Saturday, March 31, 2012

Almost Ninety One

Here's my Dad in his comfy chair yesterday. Blackie The Dog is at his feet. Dad's tablet computer (he reads this blog every day on that computer) is propped up beside him. There are lots of newspapers and other reading material on the arm of his chair.

Dad's wearing the red vest that I knit for him and giving my camera a big smile. Dad's 91st birthday is next Wednesday and we are enjoying a visit with him this weekend.

I'm hoping that the smile is genetic and I will have a big grin like this when I'm ninety-one.

NOTE: You are welcome to wish Stan (my Dad) a happy birthday in the comments section of this blog. Use your Google password to sign in and leave a comment, or you may be able to comment as 'Anonymous.' Please identify yourself, giving some idea of where you are and who you are, yet keeping in mind the open nature of blogging and the internet.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, March 30, 2012

Michigan Runs Deep

A queue at the Mackinac Bridge Toll Plaza is a small but sure sign of the recovering economy in Michigan.  There have been times in the last few years when we've driven over the bridge with nary a wait in line to pay the toll.

The Republicans will credit present Governor Rick Snyder with the jobs rebound. Democrats will want a share of the prize since energy policies put in place during former Governor Jennifer Granholm's years are bearing fruit.

I can say that driving a made-in-Michigan, dreamed-up-in-Michigan and backed-by-Michigan Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicle over the Big Mac Bridge yesterday was a satisfying and thrilling experience. As a little kid growing up in Wisconsin, I heard my grandmother, Rose Luedtke, talk about a big bridge that they were going to build in Michigan. She considered it a wonder of the modern world and wanted to go see that bridge in the worst way. One of the charms on my childhood silver bracelet is the shield of Michigan, brought home for me on Grandma's trip to the bridge.

Grandma Rose would be proud of her granddaughter and the plug-in Chevy, motoring over to the farm in Wisconsin to see her son-in-law, Stan, for his 91st birthday.

Family runs deep. So does the economy in Michigan. And Chevy.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March Wind Power

Sunlight found a crack in the clouds and caught one wind turbine while the rest of the turbines stayed steel gray. I caught this shot yesterday morning while driving on Richardson Road, just east of Elkton Road.

Green wheat fields and rolling dark clouds contrast with the gleaming white giant turbine. The winds were from the west and the turbines were turning. It had to be a productive day for the Harvest Wind Farm.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Whose Woods These Were

Whose woods these were is only a guess. Even though we own the property around us, this time of the year, when the vegetation is barely beginning to grow, old bottles and trash in the woods stick out like a sore thumb. These artifacts are clear evidence of other times and other people.

Part of the bluff is thick with vines that twine and twirl close to the ground. I crawled around on my hands and knees through the vines and gathered up three partial bags of trash. Old aluminum beer cans, pint liquor bottles filled with mud, and glass pop bottles were partly immersed in the leaves and moss and broken twigs of the forest floor.

The mosses are turning green and some grasses are starting to grow. Once the overhead canopy of trees and vines fills up with leaves, these plants won't see much sunshine. But now, in early spring, they green up early.

From the trash that we continue to find in the woods along Cedar Bluff we can conclude that quite a few years of picnics and parties went on along the shores of Lake Huron. If the woods could talk there'd be a fine lot of stories told of when the waters were deeper, the nights quieter, the stars were closer, and life was simple enough for a campfire by the lake.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sushi Tulips

The deer had a tasty lunch when they found this tulip clump. They nibble the young leaves right down to the ground. I call the spirals that are left behind "sushi tulips" since they look like little sushi rolls.

In this photo you can see the stems of the tulips better. That's because the deer pawed the ground and even pulled up the tulip bulb seen in the upper left of the photo. This flower bed is just across the driveway at the lakehouse. The tulips closer to the house have not been tasted (so far).

Deer won't eat daffodils. Needless to say, there are lots of deer and, consequently, lots of daffodils in Huron County. But I still plant tulips and hope for the best by luring the deer to inconsequential clumps.

Another deer post -- The Fawn

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pinnebog Road Barn

A barn on the corner of Pinnebog Road and M-142 caught my eye. I like the contrast of the white metal roof with the gray wood siding and the red doors. The horizontal lines of the white rails above the doors punctuate the barn's shape. A stone foundation completes the look.

Huron County has many fine old barns like this one. The county is a good place to drive the back roads and see these structures built years ago. Built to house and feed a small herd of cattle with hay mows above, the barns are now basically used for storage.

Ed and I are uniquely rural people in that the home farms of all four of our parents still have barns. Both my mother and father came from farms south of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin where the barns are both in use. Here in Huron County, the barns on Ed's mother's side and his father's side still stand on the home farms. One of Ed's goals is the restoration of the barn at Graywood Farm which is where his mother grew up.

These barns now stand as tributes to the farm families who worked the land. That land and those farms produced people like our parents who, in many cases, went off to college and found careers in the professions. All of that milk and hay and those beans and eggs turned into educations for a generation born on the farms of the Midwest.

More barns:
The New Red, White and Blue
Haying 1991
Second Cutting

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, March 25, 2012


When I cleaned the perennial beds this week I uncovered clumps of chives. New green growth pushes up from under the dead leaves of last year's plant.

Once the old grayish brown remains are pulled away, there stands the chives plant with green leaves and their faint onion smell.

All of our chives plants (there are many clumps in the lakehouse gardens and at the farm) are divisions of a plant that Ed's grandmother, Clara Finkbeiner Eichler, gave to us when we first moved to Pigeon. Grandma Eichler had received her chives plants from Clayton Diller's mother, Edith, who lived just up the street from Ed's grandmother.

Many, many divisions later, we enjoy the color of chives in the spring, the lovely lavendar blossoms in June and the aromatic taste almost any time of the growing season. My favorite way to enjoy chives is to snip the leaves into tiny bits and stir them into a fresh carton of cottage cheese. Chives is good in scrambled eggs, too.

In our gardens, chives is a heritage plant and a kitchen door necessity.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lenten Rose 2012

This year, the Lenten Rose is blossoming about on time while the rest of the perennial garden is way ahead of schedule.

Nevertheless, these flowers are a wonder. I took this photo in the evening with light coming from behind the plant. The luminosity of the back light coupled with the lime green and soft mauve of the petals makes this a stunning plant.

Last year's Lenten Rose post

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, March 23, 2012

Taped Puzzle

We've been working on this jigsaw puzzle on and off since Christmas. The 750 pieces had been sorted, the border was together, parts of the center were assembled, but it was time to take the puzzle down.

I used blue masking tape to keep the puzzle together. First I tore off a short section of tape. Next I pressed the tape against my jeans in order to dull the stickiness of the tape with a touch of cotton lint. Then I put the tape on the glossy surface of the pieces. The borders are stored in one box, the center in another and the yet-to-be-assembled pieces are in a third box.

When we get the puzzle out next winter, we will hope that the blue tape strategy works.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Invisible Moon

Jet contrails, wispy clouds, the ascending sun, calm waters. It's the beginning of the Pure Michigan spring day here at Cedar Bluff overlooking Lake Huron.

The new moon rose at 7:07 am Eastern Daylight Time. This photo was taken at 7:31 am. So out there, in the glow of the sunrise, invisible to the human eye, is the new moon. Within a day or two we will see the sliver of the new moon -- growing ever slightly, day by day, night by night, toward full moon -- set in the west just after sunset.

The moon is always a promise. Dark moon, new sliver, quarter, full. A clock of the universe, it cycles through life. Created, evolving, moving and wondrous.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chevy Volt: First 60 Mile EV Day

Just had the first sixty mile day on battery only in my Chevy Volt. It happened yesterday which was very warm and balmy for the first day of spring in Huron County, Michigan. First I drove most of the way across the county -- from south of Harbor Beach to Pigeon. The driver information screen (above) showed 41.4 EV (Electric Vehicle) miles and just one tenth of a mile on gas.

I was pretty excited about hitting the 40 mile mark. I cruised into McCormick Motors and rounded up my sales rep, Marion Shetler, just to let him know that the Volt made the 40 mile mark on battery power. At 1:12 pm, I arrived at my office and plugged the Volt in to a 120 outlet for the afternoon.

My daughter, also a Volt owner, let me know late that afternoon that her Volt had hit 60 EV miles for the day. She plugged her car into a charging station when she arrived at her day's destination and picked up extra charge.

"Wow," I thought. "Now I have a new goal. A 60 mile day!"

I unplugged the Volt around 6 pm and saw another 14 or so miles accumulated via the 120 charge during the afternoon. I did the quick math (14 plus 41.4 plus some regen miles = 60!) and planned to take the Volt to Bad Axe (our county seat) for a quick supper.

Back from supper and plugging in, the screen above showed the day's travel via the plug-in Chevy Volt. I drove a total of 79.1 miles. 60.5 were EV miles; 18.6 were gas miles and, yes, the day's miles per gallon registered 155 mpg. With gas ranging in price from $3.89 to $3.99 a gallon in the county, that's pretty impressive.

More importantly, a whole lot of carbon emission is NOT going into the air when I drive the Volt on electric. And, might I add, part of my travel yesterday was driving through the Harvest Wind Farm near Elkton where 32 wind turbines are producing electric power for the grid here in Michigan.

It's pretty cool to be a part of green energy here in Michigan.

More Volt posts:
Volt video by Clark Ramsey
Driving in Cold Weather
Second Tank

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Comes to the Thumb

From the eye popping pink of the sunroom geraniums, to the spikes of iris that pierce the once cold ground, spring is emerging with power this year. Today's forecast for the first day of spring in Michigan's Thumb includes a high temperature of 85 degrees and possible thunderstorms.

It's getting harder to spot a patch of snow in a deep ditch or back along the wooded bluffs. Usually there are white crusty blobs of snow until late April or early May.

Tuesday morning, March 20, 2012 -- First Day of Spring
Fog over Lake Huron shoreline in Huron County, Michigan
The chilly waters of Lake Huron react with the warm air to produce an almost constant low lying fog along the shoreline. Winds push and pull these lake mists up onto the land mass. Driving south along the shore yesterday, I passed through two foggy spots. It was like flying through the clouds, only not quite as thick.

My Dad in Wisconsin will celebrate his 91st birthday next month. Dad is seeing this early spring through the window of his ninety plus years of weather observing. No doubt he will have some memories of other springs when the land was dry and warm enough for farmers to plant early.

Previous spring posts:

First Day of Spring 2011
Foggy Bluff

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, March 19, 2012

Doggone Tournament

Mickey (left) and Gilbert took the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament with a grain of salt. Curled up next to the television, they managed to snooze through most of the excitement.

They are good Spartan fans though, as they were attired in their green and white St. Paddy's Day doggy neckscarves.

Our Michigan State Spartans advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and we are excited! Go Green! Go White!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Smudge Moon

The waning moon of March rises as a smudge against the eastern sky today. This photo, taken at 6:48 Eastern Daylight time, shows the moon as a spot of blur, even though I could pick out the crescent shape against the purple depth of the morning sky.

There is a glow of moonlight across the calm waters of White Rock Shoal. The faint drift of a jet streak crosses the sky. Canada geese cackle in the distance. Robins call back and forth in the still bare trees.

The household is wakening. A cinnamon coffee cake is in the oven. The first pot of coffee tastes like sweet nectar.

It is a Pure Michigan morning just before spring at the Lake Huron shore.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bracket Sheet

I'm yawning to beat the band this morning after a day of cleaning the lake house while following NCAA basketball yesterday. Michigan State didn't play until late in the day, so I had lots of results filled in on my bracket sheet by the time that their game started around 9:30 pm.

I set up a separate four channel NCAA preference on the television remote so we could flip between the four networks easily. I'm using an 11 x 14 inch page in a sketch book for the brackets which I planned with MSU on the top left (my decision, my brackets). Results get filled out in pencil which is easily erased to add more stats and times and player/coach names.

I vacuumed and dusted in the living room in the afternoon and got lots of other chores done while cruising between the television, bracket sheet, and laundry room. I ate supper in front of the television. Ed and Will and Wendy and Hannah joined me in the evening as the games continued into the night.

MSU won, quite late last night. I am tired this morning. Go State! Only five more games to go!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, March 16, 2012

Almost Spring

The sun is doing its spring shift to the northern skies. Soon it will rise in the northern part of the eastern skies and set in the northern part of the western skies.

But for a week or two it pretty much rises in the east and sets in the west. That means that here in Huron County during the days closest to the equinoxes (both spring and fall, or vernal and autumnal) the sun lines right up with our east-west roads.

Here's proof. This photo shows the sunset on Wednesday, March 14, six days before vernal equinox, along Helena Road in eastern Huron County. I trained my lens on the driver side rear view mirror on my Chevy Volt and snapped this image.

Since it is mirror image, the sun looks like it is north of the road while, in fact, it was still slightly south.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Warm Winter, Early Spring

Wed., March 14, 2012 -- Cedar Bluff south of Harbor Beach, Michigan

The view from Cedar Bluff yesterday reveals a very open Lake Huron. No ice. No snow. Wednesday, March 14, 2012 turned out to be an uncharacteristically balmy 70 degree day.

The first freighter of the season, or at least the first freighter that we have seen, went past the bluff around 8:30 am. Ed identified it as the Alpena, a cement carrier, and the ship was headed north.

March 14, 2011 -- Cedar Bluff with White Rock Shoal
covered with snow and ice

Contrast that with this photo of a year ago. Ice and snow covered White Rock Shoal on a blue sky day. The winter of 2010-2011 was much colder and snowier than the winter that is leaving us next week as the spring equinox passes through on our calendar.

More shoreline posts:
Cool Fog, Warm Day
Freighters and Ice
Spring Week: Foggy Bluff

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inktense Exercise

I bought a set of twelve Inktense color pencils by Derwent a while ago. My first effort with these water based pigment pencils was a disaster.

Recently I thought I'd try again. This time I went to the Derwent website and found an exercise that explores the qualities of the pencils. I printed off the directions and got busy. Out came the tracing paper and watercolor paper. I enlarged the suggested drawing, traced it and transferred it to the watercolor paper.

Following the step by step lesson, I outlined the figures in the drawing with the black outline pencil. This pencil is non-soluble which means that the black outline stays put, even when using a water brush over the color.

Next I added the colors in the order suggested. The dark background takes several layers of color. The skin tones are light markings of two different pencils. The blue t-shirt is also a light layer of color.

When I finished putting the pencil color in place, the drawing looked like a textured piece, thanks to the cold press watercolor paper that I chose to do this exercise.

Finally, and this was the scary part, I used a round watercolor brush to add water to the ink pigment. Now the color begins to merge and create a blend that is more like watercolor and less like pencil.

I am quite pleased with the result. and look forward to using Inktense color pencils for some of the ATCs (artist trading cards) that I like to make. These pencils would also be good for small drawings in a daily journal or for post cards. Now I'm getting some ideas!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Complicated Intersection

I find giant saguaros fascinating. Lately I've been taking photos of the details of these huge plants.

Here is a complicated intersection of a main trunk and an arm. Apparently the weight of the appendage has caused stress on the main trunk as shown by the wrinkles below the join. The joint itself is scarred and toughened, maybe from from drought or wind damage. There are scars on the surface of the plant. The spines have been abraded away by storms or age or frost.

This tall sentinel of the desert has seen decades come and go. Wind, weather, humans, insects, birds, snow -- much has passed by its strong arms and sturdy trunk.

Saguaros stand like oaks in the desert. Strong, persistent, pointing to the heavens, saguaros command attention, even with their complicated intersections that invite our contemplation of nature's ways.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wildflower Wonder

Borders of wildflowers have turned many of the streets and roads in the Tucson area into wildflower wonders. Here is one street on Dove Mountain where I walk that is lined with yellow brittlebushes.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Little Blue Charging Chair

IKEA makes chairs for children in red, blue and yellow. I bought all three to use decoratively in the courtyard of our Arizona house. I was envisioning the bright primary colored chairs against the dull green stucco walls, grouped with cactus plants in turquoise and green pots. It would be a setting with lots of color and interest.

Ed and I put two of the chairs together one morning. That's as far as we got, though. So, the blue chair has become the charging chair for my cellphone and my Kindle Fire. It's a very handy spot. I always know where the chargers are and the devices have their own home, too.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I looked for the name of this desert plant for a long time and finally identified it at the Tohono Chul greenhouse yesterday. It's called chuparosa and is native to the Sonoran desert. Hummingbirds are attracted to the red flowers and nectar of this plant.

Putting all of the botany aside, I'm liking the graceful lines of the red flowers and shadows on the weathered gray wood in this photo.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, March 9, 2012

Critter Thursday

Big horned sheep at Desert Museum
Stately ram at Desert Museum

Mountain lion at Desert Museum near Tucson

Where's the spider? I don't see any spider. Do you?
Baby bunny amid the prickly pears

Copyright 2012  
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Indecisive Amaryllis -- Part II

Surprise! There's a second bud emerging from the Indecisive Amaryllis. See it? It is the little green point just under the pink straw in this photo.

Since last Friday's blog post the leaves have grown about two inches and the first bud head is fattening. I'm using filtered water for the amaryllis. I give it a turn once or twice a day so it won't bend just one way into the light. The pot is situated in filtered light on the kitchen counter.

I put two plastic drinking straws inside each other and inserted them into the soil. They will be good markers to judge how much the bulb has grown.

So, last week this bulb was indecisive, a lot like the much talked about independent voters in this spring's Republican primary elections. Now it looks like it might be only a week, maybe two, until the buds appear. This bulb, this indecisive plant, has made up its mind and is voting for the party that supports growth. Maybe the Plantocrats. Or could it be a Re-pot-blican? Who knows. Oh, I know. It's voting for the Green Party!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crested Saguaro

This crested saguaro is located near the entrance gate at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The crest, a twisted, whorled, shell-like shape, is fairly rare. Another cactus with this type of formation is located in the thornscrub garden at the Desert Museum. It has a crest at the top and two normal sagauro side arms.

Some biologists think the formation might be the result of lightning strikes; another suppostition is that the plant's genetics causes the crested formation. Over twenty five crested saguaros have been found inside the boundaries of Saguaro National Park which is adjacent to the Desert Museum.

The variations of nature never fail to amaze me. I'm adding crested saguaros to my list of nature's wonders.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Onion Sketch

I did this sketch of an onion one day last week. I was sitting near a west window in late afternoon and there was a very strong shadow when I started sketching.

By the time I had roughed in the shape and had begun to refine the shading, the shadow was gone. So I delved into my memory and this sketch is the result.

I'm finding that I am gradually becoming more observant of light and dark and shape as I practice sketching. Sketching is different from photography.

Often, when I take a photo, I think that I will remember a place or a time or an object just because I pressed down on the silver shutter button. Later, when I look through a batch of images on my computer, I find that I sometimes get to wondering where and when I took a certain image.

Sketching, because it takes time and uses different powers of observation, is supposed to lock images in your head in a different way. I'm sure that I will find out more about this brain-image-memory thing as I continue learning more about wielding a pencil and pen.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lion Down

The mountain lion at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum was just getting nicely situated for an afternoon nap when I paused by his habitat enclosure to photograph him. Notice how relaxed this guy is -- his front paws are crossed and his eyes look half shut and sleepy.

He sprawled along his warm boulder in the minutes after this photo was taken. That's why I called this blog post "lion down" -- the lion was lying down.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fish Taco Lunch

Here's the fish taco that I had for lunch yesterday at one of the Nico's Taco Shop locations in the Tucson area. Fried fish is served on a tortilla and garnished with tomato salsa, chopped cabbage, tartar sauce and a wedge of lime.

Cilantro in the salsa and the lime juice added a refreshing zing to the taco, part of which I ate like a sandwich, while the rest moved from plate to mouth with that wonderful invention, the fork.

I ordered a Coke and enjoyed this fresh and good lunch for under five dollars. Muy bueno!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fairy Duster

From my trailside wanderings this week comes this image of a low desert shrub that is called Fairy Duster. The mauve blossoms have an ethereal sense about them and appear to be fragile. Like most desert plants, this one has to be tough and adaptable to live in the hot, dry climate.

The blossom reminds me of dandelion fluff, or of the big puffs of goatsbeard weed that's found in Michigan. The plant is a legume and is also known as False Mesquite. Fairy Duster joins the many wildflowers in bloom this spring in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, March 2, 2012

Indecisive Amaryllis

I brought this amaryllis bulb to Arizona in early February as a bare root bulb. Planted about three weeks ago and left in the eastern courtyard, the bulb refused to grow.

About a week ago, I got to "listening" to the bulb and here's what it whispered into my ear.

"I'm too cold at night. I'm too hot in the noontime sun. My roots feel way too dry or way too wet."

So, I brought the bulb inside and put it near the kitchen sink where I could listen to it. I watered it just so it was damp. I pulled the bulb up a bit and saw some rotting root structure along with several plump roots, ivory in color and thriving. I left the bulb loosened in the soil so air could get to the good roots.

This morning, there's a bud shoot! I'm thinking I need a green ear as well as a somewhat greener thumb.

Previous amaryllis post from March 2009 -- White Flower Monday

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sunset Along Interstate 10

Heading south along Interstate 10 toward Tucson last night as the sun set, I pulled off the highway north of Picacho Peak and took this photo.

My sense of direction isn't very good in this area of southern Arizona. I just don't know all of the mountain peaks very well yet, but if my map reading is close to correct, these might be the Silverbell or the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance.

I hope you can get the sense of the subtle golds and slight purple-taupe of the skies. Not brilliant, not showy, just incredible Arizona, caught in a lovely moment.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler