Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Hiking Vermilion Gorge


Hi again! The summer was pretty busy at the farm (www.cookscountryconnection.com) , so Mr. Wonderful, Danny, and I took a Sunday off to make another hike up to Vermilion Gorge.  The leaves were still beautiful, and the high temp was 88!

People often mistake Vermilion Falls with Vermilion Gorge. The Falls are the really short hike that was shortened a few years ago. It’s right before Crane Lake. Here is the USFS sheet on that one. 

Vermilion Gorge is the 3 mile round-trip hike that takes about 3 hours “at a leisurely pace”, according to Vermilion Gorge USFS info sheet.  Drive all the way through Crane Lake and park in the private parking lot for Voyagaire Houseboats on the left. In the fall and early spring, the lot is full of said houseboats, but there will be signs pointing you to the trailhead.

The hike starts in a birch/aspen (popple) forest, and the sky was perfect this day. Most of the maple leaves were on the ground, but the vibrant yellows popped with the deep blue fall sky. We spent a lot of time looking straight up.

 

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As the trail climbed into the Norway pines, we noticed a million types of mushrooms.

Vermilion Gorge (18 of 195) Vermilion Gorge (26 of 195)And writing this post, I noticed we got photobombed by a bald eagle!! Very top of the photo, left of center. 
Vermilion Gorge (20 of 195)The reflections were breathtaking. 
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Some kind soul had left a walking stick at the trailhead, so the Boy happily used it, returning it for the next person.

 

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I could be wrong, but I think this is a glacial erratic. I didn’t get any good shots of it on this trip, so this pic is from last year.

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We sat for a break (for me, not them lol), and Paul noticed this birdnest in a birch tree overhanging the gorge.

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Yep, he has his device. But he got some awesome photos and is reading in this picture. No gaming.

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It was during this break that I noticed cairns farther upstream. Paul and Danny did some scouting, and were sure I could make it, with help. I’m so lucky to have these two; I wouldn’t have attempted this hike without backup. Not that it’s super-difficult; it’s just too much for me, with bum hips, knees, and ankles. They were such troopers, helping me up and down stairs and steep sections of trail.

Anyway, I remembered being on the other side of the monolith with BFF Terri several years ago, and had pretty much given up the idea of making it there this time. Luckily the lure of getting photos with the sun hitting the gorge dead-on and a little encouragement from my family got me over the hump.

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Would you believe that not counting the canoeists, we only saw two people on the way in, and a group of four as we were almost back out??

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Hope you enjoyed the hike!

 

 

Why I Write


This was one of the prompts at our last Summer Writers’ Group, and it was a great one! Easy to write, and fun to listen to everyone else’s answers. Do you write? Why?

I write to make people laugh, and to help myself cry.

I write to educate, elucidate, enumerate and illuminate.

I write because in seventh grade, Mr. Durbin told me to never stop doing so.

Sometimes I write to reason things out for myself and others.

I’ve written a few moral inventories to save myself from myself.

Lately I’ve been writing to advertise, trying to build a dream and share it with the world.

When I was a child and young adult I wrote because I knew my brain would forget the important, terrible truths of life. Even at 5 I knew the inexorable nature of denial. It took many years to see denial differently; a tool the mind uses to protect itself.

Sometimes now I write for posterity–hoping future generations will be a fraction as grateful as I am toward previous generations efforts, to capture the present for the future’s past.

Update


Holy hell have we been busy!!

As you probably know, we had a “catastrophic loss” of the dollar store and retail/residential building we (mostly Lois) spent seven years nurturing. Click here to read that post. That was over two years ago now, in June of 2013.

My sister already had quite the menagerie of pets–mostly “needs a good home” types, and now she had to figure out how to feed them.She’d always wanted to do animal therapy, but the store and life kept getting in the way. Now we had the time, and some insurance money that needed to be put to good use, so we went for it, and Cook’s Country Connection was born.

