Friday, September 25, 2015

My first Instagram! #canningtomatoes

A few weeks ago Younger Daughter casually mentioned to me that I might enjoy using Instagram.  I had already started up an Instagram account quite a while ago but, as with so many online tools/toys, I never posted anything.  I did start doing some "following" of others and even had a couple "followers" of my own--those people following my non-existent posts.

Then in early August we made a flying (by car) trip to Kansas City for my cousin's funeral. It was there I learned that one of my youngest Swanson relatives--if I do the math correctly I think she's a third cousin and she's just starting middle school--had just started up an Instagram account.  Her posts were so fun and positive and uplifting, that I just had to get myself into this Instagram stuff!

So here's my first post.  I cut out the "likes" to protect their privacy.

After I posted it, I realized I could have posted it to Instagram, Facebook and probably any number of other online tools/toys, all in the same click!  I even added a #hashtag.  What I didn't know was that when you begin entering a hashtag, it starts auto-completing (or guessing) what you want your hashtag to be, and tells how many other posts use that same hashtag.  Turns out, there were over 700 other posts on the subject of #canningtomatoes.  Who knew?

So, yes, today was another canning day, maybe the last one this year.  We've done batches of spaghetti sauce, picante sauce, three batches of tomato chutney, plus just plain canned tomatoes.   This time Leann said I could can some quarts to give to her Mom since we really didn't need any more.  I just couldn't let all those Roma tomatoes go to waste.  And most people around here have had their fill of tomatoes AND cucumbers for this year.  Remember the zucchini joke and keeping your car locked?  Tomorrow is another Saturday Market, so maybe we can sell/give away some more!

Anyone need any tomatoes?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A small town dilemma

This morning at breakfast we were having a discussion with our guests about Port Wing, small towns and what holds a small town like Port Wing together as a community.  It was informally decided that it might be all the community events that bring people together, whether it's the town baseball team at their weekend games, the museum's Harvest Festival dinner in October, the Fish Boil and the Lions Club Fall Festival coming up on Labor Day weekend, or any other event that asks people in town to donate a pan of bars, a salad or a few hours of their time.

In my last post I talked about being "too busy."  Besides running a B&B, we have a few other activities that keep us occupied.  The most recent event we helped with was the Port Wing Plein Air Painting Festival.  About twenty-eight artists came to Port Wing to paint area scenes outside--en plein air--and it culminates with a judging and then a public exhibit of all their entries in the Town Hall on Saturday afternoon.  Our contribution to this event was supplying the opening morning registration day with two pans of pecan caramel rolls, and setting up and managing the food table at the exhibit on Saturday.

Here are some photos of this year's Festival.  First, a few of the artists out painting...

And a few from the exhibit...some with ribbons!

So here's the dilemma.  Each of the major town events requires people--people to do the baking or cooking of all kinds and people to work MANY hours for events to come off successfully.  And in a small town, there aren't THAT many people.  And many of those people who have been volunteering and holding things together for many years aren't as young as they used to be!

Then you start thinking of alternatives.  Wouldn't it be just as easy to make a $20 donation to whatever group rather than making two pies, or a salad, or bars, or working all day at an event?  I know I've thought that many times for fundraisers my daughters did for school or Girl Scouts name it!  Keep the Christmas wrap, magazines, candy bars, and let me just donate!  But in the case of events in small towns, just paying my way like that does nothing for community.  All of these events bring lots of other people into town and carry on some long-standing Port Wing traditions.

So, we'll gear ourselves up for these last big summer events.  The pickled beets are ready for the museum Harvest Dinner, we'll plan what pies we'll make for the church stand at the Fall Festival, and at the same time remember to hold on to and savor these last weeks of summer, 2015!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trying not to be "too busy"

Back when I was teaching, working as a school media specialist, one of my goals every year was to work on my tendency to appear to be "too busy"--"too busy" to get to know students better, "too busy" to stop and chat with other school staff more, "too busy" to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Well, not much has changed except that I'm no longer facing a year with 800 middle school students.  I still feel like I always have things I "should" do instead of all the things I planned to do when I retired up here three years ago, which mostly had to do with...reading.  But fortunately, most of the things I feel I "should" do here are as enjoyable as reading.

I have several times of the year here that I consider my favorites--maple sugar time in March/April, apple blossom time in May, fall color weeks in September/October, and the first big snowfall whenever it hits.  But maybe my favorite "favorite" time is right now when the gardens are producing and the flowers are beautiful.  We've started some canning already--six quarts of pickled beets, 4 pints of dilly beans, can't remember how many jars of strawberry jam.  We've picked our first cucumbers and had the first "gurkensalat"--cucumbers & onions in a vinaigrette, almost like Germany.  And the first tomato is just about ready to pick!

Here are some picts from our gardens:

Butterflies on the echinacea

Day lilies going strong

Monarchs on the milkweed in the Monarch Station

More butterflies 

Petunias happy on the south side 

Peppers, garlic & shallots in front - Tomatoes behind

 Herbs & peppers

Tall ones are the tomatoes - I had to go through and hack out all of the extra foliage so the tomatoes could see the sun!  Also with the cucumbers.

Impatiens are happy on the north side

Too much fun!

And Astro Bob from Duluth says peak night for the Perseid meteor showers will be Wednesday night.  Our guests saw a few already tonight and I think I saw one, too, but the sightings should be great by Wednesday!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Spindly to abundant in one month!

It's already the 9th of July and the gardens are growing like crazy!  Just one month ago, or even less, we didn't have much hope for our garden efforts.  Two nights of frost at the beginning of June nipped several of our plants, causing us to replant peppers, some tomatoes, and some petunias.  And, yes, we covered them, and, yes, we knew we had probably planted too early.  But the month of May was so nice!

This is part of our milkweed collection for the monarchs.  A month ago we didn't see much sign of any milkweeds this year, but here they are, ready to flower!

And here is our first monarch-to-be caterpillar.  Now in a couple weeks begins the chrysalis watch.

We even have some milkweed plants that have migrated to the other side of the silo ring and are growing in the Egyptian walking onions.  And there's another caterpillar!

These petunias looked just pitiful a month ago.  All the vines and filler vines had been nipped out and it all looked pretty sad.  A couple nights ago the weather guys predicted storms--hail, wind, etc.--so I went out quick and took pictures in case the predictions came true.  They didn't!

I love those colors!

Don't you love summer?

Here is the strawberry bed Leann made out of a pallet back in May.  The plants are also supposed to be coming out the holes on the side but some of them have succumbed.  I know that in the rest of the world you have strawberries in June.  They're ready a few weeks later here.  I hear blueberries are starting to show here, too.

Our onions this year have been a lesson in waiting...waiting to see if they would recover from their waterlogged beginning.  Our neighbor orders onions for about 30 people around here from a place in Texas.  When it was time for the place in Texas to harvest the little onion plants, they were flooded out.  The plants eventually came but they weren't in quite the usual hardy condition when they arrived.  So we planted them and waited.  And watched.  And waited. And watched.  And they just stayed spindly and puny.  Every week or so I'd pull one to see if it was growing at all underneath or if it was rotting in the soil.  But there were roots and what would become the bulb was still firm.  So more waiting and watching.   And now we have these lovely onions!  And beans for dried beans on the right.  One row is Swedish brown beans!  We found the seeds on the Internet!

And here are some of the not-so-puny-anymore onions!
So much fun!  Pretty soon...beets!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Love these summer days!

Thanks to some huge geomagnetic storm that occurred on the sun yesterday, we were able to enjoy the Aurora Borealis last night, and maybe tonight, too.  The northern lights were out in the sky along with the lightning bugs near the land, so we were very entertained.  No pictures though...I've tried taking pictures of northern lights in the past, pretty unsuccessfully, so no cameras this time.

We made a quick trip to Duluth today and didn't even have a doctor's appointment or a prescription to pick up.  Yes!  But on the way home we came upon this little "gaze" of baby raccoons.  Yes, I just looked it up.  A group of raccoons is called a "gaze."  There was no sign of Mom so no idea what happened to them after we passed by.  Pretty cute though!

We got home with lots of time to mow most of the lawn.  With almost 2 acres to mow, we sometimes have to take it in stages.  If we were smart we would cut down on how much we mow, but we can't decide what to let go.  And anyway, we like it!

After mowing we took a tour of our trails in Cammie and once again, the fields of daisies got my attention.  The grass up there is growing like crazy, so we'll soon have to get that under control, too.  This time of year it's not the best idea to hike through that tall grass.  Wood ticks!  After living here for a few years I've heard of so many people who have had Lyme disease, and it really doesn't sound like a good time!  So, more to mow!

Time to go out and check the skies!  Happy summer!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The other side of the Solstice

At this time of the summer, now that it is officially summer, I feel the need to slow down the clock!  There isn't a day that goes by, no matter what season, that I don't marvel that I actually get to live up here.  But these recent days have been so beautiful--blue skies, temps 75-80˚, few mosquitoes--perfect!  I keep thinking, "if only every day could be like today."

Here's our field out in front with Jessie's horses up in the background.  At the end of May this is a field of yellow dandelions and now it's full of white daisies, yellow buttercups, and orange hawkweed.  That hawkweed is actually an invasive weed, but we like it anyway.  Soon our other neighbor will come to cut this into hay and bale it up, but for now it feels like Little House on the Prairie.

We did have some needed rain today and there were some storms to the west and south.  But that left us with a beautiful rainbow tonight and some weird cloud formation.

The last time I wrote about Quarry Beach was right after all the snow and built-up ice melted leaving very little beach.  Now a couple months later some of the beach has returned but the stretch of sandy beach is certainly not as wide as in other years.  At least the 4-foot drop has evened out so you can get down to the water.

Here's Quarry Beach in the other direction with some of the remaining rock formations that used to be the quarry.  It's a great place!

