The cruise ship-free island of St. Croix is a water lover's paradise, offering great snorkeling, diving, and sailing. Christiansted, the main town, has a Danish 18th-century feel, with its brightly colored buildings and a large 18th-century fort complete with cannons and artillery overlooking the harbor. The rich colonial history is felt throughout the island, including the practice of driving on the left side of the road.
Sleep: For longer stays (you will have to come back some time) or if you're with a group, rent a villa with Donna Ford, where you will find a great selection of properties. The best homes can be found on the north shore west of the Buccaneer, or on Shoy beach. For a hotel stay, The Buccaneer is a throwback to the 17th century and sits atop a hill just minutes outside of Christiansted.
Eat and Drink: The coolest, and arguably best, restaurant on the island is Savant, offering a mix of French and local cuisine with an excellent wine list. Stock your villa or pack a fabulous picnic with gourmet foods from Schooner Bay Market.
Drink with the locals at Comanche Mill Yacht-Less Club, a Stonehenge-esque building and converted sugar cane mill. Take your rum punch to go and stroll through town, as there are no open carry
laws. Late-night debauchery can be found at Club 54, but be prepared for heavy drinking, as the custom is for patrons to buy everyone at the bar rounds of shots.
Play: Sail to Buck Island and snorkel at the world-class reef. Ask for Kara as the captain for your day's adventure. Or stay above the water in a sea kayak and paddle out to Green Cay, where you'll find hammocks to lounge on and fully shaded huts which can be rented for just $10. You'll have company from a family of iguana's that live on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/tehusagent)
Once back on St. Croix, enjoy a poolside lunch at the Deep End Restaurant at the Tamarind Reef hotel. The kitchen and bar serve excellent food and drinks and the infinity pool overlooks the ocean and Green Cay.
For more insiders tips on the best in modern travel, head to Area Daily.
Where to Eat, Sleep, and Play on St. Croix - Recipes
Sugar apples, also known as custard apples, are the most widely grown of the Annona species
The original home of the sugar apple is unknown. It is commonly cultivated in tropical South America, not often in Central America, very frequently in southern Mexico, the West Indies, Bahamas and Bermuda, and occasionally in southern Florida.
The sugar apple tree requires a tropical or near-tropical climate. It ranges from 10 to 20 feet in height with an open crown of irregular branches, and somewhat zigzag twigs. Deciduous, oblong and blunt tipped leaves, are alternately arranged on short, hairy petioles, and range in size from from 2 to 6 inches long and 3/4 to 2 inches wide. The leaves are dull-green on the top side, and pale with a bloom on the bottom. The leaves are also slightly hairy when young, and are aromatic when crushed. Along the branch tips, opposite the leaves, the fragrant flowers bloom in groups of 2 to 4. The flowers are also oblong, 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length and never fully open. They have drooping stalks, and 3 fleshy outer petals, yellow-green on the outside and pale-yellow inside with a purple or dark-red spot at the base. The compound fruit is nearly round, ovoid, or conical and is about 2 1/3 to 4 inches long. The thick rind of the sugar apple is composed of knobby segments, generally pale-green, gray-green, or bluish-green. Many of the fruit segments enclose a single cylindrical, black or dark-brown seed about 1/2 inches long. There may be a total of 20 to 38 seeds, or more, in the average fruit however, some trees bear seedless fruits. Seedlings 5 years old may yield 50 fruits per tree in late summer and fall. Older trees rarely exceed 100 fruits per tree unless hand-pollinated. With age, the fruits become smaller and it is considered best to replace the trees after 10 to 20 years.
When ripe, the segments of the sugar apple begin to separate and reveal the mass of conically segmented, creamy-white, glistening, delightfully fragrant, juicy, sweet, delicious flesh of the fruit. The ripe sugar apple is usually broken open and the flesh segments enjoyed while the hard seeds are separated in the mouth and spat out. It is sweet and luscious, making it well worth the trouble. The name “custard apple” comes from the fact that the flesh is creamy white to light yellow, and resembles and tastes like custard.
While generally eaten in it’s raw form, the flesh of sugar apples can be pressed through a sieve to eliminate the seeds and then added to ice cream, smoothies, or blended with milk to make a cool beverage. It is generally not cooked.
Nutrition and Practical Uses:
The sugar apple is high in vitamin C and is a moderate source of B-complex vitamins. Sugar apples also contain several poly-phenolic antioxidants, the most prominent is Annonaceous acetogenins. Acetogenin compounds are powerful cytotoxins and have been found to have anti-cancer, anti-malarial and de-worming properties. The fiber in sugar apples is also supposed to slow down the absorption of sugar in the body, reducing the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Throughout tropical America, a decoction of the leaves alone or with those of other plants is imbibed either a tonic, cold remedy, digestive, or to clarify the urine. The leaf decoction is also employed in baths to alleviate rheumatic pain. In India, the crushed ripe fruit, mixed with salt, is applied on tumors. The bark and roots are both highly astringent. The bark decoction is given as a tonic and to halt diarrhea. The root, because of its strong purgative action, is administered as a drastic treatment for dysentery and other ailments.
Toxicity and Warnings:
The seeds are acrid and poisonous. In fact, powdered seeds, also pounded dried fruits serve as fish poison and insecticides in India. A paste of the seed powder has been applied to the head to kill lice but must be kept away from the eyes as it is highly irritant and can cause blindness.
