Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Tell Me Why

When I was little, my mom would sometimes sing a song called "Tell Me Why". Some of you may be familiar with it---the first lines go, "Tell me why the stars do shine. Tell me why the ivy twines....." It's a lovely little song with a pretty score, and I've always wanted to figure out how to do a bit of needlework with the images in my mind that this song conjures up for me. Haven't gotten that far yet. In the meantime, though, I think about the three words "Tell me why". When kids are little, they ask that question often. I remember each of my kids following me around, asking "Why?" for what seemed like an endless amount of time, until finally I would reply "Because I said so," or something equally parental in nature. It was their way of finding out about how things work, and about how long they could test me, I suppose. It is also a good way of learning new things.
You may remember that a few days ago, when I posted that the flowers are in bloom, I mentioned the lupines looking so wonderful. Lupines are blooming everywhere. I also said that, despite our best efforts, we seemed to be the only ones in Cook County that couldn't grow lupines. Why couldn't we grow lupines? I never did figure it out. As it turns out, I had written too soon. A couple of days ago, I noticed that we finally had a lupine flower on the plant right next to our Heston's Lodge Country sign, at the top of our driveway. What a welcome sight, after all of these years. I even planned to take a picture of it, to post here, I just haven't gotten that far yet.
This afternoon, Greg was on his way up to the garage to do an errand. He noticed someone had stopped at the top of the hill, and he saw a woman bend over and cut our lupine flower! When she saw him, she jumped back into her Suburban, and the fellow with her took off down the road. Now I ask you, why would someone cut the one lone flower that I had there? With it right next to my sign, it obviously was on private property. Just a quarter mile back on the county road, there were several blossoms that were left untouched. I realize that she would have no way of knowing how long it had taken me to grow that flower, and how happy I was to see it there. I just don't understand. So unfortunately, I don't have a photo of my lupine success.

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Race For Life

OK, this is not strictly in the remit of my blog as it's not technically something touristy, but it is something which features quite prominently in the collective conciousness of North Devon women. It's the Cancer Research charity run undertaken by women all over the country and it's becoming more and more of an event in this corner of England. This year the race was so popular that, for the first time, they had to run two, one at 11.00 and one at 2.30. And for weeks before the race everywhere you look there are women out running the streets in training. It's a 5km run (or walk) and supporters line the whole route, clapping and cheering you on.

This is the third year I've done it, with my oldest daugher. I walked it in 42 mins and she ran it in 33 mins. I think she could have done it faster but she went with a friend and they walked the last k. The photo above is of women at the start of the race, I would have included one of me finishing but my husband was so busy photographing other women he neglected to take any photos of me whatsoever!

Monday, 19 June 2006

And finally......

Saturday was an amazing day. We are not the only folks on the trail who are often finishing a cabin project while the guests are driving up! This time, we were done, except for the picture-taking, with about an hour to spare. When John and Donna arrived, Greg was just heading back to the cabin to take the pictures. Unfortunately, he ended up with a camera that had two dead batteries. John came to his rescue, and graciously lent Greg the use of his digital camera, so that we could get this photo to the blog (and to Sharlene in Alaska!). Here it is, a look at the new and improved Cedar Point Cabin.

An Early Berry Report

The daisies are in full bloom along the roadsides and in the open areas. To me, this means strawberries. When I was a teenager living in Duluth, I would ride my bike to a nearby meadow and pick strawberries. The plants grow close to the ground, amidst all of the daisies, and in that neighborhood, everything bloomed and ripened at the same time. Up here, I've noticed that they are usually a couple of weeks apart. But this year, everything is a bit mixed up. I am seeing lots of flowers, and berries that are ripening. Most of the ones I checked were still green and white, but with our sunshine they will be red soon. It is a lot of work to pick wild strawberries, but I consider it a labor of love. They make excellent jam.

Much to my surprise, when I went on the boat ride a week and a half ago, I actually saw green berries on the blueberry bushes. I was checking the bushes, expecting to see flowers, but the flowers must be long gone. Some of our guests were hiking today on the Kekakabic trail, and they, too, saw green berries. Looks like it is going to be an early season for blueberry picking....get your buckets ready!

For those who like thimbleberries, the plants are in full flower. These berries are bright red, and similar in shape to raspberries. They are very tart, and because of that, they are Greg's favorite berry. We try to make a thimbleberry pie for him for his birthday, and we try not to sweeten it too much. One year, we took all of the sugar out, at his request. It turned out to be much too sour, and he had to add a bit of honey. One of these years, we will get it just right!

The raspberries are just beginning to get blossoms. These are my favorite berry. It has been several years since I found time to pick enough for a batch of jam. But I do usually gather some to make a batch of raspberry blonde bars. It is also a real treat to stuff a few berries into a s'more when you are sitting at a campfire near a ripe bush. Try it--gourmet s'mores in the woods!

