Posts Tagged 'wisconsin'

Fateful Journey of the First Tomato

The first tomato of the year was almost ripe when we left- so thanks to Heather’s advice, we picked it and took it along with us until it peaked.  I have posted an album of his adventures.  Preview:

SPOILER:  he tasted fantastic.

Head in the Water

Beaver Lake

It was a very nice vacation, and yes, we windsurfed.  Well, not me, I had some sitting around to do, but I watched, and volunteered to join the canoe rescue/towing operation when it was necessary.

It was a great trip, and I got to go to the flea market, and knit for hours, and read a few books, and I’ll tell you about that later.  I’d like to update you on the water situation, first.

As you have gathered, I visited a lake in WI.  (See above.)  While at this lake, I stay in a tent, and I gather with my family in a one-room cabin, having a fireplace, a few electric lights, a food fridge and a drink fridge, and 3700 decks of cards.  We sunk a well ourselves in the 90s, but that’s as close to running water as we get.  Bathing, when it is done, is done in lake water, and generally directly in the lake.  We did build a shower, just a wooden frame wrapped in privacy tarps with a trash can o’ water and a little tube and pump inside.

Given that we’ve been vacationing as a family on this lake since 1940, we have a vested interest in keeping it nice.  We’ve raised squads of cousins to pull out encroaching lily pads, and just this summer an Uncle engineered a muck-sucker to clean up our swimming area.  The Auntie police have been making sure we cousins were using biodegradable soap and shampoo for generations.  Fortunately, given all this hippie stuff I’m into now, the shampoo I’m using at home is biodegradable already.

New rule:  If I wouldn’t put it in my lake, I won’t put it in my shower drain.

It all gets into the water supply again sometime, and while those chemicals might be great for the bounce and lustre and whatever of my hair, fish don’t have hair.  Neither do helpful aquatic plants.  Biodegradable materials are ones that are made to break down completely into relatively harmless parts when it gets exposed to organic matter for a while.  They’re usually made of more natural ingredients- if it’s harmless to begin with, it’s easier to break it up harmlessly- and lots of them don’t do so well at actually cleaning your head nicely. Finding the biodegradable ones that do clean you to your desired degree is the trick.  Herbal Essences used to be biodegradable, at least- haven’t used them in years, so I don’t know now- and camping stores usually carrying mysteriously opaque bottles of some safe all-purpose soaps.

Kiss my face products

I’m using Kiss My Face Green Tea and Lime Shampoo and Conditioner, and it smells nice and leaves my hair clean and nice-feeling after (add shampoo ad adjectives as you wish- silky?  full of body?  some other ridiculousness?  Whatever.  It looks nice, which is no mean feat after a couple days in a tent).  It’s got a little 100% biodegradable label on the back, which is reassuring, and about 90% of the ingredients were at some point plants.  It feels a bit different than other shampoos- it won’t get as sudsy as they will, but that doesn’t seem to hinder the magic.  Plus, suds are an indication of soapy chemicals- not what you want in a cherished family water body, or a local stream, or the ocean…

So check for the biodegradable label next time you find a new shampoo.  The switch to one with fewer chemicals might be startling at first- and indeed, many of these earth-friendlier hair things aren’t so much hair-friendlier- but if you don’t, the Aunties won’t let you in the lake.

Progress: Eat Less Meat

I did alright this month.  I started off with a relatively poor diet and lazy cooking habits, and I ended the month a little more excited about cooking, and slightly more likely to eat my vegetables.  I had a little red meat twice, just as I planned, and stuck to eating meat at one meal a day, generally.  Sometimes visiting or lack of planning lead me to eat it more frequently, but there were plenty of vegetarian-only days, too.  Overall, I ate much less meat than last month, both by frequency and serving size.  I cooked much more, and I’m now in a pattern of planning vegetable-laden meals and plotting things to cook.

So it was a very good start for me, and I’ll be trying to keep up with it from now on.

A few strategies that helped:  First, I stopped by a grocery on the way home from work every few days and bought a few fresh vegetables, with no real plan for how to eat them.  This forced me to think of ways to eat things before they went bad.  Second, when I cooked, I made a ridiculous amount of whatever I was preparing, so that I could have vegetarian leftovers for a few days.  Third, if I cooked with meat, I shorted the ratio of meat to veggies- two peppers to one sausage, for instance.

For this next month, I’m going to focus on water issues.  Using too much, and putting gross stuff in, specifically.  It’s likely I’ll even be timing my showers.

Just so you know, shower time is very important for me.  Regulating it is going to be very difficult for me, and I am going to resent it.  But maybe with a timer and practice, I can balance the time and the relaxation.

For the next week, showering won’t even be much of an issue.  In WI, we bathe in the lake.  There is a shower, though- a tarp on a wooden frame, with a pump in a trash can of water.  We sunk a well (yes, by hand) a while back, so we can shower in pump water now- and with a few tea kettles of boiling water, it’s comfy.  Scrubbing under the pines!  It’s the best way to shower.  But prep time for carrying and heating the water is prohibitively long, so mostly we lake it, or rely on deodorant and breezes to keep us from smelling too human.

Considering how closely our fun and cleanliness are linked to the quality of water in the lake then, we’re careful about what we put in it.  I need to consider the toiletries I take up, and how well they’ll break down into non-harmful materials in the lake.  Same with toothpaste and dish soap up there- we discard it a few meters from the lake, so it all gets back there pretty quickly.  My showers and soap use should be similar at home, so here’s the toiletry rule:  if I wouldn’t want to stick it in the family lake (how would this shampoo effect that sunfish?), I’m not sticking it in my water at home.  I’ll fill you in on what those are when I get back.

Wisconsin Has My Place

beaver lake

That’s Wisconsin.  Specifically, Beaver Lake, just southeast of Hayward– also home to the Lumberjack World Championships and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame/60’s time warp/2-story tall fiberglass Muskellunge.  My father’s grandfather built a cabin on this lake in 1940, and every summer when I was a kid, we’d go up for a couple of weeks to live out of a tent, get introduced to relatives, swim, run around, read, nap, eat…

It’s the most wonderful spot on Earth.

I’m headed up for the big three-year reunion this weekend (complete with a who’s-this-relative? quiz), with the Gentleman Friend, a tent, and a box of books in my car.  Even with gas at $4.-, it’s cheaper to drive 1120 miles than fly, or take a bus or a train.  Go go Honda Civic Hybrid!

So here’s the way I see the themes:  We’ve got use of gas/travel to discuss, some major water/lake quality issues, the Magic of the Great Outdoors (this qualifies, since it hasn’t got a bathroom) (just a nicely-decorated hut with a board with a hole) to wax eloquent about, the issues of connectivity/computer hiatii to praise, and probably more.  See, Wisconsin has everything!  Especially cheese!  Which reminds me.

I’m pretty stoked that the month of being a very good occasional vegetarian is up, since the family culinary traditions involve a) fantastic cooks and b) meat.  I’ll do my very best to eat animal sparingly and vegetables like whoa, but let it be known that falling off the meat wagon is a distinct possibility at this camp.  Though, what with a few loved ones favoring bizarre diets, alternatives won’t be impossible to find.  I am not eating their fake cheese, though.  It is not just as good as real.

So, I’ll spend the next few days exploring those ideas- it’s getting me more and more excited for this trip as I think it through- starting with a monthly goal wrap-up and new goal next time.

olson cabin at night

There’s the cabin itself- one room and a porch, and can’t you just hear the crickets and feel the peace?

New Photo Albums, and An Intro

This weekend, I got much more work done on my laptop case, having been inspired by my sewing class that ended Saturday.  I made a skirt, and let’s just say that I’m glad I chose a garish mustard yellow/pumpkin orange color combo, since it causes viewers to not want to look again to check my seams for accuracy.  It’s possible I’ll wear it in public, but I might also need a bag to wear over my head.  Or I’ll just save it for events I’d rather not attend in the first place.

Laptop CaseThe laptop case fared much better- I found a fantastic yellow chunk of stuff, and so I lined some outside pockets and the inside lid with it, and it’ll be just right for the tape connecting the inner and outer cases, eventually.  I also dove into the strap issue, and got the buckles securely on.  I’m making it up as I go along, really, but it’s turning out wonderfully.  Photos and an explanation are here.

Tonight in between rainstorms I weeded my pots and replanted the ones whose contents had mysteriously died.  Erm.  No idea how… I’ve got no peas or sweet peas left (though seeds for the latter- apparently they’re clTomato flowersimbers!  Who knew!  I’ll get some more things for them to climb, and try again).  I’ve staked both tomato plants, and one of them has gone feral, and grown quite enough for three tomato plants.  It’s got some tiny tomatoes now, though, in clusters of three, and about 15 buds.  Both pepper plants have peppers coming along well, and my “hearty” lettuce is thriving in the alternate scorching sun/torrential downpours we’ve been getting for the past month.  The Swiss Chard, which I planted at the same time as the lettuce, has got two sickly-looking sprouts, so I added more seeds to that container.  Both that and the lettuce are supposed to do well with the heat- I suspect the chard was upset by the rain.  My romaine is seaweedy, but keeps getting bigger. I planted new mint, baby’s breath, poppies, spinach, and cilantro, also, in some of the empty containers.  Photos here.

While on the topic of my gardenous bounty, I should share that I’m a bit worried that it will die/I won’t be around to harvest it.  I’m headed to a family reunion in Hayward, WI for a week this Saturday- I assume the tomato and one of the peppers are preparing to be ripe next Wednesday, drat the luck.  Hopefully I can convince my housemates to water them while I’m away- maybe with edible bribes?  I know they won’t love them like I do.

More on WI soon.  It’s thematic.


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