Thanksgiving, Musquash Style

Despite having to get up in the middle of the night to visit the outhouse, in the rain no less, I cannot remember a more satisfying or peaceful night of sleep than the one I enjoyed that first night on Musquash at Jim and Liz’s camp, Maple Cove. I awoke feeling as though I had slept for a week, and it is true that I have rarely enjoyed a night that has added up to roughly ten hours sleep in the last few years, but it was more than that. It is so quiet there, the air is so clean. I know it sounds hokey, but at the same time almost everyone reading this will have to concede that they have had similar experiences of that type of isolation leading to feeling relaxed. The very best part of it was after my quick trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night I was left to go back to sleep with the sound of rain hitting the roof, a sound that is always guaranteed to make me relax.

It was about eight when I wandered out of the room I was sleeping in, to find Liz taking the coffee pot off the stove; I have no shame in admitting that it was the smell and sound of the pot perc’ing that had finally persuaded me to quit the soft warmth of my bunk. We said our good mornings and I greeted Libby as she came barrelling into the camp, clearly the harbinger of Jim’s imminent return.

Breakfast was going to happen, but Jim offered to take me on a quick walk around the island and through the woods first and this seemed like a great idea to me, so we set off, clothed in waterproofs to protect from the rainwater left hugging the leaves and branches, and with a stout walking stick in hand in an attempt to compensate for the wet ground and my arm deficit. The woods were quiet, but not in that eerie way that the woods are quiet in slasher movies. There was a fresh, wholesome feeling in the air, as if the rain had cleansed the place, and now the occasional bursts of sunlight through the autumn leaves leant a real beauty to the place. I’ve mentioned the Autumn and / or Fall Colours(tm) a lot in the last few posts, and I could see why any reader might potentially raise the criticism that I am repeating myself somewhat. I know. The thing is that even though we have an autumn display in the UK, it really is nothing to what I saw in Canada. Part of the difference is the sheer scale of the view. In England, even if you go to one of the remaining wild places, like the less touristy parts of the Lake District, or bits of the Peak District, Dartmoor, The North Yorkshire Dales etc., it is fairly difficult to see beautiful, varied and vibrant displays of deciduous autumnal colour for as far as the eye can see. Add to that the greater diversity of deciduous trees that are left in Canada (that grow side by side) than at home, and the greater variance in temperatures during Fall which is one of the factors that creates the greater range and vividness of colours and you might be able to understand why I keep going on about it. Anyway, our walk took in a lot of this beauty, and I did actually take my first photos of the trip on that very walk:

Fall Colours(tm)

It had been roughly two weeks since my accident at this point, and one of the very noticeable things about this walk was that after only two weeks away from my daily bike rides I was already back to the kind of “out of condition” that I had been experiencing before I started my walking campaign. Now I’m not trying to claim that I was some kind of super-fit athlete before I came off my bike, but it was quite a shock to realise just how quickly the bloom could come off the rose, so to speak. Certainly I remember thinking to myself, perhaps for the first time in my life; “I can’t wait to be able to get back on that bike”.

Jim and Libby in the woods

We returned to the camp, and I for one was very much in need of breakfast. As luck would have it, Liz had just finished her morning ritual and a fresh pot of coffee had just finished bubbling and hissing away on the stove and both Liz and Jim were also keen to eat. North Americans in general really know how to eat breakfast; I accept that this is a gross generalisation and a cliché, but then a cliché is a cliché because it’s also true. What followed was an excellent breakfast of eggs, bacon, left-over steak, toast, juice, coffee and just a little bit of left over potato, chopped up and tossed in the pan with the steak. I realise that eating like this every day is neither practical nor healthy, and I feel that it’s unlikely that the Rogers do indeed eat this way every day, but damn if it isn’t exactly what one wants, and perhaps needs, out in the woods!

Breakfast was cleared away and it was about eleven o’clock. We were expecting the others to start to trickle into camp at around one, or so I had been told, and so Jim fired up the smoker on the deck:

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and got his bird going early while Liz took me out to see the “lookout” at the bottom of their boundary. A rock some eight or ten feet off the lake with a beautiful view across the water to another endless stand of trees, the lookout is a lovely spot. We took the view in, talked of this and that and Liz threw sticks for Libby, all the while admonishing her to go down to the water’s edge below before diving in. Apparently she has been off the top of the rock in the past, but these days she clearly knows that that is not on the menu. Then Liz took me down to the edge of the Cove and showed me the view across and where they had always picked cranberries; I’ll try to stop waxing lyrical about it, but goodness, what a beautiful place it is:

Liz by Maple Cove

We headed back up to the camp, Liz put her turkey into the iron range:

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and we started to decant bottles of beer into the old washtub in the corner of the veranda. It was while these final touches were being made that Anne, Peter and Britney were detected entering the camp domain by Libby and suddenly the day was begun…
Before too long there were a host of others and the camp was alive with greetings and laughter and the clinking of bottles and glasses as the party came alive all by itself. Noel arrived with John, the friend he had headed off to catch up with on the previous evening when Jim and I had headed down to the camp, along with John’s delightfully insane chocolate lab, Charlie who was dressed to the nines in a hunting safety vest. There was (in no order other than that of memory) Alan and Janice, and their son James as well as their chocolate lab, Brody, Doug and Ellen Floyd, Ryan, Doug Shippey and Susan, Dana, Robin and Dominic, Caroline and Jack and Judy and Steve all crammed into the cabin and the veranda. It was marvelous! The tradition is that the Rogers provide the bird and then the guests bring the vegetables (pre-washed and cut these days) and the pie, and so it all works out. After an initial round of drinks and chat the vegetables were make ready for cooking and the birds were consulted to see how much more time they would need, so that decisions could be made about when to start boiling the potatoes, turnip and squash. Of course once these conundrums had been sorted out it was back to the beer and conversation… The iron range inside the camp is an old-time wood burner and the camp yields a supply of fallen wood, specifically maple, that is seasoned on-site in the Rogers woodshed. As the afternoon lengthened towards evening and dinner came closer and closer, Liz could be heard to say between woodshed and stove that “once the Maple’s done the turkey will have to come out”; it seemed like a perfectly logical way to time the oven.

I am told that we ate later than is usual at a Rogers’ thanksgiving, and it is my guess that we were delayed by the smoked turkey being slower to cook through than even Jim had anticipated, but once we had all eaten our fill I can assure that not a single guest would have begrudged giving it the extra time. When dinner was announced, all attention turned to the table in the kitchen, where John was nominated to carve the two birds:

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and once the turkey was “off the rack” a veritable queue formed to load up plates and being the happy task of making all this food disappear. A few points of order before we continue. What one would call “stuffing” at home in England is called “dressing”, despite being cooked stuffed inside the bird. Also, you have not eaten cranberry sauce until it has been made on the stove-top at the end of the cooking process from fresh cranberries – mamma mia! What can I say, it was a meal of epic proportions, and before anyone wonders, particularly in light of the praise that I heaped upon the smoked turkey, the turkey cooked in the range was sublime! It was said many times while we were at the camp, “food just tastes better when it’s cooked in the woods”, and I still maintain that it is as true a thing as was ever said.

There was an amount of seconds for me, but I restrained myself from too large a second crack of the whip, let alone a third, as I was waiting for the secret prize; pumpkin pie. Having had an opportunity to sample what turned out to be “shop bought” pumpkin pie back at home and deciding to await “the real deal”, home-made, in North America on a traditional holiday I was pretty damn sure that I was going to have space to partake. It was completely worth the wait – just heavenly! Ellen’s pumpkin pie (which she later admitted was actually squash pie, but seeing as pumpkin is in fact a kind of squash I’m still counting it) was just the business! I may have also had some of Liz’s excellent rhubarb pie, but whether or not I did is for me to know; it was fab though.

As the meal ended and the apparently traditional banter about the men starting the dishes began, sleeves were rolled up and the final stages of the Thanksgiving work began. I was not really in a position to do anything but get in the way and potentially drop stuff, being all one-armed and so forth, but the gathered throng were understanding and quietly joshed me that I would just have to do all of the dishes the next time I came, which of course my English guilt gland immediately soaked up and agreed to. There were others that dodged the dishes bullet, but I feel that it is hardly my place to name names, and more to the point, aside from some good natured joking about it, no one actually cared. It had been a lovely day, a lovely meal and as the hours crept on into the night the last of the guests (other than myself) drifted away and we were left, Noel, Jim, Liz and myself to sit nursing a small Kaluah each and listen to the CBC on the wind up wireless.

It was not much later that I made a last trip to the outhouse and then said my goodnights; as I climbed into my bunk I could hear the rain starting up again on the camp roof, and as far as I remember I was asleep almost before my head touched the pillow.

Coming Next: Sunday in New Brunswick


Philadelphia…

For a brief interlude from the ongoing series re my travels in North America I am going to jump out of time and tell y’all about today, in brief.

Today I hopped on a train from Penn Station, came to Philadelphia, where I write this, played tourist for a few hours and then came over to Kyle and Trillian’s place to say “Hi!”

I have been following Kyle’s exploits (especially his photography) since very early on in my Livejournal days, and Trillian’s blog as well since I realised that she was on there too, and seeing as I was relatively close by (hey America is BIG) and how I love to actually meet people that I talk to / with on the internet I was really pleased when they said that they would be about and I could drop by.

We had awesome chilli, spoke of many things, listened to music and eventually I got over my nerves and took some pictures; here’s a good one:

Kyle and Trillian

It has been a really fun evening, and it is really cool to know them both that little bit better. I wish I was going to be in the country for a few more days so I could come back and see Trillian in the play that she has coming up, and hang out some more, but I figure that I will be back on the East Coast at some point, and hopefully there will be time enough to do all of these things and more…