Last Labor Day was our first day open to the public (we’d been shooting for May, but you know how these things go!). We got a few field trips under our belts and worked out many kinks in that first two months of operation.

I also became a grandma in October of last year!! My Middle Spawn Harley had a baby boy, and he is the seventh generation to be on the farm! She is an awesome mom, nursing him and using (not to mention MAKING) cloth diapers.

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I love being a gramma, and helped a lot with babysitting his first few months while his mom worked midnights. Naturally I overdid it. Now we are easing back in, but wow is he faster and stronger than me some days!! The Toddler Corral is a great safe place to plop him when I am busy in the Farm Store.

LW and chicks at farm (8 of 8)

The Baby Exhibit!

LW and chicks at farm (6 of 8)

LW, perilously close to the poultry.

 

My Eldest Spawn, Bethany is getting married later this month! She has always been the party planner of the family, so of course everything is ticking right along on schedule. Her step daughter calls me Gramma, too, so that’s been arip.

I spent the winter being an artist…photographing and making jewelry which we sell at the Farm Store and the gallery in town, and writing. I even joined a writers’ group at the gallery, which helps force me to make time to write. Youngest Spawn has attended the group with me all summer, and it’s been really good for him, too. I always tell him how talented he is, but sometimes it means more from strangers.

I also signed up to teach a couple of Community Ed classes at the farm. Making a bowling ball gazing ball, vermiculture, and yoga at the farm. Yoga. What the hell was I thinking??? I was thinking that since my yogini moved out east, we could still do yoga at the farm if I taught it. Ugh. My procrastination is in high gear on that one!! Not to mention Imposter Syndrome! My rheumatologist thought it was a great idea, so we’ll see!

What else is new??? Mr. Wonderful would like me to tell you I’ve also been busy making him sammiches. I shouldn’t have to tell you that is BS. I have, however, made lots of jelly.

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Loveyabye! Talk to you soon, and hope to see you at the farm!

PS: You’re welcome, Dawny B!!!

 

 

 

Solar Ice Candles


I’ve been experimenting with ice candles and ice suncatchers for a couple years now, so it wasn’t a huge jump to making solar-lighted ice candles.

 

First, I took all the molds outside and then filled them using pitchers of water. (This idea came to me last summer, so every time I saw a Bundt-shaped mold at the Thrift Shop, I snagged it. I’m happy to report that  even the plastic ones worked great, and have yet to crack.)

ice candles-1

ice candles-2

Then I did it all again so there were two of each design.

To release them from the mold, I ran a little hot water in the kitchen sink. They pop out after a few seconds. Sometimes, if the water freezes too fast, there will be a bulge in the ice. You can chip it off carefully, use a warm cookie sheet to melt it flat, or if you’re not a perfectionist, just build up the other side with snow later when you put the two halves together.

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Now here is the genius part: Solar garden lights will work, depending on their size and the diameter of the hole in your mold, but this Halloween, I found these awesome solar-powered jack-o-lantern lights at K-mart for $5. They change color, so I didn’t have to add food coloring to the water to color the ice!

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Ice pumpkin-14 Ice pumpkin-13 Ice pumpkin-12 Ice pumpkin-10

Now, of course you could use a real wax candle, too; but dang, that’s a lot of candles. And, you’d have to go out and light it. Solar lights come on automatically! Even regular white garden solar lights work, but they aren’t as bright as the one above.

Solar Ice Candles-12

 

Mr. Wonderful even admits this is one for the “Nailed It” File, so please Like, Share, & Pin away!

