This Is Retirement?
Have to keep pinching myself because I can't believe I am having so much fun at Pheasant Acres RV Park. What's a little, well . . . what's a lot of rain at a campground in June? Thinking the raindrops are the catalyst for bringing interesting new campers to our campground. They come in all sizes, nationalities and with tiny tents to large rigs. The campers, not the raindrops.
The first of June saw my four blonde 'grandkitlets' visiting for 8 grand and glorious days. (Gramps said more like 'grumbling and all get-out noise' days). Letting them leave the hectic city life to come relax at "Granny S's Summer Camp" was a hit. (Gramps thought it was more of a miss but no one listens to him anyway.) Joined by another Granny camper, Sue, who brought her three grandkids to spend some outdoor time, and all I can say is . . . these grounds and woods resounded with the happiness and laughter of 8 exhuberant kids. (Gramps said it was to blanking noisey!)
While traveling around the U.S for six week in a rental RV, we had a German couple stay with us for a night. It was a evening of sharing while in their company. Trying to visit as much of the U.S. as possible, they were on their way to Chicago enroute back to New York and then back home to Manheim, Germany. Another gent on a 3 year tour had a unique way of transporting his smart car...in the back of his toy-hauler. He stopped for a week for his son's graduation from Rolla S & T University.
Varo-o-o-o-o-m. Riding like the wind, a group of four gents on a 3,000 mile week-long road trip from Wisconsin and back, stopped in for a night's stay as they were heading back north. Bikes, beautiful bikes (drooling) . . . each on a very nice bike. Mother Nature provided them with a quick rain shower during the night, but as the sun broke out the next morning, they were on their way . . . gracious enough to let me take their picture.
And I can't forget to mention Rhett, Nick and Cam, three lively brothers who were here for a week with their dad. My grandson, Zane, managed to twist my arm and come back to stay for another week. These four guys created quite a little tribe as they played ball, fished, caught a gazillion lizards, drove the golf cart, played flashlight tag in the woods, slept in the tent, squirted the water guns, and yes, payed some 'hot and heavy' Mario Cart on the Wii.
It seems 'tattoo-ing' Gramps one hot afternoon was a big hit with the youngsters. I think they tied Gramps to the wicker chair and then attacked him with the stampers. Can't deny kidlets having fun.
Who showed up for Memorial Day at Pheasant Acres RV Park?
Deer - check. Slimy salamandars - check. Prairie Lizard - check. Five-lined skink - check. Bats - check. Bluebirds - check. Pileated woodpecker - check. Black snake - check. Garden snake - check. Hummers dive bombing - check. Garden snail - check. Black speckled snake - check. Goldfinches - check. Cooing Doves - check. Bluegill - check. Trout, of course - check. Nuthatches - check. Numerous sparrows - check. Toad - check. And let's not forget the gazillion Cicadas serenading from the surrounding woods - check. And the ever-friendly chiggers - check.
And, no a citter went unnoticed, as the "Pheasant Acres Junior Crew," Zane, Beck, Piper, Penn, Matthew, Matt, Michael, Nick and Tanner, Holden - were on the trails using their poking, prodding, pushing, pulling, digging, and turning over techniques to spot the woodland critters. What joy to watch the interaction of our junior campers, see their excitement (and hear it also) when they spied another of Mama Nature's family.
Behold, The golden orb in the sky appeared on Sunday...finally. Had to give a refresher course to all as to exactly what that orb was...as the sun hadn't been out for a while. The light rain didn't dampen the cookouts, the campfires or s'mores each night previously, but it was agreed that the warm, sunny weather made for a great final two days of camping. Happy campers leaving with dry tents and awnings is 'a good thing.'
What we all learned this weekend...the kids didn't miss a pool, or a swing set, a slide, or a television. The beautiful canopy of shade in the woods with all the paths, critters and new friends is what made Pheasant Acres RV Park a fun and laughter filled weekend for all! And...that's the truth.
The Maramec Spring Park Kid's Free Fishing Day was a super event this year. Yes, a tad cold with some sprinkles felt, but that didn't diminish the fun and laughter seen and heard down at the park. Pheasant Acres was completely full for the first time since taking ownership. Campers were still pulling in at 9:00 PM and the campground got quiet quickly as most were getting up at 5:00 AM to head down to the park to get tags, bags full of 'free kid stuff', enter names in the raffle cans and then head down to the stream to claim their favorite spot to fish.
