Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Month Is Whacked

I had great plans for my bike riding this month. The goal was 62 miles, two per day. 

Well, the month is whacked and so is that goal. So, tomorrow becomes the reset day when I roll out the goal again and get riding. 

Life is like that. You hit a goal; you miss a goal. It's a little like the game of golf where there is always another hole and another day. 

Last night, at my knitting group, one knitter proclaimed how lucky we are to be able to do even mundane tasks. "I think of that when I'm doing something so routine that I wonder why I even bother," she said. "But then I remember to be grateful for the strength and agility to clean windows or sweep a floor." 

On the eve of another month, I can celebrate the whacked goal and my sixties-plus agility. So I set the goal again.  62 miles in August. Here goes. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

There Must Be A Poet

There must be a poet somewhere who could describe in a language, possibly not one that I could understand, this magnificient sky.

All my words fall short, as if they come to the edge of a brink and tumble down into some unknown. My words, so ill kempt and trite, those kind of words come up short as the setting sun illuminates this set of clouds that never was and never will be again.

But I'd like to think that somewhere, there must be poet, maybe the Grand Poet, who could write in some language about this beauty.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Old Camp Shirt

I pulled my old corduroy camp shirt from the back of the closet over the weekend. Decorated with a mosquito, a moose, poison ivy, a loon, and other north woods images, the shirt is a fun reminder of summers past when we would go camping.

The designs are from a quilting pattern that I liked way back when. Each image is cut from cotton fabric and fused onto the purchased corduroy shirt. Then I took pearl cotton and stitched around the shapes. Some of them have beads and silk ribbon embroidery that complete the figure.

I made the mosquito big and buggy-eyed. Mosquitoes, as everyone knows, are the absolute scourge of camping. It seems as if we were always reaching for bug spray during our several camping trips in the Upper Peninsula, Canada, and Wisconsin.

I'll probably pull on the camp shirt for a few campfires this summer. Since it is the end of July already, it feels like a campfire would be a good idea before fall and football and really cool weather set in.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Troubled Skies

Skies across the Thumb were troubled on Sunday afternoon as storms swept across Michigan. This view, taken on Richardson Road east of Pigeon, gives a glimpse of the cells that populated the weather maps, producing thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings throughout much of lower Michigan.

Another image, this one looking west along the railroad that runs through downtown Pigeon, shows swirls and curves and wisps that may be beautiful, but the resultant winds are damaging. Even tonight, many in the Detroit area are without power yet.

Here's what the Weatherbug app on an IPhone was showing right about the time that these photos were taken. It's sort of a tie-dye weather pattern with many scattered cells. I've learned to respect those red and orange patches on weather maps. The cells are strongest there, with driving rain and hail sometimes.

Last year's August 1st Hailstorm

Friday, July 25, 2014

Orange Crush

The big orange daylilies on the south side of the garage are in full bloom. It's the time of the summer when I realize that I have a crush on orange. Today I gathered some of those daylilies and put them into a little arrangement.

Then I hunted up some more things that are orange. The wool yarn is named "Orange You Glad;" the orange coffee mug is a gift from Peter. The crochet potholder uses ombre cotton in the color, you guessed it, orange.

Maybe orange is a color that can be a little much. Then again, maybe, if you have a crush on orange, it's just fine.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Canoeing On The Shoal

Most summers, the water level on White Rock Shoal is pretty shallow. This year is different with the water deep enough to canoe and kayak. We have been taking our canoe out a bit, much to the chagrin of the area sea gulls who like to have the rocks to themselves.

The kayak kids and their mom paddled out to White Rock where the nesting terns flew alarming circles and warned the kayakers away from nesting sites on the rock. The last time that the kids were out to White Rock was just after Christmas when we made a family trek across the ice. In the summer those winter adventures seem like a long time ago, but really it was just seven months ago.

Here's another look at the terns out by White Rock. Terns, with their forked tails and down turned beaks, are common residents along the shoal. Their swooping makes them fun to watch. The gulls glide; terns hover and dive, and often come up with a tasty fish.

Tern and White Rock photos by Liesl Eichler Clark. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Closeup Teasel

Digital cameras often have problems imaging all of the fine points of prickly plants. Not so with this roadside teasel that I stopped to photograph along M-25 near Lake Huron recently.

The gracefulness of the plant, as well as it's porcupine like needle structure, is eminently obvious in this close up view. The teasel is considered an invasive species. Plants grow to be as tall as six feet and will take over an area where otherwise native plants would grow.

Here's a link to a Wisconsin website that explains more about the teasel. I got interested in them when I searched for some last fall to send to a relative who used the dried heads in floral crafting. And HERE is another link that outlines the threat of teasel as an invasive in the Midwest.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sunset in Windmill Country

On clear summer nights this is what you see as the sun goes down in Huron County. A wind turbine, standing tall, silhouetted against the evening skies, punctuates the landscape.

Turbines have very vertical lines in a horizontal world. Maybe that's what causes people to wonder if turbines belong in a rural area. We are so used to running our vision across the landscape that when our eyes "bump" into the turning vertical structure, we are slightly stunned by the picture.

Still, their very height is majestic. Here, in machine form, this device draws power from the wind, power that went unharnessed and unused ten years ago. They really are quite something.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Artwork: Swiss Cow

Lots of delightful summer company and a productive garden have kept my knitting needles in their basket. My art supplies have been tucked away, too.

Late last week, however,  I took the time to sketch and paint a small cow figure that Ed and I purchased in the airport as we were leaving Zurich.

Carved from wood using a flat carving method, the cow translated quite nicely into a pen and ink sketch with watercolor. I added a bit of funk with a checkerboard border, and, I see now, that I left out the tiny Swiss cowbell that rings a soft reminder of the mountain cows that we saw in Switzerland in May.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm Such A Salad Snob

I've been such a salad snob. But it is time for me to reform and to beg forgiveness from my salad dressing bottle loving friends.

"I make my own dressing," I proclaimed several times in the last week as my company, looking for a tasty topping for garden salads, rummaged through the frig. I have even posted my favorite go-to dressing recipe, Maple Mustard Vinaigrette, on this blog.

Well, I am officially apologizing for being such a snob. I even bought a commercial Caesar dressing yesterday and topped today's lunch salad with that dressing. The salad started in my garden when I picked leaves of Bloomsdale spinach and Little Cos romaine. I added some kale leaves. I washed those up and spun them in the salad spinner thingie.

Then I topped the greens with cooked beets (from the garden, leftovers from supper two nights ago), cherry tomatoes, and smoked salmon. With a vegetable peeler, I added strips of romano cheese and then, yes, then topped the entire plate with the PURCHASED Caesar dressing.

A couple of toast strips accented the plate and I ate the whole thing. Quickly. Scrumptiously. Mmmm.

Now my frig has three bottles of prepared dressing -- a red French (Marzetti's, I think); Kraft Catalina (grandson Finn says that his brother doesn't eat anything that says Kraft on it); and the organic Caesar, which, by the way, has a list of ingredients a mile long, but lots of them are organic.

Now I'm thinking that a bit of grilled chicken would be great with the umpteen million ingredient Caesar dressing, or maybe some grilled shrimp.

Still sounds snobby, doesn't it? It's hard to teach an old salad snob new tricks.

Note: This blog post is being written while I am finishing Finn's Cheetos curly thingies from last Tuesday's Subway lunch. So much for food discrimination. Onward and upward.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Old Tractors

Several old tractors are tucked between buildings in downturn Port Hope. This one, a red restored McCormick, is a gem. 

I thought I would take a few photos of the old machine so that I could sketch it later by working from the photos. 

What I had not noticed about these tractors is how unbalanced they look. This one has the power take off reel on the right side. That position necessitates the offsetting of the forward section of the tractor on the rear axle. Not really lopsided, the tractor nevertheless looks disbalanced. 

It's is amazing the things that you will see when you really look at something, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Getting Ready For The Fair

One of the very rural aspects of life in Michigan's farm country for children and teens is participating in the summer 4-H and Junior Livestock programs. Kids get to raise an animal and take it to the fair. The kids learn about feeding animals and training them to be around people. They learn how to prepare the animal for the show ring and they come to realize that animals are raised for food.

Our friends, Don and Donna Wheeler, have been involved in guiding students through the animals raising process for many summers. Don is the local agriculture teacher at the Laker Schools. Their daughter, Jenny Wheeler Parker, also a teacher, invited our grandson Finn over to their farm one morning this week. "Bring him over to see the animals," Jenny said. Seeing the animals at Wheeler's Broken Wheel Ranch means that the animals will be let out of their pens for a walk around the yard.

Finn wasn't too sure about the sheep even though Jenny's little niece gave Finn a convincing demonstration of hanging on to the sheep's halter. All three of our now grown up children showed sheep at the fair, and we had a good time talking about how different the showing patterns are for kids now. Twenty years ago, kids did not use a halter on sheep at all. We had lots of run away animals at the fair. Now halters are common and there are far fewer loose sheep running in the barns.

We made sure that Finn stayed back from the big 1100 pound steer that Jenny's stepson James Parker is readying for the show ring. That steer, whose name is Uno, is a beautiful, but very big animal. Usually kids start by showing a small animal and then progress to handling the larger calves and steers.

What Finn really liked, though, was guiding the pigs around the Wheeler's yard. Jenny gave him a few pointers on how to tickle the animals with the show stick so that the pig keeps moving. Finn caught on quickly. He helped give the pigs their daily workout and then helped to herd the three pigs right back into their pen in the barn.

We all fell in love with the playfulness of the Wheeler's one goat. A very agile animal, the goat managed to pull a few green apples from the lower limbs of an apple tree. Donna reminded us that, worldwide, goats are the most common meat animal. Small and easy to feed, these critters provide protein sustenance for many populations across the planet.

Chasing pigs around a back yard is fun. That's true, but time spent with farm animals is so much more. The exposure to farm animals begins the thinking process about the contribution that livestock make to humans. Those hours and days spent training a steer or pigs or sheep or goats become a basic educational experience , part and parcel of rural life in Michigan's Thumb.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Looking For Pirates

Grandson Finn and I headed up the eastern side of Huron County to have a bit of an adventure today. Hoping to get in a bit of outdoor art, we took along camp chairs and our sketching supplies. First stop was in Harbor Beach where we walked Trescott Street Pier and tried out the new playground equipment in Lincoln Park.

We stopped at the Subway and picked up something to eat for lunch. I figured that we could find a picnic table at one of the parks, eat lunch, and then spread out our sketchbooks and pencils for awhile.

The weather did not cooperate. After two rain showers and a lot of wind, we realized that maybe it was not a "sit out in the open air and draw" kind of day. So we changed our plans to include a visit to the museum at the lighthouse and then calculated how many miles it was to the nearest ice cream store.

Finn wanted to climb the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse, but the stairway is only open on weekends. "Gee, Finn, climb the steps and look out the window and I will take your picture," I said. That's how we came up with this "looking for pirates" photo.

So we had a great day together, exploring in Huron County. We didn't find any pirates, but we did come up with fresh beets from the garden for supper. And there was homemade mac and cheese to top off the day. Not bad for a boy and a grandmother.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kilowatt Kids

My grandson and my niece got a glimpse of both the past and the future today when we visited the bank of inverters in the barn at Graywood Farm. The barn, whose roof is home to 98 solar panels, has been restored with new foundation walls and additional bracing. 

The rooftop solar array provides more power for the farm buildings. These kids will not be surprised by alternative energy sources and innovative battery technology. 

They are not typewriter kids; they are kilowatt kids. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Caleb's Cat

I started knitting this cat last fall with hopes that I would finish it for a baby shower in October. Well, that did not happen. 

Now, three seasons later, the baby is here and he is coming to be a house guest for the weekend. And I am down to the finishing touches on the handmade kitty, sewing on the eyes and nose. 

So after my first cup of coffee tomorrow, I will take out needle and thread (well, pearl cotton) and finish Caleb's cat. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Magical Skies

The skies have been incredible in the Thumb this week. There was some rain and the cloud patterns that come with a wet system pushing through the Great Lakes early in the week.

Then came some pressure changes that brought much cooler evening temperatures and lines of clouds that look like mountain ranges in the distance. A couple of nights ago, I took this photo near the Coast Guard Station in Harbor Beach. A set of dark clouds were moving down Lake Huron while high wisps of fair weather clouds were floating behind the dark stuff.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Snakes Alive

I always enjoyed teaching poetry when I taught eighth grade many moons ago. Poetry, often described as capturing a moment in time, is very much like photography. With poetry, you use words to bring a feeling or a distinct observation to mind. With photography, the image tells the story.

These images, captured within a moment of each other, tell a snake story. Our grandkids, all four of them, found a snake near the foundation of the house. Snakes have been plentiful this year, Most of the ones that we are seeing are garter snakes that are about 24 inches long and the kids have been captivated by the snakes.

This snake got away quickly, but not too fast. The kids found it, and then came this next image.

All four junior naturalists are concentrated on one slithery snake. Their gazes are fixed in one place. Heads bowed, knees bent, brains all in concert, they were fascinated by the snake.

What a poetic moment in time, captured on a camera.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Amber Waves

We are rounding the corner on summer here in Michigan's Thumb, and we are headed to the Amber Waves of Grain time of July. 

Tonight, returning from nine holes of Golf at Bird Creek in Port Austin, I stopped to view this scene. A field of wheat, gently tilting toward ripe, not yet amber, but yellowing more by the day. Towering clouds, the remnant of a day of rain and thunderstorms. 

I expect that harvest times will be a bit pushed back due to the very cold spring, but then, watching the grain ripening fast may make late harvest a guessing game. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Bare Bed

It has been ten years since the initial landscaping went in at the lake house. This bed, now very bare, has come through a cycle of geraniums, iris, hostas, lupines, astilbes, and all sorts of sedums. 

Everything outgrew the bed and had to be divided and moved. Finally we took out all the plants, including quack grass roots, horsetail fern, goldenrod, and just weeds in general. 

Stripped down to the basics, the space now awaits the next horticultural endeavor. The soil is good. The weeds are gone. It's time for some new thinking. 

Then we can plant again. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Bicycle Fourth of July

My Fourth of July started off with a ride on my new bike. I figured that it would be no problem to ride to the post office, a distance of about four miles away. The ride took me almost an hour.

I hadn't counted on a pretty stiff wind that slowed me down on the return trip. Plus, the bike is new and the person riding is old. Wow, it is really different to ride bike when you are sixty six years old, plus a bit.

My family says I will get used to riding again, but, they counseled, maybe it would be a good idea to start with something less than an eight mile ride. I agree with them, but, gee, I did get that letter mailed.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tugboat in Canada

This image of a grounded tugboat and unused buoys caught my eye during our boat trip on the Huron Lady last week. This shot was taken looking south along the Canadian side of the St. Clair River, just as the Huron Lady entered the Canadian harbor, still south of Lake Huron and the Blue Water Bridges.

I used several filter effects in Photoshop to thicken the lines and dull the detailing that the camera caught. Those of you who know Port Huron will recognize the tall structure in the background as the lift bridge on the Black River.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Huron Lady Boat Cruise

Our family enjoyed the hour and a half long Huron Lady boat cruise out of downtown Port Huron last Saturday. We left from their dock on the mouth of the Black River, just where the Black meets the St. Clair River.

The trip took us south along the St. Clair River for several miles. We cruised into Canadian waters, turned north, and got to see some of the Canadian side of the river, including the large elevator complex, the refineries, and a commercial fishing dock.

From the Canadian side, we headed out into the rapids of the river, right under the Blue Water Bridges and slipped out into the lower part of Lake Huron. There was lots of small craft traffic and we saw a number of freighters during the trip.

The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse is stunning from the lake. With its gleaming white exterior and red roofed buildings around it, the lighthouse is quite an attraction on the U. S. shore.

We left the dock at 1 pm and returned by 2:30. The trip, one that we have talked about doing for some time, was a real treat. Adults and kids enjoyed the day on the water.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Garden Report I

The garden at the shoreline is coming along just fine. Marketmore cucumbers, planted from seed and surrounded by black plastic, are getting their true leaves. I thinned the number of plants back so there are about 5-7 plants per hill.

We're growing sweet potatoes as a trial this year. They are also surrounded by black plastic mulch that keeps the weeds down and heats up the soil. The sweet potato plants are really taking off this week.

There are at least five different types of greens in this year's garden. Here's the kale, nicely up, and already large enough to top a frittata with kale and feta cheese. Other greens that are in the garden are Little Cos Romaine, Jericho Romaine, Burpee spinach, red leaf lettuce, and herbs like dill and basil. 

A lot of this year's garden was planted from seeds and, so far, only one packet of seed, one that was dated 2009, refused to germinate.