Sample St. Croix’s Local Cuisine
St. Croix, like many Caribbean islands, is a cultural melting pot. One of the many great things about this mix of ethnic groups and cultures is that it results in some amazingly diverse local cuisine. As you taste your way around the island, you will experience a multitude of influences and fusions including Caribbean, African, Indian, Latin American, European and American. There is also a huge diversity of ingredients available on the island, from locally caught seafood and locally raised meat, to the diverse fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices the rainforest and farm belt have to offer. In order to truly experience St. Croix, you must sample the local fare!
The most obvious influence in the local cuisine is that of the Caribbean and West Indian islands, which are themselves a mixture of cultural influences. Like the history and diversity of the island itself, many countries have left their mark on what is considered ‘local’ food on St. Croix. Here, the cuisine relies heavily on the use of herbs and spices to marinate meats, flavor soups and sauces, and season rices and beans. You will often taste herbs and spices like bay leaf, lemongrass, curry, basil, cinnamon, culantro (similar in flavor to cilantro), cumin, pepper, ginger, jerk seasoning, and spicy scotch bonnet peppers. In fact, you will find a plethora of delicious locally made hot sauces in restaurants, at farmers markets and grocery stores, and for sale at local events. While these sauces are all made from different recipes and vary in heat intensity, they are often made from a base of fruit (such as mangoes or bananas) blended with vinegar and habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers.
The Caribbean cuisine also takes advantage of the great local seafood such as conch, wahoo, mahi mahi, kingfish, ‘pot fish’ (or small reef fish), and lobster. Some of the more well-known Caribbean dishes you will find here on St. Croix are saltfish, conch in butter sauce, kallaloo, and fried kingfish steaks. Saltfish is fresh fish that has been salt-cured and dried until all the moisture has been extracted. To prepare saltfish for cooking it needs to be re-hydrated and most of the salt removed through a process of overnight soaking in hot water or milk and subsequent boiling. Saltfish is an essential part of a traditional Crucian breakfast, which consists of the saltfish, boiled eggs, johnny cakes or dumb bread, and cooked greens. Another popular dish you will see is kallaloo – a delicious, green soupy stew gets its roots from West Africa. While this soup was originally based on the use of taro leaves (sometimes called callaloo), a number of variations on the kallaloo recipe have since evolved. On St. Croix, spinach is most often used as the base for kallaloo, and the soup generally includes onions, green onion, celery, thyme, parsley, and okra. Depending on the variation, ingredients may also include taro root or pumpkin, as well as fresh fish, crabs, conch, lobster, ham, smoked pork, or even tofu cubes.
In addition to seafood, Crucians also enjoy some ‘exotic’ meats, like goat and the local breed of beef cattle called Senepol. Stewed or curried goat, and goat roti are popular dishes here on the island. Roti is an Indian flat bread made from stone-ground wholemeal flour, that is filled with a curried meat, potato and chickpea filling and then folded up (kind of like an Indian burrito). You can also get conch, chicken, beef, or vegetarian roti. Pate is also a must here on St. Croix if you get a chance to try it. Pate is a well seasoned, meat-filled pastry, often made for special events and available from local street food vendors. Like many other countries, Crucians also utilize most parts of the animal in cooking, hence dishes like stewed oxtail, bull foot soup and souse. Souse is a soupy broth consisting primarily of pickled pork culled the head, feet, and tail.
St. Croix’s local cuisine is heavy on starches, which include breads, rice and beans, as well as breadfruit, yucca, cassava, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains and pumpkin. You will often find ‘provisions’ as a local side dish, which is a mixture of boiled starches which usually includes breadfruit, yucca, cassava, and/or white potatoes. ‘Crucian stuffing’ (a sweet, souffle-like potato dish with raisins), fried or stewed plantains, red beans and rice, seasoned rice with pigeon peas, and good old baked macaroni and cheese are hugely popular side dishes as well. Johnny cakes are a must-try here on St. Croix. These delicious fried breads are slightly sweet and are served as a side, or by themselves. Fungi (pronounced foon-ji) is a cooked cornmeal paste, similar to the more well known Italian polenta, that is usually served in the bottom of a bowl of kallaloo, or with saltfish cooked with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes and treats to choose from. You can find fresh, locally made coconut or ginger candies at the local farmers markets, as well as many homemade jams and preserves including tamarind stew or gooseberry stew, which is often served over vanilla ice cream. At buffets, bakeries and farmers markets across the island you can find delicious miniature fruit tarts filled with coconut, pineapple, or guava filling. For a true taste of Caribbean tradition at Christmas time, black cake is a must. Black cake is a traditional Caribbean fruitcake made by soaking a mixture of fruit for months in rum and brandy, and then blending it up and mixing it into a delicious cake. Of course, you can also always find delicious rum cakes made with rum distilled right here on St. Croix.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to sample the locally made beverages if you get a chance. Bush tea, is a mix of local leaves, and herbs that is steeped like herbal tea. My personal favorite is a mix you can find at the farmers markets which includes lime leaves, mint, lemongrass, and moringa. Sorrel tea is another popular drink made by steeping the bright fuchsia sorrel flowers. You can also find ginger beer made from fresh ginger, or try some hydrating locally harvested coconut water. Coquito is a hugely popular rum based drink made with cream, vanilla and cinnamon, usually enjoyed around Christmas time. Coquito is often made from family recipes passed down through the generations, and it is so popular that there are coquito festivals held each year to celebrate this drink and see who makes the best coquito on St. Croix.