Our little grandkidlet, the "Z"man, proudly sporting his Christmas waders found that a quick step into the stream was his downfall. Literally. Note: When waders fill with water - one gets very cold very quickly. Gramps Don, who unwisely chose not to wear his waders, showed no hesitation when he jumped into the stream to grab Zane's wader straps and hoist him from the water. We waved goodbye as they headed home to get out of their wet gear, leaving me to help the other two grandkidlets. Fish were practically jumping onto the hooks, and we are happy to report we had a great quick morning of trout fishing.
Later we witnessed a remarkable event...the Pheasant Acres Maternity Ward. Literally hundreds of cicada nymphs were molting from the egg casings and were clustered all over the oak tree and hostas at the base of the tree as their wings and body matured into an adult cicada. Follow this link to a video of the molting of a cicada nymph. Bet you didn't know this: Cicadas only live in one place in the WORLD...the eastern United States. And this is the first hatching since 2008.
The day ended with our first of the season monthly cookouts with Italian Beef sandwiches as the entree. Good Food. Good folks. Good desserts. Good campfire. As the pillows and blankets were whispering our names, everyone drifted off quickly for a good night's sleep.
Sunday morning, waking up to a cool drizzle, reservations were already coming in for 2012 Kid's Fishing Day at Maramec Spring Park, which is always the weekend after Mother's Day. I think that shows a measure of happiness from our campers.
I got one! I got a r-e-a-l-l-y BIG one!
Let's hope we hear that a lot next weekend during Kids Fishing Day down at Maramec Spring Park. Expectations are for 1000 youngsters to be in attendance. I know Pheasant Acres RV Park is expecting about 25 kids to be camping here with their parents. Let's hope these little anglers really do land some big trout. And I can't even imagine how many s'mores will be consumed at the nightly campfires.
I thought I was too old to graduate again, but, nope! My Master Naturalist graduation is Tuesday night, the 10th. It's been a lot of fun to master the flora and fauna of the Ozark Plateau that surrounds this area. I think my favorite discovery this week was the dog-tooth violets that are flourishing just on the other side of my fence line on the Conservation land. They are incredible.
The month of April opened with beautiful Bluebirds in abundance. I am hoping that some have chosen to use our bluebird houses as their maternity wards. And the violet children have blossom all over the campground making it a little difficult to mow around them, but I did. As I look out from the back deck I can see many beautiful violet fields dotting the landscape.
Am I getting 'smarter' as I delve deeper into the Missouri Master Naturalist program? The Ozark Plateau which includes Saint James is a beautiful area. Within the plateau there are numerous sinkholes, caves, fens, glades, plant and animal species, domomite, karst and more. Our last field trip took us to Meramec River to collect fish and tiny invertebrae critters. I was lucky to snap a photo of Dutchman's Breeches - that's flora, not fauna. We also visited a wonderful campground in the area for disadvantaged people, Camp Brim Shire, right here in Saint James. It was exciting to learn of the opportunities the disadvanged can explore at Brim Shire such as fishing, camping, studying native animals, and the joy of learning about the out-of-doors in a beautiful setting.
A new 'man toy' presented itself this week. Neighbor Bob brought over his Stihl tree trimmer, as he and Don decided there was a need for dead branch removal. Wouldn't want a pop-up camper to experience a fallen tree branch close up, now would we?
And I finished painting the Women's restroom and shower area; Yes, nothing says we're ready for campers than fresh paint!
"Gotta get there! Come on! We'll be late! "
Don and I were up at the crack of dawn, 4:15 AM, with the cats, Long and Short Hair and Ms. Buffyn looking at us as if we had lost our minds. Down at the park by 5:30 AM, parked, with fishing equipment in hand and walking to our favorite jetty out into the stream by 5:41AM. A surreal picture was unfolding as the sun began to rise from the horizon, revealing a mist where the warm water met the cold air - 18 degrees. Eerie yet beautiful. And of course I had my camera.
