Making Cat Food

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Traverse City has one of Michigan’s best kept secrets.  King and CoHo Salmon are processed into cat food at the Weir factory, located in the heart of the downtown warehouse district , along the Boardman River on Hall Street, by utilizing a river trap system.   20 – 30 lb. salmon swim into the river from Lake Michigan to spawn and eventually die as part of their normal life cycle.  To preserve the beautiful city beaches, the state allows the factory to harvest these fish in a series of troughs.  

But the big fun is watching the huge fish make their way, leap by leap, up the churning water of the fish ladder into the facility’s three holding bays, where they cruise back and forth like caged tigers and splash at people.  Each year, anywhere from 3,000 to 13,000 salmon are trapped and harvested at the Weir, while other species are returned to the water and allowed to continue their journey upstream.

It might not seem very sportsmanlike to catch huge salmon this way, but if the city did not harvest them, then each fall, as these fish swim into the river , the sandy Grand Traverse Bay beaches would be littered with smelly, dead fish.  It is a win-win situation.  The fish are going to die anyway, so their meat is turned into a tasty Tabby treat for ditch tigers across the U.S.A.

I found the trap system and the fish fascinating…but then my eye caught the sight of a real parking lot beauty…an old Airstream trailer which was converted and put into service as a food vendor.  Whoop-whoop!

  

As Good As It Gets

Had a hot date with a coupla 20 lb. King Salmons last weekend, river kings,  which were spawning in the Big Manistee River on the west side of the state.  These fish are about four years old and are returning up stream to spawn and die after having lived and matured in Lake Michigan.  They are silver and shiny (like Airstreams!) when they are growing but by the time they swim up river, they become dark speckled, splotched and blackish as their flesh rots away in the dying process.  The life cycle of salmon is gruesome.  Google it.

Lance, proprietor of Scout Trout Charters, just might be the best river man on the waters up there.  I say that, because he handled his boat and the waterway AND my meltdown with grace.  Yes, I had a full blown meltdown/breakdown.  These fish broke me.  They beat me up and  I cried like a little girl when I lost ANOTHER one of them after a good fight.  I tried not to let it happen.  I bit my lip.   I tried to think happy thoughts.  Then, flushed with humiliation, heat rising off my cheeks, the dam broke and the crocodile tears just kept rolling down.  Did I mention Leroy?  He fishes with Adam in the big Lake Michigan tournaments.  It was a “special” moment for him too.   I might be smiling in the pictures, but it was a rough day.

The guys tried to give me a “charity rod”–one where they had done the actual hooking and were willing to let me reel the fish in. You know, “just the tip, just for a minute, to see how it feels.”   I shot Lance “the look” and he backed right down.  Because no. Because hell no.   That’s way too lame for a grown woman who owns her own bass boat even if she is beet red, busted, and sniffling with snots.

The difference between pan fishing and salmon fishing is like the difference between a high school football player and an NFL player.  Salmon fishing is true sport fishing.  The rest is all practice.  The rods and reels are awkward and heavy.  River salmon fishing is a combination of catching a drift as one does with a fly rod but also casting using a bait caster.  For me, everything was on the wrong side of my body.  The reel was on top and needed to be cranked with the right hand–totally opposite of a spinning rod.  I lost more fish than I got.

In an act of conservation, we let all the ladies go to lay their eggs.  We kept three big males, each between 15 – 18 lbs.  That’s six sides which feeds 12 people and that’s as good as it gets on this trip.

I lied.  The best part was afterwards, when I climbed into the back seat of Lance’s truck, and saw this sticker.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;

And live alone in the bee-loud glade. 


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

 

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

                                                                                  ~ W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

     

I relate to this poet in that day or night, his mind is always on its way “home” to a quiet lake where he yearns to be.  Earlier today, Remi and I left civilization behind and braved the spring gusts to commune at  Walden’s Pond.  It is a four acre lake hidden on our farm.  There Remi dug holes until her white underbelly was camouflaged by dirt.  She splish-splashed her way along the frigid shore, hunting the plops that frogs make.

There I found a place to quiet my mind and marveled at the new life beginning to spring.  We found tiny buds sprouting on prickly bushes and delicate purple petals bursting past the marsh grasses up toward the sun.  Sadly, I found the remains of a yearling that did not survive the state record snowfall we suffered this year.  Even in death there is beauty in the woods  when considering that this deer, through flesh, blood and bone,  has given strength to other animals in the circle of life.

One day I will live the dream that is this poem, leaving behind schedules, conflicts, and scheduling conflicts! to live out my golden years in a bee-loud glade.  My canoe will rest on the bank and, under it, you’ll find my trusty fishing pole.

Holland Pastoral

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After 33 years of living in Michigan, I’m still finding surprises along her wind swept shores.  On the west side of the state, situated on Lake Michigan, Holland has gritty sand dunes, world class, pure sand beaches, and a thriving downtown filled with eateries, specialty shops, and culture.  She also sports a working light house affectionately called, “Big Red.”