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Gold Coast Oceanfest

Oceanfest is the center piece in the crown of the North Devon Festival. This year it was being held at Croyde over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These photos are just a snap shot of what goes on. We went in on Friday night, Saturday daytime and Sunday evening. There was loads that we didn't see. For me, the best bit was sitting watching the bands with the sun on my face and a beer in my hand. Excellent! There are bands on stage almost constantly until late into the night.

The children enjoyed having a go at everything: climbing, trampolining, bouncy castle. On the beach you can try your hand at surfing with lessons for beginners, or just sit and enjoy the football, volleyball or other exhibition sports on show. There was an Aquathon, although I wasn't quite sure whether that was something you could join in with or just enjoy watching. And an event which involved paddling your surfboard from Croyde round to Saunton, the beach next door.

Friday is schools day with events laid on especially for the schools. It is also FREE! Of course it's free on the beach anyway, but Saturday and Sunday you have to pay to get into the field where the stage, the bike displays and the skateboards are. My advice would be to purchase your tickets online and go and pick them up on Friday. This will saving queuing as on Saturday you can then walk straight in - very satisfying and almost VIP-like to walk past all those people (and there were a lot of them) who hadn't pre-bought tickets!

Also inside the grounds are various stalls from skate and surf shops like Animal and Billabong, jewellery stalls, tents full of skateboards, canoes, etc. Then there is every kind of food van you could possibly imagine from your standard fish and chips, to pasta, mexican food, crepes, and cappucinos. Its also quite safe to let older ones go wandering. My eldest daughter founds some friends on Saturday and we didn't see her for hours, although she did throw the usual teenage strop when we made her come back so that we could go to the beach together.

A lot of the nearby fields were filled with campers, and some of these were locals (the aforementioned teenage daughters friends). Next year I think we might do the same. Then I can spend longer in front of the music stage, with my beer, and not have to worry about getting home!

Monday, 12 June 2006

Too Long with No Writing

Oh, my, I didn't intend to take such a long break from the blog. My apologies to my loyal readers. I assure you, Greg has not allowed me to spend that time reading good books and eating chocolate. Rather, he has had a series of hats for me to wear.....Namely, I was first a floor-sander, and then a floor-varnisher. It meant some pretty intense hours of work over several days, but the end results are very much worth it. I haven't seen a floor that glows like that birch does. Most of the boards are from blowdown wood that the Hull family sawed for us in 1999. There wasn't quite enough to do both rooms, so Greg had the Hulls saw up some extra boards from birch trees harvested near Two Harbors. It is interesting to see the color variation and patterning in the wood from the two different areas. It is a subtle difference, but nonetheless there.

I have a photo ready to post of the cabin before the varnish was put on the floor. This week, we are headed to the finish line, as our first guests arrive on Saturday for the improved Cedar Point. The kitchen cabinets are now built and in the cabin, and tomorrow Greg will tile the countertops. I can start the final cleaning process by wiping down the remaining sawdust powder and washing the windows. I am anxious to move the furniture back in, and to see the new arrangement in the kitchen. Though it is going to be an extremely busy week, it is also exciting.

While I've been hanging out in Cedar Point, summer has gone in to high gear. The forest is looking lush and thick. It is amazing how the coat of green that covers the young poplar saplings really fills in the gaps wrought by our blowdown. It looks like a forest again. The flowers are back, and I never tire of seeing (or smelling!) them. On my way home from town today, I saw masses of daisies and yellow hawkweed, patches of wild roses, and lupines galore. We think that we are the only place on the trail that can't get lupines to grow. We've tried, but not much luck yet. In the meantime, we keep on enjoying the long stretches of them along the Gunflint Trail. In the past, I have dyed wool with lupine flowers. The dyebath is supposed to yield a green, and if you overdye with indigo, you get teal. We didn't quite make it to that color, but as soon as I am able to grow my own patch, I will try again.

