Seafood Fest

Seafood boil.jpg

I had planned to write on eagles this week as there are a couple nesting near here, but I realized the 4th weekend was coming up and instead it was compulsory that I post on the eating plans.  We always do our Seafood Boil on the 4th and this will be no exception.  I have a fabulous recipe for the boil and we often will do this in the huge kettle over an open wood fire.  It appears the weather will cooperate.  The above is a favorite of my son John.  The bowl and stand were given to me by my father for just such a meal.

We will also have a mushroom/bacon/swiss cheese frittata with garden tarragon most likely cooked over the wood fire, but the big excitement:

I’m looking forward to introducing my family to a fabulous German pancake, cooked in the enormous cast iron skillet and served with butter and powdered sugar and lemon.  I tried it out last weekend myself and it was a thing of beauty (pictures to be posted next week), rising up like a Yorkshire pudding and texturally reminiscent of a sopapilla or a slightly eggier elephant ear.  The trial was to die for and am hoping my family concurs.

Also new:

We will also do tacos two ways:  Choropollo (Chicken with Chorizo sausage)  and Tacos Carnitas which will be served with slow grilled pulled pork, greens, various chilis, scallions, cilantro and salsa verde, all green for the Carnitas– both new recipes I am trying out on the crew. Pictures and recipes will appear in the new memoir/cookbook I am working on, some of which will also be posted soon.

Ruminations on all this and the eagles next week.  Happy 4th all.

Bachelor’s Buttons and Inukshuks

Bachelor's ButtonLast year I planted a mixed annual/perennial wildflower mix on the north side of my house.  Planted them in the spring and most of them came up and bloomed mid-summer – fall.  I over seeded just perennials last year and until yesterday had just these yellow flowers (Wild Lettuce?) which also grow naturally around my property.  Yesterday, this hot pink flower bloomed (I think the whole head will eventually turn pink) and am thinking it might be a Bachelor’s Button which can be different colors.  (For some inexplicable reason I have THREE Birds of Michigan books, a Mammals of Michigan book, and a Field Guide to North American Trees, but my wild flower book–and my mushroom book– are missing).  At least I think the flower might be a Bachelor from what I see online, but it’s a gorgeous flower.  These other yellow flowers don’t remind me of lettuce in any way, either,  but take a look.  These are growing wild in front of my Inukshuk (an Inuit-like statue we made out of the broken concrete we took out from in front of the house–a man like this stands for peace and represents “a man who knew how to survive in the traditional way.”  I’ll also post the statue created by a Vancouver artist, Elena Rivera McGregor, for the Winter Olympics 2010.  It was modeled after Alvin Kanak’s statue which stands in Vancouver’s English Bay.  So, ok, our statue which presides over our fire pit and the Little Two Hearted River may not quite get there since I was standing and pointing at my husband as he slapped mortar on our limited-in-size-and-shape remaining chunks of driveway, but I like it.  I light it up at night with solar lights and the wildflowers just grew up around it as if they knew this place was peaceful and special–it is to me.  And no, we aren’t QUITE in Canada, but we’re four miles from Lake Superior and if you stand there at Crisp Point (the destination the women were attempting to reach when they had to survive two weeks on Girl Scout cookies), you can see Canada, on a clear day that is.  I can’t find how far that is online here, but it’s close.  At any rate, I have a collection of Inuit art–I love the primitiveness of it.  I also have an Inukshuk standing to “show the way” out by my driveway, also slapped together by my husband’s artsy trowel.


And here is the Olympic statue,  the style of which matches our other Inukshuk out by the drive.  Well, sort of.  Coolest thing ever, right?



I was in Marquette Friday for the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors Association book fair.  It was a lovely 75 degree day without a cloud in the sky.  Sat opposite my friend and colleague Janeen Rastall and signed books for people.  Several librarians stopped by for the book and invited me to read at their libraries.  All ended with a great dinner  with friends and my two sons at Sol Azteca Mexican restaurant there on the water where I had Choripollo Tacos (chicken chorizo) which were mouth watering.

During the fair, I received a phone call from Lynn Domina, the new head of the English Dept. at NMU and she offered me classes for Fall semester.  It seems I am now back to work at least for now.  The schedule is perfect for me and I have missed the students.

Promise to post more pictures and get more artsy with postings soon!