There is a fantastic variety of local cuisine to feast on while you are here on St. Croix, so try something new. Stop at the farmers markets to sample and shop for locally made preserves, hot sauces, seasonings, and fresh produce. Take time to visit some local festivals, events, or jump ups to try traditional dishes like kallaloo, conch in butter, and johnny cakes. If you find a food truck or street vendor, try some of the popular street foods like roti or pates. Or, support the local restaurants while you try the fresh seafood and local fusion cuisine. However you choose to indulge, make sure you savor the flavor of St. Croix!
Breeze On Inn
Ground floor and beachfront…
Step right out the back door to our white sand beach and warm shimmering sea !
Ground floor and beachfront…
Step right out the back door to our white sandy beach and warm shimmering sea.
You’ll get no closer to the water than here at ‘Breeze On Inn.’
Our spacious 2 bedroom / 2 bath condo is less than 75 feet from the turquoise blue Caribbean on a 500 foot stretch of beach and calm, bathing water.
There is a gate from the condo gallery (patio) directly onto the beach.
Strap on your snorkel gear and head into the water.
The snorkeling is great at our artificial reef just a short swim away from the beach, and there is Long Bay reef for the more adventurous. We even provide the snorkel gear!
From your private gallery, you are three steps from the sand. Begin every morning experiencing a different sunrise as it peeks above the east end of St. Croix across the palm-lined beach. A perfect way to start your day is with breakfast on the beach, watching the waves break on our nearby coral reef. Later on, sun, swim, snorkel, or just stroll the shoreline as cool trade winds accompany you wherever you go.
Pour a cool drink and relax under the swaying palms to the sound of gentle waves slapping the shore while being caressed by the warm island breeze.
The gallery is comfortably furnished for evening relaxation and al fresco dining.
This large outdoor living area has an unobstructed ocean view.
Inside, the suite is as large as many homes (1432 square feet), and it is perfect for one couple, two couples or a family of four. One couple will enjoy a bedroom on the beach and another a garden view. Families or two couples will have private bedrooms and full baths.
The guest room features two twin beds (that can be converted to a king-sized bed), a comfortable couch, and sliders that open to a garden area view. Got little ones? We even have a Pak ‘n Play for your use.
The living area features a plush and comfortable couch and seating for viewing the ocean or a large flat-screen television. There is a full-sized glass dining table inside and another one on the gallery outside. The sliders open to the gallery providing a fantastic breeze and view. The spacious living room has plenty of comfortable seating, dining for (6) and Cable TV, DVD and FREE Wi-Fi.
The kitchen views out onto the multiple blue hues of the Caribbean Sea, so making meals is a pleasure when you want to eat in. There are many fine restaurants nearby, and one on either side of the condominium, a short walk across the beach.
The condo features a new mini-split A/C system with individual temperature controls in each room for comfortable temperatures should you need extra coolnes. Most of the time, you will want to open the sliders and enjoy the offshore breezes all day long. The light, airy complex has you feeling like you are outdoors.
Two bathrooms, each with shower (1 with tub/shower combo) are stocked with plenty of towels, soap and shampoo.
The full kitchen has plenty of dishware, cookware, glasses and utensils and all major appliances, including microwave and a blender to try out some frozen drink recipes. There is even a washer/dryer for your use.
Sugar Beach is a beachfront, security patrolled complex located close to Christiansted for dining, shopping and sight-seeing. It has a fresh water pool with plenty of deck space, gas grills, basketball and tennis courts and direct beach access. There are 2 restaurant/bars within walking distance and 2 grocery stores that are walking distance or a short drive.
The property is a lush seven acres of tropical foliage, affording space for quiet relaxation or sports such as kayaking or tennis. Our glistening fresh water pool is adjacent to a historic 1700’s Danish sugar mill, providing delightful scenery and ambience for your enjoyment. There is a spacious clubhouse to gather with family and friends, and an outside patio with grills, tables and chairs for dining at poolside.
A rental car is not a necessity but is recommended.
A selection of activity brochures will be available upon arrival or at the front desk.
Travel into the past when you visit the historic Cruzan Rum Distillery on St Croix. This distillery still processes the world-famous Cruzan Rum according to a centuries-old recipe!
The distillery was founded in 1760 and claims the distinction of "the most honored rum distillery in the world."
The rum is named after St Croix’s inhabitants, known as Cruzians (pronounced crew-shuns).
At one time, there were over 150 plantations on St Croix producing rum at their factories! Today, the Nelthropp family carries on the tradition with their brand Cruzan Rum, which has been named one of the best in world.
Weekday tours of the distillery in Frederiksted are given. Visitors get the chance to see how this popular rum is made and experience the history involved.
The process involves refining sugar cane, which used to be St Croix’s primary cash crop. Here are the main steps for creating this wonderful brand of rum:
sugar cane is refined into molasses
molasses is diluted with tropical rain waters
mixture is placed in wooden barrels to age properly
rum is bottled according to the desired level of purity and richness
When you tour the distillery, you even get the chance to watch the traditional churning of the beer with the old windmills used for power before electricity was available!
