Thursday, September 25, 2008

Before starting in on the week’s happenings, I need to say hello to Annette Cozzi. Annette is the mother of Annie who works on the front desk. Annie says her mother really enjoys the blog so, “Hello, Annette. We are having a beautiful fall day today and wish you we here.”

One of the great things about running a resort is that you get to share special moments with your guests. This is a picture of Dave and Donnie Harvey who celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary with us.

Bruce and I have known them every since their sons worked for us about 25 years ago. We took a trip hiking in Nepal with them in about 1988. Since then we have gone to Bali, Tanzania, and Turkey with them. Of course, there have also been many trips up to Gunflint. They always come to fish and spent three days out with Dennis Todd. Their picture has appeared in several of our brochures with impressive strings of fish. I think they limited out on everything during this trip. At any rate there were two baskets of fish fillets to go back to Indiana. Take a minute and join us as we celebrate the marriage of two wonderful people.

It is getting to the end of the season for our birds and ducks that fly south. The hummingbirds are gone from my feeder and everyone else’s. The feeders will be drained, washed and stored for next summer.

I talked with some guests who had an interesting experience with loons on Tucker Lake. Tucker is very shallow in some places. These folks were paddling through a shallow area that was in bright sun. They looked down and could see the loons swimming underwater. It was an adult and a youngster. The adult would catch a fish and give it to the youngster. It might have been a fishing lesson. At any rate our paddlers watched the underwater activities for over an hour. The wife is especially enamored with loons so it was really exciting for her.

So now we have a picture of some fat old lady (me) feeding the ducks.

A couple weeks ago I told you how the mallards were just starving as they prepared for the long flight south. After lunch Bruce and I went down to the dock to get a picture of the mallards eating out of his hand. It didn’t work that way and I became the model. Anytime we walk down, the ducks are right there hoping for a handout. They all march up ready to eat out of your hand.

Kind of hanging on the edge of the mallards were four ducks I didn’t recognize. They were smaller and gray with white beaks. A few minutes with the front desk bird book helped identify them as immature American Coots. Even if they had been mature, I would not have known them. It is the first time we have seen them on the dock.

Yesterday there was a single merganser hanging out with the mallards. Usually we see flocks of 10-15 mergansers at this time of year. They have a very distinctive way of bobbing through the water and all diving together. Who knows why this one was alone.

Even as we think about all the birds and ducks flying south, many of them stay with us all winter long. One of my favorite is the Gray Jay. We used to call them Canada Jays but I guess the politically correct name had been changed to Gray Jay. They are also known as Whiskey Jacks and Camp Robbers. I recently read an article about them and found out some interesting facts. The Gray Jays mate for life and build their nests very early in the spring. The eggs hatch early and the young can survive temperatures down to zero and even a snowfall. We think of the birds as voracious eaters but actually they are getting food to store in caches all over the woods. It must really take a lot of food to keep these (or any other) bird alive during our winters.

Next week I am planning on including a few pictures from Sheryl and Bonnie’s canoe trip. They had a great time and are just bursting with stories to tell.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fall Activities

Like all weeks, this one has been busy. Over the weekend, we hosted BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman). Between students and instructors there were about 90 people. This picture shows a fishing seminar held on the patio of the lodge.
The classes are divided between one third fishing, one third hunting and one third other outdoor recreations. Of course, everything was topped off with some wonderful meals from our kitchen. With any group, we always seem to go through lots of food.
I think part of the reason people are hungry is due to the fall weather. It is just a little bit cooler and we are starting to eat some fall foods. One of the entrees for this group was pot roast. We also roasted some vegetables one night. Wild rice added to the fall feeling.
The views outside are definitely starting to look like fall. Our maples are turning red. The poplar and birch are just giving a hint of the yellows to come. I think our peak of fall color should be in 10-14 days. How long it lasts really depends on the winds. If we have some calm weather, the leaves stay on the trees for a long time. Of course, the day eventually comes when we have a good strong wind. The leaves are in the air constantly. Then you can walk through the woods and kick the small piles of fallen leaves. I remember doing that as a child and still love to do it.
There has not been a frost around here yet. We had a little up on top of the hill but my basil survived. I am hoping to get out and harvest the basil today. I pull the plants and cut off every single leaf for pesto. The pesto freezes really well. A little pasta, some grilled chicken, parmesan cheese and walnuts combined with the pesto makes a wonderful winter meal. Only problem is that we tend to eat too much.
It is also time to harvest other produce from the garden. The acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash are ready. Pumpkins are just about there too. It is time to bring in the parsley plants and dry them for winter’s use. Carrots, onions and potatoes will hold for a bit longer. This has not been a good year for tomatoes. The yellow tomatoes are doing the best. Cherry tomatoes have just started to ripen in numbers. Only one red tomato has come out of the garden yet. It was just too cool during most of the summer.
The full moon is just past its peak. What a beautiful harvest moon it has been. I watched the huge yellow globe come up last night about 8:30. Along with the harvest moon, our days are getting shorter. The days get about three minutes shorter every 24 hours. One it gets a little colder, we will start another fall and winter occurrence – fires in the fireplace. One of the best parts of living in an area with distinct seasons is that each season brings you special treats to enjoy.
Last night was one of those special treats. Bruce and I went down the lake to Campers’ Island with a bunch of neighbors. There we had the last fish fry for the season. Our plates were loaded with fried potatoes, baked beans, fried walleye, salad, corn bread, watermelon, and cookies. I am trying to attach a very short video of the event to this blog. It's not quite center correctly but that will come next.
video
The best part of the video is that you can hear the fire crackling and the fish frying. I am sorry that you can’t smell the fish and the fire. Everyone went home just groaning from overeating.
I am still “in training” on the front desk. Yesterday I learned how to enter inquiries into the computer system. I still have not totally mastered the art of taking reservations, checking people out, or checking people in. We had five checkouts today that I was going to learn on. When every one of them was checking out, I was on the phone, selling something in the store or talking with other guests. At least I can remember my passwords now. By next summer I might be totally conversant in the front desk computer. Then it will be time to move into the dining room and bar. Richard, our head bartender, is waiting to teach me how to tend bar! It is going to be very interesting.
Yesterday I was able to do one activity that hasn’t changed. We needed someone to take people on a pontoon boat ride. Ten guests and I took off at 2:00. I still knew how to drive the boat. Talking and telling stories is something I have never forgotten to do so the 1 ½ hours passed quickly. At least no one went to sleep. The dock boy was called away so I had to dock the boat myself. Hadn’t forgotten how to do that either.
It really was a wonderful day to be out on the lake. We went across to the north shore to look at where the fire burned in May, 2007. It is amazing to see how much growth has already occurred. Now there will not be giant red pines for a number of years but there is a start. Bruce remembers watching this same shore line grow when he was a boy. A fire swept through in 1936 just two years before he was born. He remembers that it looked kind of “scraggly” for several years. That is what we will have too. By the time I came here in 1964, the north shore was a fully grown forest. It never entered my mind that the forest has burned just 28 years earlier.
I’ll keep you up-to-date on the progress of fall color. It is my favorite time of year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rainy Days

It is a rainy day today. We even have a little thunder and lightening. Some fishermen stopped in this morning to buy Canadian licenses. I asked if they had good rain gear since they were going out on Saganaga for the day. Not only did they have their rain gear but they had forgotten their sunglasses. Sounded like they were subconsciously prepared for today.

Last weekend was fun. We had a wedding for 80 people here. I took a quick picture of the beginning of the ceremony.
The bride was paddled into the dock. In this picture she is just about ready to be helped out of the canoe. I held my breath but there were lots of people to help her. Getting out of a canoe against a dock can be a little tricky especially if you are wearing a wedding dress. The ceremony only had a little rain on it and then everyone went up to the conference center for the reception and dinner with dancing after.

Now that there is not quite a much activity around the dock area, we are starting to get the mallards hanging around all the time. It is quite a large flock and they are hungry! They are not the only hungry birds around. The flock has caught the attention of a bald eagle. He likes to sit on top of one of the cedar trees just to the east of the sand beach. The mallards are diving into the water and plainly uncomfortable while the eagle is around. We haven’t seen him take a duck yet. I am trying to keep my camera in my pocket to get a picture. The other day I ran down to the house to get my camera but the eagle was gone when I got back.

Other animals are starting to make their presence known. Don has seen both bears and a wolf walking down from his apartment (on the back hills) in the morning. He said that the wolf was very large and healthy looking. We won’t be seeing any deer around until after the hunting season and after the lake freezes. I saw a fox the other day but it wasn’t Gimpy. I keep watching for him. The hummingbirds are going wild drinking all my sugar water. They must be storing up for the long flight south. All the flowers in the yard and the feeders really attract these little beauties.

Speaking for flowers, now is the time when we plan and order next summer’s flowers. Ronnie Smith (our head gardener) and I met today to review the order.

It always takes a long time because we both love to talk about what we are going to do in the various beds around the lodge. In addition to ordering flowers for us, we also order flowers for any of the neighbors who are interested. One of my favorite days is just before Memorial Day when the truck brings in our order. Several neighbors help sort it out and everyone picks their stuff up that day. It is just beautiful to see the order come in.


Don, Bruce and I also entertained a visitor from our major food supplier, Upper Lakes Foods. Jay likes to keep us current with all the new offerings. As usual he had some interesting items. I ate too much especially since we went out to dinner afterward!


This weekend will be busy. We have a group of 90 women here. They are participating in a program called BOW or Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It is put on the state DNR. The women take classes on various subjects such as fishing, cooking fish, orienteering, etc. They are usually a great bunch of instructors and students. At any rate we will be busy housing and feeding everyone. I will try to remember to take a picture or two.


Have a good weekend yourself.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Days Go By

Time always seems to get away from me before I get the next blog written. So here it’s over a week and I am just getting around to the next installment.


Labor Day weekend was beautiful but a little too hot and humid for me. When the weather gets like this, Bruce and I enjoy sitting on the porch with iced tea in the afternoon. In fact, here he is.


Our guests, on the other hand, were just loving it. The many of them were eating outside on the patio. We all know that these beautiful, warm days will not be with us much more. Especially in the evening hours, people just seemed to luxuriate on the patio before, during and after dinner.


Bruce wants me to put a commercial in this time and here it goes. For the past year we have been developing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) comprised of the cabins on the west side of the lodge. You can’t imagine all the hoops that are jumped through for this. At any rate we have finally completed all the legal requirements and fulfilled all the regulations.


Starting now we are offering 1/5th shares in several of our cabins. You buy it for life and pay a monthly maintenance/taxes/insurance fee. A 1/5’s share means that you get to use your home every fifth week throughout the year. We have a schedule of exactly which weeks this means for several years out. Two weeks each year are set aside for deep cleaning. If you are not using your week, the cabin goes into our regular rental pool with you getting a share of the cabin rental.


As you can imagine, there are lots of details to this project and lots of questions. Bruce, as a newly licensed realtor, is handling it all. You can e-mail him at bruce@gunflint.com. He is available by phone during the day at 218-388-2294 and at night at 218-388-0876.


Meanwhile, I am learning to work the front desk again. Last Saturday I learned to sell pop! What this actually means is learning how to put the sale into the computer. I am slowly coming up to speed on our computer system. Pretty soon I hope to be able to take a reservation. Almost any questions that guests and visitors ask, I can answer or at least make up an answer (who is going to question me?). These darn computers are another thing. Pretty soon I will have it down.


Another project is testing recipes for the Wine Dinner. This is Bunny Mills, our baker.
A little later today we will be making “Mediterranean Twists.” They may appear instead of crackers with the soup course. It is all a matter of testing until we get the right combination of tastes. Needless to say, we have lots of volunteers to be the testers!

Outside our windows, fall is definitely coming. The hot, humid temperatures moderated with rain last Tuesday. My garden is starting to die off but the tomatoes still need to ripen. They will probably finish turning to red in the garage. Garlic, green beans and pea pods are done. The last of the raspberries are in the freezer. We are starting to harvest a few potatoes and carrots for a meal but they need to stay in the ground and grow some more. The same is true of the eggplant and jalapeno peppers. Our zucchini, however, is growing huge. Besides the kitchen, all the neighbors have gotten their share.


I have made zucchini relish several times. One time was really a disaster. In the morning neighbors and I cut up the vegetables and set them to soak until evening. We went down to Trail Center for dinner. Upon coming home, I put the jars in the dishwasher to warm up. The vegetables were drained and washed. The sugar, vinegar and seasonings were added and everything was turned on. I went down to the office for just a few minutes to work on the blog and promptly and totally forgot about my cooking relish. Bruce discovered it smoking away. Not only was the relish and pan destroyed but the ceramic glass top of the stove was slightly melted. What a mess! For the next batch I sat in the kitchen during the entire cooking time.


Time to put on my staff shirt and go down to the lodge. It is going to be a quiet day but those are also good learning days.