Sunday, June 30, 2013

Grandpa's Waffle Cone

Max and Finn scooped out a waffle cone for Grandpa when they were here over a week ago. They put some of our super-duper ice cream mixture in the cone and then added Magic Shell. Then they added more ice cream and topped it with sprinkles. The cone was drippy so we quickly wrapped it in plastic wrap and then stood it up in an acrylic tumbler and stuck it in the freezer.

It was supposed to be like a Drumstick, the paper wrapped ice cream confection that you can buy from the big freezers at gas stations and party stores. Well, the methodology worked just fine, according to Ed, who downed the cone with no problem.

See that metal box that Ed is holding? It contains his prized French chocolates, brought all the way from Paris by Liesl and John. Ed is doling out the chocolates one by one since they are his Father's Day gift.

Pretty cool -- French chocolates and grandkid waffle cones. Hannah and her baby sister are coming next weekend so there will be more sprinkles and waffle cones. Also very cool.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Farewell for Orlando

Orlando Suttles
July 6, 1960 -- June 21, 2013

Just back from the funeral celebration for Orlando Suttles, instructor and adjudicator for colorguard and winterguard units here in Michigan, I am struggling to find words. Orlando was 52 and died a week ago of pulmonary complications. Our son Peter worked with Orlando at Michigan State where they directed award winning guards in recent years, so we got to know Orlando through the band and winterguard.

At the funeral, person after person spoke of how Orlando touched their lives. "He inspired me to do better." "He always had a smile." "We completed each other's sentences and knew just what our choreography should look like." "We grew up together."

Orlando was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. A graduate of Flint Northern High School and Michigan State University, he worked in the banking industry in the Lansing area, all the while doing drum corps, band, and movement work evenings and weekends. He was a choreographer, director, instructor, coach, judge, and mentor to the many young people who performed in the pageantry of arts extra-curricular activities in high schools and at Michigan State.

The preacher today told the story of the resurrection of Jesus, how the women came to the tomb and did not find the body of the Christ. "That," he said, gesturing to the casket, "that is not Orlando. He is with the Father. Jesus will come again and we will rise with Him."

I thought of the larva that spins a cocoon, rests in darkness, and, rising again, becomes something else. What emerges from the shell is a wondrous winged creation, one that dances free, spinning, enjoying the wind and the pageantry of a life beyond this one of earth.

In the bulb there is a flower; In the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter, 
there's a spring that's meant to be
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Words from "Hymn of Promise" by Natalie Sleeth

Friday, June 28, 2013

Yet Another Rose, City of York

The creamy white flowers of our City of York rose greets us at just outside the mudroom door at our lake house. This rose, developed during World War II, according to "Roses For Michigan" by Nancy Lindley and Laura Peters, has occupied several locations on our property and still is not growing to its full potential. This year it is about two feet tall; it should grow to be 10-12 feet.

I've fertilized and watered and pruned. It needs to be in a new location. I'm planning a fence for around the garden with four corner posts that will have roses growing around them. There will also be a pergola at the entrance to the garden, so the City of York is slated for another transplanting, either at a rose post or at the pergola. Hopefully, it will enjoy a new garden spot and grow to its climbing possibilities.

We purchased this rose from Great Lakes Roses in Belleville, Michigan on July 5, 2008 during the last summer that they were selling roses. That's where our Dortmund roses came from, too.

I did see a City of York trained along a walkway arch at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario in May of 2009. It wasn't blossoming yet, but the deep green foliage was attractive and, knowing what the saucer-shaped flowers would look it, I could only guess that it would be stunning when it bloomed.

By the way, "Roses For Michigan" says that City of York is named after a city in Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sister Roses 2013

The sister roses along the split rail fence at Cedar Bluff lake house are beginning their weeks of bloom. These roses, all Dortmund climbers, are settled in to their location and have canes that are several years old. The Carla Rose and the Mary Rose are the overachievers this year. Both have multitudes of buds set onto canes that twine under and over the fence.

I pruned all of the plants aggressively in April and even transplanted the Penny Rose from the back side of the fence to the front. All six beauties have red rosettes with single petals surrounding a white center with yellow accents. The foliage is a deep, shiny green. The Dortmund is a stunning rose.

Named for the six sisters in our family, the roses are a constant reminder for me of how important my family is. And yes, I have a brother, whom I also think about often, especially when I'm caring for the miniature roses that he sent me for a February birthday several years ago. Those roses arrived via air mail, survived the winter in the house, were planted outside and have stayed there ever since. Two of those roses are are blossoming now right outside my kitchen window.

From time to time, as I consider adding another rose bed, I think about planting roses for more of the women in the family -- my daughter, my mother, my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughters, grandmothers. Oh my, it would be quite a garden, filled with rose upon rose, all planted to honor the many strong and beautiful women whom I admire.

Sister Roses June 29, 2013
The Dortmund Roses in June 2010

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


My old jeans are frayed and soft and comfy. I've been wearing them in the garden this summer. They protect my knees and legs from scratches. Just out of the dryer, they feel velvety and warm. They are old and familiar.

I misplaced a pair of jeans that I wore a lot in April while I was in Wisconsin with my Dad. In the afternoon, while Dad napped, I would slide into those jeans and stroll up the farm lane with a camera, or sit in the yard and sketch the barn while a cat climbed up in my lap.

Sometimes I feel as frayed as these pants look. That's a good time to pull on old clothes and take a walk, or go dig in the flower beds. Frayed is okay, as long as there is something to do and things to make better.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lovely Weeds

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a weed is "a plant whose Virtues have not yet been discovered." Here is a plant that we call vetch. It spreads vigorously and takes over any area where it gets a foot hold. We consider it a weed and try to keep it in check.

Part of the bluff along our shoreline is covered with this plant. Having one plant so profusely spread on the bluff seems like a risk. What if this plant fails and the bluff becomes exposed to winter weather? Will there be erosion? How much and how fast? Those are the questions that appear when one plant takes over.

We're pretty sure that a monocultural bluff is not a good idea, so we keep planting wildflower seeds right beside the vetch. Ed cuts the vetch back as much as possible so that other plants have a chance to root and grow on the dry, steep banks along White Rock Shoal.

Still, the vetch is a beauty with its lacy composite leaves and delicate pink violet blossom. It is a lovely weed.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 24, 2013

Crop Circles

Ed handed me the key to the lawnmower on Saturday and I had a great time cutting circles around almost every tree on the south lawn.

It was like being the needle and thread on a giant green quilt. I had to think ahead about where the lines would intersect or cross. The pattern possibilities were plentiful, even as the lawn's boundaries and trees dictated the curves and shapes.

Give me an eighty acre corn field and a combine. Then let's see what the crop circles might look like. For good measure there could be a few wind turbines to cut circles or figure eights around. Now that would be a great mowing job to do!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Peony Memories

The first peonies planted at Cedar Bluff lake house are blossoming this summer and I'm in awe of the depth of color in the blossoms. Peonies are such showstoppers with their big, loppy blooms and thick mass of petals.

The pink peony in the photo above came from a fundraiser that the Pigeon District Library sponsored a few years ago. The plant, like most peonies, has been slow to develop, but this year it has taken hold and has several big heads of flowers. Peonies are fussy; they like to be in one place for a while before they thrive.

My parents-in-law, John and Pauline Eichler, were married 67 years ago this month on June 22, 1946 in the farmhouse on Geiger Road. Pauline told me once that they picked masses of peonies and built a bank of flowers in the northwest corner of the living room. That spot became the background for their ceremony.

If memory serves me right, Mom Eichler said that they put the flowers into pickle crocks. I always imagined floor to ceiling flowers. It must have been quite a sight, all those peonies for a June wedding.

Pauline is the oldest of the nine Geiger children who were raised in our farmhouse. Then along came our three children. Through the years, those peony bushes, there must be at least twenty of them, provided lots of color in the yard at the farm, as well as cutting bouquet after cutting bouquet for the kitchen table.

Ed has one peony, a ruffled red with yellow center, that is planted at the lake house and is blossoming this summer. It is a transplant from the farm, so we will be continuing the peony memories here on the shoreline of Lake Huron, as well as at the farm.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jar Lineup

It is Saturday evening and the jars of strawberry jam are lined up in neat rows across the kitchen island. Four quarts of berries from this morning's jam session yielded over 25 half pint jars of freezer jam. The jam "cures" at room temperature for 24 hours before it is frozen so tonight the jam is on display in the kitchen.

I staged some jam photos for the blog using new bowls that I found at K-Mart in Bad Axe yesterday. The red ramekins, filled with fresh strawberries, accent the Ball glass canning jars. Leftover jam, which we ate for breakfast, is displayed in white square serving dish, also from K-Mart. The boxy white bowl breaks up the circles of the jars and lids. A nice touch.

I did the math. Each jar of jam is about $1.50. That's not bad for something from the kitchen that should make it through several breakfast sessions. Suppose that each jar could spread 15 pieces of toast. Well, 25 jars would make 375 slices of luscious red coated toast. That's a lot of toast!

