Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Responsible adult

The pull of the road is strong even though I just got back from a quick 5 day road trip to Minnesota.

The long and winding road.

I know I’ve been gone the majority of this summer, off to Alabama, or up north to camp or to DC for a meeting. Or somewhere.

The soybeans are turning yellow. There’s no time to lose!

If I was a responsible adult I’d buckle down and get some things done around here.

Little puffy clouds were starting to pop up.

If I was a responsible adult I’d work on weeding the gardens.

Hundreds of swallows were enjoying the warm sun.

I’d order more mulch and get it spread before we turn the corner toward winter.

The classic red barns in yellow fields of soybeans.

If I was a responsible adult I’d unpack Katie’s luggage and put it all away so that I can find her stuff again when she has to go back to camp.

A lonely white barn sits with a bit of attitude on a small hill.

In fact, I’d clean out her cupboard in the laundry room where years of stuff she no longer uses are stored in sloppy piles.

There was a barn around every corner.

If I was a responsible adult I’d empty out the freezer and toss out all that frost covered unidentifiable stuff hiding in the back.

I loved the green stripes in this plowed field, combined with the wildflowers up front and the clouds above.

If I was a responsible adult I’d sort through the camping gear and toss the stuff that is old, broken, moldy or never used.

Then there was this field, full of dark green sugar beet foliage, followed by the yellow of soybeans and the barn off in the distance.

Then I’d rearrange it on the shelves in the basement so I knew what I had before next season comes around.

Barns closeup are interesting too.

If I was a responsible adult I’d do the same for the pantry. You don’t even want to know what old, broken, moldy or never used stuff is in there.

So many old barns.

If I was a responsible adult I’d clean out the oriole bird feeder and put it away for the season. The hummingbird feeders need some attention too.

A touch of red among the yellow, blue and white.

But I haven’t done any of that. Instead I heeded the call of the road and went in search of barns.

It was a good afternoon for photography.

And I don’t feel guilty one bit.

A spectacular late summer day on the farm.


The farm connection

The perfect campsite; shade but no mud!

Saturday, August 11 was supposed to be a perfect night to view the annual Perseid meteor shower. I debated where to go to watch the sky light up, while also being close enough to Ann Arbor, a city about an hour south of me, to attend a production of West Side Story with my aunt and out-of-town cousins.

But what was the perfect location?

Why, the farm where my mom grew up; the place I, as a kid, hung out in barns playing with the farm cats, or pretended to drive a tractor down the lane, while sitting on my uncle’s lap.

The backs of some of the barns, across a soybean field.

I have so many special memories of the farm and my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins.

Morning sun makes the barns glow.

So I was grateful to get permission to camp Saturday and Sunday nights near the back of the farm, in what used to be the orchard. Today it’s a beautiful mowed area with a mulberry tree, beautiful oak trees and a couple of very old pear trees, heavy with fruit. The whole area is surrounded by soybean fields, giving me long vistas to watch the sky.

Morning light on a misty soybean field.

If only the sky would cooperate. I had high hopes as I watched the sun set behind a neighboring barn.

Sunset on the first evening.

Saturday night I saw one meteor, just as I stuck my head out of the tent about 11:00 p.m. I set up the camera and messed with the settings for a bit.

There were more planes than meteors . There are two planes in this shot.

Behind me I could hear thunder. Above me the sky was rapidly becoming cloud covered, the weather front directly overhead.

Clouds begin to encroach on my night.

I ducked back into the tent moments before the first rain hit, and then listened as the storm wound up to pouring rain and gusty winds. At one point I considered running for the car, but figured I’d get soaked just getting out of the tent.

The storm pushed away around 1:30 in the morning and I settled in to sleep. No more sky watching for the rest of that night.

Sunday morning was damp with fog. Everything was dripping but the sunrise was pretty.

Sunrise, spectacular in a quiet sort of way.

I spent the day with visiting cousins, catching up, enjoying meals, and the production of West Side Story.

A pretty nice set for the story of the Jets and the Sharks.

By early evening I was heading back to my camp hoping for a re-do of the night before. It turns out they had rain while I was gone, and steam was rising up from the ground while water dripped from the trees. A little after 9 p.m. I could see ground fog coming my way across the soybean fields. Soon my entire campsite was surrounded in white mist.

