The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
October 1998

It's Been a While, October 27

Title of the Month: Waisted Efforts, an Illustrated Guide to Corset Making

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It's Been a While
Tuesday, October 27

For some reason I just haven't gotten around to writing, but will fix that now.

It's been an eventful October: lovely weather, getting ready for winter, a short vacation trip and some family affairs.

People here are quite giddy about the weather. Here in the Twin Cities we haven't yet had a serious frost. The mail carriers are still wearing shorts. I still have some roses, other flowers, some tomatoes, and I picked the last pepper yesterday. It was a cold, sad looking pepper, but a pepper nonetheless.

A few weeks ago Denny and I drove up the North Shore of Lake Superior (which is really the west shore, but that's what people call it) during the height of the fall color season. It was a wonderful drive, stopping in Duluth for some bookstore saling and lunch, then on up 61, past Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, and up to Grand Marais. Oddly, the trip was enhanced by Peter Schickele (I'm sure I misspelled that, and anyway, most people know him as PDQ Bach) on PBS educating us about yodeling.

We got to Grand Marais just as everything was closing, but walked around, had some supper and went back to our disgustingly modern hotel room. Walked around some more the next morning admiring the seagulls, then drove further north through the yellow leaves, stopping at Grand Portage, which isn't very grand. Rather small, in fact. It was named after the long portage the fur traders had to make to connect to a navigable river from the coast.

There is a nice reconstruction of a fur trading fort there, on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. We walked around, petted furs, and later lunched at the Trading Post on an exotic microwaved burrito, which was quite good, although not what one would expect to find at an Indian trading post Up North.

Then we drove over the Canadian border to Thunder Bay and found a hotel, the Prince Arthur. Not only was it half the price of the previous place, but it overlooked the beautiful Bay and marina and park. The room was huge, and had a fridge and microwave, and plenty of character. Much better. It even made up for the smell of the pulp mills, which reminded me of the Pacific Northwest. Quite pungent.

Since it was Sunday, and nearly everything was closed, we walked around, found an open grocery, and bought ready-made food to heat in the room. Canadians, at least the ones in Thunder Bay, really seem to love ham and pineapple pizza. It was available frozen in nearly every conceivable way. Denny was delighted. We got some frozen pizza buns for breakfast, some pierogies that could be microwaved, a packet of creamed spinach for me, and something called Gypsy salami. We don't think it was made of Gypsies, but it was very good.

I watched exotic Canadian television while Denny read. There was a lovely documentary about canoeing the Lake Superior area which was just beautiful. We also found out that Old Fort William was open for the last day for the season the next day, which was Canadian Thanksgiving, and decided to go.

After the pizza bun breakfast we drove to the site of Old Fort William. All of the actors who play the roles of the inhabitants during the summer were long gone, but we got an hour and a half guided tour from a young man named Eagle, dressed in a blanket coat, moccasins, calico, and beads, and very in character, speaking of the Fort only in the present tense.

He was very patient with our little party, especially the man who apparently couldn't get over being around a 'real' Native and made cute comments about his camera being a 'soul stealer' when he wanted Eagle to pose for a photo with his wife. Eventually he calmed down. Eagle knew a lot and the place is very large.

We saw a working blacksmith’s shop, the canoe shop, a tinsmith’s shop, the stores, the surgeon's house, the "Gentlemens' Quarters", the bakery, what was left of the gardens—all sorts of things. Many buildings , many nice details like the children's clothes laid out on their beds, the trade goods lined up for display, the furs hanging rank by rank, and the trade blankets piled up high.

Eagle showed us the Great Hall, where the night before there had been an actual Thanksgiving dinner. The huge fireplace still had smoldering embers. He said it was very nice with all the candles lit and the fire blazing, with music and dancing.

That day the Fort was chilly, damp, and very quiet. I could see what it would be like with all the players there later on. The little native settlement was small and a little sad in the damp, but compared to the large clumpy stockade, rather nice.

I complimented our guide on doing such a good job, and he broke character enough to chat a bit while the others were looking at some china cabinets. I was sorry he had to spend his holiday showing us around, but was glad he did.

Those poor Voyageurs. What a difficult life they must have led. They risked their lives much of the year for very little pay and less respect. They weren't even allowed in the fort unless under supervision. Eagle says the Indians of the region fared pretty well with the trading.

We hope to go back another time when the place is a bit livelier. At a fabric store I bought some polar fleece, dark green with buffaloes on it to make my own blanket coat. The point blankets cost way too much.

On the drive back the next day we savored every bit of the color we could. I was coming down with the cold Denny was just getting over. I think the pulp mills helped it along. The trip was a nice break and reminded us of how beautiful the region is, and how full of history.

So we had a good time and recharged our batteries. The cats were glad to see us.

Hope all is well out there. Take good care of yourselves,


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright © 1998 by Terry A. Garey.