Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Retrospect

There was a trip to Wisconsin for a family funeral, the only time across the Big Mac Bridge this summer. The Bridge, stately white and distinctively connective, holds such a sense of what it means to live in Michigan, the Great Lakes State.

Hannah came with us to her first MSU football game and discovered that she likes cheer cards and touchdowns. The cheer card says "Go Green," and the touchdowns, well, Michigan State is having a great year for touchdowns so far.

We got to hear the Drumline and pose for pictures with Sparty, thanks to Liesl's Galaxy cameraphone.

We cheered for the Spartan Marching Band.

I learned, the hard way, that even Apple earplugs are not machine washable.

And there was a whole lot of rain. And that was September, in retrospect.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Last Hummingbird

So small, these little birds are. Yet they undertake a grand migration south. 

I'm still sketching and painting from the images of this tiny summer resident who was probably the last bird at the feeder this year. One marvels at their strength to journey up and down a continent twice a year. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Figuring Stuff Out

Tension adjustment on sewing machines can be a real challenge. On a big long arm machine, one that is designed to sew layers together and make a quilt, the tension adjustment is critical. A few weeks ago, I volunteered to do some long arm quilting for my sister's company, Thangles. The fall is always a push-come-shove time for a quilting company because the biggest market of the year, the International Quilt Market in Houston, comes at the end of October.

So this past week found me in my studio with my long arm and I was figuring stuff out. I had already finished a quilt for my grandson in August, so the machine and I had been buddies. Machines can take on a life of their own. My long arm machine, a Gammill, gets these streaks where the best thing you can do is to walk away and start again the next day.

Usually my machine acts up around tension issues. But not this week. I rigged a different tension threading pattern and it worked splendidly. I could turn up the music on my CD player and quilt away.

Sister Mary's quilt, the first of two that I am quilting for her, was in the mail by Wednesday and now I have the weekend to think about the patterns that I will quilt into the second quilt top. She wants feathers, sort of smaller ones, and I will have to work out the loops and curves in one of my art journals.

I don't envy her the process of getting ready for Market. I used to do that, too, and I really don't miss those long days of preparation and travel. What I am getting to do is the fun part -- the quilting -- and, this week, it was good to pull out all of my old skills and figure stuff out again.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Navajo Hubbard Squash Harvest

The first winter squash are coming out of the garden this week. Ed picked this batch of Navajo Hubbard squashes yesterday. Cleaned up and under cover in the machine shed where they can cure, this is a fine looking bunch of squash.

The biggest one weighs over 14 pounds, so we are probably looking at close to a hundred pounds of squash here. I had estimated that the squash plants would produce 150 pounds this year. Now it looks like it will be closer to 200 pounds.

We bought the seeds for the Navajo Gray Hubbards in Tucson from Native Seeds/Search where we are members. Native Seeds has a high elevation farm near Patagonia, Arizona, so some of their seeds are grown in a cooler climate. I figured that these squash might do okay in Michigan, given our very hot July and August weather.

Now I can't wait to chop one of these guys open (we will need to use an axe) and see what they taste like. I'm thinking meat loaf with a spicy piquant sauce (brown sugar, mustard, catsup), roasted squash tossed in olive oil and garlic, and some parsley buttered potatoes. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yesterday Leeks, Today Carrots

Such goodness this summer's garden brought. Lettuces -- romaine and leaf. Herbs -- dill, fennel, basil, parsley. The fall gold raspberries are starting to bear sweet morsels, made all the more tasty by their scarcity. 

The carrot row yields fat roots of orange crisp tubers. Just a little pull and the carrots release from the soil. I wash them, slice them into chips, toss them in olive oil, and roast them on tin foil. Tossed with sea salt, with a browned crunch, their taste, less than an hour from the garden, wakens my eating soul and keeps me wanting to cook more from this glorious garden. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Leek Forest

Shopping for veggies today, I came across the leeks. They were skinny and they were marked $2.99. That reminded me that it is probably time to harvest my leeks.

If I put my camera lens right down by the leek patch, the thick sturdy stalks look like some kind of jungle forest. At one time there were 18 leek plants. If they are all still there, that would be $53.82 worth of gentle, onion-y goodness.

Me thinks it is time to look up a potato and leek soup recipe!

Monday, September 22, 2014

CCC (Cool Custom Card)

I grabbed this image of a hummingbird which I posted to the blog last week and, with some fiddling around, uploaded it to the credit card site that I use.

So here is an approximation of what the credit card would look like with my customized photo, fully approved by the folks at Cap One and Visa.

It could be my CCC -- cool custom card.

And, no, I did not give those folks the right to distribute this image on their website. I maintain the copyright. Interestingly enough, the rules (lots of fine print) for what you cannot upload to use on a custom credit card run the gamut. No flag images. (They have lots to choose from.) No art. (That's someone's lawful work.) And more stuff like that. Once I got through the list, I realized that this image might work.

The image came through with links to share it to Facebook and Twitter and the like. Guess I'm advertising for two companies in this post. Oh well. Onward and upward.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Restful Harbor

Summer got away from me this year. I had fully intended to fill a sketchbook with drawings. I schlepped around my watercolor palettes and blocks of paper, hoping to get in a bit of outside painting. Those good intentions (buenos propositos, our Spanish speaking friends call it) never happened.

So instead I offer this somewhat artsy Photoshop manipulated image of the Edison plant and a sailboat at anchor, taken in Harbor Beach one evening.

Here's what I started with.

And lest you think, dear reader, that Photoshop is a scourge brought about through our digital world and the screens that we use, do remember that even Ansel Adams took his images to a darkroom and played artist. The image starts in the eye of the photographer, is filtered through a camera, and becomes even more than what was apparent in once glance.

Art is like that. This one, to me, is restful.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Missing Batting

The seat cushion on this red bench used to have batting in it. But some critter decided that the batting belonged elsewhere and now all that is left is shredded fabric remains of a once stylish red striped cushion.

Part of the mystery of who or what stole the batting might be solved if we had some idea how these holes got into the sides of this Treegator. You will recall that I use Treegators, stiff watering sacks that zip around a tree and release water in a drip irrigation method, to water new trees.

We had removed two of the Treegators after the recent rains (my garden rain gauge shows over 4 inches in the last two weeks) and still needed to pull this one in from the woodland area. Well, that effort came too late. Some critter (the batting thief?) chewed holes in the sides of the Treegator and has rendered it almost unusable.

It's a critter mystery. Has the batting become a lining for a nest of racoons? Would a woodchuck be so crazy as to think that there might be something good to eat inside a Treegator?

Who knows!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Hummingbirds

"Just keep the nectar in their feeders and they will keep coming until frost," said Cheryl up at Bay View Inn in Epoufette. Cheryl and her husband have hummingbird feeders outside their Upper Peninsula restaurant that overlooks Lake Michigan and the Straits of Mackinac. Bay View Inn is a favorite breakfast stop for us when we cross the UP on our drives to Wisconsin. Chatting with her last week, I asked about why the little birds were still swarming around the feeders.

Here in Huron County, my little birds are usually gone by Labor Day. But this summer, I have been changing the nectar every other day. I make each batch up fresh, a little at a time, in the microwave. I have two feeders that I alternate, and I scrub out the feeders with hot, soapy water every time that I change the syrup.

Apparently that strategy has worked this summer. This little bird appear every morning like clockwork, usually before eight, and perches on the hook that holds the feeder. Several nights ago, I counted three hummingbirds flitting and fluttering near the mudroom door.

I know that these little creatures will head south soon, but it is a joy to watch them this September.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Last Rose of Summer 2014

Fall blossoms on the Mary rose at Cedar Bluff -- Mid September 2014

Things were tough for my roses this year.

First there was an exceedingly cold, hard winter. Then spring was cold. I pruned the roses extensively and they responded to the warmth of June with lots of growth.

With warmer weather the spider mites hit. I sprayed several times, but just could not get ahead of those little buggers. Still, the Dortmund roses along the split rail fence, the roses named for my sisters, blossomed marvelously.

In reading about Dortmund roses, I came across the notion that these roses will bloom again in the fall if the spent blooms are pruned away. So I pruned and watched for the deep red leaves that indicate new growth on most roses.

Sure enough, several of the Dortmunds are in bloom this fall. Not big blossoms and not a lot of flowers, just little buds and blooms that for now are probably going to be the last roses of this summer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monarch Migration

We spotted this large monarch on a weekend walk. It was one of two that we saw on Sunday. These fragile creatures are migrating south to Mexico, an amazing feat that they accomplish year after year.

Find out more about the monarch migration HERE. We have seen many more monarchs this summer than last summer. We have intentionally left milkweed growing on our lakeside property, just to nurture the Monarch.

Writer Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, Flight Behavior, is about the Monarch migration and the impact of environmental change on an Appalachian family.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Around The Thumb -- Four

From Pte. Aux Barques Lighthouse, we drove south through Port Hope with the idea of finding the metal chicken sculpture that I have been talking about all summer. It is painted, fairly large, and a distinctive marker for someone's driveway. Just a cool thing.

South of the chicken's location is a tree shaded cemetery, one of many cemeteries in Huron County. Ed and I have always wanted to stop to see the gravestones. So that is what we did. It's a lovely area enclosed by a stone wall with an open gate. The tall trees shade graves from several generations of the Ludington family. The main stone marks the burial site of Captain Lewis Ludington who was a lumberman, a Great Lakes captain, and then went on to found the Ludington News Agency, a wholesale magazine distribution agency in Michigan.

With internet searching so easy these days, it is possible to put a names from grave stones into a website like findagrave.com and come up with clues toward the life stories of people whose graves are marked. That's how I found out that the Ludington family kept coming to Huron County as summer visitors and counted their summer properties north of Harbor Beach as a special place.

Moving on toward Harbor Beach, we pulled into the marina near the Coast Guard station. I often stop here to take photos of the harbor and boats, and of the huge Detroit Edison electric plant. This time, the waters of the harbor had that incredible blue glow that gives Lake Huron its "bluewater" name.

By the time we got to Huron Line Road along the eastern shore of Huron County, we had driven 88 miles. Ed says that he always thought that our county has 92 miles of shoreline. We wandered away from M-25 several times and we did not drive all the way out to the tip of Sand Point. Maybe another time we will stay on M-25 and get an accurate count of the miles of state highway that encircle our great County of Huron in the Great State of Michigan.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Around The Thumb -- Three

Ice cream! You can't do a summer road trip without ice cream and we are big fans of Rybak's in Grindstone City. Heading east on M-25 about five miles out of Port Austin, turn north onto Rouse Road and look for the ice cream place. Rybak's is located on the west side of the road in a restored store front with a big front porch for sitting and eating cones.

I like to stop at Rybak's after summer golf at Bird Creek Golf club south of Port Austin. Here's my theory. If I have met all of my all my golfing goals (putting under 20 putts per nine holes, no tens, handicap score 40 or under), I figure that I can reward myself with a cone. AND I like to have a cone to console myself when I don't meet my goals. The ice cream people win, no matter what.

The Pte. Aux Barques Lighthouse, north of Port Hope and south of Grindstone, draws a lot of visitors during the summer. On the day of our drive we sashayed around the grounds late in the afternoon, took a few photos, and then kept on going. It's a pleasant spot that is loaded with history that is easily digested.

Grandson Finn and I explored the museum and the lighthouse grounds in mid-July. Finn liked the fresnel light and we both looked at the exhibits with curiosity and questions. It's a little museum with a big impact -- don't miss it when you drive the east shore of Huron County.

Around The Thumb -- Four: Harbor Beach and Huron Line Road on the east side

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Worm Invasion

My tomato growing skills have been severely challenged by an invasion of big green caterpillars known as tomato or tobacco worms. Our "Worms Squished To Date Count" is up to 36. The record for most worms squished in one day is 21. 

One website identifies the red horned worm as a tobacco worm. The horn end is actually the back end of the worm and the black droppings, the worm's poop, is called "frass."

These guys defoliated the tops of our tomato plants in a few days. They are nasty critters that eventually become a large moth. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Around The Thumb -- Two

From Bay Port we headed up the shoreline to Caseville where it was the week after Caseville's big Cheeseburger festival. The streets were busy, but not as crowded as during festival time in early August. The steeple at Caseville United Methodist church, a distinctive landmark, stands tall and still guides small craft into the harbor. We didn't drive out to the beach along Saginaw Bay. It is a gem, with sandy shore and park facilities and a Dairy Queen close by.

Lots of parks, from two state parks to county parks with camping to roadside parks, are located along M-25 on the Saginaw Bay side. We pulled off at Jenks Park, a day use roadside park with wooded roads and a sandy beach. A stroll to the beach brought us within sight of Lake Huron's soothing waters.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Port Austin at the top of the Thumb. Their famous Saturday Farmer's Market draws huge crowds on Saturday mornings. Restaurants and yet another harbor draw tourists and weekend visitors. Because Huron County is so far off the beaten path (we are a long way from an interstate!) we always like to say that people are not "just passing through," but have made a conscious decision to visit the county.

A layer of low clouds hung over the lake. You can see the scuddy clouds in this photo of the boardwalk at Bird Creek County Park, another great place to spend some time along Lake Huron. Temperatures along the shoreline are usually five to ten degrees lower than inland as the huge body of water has a cooling effect during the summer.

From Port Austin, M-25 crosses the top of the Thumb and actually runs east and west for a few miles. Then the road turns south and east along Lake Huron.

Next post: Grindstone and Pte. Aux Barques Lighthouse

Monday, September 8, 2014

Around the Thumb -- One

Sometimes you just have to do a little road trip. That's what Ed and I decided late in the morning one Saturday in August. It was too late to drive to Ontario to see the windfarms near Goderich, another trip that we like, so we decided to drive all of the Huron County shoreline.

We started out from our lake house in the early afternoon with the idea of having a late lunch at Lefty's Drive In in Bay Port. So we drove Atwater and Sebewaing Roads across the county to M-25 in Sebewaing where we turned south. Tummies growling, we headed toward Unionville and did a U turn. We had to make the full loop around the county, so we touched base at Huron Line Road, just north of Unionville which is in Tuscola County.

Sugar beet piling rig at the Michigan Sugar plant in Sebewaing
That turn put us back on the roads heading north through Sebewaing. We drove the back road (Liken Road) into Sebewaing and out of Sebewaing (Ridge to Weale) and then continued on up M-25 through Bay Port.

Our destination and first stop was Lefty's where I ordered a burger and onion rings, the best onion rings of the summer. Lefty's Drive In is on the curve heading north out of Bay Port on M-25. The buildings have a retro aqua paint job (same colors they have always had) so you can't miss this stop.

Tomorrow: Through Caseville, after the Cheesey Time

Friday, September 5, 2014

Yellow Light

For a few weeks in September, maybe two, maybe three, the dry bean fields will be ripening. The bean plants begin to yellow in stages. It doesn't happen by rows, or by some sort of north-south rules. Each plant seems to know when it is time to release the chlorophyll from its leaves and begin the ripening process.

As a result, the fields turn into smooth carpets of gold yellow and viridian green. Tones of luscious color twine across the landscape.

In the evening, these marbled fields dance with golden light as the low sunlight picks up the yellow and reflects it on the wind turbines and into the clouds. For only a few weeks, and only in the early morning and late evening, the earth is lit with yellow light.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Happenstance Grasshopper

By happenstance and in my effort to keep fresh daylilies on the dining room table, I brought a grasshopper into the kitchen today. Clinging to an unopened bud, this green guy was ready to explore.

Check out the ends of the legs, with a pincer type structure that must allow him to latch onto surfaces. He used his long antennae to check out a surface before he moved. One antenna, then another, would sweep over an area and check it out. Then he would move. He hopped to the top of the kitchen cupboards, so I went to the garage and got out a pond net that our grandchildren use to catch minnows and assorted critters.

He was easy to catch in the pond net, so I moved him to a clump of parsley, just outside the kitchen window. In a jump, he was gone.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Unlikely Bouquet

Somewhere, probably in a gardening magazine, I got the idea of using dill and fennel blossoms in bouquets. This is the first year that I have grown fennel. With a slightly greener yellow in the bloom, fennel seems stubbier and sturdier than dill. 

Both are classified as simple umbels, a botanical designation for a flower head that forms a dome or or disc shape, and that branches only once before producing flowers. 

This bouquet uses fennel and large marigolds together. The soft yellow lacy fennel contrasts with the dark green foliage and orange blossom of the marigold. It's an unlikely combination for a late summer bouquet. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Evening Glow

Shortly after sunset, a mellow glow stained the eastern sky along the Lake Huron shoreline. The Harbor Beach Lighthouse stood white against the blue rim of the horizon.

A calm night and cool air brings thoughts of autumn as the first quarter moon rises high in the evening sky. I took this photo on my way down the shoreline after playing my best round of golf for the summer at Bird Creek in Port Austin. Great sky. Great score. Nice night.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Almost Last Daylily

Turning the calendar page to September usually spells the end of the daylily blossoms. Several clumps didn't get the "it's the end of the season" memo yet. With their big luscious colors and festive petals, they just keep putting out flower after flower. 

Even three inches of rain within the last four days has not deterred the final showy blossoms of the final daylilies of 2014.