My Arch Enemy

IMG_20171006_142505 What you see here is my archenemy. In the event you do not know I am 6 foot 10 inches tall. My mode of travel on Lakes or Rivers is a rowboat. A dingy if possible. Canoes and I get along like Fire And Gasoline. I wouldn’t trust a canoe on Solid Ground. Being so tall is a detriment for taking a canoe anywhere. My back would not tolerate the strain. Plus I would have not made a great actor playing an Indian. My personal motto is ban the canoe.

A Snowfall at Big Bass Lake

Winter truly starts at Big Bass Lake with the first snowfall.  Until that time, autumn is still in control. I have often wanted to take out a rowboat on the lake during the first snow but I wonder how safe that would be? When does the ice first start to form on the lake? My winter expertise on the lake is sorely lacking as I only spent a few days up there twice in the winter.

Our cottage was not winterized however the original old house was.  My grandmother was a snow bird and headed south for the winter.  We used to pick her up sometime during hunting season before my Aunt and Uncle would then meet us in Wabash, Indiana (where we lived at that time) before taking her to Enterprise, Alabama, for her winter home.

My grandmother returned to the farm in Mid-April each year thus avoiding most of the contact with any snow,  I wonder how many residents on the lake live there year round?

Ice Cold Big Bass Lake

Just looking at these two pictures makes me cold.  Yet during the days when my father was a boy there, he could take a short cut across the lake to get to his house.  That cut out about a quarter of a mile had he chosen to take Big Bass Lake Road to school. 

He told me that he and his siblings used to shovel off the snow from the lake to get to the ice for skating.  But not with ice skates as they had no money for that sort of thing.  They just used the soles of their shoes to slide upon the clear ice.  He also said that the ice served as a window, of sorts, to view fish that were below its surface. 

My grandfather did some ice fishing in those days as did my father.  Now-a-days that still occurs on the lake along with snowmobilers flying across the ice.  I would presume even some ice skating is done today but with real skates.  If anyone as a photograph of a clear ice picture of the lake, please forward it to and I will post it this winter.

The Noreika Farming Land

This open area amongst the trees of our forest was the Noreika farm land that extended nearly all the way from just west of the public landing to Noreika Road alongside Big Bass Lake Road all the way. Beyond Noreika Road was our forest land and that extended all the way to the north side of Big Bass Lake to and including the west side of Matson Road.

Yet that open land must have meant back-breaking work for my grandfather and his sons along with whatever hired help he could afford in those times. I recall my grandmother, Barbara Noreika, telling me that my grandfather spent long grueling hours with his horse team pulling out countless stumps from that field which must have originally been just as dense with trees as the rest of our forest.

My Uncle Joe once told me that he did not have the physical frame for such work and that his bad back at that time must have been a result of those early days where he helped his grandfather clear the land. It must have been a primary reason why my father left the farm at such an early age (twelve) to seek work away from the Big Bass Lake area. Even my grandfather once fell from his wagon while his horse team was pulling up stumps causing him to be laid up for quite some time.

Then, I also wonder why that singular tree was not cut down with the rest of the trees which you can observe in the middle of the field on the lower right side of this picture. Maybe it was a place to gain some rest under its spreading branches after a hot day of work on that field? I have often wondered how long clearing all that land took before it was ready for the plow? And, what crops did my grandfather plant over the whole of that field? Did he understand crop rotation?

In later years all that land was plowed for hay to feed the few cows we had left on the farm. It was stacked nearly to the rafters of our barn. But in its heyday I can well imagine fields of corn, wheat, and barley. Plus, my grandmother had a large garden just outside the house area full of all kinds of vegetables for the table. You see in those days food for the family largely came from the land itself along with milk and other related dairy products from the cows and chicken from the barnyard along with eggs. Pork and bacon came from the small pig farm we also had. It must have been such a hard life for my grandparents and for my father and his siblings.

Fishing School

This is one school that I flunked hands down.  I don’t know why but fishing always seemed boring to me.  My dad could never get me to enjoy it.  As a young boy, there was too much patience involved.  It seemed that we could never get a fish bite even though we got plenty of mosquito bites.  Maybe that’s what I always attach to my fishing memories.

My dad used worms almost exclusively even though some of my later boys club kids would opt out of worms for peanut butter or cheese as a somewhat better form  of bait for them.  Maybe if I had been taught that my fishing experiences would have been better? 

In those days in the 1950’s our rowboat was wood over that of metal.  Getting a splinter or two was an occupational hazard on fishing excursions into Big Bass Lake.  My dad also preferred rowing to motors even though my uncle had stored a motor at the farm.  So between worms and splinters my fishing days were numbered. 

In my boys club years the kids fished while I still avoided that pastime like the plague.  So my mark in Fishing School 101 was a big fat F.

A Day at the Big Bass Lake School

At one time this was the Big Bass Lake School that my father and his sisters attended and today it serves as the Sauble Township Hall. My dad and his brothers and sisters had just over a mile walk to the school each day as there were no school buses in that era. Their teacher usually arrived about an hour before the kids and had to draw water from the well for drinking purposes that day and also to stoke the fire to keep the room warm.

Bible readings from the teacher usually began the day. In this area the teacher had their work cut out for them as it was a mix of English and Lithuanian children. I know at my dads house the children were not permitted to speak English even though they were learning it at school. Only their native language was allowed as that is all my grandparents knew.

Class would then begin. As the day progressed each class was called to the “recitation” bench. There the teacher worked exclusively with those children for a period, while the other students busied themselves studying or doing an assigned lesson. Normally there was a brief morning recess of about fifteen minutes, followed by more classes, and then an hour for lunch. The afternoon was spent much like the morning with classes and a short recess.

Every subject was studied in that one room. This school is located right down the block from the Big Bass Lake store and very close to the area softball field today. It is still standing.   On their eay home from school, some kids might have stopped off at the Big Bass Lake store for some things for their parents. 

How about a dozen eggs for 18 cents?  Or bread for eight cents a loaf?  Or pork and beans at five cents a can?  Hot dogs could be bought for eight cents a pound.  And you could get four cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup for a quarter!  Of course most area farms were nearly self sufficient but how’d you like to find those prices today?

Want to Own a Horse Ranch?

Ironically, back in the early 1900’s, my grandparents, Joseph and Barbara Noreika, used this very land that you can observe in our aerial photograph to graze their horses and cows.  Now that same area has been used as a horse ranch since 1998.  However, even that era has now seemed to come to a close as this property is being sold after only a brief ownership.  This land is located almost directly across from our old grassy pathway that led down to our wooded beachfront.

This 43 Acre Farm was built in 1998.  This peaceful Kentucky setting has a mixture of open and wooded land with seasonal views of Big Bass Lake. Deer and other wildlife abound in this natural paradise close to the Big Bass Lake boat access for fishing, hunting, horse and ORV riding, snowmobiling, and outdoor enjoyment.  It now also has a pond which was man made. 

If you look closely enough in this photograph, not to mention in our aerial picture, you can observe the telephone lines that divided our former property in half.  I would think that television reception at this house was very poor due to being in close proximity to those lines. I also find it interesting as to how many fairly new structures on our former property are already up for sale.  The next generation of ownership of our former property are not keeping it very long in comparison to my grandparents.  Even this property will most likely be sold in plots as the horse ranch itself is rather large. Miniature horses were raised at this location.

By the way, Noreika Road is highlighted in yellow on our aerial picture.

Our Farm in the Spring

This picture provides you with a glimpse of what needed to be done every spring. The grass had to be cut and what a lawn! It extended all the way to Big Bass Lake Road. A lawnmower would do right around the house and garage but for the field all the way to the road a tractor had to be used, not to mention all the way back to the barn.

Notice all the trees behind the house. A great many of those are now gone to make way for new homes that desired an open view of Big Bass Lake. Instead of the field you see to your right, new homes are now found there. Yes, farms are disappearing in that area all too fast to make room for tourism.

Yes, that tractor of ours sure got a good workout come every spring. It also plowed a pathway through the barnyard nearly to Al Matson’s cabin where Noreika Road’s sandy section begins.

That solo tree has been around for seemingly eons. In a picture published within this site was of me and my sister when I was about five, and that tree is in that picture and it doesn’t appear to have aged a day in this photograph. It has stood smack dab in the middle of our field despite high winds and driving rains and winter gales. Going North on Big Bass Lake Road past the public landing, it is off to the right as you hit the curve taking you due North.

Our garden was something else as both my grandmother and Aunt Beth tended and noursihed it as one of their prime attractions. As a kid I only got to weed it and that wasn’t much fun. I once asked my grandmother why smelly manure could produce such wonderfully aeromatic flowers and she replied, “Just a miracle of nature”.

I remember helping my Aunt Beth shuck beans and I must confess that they tasted better that night. We had just about every vegetable imaginable in that garden. Not that far away down the field was our orchard full of tasty fruit. As I mentioned in a previous post, there were also blackberry bushes in the middle of our property not ten yards off the dirt road that cut our property in half.

Yes, that unique tree and our garden will also be in my memory as such good things came from the latter into our larder. Then there was the compost pile but that will be saved for another day and post.

Where’s The Back Porch?

This was our home at 570 North Wabash Street over the Hipskind garden next door. One thing is missing though and that is our back porch. In the back of the house, where you can observe those three windows, was the location of our back porch. Apparently, the new owners chose to enlarge the kitchen thus forfeiting the porch.

That porch was my quick exit out to the back yard and down the Nagel’s hill, across Charley Creek, and then across some open stretch en route to Wabash High School each day. It seems strange not to see the back porch there anymore. The house now only has two exits and that would be the front door and the french doors just to the south of the front door.

This was probably the best house our family ever lived in and its too bad we couldn’t take it with us when we moved to Illinois. It was really hard leaving Wabash in 1967 as that is still considered my home town. Growing up in Wabash was great.

Our house was built-in 1910 and is a 3,026 square feet home. It has three floors and a full basement.  The estimated worth of the home is $154,700 dollars.  There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms.  The third floor has a bedroom, bathroom, a walk-in closet, and a full attic.  The second floor consists of the other full bedrooms and bathrooms. 

The first floor has a large living room with sliding doors on each side of the room with one of them leading into the dining room.  There is a full pantry just outside the kitchen and a sunroom.  A half bathroom is just off the pantry. 

The Only Time My Sister Was Taller Than Me

Now being six foot ten inches, this was the only picture that I can recall where my sister was taller than me. Yes, this little towheaded little boy has now stretched himself out to be me. The tree in the background can be seen elsewhere on our photo page and it appears as if it were not even a day older. Trees are like that, you know. They don’t show age as our human bodies do.

In height I passed the majority of my family by the seventh grade. By the time I left for college, I was at my full growth. It is widely reported that our family milk man cried when I went away because he lost half his business at our house. Yes, milk DOES do the body good.

I can’t remember myself at this height much but I do remember meeting my grandfather at this one and only time when I was that small.  Even though I couldn’t understand him much, as he spoke broken English accented by heavy Lithuanian, I know he loved me as the smile on his face was more than showing. 

Maybe I should have remembered more at this age but unfortunately that is not the case.  At least this memory is fresh.

My Neices

These are my three neices and the daughters of my youngest sister Kathy. Laura is the youngest of the three and has just finished college so, yes, my neices are now all young women. Kristen, the middle neice, is married and has four sons, while Sarah, the eldest, is single and finishing up college herself.

My neices had the oppotunity when still young to visit our property in Michigan and meet their Aunt Beth as well as explore the farm, forest, beach, and logging trail. We stayed in Manistee for this trip in 1992 and took a walk along the beach in very bad weather for July. It was cold and windy and my neices wanted to take a picture of me in Lake Michigan. I did so and froze big time.

Later Kristen and I walked out onto the Manistee breakwater in high waves but the first wave that crashed against that breakwater soaked us and that was the end of our walk.

It was important for the girls to know about their Noreika roots in our family farm as my grandmother died with that name that her children abandoned in the 1940’s for Norris. They at least had the chance to explore part of that heritage by visiting the family farm.

My Grandmother’s Pasti Recipe

My grandmother, Barbara Noreika, hailed from Lithuania and she and my grandfather established a farm in North Central Michigan in the early to mid 1900’s. Our family changed the name to Norris in the 1940’s to sound more American but my grandmother maintained the true family name. She was a superb cook in her little farmhouse kitchen that was mostly wood with an old fashioned stove. She had a circular table in that kitchen that we ate from. Her specialty was pasti which is a meat pie with a thick salted crust. It is an unsweetened pastry but full of great things to feast upon. For all you chef’s out there I have an unofficial recipe for this gourmet dish.
4 Cups of Flour
One-eighth Teaspoon of Salt
1.5 Cups of Lard in one-fourth inch cut cubes
8-10 Teaspoons of ice water
1 egg (beaten)

The Filling-
1 Cup coarsely chopped White Rutabaga
2 Cups finely diced boneless beef or steak
1 Cup coarsely chopped onions
2 Cups finely diced potatoes
1.5 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rub together the flour and fat to make a coarse meal and then add in the 8-10 teaspoons of ice water all at once. If the dough crumbles add more ice water. Then refrigerate the dough for about one hour.

Then roll the dough into a circle about one-fourth inch thick and cut into six inch rounds. Re-roll.

As for the filling cut the ingredients into small pieces making sure to cook the meat and the potatoes together. Combine in a bowl and combine one fourth of the mixture into the center of the rolled out pasti. Moisten the pasti edges then fold in half making sure to crimp the edges to seal. Place the pasti on a buttered baking sheet and brush lightly with the egg wash. Make two slits in the pasti to allow steam to escape. Place in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees then reduce heat to 350 degrees until the pasti is golden brown.

For best results serve the pasti with Cole slaw and you are in for one tasty meal. If the pasti dough is made just right you will never forget this recipe of my grandmother’s. To be honest, I haven’t tasted pasti the way she made it since her death in the 1970’s. The Upper Penisula of Michigan has many pasti restaurants but none with her recipe. Bon apetite!

I should also let you know that when I was taking camping trips into the area with kids I would always be treated to this marvelous pasti at least once per trip. It was the best meal ever!

Our Concord Grapes

Our property had a small Grapevine of concord grapes just off the hillside near the main house. I don’t think anything can beat the taste of concord grapes Fresh Off The Vine. Scrumptious doesn’t nearly describe it. Our farm also had a big section of blackberry bushes which also tasted great but couldn’t compare with our concord grapes. The sweetness just exploded in your mouth. One year my sister and I ate them all in a short period of time as the vines we had weren’t all that many. Concord grape not only takes good but they’re good for you as well. The blackberry’s we had were full of antioxidants. Not a bad combination for the fruit of our farm. At was time we had a small Orchard that had apples, cherries, and pears. And my grandmother knew what to do with each one as she was a great at baking pies. Have you ever had pear pie before?