And these are two of the four geese families that are currently growing up in the marina area.  These two families are of different hatchings--one set is pretty big now and the other babies still have a hint of yellow fluff on them.  It was good to see so many this year because I don't think there were any last year.

And, yes, there was one day recently that was NOT so beautiful.  For some reason, the third Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) in June--the days of the Lions Club Fishing Contest are often TERRIBLE!  Last year it was practically snowing and the wind was howling!  Here are Brooks & John this year staffing the contest headquarters in their winter gear!  The anglers still showed up even though it was hard to see the lake sometimes because of the fog.

Beautiful days bring nice gardens, so stay tuned!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Always catching up!

I hate when I drop off the blogging train.  I get so behind!  And then there is too much to write about, but I guess I'll just get started.

Spring has definitely come, but before we get too enthusiastic about planting gardens full of flowers and vegetables, we are facing one more threatened dose of snow tomorrow night to Monday.  So far we have only planted onions and also some spinach that hasn't shown up yet.  We moved the onions to where the potatoes were last year.  Definitely didn't need that many potatoes!  But they are so fun to harvest!

On Tuesday we went to Hauser's Nursery and Orchard in Bayfield to check out their selection of plants and trees.  And what a selection!  And what a view of Lake Superior from up on that hill!  Notice the barn quilt there on the side of the barn.  Leann wants to make one of those for our very much smaller "barn."

We left there with three new trees--a Honeycrisp and two Connell Reds, a currant bush, burning bush, two forsythias, several new perennials and some herbs.  Most are all planted except the herbs and maybe I should bring them inside tonight!

Our wildlife viewing is also going into summer mode.  One of the last pictures on our wildlife camera when it was still located in the backyard aimed at the deer feeder was this cute little guy checking out the food situation.  By this time, I don't think there was anything much there that would interest him.

Also in our back yard was this pile of evidence that the bears are out of hibernation.  I have a closeup if there's any question it's from a bear...  We haven't seen any actual bears yet but someone saw a mother and three babies not far down Highway 13.  Gotta watch those bird feeders now!

So,  now I moved the camera to a spot across the field in our front yard.  There are always a lot of deer out there, so I put it there to see what else visits us in the night.  Here's another not-so-little raccoon:

And here's the back end of something dog-like.  It doesn't look straggly enough to be a coyote and it's got a pretty bushy tail so maybe a fox, but foxes are usually a little smaller.  Wolf?  Probably not...

This deer posed nicely...

And then today we have this wild species riding a different kind of "deere!"  Yes, it's mowing time again.  A sure sign of summer!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Really...what more could you want?

Would you buy a t-shirt with this on the front?

We got the idea for this from a shirt I bought when we were in Boston last fall, so I'm probably violating copyright of the idea by creating this one.  It's all our own work though.  We compiled the list of places, groups, events and other Port Wing high points.  I got them all arranged using a graphics program, Leann did the drawings, I squeezed them into the design, and it looks like this. Maybe I should copyright this version!

Now comes the t-shirt decisions for possible sales this summer.  How many to order?  What sizes?  And most importantly, what color(s)?  I was once in charge of t-shirt/sweatshirt sales for a group in my past life and I had boxes of leftovers around long after anyone had any interest anymore!  In fact, we probably still have a couple around here...
And I guess an ever more important question is whether I have missed some key group or event.  Anyone see anything I should add?  I'm sure I can fit it in somewhere!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Organizing the forest

You may not recognize this but this is an apple tree gone wild.

We have about 20-30 acres of apple trees gone wild.  While we have be able to do some taming of the trees in the past couple of years, usually in the fall, this beautiful early spring weather with bare ground has given us a jump on the tree trimming before the wood ticks get too thick.  Fifty to sixty years ago when this was actually a working farm, the area we now call the meadow was a cleared grain- or corn-producing field.  Since then, birds, other creatures and the wind have worked hard to seed all manner of trees, but mostly apple trees.  And with no one watching them through the years, the apple trees grow wild!

So, last week Leann made a bench out of reused boards from the deck on the old house.  We have several benches positioned here and there up in the meadow to sit and stop to enjoy the view along our trails.  We found a nice spot for this latest new bench overlooking a clear spot with potential for wildlife viewing.  But just to the left was a grove of overgrown--messy--apple trees.  My Older Daughter always accuses us retired librarians of trying to "organize the forest" and I guess that's how we roll!

Here's the same tree from another direction.  Overgrown, dead branches, limbs crossing over other limbs, just a mess!

And here it is after an hour or so of work and three loads of branches hauled away.  There's still more to do, but we're sure what remains of the tree is breathing much easier.

Then came the bonus! Just a couple feet to the south of this little grove was a small wetland area.  We had seen some bugs skimming across the water so we knew there was some life there, but then while we were working we started hearing some sounds--sort of like chirps crossed with a croaking sound and soon we saw two little frogs.  They are someplace in the middle of those two clumps of grass poking their heads out of the water.  Where did they come from since this little puddle is not usually there the rest of the year?
What a great spring!