MEC July/Aug 2020

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July/August 2020


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

2020 Scholarship Winners


Introducing Ultimate Wi-Fi Three-Step HVAC Test


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July/August 2020 Vol. 40, No. 7



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey 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 CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please

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.


14 RECLAIMED: THE ART OF THE BARN Former Thumb resident Jim Boyle incorporates the magic of art to transform declining Port Austin barns.

Cover Photo: Tyler Leipprandt, Michigan Sky Media

6 GLOW IN THE DARK Erik Rintamaki shares the magic of Yooperlites. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Celebrate the growing season with these scrumptious recipes featuring farm-fresh ingredients.


18 GUEST COLUMN Carol Higgins reminisces about the simple joys of her childhood community softball games.

A gorgeous repost from @mi.explorer: “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.” —Wilfred Peterson, @mi.explorer (Ryan Peurach)

Be featured!

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

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit





Up Next: Easy Recipes; Sauces, Dips & Dressings Share your favorite recipes.

Up Next: Wineries! Which is your favorite spot amongst the vines to sip Michigan’s world-class wines?

Submit your fondest memories and stories.

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo.

Win $150 for stories published!

Win a $50 bill credit!

Win a $50 bill credit!






Taking A Pass On PPP



Robert Hance, President/CEO /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 Email: BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762



Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


oo many times, legislation that is well-conceived and vetted, sometimes with years to fruition, falls short of its intended goal.


So legislation that is hurried to the table stands little chance of full success. This was the case with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a Small Business Administration loan intended to help small businesses keep their workforces employed during the coronavirus crisis. Well-intended? Definitely. Much needed? Of course. Poorly constructed? Yup. The rollout was a logistical mess, and the program ran out of money way too soon and had to be restocked through a second bill. And it turns out that many “small businesses” that aren’t really all that small accessed the funding. We all heard the news stories of Shake Shack and Ruth’s Hospitality Group, and while many of those falling under media scrutiny did return the funds, other big companies held on to the money. While many cooperatives across the country applied for and received these funds, including most in Michigan, your cooperative did not. In fact, I also serve on a national and regional cooperative board and found myself voting against the idea of participating in the PPP. While I respect those cooperatives’ rights and beliefs that receiving these funds will ultimately best serve their respective memberships, I believe some should have taken a pass. PPP was intended to help those at risk of losing their business as the economy shut down, guaranteeing the ability to keep their workers employed. Every day, we’re hearing stories of mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, and other retail outlets who are permanently closing their doors because of the massive losses during the shutdown. As a part of the critical infrastructure, we were never at risk of closing our doors. Rural electric cooperatives in particular have access to lines of credit that allow us to build and maintain critical

infrastructure. We have secure, lowinterest, backstop funding sources that we can tap into to ensure that our electric and telecommunications services are always on and available to our customers. Yes, PPP was essentially designed to offer potentially “free” money to qualified businesses, and many co-ops that accessed funds were rightfully qualified. But I believe that those of us with access to other resources and not really at risk of shutting down should have taken a pass on these funds for the benefit of those who don’t have alternatives. Many of our own commercial customers are hurting, and many of our residential customers have lost jobs. I have extreme empathy for those who are truly struggling. In my ideal world, I would distribute the million-plus dollars that would have been available to us to our own customers who were deeply impacted. However, at the end of the day, I can rest my head on my pillow knowing that we did the right thing and did not take dollars that were intended for those businesses truly facing the reality of closure.

HOLIDAY OFFICE CLOSURE Our offices will be closed on Monday, September 7, for Labor Day. Make a payment or report an electric outage via SmartHub or by calling 800-492-5989. Dropbox payments made at our three solutions centers will be processed on the next open business day.

Enroll In E-billing top worrying about bills getting lost in the mail. With e-billing, we email you a notification each month when your bill is ready. You can then go to to log on and view/pay your bill.


Sign up via SmartHub.

