Thursday, November 20, 2008

Home Sweet Home

It really feels good to be home! The beach and warmer weather is great but Bruce and I are really tied to this spot of earth. At this time of year we have a fire in the fireplace every night. Here is a picture of the other night.
From the accumulation of ashes, you can tell that we use it lots and lots. When we build the house, there was a very short discussion about putting in a gas fireplace. With gas we would not have to gather firewood or split it or stack it or bring it into the house. There would not be a mess of pieces of dirt and wood on the carpet. But we also would not have the smell of a wood fireplace or the sounds of a wood fireplace. The decision was obvious to both of us.
When I took the picture, the two chairs we fall asleep in were intentionally omitted. Between the warmth from the fire and the lack of anything worthwhile on television, it is easy to doze off a bit. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku help to keep us awake. Also many nights the television is not on. When we were first married, our only television was two poorly received stations from Canada. You better like Hockey Night in Canada if those stations are all you get. All the news was Canadian too. As a result, we really got out of the habit of watching the tube. We both read a lot and occasionally play a game of Scrabble. The won/loss record is about even.
This time of year is also deer hunting in our area. Here is a picture of Bruce butchering our deer.
We both enjoy venison and have several favorite recipes for fixing it. Bruce does the major cuts. I do the trimming and wrapping. This year we switched to one of those vacuum sealers. The birds also enjoy it when we cut up venison. I put all the scraps out for them. So yesterday there were Canada Jays, Blue Jays, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers and Ravens in feeding on the scraps. It beats putting all that stuff in the garbage. We don’t have a dog to get into it all so this works well.

We are getting some cold weather. Yesterday it was about 24 degrees but we had a cold northwest wind coming in over the lake. It felt like well below zero. We also got a dusting of snow and then a little more snow overnight. Today it is 15 but it doesn’t feel nearly as cold because the wind is not as strong. The ponds are pretty much frozen over and the small lakes should freeze soon. Gunflint will not freeze until into December. It is too big and too deep to cool down very fast. Today the lake was steaming so it is cooling down. The steaming happens when the water is warmer than the air.

Tomorrow Bruce and I are off to Missouri to spend Thanksgiving with Robert, Miranda, and Zach. While it will be nice to see the older ones, make no mistake – Zach is the star of the show. I have been thinking about things we can do with him. We will be home on Dec 1.

These may not be the best of times but Bruce and I still feel we are very lucky with where we live, with our extended Gunflint family, and with our children and their families. We hope that your life is as blessed as ours.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Few Days on the Beach

As you can see from the picture below, Bruce and I exchanged the wind in the trees for the surf on the sand.

We spent last week in Panama City Beach attending a convention of outfitters from all over the country. It is a group that we have belonged to for over 20 years. I really can’t remember not belonging to this association. Our days were filled with seminars, speeches and meals. We caught up with what others had experienced during the summer. Most of them had a pretty good year. Since they are all on rivers, the rainfall and water depth have a lot more affect on their business than on ours in the Boundary Waters.

Of course, with any convention there were some recreational activities planned. Here is a picture of Doug and Patty Shannon on our canoe trip.

It was down a creek that turns into a river and only about 6-7 miles long. Bruce and I always seem to be in the front of the group. We are so happy to have any current at all and no wind in our face. Even our slow paddling keeps us moving along quickly. There are not rapids because Florida is flat. We did see fish in the water, several springs where water comes up from underground, and turtles. There were very few birds for reasons we don’t understand.

On Wednesday we played golf with Doug and Patty and our other friends, Tony and Diane. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from that day. Just believe me when I say that Bruce and I are both horrible golfers. We did play golf with this group two years ago but that has been our only other golfing experience in 40 years. The women played together and the men were in front of us. We played a game called “Best Ball.” Everyone played from the position of the best shot in the group. The women’s group was not into keeping any kind of score. It was fun to be outside (not in air conditioning) and walking around.

Speaking of walking around, Bruce and I actually got to walk on that beach in the picture. I was out three times and he went with me twice. There is really something wonderful about walking on the beach. We didn’t see anything particular. Our feet were in the water and our clothes got wet. The sun was in our eyes for half the walk. We didn’t talk too much because the surf was loud. There were no rocks and just a few men fishing in the surf. Maybe we liked it so much because it is entirely different from our water experiences here at Gunflint.

