A Tale of Three Wells

Living here above the shores of Lake Superior is truly wonderful. I get to look at the lake every day and live like the natural hermit I am (most of the time anyway), yet the wonderful town of Grand Marais is only a few minutes away by car (or 20 minutes by bike, or an hour walking if it comes to that), providing a convenient place to shop for necessities and get an occasional jolt from contact with other humans. Not to mention being close to a couple of nice golf courses, without which the place would be simply uninhabitable.

However, there is one interesting challenge associated with living outside of an actual city. Out here, one can’t just connect up to a city water system — one has to have a well to obtain water. Hermit though I may be, I can not live without running water.

Way back when we were planning to build our cabin, my father had a plan. We would build a long cable down to the shore, supported by pulleys, to which we could attach buckets. We would go down to the lake every day and fill said buckets with water, then crank them up to the cabin and store said water in a cistern. We would have an outhouse for our daily “excretionary” needs. I promptly vetoed that plan. He was a real hermit. I am only a fake hermit.

But, I digress.

At any rate, we had the local well driller out to drill a well for us. He used a divining rod to locate a likely spot, then set about drilling. Lo and behold, after only a few hours, he struck into a great source of water only 45 feet below the surface, in a sort of gravelly soil. That well has served us faithfully and faultlessly for thirty years now, with good, clean water.

Not long after our well was drilled, our neighbor, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, engaged the same driller for a well on her property. This time not bothering with a divining rod, he selected a site only about 25 yards away from our well and began drilling. Down and down went the drill, for several days, through gravel and rock and mud and more rock, until finally finding a dribble of water at about 320 feet. Over the next several years, the neighbor tried and tried to get more water to flow, finally resorting to hydraulic fracking. She did get more water, but it was often muddy, so she had to install a complex filtering system.

The neighbor sold her place a couple of years ago to some wonderful folks who shall also remain nameless, except to mention that they are my wife’s sister and her husband. Being on friendly terms, we were happy to accommodate them when they showed up with plastic jugs in hand, asking to collect a supply of our water for drinking and cooking. That has continued to happen whenever they come to stay at their cabin.

They finally grew tired of borrowing water and decided to have a new well put in. Out came the local driller again, now accompanied by his grown sons who are continuing the business into a second generation. Out came the diving rod again, presumably to make up for the previous error of their ways, and a third well locationwas selected, this time only about 15 yards from our successful site.


Hoping to find a good water source near the 45 foot level, they were disappointed when only a dribble of silty stuff appeared. So, they needed to go deeper. And deeper. And deeper. A couple of insufficient or silt-filled water spurts were encountered along the way, until finally they hit a gusher at 440 feet. As of yet, this new well has not been connected up to the cabin, but it certainly appears to be steady and clean. The neighboring property should soon, at long last, have a suitable water supply.

I find this all quite fascinating. In an area that could easily be covered by a large tent, three wells were drilled by the same company. One has great water at 45 feet, one has crummy water at 320 feet, and the most recent required 440 feet to get good water. This surely speaks to the complexity of the geology in our region, as well as the futility of the divining rod.

ADDENDUM: In an interesting twist, it turned out that drilling the new well caused the crummy old well to start flowing very clean water at a very high rate. So, the neighbors didn’t even need to hook up to the new well — it’s mere existence solved their water problem. Apparently the new well passed through or created an underground channel communicating with the old one. So the new well was capped and now stands as a silent reminder that drilling for water along the North Shore of Lake Superior is a mysterious art.

Grand Marais Author News Redux

A while ago, I posted a self-congratulatory piece about my books, explaining that they are now available for sale at a local bookstore here in Grand Marais. In that piece, I described a writer’s salon I had attended featuring Lorna Landvik. Ms. Landvik is not only an outstanding Minnesota author, but also a very entertaining speaker. In her remarks, she mentioned one of the things her mother had ingrained in her: “You don’t toot your own horn!” Getting past that well-meaning but not terribly helpful advice was one of Lorna’s struggles on the way to becoming a best selling author. Eventually, she decided that an appropriate response to that advice was something like this: “Well, what do you think a horn is for, ma?” Perhaps another one might be: “If I don’t toot it, who will?”

