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Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm Michiganese!

LOL that's one of the lesser known of the many demonyms people who live in Michigan use to distinguish themselves. Most people call themselves Michiganders or Michiganites. . . But being of Japanese ancestry Michiganese feels like a better fit for me. To be more precise I'm a Michiganese Troll because that's what they call people who live below the Upper Peninsula :P

I have to say a huge THANK YOU to my friends in nine states (and several countries) and many in CA who, when they heard I was interested in relocating, offered me their guest rooms, driveways, backyards, and acreages to come stay as long as I needed to to decide if where they live is somewhere I'd like to live.

One of the first to offer was my friend Fred, aka Fred the trailer builder, who I met in person last June when I went to pick up The Glampette.

800+ spring cranes in progress

A lot of people have asked me "Why Michigan?" Well, I loved it from my first visit and found more to enjoy on each subsequent visit. Being invited to compete in ArtPrize sealed the deal. Instead of making my entry from afar then figure out how to transport it safely to Grand Rapids, it made more sense to simply do the production of my piece just a half hour away to lessen the likelihood it would be damaged or lost in transport.

Even though I did the drive to MI twice last year I have to say I was feeling so burned out and exhausted this year that I wasn't looking forward to making any more long drives on my own, anywhere.

So, after some negotiating (like how were we both going to fit in The Glampette since it's only 4'x6') and before leaving Washington, I picked Fred up at the airport. We took a slight (14 hour) detour south back to CA to attend the IRG (International Redwoods Gathering tiny trailer rally) in Carlotta just south of Eureka so we could meet a lot of our tiny trailer forum friends and see 99 other teardrop and tiny travel trailers up close and personal. I'll be doing a blog post all about the IRG in the near future. Honestly, the funniest part of the rally (to me) was that I gave Fred my "guest" bed, the 31" wide, 3" thick latex foam mattress (but he had to sleep diagonally to fit). And I slept up on my 17" wide counter, bunk bed style, on a 20" wide self-inflating camping mattress. It worked! I swear, I didn't even almost fall off. . . Not even once! I'll have a picture to show how it worked in a future post but Fred probably won't be in the shot. He's camera shy that way.

After the rally we headed east to Michigan.

And this is me in Michigan. I feel happier and healthier than I have in ages. I'm sleeping 8+ hours a night (unheard of for me), have lost about 10 pounds since my arrival, and am always full of vegetables.

Part of the reason I'm full of veggies is because a lot of my new neighbors have gardens that are currently overflowing with squash, cucumber, beans, and even some beautiful shelled garden peas. Since arriving it's been like I'm a member of a free CSA that never ends! I've been cooking up a storm and use as many veggies in each meal as possible. I also keep one or two tupperware containers full of fresh sliced and some boiled veggies (like beans and asparagus) in the fridge at all times. I pull them out with each meal and we nosh on them consuming an incredible amount of produce in just a day or two.

And this, this is my garden! Squeeeeeeeee! Once I decided I'd move to MI Fred (the builder) offered to make me a deer/rabbit/mole/vole proof garden to plant my seeds in. He'd read my blog post about The Seed Bank in Petaluma and knew that I needed a home for my seeds too, not just myself. I sent them ahead and he planted them before he left for WA so when I got here it was like *Poof* I have a garden!

In the mornings I wake up, make a cup of hot tea then wander out to weed, dig, or do whatever needs to be done that day. The plants are thriving to the point of too many seeds came up so I have to either thin and cull or thin and transplant the overflow. So far I've been transplanting because I don't want to waste a single plant.

I have to say there is no better therapy for a nature lover like me than to garden. I love getting my hands in the dirt and knowing I can cook and eat what I'm growing makes me happy beyond measure.

One of my favorite things about the garden is that it's full of tiny baby toads. They're sooooooo cute! They're itty bitty right now, some are smaller than a 25¢ piece and the rest are just a little bit bigger. The top picture gives you a sense of scale that the fly is about 1/3 the size of the little toad on the rock. I love them even more than I loved the garden snails in California :D

And though beautiful, this Japanese Beetle that came to greet me one day is bad news for any garden. I photographed him then reached out to pick him up and move him away but he started waving his hind legs at me to warn me off. I guess I was harassing him just enough. He finally flew away on his own. Good thing.

Even worse than the Japanese Beetle? Deer flies! Look at its mouth in the upper picture. Its chompers consists of two knife like apparatuses called mandibles and maxillae that cut into your skin so the females can drink your blood. I hadn't seen any and hadn't ever been bitten by one, until I was.

Not the best picture quality but here was my left shoulder and back after being bitten twice by deer flies. The first picture was taken in the bathroom before I was about to take a shower so that's why the lighting is so yellow. I wanted to be able to document how solid red the one spot was when I first noticed them that night.

The odd thing is that despite reading the bites are known to be excruciatingly painful I didn't feel them when they happened. By the next morning the red had begun to dissipate leaving a central red area ringed in pink. Lucky me that for days they remained flat, weren't sore, and didn't itch. Eventually they did begin to itch mildly. Compared to mosquito bites they weren't bad at all.

Fortunately there are lots of dragonflies around the yard since Fred's property has a marsh behind it. They're gorgeous and quite photogenic coming in or sitting pretty in the backyard for close ups. One even landed on my toe one day! I wish I'd had a camera with me to take a picture but I didn't.

One of the first mosquito bites I received minutes after arriving at Fred's house.

Speaking of mosquitos. They love to eat me too. Apparently I am very tasty. To combat them I've been using my DIY citronella/lemongrass essential oil repellant I made a few months ago, got a citronella candle, and two live citronella plants that I keep me beside me on the back deck. The spray works really well as long as I remember to use it and spray every last inch of me down with it. Miss a spot and I end up with bites on my face, sides of my hands, or wherever I missed.

But I refuse to let the bugs get me down. It's summertime and gorgeous here. The backyard is full of wildflowers, the temperatures are usually in the 70's to 80's and it rains a lot. There are night time thunder and lightening storms and short showers during the day every few days. Everywhere I look I see green. It's an emerald state. I think Michigan is like Oz but with mosquitos instead of flying monkeys. LOL

The other night we went to dinner at the Turk Lake Restaurant & Bar. It's located on Turk Lake where my friend Judy is going to have to come and go ice fishing this winter because she's always wanted to ice fish in MI in the winter :)

We went because it was Taco Tuesday! Tacos for $1 each? Sounded like a good deal. I have to say the tacos exceeded my expectation. They weren't chintzy little tacos made with cheap ingredients. They were big, tasty, full of fresh ingredients, and for 50¢ extra came with a nice container of salsa full of veggie chunks and some well chilled sour cream.

Turk Lake's sunfish are colorful, beautiful, and friendly

An added bonus was walking out back on the patio after dinner. The lake is full of fish, particularly Pumpkin Seed Sunfish that swarm around the dock. I was amazed. There were dozens of them! Later I learned it's because kids take the popcorn and bread ends from inside the restaurant and feed the fish. LOL. I'll definitely be returning to try more dishes. I read in an online review they make excellent onion rings.

The trip itself out to MI was, thankfully, uneventful. No large hailstorms like last June. It was lots of stops at gas stations and meals mostly at sandwich and coffee shops.

I still get a kick out of seeing different parts of the country. Some are so unique like the salt lakes and flats just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. Since Fred was with me I was able to take pictures from the passenger seat while he drove.

The best food I had this time out? Was definitely the fresh salad at Whole Foods in Park City, UT. The worst (delicious but least healthy) for me had to be the garlic toast covered with mashed potatoes, slathered in gravy, and topped with fried chicken at the Iron Skillet in Laramie, WY. But it tasted so good!

I also got suckered into stopping for a soft serve ice cream cone at a Little America travel center. They post billboards along the interstate to let you know how many miles away you are from enjoying a cool, refreshing ice cream cone. I had to stop. It was worth it. It was the best, or it just seemed like the best after days on the road, but it was an excellent soft serve cone. I wish I had another one right now!

I also found a bull somewhere in Nebraska. He was lying in a parking lot so I adopted him and may use him as a mascot in future travels.

The least expensive gas was also somewhere in Nebraska. . . Or maybe it was Iowa? I honestly can't remember anymore. The corn fields. . . They just blend together. I do know the most expensive gas I paid for on the whole trip was in Eureka, CA at $4.27 a gallon, and that was cheap! Well, cheaper. The first place I stopped at was charging $4.29.

But for now the travel is behind me as I fold cranes and learn how to be a farmer. My radishes are almost ready to harvest! I'll be doing a full post all about how my garden grows and start sharing some fun new recipes I've been cooking up.

And in case you were wondering. . . Wine O'clock was in the garden one evening.

For now I feel like I found the place where my I can be happy, healthy, and creative.

And how can I not be content watching fireflies light up the meadow each evening?

Future posts will detail the IRG, my new garden, and living full time from The Glampette for over six months until I was able to leave CA. I am so grateful for all of my friends and family who have been supportive beyond imagination since learning of my change of circumstance. But a special thank you to friends Carl and Kim Mindling for allowing me to park on their property since January while at the same time welcoming me to use their home as needed while I moved out of my former residence, watched Kitai decline and pass away, and for helping me find my way out of my despair enough to enter ArtPrize. If it weren't for Kim's nurturing kindness and friendship and Carl's dedicated friendship and amazing culinary skills I honestly don't know how I would have made it through those dark days and months. But that's for another day and another post with a very happy ending :)

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