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Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux

Slug Conversations

We’ve got friends up in Hovland (further up Highway 61). They live in a dovetail log cabin they built themselves, from trees they cut on their property.

Going up to visit them often reminds me of when we lived at Wilderness Canoe Base: a tiny cabin (for a year with no plumbing) on a lake, an hour out of town, way out of cell phone range.

The thing that strikes me is the quiet. Even though Grand Marais isn’t a bustling, noisy city by any means, it’s not truly quiet the way the woods are.

I went for a walk through their property and came across these two slugs in quiet conversation. Perhaps they need a story written about them… Let me know if you do.

Medicine Friends

My grandparents’ house was sold at the end of the summer. This was a Century Farm, meaning it had been in the family for over 100 years; my grandpa was born there. My grandma moved half a mile from her childhood farm when they married.

They each had their own gardens (as did her parents). The story I’ve heard is that they needed their own spaces to plant what they wanted. Both gardens were magnificent in my childhood: my grandpa grew roses, my grandma grew everything else.

I’ve only discovered my dormant green thumb when I bought my first house: all of a sudden I was digging and moving rocks and dividing plants… and transplanting. That first home in St. Paul presumably still has the cousins of my grandmother’s peonies growing out by the front door.

When we moved into the bed and breakfast in 2013, I began the process of recreating my grandmother’s garden once again, though I didn’t realize that was what I was doing at first. There was already a hardy perennial flower bed here with peonies, day lilies, some tiger lilies, and irises.

But there weren’t flox or echinacea or black-eyed Susan.

So when I found out that, a few years after my grandma moved into an apartment, her farm had a buyer, I made sure to go dig. A year later, they’ve bloomed. Next year they’ll be bigger.

Perhaps once they’re established, I’ll be ready to try my hand at roses.

Anniversary

Twelve years ago on October 12th, I finished my show as Pippi Longstocking at the Norsk Høstfest and walked around to say hello to the wood workers.

There was a cute guy in suspenders and a plaid cap, carving a timberframe trestle. I stayed in character… And stopped by again later.

We went to the Ground Round for supper (along with my mom and some of the North House ‘old guys’). We spent the next 4 days of the festival together, making plans for trips to Prague and India. (Charlie the birch bark guy said “don’t go getting married tonight!”)

A week later I visited Grand Marais for the first time. We kayaked Lake Superior (and got soaked), slept in a yurt, looked at stars on the Bridge of the Master, and I kissed him on Fishhook Island.

In January we got engaged.

In August we got married.

Since then we’ve lived in the Twin Cities in an old farmhouse, at a canoe camp at the edge of the Boundary Waters, in the Indian Himalayas, in a yurt at a CSA, and now at the B&B.

I know weddings are a big deal, but the day we first met always seems like the most magical anniversary to me. ❤

Gardening Season

I used to think my grandma was a little crazy for having such an enormous garden. I helped her once, but even being paid to weed couldn’t make gardening appeal to me.

Everything changed when I bought my first home in St. Paul: suddenly I was making straight lines curved, dividing and transplanting, and salvaging old bricks for edging.

Here at the B&B we inherited a beautiful perennial garden. After four years I’ve learned that weeding really has to be done right away, before everything gets tall.

Oof! This one didn’t get any attention last summer.

An unexpectedly warm May-June  has meant I’ve made a lot of progress. I find I’m about as fanatical as my grandma…

 

Thanks, Dad, for putting up all the lattice!

Also, I can’t recommend the Yard Butler Twist Tiller enough!

Pie Class

I taught my first pie workshop at North House Folk School to a group of 8th graders from the Virgin Islands!

 

I grew up in Braham, the Homemade Pie Capital of Minnesota. (Really– it’s official. We have a document from the governor).  Our Pie Day festival is the first Friday in August, and some 600+ fruit pies are made by volunteers each year. Plus, there’s a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, and maybe a little pie-ing in the face.

some of the Pie Day volunteers. (photo source: facebook page)

I grew up baking pies with my grandma. There’s something deeply comforting in the twist of the pastry cutter through lard and flour, the clack of the rolling pin, and of course, the rich flavor of berry filling in a tender crust.

I approached North House Folk School with a bunch of ideas for baking classes (brunch, coffee cakes, Scandinavian pastries), and they loved the idea of a pie class.

Before my first class I called my mom up; I needed another experienced baker to be my sounding board. Was estimating half a pie per person too much? Was five pies in three hours totally crazy, especially with 12-year-olds?

Getting serious with a flow chart.

I’m happy to report that the class went wonderfully! The kids were great; they were creative with spices, and even did all the dishes!

We made

  • apple-cranberry galette
  • blueberry with a lattice top
  • whiskey-ginger-peach
  • mixed berry pocket pies
  • and cheater cherry pie (canned filling and homemade whipped cream)

Teaching pie baking revealed how much I know without knowing I know it. (For example, I had never noticed that I tap pie crusts to test they’re doneness).

I was also delighted to discover I wasn’t an uptight teacher. I always prefer baking solo, and I was a little worried they hyper-critical introvert cook in me might not enjoy this. But it was lovely. To be able to bake a pie feels like proof that you can survive in this world– not just on bread and water and potatoes, but that you can turn very simple things — flour, fat, water, salt, fruit– into something elegant, beautiful, and deeply satisfying.

I also realized that though the kids didn’t make stock photo-worthy pie crusts (an impossible first-time feat), even a messy pie is a beautiful pie. Brush a little egg wash on and the crust shines golden yellow. Didn’t pinch the crusts together properly? Oozing blueberry filling makes a pie look alive, real, made by a human being.

So, all in all, a VERY gratifying experience: delicious pies were made, kids were creative, and I even did some drawing that has me scheming about a hand lettered mini recipe book.

If you’d like to schedule a class, see the brochure or contact North House.

Jay Bought a Bike Shop!

Ever since I met Jay (way back in 2005), he’s wanted to own the bike shop in Grand Marais… and now he does!

Fireweed Bike Co-op had its grand opening on Memorial weekend (when he also rode a 100 mile gravel bike race). Note that it’s conveniently located next to Beth’s Fudge, and across the street from both World’s Best Donuts AND Sydney’s Frozen Custard— so you can fuel up before your ride.

My dad was visiting over the weekend and got put to work…

This makes for a busy schedule (bike shop – mayoring – B&B – summer theater – writing – family time), but it’s really exciting to see this become a reality.