Set it and Forget it. Experience the utmost convenience of account management by enrolling in auto-pay. With this service, we automatically deduct your monthly bill from your bank account or charge your credit card on the due date. You’ll never have to worry about paying your bill again! Sign up via SmartHub or by calling 800-492-5989 and using our automated phone system. For security reasons, our solutions agents are not able to take bank account or credit card information over the phone.

3-Step HVAC Test As summer temperatures rise, so do electric bills. Follow these steps to test the efficiency of your HVAC unit. The outdoor temperature should be above 80 degrees, and you should set your thermostat well below the room temperature to ensure the system runs long enough for this test.

1. Using a digital probe thermometer (about $12), measure the temperature of the air being pulled into your HVAC filter. 2. Measure the temperature of the air blowing out of your AC vent. 3. Subtract the AC vent temperature from the HVAC filter temperature. You should see a difference of about 17 to 20 degrees. If the difference is less than 17 degrees, you may need a licensed technician to check the coolant. If the difference is greater than 20 degrees, your ductwork may need to be inspected for airflow restrictions.

The Magic of Yooperlites By Emily Haines Lloyd


rik Rintamaki has been walking the beaches of Lake Superior all of his life.

Rintamaki, now living in Brimley, grew up in the Upper Peninsula and spent pretty much every weekend or nice day on the beaches with his dad on the hunt for rocks. They spent most of their time searching for agate, a variety of quartz, popular with rock collectors or “rock hounds.” “I’ve always loved rock collecting,” said Rintamaki. “There’s something peaceful and soothing about it. Plus, spending time with my dad made it even more special.” But Rintamaki’s barometer for “special” was about to hit a whole new level. In 2017, while testing out a UV light he’d bought on eBay for eight bucks, Rintamaki noticed a few small stones lined with various patterns in bright fluorescent orange. He’d never seen anything like it, and at 4:30 a.m., he found himself racing home from Vermilion with the rocks to look them up online and see what they were.



However, he couldn’t find anything. And not just online. After Google failed him, Rintamaki started bringing his discoveries to rock and gems shows that he would attend to sell agate. “I took them to six or eight shows and showed them to probably 300 people I know there,” said Rintamaki. “And no one had any idea what they were.” A friend of Rintamaki’s in California asked for a couple of pounds of stones and finally determined that they were a variety of syenite sodalite. And it was the Michigan Mineralogy Project (MMP) that determined this was something that had never been discovered in Michigan before. In fact, the MMP credited Rintamaki with the discovery of the first verified sodalite deposits ever documented in Michigan in its May 2018 edition of The Mineral News. That was the beginning of Yooperlites. With the opportunity to name his discovery, Rintamaki was informed that most rocks were named after the location in

which they were found and had the suffix “ite.” While he considered some specific geographical names, Rintamaki finally hit on Yooperlite—a nod to the nickname for those from the Upper Peninsula. “I’m a Yooper,” laughed Rintamaki. “It just felt right.”

“It’s like unlocking a secret with these stones. They may look like nothing special, but under just the right conditions—magic!”

Rintamaki, who is also a lapidarist (rock artisan), started taking his Yooperlite findings and grinding them into shapes and spheres and selling them to rock collectors. But it was when he struck on the idea to take other people out on rock collecting tours that his joy of identifying Yooperlites hit another level. “It was only my second tour and as I was showing everyone how to shine the lights and look for Yooperlites that I asked if folks would let me know if they saw something, so I could record it.” It was Shirley Klemmer who shouted out first and Rintamaki ran over to take some video. He posted it online that evening when he got home. By the time he woke up the next day, the video had gone viral. Rintamaki’s rock tour Yooperlites Facebook page, which had only 26 likes prior, had since propelled to more than 14,000. “People were just so excited by the Yooperlites,” said Rintamaki. “All of a sudden I’m doing tours weekly, taking out hundreds of folks from all over the world.” Tour groups from as far away as Japan have come to take Yooperlite tours and bring home the unique rocks for their collections. Rintamaki jokes that each tour is the same, where people slowly find one rock, then another and by the end, Rintamaki has to tear them away from the beach in the search for “just one more.” What is it about these plain grey rocks that are really nothing special until you shine a UV light on them? “It’s awesome to watch people discover Yooperlites,” said Rintamaki. “It’s like unlocking a secret with these stones. They may look like nothing special, but under just the right conditions—magic!”

Visit to check out Rintamaki’s web store and sign up for the newsletter to get updates on tours. You can also follow Yooperlites on Facebook and Instagram.



Out With The Old; Spring For The New t’s time to start planning that summer yard sale you’ve been talking about, which means numerous trips to the basement and garage to sort through boxes of clothes, dishes, and paperback books. While you ponder over those old bowling trophies, take a closer look at the “extra” refrigerator standing in the corner. It’s been great for storing the overflow of soda cans, water bottles, and holiday leftovers over the years, but if it’s older than 15 years, it may be costing you more than $300 per year to run it!


Cash incentives are available for the following: Appliance Type

Pick up or Ride-Along Item

Incentive Amount

Refrigerator (Full-size, 10 cubic feet or larger)

Pick up


Chest Freezer (10 cubic feet or larger)

Pick up


• An older refrigerator uses twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator.

Window Air Conditioner



• Recycling old refrigerators prevents refrigerants and foam from entering the environment, preventing 10,000 pounds of carbon pollution.




Cold, Hard Facts • More than 60 million refrigerators and refrigeratorfreezers in the U.S. are over 10 years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion a year in energy costs.

Money In Your Pocket Ready to save? Recycle your old refrigerator. Schedule a free pick up for your outdated, functioning appliances and earn some cool cash incentives from the Energy Optimization program.

Replacing your refrigerator or freezer with a new efficient ENERGY STAR appliance might also qualify you for additional rebates. Visit or call 877-296-4319 for additional energy-saving information and incentives.

RECYCLE THAT OLD REFRIGERATOR. An outdated refrigerator uses nearly twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR® certified model. Recycle it and earn cash incentives!







SCHEDULE A FREE PICK-UP. V I S I T: C A L L : 877.296.4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Other restrictions may apply. For a complete list of participating utilities, visit

APPLY NOW Reach your students in new and exciting ways with up to $2,500 from MEC. The program: Support for special projects, technology, classroom needs, academic clubs or organizations. Eligibility: Any teacher or school official in a public K-12 school serving students in the MEC electric service territory.

WE NEED GRANT REVIEWERS Did you know that MEC electric customers decide which proposals get Strengthening Schools funds? We need volunteers for the upcoming award cycle. Eligibility: Any MEC electric customer who can dedicate time to reviewing, discussing and awarding grants. This includes meeting in person for one full weekday in the fall and possibly one full weekday in January.

Application Deadline: April 1–October 19, 2020

The review committee does not know the school, educator or district when determining recipients.

Awards Granted: January 2021

If interested, please email

MI CO-OP Recipes

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


TABLE Farm-Fresh Seasonal Recipes


TERRIFIC TOMATO SOUP Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

3 4 ½ ½ 2 • ½ ½ 2 2 • ½ ¼ •

pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes cloves garlic, peeled onion, diced red bell pepper, diced tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste teaspoon dried basil teaspoon dried oregano cups chicken or vegetable broth tablespoons fresh herbs (basil, parsley and/or oregano) fresh basil & parsley for serving cup heavy cream, optional cup parmesan cheese, optional for garnish croutons, optional

Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash and cut tomatoes. For smaller, apricot-sized tomatoes, cut in half. For larger tomatoes, cut into quarters or eighths. Place tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs on a large sheet pan. Roast 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and broil 3–4 minutes or until some of the tomatoes get a little bit of char color on them. Bring broth to a boil; add tomatoes and fresh herbs. Using a hand blender or immersion blender, blend mixture until smooth and creamy. Add heavy cream if using and stir. Top with parmesan cheese, croutons, or a drizzle of heavy cream. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at


Win a


energy bill credit!


Easy Recipes due August 1 Sauces, Dips & Dressings due September 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 for more information.

GARDEN GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy 1 1 • 2

fresh egg, any size tablespoon canola oil cracked black pepper, as desired slices artisan-style bread (or one of your choice) 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature 1–4 ounces sliced or shredded Gruyere cheese (or cheese of your choice) 1 cup fresh arugula, rinsed and dried Fry the egg in a preheated (medium heat) nonstick skillet with the oil, breaking the yolk after the whites have

begun to set, if desired. Cook to desired opaqueness. Set aside and sprinkle with pepper. In the same skillet, with the heat slightly reduced, place a slice of bread with one side buttered (butter side down). Top with two or three slices, or about an ounce and a half, of cheese. Top the cheese with the arugula and cooked egg. Add more cheese if desired. Top with the remaining slice of bread; one side buttered and facing up. When the bottom slice of bread is browned to your liking, gently press down on the sandwich. Gently flip the sandwich, careful not to allow the fillings to spill out.

CARAMEL APPLE CHEESECAKE Erica England-Hoffman, Great Lakes Energy Crust: 2 cups flour ½ cup packed brown sugar 1 cup butter, softened Filling: 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened ¾ cup sugar 3 large eggs 1½ teaspoon vanilla Apples: 3 apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Topping: 1 cup packed brown sugar 1 cup flour ½ cup oats ½ cup butter, softened • jar caramel sauce Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, then spray with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients and press into pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Combine filling ingredients and pour over warm crust. Combine apple ingredients and pour on top of cheesecake filling. Combine topping ingredients, except caramel sauce, and sprinkle over apples. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel sauce and let cool.

“CURRY UP” 2 ALARM PORK ROAST Mike Lavens, Presque Isle

3–3.5 pound boneless pork sirloin tip roast/boneless pork loin roast 2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided 4 tablespoons curry hot spices (Kashat)* 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning 1 teaspoon cayenne red pepper* • salt and white pepper 2–3 tablespoons olive oil ½ large sweet white onion, diced 12+ baby carrots, cut in half 1 jalapeño pepper, cut to liking (slice in half, then cut up)* 2 stalks celery, cut into small chunks • jar of beef gravy Preheat oven to 230 F. Sprinkle pork with 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Combine the curry, poultry seasoning, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix. Sprinkle mixture onto all sides of the pork. Season with salt and white pepper. Pat meat to gently rub everything in. Wash hands. Heat oil in a 9- to 10-inch cast iron (or ovenproof)

skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, then remove to a plate and set aside. Add onion, carrots, jalapeño, and celery to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown. Add remaining 1 tablespoon garlic powder and beef gravy. Deglaze pan by adding splash of water to empty beef gravy jar and pour into pan. Cook 2 more minutes. Place roast on top of vegetable/gravy mixture. Insert an oven-safe, instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and place in center of oven (or check temperature after 2 hours). Cook until instant-read thermometer’s internal temperature reaches 145 F (about 2.5 hours). Bump up oven temperature to 260 F if meat is not at 145 F after 2 hours for 10 minutes and recheck temperature. Remove roast from oven when temp reaches 145 F and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with vegetables and gravy over top. Serve immediately with carrots and gravy. *Adjust spices/heat to individual preference. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES




Kylee Cromer, daughter of Kelly and Kelly Cromer, is a graduate of Dowagiac Union High School.

