Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

The Cliffhouse, a rustic shelter tucked into the limestone rocks. ©Amy C. Laundrie

The Clearing is situated on the Niagara Escarpment, a limestone cliff that rises out of Lake Michiganís Green Bay and defines the western edge of Door County.
© Amy C. Laundrie

April 2014

Wisconsin Traveler

The Clearing comes with a vision and view.

Amy C. Laundrie

Where else could you be escorted into a retreat center by a pileated woodpecker who takes you past birch, maple and cedars toward a friendly lodge with a stunning view of the shimmery waters of Green Bay? Where else but Door County's The Clearing.

As soon as I entered The Clearing's 128 acres, I breathed easier. The Clearing is named for the school's purpose, to clear away the mind in order to find renewal and enlightenment. I witnessed the miraculous. As the week progressed, guests gladly abandoned cell phones, the internet and TV shows to spend time in the natural world.

The Clearing is the vision of Danish–born naturalist and landscape architect, Jens Jensen, who established it in 1935 when he was 75 years old. He was also influential in designing numerous parks and neighborhood playgrounds in Chicago, Racine, Lake Geneva, Madison, Dubuque and Springfield, Ill.

Made from native stone and wood, The Clearing's buildings include the Jens Jensen visitor center, the main lodge, schoolhouse, workshop and housing. Visitors revel in hidden spaces such as a star– gazing mound where viewers comfortably lay back for a spectacular view, a labyrinth, and even a dance ring.

Classes ranging in length from one day to week–long and offer instruction in arts, fine crafts, humanities, and natural sciences. Imagine quilting, making fine furniture, journal or memoir writing, bird watching, glass fusing, photography, weaving, wood carving, hiking, rug hooking, yoga, or participating in a class called "Touch the Earth; Love the Earth."

I was one of the 11 students lucky enough to attend Marion Moran's environmental class last year. Night walks, stargazing, discussions, readings and field trips comprised the week. The highlight was an evening stroll on a remote beach where, under a full moon, Moran read inspirational quotes. We then sang, lit sparklers, and pranced about on the beach like joyous children.

Guests can stay in cottages for single or double occupancy or in the large dorm which accommodates five. When the cook rings the bell, people head to the lodge to enjoy the conversation of like–minded people and the cuisine worthy of any five–star restaurant. Beautifully presented, served family style, guests feast on such dishes as huge French toast slices stuffed with cream cheese and cherries, buttery white fish, or the superb butternut squash enchiladas. Favorite treats included chewy chocolate–oat–chip cookies and perfectly ripe strawberries dipped in creamy chocolate.

As an added adventure, I signed up to stay in The Cliffhouse, a rustic shelter tucked into the limestone rocks. Without running water or a toilet, and with a tiny unseen roommate who squeaked, it took some courage on my part. The bat or mouse stopped its squeaking once it knew it wasn't going to scare me off, and together we welcomed the night.

Thunder and wind serenaded us. Lightning lit up the rocky shore of the waters of Green Bay far below. I lit candles, made a fire in the fireplace, and threw sprigs of cedar on the flames to enjoy their crackle and aroma.

Inspired, I wrote until sleep overtook me and then arose before 4 a.m. to write until breakfast. It was during a conversation with director Michael Schneider later that day that I learned Jens Jensen had built The Cliffhouse for himself so he could have a private place to write.

My stay over, I slowly drove away. I paused before pulling onto the paved road, Jens Jensen's words echoing in the woods. "A mighty oak, a motherly elm, a poetic birch, a friendly maple all speak to man's finer senses and help awaken him to his noble heritage."

Thank you, Jens Jensen, for creating a place that heightened my sense of responsibility to the natural world and a connection to all living things.

For more information, call (920) 854–4088 or visit theclearing.org. Please note that since this is a retreat center, visitors are asked to view the facilities on the weekends from May through October.

Amy C. Laundrie is the published author of seven books, numerous articles and newspaper columns. Her "Slice of Life" columns contain insights on family, aging and more. Some are humorous confessions or attempts to interpret life's mysteries. Laundrie also has been an educator in the Wisconsin Dells School District for over 30 years. To learn more about her writings visit her author page at laundrie.com or her Amazon author page at http://amzn.to/16pfX7k.

What's cooking?

Welcome to our recipe corner. This issue we feature sauces to get you fired up about barbecuing again. And if you'd like to find more, visit the Department of Natural Resources' Pinterest Wild Game Recipes board ( http://www.pinterest.com/wdnr/wild-game-recipes/).

These recipes come from Tim Lawhern, retired DNR conservation warden. His recipes were a regular feature in DNR's Warden Wire newsletter. Chef Tim says that when it comes to barbecue sauces, there are three types that you'd find on his dishes. You could call them basic — but he says that they always seem to bring out the best of what he's got cooking on the grill.

His three favorites start with a basic ingredient — tomato, vinegar or mustard. But feel free to experiment with the recipes. Once you are satisfied with the basic sauce recipe, by all means, alter it to your liking.

Here they are:

Tomato–based BBQ Sauce

  • 1 can of regular tomato sauce
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 4 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste (coarsely ground)

Get a pan and cook the garlic and onion in the oil until soft $#8212; then add everything else. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Stir frequently, then cool by refrigerating a few days before use. Now, taste it and give it a minute to settle into your taste buds. You might find altering the amounts of the ingredients will suit you better. Experiment!

Vinegar-based BBQ Sauce

  • 1 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (coarsely ground)

Put the brown sugar in the hot water and mix well until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and heat on low for a few minutes. This is just to get everything mixed and at the same temperature. Note: Don't wear a white shirt or blouse while eating this one!

Mustard-Based BBQ Sauce (Chef Tim's all-time favorite!)

  • 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional and lime would also work)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Mix everything in a sauce pan and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. This is the one Chef Tim grew up on.

Finally, if you don't have anything else in the kitchen you can make do with just a couple of ingredients. One simple one is honey and ketchup; another is honey and mustard.