April 2021 HomeWorks

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April 2021


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

April 12 Is Lineworker Appreciation Day

Attend Your Virtual District Meeting And Win Big! Learn About Our Home Phone Service

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Is




Clean Start Rebate For a limited time, you can save up to $1,250 on clean energy geothermal heat pumps

Switch to geothermal and get a clean start to the year! This year, everyone deserves a clean start! Switching to geothermal is the perfect decision to help your house be as comfortable and environmentally friendly as possible for years to come. The WaterFurnace Clean Start Rebate Program makes switching to geothermal an even smarter decision. For a limited time, you can save up to $1,250 and receive a free Amazon Echo Dot with the purchase of our most efficient, comfortable, and technologically advanced 7 Series and 5 Series geothermal heat pumps and accessories. But hurry, this deal ends April 30, 2021, so contact your local WaterFurnace dealer today!






Amazon Echo Dot



26% Tax Credit




Your Local WaterFurnace Dealers Bad Axe/Cass City Thumb Clg & Htg (855) 206-5457 thumbcooling andheating.com Berrien Springs WaterFurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmich geothermal.com Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com

Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com Indian River M & M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 topnotchheatandair.com Michigan Center Comfort 1/Aire Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 aireserv.com/ southern-michigan Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 waltonheating.com

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com

Traverse City D & W Mechanical (231) 941-1215 dwgeothermal.com

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com

Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000 watergeofurnace.com

Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

waterfurnace.com/CleanStart 1. 26% through 2022 and 22% through 2023. 2. With registration of homeowner’s Symphony Home Comfort Platform. Amazon Dot will be shipped to the address given in Symphony registration. Promotion available Feb. 8 through April 30, 2021, and only to residential customers through participating dealers. WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Contents countrylines.com

April 2021 Vol. 41, No. 4



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Cover photo: An inhabitant of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary is ready for its close-up.

6 ROAD TRIPPIN’ Treasure All Around Us: Lake Michigan Rock Hunting with Christal Frost 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Mexican-Inspired: Rich in spices, these dishes provide the south-of-the-border flavor you’re craving.


14 SAVING THE GATORS Forsaken reptiles find a safe, if unlikely, home at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. 18 GUEST COLUMN The Orchard: For one Cherryland member, the family orchard was much more than a place to pick fruit.

Maybe she’s barn with it. Maybe it’s Neighbelline. @dds_photo #beautifulhorse (Danielle Sullivan)

Be featured!

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community


Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Whole Grains, and Fish & Seafood Go to micoopkitchen.com for more information or recipes@countrylines.com to submit.


Win $150 for stories published! Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community



HomeWorks’ 2021 District Meetings Are Going Virtual

homeworks.org /homeworks.org tricoenergy@homeworks.org Portland office/Mail payments to: 7973 E. Grand River Ave. Portland, MI 48875 Open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office: 3681 Costabella Ave. Blanchard, MI 49310 Open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday Night deposit box available at both locations. Electric bill/account questions: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-562-8232 Pay by phone, anytime: 1-877-999-3395

Service questions/outages: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-848-9333 (24 hours for emergency calls) Tri-County Propane: 1-877-574-2740

HomeWorks Connect 1-800-668-8413 BOARD OF DIRECTORS

District 1 — John Lord, Vice-Chairman 2276 Plains Rd., Leslie, MI 49251 517-974-2518 • jlord@homeworks.org

District 2 — Jim Stebbins 7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815 616-693-2449 • jstebbins@homeworks.org District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 • lpohl@homeworks.org District 4 — Kimber Hansen 6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829 989-506-5849 • khansen@homeworks.org

By Chris O’Neill, CEO


pring is in the air, and here at HomeWorks, that means it’s district meeting time!

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions on large gatherings that are currently still in place, our board of directors has determined that in-person meetings won’t be feasible this year. However, the show must go on, and we’re excited to announce that we will be hosting a live-streamed virtual district meeting for each of our seven districts this May! Naturally, my staff and I are disappointed that the pandemic is keeping us from coming to your area to meet with you and your neighbors in person this year. But for you, as a HomeWorks member, this year’s virtual format provides a great new opportunity to learn more about the electric Cooperative you own, hear from your director and district officers, and win great prizes, all from the comfort of your couch! You can read more details about our virtual district meetings on pages 16–17 of this Country Lines issue. You should also watch your mailbox and your email inbox this month for specific information on registering and attending your meeting. For now, though, I want to whet your appetite with the top four reasons that I think you should join us at your 2021 live-streamed virtual district meeting: To become more engaged with your Co-op: As a member-owner of HomeWorks, you have a voice and a vote in everything we do, so it’s important to stay up to date on our operations. At your district meeting, your district director and I will provide you with a brief summary of everything your Cooperative has been up to over the past year.

District 5 — Corinna Batora 7655 N. Watson Rd., Elsie, MI 48831 517-256-5233 • cbatora@homeworks.org

To learn about all the ways we can serve you: You know about the reliable electric service we provide to your home and/or business, but at your district meeting, we’ll tell you about our other great services, like HomeWorks Connect and HomeWorks Tri-County Propane, and what they could do for you.

District 7 — Shirley Sprague 15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305 989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org

To hear about HomeWorks’ impact on your community: Thanks to the support of members like you, we’ve been able to donate funds to several local food banks, schools, charitable organizations, and families in need throughout the pandemic. We’re excited to tell you about the difference those donations have made in your area during this difficult time.

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer 10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893 989-644-3079 • eoplinger@homeworks.org

Editor: C harly Markwart, CCC

To win big prizes! We love to hand out prizes to our members, and this year’s virtual district meetings will be no different. In fact, there will be more giveaways than ever, with three different ways to win great prizes like smart TVs, Roomba robot vacuums, Ring Video Doorbells, HomeWorks bill credits, and much more. And all you have to do for the chance to win is log on to your meeting! For more on our 2021 virtual district meetings, see pages 16–17, or visit HomeWorks.org. I hope to “see” you there!

4 APRIL 2021

Winter, spring, summer or fall... All you have to do is call, and our linemen will be there. This year, especially, we honor these essential workers for everything they do for our members day in and day out, regardless of the conditions. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, but through it all, our linemen were still able to provide you with power that was over 99.9% reliable. Now that’s a job well done.

April 12, 2021, is National Lineworker Appreciation Day #ThankALineworker Tri-County Electric Cooperative

d a o R ’ n i p p i r T

With Christal Frost Treasure All Around Us: Lake Michigan Rock Hunting


t’s a crisp and clear February morning as we make the trek to Frankfort’s Point Betsie Lighthouse. Lake Michigan was a familiar backdrop for my childhood. I spent hours building sandcastles and pressing my feet into the warm sand until my toes found the cold underneath. I often left the beach with a rock—one that I would place on the windowsill in our kitchen until my mom returned it to the outdoors. Even though I think I was always drawn to the colorful rocks that decorated the lakeshore, I never knew the stories behind those treasures until I picked up a copy of the “Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide,” co-authored by the godfather of rock hunting himself, Kevin Gauthier.

Kevin has been drawn to rocks since he was a kid. He would spend hours searching for treasures, a hobby he would turn into a business as a teenager, selling his creations out of a local shoe store. Forty years later, a framed newspaper clipping hangs on the wall of his shop, Korner Gem, in Traverse City. It features a young Kevin smiling next to a small display case. “That was taken right around the time J.R. Ewing got shot on Dallas,” he tells me. “Everyone wanted a belt buckle.” After college, Kevin continued his passion for rock hunting and jewelry making, although his career sent him to Chicago to work for NutraSweet. After a few years of commuting to Traverse City on the weekends, Kevin decided to leave his job and open his own business. In 1996, he opened Korner Gem in Traverse City and a second location in Frankfort in 2020.

Michigan—Rock Hunting Capital of the World Thanks to a few billion years and massive glaciers, Michigan has more varieties of stones than anywhere else in the entire world. As the glaciers moved south, they picked up stones from Canada and the Upper Peninsula and dropped them along the way, leaving rock enthusiasts a prehistoric treasure hunt. Kevin says only half of the rocks we find on the beaches of the Great Lakes are actually from here; the rest are glacial stowaways from the north.

Show & Tell Earlier that morning while rock hunting at Point Betsie, I took Kevin’s advice and chose the ones that caught my eye. “Really, I think the rocks choose you,” Kevin says as I start pulling rocks from my bag for him to examine. Among my finds are Petoskey stones, chain coral, and slag. Christmas Cove Beach, Northport

“The slag is most often called Leland Blue, but it can be found in Frankfort, Elk Rapids, and Marquette,” Kevin explains while inspecting a greenish chunk of slag. Before Kevin heads to the wet saw to cut and polish a few of my rocks, he asks me to look through once more and choose the one I like best. I chose the first rock I picked up that day, a small pinkish/ greenish unakite that had traveled from Lake Superior. Kevin returns 20 minutes later with a polished stone set in a lovely sterling silver ring, and I gasp as I try it on for the first time. There’s an immediate connection. Kevin clearly understands that connection. “That rock has been around for, let’s say conservatively, 4 billion years,” he tells me. “In 4 billion years, you are the first person to pick up that rock. That is special.” It really is special. For as long as I have this ring, I will remember the day I found it—or, more accurately, the day it found me. It was 25 degrees, but the wind was calm. The air smelled like fresh snow and each wave that crashed around my rubber boots brought a slightly changed beach, as thousands of rocks, some older than dinosaurs, moved ever so slightly around me.



327 Main St. Frankfort, MI 49635

Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort

Van’s Beach, Leland

Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City

22 22


Empire Beach, Empire

13031 Fisherman Cove, Traverse City, MI 49684 231-929-9175






Home Energy Savings Made Easy ho doesn’t get excited about FREE products— especially when it comes to in-home energysavings? Through the Energy Optimization program, the Home Energy Express program provides FREE energy-saving products for your home, as well as complimentary installation by an Energy Optimization program contractor.


When you participate in the Home Energy Express program, you have two options to choose from. Simply select the one that best meets your individual needs. Option 1: FREE in-home* consultation and products, with direct installation of energy-saving products by a qualified energy professional. • An in-home consultation by a trained professional can help identify areas where additional energy savings are possible. During the consultation, the representative will provide and install the energy-efficient products and offer you tips for saving even more. • These products help control the amount of energy you use to heat, cool, and light your home. Some of the products even help you use less water.

Option 2: FREE product kit containing energy-saving items, delivered to your home with instructions for installation. • For the do-it-yourself version, product kits are delivered to your home and may include energy-saving items such as LED light bulbs, LED night-lights, and a smart power strip. Additionally, some kits contain watersaving fixtures. To learn more or to schedule your FREE services, contact us today at 877-296-4319 or info@michigan-energy.org. *Based on COVID-19 restriction guidelines.

Home Energy-Saving Solutions

The Home Energy Express program offers FREE in-home energy-saving products and installation by a program contractor. Kits may include:  LED bulbs  LED night-lights  Smart power strip Or request a product kit be delivered straight to your home.

Contact us today to learn more.

michigan-energy.org • 877.296.4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Incentive applies to qualified items purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit michigan-energy.org.



1. DeLynn Rice of Stanwood submitted this photo of a pink lily in her front yard. “I didn’t know it could be so pretty because the deer usually eat it before it blooms,” she says. 2. April Brookens of Blanchard says, “This photo features two things I absolutely love: sunflowers and monarch butterflies! I took this photo of a female monarch my kids and I had just released when it landed on a sunflower in our front yard.” 3. Lindsay Uzarski of Remus took this picture of an orange lily in her garden. 4. Jennica Vander Boon of Clarksville says, “There is nothing better than beautiful flowers on a sunny fall day on the farm!” 5. Michael Terberg of Vermontville submitted this photo of an eastern tiger swallowtail on his butterfly bush. 6. Susan Lake of Lake Odessa submitted this picture of her grandsons, Konrad and Drayton, working in her flower garden.


1 2


Enter to win a


energy bill credit!



Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics and Deadlines

“Dad And Me,” Deadline: April 15 (June issue) “Show Your American Pride,” Deadline: May 17 (July/August issue) “Water,” Deadline: June 15 (September issue) Go to HomeWorks.org, select the Energy tab, then choose Member Services>Country Lines to submit your photos and see all of the 2021 Snap Shot themes. It’s fast and easy. To send by mail: include your name, address, phone number, photographer’s name, and details about your photo. Mail to Attn: Country Lines Snap Shots, 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875. Photos will not be returned. Do not send color laser prints or professional studio photos.

Submit Your Photos! Members whose photos we publish in Country Lines in 2021 will receive a $10 bill credit the month after publication.



MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

Mexican-Inspired Recipes you’ll be making on repeat.


CHICKEN ENCHILADA SOUP Alice Knoebl, Great Lakes Energy

1 1 2 1 2 1 4 1 ¾ 1 ¼ 2–3 2 1 •

Win a


energy bill credit!

10 APRIL 2021


Whole Grains due May 1 • Fish & Seafood due July 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Go to micoopkitchen.com for more information or recipes@countrylines.com to submit.

(10-ounce) can green enchilada sauce (15-ounce) can white beans, drained (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (4-ounce) cans diced, fire-roasted green chiles, undrained (10.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes teaspoons chili powder tablespoon ground cumin teaspoon paprika teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional cups chicken broth/stock (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened Toppings of choice: pepper jack cheese, sour cream, limes, etc.

Add green enchilada sauce, white and black beans, and chicken into a large slow cooker. Add undrained fireroasted green chilies, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, chopped cilantro, and chicken stock/broth. Cover and cook on low for 5–7 hours or on high for 3–5 hours, or until chicken easily shreds. Remove chicken from slow cooker and place into another bowl. Add softened cream cheese to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for an additional 30 minutes or until the cream cheese has melted. Whisk to ensure all ingredients are combined. Shred chicken with a fork and add back into the soup. Serve immediately. Add any additional toppings. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

SIMPLE CHICKEN FAJITAS Shelley Ehrenberger, Cherryland 2 ½ ¼ ½ ¼ 1


Michele Smith, Ontonagon REA 1 2 ¹⁄ ³ 1 1 1 3 2 •

pound ground beef tablespoons taco seasoning cup chopped green onions (12-ounce) can evaporated milk (8–10 ounce) can enchilada sauce teaspoon salt (8-inch) flour tortillas cups shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese Toppings: shredded lettuce, sliced jalapeños, sour cream, diced tomatoes, black olives, taco sauce, etc.

tablespoons lemon juice teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper teaspoon garlic powder teaspoon ground cumin pound boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

Mix sauce ingredients and add chicken (I often double the sauce). Marinate for 30 minutes. Heat skillet and cook chicken, adding oil as necessary, until cooked through and slightly browned. Serve in warmed flour tortilla shells with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and any other desired toppings.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Brown ground beef in a large skillet; drain grease. Add taco seasoning and chopped onions. Stir in milk, sauce and salt. Simmer until hot and bubbly. Cut tortillas into ½-inch strips. In baking dish, alternate layers of tortillas, beef mixture, and cheese three times. Cover dish and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil, let cool 10 minutes, cut into squares, and serve with desired toppings.


Debbie Speer, Great Lakes Energy 3 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, divided 1 tablespoon coarse salt 1 tablespoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder 2 tablespoons butter 1 large onion, minced 2 jalapeño peppers (or poblano for milder flavor), seeded and minced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened ½ teaspoon paprika ½ teaspoon chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 (28-ounce) can green enchilada sauce, divided 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese 7 flour tortillas (or corn tortillas for gluten free)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Season chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Bake chicken for 45 minutes (or internal temp of 165 F). Let cool and shred. Set aside. Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add the minced onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in softened cream cheese (in chunks), and remaining ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, and ground cumin. Add the shredded chicken and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat. In a 9x13-inch baking dish, spread half the enchilada sauce over the entire bottom. Fill all tortillas with the chicken mixture and 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese in each. Roll each tortilla and place seam-side down in baking dish. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over all the tortillas; sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese. Bake for about 30–35 minutes. Serve immediately.





feature phone service no matter your location. In most cases, you won’t even have to change your phone number! So, why wait any longer?


You deserve the best, so all home phone packages include full-feature services such as anonymous call rejection, call waiting, call forwarding, speed dial, voicemail management and so much more!



with bundle and autopay discounts*

Single line, multiple line and 911-only packages are all available. Call 800-668-8413 for more information!


During our business hours, you’ll talk to a live person from the local community any time you call. Our 24/7 tech support line also ensures that any questions or issues are promptly answered.


With our phone packages, your phone number is automatically pre-programmed with the address at which it is located, allowing 911 dispatchers to see your address if anyone in your family makes a call. This feature is perfect for those with young children or adults who struggle with memory loss and may not be able to recite an address under the stress of an emergency.


Each of our phone packages comes with a battery backup, which allows calls to be made during a power outage.


GIVE US A CALL AT 800-668-8413 OR VISIT JOIN.HOMEWORKSCONNECT.ORG TODAY! *Internet + phone bundle discount is $5/ line and autopay discount is $5/account. This price does not include a one-time $10 activation charge. This service is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Your Board In Action Meeting remotely on Feb. 15, your board of directors: • Decided that the Cooperative’s 2021 district meetings will be held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety concerns. • Reviewed the Co-op’s association memberships and authorized management to renew memberships with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) and pay the associated annual dues for 2021. • Authorized management to sign a contract to purchase fiber-optic cable for HomeWorks Connect’s Phase 5 construction planned for 2022, in order to lock in pricing and avoid material delays. • Approved a slight increase in the 2021 HomeWorks Connect capital budget. This will allow management to proceed with a proposed plan to meet the demand for additional bandwidth brought on by the continued growth of the fiber internet business and higher data usage among existing customers.

• Reviewed the results of the Co-op’s participation in the recent Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. • Discussed and accepted Policy 114 – Member Attendance at Board Meetings, with amendments. • Learned there were 100 new members in January. • Acknowledged the January safety report, listing employee training and minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic.

Time Set Aside for Members to Comment Before Cooperative Board Meetings The first 15 minutes of every board meeting are available for members who wish to address the board of directors on any subject. The next meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. on April 26 at Blanchard and May 24 at Portland. However, at the time of this printing, some of our meetings are temporarily being conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members who wish to have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554.

Digging this spring? Think safety and call 811 first! MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary Is



By Emily Haines Lloyd Photos Courtesy of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary


hen we think of alligators, we’re flooded with imagery of sunbathing crocodiles on southern golf courses or Evergladesdwelling animals we’d just as soon not have a run-in with. But in Athens, Michigan, alligators are not only living and thriving, but people are actually hoping to have a real-life encounter with these prehistoric-looking beasts. When David Critchlow was a FedEx delivery man, he enjoyed chatting up people on his route, and while there were always interesting stories to hear and packages to deliver, a weird, but common, thread started to arise. “Dad would see a package from an exotic pet supplier and realize he might be delivering a snake,” said David’s daughter, Lina Kelly, the director of animal care and enrichment of Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. “As time passed, he’d start chatting to folks, and the conversations changed to ‘hey, do you know anyone who wants a snake?’” Peter Critchlow with Godzilla, an 11-foot-long, 500-pound alligator.

14 APRIL 2021

Unsurprisingly, many people who thought a snake would be an interesting pet were less interested when that same pet began to


outgrow its habitat. David was always an animal lover and outdoorsy sort, and he eventually started offering to take in the newly homeless reptiles. “At some point, we had dozens of snakes,” remembers Lina. “Growing up, there were always reptiles around. It felt super normal.” One day, a new request came in, as someone asked David if he knew anyone who could take in an alligator. While David had never owned an alligator before, his heart couldn’t take the idea that the animal would be put down because its owner hadn’t thought through the consequences. David figured out what it would take to make a suitable environment for an alligator and become a new foster owner. Little by little, word spread that there was a guy who would take in alligators, and the family eventually had 10 to 30 of them housed in fenced-in areas in the backyard at any given time. “Eventually, people would just drive up to the house and ask if they could go take a look at the alligators,” said Lina. “We’d give them these little tours and tell them about each alligator’s story and what we knew. That’s how the sanctuary got started.” In 2007, David made his informal reptile shelter into a fulltime sanctuary. The family learned about alligators, snakes, and even tortoises, as new members continually found their way to the Critchlows. It involved extensive research, along with reptile-related workshops and conferences, to understand the animals, as well as finding out how to best feed, house, and even train them. The Critchlows never buy or sell any of the animals in their care—all are rescues. “We’ve learned so much over the years,” said Lina. “And it’s important always to be learning more, so we can help as many animals as we can.”



“WE LOVE WHAT WE DO, BUT IN SOME WAYS, WE’D RATHER NOT BE IN THE REPTILE RESCUING BUSINESS. WE’D RATHER HAVE PEOPLE MAKE SMARTER DECISIONS ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT THEY’RE CAPABLE OF THE COMMITMENT.” —LINA KELLY The sanctuary has grown into a home for turtles, tortoises, snakes, and nearly 200 alligators in the past decade. All the alligators are given names, but training them to learn their names happens when they are around 5 feet in length. These include Godzilla, an 11-foot-long and 500-pound fella, and Medusa—named because she’s not exactly attractive and is a little on the cranky side. Another, named Grace, is a 100-pounder who came to the sanctuary with a missing left foot. She’s been trained to lie still for medical treatment, a positive sign for some additional training David looks to do. If it sounds like a lot to do, it’s because it is. So, to round out the crew, Lina, along with her nephew (Alex) and her brother (Peter), all came on board to help with the family business. They’re committed to making education a huge arm of their mission, with David doing hundreds of school and community presentations a year. “A little baby alligator is cute. There’s no denying it. But you have to think of the animal and be ready for when that baby grows up,” said Lina. “We love what we do, but in some ways, we’d rather not be in the reptile rescuing business. We’d rather have people make smarter decisions about whether or not they’re capable of the commitment.” For now, the need is still there, and the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary remains a safe space for displaced reptiles. It’s an unlikely place where these animals can live out their lives while enriching the lives of those who make the visit and are willing to learn.

For more information, visit alligatorsanctuary.com. 1698 M-66, Athens, MI 49011 • (269) 729-4802



Attend your brief virtual meeting for the chance to win big prizes!

District Meetings Go Virtual:

AN EXCITING NEW WAY TO ENGAGE WITH YOUR CO-OP Like most things over the past 13 months, HomeWorks district meetings will look a bit different this year. Due to current pandemic restrictions, our board of directors recently decided against holding the meetings in person in 2021. Instead, we’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be hosting live-streamed virtual district meetings in May, giving you and your neighbors the opportunity to learn more about the Co-op you own, all from the safety and comfort of your own home! This spring’s virtual events will be different from our 2020 pandemic-affected offering, when we provided a district meeting video series for members to view on their own. This year, we’ll host an actual live virtual meeting in each of our seven districts, streamed to your device via the user-friendly Zoom Webinar digital platform. “We are so excited to be able to offer this live-streamed virtual format for our district meetings this year,” says HomeWorks CEO Chris O’Neill. “Of course, we’re disappointed that COVID is preventing us from meeting with our members in person, but we really do believe that this is the next best thing. It’s going to allow us to deliver all of the key elements of our typical district meetings, while also ensuring the safety of our members and employees. It’s a win-win, and I think our members are really going to appreciate and enjoy it.” How Will The Live-Streamed Virtual Format Work? In April, each HomeWorks member will receive a district meeting invitation in the mail. The invitation will include your

16 APRIL 2021

specific district meeting details, along with a registration link to use to RSVP to attend the virtual event. Once you RSVP, you’ll receive follow-up information with simple instructions explaining how to log on to Zoom Webinar the evening of your meeting. In addition to your formal mailed invitation, we’ll also be sending out email updates, as well as posting information on our HomeWorks Facebook page and on our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org. When Will The Meetings Take Place? Our 2021 district meeting dates will be as follows: • • • • • • •

District 1: Tuesday, May 11 District 2: Thursday, May 13 District 3: Wednesday, May 19 District 4: Tuesday, May 18 District 5: Monday, May 10 District 6: Wednesday, May 12 District 7: Monday, May 17

All meetings will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Don’t worry if you don’t know which district you live in; your mailed invitation will include your district along with the date and time of your event. (You can also find this information on our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org.) What Will My Meeting Entail? Your district meeting will be fast-paced and brief, but we’ll

“This is the most involved I have been in all my time as a HomeWorks member. What a great opportunity to reach more members!” ~ HomeWorks member Bill G., after our 2020 district meeting video series cover a lot of exciting ground. You’ll hear from your district’s elected representative on our board of directors, receive a Co-op update encompassing all we’ve been up to over the past year, learn about the progress of our HomeWorks Connect internet business, hear about our recent community outreach and more. Why Should I Attend My District Meeting? Electric cooperatives are different from investor-owned utilities because we’re owned by you, our members. That means that you have a voice and a vote in our operations, so it’s beneficial for you to stay engaged with what we are doing on a regular basis. Plus, we’ve got a lot of great information planned to present to you, especially regarding our services that could improve your quality of life, including high-speed internet, propane and energy efficiency rebates. Your meeting will be brief—less than an hour—and we think you’ll walk away with several key takeaways that will make you glad you attended.

2021 District Meeting Prizes: Three Ways To Win Big, Just For Attending! 1. Early Bird Door Prizes:

Just like at our traditional in-person district meetings, this year’s events will feature a live question-and-answer session. You’ll simply type your question into a chat box and our meeting moderator will pass it along to our CEO for his response.

In each district, the first 30 members (or more, depending on the size of your district) to register (and then attend) the meeting will receive a $25 HomeWorks bill credit!

I’m Not Tech-Savvy. Will I Have Trouble Attending?

2. Traditional Prize Raffles:

Will I Be Able To Ask Questions At My Virtual Meeting?

You don’t need to have any prior experience with virtual meetings to attend your 2021 district meeting. Each member will receive an invitation in the mail including very simple instructions explaining how to log on. A few clicks, and you’ll be in! A phone number will also be provided on the invitation for any member who does need assistance logging on. What If I Don’t Have A Good Internet Connection? Quality broadband service is not required to use Zoom Webinar; all you need is a smartphone with decent cellular service. Even a landline phone will suffice to dial in for audio only. For any member who does experience connection issues, the meetings will be recorded and posted on our website for viewing at a later date. Will There Be Prize Giveaways? This year’s virtual district meetings will feature prizes galore! See the sidebar to the right for information on all of the ways to win. Watch your mailbox and email inbox for more detailed information to come, or visit our district meeting page at HomeWorks.org.

We always close out our annual district meetings with prize drawings. This year will be no different, except that we’ll have even more prizes than ever before! Every member who attends will be entered for the chance to win prizes including a 55-inch smart TV, Roomba robot vacuums, iPads, smartwatches, $50 bill credits and more!

3. Interactive BINGO Game: Once you register to attend your virtual district meeting, you’ll receive a BINGO card via email with instructions on how to play along during your meeting. Fill out your card and turn it in for the chance to win one of three exciting grand prizes!

MI CO-OP Community

The Orchard Road

Gearing Cherry Orchard, 1971

Guest Column

The Orchard

By Rebecca Carlson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative member


he best angle from where to throw the rotting sour cherries and have the most victim impact is to position yourself in one of the trees. Quietly find the best branch, have ammunition in hand (also a great source of sustenance while waiting for victims) aim and FIRE! Each of us knew if the cherry juice got on our shirts or jeans, it was close to impossible to get the stain out. It was so easy to simply destroy someone’s favorite Star Wars or Peter Frampton t-shirt. But you better be able to ninja your way out of the tree to escape retribution and run like blazes, or be ready with lots of cherries. It was a daily ritual to walk the forest road up to the cherry orchard, the best playground in the world. The orchard is full sun, quiet, and is protected on all sides by a thick forest. There is no noise from Jacobsen Road, just farm noises from our neighbors. At the peak of the orchard, 600 Montmorency cherry trees covered about 35 acres. The old Omena stagecoach road separates our orchard from Donny Hermann’s perfectly manicured cherry trees. He had Queen Anne, black, and sour cherries in his larger

WIN $150!

18 APRIL 2021

orchard. We were a weekend farming family, while he was a full-time family business. The most magical time of the day in the orchard was nighttime. Although it was a little scary making our way up the forest road, it was worth the trip as you emerged from the dark two-track road into the orchard. The only light came from the moon and stars. It was the best place in the world for stargazing and scaring the heck out of a poor victim. Every night, the orchard trees would be waiting for our crew to arrive and witness the night’s activities: a game of bloody murder or good old-fashioned tag. Over the years, we broke fingers, arms, ankles, and egos, bruised just about every part of the body, destroyed clothing, and I cannot think of a time I miss more.

Rebecca is a college English professor. She enjoys traveling, writing, and paddle boarding on West Bay.

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

“When I could no longer physically cut 20 cords of wood, I installed a Well-Connect. The system has met all claims and surprised me. If people are heating and cooling with propane, fuel oil, or wood and have their own well, they can cut their heating & cooling costs by at least half (as well as emissions).” - Jess S., Cherryland Electric Member wellconnectgeo.com

Hybrid Geothermal


HomeWorks.org homeworks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org facebook.com/homeworks.org Report Outages: 1-800-848-9333

Save The Date For Your Virtual District Meeting!

2021 VIRTUAL DISTRICT MEETING DATES (All meetings will run from 6:30-7:30 p.m.)

• • • • • • •

District 1: Tuesday, May 11 District 2: Thursday, May 13 District 3: Wednesday, May 19 District 4: Tuesday, May 18 District 5: Monday, May 10 District 6: Wednesday, May 12 District 7: Monday, May 17

Attend For The Chance To Win Big Prizes!

Watch your mailbox for more details to come, including a registration link to attend your live-streamed virtual meeting!

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