Monday, August 8, 2011

A Musically Inspired Idea: Clark's Crossing Honey Fest

We had been out of business since this Spring, but then a couple from La Broquerie called and said they were having a hard time finding a B&B in our area. Before, when people called I thought that maybe the flood wouldn't last and we would be re- opened for July. Now I think that we will be lucky to have the B&B ready before the snowfall. So I gave them the names of other B&Bs and told them to call me back if they couldn't find anything. I said that maybe we could try to figure something out. We are so glad that they did call back. Lynda and Gary stayed for two nights in seven year old son's bedroom. Don't worry, I had time to clear out all of his stuffed bears and make room for their upright bass and guitar. They were musicians on their way to a festival in Hartney. On Saturday night, they did a concert for us right in front of the house. The neighbours came from all directions with their lawnchairs and soon we had a crowd of about ten children and twenty or so adults. Everyone enjoyed it so much, there was something magical about sitting outside under the leaves with a pleasant breeze, puffed-wheat cake, coffee and iced-tea and the harmonies of their bluegrass music. My dad, with a big smile on his face said, "Sheila, you should do this every year!" Even the roosters sang along and the dog, Tibo was very happy playing at the end of the lawn where he was tied up, to keep us all safe from his slobbery mouth. This morning Gary told me that on their way back from Hartney they were chased by a storm and their cars were being hit by hailstones almost big enough to smash their windshields. My parents also drove through the storm in the car ahead of them, because they had gone to see them play at the Gospel Music Festival in Hartney. Their scary drive reminded me of our first guests' adventure making their way through the blizzard in December. Well, I always said that coming out here is not for the weak at heart. I mentioned my "unadvertising campaign" to Lynda, but sadly realised that I would not have met her if she had read my blog. She probably wouldn't have come here at all, since she is really scared of bees, but even with what she calls a "Bee Phobia", they enjoyed a very thorough tour of Ray's Honey House, including a visit to a beehive.

Out of this visit a very nice combination of ideas has evolved. Gary suggested doing something that would really celebrate all of what we love doing here. He said we should do something like an end of the year "Clark's Crossing Honey Festival", with artisans, musicians, a farmer's market and something amazing, like a maze for the kids, ha ha (a-maizing). Now that is a great recipe for fun. I don't have time to make a maze of corn, but we'll do something fun or maybe we'll just tell the kids to go get lost while we adults sit around and visit. Ha ha, just joking. I really doubt another blizzard or tornado would happen at the end of September, but we'll try to be prepared for anything. It is like reality t.v. in a way (Fear Factor) On Saturday night our guest from the Philppines did a video tape their outdoor concert on the lawn,and there was Lynda having to face her biggest fears, her phobia of bees as she toured the apiary!!! Congratulations Lynda, you did very well on your first visit to this "Honey Farm".

Speaking of honey, Lynda and Gary were a very loving and humorous couple. We all enjoyed their visit so much and I think that things have been sweeter around here ever since. We hope they will come back often. I now have a greater appreciation of how important it is to have Ray around to "visit" when I need to do anything in the kitchen. When I was trying to serve them breakfast on Sunday, I would forget things like getting the toast in or out of the toaster if I sat down and started visiting. If Ray can't be here, I will have to set up a "breakfast buffet" next time. Yes, I asked our son and he thought it was a good thing to lend his room out like that, although I did have to grease his palm royally and I forgot to pay the cook and the cleaner.

Bye for now.


P.S. The chickens are all still alive and happy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

And then they came....

Sliding down to the river on the old Treesbank Ferry approach.
It has only been two months since we had our first guests and I am smiling at how many people have come.   They were all very nice, down-to-earth people just looking for a place to spend quality time together.  I am so glad that the guesthouse is attracting people that like doing outdoor winter activities.  The first guests used the snowshoes, the second guests tried out the cross-country ski trails and borrowed the toboggan and last night's guests came all the way from Winnipeg by snowmobile!  The funny part was that I hadn't even noticed that they spoke French until they were about to leave.  That was when Isabelle, my neighbor came into the yard for our weekly ski and they heard us chatting in French, next thing you know, the whole yard was sounding like Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes.  So, I thought about the fact that NOTHING I have on the web is in French and people wouldn't even know that we speak French except by accident.  On that note, I think I should at least make a resolution to do a few blog entries in French.  That will mean using the French accents on the keyboard, like the ç in français and the é in a good cup of thé and I will probably make a few mistakes, but at least that way we may have more chance meeting the francophones out there who are looking for a B&B.  The phone just rang, and next weekend is reserved for another family.  I love that, when I'm in the middle of blogging, I get a reservation.  The kids love it, when I say another family is coming out for a visit.   One of the things that I think made this woman choose our B&B is that we have a barbecue available for guests to use.  It is a lucky thing that she asked about the barbecue, to make sure that it was available during the winter because actually,  it is still new in the box and we will need five hours to assemble it and gather up some barbecue tools before they come next Friday!  I love having a way to get Ray to help me do something faster, hee hee.  If I were to try to assemble it on my own, it would be a disaster.  Well, we can't all be good at everything.  I am going to tell you one thing that I can do well, and next time I want to babble on some more about it.  Okay, here it is, I make my own granola from scratch, and it is mighty tasty.  I put it in a great big jar on the counter for the B&B guests, and I hope to make little "recipe" postcards so that people can take a souvenir when they go and make it at their house.   Yes, I have many plans.  We'll see.  In the meantime, thank you for reading my ramblings.

