Monday, September 30, 2013


"Grandma, take us out to where those big maples trees are." That was the request from Max and Finn this morning.

"You will need to have shoes and long pants. There's poison ivy out there and we might have to leave the trail," I replied.

"You mean we can go bushwhacking?"

"Yep, that's what we'll do."

Max found the hiking stick that he likes for being out and about at the lake. They both grabbed waterproof shoes and off we went, looking for the two big maple trees at the end of the trail through the woods.

There are some wonderful gifts that come in the days between the death of a loved one and the visitation and celebration times. Days that are scheduled for travel and preparation turn into times of conversation, shared meals, and, yes, bushwhacking with your grandmother through the cedar woods to the big maples.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Morning Walk

The bean fields along M-25 were golden when Ed and I went for a morning walk today. In the west, rain clouds turned the sky dark blue.

The day seemed ordinary but empty. After losing Ed's mom yesterday, the emptiness hovers like some big cavity that even faith cannot fill.

Words flow in. Kind words, yet they do not fill the emptiness. Not yet.

In the golden light of the morning and as the day unfolds, it is too soon to push away the sorrow.

Too soon.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Goodbye, Mom Eichler

My mother-in-law, Pauline Eichler, died late in the afternoon today.  All week we have been at her bedside, watching her final struggle with Parkinson's disease.

In less than five months of this year, Ed and I have lost my Dad and now, his Mom, our two remaining parents. I'm feeling especially motherless and fatherless in these hours after her passing. It's an emptiness, a sharpness, an ache that I will have to deal with in the days and months ahead.

I came home from Wisconsin in May after my Dad's death, wanting to be with my mother-in-law. "She's all we have left, " I told Ed as we headed out on the long drive between Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and Huron County, Michigan, a drive that we have made many, many times in our married life together.

Pauline already was not understanding some things and we are pretty sure that she did not understand that my Dad was gone.

This has been a precious week of waiting and watching with Mom Eichler. Tomorrow will be just another day for most of the world. But for many of us -- children, spouses, siblings, grandchildren, great grands, friends -- it will be the first day without the woman who meant so much to many of us.

The sun will rise in these few days ahead and we will be saying, gently saying, "Goodbye, Mom."

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Friday, September 27, 2013

Dawn, That Moment

Dawn fills that moment when sometimes in life you think things will never be different. Then the day comes tumbling through the clouds, the horizon lights up and things begin again.

Maybe this eternal cycle, this sunrise and sunset stuff, gave the ancient people cause to figure out how to build a Stonehenge in the slanted light, or plant crops by a certain moon, or sail their boats by the arrangement of stars.

Whatever the effect on humankind, I do know that I look to the dawn each morning in grateful recognition of the power of a new day.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Storm Clouds on Geiger Road

Giant rolls of storm clouds laid like a thick covering on the western side of Michigan's Thumb last weekend. The corn harvest is just starting so this image, taken Sunday evening on Geiger Road east of Pigeon, with the contrast of dark clouds, dusty gravel and long, stately rows of cornstalks, is a typical scene in Huron County this fall.

The sugar beet harvest is underway, dry beans are coming off the fields, and on some farms, the corn fields have been opened so that the large multi-row equipment can easily move into the fields.

There's a certain drama to the harvest season and, I do admit, this photo looks more like the late days of harvest in early November than the fair-weather-blue-skies days of September.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

98 Panel Solar Array

The 98 solar panels now installed on the restored barn at Graywood Farm will soon be able to charge my Chevy Volt and provide electricity for power needs on our farm. The Volt uses about 10 kilowatt hours of power from one charging session to travel from 35-40 miles.

The panel installation is almost complete. Next the electricians will go to work, hooking up the power system with inverters that will convert the DC power that comes from the panels into AC power that can be used for lighting and other uses.

It's kind of amazing to realize that the power of the sun is strong enough to power a car.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Here's Why

Here's why I should clean my windshield more carefully on a lovely fall day. That's the equinox moon, floating high in the western sky. The line of clouds is tumbling in from Saginaw Bay and, if you look right down Richardson Road to the one turbine on the left side of the road, that's the spot on the windshield that I missed this morning.

Windex bottle, where are you?!!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 23, 2013

Taking Care of Business

Ed had to hire a consultant for the solar project on the Graywood Barn, so he turned to Michigan-based 5 Lakes Energy and one of its principals, Liesl Eichler Clark, who, of course, just happens to be our daughter. Liesl's expertise in the field of green energy brought all of the players together -- solar suppliers, installers, DTE -- to make the solar panel project happen.

