May 10, 2016


Some time back I mentioned a loud, unexplained animal noise in my backyard that sounded like a Crane with a bullhorn. If you have never heard a Sandhill Crane, they are so loud you can hear them from a mile away when they are migrating at high altitude. Their call is a raucous combination of a croak and a squawk, maybe something like a ten pound cricket or a hundred pound tree frog. Someone recently mentioned to me that it most likely was a Crane and I had come to the same conclusion, thinking that it must have been standing just so as to get a good echo and reverberation from the hillsides. Or maybe it was on steroids. That still doesn't explain why I heard a Crane calling from the woods across the road last February with a foot of snow on the ground. Maybe he took a wrong flight.


I also mentioned the strange giant fan I was hearing in the early mornings and early afternoons, which was later explained to me as the local big sawmill, not the Amish one. I'm sure that is the answer since the direction and distance is about right, and this year I have been hearing it a lot more than usual, possibly because we have had an east wind more than usual. As to why the wind would blow more from the east, maybe El Nino could answer that. The sawmill sets on both sides of a country dirt road with mountains of logs piled high, so you drive right thru it when you take that road. Strangely enough you don't notice the noise when you are in the middle of it, sort of like freeway noise. And I would rather hear the mill than the freeway, which happens with a west wind.


A very small mystery involves a hole in the ground about the size of half a dollar that appeared at the edge of my front sidewalk this spring when the snow melted. It was only the size of a quarter when I first saw it. I didn't think much about it until the other day when I was mowing my front yard with an old fashioned push mower and I saw a tail disappear down the hole. Now my guess would be a Chipmunk but that's not a certainty. This winter I watched the biggest Vole I have ever seen running out from a Red Squirrel tunnel under the snow to grab some seeds off the ground under my bird feeders and then scooting back into the tunnel. My main concern at this point is wondering whether my front sidewalk is going to collapse.


A bigger mystery is going on in my cattail swamp, the one closest to the house. Water has been high in the swamps ever since the snow melted and I was noticing an area of open water in the cattails that I hadn't seen before. My eyes not being what they used to be, it looked like there was something that could be a Beaver house out in the middle of it, and with binoculars it still looked that way. This didn't make much sense as there is not much flow of water down there and there aren't a lot of Poplar or Aspen trees around this swamp, what folks here call Popple.


So one day I put on my rubber boots and waded across my crossing with my old dog, Ralph, and on around the back woods to take a closer look. On the way I noticed another new hump of something out in my main swamp. Put my binoculars on it and thought, that's funny, it almost looks like some kind of critter. Turned out to be a Canada Goose hunkered down. It ordinarily would have taken off long before I got that close so my guess was it was nesting on some little nubbin of solidness out in the water where most other critters couldn't get to it. If it hadn't been so wet I would have been walking back there a lot more and probably scaring it off.


On to the original mystery hump, which as far as I could tell appeared to be made out of mud and not sticks. I could only wade out so far with the water nearing the top of my boots, and I definitely didn't want to have to rescue Ralph, so I couldn't get close enough to be certain what I was looking at. If I had to guess, I would say a Muskrat was digging up cattail roots to eat and making himself a little island to sit on while he ate, but I have never known a Muskrat to do this. Ordinarily they live in tunnels dug into stream banks and are a nuisance because the tunnels collapse, at least a nuisance on a golf course.


But I saw no signs of life and the mystery is still unsolved. If in fact this is a Muskrat eating the cattails, I'm not sure how I feel about it. That whole swamp is shallow and covered in cattails, and cattails are a good source of emergency food. I don't mind sharing, but the Muskrat might, and he might keep on going until there's nothing left. I'll have to keep an eye on this. Muskrats are a good source of emergency food themselves, so it remains to be seen how this plays out. Of course it could also be a giant frog or even the Super Crane.


I did manage to finally take my snow thrower off my lawn tractor and put on the mower deck before the grass got out of control. Spring has been late but the Dandelions are out in profusion, which always makes me happy. Leaves are still just starting to look around a little so as not to get fooled. It does feel like Spring and it does feel good. Feels like maybe new beginnings all around. We'll see.




APRIL 2, 2016


Went to town yesterday to take advantage of a rebate offer and soon took off my jacket in the shirtsleeve weather. I probably should have been out cutting some more wood while I could, but the rebate was coming to an end. When I got back the sun was still shining, I didn't build up the fire because it was warm inside, and I was even considering letting it go out for the night. I put off bringing in more wood as it started getting toward dusk, the time when ordinarily I take down my bird feeders for the night to foil the possums and the coons.