A two-year member of the National Honor Society, she received academic excellence awards for four years and ranked eighth in her class. She was also a member of the Dowagiac Rotary Interact Club and a volunteer at the Dowagiac Conservation Club. Yet, her passion for horses is what has truly shaped her life and taught her responsibility and commitment. She explained that “it’s very hard work, building muscle memory and establishing a bond with a horse. However, it pays off every time.” She competed with horses in 4-H and as part of the Dowagiac Equestrian Club (DEC) for years. She earned her varsity letter and won districts three years in a row with the DEC. She also participated in powerlifting for one year, placing second at regionals and eighth at state. “I started lifting at the gym and discovered that I really enjoyed it. In addition to reinforcing my value of hard work, powerlifting taught me the importance of good nutrition and taking care of myself.” This fall, she will head to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where she will finish her associate degree before she begins pursuing interior design at Western Michigan University next spring.


Dustin Noble, son of Doug and Peggy Noble and graduate of Lawton High School, started playing football in first grade and the sport has been the primary driver in his life since. “Football taught me that life is the ultimate team sport. You can’t get through football alone, and you can’t get through life alone,” he said. “It’s a large brotherhood that definitely shaped who I’ve become.” As a two-time all-conference and Kalamazoo Dream Team member, three-year varsity starter and two-year team captain, Noble served as a role model for other players and youth in the community. “I enjoyed helping out with rocket football and acting as a positive influence for younger kids.” Football also taught him the value of thinking before acting. “I threw a gamewinning touchdown in our second-to-last regular-season game in 2019. I got carried away with celebrating and injured my wrist, which resulted in me not being able to play on senior night. I missed out on something important to me because I was irresponsible, and while that was hard, it helped me learn to be more aware of my actions.” In addition to football, he participated in basketball, track, and baseball and has even taught himself how to play the guitar. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and Students Against Destructive Decisions.


He’ll head to Kalamazoo College in the fall, where he’ll play football as a running back and pursue a degree in business.


As a kid growing up, Austin Outlaw listened to his grandmother tell stories of her experience as a paramedic. “She definitely inspired me, and I loved learning about how she helped people,” he said. While in school, he discovered a love for chemistry and biology. So, it is only natural that he heads to Michigan State University this fall to pursue a degree in medicine. The son of Jennifer Outlaw and Roger Outlaw II, and graduate of Constantine High School, Outlaw was the vice president of the National Honor Society and served on the Student Senate. He also recently became a member of Phi Theta Kappa as a result of his success at Glen Oaks Community College, where he was dual-enrolled. Additionally, he participated in track and field and ran cross country, which sparked a passion for running and exercise. In fact, he is working toward earning a personal training certification and hopes to someday run a medical practice that will include exercise science and nutritional services in the operation. “I can’t wait to meet new people and to live in a city,” he said when speaking about his next endeavor. “I like mental challenges and trying to figure things out. I look forward to my next chapter and learning new things. My experiences of balancing school, work, and athletics, along with helping out my siblings, have prepared me to do well.”


From cheerleading to leathercraft, venture crew to pageantry, Kerith Spake has participated in a wide variety of activities throughout her childhood. “I love new experiences and trying anything and everything. My activities have taught me how to manage my time and how to be a leader and role model. Venture crew made me more outgoing, and I’m so grateful for that.” The daughter of Melissa and Darren Bettinger, she graduated from Edwardsburg High School and heads to the University of Toledo to study medical technology and pre-medicine. “I love helping people and look forward to pursuing a degree in which I can make a difference.” As Miss Cassopolis 2019, she spent months helping the local community and serving as a role model for local youth. She also noted that, “I hope I redefined people’s expectations of what a pageant queen can be. I wasn’t afraid to pull my hair back and climb a rock wall while I was wearing my crown. I hope that, as a result, I inspired others to look at the role a little differently.” She was a member of the National Honor Society and the Mechanicsburg 4-H, where she earned Best of Show for photography and leathercraft. “I got into working with leather from my venture crew coach. It’s been lots of fun and takes a lot of practice,” she noted. She has made various gifts for people including pictures, knife pockets, belts and even a three-legged stool.



American Gothic and Walden

Hygienic Dress League | Steve and Dorota Coy Unlike the other installations in the project, the Ziel Barn is still a working structure. Owners Hank and Jeannette Ziel donated their barn for Hygienic Dress League (HDL) to paint. In nostalgic barn advertising style, including a take on Grant Wood’s famous ”American Gothic,” HDL created two sides of ads for an imaginary corporation that produces nothing. It is a commentary piece that sparked plenty of conversations, like any provocative art. Left: American Gothic. Photo by Tyler Leipprandt. Right: Walden. Photo by Justin Schnettler

An art scene is emerging in the small, waterfront town of Port Austin in Lower Michigan’s Thumb area. And it’s emerging in a way that is totally unexpected and larger than life. While driving the meandering roads of the Thumb, you can’t help but notice the many barns peppering the landscape. Most of them look like relics from a bygone era, which in some ways they are. Jim Boyle, a former Port Austin resident, now works for a foundation in the Detroit area and has been deeply involved in the city’s art scene. His parents still live in the Thumb, and while visiting them years ago, he noticed the turn-of-the-century barns starting to lose in the undeclared war with nature. As the traditional family farm saw a decline, the story of struggle and hanging on by a thread, or rather a beam, was all too metaphoric in the barns. Once majestic, utilitarian structures, these barns were beginning to look all too often like abandoned dreams or livelihoods. “You can’t help but make the connection to these beautiful barns and how just over a hundred miles away, Detroit has 14 JULY/AUGUST 2020

seen similar structural loss,” said Boyle. As a member of the arts community, Boyle had intimate knowledge of how art has the ability to transform what might otherwise be forgotten. After 10 years with the Detroit Institute of Art and as the co-founder of a gallery— Public Pool—Boyle understood how art could help build up a community. It started with a lofty goal—artistically modify 10 barns in the Port Austin area in 10 years. Boyle reached out to the art community in Detroit, and the farm and local community in Port Austin. He made the connections and hoped to watch the magic happen. “Like any large installation project, it is a million moving pieces and gets away from you fast,” said Boyle. The project, which started seven years ago, has artfully transformed three barns in Port Austin. While the number of projects shrunk, the scope and scale of these installations have had a big impact both in the community and on the visual landscape. Boyle urges those both local in Port Austin and beyond to take the drive and prepare to marvel.

Celestial Ship of the North Scott Hocking

The second barn, donated by Bill and Lorraine Goretski, was likely one big storm from coming down. Ultimately, it was the artist/storm of Scott Hocking who came in, dismantled the 1890s barn and re-raised it in a totally new form. The ship-like “ark” stands over 55 feet tall in the fields of M-53 and begs viewers to stare and ponder if anything is ever just one thing. Photo by Justin Schnettler

Secret Sky Catie Newell

Catie Newell is an architect by day and artist by night. She revamped her barn, donated by Michael Schoenhals, using her architectural knowledge. By creating a unique “cut-out” through the barn’s center and shoring it up with beams and tension rods, Newell essentially saved the structure, while creating an artistic peek into the soul of these architectural giants. Wonderfully complicated by day and lit majestically by night, Newell’s barn blends the practical with the magical. Photo by Tyler Leipprandt

Ultimately, Boyle notes that there is no shortage in interest from Detroit artists. With three projects to reference, Boyle hopes that the community organizers can now point to these installations to encourage additional involvement, fundraising, and more barn projects. It’s a lofty mission with big dreams for future growth. However—for a project of this scope—“lofty” seems just about the perfect size.

For information visit or MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


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With Wi-Fi that is up to 4x faster, the U12’s multi-user, multiple-input and multiple-output allows up to eight streams of data simultaneously, which means no lag or downtime.

Security Updates

Automatic software updates provide the latest security. 16 JULY/AUGUST 2020


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Plug and Play Mesh

Chances are you won’t need it, but the GigaSpire BLAST also offers a GigaMesh for even more coverage and connectivity.

READY FOR ULTIMATE WI-FI? New internet customers: Visit Current customers: Upgrade to Ultimate Wi-Fi for $10/mo. by contacting us through SmartHub


THE ULTIMATE APP Take control of your internet network with the MEC Smart-Fi mobile app and manage the devices that connect to your network.

We lco



LO ’t h

• Set up your system in less than one minute. • Update your SSID and password.



Con t sec rol you ure r you home r life and .











t? S IG


ENHANCED FEATURES Ultimate Wi-Fi subscribers can opt in to these additional features that provide you with even more control and security.

• Set up basic parental controls and turn off access when you need to.

Advanced Parental Controls

• Create a guest network and manage access.


These features are currently only available on our GigaSpire routers but will be available on our 844GigaCenters this fall.

With ExperienceIQ™ keep your kids safe and off-line when you need to. Plus, manage screen time, filter content, monitor usage and more.

Network Security

ProtectIQ™ protects your network from hackers and malware by blocking suspicious activity and alerting you of security issues.



MI CO-OP Community

Guest Column

The Old Ball Games

By Carol Higgins, Midwest Energy & Communications member


was born in 1954, the oldest of eight. We didn’t go many places together, but my parents taught us the value of hard work. Our farm family lived over five miles from the nearest town, but only a quarter of a mile from our community church. It was the center of my social life. I took advantage of the fact that I could usually get out of chores if there was something going on at church. On Sunday evenings in the summer, we’d go to the “drive-in” church where the slogan was, “Come as you are and worship in your car.” But my favorite summer activity was Monday night softball at the drive-in church field which was complete with a backstop and bases.

score, but that wasn’t the main focus. We all left feeling like winners.

The tomboy in me couldn’t wait to finish supper on Mondays, grab my ball glove, and ride my bike to the church field. Up to two dozen neighbors might gather to play, plus a few spectators. We’d quickly form teams and play until dusk. Our Monday night games were multigenerational and coed. Everyone from five to over 50 played. Everyone got to bat. No one under 10 was allowed to strike out! What a boost to my confidence and self-esteem.

Those games and some softball at recess were all I had since schools didn’t offer the sport for girls until after I graduated from high school. Now, over five decades later, I’ve watched grandchildren move from tee-ball to little league, and on to middle and high school teams competing for top place in their league. I cheer them on from the sidelines. It’s all very structured and competitive. But I’m not convinced it’s as much fun as the informal, Monday night games in the farming community where I grew up.

Neighbor Bill would often pitch and had the patience of a saint. Some young batters would swing and miss multiple times. When those of us under 10 swung and finally made contact with the ball, everyone cheered. “Safe!” cried the spectators who served collectively as the unofficial umpire. Getting to first base was a major feeling of success even if it was sometimes “rigged” by slow fielding, wild throws, or dropped balls. We usually kept

Win a


energy bill credit!

Carol is a retired teacher, coach, and B&B operator. She still substitutes and serves on several boards. She enjoys gardening, biking, kayaking, walking, reading, singing, environmental activism, volunteering, and working on becoming a wiser naturalist. A fun fact about Carol is that she and her husband, Larry, once sang “Ode to Joy” with an international choir in Carnegie Hall, New York.

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo on the left by July 30 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at May 2020 Winner! Our Mystery Photo contest winner from the May issue is Carol Knight, a Thumb Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as the Fayette Historic Townsite near Garden, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a great place to see and learn the history of the iron-smelting days. Photo courtesy of Kelli Marshall. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September and November/December.


MORE WAYS TO CONNECT Introducing Ultimate Wi-Fi

Discover a smarter home experience with blazing-fast internet and unbeatable coverage via our new GigaSpire Ultimate Wi-Fi router. Plus, take advantage of the MEC Smart-Fi mobile app that offers parental controls, guest network set up, security features and more.

Sign up for an Ultimate Wi-Fi package by September 30, 2020 and receive a free Amazon Echo Dot 3!


Twelve-month contract required. Offer valid until 9.30.20 to new customers only. Free installation available to Midwest Energy & Communications electric customers only. Internet services are not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

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