Still, the sky seemed clear.

I tried again, but the fog and lights from the city made most of the stars disappear. Mostly what was visible was a planet to the south. So I worked with that for a little bit and then tucked myself into my tent and slept the rest of the night listening to the night noises.

See that planet up there above the tent? There’s a star or two too.

Monday morning arrived dripping wet. I wandered down the lane toward the barns I remember so well. It was early and I didn’t want to disturb the tenants living in the old farmhouse.

Lots of roof lines.

I quietly walked through the wet grass remembering playing in the corn crib, remembering the pigs streaming out of the barn doors, remembering where there once was a watering trough, a fence. A gate.


So many memories.

No I didn’t see a lot of meteors shooting across the sky, just three total over the two nights. But that’s alright. As I packed up the soggy tent and headed home, I was grateful for the connection to my mom on her birthday, and grateful for two nights on the farm.

A good couple of nights on the farm.

A big thanks to my cousin for graciously allowing me to camp in the old orchard of the farm he now owns. Thanks to him, too, for keeping the farm in the family and preserving so many memories for all of us.

The whole experience was priceless.

An original fence post.


On the way there and back

On my way up to the Pigeon River State Forest, three hours away from home, I drove through some of my favorite farm country. Both on the drive up and the drive home four days later I was lucky enough to witness clouds building above beautiful farm country.

I knew you’d want to see (who doesn’t want to look at barns, right?) so I put together a little slide show.

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And even though I know these pink flowers are not native, and are in fact, invasive I couldn’t help but stop and grab a few photos because they’re just so darn pretty.

Pretty but invasive.

How can this be invasive?


There were barns

I started my trip ‘up north’ under slate grey, flat and uninteresting skies. Kind of sad actually, especially since I was going north to attend a photography workshop. November has arrived and we’re headed straight into winter.

But at a rest stop, about halfway to my destination the skies changed. To my west was sunshine and light clouds. To my east the dark sky remained. I was in farm country, and the barns and fields were glowing in the sunshine, still set against the dark skies.

I argued with myself. I have enough photos of barns. There are never enough photos of barns. I can take my time on my drive home Sunday, and there will be pretty things then. There’s no reason to rush today and the light will never ever be the same again.

I was hungry, my stomach growling and I had considered stopping at the next exit to look for food. But there was this barn just the other way up the road.

Guess you know which way I turned.


Cloud chaser

I was focused on something else, turned around and this was behind me.

Yesterday the sky was facinating; blue sky filled with huge black, white, navy and grey clouds. I thought about those yellow soybean fields I’d seen on my drive home from our latest camping adventure. I thought about housework that needed to be done.

I thought about it for approximately 2.4 seconds.

And then I picked up my camera, wrote a note to my husband and hit the road with no particular destination in mind. Well. I did think I might head right back toward the campground, but that was three hours away, and the clouds were moving fast. I was worried I’d miss the dramatic sky if I stuck to the freeway and drove for that long.

See that dark streak of clouds? When I first saw that it was right over the silos. Stunning!

So at my first opportunity I exited and began to wander those back country roads. It was a part of the state I’ve explored like this before, and I always figure I’ll end up with the same images over and over, but I never end up in exactly the same place.

Looks stormy, but it never rained.

I guess that’s the benefit of miles and miles of farmland and the big open spaces that I love.

Harvest time.

Good thing the car tells you which direction you’re going, because some of the time I could have sworn I was going east when I was going north. I’ve learned a long time ago to trust technology, but even so eventually I wasn’t sure where I was.

I ended up in a town with houses like this…

Pretty stupendous architecture.

…and this.

Summer flowers still going strong.

Pretty. I stopped to check my map (yes paper maps are still useful!) and to walk around a little. Then back on the road.

I was looking for that elusive soybean field. But instead of bright yellow I kept seeing acres of brown. The plants were about shin high, totally brown and I couldn’t tell what they were.

What IS this?

When I had a safe place to stop and look more closely I pulled over.

Looks like a bean pod…but???

I still don’t know what they are. Are they soy beans that have totally dried? Or something else? Does anyone know? I should ask my family. They live on farmland and will surely know what this is.

