For two glorious summers, I spent May to October in my very own little beach “house”, at Sauble Beach on Lake Huron. If you were lured here by the blog title, thinking you would see something magnificent á la California, well, not quite, lol! But maybe to me, at the time, it was all that and more.
This little house was my very first I-Own-It home, paid for by I-Earned-It money, and to me it was a symbol of freedom and accomplishment. I bought it so that I could have a place to write in solitude, within easy hearing distance of waves hitting the beach, because water seems to be my muse, along with soft forest sounds.
My house was a 16 foot trailer, which I purchased in Stratford, and left with my Dad for a couple of weeks because he wanted to improve it for me. My wonderful Dad took blank panelled areas and cut them out, installed doors to give me extra cupboard space – everywhere. He created shelves and put in hooks to hang things. He set up sturdy elastic towel racks in the tiny bathroom. He made an opening to the boot on the inside of the trailer, so that I didn’t have to go outside in the dark or in bad weather to get things stored there. He created a drop-down shelf for my typewriter. He installed an awning on the side of the trailer so that I could put a picnic table under it, and enjoy the shade on hot days. As for my Mom, her contributions were curtains I could see through easily, but which didn’t reveal much to anyone looking inside, along with kitchen stuff, and other practical, useful things, like clip-on lamps here and there for extra lighting. One was over the typewriter shelf, which could also be directed to use for reading in bed.
My little house had a panoramic-view window at the back, from where I could look out at a road that led to the beach, just beyond the fence that enclosed Carson’s Camp,
Carson’s Camp Entrance Wall
with deep woods and lakes on the other side of that road.
Bird’s Eye View of Sauble Beach and Carson Lake
I even had my own little gate leading from my big lot to the roadway, so I could slip out without having to go back to the main entrance of the camp to leave it. Beside my site was a large empty site where I would occasionally find morels to add to my pantry. The woods were filled with birds, awakening me in the mornings and crooning me to sleep at night. There were delicious little wild strawberries to be found at the edge of those woods. (And Canada Lily, Fiddleheads, Ground Cherry, Mayapple etc).
This trailer, though not identical, looks very much like my little beach house
My husband carefully deposited a .22 rifle in the boot, close to the inside door “just in case”. He showed me how to posture with it in front of a lighted window in case any nefarious night-time lurkers were lurking, so they would see I was loaded for bear and tough as nails about it. Which was pure fantasy on his part, but what else can you expect from a policeman? Plus, he gave me his very own razor-sharp hunting knife and made me promise to take it with me everywhere, showing me exactly how to flip the blade sharp side up, and use it protectively. Did I say he was a cop? (It certainly came in handy when I was collecting herbs.)
At the back end of the trailer was a comfortable sofa which pulled out into a full bed, long enough to easily accommodate my 6’2” husband when he was able to come “visit”. At the front end, the table which seated six, collapsed down into another bed, quite large enough for two, where my daughter and the occasional girlfriend would sleep.
…something like this…
In between, on the doorway side was my little kitchen, with stove, cupboards and a tiny fridge, (I also kept a larger portable fridge/freezer for storing uncooked wild jams outside the trailer) and enough counter space to put a small television/clock/radio unit my husband found for me. (Alas, no phone).
I was all set! Happy and ready to spend the summer writing, exploring and enjoying the beach and forests.
Beach entrance at Carson’s Camp
At that time, there were plenty of bush and swamp trails to explore, along with a seven-mile stretch of white, sandy beach (said to be the 2nd longest freshwater beach in the world), and new roads to hike, so that I could search for and gather wild plants, á la Euell Gibbons.
This amazing man had inspired me with his wild-plants-as-food books, and I decided I would be Stalking the Wild Asparagus and the Healthful Herbs. I wish I had bought a copy of his Handbook Of Edible Wild Plants, as I notice it sells on Amazon.ca for paperback $430.14 (used) to $696.70 (new). Wonder if my local library would have a copy? hmmm.
Yes, I stalked the wild plants, and the wild herbs and they were plentiful in the Sauble Beach area. But I’ll leave what I garnered for perhaps another blog. Hint: Lamb’s Quarters is delicious and out-vitamins spinach….cattails are like a supermarket of food and nutrient…. uncooked wild strawberries can be made into a wonderful frozen jam… (later!)
Outside my trailer, at the boot end, I created a feeding ground for birds of all shapes and sizes. Alongside my trailer and at the fence, were shrubs that gave cover to the shyer warblers that liked to come and check out the ground feeders from time to time, so I could watch all the activities from inside my trailer and have a panoramic view. I watched a Chipping Sparrow stand up to and charge at a big old black Crow who was being a bully about the feed, and the Crow stood down…. I had just recently started recording my life-list of birds, and this was a wonderful way to have time to accurately identify them. Blue Jays would loudly announce they were coming SO HAVE THE PEANUTS AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS READY! Or else get a scolding….
From day one, birds descended on the foodsite with vigour, in considerable numbers and varieties. So too, did seven little chipmunks, which became a particular cause of joy for me.
They were feisty little guys, but different enough in their appearance and manners that I could identify them, so I attached names to them. The one with the most scars (Scrapper) was the obvious macho male, with the other six scattering to give him first place at the table, avoiding his territorial rushes and nips.
Already full cheek pouches don’t stop chipmunks from looking for more goodies to eat
One morning, at my picnic table under the canopy, I breakfasted with cereal generously topped with wild strawberries I had gathered the day before. Suddenly, out of nowhere I had two little chipmunk guests hop up onto the picnic table, and without apologies or hesitation, balance their little feet onto the side of my bowl and start gobbling up the berries. Of course I let them! Wouldn’t you? They had absolutely no fear, and I felt honoured to have them as my guests. They ate, stuffed their cheek pouches, took off, then returned a few minutes later for more. (In the meantime, I added more berries).
The following morning I loaded my bowl with nothing but strawberries, and once again, two chipmunks hopped up, ready to dig in. After “disappearing” a couple of berries, and stuffing some more into their cheeks, they hopped away as quick as lightning, and two more took their place! That’s when I realized there were seven of them, taking their turns by twos. Except for Scrapper, who ate alone. After all, he was the boss.
A few mornings later, after a long night of writing, I felt I deserved a sleeping-in morning. Suddenly I heard a loud, slow banging at my door. Startled, I cautiously peeked through the little peep-hole Dad had installed for me, but could see no one. Another loud Bang! and then another….. and I then noticed a blurry little form flying through the air…. It was the chipmunks coming for their breakfast, throwing their little bodies through the air to hit the door. I was amazed. They knew I lived inside, and they knew enough to knock.
From that time on, I would occasionally leave the door open, and sit at my kitchen table for breakfast, and almost immediately in they came. Up they would hop to the seat, then to the tabletop, and eat breakfast with me. Besides berries and cereal, they would come for seeds — they loved sunflowers and peanuts, in the shell, or raisins, or pretty well anything. Always eating their fill, stuffing their little cheeks to three times their normal size with “food for later”. After they had hidden the seeds, they would return for more, until I would shut off the supply. It was a mystery to other campers how many sunflowers grew everywhere that summer, but not, of course to me. How I loved those mornings! How I loved watching them zip around and get scrappy with each other! And one morning, when my visiting daughter was sleeping, I opened the door and in charged two little nimble footed visitors, leaping up on their “table” – which had become, of course, a bed. The look on my daughter’s face was priceless! After the first initial shock of contact, she became delighted with her “guests”, who, however, when they realized there was no food there, beat a hasty retreat outside to wait on the picnic table to be fed. (Which, of course, they were). By my daughter this time.
Image from Paddy Patterson on Flickr (cropped)
One morning when I was once again alone, I woke up very early, went outside, breathed the sweet air still touched with a bit of dew, and there, underneath my trailer, were two sets of eyes watching me. I sat down in a nearby chair and watched back. Shyly, with tails wagging, out came two magnificent Black Labradors, a male and a female, who apparently had taken shelter under my trailer for the night. They had no name tags or collars, but looked sleek and well fed. It was love at first sight.
They came over to my chair for a pet, promptly settling themselves at my feet. I thought I shouldn’t feed them, which might encourage them to stay, when they obviously belonged to someone. When they were still there at the end of the day, I had no choice: they had to be fed. Well, you would have fed them too, wouldn’t you? Of course, that meant they weren’t going anywhere. That night I could occasionally hear them under my trailer, and I actually slept feeling quite safe and secure. The night stalker I had heard on several evenings (where I had to posture with the gun by the lit window) never returned after the dogs decided to stay.