à bientôt!
ps.  la prochaine blog sera-t-il en français?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snow Without Tracks

By snowshoe, snowboard, toboggan or x-country ski, being surrounded by smooth snow makes you feel  as if you were the first person to be there.

One day when he is older, will this child remember how I explained to him that there are people in the world who LOVE fresh powdery snow?  It was his first time on a snowboard and I think he just wanted to go down as FAST as possible, fortunately, the snow cushioned his many falls, as he made his track going straight down the hill.

While going down the road might not be common by ski,  the snowplow never puts the blade down low enough to touch gravel, so I just go to my "trails" by road.  I suppose if Clark's Crossing became more popular, I would detour this scenic stretch of road, but as it is, I never meet anyone cars.  If a vehicle were coming, I would hear it long before it would meet me.

The trails we make with our  own skis have become my favorite.  Our little trails go where no noisy machine dare follow!  There is nothing so serene as being surrounded by smooth snow in the silence of winter.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Trails Leading to the Your Door

View of the River from the Little Blue House in December
Snowmobilers sometimes go down the road in front of the little blue house.  There is a connector trail that passes here.  It joins the Tri-Lakes Snowmobile Club trails to the south and the Sprucewoods Snodrifters trails to the north.  Their groomer, run by a volunteer, goes by sometimes more often the the snowmobilers themselves.  They have a warming shack not far from here, on the north side of the river.  Their trails run from here to Spruce Woods Park, and also down to Wawanesa, and south to Ninette and Killarney.  They must run by some beautiful scenery.  

This snow right now is perfect for snowshoeing.  When it was too fresh and powdery I sank right in, but now.... there's a stiffer layer, so I can actually stay on top.  No, I don't know a hundred words for the types of snow, but I do like to play in it.  Last year we built quinzes for the fun of it, this year I want to make a snow sculpture.  That means I better get piling it up.  Last night as we pulled the toboggan home from our New Year's outing to the "neighbour's", the little D was inspired to sing and the big R was explaining to the kids how the stars were actually suns.  Big D was running up ahead in the dark and A was busy taking it all in.  

For cross-country skiing, I am quite happy to use the snowmobile trails through the deep snow.   It was -25 the other day, but sheltered from the wind down here, it was perfect for a quick ski.   Today it is MUCH warmer, and I think that I'll take a good hour to enjoy the trails.   All you need to enjoy this time of year is the proper clothing.  If you want to look fashionable, you are going to pay more than the price of your clothing, you'll have cold feet to boot.   My best pair of socks ever came this year from my cousin in northern Alberta, who raises alpacas.  These socks are so soft, warm and thick.  I look forward to raising my own alpacas in the future so that I can learn to use Grandmaman Gigi's loom to weave some beautiful, warm scarves with alpaca fibre. 

I remain convinced that winter is the most beautiful time of year at Clark's Crossing, even though few know about it.  There isn't a lot of traffic out here, but I am thankful for the visitors we had over the holiday season.  It was a good way to bring in 2011.

Cheers amigos!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas comes to Clark's Crossing

It could be a sign of good things to come.  The first couple arrived at Clark's Crossing before Christmas, well prepared, with bottles of wine and movies in hand for some relaxation by the fire.  They drove through a real winter storm to get here, quite determined to get to their "retreat".  We had just about 2 feet of snow fall that day.   I had to shovel three times before they arrived and then they pitched in shovelling snow more than once.   I was so happy that they took me up on my offer to come up to our "green" house for tea and a visit.  They were very interesting with much to share and talk about.  They came smiling up the hill by snowshoe, familiar with the effort it would take.  The snow was so powdery and beautiful, just as I had imagined it would be for them, perfectly romantic.  They left me a note in the guest book, saying that they look forward to coming again in the Spring, to walk on our trails. 

Here's a look at where we live from the other side of the road.  Now that there are no leaves (and six maples less) you can see the house a bit more, and we can see a lot more sky.  Here's to looking on the bright side of things.  The garden is under snow now.   We have tilled up twice as much space as last year, it'll still be half the size that Grandma had.  In the Spring I'll be putting in a whole long row of STRAWBERRIES.

Wish you all a Happy New Year and the Blue Sky in 2011.

Your amie,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Helping you find Clark's Crossing

The school bus comes by everyday,  sometimes there are no other tracks on the road.

 I have no doubt that one of my biggest challenges in opening a new B&B out here will be letting people find out about us or helping them to find us, period.  For many, Clark's Crossing seems to be in the middle of nowhere, so I am putting this link to a beautiful map from the great google.  This map shows how the river winds it way from us, past Stockton and on to Spruce Woods Provincial Park.  If you keep following the river, you would end up at the Forks in Winnipeg.