And after your tour, you can try a sample of the Cruzan Rum or buy your own in the distillery’s gift shop.
Cruzan Rum is undeniably one of the best quality rums in the world and visiting the famous St Croix distillery makes for an excellent island adventure!
Buccaneer St Croix
The Buccaneer St Croix Resort is one of my family's all-time favorite places to go on the island. We are a big family of all different ages, and the Buccaneer offers something for everyone!
The Buccaneer St Croix Resort has great beaches, fun activities, luxury rooms and villas, a fitness center, health spa, golf course, tennis courts, two swimming pools, and four great restaurants. Now do you see why we love this place? -)
Although my family has a house on the island, it can get a little crowded with so many people, so sometimes my cousins choose to stay at a hotel. and they always pick the Buccaneer Resort St Croix!
The Buccaneer beach is great, with free chairs and umbrellas. plus the beach-side restaurant has really good food and quick service. (So you can get back out to the beach faster!)
You can also get to Shoys Beach from the Buccaneer which is one of the best St Croix beaches on the island!
You enter in through the Buccaneer Hotel’s entrance, and then take a right into the Shoys subdivision. You make your way through the sea-grape trees and voila! - beautiful Shoys Beach.
The sandy and grassy bottom make it the perfect swimming beach.
My brother and uncles love to golf and the Buccaneer golf course is one of the best on the island (although Carambola golf is really their all-time favorite course on St Croix.) Here's a picture of the Buccaneer golf course from the ocean:
The Buccaneer St Croix offers a bunch of great watersports and other fun St Croix activities.
There is even a small basketball court and soccer field right by the beach so you can play a game, work up a sweat, and then go jump right in the ocean!
(Here's a picture of some of us playing basketball)
(And my sister's friends showing off their soccer skills!)
The beach-side restaurant (called The Mermaid) is really good for some casual, yummy food when you want a break from the sun.
But the Buccaneer Resort St Croix also has really nice first-class restaurants if you're looking for a fancier dining experience.
The Terrace Restaurant has some of the best cuisine on the entire island! This is my Grandma's favorite restaurant. The food is delicious and the views of St Croix can't be beat.
The Terrace Restaurant sits up on a hill so you can look out over the Caribbean Sea and the Christiansted Harbor. It's beautiful at night when the lights are sparkling over the water!
We go to the Terrace Restaurant for dinner at least once everytime we are in St Croix. It's such a special and relaxing experience, and the food is divine!
Keeping kids healthy during COVID-19 through diet, sleep and play
CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As we head into this winter’s cold and flu season, parents are extra concerned this year due to COVID-19.
But not to worry – not only are children naturally more resilient to COVID-19, but you can also implement some easy but powerful strategies to shore up your kids’ immune systems for advanced protection.
These are the same strategies I use with my patients at the RedRiver Health and Wellness Center , one of the largest autoimmune practices in the country, and that I learned while conducting my own coronavirus study in Utah earlier this year and as part of my postgraduate education in public health through Johns Hopkins University.
I understand that implementing new health strategies for kids comes with more challenges than it does for adults. Therefore, as a father myself, I have put a kid-friendly and parent-tested spin on the following four strategies to keep kids healthier during the pandemic.
Increased vitamin D and glutathione
Perhaps one of the single most important nutrients you can provide your child is vitamin D. The average American is deficient, yet it’s a vital compound for immune health and has been shown to be very protective against coronavirus.
I recommend 2,500 to 5,000 international units of vitamin D a day for children. Make sure you buy the cholecalciferol form. The good news is there are plenty of kid-friendly ways to deliver vitamin D, including chewables, which are extra nutritious if you can get one that also includes immune-enhancing omega 3 fatty acids, or drops you can add to their food.
The second powerhouse nutrient when it comes to protection from COVID-19 is glutathione, the body’s “master antioxidant.” Although our bodies make glutathione, we all are at risk from low levels as environmental pollutants, sugars and sweeteners, processed foods, sleep deprivation and other stressors deplete the body’s glutathione stores.
Stock image by puhimec/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News
My favorite forms of kid-friendly glutathione include Trizomal Glutathione from Apex Energetics and Tri-Fortify Orange by Researched Nutritionals. Both are sweetened with glycerin and are often well-tolerated by children or can be mixed into a drink or smoothie. I have my adult patients take three to four times the recommended dose for children, give the recommended dose or double that.
Glutathione is safe and there’s no risk from taking too much. However, people who don’t tolerate onions, garlic or other sulfuric foods may not do well with glutathione as it’s a sulfur compound. If that’s the case, cordyceps mushrooms, Gotu Kola extract and milk thistle are other compounds that raise glutathione levels.
The most powerful immune support doesn’t come in a supplement bottle or a food. Instead, research shows plenty of sleep is one of the best ways to keep your immune system strong. I realize that with the pandemonium of the pandemic, getting a kid to bed on time can seem unreasonably challenging. However, making sure your child gets all the sleep they need will pay off significantly.
Health experts recommend the following hours of sleep each day for each age category:
- Age 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours.
- Age 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours.
- Age 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours.
