Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Getting Ready for Christmas

Sheryl took this picture after lunch the other day.  It is one of the Christmas trees we have lining the front patio.  Look carefully and you will see that the lake has no ice on it.  We are wondering if the lake will freeze before the first of the year.

Today is our day for snow.  It is coming down fast and thick.  The tracks from Bruce’s truck as he went to the lodge are all covered over.  I think I will be driving very slowly down for lunch at the lodge.

Well, I made it home from lunch.  Bruce was right behind me.  He spent an hour or so plowing the driveway.  I guess the snow was really heavy but it looks nice now.  I shoveled a little around the edges and filled the bird feeders.  We have four good sized feeders and they are emptied by the birds in 2 or 3 days.

When I came back from the lodge the other day, a very unusual sight greet me in the distance.  There was a pack of 3 lynx going across the road.  I never did get a really good look at them but I could tell from the way they moved that it was lynx.  Seeing a group like that is such a thrill.

The other night we had our annual Christmas party.  With only 30 employees at this time of year, it is a small low key event but we all seem to enjoy it.  We supply the prime rib, shrimp and cheesy potatoes.  Actually our main food company, Upper Lakes Foods,  gives us the meat and shrimp for which we are truly grateful.  After dinner we all play a gift exchange game.

My Christmas presents are either in the mail or ordered to be sent.  It is a great point to be at this time.  Now I can to start to enjoy this season.  We are going to our friend Bev’s for dinner after Christmas services at church on Christmas Eve.  I’m bringing a frozen cranberry salad.    We’ll drop it off at her house before going to church.

Christmas Day will just be Bruce and I at our house.  No one on the staff is working.  We pack up and deliver meals for all the cabins so they can cook their own meals.  We also plan it so that no cabin leaves and then has another party check in on Christmas Day.  This means we won’t have any cabins to clean that day.

The week between Christmas and New Years is one of the busiest for the entire year.  Unless the temperatures really drop, the lake ice will probably not be safe but there are lots of ski trails that will be open and ready to go.  Also the deer are starting to come in.  They all remember to eat out of your hands.

One more week before the big day.  Get your projects done and then just relax and be thankful for all we have.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Christmas Is Coming

Bruce and I have just returned from a couple weeks on vacation.  We spent a week on a cruise in the islands of the south.  Most of the time was very relaxing – sleeping, reading, cribbage, eating, etc.  After a very busy summer, it was good to just do nothing.

Then we spent a week going down to Robert and Miranda’s in Missouri for Thanksgiving.  Zach was there too and he seemed to have grown several inches more.  I expect that he will be taller than his father eventually.  He wears a size 13 shoe at 15 years of age.   It was a very pleasant visit.   Miranda is wonderful about finding places to visit around Kansas City.  This year we attended the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit at Union Station.  Robert is in charge of finding bar-b-que places for meals and supplies for Bruce’s smoker at home.  After watching the weather forecasts, we left a day early and avoided a lot of snow coming home.

Here is what came two days after we got home.  It is wet, heavy and about 5 inches deep.  This picture was from the front porch at the Tucker Lake house.  The lumps in the lawn are the new rock garden that we will plant next spring. Today is two days later and much of this has melted.  The hazy is morning fog coming in after the snow.  We are having a very mild winter so far.  It is probably the El Nino effect.

I am slowly getting into the Christmas list.  Things are ordered.  Christmas cards are waiting to be written.  The most important thing is cookies.  I always make a plate of cookies for each staff person for the annual party.  Today I brought over a bunch of the necessary ingredients so the project can start tomorrow.  I always try to bake when college and professional football games are on.  You know that anything important will be repeated several times.  So by this time tomorrow my kitchen will smell good but be a mess.

This weekend is a first Christmas decorating weekend at the lodge.  The maintenance has already started to put up the outside lights.  With the warmer weather, this project is much easier than when the wind is screaming in across the lake.  Most of the guests will spend their time decorating inside the main lodge.  Over the years we have accumulated many decorations to give holiday cheer to the main rooms.  By lunch everything will start to sparkle.

I filled my empty bird feeders right after getting home.  It always takes a couple of days for the birds to realize we are home.  Chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays and gray jays have already found us.  Grosbeaks take a little longer but they will soon start to eat their way through the sunflower seeds.  It is amazing how much life they add to the outside of the house.

The final job right now is to finish buying and shipping presents and the get a tree for the house.  With just the two of us for Christmas, we don’t decorate as much as years ago.  It will be just enough to give the house a holiday feel.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

September is Here

September is here.  After the busiest August ever, we are all ready to catch our breath.  Our occupancy rate was 92% so there were not a lot of empty cabins during the month.  High room counts are both a blessing and a curse.  The housekeepers always seemed to have lots of do.  Luckily everyone from dock boys to outfitters to gardeners helped them.  Head housekeeper Jesse did a great job keeping them all organized.  At the end the money is nice but you wonder if you will live through it.  Monday night was one of the first nights during the month that Bruce and I did not go back to the lodge after dinner.  We just sat.

As fall comes everyone is seeing more animals on the trail.  Many of them do not seem to be in their normal habitat.  Dave at the front desk has seen a lynx as he drives to work for three mornings is a row.  Wife Bonnie says take a picture but Dave says it is too dark that early in the morning.  Down at the dock we have had a blue heron hanging around the past couple of days.  Neither Bruce nor I can recall ever having one here.  They are fun to watch.  Bruce and I also saw a wolf down by the South Brule bridge as we drove to Duluth early one morning.

This is also the time of year when we finish up some of the summer activities.  As the kids go back to school, Joey’s fishing fun will end.  Next Sunday is the last barbeque for the summer.  As soon as it gets a little cooler pizza Tuesdays will stop.  In fact as it cools down, fewer and fewer people will be eating on the patio.  Outside eating is a blessing for only a couple months of the year in northern Minnesota.  The standup paddle boards and small kayaks will get put away as the lake gets colder.  Berry picking is basically over.  We did not have a lot of berries this summer.  I never figure out why but am grateful for those that we do get to pick.

Speaking of picking, my garden is exploding.  Green beans seem to be the big winners this year.  The trellises they are growing on are almost ten feet tall.  Blue Lake seems to be the kind that grows best for me.  Also my onions and potatoes are producing huge crops.  I will be giving stuff away just to use it all.  It takes a long time for two people to eat the potatoes from an 8 foot square bed of them.  Lettuce is also hanging in.  The lodge is using lots and lots of my parsley.  I made some pesto from the basil crop.  That will taste good during the winter.

The other thing that we are starting to see is the color change.  Yellows are appearing in the shoulder shrubs.  The maples are starting to turn red.  That is not a big deal because we don’t have a lot of them.  Next week the poplar and birch will start to turn.  Then everything brightens up.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Totem Pole

Schools are staring and we don’t have as many children here.  Our big family are giving way to couples for the fall season.  Cabins are all full but not with as many people.  It is a little relaxing to slow down a bit.  We all need the break.  The weather is a little cooler which also helps.

I thought you might enjoy the story of our totem pole in the lodge.  It is one of those things that Bruce’s parents picked up to decorate the grounds and then we moved it inside.  So here it is:

This really ought to be called the “Wildwood Lodge Totem Pole.”  Before most of us were around thee used to be a resort on the west end of Seagull Lake called Wildwood Lodge.  It was started in 1931 by Andy and Sue Mayo.  They built the resort into a fine business.

In December of 1948, the folks on the Gunflint Trial decided to put out a tabloid called “Call of the Trail.”  It was four pages long and had stories about the various resorts and people living on the Gunflint trail at the time.  The section devoted to Seagull Lake contained the following article:

            “Wildwood Lodge is situated down at the west end of Sea Gull Lake about six miles by water from the Landing.  Last year the Mayos had a young man working for them who had a distinctive artistic frame of mind.  He worked during his spare hours on a full sized totem pole.  Completed it now is some twenty feet high, a mass of grotesque figures in brilliant colors and topped by a large carved bird with outstretched wings.  On each wing is painted a large door key.  The answer we like.  In the midst of our winter, this bird sits up there on his lofty perch and calls out, “KEY – KEY-KEYRYST IT’S COLD.”

In the early 1950’s Andy and Sue decided that they had had enough of running a resort.  Rather than sell the property they just stopped doing business.  After continuing to live at the resort for several more years, the Mayos sold to the Isaak Walton League in what would later become an expansion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Since the Izaak Walton League bought only the land, the Mayos sold the contents and buildings separately.  Bob and Marge Cushman bought the main lodge, disassembled it, towed it down the lake and reassembled it for their main lodge at Sea Island Resort.  Bruce remembers going out to Wildwood by boat with his parents during the contents sale.  On a whim, Bill and Justine bought the totem pole.

The Kerfoots transported the totem pole by boat across Seagull Lake and then down to Gunflint.  After giving it a fresh coat of paint, the totem pole was erected between the trading post building and the parking lot.  Today that would be in the southwest corner of the parking lot.  A small flower garden filled with peonies and iris was right in front of it.  Until the trading post building was replaced in 2001, that totem pole was the center post of many pictures taken by guests and visitors.

After almost 60 years of life and numerous paintings, our grand old totem pole has been retired to an easier life.  The harsh winter winds and summer rain are too much for her now.  She got a new coat of paint and moved into the warm climate in the main lodg where we think she still has many years of life. 


