COUNTRY LINES Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association
Vegetation Management Update
RECLAIMED THE ART OF THE BARN
Small-Town Calumet Electronics Makes A Big Impact Northwoods Poet
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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 email@example.com 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.
MI CO-OP COMMUNITY
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)
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
MI CO-OP KITCHEN
BEST OF MICHIGAN
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!
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MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
Plan For A Safe And Happy Summer
Debbie Miles, General Manager
500 J.K. Paul Street Ontonagon, MI 49953 906-884-4151 800-562-7128 After hours: 866-639-6098 OFFICERS & DIRECTORS
Calvin Koski, President Aura District 906-524-6988 • firstname.lastname@example.org
William Hodges, Vice President & Treasurer Lake Linden District 906-934-3743 • email@example.com Mildred Ann Gasperich, Director Boston District 906-281-2009 • firstname.lastname@example.org Wayne Heikkinen, Director Pelkie/Herman/Aura District 906-353-6496 • email@example.com Michael Urbis, Director Ewen/Trout Creek/Lake Mine District 906-988-2344 • firstname.lastname@example.org
George Rajala, Director Chassell/Keweenaw Bay District 906-370-0416 • email@example.com
Frances Wiideman, Director Green/Firesteel/Toivola District 906-288-3203 • firstname.lastname@example.org PERSONNEL
Debbie Miles, General Manager Fay Hauswirth, Billing Clerk Mark Urbis, Line Superintendent OTHER INFORMATION
Date of Incorporation: Sept. 30, 1937 Fiscal year-end: Dec. 31 countrylines.com/coops/ontonagon Ontonagon County REA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
ummer has always been a favorite season of mine. Summer is a time for fellowship with family and friends, but at Ontonagon REA, we also want to make sure our members focus on safety.
To ensure you have the best and summer possible, we would like to remind you about a few important safety tips from the American Red Cross. Nothing says summer like fireworks. If you decide to put on your own show at home, be sure to follow these safety tips: • Always follow the instructions on fireworks’ packaging and never give fireworks to small children. • Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution. • Make sure to wear protective eyewear when lighting fireworks. • Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight a “dud.” • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. • Never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Cookouts are a great summer activity, too. Whether you are grilling in your backyard or at a community park, make sure your feast includes a generous portion of fun and a side helping of safety! We recommend the following safety tips: • • • •
Supervise your grill at all times. Use the proper tools for cooking on a grill. Never add charcoal starter fluid when the coals have already been ignited. Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions when using grills.
Fireworks and cookouts wouldn’t be complete without a sunny day. Here’s hoping we have good weather, and if we do, make sure you are practicing sun safety: • Use a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen and reapply often. • Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses. • Drink plenty of water. Ontonagon REA wishes you a safe and happy summer!
Director Seats For District 2 and District 6 The three-year terms of this year’s election for directors in District 2: Ewen, Trout Creek, and Lake Mine; and District 6: Boston have been counted. The election committee of five (5) members met June 16 at the Ontonagon REA office at 500 James K Paul Street to count ballots. The count for District 2 was 79–Paul Koski and 107–Mike Urbis. District 6 ran unopposed and elected Ann Gasperich.
4 JULY/AUGUST 2020
In-House Vegetation Management Update n September 2019, Ontonagon REA began a new program to bring its vegetation management in-house. In the past, the cooperative used seasonal independent contractors to address brushing of the rights-of-way and to deal with trees that were compromising the lines. But for approximately eight months of the year, the co-op would have to use their own line crews to address any tree-related problems. John Myllylahti and Matthew Urbis, both previously employed with Asplundh Tree Expert Company, were hired to work as full-time vegetation management specialists, bringing a combined 30 years of experience with them to the co-op team and the new program.
members were very appreciative of the work we were doing and how professional our team is.” John added, “We had countless members and people stopping and thanking us for the job we were doing. That really encouraged us.” General Manager Debbie Miles has been very pleased with the work the men are doing and how the program has been going. “We are all so happy to have them on board. Member feedback has been nothing but positive,” she said. “We have members making it a point to let us know what a great job they are doing. Having our own tree trimmers was invaluable during the 2019 storms and made a significant difference in getting power restored.”
Ontonagon native Myllylahti has enjoyed his time on the job so far. “I love working for REA for many reasons, but the best part is being part of the REA family. Everyone here has been wonderful and has treated us great since our first day,” he said. “I also like helping our members with vegetation problems so that we can keep their power on.” Off the job, John enjoys spending time with his family, golfing, hunting, and fishing. Ewen resident Matt Urbis attended both Gogebic Community College and Northern Michigan University. “I spent 15 years working for Asplundh Tree, where I was clearing and maintaining transmission lines,” he said. “When I began working for Ontonagon REA, everyone at the company was welcoming and made me feel like family, and my favorite thing about my new career with Ontonagon REA is my coworkers. I’m very excited for the years to come with my new REA family.” Married to Brooke since 2013, and father to Ella and Liam, he enjoys spending time with family and friends and camping in the summer.
The Myllylahti family: Brittany, Damian, Deanna, John, and Arianna Grace.
Last November, when the record-breaking Thanksgiving Day storm hit, both men experienced firsthand the impact of heavy wet snow on the co-op’s electric lines. “We all worked 16-hour days for five days straight in terrible weather to get power restored. It was hard work and long days, but everybody pulled together,” John said. “The linemen were amazing. They care about our members, and it shows. They all earned my respect, and I was glad to be part of something like that.” Both men mentioned how meaningful it was to hear positive feedback from members during the storm. “We put in some long days during the storm, but I enjoyed every minute of it,” Matt recalls. “REA
The Urbis family: Liam, Matt, Brooke, and Ella MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
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 yooperlites.com 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.
MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
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
Refrigerator (Full-size, 10 cubic feet or larger)
Chest Freezer (10 cubic feet or larger)
• 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.
LOOKING TO SAVE?
Replacing your refrigerator or freezer with a new efficient ENERGY STAR appliance might also qualify you for additional rebates. Visit michigan-energy.org 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!
(RIDE ALONG ITEM)
WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER (RIDE ALONG ITEM)
SCHEDULE A FREE PICK-UP. V I S I T: michigan-energy.org 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 michigan-energy.org.
Festivals & Fairs 1. Craft fair + corn on the cob = sweet summertime. Danielle Impola 2. Connor had been crying, and this horse put her head over the door and nuzzled his head. He turned and patted the horse on her nose. Elsa Green 3. As the world spins, keep your feet firmly on the ground. Mandy Schram 4. Swing carousel full of riders. Ian Gabriel
3 Enter to win a
energy bill credit!
Submit A Photo & Win A Bill Credit!
Ontonagon REA members whose photos we print in Michigan Country Lines will be entered in a drawing. One lucky member will win a credit up to $200 on their December 2020 energy bill!
Our Upcoming Topics And Deadlines:
• Michigan’s Natural Beauty, due July 20 (September/October issue) • Cute Pets, due September 20 (November/December issue) To submit photos, and for details and instructions, go to http://bit.ly/countrylines. We look forward to seeing your best photos! MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
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 micoopkitchen.com/videos
10 JULY/AUGUST 2020
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 micoopkitchen.com 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
Northwoods Poet By Yvonne Whitman
The Gift of Goals and Pretty Toes By Carol Oberg
I sit on the dock and God puts a square of sunlight on my creaseless forehead. He pushes the wind so the lake water gently brushes warm ripples on my toes dangling freely, pretty with the nails painted pink. I lean back on my palms holding in my proud head every kindness I have given others each shiny goal my diligent hard work has won me. A dark cloud suddenly blocks the glorious sun a flash of lightning strikes too close for comfort and when the thunder roars I fall without grace down on my knees drawing blood and wooden slivers that sting as I stumble away, running for my life.
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“ I believe everyone can be a poet. I know how I want to write and will continually work towards that end. With a handful of words or pages of them, I want to create poetry that draws others into a new place to see people they may or may not know and hear a story that gives the reader something to think about–which is what good writing does.”
Carol with her granddaughter Emma, who is also a budding poet. Emma’s work was recently published in the Louisville Review.
n the shores of Gooseneck Lake, in the beautiful Hiawatha National Forest, award-winning author and poet Carol Oberg has found the perfect place to let her thoughts freely flow onto the page. Oberg, a native of Escanaba, developed an appreciation for words at a young age. “I loved language when I was growing up and visiting the Carnegie Library was my favorite thing to do,” she said. While she always enjoyed writing, it wasn’t until 1981 that she really devoted herself to it. “I just had an overwhelming urge to really apply myself, so for three years, I spent every day writing short stories,” she recalls. “Much of what I wrote went into the trash, but then I finally wrote a story that I thought was fairly good, and I sent it to Redbook’s Young Writers Contest.” While the story did not garner an award, “The comments in the incredibly kind handwritten rejection letter gave me enough encouragement to make me think ‘I guess I can write,’” she said.