I was dinking around online and casually looked out the window and there were snowflakes big as half dollars falling, the ground was white, and I could only see a couple hundred feet. What? Am I in the Twilight Zone? Looked at my feeders and there was the hare cleaning up what was on the ground, so I couldn't go out to bring them in until he finished. Well, I could have, but he has a hard enough time making a living as it is. The grass hasn't started growing yet and he nibbled off all the bark from the big Apple branch that fell down last summer from the weight of all the apples.


This is April, right? Much as I would like to think otherwise, I still think of the seasons in terms of running a golf course, and April is when we opened, it would have been this weekend. That meant the snow had to be gone and the ground dried up enough to go out and get things ready a couple of weeks ahead. Now here it's a hundred miles further north and 600 feet higher, which means about two weeks difference, but even so, well, let's just say I'm glad I'm not running a golf course up here this year. Or anywhere for that matter.


So the hare left, probably because he couldn't find anything else to eat in the snow. Good thing he always keeps his snowshoes with him. But now this was the really strange part. With snow falling hard enough to wipe out my tracks behind me as I walked, down in my cattail swamp I could hear a chorus of frogs singing at the top of their lungs. I've never heard them so loud, didn't know I had so many, have no idea why they were carrying on in a snowstorm like it was the middle of summer. I had to clear off an inch of snow from the feeders and bring them in by the stove to dry out overnight. Yes, there was snow forecast for later this coming week, but this one was so out of the blue, literally, that I was discombobulated. Maybe we're paying now for all the shirt sleeve weather last December. What is going on?


I've been asking that a lot lately. The obvious answer is that life is going on, but that doesn't really cut it here. I think a lot of people in the world are asking that question these days. I had thought I was operating with some sense of understanding when things seemed to come to a halt for no apparent reason. If I could sum up the operative word since last summer, and probably well before then, that word would be "delay". It seemed like things have been put on hold, both in my own life and in the world at large.


That's still going on, but I'm getting glimpses of a change. My neighbor, Butch, and I agree that the presidential primary campaigns have almost become boring lately. Yes, the news outlets are grinding away for all they are worth, which may not be a lot, but there just hasn't been much different going on. My sense is that things are scheduled to heat back up some in May, and that gives me a month to concentrate on getting my act together as best I can.


That would consist primarily of working toward next winter's wood supply. My game plan is to end up with a five year surplus ten years from now, and I figure I'm going to be in better shape at the start of that ten years than the end of it. I hope that in fifteen years this will all become someone else's problem, and I fully realize that my problems could come to an end before I finish this sentence. Nope, not yet.


Some of the wood is right there to do, lying on the ground. I cut down two fair sized trees that were dying to the point they would start dropping dead branches too rotten for firewood. That's a good month's work, probably two or more in reality at my pace, but that won't take me into my five year surplus. One of my recent victories was scoring a trailer to haul wood with, but it's still in two boxes waiting for me to put it together, which is waiting for a nice day, which was delayed even more by an unexpected April Fool mini-blizzard.


All in good time. Not only here but in the world at large. There are a lot of people out there with bigger problems than bolting together a trailer so they can haul wood. Some of those people are in high positions, some in low. I'm feeling like the whole world is put on hold right now so I can get my trailer put together. Is that a bit egocentric? Well, I'll take it. In many ways I seem to act as some kind of receiver for frequencies of whatever drama is going on behind the scenes and between the lines. In some ways this seems useful, in other ways I could use a month off.


Where is this all heading? I dunno. I've got ideas, but so do most people. It does seem to me that we are on the edge of momentous changes, but anything could happen, including nothing. Given the choice to be alive at any time in all of recorded history, this is where I would pick. My personal belief is that there are a lot of people, seen and unseen, watching the story as it unfolds. Possibly a belief of the woo-woo variety.


I started out life watching World War Two unfold, from a distance thankfully. I can remember some of it, not a lot. The woman who sold me this land saw it from right in the middle and remembers more than she would like. I'm not so sure that we aren't in the middle of World War Three, completely different in appearance and operation. Maybe not the middle yet.