 

Another fast, cheap, and easy craft idea brought to you by the Pajari Girls. If you’d like a few more ideas, check this post out:

Bundt pan ice candle

 http://pajarigirls.com/2013/01/22/playing-with-water-at-25f/

 

Sunflower Ghosts


Ok,  my hands are killing me, but I wanted this post done before Halloween’s over.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

Back in September, I covered my sunflowers with old white curtains to protect them from frost. My neighbor thought I was just decorating early for Halloween! Which was a great idea; I’d already tried coloring eyes and mouths with Sharpie but was a failure. I was muttering about the problem when Paul (aka Mr. Wonderful) suggested using fabric. “But it hurts to use scissors!” I whined. Then I remembered the cutting board and rotary cutter I invested in a few years when Cook got a quilt shop (Thanks again, Susan Covey of Cabin Quilting!)

Sewing hurts too, so Paul suggested fabric glue. Woohoo! We were business. I have almost no range of motion in my wrists lately, so he helped position the ghosts, too.  One of the best things about making Halloween decorations is that they don’t have to be perfect! Get a kid to help. Or someone with crappy range of motion. It could be therapeutic. 😀

sunflower ghosts-2 sunflower ghosts-3 sunflower ghosts-6 sunflower ghosts-7 Tadah!!

sunflower ghosts-14

Another Halloween craft project that’s fast, cheap, and easy. Like my sister. Just kidding! Please Pin, Like, Share, or comment this project, or better yet, do it yourself!

Tea With Auntie Linden


What, you don’t name your trees? This is one of our favorite trees. Mine (Laura) shades my whole front yard in the summer. Lois’ shades the old wood shed/ice house at Cook’s Country Connection. Listen, if Pocahontas could have Grandmother Willow, we can have an Auntie Linden. And like Grandmother Willow, the Auntie Linden in our yard has smacked a guy or three in the head. So shush.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own tea

The last time I read Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series, Ayla used Linden flowers to sweeten something. Finally! Something that grows in the near-arctic conditions of Cook, MN!! I searched Wikipedia to be sure it wasn’t just literary license, and discovered many other fun facts.

There is a Linden tree in Gloucestershire that is coppiced (omigod, I didn’t even know there was a word for that!! It means to harvest by cutting tree down to the stump, then letting its shoots start over. It’s technically the same tree) thought to be 2,000 years old. If you live up here, imagine a willow after attempted chainsawing.

coppice

Coppiced tree +1 year. Image Wikipedia.

The name of Linnaeus, the great botanist, was derived from a “lime” tree in Europe–what we Yanks call Basswood or Linden .

Linnaeus… You know, the guy who came up with a universal system for naming things. Binomial nomenclature. ie: Tilia americana. Ringin’ any bells??

There’s more.   “The excellence of the honey of far-famed Hyblaean Mountains was due to the linden trees that covered its sides and crowned its summit.” Beekeepers love Linden/Basswood/Lime trees! The first time I noticed a buzzing noise coming from the tree I park under (Auntie Linden), and looked up to see thousands of honeybees I called my sister in a panic. “Don’t come over!! You will DIE!!” (She’s allergic to bee or hornet stings.) She laughed and said ” They’re just doing what bees do. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone. Just don’t piss ’em off.” Roger that.

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I read on:

“In particular, aphids are attracted by the rich supply of sap, and are in turn often “farmed” by ants for the production of the sap which the ants collect for their own use, and the result can often be a dripping of excess sap onto the lower branches and leaves, and anything else below. Cars left under the trees can quickly become coated with a film of the syrup (“honeydew”) thus dropped from higher up. The ant/aphid “farming” process does not appear to cause any serious damage to the trees.”

Well, that’s pretty awesome… and it explains all the ants in that area. And it doesn’t hurt the trees! Huh. Here I was all worried that the ants were a sign that one of my favorite trees in all the world was sick. Whew!

It’s also good for making guitars, and even clothing. You can eat the young flowers and leaves, too!

Linden, Bassweed, tea, make your own linden tea

But coolest of all, it has medicinal properties that my body needs, like fighting inflammation and healing the liver.

