A Late Summer Field on an Amish Farm


In the second week of August, JB & I decided to take a drive a few miles to the west, here in lower Michigan, to a rural area of numerous Amish farming communities. I always take my camera because one time when I didn’t, there was a perfect photo of two draft horses, with a hay wagon backed up to a barn door, waiting for the hay to be unloaded before going for another load. Oh how I want that image that is perfectly composed in my brain.

Most of the time having a camera is a frustrating experience because the Amish do not want to have photographs of themselves because they consider photos to be “graven images” or idolatry. There have been several times when I could have taken a photo while they were facing the other direction (and I did this once) but I haven’t been able to get past the guilt of such blatant disrespect, even with my advanced skill of rationalization.

So I take photos of hay fields on cloudy days in a misty drizzle.


The purpose of our little excursion was to go to the Amish bulk food store to get a few things – and the granola I love to eat on ice cream. I always think that our automobile is strangely out of place in the parking lot – although they do welcome our business.



A June Journey Down Dirt Roads


It is officially summer in Michigan – because it is after Memorial Day. By the tourist calendar summer is June, July and August but my sensory calendar feels a bit off kilter, maybe more in line with the lunar calendar. I feel like I am in a sort of time warp where we are past the flush of spring blooms but not quite into the full summer blooming course.

This week we decided to once again go down dirt roads, finding some to the west that we haven’t traversed before – excited to find new territory. There weren’t many wildflowers and the landscape was very green, lots of green. It got me thinking about the landscape when we returned to Michigan just two months ago. In mid April we still had barren trees within a monochromatic brown landscape. The major transformations that takes place between winter and summer, and summer and winter still feels miraculous to me after witnessing it many, many times. Unlike me, this story of nature never grows old.


There is a sense of peace that comes from looking over a green landscape that just a month ago was being worked with tractor and plow and is now growing, in various shades of green under a clear blue sky (with a few clouds stretching along the horizon with the sole purpose of providing interest for my landscape photos.)


It is time for the first mowing of the hay fields, and they seem to provide a sneak preview of the harvesting that will take place within the next few months. Julie and I each bought a quart of fresh-picked strawberries at an Amish grocery that we frequently visit. Michigan strawberries are so flavorful but the season is so short. This is the last week so we are picking up a few quarts so I can make freezer jam for us and some to share with daughter-in-law Natalia. She shares so much food with us, so it is fun giving something back to her. I still feel a sense of joy when I preserve food fresh from the fields for our enjoyment throughout the year. I have done some adjusting, however, in the foods I preserve and the ways I do it now that there are just two of us eating and I have less energy.


I really miss the old barns when we are in Florida so I’ve been yearning to find some barns that have some architectural or historic beauty. We have been down our local dirt roads so many times that we talk about when we stopped to photograph this or that barn, but don’t stop again. This week I found a new one. I love the curved roof-line of the front extension on this barn and the doors are a beautiful color. Does this farmer have a few artistic genes? Did he pick the color from the Better Homes and Gardens modern barn colors at the local hardware store?

I have been enjoying the fields where the corn is just sprouting, a pleasure that will quickly come to an end because many of the fields have corn that is close to a foot high. There is a special moving pattern formed by these fields when passed in a fast-moving car. Because of our gently rolling hills the plows create gently-curving patterns. It feels very artistic to me, but I image it has more of a scientific or practical bent for the farmer.


It was a very good morning that soothed my soul, allowed me to spend time in conversation with a very special friend, and stimulated my thinking about the beauty I enjoy as I ride dirt roads in the middle of June in lower Michigan. Life is happening at a gentle pace here – and I like it like that.


Personality of Western PEI


We spent two nights in the northern part of the Central District of Prince Edward Island at a delightful, quiet, secluded, small campground with full amenities (electricity, water, sewage dumping at our site).

DSC_0084Our agenda was to go around the western portion of the island. Without the trailer we are able to explore interesting little back areas and even a few dirt roads. We visited PEI about 40 years ago but my memories were very dim, I guess most of my energy was focused on meeting the needs of our three young children. I am also older now and have learned how to appreciate and study local culture. Age does come with benefits in addition to discounts (we appreciated the young man smiling at us at a park in NY who smiled warmly and said that we looked old enough to get the senior special day pass – go have a fun picnic).

