Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Color Trip, Ten Years Ago

It was the trip of a lifetime. Mom and Dad said they would like to see the fall colors up north. We agreed that would be a good idea and rented an RV for a week.

That was ten years ago this week. Mom has been gone since 2007. She died in January of that year. Dad turned 91 in April of 2012 and lives on Mom's home farm in Wisconsin. His home farm is just around the corner and he loves living in the neighborhood where both he and Mom grew up. Ed and I, well, we were ten years younger back then.

I guess that we had an inkling of Mom's oncoming dementia. There were constant signs of it that we could not avoid as we travelled together for a week. But, oh, did we have a good time! We played games at night. We cooked good food. We saw the grandeur of fall color in the northern forest. We savored the northern lights.

I had a digital camera, maybe a 2 or 3 megapixel wonder, back then. It was enough to document the travel. Now, after ten years, these images tell a story of travel and family and fun.

I'm going to document the trip in five blog posts. Join me this week as I reflect on that long ago trip in October of 2002.

Tomorrow's blog post:  Monday -- Wisconsin Farm to J.W. Wells State Park

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Farver Road Sunset

Traces of September clouds at sunset highlight the wind turbines along Farver Road in Huron County. These turbines are a part of Harvest Wind Farm in Oliver Township, between Elkton and Pigeon.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 28, 2012

On The Rocks

Lake levels in the Great Lakes are really low this year. The bottom of White Rock Shoal on the east side of Huron County has been visible for several weeks. It was time for a walk out on the shoal this week.

White Rock Shoal, a rocky shelf that extends about three quarters of a mile out into Lake Huron is rimmed by bluffs. The shoal is named for a large rock formation on the south of the shoal that was used as a survey point for early mapping of the Michigan area. Usually the shoal is covered with water, enough water that canoes and kayaks can navigate most of the shoal, except for the shoreline areas.

The Army Corps of Engineers reports that the level of Lake Michigan-Huron (these two lakes join at the Straits of Mackinac and are considered one lake for purposes of water level measuring) is 12 inches lower than levels of a year ago. You can see from the water levels on the big rock that my shadow is near that the water levels were much higher at one time.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Volunteer Pumpkin

Have you ever sat next to someone on a plane or a train who just couldn't quit fidgeting? Someone who talked all the time, or fiddled with their mobile, or rustled a newspaper? Some people just exude excess energy.

There is a volunteer pumpkin plant growing in our big compost pile that is like that. It just doesn't know when to quit. It has not been singed by the early autumn frost. It survived the summer drought. It is still sending out blossoms.

This pumpkin plant is like the Tenacious Geranium that I write about. It just keeps on, keeping on.
I know that there is a botanical term (like tomatoes being "determinate" or "indeterminate") for this quality in a plant. While I don't know botany well enough to know that term, I must say that I admire plants and people who just keep on blooming, even in autumn, even as the growing season slips away, and even as the sun fades from the sky.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Late Coneflower

Even a late coneflower has innate beauty.  Pink petals are seasonally subdued, almost mauve. Twisted, burnished leaves hang on toughening stems.

Morning light heightens the graceful lines and gives a luster to a plant whose days are numbered by the coming frosts of October.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cherry Street in Autumn

That's Zion Evangelical United Brethren Church on the corner of Ninth and Cherry Streets in Marshfield, Wisconsin. A red brick building, the church was an anchor for me during my elementary school years. My dad served as pastor here and we lived in the parsonage next to the church. This photo was probably taken during the fall season in 1954

Dad took lots of 35 millimeter slides using his Argus camera. This is one of them, probably Kodak Ektachrome slide film. My sister Mary scanned lots of Dad's slides and what you see here is one of those scans.

Maple leaves fell in huge swaths from these trees, covering the walks and lawns like a snowfall. We built leaf forts. We raked piles together and jumped into the leaves. I can smell the crisp fall scent even now. Sort of a cross between burnt leaf and dry leaf, with a touch of mold, the smell of fall fills my memory with late afternoon northern light and cool evenings spent playing outside after an early supper.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 24, 2012

First 20,000 Miles

It was a Red Letter Day yesterday when the Chevy Volt's odometer turned 20,000 miles yesterday on the way back from Sunday brunch, a drive that is about 40 miles round trip.

Most of the trip was made running in EV (electric vehicle) mode. The trip down the shoreline to Mary's Diner in Port Sanilac is pretty much straight, flat driving, so I can't pick up much regen charge. The Volt hit the 20,000 mark while it was running on electric. Smart car.

Yesterday was also National Plug In Day, a national event sponsored by the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association to bring attention to the benefits of PEVs (Plug-In Electric Vehicles). I thought that it was pretty cool that my Chevy Volt hit the 20,000 mile mark in a rural Michigan county on a day when people in over 50 cities across the U.S. were learning more about electric vehicles.

My Volt is still the only PEV in Huron County that's regularly running the county's roads and highways. Like I keep saying, it's a great car.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Office

The advent of smartphones and the internet have made just about any street corner into a busy executive's office. Here's my favorite CEO, checking his email and at work in his office on a recent afternoon.

Good composition would dictate that the brick column is too much for the center of this photo. Look right and you'll see Ed's reflection in the window. I was aiming for the duality of the photo and thought this composition to be quite effective.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back Breaking Work

Xavier Boudreaux and Frank Loomis, the 2012 Spartan Marching Band drum majors, know the meaning of backbreaking work. The band's outstanding pregame show starts with the march into the stadium, a highlight of which is the back bends performed by these two acrobatic band members.

Here they are in practice yesterday afternoon. Mind you, it was raining. The band was wet. The spectators who gather on Friday afternoons were wet. The band staff was wet. Still, practice must go on. The espirt de corps of the band is tremendously exemplified by these two young men.

Multiply the energy and commitment that you see here by 350 and you have the picture of the Spartan Marching Band, the SMB Colorguard and the fine group of MSU music staff members who make this one of the best college marching bands in the U.S.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 21, 2012

Magnificient Sun Pillar

My Internet research tells me that a shaft of light around the time of a sunrise or sunset is called a sun pillar. This sun pillar almost appears to run down the monopod of one of the newest wind turbines erected in Huron County.

The tall generators have a quiet majesty that commands the landscape, but when the sun puts on a show like last night, even a new wind generator is dwarfed by the sun's magnificence.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 20, 2012

One for You and One for Me

I knit a new hat for Finn and gave it to him last weekend. He wasn't real excited about putting it on, even for one photo, but agreed to just a picture or two. Here he is, smiling for his Mom who was the photographer of the day.

Finn had something for Grandpa and me, too. He made a "Happy Grandparent's Day" card that had a nifty popup bunny in the centerfold. I like popup cards and this one, well, it warms this grandma's heart every time I see it.
Finn got a hat; I got a card. One for you and one for me. We have our own fair trade agreement, I would say.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Evening Rainbow

Rainstorms swept the Thumb last night. Rainbows danced and arched over Lake Huron in between the squalls and downpours.

This rainbow touched White Rock Shoal with spectral magic. It was another Pure Michigan moment.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pigeon's Museum District

Left to right: Cooperative Elevatory, new research center, John E. Eichler Farmers' Market, Storehouse, Depot Museum

A group of enterprising and visionary historians are working to create a year round museum facility in the small town of Pigeon, Michigan. This fall, a fourth building is being added to the three buildings in the museum complex located in downtown Pigeon.

This fourth building, the Visitor and Research Center, joins the original Depot Museum, the John E. Eichler Farmers' Market, and the storehouse building. The research center building, at left in photo above, was moved into place yesterday and will be settled onto the foundation north of the Market this fall.

The Depot Museum is open throughout the summer and features annual displays about the area. On summer Fridays and Saturdays, vendors sell bakery and produce at the Market. The Market is also used for community gatherings and can accommodate groups as large as 60 for barbecues, picnics, showers and other events.

A permanent, year round facility, the Visitor and Research Center will house the Pigeon Historical Society's growing collection of documents and ephemera that tell the story of the Pigeon area. The new building will be the first climate controlled space in the complex, since none of the three existing facilities can be used through the winter months.

These small local history places are fast becoming integral repositories of the pieces of history that make up the story of a community. In years to come, Pigeon's center will serve a role in documenting not only the history of the Pigeon, but of the eastern side of the state of Michigan.

Depot Museum Rosewalk

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chevy Volt: Charging at MSU

That big grin on my face is my utter glee at using the first public electric vehicle charging station at Michigan State University to charge my Chevy Volt. Get this. Two hours before the big game with Notre Dame (think tons of tailgate parties going on and very little parking available) and there was nary an EV (electric vehicle) in sight of the charging station, save for my Volt.

We pulled up to the parking ramp at the Kellogg Center and asked if the charging station was available. Yes, it was. Up the ramp we went, right to the parking place adjacent to the charging station which just happens to be a hop, skip and a jump away from the Breslin Center and Spartan Stadium.

 After fiddling with the credit card reader, we waltzed on to the game while the Chevy Volt, a made-in-Michigan PEV (plugin electric vehicle) picked up a full charge.

Returning late that night, we unplugged the Volt and drove on to our hotel, knowing that we would drive almost the entire 45 miles to Brighton on electric power. Very cool.
I am looking forward to the day when an entire bank of charging stations, say twenty or fifty or a hundred, line the parking ramps of our cities. That will be even more cool.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Be Still

The long squawking V's of Canada geese cross the skies in the morning. Yellowed goldenrod heads dip and sway in brisk winds. The poplar trees are turning to gold.

As the days shorten and nights become cool, the turn of the season brings pause. I know these things will happen and yet, sometimes, a fall day feels like a completely new experience.

A breeze comes at an unexpectedly refreshing time. I see a knock-your-socks-off sunrise. A perfectly formed red-orange leaf alights on the lawn.

The psalmist, in wisdom, said, "Be still and know that I am God."

Be still and know that each day is a new gift of creation. And, yes, even though we have been though many a fall, when days lengthen and the cold fronts move across the continent, new days are ahead.

Time to watch. Time to be still, if only for a moment

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 15, 2012

If You Can, Give Back

Ed and I are extremely fortunate. We know that. So we try to give and give back. Schools played an important role in our lives and last night was a give back night. Along with Ed's brother Neal and his spouse, Annie, we were honored at the Friday night football game for having donated a new scoreboard for the Laker football field.

Here we are with four of the players from the football program, at half time, in front of the new scoreboard with LED lights that are easy to read day or night. Neal is on the school board and heard about the need for a better scoreboard, so he and Ed stepped up to the plate (oh no, a baseball analogy in a football conversation) and gave money to get the new scoreboard in place.

Neal and Ed are both alums of the Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port system. Annie just retired after a fulfilling career teaching Chinese, music and more with the EPBP schools. And me, well, I did teach there for one semester in 1972-73, long enough to get to know some of the great students this system produces.

Thank you, Laker Athletes, for the very cool football and stadium blanket that you gave to each couple. I am especially impressed by the football which is autographed by the 2012 team. I realize that I have been going to MSU games longer than some of you have been on this planet.

My hope for each of the athletes who plays in sight of this scoreboard is that they will come to know when it is good to keep score and when it is time to put scores behind and walk away. 

I'm still working on that one myself.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chocolate Stimulus

The WJ Federal Reserve (that's my personal central bank) is urging some investment in your local economy today. Buy some chocolate.

It's Friday, so it's okay to think about and purchase chocolate. Maybe a dark chocolate bar that you can break up into hunks and chew on for a few days would be good. Or maybe you will go for chocolate ice cream or a hot cocoa topped with whipped cream.

Maybe you don't have any money today but you have a chocolate bar in the drawer or a half empty carton of fudge ripple ice cream in the freezer. Or, maybe you are like me and feel no guilt about breaking open a package of Nestle Mini Morsels and sprinkling a few over ice cream.

Okay, let's go for getting rid of what we have. Eat it up and create some demand in your pantry cupboards.

This is what our economy needs -- demand. Business needs customers. Bodies need chocolate. We can stimulate the economy, one chocolate bar by one chocolate bar.

Let's get together on this one!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

Eve -- by August Rodin

The Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park near Grand Rapids, Michigan provides delightful outdoor settings for sculpture. The rolling landscape reveals works of art framed by the natural surroundings of the massive garden space. Trails and walks lead the viewer to various works. A tram ride provides a narrated overview of the collection in the 132 acre park.

The organic nature of the entrance building's architecture is immediately apparent in the tree-like posts and beams. The floor, a work of art by Michele Oka Doner that is entitled "Beneath the Leafy Crown," is crafted with bronze seed, leaf and pod shapes, all embedded in terrazzo. Walking on this floor is like stepping on a forest path. The work is a wonderful expression of art in its full fledged practicality of everyday use.

Indoor sculpture includes this work, "Hagar," by Jacques Lipchitz. A cubist approach approach to the Biblical story of Hagar and Abraham, the work is considered a narrative and is elegantly placed in the central lobby of the Gallery at the Sculpture Garden.

The sweet gum trees with their five lobed leaves caught my eye. There is a Children's Garden, a farm area, a conservatory, and, of course, many magnificent works of art, all within the context of a practicing botanical garden.
Not to be missed, the Meijer Sculpture Garden bears repeat visiting as the settings for the artworks change with the seasons.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Nancy Rose

I planted a Queen Elizabeth rose this summer. With blossoms described as majestic, this grandiflora rose joins the Sister Rose Row where there now are six red Dortmund roses and one pink.

The Nancy rose which honors my sister-in-law, has had a tough time adapting. Lots of hot days burned its leaves and even though I watered and fertilized, it did not thrive. I dug it up and checked the root system. I resettled it into the same hole which I dug out larger. I pruned it and gave it some of my friend Gloria's magic mulch, a fine shredded pink bark.

This fall the rose is sending out new leaves. It has three new shoots. Now I'm hoping that the late summer pruning, not recommended for roses, will do this rose good. A late fall will allow some growth and then a blanket of snow should protect the rose for the winter.

Next summer, the Nancy rose should be a glory of pink, shining bright in the Sister Rose Row.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lone Apple

One apple. A lone and lovely apple. That's what is clinging to one of the wild apple trees along the top of the bluff. All of its colleague apples fell earlier this summer, apple-victims of the drought.

This apple has staying power. Its red glow lights up the still green leafy canopy of the tree. A hard freeze hit fruit trees hard last spring. At our farm, 40 miles away, the cherry, pear and apple trees did not bear fruit at all this season, no doubt due to the spring's deep freeze.

One of these days this apple will fall prey to the crows as they forage for a meal. Or the apple will detach from the branch, drop to the lawn, and become a sweet treat for the deer who roam the shoreline and bluff.
I wonder, as I watch this apple from the house, why apples are red and why some drop and some don't. The tree, if it could talk, might tell me, but for now, I'm observing and musing about why, if I were an apple tree, there would be one lone apple this fall.
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 10, 2012

Melon Man

Ed's garden at Graywood Farm yielded tasty melons this summer. Big and textured, these cantaloupes have pale orange flesh that is sweet, yet not astringent like melons can be.

Ed used leftover flooring tiles to separate each melon from the damp ground. He's been thumping them and testing the strength of the stem end, waiting to harvest each one at just the right time.

The cracks around the stem help to signal the ripeness of each melon. The green spot is where the stem was attached to the melon.

The deep veins and tracks on the skin of a melon give little hint of the nutritious goodness and luscious flavor inside. Ed purchased the plants locally and has been caring for them all  through the hot Summer of 2012, a true melon summer for a melon man.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Geo Caching Without a GPS

Ed spotted this small film can that is fastened to a tree branch in a nearby park. I figure that he is a budding geocacher.

Just think. He can find stuff like this without a GPS device. Good eyes!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Storm Heads East


Another storm rolled over Michigan's Thumb last night. Here at Cedar Bluff, along the shoreline of Lake Huron, our rain gauge registered 1.75 inches from rains that began at 9 pm on Friday night and tapered off around 7 am on Saturday.

We could see blue skies to the west about two hours after sunrise. The dry cooler air pushed the storm out over the lake and created this dramatic view of the departing storm. I call this the "backside" of the storm.

Compare this to the backside of Hurricane Isaac that moved up over the state last Friday night. It seems like weekends are when the weather turns. Maybe that coincides with Friday night football or a Saturday visit to the orchard. Whatever the phenomenon, it certainly is a harbinger of the Autumnal Equinox.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 7, 2012

Parisville Road Nocture

The sun had set. The storm had passed. Mist was forming in the distance. The September skies danced with color. It was a perfect moment in Michigan's Thumb.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Turbine Raising

The drama of raising a wind turbine's blades played out on Parisville Road and Kipper Road yesterday. I watched the three blade asssembly with hub as it was lifted to the top of the monopod where it is attached to the turbine.

Guy lines attached to vehicles and a small crane on the ground guide the blade assembly as it begins to rise from the ground.

The entire process is slow and deliberate and can be seen for quite a few miles since the Manitowoc crane that does the lifting is gigantic.

The blade assembly is slowly guided toward the turbine. This unit was raised right around noon on Wednesday. Later that afternoon, thunderstorms crossed the Thumb and put an end to construction while the weather cleared through.

Workers on top of the turbine watched as the hub of the blade assembly joins the turbine. Windmills are being constructed south of Laker High School, between Pigeon and Elkton. A set of windmills just went up north of Pigeon. This set of turbines is on the east side of Huron County in Bloomfield Township.
It's exciting to see the new blades rising as windfarms spread across the Thumb. I imagine our grandparents and great-grandparents felt a similar sense of change as barns were raised here and there on this eighty and that forty. I often wonder, too, how people felt about electric and telephone poles being strung along country roads.
It is good to see the energy possibilities that the Thumb can now export onto the grid. Our farms have helped to feed the world; now they will power it, too.
August post about windfarms:  More Wind
Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Back to School, Circa 1954

Here's an obvious first day of school photo from the family archives. Taken on the front porch of the Marshfield parsonage, it shows two sisters with identical book bags and a little brother unencumbered by the cares of the academic world.

I'm on the left and if my figuring is correct, I would be entering first grade. Carla, entering third grade, looks more self assured that I do. And Tim seems happy to be in the photo.

The image is from the scans of my Dad's slides that my sister MB did several years ago. Ephemera to notice: morning glories trained up the side of the porch to the left; the porcelain knob on the black screen door; coleus in the porch box.

We look pretty spiffy and ready to conquer the classrooms at Jefferson School, a few blocks away from the parsonage next to the church in Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Turbine Moon

There was an ominous quality to the Moon last Saturday. It came up big and glowing and transcendent, almost as if it was coming toward Earth.

Seen next to the monopod base of a giant wind turbine, the Moon captivated Earth's landscape and colored the imagination. Travel to the Moon, climb its mountains and descend into its canyons?

Why not, when the Moon is so close and so clear?

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Sandhill Crane

Adult Sandhill with naked forecrown and amber eyes

I was able to get up close and personal to a Sandhill Crane at the Howell Nature Center on Saturday. The Center rescues wildlife, although some of the rescued birds and animals cannot be returned to natural habitats and become residents at the Nature Center.

Standing adult, feather bustle displayed
We had seen these birds while golfing in Wisconsin in August but we did not have an opportunity to get close to them. It was exciting to photograph this crane in such detail. The features of the feather bustle and the featherless head are remarkable.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Isaac's Edge

The leading edge of the storm system that moved up the center of the continent on Saturday showed up in Michigan last night. The system, a strong remnant of Hurricane Isaac, brought a bank of clouds to our part of Michigan. States south of us in the drought stricken areas of the Midwest received rains from the storms generated by Isaac.

Here's a view of the system's edge at sunset as seen along Ruth Road in Sanilac County, shortly after 8 pm on Saturday night. The cornfields and wind turbines provide the contrast in this image of a powerful storm as it moved north.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Spartan Moon

A full moon, the second one of August and thus a blue moon, rose over Spartan Stadium last night. Most football fans were engrossed in the game with Boise State and probably noticed the small soft orb for only a minute.

Clouds drifted by and blocked the moon. The new giant video screen and the glaring stadium lights almost blocked sight of the moon.

But celestial objects have an eternalness that football lacks. By the end of the game as the Spartan Marching Band played the last strains of Michigan State's hymn-like alma mater, the full moon gloriously took to the sky in all its silvery, autumnal wonder. It was a night to remember.

Oh yes, Michigan State won the game.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler