Snowbirding

Wayne and I drove from San Diego back home to Minnesota last fall. On the way we scoped out some 55+ RV Parks in Arizona, where many retired Midwestern folks go to get away from winter. Wayne’s parents used to spend a couple of months in one of these parks in Brownsville, Texas. They loved it. My parents never had any desire to leave in the winter, other than a few short trips to visit family and friends in warm places. I was not sure how I felt about the whole idea, but was willing to check it out.

Driving through Phoenix there seemed to be hundreds of retirement communities and RV Parks. We saw many that seemed like big parking lots with RV’s lined up. Thumbs down. Heading east, we happened upon one in Gold Canyon on the very eastern fringe of the metro area. This place had a small golf course, beautiful desert landscaping and green spaces, a nice pool, bistro, gym, large activities building, and views of the Superstition Mountains in the background. The landscaping and green space with mountain view made all the difference. Thumbs up, I could see myself there. At the time we had a lot on our plate so we continued on to Minnesota and got busy with what we needed to do at home.

In January after things started to settle down, we decided to call Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort to get our name on the waiting list for a “park model” rental for the month of February. The lady on the phone confirmed that it was a long shot, but she would take our name. We were surprised when she called us back shortly after that, and now here we are in Arizona!

We left Minnesota on a cold day near the end of January with fog, icy roads, and frost coating the trees. It was beautiful, but made for scary driving. When we got to the RV & Golf Resort two days later it was 77 degrees. That only lasted a couple of days and then it was much cooler with freeze warnings, but at least there was no chance of snow. Average high temperatures for the first half of February are in the low 70’s, but it cools off rapidly as soon as the sun starts to go down.

Leaving Otter Tail County
A winter wonderland in western Minnesota

The RV resort has “streets” with small “lots” to rent for your recreational vehicle, mixed in with park model homes to rent or purchase. In the middle is a common area with a big building that has a billiard room, library, ballroom, craft rooms for sewing, woodworking and jewelry making, a laundromat, meeting rooms, a coffee shop/bistro and golf shop. Outside the building are tennis and pickle ball courts, a pool, and a patio where you can hang out and listen to musicians around a fire pit. And of course there are some obligatory shuffleboard courts. Following are photos of the main building, Wayne standing in front of our rental unit with the mountains in the background and me standing inside our “house”.

The community building
Wayne standing in front of our rental, with the Superstition mountains in the background
The kitchen and part of the living room before we got it all cluttered up

Park model homes are sort of a cross between an RV and a “tiny house”, but bigger and not meant to be towed around. The one we are renting is 400 square feet with a bedroom, full bathroom, compact but complete kitchen and a living area. It is all very cozy and nice. There is a large overhang on the side with space to park your car, and room for an outside table and chairs and grill. Some of the park model homes are bigger with extra rooms or decks on the side.

A 55+ RV and Golf Resort is a community, as opposed to just lodging. People are very friendly. Many residents are active and social with tennis, pickle ball, golf, bingo, and a plethora of other activities. There is a giant board posted with all the clubs and activities going on. Another board has a list of upcoming events such as musicians coming on site to perform, pot luck dinners, bus trips for various outings and trips, etc.

This is half of the activities board. If you can’t find something to do, that is your problem.

I am doing most of the same things I do at home, but it is warm out instead of cold and snowy. I brought some knitting projects, and my table loom with a supply of yarn. We are walking and hiking. There are yoga classes. I can work on the blog. I can do the family cabin bookkeeping from here. I can read books. I can take naps. There are many interesting outings such as the Museum of the West, with large collections of cowboy art and artifacts.

I have been trying to get rid of stuff and live smaller, so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like living in the 400 square foot space. So far I like it. There is less time spent on cleaning and maintaining. More time for things I want to do.

There are endless opportunities for hiking around here
So many different kinds of cactus

Wayne was looking at old photos on his phone the other day. What do you know but he found some that he took six years ago when driving through this area, and he happened to make a random stop at one RV Resort – THIS VERY ONE! That was long before we were ever in a position to partake of the experience. We are now thinking about buying an RV. Maybe next winter we will be back here with that. Stay tuned.

Ice Fishing

My husband, Wayne, has been an avid fisherman ever since his dad started taking him fishing as a child. Jewett Lake, where we live now, is a beautiful, clean, spring fed lake known for good fishing. Wayne likes the solitude of sitting out in the boat alone, as well as sharing the experience with a friend, or teaching a child during the annual family reunion. One of my favorite meals in the summer is fresh caught fish with baked potatoes, green beans and tomatoes from my uncle’s garden.

For those of you who do not live in a cold climate like Minnesota, it may seem unbelievable that people fish all winter by drilling a hole in the ice. After a sufficient amount of time with temperatures near zero, the ice is 15″ to 18″ thick. Four inches is safe for walking. With 15″ of ice you can drive a truck on the lake.

The ice fishing experience ranges from sitting on a bucket out in the elements with your pole, to lounging inside a specially designed recreational vehicle equipped with heat, beds, sofas, a complete kitchen, and a TV. Between those extremes are tent style shelters and a range of huts on wheels in various sizes and designs.

There are many ice fishing houses of all types out on Jewett Lake. This winter someone plowed a 2 lane “road” from the public access out to an area in front of our house, making it easier for others to tow their ice house to the same area. Some of the fancy ice houses appear to be occupied most of the time with lights on at all hours, making one wonder how much fishing is actually happening. I believe that the amount of time spent in a “man cave” ice house is not necessarily related to how many fish are being caught.

Lyla enjoys a late afternoon walk on the lake with Wayne
A few traditional ice shacks

Wayne had done a bit of ice fishing years ago with his uncle on Lake Minnetonka, west of Minneapolis, so he had an idea what was involved. Now that we are living at the lake and needing a winter activity, he decided to try it again. $600 of new equipment and a trip to the bait shop later he was ready to head out on the ice. Wayne’s very old ice auger is not working, so on a couple of mild days he tried his luck with no shelter and using a hole someone else drilled. One fish was caught, but broke the line and got away, so we have not had any fish dinners this winter.

Minnows are used for ice fishing bait
Multiple holes were left by a previous fisherman
A village on the lake
A generator is necessary for powering the TV in this deluxe rig
Last year someone shoveled a spot for ice skating

Every year there are a few people who try to go out too early or too late in the season. Ice fishing houses must be removed from the lake by the beginning to middle of March, depending on the location, or risk a fine from the DNR. Or worse, they might get stuck in snow that has melted and refrozen.

We’ll see if Wayne actually catches anything this year. I will be watching from the living room window.

My First Weaving Project

Learning to weave has been one of the skills on my bucket list. I pictured one of those ginormous looms the size of a small room.

There are many different types of looms that can make everything from a simple narrow strap to a wide fabric with a complicated pattern. After seeing Torri Hanna use a floor loom at Tangles to Treasures, I realized that was a bit ambitious for a beginner. Instead I bought a “Rigid Heddle” loom that sits on a table or stand, and can make a project as wide as 15″.

The loom I bought came with the parts in a box, like a piece of IKEA furniture.

The table loom before assembling

There is a whole new vocabulary to learn in order to put the loom together and set it up for a project. The next photo shows the assembled loom with the “warp” yarn measured out for a scarf.

The “Warp” yarn is measured out

After the warp yarn is measured out it is attached to “apron bars” (like dowels) at both ends and wound up around the back “warp beam” (a thicker dowel). The project is rolled from the back “warp beam” to the front “cloth beam” as weaving progresses until all of the warp yarn is used up, or until your project is the right length. Following is a photo of my loom all ready to begin the actual weaving.

“Warped” and ready to begin weaving

I forgot to take a photo showing my weaving in progress. Instead I have a picture of a scarf Torri was making on a rigid heddle table loom, the same thing as what I bought, so you can see what it looks like. The yarn that is woven back and forth is called the “weft”.

Torri’s project in process

My first completed scarf is about 7 or 8 inches wide. Most of the yarn I used was already in my stash, leftover from previous projects. I alternated the different yarns in a random way. The final result has a few problems, for one thing you can see where the weft yarns are too loose at the sides in some places. I learned a new technique for making fringe. Overall it turned out OK for my first try.

Yarn from my stash used for the weaving project
My first completed woven scarf
My scarf up close

There are so many options for using yarn and fiber in creative ways, and always more projects in my head. I look forward to making another scarf soon, improving on the skills I learned with the first one.

The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County

I don’t think there are any covered bridges in Otter Tail County, but there are plenty of woodpiles. My sister Betsy and I had taken photos of the massive woodpile created during a family work weekend that included splitting and stacking wood needed for the maple syrup evaporator. Later, after we found some creative woodpiles when driving around in the area, Betsy posted photos of a couple of them on Facebook. Recently, I came across more woodpiles and thought it would be a fun blog post. Betsy gets credit for the title. Enjoy The Woodpiles of Otter Tail County.

Waiting to be split for firewood
Betsy and a cousin operating the log splitter
Split wood stacked in the syrup shed

A few random wood piles seen out and about in Otter Tail County.

Celtic Music Jam

There is a group of musicians in Otter Tail County who get together every month to play Celtic music. The venue they had been using closed, so the last 2 jam sessions were held at Tangles to Treasures in Fergus Falls. I helped Torri move furniture around to prepare for the January event. Due to bad weather and member travel plans, there were only a few people at the recent session, but it was a wonderful evening of music, fellowship and spinning.

The musicians take turns picking out something to play. The others may be figuring it out on the fly. There is casual conversation, and there are breaks for snacks and beverages.

Torri is spinning more yarn for a weaving project she is in the middle of, shown in the next photo. And noting that is not her biggest loom.

Wayne took video of the music and spinning.
Jam at Torri’s Tangles to Treasures

Following is a colorful photo of yarn for sale in the background at Tangles to Treasures http://www.tanglestotreasures.com/. The Racing Rabbit yarn is hand dyed by a woman living in the area. The baskets at the bottom of the photo have yarn that I spun. It is mostly wool, but some of the skeins include other types of fiber such as alpaca or bamboo. I dyed some of the fiber myself but most of it was already dyed before I blended it together for spinning.

Winter Art

Winter is beautiful. Back when we were still contemplating the idea of living up here full time I had nightmares about winter driving, especially in the dark. That still terrifies me, but the good thing about not having a regular job is that you can stay home if conditions are bad. Looks like I will be getting some knitting and chores done over the next few days with snow in the forecast and a low of -18 degrees tonight. More snow on Friday and Saturday with winds gusting to 40 mph. Following are photos of some artistic looking winter scenes taken when it was “nice” outside.

My Latest Yarn

I recently finished making a skein of yarn. It is always exciting to see what it looks like as a complete product. I am never 100% sure at the beginning of the process exactly what the outcome will be.

My recently completed skein of yarn

I have been knitting forever, but learned to spin wool into yarn about 14 years ago. I have always loved all the colors and textures of the fiber world. It is amazing to think that you can take an endless supply of fiber and make an infinite variety of necessary, useful, and beautiful end products. The first time I saw someone using a spinning wheel I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I knew I had to learn how to do that. It took a year of thinking about it before I took steps to learn. After borrowing a spinning wheel from a friend who was out of the country for four months, I bought one for myself.

People first figured out how to twist overlapping plant fibers into string at least 20,000 years ago. It was a turning point in human history to be able to make and use string and ropes for tying and pulling, nets and snares for catching animals and carrying things, and belts to use with primitive clothing. Note the image* of a reconstructed piece of fossilized string found in the caves of Lascaux, France, ca. 15,000 BC.

Until the industrial age, thread and yarn for all fabrics and textiles was spun by hand using various tools depending on the time and place and purpose. That includes all clothing, undergarments, stockings, outerwear, sheets and blankets, towels, rugs, ropes, sails, bags and baskets. Think about that. Many women spent all “spare” time they had on textile production.

Fiber can be prepared for spinning in many different ways. My recent yarn started out from two different sources of fiber. I had bought a “cloud” of a pretty blend of wool dyed blue, turquoise, and purple at the North Country Fiber Fair in Watertown, South Dakota this fall. I spun that on one bobbin.

I already had in my stash a ball of blue roving that I bought from Joanie Ellison’s Northcroft Farm in Pelican Rapids, MN. Joanie had dyed the wool herself before having it processed into roving at Dakota Fiber Mill in North Dakota. I spun some of that on another bobbin.

I plied them together using the spinning wheel and VOILA it became a 3.5 ounce (100 gram) skein of bulky two ply yarn, about 220 yards long. It will be for sale at Tangles to Treasures. http://www.tanglestotreasures.com/

* The image of fossilized string came from a fascinating book called “Women’s Work: The First 20,000” Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Things That Are Different

It is mind boggling to think about what I was doing, planning and expecting one year ago for 2019, compared to all the things that actually happened and what my situation is today.  I could not possibly have anticipated or planned for most of it. So now here I am living at Jewett Lake.

We have been living here full time since the middle of July, after we sold our house in Minnetonka where we lived for more than 30 years. We had already spent quite a bit of time at the lake over the years using the family cabin (my whole life), visiting my parents (since they retired and built this house 20 years ago), and more recently spending the past couple of summers in the house with my mom. We had been thinking about making this move for years. We already have a community of family and friends here. We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we are happy with our decision.

We are about 12 miles north of Fergus Falls. It is a nice town with a population of about 13,800, a classic old fashioned main street, an old theater converted into a Center for the Arts, an active arts community, reasonable shopping options for the size, and Lake Alice, a lovely lake in the middle of the town surrounded by public space and 100 year old houses. The Otter Tail River flows through the town and area. 

Center for the Arts
A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls
Otter Tail River
The Otter Tail River weaves through town

It is easy to come up with a list of things that are different here than in “the Cities”. I am not complaining, we like it here. But some things are just different.

You run into people you know when you are out and about in this size of community. Everywhere we go we find connections with people. Wayne’s sister and her husband, Marlene and Steve, came up from the cities for a short winter getaway. We recently had about nine inches of fresh snow and they love cross country skiing, so we went over to Spidahl’s Ski Gaard http://www.skigaard.com/ which is about 5 miles from us.   Marlene and Steve know Cindy and Dave Spidahl from 40 years ago in Minneapolis. While Marlene and Steve and I were visiting with Cindy, in comes Dave who had been out skiing with a friend who turned out to be one of the musicians who played at my mom’s Celebration of Life in Fergus Falls. I have known his wife for years through the fiber community in this area.

A perfect day for skiing
Wayne’s sister Marlene enjoying the trail

When attending an event at A Center for the Arts, I recognized at least 10 people there. That would not happen at the Guthrie or Orpheum in Minneapolis. I had the programs for my mom’s Celebration of Life printed at Victor Lundeens in Fergus Falls, a local gift shop / book store / print shop. They carry my mom’s memoir The Red Cottage in the local authors section. When I was picking up the programs, the employee recognized my mom’s name and noted that her book was out of stock. My mom’s self published book would not be in a store in Minneapolis, and employees in a print shop there would not pay any attention to the info on the item being printed or know anything about the people involved.

Victor Lundeens was established in 1914

I have the yarn that I bought from my cousin’s yarn shop for sale at a cool local fiber arts business (http://www.tanglestotreasures.com/),  along with some yarn that I spun myself. In the cities no local yarn shop would consider selling my handspun yarn. It is fun being a big fish in a small pond.

There is no recycling or organics pickup in rural areas. We have a compost “pile” here …literally…we just pile food scraps on and occasionally turn it over with a shovel. We are probably not doing it the “correct” way, as we sometimes see neighbor dogs trotting across the yard with an egg shell or two in their mouth.  We have some waste baskets in the garage to collect the various types of recycling. We have to take the contents into the county recycling center in Fergus Falls and unload them into big dumpsters. Inside the building is a fun display of empty pop cans and a free book exchange.

At the Otter Tail County Recycling Center

Mail goes out only once per day Monday through Saturday at the main post office in town. There is no pick up on Sunday. Back in Minnetonka I would sometimes drop a piece of mail at the local post office in the evening, knowing it would go out later that day or first thing in the morning. Here there is not a better method than putting outgoing mail in our mailbox with the flag up for the mail carrier to take. It won’t go out any faster if you take it to the post office in town. If you miss the pickup on Saturday, your mail is not going anywhere until Monday afternoon. On the other hand, a piece of mail that was addressed to us incorrectly with the cabin address (different street name and number) got delivered to us anyway. 