Life goes on. My internet radio is playing a song called Hand Jive from the olden days. Doin' that crazy hand jive. I feel like I've been doing that crazy hand jive for 77 years now and counting, and if turns out that I do indeed have another fifteen years left to go, I won't be surprised if it gets a lot crazier.


When it got dark tonight, most of the grass was showing, the hare had been here and gone, and the feeders were inside safe from predation. Speaking of which, for the most part I have baffled the squirrels over this past winter with a set of, yes, baffles on the posts that hold the feeders. There were occasional breaches, but you've got to expect that when you're dealing with squirrels.


I'm counting it as a victory, even a major victory if you have ever dealt with squirrels, who after all are only doing what they were programmed to do, and they can eat what gets spilled out onto the ground by the birds, which is considerable. Perhaps not as major a victory as the eventual triumph of goodness over self interest, light over darkness, but a sign of things to come. I'll take it.




NOVEMBER 28, 2015


Thanksgiving is well past and I heard Christmas music today. I had a hard time feeling thankful on Thanksgiving other than in an intellectual, abstract way. Yes, I'm very glad that I am not a Syrian refugee or any one of a number of other highly unpleasant roles being handed out in today's world. In comparison I'm living the life of Riley, whoever he was. Or she. Probably not she. The day before Thanksgiving I had psyched myself up to go for the final make or break effort in a win or lose scenario I had maneuvered myself into, not for the first time. In fact it seems to be a recurring pattern in my life. Some background information is needed at this point.


I recently bought, sight unseen, a wood chipper that attaches to a tractor, bought it on Amazon and got a really good deal. Or so it would seem. I had checked with local farm implement dealers and this chipper was going for half of the best deals they could offer, or that I could find anywhere online. It was made by a reputable company and one of the favorable reviews online said that it worked fine with the same model tractor I have, an oldie but goodie. Delivery was free and as it turned out unloaded onto my utility trailer while I stood there and watched. What's not to like?


Took me a bit to unwrap it and start putting it together. Of course the wrench I needed was the one wrench not included in my set of metric wrenches, and my workarounds weren't up to the task. Enter my neighbor, Butch, to rescue me, not for the first time. I hauled it over to his place and we put it together in his heated garage while a bitter cold wind blew outside. Still on the winning side at this point, but it was getting toward dark so we wrestled it into my barn and called it a day and a cause for celebration.


Now I had not hooked it up to my tractor yet, but it was all in one piece and looking good. This is the part where it snowed pretty good for a few days and more or less shut things down. When that let up I went back at it and attached it to my tractor. The only thing missing was the power to run it, and this is provided by a drive shaft that connects the power take off shaft on the tractor to the drive shaft on the chipper that turns the rotor with blades that makes the whole thing work. If it does work. That remained to be seen.


What I had in mind with this whole scenario was to chip up branches and brush I have all over the place into small pieces that may or may not be useful as kindling or fuel for the wood burning fireplace insert I recently had installed. Okay, now we are moving into the background for the background of my wood chipper story. The woman I bought this place from had a wood burning stove which she was not comfortable with after her husband died and she had a propane fireplace insert put in and the wood stove taken out.


My long term project here was to get back to nature, or at least closer to it, and take the main load off of my propane boiler furnace. Had the potential to pay for itself in a year or two if it worked and seemed worth the gamble. So far so good, the new stove is working fine tho I'm solving the firewood problem as I go along. One thing I'm doing is breaking up Pine and Spruce and Maple branches which I have all over the place into small pieces suitable for getting a fire going, and that has worked so far, tho it's tedious to break and cut these branches down. I'm used to cutting my branches down to one inch diameter for firewood, which few people do, but this was going a step farther. Most people throw their branches on a brush pile to burn in a big bonfire or sometimes to provide a home for rabbits and other small critters.


My chipper was going a step farther. There's only so much you can do breaking branches and twigs up by hand, but potentially a chipper could go thru ten times as much in an hour as you could do by hand in a day. Would this stuff burn? I dunno, that remains to be answered. I threw some on my fire tonight. It didn't exactly explode into flames, but it may make a difference if it has dried out. Even if it doesn't work out so well as kindling or fuel, I still have a lot of branches on the ground all over the place, and the chips would work on my trails if nothing else. Working down and dead trees will add to the load.


The only other practical way to deal with all these branches would be to burn them in a brush pile and I did that a lot at Glenn Shores. Every time I set off a brush pile I would think, man, I could have made it thru a winter in a tipi with all that wood. I still think like that, in fact I was checking out tipis online yesterday. They don't come cheap, between one and two thousand or even more for really big ones, but you can spend thirteen grand on a yurt, which is basically a permanent tent. Not ready for that yet, not ruling it out.


Back to my chipper, the only thing needing doing was hooking up the drive shaft, and it was too long. Not to worry, the manual said this was to allow for all different configurations of tractor hook ups, and it gave a formula for figuring out how much to cut off in order to make it fit. This would seem like a no brainer,  you attach the drive shaft at one end and measure how much too long it is at the other end, give it a little wiggle room, and lop that off. I say lop it off as if this was like taking a pair of scissors to it, but in actuality it involved cutting off the excess with a hacksaw. Since the two ends telescope together to allow for fluctuation, in actuality you had to cut the same length of both sides. Not a problem, they gave you the formula for figuring this out. Just measure, do your math, and cut.


Well the cutting took up a good part of an afternoon. Felt like I was breaking out of jail. Thought about taking it down to my mechanic in town who I think has a power hack saw, but toughed it out, one end and the other. Cut off two inches according to the formula, filed off the burrs, and put it together, ready to blast thru my piles of brush and branches before it got dark. It was still two inches too long.


Folks, this seems to be the story of my life. To say that I was disappointed does not convey the level of discouragement and defeat. Now I know that this is a normal part of life, just a bump in the road, an opportunity to learn and overcome and turn things around for good. Yeah, yeah, I know all that. It still knocks me for a loop, what can I tell you. This was the day before Thanksgiving and I was looking for a major victory to carry me into the day/ Two inches too long. I thought about making myself do it then and there, and I couldn't do it.


If I had ignored the instructions and done what made sense to me, I would have succeeded. I could also have ended up with a drive shaft two inches too short and had to shell out for a new one, I'm guessing a hundred bucks or so. I had thought about calling Butch to come look at it because he is a lot smarter about stuff like this than I am, but I went ahead and toughed it out. Ended up having to cut thru the drive shaft twice, but today I bit the bullet and did it. And it worked.


Chipped up some assorted brush, some Pine, and some Spruce, which at least in the branches is really good for starting fires. Not a problem. Worked fine. Tractor handled it without any hesitation. Chipper seems well designed and strongly built, not a hitch. Doesn't have a hydraulic feed but those make me nervous as they can grab hold of you and pull you into the blades. All in all a gamble that as of today I won. Glad to be able to report on something positive.




FEBRUARY 29, 2016


A friend emails me with the news that his Farmers Almanac informs him that “Winters back is broken”. I'll take it! Forecast for tomorrow is one to three inches of new snow, but there are weather advisories out east and south of here and we may once again get off light. There was a bitter north wind today and slippery ice patches from left over slush, but patches of grass starting to show as well. That's good news!


We got off light with the last storm where they were talking three to eight inches of wet heavy snow. We got two or three inches of fairly dry snow, dry enough to blow bare areas in the strong wind, and my driveway looked like it had been plowed except for the middle section, where it drifted a bit, still not enough to stop me from getting out and back in, not that I wanted to go anywhere.


I thought about suiting up and taking my snow thrower out to clear it just for drill. My neighbor, Butch, has been doing my driveway for me a lot this winter and I was feeling like I ought to make an effort to hold up my end a little, even if just for cosmetic purposes, but the wind was bitter and I figured it could wait. I waited until the third day when the snow was starting to melt in a brief thaw and I should have done it the first day. Now my snow thrower was turned into a giant ice cube maker that plugged up the chute and pushed the slushy snow into a pile until I couldn't go any further.


I got off and cleared everything out, but when I got back on my lawn tractor wouldn't move at all, forward or back, the wheels weren't spinning, nothing. Now I had just put a new drive belt on, a job that took me five days of misery, something that I never ever wanted to do again the rest of my life, and apparently either the belt had broken again, not too likely, or it had slipped off a pulley, probably as a result of me doing something wrong. In any case, getting to the belt meant taking the whole body off the tractor again in my cold garage with the dirt floor. If I could get it back into the garage.


I tried lying down in the snow to see if I could figure out anything underneath. What little I could see of the belt, it felt loose, but that didn't tell me much. The snow was too deep right there to push it back in the garage. Taking the body off out there in the snow was more than I could handle. I went back in the house and started researching walk behind snow throwers online.


Mine has enough power, but it's only a single stage machine, doesn't have an impellor to blow the snow out the chute. I can't really complain because it came with the place, but I wish the woman who bought it had sprung for a two stage blower. And changing over twice a year between the snow thrower and the mowing deck is painful. Right now I was ready to put an end to all of these problems and this was the best time of year to get a good deal on a two-stage snow blower. I left mine sitting in the middle of the driveway and drove into Cadillac to see what they had at Home Depot.


And they had one of the top rated walk behind two-stage snow throwers sitting on the floor with no price tag. A similar machine was on clearance for five hundred bucks off. I asked. Ha! No, it would not go on sale and if it didn't sell now, they would take it upstairs and sell it in the fall. I drove back home, past my poor old beater sitting forlornly in the middle of my driveway. This wasn't going well.


The weather got better and the snow was melting, in fact if I had just waited it would have pretty much all melted anyway. As it was I had taken my old snow thrower out three times this winter, and two out of three times it had broken down. I know better than to say that something like that is the story of my life, but it was getting hard to deny that it was the story of my winter. I decided to tough it out, see if I could get the tractor back in my garage where I could work on it at my leisure. The snow had melted enough to where I could probably move it back in six inches at a time with my big pry bar.


Out to the barn for the pry bar and on out to my poor old lawn tractor. Figured I had better make sure the snow thrower was raised as high as possible and it started up with no problem, snow thrower lifted high, or at least as high as it goes. Figured what the hey, just make sure this thing still doesn't move, stepped on the gas, and it moved! Moved forward, moved backward, just as good as it did after I spent much of my life putting on the new drive belt.


Now I don't know what to tell you other than that. It is quite possible, in retrospect, that frozen slush had built up under the tractor while I was futilely trying to get it to come out of the chute, and had somehow blocked the belt or one of the tension pulleys from working right. Then with a warm day, it melted and all was well. Or maybe God got tired of listening to my complaints and screaming and muttering, and sent an angel, I would like to think an archangel, but probably just one of my guardian angels, who at this point are probably flipping a coin or cutting cards to see who has to go rescue me this time.


I ran it back in the garage and parked it. I don't know what else to say. This story is very much the story of my winter and I am more than ready to see “Winters back is broken” in action. I have enough firewood to see me thru a couple of days, and I am waiting a couple of days to see how much snow falls before falling a big Cottonwood tree in my back yard that is dying. I am thinking that some of the branches that already were not producing leaves may burn well enough to get me thru the spring, but that remains to be seen.


Whether it burns or not, it will be good if the snow continues to melt enough for me to be able to get out and work. I've been hauling wood on a sled and splitting it by hand, but I need to be able to get my big tractor and my three wheeler and my log splitter out of the barn and back in action. The snow didn't get here until well into December this year, but it seems like it has been here for three months or more, too deep for walking with my old dog, Ralph. I don't need to see a daffodil, I just need to be able to walk to the barn without trying to keep from falling down.




OCTOBER 25, 2015


A bucket list, in case you missed it, are the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Some people have pages of things but I've only had two for a year. One was to take a trip to the Lake Michigan coast west of me, and the other was to finally get on the White Pine Trail, which runs by me about half a mile away going from Grand Rapids to Cadillac, an old railroad converted to a trail. I don't necessarily want to walk or bike the whole thing, and in fact couldn't while I've got these old critters to take care of. But at least I would like to get in a few miles in the meantime. I've got a brand new bicycle in my barn that has been waiting now for over a year for me to get it together.


Anyway, today I drove over to Ludington and then up to Manistee, and on back. Something like 190 miles total and a five hour trip, which is getting toward the limit of how long my one old dog can hold out during the day. I had intended to do as much as possible on back roads, but time was crunching so maybe half was done on main highways. I felt like it was now or never when I headed out.


This was probably the last weekend to see what's left of the fall colors. Unlike last fall, which was spectacular, this fall has tended to be drab and uneventful, something that I would attribute to the lingering pleasant weather. This morning you could feel a bit of hardness on the blades of grass, but the air temperature was only 35 degrees and we have not had a hard frost yet with November right around the corner. The leaves around here have just turned a bit yellow or brown and fallen off the trees, nothing of the brilliant reds and oranges of last year except in spots here and there.


Anyway, it was a bit more colorful toward the coast and raised my spirits to see whatever it had to offer. Since the elevation is relatively high here, the lower elevations toward the coast are a week or even two weeks behind. I went past Idlewild on the way and stopped off to see what was there. Idlewild was a famous resort area for African-Americans in the first half of the 20th century when blacks were not allowed access to most white resorts. It prospered and attracted blacks from thruout the country until the civil rights movement of the 60's opened up resorts everywhere and made Idlewild a curiosity of the past.


Here is the Flamingo Club, a nightclub opened in the 50's where along with other places, stars such as Sarah Vaughan, Jackie Wilson, and the Four Tops performed. These clubs didn't survive the 60's. There were signs out on the highway pointing to a historical center and a business district, but I didn't find either and didn't want to take the time to search. It isn't all that far away from me and I may go back and devote a whole afternoon to exploring. I did not get a sense of whether the area is still predominantly black in population, saw few people and couldn't determine how they might self-identify from a distance. Highly interesting place with a fascinating history.


The land gradually lowers in elevation from LeRoy on over to the coast. The next county westward, Lake County, is sparsely populated and appears less prosperous than Osceola County, where I am. The soil looks to be poorer and there is not nearly as much farmland. A lot of the area I passed thru is in the Manistee National Forest, tho not clearly marked as such. There is not a lot of commercial timber left and there is a wide swath of fairly level land which is growing mostly second growth oak trees too close together for optimal growth. If you lived there, you could cut these trees for firewood but it looks like a hard place to make a living. Much of it is probably used for hunting and some areas cater to summer vacationers, but nothing year round and steady.


Over by the coast it becomes a different story, and reminds me of what I left behind when I moved to LeRoy. All the lakefront area is taken by the people who regard that as of highest value and have the money to back up their value system. To be frank, it bothers me being around these people, not that there aren't interesting and good hearted folks amongst them. It just is not my cup of tea, and I could never have paid the price to be able to move in that circle even if I had wanted to. I'm of the opinion that coastlines ought to belong to the People, but that idea isn't going to fly as far as the first Wright Brothers flight.


I did go all the way to the Lake Michigan shoreline at Ludington and got out and walked to see it. Mostly what I saw was a bunch of breakwaters that must cause horrific undertows when the wind is up. There was a breakwater going way out to a lighthouse I could have gone out to, but it would have been pointless. Waves weren't high, there wasn't much to see but expanses of water, and I've seen it since I was seven years old. This could very well have been the last time I see this lake in my life, and that thought doesn't bother me a bit.


I poked around for about an hour heading north, kept getting trapped in roads with no outlet and surrounded by summer homes like I left back at Glenn Shores. I did get to see a flock of turkeys that were right on the road and didn't want to move, and I went on one road that passed thru an old hardwood forest on both sides of the road, near the lake, maybe ten or twenty acres in area, and it was for sale. I'm guessing the price tag is in the millions. The farther away from the lake you get, the more the people look like someone you could talk with. There was an area of farmland heading north that looked much like southern Michigan, but then it went back to that scrubby north Michigan look of stunted trees.and brush you would be hard pressed to walk thru.


I didn't spend any time in Manistee, didn't go to see the lake again, time was getting short. It looked like a more interesting town to me than Ludington, maybe not so tourist and vacationer and second home oriented, more working class in feel. I guess if I had more money and no critters to take care of, I might go back and spend a week checking it all out. As it is, I can say been there, done that, and half my bucket list is accomplished, not that there may not be more items added along the way. Was it worth it? Sure, I only spent an afternoon and got to go places I hadn't been before. I might have passed thru those two cities twenty years ago or so, but didn't remember them and surely didn't hit the back roads I did today.


My trip back was uneventful, mile after mile of the same looking scrubby oak trees until getting near Cadillac. Here is a road sign from west of Cadillac that I'm guessing you don't see around where you live. This trip pretty much completed my explorations around all sides of where I'm living, and reinforced my prejudice that there's no place like home. This Osceola County is so remarkably different from any other place I have ever seen in Michigan that it still boggles my mind. Yes, it's a hard place to make a living, but that may just be part of the picture.


My friend Victor from fifty years ago visited for a few days recently. We went out driving on a tour of the county, half of it on back roads, and once again I thought what today only reinforced, I would rather go out driving around here than anywhere else I know. I wouldn't mind making a run to Petoskey just to see it, but that's not doable with doggies at home. And I doubt very much if I would see anything all that new or exciting. On the other hand, there's a lot of back roads I haven't seen yet right here within twenty-five miles.