Friday, February 28, 2014

Any time is feeding time

Look up and out our living room window just about any time of day now and you can see birds and deer checking out the food situation.  Back in the late fall the deet might only show up after dark, but our motion lights let us know when they were out there.  Now that it is so cold and I'm sure food sources are getting pretty slim in the forest, we aren't surprised to see deer anytime during the day.

Today the deer are especially happy because Leann put out some old apples that went bad on us.  Usually we feed them shelled corn and sunflower seeds.  Since they fight when they get crowded too close to each other, we have to make several little patches of food so it's not just the one we call "Bully" that gets all the good stuff.  While they don't have many distinguishing features, there is one we call "Mouse Ears" because she looks like her ear tips maybe were frozen once, so now they look little and rounded.  She often comes around with a smaller doe who may have been her baby last season.

While we were talking about the deer with guests recently, we realized that the fawns will be born in late May or June (just 3 months away!), so these does are probably all carrying babies.  It's a hard winter for them with the snow being so deep to walk through and the challenges of the extreme cold.  Are we up to 65 days with temperatures below zero?  And more to come.

I guess we can't stop feeding the deer yet.  Or the birds!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The B in B&B that is Breakfast

Our B&B - Larson Creek Farm Bed & Breakfast - has been open for almost a year now.  We had our first official guests in April last year.  For about the last 8-10 years we thought we might want to open a B&B when we moved here after retirement from teaching in the Minneapolis area.  We stayed in a few B&Bs to see how we liked them, we attended a weekend workshop sponsored by the Wisconsin Bed & Breakfast Association, we read lots of books and websites on the topic, and we built a house with room arrangements that could serve as comfortable rooms with the amenities guests would like.

But then there was the other B - Breakfast!

Neither one of us is a natural in the kitchen.  And we knew from the beginning that no one was ever going to attach the word "gourmet" to our meals, so on our website we refer to our meals as "hearty Northwoods!"  Not many people have left our breakfast table hungry, but it's just-plain-food that they had eaten - variations on pancakes, waffles, eggs in combinations with other foods, fresh fruits when possible, whole grain breads, and, of course, bacon from Jim's Meats in Iron River.

But first we had to try out our recipes to see if they are workable for morning preparation and tasty enough to serve guests.  And that's where our friends entered the picture.  We prepared two or three dishes and then invited them to try them out and give us a thumbs up or thumbs down.  We had some guests who stayed for multiple days and then we needed several menu possibilities so we didn't repeat anything.  And now were are starting to have repeat business from last year.  All summer last year I was going to start a spreadsheet so we could record what we served to which guests on which days.  Did I ever do that?  No, but it's started now so from here on out we're set!

And now when it's snowy and cold outside,  it's a good time of year to try new recipes again.  I think we're going to try a new one this weekend and I'm not sure if we'll have time to test it out first.  We'll see if they are ready for an adventure!

Today I just wanted to make something with unfed sourdough starter, not necessarily for a B&B menu.  Maintaining a healthy sourdough starter is kind of like having another child to care for.  The intricacies of that could be a blog post unto itself.  Anyway, the latest King Arthur flour catalog had a recipe for sourdough pretzels, so I tried it.  I remembered something about pretzels and Lent, with the shape of the pretzel resembling the crossed arms of a monk in prayer.  I had some trouble getting those pretzels curled into the right shape, but I'll try it again sometime soon, now that I sort of have the knack.  (There are YouTube videos of it!)

So here they are.  Not so pretty to look at but tasty coming out of the oven.   But then again, what bread isn't?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cloudy days bring forth treasures

Today the view out of my window looked like this:

That's not out of focus - that's blowing snow, including at times little snow tornadoes blowing around and as usual, really cold.

So it seemed like a good day to do something about the top of my desk that looked like this:

That shows too many projects going on at once and always being distracted from one project to another.  So I cleared it all off and in a little while it started looking pretty good.  So good in fact that I moved on to a bookshelf next to the desk where even more piles of papers and projects are kept.  I started on the top shelf and found several fun things, including a bumper sticker someone had given us for the 2016 presidential campaign (I know, don't you just shudder thinking about that coming up again?), but the bumper sticker says "Clinton - Warren 2016."  Hmmm....