- Age 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours.
- Age 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours.
- Age 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours.
Play more, preferably outdoors and in nature
Although people were advised to stay indoors when the pandemic began, the truth is spending time outdoors is healthier and will better support immunity. Regular play is vital to proper neurological and immunological development in children, even more so if it’s outdoors.
Pro tip: Adults need regular play too to stay healthy, so find something that is fun for both you and your kids.
If it’s cold out, bundle up instead of letting it force you indoors. Play stimulates necessary brain development pathways, the outdoors activates the immune system so it stays robust, and regular exposure to sunshine helps make vitamin D and maintains regularity in the body’s metabolic rhythms.
Give them the right diet
For my adult patients who want to optimize their immune resilience, I put them on a diet that is anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense. This diet is basically a paleo diet that eliminates grains, sweeteners and processed foods and consists of ample vegetables, meats and healthy fats.
I realize for the average family this is going to be a tall order for children, especially around the holidays. Instead, here are some principles to keep in mind when it comes to dietary strategies to support a child’s immune health.
Balance blood sugar: Because they are growing and burning so much energy, kids love sugar, sweets and simple carbs like pasta, white rice, potatoes and bread. However, the blood sugar spikes from these foods tax the immune system and promote inflammation. Try and keep sweets and processed foods to a minimum and instead focus on healthy meats, produce and whole grains.
Stock image by Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News
If your child does eat something sweet or starchy, adding some fiber, protein or fat can help slow down how quickly the sugar hits the bloodstream (starchy foods are immediately converted to sugar in the body). For instance, ice cream that is higher in fat or a fruit smoothie loaded with fiber is going to deliver less of a sugar shock than hard candy, soda or fruit juices.
Minimize inflammatory foods: Some children already struggle with chronic immune conditions such as gut problems, neurological issues including tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mood disorders, skin rashes, respiratory issues or even listlessness and fatigue. Many children these days also have autoimmunity, in which the immune system is attacking a tissue in the body – though it’s typically underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Such children may be more prone to viruses because their immune system is already overburdened. In these cases, I strongly recommend you seek out immunoglobulins lab testing to screen for food intolerances, such as from Cyrex Labs.
In my practice of treating primarily adults with chronic health conditions, almost 100% of them have an undiagnosed food intolerance driving their inflammation and symptoms. When we identify and remove the offending food from their diet, most experience a profound improvement of symptoms.
Eliminating a child’s favorite foods, such as gluten or dairy, is challenging at first, but I can tell you from firsthand experience it’s usually not as bad as parents think it will be. Children often feel so much better that they come to willingly embrace their new diet . It works best if the entire family can adopt the same diet so the child does not feel left out of family dinners and gatherings. The rest of the family usually ends up feeling much better too!
Children’s immune health today.
Any health care practitioner today will tell you we are seeing increasing numbers of children with chronic health conditions, and the numbers seem to keep growing. Today’s children are dealing with unprecedented immune challenges from environmental toxins, industrialized and processed foods, lack of play from excess screen time and busy schedules and frequent sleep deprivation.
The good news is that children’s bodies and immune systems are wonderfully responsive to even the slightest shifts toward better health. It’s just a matter of understanding the basics.
To learn more about how to keep your family healthy during the coronavirus pandemic, please check out the free articles and e-book available on my website . If you’d like to learn more about becoming a patient at one of our seven clinics, visit the RedRiver Health and Wellness Center website .
Written by JOSH REDD, chiropractic physician at RedRiver Health and Wellness Center.
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
About Josh Redd
Josh Redd, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, is a chiropractic physician and author of the Amazon bestselling book “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” Redd owns seven functional medicine clinics in the western United States and sees patients from across the country and around the world who are suffering from challenging autoimmune, endocrine and neurological disorders. He also teaches thousands of health care practitioners about functional medicine and immunology, thyroid health, neurology, lab testing and more.
Marine on St. Croix farm’s reindeer make most of the Santa connection
One of eight reindeer, the same number that guide Santaâ€™s sleigh through the night in the famous 1823 poem â€œA Visit from St. Nicholas,â€ waits for his next meal at Johmar Farms Marine on St. Croix on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
John Block talks to his reindeer on his farm in Marine on St. Croix last Tuesday. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
(Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
It’s no coincidence that the reindeer at Johmar Farms total eight — the same number that guide Santa’s sleigh through the night in the famous 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
Owner John Block says his family’s farm outside Marine on St. Croix is something of a pit stop for jolly old Saint Nick, whose famous flying reindeer need to take a rest during their busiest night of the year.
“There’s times when Santa needs to switch out his reindeer on Christmas Eve,” Block said. “He leaves his here and takes ours.”
When they’re not flying from rooftop to rooftop, the Block family’s reindeer are spending the Christmas season busy with appearances in the area. Some provide visuals while others strap on the reins and pull sleighs.
“When you consider some of them can have 35 pounds of antlers at the top of their heads, you know their neck and shoulders have got to be strong,” said Block’s wife, Mary. “And they are — they are tremendously strong.”
Outside of Johmar Farms, Santa has few options should he need some extra help while flying over Minnesota. Despite the state’s cold winters, which reindeer love, there are only 10 farms in Minnesota that have reindeer, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
One possible reason — reindeer can be costly to keep. They eat a special diet and require a pen at least 8 feet tall. And concerns that they could contract chronic wasting disease mean they’re more regulated than many other animals.
