Simple living amidst the wildflowers of summer

This has been my year to discover wildflowers I have
never noticed before. Delighted in my ability to reuse a box of old tin coffee
percolators as cabin-style vases, I have found great peace and relaxation in
walking up and down these old roads in search of different flowers. I had never
noticed the delicate purple vervain before. Lavender- like it stands on tall
spikes and puts the perfect purple touch in each bouquet. Joe Pye Weed is also
a new delight for me. For years I had heard my grandmother sing the praises of
Joe Pye Weed, and maybe I noticed it before, but I certainly never loved it
before as I do now. On stiff stems it rises, blooms clenched tight in a dark
magenta hue, then slowly opening to a feathery wisp of pink. Pearly
Everlastings line the roads, and might go missed by those whizzing by too busy
to stop to look at the delicate flowers, which are similar to strawflowers and
as one guest informed me dry perfectly to make wreaths and fall arrangements. I
am somewhat disappointed in the name of Fleabane, its purplish hue fading to
white over time, it seems like an aster, and I feel as if it should have a
better name, but it doesn’t. To my surprise there are still clumps of fireweed
to be found here and there and to my horror I have found one clump of the
dreaded Purple Loosestrife in a small stream. I am not pleased to see its
brilliant spikes of purple flowers, its tall stalks of brightly colored flowers
entice, it is long lasting in bouquets, but I feel as if I am handling toxic
waste when I deal with it. Can I have gotten a seed on my shoe, did one catch
in my shirt. I’m sure my fears are someone unfounded but at the same time, I loathe the plant so many admire. It chokes out ponds, streams, clogging the flow of water, and destroying native riparian habitat, one more example of how humans can so foolishly create havoc in their own ecosystem. The words of the Lorax come to mind when handling loosestrife “unless.” Unless someone cares enough toeradicate its presence, it will take over and destroy special places.

I have enjoyed finding clumps of Meadowsweet,  vetch, Daisies,  Hawkweed, Black Eyed Susan’s and, yarrow. These are flowers I normally would  associate
with the fields of my family’s farm. I have found the perfect places to find
Queen Anne Lace’s and St. Johnswort, and the first clumps of Blooming Asters. I
have marveled at the stately spires of Mullein and a few guests have found one
as the centerpiece of their bouquets’. As I go along gathering, I am learning
more than just wildflowers, I am taking note of the soil types and particular
slopes and areas these plants choose. Some like the fleabane are prolific and
can be found most anywhere, but others are much more particular about the
habitat in which they dwell. As I have walked down the roads, with the hot
sunshine of summer beating upon me, I have listened to the chirr of
grasshoppers and crickets, I have watched particular areas that the game seem
to be frequenting and made mental notes for autumn.

I have found some particularly lush spots ofraspberries that I have managed to beat the bear to, and I must confess, they delayed my flower expeditions as I had to stop to collect and devour these brightly hued summer treats. Taking myself back to my childhood, I make raspberry leaf sandwiches stuffed with juicy berries for my girls to eat.  I think back to when knowledge of such local
plants would have been extremely useful, and as I collect my summer time
bouquets I hope guests ask me about the flowers, and notice they are not from
the gardens, somewhat saddened that the best use I can give to this botanical
knowledge( in this world of commercial pharmacies and dulled attention to the
natural world) is to place the assortment in a bouquet and hope I spark some
interest. Even Dana has become caught up in my mid-summer flower enthusiasm, bringing home tales and pictures of the Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous herbaceous resident of the marshes of the edge of the pond! Intriqued with the wonders of the bogs, I have sent him forth on his next mission, to discover the small  sundew.

The camp has been alive with children and adults this
summer, kayaks have flecked Spencer pond in a rainbow of colors. We have seen
boys catch their first fish, girls whisper as they catch their first toad, we
have toasted marshmallows, told stories, sung songs, and made memories. From
puzzles to board games, to books and cooking, guests have kept themselves
entertained in the simple ways of the north woods. Nothing flashy, nothing to
fuss over, just simple “clean living” taking it one day at a time, slowly
enjoying the sun, the rain, the wind, and the ever changing hues of the
mountain and pond.

Soon it will be time for fall mushroom forays, and I am
relying on my uncle and his proficiency to guide me into stumbling upon the
treasures that await in these woods.

Our garden is full of cukes, tomatoes, beans, sugar snap
peas, peppers and lettuce. We will soon begin our second planting, hoping to
extend our season well into fall before the killing frosts come. My cosmos and
sunflowers have started to blossom, letting me know that autumn is quick on our
heels.  We have started to harvest our garlic, and next year I think we will need to redo the leek patch. Our soil this year has improved immensely after Dana hauled in multiple loads of cow manure, and we also tossed in some seaweed after each lobster feed, slow and steady, and in time we will have the rich dark nutrient rich earth free of weeds we so desire.

Often people ask us about our daily life and how we do
things. In addition to running all the camp office work, and cabin cleaning, I telecommute five or more days a week from the camps.  In our cabin only, we use solar and wind primarily to power two laptops, a phone, multiple chargers for various electronic devices (from phones to my daughters portable DVD players. )There are two cabins (ours and the Moose) that do not have well-water pumped into the cabin by the hand pumps so we lug our drinking water in a big blue cooler. I have a small portable mixer that we occasionally use when cooking, but most often I mix things by hand (unless I am beating egg whites or whipped cream.) We have a vacuum cleaner that we use occasionally when a glass breaks or I need to clean something intensively. Other than that we don’t use any modern electronics. We live much the way our guests do, with propane and oil lamps (we are currently in the process of converting all our oil lamps and potentially the tractor over to biodiesel). We boil our water to wash the dishes by hand,and we rarely watch a movie or dial up TV on the internet. In our free time wecontent ourselves to talk or read, or play a game of cribbage together.  In the summer we rely on our garden to supply 100% of our vegetables, and what the guests don’t eat, we can, pickle, or make into salsa or sauce. We do not miss much or feel deprived up here.  We also do not waste much, we recycle, reuse,
repurpose whatever we can.  Not only because it is environmentally wise, but more because it just makes sense to plan wisely and conservatively.  We plan
our trips into town /errands to coincide with Dana’s fishing schedule. I
personally have not left camp for close to three weeks and am very contented
with that thought. When I do go out, we buy in our groceries in bulk, and since
I loathe shopping I try to buy enough for two months at a time. If its 7pm at
night and we don’t have something we need we improvise, as the store is not 5
minutes away. It’s a new way of thinking, of living, but we enjoy it. We have a
Zodi shower with a small bilge pump which allows us to take hot showers, and
are currently working on hooking up a gravity fed on demand propane shower
system for our cabin. The girls take baths in a gigantic old tin washtub, we
heat water on the stove and fill it up until it reaches the proper temperature.
As I watch them run wild and free, chasing butterflies, eating blueberries,
twisting themselves dizzy on the swing, I don’t think they feel  deprived either. It is amazing how swiftly and easily our family has adapted to living with less material things, but more “life” so to speak. I am often asked about the girls school, and only our oldest is ready for kindergarten. We home school during the time we are here  which basically means we learn constantly each
day whenever my daughters show an interest in learning. We do plan to return to
our main stream school in the fall, using some of the curriculum as we can work
it in.  We will see how it goes. I believe every day they are learning here, from exposure to different cultures (we have a lot of European visitors) to just curiosity about the natural world, these lessons are building a character for them and a base of social knowledge far richer than anything our public schools can provide. I know I am learning from our guests, we have such amazing people come here and we really enjoy their company. For as many as I am able to give information to, there are at least that many if not more that teach me a variety of things about this pond they love and this area of the North Woods.


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