Sunday, August 31, 2008

Red Rain

Brother Tim's historical novel Red Rain debuts next week.
Tim Wendel’s RED RAIN tells the story of the best-kept secret weapon of World War II – the Japanese fire balloons.

Assembled from paper by schoolchildren and women in the waning years of the war, these curious weapons were launched from fields near Tokyo and Kyoto. They often reached the U.S. mainland in just three days and two nights. Armed with incendiary bombs, the balloons’ original goal was to ignite forest fires throughout the western states, which they did at an alarming rate. Wendel’s research at the National Archives and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., reveals that the balloons touched down in the U.S. more than 300 times from 1944 to 1945.

The balloons proved to be a better weapon than the Imperial Army ever knew. One sailed as far east as Michigan. At one point, the Japanese high command planned to replace the incendiary bombs with nerve and gas warfare. But, thankfully, it never came to that largely because of the U.S. military’s ability to keep a secret.
You can join me in reading chapter one on Tim's website.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Lost Ladybug Project

I was researching a different topic when I stumbled across the Lost Ladybug Project. Here in Michigan we have been so overrun by the ladybug's stinky brown cousins, the asian beetle, that most of us haven't noticed that the classic ladybug is no longer around.
Besides being incredibly cool and charismatic ladybugs are also essential predators in both farms and forests that keep us from being overrun with pests (like aphids and mealybugs). In many areas the native ladybugs are being replaced by exotic ones. This has happened very quickly and we don’t know how this shift happened, what impact it will have (e.g. will the exotic species be able to control pests as well as our familiar native ones always have) and how we can prevent more native species from becoming so rare.
Cornell University is asking for help from the citizen scientist community to find out what's going on. The Lost Ladybug Project asks us to watch for ladybugs and, when we find them, photograph them and upload the photos and other information to their database. Anyone can do this; you can read here about the elementary school kids who made the first sighting in 14 years of a nine-spotted ladybug in the eastern US. There are clear instructions and a map of others' sitings on the website.

I think I've seen some nine-spot and two spot ladybugs in the last few years, but I wasn't thinking of them as a nearly extinct species or I would have paid more attention. The lovely ladybug is a reminder to me to slow down and pay attention to the little lovely details of my days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blueberry Picking and a Bear

A Trunk Full of Blueberries
I have been working 45-plus hours each week since that break I took for Chris's wedding, so when Richard proposed that we go blueberry picking I was happy to just ride along and look at the scenery. Our final destination was the Baatz Blueberry Farm in Honor, but we took a side trip to the National Park Headquarters to renew our annual park pass, and then to the blueberry patch in the park on Esch Road, where the berries are free, but you have to crawl through the underbrush and overgrowth to get at them.

At the Baatz Farm, there are nice mowed rows and you can pick berries by the handful instead of one by one. I like to pick berries with my husband because we have such good conversations when we work together. Anna has hated blueberry picking in years past and this year I relented at the last minute and let her stay home on the condition that she organize her wardrobe for the start of school. Still, I felt like a bad mom for not requiring her to come along and pick what will be our winter food. A good parent is supposed to make you come along on boring hot car rides to nowhere, right?
Posted by Picasa
We picked 11 quarts of berries in about 2 1/2 hours. It did seem slower without Anna to help. We talked a lot about politics, windmills, Europe, bugs and birds. The berries were $2.00 a heaping quart. We drove back into Honor for cold drinks and then headed home, back past the blueberry signs.

I had been thinking all day that I would see a bear. When we left the house, I felt sad that Anna wasn't with us, thinking "Now she won't see the bear," but knowing that I couldn't promise a bear, that seeing a bear was most unlikely. On Esch Road, there was a smell that immediately brought to mind the old question "Does a bear shit in the woods?" I was paying attention and looking before I crashed through the next set of trees expecting a bear or a mink or something, until Richard noted that the pig farm across M-22 was really stinky today. Later, at Baatz Farm, I heard young kids wandering down the rows from Mom to Dad, and I felt like saying "Stay close to the Big People! There's bears!" but I didn't say anything because I didn't have any real reason to think there were bears around. It might have been the fact that Anna slept outside in the hammock most nights last week, despite my worries. It may have been that old children's book, Blueberries for Sal. It might have been the book I'm reading now, David Western's In the Dust of Kilimanjaro, and its discussion of living closely with large mammals.

At any rate, we were heading north on Ely road, passing the blueberry signs again, when we came around a curve in the road and there was a bear. It was a younger one, bigger than a cub, but not heavy like a mature bear. It seemed to be interested in something that was on the road, but when it saw our car it turned and walked off into the brush. Richard was saying "What is THAT?" and I was saying. "It's the bear. I knew we were going to see a bear." He prompted me to grab the camera and get a picture, but it was gone by the time I unzipped the case. As it walked off the road, we saw the unmistakable bear silhouette.

At home, I baked two blueberry pies as Richard cooked bratwurst and corn and Shelagh made a salad. We all sat around and ate a great dinner and drank a bottle of wine. The hummingbirds chased all around the house for our entertainment, and we all enjoyed the evening off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday is Dan Scripps Day

Dan Scripps, our Democratic candidate for State Rep, is posting every Thursday from now until November on Michigan's economy and his solutions. You can read the first installment here.

When it comes to the economy, the fundamentals include fiscal discipline to encourage investor confidence; establishing a fair, competitive and predictable business environment; and making targeted investments in human capital - especially in education - to create the globally competitive workforce necessary to compete in today’s knowledge economy. These aren’t the sexy, headline-grabbing announcements that politicians love; rather, they represent the nuts-and-bolts, behind-the-scenes hard work necessary to spur long-term economic growth and create jobs now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Two Chicks

Momma is clucking gently as she shows them how to find food and water. If she gets spooked, she squacks and they scurry under her wing for protection.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 08, 2008

Hatching Hen

Posted by Picasa

Today I am quietly observing my broody hen, a Partridge Rock, who has been sitting on a clutch of eggs that is starting to peep. The first chick is trying to work its way out of the shell. I can hear it peeping from within its shell; hopefully is will have enough energy to emerge, hopefully the other eggs will hatch out soon, hopefully instincts will kick in and the hen will care for her brood.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

55 Votes

Preliminary election results, posted on the county website, show that I got 55 votes in yesterday's primary, out of a total of 878 votes cast for Leland Township Trustee. It sounds terrible, but I didn't really want any votes, since I was unopposed on the Democratic side of the ballot and thus could have gone on the the November General Election with zero votes. anyone votng on the Democratic side lost their opportunity to influence the important races on the Republican side.

I looked over the results, checking out the three millage requests (all passed) and the Leland Township Supervisor race (Larkin beat Lederle 430 to 230). But as I did my chores today, I kept wondering why did 55 people decide to cast a meaningless vote for me?

Maybe they didn't understand the system. Heck, I've worked with the public long enough that I know some people didn't understand the system. Maybe they don't like the system, and were voting Democratic to protest the county's "you have to be a Republican to win" tradition. I hope those people show up in November. Maybe I rode Dan Scripps' coattails, although I myself was getting tired of filling in bubbles and I passed on filling in bubbles for some unopposed people that would have gotten a courtesy vote on a more leisurely day in November.

Maybe it was a protest vote against the local Republican party of late, who actually staged a float in the 4th of July parade with a "Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less!" banner. We know that there is oil under the Great Lakes, but not too many of us are anxious to see drilling rigs out on Big Blue. Dave Camp, my congressman, seems to have gone over the edge, sending me screaming name calling emails about the "Pelosi premium" on gas prices and the dangers of "Hillarycare" health insurance. While most of the people I know are taking practical steps to save energy, the Republicans seem to envision us as hungry baby birds who must be fed more and more oil regardless of the consequences. If anyone gets in their way, they will find a woman to blame and call her names. I see that Victor Goldschmidt, who was serving the Leelanau Republican party by giving workshops on climate change denial, lost his bid for Leelanau Township Trustee.

All in all, I'm glad I chose to buck the "system" and run as a Democrat, even if the only result is a race in November when people are paying attention and have time to think.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

At the Northwest Michigan Fair

This is Clucky, a silky hen who was displayed at the fair by Krystal Bancroft of Thompsonville. This year's poultry barn featured several young ladies who were enthusiastic about talking birdcraft to visitors. Clucky has raised a few broods, and one of her offspring was on display as well.

We watched the lamb showmanship competition. These girls were waiting for their turn in the ring.

Showmanship is the way you work with your animal. The kids were in the ring for 20 minutes with no halter or leash, just controlling their animals with their hands and bodies. Competitors need to know how to handle their animal, presenting it for the judge and the audience so that everyone gets to see the animal in the best light. You could be a good handler but still have trouble in this competition if you haven't taken the time to work with your animal and make it comfortable and used to being handled.

Nani and her dad showed up while we were watching the showmanship competition. Richard decided that there should be a similar competition for parents and their kids, where you have to enter the ring with your kids without resorting to bribes or electronic devices. Nani's dad, a horse trainer by trade, thought that was a great idea and the two dads had a good laugh over the idea.

I had resigned myself to a corn dog lunch when I saw this table of local produce from Cherry Capital Foods. For the price of a corn dog, I got a pint of nearly perfect raspberries. Cherry Capital Foods is a new distributor of local produce and farm goods. Maybe that's where I'll sell my rhubarb next year. Taste the Local Difference was co sponsoring the booth. Fair food is what you make it!

Posted by Picasa
Fair is about food, where it comes from and who grows it. This goat poster made me laugh with its "look your dinner in the eye" theme.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Vote Tomorrow, But Not For Me.....

Tomorrow is the August Primary here in Michigan. I will be on the ballot, running for Leland Township Trustee as a Democrat, but I'm hoping that nobody votes for me tomorrow.

In this primary, you are not allowed to split your votes between the parties. If you were to vote for me, on the Democratic side of the ballot, you would not be able to vote for either of the sheriff candidates, for either of the Leland Township Supervisor candidates, or for any of the County Treasurer candidates, since the only people running in those races are Republicans. I don't need votes, since I'm unopposed in the primary, as is Dan Scripps, the Democratic candidate for State Representative. You should still get out and vote, as tomorrow's primary election will decide the sheriff, county treasurer and township supervisor races.

I spent a lot of time explaining the "Don't Vote For Me!" strategy to the out-of-state family members. It is odd to have important races like Sheriff decided at the primary level instead of in an all out battle between the two parties. In Leelanau County it had long been gospel that you had to run as a Republican in order to win in November. Dan Scripps came real close to disproving this two years ago, and this year there are Democrats across the county ready to challenge the winners of this primary.

But not for sheriff, township supervisor, or county treasurer. As busy as county residents are in August, those races will be decided tomorrow whether we are paying attention or not.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

From the Garden to the Table

Blog posting even once in August is better than some years. August is the month when harvest hits and summer seems short and life is better spent in the garden or the berry patch or the lake than in front of the computer. I'm not too fond of hot days in the kitchen, either, but there is canning to be done and jams to make. One of the best things about having a garden is having food that is so good out of hand that cooking seems beside the point.

I brought in the first of the cucumbers, and Anna was begging for one like it was candy. She grabbed a salt shaker and started biting into a nice one, crunching along until it was gone and then begging for another. Richard confessed to waking long before me and helping himself to one of the first red tomatoes. He apologized, but said "It was so good, I just couldn't resist....."

Still, I've posted recipes for Basil Pesto, Cucumber Salad, and Fresh Salsa over at my other blog, Home Baked Bread. We are trying to find time to go blueberry picking down in Benzie county. I'm looking forward to freezing some berries and making some nice pies.