Much of Liesl's work is done away from her office. We saw that first hand last Wednesday when she came home to Graywood Farm to visit. Here she is, on her mobile phone, taking care of business, in the haymow of our old, now restored, barn.

It was a bittersweet day for Liesl, and for her brother Peter, since they not only came to see the barn project, but also to visit their Grandma Pauline who is in hospice care. So it had to be good to see the barn on the farm where Grandma Pauline and her eight siblings grew up, and to be at grandma's bedside in these days of autumn.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Daddy's Shoes

Oh, there is all sorts of nonsense about how daddies have big shoes to fill. That is growing up nonsense.

When you are a year and a half old, Daddy's shoes are just fun to step into. Miss Val tumbled and tripped and tried out the big shoes this morning.

Finally, she had her balance and there was a camera.

A camera! That means it is time to smile, even if it is time for pancakes and maple syrup.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Solar Panels on the Graywood Barn

A crew began work this week on the installation of solar panels on our barn at Graywood Farm. The barn, which is undergoing a major restoration, has a new metal roof. The panels will cover the surface of the south side. This photo, taken on the day when the crew was getting ready to install the first panels, shows the barn being reflected in a stack of the solar panels.

The intersection of solar panels on the roof of an old barn brings together the timber frame sturdiness of a classically rural building with the new technology of today's energy. The barn, which was used to store harvests of grain and hay for years, will soon be harvesting energy from the sun.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 20, 2013

Turbine Moon


This week's full moon got smaller and smaller as it rose over the golden fields of Huron County  

Here's that moon, in the glow of one of the last evenings of summer 2013, as it rose over turbine country. 

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Raptor Again

It was almost two months ago since I spotted a raptor along Helena Road. Since then, both Ed and I have been seeing hawks of one kind or another throughout Huron County.

This raptor, looking very much like the bird that I saw in July, was clinging to the glass protector on a utility pole on M-25 out near Huron City today. I spotted the bird soaring above the highway, wings outspread and enjoying the thermals. Then the raptor settled down on the top of this pole.

I grabbed my camera, the trusty point-and-shoot, and walked over to the pole. The bird flared a bit, tottered on the glass, and took off in another spectacular show of soaring wings and graceful glide paths over the ripening bean fields.

Maybe the hunting is good along the highway, or maybe it is time to be gathering for migration. Whatever the event, it was great to see this majestic bird in action.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grain Bins

Out on the far east end of Helena Road there is this collection of cylindrical grain bins that are linked together with all of the pipes and chutes that make up the drying and storage system for this site.

I like the industrial look of these collections of structures. Everything is in its place. The system works. Things have a purpose.

It's kind of like a Great lakes freighter with a mast and a headhouse and huge cargo bins. Things go in a certain place. Stuff happens. And at the end of the harvest season (or at the end of a trip for a freighter), there is a product to sell or transport.

It's all a very orderly and prescribed part of the economy, unlike some parts of life that are pretty unorganized and have no tangible result.

Buildings get me to thinking about things like that. Maybe that's why I like buildings.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Volt Gets The Mums

The Chevy Volt's hatchback could have held lots more than the nine giant mum plants that I hauled home from Dorothy's Flowers in Harbor Beach. On a sunny fall day, with temperatures in the low seventies, the mum run proved to be a pleasureable bit of gardening to do. 

The Volt has over 41,000 miles on it and is still, hands down, my all time best car ever. 

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ginkgo Grove

Ed and I have developed a fondness for ginkgo trees after seeing them on the site of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima in September 2008 while visiting Japan. With their fan shaped leaves and golden yellow fall color, the ginkgo trees have worked their way into our hearts.

So Ed had several trees planted at the farm and then at the lake. This image, taken last week, is of the ginkgo grove (well, three trees could constitute a grove) at the lake. Goldenrod in full bloom accents the lower right corner of the photo while dappled morning light highlights the green grass. And yes, that is a dead ash tree in the left background. Like many Michigan property owners, we will have lots of ash trees to remove as the emerald ash borer has taken a toll on the ash population.

We have been watering these trees all summer using the Treegator bags that our son-in-law recommended to us. "Just don't let your lawnmower and a Treegator meet," John told us as we realized that it would be easy to clip the vinyl bag of the Treegator with the blades of the mower. We've been careful haven't lost a gator to the mower (yet).

The Treegators hold about twenty gallons of water, have trickle drip holes around the bottom, and zip in place around each tree. It take about five minutes to fill one from the watering hose. We've given these trees water at least once a week this summer in the weeks when there has not been a heavy rain.

The second photo show three Treegators zipped together and standing around the lilac bush that the Wheelers gave us in memory of my Dad. I knew that the gators would press in on the lilac if I filled each bag to the top, so I only filled each one about a quarter of the way full.

The lilac and the ginkgoes occupy the Woodland Garden, a garden that is starting to take shape as a partly wild, partly cultivated spot on our lake property.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Falling Toward Fall

At least five conversations this week have swung around to the topic of how welcome the autumn season will be this year. "I'm so ready for fall. Aren't you?" seems to be the dominant sentiment. 

Well, yes and no. My garden beds need my weeding attention, just as they have since April and May. The lawns beg to be mowed on a regular basis. My golf score, really, continues to show improvement. So, no, let the summer ride for a few more days. 

Then, in the golden light of the downed evening, the shadows turn autumnal. In an affirmation of the seasonal shift of color and temperature and temperament, then I feel the days falling toward fall and I know that it is time for a change.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Saturday, September 14, 2013

It Is Hard To Do Art On Football Saturdays

There are some things that I try to do each day. I brush my teeth, I eat, I write my blog, I knit, I drink two cups of coffee, and I try to do art.

But, when football Saturdays come three in a row, well, then, it is hard to do art on football Saturdays!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, September 13, 2013

Marching Band Practice

Under blue skies on Demonstration Field, the Spartan Marching Band practiced this afternoon. Their third performance day, at tomorrow afternoon's football game with Youngstown State, just might be the first game of this season without any rain. For two weeks straight, the band and team and football fans have been evacuated from Spartan Stadium due to heavy rain and lightning in East Lansing.

Tomorrow's halftime show, featuring a James Bond theme, includes a jazzy version of "Goldfinger" that should rock the stadium. At practice today, the band was in fine form and worked hard perfecting the music and marching that make them the Number One reason to see a football game at Michigan State.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Morning Glory Memories

Grandma Rose Luedtke raised morning glories. Trained up the east side of the chicken house on twine ladders, the morning glories were a mass of blue wonder. Their color and profusion of vines and blossoms are engraved on my brain from childhood summers of wandering about the farm with Grandpa Bill and Grandma Rose.

I planted two packages of morning glories this year, one of them a package of Heavenly Blue Morning Glories. Every seed must have germinated because the four bamboo hoops that the seeds were planted around have disappeared into a tumble of vines and blossoms.

The glory of the morning. That's what this flower is named for. With a five pointed star in every blossom and leaves shaped like hearts, this is a plant that stirs my memory.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Birthday Footnote

Wavy birthday candles just begged to be turned into an asterisk, sort of a footnote to all of the fun that we had celebrating September birthdays in the last few weeks. The uncles outdid themselves with a cake extravaganza, the children had a shared party, and the memories are buttercreamedly precious. (How's that for a new made-up word!)

These candles came from the birthday fixings in the baking and cereal aisle at the Pigeon IGA. Flat and funky, they were a big hit at blow out time.

Now they are the footnote to two wonderful birthdays for two sweet grandkids.

Ah, the years roll by.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Artwork: Floating Squash

Long squash vines were creeping through the lawn, making it tough to mow close to the garden, and there were big blobs of butternut peeking out from the tall grass.

So Ed and I took our handy dandy pruners and chopped off the errant vines. First we picked up the squashes that were on the lawn and moved them, vines attached, back to the garden plot. Of course, some of the larger fruits were close to harvest and detached themselves from the vines which had developed roots and tendrils and really wanted to stay in place.

I brought a squash in and plopped it on the dining room table. It seemed like a good idea to sketch it. That worked out fairly well. But when I moved to the next step, a pen and ink watercolor sketch, well. . .

due to a lapse in my artistic composition (the leaf should probably touch the squash, or I could add a connecting stem) the squash looks like it is floating.

Moral of the story -- try again. Then eat the squash.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Root Beer Hannah

Today is Miss Hannah's fourth birthday, so I'm wishing her a special blog birthday greeting.

Taken a few weeks ago, this photo shows Miss Hannah and a baby beer at the Lexington A&W restaurant. Hannah and her little sis were on the tail end of a two night stay with Grandpa and Grandma.

Hannah was eager to see her Mom and Dad, so the baby beer was totally not anything that she wanted to deal with. Even the cute little mug with the A&W logo held no fascination. Root beer? Well, that wasn't working either.

But, Hannah is a consummate actor (already). We had this conversation that went something like, "I know that you don't like root beer and that you don't want to drink the baby beer, but can I take your picture?"