But underneath everything was something we had found in the old house here a few years back and somehow it ended up on this shelf.  The date is 1896 so it was probably done by my grandmother, Regina Larson.  It's tiny little cross-stitch stitches in black thread on a piece of heavy paper with little holes in it.  It says Joh.2 (Johannes) so I thought it was from the book of John, second chapter.  But it wasn't.  So I did the Google Translate thing again and eventually realized it came from Revelation 2:10 with the complete name of the book being The Revelation to John.  But maybe she just thought it came from John.  Anyway, in English it says: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
And from much of what I've learned about the Larsons who lived here before me, relying on their faith in good times and bad was how they lived their lives.

And by the time I finished cleaning things up a bit around my desk, the skies opened up and the sun shone...well, at least for a little while.


And congratulations to my cousin, Ingabritt, whose blog, Aktuellt i Grekland, came in third place in the travel blog competition! She inspires me!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ice Caves - Old news but still drawing crowds!

I mentioned Ice Caves in a previous blog and said I'd write more about them later.  And later is now.
Ice Caves - near Cornucopia, Wisconsin
For the last six weeks, we have been enjoying a front row seat on what might be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence here in Bayfield County.  It's been REALLY cold for a REALLY REALLY long time, cold enough for Lake Superior to nearly freeze over.  And that now allows walking access to an area of sandstone caves carved into the south shore of Lake Superior between Cornucopia and Bayfield that, through social media and just-plain-media, have become the famous Ice Caves, or officially the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Mainland Sea Caves. The last time they have been accessible was 5 years ago, and who knows when we would have a winter like this again.  The other time of year when people can see them is by kayak in the summer or a boat drive-by.

THOUSANDS of people have come to walk to the ice caves in the last 6 weeks.  One report we've heard said that more people have come here to the ice caves in January and February than usually come over the course of the WHOLE summer!  And this has been great for businesses in our area, and of course for our little "B&B in the snow."  Last weekend the big snowstorm of 12 or more inches of snow closed down the ice caves for a day, but they opened up again on Saturday to several more thousand people.

We went to see them on one of the first weekends and so we avoided the biggest crowds of cars and people.  At that time cars were parked out on the highway in more than a mile in either direction, and then people had to walk the half mile into the park, and then another mile to where the caves actually begin.  Here's a new map I just found:
And, finally, I love this picture that I took from an NBC news story about the caves.  While I was walking to the caves that day, following behind other people like in this picture, it felt almost like being on a spiritual trek, except it was REALLY REALLY cold!  So maybe we were like penguins...or lemmings...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Shall we go for a drive?

For as long as we have been coming to Port Wing on a regular basis on weekends and now living here, a big part of our daily routine is to make a quick drive down to the lake.  Lake Superior, that is.  Go to the store? Take a quick drive to the lake.  Post office? Then lake.  At least once a day, sometimes more.  Why?  Because there might be something new to see, new wildlife, different boats, wild waves, or usually, beautiful sunsets. 

I used to think we were the only obsessed people about doing the daily drive to the lake.  I thought the Port Wing locals were be so used to "the lake" being here that they didn't even notice it anymore.  But not so!  We see many of the same people out on their drives when we are out on ours.  There's just something about that lake!

But now, alas, there is so much snow, we can still do the drive but we can't see the lake!  That's a weather monitor pole sticking up on the left and the very top of the light beacon out on the pier near the middle, and our car.  But no lake!  Crawling up on the snowbanks to see over them only produces more snow and ice. 
Piles of snow near Port Wing pier
So we continued the ride today and saw some of the sites below.  The Flagg River is totally iced over now and roads that are normally two lanes wide are now one lane for drifted snow and one lane for cars.

Flagg River
East White Birch Road
Morrison Road - Our neighbor's house is behind that snowbank on the right.
And despite it all, I still don't hate it!  The snow, that is.  I'm a little tired of the cold, but that can't last forever.  Or can it?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

My Lutheran Conversion

Yes, it's true.  I became a Lutheran last week.

Throughout my life, I really thought I was going to be "a Methodist till I die."  (You should know that there's a song by that title.)  Truthfully, the thing I always enjoyed most about being a Methodist was singing hymns, and singing harmony with the alto and tenor parts--the bass was usually too low. Someone near and dear to me, I won't mention any names, has always said that she learned to read music and do part-singing from all those childhood years standing next to me singing hymns in church.  And I always appreciated John Wesley and the positions he took on social issues of his day, and his conversion story of feeling "his heart strangely warmed."  And have you read his "Directions for Singing?" It's always one of the first pages in the Methodist Hymnals.