I heard that 990 fishing tags were sold on opening day. To my amazement I could not believe that men, fishing men, could be such chatterboxes. Yes, there were fishing gals there, too...but way outnumbered. All up and down the edge of the stream, waiting for the 6:30 AM whistle to sound, you could hear the excited voices of young and old, new and experienced and indeed hopeful 'fisherpeople' (if that is a term) with their rods and reels at the ready. How many lunkers would be landed remained to be seen.
Once the whistle blew...amazingly...silence floated down over the stream. Yes, you could actually hear the hum of lines casting with a plink of the bait landing on the water's surface teasing the naive trout to come and take a nibble. "I got one, I got one!" And so the season has begun.
Welcome to 2011!
Imagine...2011 arrived at Pheasant Acres with four cute little Bluebirds flitting about...and with high expectations for Opening Day of Trout season at Maramec Spring Park on March 1st, which is on a Tuesday this year. Since this will be our first opening day at the campground, we're curious as to how many campers we will have. You know, those 'gotta get the first trout of the season' kind of people, or the 'hope I get a lunker this year' angler, or the 'this is my 24th Opening Day' fish-o-phile. I thought I would test my culinary skills, a la Martha, and offer homemade and hot, hot, hot vegetable soup and sandwiches from noon on to any who wish to partake with the stipulation they must share a good fish story.
During my college years in Kentucky, I spent three years in biology studying the flora and fauna, even though I was an art major. Try to picture this: sitting with my field biology class in a small rather cold log cabin on Kentucky Lake, while our professor, Dr. Hunter Hancock, played on the high tech equipment of the times, a record player, the calls of birds while we over-zealous undergrads matched them to birds we had seen that day. Oh, tweet! Or the times we banded geese on the Mississippi Flyway. Yeah, the good old days before Gortex and polypropolene. Brrrr.
And the reason I am confessing to my nerdiness? I just sent in my paperwork to become a Missouri Master Naturalist through the Missouri Conservation Department. It's time to dust off my binoculars, boots and manuals, and delve back into the flora and fauna. You may already know I have quite a love affair with lichen (if you check out my Facebook photos), so my anticipation of exploring the woods this spring with my camera is already making my palms sweaty. But, really...what better thing for a campground owner to do than to become one with the surroundings!
Ah...Thank you Mother Nature for blessing the Saint James area with a pristine blanket of snow. Amazing how fresh snow makes everything so very quiet. And, note to self: 'Keep the freezer stocked.' Thank goodness I read that in the New Campground Owner Manual earlier this year.
Dare I say it? Sure. Trout fishing on Christmas Eve in the snow was absolutely an ultimate high. There were about five others already wading the stream with their fly rods at the ready. This is the perfect time to be fishing down at the spring, as there is plenty of room to spread out from each other. Don took some new flies that he tied that morning. I think he kept the good ones and gave me the so-so ones, as he caught three trout while I only had two strikes and didn't land any of those beautiful Rainbows.
Interestingly enough did you know of all the Missouri trout stream parks, Maramec Spring Park at Saint James is the only one open seven days a week from November through February from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Fishing is definitely the right price - FREE. And the catch and release makes it all that much more fun. Can you say: I caught 24 trout today? Don can.
And of course, here at Pheasant Acres RV Park we can accomodate your camper during the winter months. If you haven't experienced winter camping, you should give it a try. Sitting around a campfire in the snow is a great way to relax and commune with Mama Nature.
Can 2010 really be coming to an end? It's been a wonderful time for Don and I here at the RV park in Saint James, Missour making so many new memories. Thought it would fun to post our Christmas letter...as it's close enough to the holidays that one more letter won't bother you too much. Enjoy...
Oh, my golly gosh...we have survived the first four months here at our campground . . . and we are happy to report that we have LOVED every minute of it and are looking forward to being with all of you next year!
My first night as the new owner of Pheasant Acres was without Don, who was working in St. Louis. The rainstorm hit hard that night. While moving our kitty boys, Long Hair and Short Hair, out to the motorhome so that Ms. Buffy might come out of hiding, I slipped. SPLAT! . . . in the gravel. Oh, not once, but twice! Managing to rip open my knee in the gravel first, then flipping over hitting my head down to my tushie. Mud! Did I mention the mud? But my sweet neighbor, Dolly, graciously played nurse to my wounds even though it was late. As I was bound for the beach the following week, I could already feel the stinging of the salt water in my mangled knee.
