Michigan’s Lighthouses

I have always loved lighthouses.  When my husband and I took vacations to the east coast we always visited the lighthouses.

Recently moving to Michigan I was so happy to find out the state, with 3,288 miles of shoreline, is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the USA.  Although Old Man Winter is showing up this week with a snow storm and we will not be able to do much traveling right now, come spring I’m heading out to check out these lighthouses.  As the maps below show that will probably keep me busy for a long, long time.

In the meantime, thought you might enjoy some interesting facts about lighthouses:

  • A person who likes lighthouses is said to be a pharophisle.  (Not really sure about that one – the word is not in the dictionary but there are plenty of lighthouse lovers who insist this is a word.  Collins English Dictionary says it is a word “pending investigation”.)
  • The United States has more lighthouses than any other country – 37 states have lighthouses.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the USA is Cape Hatteras Light on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  It stands 193 feet tall.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the world is in Saudi Arabia.  Jeddah Light is 436 feet tall.
  • The east coast of the USA has 391 lighthousesas opposed to only 94 on the west coast.
  • A lighthouse keeper was sometimes called a “wickie” because in the days before electricity the oil lamps were used for a light.  The lighthouse keeper was responsible for keeping the wicks trimmed and the light burning.

I think one reason I love lighthouses so much is the very idea of their existence.  They were created to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas.  As a girl I loved the song “Jesus is The Lighthouse.”  The Bible also talks quite a bit about Christians being lights in the world.

Here’s the song sung by the Heritage Singers.  Note that it is from 1976 – but I hope you will take time to listen to it.

And you can bet come spring I’ll be posting about the lighthouses of Michigan.

 

Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

What an Artist!!!

It’s Fall!  My favorite time of year.  This year I am experiencing Fall in a new home in a new town in a new state.  Talk about change!

And I think I have moved to the perfect location to see all the beauty that God creates for us in the Fall.  Let’s hear it for Michigan!  These were just some of the views my husband and I saw on our drive through the country yesterday.

One of my favorite trees is the white birch tree.  The bark is so beautiful even in winter when the leaves are all gone.   In our home in Illinois we had three white birch trees and two paper birch trees.  I really hated leaving them when we moved.

But on our drive yesterday we discovered Michigan has a lot of white birch trees and they are at the height of their Fall beauty.

Spring is wonderful when the first blades of grass and flowers peek through and the leaves begin to appear on the trees.  Summer is gorgeous with all the various flowers in bloom.  Even Winter has its beauty with the fresh fallen snow.  But I think Fall is when God shows off!

I understand the science behind the change in the leave colors.  But I think of the Mind that designed such a process that brings such beauty to the world.

…the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Though I am probably taking this Bible verse out of context, I loved to think as we drove by all the beautiful trees they were praising God with their spectacular colors.

Yes, God is an artist and Fall is when He shows off His talent!

Thank you God for the beautiful display you give us every year!

 

From Corn Fields to Mint Farms

Growing up in Illinois I am used to seeing acres and acres of corn fields any time I drive though the countryside.   Although Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the country, Illinois is a close second.  Some of the top-producing counties are in Illinois.

Seventy-five percent of Illinois’ total land area is devoted to farmland and much of that is in corn.  That’s a lot of corn!

The corn grown in Illinois is not the corn you buy at the store and put on your plate with lots of butter and salt.  That is sweet corn bred for its sugar content which is what makes it so tasty!  One of my favorite sweet corns is called “peaches and cream.”  It is a hybrid and combines white and yellow kernels.  Oh!  What a treat it is!  I usually buy several dozen ears in the early summer and put in the freezer so we can enjoy it all year long.  Nothing is greater than sitting down at the dining room table in the middle of a snow storm with a plate of steaming hot peaches and cream corn waiting to be enjoyed.

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The corn grown in Illinois is field corn that is bred for starch.  This corn is used in food products like cornmeal, corn chips and corn syrup.  It is also used in making ethanol and polymers.  However, primarily it is grown for animal feed.

How do you tell the difference?  Sweet corn is shorter, has larger tassels visible, and is often a lighter green.  Field corn is taller, has smaller visible tassels, and is darker green. Sweet corn is harvested in mid-summer while field corn is harvested in the fall after the plant starts to die and the corn kernels become very dry.

Corn is seen in the field that belonged to the Gibson family farm businesses which was auctioned off by a court appointed receiver in Morocco

I love taking road trips through the countryside in the fall to watch the farmers as they harvest the field corn.  Although my husband enjoys it also, all the dust that it produces is a little hard on his allergies.

