To Camp, To Camp

We’re off for a long weekend at Camp Davis, West Virginia.  We’ve got a few of my brothers and their kids coming down with us – which means the food talk started a few days ago.  Waffles, pancakes and western omelets will start off our days at breakfast.  Saturday night should see brined split-chicken under a brick on the grill, with sausages beforehand to wet the appetite.  Also, somewhere along the line we’ll be enjoying a tomato bisque with grilled cheese sandwiches.  

This pregnancy has led Natalie to take an elementary (schooler’s) approach to eating.  She isn’t really into things with too much “flavor” right now.  That gets a little frustrating.  So when she said she wanted tomato soup and grilled cheese at Camp this weekend, well, it just sort of short circuited my brain a little.  To cope I’ve decided I’m calling tomato soup tomato bisque instead.

Look, Camp D is the place to cook crazy flavorful (and gluttonous amounts of) food.  It’s just what we do there.  Low and slow, that’s the motto.  If we aren’t slow cooking something, smoking it on the grill or braising it in the oven, it probably isn’t happening. We don’t have cell phone service, we don’t have any sort of TV reception, and we don’t have internet.  All that’s left to do outside of renovations is cook, eat and drink.  And Nat is turned off by “flavor”?!  This new baby and I are going to have words whenever its born.

Niece Elizabeth (aka "Bess"), and nephews Donnie and Afton on the front porch in 2010. They'll be the ones joining Loren this weekend at Camp D.

For projects I hope to take advantage of having my oldest brother Chris there for the weekend by tackling a few of the trickier things on our to-do list.  He has helped with a lot of the bigger and more technical projects around Camp before, as he has a lot of experience renovating old places, and at this point has just about seen it all.  As I mentioned in my Word of the Year post a while back, he’s also a “do-er.”  That is, he just grabs a project and does it.  I’m not shy about taking advantage of having him around.  And I don’t think he would have it any other way.  Once we decided on having him up this weekend the first thing he wanted to know was whether we had any projects lined up, and whether he should bring any special tools with him.

My brother Donnie will be there too.  Chris jokingly refers to Donnie as “a dude.”  The definition of a “dude” is someone that knows how to live, but not so much how to fix things.  Where Chris loves to tinker at Camp D, Donnie prefers the traditional relaxation route.  The first thing Donnie wanted to know when he found out this was a Camp weekend was what food and booze he should bring.  And that’s pretty awesome too.

Afton following in his Dad's footsteps, kicking it by the fireplace.

The plan right now is to (finally) finish some of the electrical work in the Hytte (pronounced “hit -ah”).  The main living space is good to go at this point, but the bathrooms are only about 25% complete when it comes to hooking up plugs and electrical fixtures.

You mean this isn't "finished"?

I should also probably take this time to explain what, exactly, a “Hytte” is.  Natalie’s mom’s family is Norwegian.  They are, at this point, just a few generations removed from the motherland.  In typical Norwegian fashion, they arrived in the US and immediately settled in the mid-west, specifically Wisconsin and then, inevitably, Minnesota, where the weather was…recognizable to what they’d been used to back home.  “Hytte” is Norwegian for “little house” or “summer house.”  Basically, it’s come to mean any small structure used as a getaway house, generally in the hills or coast of Norway.

Our Hytte - A work in progress. Note the flower boxes holding up yet to be used lumber. Everything has to chip in with the work- even the flower boxes.

Traditionally, they aren’t high on flash or style.  The Hytte is meant to be a lodging place where the real action is all around you outside.  As times have changed and incomes have increased, the Hytte concept has yuppified a bit – even for those modest Norwegians.  For some great insight into what has become of the Hytte in the 21st century, pop on over to Norway’s Hytte Magasinet and look around.  If you’re using Chrome as your browser, Google will do a rather remarkable job translating the pages into English for you.  The small-scale, high-functional, high-style design is really mind-blowing.

Camp Davis has three basic structures on it.  The first, a 100 year old farm house, is the main living area for the family.  The biggest structure on the property, it has the kitchen, the living and dining areas as well as the sleeping quarters needed for our big network of friends and family.  We’ve slept as many as 18 people here at one time.  It was a bit of a mess, but it in the end worked.  If we are talking in terms of beds, the farmhouse can sleep 10 without much problem – just so long as you don’t require much privacy.  The farmhouse is basically live-in ready.  It needs work – as any 100 year old house would – but it’s comfortable, and the propane fireplace keeps it warm and cozy at the flick of a switch.

The second structure is the Hytte.  After a complete gut-job and renovation, this is slowly becoming the Jimmy and Natalie retreat at the retreat.  It’s a little cinder block house with a fireplace and bathroom.  The floors are flagstone, the roof beams are exposed, and the roof itself is tin.  When we’re hosting big groups, Natalie, Loren and I escape down there at night to unwind and sleep.  I hope to have a Hytte renovation post in the near future.  Like I said, we gutted the place completely, so there is a lot to talk about.

The third and final structure is (presently) called “The Studio.”  The Studio is the farthest from ready at this point, and serves as little more than a place to house all the junk around Camp.  It’s part tool-shed, part recycling center (our pile gets embarrassingly high in there – hoarder level even), part music studio.  The inside is unfinished.  So is the outside.  It needs work.  Natalie gets a little overwhelmed when I talk about it.  The cool thing about this place, however, is that it is a source of perhaps endless possibility.  It, too, will get its own post one day.  In the meantime, we try not to think about it too much.  In time…in time…

The three structures form a semi-circle around a small gravel courtyard, shaded by a large apple tree, and are nestled right in the side of a large hill.  We fell in love with this set up, and I think sitting in the courtyard during the springtime has become my favorite place to be in the world.

Camp Davis layout. From left: the back of the main farmhouse, then the Hytte, and lastly, the half-finished Studio, all surrounding the gravel courtyard.

So that’s where we’ll be today through Sunday.  Happy weekend folks.

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  1. Pingback: The Book of Jimmy » Hypothetical Parenting: On Youth Sports

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