Keeping busy while I was at the beach, Don and good friend, Roger, installed a new corrugated metal 'manly' ceiling in the men's shower house. It's good to know someone who towers at 6 feet 8 inches tall when working on a ceilingl And there was the third helper, Bud Light, right, Don?
Tractors with front blades was the offer. Ah, music to a man's ears. Friends and long time campers, Bill and Glenn, brought their shiny green John Deeres for the day and played like little boys with their Tonka toys while spreading FOUR tandem loads of gravel on the roadway and site pads. Boys never grow up, do they? And Brenda . . . you sure know how to handle a mean rake!
Stihl chain saw. Need I say more? With the mere mention of these three words, Don could hardly wait to chop, chop, chop down limbs, branches, bushes and tree trunks. Why heck, I came home one day and saw he had even chopped down the green posts that held up (held is the operative word here) the entrance gate. I knew it was time for Don to put away Mr. Stihl.
Nothing like a truck and a chain wrapped around a bush to make long time camper and new friend, Claude, hastily pull on his bib overalls and come a'running. The bushes were soon history . . . wrap, snap, pop and out! It's scary to see grown men droll over something like this. And you can bet this spring we will be having one gigantic bon fire when all that wood is dry.
'Picasso Sherry' kept busy with her paint brush and seven gallons of paint. Brown and orange have never looked so good as they do on the newly painted out buildings and picnic tables. Oh, by the way . . . it takes Don four hours and three sanding belts to sand down ONE table to bare wood. It's his Sunday therapy.
By far the biggest toy left by the previous owner and very much missed, Chuck, is the magnificant Cyclone Rake. What a beaut! Sherry has commandeered this to be her own private and personal toy! Having so much fun, that sometimes in her mania, she may have 'clipped' a few things . . . accidentally of course. Sorry, Claude and Patti but how is that cosmetic surgery coming along on your 5th wheel? And oops, clipping the faucet on #15 . . . well, that was to give Don some more plumbing practice. We all know Don loves plumbing so much, but let's not make a 'crack' about that.
Speaking of plumbing . . . and roof leaks . . . and toilet floor repairs . . . and new freeze faucets . . . and circuit breakers . . . and electrical wiring . . . and power washing . . . and copper pipe soldering . . . and hold digging . . . and grass mowing . . . and rock moving . . . Don has secured his spot as 'The Handy Man of the Year!' I think I just may keep him on for another season.
As I close, I must comment on my 'camping husband,' Mark, who's vast knowledge of the past 20+ years at Pheasant Acres proved to be a bonus to Don and I. He graciously let us play with 'Ms. Grey Goose' Cora, always a charmer with her laughing personality. And as Grill Meister Extrodinaire, he will surely be missed as he and Cora are heeding the words . . . Go west, young man, go west. We are going to miss you both . . . but heck! We now have a great reason to road trip it out to the great Northwest. Henry? Jackie? Let's start making our plans now. And we'll pick up Diana on the way.
There are so many menories for the year . . .
Boy Scouts - Sweet new home for Louise, our '57 TBird - Yummy pie iron desserts - Chili Supper - Pumpkin carving contest - Huffin' 'n puffin' to make balloon animals - The Taj Mahal - Annual Pig Roast - Great mole and gopher hunt - Henry and Don fighting over Ruby's pies - Blazing campfires - S'mores - Adoption of Holstein, the kitten - Camouflaged deer and turkey hunters - New friends, new campers, old campers, old friends and wonderful neighbors that made us feel so welcome to the area.
May everyone have a wonderful Christmas holiday and may your New Year be all that you hope for!
Sherry and Don Swanson
Some of you know that I have been on the great mole hunt for a few months. What a relief when the snow came, as I figured that little old Mole would finally burrow under and give it a rest. For his tiny size, he sure can do some surface damage to the campground.
Ha! Surprise...the weather doesn't seem to affect his subterranian adventures one bit. But it sure is easy to locate quickly exactly where he's been. If it weren't so darn cold, I'd park myself outside with some hot chocolate and surprise him when he pops up. I'm all for giving animals their due space in nature...just not my personal yard. I mean, he's got 5,000 acres to go play in, why my backyard?