Sunday, December 21, 2008

Crossing The Big Mac Bridge

We crossed the Mackinac Bridge in very limited visibility last Wednesday on our way to visit my father in Wisconsin. This video gives you an idea of what winter driving is like in Michigan this year and, of course, there is the added drama of being on the Bridge in December's risky weather.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Snow Report and The Flu

It's late Monday night and we're watching Letterman. The big snow has started. It's been snowing gently since about 9 pm. Weather reports vary in forecasts. Some say 2-4; others are forecasting up to 12 inches. We'll see.

Ed and I are finally coming out from under the flu cloud that set in last week. Ed came down with the fever and aches a week ago Sunday. I followed by Tuesday. Last week almost feels like a blurr. We both tried to keep doing what absolutely needed to be done, but also just stayed home as much as possible.

So, take caution. This is nasty stuff this year. We fought it off with good food, movies, Mucinex and Tylenol. Oh, and rest.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend

We had such a good time on Thanksgiving Day at Will and Wendy's new home in Washington, Michigan. Here's Wendy, caught before the feast was served, in their new kitchen.

Griffin Henry travelled back to Cedar Bluff with Grandpa Ed and Grandma WJ for a one day/two night stay at the lake with us. He enjoyed having Creative Railway all to himself and, as you can see, fell asleep on the journey across the county to exchange the lawn mower for the John Deere Gator with the snow blade. Isn't Finny cute in his green shirt that matches the Gator?

Ed is under the weather with a nasty upper respiratory thing as of Monday, Dec. 1. Quite a few people have had that bug and we're hoping to not pass it on. Our side of Michigan had a winter storm watch out last night -- 4-10 inches is what the National Weather Service was calling for. Well, we can still see the grass this morning.

Schools are closed or delayed, though, since the temps are hovering at freezing. Wet roads turn treacherous fast in these kind of weather conditions.

Hey, how did it get to be December? Anybody have an answer to that age old question!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Moon Over Michigan's Thumb

Well, we thought all week that we wouldn't see the full moon this month. The weather has been rainy, damp, and quite cold. No frost, just dreary November.

There were clues, though. At night the clouds seemed to glow and we knew that there was a big, bright moon up above just wanting to gleem down on Michigan.

The skies cleared on Thursday afternoon and a big wondrous November moon with its soft white almost halogen glow rose in the northwest. The big wind generators reflected the light of the moon. Newly harvested cornfields light up like dull tan patches of shining ground.

The herds of white tailed deer probably moved hither and yon; hopefully, their days are somewhat numbered here in the Thumb as firearm deer season starts tomorrow and there have been way too many car/deer accidents this fall.

So, how come we saw the moon even though weather has held the Upper Midwest in its cloudy grip this week? I checked the Modis Imagery this morning and found the answer -- a big sucker hole that drifted right over the Thumb yesterday afternoon. The photo above was taken about 3PM EST.

Cool! Mr. Moon shone down on us last night and it felt so good!


Click on the photo in this blog post to see the satellite photo up close and personal. I check this website often, especially in the winter months when it is fun to track the formation and movement of ice on the Great Lakes.

Here's the link to the Great Lakes Modis satellite imagery:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Perennial Bash

The Plant Farm in Bad Axe tempted me! Josh Roggenbuck, proprietor of the Plant Farm, is offering all leftover perennials for $1 a pot. Josh and his staff have offered an extensive selection of perennials all summer, so there is quite a selection left. He says he's done well with perennials and is offering the remainders to his customers for fall planting.

Fall planting! Who would have ever guessed that during the week of Election Day we'd be thinking about (and doing!) golfing and gardening?

So, I spent one and a half wonderful hours in the gardens at Cedar Bluff yesterday afternoon. I planted three new spring and fall blooming irises that Josh helped me pick out. Then I added three daylilies (including one named "Bella Lugosi" which was named to the Top Ten by the Wisconsin Daylily Society and is pictured in this post) to ever the increasing varieties of daylilies at Cedar Bluff. These will be my "In Honor of President Elect Obama" daylilies.

I moved some hostas and pulled out the now frost bitten geranium. I've been row composting rotten garbage, so I dug another trench in the garden and buried rotten pears and leftover kitchen scraps. I replanted daffodil bulbs and took a chance on planting a bulb selection that's resided in the frig for over a year.

The back hatch of the BNB (Big New Buick -- the Rainier) is filled with pots of hostas for the farm, bone meal, and planting tools.

This morning is rainy. Intellicast's radar shows snow over Minnesota. The reports from the Dakotas include blizzard warnings. Still, Ed and I ordered more daffodils from Jung's in Randolph, Wisconsing this morning. We put them into the cedar naturalized areas around Cedar Bluff.

Are we late gardeners? You betcha!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween With the GRAND Boys

Halloween was busy and joyful and a lot like I remember it when I was growing up. We spent the afternoon and evening in Howell at Max and Finny's house. They couldn't wait to get into their costumes for trick or treating.