A little sway in that roof line.

Besides soybeans I was chasing the sun. I’d be driving along and the sun would pop out, striking the side of a barn off in the distance. It would be stunning, surrounded as it was with the dark stormy sky.

See that stripe of sun? It was right on that red barn when I pulled over, but by the time I got out of the car it had moved.

By the time I’d find a safe place to stop and get out of the car the sun had moved on. The clouds would shift, moving from their perfect placement, and though still pretty, the shot wouldn’t be as stunning as what I originally saw. The image that caused me to stop would have to remain only in my memory.

I got lucky. While I was standing there the sun struck the side of this barn’s metal roof.

I guess it’s kind of like trying to get that perfect shot of a baby playing, or a dog being cute. It takes some planning and a whole lot of luck.

Eventually I just stopped trying to catch that perfect moment, and enjoyed them as I saw them, driving cris cross along the country roads. I wished I had some sort of tracker on the car so I could see, later, what my route looked like.

A classic.

It would have been crazy. I turned around regularly to go back to a barn or a field. Sometimes just because. I know I went around several country blocks and at least once I wondered if I was driving on a road I had explored just minutes before.

Eventually I crossed a major road and checked the map again. I was all the way up toward Saginaw. It was getting late, so I wandered over to the freeway and headed home.

Did I ever find that red barn sitting in a soybean field? Well…

Red barn, yellow soybeans. Check.

…yes, yes I did. It was just a little field and a little barn, but it was pretty. I’ve found other more stunning examples in other years, and I’ll probably go out once again this year to try again, but I was happy to find this one.

And just look at all the other neat stuff I found while I was searching!

The sound of the dry corn rustling in the wind was special too.


Stormy barns

I knew a weather front was coming through yesterday afternoon…

Sun still shining on the corn, but dark skies overhead.

…so I headed out to see if I could find some open sky to watch…

White barns glow under rain clouds.

…and if there happened to be some barns around….

Red, green and navy.

…well, so much the better.

An old homestead buried back there.

Guess I got lucky – to the South of me were puffy white clouds…

Still pretty to the south.

…to the North was the storm with brooding dark skies…

Still pretty

…and distant thunder.

Not a barn, but interesting anyway.

It was all oh so pretty.

Amazing sky.


My drive home – a study in green (plus a few other colors)

Click on any photo and you’ll be able to scroll through larger versions of all the images above.

I stopped at a few places on the way home. What would have been a five hour drive turned into nine. And I got rained on. A lot. Still, it was so much fun.

I have lots of other things to show you, but they weren’t necessarily dominated by green…so they didn’t fit here. I suppose that will mean a post with random photos coming soon.

On the other hand, Katie-girl has much to say and you know how hard it is to silence a princess.


Patterns abound

If you're on FB you've already seen this one; cherry trees, Lake Michigan & sand dunes

If you’re on FB you’ve already seen this one; cherry trees, Lake Michigan & sand dunes

Quick! What’s the first thing you think about when I say northern Michigan? Does it include snow? Woods? Lakes? Well, you’d be right, but the western edge of the northern lower peninsula is also a beautiful patchwork of farms, orchards and vineyards.

Leftover apples

Leftover apples

Every time I’m up here I’m fascinated by the intricate designs and patterns of the orchards and vineyards that dot the hillsides. I’ve always been attracted to repeating patterns, especially in nature. But the orchards in particular have been difficult to capture.

Cherry trees under heavy sky

Cherry trees under heavy sky

When you’re on the same plane as the orchard, and perhaps too close, it’s hard to show the symmetry of the tree trunks, the shadows interlocking, the sheer beauty of the trees marching in step. Trust me I’ve tried.

Cherry trees glow in a bit of sun

Cherry trees glow in a bit of sun

It’s the same with the row upon row of grape vines. The scale is often so huge that I just couldn’t get the image that truly represented what I saw. But failure has never kept me from trying again.

Hillside of hope for next year's vintage

Hillside of hope for next year’s vintage

Today I’m sitting in the warm living room, listening as waves of Lake Michigan pound the shore, watching clouds scuttle in from the west and white caps racing across the lake. Noting the temperatures dropping; there is a prediction of snow. A perfect day, it seems, to sort through the past two days of photos.

