Friday, October 31, 2014

C-C-Cold Halloween

C-c-cold! That's what Halloween 2014 turned out to be. Snow showers and freezing rain across Michigan kept the trick or treating to a very quick and minimal level. Windy and cold, the day felt more like Thanksgiving time than Halloween.

I'm cheating on this photo with the blog today. I took a photo of the full moon from earlier this month and melded it with a rainy highway scene.

Use your imagination to add in some really high winds (there are gale warnings out for Lake Huron) and possible snow on the ground, and you have some idea of what Michigan's cold 2014 Halloween is like.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Upbound Before Sunrise

The cup of coffee, Cafe Verona from Starbucks, tasted so good. Then I looked up and saw the horizon lighting up with the line of light that Ed and I call "crack of dawn."

Coffee aside, I reached for the Nikon and headed out to the terrace.

A cloud layer, lingering over the horizon, reflected the sun, still a few degrees below the horizon. There, along the distant line, a ship was headed north. Upbound for the Soo or headed to Chicago or Duluth, the ship formed a momentary silhouette against the sky.

"They are upbound before sunrise," I thought, and headed back to my coffee.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game 7

The popcorn is salty good and my Vernor's is fizzing. I'm watching the last night of baseball and the Royals (my pick this year) are behind by one run. 

As a Detroit Tiger fan, I definitely don't want to see the Giants win. That would be another bittersweet moment for the American League Central Division. 

But even more bittersweet is the end of baseball for this year. Those 162 games bring continuity to the spring and summer months. Like golf, there's always another inning, or another hole to play. 

So tonight's game is the end of the season. And it's only five more months until spring training. 

Ah, baseball. 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Missing K Mart in Bad Axe

Big bath towels. Bowls and dishes from the Sandra Lee kitchen line. An occasional bottle of nail polish. Office supplies and drug items. Clothes for kids and teens. A lawn table and chair set that is fourteen years old. Martha Stewart Christmas items. And toys.

These are some of the items that I purchased at the Bad Axe K-Mart store. Since that store closed last spring, I've had to adjust my buying and, in some cases, shift to another retailer or find another K Mart.

Now I know that I could start doing the Walmart thing, but I was so influenced by Dr. Ken Stone's presentations in Huron County before Walmart opened in Bad Axe that I'm still not a WM shopper. Ken Stone, an Iowa State University economist, conducted studies in the 1990's that showed the effect of a Walmart on surrounding towns. He theorized that people drove to the bigger town and left their dollars there, not in their own smaller community.

Looking back, it pretty clear that small towns were in a decline for a long time before Walmart came to town, but it was that boost of getting everything in one place that took even more retail businesses away from the little towns and handed it to the bigger towns that hosted a Walmart.

Now it is a different day and a different era, with the advancement of internet buying and the ubiquitous brown UPS trucks and Priority US Mail that allows us to order diapers and coffee and books, delivered to our doorsteps.

Back to K-Mart. The corporation announced this week that even more Michigan locations will be closing, including the one in Bay City.

The Bad Axe store was a dandy. The aisles were wide. The floors were sparkling clean. The staff was helpful. The inventory rotated regularly. It was darn good competition to WM.

And I miss it, that big Bad Axe K-Mart store.

Monday, October 27, 2014



That's what happens when a plant likes where it is. It grows and grows until the pot it lives in is crowded. All of these aloe plants were occupying the small pot on the right. They liked the east filtered light that they were getting.

Today I separated the plants, carefully tearing away the papery sheath around the base of each stem. There were no scabby looking plants to discard. Each aloe has healthy roots, stem, and leaves.

I use cactus soil mix for my houseplants. Cactus mix has lots of fiber and that seems to give the roots more air and room to grow. Most of my houseplants are in bright pots. I tend to favor green glazed pots, but this yellow one sets off the green aloe just fine.

I always like to have a few pots of aloe growing. When someone gets a kitchen burn, we tear off a big leaf and spread the sap on the burn. If it is a minor burn, after a day or two the red is gone and the skin is healing.

You can tell that the outside garden clean up is almost done when I start repotting indoor plants. The aloes are the first indoor plants to find new pots this fall. There will be a few more as the days get colder.

Friday, October 24, 2014

MSU Friday Night

Michigan State University is kicking off a big fundraising campaign this weekend. Called "Empower Extraordinary," this campaign will raise 1.5 billion dollars (yes, that is the figure and half of the campaign  has been raised already). 

So, tonight on the campus Beaumont Tower is bathed in green in honor of the university and its donors who support public higher education in the great state of Michigan. 

And, friends, aren't we who live in Michigan blessed to have many fine institutions of higher learning, with MSU being among the best?! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MSU Campus Gingkoes

The Michigan state campus is a veritable arboretum that glows with the warmth of color on the fall. My eye always goes toward the golden ginkgoes with their fan shaped leaves and upright central trunks. 

Near the stadium rows of ginkgoes line the parking lots and surround Munn Field where the band practices. The shape of the leaves and the way they are clustered  on the branches give a lace-like effect to the ginkgo tree. The golden yellow, sort of a maize yellow, stand out against the blue sky. 