Lots of trick or treaters came to the porch where Ed handed out candy. John and Liesl and I took the kids and roamed down Riddle Street where the sidewalks were crowded.
Will and Wendy and Pete came for a late supper. It was a great evening together with the grandsons and our kids.
Photo captions:
--Grandma WJ with Finny The Cow
--Max and Finny with their neighbors, Emma and Emma's Baby Sister
--Waiting At The Front Door for the Great Pumpkin

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Detroit Free Press Photo Celebrities

Our daughter, Liesl Eichler Clark, was in the Detroit Free Press' Business section this week. Her job as Policy Advisor with Governor Jennifer Granholm's office took her downtown Detroit on Monday morning and she had lunch at the newly opening Westin Book Cadillac Hotel that noon. Here's the article with photos:

Brandon Hofmeister, also pictured, is also from the Thumb of Michigan. He grew up in Sebewaing here in Huron County and also works on the Governor's staff.

Nice to see you in the papers, Liesl!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cash Based Economy -- Hmm. . .

My posts from Japan promised some more writing about the trip to Fukuoka. Now that October has come and the autumn days are separating me from all of those wonderful memories, it is time for me to write one more reflection about the cash based economy in Japan.

The guidebooks warned us. "Japan is a cash based economy," they said.

"Sure, but it also says you can use a credit card. Let's prepare with both cash and credit cards," is what Ed and I said to each other in the days immediately before our departure. We exchanged currency at Detroit Metro Airport and that carried us quite far.

Ed also armed himself with an ATM card since Peter used ATMs almost exclusively during his tour in Japan. Pete said he'd just go into a Seven Eleven convenience store, pop in front of an ATM, and he was good for cash.

I had called one of the credit card companies that I work with. "I'm going to be in Japan from Sept. 6 through the 15th and want to use my card."

"No problem," they said. "Thanks for warning us."

We hadn't counted on a limit on the amount of cash that you can get out of an ATM in one 24 hour period and we hadn't counted on having to pay cash (a lot of it) for tickets to four performances to see Peter in BLAST MIX II. So, toward the end of the week in Fukuoka, we were counting our yen quite closely! Ed had several days in a row when he couldn't get more than 30000 yen (that's about $300) at once. Consequently, we were borrowing from Peter here and there to pay for meals since tickets were 22000 yen (that's about $220) a crack.

So, what have we learned. Well, pay attention to guidebooks that say CASH ECONOMY!

Plus, as our country continues in this deep financial mess, we ought to seriously consider what it would be like to be a cash only economy. Not nice. There is a value to credit that we all count as almost a given. Let's hope that there is a resolution to the economic crisis soon. Our legislators should probably be reminded that as important as it is to get things right, sometimes it is necessary to get things done.

Legislation that works is what we need. We need it soon. The perfecting can come later before the credit crisis turns into a recession/depression cash based economy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jet Whacked

Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them behind you, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see whenever you shut your eyes. And the cities you see most clearly at night are the cities you have left and will never see again.
from The Silk Road by Jan Myrdal

Wow, have I been hit with jet lag! I fully intended to write another post about travel in Japan when I got back to Michigan. Well, my circadian rhythms are so screwed up that I'm struggling to just get the laundry from the trip done.

Last night I was up until 4 am; heard the clock chime twelve times this morning, but when I got downstairs to look at a clock, it was 11 am. Reading a newspaper takes me an hour. Coffee has effect only after two plus cups. One hour I'm spaced out; the next hour I'm wide awake.

I did take a long walk last night. Walked down Geiger Road just after sunset so that when I returned, walking east, I could see the rising full moon in all of its clear-night-in-the-country glory. Had my FM radio on and earbuds stuffed in my ears and was listening to a show about mythical beasts like dragons and the yeti and creatures of the dark. Great stuff to consider as the moon appears full and glowing on an autumn night on a lonely country road.

Anyway, I'll get to the travel wrapup post soon.

On the plus side, Ed and I have beeen cooking these last two nights. Last night was scrambled CSA eggs with wonderful orangey yolks (high in Omega-3's, I'm told) with parsley from our garden, cheddar cheese and bacon. We added the last fresh blueberries (we've eaten about 20 pounds of blueberries this summer) and a sliced pear from our orchard to the menu. Topped it off with vanilla ice cream covered with Ed's raspberries, just picked that evening. And toast! How we are loving toast. Garrison Keillor says toast can solve the world's problems. Toast is like coffee -- you enjoy the wonderful scent of the bread toasting and then you eat that warm, slightly crunchy texture. Mmmm.

The dryer buzzed. Off to fold!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Travel Day Miscellaneous

Monday, Sept. 15, 2008 -- 7:10 am
Fukuoka, Japan

It's a national holiday here in Japan today and the usually bustling streets of Fukuoka are quiet. We're literally on our way out the door (well, Ed's in the shower yet) so you'll get to see some photos today with little commentary.

Peter and Ed did laundry last Friday morning and the images of tall Peter with the laundry man are great contrast of human form. Enjoy. Ask Ed sometime about the language barrier being broken on laundry day.

You'll hear more later this week about the ATM Adventures (we were calling it a crisis at first). Here's a photo of the famous 7-11 convenience store where the infamous ATM is located. Convenience stores serve as quasi banks here. More on that later.

