed.

Now that we are living in the Tucker Lake house, we commute to work each day. Our car has a thermometer in it. I have taken to watching the change in the temperature as I drive to the lodge. For some reason the coldest point is as I am driving down the hill from our scenic overlook to the turn on to South Gunflint Lake. Tucker Lakes always seems to be one of the warmest areas. Sometimes there is a 5-10 degree fluctuation as I drive along.

We have been seeing a family of moose not too far away. Going to town, they can be seen once you pass the Loon Lake Lodge sign until you get to the first Highway 92 sign. One day I saw a group of three of them. Others have seen as many as five at a time. Of course, we see them licking the salt off the road most of the time.

We are taking care of Lee and Eva’s dog Tucker for a bit. He is funny to watch. Every time you let him out, he charges through the door and starts barking. I don’t know if he actually hears something or is just generally announcing his presence. Certainly we don’t see or hear anything.. I don’t even see many tracks in the yard.

New Years is coming. Have you made your resolutions? Mine just seem to be a bunch of recycled ones.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas, 2013

Like all of you, everyone at the lodge is in the midst of last minute Christmas preparations. The other day there were two stacks of boxes for UPS. One of them was taller than I am. Everyone who gets one of those boxes will be thrilled.

Looking out my window, it snow is all over. We probably have over two feet. I have been trying to get myself out for shoveling a little at a time. Lee and Eva’s dog, Tucker, is staying with us for a bit. He loves it when I am outside. There are so many sticks for him to find. So after lunch when it is the warmest we will be out again.

When shoveling gets tiring, it’s time to go look for a Christmas tree. Bruce promises that tomorrow he will get one cut and up. Tucker and I have been looking for the perfect tree. All we need is the man with the chain saw. We have even figured out the perfect location in the living room.

The sun is streaming in my windows today. It may be cold outside but that sun warms every room is flows into. Of course, it also shows all the dirt on the windows but I don’t look.

At the lodge, Gunflint Lake is frozen. We are not walking on it and will not until Don checks to make sure the ice is thick enough. Just after Christmas he will do out in a dry suit and drill holes ever fifty feet to see how thick the ice is. We will have a good long rope tied around his waist. It is kinda like walking a dog.

The deer are also coming in for their corn handouts. It is hard to tell if there are more or less of them. Certainly the number of tracks tells us that there are lots of wolves around. Bruce saw a wolf while driving to the lodge the other day. I have seen some moose. There was a group of two females and one male on the road about 3 miles from here when I came home from town on Tuesday. The bull was kneeling down licking the ice. I saw them in plenty of time to stop and watch. Of course, my camera was at home. A snowshoe hare ran down the side road at Gunflint two days ago. He is totally white now. The birds are cleaning up on sunflower seeds. I have to fill the feeders again today.

Up at the building site, the roof should be covered tonight. That will end the snow coming in and not a minute too soon. We are supposed to get more snow over the weekend. The ski trails have been packed and will be tracked. Adam started giving dog sled rides yesterday. Everything is ready for our holiday guests.

From our family to yours we send Christmas greetings. Take a minute and be thankful for all we have.

Monday, November 25, 2013

End of November Already

It is the in between stage. One day it is cold and blustery. The next day is sunshine and warm. We are having mixtures rain and snow. Probably the only constant is that the snow seems to be staying on the ground. Maybe this truly is the beginning of our winter snow load. It is nice to look out and see it coming down.

The Gunflint community lost another one of its old timers this past week. Eleanor Matsis died on November 19, 2013. For many years she worked at Gunflint Lodge as a front desk person and as a maintenance person. She also taught mathematics at the Cook County High School. Later she would move to Minneapolis and teach there at West High School and North High School. As many of her students said, “If you wanted to learn, she would teach.” She will be missed. There will be a memorial service for Eleanor at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on December 5th at 3:30 p.m. The church is located in Minneapolis at 46th and Colfax. Memorials can be sent to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, Grand Marais.

The new building is getting walls on the first half. Next week the roof trusses will be delivered and start to go up. At this point you can walk through and get an idea of the size of the rooms. I am sure that everyone will enjoy the new housing next summer.