The city was founded by Norwegians in the 1800′s and thousands of  townspeople celebrate its heritage each year by dancing down main street in wooden shoes and Dutch costumes during its annual Tulip Festival each May as the beer taps flow.  There are specialty shops selling everything from chocolates to 18 year balsamic vinegar and infused oils, to art galleries, to fantastic clothing stores and kite shops.

When asked to name a peninsula state, most people reply, “Florida”.  They don’t realize that The Mitten State is actually two peninsulas bordered by three Great Lakes (Michigan, Huron and Superior).   We are keepers of the light houses dotted along our rocky shorelines and we have the longest suspension bridge in the world, The Mackinac Bridge, connecting the upper and lower peninsulas.

There are thousands of inland lakes and rushing waterfalls like the iron colored Tahquamenon Falls near Paradise, MI.   Along with Paradise, you can go to Hell, MI and follow that up by a stop at Climax, Christmas, or Turkeyville.  But I digress…

 

Holland happened to be my stopping point this weekend.  During my stay, the highs were in the mid 50′s and the lows were in the mid 30′s.  Did I mention that it was storming and gale-force windy too?   My Hen House and I had the entire campgroud to ourselves as Remi and I roasted our first s’mores of the season.  Sometimes taking the road less traveled, volunteering for tough weather conditions, and hitting the sights during the off season yields a picture taker some unique skies and boundless possibilities.

Challenge Accepted

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AIRSTREAM ASKS FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS

“SHOW US THE ONE THING YOU CAN’T GO CAMPING WITHOUT”

When my dog hears me jingle my Airstream keys, she calls “shotgun” and leaps into the front seat of the truck.  My 16′ DWR Bambi, affectionately named, “The Hen House” is just the ticket to freedom for me as a solo mom whose baby chicks have flown the coop.  My German Shorthaired Pointer, Remi, gives me the courage.  She is my protector and friend as we roll across the open road. 

Just having her along always sparks conversation with other campers and it would break her little doggie heart if I ever left without her.   We have our routines as we strike camp across the miles.  Mornings are for walking the foot paths in the woods or going  to see all the waterfalls that Mommy wants to see. 

Then we run a few miles, eh, I mean she runs a few miles because I’ve trained her on lonely, dirt back roads to heel to the front wheel of the truck.  A tired dog is a happy dog! 

Then it is nap time, lounging around time, hot summer sun time, or bird watching time; a favorite past time for us both. 

We live in Michigan, a two peninsula state, and in the off season, Remington’s Iron Maiden runs the wild sand beaches of Great Lakes Huron, Michigan or Superior.  My American Express card is definitely NOT the one thing that I wouldn’t leave home without!

When I posted the picture of Remi reflected in the sands of Lake Michigan, Airstream wrote me back to encourage me to enter the picture and a brief story (above) in their contest.  Challenge accepted.

Down below are some more pictures of my road warrior!  Enjoy.

Warm Weather is For Wussies

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 3rd Annual Airbiscuit Anniversary and Chili Cook-Off

Airstream Rally in Wellington, Ohio

So what if the highs each day barely hit 50 degrees with wind gusts to 30 mph and the lows each night froze our noses and toes.  We saw it as an opportunity to sport our winter flair.  There were bedazzled Stormy Kromers and lots of buffalo check flannels on display.  When it comes to keeping warm, we’re professionals.   Hence, the necessity of the Chili Cook-Off contest.

Folks from far and wide hauled their heavy, black iron dutch ovens filled with spices, mystery meat and those stinkin’ beans to the camp pavilion for the judging.   A sea of buckskin colored Carhartt jackets and insulated overalls swelled back and forth, shifting from foot to foot to keep warm.   The wind blew the heat from the pots right up our noses until our eyes watered.  Trophies were handed out and then the real tasting began.

One of my favorite things about this rally was the “magic” pillowcases that we made.

Watch this on youtube.com!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrYWCma9wgM

These are great for shut ins, children, charity events and as Christmas gifts for people of all ages.  I made mine for my Grandma Vargo who just turned 100 years old on June 5, 2013.  She loves butterflies and gardening so it made my heart happy to sew something special for her.

 

 

The campground did a great job of decorating, and sponsored a trick or treat hour for children to walk up to each camper for candy.   Our group had a Halloween decorating contest, a BIG raffle, a HUGE pot luck dinner, a heated party tent, several group breakfasts on a GIANT griddle , and cowboy coffee each morning.  Our rally hosts did a fabulous job with the swag bags and planning!  It was great to see some rally friends from the past and to make many new ones.

When I saw the skeletons in the canoe and the two by a campfire, I texted my cousin, Sandy (like the beach) and said, “OMG…San, that’s us until the end of time!”

 

 

 

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