Here’s Your Sign

True Story:  Yesterday I was at my local Target Store buying a large bag of Purina dog food  and was in the checkout line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

Really…what did she think I had, an elephant?  So, since I was feeling especially mischievous, on impulse I told her that no, I didn’t have a dog, I was starting the Purina Diet again.  I added that I probably shouldn’t because I ended up in hospital last time, but I’d lost 10 pounds before I woke up in intensive care with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry.  The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again.

I have to mention here that

practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.

Horrified, she asked me if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no, I stepped off the curb to sniff an Irish Setter’s butt and a car hit me.

I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack he was laughing so hard.

I’m now banned from the Target Store.

Spring Chickens

Coco is a stylish girl who likes to keep her feathers dusted.  She went all spread eagle on me and it was kind of embarrassing to stand there with a camera in my hand.  It was a dirty job, but I got the shot.  Not one to be shy, she recruited Nutmeg to watch.

The day started out with an April shower this morning and all the layers were huddled by the pop hole, peeking out every now and again to gather up the courage to make a run for the barn’s overhang.  There they know we keep extra snacks for just such a rainy day.

By one o’clock this afternoon, the sun began to shine and dried up all the rain so the itsy bitsy chickens strutted out in search of tasty bugs and wiggly worms, their favorite snacks.

Nemo, Margo, Nugget, Parsley, and Chick Norris (the orange Buff Orpington) were scritch-scratching away until the sun got really hot and then they gathered up Bonnie, Copper and Petal for a lazy afternoon of sunbathing.  In between all this clucking, rolling, searching, and resting, they managed to lay six brown speckled eggs and three shiny white ones.  What good girls!

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t love listening to my hens trill, squawk, chirp, or cluck out an alarm.  They are very social and engaging.   It’s not all sunshine and lollipops though…  Like. Today.  Bonnie plucked a pearl earring right out of my ear!  She was on my lap, getting some extra lovin’ and (possessed) decided to reach up and grab it.  It was in her beak and as she was just about to throw her head back to swallow it down, I grabbed her throat with one hand and extracted it with the other.   The post could have really hurt her insides!  Silly Girl.

Just when I think I’ve seen everything (after 20 years of poultry experience) there is always one more surprise!


Holland Pastoral


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.

Detroit River Walleye


Sure was nice to have a sharp Iron River Works knife when prepping these fish for the fry pan!

Woke up 4:45 a.m.  Picked up my son, Adam, across town.

Got fuel and drove to the “D”

Limited out by 8 a.m.

Smallest Walleye was 20″    Largest Walleye was 30″, 8 lbs.

          Several 6 pounders.

Adam got one bigger! His was a 30″ pig. Mine had spawned already.


We had one heck of a time this morning with Captain Ed of Medicine Man Charters.  Great guy.  Knew where the fish were hiding.

Once we had our limit, we were upgrading and tossing fish back.  We threw back more than we kept and I almost wept when having to toss back 20 to 26″ walleye.   We were vertical jigging and the fish were hot.  Great day on a beautiful Ranger Walleye Boat.  Thank you Captain Ed!

Make sure you look at the very last photo!




…later that day, after arriving home to bag our catch for the freezer…THIS HAPPENED!

They are good fighters!




Now you know “THE REST OF THE STORY!”

Wendell Ashbaucher of Bluffton, IN


In the early 20th century, childhood deaths were common place in rural America and parents had to accept that some of their offspring would not survive.  Influenza and farming accidents claimed many lives in those days.  There were no antibiotics.  Polio, measles and mumps were prolific.  Farmers set their own broken bones and horses pulled the plows until they dropped dead in the field.  Women baked bread, sewed for the family, made do, and tended large gardens full of cucumbers to be pickled, beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions.   Underground root cellars were thus filled and wheat that was threshed in July was ground into flour to bake breads, pie crusts and pancakes.   There was a pig in the pen, a hen house filled with layers and fryers, and a cow for milk.  Beef cattle and Percherons were rotated on pastures.

Nancy Mabel Waugh, my great grandmother.

My great-grandma (Nancy Mabel Waugh) was born in 1892 .  She lived on such an Indiana farm in the early 1900′s with her first husband, my great-grandfather, Wilhelm (William Edward) Ashbaucher.  They were third generation settlers, at the brink of American ingenuity and prosperity.  Henry Ford’s Model T was just rolling off the assembly line.  Soon to follow would be Edison’s electric light bulb, indoor plumbing, and radio sets which could miraculously broadcast a Yankee’s baseball game or one of Jack Dempsey’s fights.  Charles Lindbergh was learning to fly.

World War l was raging the year my grandfather, James William Ashbaucher, was born: 1917.  By November, 1918, the war to end all wars would be over.

My whole life, I was told that Grandpa had a big brother,  Will, who died one evening after being kicked in the head by a horse.  He was seven years old.   I was only six years old the first time I remember hearing the story.  It has always bothered me:   this little Will-boy who died without having had a chance to make his mark on the world.  I have always loved him.

Children of Nancy Mabel Waugh, my grandpa and his sister, Martha 1950′s

As I grew up, I would think about Will’s life on the farm.   He was the only big brother my grandpa ever had and he certainly tagged along after him.  By age 3, Grandpa was reaching under hen bellies to gather eggs while Will swept the hen house floor and freshened the nests.  Both boys shared an oval, metal bath tub in the kitchen on Saturday nights.  My great-grandma would heat the water on a stove top and both boys would strip down and get a good scrubbing.  My Grandpa wore Will’s hand-me-downs until 1926.  He was four years old then–the year that Wendell Waugh Ashbaucher “Will” was injured by the horse and killed.

Grandpa Place, living in town.

Four years later, unexpectedly at age 38, their father (my great-grandfather) died too:  leaving behind the farm, his wife (my great-grandma), and their two young children, my grandpa and, by then, a baby sister named Martha.  That’s when my great-grandma’s world fell apart.  She couldn’t care for her children and so sent them to live with two other families (temporarily) as she sold the farm, the livestock, the tools, and equipment.  Martha was cared for in town and fared well.  My grandpa, at age 4 or 5, went to live on another farm.  He never spoke of that time, but it is generally understood that he  had a hard life because the family was cruel.   Great-grandma moved to town and grieved.  Eventually she remarried a man named Glen Place, who was a railroad engineer, and brought the children back home to live with them.  Grandpa Glen was much loved by all and worked for the Nickel Plate Railroad.

  Today Grandma Place is buried between both husbands.  She died in 1971.

As a young girl growing up in Chicago, Grandma Place would come to visit.  She was very old by the 1960′s, but would push me on a back yard swing.  Later we would share some vanilla ice cream that my grandpa would hand crank in the cool of the shaded porch.  She played a wicked game of pinochle, wore lots of perfume, and her eyes twinkled.  She was a round, big hipped woman with frosty white hair and saggy, baggy cheeks that hung down.  She was soft and beautiful.   Once, she sewed me a dolly blanket from scraps and mailed it as a Christmas surprise. Now, when I get the patchwork blanket down from the shelf and look at the stitches she lovingly placed, precisely-spaced in rows, I wonder…

I wonder how she bore the loss of a child and a husband.  I wonder if she thought of them in the twilight hours of her life as she pieced together my blanket.  I hope making the blanket gave her comfort.  I can not touch the blanket without thinking of how she overcame all that sorrow.  She went on to live a happy, retired life in sunny Florida where she rode a three wheeled bicycle and enjoyed the sun’s heat and shine by the pool.  Later, Martha would join her.

One hundred years later, in 2013, my cousin, Sandy, and I were camping near Bluffton and on a lark I said, “Hey, why don’t we find out where the cemetery is and see if we can find any Ashbauchers.”   We googled it and discovered that there were four cemeteries nearby.   By divine intervention, we picked the right one, Fairview Cemetery.



My secret hope was to find Wendell.   I wanted to tell him (my great-uncle!) that he was not forgotten and that I loved his little brother, my grandpa, with all of my heart.


To be Continued….




Challenge Accepted




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.

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