Grapes and cherries share a hillside

Grapes and cherries share a hillside

While wading through a number of failures I see there are quite a few orchard and vineyard photos that are worth showing you. So that you can see ‘up north’ isn’t all about snow and woods.

Cherry orchard tucked behind a corn field

Cherry orchard tucked behind a corn field

I drove around aimlessly on Friday, even got lost a few times. But it’s hard to get truly lost on a peninsula. If you go far enough you’re eventually going to run into a large body of water or a small village and you’ll be able to get your bearings. I also had a map.

Young trees next to old

Young trees next to old and a spot of sun

On Saturday I had a specific destination in mind, but saw more along the way, not related to my quest, then I did when I finally arrived. I think I will have to go back and try again.

Brand new orchard in the making

Brand new orchard in the making

Meanwhile, this morning I culled a few photos (OK a lot of photos) to share with you. I hope you enjoyed the tour of Leelanau County’s beautiful fruit producing farms! I feel a lot better about my collection of orchard photos now. But that won’t keep me from looking for the next perfect shot.

Turkeys in the orchard!

Turkeys in the orchard!


Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

I’ve been trying to figure out how to convert photos to black and white for a long time. Maybe years. Oh, not constantly – just when I see something I think would look better in black and white. I have Adobe Photoshop and it should be easy, but I’ve frequently poked around there searching without any luck. So I did what I’ve heard lots of people do when they get stumped about something.

I went to YouTube.

Apparently people are right; you can find instructions for anything there. After watching a couple videos, and going back to figure out exactly which version of Photoshop I had, I figured out the basics. Then I tinkered around a bit more and came up with this:

Still working on the farm.

Still working on the farm.

It seems to fit in perfectly with Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge, specifically a shot of something with an engine.

This old farm truck sits out by the road advertising events held at the farm. Soon it will be pumpkin picking time. Seems too early doesn’t it, but seasons come and seasons go.

This old workhorse has seen a lot of them, and I think it remains beautiful, and certainly photo worthy, no matter what the season.


Photogenic farms

As most of you know I love to photograph farms. And on my way back from Northport this week I drove, slowly, through miles and miles of farmland. It was all so beautiful that I was constantly stopping to catch a shot, and there were many more that I didn’t get. Those were recorded only in my memory.

I’ll show you a few of the beautiful farms I saw on my trip home. A trip that usually takes four hours took almost twelve. And I loved every minute of it. I hope you do too.

What is it about barns that are so photogenic? This first one is not far south of Northport itself, still ‘up north.’ I’ve photographed it before, and while I was parked on the side of the road two more cars drove up and stopped.

Tucked into the hills.

Tucked into the hills.

I guess I’m not the only barn lover out there. I especially liked the wild sweet peas blooming in the foreground, and the way the barn is set against the hills behind it.

And with nowhere to turn around to continue on my way I wandered down a back road that dead ended with this view. How could I resist?

Fields of grain.

Fields of grain.

Sometimes getting a bit off track will find you a beautiful place few get to see. I never mind getting lost when I’m out with the camera and unlimited time.

Further downstate (which to you that don’t live here means further south) I came across the windmills. Once again I was on a road I hadn’t planed on traveling. But the faster way home was under construction, so there you go. Another nice surprise.

Making electricity.

Making electricity.

I got off the freeway and drove down empty country roads to get up close.

Power amid the corn,

Power amid the corn,

They are controversial. Some people love them. Others don’t. There’s a hum that comes from them that I suppose could be annoying to those that live under the giant wings. I think they are beautiful, but I think the final vote should be from those that live with them day after day.

As the sun got lower in the sky I couldn’t stop shooting. There was beauty everywhere, and more than once I turned around to go back and get something. Like this tractor in a shorn field set against a wall of clouds.

Resting after a hard days work.

Resting after a hard days work.

And these wagons filled with bales of straw, glowing in the last bits of evening light.

Full up.

Full up.

And who wouldn’t stop and turn around when a field of sunflowers nodding in the late day sun suddenly appeared?

Makes you smile.

Makes you smile.

Even after hours on the road I was sorry when the light and my photo shoot came to an end.

So much beautiful farmland. So little time.

From years past.

From years past.