Pictures from 2013

New Foster Irene we had for January

Cooper's waiting for lunch

Lots of deer

Bea wondering if the camera is good to eat

March greenhouse

more Snow Dogs

the morel harvest this year

June Greenhouse

galic drying

Jo Lee and Karen, dinner at Scenic

Wine caps in the garden bed!

Campsite on Georgian Bay

October walk at Sugarloaf Cove

Coastline in far eastern PEI


11 Nov 2013
It is in the nature of websites to be out of date. Time to catch up. It's a cold November morning out and I'm avoiding the deer hunters, so a good time to sit by a sunny window and let friends know what we've been doing.

Most recent first. We are making the transition from late autumn to early winter. Having a fire most nights; Elliot had it wrong: November (cloudy and cold) is the cruelest month---at least for solar houses. Got the chimney cleaned and and other winterizing done. Made the transition to winter greenhouse a couple of weeks ago (pull out the last tomatoes, put in the raab, pak choi, and baby greens, transplant in arugula from the garden). Garden was prolific in winecap mushrooms, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, beans and some squash. Leaves me looking for a good sauerkraut recipe. Also picked up our meat for the year: 1/2 pig from a neighbor (thank you Scott), chickens, turkey and 1/2 a lamb from an organic farmer near Mora. Two freezers full with the vegetables. LOTS of tomatoes this year, mostly from the greenhouse; we like to 'tickle' the skins off and freeze them in a bag, but made lots of sauce, also.

In late October we traveled south to Arkansas, visiting Jodie Falconer overnight in Iowa City (thank you Jodie), and visiting Gene's sister in Bull Shoals, AR a short distance from the NAMA annual foray written up in our travel sectiion. Fun to travel together. The blue highways in Missouri on the way down were interesting as well as the less touristized Ozarks. Thanks to Scott for taking care of things while we were away. Time on the drives was for talking, listening to audiobooks and knitting. Gene took up spinning the fiber from when we brush out the dogs into yarn and now knit into some simple caps; next: socks!

Prior to going south, we went north to visit Susan Schereron the Gunlfint. On the way, we stopped at Sugarloaf Cove and walked the trails; still a lot of mushrooms: some large edible Lactarius just past prime, fairy rings of large agarics and much more. Susan is always a joy to visit with great food and good company. This time she invited a local chef and his wife who are interested in edible mushrooms; we had a good dinner.

The garlic tasting from this year's experiment didn't happen until September but was a smash! Two dinners of three types each pressed on toast and with cooked in olive oil on pasta with parmesean; not elaborate meals, but brought out the best of the garlic and us. Well, the pinot grigio might have helped on the latter. Went to reorder the winners (Brown Rose, the most prolific and best taste all around; Siskyou Purple runner up) and found one sold out. So replanted the bulbs we had left and ordered some similar varieties (The Garlic Store). At this time (Nov) the new garlic is several inches high in the greenhouse beds. Also replanted the smaller leeks from the garden into the greenhouse to see if it will grow. Aug 2013
Busy month for traveling. We attended the Northeast Myco Foray which was in Rimouski, Quebec this year. Karen had a class in Duluth at the start, so Gene went solo and took advantage of the trip to do a three day kayak trip in Georgian Bay. This is a n archipelago of rocky islands on the Canadian shore of Lake Huron with lots of kayakers but lots of room. Great place. Used because I didn't want to haul the kayak and gear for the whole trip.

Then headed east to Montreal where HI has a site next to downtown; very interesting and very urban. Hadn't quite realized the distances in Quebec. Rimouski is half way out the Gaspe penninsula, many hours drive but only part way across Quebec. This is an area that was clear cut several times and is recovering. In fact several of the very good programs dealt with the mycological impact of cutting down the previously dominant spruce. More stories, but you'll have to sit down with us. Karen flew in to Rimouski and attended the last part of the foray.

Then on through New Brunswick--there is a lot of NB--to Prince Edward Island. A several mile long bridge takes you to this massive sandbar with a lot of history and pretty places. Formerly part of the maritime fisheries, the economy is obviously tourism. But they've done a pretty good job of it. We took a kayak trip down a river and found some nice restaurants and a reasonable hostel in Charlotteton. Then on across even more New Brunswick to Maine, across Maine to Bethel to stay at a hostel we wanted to check out near the Appalachian Trail; even hiked a little bit of it in the rain. We were definitely on the homeward bound leg, but checked out northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York on the way back through Ontario and across Wisconsin to home.

Jul 2013
Before we took off east, Gene went west to Glacier Park for a mushroom class with Tim Wheeler, co-organizer of the Montana Mycological Society, sponsored by Glacier Institute. Tim was knowledgeable and personable and the institute is great. Love the train and took the Amtrak to West Glacier, a pretty trip. Originally, I thought I would hop on a bus up to Banff/Jasper and sightsee before taking ViaRail back to Winipeg or Thunder Bay; found out there is zero public transportation across the border between Seattle and Sault Ste Marie! Thinking again, I decided to continue on the Amtrak to Seattle, spent a day walking around there, ferried to the San Juans for some kayaking, then to Vancouver and on the ViaRail there. BC and the Rockies are gorgeous from the train, the food is good, and the staff are friendly. Karen drove up to Winipeg to pick me up. On the way back we toured the Big Bog area in northern MN with our friend Elizabeth Blaire. After completing MN Master Naturalist certification at Sugarloaf Cove, Karen spent a lot of time there this summer and fall: attending a two-day bird banding course with Naturalist Margie Mendes, going on an Advanced course to see Sudbury impact sites up the Gunflint Trail, and hosting at the Cove Visitor Center while Margie and other certified bird banders were banding birds every Saturday from 6 am to noon. Lake Superior is always lovely there! Later this fall, Gene and I spent some time hiking the Cove’s Interpretive Trail, through plantation pine and logging camp remnants and down by the lake shore looking at the Cove’s unique geological features. Check out the Sugarloaf cove website for events this winter, including geology walks and talks on peregrines and bats!

During September, Karen volunteered at Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center planting white pine seedlings near the new campsites off Ryan Road. The sites are water accessible and quite lovely and fairly remote, but with good toilet facilities within a reasonable distance. I saw what I thought were oyster mushrooms and so after planting in the morning I came back home to get the dogs for a walk there to check it out. They found a flattened porcupine on the way out to the parking area and rolled in it before I figured out what they were doing, resulting in quills sticking out all over their orange doggie coats (thank goodness!) but not too much in them, we thought. Star started limping soon after, so we took her into the vet and she was put on a two-week course of painkillers and antibiotics in case any quills were still stuck in her legs/feet. It turned out well, but I need to keep an eye out for porcupines, flattened or otherwise, during future walks in the woods!

A busy summer and well worth it!


10 Jun 2013
Weather finally warmed up last week. Mosquitoes are now viscious. Birding is hampered by all those leaves!

The garden got planted in late May with some frost damage. Beans, squash and sweet potatoes just went in this week. Harvested the garlic and drying in the greenhouse; we put together a protocol to taste test the eight varieties grown. The aphid and slug wars were brutal, but doing better now.

Fungi have been slow starting. Karen just found the first oysters today. No morel sightings this year. Got the Boulder Lake inventory going, but slow. Gene started Sunday morning walks at Boulder Lake Environmental center and is having fun, but not much interest by others. The personal purpose is to do the fungal inventory and gain more naturalist experience.

Karen's Missa Solemnis concert with the DSSO chorus went well. We went out with new friends afterward and had a great time. We also did the Scenic Cafe for Karen's and Jo Lee's birthday in May and had a great time. Karen finished her MN Naturalist training and also did a bird banding class at Sugar Loaf Cove on the Lake. Now we can both volunteer for naturalist programs.

Time seems short now before Gene's trips west to Glacier and Seattle and our trip to Quebec for the NEMF foray, followed by Prince Edward Island and the mountains of Maine. Looking forward......


14 Apr 2013
OK, enough already. 7 inches of wet snow following 9 inches a few days before. Running out of place to plow the snow. The garden sets are ready to plant, but that will be two weeks at the inside.

Redpolls are mostly gone again. One lonely junco has shown up. I can imagine him saying "They were going to meet me here, but where are they?" Certainly no warblers yet.

Got my dovetail jig and making drawers. Might even get them done soon. This winter has mixed up the priorities list. Hopefully hauled in the last loads of firewood, but ....


7 Apr 2013
Took the dogs for a ski on the new snow! Actually kind of nice to have a good part of winter extended. Saw the first pair of Evening Grosbeaks and a Junko. Spring is coming....slowly.


5 Apr 2013
There is a foot of crusty snow on the ground yet, but snow is forcast for the next several days. May get one more chance to ski. Haven't had a fire for several days and it gets up in the 70's in the afternoon; this is the time of year that passive solar is mostly enough heat. My solar hot water system seems to be behaving again; was air-locked. Gives us all the hot water we want to use.

A pair of Evening Grosbeaks showed up today. The Pine Grosbeaks have been absent for a month save a pair or two in mid-March. Redpolls mostly left a week ago with a few straglers; headed for their breeding grounds up north, I guess. No sign of the Red-bellied Woodpecker since February. The Pileateds are drumming and Chickadees are shouting their spring "Hey, Sweetie!"

Everything is bolting in the greenhouse, due to heat I expect. Time for the changover to summer crops. I cleared winter crops (mostly second growth raab and napa cabbage) in tomato/cuke rows and added new soil (1 bag composted manure, 1/2 cup blood meal, 1/2 cup bone meal, 1/2 cup greensand, 1 1/2 cup crushed eggshells, 2 cups dried coffee grounds). Summer sets have been going for a couple weeks and looking good, some potted up already. Will be a couple weeks yet for things that go outside early. Last years warm spring fooled me a bit .

Starting a Boulder Lake Walks group on Sunday mornings this summer. My focus is on a long term fungi inventory, but will be doing birds, flowers, whatever. The schedule is on Google Calendars as 'Boulder Lake Walks.' Should be fun to be outdoors. I also want to do more of the 'trails' (logging roads and four-wheeler tracks) in the Cloquet Valley State Forest.

We have two trips planned for this year so far: the NEMF foray in Rimouski, Quebec in August and the NAMA foray in Arkansas in October. Practicing some 'simple' French to get by on. Seems that we planned to travel more, but being here....why is it I would want to leave?


12 Mar 2013
Great ski through the woods! We got 9 inches of new snow, covering my wood-hauling sled paths which made a firm base for skiing. Some brushing in the plan for next fall to expand the trails. We seem to be in the March 'warm up and snow, clear off and get cold' cycle normal for this type of year.

Believe I got ahead a year for our wood. With what we will have left over, we should have enough for next year and most of the next. A fair bit of work, but enjoyable in it's way. As good a workout as a helth club, and for a purpose.

We still have a few Grosbeaks left and lots of Redpolls. No Siskins back yet; they and the Junkos been gone since November. The Red-bllied Woodpecker has been absent for a month now, but a Plieated has been around. Maybe a month before the real migrants are here.

Karen is enjoying her Master Naturlist class at Sugar Cove. Learning a lot. Got caught in the snowstorm last Saturday and had to overnight in Silver Bay. Looking forward to the mushrooming season. Hope to do a Sunday morning nature walk at Boulder Lake, one that brakes for fungi, birds, and wildflowers; should be open to anyone who wants to come along. Anna Greneday is starting her class again, so Gene is traveling to St Paul the 1st and 3rd Mondays. Karen has choral practice with DSSO Monday nights though. Will try to keep our calendar up to date so if someone wants to get together when we're down, give us a call.

Today anyway, skiing is great. Winter is still OK.


01 Mar 2013
Lots of Pine Grosbeaks and Redpolls this year, and reports of Boreal and Hawk owls in Duluth. Reportedly a seed failure farther north brings them down. One morning we watched a male pileated wreak havoc on a dead birch; big oval hole, so assuming this was looking for food, not nesting or breeding behavior. Also had a sharp shinned hawk on the feeder twice, believe two different individuals larger (female) and small er (male). Odd for them to land on the feeder, although they lurk around often as noted by songbirds scattering and freezing. Lots of deer tracks, and a group of three wanders by down the hill and up to the feeder fairly often. The squirrels have a honeycomb of tunnels in the snow below the feeder and down the hill, one assumes to feed on the ground and spilled seed.

We have lots of snow 10 - 18 in.) on the ground with a crust from recent thawing. A week of sunshine brought the slab temp up to 78 F, so we skipped a fire that night. Doing well with this year's fire wood, and cutting some more birch and maple for hopefully two years from now. My neighbor has a splitter, but I enjoy doing it by hand if the pile is not too big. Doing winter things takes my attention from the To Do list for what is left to do on the house.

We have our nest in the basement of our duplex in St Paul fixed up pretty nicely for when we are in town. Long term plan is to sell it, but a nice place to spend a few nights. New tenants are in and getting settled. We've been down for this and that, and now Anna Greneday is starting her class again so one or the other of us will be down often. Hope we can plan things with friends.

Karen's singing at Carnegie Hall went very well. This was with her former choir at St John's in St Paul doing a Bluegrass Mass with Monroe Crossing. She stayed near Central Park and enjoyed New York. Next week she starts practice with the DSSO chorus for a spring concert up here. She has also started Master Naturalist training that is at Sugarloaf Cave Environmental Center on Lake Superior; Susan Scherer invited us to come up for this. This is the same course Gene took at Boulder Lake last year, but with a different course leader. This is volunteer training for a wide range of activities.

Bea is developing into an affection sponge. Quite a change from a little over a year ago. Her coat is fully grown out now (was shaved at the shelter before we got her) and is a healthy, happy dog. She is a clown in the snow even more than Star. They are playing more in the yard and love to go for walks in the woods with lots of good sniffs.

This is the 'feels like Spring is coming' time that is such a come on until the next bout of cold and snow. But we can feel it from here.


01 Feb 2013
Living up in the woods is not for people whit narrow tolerances. We have had a number of -20 F and on -30 F. We have had beautiful snow for skiing and rain coating things with ice. Inside the temps have swung from (very occasionally) 55 to 68 F. We are blessedly people who can put on a sweater and wait for the sun to warm things up. Living with passive solar (think big, low E windows to the south) means the sunshine is much more important to warming it up inside than the temps outside; a pox on cold, cloudy days. I have turned on the backup heat (electric hydronic in the floor) several times. Thankful for the beautiful masonry heater. We are burning the dense oak and maple as well as birch and saving the softer wood for warmer days in March and April.

The cold and lack of sun this winter has slowed down the greenhouse significantly. Everything is surviving, but very slow. Not much demand for watering. Looking forward to the sun and longer days of February. I've had to boost the temp in the greenhouse with a small heater to keep it habitable for the cold tolerant crops in there. Still, a taste of arugula, celery, or raab is appreciated. Already starting leeks for this summer; other things will be started in March.

We had a short period with three Pyrenees dogs. Irene was a short term foster from Superior, WI that was a 10 month and 75 pound 'puppy', mostly by behavior. Very smart, well socialized dog in good condition. But LOTS of energy and a nearly constant contest with Star. She went on to the North Star Pyrenees Rescue after a couple weeks, but the remaining dogs seem more energized, especially Bea who plays more now.

Karen has a short term contract in the city, so I'm up here without her most of the time. Should end when she goes to Carnegie Hall in a couple weeks to sing the Bluegrass Mass with a large assembly of choirs who sang it before. She enjoys her 'weekends' back on the land. Our efficiency in St Paul is helpful and turning into a nice place to stay. We finally rented the upstairs unit in the duplex where we lived. Perhaps a benchmark in our continuing change in lifestyle. We are talking about what we want to do this year: Arkansas NAMA in October, but not much else planned.

Lots of changes and possibilities.


08 Jan 2013
We are 15 pounds of sausage further through the pork we bought. The process went much better this year and still fun! We shared our pork with a friend and still have plenty. No venison this year.

Believe we are through the worst part of the winter. November and parts of December the past few years have been cloudy and cold which is not good for passive solar. A few mornings in the fifties in the house. We have hydronic heating for the floor, but so far have not used it. Blessed that we are both tolerant of a big swing in temperatures. The harvest of wood for next year is getting along slowly but have almost two cords stacked and drying (not much during the winter); glad we don't have to do it all at once as it can be hard work. We both enjoy the process, so 'good on us'. Enjoying the fires in the masonry heater and use of the bake oven.

Still lots of Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks at the feeder. Karen saw the grey fox recently and we had prints up to the window. Believe they are denned in the hole in front of the house. The dogs love the sniffs.

Not much for mycology except the NAMA foray. Major vacation for us in December in Sanat Cruz, CA. A fun time for both of us! The facility was in the redwoods outside Santa Cruz and featured very good homeade meals. Good accomodations. The forays (lots of them) were well organized and led; we found several hundred species and contributed edibles to the mycophagy (good!) demonstrations with world class chefs. We met a bunch of people with which we would like to stay in touch. Karen especially enjoyed the beginner's foray with Gary Lyncoff, always a treat! The programs were national level and expanded my knowledge, for sure. After NAMA, we stayed at the HI hostel in Santa Cruz (recommended!) for a few days and did the local. The Elephant Seals at Año Nuevo State Park were awesome! 5,000 pound males vying for harems. A great walk and the docent was great. We managed to get to Bib Basin Redwoods also and did the short walk; huge and awe inspiring trees. The UCSC campus and ocean research center where great. We spent the last night on the wharf for dinner watching the last surfers and sunset.

We had a great Christmas dinner with our neighbors, The Frisbys including two daughters and a son-in-law. Fun to be included. Got new sleeping bags for the grandkids for (hopefully) their visits this spring. Otherwise, we spent a fairly quiet Christmas at home with a good meal and the comfort of each other's company. What a treat. New Years Eve Karen was part of a flash mob that sang the 1812 Overture with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra in Duluth. Ach! Didn't write about Karen's singing in Elijah with the DSSO in November; a major piece of work and well attended and performed.

Looking forward to another great year!