This is a beautiful island, but no more beautiful that the other beautiful places we have visited. So my mission, with camera, was to try to discern what is common and unique to this area – what seems to be a part of the common culture and what are the unique aspects within the common. Isn’t that what we want from others when we want them to know us – to find those characteristics that define who we are, that are stable, but to also identify how we are unique. I hope I can portray through words and images the personality of Prince Edward Island in this post and a few more to come.


This is a province of primarily farmers and fishermen. What struck me is that there didn’t seem to be the wide disparity of wealth that is evident in the U.S. Of course there were larger farms and smaller farms, farms that were well kept and farms that weren’t but all that we saw seemed somewhere in the middle. Well maintained and productive. Potatoes are the primary crop and they were starting to harvest them, although wheat fields were also being harvested and there were dairy farms.


I forgot to mention the wild blueberries. How could I miss that fact after eating buttermilk whole wheat blueberry pancakes with Vermont maple syrup for breakfast. Can life get any better than that? Oh, yes, and the locally grown sweat corn that snaps when we bite it off the cob and melts in our mouth – flavored by butter and a little salt. The true taste of late summer in the northern part of the midwest and east coast.


The drive along the coastline went past many small harbors, with fishing boats and associated structures. There is an allure about fishing boats and the lives of people who make their living from the sea. I’m sure reality isn’t as idyllic as my fantasies.


What struck us is how well maintained the boats are. Everything about this island seems to be neat and tidy. I want to say quaint, but without the negative undertones that I can be associate with quaintness – like old fashioned or not modern.


Fall and winter must be coming quickly because this boat was headed for the launch ramp where a truck and trailer were waiting to haul it out of the water. Many boats were dry-docked in side yards of homes waiting for the warmer waters of spring to return, a clue that many of the nicely kept ranch-style houses along the highway were homes of fishermen.


I think the winter winds must be harsh coming off the Northumberland Straits to the south and the vast Saint Lawrence Bay to the north. Most structures are clad in vinyl siding or steel and many have tin roofing. But many still have the cedar shakes with the north side bleached or sanded of paint. Maybe it is the PEI version of showing direction, like moss growing on the north side of trees in the woods.



Funny how certain things stand out as different. You have been there; your eyes see a difference but your brain can’t quite figure it out. On PEI it was that many of the hedge rows consisted of evergreens instead of deciduous trees and bushes. It seems these would break the bleakness of the black and white against grey of winter when living close to large expanses of water.





A Visit to a Bakery


Photo buddy, Julie, and I sometimes wander around in the Amish areas close to where we live. As I have written before, I have a curiosity about their lifestyle. Also, our own neighborhood can feel mundane after a while and I seek the unique to photograph. Julie and I found this bakery in early spring, before they opened for the season. Because we love baked goods, a recent outing was kind of structured around returning.  On that outing I bought a cinnamon roll, raisin bread, and some molasses cookies. And I knew I needed to return.


JB & I decided to go last Saturday morning because they serve coffee and sell fresh doughnuts on Saturdays. I decided that JB and I could split one because we are both watching what we eat and fried doughnuts aren’t on the okay list. I took one bite of the one he chose and was lost in total bliss. It went straight to the pleasure center of my brain – like I had stuffed it through a needle into a vein. No splitting one this time. I chose a sugar coated one, that was still a little warm and soft and yeasty inside.


Fried Pies

They make a wonderful raisin bread that we had as french toast Sunday morning – a real treat. JB bought (and ate – but who is keeping track) one of their fried pies – not my favorite. The bakery is a part of a working Amish farm so we stood around outside eating our goodies, drinking coffee, and watching what was happening. And I took a few photos.


Harnessed and waiting to work.


Older son mowing the lawn

I wonder if going for a Saturday morning drive in the country will become a ritual? I think I can smell doughnuts and it is only Monday.