Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foggy Straits

A thin veil of fog hung over the Straits of Mackinac when I crossed the Big Mac Bridge yesterday around noon. I pulled over near the historic lighthouse to take a break and do a sketch of the bridge.

It's the first time that I've put pencil and pen to paper to record the Big Mac. One of the things that I love about sketching is that you can let things out of the picture. The camera sees the fence, trees, shrubs, the lighthouse, the bridge, the clouds. My sketching eye chose the bridge, the far shore, the water, and the sky.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, April 29, 2013

Barn Thoughts

I like to play with various effects on my Android camera phone. Here's the home place barn with some color alterations that play with our sense of what a barn is. There's more purple here than any barn I have ever seen and the grass is not this green. Not yet. Not now.

While driving back and forth from Fond Du Lac to the farm last week I realized that my eye seeks out buildings like barns and churches. Unfortunately very few of these buildings with slender, majestic steeples and solid, lasting siloes are being constructed now. We are losing the landmark qualities that are so characteristic of older architecture.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sturdy Windmill

Lots of Wisconsin farms in the Fond du Lac area still have a windmill. This one, at my Mom's home farm near Lomira, turns and creaks and spins, just like it always did when I was a child visiting my grandparents.

The mechanism that linked the apparatus at the top to the well below is gone. There was a piece that could be fixed to the tall cast iron hand pump at the base so that the windmill would pump the water from the well. As a child, I remember that linkage still working, although we mostly used the hand pump.

Grandma Rose kept flowers growing around the concrete base where the pump sat. Probably petunias and marigolds. Maybe some four o'clocks. I remember some kind of vine growing up the tower, maybe morning glories. She always had Heavenly Blue morning glories trained up twine ladders on the side of the chicken house and might have planted their big, pea-like seeds under the windmill.

There was an old broom handle, about feet tall, that was pounded into the flower bed right at the base of the tower. An aluminum tumbler, upside down on top of the broom handle, got pulled into use when you pumped the water. A drink of water on a summer day was slightly metallic from the aluminum, but so cold and refreshing.

I'm 65 and my Dad is 92. His home place is right around the corner from this farm. We both have known this windmill all of our lives. Think how old (and sturdy) this windmill is!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, April 27, 2013

1950's Kids In The Tulips

I look at this photo from the early 1950's that my Dad took and I just am amazed. The little girls are my sister Carla and me. Carla would have been five or six, so I would be three or four.

We are standing in the orchard in front of the machine shed on my grandparents' farm in Wisconsin. The apple trees are in bloom and so are the tulips.

How my grandparents had the foresight to create such beauty on a Wisconsin dairy farm where they had 20 milk cows and farmed 57 acres I will never know. I look at that line of tulips and know that either Grandpa Bill or Grandma Rose had an eye for color and a green thumb.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, April 26, 2013

Old Birches

My Dad says that the mystery trees from Wednesday's blog post are birches. "Those trees have been there longer than the barn," he said as he reminisced about how old the barn on Mom's home farm could be.

Lately I've been watching in the Midwest for sycamores or Planetrees. There are large, old specimens of Planetrees on the campus at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. I learned to identify them last summer after seeing them in Oxford and Cambridge in the UK in spring. I realized that the trees in England resembled some trees at Michigan State. The connection was made and I added another tree to my "identified" list.

I didn't consider that the "mystery tree" on the farm in Wisconsin might be a birch because I'm used to seeing much smaller specimens with very white bark, often peeling, that are used as landscape accents on lawns. These guys on the farm are big, maybe 75-100 feet tall, and there are a lot of them in one grove, almost like they are protecting each other.

Could they have been young trees when my grandparents worked this farm as young people? Or are they older than that?  Did these trees see me as a child, walking along with the stone wagon, helping my grandparents pick stones after supper during one of those long northern summer evenings?

Now the next thing is to identify what kind of birch they could be. I'll be thinking lots of things -- my grandparents, the big trees, childhood days on the farm -- when I walk back to see and photograph them again this week.

NOTE: If you want to learn more about trees and their growth habits, read "The Trees In My Forest," by Bernd Heinrich. His book puts me in touch with tree characteristics that I had never thought about.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In It Together

It had to be a full moon last night. I didn't check the almanac but I did drive my Chevy Volt back up the lane at Mom and Dad's Wisconsin farm to see if I could get an image of Grandpa Bill Luedtke's barn with the full moon rising.

Bingo. Thanks to the magic of digital photography and some darkroom (in my computer) work, that Wisconsin full moon drifted clear and comforting over the late spring landscape. (And, dear blog readers, you may have to click on the image to see it in its entirety.)

I'm always taken by the moon. The moon that I see at 8 pm Central time in Wisconsin was visible a bit earlier to Ed in Michigan in Eastern time at our farm south of Pigeon.

Later, my sister Penny would see the full moon rise over the Rockies in Montana. Friends Lindsie and Prateek could watch that moon in San Francisco. Tom and Daniel and Adam in London saw it rise over the Thames.  Marye in The Netherlands might have photographed it silhouetted against a wooden windmill in her part of the world. The same moon rose full all across the planet.

Occupants of Earth, we humans are united by our sight of our orbiting neighbor. On full moon nights the drifting silver orb is a clear and wondrous reminder that we're all in this thing together.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mystery Tree

There is a beautiful grove of white barked trees that don't appear to be birches along the marsh at the back end of Mom and Dad's farm in Wisconsin. The creek that runs through the marsh is a part of the headwaters of the Milwaukee River, or so I've been told since childhood.

Buds on this tree look like pussy willow buds, fluffy and with a reddish scale-like covering.

The trees are tall and stately. At first I thought that they are cottonwoods but now I'm not sure. I spent a few minutes trolling the Internet for some help. Anybody out there got any ideas? Birch? Willow? Poplar? Sycamore?

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Neighbor's Horses

There is a bench halfway up the lane that leads to the back fields and marsh at my Mom and Dad's farm in Wisconsin. I'm visiting my Dad this week, so I get to walk the lane every day.

Yesterday I took my lane walk late in the afternoon. A breeze whistled through the pine grove along the fence line. The two track lane is showing signs of drying after last month's snow and rain. The neighbor's horses were taking in the warm spring sunshine.

I showed the images that I took to Dad when we were having our cheese and crackers before supper.

"Your mom and I used to walk up the lane and take a cob of corn for the horses. They would sniff the cob and back away. Then, you'd break the cob, pull of a few kernels, and hold out your hand." Dad smiled, remembering Mom and how much she loved walking up the lane on the farm where she was born and raised.

He continued. "Then the horses would come back and eat from your hand." A pause, a smile. "You know what they would do? Paw the ground. They say thanks that way," he said, remembering a time when horses pulled plows and wagons and maybe even took you to town.

They ground might be dry enough to drive my Chevy Volt up the lane this week, just so he can see the land. The horses should be out. That would be good.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, April 22, 2013

Big Mac Bridge April Evening

For some unknown reason, the Mackinac Bridge always takes my breath away. Here it is on Saturday evening. The glow of the northern sunset lights the western sky over the Straits of Mackinac. A bank of April snow occupies the beach. Bridge lights twinkle a path over the water.

The towers of the bridge stand guard in the distance, guiding travel between Michigan's two peninsulas and two of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Michigan and Huron.

The native peoples know it as a sacred place. They are right.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Charging at Mackinac

On my way to Wisconsin to be with my Dad for a week, I spent the night in Mackinaw City. The hotel has electrical outlets on their light posts so that semi trucks can run the battery warmers on their rigs in cold weather.

I parked the Chevy Volt and plugged in. On long trips the Volt relies on it's ICE (internal combustion engine) to run the electrical generator. My Volt goes about 300 miles at 72 mph (I drive a tad bit over limit) on 6 to 7 gallons of premium gas. The Volt gets better mileage right around 55 mph, but I drove I-75 yesterday and needed to be at interstate speed.

So adding a full charge overnight is like taking on an extra gallon of fuel since the car picks up almost 10 kilowatt hours per charge. More and more hotels are welcoming electric vehicles. When I ask at check in, they know right where to direct me. A year ago the request was meet with "let me ask someone." Now it's clear that desk clerks get an EV request often.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, April 20, 2013

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

In this week of the Boston Marathon bombing, a tragic fertilizer plant accident in Texas, wars still staining our planet, floods in the Midwest, a poignant vote on gun safety, friends struggling with cancer, this little bird brings a song to my mind -- "his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."

I often wonder, during these crises, about the parents of the bad guys. What must it be like when the world cheers the death of a sparrow-child whom you brought into the world, what ache goes down in the heart of those who saw some good in the lives of the ones who do bad things.

Then, what questions rise in the hearts of those whose children have been harmed. Why did someone think of such evil and why did that evil strike out at a loved one.

Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, we know that. But in this complex condition that we call human, the songwriter's claim that God's eye is on the least and the tiniest causes me to think of the hurts, not in an eye for eye way, but in a way that encompasses life for all, those who suffer the hurts, those who inflict the hurts, and, yes, the sparrows of our world.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, April 19, 2013

Gloom to Bloom

Wide bands of heavy rain swept across much of the Midwest this week, creating flooding on many rivers and making late April into a generally gloomy time. I slipped outside on Thursdayafternoon, thinking that I might do a bit of clean up in the perennial beds, but gave up when I looked at the dark clouds gathering in the western sky.

By 3 p.m. there were tornado watches out for most of southeastern Michigan. The clouds opened up, thunder was booming, lightning cracked, and rain was pouring down.

All of this April rain and flooding should lessen the dry conditions that have taken the levels of the Great Lakes to such lows. Here's hoping that the gloom soon lifts, the weather warms up, and the flowers begin to bloom.

We are all ready for some warmer weather. We are ready to go from gloom to bloom.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Off Day

Today will be an off day. Yesterday was a big travel day. Within ten hours I made the transition from Arizona to Michigan. Two car rides, one in windy conditions and one in rain, and a flight that was occasionally rough gave me leave to get off the beaten path today.

Some might call it a day off. For me it will be an off day when I will find the time to do some things that have been waiting for me.

I haven't read recently in the biography of Winston Churchill that I started around Christmas. I have read over half of the book and had to put it down several weeks ago. I'll find an hour to read today.

I have been wanting to explore the Photoshop app for Kindle Fire. That's already done and the photo that you see above is the first photo that's come through the app version of my favorite darkroom program.

Sister Penny gave me a new cookbook that I have been wanting to use for a recipe or two. There will be some cooking time today, maybe a pot of soup or buttermilk bread.

Then there is always knitting and art journaling and walking.

My off day is filling up. Onward and upward, to off day!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Amaryllis Collection

We spotted this collection of amaryllis on a back patio while out for a morning walk. There must be at least  8-10 bulbs that make up this stunning outdoor display here in Arizona.

I wish that I had this kind of green thumb because I really like these flowers.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Golden Agave

I really wasn't kidding when I wrote in yesterday's blog post that the Mexican Golden Agave is quite tall.

Here's a photo of the plant that I photographed at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. I had the camera for yesterday's image trained on the yellow part of the blossom spike, right about where you can see sunlight.

Here's a LINK to learn more about this desert plant.

For those of you who have read this far, if you Google "Mexican golden agave," you will find lots of links to tequila since "golden" is often used to describe that particular "cultivar" of alcohol so common to the popular drink of, gee, what do we call it? Ah, the margarita!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, April 15, 2013

Golden Agave

I learned some new macro (that means very close up) photography techniques at a class that I took at the Desert Museum this weekend. Dr. John Schaefer, an expert in macro photography, taught a day long session  that dealt with depth of field, aperture/shutter relationship, and lots more.

The image above is of the tall blossom spike of the Mexican Golden Agave. I used Dr. Schaefer's darkroom techniques (remember that means the photo is "developed" via computer) along with another program that I like to created the silvered image above.

A feature of macro photography is the closeness and clarity that is possible. For the purposes of this blog, all of the photos that are posted are 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall. I use that photo size so that the blog images will resolve fairly easily, no matter what device one is reading on. Thus, the image above may not appear to be razor sharp.

Believe me, with digital cameras these days, macro photography gives an incredible up-close-and-personal feel to pictures of plant life and more. It's almost like having a microscope in your camera.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Purple Hummer

We spotted this purple hummingbird, maybe a baby or a juvenile, but definitely quite tame, while out on a morning walk along Dove Mountain Trail. He was clinging to a branch in a calm pose, so both Ed and I whipped out our cameras and took multiple shots of this little creature.

The brilliant purple feathers around the neck flared iridescent in the sunlight. I'm guessing that this is a Costa's hummingbird and that he knew where there are nearby feeders, since there are houses just beyond that trail that we walk.

Still, hummingbirds are marvels of nature and it is exciting to get this close to one in the wild, even if he was in full knowledge of the nearest feeders.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, April 13, 2013

State of Art Fans

Peter's winterguard, State of Art from Michigan State University, is competing in the world championships down in Dayton, Ohio this weekend. Usually Ed and I are in the stands, cheering the guard on to do their best. I'm hosting a nasty sinus cold this weekend, however and we are in Arizona so that I can take a special photography class.

We are not excused from being fans, though, because we can watch via a live webcast that Winterguard International offers on their WGI Fan Network.

This photo shows our setup for the live performances. That's a laptop on the left. It is hooked up to a larger monitor on the right. The small purple device in front of the monitor is a set of speakers that plugs into the laptop. All of this equipment is stationed on one of the little plastic craft tables that sister Mary uses so often as "auxiliary" table space at her house.

The finals start at 9 am tomorrow. That's 6 am Arizona time, so I had better get some sleep so I can get up early and see the finals. State of Art made the finals and just might place in the top five. Well done, State of Art. Peter, we are very proud of you and co-director Orlando Suttles and the students in State of Art.

Congratulations. It's another good year for you and Winterguard at MSU.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Great Quilt

Clouds, like a layer of quilt batting, spread across the western sky last night. Perhaps the Great One sat back from from her sewing machine, having finished another excellent quilt top, and pulled the batting out of the closet. She spread the batting out across the sky for the night, waiting for the cotton to settle in so that the top and bottom could be layered with the batting in between.

Then, on the morrow, she will stitch the layers together and will call it good. We will call it spring, spread across the continent like another marvelous quilt of many colors. The soil will warm. Plants will grow and flower. All from the Great Quilt of Warmth that is a new season of growth.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mom and The Zip Lock Bag

In January 1989 my mother, Vallanee, came to stay with our kids at the farm south of Pigeon while Ed and his mother, Pauline, and I traveled to Hawaii and Singapore. My mom got to cleaning and organizing while she was with the kids.

For months after the trip, I found zip lock bags with various piles of mail and other paperwork in them. Each one would have a post-it note attached, listing "found on piano, Jan 20, 1989" so that I would be able to connect the pile to its purpose.

Well, I have become my mother. I use zip lock bags a lot. This week I stuffed the holiday cards and other assorted ephemera from December into none other than, yes, you guessed it, a zip lock bag.

Everytime I do this I think of my mother and how she loved to make things right. Her  Saturday morning house cleaning used to drive me to distraction. I can remember my adolescent moments of crying because I had vacuum cleaner duty. You can see me, a thirteen year old with raging hormones, sobbing as I pushed a nasty floor sucking machine through yet another room in our parsonage home.

The zip-lock-bag-as-organizer thing is much more my style. I still hate to vacuum.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Singed Daffodils

Daffodils are finally coming up. Their tips are white and yellow, singed by frost and cold freezing weather. Daffs are hardy plants. The deer will not eat them, maybe due to an off taste. Daffodils spread quite aggressively. Several of the clumps that we take care of started out as five bulbs. This spring those clumps look like 15-20 plants are coming.

There's a cold rain over the Thumb this week. Fog covers the fields and shoreline in the morning. Most of the ice has melted on White Rock Shoal. I put one snow shovel into the basement but left a second one near the back door. Denver and the Dakotas are getting hit with a huge spring blizzard this week.

Great Britain has chalked up one of the coldest months of March on record. Their spring lambs are dying in droves, says London's Guardian newspaper which I read on Kindle several times a week.

Last year we had such an early spring. This year is the opposite. Anyway, welcome to the daffodils. We need 'ya!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Straits Ice

Coming across the Big Mac Bridge yesterday, we realized that the Straits are still ice covered. Here's the approach on I-75, heading south toward the toll plaza on the St. Ignace side of the Straits. You can see some open water quite close to the north shore.

But from up on the bridge, in the middle of the Straits where the freighters go under the Big Mac, ice floes and huge chunks of ice had closed in any trails of open water that freighters might have opened.

We crossed on Monday, April 8. The Upper Peninsula still has lots of snow on the ground and it will take some warm weather and a striking sun to open up the channels on the northern Great Lakes. No doubt the Coast Guard icebreakers are very busy in the Upper Lakes this season.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kids Together

We knew we were making memories this weekend. Here are all of our grandchildren, horsing around in front of the Kindle camera with Uncle Will in the center. This photo was taken during one of those unusual moments when everyone's attention was focused on the camera.

My Dad will recognize the background as his living room at the farm. Dad, you can just see a corner of the woodstove under Finny's arm.

What fun it was to be kids together at Great Grandpa's house this weekend.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday With Dad

Stanley C. F. Hayes and daughter Wanda Jean Hayes Eichler
April 6, 2013 -- At the Wisconsin farmhouse
Our family gathering this weekend has been a great success. On Saturday we all converged on my Dad and had lunch with him. There was a polkadot birthday cake with ice cream for Dad and Baby Val. You will remember that Dad's 92nd birthday was Thursday and Baby Val turns one this coming week.

For several hours, the house was filled with family, including grandchildren in their teens and four great grandchildren (all pure Michigan kids) from one to eight. Then the gathering cleared and things became a tad bit quieter.

Stan with son-in-law Ed Eichler

Ed and I fixed supper with Dad and enjoyed some quieter time in the evening. Dad and I googled some of his seminary buddies and were so pleased to find word of Duane and Lucile Lenz of Nebraska. Duane and Dad went to Evangelical Theological Seminary together in the early 1950's and served EUB (Evangelical United Brethren) churches in southwestern Wisconsin on the weekends while going to school.

I like to say that that was back when being evangelical was the real thing. There was a strong social gospel preached but you had to live it and you cared deeply for those around you and far away from you who were poor, hungry, sick, lonely and downtrodden. The gospel was lived out day to day and not worn on one's shirt sleeve. That's what Dad has always preached. Be the gospel.

Enough preaching. I might be a chip off the old block.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April? Really?

A coating of snow brought a conundrum to eastern Wisconsin this morning. If April showers bring May flowers, what does April snow bring?

Once again I am reminded of the many things in life that we cannot control, like the weather and the price of gas.

I will try to smile more today. At least I can control the smile factor. Wink, wink.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Aunt Nieta!

Yesterday was my Aunt Nieta's 98th birthday. Since Nieta is six years older than Dad, we can say that Dad shares his natal day with Nieta.

Nieta lives in Colorado with her daughter Karen. In this photo my sister MB, on the left, is visiting with Nieta  (center) and Karen at one of our April birthday gatherings several years ago.

Thanks to the wonders of SKYPE, we will be video chatting with Nieta and Karen this weekend at Dad's party on Sunday via laptops and other devices.

Nieta grew up on a dairy farm in the same neighborhood as my parents did. Her husband, my Uncle Marvin, was my Dad's older brother. Marv served on the local school board for years and always, always welcomed our visits to the milking barn. Those were good times to be a kid, when you had really cool aunts and uncles and cousins on farms.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Happy 92nd Birthday, Dad

Happy 92nd birthday to my Dad, Stan Hayes! Ed and I will be in Wisconsin this weekend for Dad's birthday party which he is sharing with our youngest grandchild, Vallanee Rose Eichler, who is named for my mother. We have a big shindig planned for Grandpa Stan and Baby Val on Sunday afternoon.

Here is a photo from Dad's birthday celebration six years ago. We had a spaghetti dinner at the farm and enjoyed the company of Kelsey Olson Berg, Ed and Wanda, MB and Pat, and, of course, Stan, the Birthday Boy!

I don't want to forget my Great Aunt Nieta who also has a birthday today, so I will write about Nieta in tomorrow's blog.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stuffed Daybag

My daybag was filled to overflowing on Monday. Sunglasses, reading glasses, knitting, notes for a new knitting pattern, art supplies, and some reading material joined my wallet and Kindle and other usual stuff.

Max said today, "Oh, I get it, Grandma. It's your daybag because it's the stuff you need today."

Looks like I'm quite the packrat, doesn't it?

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Learning How To Spin

Finn got acquainted with the spinning wheel this week. First he learned how to run the treadle by pushing down and then letting his foot ride the treadle up. He started the wheel, pulling on a spoke with his finger and making the wheel turn clockwise.

Then, using a bent paper clip, we threaded the end of a skein of yarn through the orifice, over the hooks and on to the bobbin. The next step was to hold the yarn, start the wheel, and treadle. We set the brake with a touch of drag and the flyer turned, pulling the yarn onto the now revolving bobbin.

We had to stop and start a few times, but Finn and his brother Max, both got a good sense of the wheel's action in a short time. Next time we'll have some unspun roving and use this lesson to learn how to spin fiber. This first experience gave the boys a good idea of how a wheel works.

Spinning wheels are so old fashioned. It is good to see the boys go between their devices with the little glass screens and the spinning wheel with its wooden parts and human powered mechanics.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, April 1, 2013

Charging the Chevy Volt, Free (No Fooling)

Credit card in hand, I pulled up to a double charging station in Rochester Hills one day last week. Usually I have to run my credit card through a card reader, choose how many hours or kilowatts the car needs, and plug in my Chevy Volt.

Lo and behold, this station, sponsored by Detroit Edison, is free. When I returned to get my car, another Volt was beside mine, also charging, at the free station.

I picked up 29 miles of range, just from three hours of charge. In a way, that's like getting almost a gallon of gas free.

Now there are not a lot of plug in electric vehicles (PEVs) on the road yet. And the cost of such a car is high for those of us who are "early adopters." So, it is a pleasant surprise to have a free charge when I stop at this particular parking lot (corner of Adams and Walton Boulevard, west side of Villages at Rochester Hills).

Thanks, Detroit Edison, for providing the charging platform for electric vehicles. I know it's only one place, but it is good to see times changing in the automotive world. No fooling.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler