The August List – 2016

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August brought more summer heat, but also much-needed rain. It was another busy month, but we got to slow way down for a couple weeks when we took a road trip to upstate New York, where my Dad has a cabin at the tip of the Adirondacks and where many of his/my relatives still live.

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1)  We started a new rewards system for the girls this summer (got idea from a husband’s cousin). Each stick represents a number of plus or minus points, which translates to the same number of minutes, which they can use at the end of the week for app time (kid apps installed on my iphone). The system sort of tapered off during our trip, but we will amp it up again when school starts. It seems to work well.

Note: the fact that we are so strict with our girls regarding screen time is ironic, as my husband and I are tv and phone addicts. But if I recall, Steve Jobs was the same with his kids, so there.

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2)  This is my Instagram suggested viewing. Chickens eating. Lordie.

When I’m on as The Garden Detroit, I try to engage with other users, mainly farmers, who are often animal-lovers and I cannot stop “liking” videos of baby animals (mainly bunnies. or goats.) eating! They pop up with tags like “carrot” or “lettuce” or “eatyourgreens.” So silly.

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3)  Two days before our NY road trip, we went as a family to a Tigers game, our first of the season. It was a picture-perfect day with a beautiful view from our seats.

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4)  My husband and I were able to sneak away one evening for some adult time while we were in New York. We drove to nearby Lowville, to a craft brewery and taproom called BarkEater. Very cozy spot with a great staff (you know you’re in a small town when the server asks what brings you to the area and then “yes of course I know your dad”).

We started out with their tasting flight. I found most of them to be quite good, but ordered a glass of wine, as is my preference (they offer wines from local winery Tug Hill Vineyards), but I should have stuck to the beer. Wine varieties they carried were too sweet.

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5)  It was hot in New York, as it has been in Michigan all summer. On one particularly hot and muggy day, I drove the girls to Mercer’s Dairy for ice cream cones. I hadn’t been there before, but it was a very stressful drive through winding country backroads for 20 minutes until we finally reached the highway an easy 30-minute drive to Boonville.

On the way there, the skies turned heavy and dark, so I quickly ushered the girls inside once we pulled up to the shop. Mercer’s is famous for its wine ice cream, which I totally poo-pooed until I tried it. Surprisingly refreshing and yummy, though I can only speak for the strawberry champagne.

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As soon as we got our scoops, it started pouring rain. But I had to get a photo of a cone with the sign, so I grabbed my daughter’s mint chocolate chip (my scoop was in a cup) and ran outside. I got drenched (and left my daughter a little perplexed “Hey! Mom!”) but I got the shot.

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6) While visiting cousins on Lake Ontario, we (me, cousin Melanie, her daughter, and her new baby girl) took a walk as part of the baby’s naptime routine. It was nice to see all the pretty lake homes and we passed an old barn along the way and one quirky, multi-colored home pictured above (it’s vacant – surprise).

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7)  We also passed this tree, which I was curious about, as I didn’t recognize the fruit/seeds. My cousins told me it was a chestnut tree – who knew!? I’d never seen one before that I can recall. I didn’t realize they had spiky outer shells. Pretty cool.

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8)  While visiting Aunt Betty at Murrock Farms, I asked her about a photo in her living room. It was my grandmother Lucy (and Aunt Betty’s mom). She also showed me two photos of my grandfather Harrison Stackel, who died before I was born. She said they were chauffeur’s license photos (which back then I believe were like driver’s licenses). Such a contrast. As were their personalities, so I hear (I can only vouch for my grandmother, who I dearly loved).

Aunt Betty, by the way, is as amazing as ever at 92. She just finished reading Hillary’s America (no judgement!) and made biscuits that morning, which we ate for snack after a tour of the farm, which she accompanied us on.

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9)  This teepee has been in our seven-year-old’s room, but I set it up outside one day in hopes of giving the girls a new interest in it. When I was a kid, my sister and I looooved small, private spaces and would have been beside ourselves to play in a tee-pee, so I’m disappointed they don’t use it all that much.

I’m thinking it may get more use once both girls can read (and both write complete sentences without help). Not giving up quite yet.

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10)  I took the girls to Detroit’s Avalon Bakery earlier this month. We got sandwiches and sat outside for lunch. The sandwiches were so-so (I am also not a big sandwich person) but the bread there is really delicious and the treats were also very good.

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11)  While on vacation, I missed the Garden’s huge tomato boom. I was lucky to get some before and after my trip, although not in the quantities I would have gotten had I been here. Still, I was able to roast enough for a large jar, have made marinara sauce twice, bruschetta countless times, BLTs and chili. It’s been so awesome to have farm-fresh produce all summer! Sign up with your local CSA program next year, so worth it.

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12) I pass this mural when I come home from working at the Garden. It’s really sweet, I think and I finally stopped to take a closer look and to snap a photo.

So many great photos from our road trip, which I will share soon. The girls start school next week (Michigan is so late! I’ve been seeing back-to-school pics from friends for weeks now) and I am looking forward to that, but not to the end of summer. As the girls get older, summers seem to get more fun because we can do more, whine less and stay out longer. Michigan summer weather certainly helps (I’m often reminded of San Francisco summer weather with photos of friends wearing jackets and scarves, so I am grateful, even with our drought).

Wishes for a lovely September!

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Murrock Farms

IMG_2548 (1024x1024)On our last day of vacation, we drove into Watertown to Murrock Farms, run by my cousin Darryl. When I was growing up, his parents, my Uncle Charles and Aunt Betty (my dad’s sister) owed and ran the farm.

After my Grandma died, when we visited New York in the summers, we stayed with Aunt Betty (Uncle Charles had passed by then). At 91, she still lives in the farmhouse on the property and watches over the farm, noting every car or person who comes by; she has all her wits about her. Amazing.

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Uncle Charles and Aunt Betty (far right. Okay, her eyes are closed, but it’s the only photo I have). Next to them, my mom and dad. Next over is dad’s sister Rosalind and husband Art. Then his brother Doug and wife Irene. Then his brother Fred and wife Anna and finally my grandmother, Lucy.

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Aerial view of farm without the calf barn or new milk barn.

On a side note, only a few years before Uncle Charles died did I find out that he hated his nickname Chuck. I was so surprised when someone (Aunt Betty? my Dad?) told me. It felt weird to make the transition to Charles, but I wasn’t about to keep calling someone by a name they didn’t like.
IMG_2528 (1024x1024)We showed up somewhat unannounced. I’d told Darryl we were planning on stopping by, but never confirmed when (sorry and thank you!!).  Jeffrey (Darryl’s son) and his dog Sarah pulled up in the truck and were the first to greet us.IMG_2557 (1024x1024)IMG_2405 (768x1024) IMG_2404 (768x1024)He was working on the new barn, which will house the new offices (currently in various rooms in the farmhouse) and new milking robots. I know. Whoa, right?

Current milking set-up…

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Blue container is catching milk for the calves.

New milking set-up (photo from Lely.com)…

I was fascinated by the milking process as a kid (I say kid, but well up into my teens. even now). I always made a point to watch at least once a day (there are three a day, the first one starting at 5:00am) when we were on the farm.

According to what I read online (click link for article), robotics milking not only saves money in the long run, but also includes other benefits like “more milk for cow,” “more freedom and improved animal well-being” and “better social life for farmer.” :)

IMG_2556 (1024x1024) IMG_2551 (1024x1024)We made our way to the calf barn.

IMG_2553 (1024x1024)The babies were super cute. The girls held out their hands to be licked. One calf got a pretty big mouthful of my daughter’s dress! The date on the tag is the calf’s birth date. Jeffrey started over at number 1 for their tags not long ago. I believe Darryl said they were up to number 3000 at that point.

IMG_2555 (1024x1024)IMG_2550 (1024x1024)IMG_2527 (1024x1024)IMG_2644Darryl made the move to organic farming I want to say about eight years ago. It took a couple years to become fully organic, as the entire farm (corn fields/feed, cows) had to meet all the criteria. Most of the farm’s milk ends up with the Horizon brand.

Such a fun day reliving childhood memories and sharing them with the girls.