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Funology Defined

July 28, 2015
by North House Folk School

Phenology. It's a word I learned just this May, when I was talking to a visitor about our "Spring Phenology in the Field" class (there is an autumn phenology class too) and realized I didn't know what I was talking about. So I looked it up.

It turns out I love phenology! According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is "the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life." The melting of the snow, the migration of the birds, the color of the leaves - these make up the calendar that is phenology.

Sunlight through the maples

Here's the update from Grand Marais today: the loons are beginning to leave their chicks and head back to sea, the lupines are finished flowering, and we have had some 70+ degree days. As for the human animal, the campground next to North House is as busy as a beehive, boats are strapped to the tops of cars and towed behind trucks, and there is a line a mile long outside of the donut shop. It must be July in Grand Marais!

There is another word I would like to define: funology. Funology is "the study of the seasonal phenomena and happenings at North House Folk School." I was given the job of resident funologist, which is a busy job this time of year because this place is constantly in high gear! After some careful research and fact finding, I present a case study called "North House: Fun in the Sun."

Sixteen classes congregated on campus this past week, including three birch bark basket classes, nature photography, figure carving, firewood carriers, the craft of sailing, flint knapping, basic woodworking for kids, shaker boxes, natural plant dyes and bead embroidery. What a week of courses! We have instructors and students from as near as Grand Marais and Hovland (that's 20 miles away) and as far away as New York and Russia.

Mary Kay fashions herself a Shaker Box.

2014 intern Emily and sister Liz in class.

Summer is the season for maintenance at North House. We replaced all the siding on our blue building, which made it a white building, and since we so often send people to "the blue building", we decided to avoid confusion by painting it blue again. It is almost finished! Thanks for all the help from our excellent work studiers and volunteers!

Our work study Nandi painting.

A regular North House summer program is the Instructor in Residence program. Each week we have a different instructor set roots in our commons area from Thursday-Sunday, demonstrating, teaching and crafting for the masses.

Last week's Instructor in Residence, Allen Holzhueter, spins yarn.

Fred Livesay taught carving and birch bark containers.

If you are looking for a traditional craft learning experience but don't have time for a full-blown class, check out our mini-courses. Every week we offer a two-hour wood-fired bread baking course and a two-hour basic timber framing course. Great for any age! Sign up in the office or give us a call!

Martha and Ben teach Tiny Timbers - their students raise the frame.

Intern Erin teaches our mini wood-fired breads course.

And of course, no sunny summer day in Grand Marais would be complete without the red sails and green hull of the Hjordis. Our boat heads into the big waters of Lake Superior almost every day, giving customers a unique perspective on this part of the North Shore.

Our schooner returning from a full day on the water.

This is a week at North House in the heart of the summer! We are open all week long, welcoming people into a space where they can connect with skills from the past, rediscover their innate ability to create objects with their hands, and build community through shared learning and laughing.

And that's why somebody (*AHEM*) coined the word funology for the study of North House and its seasons. No matter what the time of year, no matter the class or event or gathering, no matter the weather conditions, the one theme that seems to bind it all together: FUN! Come up to join us!