So, here I am, about to toot my own horn — yet AGAIN. It doesn’t feel right, but I’m doing it anyway.

Last night, I attended the monthly meeting of a local group known as the Grand Marais Writers Guild. This very supportive group holds meetings in a relaxed and informal setting at the Grand Marais Public Library. While there, I learned that my books have now been added to the Library catalog. How cool is that?


The photo above only shows one of the books since I didn’t see the other two, but here’s a screen snap from the on-line catalog showing that they truly are carrying all three books.

Library Catalog

So now, if you really want to read these books but can’t stomach the $2.99 each price for the Kindle editions or the $13.50 to $15.00 price for a print edition, you can travel to Grand Marais and read them FOR FREE!

(RELATED SPECIAL ALERT: All three books will be on sale as a Kindle Countdown Deal, starting at $0.99 each, from September 2 to 9 in the Kindle Store. They’re also free all the time for Kindle Unlimited members.)

When I got home from the meeting, I was thankful that I hadn’t worn my golf cap — my head was so swollen I may not have been able to get it off. What an emerging success story! All-time sales of my books have now exceeded two hundred (no, not two hundred thousand — let’s try to stay in the real world), they’re selling in a real bookstore, and now they’re IN THE LIBRARY!

Toot, toot!

Hoito House RULES!!

I just returned from our annual August visit to Thunder Bay, a venerable, sprawling city located in Ontario, Canada, along the north shore of Lake Superior. I say annual because various family members and I have been making a trip there sometime in August nearly every year for the past several decades. (Disclaimer: This was actually our fourth or fifth trip to Thunder Bay this year – since we now live so close, it’s no longer that big a deal to go.) There are many things we enjoy doing in Thunder Bay and surrounds: go to the great shops in the Bay and Algoma district (Finnport, Scandinavian Delicatessen, Finnish Bookstore, Cheese Encounter), explore the Marina Park, sweat away stress at the Kangas Sauna, ooh and aah at the Kakabeka Falls, immerse ourselves in history at Old Fort William, visit the amethyst mines, even an occasional round of golf. We usually do at least one of those things each time we visit.

But one thing reigns supreme and simply MUST happen every single time – we eat lunch at the Hoito Restaurant.


A sign at the corner of Bay Street and Algoma Street proclaims that the designated Bay and Algoma Historical District is the home of the “World Famous” Hoito Restaurant. The restaurant was founded in 1918 at the site of the Finnish Labour Temple, itself established in 1910. According to the Hoito web site, “The idea for the restaurant came about in a logging camp outside of Nipigon. Finnish bush workers at Kallio’s camp were concerned that, while they could find cheap lodging in Thunder Bay, they couldn’t find reasonably priced home-cooked meals. The request to open a co-operative restaurant was taken to the Board of Directors of the Finnish Labour Temple and was approved. Fifty-nine people pooled their money into $5.00 ‘Comrade loans’ and hired union organizer A.T. Hill as the restaurant’s first manager.” (My, my – those old Finns almost sound like Communists, eh?)

My parents always referred to the place as the Hoito House, though that’s not the official name. The restaurant is almost entirely lacking in ambience, but the food is authentic Finnish fare that always transports me back to my youth, sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table. Here are the delectable eats we savored today.


Karjalan Piirakka (Karelian pie) – rice enclosed in a sort of pocket crust made from rye flour.


Suolakala voileipä (saltfish sandwich) –  salted cured salmon sandwich, served open faced on rye bread.


Hernekeitto (pea soup) – pea soup with ham.


Ice cream with salmiakki – a salted licorice concoction that most non- Finns or non-Scandinavians probably consider just plain weird.

Former Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi once proclaimed Finnish food to be the most boring and the blandest in the entire world. He may be right, but to me it tastes like manna from heaven. And I don’t even need any Tums after eating.

Today, I salute the Hoito House – maybe the best place on earth for a good, cheap meal.