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Growing up watching the corn as it grows in the field from the small plants in the spring to the tall stalks in the fall and watching the harvest, I never thought much about it until I moved to Virginia.  I married a young man in the Marine Corps who was stationed at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia just outside Washington DC.  As we explored Virginia that summer I enjoyed the mountains and the many historical sites, but I began missing all those acres and acres of corn.  When fall came I think I was as much homesick for the corn harvest as I was for my family.  As we headed back to Illinois after my husband’s discharge from the Marine Corps, I could not wait to see the corn fields.  Living a few years later as a missionary in the Philippines I once again longed for my corn fields.  Somehow home is associated in my mind with corn fields.

Now I am moving to Michigan.  While Michigan also grows corn, the area where I am moving is noted for its mint farms.  Driving around the area I did see a few fields of corn but nothing of the acres and acres of corn here in Illinois.  St Johns, Michigan calls itself “Mint City” and Clinton County, where St Johns is located, ranks first in Michigan in regards to total mint production.  In August every year the city holds a Mint Festival celebrating its history in mint farming.

I did some checking to see exactly what Michigan agriculture has to offer.  I found Michigan is:

  • #1 producers of tart cherries in USA
  • 6th producer of dairy milk
  • #1 producer of potatoes for potato chips
  • supplies the eggs for all the McDonald’s east of the Mississippi River
  • sells over 2 million Christmas trees every year

(these facts are taken from:the “Pure Michigan website: https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/michigan-agriculture-facts-might-not-have-known)

So – I’m taking a last trip through the countryside to see my corn fields.  I imagine next fall I’ll be asking my husband for us to take a road trip south to see the farmers harvesting the corn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Folk Art

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When my husband and I take a trip we love to sometimes get in the car and head out with no particular destination.  We just drive until something catches our eye; often we  say “I wonder where that road goes” and off we go to find out where it will lead us.

Even when we go on a vacation and have a definite place in mind, we still often take a detour when we see something that looks interesting.

On one trip home from visiting family in North Carolina, we saw a sign by the road that said “Kentucky Folk Art.”  So, forgetting our time schedule for the day, we took the next exit and discovered one of Kentucky’s special places.

The Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC) is a part of Morehead State University.  Housing a permanent collection of nearly 1,400 pieces of self-taught art, we found the pieces to be playful, mischievous and fantastic.  These pieces were excellent examples of original folk art.

 

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Two of my favorite pieces were this couple dancing and the guitar player.

If you are ever in the area of Morehead, Kentucky you must check out the KFAC.  And while you are on the road, take time to get off the beaten trail.

Who knows what treasures you will discover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Things in a Small Town

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This week my husband and I, along with our youngest daughter and our youngest granddaughter, took a final road trip before summer ends and everyone heads back to school.  We had seen pictures of this town and it looked interesting, but we were not sure if it would be worth the trip (four hours one way).

It was!  If you are looking for something unique, let me recommend a visit to Casey, Illinois.

This small town has the biggest golf tee, the biggest wind chimes, the biggest rocking chair, to name only a few of the “big” items in the town.  There are also items that, while not the biggest, are certainly big, like an ear of corn and a bicycle.

All these “big” attractions started when Jim Bolin saw that small towns all over Central Illinois are slowly dying and he came up with the idea to create some offbeat and fun attractions that would entice travelers to make the journey to Casey.

What was really special to me is that all of the big items have a verse from the Bible written on or near it that has something to do with the object.  For example, the wind chimes has a fish, the sign of the early Christian church, and the Star of David, which refers to the Jewish religion.

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The scripture there is from Romans 1:16 which says

For I was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation, to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

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One of my favorites was the big rocking chair.  It weighs 46, 200 pounds and took over two years to complete.  In order to make it in the Guinness Book of Records, the chair had to actually rock.  It took ten of Bolin’s employees to move the chair and get it rocking.

Bolin suggested to the owner of the Yarn Studio that they built giant knitting needles and a crochet hook.  After she agreed and the needles and hook came to her store, she had to actually knit something with them in order to be recognized by Guinness.  She made a 10 x 10 square with the tools.  She said it felt like she was on a rowing machine and was a real workout.  Having the big tools in her shop has increased her business.  She has added a second room and also added home decor, jewelry and baby items to the inventory she sells.  The scripture near the knitting needles is from Psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

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My husband and I loved the big shoes.

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Tourists toss money in the shoe for luck and it is collected and used to buy food for the local food pantry.

Bolin has opened up his work shop so people can come and watch as they make these big items.  We saw a couple that are still in the process of completion – the largest baseball bat and the largest gavel.

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Our granddaughter loved the biggest mailbox.  It is actually a functioning mailbox.  Visitors can drop mail at the top in a tube and it raises the flag on the mailbox while placing the mail in a ground level container where the postal service can pick it up.DSCF0087

My husband and I had fun sitting the giant bird-cage and proclaiming that we are truly “love birds.”

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If you are looking for a place to spend a fun day, check out Casey, Illinois.  While you are there, check out the candy store and for a great place to eat, visit The Farm Restaurant.