Some of the smaller lakes as starting to freeze. Gunflint, however, still has a ways to go. On cold mornings it is steaming so the water is still warmer than the air. There is a little ice buildup long the shore. Wind from the wrong direction could blow this ice out very quickly. Magnetic Lake does not look like it has any ice yet.

We have a new bird at the Tucker Lake feeders. I think it is a wood thrush. Bruce and I both spent time going through the bird book to identify it. There appears to be only one such bird in the neighborhood. Maybe some more will appear. Otherwise we have enough birds to eat us out of house and home.

Bruce and I spent one afternoon butchering a deer. We now have enough venison for another year. One night we ate part of the heart (Bruce) and liver (me) for dinner. It is a special treat for both of us. Our pine martin will finish the rest of the organs. The birds are eating all the scraps left over from cutting up the animal.

We are leaving tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law in North Carolina. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like so this is a special trip. She is the only person I know who thinks that I am “tall.” Growing up I was always the tallest person in the family. As you know from looking at our boys, that is no longer true.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Winter is Here

Friday night we got our first snowfall that looks like it might be around for a bit. At any rate, it was very nice for the deer hunters Saturday morning. Bruce was out for the morning but didn’t get anything. Trent, the bartender, got his first deer and was very excited. I asked if he knew how to butcher the animal. Turns out that Trent worked for a butcher for a year. That makes life much easier.

Bruce was out for a couple hours again this morning. A little more snow last night was good for tracking if you had anything to track. This time he missed seeing a deer by about 30 minutes. He also saw the tracks of a wounded deer but couldn’t catch up with that one either. Maybe he will go out later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

Of course, the snow was not a blessing for all the guests leaving today. Our temperature was just at 32 degrees which is the worst for slippery snow. One guests had a rental car with almost bald summer tires. Christ put a tow belt on our truck and towed the guy up to the top of the hill. Bruce drove another car up to the top of the hill on the Gunflint Trail. The first snow keeps us all on our toes especially when things are this slippery.

Work on the new staff housing is coming along. Below is a picture of what is going on. The wire mesh has to go down. However, there is now a couple of inches of snow on the surface. We are not pouring until Wednesday so maybe it will melt off a little. To give you an idea of how big this pad is going to be, it will take 12 trucks of cement to fill it. They are even bringing in one of those guns to shoot the cement around.

We are going to be full this week. Bruce decided to do a little extra for some of the young veterans. Everyone coming who is a veteran in Iraq or Afghanistan will get free cabins and meals this week. It is going to keep us all really busy. Bruce was in the army and Robert was in the navy so we have a little loyalty to everyone who is serving or served.

Reservations for December are coming is well. We already know that November is going to be up. It would be good to follow with a December that is up. The holiday season is always one of the busiest times of the year. There are a lot of people who just cannot make it home and would rather come up here than sit in an empty house.

Our big decision is where to put the tree. In a new house, I have been looking around a bit but nothing seems to fit perfectly. I am sure that Bruce will have an idea.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Winter Can Hold Off A Bit Longer

Even when nothing is going on, the weeks seem to fly by. Drab fall weather has been around all the time. Sunshine would be really welcome for a day or so. Today it is spitting rain and sometimes there is snow mixed in. Sometimes it is just misting.

Even though we have had some hard frosts, my raspberry bushes are still hanging in there. The leaves are as green as can be. Maybe this means we will have a great raspberry crop next year. There is nothing better than fresh raspberries just picked that morning.

This summer we had some new steps put in to go down to the lake at our house. Although the house is technically on lakeshore property, you go down through a little valley and then up a bank to get to the lake. So we had Jordy put some new steps in.

That meant Bruce had to rearrange the bird feeders. There are five of them and we are getting eaten out of house and home. So far it is just the usual birds coming in: blue jays, gray jays, chickadees, and nut hatches. Then suddenly yesterday the pine grosbeaks arrived. I think I can get woodpeckers if I put out some suet. Of course, we are not sitting looking at the birds during the daylight hours. But you just catch one of them flying by. I can also see them when I am washing dishes. It is fun to see them all.