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Fruits of the Season

Last night was a zoo at the lodge.  We served about 160 people.  My job was to fill in as needed.  Eventually I ended up selling a fishing license.  It turned out that I had sold this gentleman a license last year and he lived in the town I grew up in – Arlington Heights, Illinois.  When I moved there in 1948, the town had a population of 10,000 people.  It was surrounded by corn fields.  Now all those fields are gone.  Arlington Heights is surrounded by towns named Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Prospect Heights.  The little two-lane backtopped road (Hwy 53) we used to drive to my aunt and uncles in Glen Ellen is now limited access with who knows how many lanes.  O’Hare Airport was a converted Army field with one small terminal then.  Further out about 25 miles from Arlington Heights was Barrington,  Illinois, where Bruce’s mother had been raised just 40 years earlier.  Somehow we all got together at Gunflint Lodge.  Who would have guessed when my family moved out from Chicago in 1948?

My garden is exploding.  The plants are huge and fruit and vegetables are almost ready for eating.  Yesterday I picked 8 red raspberries.  Today I picked a cup which we will eat for breakfast tomorrow.  We have had two red tomatoes.  If all the green tomatoes ripen, we will have 20 lbs of them.  My green peppers are about 2 inches long.  Eggplant has flowers on it.  Zucchini has yielded two nice ones.  I will be making zucchini bread soon.  My second crop of spinach is also ready to be picked.  I am going to make basil pesto next week.  Potatoes may even be past the new potatoes stage and into bakers.  Bruce and I will never be able to eat everything so I will give it away.  I wish you all lived closer so I could share it with you.

The lakes have been giving up their harvest too.  I have walleyes and lake trout in the freezer.  Bruce and I will be feasting on that too.  There is no sense in letting the fish dry out in the freezer when we can be eating it.  Walleye seems to be perfect fried but we think lake trout is best grilled.  I may even make some chowder with the lake trout.

All of this food tastes best when we eat on the screened in porch.  Tuesday is the third of my porch potlucks for the summer.  About 25 of us will gather to share some great food and great company while a nice breeze blows in through the screens.  We used to eat outside all the time at the Florida house.  In Minnesota this kind of dining is reserved for a few short months.  We try to make the most of it.

Not to put a damper on this nice tale of summer, but our days are already getting shorter.  Full daylight does not come until 7:00 a.m.  By 9:00 p.m. it is dark outside.  The leaves on the side of the road are turning yellow.  We all know what this means but we will enjoy every day of summer we get.


Saturday, August 01, 2015

Highlights of the Season

It is August today – unbelieveable!  The next four weeks are going to fly by if for no other reason than we are full of guests.  Many of them come practically every year.  It is like old home week for them and us.

July was the week we had Robert and Lee with their families visiting us.  In fact I am washing the sheets from Robert and Miranda’s visit as I write this.  As usual, every bed in the house is getting changed.  Miranda is always busy.  As a result many projects I have overlooked are now done.  They were also able to spend time fishing and blueberry picking.  The walleyes and blueberries went home with them.  I am hoping that they will bring back memories of Gunflint each time they eat them.

Lee and Eva spent 10 days with their children reminding us how active young children are.  We did get through almost all their requested activities during the visit. Othe family members haae been here.  Shawn’s daughter Emma is a waitress in the dining room.  Brian’s son Sam is a host with lots of other jobs to fill his time with. Bruce’s sister Pat and her husband, Jim, spent a few days with us.   One of my cousins was here for fishing with his son and grandson.  It was good to see them.  Seeing family during the summer is a great Minnesota tradition.  Walleyes and blueberries are also traditions.

During July and August, one of the most popular spots around the lodge is the patio overlooking the dock and swimming area.  Any warm day or evening will find it busy with guests from breakfast until dark.  Eating or just sitting outside can only happen a few months out of the year in northern Minnesota so the patio is a real treat.  That is what Lee and Eva thought when they put it in.  Everyone enjoys just watching the activity around a dock area.  Parents enjoy comfortable chairs to watch their children play at the beach.  No one really does much.  They just sit and look around.  Ducks, seagulls and eagles also add a bit of activity to keep your attention.

August, of course, brings summer to a close for us.  With the coming of Labor Day, we will see an end to children.  They will all be back in school.  It is amazing how far reaching this change of guests is.  The dining room will see much smaller parties.  The volume of cookies and hot chocolate will significantly go down.  Most high chairs will be put in the back room.  The ducks will gradually take back the beach area but corn will not be given to the ducks quite a liberally without children around.

One of the things that Bruce and I enjoy the most about our guests at the resort is how they change.  Summer is families.  Fall is for adults especially those who love to hike.  Even the late fall of October and November brings people who like their special charms – the first snow fall, walking through noisy leaves, crisp mornings.  By December and through March our guests are thinking more about the winter activities – cross country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, short days, cabins with fireplaces, etc.  Then in April some melting is evident.  The ice is black and we count the days until open water.  May’s open water brings fishing.  Days that seemed wonderfully warm at 35 degrees in March are frigid in May.  When summer comes, our guest cycle starts all over again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Canoe Races and Family Vacations

My garden is starting to produce!  So far I have harvested parsley, chives, 2 kinds of lettuce and broccoli.  The picture is of Bruce standing next to my green beans.  We are going to have a lot of them.  Next to the beans are tomatoes.  I hope to have some ripen but they don’t usually do too well for me.  Sometimes I wonder why I even try growing them.  Behind Bruce is a long bed of raspberries.  They look really  good.  Pretty soon we should start to see little red berries.