The next day, I walked to the store and the dogs loped happily along with me. When I arrived at the little store, they politely waited outside for me. I asked the owner and his wife if they recognized the dogs, but they didn’t. I posted a notice at the store that I had the dogs and asked the store owners if they would direct anyone enquiring after the dogs to my trailer site. They said they would also ask others who came into the store if they had heard of any labs missing. I posted a couple of signs along the roadways, directing people to the store for information.
But those beautiful companions stayed with me. No one came to claim them. They stayed all summer, and then, just before I was ready to pack up for home in October, they were just gone. I got up one morning, and they were just gone. Sad as I felt, I made myself believe the owner had finally found them, or that they decided their “vacation” was over, returning home for the winter.
The eerie thing is, when I returned the following Spring to the beach for my second stolen writing summer, my husband and I found one of the dogs waiting for me, tail wagging, and grinning from ear to ear. I couldn’t believe it! How did she know I would be coming back, and how long had she been waiting for me? So I had almost a full summer with Raven, who was my constant companion, who never chased the birds or chipmunks, or disturbed the mother raccoon and her babies who used to tramp through my campsite. Where I went, she went. We walked and talked together everywhere.
She led me into the swamps on doggie trails that were hidden from view to humans, I suppose, but I did some very interesting and rewarding travel with her. She was a real joy to have around. I was so taken with her I was toying with the idea of taking her home with me. Then one day, near the end of my time at the beach, a car pulled up on the other side of my little gate and a man said “You found her! I’ve been looking everywhere for her!” And Raven, a.k.a. Blackie, left me to go home — over 20 miles away! Apparently, the previous summer, she and her son had been tethered in their backyard, and somehow slipped free and got away. So they travelled to meet me and stay with me all that summer, until they decided it was time to go home, just as I had. The next summer Raven had again broken away – sadly without her son, who had died. And she found me again. I asked if there was any chance I could keep her, but the owners decided a life tied up in their back yard was preferable to being free with me, I guess. Still saddens my heart. Especially when I know her son died choking, trying to escape his collar.
My daughter and I have an affinity for animals, she perhaps more than me because when she’s with them, they respond to her in a way that is almost magical. I’m sure some of her father’s Irish and some of my Scottish faery ways have been instilled in her. I wish now that I had had her with me those two summers away from home, all the time, instead of just weekends. But she is not the plant and herb gatherer I am, so she might not have enjoyed it as much as I did…although, I must admit, she would probably have charmed the dogs to hang out with her and not go foraging with me…
Molly Brett, illustrator
If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit Ontario’s lovely Sauble Beach, here’s a video that will give you a taste of how truly special it is, along with it’s peaceful surrounding forests and farmlands. (by thespacecaptain1-YouTube)
Filled Up Days
Love the sun in its shining
in its warmth
where green things reach
to touch it
where shadows shrink away
and fear hides in the dark.
Love the rain in its pouring
in its quenching
where roots suckle the wet earth
where leaves direct the downpour
where the sound comforts me
In my warm, dry place.
Love the breeze in its wafting
in its touching
where blossom scents wrap ‘round me
where its fingers play through my hair
leaving me with a softness
and a feeling of clean.
Love the day in its mystery
where life stretches out to connect me
to the sun, to the rain, to the breeze,
to see and touch and feel
© E J Finn / Collie
Hello everyone! I’m the “daughter”, and I’m back with a few music videos for you. I previously posted a number of “beach” themed videos in Mom’s blog “The Beaches of Toronto“, so this time I’m going to focus solely on the quintessential beach music band, The Beach Boys. I’ve picked a few lesser known songs by them since many people are already familiar with their biggest hits from over the decades.