The new staff building is slowly coming along. It will have 16 double occupancy rooms in it. Each room will have a full bathroom and a full kitchen. The rooms are not huge but should be a great improvement over what we have now.

Right now we are hurrying to get the slab poured. Underneath the slab all the plumbing is buried. That had to be inspected. Then the guys will have to fill and level the dirt. Next comes a layer of rigid Styrofoam for additional insulation. On top of that goes a wire mesh and the in-floor heat system. Finally we will get to pour the cement floor. That is the final step to get done before hard winter sets in. The building is big enough that it will take two days to pour all the cement. So everyone is biting their nails hoping that it doesn’t get too cold.

This weekend we had a class in mukluk making that was sponsored by the North House in Grand Marais. Jo Wood, who teaches at North House, was the instructor. Classes started on Friday and ended on Sunday noon. By that time everyone had a new pair of boots for the winter. The students were both men and women. It was fun to watch and all the students felt a sense of accomplishment.

Beyond the building projects, we are ready for winter. The ski trails are mowed. The summer furniture is put away. The annual flowers are cleaned up. The chicken wire is protecting the new shrubs and trees. The dock and boats are put away. Even at the Tucker Lake house we are ready for winter. But it can hold off for a few weeks and no one will object.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Home Looks Great

It sure is good to sleep in my own bed! Bruce and I got home on Thursday after a wonderful trip to Great Britain with our friend Bev Johnson. Basically we went to London, York and Edinburgh with a few extra stops in between. Everywhere we found interesting things to see and do.

Some sightz stood out above the others. In London we went to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London at about 10:00 p.m. one night. This is a century’s old ceremony that locks the tower (and the Crown Jewels) up for the evening. Standing in the dark and watching certainly gave us an idea of what it must have been all those years ago.

The same thing happened went we visited Winston Churchill’s underground war rooms. In one particular room the workers just locked the doors on the last day of World War II and everything remained the same until preparations got underway for this museum.

One night we went to see the stage play “Warhorse.” Making out a full sized horse around two men was fascinating. The dance they did to give this horse life and a full range of emotions made your believe it truly was a horse on stage.

Up in Edinburgh we visited Holyrood Palace which is the official home of Queen Elizabeth when she visits Scotland. As part of that visit we went into the Queen’s Gallery. They had on display the most unbelievable set of anatomical drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Done is 1510 the drawings could have been found in the most up-to-date anatomy book on the market today. To make them even more amazing, you just had to remember that they were all done with a quill pen and ink.

A big surprise of the trip was how good our meals were. Bruce particularly enjoyed the bangers and bacon for breakfast. One day for lunch we stopped at a small café that roasted whole pigs each day. You could have sandwiches of varying size. They were so moist and delicious. Dinners varied from traditional to eclectic but everyone had a wonderful dessert which we always sampled.

I could go on and on but things are going on around here too. Saturday night was our fall wine dinner. It was put on by Carol Valentini who owns and operates Valentini’s Vicino Lago in Duluth. We had 71 people and if anyone didn’t go home stuffed, it was their own fault. The servers told me that many people were eating less of each course as the night went on. Because every cook has a little extra when fixing a meal like this, the managers had Porcini Pasta for Sunday lunch. Tonight Bruce and I will be eating pork osso buco for dinner. I am sure that is what you will be eating for dinner too.

This weekend the moose have reappeared on the trial. My picture is from one of our weekend guests. The moose seem to have been concentrated between the Loon Lake public landing the Gunflint side road. Another group was spotted up by Moose Pond Road. Needless to say, I haven’t seen one of them but that is probably because I have my camera in the car.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

End of September

If you like fall color, this is the week to be up north. It is perfect everywhere I look. The sun has brought out all the color and the temperatures are perfect for walks in the woods. The only downside is that there is a little breeze all the time. The wind is blowing the leaves off the trees. Of course, I love to walk dragging my feet through leaves.

