My visit to Shutter, whoops, I mean Sand Island

It was time for our annual off-the-farm vacation. This means heading up north to the Apostle Islands. This would make it my third annual trip up north. I do love my Apostle Islands. I have the tee shirts and sweatshirts to back up that claim. But this year felt different. Pete wanted to spend a day on Sand Island. A day. On a remote island. For a whole day. I felt misgivings clouding my thoughts leading up to the trip north. I couldn’t help but think of Shutter Island. Especially when the only way Pete could get us on the island early in the morning and picked up towards end of day was by chartering one Captain Bob. So now I’m thinking Shutter Island meets Gilligan’s Island with Captain Bob as our only means of salvation should anything go bad on Shutter, oh excuse me, Sand Island.

Sand Island Trail MarkerI was eager to explore Sand Island as much as Pete. It really does have an interesting history. Despite its remote outpost, families did manage to settle there year-round in the late 1880′s through early 1900′s. This I find amazing as the winters can be quite harsh, and ferry service to and from the mainland didn’t exist. In fact, even today there is no such ferry service, but there is Captain Bob who did graciously powerboat us from Madeline Island to Sand Island, which was about a 50 minute happy ride. It really was a lovely morning. The lake was calm, the sun was out and we had our maps, water, snackies and wine. Because there are beaches on that there island, and where there are beaches, there will be wine. And snacks. And horror. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So Captain Bob dropped us off as we remarked “what a delightful beach”. Indeed. Okay Captain Bob, catch us at 3:30 pm! We’ll meet you on this here beach after we’re done exploring the old homesteads and lighthouse. Or so we hoped.

We shouldered up our backpacks and marched into the woods, and were promptly met with a volunteer park ranger who was adjusting her mosquito netting hat thing. My first thought was that she was tending to bees. A few seconds later, I realized mosquito netting is a necessity for basic survival on this island during this time. Despite long sleeves, pants, socks, boots and hats, a cloud of mosquitoes were our constant and annoying hiking mates descending on us in the seconds should we would pause to take a picture. So the key was to keep on the move, and move fast. We must reach the lighthouse which was a 2 mile hike. Not a far distance but far enough with an entourage of hungry mosquitoes hovering over us. My one hope was that once we got inside the lighthouse, mosquitoes wouldn’t be biting us. Surely, there must be some relief there!

sand island light houseTrue enough, as soon as we reached the clearing that opened to the lighthouse, the mosquitoes stayed back. But the flies took over. Aaack!! Flies covered our legs from ankle to knee. It was such an odd thing that these flies were particular to the lower limbs. Better that than up my nostrils I suppose. After exploring the rocky outcrops at the base of the lighthouse, we bid our flies goodbye and went into the lighthouse where we met up with our friendly mosquito-netted park rangers who were happy to talk to us about the family who had lived there and tended the lighthouse for many years. We were allowed to actually go up the lighthouse tower itself. Albeit, very carefully, in spirals; watch your head, don’t touch the lead paint, shaky railings, be afraid, etc…yeah, I’m loving this. Scary stuff just keeps getting better;

light house stairsAfter our sojourn to the lighthouse, we muscled through the mosquitoes and hiked a bit down to another beach, and then back up to the trail leading back to the dock whence we arrived, accompanied by our mosquitoes. After 4 miles of the little biters, I ran to the beachhead and practically dove in the water to rid myself of the pesky beasts. Wow. I’m a wimp. There was more to explore on this island but I refused to go back into the woods once I rinsed myself of the nasty biters. But Pete was determined and ventured back in for one more shot of the last vestiges of those who once called this home;

Sand Island CarsThe islanders had two cars that helped to shuttle supplies to and from the dock to their homes. They remain there still to this day. I’m sure there is more to see there on this island, but the mosquitoes drove us out from seeing more. We retreated to the beach for relief and to await Captain Bob. While we waited, I rinsed my buggy bites and got busy constructing a retreat should Captain Bob never show up. Neurotic me thinks about these things you know. So I built a nice, little beach house;

Sand Island Beach House Front

Sand Island Beach House BackCaptain Bob did pick us up at the scheduled time much to my relief. And we had a fun powerboat ride back to Madeline Island. Next time we visit such an island, I’m wearing mosquito netting from head to toe. And oh by the way, Captain Bob was cool, he diverted our boat so that we could see a bald eagle up close on one of the islands. Those are the little things that made this trip special. Thanks Captain Bob!