One day ten of us rented a pontoon boat. We slowly went out to a place called Shell Island. The beach there was very wide and flat. It also had a fair number of shells. Bruce and I are great shell collectors. We don’t get anything special but it gives us a purpose for walking. This time we brought home about 4 dozen shells that I am washing. Eventually, they will be used to hold appetizers for dinner one night. Not only will we enjoy the appetizers but it will remind us of walking on the beach. That would be a great memory in January when it is 40 below here.

After lunch on the boat, we had some sandwiches left. Here is Bruce feeding the seagulls.

They would take it right out of his hand. My camera skills are not good enough to catch the moment when the seagull plucks the bread but you get the idea.

On the way back to the marina we were exceptionally lucky. A pod of dolphins came swimming up around us. They jumped and rolled under and around the boat. We just stopped and watched. Again my camera skills were not up to capturing the moment. We used to see dolphins on a regular basis when we had a home in the Keys. It is one of my favorite sights on the water.

Another jumper we saw were several manta rays. These rays were about 2-3 feet across in size. Down in the Keys they would be 5-6 feet across. They are just wonderful to see popping out of the water.

As with any Kerfoot trip, we managed to find several good restaurants. The oyster season has just opened in Florida. One night the four guys in our group ate eight dozen raw oysters. None of the women were really interested. We concentrated on shrimp and grouper. Now I am concentrating on the bathroom scale.

It is good to be home. Today is overcast with temperatures in the low twenties.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I don’t know where October went and even November seems to be running by us. We have had some nice days, some cold, rainy, miserable days and some warm, rainy days.
Below you will find a menu that we finally settled on for the Wine Weekend. I forgot to include it before. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal.
When I was first married, our cook was Aggie Jackson. She had learned to cook in logging camps and worked at Gunflint for many years. She always said that it didn’t matter what people said about the food. The real question was whether or not the plates came back clean. Well, I can tell you that the plates for this meal were clean. So here is the menu:
Clam Spread with Crostini
Spinach Timbales with Fonduta
Asian Vegetable Soup
House Salad with Grated Fresh Beets and a Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
Cheese Topped Walleye and Marinated, Grilled Shrimp
With Steamed Asparagus
Sorbet Medley
Chateaubriand of Beef with a Choice of Blue Cheese Sauce or Bearnaise Sauce
Mashed Potatoes with Chives, Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Bits
Roasted Acorn Squash, Butternut Squash, Carrots and Onions
Dilly Bread
A Flight of Desserts: Chocolate Bread Pudding, Apple Tart and Pumpkin Cheesecake
Now I am researching for the Chocolate Lovers Weekend this winter. You can’t imagine the dishes that can contain chocolate. We will have fun trying some of these recipes.
Last Sunday was one of those miserable fall days we get sometimes. It was cold and rainy. Bruce still has a little draining to winterize cabins for two summer home owners. Sunday he decided to do the last one. He had been worried that the water might freeze in the cabin. So here he is just starting his project.

Draining water systems used to be quite a project here at Gunflint. Virtually every cabin, the main lodge and the outfitters had to be drained. After all these years, Bruce has it down to a science. You start by turning off all the electricity to the cabin so the electric hot water heater will not burn out an element. Next you disconnect the incoming water. Then you open up all the water faucets and flush the toilet. Any water left in the tank and bowl of the toilet is sponged out. A hose attached to the hot water heater drains that outside. Don’t forget to pop the heater’s pressure relief valve so all the water drains out. Next step is to pour one cup of antifreeze in every drain, the toilet bowl, and the toilet tank. If you have done it all correctly, next spring you just need to attached everything together and start it up.

If you have missed something, things get a little dicey. Probably the worst place to break a line is when that line is hidden behind some paneling or in a shower. The only thing to do is to start taking everything apart until you can get to the broken line and repair it. About 35 years ago we had someone other than Bruce drain the cabins and lodge. They did not do a particularly good job. The following spring it took Bruce two weeks to put the water in rather than his normal two days. The air was a little blue during those weeks.

Monday and Tuesday were surprisingly warm days. So Bruce and I spent a little time driving around looking for those little partridge. Monday we got skunked but on Tuesday we managed to find one. Here is the mighty hunter with his bird.

It will make a great dinner for us.

On Saturday Bruce and I leave for an outfitting convention in Florida. We won’t be back until the following Saturday. The outfitters at the convention are lots of old friends. In addition to Bruce’s talks and seminar, we will spend some time socializing. On Sunday we go canoeing on a Florida river. The real fun day will be on Wednesday. That is the day that we have been talked into playing golf. If you need a good laugh on Wednesday, just think of us making fools of ourselves on the golf course.

I’ll try to write again on Sunday or Monday when we get home.