It is scary to venture out after dark out in the country. It is REALLY dark out. And forget it if it is snowing or icy. It is also VERY quiet, especially at night. The only sounds you hear are trees blowing in the wind, an occasional owl hooting or sometimes coyotes howling. In the near suburbs of Minneapolis we could hear trains, sirens, airplanes, and sometimes traffic noise even though we were a half-mile away from Interstate 494.

It is exactly 11.8 miles from the house to the Service Foods grocery store in Fergus Falls. You have to plan better as you do not want to run out to the store every time you are missing one ingredient for a recipe.

There is a Walmart, Fleet Farm, Home Depot, Walgreens and other smaller local stores here. If you have not shopped at Fleet Farm you are in for a treat. Fleet Farm has almost anything you need including but not limited to clothes and shoes, hunting and sports equipment, kitchen accessories, every possible snack food, many different kinds of chopped nuts and chocolate for cooking, cleaning supplies, and products used on a farm. In case you need a “free range chicken catcher”, a 50 pound horse tub, or a “Kow Kan’t Kick” (Safest, easiest and most humane way to stop wild & unruly cows from kicking) you are in luck.

There was a Target Store in Fergus Falls until it closed about two years ago. People were incensed as it did not seem to be a decision based entirely on economics. Although I have been able to find whatever I need locally at one of the other stores, or online, I do miss having a choice of four Target stores within easy range in the cities. 

We see quite a few animals in our yard at the lake including Coyotes, Foxes, Owls, Wild Turkeys, and Woodpeckers. Surprisingly, we had all of those in our yard in Minnetonka so that is NOT different.

The last thing to note is that there IS a Caribou coffee shop in Fergus Falls.  That may have been the deciding factor that made it seem doable to move here. Not really, but I do love a Caribou Mocha.

On to new adventures and new connections in 2020!



My First Post

Welcome to my new blog, Yarns from the Lake. I will be writing about a variety of topics including observations on life in Otter Tail County compared to life in the Twin Cities, retirement, my yarn adventures, things that happen, projects I am working on, cool photos I take, essays on various topics, traveling, and whatever else I think of.

My husband and I recently moved to my parents’ home on Jewett Lake, about 12 miles north of Fergus Falls, and about 200 miles north and west of the Twin Cities. It is a big change after spending most of our lives in “the Cities” as they say here. We have spent a lot of time at Jewett Lake over the years due to my extended family having a cabin here, and my parents building their retirement home on the lake 20 years ago. We are happy to be here but a little nervous about January and February. The Twin Cities is not exactly tropical either, but this is a land where there are gates to close off the highway during snow and high wind conditions. Think of the winter scenes in the movie “Fargo”.

I find no end of things to do with knitting, spinning, reading, watching movies and shows, doing bookkeeping and other duties for the family cabin, walking and hiking, visiting my Dad in the nursing home, helping with Tangles to Treasures Weaving Studio and Yarn shop in Fergus Falls (http://www.tanglestotreasures.com/) , and sorting, purging and rearranging stuff in my parents’ house. My husband, Wayne, is more worried than I am about cabin fever during the winter, so he just bought a bunch of ice fishing equipment. Watch for a post about that later.

Thank you Cindy Lindgren for creating my site logo that you see above, as well as a business logo and business card for my sales of yarn and handmade goods. My sister-in-law Marlene Maloney came up with some sketches of possible looks, and Cindy took one of those and made it look awesome and perfect. Cindy is a professional graphic designer who designed the St Paul Winter Carnival button for this winter…how cool is that? Luckily for me, she is good friends with Marlene. Cindy has cards and other products for sale at multiple stores and online including images of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox riding a bike, playing hockey, etc. Following is a link to her web site: http://www.cindylindgren.com/

I will be posting photos of things that you don’t see in Minnetonka, and other pictures I take. Following are two for today.

I hope you enjoy my blog!

Something you don’t see in Minnetonka
Not one but TWO Pileated woodpeckers on the tree in front of the house