Clown Meets Farm

I’m just going to start with a little disclaimer here; if you don’t like clowns or if you have a clown phobia (Coulrophobia) it’s best that you just pass on reading this post. Because this post is pretty clowny. Now I don’t have a clown phobia, but I am not on the best of terms with clowns. I think they are at the very least annoying, and at worst just downright creepy. Thus, I try to avoid carnivals and circuses. I find something creepy and malevolent lurking beneath the surfaces there. That may be in part to reading Ray Bradbury and Stephen King novels. And just as I can’t help taking a peek into that world through their stories, I am tempted to draw in closer for a peek at those strange clown/carnival/circus images. But not for long. Just enough to look and run.

Yesterday, we stumbled upon a small town carnival. It’s that season I guess. We thought we’d just take a walk and poke into some shops of one of our favorite quaint towns nearby. Unbeknownst to us it was “Town and Country Days” which meant the carnies came to town. Which means weirdness has tripped in and set up shop with all of its bright colors, alarming faces, beckoning voices, and that carousel music playing over and over and over. Till you find yourself face down in the rabbit hole.

So then why, when we were perusing the shops amidst all that Calliope cacophony, did I stop and linger over this;

Clown 5 DollarsNooooo! Creepy clown in a bin! He was sitting in a tin bin outside a very cool vintage shop on the main drag. And I had to stop and look at him. And then not only that…I played with him. He is no ordinary clown. He accepts donations. You put a coin on his scary palm, push down a lever in his back and his eyes roll up (yeah, just what I want to see a clown’s eyes do) and his mouth opens and the coin goes down the hatch. I couldn’t resist. I kept playing with it.

Clown in up positionAnd Pete kept saying, “it’s only $5″ in his evil Come-Walk-The-Clown-Path-With-Me voice. Aaargh, something wicked this way comes and it’s here in our little town!! And my resistance is weakening. And so…

Creepy Clown ReceiptHe is mine. Or is it the other way around??! What cracks me up about the receipt is that the store owner actually wrote “creepy clown” on it. I didn’t realize that until I got home and got a laugh out of that. I think she did that because I approached the counter holding it out in my hands saying “I’m taking the creepy clown”. I like a store owner with a sense of humor. I hope I have that same sense of humor when Creepy Clown wakes me up at night with its eyes rolled into the back of its head asking for coinage. I might then have to put it in the back of the closet like I did that time I begged my mom for an Alfred Hitchcock album. One listen and that’s where the album went. But it was great!

Anyway, Creepy Clown came home and I gave him a tour of the farm. Some of our present farm residents weren’t too sure of our newest occupant. Holsteins are pretty curious, but this time…eeh, not so much.

Clown Meets SteerAfter the meet and greet, it was time to bring him to his new residence. That’s right, the Milkhouse. For some reason, it just seems right that he should be there. That is to say, far enough away so that he doesn’t come at me in the night, but close enough that I can gaze upon him and drop coins in his belly and shake them out of his arse once in a while. Welcome home buddy;

Milkhouse Clown with coinsFunny thing is, after our farm tour I placed him in the milkhouse and put a quarter in him, pressed the lever, and corn kernels came out! Which goes to show, corn does travel. In one way, out the other! Ha ha, oh how degrading for the clown.

Clown in the grassHe’s just gonna come and get me, isn’t he?

Stop, look and listen

YorkStopI really have to tell myself that sometimes. Stop scurrying around. Stop gathering nuts. Drop the stupid nuts and lift up your head once in a while and take a look around, you might be intrigued. Like Nancy Drew. And Scooby too.

I live in a township whose center is a mere 2 miles south of our home. Yet, my travels always take me north to where we declare our home city so to speak. And a nice, little city it is; with antique shops, a brewery, cafes, and yes a river runs through it. The mighty Crawfish in fact. I love that name by the way, Crawfish River. But that’s not what this is about. Let’s go 2 miles south for a moment. Because that’s what I did one day. The only time I go to our township center is to vote in the little town hall. Just a few minutes down the road and around the corner finds me in our little town of York where I dash into the town hall, vote, maybe exchange a few pleasantries, and then dash out again. Hop in the car and vroom home. Done.

But not this time.

York FrontageThis time, I had to stop, look and listen. I mean I did get in my car with every intention to vroom on out of there. But something made me stop and really take a look around. There isn’t much to look at, which is my point. I’m looking at what once was.