Here’s a relatively new song from 2012‘s 50th anniversary album “That’s Why God Made The Radio“, called “Beaches In Mind“, performed without original founding, but deceased, members Carl and Dennis Wilson, but with early, part-time members David Marks and Bruce Johnston (GeorgeHoff-YouTube)
Next up is “Do You Wanna Dance” from the album “Today!“, performed live in 1965 on the TV show “Shindig!” I guess I could have used this one in Mom’s last blog,”Dance Me” too! (Leonard Nosferatu-YouTube)
This tune from 1973 is called “California Saga: Big Sur” from the album “Holland” and the video features beautiful waves crashing on gorgeous beaches and surfers having great fun – for all you “California Girls” (and boys) (eMemoriesMaker-YouTube)
Lastly, this is one of my (many) favourite Beach Boys songs (just ask my husband) called “Disney Girls (1957)” which came out on their 1971 album “Surf’s Up” (Max Neira-YouTube)
(Quotes are from www.brainyquote.com and www.goodreads.com)
– Exploration is the engine that drives innovation. Innovation drives economic growth. So let’s all go exploring. (Edith Widder)
– We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. (T.S. Eliot)
– My theory in anything you do is to keep exploring, keep digging deeper to find new stuff. (Blythe Danner)
– All those hours exploring the great outdoors made me more resilient and confident. (David Suzuki)
– In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space… (William S. Burroughs)
– I’m experimental by nature…always exploring my creativity. (Christina Aguilera)
– I’m exploring the maturity, the wisdom that just comes from having gone around the sun 50 times… (Melissa Etheridge)
– I want to keep learning, keep exploring, keep doing more. (Jesse Norman)
– I love walks, hiking, exploring and being on the beach. (Ireland Baldwin)
– I’m just focused on exploring new opportunities. (Yuri Milner)
– The things that keep nagging at you are the ones worth exploring. (Evan Williams)
– I’m concerned to see today’s kids spending more time browsing the Internet than exploring nature. (Mark Udall)
– Children need to be exploring their physical world. They need to be learning the fundamental laws of physics by manipulating objects. (David Perlmutter)
– I invite you to turn off the boob tube, pry the Wii controllers form your kids’ hands, and drag them to a museum. (Lynda Resnick)
– I’m always exploring other people: trying to figure out myself, trying to figure out everyone. (Bryan Lee O’Malley)
– My primary interest has always been about exploring the human psyche and humanity. (Dana Snyder)
– I’ve been making music for a long time, but at the same time, I’m still exploring what works for me. I feel like I’m just staring out. (Zedd)
– Now what we’re exploring are the full boundaries of human endeavour. It’s not physical – it’s all in the head. (Lewis Gordon Pugh)
– Writing is like a roller coaster ride for me, an adventure. I love exploring the world through ‘playing’ people who are absolutely nothing like me. (Karen Traviss)
– I was a bit of a wild boy – always swimming and exploring the mountains. (Nobu Matsuhisa)
– It’s our potential for good stuff I’m most interested in exploring… (Morris Gleitzman)
– I grew up like Huck Finn, always outdoors, exploring, collecting frogs – there was space everywhere. I want my kids to experience that too. I love being outside. (Josh Duhamel)
– The more I have written, the less it has been about exploring myself, and the more it has been about exploring the world around me. (Nick McDonell)
– I like exploring both the light parts and the dark parts of a single person… (Rosemarie DeWitt)
– Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. (André Gide)
– As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. (Herman Melville)
– In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration. (Ansel Adams)
– Sailors on a becalmed sea, we sense the stirring of a breeze. (Carl Sagan)
– Adventure is allowing the unexpected to happen to you. Exploration is experiencing what you have not experienced before. How can there be any adventure, any exploration, if you let somebody else arrange everything before-hand? (Richard Aldington)
– If you do something that has never been done you will collect treasures that have never been found. (Jenna Newton)
For all those who love watching chipmunks, and especially for those that have never had the thrill of spending up-close time with the cute little critters, here’s a video from backyardiners on YouTube. Enjoy!
And now, just for the heck of it, how about a video of a talking porcupine named Teddy Bear eating pumpkin (from Zooniversity1). I didn’t see any porcupines at Sauble Beach, but I wish I had, from a distance of course. Go ahead, you know you can’t resist!
1937 Hunt Housecar from the RV Hall of Fame, Elkhart, Indiana
To everyone reading this: If you get a chance to be in your very own little house, whether it’s at the beach, traveling on the road, or in your own backyard, it’s an amazing experience and comes highly recommended by me as a valuable learning undertaking…
…and as Robert Frost said take the road “less traveled”…EJ