The Fire

I was fishing the Fox this last weekend, east branch, and they have a nice plaque next to the river claiming Hemingway fished there, and if you read his “Big Two Hearted River” story, you can certainly make a claim that that is the case.  I caught my first trout of the season (a little 7″ brook trout I promptly released), and appropriately spent evenings reading Gloria Whelan’s fine story The Pathless Woods, which is a children’s book about Hemingway’s summer at Walloon Lake when he was 16 years old.  The book depicted a forest fire, something Hemingway later alludes to in his Two Hearted story, the Seney fire,  a real fire which had happened some time before his character gets off the train in Seney and to this day leaves the country side scarred and ghostly.  All of this was prelude and excellent timing for me to work this week on  my own fire story (which I fictionalized in  my linked stories Seasonal Roads) but will also appear in my upcoming memoir woodfire cookbook.  My fire–known as the Duck Lake Fire– also a real fire of course, happened Memorial Day 2012 and nearly took our home and property here north of Newberry, Michigan.  One of those “boy are we unlucky/BOY are we lucky” stories since it burned all the way around our property, even a bit on our property north of our river, but spared both our home and nearly all our lovely trees.  One of the fire breaks was bulldozed right through our property to our river and we appreciated them clearing trees they considered too close to our home.  If the house hadn’t had a metal roof, they claimed, they wouldn’t have spent the time on what they said would have been a lost cause.  All of this happened this time of the year and once again, it’s dry here.  And ghostly.  The fire had been started by lightning they said, fueled by Jack pine–the biggest fire hazard–4 miles wide and eighteen miles long it raced to Lake Superior and then slowly meandered back south until it reached our river where the fire department at last contained it and mopped it out.

The fire department had arrived at our property one late afternoon and told me to take my son, my dog, what was in my hands–and go….

Ah, I’d better get writing it…


Frittata 3

I know the title is a bit confusing.  I am working on my memoir/wood fire cookbook.  It will be titled The Wood Fire Diaries:  Essays on Food, Life, and Related Fallacies or something close.  It will include published nonfiction pieces, conversational segments about living off the grid, assorted stories of my life, and of course, recipes all cooked over a woodfire.

I’m about to write about bugs.  Bugs are a huge influence (to put it kindly) for those living in the boondox off the grid in the U.P., especially near water and my Little Two Hearted is directly out front providing everything necessary for the life cycle of black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, those ankle biter house fly types (reminds me I need a bit of research here).  We also have dragon flies and grasshoppers and other more innoccuous types of bugs, but they don’t figure in.

I hate bats, even still, yet they have started to look better to me…never once have I seen one here.

I wrote in my linked stories about the order in which I’d dispose of these nuisances.  First to go would be mosquitoes.  Now I know many Yoopers would disagree with me and go for the ubiquitous black fly but I contend that is because they don’t actually live off the grid full time, just have camps and/or recreate there.  If you live here, you’d know that black flies don’t buzz, they don’t come in the house (or if they do, they spend all their time trying to get back out), and they don’t hurt when they bite you since they  have some kind of anesthetizing quality to their sting which lulls you into complacency.  (Though it is true they have been known to suck enough blood to actually kill a cow and they can swarm enough around the face, particularly, to be down right claustrophobic).  Still, mosquitoes come in the house, they can even breed there if you’re not careful, forcing you–if you’re careless–to have to bomb the house.  They carry more disease and are responsible for more illness than any other living creature on the planet (this is a fact–look it up)  including giving your dog heartworms and you Malaria, or encephalitis or West Nile disease to name a few.  They hurt when they sting you and they freakin’ buzz.  If you’re lucky enough to keep them outside the house, they will buzz near the screened windows so loud it invokes Hitchcock’s horror film The Birds and you are sure they will lift the house off the foundation and make off with it into the heavens.  If they are buzzing inside the house, well, you get the idea.  You have to bomb the house or get those mosquito nets they use in Africa to cover your bed but that still will not stop the freakin’ buzz.

I contend that anyone that prefers mosquitos over black flies does not actually live with them.  I have bug zappers inside the house which have a blue light (luckily only using about 1 amp of juice) and they do help.  I also have a window fan pointed at my front door so when I want to enter I can turn it on high, first blast away the dozens lurking at the ready (setting on high) and then open and close the door in a flash while simultaneously shutting off the fan as I back in, sneakin’ in before most of them are the wiser.

But ok, mosquitoes go first.  Then, surprisingly, it’s those ankle biter types that look like house flies, but take huge chunks of skin out with every bite and unlike both the mosquito and black fly, insect repellent has absolutely no effect on them.  (I use a natural repellent most of the time–reminds me to look up the ingredients in that), but nothing works on these suckers.  Then third for me are black flies.  Again, I’m hesitant to defame them since a good black fly year means fewer mosquitoes for some reason.   But they are third.  They get you under your hair, behind your ears, and along your hat band and you swell and itch, some people really swell.   Then the horse flies and deer flies which do hurt like those ankle biters but just aren’t numerous enough to factor in.  Regular house flies are more annoying since they do get in the house and lay eggs you aren’t aware of.  You leave for a week or two in fall or winter, come back, turn on the heat, and they hatch by the dozens forcing you to once again, spray chemicals along window ledges.  Because they fly around like kamikaze pilots and you guessed it, they freakin’ buzz.

Now, this brings me to this year.  June is the bug month.  It’s why we built that screened porch two years ago and sometimes plan a trip or two away.  The last two years were hard winters with a lot of snow and the mosquitoes were unbearable.  This year we had a mild winter.  It’s June 8th at this writing and neither the black flies NOR mosquitoes have been more than a mild annoyance but I’m poised for the storm.  The last couple days were darn cold.  Highs of about 50 and lows about 39 and windy, and so I wait… The fan, though, is sitting next to the back door, bug zappers at the ready, head nets on the shelf next to the door so I can garden and mow the lawn.

They bide their time, but I know they wait for me in the tall grass…

Made in Michigan 2

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Camp porch

Also, “made in Michigan” our new outbuilding which should enhance life at camp since I will be able to relocate building supplies outward.  We should be enclosed in July.  Siding will be corrugated metal, silver roof with wood trim around doors and windows to compliment main building.  We progress…

Made in Michigan

Wednesday catch-up!  Wayne State’s Made In Michigan ten year celebration was fantastic at Detroit’s Hilberry Theater.  Pictured with me on stage are Mike Delp, M.L. Liebler, Des Cooper, Zilka Joseph and moderator Acquisitions Editor Annie Martin.  We had a great evening discussing Michigan literature and how place impacts our work.    In the other picture is my new friend Maureen Dunphy.  She has a new nonfiction book just released called Great Lakes Island Escapes.  Check it out!

Techno – crap – ology

Well, I’ve wasted hours now trying to log on to my new Dell computer which apparently changed the password all by itself to one known only to itself.  This is the second time it has done this.  I’m now on my old Dell which will barely move at all so not sure how much work I will accomplish on this rainy Wednesday in the north country (too rainy to plant my seed potatoes as I had planned).  This computer also overheats and just shuts off any damn time it feels like it so if you actually see this blog it will be a miracle.  Our brand new Palomini RV also keeps blowing a fuse and messing up the refrigerator, something I was using for backup over the holiday, and a situation likely to plague on our camping trip west.

I live off the grid partly to escape modern life but this entails relying on (yet more) technology albeit the solar panel/generator variety which can leave me occasionally with candles, oil lamps, and a good book.  I can flush the toilet with water from the cistern if it’s been rainy.  Luckily, this doesn’t happen too frequently.  By the way this old computer shut down in the middle of this blog post to update even though it had done so just last night.  But luckily due to the wonderfulness of technology WordPress saved most of this blog!  A double-edged sword to be sure.

But just so you know, I have some kind of reversed polarity, I think, like those people who get hit by lightning over and over, that somehow fritzes out all electronic devices– to name only a few new devices that quit:  Toasters, vacuum cleaners (multiple), computers, phones, refrigerators–I was the only one whose microphone didn’t work at the recent Wayne State Made In Michigan celebration even though they’d tested it first (and when the tech girl came near me with another microphone, it also stopped working eventually).  There you go.

I wasn’t meant to cohabit with little pluses and minuses.

So now that I’m done griping I will get some brunch for my son Josh (I have better luck with propane) and then attempt some work on my memoir cookbook.  This whole fiasco has cost me more than five hours.  But I also am blessed with a son named John who graduated in Media Productions who will likely fix my new computer in a week or so.

Life is good….