York House RoadsideThat “once was” thing is what I find delicious. It’s like brain candy, dipping into that bowl of imagination. What was it like back then? Who lived here? Did kids play on the road during soft, summer evenings? Gather with neighbors for potlucks? Was this once a bustling, little intersection? In my mind, it still is. It is still York, and it is still there. I’m proud of that little township. It’s enduring the years in a graceful state of decay where memories play in the mind for those who pause.

York Road OutMind you, this is only a snapshot of one intersection, while surrounding it are residences and farms that are doing all right, including our own. It’s just this one spot, the center of the township that stopped me in my tracks and got my imaginary motor running and the Mystery Machine revved up. That’s still keeping it alive I think. That and one other place if you care to stop, drop and roll:

New York CenterThat’s right, drop in at the New York Center, where potlucks and Packer fans are alive and well. You just gotta stop.

He shall be called Rain

Kitty Stalker Rain

It was truly a dark and stormy night. We were sitting on the front porch listening to the rain hit the leaves. Hans the barn kitten was nowhere to be seen. That’s no surprise as what right and proper cat would be out in the rain when he has a nice, dry barn in which to retire for the night. But then we heard a faint “waah, waah” float through the air. We grew still while trying to pierce the night with our ears for another sound. Pete thought it might be Hans in distress. So he took off looking for him leaving me on the porch still listening. And again, “waah, waah”. So I jumped up and ran in the house to see a happy Pete coming through the side door with a wet Hans in his arms. But Pete! I still hear the wah-wah sound. Go see! There’s something else out there! (and it better not be moth-man. Big Foot would be okay but moth-man, noooo.)

And he did. While I stood on the porch with one soggy Hans, Pete set foot out into the dark with a weak, battery-powered flashlight. I am going to have to make a specific battery run one of these days and buy multiples of every size. We will definitely not be making it through any apocalypse at the rate we’re going. Moments later, he emerged from the deep dark with one little kitten just as soggy as Hans. Behold!! Hans’s long lost brother! One litter removed that is.

Hans and Brother

It has not escaped our notice that Hans’s Mama has had another litter since the litter that gave us Hans. We only know this because she brought her new litter over for dinner one evening. And then promptly went back to wherever she calls home. We think it’s the farm down the road. Once in a while Mama comes back for a snack but we haven’t seen the kittens since their little kitty layover. Until that rainy night. Since then, this rain kitten has stayed with us, despite his big brother Hans tackling him, swatting him and generally giving him a bit of a hard time. But I did see them curled up together taking a nap on one of the patio chairs today. I’ve never really been around cats before, but damn if those cat clich├ęs aren’t true. I see it more and more, and they do chase butterflies. And June bugs, bumblebees and any piece of fluff that drifts on by. Stop being so cute, I’m a dog person dammit!!

I don’t know how long this kitten will hang around with us. They seem to come and go, but I love having another one around, especially Clone Of Hans. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Barn Kitten Rain

If he does stick around, I will call him Rain. Because it certainly was raining cats and kittens that night, and this kitten plopped right into Pete’s arms.


The Big Warm Up

I think this is it…I think it’s warm enough to officially open my studio:


It’s time to open the door, get inside and get busy:

TinklerHand Signage

oops, wrong door…that’s a different kind of busy.

Let’s try this door:

Studio Entrance

Okay, here we go. Back on track. So each spring as the weather comfortably warms up, I trot all my stuff back out to the Milkhouse studio. This year, a door mat was added to the entrance thanks to my farmer-husband, so it naturally carries a farm theme. Not a “cow jumping over the moon” cutesy theme, but rather a hardcore “I like big tractors” theme. I’m okay with that. We all need to dream big.

Milkhouse Studio Sign

Things are slowly getting into place in the studio. Even the studio plants made it through the winter and relocated to their summer studio sink-in-residence:

Studio Plants

Now I just have to allocate time to spend in there. And sketch for god’s sake. Even if it’s random scribbles. Last year I got sidetracked by a whole lot of big events. This year, it’s time to buckle down and get back into that studio with serious intent and get some hardcore charcoal under my fingernails.