This ten-day period is our time for women’s groups. Last weekend was the Fall Women’s Getaway. They have been coming up here for over 15 years. It is like old home week when they are here. They have their favorite cabins, hiking trails and meals. Adam took a group of them out for a day canoe trip and fish fry. The next day we cooked a fish fry for the entire group. Rain held off and everyone was able to eat outside. Fried walleye just tastes better when it is cooked and eaten outside. After eating the group just sat on the porch and enjoyed a wonderful fall day. About 4:00 it started to rain but no one complained because the morning and early afternoon was so perfect.

Midweek has been filled with small parties up to drive and hike in this fall color. It is like they taking advantage of the last wonderful weather to be in the woods. I agree.

This weekend is the BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) group. It is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. About 90 women composed of instructors and students will participate in courses teaching practical outdoor skills. It is easier learning this way than from your husband. We have hosted this group several times, usually about every five years. They are a fun bunch. Many states have programs like this.

My garden got a last bit of attention today. I harvested carrots. It is the best crop I have gotten. Some of them will go down to Lee and Eva and the rest are for us. I thought my parsley was finished but it had other ideas. The entire bed is covered again. I will be cutting it for the lodge tomorrow. Chives will also get a haircut before I go. The strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb look wonderful. Next summer should be a huge harvest for all of them.

Bruce and I and our good friend Bev Johnson leave for two weeks in England on Sunday. We will spend four nights in London, two nights in the Midlands, 2 nights in York, two nights in Scotland, two nights in Edinburgh and then back to London. We have all be studying our books to make the most of the trip. Bev found a factory that is billed as the first pencil factory. We might visit it. Of course, picking restaurants is high on our list. I like museums so we will be visiting Churchill’s War Room from World War II. Bruce is our great driver but it still takes all of us. Those roundabouts are really tricky. Sometimes we make a couple of trips around them before getting off.

We expect to be home around the 24th and will write to you all then.

P. S.  Overnight BWCA permits are not effected by the government shutdown because they are not required after October 1st.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Projects

Last night we got our first good hard frost. I don’t know how low the temperature got but everything was drooping a bit. Luckily I have closed up all the beds in the garden except for the carrots. Today I will empty all the flower boxes when the sun comes out a bit more. If I can get just one project done at a time, pretty soon we are buttoned up for the winter.

Another project has been to use up all my zucchinis. We are eating them as fast a possible but it still seems like an endless supply. I have made enough zucchini relish to last the next ten years. Bruce wanted me to make zucchini bread so I did. It turned out well and we have both been enjoying it. When he commented on how I should make it more often, my reply was that the two loaves (standard size) the recipe made contained three cups of sugar. We will wait a bit before making them again.

The other thing we have just finished using is green beans. After trying several different varieties of beans, the Blue Lake seem to be our favorite. Of course, once they start to come, you are eating beans every other day. I talked with a neighbor who is a great gardener to ask if she knew how to successfully freeze green beans. She says the frozen ones in the store taste better than what she can do. So the Kerfoot family will make pigs of themselves when the fresh beans are in season and buy the rest of the year.

Partridge season opened last Saturday. We have six in the freezer and one meal in our stomachs. We have also been driving over lots of roads we only see while hunting. A couple of them are really growing in. They look like no one but us has been through. You wonder how long it will be before those roads are lost.

The fall color is really starting to arrive. The next ten days to two weeks will probably be the best time for color. Every time I get in the car it seems that a new spot has colored leaves. Driving down the Tucker Lake Road has shown me different spots for beautiful color. The ash trees have just about completely turned. Poplar, birch and maple are starting to show up. The tamarack have not yet started to turn yellow at all but they are always last.

Bruce has got a new building project for this fall. Up on top of the hill and across the road, we are putting up a new staff housing building. It will have 16 double occupancy rooms. Each room will have its own kitchen and bathroom. The entire building will be winterized. In addition to providing more housing, this will let us tear down a couple worn out buildings.

Plans have not yet been completed for services for Dennis Todd. It appears at this time that there will be a spring/early summer memorial service up here. I will let you know through this column when something definite is set up.