“There’s paperwork all over the place,” said Mary Block.
But thanks to the cold winters, reindeer can feel quite at home here. While humans are warming themselves by the fire and complaining about weather being frightful, reindeer find it absolutely delightful.
“When it snows, they go out and play they really do,” Mary Block said. “It’s amazing, even the older ones. They love it when it gets cold and snowy.”
That makes sense, considering the animals make the Arctic region their home.
Reindeer are considered the same species as caribou and are part of the deer, or Cervidae, family. While caribou are native to the colder regions of North America, reindeer are not. They are instead found in northern Eurasia, from Siberia to Norway, where they were domesticated around 2,000 or more years ago and are still herded today.
Reindeer also can be found herded in Alaska — mostly on the Seward Peninsula. The animals were brought to the state from Siberia in late 19th century after migrating caribou proved undependable, causing some native Alaskan communities to suffer a food shortage, said Perry Barboza, professor of biology at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
“Caribou and reindeer are very important food sources,” Barboza said. “There are a lot of communities in the north that rely upon them. It’s like the bison for the Plains Indians.”
Reindeer do differ from their North American counterparts somewhat. For one thing, they tend to stay in one location rather than migrate large distances like caribou.
“Because they stay put, their large fat stores allow them to tolerate poor feeding conditions in winter,” Barboza said.
Caribou and reindeer are the only members of deer family in which antlers grow on females as well as males. Once they start branching, the antlers can grow quite quickly, too.
“When they’re growing, they can grow 4 inches a day,” said Todd Block, Mary and John’s son.
While reindeer meat is still eaten in Alaska, you won’t find it on many plates in Minnesota costs associated with the animals here make them a financially unviable food source, Mary Block said.
“It would be quite an expensive steak,” she said.
Those who do keep them in Minnesota often use the animals for Christmas-related appearances. Daryl Simon, owner of Crystal Collection Reindeer in Lake Crystal, Minn., and a board member of the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association, leases the animals out for displays across the Midwest.
“Everybody is really excited about them,” said Simon, who also breeds the animals. “A lot of people have never seen a reindeer.”
As with Santa Claus, some people refuse to believe they exist.
“You get people who insist there’s no such thing as reindeer, that that’s some other kind of animal that you got there,” Simon said.
That could have something to do with the reindeer’s place in the Christmas tradition and the stories of them taking flight — tales that date at least as far back as the 1820s.
In 1821, a booklet titled “The Children’s Friend” became possibly the first written depiction of a reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh “O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow/To bring his yearly gifts to you.”
Two years later, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” — commonly known by its first line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas” — was first printed, and the idea was popularized.
One also cannot discredit the role of most famous reindeer of them all. In 1939, copywriter Robert L. May introduced Rudolph’s story to the world in a booklet written for Montgomery Ward. A decade later, the reindeer with a glowing nose became a superstar with the success of the Gene Autry-sung tune “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
But as much as the idea of flying reindeer has tickled imaginations for decades, one doesn’t need to look up to the sky on Christmas Eve to see their magic — it can be seen on the faces of people who meet the animals on the ground, said Sandy Kendall, who has reindeer on her farm near Glencoe, Minn.
“It’s a magical thing that makes people smile,” she said of the reindeer encounters. “They bring so much joy.”
The Transition Game
IT is difficult to pinpoint the exact time that Walt Frazier’s stylish alter ego known as Clyde more or less ceased to exist. But it might have been the September day in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo threatened to do away with both.
Mr. Frazier, a Hall of Fame player for the New York Knicks basketball team, was relaxing on the living room sofa with a girlfriend, watching football on television, when the first terrifying winds tore the awnings off his vacation home on St. Croix. The television went dark. The large picture windows blew out.
Mr. Frazier and his girlfriend scurried for the bathroom, where they spent the next 12 hours, cowering and praying.
“We sat there all night, in the dark, hungry and cold, water coming from under the door, the wind howling, hearing crashes sounding like freight trains running down the track and thinking, ‘Man, the worst of it hasn’t even hit us,’ ” he said, showing a visitor the same cramped bathroom. “All we could say was, ‘Hold on, house. Hold on!’ ”
Looking for a tranquil hideaway after years as a paparazzi magnet, Mr. Frazier bought the single-level home on a one-acre property for $215,000 in 1979, while visiting St. Croix with his 12-year-old son, Walter III. He was shopping for a condominium, but instead fell hard for a house on hilly terrain with four tentacle-like columns that reminded him of a space ship.
Mr. Frazier still has an apartment in Manhattan, and indeed was there on Monday night as the Knicks celebrated the 40th anniversary of their 1970 N.B.A. championship at Madison Square Garden. But it is in St. Croix that he has invested much of his broadcasting earnings and put in countless hours of work. He now has a five-acre property with 10 houses, a slice of Caribbean heaven that he believes will eventually net him millions.
From renowned hedonist to home-building horticulturist, he described the personal gain as priceless. “I remember Dave DeBusschere and the other guys on the team used to say that I would have the toughest transition to make going into retirement because of being Clyde and coming down from all that,” Mr. Frazier said, recalling the days when his wide-brim hats and flashy suits inspired comparisons to the Warren Beatty character in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.”
“It didn’t happen right away, and it wasn’t easy,” he added. “But I was fed up with New York and that scene, the nightclubs and the cars. I didn’t want to vegetate as Clyde. I was searching for something. I didn’t know what it was until I came here.”
It took a decade to discover that paradise had a dark side. Hugo wrought more than $1 billion in damage on St. Croix, the largest of the United States Virgin Islands, and nearly destroyed Mr. Frazier’s home. When he emerged from the bathroom in the morning, with just enough room to sidestep the refrigerator that had hurtled from the kitchen, he was relieved to find the concrete roof intact. But the rooms were flooded. The furniture was destroyed. The property was a shambles.
“Glass everywhere, things torn apart, lawn mower in the pool,” he said.
Within nature’s mess was one small miracle. Blown out from the living room to the edge of the pool was Mr. Frazier’s wallet — money and credit cards snug in the fold. He took it as a sign to stay on, and keep spending.
Sleeping in the bathroom for weeks to avoid the mosquitoes in the house, Mr. Frazier shopped for new windows, replaced fixtures and weatherproofed the exterior. While securing the house, he had the urge to expand it. When services on the island were restored, he hired a contractor to expand the living room, install a new floor and add a bedroom, an office and a bath. To his surprise, planning for the expansion and refurnishing the house gave him a purpose and validation he hadn’t felt since he was at the peak of his playing career.
“I began to sense there was something for me to do here, and then I realized doing all this work was what was going to keep me young,” said Mr. Frazier, who will celebrate his 65th birthday next month and remains fit and youthful looking, despite thinning hair. “I look back now and I can see that I was going through a metamorphosis, a change for the better.”
As part of his repudiation of the nightclubbing Clyde, he changed his lifestyle. The lifelong city dweller became a nature lover. He learned to sail, bought a boat and became a licensed captain. And he found the garden calling to him many mornings at sunrise.
On a recent stroll down a shady path about 50 yards from his home, Mr. Frazier stopped by a trio of flamboyant trees, the first of hundreds of plantings and, not surprisingly, his favorite. In bloom, the bright colors mimicked Mr. Frazier’s Manhattan wardrobe, which he still wears when he calls Knicks games for the MSG television network.
The clothes, he said, are the last vestige of Clyde. Mr. Frazier prefers to be in St. Croix, where he spends most of his time from May through September and usually one week a month during the basketball season.
“I can’t remember the last time I was in a nightclub, anywhere,” he said. “Here, I go out to eat, but at 5 or 6 o’clock. Everyone on the island will say, ‘Oh, Frazier, the tree guy.’ ”
As Clyde, Mr. Frazier owned a Rolls-Royce and wore full-length mink coats. On St. Croix, he drives a GMC light truck and wears a baseball cap, a T-shirt or polo shirt, off-white jeans with painter’s pockets and worn Puma sneakers that still sell under the Clyde brand that Puma introduced in the 1970s.
Patricia James, who is his girlfriend and helps him manage the property and rental business, said the style fits all occasions. “We’ll be going out to dinner, I’ll have a dress on and I’ll say to him, ‘You’re not going to change?’ ” Ms. James said.
A self-described perfectionist, he is not easy to work for, she said, and Mr. Frazier agreed, noting that he once fired his son, whom he had hired to manage the property during his absences.
Mr. Frazier helps paint the interior of his houses and is obsessed with touching up spots others miss. He chafes at the way his workers clean windows, considering himself a master of the squeegee. Outdoors, Mr. Frazier said, he treats his trees and plants with the same nuanced appreciation he had of his Knicks teammates when he was the playmaker, or catalyst, for their offense.
“I can look at the palms, for instance, and if I see a certain twist, I know they need water,” he said, lifting a hose to some of the many trees that bear mangoes, avocados, apples, coconuts and cherries. Mr. Frazier’s lush property is irrigated by something rare on his side of St. Croix, the east side, also known as the dry side: a well. “Around here, they told me it was like striking oil,” he said.
An intricate system of cisterns that uses both the well and rainwater serves the 10 houses he has developed, 5 of which are currently rented. Before Mr. Frazier discovered water and his green thumb, his original house was surrounded by unsightly shrubs and weeds. “I’d come back in May after the basketball season and see the red flowers on the flamboyant trees, and I’d immediately want to start planting more,” he said. “I found this gardener, and every morning I’d work with him. He’d pick, I’d shovel. He showed me how to plant. I look around now and think, ‘How did I do all this?’ ”
The more his property bloomed, the more Mr. Frazier wanted to grow. He bought surrounding half- and one-acre lots, most of which had small cottages he was determined to renovate and upgrade. The way he once read word books to improve his vocabulary for broadcasting, he now perused home and garden magazines. He attended home shows in New York at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and in Miami. He scoured outlets for furniture and became a frequent visitor to home appliance stores, buying fixtures for the houses and shipping them south.
A tour of Mr. Frazier’s property comes with a detailed history of his projects. The most recent one started as a deck. “Then I decided, O.K., if I’m going to have a deck, I’ll need a roof. Then I thought, why not put in a bar and entertainment center and make this a clubhouse?”