But now living here, the nearest (United) Methodist Church is 50 miles away in either direction.  And we have this beautiful First Lutheran Church right here in town with the nicest, most hard-working people around, and a great pastor, Pastor Nancy Hansen.  And they all won my heart.
First Lutheran Church - Port Wing, Wisconsin
And there is another reason I am drawn to this church and that also comes from the family history I've been translating.  Here are some passages that relate directly to this church:

"Since it was mostly Swedes who lived in Port Wing, it was not long before they began to discuss forming a Swedish church. That happened in 1895.

Even before this, however, there were occasional visits by traveling preachers, the first in 1893. A vivid portrayal of his first visit in 1893 is given by Pastor J. D. Nelsenius much later, in 1920, in conjunction with the congregation's 25th anniversary.

"I had taken the train to Iron River, from where I got on a horse. There was no road between Iron River and Port Wing. When it came to the big 'impenetrable' forest, it was not a game to penetrate.  We overturned twice. To our happiness were horse’s engines so used to it that they took things calmly. My sleeve cuffs were torn and I lost a few precious cufflinks that I had received from my wife.

As the sun was going down we saw Lake Superior and 'the big city' of Port Wing, which consisted of three or four small houses. Just when we arrived it began to thunder and rain frightfully. Thunder struck by a tree, but luckily no one got hurt.

The people gathered at T.N. Okerström’s and listened intently to the text from Philippians 2:12 urging us to arm ourselves with our personal salvation.

The next day at 10 am a worship service was held in the house of the Fredrik Larsson family located a little way into the woods. Text was John 10: 11-16: the good shepherd and his sheep. All of the Lutheran faith were present.   At this time were baptized two of the first children in this community. They were Carl Edwin, son of Mr and Mrs Fredrik Larsson and Edward Reuben, son of Mr and Mrs Carl Johan Larsson."

There were thus two cousins ​​whose fathers had come from Lungsund in Sweden who were the first to be baptized.

Nelsenius says that he then visited Port Wing as often as possible. He did itinerant preaching in the area lumber camps.

The congregation was founded in August 9, 1895, and among the 15 adults and 11 children who then enrolled were Frederick and Carl Johan Larsson with their families. Frederick was one of those who was appointed a trustee. He was a long-time participant in the leadership of the parish, especially during times when they had no pastor. As early as 1896 he was elected as chairman and was also a Sunday School teacher. He was a deacon for many years.

As early as 1896 it was decided to build a church. Fredrik Larsson was included in the building committee.
And since my grandfather was Fredrik Larsson, joining this church was just logical.  And now I'm learning about Martin Luther!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A pioneer's story comes to life

For the last couple of weeks I've been working on translating a family history for my father's family who all came to America, most came here to Port Wing, all from Sweden.  It was written by Ingabritt's (cousin from yesterday's post) father, John, and consists of many pages of typed text interspersed with pictures, followed by a family tree that begins in the early 1800's and goes to about 1980 when he finished writing it.  But it's in Swedish.  So this is where my discovery of Google Translate, Bing Translate, multiple online Swedish dictionaries, use of cognates from my knowledge of German, and sheer curiosity about what it says, all came together to me producing a translation of this document.  And, boy, have I learned a lot! All of a sudden those tenant farmers mentioned from time to time in Downton Abbey all make sense!  I can see why possible opportunities in America looked a whole lot better than their reality in Sweden, at least for their own family.  But more about that in future posts.

Lämås, where my grandfather lived with his parents and 7 siblings before coming to America.
That's my dad in the picture.
This afternoon I translated the part about my grandfather coming to America in 1881.  He came through the port of Gothenburg (Göteborg) and his destination on the shipping logs was listed as Ortonville (MN).  There must have been some other relatives or friends living there because I've heard of other mentions of Ortonville through the years.

He eventually got to Minneapolis and somehow ended up in Canada working on constructing the Canadian Pacific Railroad system.  There he learned English from his Irish co-workers!  And then I got to where he moved to Duluth and here I'm going to include the full text as I translated it might not flow very smoothly, but you'll get the idea.

After a few years Fredrik lived in Duluth, Minnesota, and supported himself with carpentry. In 1889 he married  Regina Charlotta Petersson from Dädesjö in Småland (a state in Sweden). She had come to America in 1884, one of seven siblings who all emigrated, and eventually their mother also came. 

In the early 1890s, there were bad times in Duluth and Fredrik considered acquiring a farm. When there was an opportunity to buy land in Wisconsin along the great Lake Superior, Frederick, along with Smålander Peter Braf, made a reconnaissance trip to the area. Both families decided to take on the adventure of becoming settlers, and in 1891 Frederick sold the house in Duluth (which had 11 rooms), and his family, consisting now of mother and father, son Frederick and the twins Herbert and Hedwig, stepped on a steamer which brought them level with the countryside they had decided to conquer.  There, they got into a rowboat and came ashore with the small amount of household goods they could bring.

A simple log house became their first home. In the forests Indians still roamed but there was never any hostility between them and the Swedish settlers. On the contrary, says the descendants of Frederick and Regina, that it was the Indians' good advice, especially when it came to using deer skins to make moccasins and clothing, which helped the settlers over hard times in the new, difficult conditions.

And that's just another Passage that I feel blessed to be able to tell, and then think about as I sit up here in Port Wing, with snow blowing in the cold winds outside, and I'm in my warm, cozy house.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Trying not to be obvious

The obvious topic for today would be snow.  We got at least another foot last night but it's blowing around so much, you really can't tell how much new snow there is.  And, really, at this point who cares?  And the winds are howling and just WHIPPING the snow around.  I'm not even going to go out and check the mail today, because (1) he probably didn't get here because the roads are so bad, and (2) I may not get back here to the house.  Remember the scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter when they tied a rope from the house to the barn?  It's THAT kind of weather outside.

So, on to warmer thoughts...of Greece.  The main motivator that got me thinking about doing a blog myself was reconnecting with my (second) cousin, Ingabritt, from Sweden.  I spent time with her two different times when I was visiting Sweden in 1978 and 1979.  Here we are sitting on a Dala Horse in a park called Skansen in Stockholm.

Now she has lived in Greece with her family for the last 20 years.  She went to school to be a journalist and is now using that and other experiences to write a travel blog about Greece but written for people back in Sweden.  I think Greece is a popular warm-weather vacation spot for people in Sweden.  Also, her blog is right now in third place out of ten in a travel blog competition.  (It's called Aktuellt i Grekland if you want to vote.)  And, I found out that using Chrome as a browser, it does a pretty good job of translating it for me, or enough so I know that today's topic is what's happening in her town as people are celebrating the days leading up to Karneval or what is Mardi Gras for us. So her blog inspired me, however, she has been doing this for seven years.  And I am only on post #2!

Last thing, we are expecting B&B guests tonight coming up from the south.  They already know the ice caves have been closed until tomorrow morning when rangers will check to see how the ice is under all this snow.  And they know that the roads are bad up here, so think good thoughts for all travelers out today!


P.S.  They all arrived safe and sound!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Port Wing & Passages

Starting a new blog! So exciting and filled with the anticipation of what is to come!  Well, we'll see what all is to come but I certainly have the excitement and anticipation in me.  Of course the first big task is to come up with a name, (what is my purpose, who is my audience, make it concise, easy to remember), so I decided on Port Wing Passages.  And here's why:

Port Wing is our little town in northern Wisconsin located right on Lake Superior.  Currently we are enjoying the influx of THOUSANDS (who knew?) of people coming to see the rarely accessible ice caves along the shores of the Lake Superior National Lakeshore near Cornucopia, 18 miles east of us.  The lines of hundreds of cars traveling to the caves these days are on roads that may see a TOTAL of ten cars on a typical day in February.  But more on that in a future post.

So, Port Wing. My grandparents were some of the original settlers here, a Swedish immigrant couple who arrived from Duluth with 3 small children, ready to homestead an American dream.  Jump ahead about 125 years and we have left the big city to move here, carry out our own dream of opening a B&B on the old homestead property, and enjoy life in our little town.  And here it is, small but full of heart, and covered with LOTS of snow right now and a promise of another foot tonight. (Ah, there's another blog topic!)

Port Wing
Port Wing with Lake Superior - Photo by Mary Childs
And Passages - it has many meanings that can be supported in a blog like this.  
  • a road, path, channel, or course by which something passes - all the cars passing through town?
  • the action or process of passing from one place, condition, or stage to another
    a continuous movement or flow - our passage from careers as teachers in suburban settings to a different form of service a rural setting
  • the passing of a legislative measure or law - Wisconsin, we're watching you!
  • something that happens or is done - the sky's the limit!
  • a usually brief portion of a written work or speech that is relevant to a point under discussion or noteworthy for content or style - Notice it says "brief!"
  • a phrase or short section of a musical composition - Well, I'm listening to music as I write this...
  • the act or action of passing something or undergoing a passing - lots of new people passing through our lives from staying at our B&B, people who have become friends
 So this is the plan.  Port Wing Passages is soon to be online.   If you see something I should correct, add or write about, please add it to the comments.  I'm not sure if the settings are as they should be yet, but here goes.  Publish!