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.