Last week, we went for a Wednesday night boat ride with our guests Russ, Mary Lou, and Jordan. They have a twenty-foot john boat that was perfect for cruising on a beautiful evening. We went to Little Rock Falls, and were lucky enough to see some pink moccasin flowers still in bloom. These are close relatives to the showy Lady Slipper, but are a deeper pink and not as frilly. I have been on this trail in previous years and seen these flowers, so it seems to be an excellent spot for viewing them. But it is only for a short while in the early part of summer. The water was running hard through the falls, and the water trail to Sag, up the Pine and Granite Rivers, looked most inviting. We didn't see any canoe parties passing through, due to the hour of the day, but I imagine that it is getting busier. It is a favorite canoe route of many folks.
We have had reports of moose sightings on the trail, including at least one new baby. I haven't heard about many bears, but I'm sure they are out there. On a trip home from town last week, Robert and I saw three turtles on the road. This is the time of the year that they cross, to find an ideal spot for laying their eggs. Greg recalls seeing a large gas delivery truck stopped on the road ahead of him several years ago. He stopped,too, as the driver was out of the truck in the middle of the trail. Turns out he was using a broom to encourage a turtle across the road, so that she wouldn't get hit by a car. Now that is certainly a deed well done.
Addie has left us, and is now in Eagle, Alaska, with Grandma Sharlene and Grandpa Jim. She is working as a tour guide for the historical society, until mid-July. As she sends us notes, I will include some reports here. She flew in to Fairbanks, where she spent the first weekend of June. During that time, it was chilly, and it even snowed. After the eighty degree days of Memorial weekend, that was a bit hard to take. It has warmed up some now, and hopefully she won't see anymore of the white stuff until fall.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

North Devon Leisure Centre

North Devon Leisure Center is located in Barnstaple across the bridge from the main town centre by the river bank. It has changed hands a lot in recent years and has come in for a bit of stick in the local press about cleanliness but it seemed OK yesterday when we went for daughter number two's birthday party. However, we did have an inordinate amount of trouble booking the party. First it couldn't be done because the only person who knew how to use the computer was on holiday, then there was a big argument about the price. I don't think I'll bother with a birthday party there again, but it's OK if you are a keen swimmer, or want to use any of the other facilities - sports hall, gym, dojo, etc.

We hired the inflatable for the party, great fun, but I think they may have it out for Joe Public to use at other times. Insider Tip: Use Lidl's car park across the road, it's free - although the public car park at the back of the centre doesn't actually cost that much.

Friday, 9 June 2006


The house, just visible in the top left hand corner, is National Trust property and has a shop and a lovely tea room and gardens. To reach it you need to park in the car park at the top of the valley and follow a path through the woods down to the river. It is the only building for miles around and is an excellent starting point for many walks. Watersmeet is so called as it is the place where the East Lyn and Hore Oak Water meet. From here you can follow either river back up stream or take one of several paths downstream.

Yesterday I came here with 59 school children who were all very well behaved and didn't disturb the beautiful peace of the countryside (too much!). We walked downstream into the town of Lynmouth. It should have been a beautiful stroll on a sunny day through leafy woodland following the path of the river. A word of warning at this point. When you come to a fork in the path and the right is signposted Lynmouth, the left takes you across a footbridge and has no signpost, and you map shows you a non-existant path straight ahead - go left! If you follow the signs to Lynmouth, as I did (logically, as that was our destination) you end up going on a two mile route march through some VERY steep terrain and along a narrow path with an almost sheer drop to your left as you look down on the river from a great hieght!

Still, we did have a good day. More about what to do in Lynmouth in another post.

Sunday, 4 June 2006

Bideford Park

Bideford has THE best park in North Devon. It has loads in it. There are two main playing areas for children with swings, slides and climbing frames - much better than the two park playareas in Barnstaple. There is also this paddling pool. I remember (a long time ago) this was originally intended to be a boating lake - like that was ever going to happen! This is a much better idea. It's walled in and has plenty of grass all around for people to sit on. The kids love it.

As well as all that there is a playing field, lots of grassy areas to sit on, the Burton Art Gallery in one corner of the park, and my favourite as a child, the castle! It's not as grand as it sounds - more like a raised concrete roundabout with fortifications around it, but it is also surrounded by real cannons, some of which were used against the Spanish Armada. It's great for playing in, or just having fun sitting on and climbing over the cannons.

And then, just outside the gates, there is my old favourite - the Hockings Ice Cream van. Don't they just get everywhere? Yum!

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Croyde Beach

This is Croyde beach, situated about 8 miles outside Barnstaple. It's a popular destination for surfers and if any of you are so inclined there are plenty of surf-cam's and websites ready to report on the weather conditions. Today the surf was quite flat but there were still surfers in abundence on the water. We ventured in up to our ankles and then decided it was far too cold to go any further. Only our littlest one ran in and out with no regard for the temperature.

The sands were plesantly warm and a cool breeze kept everyone from overheating. It also disguised the strength of the sun. One of my children is now delightfully refering to me as a peach. Lobster would be a more accurate assessment!

The beach is accessed from either side of the village of Croyde. We parked in the car park just past Saunton, pricy at �3, but that's about the going rate wherever you go. The alternative is to drive through Croyde and park on the other side, or walk from the village, but this can be a hike. On the far side of the beach from where we were there are Life Guards but the red and yellow flags are so close together people are crammed in like sardines. Much better to have your own space and watch your own children. Especially when they're more interested in building sandcastles than freezing in the sea. We build a whopper today.