Finally, here's Peter's photo from the souvenir book. From this photo you gain a perspective about his job as a performer with the Japanese company that owns the Blast Tour here in Japan.

Lastly, it's been great to blog from Japan. I've really appreciated the emails and comments. I'll add several more posts, but the immediacy will be gone as I'll be writing from Michigan.

So, we head back to the U. S. today, flying over Sarah Palin-land, with an ETA in Detroit of 11:45 am. This has been a fabulous experience for both of us.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

We Find the Bamboo Festival

Sunday morning, September 14, 2008
Fukuoka, Japan

The Oita Bamboo Festival, held here in city center Fukuoka, absolutely captured our hearts last night. We had spent the afternoon at the Sun Palace where we saw our third performance of Blast II: MIX. Peter had the lead visual role in the afternoon performance and it was a thrill to see him dance. (Dr. Dixie Duerr would be so proud, Peter!) Ed and I were hungry after the performance and headed back to the neighborhood around our hotel to find a restaurant.

We ate early, around 5 pm, and then enjoyed coffee at a Seattle's Best Coffee place, right across from the Starbuck's that we've been frequenting. Ed says Starbucks' brew is better.

We decided to walk a bit before sunset and came upon the Oita Bamboo Festival in a large open air plaza. There were vendor booths set up around the square, tables with umbrellas and chairs in the center of the plaza, a stage with live music, flags everywhere, and all of these strange pieces of bamboo surrounding the entire plaza.

Taking a closer look, we saw tea light candles inside a hollowed out spot at the top of the bamboo sections. There were hundreds of these bamboo chunks, most about 18-30 inches tall and 3-4 inches in diameter. A tealight had been placed in the hollow and the people standing around were holding butane lighters and waiting for something.

At 6 pm there was a loudspeaker announcement and the lighting began. The tall city buildings already provided less light; sunset was about an hour away, so the glow of the candlelight became more and more golden inside the bamboo as the sun went down. It was an enchanting sight and was made more magical by the live music (well, it did sound sort of like an acoustic Irish folk band, but we enjoyed it a lot.)

There were cameras and people everywhere. The lighters were handed from person to person. Photos were snapped and there were smiles everywhere. Two young women from the staff of the Oita Prefecture Tourism Association, both English speakers, took us under their wing and explained that the Festival is a promotion to urge people to visit their area of Kyushu. Some of the bamboo chunks were arranged in the shape of the letters "O - I - T - A" and you can see some of the letters in the photos of Wanda (me) with the tourism staff. They insisted that we wear their tourism kimono jackets in these photos! What fun!
Stumbling across the Bamboo Festival was a delightful, unplanned part of our days here in Japan. Once again, we are so impressed with the friendliness and warmth of the Japanese people as we shared this beautiful evening with them.

Today's photos show the Bamboo Festival, the bamboo candle holders, the tourism staff with Ed and me, and a booth selling plums at the Festival.
NOTE: I missed posting yesterday and promised to write about Peter doing laundry and several other things. Watch for that post later today. WJ

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today is Yesterday Or is Yesterday Today?

11:30 pm -- September 12
Fukuoka, Japan

I'm writing this post really late on Friday here in Fukuoka. Tonight we went to the Sun Palace theatre and saw the second of four shows of Blast II:MIX that we're going to see this weekend. Peter performed tonight; tomorrow afternoon he'll do the lead role and we're eager to see him in that very demanding track.

Last night the cast and crew had their annual bowling tournament AFTER doing all their preliminary tech work and performing two shows. It was a long day for them, but we all went bowling here in Fukuoka at an entertainment center about six blocks from the hotel. We had a great time. The photo is of me with my BLAST bowling buddies. From left to right: Jim, choreographer and lead male dancer; Zeke, dancer (and a really good one!); Iso who is a lighting tech; Jay, production stage manager; and me (known to the cast and crew as Peter's mom.)

On Wednesday afternoon Peter, Ed and I took a taxi to the harbor area where we walked through an interpretive center about the importance of the harbor. Fukuoka is closer to Korea than it is to Tokyo and shipping is big business here. We learned that about 25% of what is imported here is food. There are numerous wharves, an international ferry between here and Pusan, Korea and smaller ferries that go back and forth across the harbor.

We took a ferry to the Marin Ocean aquarium which is part of a much larger park on a small peninsula that encompasses the harbor. We enjoyed the dolphin show and saw lots of sealife there.

The trip back from the aquarium showed us Peter' expertise in understanding the Japanese railway system. We left the park on one short line railroad and transferred to a Japan Rail line. When that second rail line ended, we transferred to the subway which runs about a block away from the hotel. It's all fairly complicated until you get the hang of the maps and charts and ins and outs of the railroads here.

Now you need an explanation of the "today is yesterday" comment in the title of this posting. We've been watching evening baseball from the US here in Japan. So, we're seeing an East Coast game (first pitch is usually at 7:05 pm) at 8:05 in the morning here. Ed and I have been watching the ABC nightly news at 7:30 am (with voiceover in Japanese and subtitles in Japanese and Chinese and maybe Korean) and then we tune in MLB ball games. So, you see, we're seeing yesterday's game but it's really today for us. . .and the game is live. So is today yesterday, or is yesterday today? Hmm. . .it probably doesn't make any difference at all.

