Monthly Archives: November 2013


The long drive to visit our beloved friends on the south western shores of Lake Superior was an important transition in our trip from the “tone setting” nuclear family wilderness part to the reconnecting with extended family and old friends’ part. Although I excitedly awaited the reunion with my college roommate and her family, I felt the change in the air not quite ready to leave the wild lands. This said, the wilderness that met us on our journey north was unexpected and delightful.


On the other side of the spectrum were our kids. With the excitement of spending time with ANYONE other than their parents, the boys encouraged us to keep driving from the Missouri River in South Dakota, 12 hours to the far reaches of WI. I will admit, this was the first time that Ila ever saw Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers or Dora…thank goodness for PBS!  Arriving at 11:00 pm to the open arms of Jen and Andrew at Spirit Creek Farm, we were ushered into their super cool guest yurt, stoked with wood burning fire we were tutored on the basics of the composting toilet before tucking 3 sleepy kids into bed.

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The time that followed felt much longer than the 5 days that we stayed.  The children coupled up quite quickly slipping away to the magic of the farm and the house, Jacob and 11 yr. old Willa, Elias and 8 yr old Ivy with 6 yr old Lake and Ila tailing behind.  Although the kids met when Jacob and Willa were only 3 and 4 and Elias and Ivy only baby hatchlings, the bond was set and they became inseperable. This was odd as we had been traveling as a tight unit for so long and now there was literal space amongst us. This allowed Jen, Andrew, Joseph and I time to collapse the better part of a decade since we last saw each other and catch up on the essentials of life.


Spirit Creek Farm, the brain child of Andrew and nurtured by Jen is a fermenting foods paradise.  The kind of place you would dream up as you’re imagining your ideal life but most likely surrender to something less ideal. We learned the basics and tasted a rainbow of fermented veggies on our visit. (I still crave the fermented green beans.) They have built a sustainable business over the last few years supplying fermented veggies to co-ops, grocery stores and restaurants around the Midwest all with solar power and locally produced delicious veggies. These days Andrew runs the bulk of the business giving Jen time to home school the kids. However it is definitely a family affair.  Joseph and the boys participated by picking 1200 lbs. of cabbage our 3rd day on the farm while Ila and I met with the chickens, pigs and shall we say acrobatic goats. I remember Jen saying years ago that they wanted to sell something that people get addicted to and they are on the money!

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In between, homeschooling, fermenting, farming and playing Jen, Andrew and the family initiated us into the culture of the area which had a lot to do with a bioregional love and pride for Lake Superior. Cornucopia is a close knit darling little town with local artisans and craftsman selling their wears around the small marina of sailing boats. We got to experience the lake life firsthand when the Sauter-Sargents took us sailing on Lake Superior, exploring the local sea (lake) caves, swimming and playing on the picturesque local beach.

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For appetizers one night Andrew brought home whitefish salad that almost brought me to tears (with joy). If I closed my eyes I could have been 12 years old eating whitefish on a whole-wheat-spinach bagel around our dining room table Sunday morning from Stuff and Bagels (or what Joseph calls Stuff me Bagels) my favorite Long Island bagel store. How could this be? Then Andrew asked, ”Michelle, I was always told that the whitefish brought in by the fisherman is shipped to the Jews in NY. Is this true?” Ha! Yes indeed! Thank you, thank you fisherman!


Our visit drew to a close with a solar powered Beetles dance party that blew the breakers, starry knights, the howls of coyotes, delicious food, love and friendship. The boys wanted to stay forever however we needed to follow the call of tradition…the cousins Bar Mitzvah was 2 days away in NY…so long WI for now…



Categories: Fermented foods, Homeschooling, Lake Superior, Midwest, Spirit Creek Farm, WI, Yurt | 2 Comments

Mt Rushmore

On the morning of September 11th we drove to Mt Rushmore without expectations.  Mostly I think we were answering to a routine tourist call as Mt Rushmore is one of the most iconic tourist destinations in the United States.  What we found when we arrived surprised me.  The original sculpture was proposed in 1927 to promote tourism to the area.  Originally it was proposed to feature both native and non native western heroes but gained more nationwide support and interest upon the idea of featuring the four presidents.  The symbolism of these presidents have led to not only what has made this country strong and innovative but what has allowed the United States to be one of the most significant single influences in the world through the 19th and 20th centuries.

To begin with both Thomas Jefferson’s and George Washington’s time of influence straddled the precarious time of our country’s birth.  It could be argued that the US was lucky that it came into being during a time when these defining characters existed  although I think that the US came to be because of the strength of character and clarity of these individuals.

On July 4th 1776 Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence signed by congress featuring this most notable of all quotes:

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This document and every word that was carefully crafted in it was so essential in galvanizing the faith and identity of the new nation that when General George Washington read the Declaration to his troops in New York City on July 9, with thousands of British troops on ships in the harbor, crowds began tearing down and destroying signs or statues representing royal authority. This strengthened sentiment spread quickly through the new nation leading to an equestrian statue of King George in New York City to be pulled down and the lead used to make musket balls.  By November of 1776 circulation of the document spread through Western Europe which inspired popular support in France leading to them becoming a key ally in defeating the British.


After leading the country to officially defeating the British in 1783 by 1889 George Washington received 100% of the electoral vote as the first president.  Leading with clear sights toward the common good and impeccable example that transcended into our foundational principles, Washington knew more than anyone the importance of his every decision which included putting the Constitution of the United States into practice.  He would eventually step down after two terms in office in order to set the precedent as a leader of civil servitude, staunchly opposing dictatorship and tirelessly warning against partisanship in government.  Washington’s commitment to “the common good” lead him to free all of his slaves upon his death.

As a president of a new nation our third president Thomas Jefferson knew the importance of establishing our geographic boundaries.  Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory for 15 million dollars from Napoleon which kept the US out of the raging European wars of the day, but kept us in favor with its biggest power and potential threat, Napoleon.  Jefferson knew that the current boarders were only a piece of what would later identify our borders. With this in mind he personally trained Meriwether Lewis in preparation to lead the Lewis and Clark expedition and explore what lay beyond the known Frontier.

Jefferson’s Legacy did not stop after his presidency though.  Thomas Jefferson became almost exclusively devoted to education, believing that all children of a great nation should have access to free quality education.  Jefferson helped spearhead the separation of religion and science in education by creating the University of Virginia at the base of his home Monticello.  This signaled the beginning of a state run University System founded on these principles.

Abraham Lincoln was the tipping point that allowed the country’s greatest moral crisis to explode.  The Civil War happened because the nation was sitting on “a volcano” of yet unchecked ethical dilemma and he was the uncompromising hand that was needed.  It was Lincoln that defined the birth of the country as July 4th 1776 based on the nation’s realization that we were conceived on the understanding that “all men are created equal”. 

For Lincoln both slavery and the fragmenting of the nation were unacceptable and that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.   In April of 1865 while campaigning for voting rights for African Americans Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, almost instantly turning him into a martyr of almost god like proportions.

Theodore Roosevelt devoted to the traditional definition of our national identity in stating,  “It is unwise to depart from the old American tradition and discriminate for or against any man who desires to come here and become a citizen, save on the ground of that man’s fitness for citizenship…” Roosevelt was celebrated for tackling a culture of corruption in the government stating that,  ““behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” 

He pushed forward and popularized the importance of countless issues including women’s rights and perhaps his most popular and renowned legacy was his leadership towards branding the United States as a place where wilderness and the environment was an essential part of the American heritage, stating that “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources…..It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people are awakening.” With that said Roosevelt wasted no time doubling the size of the National Park system and setting a precedent towards a popular movement of conservation which to this day is a key part of in American identity.


As we drove east from Mt Rushmore and settled into the vast grassy landscape Jacob and Elias’s curiosity was spiked with countless questions on what it meant to be part of this country.  I think the young minds were mostly inspired by the magnitude of individuals chosen for this iconic monument.  It occurred to me that these individuals were not ahead of their time but instead they have helped define the time.  What they stood for and accomplished was and will always be relevant on a timeless scale.  Upon Mt Rushmore’s completion in 1941 the principles it represented would help guide not only America during the trial of worldwide virtue through World War II,  but it supported in putting us at center stage while the world looked to us for guidance in our quickly changing world into the 21st century.


That night we settled down at a wonderful camp mid way through South Dakota on the Missouri River.  As we watched the sunset  and imagined Lewis and Clark pushing up river for the first time I looked across at the increase in deciduous trees and was excited about our next stage of our journey spending time with our friends in Wisconsin.


Categories: 9/11, Abraham Lincoln, Adventure, Camping, Constitution of the United States, Declaration of Independence, family, Founding Fathers, George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Missouri River, Mt. Rushmore, September 11, South Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson | Leave a comment

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