Dragonflies of Autumn

I’ve seen many dragonflies lately. They keep appearing around the farm, perched on the screen to the backyard, resting on leaves in the garden… Recently, I learned that dragonflies symbolize change, more specifically, growth and maturity. Perhaps this is a nudge back to music.

 
Last month, I had the opportunity to volunteer locally, singing for a few groups. I enjoyed performing Irish music, plus a few American favorites for a sing along, and later sharing lunch and visiting with the audience. Preparing for these performances, I had the opportunity to organize my music collection and found a few new Irish tunes to add to the repertoire.

 
Instead of recording on Soundcloud, I decided to create a video, including a bit of creative filming courtesy of my daughter (pardon the construction project and MKs backyard horse jumping course made from bricks, logs, and buckets). Enjoy!

 

Happy Fall!!!

Thanks for reading!

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The Long Weekend Road Trip: The Mighty Mac

“Well, in the Straits of Mackinac,

There’s about as much water as you ever saw.

Folks that lived there tried and tried,

But they couldn’t get across to the other side.”


“Couldn’t get across without a boat or a plane.

Couldn’t take a bus or a trolley or a train.

Couldn’t swim across, it was cold as a fridge!

So they thought they better build themselves a bridge.”


“Oh, the Mackinac Bridge,

She’s a mighty fine bridge.

Five hundred feet high,

And five miles long…” 
(lyrics by K. Donahue)

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I’m sitting on a beach in St. Ignace, MI, enjoying the beautiful Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw). We decided to enjoy a quiet weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Even though we are amid one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year, the U.P. rarely feels crowded.

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We attended Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola, founded in the late 1600’s, read about the life’s work of Father Marquette, and visited his grave site. Later, we climbed Castle Rock (less than 200 stairs, one of the best views in the U.P.). Also, we enjoyed a northern treat, fresh whitefish! Diners had many choices: fish tacos, dip, smoked, fried, broiled…

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However, the main purpose of this adventure was to join the annual Labor Day walk across The Mackinac Bridge, The Mighty Mac. The walk began at 7:00 am on the St. Ignace side. The bridge closed to public vehicles from 6:30-noon, but shuttle service was available, beginning at 4:30 am. The yearly walk attracted around 80,000 participants, including visitors from around the globe!

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At five miles long, this free event offered the perfect nudge to stay in shape and enjoy a rare view of the Straits. Catering to most activity levels, runners won a lucky spot through a lottery, power walkers weaved through the crowds, retirees enjoyed a leisure stroll, and beginners celebrated a major milestone in their fitness journey. Think about adding this adventure to your bucket list!

Fun Facts about the Mackinac Bridge (mackinacbridge.org):

  • Construction began in 1954
  • Opened in 1957
  • 5 miles long
  • 552 ft high
  • Maximum water depth: 295 ft
  • Currently, the third largest suspension bridge in the world

Thanks for reading!

The Summer of 1990: Movies, Memories, and Idle Hour

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Recently, I’ve been thinking about those special times, moments that just happen, no planning involved. One special memory was the summer of 1990 with buddies since Kindergarden, Rick and Matt (aka Booger, a well deserved nickname due to Matt’s ability to belch the alphabet). During those summer days, we all worked mundane local jobs, but most Saturday nights, we usually ended up at Booger’s house.

Booger lived three doors down, and Rick lived around 1/2 mile in the other direction. Often the evening began with boredom at home and a walk down the block to see what Matt was doing. Rick would later show up in his late 80s Gran Turismo. Matt’s house was a stone’s throw from three fraternities. However, most of the college students were home for summer; Hillsdale Street was quiet. We raided the fridge and watched movies, walked to Mauck Elementary School a block away, or drove to Baw Beese Lake to swim or just watch the water.

Looking back on that summer, I can’t remember a particular movie, meal, or noteworthy event. Rather, those Saturday nights blended into a collective, a time remembered with great fondness. What made this time so special? We didn’t do anything particularly memorable. I recently came across the term, “idle hour,” time spent doing nothing in particular. We spoke of our dreams for the future, heading into our last year of high school. Mostly, we laughed a lot that summer, hold your stomach, fall off the couch laughter. Perhaps this was our “idle hour.”

When was the last time you enjoyed “idle hour?”

Thanks for reading!

Seeing America: The Long Weekend Road Trip

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The summer remains a busy time around here with gardening, the farmers’ market, summer classes at the college, and the upcoming county fair. However, Chad and I recently found time to enjoy a long weekend in Tennessee.

The primary reason for the trip was to visit an old friend, Donna. Growing up, the demands of my parents’ work kept them from home for months each year. Donna worked for my parents for over 25 years. She was there to greet me most mornings, often provided rides to Fowler’s farm where I boarded Goldy, was there for many overnights when Mom and Dad were fundraising for the college, and was always a phone call away for any of us kids.

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Donna commanded respect. She was one of the few people who would tell Dad if she disapproved of his actions regarding the kids, and he would even seek her advice during our difficult teen years. Donna also never hesitated to put us kids or our friends in our place. When she used my first and middle name, I was in trouble!

We had time for several visits with her and dined at her son’s restaurant in Knoxville. We even arrived in time to watch the prep work for the smoker. Chad particularly enjoyed trading poultry smoking tips with Donna’s son, Randy. On a later visit, there was time for an impromptu concert for Donna and the other residents at the senior living center (Strumsticks are perfect for road trips!).

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We stayed in a lovely one bedroom cabin, just a stone’s throw from Marble Springs, the home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier. We found time to hike the grounds and view the log cabins on the property. Our cabin also had a covered front porch with rocking chairs, perfect for sipping morning coffee, reading, and even playing music.

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On our last day, we headed south to the Great Smoky Mountains and hiked Middle Prong trail and drove Rich Mountain seasonal road near Cade’s Cove. The long weekend went so quickly! I look forward to returning someday for more hiking, fishing, swimming, good eats, and perhaps even some white water rafting.

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(The Sinks-A swimming hole near Townsend)

Thanks for reading!

(Traveling to Knoxville? Check out Mario’s Pizza and Grill-10943 Kingston Pike)

Nature for Every Season

I recently finished a fascinating book about Mozart, his pet starling (an influential muse for the musical genius), and the connection to nature. I was struck by what the author termed “wild summons.” Nature takes so many forms: The pull of the mountains, a wooded trail by the lake, the challenge of the rapids…perhaps even less obvious things, a cherished pet, personal journal, songs, or that place offering calm. A special place that often “summons” me is Frederick Meijer Gardens.

Frederick Meijer Gardens, located in Grand Rapids, MI, remains a crown jewel in West Michigan. Whether you want to explore outside among the peaceful Japanese Gardens, or intricate bonsai display, or take a walk back in time, viewing the 1930s farm, these grounds offer something for everyone.

In fact, FMG’s indoor garden area makes for a fun outing, too. March’s butterfly exhibit remains a traditional break from the cold weather (the tropical conservatory hovers in the 80s.) Also, the Christmas Around the World exhibit offers a festive way to get in the holiday spirit.

However, of all the activities found at this beautiful place, the Summer Concert Series remains a favorite venue! We usually pack a picnic, a few chairs, and sip a glass of wine or beer from the bar. The concerts are open seating on a grassy hillside. This year, we enjoyed Joan Baez with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls.

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Ever consider a membership? Members have the opportunity to order pre-sale discounted tickets for the Summer Concert Series. Check it out! meijergardens.org

Thanks for reading!

Cairn Hill Farms Summer 2017

  

Hello Friends!

The 2017 Farm Market Season has finally arrived!! Hope you have time to visit this summer:

Friday’s Middleville (8-1)
Saturday’s Hastings (9-1)

This year, Cairn Hill Farms is offering the following products:

Farm fresh eggs from our happy hens who wander the farm and surrounding woods

Beeswax Lip Balm:

Paddy’s Peppermint
Just the Bees (unscented)
Tangerine Tea
Wild Irish Roses (tinted with hibiscus powder, unscented)
Lavender Nettle
Cherry Hibiscus (natural cherry flavor tinted with hibiscus powder)

Sprays (Use as facial toner, in the kitchen, or even on linens):
Now in two sizes (8ml sample size and 4 oz)!

Lavender
Citrus
Morning Mist (a blend of jasmine, orange, and lavender)
Sinus Blend (peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary-8ml only)

Nettle iced tea by the glass and dried nettles gathered on our farm (many products are infused with nettle as well)

Body Butters (Perfect when heavy moisturizing is needed):
Peppermint (infused with nettle and lemongrass)
Lavender

A final bit of fun…
Sparkle plenty-I made a small batch of sparkle lip balm and shimmering lotion (at this time I have VERY LIMITED quantities, so stop by the market or send a message if interested).

Can’t make it to the market? Many of these items are also available on my website.

Happy summer!! Thanks for reading!

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Civil War Sweethearts and a Character Witness for a Cannibal

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Once or twice a year, I like to share an earlier, memorable post.  This one is from my father’s unpublished memoirs regarding a bizarre family connection to America’s first convicted cannibal:

…My dad’s family roots were Irish on his father’s side and Scots-Irish and Welsh on his mother’s side. The Roche’s were Baltimore Catholics from County Cork, following the 19th Century lure to the “land of opportunity.” The next generation, my Great Grandfather Roche came to Denver as a young man, following the lure of the West. My Great Grandmother Roche was quite a character. She had been a former girlfriend of General Lew Wallace, Civil War leader, governor of the New Mexico Territory and author of Ben Hur. From all family reports, Great Grandfather Roche remained jealous of Lew Wallace for his entire married life. The colorful General Wallace was a frequent cause of controversy at the Roche dinner table.

Your colorful Great Grandmother Roche had another claim to fame as well. In the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado during the rush of silver and gold strikes in the 1870s, a party of five miners and their guide, Alferd Packer, were trapped in a crushing blizzard and were not seen again that winter. The next spring, Packer walked out of the mountains, alone.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Packer had survived the winter in a cave, where he had killed and eaten the five prospectors. At the trial, the judge, in his summary to the jury, addressed Packer, “There were only seven Democrats in Huerfano County, and damn you, Alferd Packer, you ate five of them!” That summation to the jury became the basis for an appeal and second trial some years later. Packer was already a confessed murderer and cannibal, so the second trial revolved around questions of Packer’s character.

In the famous second trial, a case watched closely across the country and especially closely in Colorado where the trial occurred, his attorney’s defense was based on finding anyone who had known Packer during his life and had a positive comment to make. Great Grandmother Roche had grown up in the same Pennsylvania town as Packer and had known him as a boy. There was nearly a divorce in the family when Great Grandfather Roche discovered that his wife was to testify as a character witness for America’s only convicted cannibal. My Grandfather Roche would seldom mention these stories and when he did, it was always said with a pronounced sigh.

Today, you can see a plaque at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s cafeteria, fondly named by the student body in the 60s, “The Alferd Packer Memorial Grill.”

Thanks for reading!