Friday, April 29, 2016

Mural Barn Near Marshall, Michigan

For the last year and a half that we've been traveling to Michigan to visit Doug's brother, we've been driving by this beautiful barn, with a large mural painted on the side. On our last trip, I managed to snap a drive-by picture of it.


The opportunity to snap a photo from the highway is somewhat limited because of the hill in front of the barn. And then, when the corn is up in the summer, the roof is about all you can see.

An internet search for some information about the barn and the mural led me to Jan Corey Arnett, The Barn Lady. Jan was very helpful with information about the barn and has some photos of it here that are way better than mine.


The mural, called "The Heart of Heatherbrook," was completed in 2007, and is supposed to last 10 years without being repainted. Being on the south side of the barn, it is very subject to sun fade and, likely, to a lot of highway pollution.

According to Jan, there are several such murals around the county, all done under the same series of grants. This is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, and most enduring of all.

Jan's website states, "The mural represents the talents of the Battle Creek Society of Artists, working under the leadership of professional muralist, Tony Hendrick, Grand Ledge, Michigan. It is funded by a grant from the Calhoun County Arts & Industry Council."

Jan told me in an email that one of the requirements was that the mural depict local history. There is a lake not too far away where the sandhill cranes spend their summers, hence the sandhill cranes in the foreground. Prisoners from Jackson State Prison, as well as migrant labor, picked fruit when that farm was a thriving fruit farm, hence the man picking fruit.

The barn in the mural is a representation of the very barn on which it appears.

I hope you will go to Jan's website, where you can see photos of this and several other barns and read their stories.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Some Last Video Clips from the Drowned Camcorder

My last post told of the drowning of our video camera when it went into a cold mountain creek with my husband. Doug came out of the ordeal cold and wet but otherwise fine. But the camera was unable to recover.

When I told that story, one of my faithful readers commented that I should have shown some of those video clips that I was able to rescue from the camera's memory card. So I thought that's what I'd do in this post.

The first video clip shows the heron rookery at Douglas Dam. We were shooting across an expanse of water, so the detail isn't great; but it was still an interesting sight to see. There were a number of cormorants among the herons, and we also saw a bald eagle. The eagle isn't in this clip, though.

The next video shows a cairn that someone had built at one of the stream crossings on the Grapeyard Ridge Trail. It was at another stream crossing on this trail where the video camera met its demise.

The steam engine that had rolled into the creek in the 1920s is featured in the following video.

Lastly, the final shot from the deceased camera was of the large root ball of a tree that had fallen victim to strong winds along the trail.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these clips from the little video camera that had served us so well during the last few years. It was sad to lose it, but we've replaced it already, with what is basically a newer model of the same camera.

I'll share some video from the new camera in future posts.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Spring Visit to the Smokies

As many of you know, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is one of our favorite vacation getaways. Our latest visit there was from March 26 to April 2, 2016.

One of our favorite trails to hike in the Smokies is Little River Trail because it's pretty and...well...not hard.

Little River Trail

Doug and I have a good photography arrangement. I shoot stills, and he shoots video.

Doug and the Video Camera

A favorite place to spend some quiet time is the overlook at Douglas Dam. The scenery is hard to beat, and the water around the dam draws an abundance of birds. In fact, there's a heron rookery in the woods at the base of the dam, where we also see cormorants, bald eagles, night herons, gulls, and terns.

Douglas Dam

Great Blue Heron at the base of Douglas Dam

Herons checking out a warning sign at the Dam

We had planned to hike to a waterfall on Porters Creek Trail one day, but the parking area was full; and cars were lined up along the road leading to and from the trail. So we chose another nearby trail called Grapeyard Ridge Trail.

Doug on Grapeyard Ridge Trail

That stick in Doug's hand is actually a monopod, on which the video camera is mounted.

Grapeyard Ridge Trail doesn't boast any waterfalls. Its main claim to fame is the presence of an old steam engine lying in the creek where it tumbled off the road back in the 1920s.

One of the water crossings on Grapeyard Ridge Trail

The trail is also known for its many water crossings, none of which are bridged. Hikers must hop across on rocks, walk across on logs, or get their feet wet.

Another water crossing on the trail

There are 12 of these water crossings on the round-trip hike. Doug and the video camera successfully handled 11 of them. That 12th one didn't go so well. Doug came out of it cold and wet but otherwise unhurt. The video camera came out of it dead.

Part of an old steam engine in Injun Creek

Injun Creek derives its name from the wreck, not from the Native Americans who used to live in the area.

Old Steam Engine in Injun Creek

The steam engine had been brought in to saw timber for a new school. Many of its parts were salvaged after the accident; the turbine and a couple of wheels remain in the creek.

On another day, we planned to hike a little way up Middle Prong Trail, but it was also very crowded. So, instead, we took a Quiet Walkway that begins at the same trailhead. There was an interesting vehicle that caught our eye in the parking lot, though.

Homemade Camper

Before I close this post, I need to bring you up to date on the video camera. After a few days of drying out, it did power up again. But the automatic lens cover wouldn't open and close, and the camera smelled like a muddy creek bottom. I checked into having it professionally cleaned and was told that it wouldn't be economically practical. 

On the good side, I was able to recover the video from the memory card. And I've since purchased a new video camera from eBay, where I got a great deal on one that was being auctioned.

I tried out the new one this week and was very pleased with it. I'll post a video clip soon. Well, "soon" is a relative term, right?

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Nursery Worker I'm Not!

I've never really been good with children. I've never had any of my own, and I wasn't particularly stellar as a babysitter when I was a teenager. But that doesn't discourage churches that I've attended from asking me to help out in the nursery.

You can read about one of my nursery experiences here.

There is a young single mom who attends our church's mid-week Bible study. Her four-year-old daughter, Holly, accompanies her. Holly would be bored to distraction in the adult Bible study, so each week two or three of the women have been taking turns staying with Holly in the nursery for the duration of the study.

When more volunteers were sought, I didn't raise my hand.

But, the next week, Holly herself asked me to go to the nursery with her. I figured, since she specifically asked me, I should give it a try.

We hadn't been in the nursery for more than a few minutes when Holly announced that she had to go to the bathroom. I told her okay but she would have to be quiet when we passed the room where the Bible study was going on.

As we passed that room, Holly gave a big wave and called out, "Hi, Mommy!" This was followed by another wave as we returned to the nursery.

A few minutes after our return to the nursery, Holly told me that she'd forgotten to poop when she went to the bathroom earlier and that she really had to do that. I told her I didn't believe her, but she insisted that she had to go.

I told her okay, but I'd better hear a plop, plop in the toilet.

Back down the hall we went. Another wave. Another "Hi, Mommy!"

Holly went into the stall, and I soon heard the plop, plop.

A little voice said, "Did you hear that?"

"Yes," I replied. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you."

"It's okay," came the reply. "I forgive you."

That little charmer could almost make a nursery worker out of me. But not quite.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Modern Castle

There is a magnificent mansion that has recently gone up for sale in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The man who built the mansion about 19 years ago is Dick Freeland, who owned 48 Pizza Huts in Indiana and Ohio, as well as four KFC restaurants.

Dick Freeland set a standard of excellence in his restaurants that I've never seen matched in any Pizza Hut outside of this area. He was a very rich man, and a very generous man, whose philanthropic activities were accomplished without fanfare. 

Mr. Freeland died about two and a half years ago, and the mansion he built has been put on the market. Locally referred to as "The Castle," the mansion has been the source of much curiosity. It's location is very secluded, not visible from outside the property.

With its being listed for sale, however, we have the opportunity to see the magnificence through a virtual tour, posted by the realtor who has listed the property.

Here is the property description on the realtor's website:

"A rare opportunity to own a work of art, this is one of great mansion of the world with over 38,000 GBA SF of museum quality construction. In addition to the main home there is a 8,000 sq. ft. home, a 6,720 sq. ft. stables with guest suite, a 7 acre private lake, 16 fireplaces, 16 bedrooms and 26 baths is for all the buildings on the property. Built by craftsmen equivalent to those employed by the Astors or Vanderbilts, this stone mansion has all the elegance and grandeur of a bygone era. The estate has 10 buildings, elevator to all 3 floors, deluxe stables plus an addition 25 acre world class equestrian property can be purchased for an additional $2,500,000All information is approx. and must be verified"

It's priced at 30 million dollars.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


I published a blog post here about my Aunt Lena's visit in 2013, when she was 90 years old. In that post, I mentioned that she'd visited five years earlier, in 2008. Today's post is about that earlier visit.

As usual, Aunt Lena's 2008 visit was timed to coincide with the family reunion in July. One of the things we did together while she was here was to visit the old homeplace and the nearby cemetery.

100_2055-Lena Wilson at Red Men Cemetery
Aunt Lena, taking a photo of a grave marker at the Red Men Cemetery

The tombstone in the above photo marks the grave of my dad's mother. Dad's father's name is also on the marker, but he's not really buried there. He had moved to Oklahoma following the death of his wife, my dad's mom. There, he had remarried and had two daughters, one of which was Aunt Lena. He died in Oklahoma and is buried there.

100_2061-Red Men Cemetery
The Red Men Cemetery is just an old country cemetery, nothing fancy.

100_2064-Banter Farm
This is the home where my dad's dad grew up with several siblings.

100_2066-Banter Farm
The barn on the old homeplace

100_2068-Banter Farm
Another view of the house, an old windmill, and a couple of outbuildings

An old photo of the family farm that I found in a box of old pictures. I wish I could tell you who the woman is sitting on the porch.

When we were there in 2008, the farm was still in the family and was still being farmed by a member of the family. I don't think the house was being lived in at the time, although the last surviving member of my grandfather's generation still called it home. She was in a nursing home and has subsequently died. The last I heard, the farm was to be sold and the buildings torn down. I haven't been back there to check on it, though.

I have only one memory of visiting the farm as a youngster, so the only real connection I feel to it is that of a family heritage. But even that slight connection feels significant.

Aunt Lena's health has deteriorated significantly in the last few years. She lives in California, where she can be close to her son and his family. In spite of her health issues, her spirit and vitality are still evident.

Update 3/21/16:

Seeking an answer to Betsy's question, I found the following information on the internet:

mound_builders- burial mound in Warren, Indiana

"Early native American Burial mound located in Warren Indiana in the Red Man cemetery.  The encircling ditch can still be seen around the mound. The mound is proto Iroquois who had assimilated many of the Adena burial mound and material culture traits. A few years ago a university archaeologists was seen trying to steal artifacts and skeletal remains from the mound."

Here's the link to the blog post where I found the above photo and information:

I’ve never noticed that mound at the Red Men Cemetery. Now I’m curious and looking forward to another visit to the cemetery to see it. I’m curious about the old home place, too, whether it’s still standing or not.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Osprey & Pelicans

There is an osprey nest located at a small beach park near Tarpon Springs, Florida. It amazes me that these birds are comfortable nesting in such a crowded area, but it also delights me that the nest is so accessible for photography. I'm pretty sure this pair was incubating eggs because, soon after the one in the following photos took off from the nest, its mate landed in the nest and appeared to be rolling the eggs. Unfortunately, I missed getting any photos of that.




While I was taking the above photos, Doug was shooting a video which I've included below. You can slow the action by clicking on the tools icon and choosing a speed of .5 or .25.

We always enjoy watching the pelicans, too, especially as they dive into the water after fish. Following are a couple of snapshots of pelicans, followed by a video that Doug shot of a pair of them diving. Again, slowing the speed of the video will help you see the action in a little more detail.



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