One of the helpful "marketing" tips I received when attending the B&B Manitoba meetings was to list my location and website with google.  I have tried to be diligent in following up on all of their advice, but it takes time.  Things like putting a video on youtube will simply have to wait.

The middle of nowhere has a lot going for it.  I love it, actually.
It means one can cross-country ski down the snowy road and rarely meet a car.  It means having to get used to silence at night when you sleep.   "Ah, no sirens and cars..." There are no sidewalks or street lights, but we do have a yard light, if you turn it off you'll be in the dark.  This is very nice to see the stars up above and when your eyes adjust, you don't have any problem seeing where you are going.

I realize that many people will never discover Clark's Crossing B&B by the river, because it is so off the beaten track.  We are so far from conveniences, we're 15 minutes to Wawanesa, 45 minutes to Brandon, down roads where only deer lift their heads to look at you as you pass by.  We're 20 minutes to Shilo and 40 minutes to Spruce Woods Park, but I think in all that driving, there's only one stop sign.   It is a different kind of driving, without a lot of cars, stopping and turning.  You do have to keep your eyes open, to not hit wildlife.

Many people won't find this little place, because it is not on the way to anywhere.  This spot is on the scenic route, you won't find us unless you are really trying hard or you got completely lost on your way somewhere else.  By the way, you remember that pile of skis I have waiting for guests?  Well they are all cleaned up now, no dust or old wax on those old skis anymore.  They look just great.  What a nice gift that was from A&L Cycle and Ski in Brandon!  Grandpa has been out packing trails for us in the woods and over the river,  I haven't seen the snowmobile groomer come by, but I'm sure it won't be long.

Season's Greetings!
La Chela del banco de arboles - The Sheila from Treesbank

PS.  While I was typing this up, the phone rang.  Our first real reservation!  A couple from Brandon are coming out for two nights  this week!   I let him know that they'll  be our first guests and he sounded quite pleased!  What was best was he knew exactly where we are and they don't mind at all that the road is not paved to our doorstep!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cross-country Skiing at Clark's Crossing

I have to begin this blog by letting out a heartfelt thank you to Cam, the owner of A&L Cycle and Ski in Brandon who literally GAVE me lots of second hand cross-country skis for the guests at Clark's Crossing to use.  He also gave me a great deal on snow shoes.  We're set to go now.  Not only do we have a toboggan, we're totally equipped for you to come ski.   If you came today, you could grab some boots, poles and skis and get out there in the white stuff, only to return when you feel the urge for a 
hot chocolate.   

I was so excited that I lost count how many pairs of skis and poles and boots when in the car! I am sure there's enough for a large family of any size!  It is awesome.  I can invite my friends with their daughters or sons for a ski with me and the kids.   That all came about because I was there to pick up Ray's brand new skis and I asked if they had another bigger set for Aimée (second hand) for this year.  Then I got to telling the owner about opening the guest house and how I hope to eventually have enough equipment that guests could ski when they stay there.  So what does he do?  Cam, the owner of A&L  keeps coming up from the storage room with more pairs for me, apologizing that they need to be dusted off.  Yes, they are a bit older, but actually they are the same as the ones I still use and love.  

This is great if you don't have skis or have never tried skiing.  If you like it, then you can go back and buy some new swanky skis like the ones Ray has.  Actually, I saw a sign at A&L, they actually RENT cross-country skis, so I think you might be able to try out a pair of swanky nice skis if you wanted, for just $15 bucks I think.  One thing I like about Ray's new skis is that you could practically ski-skate with them, they are very well attached to the boot with two poles that pivot at the toe and one mid-way down.

We have a few choices here for cross-country skiing.   You can follow the groomed snowmobile trails, follow Grandpa's snowmobile trails that wind through the bush or blaze a  new trail yourself - that is a lot more exercise.... and it is actually a fun option if you've never tried it.  But if you like walking out in the fluffy stuff, then really I think the best thing to do is put on a pair of snowshoes and zigzag through the  woods where no man or woman has ever zug before.


If you really want a well groomed trail, just drive to Spruce Woods Park (40 minutes) where there are trails for all levels.  See the map above of one of our favourite places at Spruce Woods, there are warming shacks, beautiful trees and hills.  Brandon Hills also have groomed trails and it is less than half an hour from here.

Whether we go somewhere for a change of trails or stay here,  I wish more people would discover the peacefulness of getting out for a nice glide on the snow and a good workout.

Unlike downhill ski runs where the scenery stays the same every time down, cross-country skiing is a way to get out and explore a bigger area, without seeing of the same view twice.

We used our little slopes as bunny hills for the kids to try out downhill skis.  I towed this guy back home, it gave me a real workout on my cross-country skis.

I hope that I haven't made it all sound like too much exertion.  Really, you go your own speed, you go how far you want, then you turn right around and go warm up when you've had enough.  I can't wait to go out tomorrow.  I just got Ray's from the store and mine are waxed and ready to go.  Then I know I have a pile of work to do, but it'll wait, and when I get to it, I'll have more energy than ever, right????
Well, we'll see about that tomorrow.
Have a good night and I hope that happy thoughts are filling your heads with good dreams.
votre amie,