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.
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!
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.
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…