Oh, wait! It's the week of the Michigan State versus Michigan football game, that huge rivalry between the green and white Spartans and the maize and blue Wolverines. How interesting that the maize and blue has appeared in the fall colors on campus this week. Somehow Mother Nature is tweeking Spartan sensibilities with her Ann Arbor-ish color combinations. 

That's okay. This is the years that Sparty will probably prevail in the big stadium surrounded here and there by the golden ginkgoes. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bill's Geraniums

My friend Bill brings geraniums in from the pots and beds around town every fall.  He tinkers with them and I give them a home with east light. 

This fall Bill put fertilizer on the plants and repotted them. He installed them on a big table (well, it is really a door on supports) that's protected with plastic and tin foil. The geraniums are in a room that is kept around fifty degrees. 

The plants like the first light of the day and the cool temperatures. Either Bill or I will give them some water occasionally and these plants, brought in from the cold, will have a safe haven for the winter.

My Dad used to pull geraniums out of the soil in the fall and store them in paper grocery bags in the basement. Lots of them survived that regimen. It must be some kind of garden challenge, this "bringing in the geraniums" mania, that Bill and I inherited. By February, with green leaves and bright blossoms, the mania will make sense. 

For now it is a part of the rite of passage that us northerners do before the snow flies. Along with draining the garden hoses and stacking the tomato cages, we bring in the geraniums. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kale Breakfast

Every day that I harvest a bit more kale and dig a few more carrots is one day closer to the end of the garden. Soon there will be big freeze and the ground will become hard like iron.

Meantime, there are breakfasts of two egg omelets filled with caramelized leeks and carrots. Flat leaf parsley, chopped fine, is stirred into the eggs. Once the omelet sets, shredded kale and shards of Gruyere cheese get tossed on top and the whole egg-pancake gets to sit and melt into morning goodness. With a tiny touch of sea salt and several grinds of black pepper, the plate is ready.

Then I add toast and Ed's fresh squeezed orange juice. It is truly a morning delight, this kale breakfast.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blazing Maples

Lots of the maples in Huron County were at their blazing best last weekend. Along M-25 on the east side of the county there were pockets of color straight out of a paintbox.

While some maples are showing 70% or more leaf drop, others are just warming up with yellow and orange leaves, speckled with the green of summer, as each individual tree changes on its own schedule.

With their magnificent dome shape and spreading branches, the maples commandeer lots of attention in autumn. From trees with isolated patches of color to full blown reds, these trees are spectacular.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just A Handful

The Fall Gold raspberry bushes in my garden are producing big yellow berries with a hint of blush pink this fall. There aren't a lot of berries. Yesterday I picked a handful.

I took those few berries and washed them. Then I stirred them into some cranberries. I always keep a mason jar of cranberries in the frig. I like them on yogurt and use the simple recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray package (using less sugar) to fill the jar about once a month.

Greek yogurt (I like the honey flavor) topped with that handful of raspberries and the staunch cranberries made a luscious addition to breakfast.

Still, it was just a handful of berries.

I like that metaphor of how just a few of something can change everything.

Just a handful of people, a few thoughts, a bit of money, a couple of votes, scattered prayers, a few berries. All in time, a handful adds up to something good and delicious.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

B&W Turbine

Rolls of scuddy clouds blanketed Huron County today. Shafts of sunlight pierced the gray and illuminated the blades of a turbine. 

In the shadows, one blade turned black. Stark and dramatic against the heavy skies, this giant pierces the atmosphere with tonal power. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Such A Sunrise

The tripod was handy. The glow in the eastern sky started well before sunrise. Ships on the horizon beckoned.

I must have snapped fifty images on Sunday morning. This is the one I like the best. It is such a sunrise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tech Tip: Green (Or Red) Dot

Those doggone polarized plugs, you know, the ones that you almost always get the plug in the wrong position and so you have to rotate it in your hand, quite uncomfortably? Well, here's a tech tip that involves green or red nail polish. Put a dot on the upper face of the plug and you can always aim that plug at the socket the right way.

Micro USB plugs have the same characteristic, only they are so very small to see clearly. Now I mark my devices (Kindle here) with a dot of nail polish and I'm ready to go.

My little tech tip doesn't even save me a minute of time each day. What it does save me is the frustration of playing 50-50 with electrical outlets and teeny, tiny plugins.

I use red or green for these dots, but, come to think of it, nail enamel comes in some pretty cool colors. I may have to haunt the cosmetic aisles this October and find some really weird shades for my tech dots.

Monday, October 13, 2014

1000 Footer Before Sunrise

The James R. Barker, one of the thousand foot lakers that plies the Great Lakes, was the first ship that we saw passing Cedar Bluff on Sunday morning this past weekend. The lights of the ship, visible in the photo above, formed a sparkling line on the horizon before sunrise.

We have been seeing salties (ocean going vessels) as well as plenty of Great Lakes ships this fall. Since the lake levels are up, it seems that the shipping traffic has picked up considerably this season.

By midafternoon Sunday, I counted five ships either north or south bound on Lake Huron. We can keep track of the shipping traffic by consulting the Boatnerd website, a constantly updated source of shipping information on the Great Lakes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ghost Pumpkin

On Wednesday morning this week, the morning that we could see the eclipse of the full moon here in Michigan, I folded up my tripod as the sun came up. In the western light, still somewhat in the glow of the setting, eclipsed moon, I took a photo of a big white pumpkin.

It looks like a ghost pumpkin, or maybe like Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin. I could have tried all kinds of photo filters on this image, but I rather like the edgy light of the eclipse on the Ghost Pumpkin.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Welcome Citizen

One of the joys of being a part of a quilting group is the opportunity to make a quilt block for a special occasion. Last week, one of the members of our group became a United States Citizen. The group quickly mobilized and came up with a gift block strategy.

"Make a block, any block, any size, but be sure to used red, white, and blue. Oh, and it is okay to throw in a gold for a star, if you need to," was the word that went around the group.

I sewed an American flag block with a blue and white star to represent the field of stars. Others made star blocks, a log cabin block, and blocks with patriotic prints. Since our friend, Avril, now has dual citizenship, Irish and American, there was one block with both the Irish flag and the United States flag.

Quilter Avril was delighted with the collection of blocks, blocks that say, in a very tangible way, "Welcome, Citizen!"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eclipse Magic

A cornfield silhouetted against the sky. The full moon in eclipse. Two great images from that last two days. I took the photo of the cornfield on Tuesday evening as the full moon rose in the eastern sky.

But I really liked this image of the moon in full eclipse that I took this morning. So. . .I merged the two photos, one of the cornfield and one of the moon, into the first image that you see in this post.

And this image, the eclipsed moon with pine tree silhouettes, was taken around 7 am this morning. The moon was setting in the west and the sky was turning lighter as the sun came close to the horizon. The blue of the sky with the red orange moon and the dark trees combined to create this once-in-several-years image.

Lastly, here's the cornfield with the overexposed full moon. I will confess to doing some digital fiddling to replace this uninteresting white disk with the eclipsed moon. Let's just call it eclipse magic.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin Wagon 2014

Every year I tell myself that I'm going to raise and sell pumpkins. Then I kind of lose track of that thought and, by the time seeds are purchased and sown in spring, pumpkins become a last effort.

Here's the Cheap Charlie & Bros. Pumpkin Wagon on Carpenter Road out on the east bypass around Bad Axe. These are humongous pumpkins this year! My eye was attracted to the big white ones so I stopped today to get one before they are all gone.

I really admire the pumpkin wagon people. They have to raise the pumpkins, harvest and clean them, price them, and display them along the road sides. Payment is usually on the honor system ( this wagon has a neat metal box with a slot for the money) but I bet some of these pumpkins slip off into the same black hole that my campaign signs have disappeared into.

Anyway, the pumpkin people have to be johnny-on-the-spot since they only have about four weeks to sell their wares. Hats off to these gardening greats who produce shapely orange and white and green pumpkins and squashes and gourds that make our fall so colorful!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Mulch

The three ginkgo trees and the Stan Wheeler lilac all received a bag of pine bark mulch this weekend. The cold weather is setting in and there will be fewer and fewer days in the gardens at Cedar Bluff.

Pine bark mulch, a suggestion from gardening friend Gloria, breaks down into a lovely dark soil that adds nutrient. It is a little more expensive, but I am really seeing better perennial beds as a result.

The ginkgoes are barely tinged with yellow. Cold nights to come will change that fast. What surprised me when I looked at this image on a computer screen was the intense green of this fall. Here in Michigan, there has been a lot of fall rain. The trees and lawns and shrubs still have some of that wonderful northern summer green.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gulls Galore

At sunrise the gulls soar and swoop along the bluff. From north to south, they sweep across White Rock Shoal in huge flocks. Maybe there is a gull convention somewhere that they are getting ready to attend. Maybe it is a migration thing.

Or maybe the winds were favorable and those few moments before sunrise allowed them to indulge in the playfulness of their species. Whatever the case, there were gulls galore along our part of Lake Huron this morning.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Foggy Maple

Autumn colors are at their vibrant best when framed against an azure blue sky. But this morning the sky was anything but blue. Foghorns sounded out on Lake Huron. Drizzle sputtered against the window panes. Distant fog shrouded the landscape.

Yet the red of this maple fairly pops out of this image. By evening, about one third of the leaves on this tree had fallen. The foggy maple will look very different tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Leek Digging

The leeks came out of the garden this morning. Big as baseball bats, these giant onion type plants have been growing in a semi raised bed that I made from field stones. 

In June I set the leek plants into this bed and then kept adding more soil around them, and sometimes added another stone or two, so that the plants would be supported by each other. 

Most of the plants are at least an inch in diameter. Some are almost two inches. Baked into a spectacular quiche by fellow food lover Gloria for tonight's knitting group, the leeks were almost sweet and definitely savory. One leek was sliced fine and added to a romaine/kale salad with apple, raspberry, pear, and avocado. Tossed with maple mustard dressing, that was a good salad. 

I never in a million years thought that I could raise plants like these. Now I am looking forward to a potato leek soup, maybe with cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon. Oh what goodness is born in a garden!