"Sure, Grandma," was the reply. Professional that she is, she posed with the baby beer, politely, too, I might add.

The end of the story is two-part. One, Grandpa Ed drank the root beer. Two, Mom and Dad appeared about five minutes later.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Yellowing Bean Fields

The dry beans are ripening in Huron County. Fields are marbled with golden yellow and soft green as the plants move their energy to the bean pods that will soon be harvested.

On a sunny day, with puffy clouds floating in an azure sky, you turn a corner and are entranced with colors that are not quite fall. There are no oranges or reds yet. Green predominates for a week or so.

Still, in Huron County, the magnificence of a fall field can take your breath away with its color and promise of bins of beans yet to come.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, September 7, 2013

American Elm

Tucked away on the campus of Michigan State University, well, sort of tucked away as much as a giant tree can be, this majestic American elm stands as a reminder of the elms that once lined the streets and byways of the Midwest states. 

Dutch elm disease took most of the elms in the 60's and 70's, so it was delightful to find this specimen on campus today. One wonders if some of the ash trees will survive the ravages of the emerald ash borer. I hope that here and there some ash trees will win the insect vs. tree battle. 

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Friday, September 6, 2013

Another Go Green Day

It's another "Go Green, Go White" day tomorrow as Michigan State takes to the field for the second home football game of the season. Here's a photo from two years ago, taken in the south end zone, looking north.

The scoreboard on the north end has been changed into a digital wraparound board that flashes and streams and moves constantly, so this photo is already vintage quality.

Imagine the muscle power of the flag bearer who hoists the really big MSU flag. I guess that when you are a young person, you can do cool things like carrying a giant flag in a football stadium.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Navy In The Morning

Navy blue puffs of cloud skim the surface of Lake Huron at dawn. Spread like a layer of cotton candy, the clouds turn dark blue as the rising sun brings light from the east. For a moment or two, the pink morning light glistens on the marbled water and dances in the sky.

"Get up! I'm coming," says the great Sun Orb as it rises from the horizon line. Pushy Old Sun. What is he thinking? Who would want to avoid the promise of a perfect fall day in the Great Lakes country!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bird Creek Fawns

The twin fawns that have been strolling through my Tuesday evening golf games are growing up. Last night the were grazing, without their mother, along the eighteenth hole. 

The Bird Creek course is built where there once was a farm and has numerous apple trees. The fawns, almost in a drunken stupor, graze on the windfall apples. They are either overly interested in the sweet apples or decidedly used to humans, because they are not scared by golf carts or golfers. 

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Be Gone, Cobwebs

There's a fresh outlook that I see when I look out of my studio today. The cobwebs and spider parts and fly bodies and other assorted insect critters had taken over the glass and the eaves.

Looking out of the windows was a spooky experience which might be fine if it were late October and almost Halloween, but for summer days that are downsizing toward autumn, the messy windows were, well, a mess.

Out came the glass cleaner, the vinyl gloves, spray bottles, long arm brush and cleaning cloths. What I thought would be a fifteen minute job turned into most of the morning, but the view, ah the view, has clearly improved.

If some tiny fly species decides to hatch out overnight and flutter en masse against the screens (again), at least the previous nine (there might have been that many) hatches of the summer season have been removed and my view of Lake Huron might stand a chance against the insect onslaught.

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, September 2, 2013

Doorways Sisters

My Dad would have loved this photo of two of his girls, posing for a goodbye photo near a doorway.

That's MB, putting bunny ears behind my head and aping for the camera, as Ed takes our picture this morning.

Ed and I hosted a house full of company this weekend and had such a good time with three generations of family and friends, too. The goodbyes are always a tad bit poignant, though.

You tough it out through them, putting a smile on your face and waving and hugging and wishing safe travel, even though you wish the visit would last another day.

So, here in the doorway, the sisters say goodbye.

Ed Eichler Photo 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Birthday Cousins

The birthday cake, a three tiered masterpiece with bluffs made out of rolled cookies, a candy bar bridge, a Disney princess and Crusher from the Skylanders video game, brought together lots of themes for two cousins celebrating birthdays in September.

Hannah is interested in princesses while Finn likes apps and games. Once the birthday candles were lit, the two cousins added their smiles to the occasion of a family birthday celebration on Labor Day weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

And the fluffy, yummy sheep? Well, we adults were told that the sheep are a part of the Skylanders game. The sheep were made of red velvet cake and buttercream frosty. Yummy!

Copyright 2013
Wanda Hayes Eichler