Toast is another subject for a blog post on good food. Toast, just the smell of it, is one of life's great pleasures. As are strawberries and jam jars, lined up in neat rows tonight on the kitchen counter.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jam Time

I haven't made strawberry freezer jam for quite a few years, but this year's berries look jam-i-licious. You can't live in this part of Michigan and not use Michigan sugar for your jams and jellies, so I picked up ten pounds of sugar and six quarts of berries and three packages of Sure Jell today.

Tomorrow will be jam day. There will be chopping and measuring and stirring to do. By the end of an hour or so, the berries will be neatly macerated and delightfully sugared and tucked into jars, ready for the freezer.

Then there will be the soul warming smell of toast, a fresh pat of sweet butter, and glistening strawberry jam spread on toast. Mmmm, I can taste it now.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solstice Day

On the longest day of the year, wouldn't it be nice to be gone? Gone doing something outdoors like golfing or biking. Or gone doing a favorite hobby or maybe doing just nothing.

Life doesn't always hand us gone days. But when they come, whether it is summer solstice day or any day, one should take them. We really should.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Long June Days

These long days of June have my muscles aching from gardening. I get going on weeding flower beds, checking the vegetable garden, transplanting one thing from hither to yon, and the next thing I know, half a day has gone by.

But, in the morning, strolling the paver paths with my first cup of coffee, seeing the sunlight on the red geraniums and purple salvia, well, it all comes together in a soothing composition of plants and color.

In Alaska during the summer, they say, you will rarely find Alaskans at home in June and July. The salmon are running and the days are long. Alaskans savor the summer. They get out of town and go fish or play midnight baseball while they can.

We have some of that here in Michigan at 43 degrees north latitude in these two weeks surrounding the summer solstice. This is absolutely the best time of the summer. The cool nights are coupled with long days. The golden sunshine slants from the north in the evening and morning. Every vegetable garden promises fresh taste. Every flower garden brings fresh color.

These long June garden days are the best.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Winging It

When you look at this image of a seagull flying, you can kind of understand why humans have always wanted to fly. The gull's wings are extended in a graceful glide; feathers are glowing in the backlit sunlight; the bird's head is solidly planted in the front, toward the future.

It all looks so easy, so effortless, so compelling, that it is no wonder that we have long admired birds for their ability to fly. Kind of makes you jealous, when you really think about it.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bishop's Purple Iris

I always think of the magic hour for photography as being those special moments before sunset when the air is painted with gold and silver.

This morning, however, Me and My Trusty Nikon, the oldest camera that I have, roamed around the gardens at the lake house. The bishop's purple iris are over-the-top spectacular. With their innate saturated color, dancing dewdrops, and the luster of the rising sun, these iris beg to be seen.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 16, 2013

First Class Dad

I bought a Father's Day card for my Dad in Great Britain last spring. It says "First Class Dad" and has a UK stamp with Queen Elizabeth's picture on the front of the card. I forgot to send it to Dad last June.

Now it is another year later and my Dad is gone. So I took the very British card today, photographed it with my mother's favorite, pink roses, and superimposed my Dad's photo over the stamp image of the Queen.

Somehow I don't think that the Queen, good octogenarian that she is, or my British friends will mind the resultant photo which stands today as an affirmation of my first class dad.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Snake Discovery

"We found a snake, a big one! Come look!"

The boys asked permission to go down to the lake after breakfast. Our rule this year is that they may go down the bluff together, but they must ask an adult before going and tell an adult when they come back. So off they went, only to return with a very excited nature report -- they found a snake on the seawall.

Back down the bluff they went, this time with Grandpa and a camera in tow. Sure enough, the snake was still there, sunning itself, and Max got a really good photo. Back in the kitchen, we compared his photo to several that we found on the internet (web searches are amazing when you have kids who are learning things fast) and determined that the snake was a Butler's garter snake, found in the midwestern states and considered an endangered species in Indiana.

Ah, the joy of boyhood -- discovering snakes at the lakeshore. Life doesn't get much better during the first week of summer.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 14, 2013


The boys and I went wading in Lake Huron, out on White Rock Shoal, this morning. We saw fish spawning just beyond our feet, four distant freighters, and lots of sun-sparkled rocks.

I took lots of photos, including this one which has a wonderfully generic quality, almost like it could be a salt water beach, like the Atlantic or the Pacific. Water has a way of generalizing my thoughts. It rolls and swirls; the waves toss and coddle. From distant horizons to cold, squishy toes, water calms and collects and soothes.

It was good to go wading in the sun, with the boys, today.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Down to Port Huron

We took our grandsons down to Port Huron today to watch ships along the St. Clair River and ride the Huron Lady tour boat. Sigh and alas, the tour boat does not operate during the week until "the season" and the season begins next week. So, no boat trip on the river for us.

We did eat our lunch (sandwiches, a can of shoestring potatoes, carrot sticks, Rice Krispie treats, cans of root beer) at a picnic table at Vantage Point. We saw two freighters -- the Walter J. McCarthy, a thousand footer, headed north, and a saltie or oceangoing vessel, the Eemsborg, flying the Dutch flag, headed out of the Seaway.

It was a super windy day, as you can tell by my hair in this photo. After lunch and a failed boat ride, we though, "Gee, maybe the Lightship Museum is open." The Huron, a lightship that has been converted to a museum ship is permanently grounded just south of the Blue Water Bridges. No luck. That museum isn't open yet either.

Anyway, the boys enjoyed playing in the park across from the Coast Guard Station where we did see the USCG Hollyhock at dock (sorry, no photo).

I did take this shot of the Lightship Huron and put the image through my darkroom programs. I kind of like the graphic nature of the huge "HURON" lettering as it contrasts with the lines of the ship's structure.

Our day ended up with supper outside of the A&W restaurant in Lexington. We all had root beers with our burgers, hot dog, and brat. In spite of the wind and no boat ride, a good day was had by all.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Foggy June Day

Pieta at Rock Falls Cemetery, south of Harbor Beach, Michigan

A quiet kayak livery on a foggy Great Lakes day
Bicyclist on Trescott Street Pier, Harbor Beach, Michigan

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Big Blade

Another set of wind turbines is going up in the Elkton, Michigan area this month, so occasionally there are big blades moving along Huron County roads. I encountered three blades on Monday afternoon on Richardson Road east of Elkton.

I pulled over to the side of the road and took some photos of the kind of rig that is used to move the blades into position at the base of the towers. You can really get an idea of the scope of one blade when you see it coming at you down a country road.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 10, 2013

First Paella

I had paella on my brain when we got back from Spain in late May so I turned to the internet. I found a website on the East Coast that imports food from Spain and placed an order for the medium grain rice, paprika, olive oil and a paella pan.

Medium grain rice absorbs more liquid than the long grain rice that is sold in the U. S. The paprika adds a distinctive, punchy flavor. The olive oil is cold pressed. The pan has slanted sides with a shallow bowl. It sits astride two burners and should be rotated during the cooking process.

I looked up several recipes for paella on the web and finally settled on using Paella Valenciana from The Splendid Table and another one, a vegetable paella from The New York Times. Both contained some added suggestions (moving the pan around on the burners, tenting the rice with foil) that made the first trial easier. I chopped and read recipes; Ed stirred and tented and watched the timing. Together we made our first pan of Spanish paella which we served for supper with our two grandsons this weekend.

The first paella contained two chicken breasts, cut into small pieces; rice and chicken broth; onions, asparagus, garlic, and mushrooms; sweet paprika and freshly ground black pepper. I didn't order the typical saffron and will maybe add that later. 

Paella is a one dish meal and bringing the pan to the table is pretty dramatic. In Madrid we saw paella ushered into the dining room by two servers. Ed thought maybe we should do the two-people-one-pan presentation. I vetoed that and set the pan in the center of the table.

Grandson Max reached for the serving spoon and said, "Can I start it?" I knew then that this might be a good dish for our family. Max scooped out a piece of chicken and some rice. Then we all served ourselves and enjoyed a tiny bit of Spain, right on our own table.

Next time, we'll maybe add some shrimp and green beans. Maybe some spicy sausage, too. That sounds super good.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Beside Blue Waters

The Clark brothers are having a good time, playing on the lawns at Cedar Bluff beside the blue waters of Lake Huron. Finn confiscated the garden tools, with my permission, and dug a small trench today around one of the trees near the new garden.

"Look, Grandma. I put water in the trench here and it rolls down to the other side," said the budding hydro engineer as he poured what must have been the tenth sprinkling can of water into the muddy slit.

Max built a tepee using a curved piece of driftwood and some dead sumac branches. His structure, braced and eventually tied together, affords a place for one boy at a time to crawl and feel surrounded by the framework made by hand.

We planted garden (tomatoes, mostly), launched rockets (one went on the roof and by evening the wind brought it down), ate two meals outside (breakfast and lunch), did art in the studio, and read some more chapters in "Paddle to the Sea."

The boys are having a great time beside blue waters.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Great Lakes Kids

School is out and the grandsons have been retrieved from their parents for their annual June visit to Huron County. Ed and I traveled to Max and Finn's house yesterday, had lunch with their Mom and Dad who are bound for France and Spain for a few weeks, and traveled back to Cedar Bluff.

We made a Culver's stop (concrete mixers, lemon ice, turtle sundae) in the Detroit area and also stopped to see freighters at the Blue Water Bridges in Port Huron. A kindly tattooed walker took our picture with the bridge and Canada in the background.

It was a big freighter watching day. We saw at least six ships on our way up the coastline to the lake house and we started reading "Paddle To The Sea" last night before bedtime. The boys get to be Great Lakes Kids for a few weeks now.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cold Friday in June

On a cold Friday night in June, just as the days approach the dark of the moon, the sunset lights the sky with splotches of color. Clouds painted pink and apricot and blue float in sculpted wonder over Lake Huron's marble waters.

In that magic moment of sunset comes the day's reward, a moment of beauty and peace as evening shadows creep across the sky.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Secret Lupines

Growing lupines has been a challenge at the lake house gardens. At first the plants liked one bed near the shoreline. After a year or two, that fizzled. I moved them to a shadier spot and that worked, but only for a season or two. So I moved them to a woodland location and totally lost all of the plants.

Lupines can self seed and do so fairly aggressively. I thought I had scratched all of the baby plants from one bed last year. This year, a secret lupine made its way up through the chartreuse leaves of a burning bush. The bush must be acting like a mother plant, protecting the lupine, because this lupine is outdoing itself with majestic purple spikes that burst from the bush like teenagers ready to graduate.

The secret is out. The lupines are back.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Garden on a Truck

Todd Clancy and his crew brought a load of garden soil for the lake house today. Last year's garden, in sandy ground, was a minor disaster. It was hard to keep watered through the drought months. The deer liked the baby plants and I lost interest when the soil just would not produce.

Todd's company plowed cable past our house and happened to cut our irrigation system late in the summer. When he returned to fix the leaky sprinkling system, he wandered over to my garden.

"Gee, you guys need some good garden dirt. I'll bring you a load, okay?" Todd came to that conclusion after eating a few of the skimpy grape tomatoes that still existed at the end of the dry summer of 2012.

So, today I have a new garden, thanks to those few stolen tomatoes and a willing Clancy crew.

I can taste this year's tomatoes already.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Film Noir Hostas

I took a pencil sketch of the hostas from Saturday's blog post and ran it through one of my darkroom programs. The result is a sort of "film noir" approach that is achieved by a heightened graininess that is paired with a low key black and white approach.

I'm not sure that I like the result, but it is a good exercise for me to take my artwork and put it through darkroom programs like Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, June 3, 2013

Colorful Barn Roof

The barn at Graywood Farm will be getting a new solar roof very soon. In the meantime it is covered with tarps, giving it a colorful appearance when viewed from a distance.

Last Thursday's storm produced nearly two inches of rain. Rain is not a good thing when you are putting a new roof on an old barn. Hence, the tarps, a precautionary measure against more rain.

The barn loft, empty for now, has a new oak floor. Here's a link to a blog post from two summers ago with a  June 1991 photo of this barn in use during haying season.

You can read lots more about the restoration work at Ed Eichler's Graywood Barn Blog.

One last note for today. My dad, Stan Hayes, died four weeks ago today. He would have loved seeing this photo and reading about the Graywood barn. I miss him.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Up High and Down Low

Ed and I spotted this mass of organic matter up high in a cotton wood tree near the lake house. We are always on the lookout for an eagle's nest, but figure that this is probably a squirrel's nest. Enlarged on a computer screen, this structure appears to be made of leaves.

Thanks to the optics and zoom function of a simple point-and-shoot camera, we can get a closer glimpse of this nest. That's the "up high" of this blog post.

Next, I took the same camera and set it for a close up function. I activated the self timer for 10 seconds, put the camera on the ground near a freshly made ant hill and pushed the shutter button.

Presto, Eduardo! Now we have an ant's view of homecoming. The camera's eye gives us a glimpse of nature again, only this time we are "down low."

The ant hills and the cottonwood trees line the highway near our lakehouse. Obviously, it does not take much to entertain me on a morning walk.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sturdy Hostas

My pen and ink drawing of a hosta in a yellow pot turned out pretty good. I accented the drawing using watercolor pencils and a waterbrush.

These are the hostas that came from my Mom and Dad's farm years ago. We have clumps of them at our farm and also at the lakehouse. Over the years we have given divisions of these plants to friends and family. It's a tough cookie, this green leaved wonder with the creamy edges on almost every leaf.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler