Archive for September, 2019

So, the time has come where we’ve now seriously set our sights on heading south and home. This will be the final Ramblings of the 2019 season at Northern Comfort. Next Saturday, with Jason at my side, we’ll be completely wrapped up finalizing all those many things necessary to safely tuck our little place in for its winter hiatus. But this morning, I’m happily sitting here sipping my morning coffee and pounding away on the keyboard.

A couple of days ago I happened to walk by our little driveway sign. There, not moving a muscle, just with large woeful eyes staring was one of our little friends. Next to him, on the hinge, was a spider; same woeful look. I think we’ll miss each other.

However, leaving next weekend will mean that I’ll miss the world’s largest Chicken Dance, scheduled for 5:00PM this afternoon in Cincinnati. I guess they couldn’t wait till we got back.

It seems that just about every time I turn on the news on our XM radio the only ‘working’ group in the Congress is the Judiciary Committee (impeachment being one of its functions). I ran across a long ago quote from the current Chairman of that committee – it’s worthwhile to read, especially looking at the date it was uttered:

“There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by another. [Such] would produce divisiveness in our politics…and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions.” ~ Jerry Nadler, 1998

Of course the times were very different. President Bill Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment was the main course on Congress’ menu. And, as expected, the cast of Congressional characters were acting as they do today, turning like a wind vane on that majestic dome. As the wind turns…… it continues.

Saga of the woodstove – When we bought Northern Comfort it included a very stylish wood burning stove. It sat on a stone pad in the corner and looked integral to a lake-side place in the Northern Woods.

As the place was inspected for insurance purposes we were told that, although the stove was properly manufactured, it was made prior to laws requiring certification. Long story short, want insurance disable the stove, so we removed the chimney and gained insurance. For the past eleven years it’s been a lovely-looking coffee/lamp table.

Eventually Marcia wanted to get rid of it and Jason jumped forward; “I’ll take it,” he exclaimed.

Try moving a block of cast iron weighing in at over 300-pounds. With proper insight from engineering family members – Donn and Paul, I got it on a skid and off the stone pad. Next issue; out the door, down seven steps and into the truck.

To the rescue came André (the same André who I joined up with to put in Horseshoe Pits at the local Community Hall last year, and he who heats his home with over 17-face cords of wood in a single winter season). He’s used to moving impossible-to-move things.

When listening to my predicament he just smiled and shrugged. My ‘ramp’ was strategically placed and planks placed on top. He brought his two-wheeled dolly and, twenty or so minutes later, the stove had been tucked in for its trip to Cincy.

We’ll be missing ….. – the glorious fall colors. Every year I go nuts with the camera and Marcia keeps saying, “Just how many pictures of the same stuff can you take?” The real answer is; never enough!

The pontoon and the rides on it. Bring kids and watch their eyes light up when they get a turn as ‘captain’ and manage the controls. Or, the pleasant chats when several of us, some hot coffee and a bit of desert, take a sunset run. Even to occasionally taking it along the shore with a line out. This year we didn’t do that, but a couple of years ago Marcia caught a large Lake Trout (2-dinners and a lunch).

Climbing to the heights and just drinking in the glorious scenery our little-corner-of-heaven is located in.

Time spent at The Dump. Read a story on life mid-20th century (think the Andy Griffith show’s town of Mayberry) where the gathering place was the barber shop. This is where all need-to-know town life and information emanated from. Our local dump is exactly that. Need a book? Find it there. In fact, need just about anything and it’s a ‘let the rooting begin’ moment. Share a beer, sit a spell, and just listen. The photo shows the place’s informal Board of Directors. By the way, I’ll be there promptly at ten am.

A talk with promise – unfulfilled. Wednesday we were back at the twelve sided (round) barn for the final event of the season. The guest speaker was a professor specializing in ‘forensic’ art history. The subject was our Algoma area and the Group of Seven and a painter named Tom Thompson. The Group of Seven were major art figures from the 1920s and their names recognizable to almost every Canadian school student.

The art was magnificent, the topic full of anticipation of occurrences and insights of this region and the characters who plied this wilderness in search of its ‘magic’.

The speaker a case study of what exactly is an ‘absent minded’ professor. It really could have been special.

Fini – As mentioned it’s off to the dump and then immediately four of us will be off on The Sylvan Circle Tour. The Tour winds its way through about 100 kilometers of countryside where the works of over fifty artists are available for viewing and purchase. Also, several stops will have food available.

Back roads, fall color at its peak, and two-lane curvy roads create a wonderful setting. This is the nineteenth and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past 11 of them and sorry I missed the first 8.

If all goes to plan late Thursday or Friday Jason will be coming up from back home. With him here getting the cabin tucked in is a single day’s work’ something that would take me a week plus by myself.

In the meantime, some of the work has begun. Marcia has the pantry stowed in bins for the trip home. I have chanted the lower case oil in the boat engines. The generator was run and the fuel stabilized. The Dolly trailer is put away. I guess that the heavy-lifting stuff will wait for Jason’s arrival.

This week make it a safe one, and stay excited at the life ahead.

Till two weeks from now.

Oh, Harvest Moon
09 14th, 2019

Oh, Harvest Moon, although barely visible here in the cloudy North Woods. We’ve been in a period (days on end) of cold, wet, windy (white caps on the water), and heavy fogs. Having said that, last Thursday it was glorious and we took advantage of it – more about that later. In the meantime the ongoing wet and gray got to Marcia who ended up spending long nights in bed and began the early preparations leading to closing our Northern Comfort for the season. Two weeks and we’ll head on south. In the meantime, there are few places where the morning coffee tastes better – ours is still perking.

I found this picture of the life cycle of coffee. I thought it worthwhile sharing, even though I couldn’t find who composed it.

As the days get shorter, folk in these parts turn to board games. So, it was with some interest that I began paying attention to a CNN piece on an updated version of Monopoly. The new version would have women collect 240 Monopoly bucks when they pass “Go”, while males collect the usual 200. It’s touted as a “fun” new take on the classic game.

A wag on Social Media quickly offered this particular update:

“There’s also a Liberal version where you don’t even have to move your pieces around the board. You just watch everyone else play (work) and then take some of their ‘money’.” ~ Anonymous

Actually, I remember playing Monopoly with the older kids at a time when there was also a toddler in the house. The toddler would bounce around the room and every so often stop by and do exactly what the Liberal version suggests – just grab a handful of ‘bucks’ from nearby players.

Whenever a grab took place our little group of players would let out a roar of displeasure; the happy toddler thought it great. The ‘roar’ heard at our game table was about as loud as the one heard over our TVs. That roaring occurred earlier this week during political debates when one harebrained scheme after another tumbled forth to the delight of the in-studio audience. The difference being that the televised ‘roar’ was one of approval and glee; however, the intelligence behind it no different than that of the little toddler mentioned earlier.

Fall colors – in these parts is more than just the glorious turning of the leaves (which is well underway). It also means that the salmon are running.

Trips to the nearby Amish markets magically explode into color as the crops come to market.

by Marlene

Life on the Farm – About 150 of us had a great time listening to some delightful acting out and reading of a wide variety of poems documenting life on the farm. Some of it was heartwarming, some dealing with the difficulties and hardships of country life. And, a lot of it was belly-laughing funny.

The venue was a ‘round’ barn one of no more than a handful in the nation of which I believe three are in this area. These structures are awesome and exude a feeling of warmth – literally and figuratively. The outside temperature was somewhere in the low to mid-fifties, the boards forming the walls are spaced apart for air circulation, and there is no heat in the place – inside it was totally comfortable.

Those who had difficulty believing just how comfortable it would be were seen removing jackets and sweaters. See, I told you.

by Marlene

A Quad ride – Rain, rain, rain, then came Thursday with its sunshine and mid-sixty temperatures; time for a quad ride! A time to once again love what autumn brings. Ten of us gathered and climbed aboard 7 ATVs and set out on a four hour adventure. A bit of open road travel to get to an old logging road and snowmobile trail, then off into the deeper woods. Aside from some wonderfully bouncy terrain, mud, and puddles, crossing a fast-running stream and edge along and over a Beaver dam, all eventually led us to our destination and the old Quartz mine.

Just so you don’t get the wrong impression, this is not just any mine, it consists of a major cliff where many, many, years ago blasting along the top of the cliff things went awry. A small matter of too much TNT blew the top off of the mountain.

For those of us who enjoy rock collecting and mineral gathering the place is something magnificent.

Upon returning there was enough time for a beer and home-made cookies at Donn and Marlene’s and another hour of good company and the conversation it brings.

Read another fun Blog and some more photos of our run, Janet’s Blog: Northern Bliss

Finis – Today wish Adrianne and Tevita a happy Anniversary. It seems such a short time ago that I ran to the airport to retrieve the newlyweds from their (days long) journey from Tonga.

A promise was made that we’d not forget our son-in-law Vince who would have turned 50 this past week. To remember, Kirstin posted a short movie clip of Vince opening his 40th birthday card who was totally caught off-guard as tickets to a Wrigley Field game tumbled out; this to see his favorite team – the Cubbies. A number of us joined up in Chicago to see the game and then afterwards met at Nick and Stephanie’s home. That was Vince’s first time seeing ‘his’ team play in their home field and he was thrilled. Fond memories and a almost out of reach legacy. Thanks Vince.

For gardening it’s been a rough season, too dry then too wet, and August too cold; the exceptions being Kale and Leek. With the many hours of tender care Marcia has given to the vegetables she planted in Poopy-Patches the old canoe veggie garden container; guess what we’re eating a lot of these days.

Dinnertime yesterday Marcia was outside and stopped at Bulen’t place, just saying ‘hi’. Chatting for a bit Bulent mentioned that a short time before he’d seen a Raccoon walk by. Just about that very moment they spotted 6 Raccoons marching away from the cabin area. Last night Marcia locked the door to our screened in porch.

Last weekend was when the Northern Lights were going to be visible; the best time for viewing to be between 10PM and 2AM for three days straight. I forgot day one when people did see the lights. Day two I went outside every 15 minutes from 10 till 12:30 – saw nothing. Third day I went to bed and then got up around midnight only to discover the sky all clouded over. For me the Aurora Borealis was a bust; but I tried – sorta.

Coming Wednesday several of us will be back at the twelve-sided (Round) barn to hear a presentation on a journal made of a 1912 trip down the Mississagi River. The retired curator of all things Algoma will present. 1912 was a time when the road leading past our lake was laid out and logging utilizing the river to run the logs was going full ‘bore’. As an aside, the Mississagi runs from the massive Boreal forest areas north of us to the mills on the ‘big’ lake.

Yesterday afternoon Paul and I zipped up our jackets a little extra tight and sat outside at his place fully prepared to enjoy a good cigar. Next we moved our patio chairs a little closer to his cabin to stay dry. When the rain turned into a ‘gully-washer’ we (with lit cigars) dove into the adjoining garage. Hence this final picture:

This week make your own ‘babamadizwin’ a good one – ‘journey’ in the Ojibwe language

Till next week.

Chaga Harvest
09 7th, 2019

The trees are now noticeably turning. It also crossed Marcia’s mind that of the 12 cabins on the northern end of the lake (including the four on the island) only three are now occupied – the exodus is well underway. With that, a happy Saturday morning from Northern Comfort, one of the three camps still occupied. That calls for a slurp of hot coffee.

“The day that the earth’s climate doesn’t change, is the day we should panic.” ~ Mark Friesen

This past week saw two major events (beyond the devastation of Hurricane Dorian). By the way, back in the sixties there was another major hurricane which was similar in size and in trajectory. There was one difference, it was 50-miles further north from the one Dorian took and that is why we don’t hear of it. That 50-miles difference saved the Bahamas.

Back to the other two events: First; it was celebrating Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai receiving the 1st US Copyright for something he called “Email” issued on August 30th, 1978. He wrote 50,000 lines of code to replicate all the features of an inter-office mail system. He was 14-years old!

Which brings me to the second event by introducing it with this quote also from Dr. Ayyadurai: “Climate always changes. A real scientist knows reducing climate to 1 variable, CO2, is nonsense….” This week CNN subjected those who desired self-punishment to sit for seven hours watching a ‘Town Hall’ event. I was going to rant a bit regarding the gobbledygook spewed forth but changed my mind. Let me just say that in the days when Saturday Night Live still had writers of worth, they would have had enough material for a season. And, they would have ruled in the ratings (unlike CNN which came in last).

Cannabis – Canada legalized Cannabis. Daily life here makes little note of this change. Travels around this area means that I’ve not seen pot-heads lounging about (although neighbors claim to see some activity in town during evening hours). But then, it’s not that difficult to be in any town and see a drunk here and there.

There is one difference though. Marlene and I on our daily walk passed a place which has a solar array out front – i.e. sunlight. Since the house is buried in the trees and since Marijuana likes sunlight, what better place to nurture your ‘little ones’? This is what we saw sitting near the side of the road. (Four plants is the legal limit)

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a mushroom-like growth on the sides of some (actually very few) Birch trees in northern regions (here) but also in places like Alaska and Siberia. It doesn’t look like much, actually more like a black wart on the tree. Woody, it can be harvested, chopped up, ground up, and used as a tea-like substance, cold or hot. I enjoy the stuff as do Marlene and Donn who discovered a growth on a Birch on their property and thus introduced me. Kirstin also drinks it (a commercially available version). Marcia dislikes it! So, I guess it’s one of those ‘of choice’ items.

Like much of the herbal world it comes loaded with potential health benefits, a long list of aids and cures. Most of those I take with a grain of salt, I drink it because I enjoy it.

During the summer we’ve had few (think none) quad rides. Now that the weather has shifted we realized that the woods were calling, and off we went. Donn packed a hatchet, I brought my machete. Marlene, our chaga expert, was the lookout. On a nearly three hour ride we found three growths and harvested those. It took me three hours of work using a sharp chisel and a mallet to bring it all to a useable size; more than enough to share with Kirstin and for the whole winter.



Migration – Much like us, a substantial portion of the animal kingdom also migrates. The effort required to get ready for travel we can’t help but notice. Loons constantly feeding and training their young to fly (their weight requires a ‘run’ of many hundreds of feet to get airborne). The Hummingbirds now feed seemingly around the clock as do the finches, chickadees, and nuthatches (these all congregate at our feeders). The past couple of weeks I’ve seen more Great Blue Herons than I’ve seen all summer. The one bird seemingly oblivious to it all is our neighboring Bald Eagle. This massive bird, now alone since it’s young one has flown off, mostly sits high in its favorite tree watching all the hub-bub below.

Last evening I went out to settle my food and stretch my legs. Dusk was approaching when I heard Geese honking. The honking continued for a minute or two before they came into sight. I stood and watched as a stringer of between a 150 and 200 Canadian Geese came over, southbound on their migratory run. The first I had seen this fall. Watching this fly-over, and each time I see one, is always a moment of awe and appreciation of just how complex and amazing the cycle of life is.

Finis – This week we stayed indoors as the winds blew and the rains came. We had a gully-washer and with it some moments of enjoyment watching it blow through and also at the same time ennui (there, that’s your word of the day) at being forced to huddle indoors.

In a short while we’re off to experience a neighboring Fall Fair and some veggie shopping at the Desberat’s Amish market.

Marcia has begun to harvest and use some of her garden items; Leek, Kale, tomatoes, Mint, Basil, and little red snack able bell peppers. With our short season it almost means that progress is checked hourly to make certain stuff is ready for eating before we head south (the end of this month). That last bit is a bit of a joke, but not by much.

Paul and Dia will be up this week. Neighbor Bulent is also coming up for a few days to winterize his place.

And, we’ll head off to the nearby twelve-sided (round) barn for an evening event. This should be a good time.

Since the small engine is in repair I have taken the Sea Nymph in and tucked it secure for the winter. The season’s end is approaching.

I should mention that after the bear sighting on a walk a couple of weeks ago I now carry my ‘panic’ whistle. Not certain if these help, maybe I’ll find out.

Make it a ‘brilliant week – as my British friends would say.

Till next week.