That's it for today from Fukuoka. You've learned about US baseball which is really big here in Japan, some more about the railroads, and about a supposedly blue collar sport that's enjoyed right here in a Japanese city of 1.4 million people.


Tomorrow's topics: Peter does laundry with Ed; daily shopping; Ed continues his chopsticks education.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chopsticks? Of Course We Can Use Them!

From Fukuoka, Japan -- 9:52 AM 9/11/08

As I write this post we are sitting in our hotel room, having morning coffee, watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Red Sox (game is tied right now at the top of the sixth), and following the tsumani warnings for Northern Japan on several television channels. Apparently there is some seismic activity going on today in on Hokaido, the northern island.

Today is Peter's back to work day. He'll be at the theatre by 10 am for prep time and run throughs. Then there are two performances today at 2 pm and 7 pm. We'll see the 7 pm performance since Peter will be the "swing" then. Usually the swings don't perform in the first and last performances of a city run. Peter will do the lead track on Saturday at 1 pm so we'll see that performance, too.

We're located in the Nakasu district of central Fukuoka, about 20 walking minutes from the Sun Palace where Blast performs. The hotel is at the edge of a huge nightlife district. Guidebooks say this area has over 2000 clubs, restaurants, ramen shops and more. Last night we saw even more people on the streets and it was only Wednesday night.

The ramen stalls along the river open around sunset. Lined up one after another, the open air cooking booths have charcoal fires contained in metal cookers. Ramen is pork broth and noodles served in a large bowl. You get your choice of meat and/or veggies added to the bowl. You eat with chopsticks and drink the broth as you get further into the bowl.

Some stalls (the good ones, we were told) have lines of people waiting and sitting on little stools along the river. When you eat, you pull up to the counter in the booth and choose your food. One stall might have the Fukuoka Hawks baseball game broadcast on the radio. Another had a TV screen tuned to news. Still others have waiters walking the sidewalk and preparing guests for their seating.

It's all very casual and very conversational. Smells range all the way from "Hey, let's eat here" to "keep going, keep going." We considered a meal, but Peter wanted to introduce us to okonomiyaki which he calls Japanese pancakes. So we found an okonomiyaki restaurant in at Canal City, a beautiful multistory shopping and hotel complex further upriver.

At the okonomiyaki restaurant we sat in a booth that had a large hot plate built right into the tabletop. We ordered, or shall I say that Peter ordered. Most restaurants have English menus and non-Japanese speaking diners point to the entree that you want and say "hai" which is yes and then indicate how many you want. The exception seems to be Coke which is a universal word here.

We ordered okonomiyaki with beef, pork and veggies. The waiter brought a bowl with chopped cabbage, what looked like mayo and an egg. He stirred all together and put the ingredients into a shaped pile on the grill. Meat or veggies went on top. He left for five minutes or so. On return, he flipped the "pancake" and sprinked what might have been very thin dried bacon on top. Everything smelled very good since it was cooking right in front of us. Peter also ordered sea scallops with butter which they brought to him and he grilled separately.

The waiter flipped the pancakes again and then swirled a brown sauce on top. One guidebook said that the sauce contains worchestershire sauce. I thought it was sweetened, too. Then, we ate. Each of us had chopsticks and a small metal spatula to cut off our wedge of okonomiyoki. Ed had not used chopsticks before and quickly proved to have great dexterity. We enjoyed the foray into a type of Japanese cuisine that was new to us. For the record, on Wednesday night, Ed ate sweet corn OFF the cob with chopsticks. Hmm. . .he's getting good!
Today's pictures show the ramen stalls and the okonomiyaki meal.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Visit to Hiroshima

On Tuesday, September 9 Peter, Ed and I visited Hiroshima. We took the Shinkasen or bullet train from Hakata Station in Fukuoka to Hiroshima and then rode the streetcar to the Peace Park area.

First we came upon the Atomic Dome, a structure that was partially destroyed by the blast and has been preserved as a reminder of the power of nuclear weapons. Walking beyond the dome, we came in site of the full park which has been built over the area that was "ground zero" for the explosion. At this point of the day, we still did not have an idea of how large of an area in central city Hiroshima had been destroyed by the immediate impact of the atomic bomb.

I had read John Hershey's Hiroshima as a student and knew about the tragedy of the bombing. I have also stood under the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb, down at the Air Force Museum at Wright Patternson Air Force Base near Dayton, OH.
All of that is only a prelude for walking on the site of the bomb and seeing the poignancy of the Peace Park. I was very moved by the Children's Peace Monument, a tall monument where schoolchildren, one by one, rang the bell. We saw strands of origami peace cranes at the monument -- chains that have been brought to the site by peace loving people from all over the world.

We walked through Peace Memorial Hall and Hiroshima Peace Museum. Both are massively moving experiences -- I had tears several times as I read exhibits and thought about what I was seeing and where I was standing.

Today's photos show the Atomic Dome, the Children's Monument, peace cranes, and 2 views of the Shinkasen ride, including a photo of Ed and me before we boarded the train.