Work Space

And maybe, just maybe I’ll expand my creative scope and do something involving (gasp!) color. That’s right. This year, even pencils of many hues made their way into my studio. Whimsical thinking on my part but let’s see what happens:

Colorful Pencils

But don’t hold me to that, I still like the black and white thing;

Steer and Salad

Excuse me, but your barn door is open

Really, it was. Only I didn’t know about it till much later, months later much to my embarrassment. Apparently it blew off in some fierce wind back in February. In my daily travels, I don’t usually see this part of the barn. But in Pete’s daily travels, he does. And he claims he told me about it, but I sure don’t remember. Maybe I was out to lunch that day in the figurative sense. So the thing blew off, and I only found out when I went in the barn one day about a month or two ago to see how things fared after the big chill let up a little. I thought it kind of funny that a whole lot of light was flooding into the barn. And then I saw the barn door open. It’s a little peculiar that Pete would randomly leave the door open like that. So I meandered over to have a look, and saw…space. No barn door. I looked down. Ah ha! There’s the door. On the ground. Wait, what?!

Barn Door Down

Thus I discovered what Pete already knew, the barn door was out for the count. During the whole winter. Rest assured, when the weather warmed up Pete and company got that thing back up and in place. This occurred while I was safely at work in front of a non-moving computer surrounded perhaps by fabric swatches and pattern samples. I’m glad for that because when I heard about the big door-raising later, my eyes rolled into the back of my head. It seems there were a few minutes when the door was on the brink of either going up in place, or falling down and flattening Pete. Pancake Pete. That wouldn’t be good. Once again, I’m thankful that he made it through another one of his harrowing moments.

Now that the door is up and spring is really here, I had to go back into the barn for some sprucing up. While I was doing a little floor scraping and sweep duty, I came across an object resting near that once fallen door. It almost looked like a little, vintage toy.

Barn Door Runner

It is in fact, the original barn door runner that must have snapped off and fallen by the wayside. Yet, I still can’t help thinking of it as some little, metal race car. All it needs is a little, metal man plunked in there with knitted brow, clutching the throttle. This I think I shall keep. I don’t know what I’ll do with it but it is mine now. In fact, Pete soaked it in diesel fuel to clean it off for me. Sheesh, I was just going to use a steel brush but okay, diesel fuel is fine too:

Barn door runner cleanedBut if it runs off in the night, I’ll know why.

And Sew It Goes

One Yard Wonders

It’s starting to happen. The collecting of the fabric I mean. It used to be that I would only buy fabric for a specific pattern with a specific yardage. That was before I started working at Nancy’s Notions. Now it’s like working in a candy store. I’m surprised at the restraint I’ve exhibited in the past year and almost a half that I’ve been there. As it goes though, restraint pretty much flew out the window during the annual Sewing Weekend event. This is when we all drop our regular day-to-day duties, and for 3 solid days devote ourselves to this annual sewing extravaganza. This is only my second year, and I’m still in awe of the effort and complexity that goes into this event. Space is cleared, vendors set up their wares, and merchandise is tagged and displayed in and around the warehouse.

fat quarter land

For the second year in a row, I’ve been assigned to work the fabric department. Thank you! That’s just inviting me to dip my sticky fingers in the candy jars. And get paid for it. But really my duties included bagging and tagging the cut yardage for our guests. But mostly, and most importantly, I sorted, organized and neatened up the rows and rows of one yard cuts and fat quarters. And I didn’t even know what a fat quarter was two years ago. I sure do now. I would walk up and around the bins, sorting, reorganizing and filing the cuts. And then start all over again. I kept thinking of Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill while I tidied up the fabric. Now I don’t want you to get the idea that I was doing this tucking and tidying all by myself. There were a number of us Sisyphean fabric people working the floor. Which is a very good thing. It’s lonely work surrounded by hordes of fabric-loving guests.

One Yard Cuts

While all this was going on though, I found my inner brain working at matching colors and patterns for my own ulterior motives. And then finally picking out one yard cuts that I might like to have. It became irresistible and made the whole process much more fun. But I found that once I picked one I couldn’t stop there very easily.

Purple and Black

Egads. I have started a stash. That is another term I never knew of before. A fabric stash. A grouping of fabrics just waiting for its time to come. And it will come. I don’t know for what or for when, but it’s my candy collection just started.

Teal Floral

I had to return to the Butler’s Pantry to clear an official space in anticipation of further stash development.

Chocolate Sprinkles

Pete, I am so sorry but the Butler’s Pantry is now mine. It’s best that you get on your tractor and leave it all behind.

Batik pink and brownOn the other hand, didn’t you say I needed more color?


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