Nearby, Mr. Frazier’s builder, Michael Wynter, was measuring the area for the entertainment center he will build, with the help of an assistant. “He comes up with the ideas, and I help them materialize,” Mr. Wynter said of Mr. Frazier. “He wants everything to be different and unique.”
Mr. Frazier gives all of his homes names. He and Ms. James live in the Main House. Next door, he is putting finishing touches on Sea View, which has a deck with breathtaking nighttime views of the twinkling Green Cay Marina. There are also the Green House, the Pink House, the Island House, the Pool House, the Deck House and Sea Cottage.
In his newest houses, Mr. Frazier has embraced a Caribbean flavor, emphasizing decks and terraces, with outdoor cooking facilities and shower stalls. The homes are laden with wood and bamboo in bright, open spaces. He still favors mirrors — years ago he was known for his mirrored bedroom ceiling reflecting a round mink-covered bed — but only on sliding closet doors.
Deanna Davick fell in love with the layout of the Pool House when she joined her husband, Peter Perendy, in St. Croix earlier this month. Mr. Perendy, a kitchen installer, took a job with a St. Croix company when his work dried up in Minnesota. The couple found Mr. Frazier’s property through a local company, Calabash Real Estate.
“We’ve vacationed here for four or five years, so we’re familiar with the island,” Ms. Davick said. “When we moved, we rented our house back home fully furnished. Thank goodness Walt had nice furniture.”
Before the recession, Mr. Frazier briefly flirted with putting the entire property on the market, at an asking price of $5 million. He worries that the maintenance will eventually become too strenuous as he ages. He has no intention of leaving, though. On two empty acres he recently bought farther up the hill, he plans to build an open-air palace of his own, with views of Christiansted Harbor on one side and the Caribbean on the other.
On his property, Mr. Frazier has created a number of places to unwind — or as he said, “just chill.” Recently, Ms. Davick and Mr. Perendy were taking a stroll around the grounds, enjoying the evening sea breeze, when they came upon Mr. Frazier stretched out on the platform of his clubhouse construction site.
“It wasn’t even 7 o’clock,” Ms. Davick said. “He was in a deep, peaceful sleep.”
Where to stay, eat and play in St. John's
From live local music to historic hikes to unforgettable food, here's how to take your next trip to Canada's oldest city to new heights.
Chic Sleeps: Blue on Water
Cozy contemporary comfort collides with industrial charm in this 11-room boutique hotel in the heart of the entertainment district. A St. John's mainstay for more than 10 years, it recently enjoyed a redesign, and the resulting atmosphere is relaxed yet lively&mdashand the bar boasts one of the largest selections of scotch in town.
Rock 'n' Rest: Jag Boutique Hotel
This sleek, modern space pays subtle homage to classic rock with photography and artwork of world-famous musicians, from Elvis to Bowie, so it's fitting that it's located just off vibrant George Street, a two-block pedestrian-only (after noon, anyway) go-to for pubs and live music.
Top-Notch Tastes: Raymonds
Dubbed one of the top 50 restaurants in the world by Diners Club International, this spot is an indulgence you won't regret. In the stunning 1915 building overlooking the harbour, executive chef Jeremy Charles serves up elegant local fare with a focus on wild game and fresh seafood (duck, moose and cod&mdashoh, my!)
Custom Cuisine: Cod Sounds
A gastronomical destination with an astronomical tradition for foraging, St. John's is the perfect place to boost your culinary prowess. Cod Sounds, a cooking school based out of the beautiful Compton House Heritage Hotel Inn, offers experiences including A Taste of Newfoundland, in which foodie Lori McCarthy, a third-generation Newfoundlander, teaches how to make local faves, including her nan's bread.
Monumental Message: Signal Hill National Historic Site
Fancy a light hike and a history lesson? This iconic hill boasts sweeping views, plus an important place in the city's past: It served as the harbour defence site from the 1600s to the Second World War features the circa-1900 Gothic Revival Cabot Tower at its crest and is where, in 1901, the world's first transatlantic wireless transmission (Morse code) was received from Cromwell, England.
History Hub: The Rooms
Home to the provincial museum, art gallery and archives, this epicentre is a must for culture-philes. Enjoy full access to the extensive art collections, historic artifacts (including the oldest complex animal fossil ever found) and regional records. Its modern architecture is itself worth exploring, paying homage to the fishing homes of the past and offering a picture-perfect view of the city.
Quaint Quarters: Quidi Vidi
If you're asking a local for directions to this former fishing village, be sure to pronounce it "kiddy viddy"&mdashor, better yet, call it "the Gut," referring to its tiny inner harbour. Meander through the narrow streets and fishing stages, but stop by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company to sample the award-winning lager made with the water from 25,000-year-old icebergs.
What's close by?
If you have time to venture farther afield, here are two other spectacular spots to see in the province.
20 minutes away: Cape Spear
Stand at the easternmost point in all of North America with the entire continent behind you, and you'll feel lost on the edge of the world. But turn around and the charming lighthouse&mdasha national historic site&mdashwill bring you back to civilization.
Three hours away: Fogo Island
It's a bit of a long haul to this stunning outpost in Iceberg Alley, but with more than 200 kilometres of trails to walk and breathtaking architecture and quaint villages to see, to boot, Fogo is well worth the flight (and ferry!).