More tomorrow. . .including a look at the ramen booths along the river here in Fukuoka and Ed's first chopsticks only meal!

WJ from Japan

Sunday, September 7, 2008

We're in Fukuoka!

Ed and I are "recuperating" from a long day of travel from Pigeon to Saginaw to Detroit to Osaka to Fukuoka, Japan.
Our yesterday was really less than a 24 hour day, but felt like quite a bit more since we packed about a 12 hour Sunday into the day.
Our first plane ride took us from Saginaw, MI (MBS) to Detroit (DTW.) That's the usual hop that we take to get to Detroit Metro. We left Saginaw around 10:30 am on Sat., Sept. 6. By Sunday night we had arrived safely at the Hakata Excel Hotel Toku after a long flight to Osaka and another, much shorter flight to Fukuoka.

We're wading into using the Japanese yen and I'll probably write more about that soon. This morning we watched television in both English and Japanese. We saw the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners play Sunday night baseball. So the game was happening yesterday for us since we're in Japan, but the game was live in Seattle. Cool. Just have to set the brain to the 13 hour time change.

Peter and the Blast II MIX company arrive this afternoon. I've hardly slept. Can't seem to reset the sleeping clock yet. I'm sure that I'll collapse and sleep well tonight!


Photo was taken as we descended into Fukuoka with the sun setting over what we think is the Straits of Korea. Fukuoka is on the south island, Kyushu, and is very near to Korea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Quilt For Baby Burl

Heidi Eichler Burl and her husband Mike Burl are expecting a little one this fall so Great Grandma To Be Pauline and I (Great Aunt To Be WJ) made a quilt for Baby Burl.

Pauline made 12 nine-inch shoo fly blocks. I pieced the top using three inch sashing and six inch borders. The quilt is about 51 x 56 -- more a square than a rectangle. Fabrics for this quilt were chosen by Danielle Damen of Graywood Studio right here in Pigeon and ordered from Anna Lena's in Washington State. Karen Snyer, proprietor of Anna Lena's, is the designer of the fabrics.

I used my Gammill Classic longarm to quilt the Baby Burl Shoo Fly Quilt and Baby Burl's Momma To Be, Heidi, was pretty pleased with the result.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Most Improved and a Ten Dollar Bill

There's an envelope in my summer golf notebook that has a ten dollar bill inside of it. On the outside of the envelope are the words "Most Improved -- $10." No bells. No whistles. Just a white envelope from someone's stash of office supplies.

The "most improved" envelope was handed to me last night at the Bird Creek Ladies' League Golf Banquet. I was delighted to receive the honor and was even more complimented when Martha Babcock, League President, asked me to read my post "Evening Shadows on Bird Creek Number Nine" to the golfers at the dinner.

My scores went from the mid-80's to the mid-60's for the season. I knew I was improving, but really didn't pay a lot of attention to the numbers. I do keep track of gross, net, handicap, putts, and points on a spreadsheet and find that it's fun to watch the statistics within the statistics.

On a really lousy golfing day you can always find something to cheer about. Maybe there's been a long putt that sunk into the cup miraculously. Or maybe you didn't need all ten strokes that the handicapping system allows on a par five hole. The final score of a nine hole round may not reflect all of the good and bad of a round of golf. It's just the final score -- one of many numbers that tells the story of swings and putts and lost balls and broken tees.

So becoming the Most Improved Golfer for this season's league play is just a thrill. I joined the league in spring because of my sixtieth birthday in February. I told myself that I would do some things differently this year. Summer golf has been a new thing and a good thing for me.

The next new thing is travel to Japan in September to see our son Peter Carl Franklin Eichler perform in Fukuoka, Japan with the cast of the Broadway show, "Blast!." Maybe I'll put the Most Improved ten dollar bill in my wallet and take it to Japan as a reminder to try more new things!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sawmill Days at Huron City in The Thumb

Shades of yesteryear! These are sights and sounds heard each summer in August here in The Thumb. The video is 1:16 long.

Huron City Museums hosts a Sawmill Day when logs are cut, shingles are made, and steam prevails. In this video you see the bark side of a log being cut into boards. The slab outside (piece that has bark on it) is moved to a large saw powered by a steam engine.

Interestingly enough, the slab wood is then fed back into the steam engine to provide more power to cut the wood. Full circle power. No electricity. Lots of hard work.

Enjoy the sight of sawdust flying, men working slowly and surely, and the buzz of the saws.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Social Calendar: Clark Boys Visit Huron County

Special to From Under the Willow
For Immediate Publication

August 12, 2008

Mr. Griffin Henry Clark, known to his family as Finn, enjoyed a week in Huron County with his maternal grandparents, Edwin and Wanda Eichler. The Eichlers entertained Mr. Clark at their lakeside home south of Harbor Beach where their grandson resided with them.

Mr. Clark took numerous naps, enjoyed many highchair feeding hours, and played extensively with blocks, small animals, and wiffle balls. Occasionally Mr. Clark escaped the view of both grandparents and attempted to climb steps. While he did negotiate one or two stairs, usually his grandfather or grandmother rescued him from any further nonsense.

Mr. Clark's brother, Maxwell, stayed in Huron County for the same week, too. The elder Mr. Clark resided in Bad Axe with his paternal grandparents, Donald and Joni Clark, at their Huron Avenue residence. When interviewed by his father following the almost weeklong stay, Maxwell was heard to say that the pool was the absolute best thing about the week. Maxwell and his father, John Ryan Clark, did venture out to the Huron Community Fair on the day of the deluge. They returned from their midway adventure with very muddy feet.

The Clark boys are frequent visitors to Huron County this summer. Both of their parents are natives of Huron County. The boys' mother, Liesl Eichler Clark, grew up on a farm south of Pigeon and met their father, John Ryan Clark, at county high school extracurricular activities.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Posts You May Have Missed

Please be patient with me! I missed publishing some of the posts that I've been working on. Blogger allows me to write and save posts as edits. Doing so gives me time to choose and adjust photos as needed.

Well, I really got behind. You'll find a new post in July that you may not have read yet. It's called Summer Visitors at Cedar Bluff and you can find it here:

There may be several more "back-dated" posts coming, so please be patient and scroll back through the posts occasionally. I'll try to highlight them with links for you.


Wanda J.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Presenting the Lamb Trophy

My publications company, Graywood Designs, sponsors the Grand Champion Pen of Lambs trophy at the Huron Community Fair here in Huron County, Michigan. Ever since 2004's fair I have presented the trophy to the winner with an assistant, Mary Quintessa Damen. Tess who is now almost five years old has become an "old pro" at trophy presentations.

This year Tessa was joined by both of my grandchildren, Max Clark (almost four) and Finn Clark (almost one). The young lady in the solid pink shirt is actually the winner of the trophy. She and her friend were great at playing along with my wish to have all of the children in on the presentation.

Tessa and Max got to pose with the trophy and ribbon before the ceremony in the show ring. Jenny Wheeler, sheep publicist extraordinaire, coached them for their photo.

What a joy to bring children on board for this special agricultural event!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Judy's Gardens

Picture a drive down a county road in south central Huron County. We're headed for Judy Zimmer's gardens at her farm just north of the Thumb's Octagon Barn. This is an area of Huron County where many roads are gravel and where small farmsteads are still plentiful.

We see Judy's barn ahead and turn in underneath a canopy of huge spreading trees. There's Judy's farmhouse and behind it are the gardens and lawns. We pull up near the potting shed and are greeted warmly by Judy.

Her gardens are a wonder. Filled with hostas, sedums, coneflowers, sculpture, stones, rock garden spots, and lilies, the plantings wander throughout the back yard. Carefully framed with edgings of all sorts, the artful arrangements of the beds form soothing lines that guide you to a seating area located on the foundation of an old building.

Here we stop and chat about the beauty around us. Judy remembers every plant, every stone. She is a whizz at botanical names and can recite the origin of almost every plant. "Wal-Mart, The Plant Farm, from my friend Fran" -- the list is long and detailed. The afternoon summer sun spotlights parts of the gardens and lets other areas fade away, almost as if some entity was saying "now look here, now there."

The charming potting shed is circled with coneflowers which she loves. Boxwoods edge the beds and there's a broken tile walkway at two of the doors. Plantings spill out of windowboxes. Beside the potting shed is the farm's pickup truck. "I couldn't get along without my pickup truck," Judy tells us. She's obviously moved tons of stone,piles of materials, plants and more plants to make this wonderful garden.

We brought tiny muffins for Judy who loves sweets. She sends us home with a coneflower to treasure. I plant it just outside my kitchen window where it is a reminder of an afternoon spent visiting in her enchanted garden.

Friday, August 1, 2008

My Dad's Blog

So much has happened since I last posted to Willow. My cousin Howard died in mid July and his death entailed a five day car trip for Ed and me to Wisconsin to attend the funeral and be with family. Howard was my oldest cousin, my senior by almost eleven years, a fifth generation dairy farmer, dad, grandpa, husband, an all around great guy who always wanted to know "how are things with you" when we visited.

My Dad's blog, has two sparkling entries that recite the emotions and events of those days of remembering Howard Hayes. Be sure to look at his entry about Howard's Last Trip. This last journey was truly a tribute to the farming and family life that my cousin Howard lived.

Dad is a retired United Methodist pastor. Because he preached every Sunday for years, he always had to focus his thoughts and write "for publication" (the pulpit is a form of publication) each week. That discipline allows him command of language and thought. I'm proud that he has entered the blogging world and look forward to his posts. Well done, Dad!

One more comment about attending Howard's funeral. Ed and I left Michigan on Thursday evening. We planned to drive to Manistique, Michigan which is about half way of the 550 mile trip. We love the drive up the Lower Peninsula, across the Big Mac Bridge, over to Wisconsin via US 2, and then we drop down the eastern side of Wisconsin to the Fond du Lac and Kettle Moraine area. We figured that the funeral would probably be on Sunday.

As it turned out, Howard's service was on Monday so we had an extra day in our schedule. We knew that when we left on Thursday evening, but figured that we'd give ourselves that day away as a tribute to Howard. I called it "Howard's Day" and we spent that day in the Manistique area. First we ate breakfast at a delightful little cafe downtown near the paper mill.

Then we drove out US2 to Stoney Point Golf Course and golfed 18 holes. I posted by best score of the season on the first nine. Next we drove along Indian Lake and visited the Father Baraga memorial there. We ate supper that night at a bistro/bar in Manistique where I had excellent tomato bisque soup.

Howard's gift to us was a day away together in the U.P. as we headed to the memorial service and the times of remembering him with family and friends. We paused. We played. We gave thanks for a life well lived. We remembered.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Evening Shadows on Bird Creek Number Nine

So, I'm standing on the tee box for the par 3 Number Nine hole at Bird Creek Golf Course in Port Austin. It's a beautiful June night and five of us are playing a round for Ladies' League. I have to hit a drive across the creek (downward) and then slightly upward to the green. It's a short hole and I usually lose a ball in the creek and have to take a drop.

Tonight is different.

Shot 1: My drive sails across the creek (thank you, instructor Brian Natzel, for teaching me how to drive and thank you, Martha Babcock, for telling me to go get lessons!) and into the left sand bunker. Hmm. I can do this, I'm thinking.

Shot 2: Out of the bunker with a sand wedge and onto the fringe of the green on the high, north side. Hmm, getting better.

Shot 3: Onto the green. Holy Cow! This is really getting better!

Shot 4: I putt the ball into the hole. I'm one over for a bogey, but, thanks to the handicap that I carry, I can subtract 2 strokes. That gives me 2 strokes for the hole and I'm now one under -- a birdie.

Now none of this takes a Tiger Woods-ish rocket scientist to figure out. It's just significant to me. For, in my first summer of taking golf seriously, I finally remember each shot and can recite the specifics somewhat. That's so cool! I can't tell you about specific plays in baseball at Comerica Park even though I watch lots of baseball. I've seen the Michigan State Spartan football team play countless times and there are no wonderful images of caught passes or quarterback sneaks in my memory photographs.

But this summer, finally, and maybe only for a few weeks, I can see the evening shadows on the Number Nine green clearly and I know that I can get a drive over that creek again and that's totally cool for someone who just about quit golf (for the umpteenth millioneth time) in early June.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Visitors at Cedar Bluff

Peter and Clay were here for several days last week. On Friday night we had a lovely lakeside dinner. The evening began with appetizers on the terrace followed by a pasta meal served in the pasta set that Liesl and John gave us for Christmas. All in all, a lovely evening. Peter flew to Japan the very next day; Clay headed home to Indiana and the fall football season at IU.

Dave and Jill arrived on Saturday after Peter and Clay left. We watched the Port Huron to Mackinac Race during the afternoon. Dinner was Honey Pepper Steak on the grill with roasted potatoes and salad. So good!

I counted 138 sailing yachts at once. The late afternoon sun made the sails glow. You can see the sailboats on the horizon in this northeast looking photo taken from on top of Cedar Bluff.

Both visits were sparkling with stimulating conversation, good food, and a grand place on the bluff to enjoy Lake Huron's views. I love this photo of Dave and Jill and their white Prius. Such a happy picture of good friends.

Friday, July 4, 2008

On The Fourth of July

'Tis more than high voiced liberty

That spells out freedom's plan.

Love that is lived in charity

Will put all war to shame.

Written by Stan Hayes, May 26, 1957

Here is my Dad's poem entitled "Memorial Day" from his book, Behind the Plow. Stan captures the essence of a patriotic holiday like the Fourth of July in this short reminder that peace is more than an absence of war. What innovative thinkers the founding fathers and mothers were! OR had people for generations chafed under feudalism, monarchy, and restrictiveness? Humanity was ready for democracy. That's what 1776 is -- a turning point, a pivotal year in history.

Happy birthday, USA! How humbling it is to live as the recipient of this ongoing democratic process.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Middle of the Year and Stan's Strawberries

Today is the middle of the year. Really!

Because 2008 is a leap year it has 366 days. July 1 is the 183rd day of the year and there are 183 more days in 2008. It seems strange to be so used to counting the years by "2000." Remember when we turned from 1999 to 2000 and you heard television news people saying "twenty -- oh -- oh" instead of"two thousand." Now we're very used to the new millenium and are almost a full decade into it. Tempus fugit, as my Latin teacher would say.

The photo with this post is called "Stan's Berries." My dad, Stan Hayes, in Wisconsin and my sister Carla picked ten quarts of strawberries at the home farm on Sunday. What a great photo! The round red berries contrast with the country green checked tablecloth. Looks like it's shortcake and jam time!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deer Eat Tender Bean Plants

My previous post shows such a sweet sleeping fawn. Well, the baby's mom must be hungry. Just take a look at this once thriving row of green beans.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Fawn

It was a day early in June. Steve Stonecipher, irrigation specialist with Esch Landscaping, was checking the sprinkling system at our lakehouse when he spotted this fawn on the north side of Cedar Bluff.

"Did you see this?" he asked me as I walked the property with him. "The mother must have told this little one to stay put." I dashed into the house to grab a camera, fully expecting that the fawn would be gone by the time I returned. It stayed and here is the result -- snuggled in the grasses and wild strawberries, a spring baby.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Finny and the Zero Turn Mower

Griffin Henry had a new experience on Thursday evening when his Grandpa Ed was out mowing the front lawns at Cedar Bluff. Finn had eaten his supper and was out for a stroller ride with Grandma WJ pushing. We walked north along the bicycle lanes on M-25 and then, when we came back to Cedar Bluff, we pulled into the driveway to watch Zero Turn Lawn Mowin' Grandpa.

Wow! Was Finny interested! In this video he chats a little and watches intently. The video is 1:23 minutes long. The voice talking to Finny is Wanda who also ran the camera.

Here's a wide eyed little boy at his nine month old best -- learning about the big, puzzling world with wonder in his eyes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 11th Storm Update

We continue to have thunderstorms come across the Thumb. One hit Bad Axe around 7 pm last night with fury. Lots of wind and pelting rain.

The Sunday storms took out the power at our farm and we're still without electricity there. Ed has called Detroit Edison several times a day and has been told to expect service some time on Friday. Meantime, I'm functioning out of the lakehouse south of Harbor Beach where I can see another storm gathering in the west again this morning.

Most food in the frig and freezer is lost. That's about all. We're lucky to have a second home to use. I had intended to work at my Pigeon office this week, but have nine month old grandson Griffin Henry Clark here with me at the lake. Finny's mom and dad are on vacation. Finn's brother Max is in Bad Axe with Grandpa Don and Grandma joni. So, all the Huron County grandparents are "on duty" this week.

Finny was going to stay at the farmhouse with Ed and me. Not so! We'll have to be lake people this week.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

June 6th Evening Storm

Storms came thru theThumb tonite. We were lucky. There was no significant damage. This storm was a part of a long, sweeping front that spread out across the Midwest.

Looking west northwest along the driveway to Cedar Bluff, here's the front as it approached the east side of the Thumb and was about to pull out across Lake Huron. This storm carried dust in front of it and you can see the thick dustiness along the horizon line in this photo.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Stadium Checkers

Here's one for the nostalgia buffs. I found this game at the Port Austin Farmers' Market last Saturday. One of the vendors across from our Graywood Designs booth had lots of old goodies out for sale. We had one of these games as kids and I do remember playing with it quite a few times.

Ed and I tried it out on Sunday and found that we need more marbles to make it challenging. We started with four marbles each (you are supposed to have five) and he got one move ahead of me and beat me. What fun!

The game is by Schaper of Cootie fame and has a 1952 copyright. Made in Minneapolis, it is a series of concentric rings with slots that allow marbles to drop down the "stadium" to the center where they slide out to the feet of the game board. The object is to get all of your marbles into your kitty (in the feet). Fun!

Oh yes. I paid $3 for this little trip back in time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Governor Granholm visits the Thumb of Michigan

How privileged this area of the Thumb was this week to have the sitting governor of the State of Michigan visit our community? Governor Jennifer Granholm was here on Monday, April 21 for a tour of the Harvest Wind Windfarm, roundtable at Laker Elementary, combined assembly for both Laker Junior and Senior High Schools, and then on to Pigeon for a fundraiser for State Representative Terry Brown of Pigeon.

It was a big day for the Thumb, especially for Pigeon and Elkton, the two towns that saw the most of the Governor's entourage. Our daughter, Liesl Clark, works at the Michigan Deparment of Agriculture and she wrangled a seat on the press bus that accompanied the Governor. My husband Ed and I hung around the hallways at Laker Elementary along with Liesl's good friend, Danielle. We got to meet many of her work colleagues and some of the reporters whom we see on shows like "Off The Record."

I got to meet and chat with Rick Pluhta. Cool! We met Liz Boyd, the guv's press secretary. Also cool! I told Liz that I read the emails from the Governor's office regularly. I signed up on the state website and appreciate keeping up with the happenings (well, maybe not the really insider stuff!) through these regular emails. The Governor's office sends out an email every time the flags are lowered in the state to honor a fallen Michgan soldier. Those emails I read carefully and take time to pause and remember.

So anyway, here is a photo of the Governor walking from Laker Elementary over to the High School. You can see the Laker windmills in the background. The woman on the right is Liz. I've also included a photo of some of the acrostics that Laker students made for the event. The one I've included was written by Emily Hoepner, one of our little second cousins.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It's almost Easter again. Christians all over the world observe the story of this week in an annual re-telling of the events of Passion Week. It can be a tough week for those of us who know and honor the end of the story. To be pressed down by the horror of crucifixion belies the uplift of Easter. Instead, this year, my thoughts move to Gandhi's quote that values one deed of kindness over many prayers.

Gandhi said, "To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer."

As always, there is a time for prayer. I cannot discount that. My arguments and pleadings and gimmes with and to the divine One are frequent and sometimes plaintive. But, this week, I'll try more deeds of kindness, emails and written words to family, some phone calls, maybe a meal cooked with love, cookies made with care. For now, that might be bettter. That might bring Easter's touch closer this year.