“Most medicinal research has focused on Tilia cordata, although other species are also used medicinally and somewhat interchangeably. The dried flowers are mildly sweet and sticky, and the fruit is somewhat sweet and mucilaginous. Limeflower tea has a pleasing taste, due to the aromatic volatile oil found in the flowers. The flowers, leaves, wood, and charcoal (obtained from the wood) are used for medicinal purposes. Active ingredients in the Tilia flowers include flavonoids (which act as antioxidants) and volatile oils. The plant also contains tannins that can act as an astringent.

“Linden flowers are used in herbalism for colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), and as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative. In the traditional Austrian medicine Tilia sp. flowers have been used internally as tea for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, fever and flu. New evidence shows that the flowers may be hepatoprotective. The wood is used for liver and gallbladder disorders and cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and surrounding soft tissue). That wood burned to charcoal is ingested to treat intestinal disorders and used topically to treat edema or infection such as cellulitis or ulcers of the lower leg.

Linden, Basswood, tea, make your own linden tea

Thus, last year I made tea from the flowers and the smaller leaves they were attached to. Honestly, I don’t know if it helped the Stupid Rheumatoid Arthritis. But I’m sure it didn’t hurt. 😉 And it tasted good. Want to make your own? Good. Here’s what I did:

  • when flowers are mostly open, gently pick them and the smaller leaf they are attached to from the bigger main leaves. This year, they are a month behind normal. Big surprise.
  • I spread them evenly on trays in my dehydrator and when crumbly I separated leaves from flowers and put them in old, airtight mason jars for winter.
  • Then, come January I added some Rugosa Rose hips for Vitamin C and voila! Yummy, healthy, tea for two.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

As you can see, the tea has very little color to it. Go by taste- not color- to judge strength. 3 or 4 minutes should be fine for a cup to brew.

Linden, basswood, lime tree, tea, arthritis, rosehip,

You’re welcome.

As usual, if you liked this article, please click “Like” “Share” “Pin”, or leave a comment. Thank you for reading! Loveyabye!

 

 

 

For Fox’ Sake…


That may be my favorite blog post title EVER.

On Sunday July 6, Mr. Wonderful, Male Spawn, and I took a day trip to the Vermilion Falls and Vermilion Gorge hiking trails. Northern MN has been getting a lot of rain and so I hoped there would be lots of photo opportunities. The weather didn’t cooperate, but the wildlife did!

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Next time we’ll take video, too. On the short walk back to the car, someone pointed out a dragonfly.

Dragonfly, mn, pajari girls, cook's country connection, photography, pretty bugs

Then Danny grabbed my arm and pointed up the trail…

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

Canid, fox, cross fox, red fox,

 

Could it be a Red fox? They come in many colors…including Silver, which is different from the Gray fox,  which are one of only 2 members of the Canidae family that can climb trees…but the Gray fox has a black tail. Crap.

This was driving me nuts! (I really really really hoped that it was a young Timber Wolf. That opened another can of worms. )

I sent the photos to my friend Colleen who works at the USFS, LaCroix Station. The biologist there said it was a Cross fox. 100% sure. At first I didn’t understand. Was that a cross between a Red and Gray? Nope, it is a TYPE of Red fox. At one time it was thought to be it’s own species, but DNA study changed that. However, “fur farmers and trappers continued to treat each red fox colour form as a distinct species long after scientists concluded that they were variations of the same one”, according to Wikipedia. Well, that clears things up!

I have hauled my Nook around everywhere with me, even to a Little League game. Jeremiah’s dad (John) said he would look into it, too. He works for the DNR. **JUST IN** The DNR says Cross Fox, too! Thanks, John V.!

 

I posted the pictures on Facebook, too, getting several different opinions.

At this point, my vote is Cross fox.

What’s your vote? Please Like, Comment or Share…for fox’ sake!

 

 

PS: If you liked this post, check out Cook’s Country Connection’s Wild Neighbors page. Chop chop. Tell Lois The Employee of the Year sent you. Loveyabye!

 

 

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