Friday, October 28, 2011

Summer Vacation in the Upper Pennisula...A Whole New World

In June, the boys and I joined a group of about 12 families for a fabulous camping experience in Michigan's Upper Pennisula. The trip was part of a National Park Service Program to expose families from Detroit to the National Forest System in Michigan. The group photo was taken at Taquamanon Falls. Here is another pic of the falls. The water is a copper color from the tannins in the oak leaves that line the area.

Our itinerary included Hartwick Pines where we hiked among old growth forest areas that included white pines, oak and maples trees. The Park's educator grew up in the Detroit area and was excited to share the park with us.

We arrived at our home base at Clear Lake Education Center located in Hiawatha National Forest at about 4:00 p.m. The camp site was well equipped with plenty of cabins, a building for meetings and media center and one with a full kitchen and eating area. We were welcomed by two Park Rangers (Mimi and Dave) and were assigned cabins. My boys and I shared a cabin with the Moore's and Dixon's -- three moms and seven boys, ranging from 6 years old to 17 in all!! We are all pictured here with Mr. D...he and his wife were the trip organizers.

We spent a whole day hiking in Hiawatha National Forest where we learned how the habitat here contributes to a healthy eco system and how we (humans) are impacting the forest-- both negatively through pollution and positively through conservation efforts. Although it was raining most of the day, we made the best of it.

This lighthouse was at Pictured Rocks National Shoreline. It was foggy that day but still beautiful. We toured the lighthouse, as well as the historic home that had been restored and learned about the bootleggers who operated in the area because of the proximity to Canada... that's something Detroit and the U.P. have in common!

We had a chance to try six different activities in one day including kayaking, mountain biking and fishing. My favorite was the kayaks and I have since gone kayaking several times.

Evenings were a chance to share a meal, make new friends and play games.

All in all, it was a great trip and one we will remember for a very long time. Thanks to the National Park Service and trip organizers, Delashon and Nick Dicrese, Lisa Perez and Ranger Dave!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

And the Kale Stands Alone...Well, Almost

I took this photo of my Kale this afternoon. It's not quite alone in the garden, but almost! Just an hour earlier, it was surrounded by tomatoes, peppers, winter squash and beans, but no more.

I have a love - hate relationship with October! I love fall but hate garden clean up. Although by this time of the year, I am exhausted from harvesting, canning, freezing, drying the garden's bounty. And, I am thankful for another year of being able to provide good food to my family from our little urban farm.

Here's a photo of the asparagus bed, which is now covered in straw mulch. Yes, that's a tomato plant in the middle. I did not have the heart to pull it yet because there are still lots of black cherry tomatoes on it that are not ripe. These were among my favorite tomatoes of the 2011 garden.

My boys and I spent a few hours outside today clearing out much of the garden that remained. I harvested the last of the beets, some carrots, lots of tomatoes (both ripe and green), a few last beans and peas.

Here are the last of the beets...and beets greens. YUMMY!

I will try to write a more extensive review of the 2011 season at some point. Probably after the maple tree has finished shedding her leaves and the snow flies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knitting and Stitching and Sewing, Oh My!

I learned to knit and crochet as a child but hadn't done so for a very long time. A couple of years ago while on my annual Ladies Camping weekend, I was inspired to pick up some yarn and needles. A number of the women were brought their knitting and crocheting projects. One of the women who had back surgery in the past year had knitted and felted a huge number of bags. The ones she had with her were beautiful. When I returned home, I decided that I wanted to relearn to knit so I could make a felted handbag. So, I went to the store and bought some yarn, needles and a "teach yourself to knit" book.

I now have a collection of knitting and crocheting books and patterns and tons of yarn. My favorite place for yarn and great instruction is City Knits. They are located in the Fisher Building in Detroit. They also have a store in Mt. Clemens. Their website is
Always on the lookout for local sources for anything that I want to buy, I attend a Lavendar Festival and discovered not only locally raised yarns from alpaca and sheep, but also beautiful knitting needles made from Michigan hardwoods. This summer while we were up north, we took a trip to East Jordan, Michigan, home to Stonehedge Fiber Mill. Here are a couple of photos. Debbie McDermott is the owner. She gave us a tour of the farm and mill and we met her herd of about 50 sheep (She called each one by name!)

We also met a pair of African Geese named Lucy and Desi and a young rooster who responded to Khairi's "cock-a-doodle, do"

I took a sewing class last spring with the goal of being able to read a pattern and do simple projects... probably more handbags and totes! More on that at another time. So now, I knit and felt bags, have made a few more bags from old wool sweaters. Decided to try make bookmarks and glass cases. Learned some simple embroidery...

I have accumulated about a dozen finished bags and an assortment of bookmarks and glass cases, so...

Last summer I decided that the time was right to begin selling my bags, so I now have a website on Etsy, a forum for selling handmade and vintage items. I have also done a couple of custom orders, which has been fun. My clients pick the yarn colors, fabric for the lining and pendant. I have sold a few bags, but I am not spending much time these days on it, which is ok. I mostly knit, etc. as a creative outlet, anyhow. I have made many gifts for family and friends and just bought enought yarn to knit myself a sweater. As soon as I have time to start it...