The lodge and outfitters are really busy now.  Families are here with kids and grandparents.  It is great to have them running busily around the property.  Many of the families have been with us for years.  It is fun to see kids grow up.  They surprise us every year with how much they have grown.  Soon it is time for college and weddings and grandchildren.  Life is fun.

Last Wednesday was time for the annual canoe races.  They have been held on Gunflint Lake for over 25 years.  In addition to the actual races there are sloppy joes, calico beans, hot dogs, homemade bars, pop chips, etc in the food tent.  The raffle goes all night with great stuff to take a chance on.  There is a silent auction and several live auctions.  Bruce and I got a beautiful wooden depth map of Gunflint Lake.  It is the kind of thing you never could buy in a store.

My job the last few years has been to sell raffle tickets.  There is one raffle for the various gift items and then the grand raffle for a Wenonah kayak.  You cannot imagine how busy we were selling tickets.  There were 3-4 of us working on it and people seemed to be just throwing money at us.  We could hardly keep track of who was getting what.  The smart ones are the grandmothers who bring their return address mailing labels.

When the night is over, it is time to go up and count the money.  This year we set a new record.  The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department got about $20,000.  That is not too bad for just a little event.  Of course it takes lots of people to put in lots of time.  Chris Steele from Seagull Lake headed up the event.  He did a great job.

Pretty soon Bruce and I will go back to the lodge for Sunday BBQ.  He carves and I stand around talking.  Don smokes the ribs, salmon, and chicken over hickory from Missouri.  Tonight we have just about 150 people in camp.  There are a few clouds in the sky but it is supposed to be a beautiful night.  After the guests have eaten, we will feed the staff.  The BBQ starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day weekend.  When it is over, I can’t eat ribs again for several weeks.  Restaurants just don’t do them as well as Don does.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Family Visits

What a beautiful few days we have had around here.  Last Sunday night we had a loud, crashing thunderstorm.  It was wonderful!  On Monday through today we have had some great days.  Lee and Eva and the kids have been out and about.  Some friends of theirs are here and the two families have been out every day.  Probably the only thing we have not gotten done on the kids’ list is camping.  We will save that for next year.  I don’t know how Mae and Grant have kept up with the older kids and adults but they did.  Of course, with everyone so active we have gone through a ton of food.  It is a lot more than Bruce and I go through when we are alone.  A little extra food is a small price to pay for having everyone around and having a great time.

One of our most unusual times was with Tucker, the golden lab.  He is about ten now and seems to be a perfectly normal dog.  One of the people who take care of him when Lee and Eva are gone claimed that Tucker could sing!  In fact they even sent a video of him doing it.  Last night we decided to test Tucker out.  We all sang Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  After a few barks, Tucker started to howl along with us.  We all laughed so hard but he loved it.

Tucker was the star of our dinner last night in another way.  We ate outside on the porch because it was such a good night.  After dinner were sitting around playing Old Maid.  Suddenly Tucker makes a lunge for the screen door.  He had seen a squirrel on the porch.  After two lunges, he was through the screen and after the squirrel.  By then the squirrel was on his way.  We were all in shock watching Tucker as the squirrel sped away.

Today is going to be an outside day of work.  First the kids and I will fill the bird feeders.  Then we are going to cut the weeds that have grown up along and through the steps.  The kids particularly like that because it involves using tools – the clippers.  We need to give a very strong safety talk before starting the work.  Then the kids will water the garden while I weed.  All in all it is a fun day of projects outside.  Isn’t that what summer is all about?

We can tell the families are at the lodge.  Yesterday Bruce was sitting on the patio having a business discussion.  It was late in the afternoon.  The dock area was filled with people in kayaks and on paddleboards.  Younger kids were playing in the sand.  Adults filled the chairs as they watched the boaters and younger kids.  It was a perfect end to the day.  For those of us who live here all year around, these are the days we remember in January but right now it is time to just enjoy them.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Getting Ready for Summer Visits

As Fourth of July approaches, our dock takes on a more summer appearance.  The buoys marking out the swimming area are now up.  Of course the swimming beach has to share with the flocks our newly hatched mallard ducks.  We must have about 5 different flocks.  The only way to tell them apart is by their size.  Since there are still fully grown male mallards around, there must be more flocks waiting to be hatched.  By the end of August we will have about 50-75 ducks around.  They are so used to eating corn that you can feed them from your hand.

My garden is also getting bigger.  Although still small, tender lettuce is ready for harvesting.  Parsley is fully grown and ready for plates in the dining room.  Chives are full of purple flowers.  They also look great on our dining room plates.  We have 2 tomatoes that are about 2 inches in diameter.  There seems to be a good blend between rain and sunshine for a garden this summer.  Keep your fingers crossed that it continues.

From around the Bearskin Road on up the Gunflint Trail, it should all be called Lupine Lane.  The lupines are out in full bloom and just marvelous to see.  But don’t forget all the other wild flowers that line the road.  We have yellow hawkweed, red hawkweed, white Shasta daisies and yellow buttercups.  It really makes for a lovely roadside as you drive up the Gunflint Trail.

The past few days the patio tables have been full for lunches and dinners.  Today we will entertain the North Shore Healthcare Foundation for their annual fund raiser.  With 50-60 extra people coming for the BBQ, it would be nice to have a gorgeous sunshine day.  Right now it is raining out so keep your fingers crossed for a little sunshine later in the day.  At about 3:00 Don will consult the weather forecasts and radar maps to decide if the BBQ will be inside or outside.  Getting caught serving outside when rain starts to come down can be a difficult adjustment.

Friday Lee and Eva arrive with Grant and Mae.  Things will be a little more lively in the house for the week they are here.  Then like all grandparents we will spend the next week catching up on our sleep and getting into our usual routine.  Our friends Ron and Pat Malina will visit with their son James and his family for a few days next.  The month ends when Robert, Miranda and Zach and Nick and Sandy spend a week with us.

During the months of July and August we will be overwhelmed with old guests at the lodge and with families of all sizes.  It is always fun to see everyone.  Of course, during those two months we go through more cookies than at any other time of the year.  One day alone last year we went through almost 300 cookies.  I remember watching a teenage boy stack four cookies and then carefully bite down all four of them at once.  All the joys of summer!   

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day

Happy Father’s Day to everyone!  Right after a fresh scone breakfast, Bruce went off to work.  Sunday’s are always busy days for him.  During the summer they end with the BBQ for dinner.  It is one of our busiest meals of the week.  Both he and Don are kept running starting about 5:30.

After the BBQ ends, we feed the staff at it.  Now that almost everyone is here, it is really a long line of employees to feed.  This year we seem to have a good staff which is nice.  They are all digging in and keeping busy as the guests come and go.

My garden is coming along well.  We have had two meals of spinach.  The strawberries are starting to form into individual berries.  I haven’t seen any red one yet but they will be coming soon.  Yesterday we got a really nice rain for several hours.  That will get everything growing quicker.  Wild strawberries still have some time to go before we can start picking.

The road work on the Gunflint Trail is coming long very nicely.  About half of the 4 miles has the first coat of pavement down.  That really cuts the dust down.  By the end of next week most of the pavement should be down.  There’s still a lot of odds and ends to finish but the end will be in sight.

Daughter Shawn and son-in-law Bob came up last weekend.  They worked like dogs on the pond.  It is really starting to look good.  We still don’t have it filled with water because our well will go dry if we run it for hours.  The rain yesterday helped get a little more water in.  The pump circulating a small water fall is wonderful.  There is no motor sound.  All you hear is the trickling water.  We still have a bunch flowers to plant on the edge of the pond but the worst is done.

Speaking of trickling water, last night just before we returned to the lodge some water started to drip and then flow through my office ceiling.  Bruce rushed upstairs only to discover that the toilet tank in our bathroom had cracked.  He turned the water off and we started mopping up the mess.  You can’t imagine how much water can spread everywhere.  We knew that it could have been much worse.  In ten minutes we were going to leave and be at the lodge for3 hours.  Then we would have really had a mess!

I hope all you dads get to spend time doing your favorite things today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

NOW summer is here.

With the coming of June it seems that summer has finally hit.  Of course, there are some unpleasant parts of early summer.  My three beautiful tall tomato plants succumbed to the last frost in early June.  My basil is also not very happy right now with the cooler weather.  The first ten days of June are the worst of the bug season and this year is no exception.  Mosquitoes, black flies, and no-seeums are around and sampling bites from us.  By the middle of the month, the worst of the bugs will be gone.

We do have, thank goodness, plenty of rain so the fire danger is low.  The rain has also helped cover the fruit shrubs with flowers.  All around my house there are lots of wild strawberries blooming.  My domestic strawberries also look like they will have a bumper crop.  It is a little early to tell about the blueberries and raspberries but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

As with most of Minnesota, June has brought road construction to the Gunflint Trail.  This year from the north end of Highway 92 for four miles until it connects with last year’s road work is under construction.  It slows things down a little but it is no big deal.  Just go slowly and watch the flagmen.

Animals are moving around.  Last week I was driving home on the Tucker Lake Road after dinner.  What should appear in front of me but a bull moose.  It was a large animal whose rack was still covered with velvet.  I would guess that this one was a good strong teenager.  He certainly could run away from my car.

My long-time friend Bev is staying with us for some time.  She was in a car accident and needs me to keep track of her.  We both share the same doctor.  Dr. Stover told Bev I was to take Bev’s blood pressure every day and then I could take mine too.  We laughed about the fact that 50 years ago who would have thought that the highlight of the morning would be to take our blood pressures.  Getting old is not exactly what we expected back in the St. Olaf days.

This weekend Bruce hopes to finish his pond.  Daughter Shawn and her husband Bob are coming up to put the waterproof tarp in.  Then the new circulating pump will be put in.  Flowers have been saved to put around the edges.  Shawn will supervise the two men and I will be the overall supervisor.  Mine is more title without actual authority but my authority goes back to the old saying that if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Lee and Eva will be up with Grant and Mae this summer.  A couple weeks ago the kids came up with a list of activities.  They want to feed the birds and go fishing.  Then they have to learn to fillet the fish.  Grant gets to go horseback riding for the first time this summer since he is 7.  Grandma gets to take him.  Mae then gets to cook with me.  Bruce gets to take the kids by boat to Little Rock Falls.  Of course, all they really want is for Grandpa to take them down the rapids by boat.  They want to go camping and make campfires.  On rainy days we will play cards and eat M&M’s.  Sounds like a fun visit.





Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer is Almost Here

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year.  Our shipment of flowers and vegetables arrived.  The picture above shows the inside of the van before being unloaded.  Ronnie and Chris will be busy planting for the next week to get them all in.  I will take the vegetables over to the Tucker Lake house.  Many of them such as the parsley and basil with appear on the lodge meal plates throughout the summer.  We are approaching a full moon now so let’s hope it does not freeze.  Basil is especially sensitive to cold.  I have frozen basil many times but this year should be good.

The hummingbirds are back.  With three feeders out, they are around the house all the time.  I can see them eating at almost any time I look outside.  American goldfinches are also adding lots of color to the bushes and trees around the house.  Right now the birds have full changed over to their summer colors of bright yellow with black highlights.  There is one red-breasted grosbeak and lots of purple finches and bluebirds to add more colors.  It is fun to watch them all flying around.

Memorial Day was really busy at the lodge.  We were full Saturday and Sunday nights.  Then on Sunday we had our first barbeque of the season.  It was a lovely night with no rain.  Last summer we seemed to have all our rains on Sunday nights.  About 4:00 pm everyone one would be crowded around the radar maps trying to decide if we were going to get rain or not.  If the rains come in the middle of a meal being served outside, things get to be a real mess.

There have been a few animals appearing on the roads.  Between Tucker Lake and the lodge, a mama bear with two yearling cubs has been hanging around.  They are cute but not a threesome you want visiting your house.  Bruce saw a wolf on the Tucker Lake Road a few days ago.  He also saw a moose.  I am ready to see anything.  Lately the most I have seen is partridge on the road.  We should start to see some coveys of new born birds soon.

Bonnie and Dave gave us a large Lake Trout fillet yesterday.  We immediately had it for dinner.  Bruce grilled it and we feasted.  There is nothing better than fresh fish.

The leaves are out on all our trees.    The line green is gone and we have the dark green of mature leaves.  There are also a lot of them blooming like the pin cherry trees.  The white flowers look great.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chik-Wauk Museum Opens for the Season

This coming weekend is Memorial Day.  On Saturday the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center opens for the season.  They will be open from now until MEA Weekend in October.  Bruce and I went up with our neighbor Fred Smith to install this year’s temporary exhibit.  It is called “The Paper Trail.”  There is an essay about how we all communicated with each other before computers.  We also have some examples of the many journals that people kept about their times on the Gunflint Trail.  Copies of these journals are available to read at the museum.  Take some time while you are on the Trail to read one of the journals and learn about how life really was on the Trail before electricity, indoor plumbing, snow plowing and other modern conveniences were available.

While we were at the museum we looked out the window.  In the bay there is the Ritz Carleton of artificial loon nests.  One of our neighbors gave it to us.  There are high growing grasses that surround the nest to protect it from eagles swooping down to steal a baby for lunch.  On each side there is a slide that loons can easily use to get on and off the net.  Right now there is the crown jewel sitting on the nest.  We didn’t know when she started sitting but on the average loons sit on their eggs for 17 days.  Both the male and the female take turns sitting.  If you go to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, you can visit our camera and see the activity on the nest.

Today I am starting my visit to all the resorts in Cook County.  I will be dropping off rack cards for the stables and the canopy tours to let people staying elsewhere know that we are open.  Many people staying at places other than Gunflint will visit us to go horseback riding or zipping.  It is great fun for everyone.

Of course, there is a reason why I am starting to drop off rack cards today.  The World’s Best Doughnuts shop opens for the season.  I would not want to miss a nice warm fresh doughnut.  There are not a lot of places up here to get a really great doughnut.  When you are going through Grand Marais, be sure to stop for this tasty treat.

Bruce and I spent last weekend in the Cities.  I needed a grandchild fix.  There were some times when it rained alot.  Then we found out the kids favorite indoor activity.  Grant always seems to move over to his Legos.  I have no idea how many he has but there are lots and lots.  He can build most anything with them.  It is fun to watch his assembly methods.

Mae, on the other hand, was into jigsaw puzzles.  Her eyes just see how they all go together.  At age 5 she is now up to 500 piece puzzles.  You watch her and suddenly she picks up what appears to be a random piece and announces, “I know where this goes.”  She does!  Neither Bruce nor I can do as well.  We are going to have to practice!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Case of the Elusive Lettuce

Yesterday we had rain most of the day.  It was good to see it coming down as things were getting a little dry.  Unfortunately we woke up this morning to snow.  I know we need moisture but this is not the way to get it.  Rain is how water is supposed to come down in May.  One of the wonderful side effects of rain is that the leaves pop out.  Right now most of the poplar and birch have wonderful lime green leaves under the snow.  By tomorrow all the snow will be gone.  Hopefully it is the end of it until this fall.  We will be looking at the green fuzz of new leaves.

Bruce is picking up on an outdoor project that did not get finished last year.  During the summer he started building me a pond.  It started leaking and then never got done.  So as the picture shows, he is back at it.  The problem is that he needs to get a new liner to keep the water in.  I understand that there is even going to be an island with a troll on.  I will keep you up to date on how the construction project goes.

Do you ever have a series of days where one thing goes out of whack and you just can’t get is back on course for a bit?  We just did.  I am calling it “The Case of the Elusive Lettuce.”  On Saturday Sheryl asked if one of us could go to town and pick up a few things she needed.  Bruce’s computer was down and I was lazy so we both decided to run in.  We got what was needed and then came home.

Saturday night the cooks informed Bruce that we were out of lettuce and did not have enough to get through Sunday.  So off Bruce and I went on Sunday to get the lettuce.  We ate lunch in town which was a nice Mother’s Day surprise.  Unfortunately neither of the grocery stories was open.  We did pick up some lettuce at the coop.  It was very nice looking lettuce and cost a small fortune.

On Monday I am asked to pick up some lettuce in Grand Marais that will be delivered to the Best Western at 2:00.  So in I go for my third trip in as many days.  The Best Western has already gotten their groceries and there is nothing for us.  I call the food company and after a little messing around, I get sent to the Blue Water.  The girl there knows nothing about it.

So I call the food company again.  They get in touch with the driver and call me back.  The lettuce was definitely dropped off at the Blue Water.  But it is not there so I call the food company again.  This time further information comes to say that the food was dropped off outside the Blue Water to someone from the lodge.

I called the lodge and asked to talk to one of the cooks.  Thinking to do us a favor he had asked one of the guys who was going to town to pick up the lettuce.  The elusive lettuce was in the cooler at Gunflint.  It shows how the best intentions can just not work without equally communications.     


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Out with the Ice and In with the Docks

More critters keep on returning during the spring days.  This bear came to Sheryl’s back door the other night.  I really don’t have anything against bears but they get into everything.  All winter long Sheryl can keep her birds seed outside but a bear will get into it the first night it comes around.

We also have been able to bring over the docks and get them set up.  Here is a picture of the dock coming across the lake.  It takes about a morning to get both docks hooked up.  That first evening there were three people casting off the end of the dock.  The only fishing season open now is northern.  However there is something fun about just casting a lure.

All the vegetable gardens at our home are ready to be planted.  Of course, there is not much that can go in yet.  Raspberries, strawberries, chives and rhubarb are coming up nicely.  Yesterday Bruce planted his potatoes.  Today I planted the first batch of spinach.  It felt good.  I also put some bone meal on the irises.  Now we just have to be patient and wait for the ground and air temperatures to warm up.

Tuesday Don, Marilyn, Bruce and I will spend time at the Upper Lakes food Show.  Upper Lakes is our main food supplier.  I am sure that you have seen their blue trucks delivering at the lodge.  Every spring all the suppliers gather to show the new foods for the season.  So off we go to eat our way thru every kind of food you can imagine.  After a while nothing tastes good.  All the neighbors will also be there so it is a good time to catch up on the gossip.

Bruce and I will come home after the show.  We are having meatloaf for dinner tonight (Sunday) and Tuesday night the cold meatloaf sandwiches will taste good when we get home.  It is better than stopping at a restaurant for a meal.  In fact if we are really lucky, the temperatures will be warm enough that we can eat on the porch.  Just thinking about that sounds good.

The main summer season is fast approaching.  The horses are here and Mandy is now running the stables and I don’t get to see her in the dining room.  The trainers come next week for the new sky guides.  In fact new staff is popping up everywhere.  I can’t remember anyone’s name.  Eventually they will all straighten out in my mind.

Lee and Eva are coming up with the kids for 10 days in July.  I am already looking forward to it especially since they sent me a list of all the things the kids want to do with us.  So many things we do every summer when they come up.  One of my friends says that you have to implant the woods and water in the hearts.  That is just the way I feel.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Beginning of Gunflint Lodge

Bruce and I were sitting around talking after dinner.  The question came up about how old the lodge was.  We tend to start counting the age of Gunflint from when Grandma Spunner and Justine bought it in 1929.  But, of course, that is not correct.  It is actually 90 years old.

Gunflint Lodge was started in 1925 by Dora Blankenburg and her son, Russell.  The Blankenburgs bought a small resort called Lighthouse Lodge in Three Lakes, Wisconsin in 1920.  They catered to wealth fishermen from the Chicago area.  As one of their guests was checking out, the guest said that even though they had been happy at the lodge, the next summer they would be checking out a new fishing area in Minnesota called Gunflint.

Russell came up to investigate the Gunflint area.  In 1925 he bought some land on Gunflint Lake for the family to build a resort on.  They built Gunflint Lodge, a small lodge with three rental units.  Running a second resort so far away from the first was more difficult than they had expected.  After a few years, Mrs. Blankenburg decided to sell the new resort.

The Blankenburgs also owned property on Lake Zurich in Illinois.  One of their neighbors and friends were the Spunner family from Barrington, Illinois.  Mr. Spunner was a lawyer who had helped with the purchase of the land for Gunflint Lodge.  After a visit to Gunflint Lodge, Mrs. Spunner and her daughter, Justine, decided to buy Gunflint Lodge.  They sold two farms to come up with the money for the down payment.  The purchase happened in August of 1929.  It was not the best time to invest in a new resort but no one knew that at the time.

While Mrs. Blankenburg returned to run Lighthouse Lodge, Russell Blankenburg stayed in the Gunflint Trail.  He took money out of the stock market and bought property on Loon, Gunflint, Seagull and Saganaga Lakes.  Over the years he would build resorts, run canoe outfitters and sell land for summer homes on this property.  Russell’s story will be told in another blog.

Meanwhile, as this picture shows, Bruce has finished his fireplace for #18.  Right now it is a big mess to get cleaned up and ready for guests.  Bruce’s body is quite happy the job is finished.

The ice on Gunflint Lake is quickly going out.  Right now the entire bay in front of Cross River Lodge is out.  We are due to have warm temperatures and wind during the next week.  That will probably take the ice out pretty quickly.

Not everyone is happy to see the ice go out as we discovered during lunch today.  We were looking out at the lake and what should appear but an otter.  The animal was running across the lake for about 6 steps and then doing a belly flop and sliding on the ice.  We all stood watching until it reached our shore and disappeared among the rocks.  It was perfectly obvious that the otter was enjoying every minute of his play time.  We were tempted.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rain and Ice

Today is our first day of rain and does it look wonderful!  We have had snow flurries but starting about 5:30 this morning, it was all rain.  As a result, Gunflint Lake is quite black.  I can tell by some of the plowing marks that the ice flow is moving east.  That is what we want.  A good strong northwest wind would really help the process.  On the north shore of the lake, the open water coming out of Cross River is getting close to the end of the point.  Eventually the flowing water from the river will drive all the ice to the east end of the lake and then out.  We are ready.

Over on Tucker Lake the ice is so black that Bruce figures he could drive a boat right through it.  I don’t think we are going to try just yet.  Tucker Lake is a long narrow lake and not anywhere near as deep as Gunflint.  So, it will probably be out at least a week before Gunflint it.

This weekend was another one of the dog lovers weekends.  I think we have about 19 dog lovers with their pets.  We have doggie socials, homemade doggie treats, etc.  The most popular events with the dogs is to just take long walks in the woods without leases.  I think the people enjoy it the most also.  Luckily Friday and Saturday were just perfect for this activity.  Now the rain can come.

As the spring comes along, we have more than just birds wandering back.  Our neighbors down the lake have already had two black bears on their porch.  Adam’s dogs woke everyone up barking at bears.  As long as they stay out of the garbage, I don’t care.

While walking down the Tucker Lake Road, I saw some wolf scat.  There is no doubt that the wolves are around but we don’t get to see them very much.  Right now the wolves may be living on partridge.  There appear to be lots of them on our road.

Driving to the lodge today, I saw a rabbit on the shoulder of the road.  Most of its body was changing color to summer browns.  Its feet were still white but they are the last to change color.

Much of my vegetable garden is thawed out.  Bruce wants to do some trimming in the raspberries and strawberries.  Sounds good to me but today is not the day to do it – remember it’s raining out.  I am going to start a small asparagus bed this year.  It will take a couple of years to get anything to eat but in the end there will be some good dinners each year.
As I have been writing, the rain has let up some.  The wind, however, has increased.  All of it helps the ice melt out.

P.S.  Take a look at Bruce's picture from last week.  The rocks are up to the ceiling now.  All he needs to do is the hearth.