Shortly after that, she wrote her husband an anniversary card. It reminded her of a certain style of cards she had often admired in stores, and she decided to take a leap of faith and send it to Blue Mountain Arts, Inc., a greeting card company. The company published the card and Carol still recalls the first time she saw one of her cards in a Hallmark store. “I excitedly said to the clerk, ‘I wrote this card!’” She remembers thinking to herself, “Well, if I did it once, I can do it again.” And she did. Since then, the company has used about three dozen of her poems on greeting cards, anthologies, and calendars, purchasing the copyright for many of them, and selling them worldwide and in other languages. In 2009, her husband retired, and the couple built their lakeside retirement home. High school sweethearts who are now approaching their 45th anniversary, Carol says her husband Ron has always been incredibly supportive of her writing. “He built me the most amazing writing studio.
It’s just perfect,” she said. The space inspired her, and she began submitting her poetry to various literary publications. “My first big break was when I sent a few poems to Ancient Paths literary magazine. I was one of three poets selected to be a featured writer in their annual magazine, where 10 of my works were published. From there, it just grew,” she says. Her work has been published in numerous literary journals and magazines, and she is a regular contributor to The Avocet, a Journal of Nature Poetry. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Award and was the recipient of the 2018 Heart Poetry Award. In 2019, she submitted a 60-page manuscript of poetry to Clare Songbirds Publishing House in central New York. Her work was so well-received that the publisher contracted with Carol to publish her first book of poetry, titled “Crawling Down the Alley to Easy Street.” She does not follow a schedule but instead writes when she is inspired to do so. “It comes out of nowhere,” she says. “While some of my poetry is personal, much of it comes from things I have read, witnessed, or heard from the everyday stories of people’s lives. Words and the endless ways they can connect have been my lifelong fascination.” “I believe everyone can be a poet. I know how I want to write and will continually work towards that end. With a handful of words or pages of them, I want to create poetry that draws others into a new place to see people they may or may not know and hear a story that gives the reader something to think about—which is what good writing does.” For more information, visit claresongbirdspub.com/ featured-authors/carol-oberg.
MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13
RECLAIMED THE ART OF THE BARN By Emily Haines Lloyd
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 portaustinart.com or facebook.com/portaustinart. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
Small-Town Calumet Electronics Has
BIG IMPACT By Emily Haines Lloyd
“Rugged” is a word that people in the most northern regions of the Upper Peninsula hear frequently. It’s a characteristic that is put to the test on a daily basis. But in the time of COVID-19, this is a characteristic that allows folks to not only survive but thrive. Calumet, Michigan, was once the center of copper mining activity in the Keweenaw Peninsula. After World War I, the demand for copper decreased, taking much of the industry, jobs, and people out of the area. When Calumet Electronics opened its doors in 1968, it had a mission to bring new business life to the area. Its purpose was to create local, familysustaining jobs. Today it is the area’s largest private-sector employer. Calumet Electronics designs, builds and delivers printed circuit boards (PCBs). These circuit boards are used in energy grids, life support systems, medical devices, avionics, aerospace and defense markets. It’s a source of pride that while Calumet’s boards are found in products all over the world, they are manufactured entirely in Michigan. 16 JULY/AUGUST 2020
“Circuit boards aren’t exactly ‘sexy,’” said Dr. Meredith LaBeau, process engineering manager. “But we believe in this area, the lifestyle it can provide, and the people who make it their home. We are proud to create jobs that allow people to build lives here.” A secret recruitment weapon in Calumet Electronics’ back pocket is a “little” technological school nestled in the woods less than 15 miles away— Michigan Technological University in Houghton. With engineers in multiple disciplines graduating every year, the efforts to both groom and recruit from the university take a lot of effort and input. “Ultimately, we’re trying to keep the talented people who have fallen in love with the area—in the area,” said LaBeau.
HITTING THE NATIONAL STAGE
Audra Thurston (right), a process engineer, represents Calumet Electronics, the IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries), and the domestic electronics industry at the White House, advocating for workforce development while telling the Calumet Electronics story.
While Calumet Electronics was busy working to balance its small-town way of life with providing world-class technology, it was jarred along with the rest of the world by the onset of COVID-19.
Todd Brassard, vice president and chief operations officer. “What would this mean for our employees and their families? But when the first RUSH order came in for the ventilator PCB, we knew we had a part to play in the fight.”
Calumet Electronics has produced PCBs for hospital ventilators for some time. It was an area of its business that was suddenly a piece of equipment that would have life-saving implications in the fight against COVID-19.
The importance of PCB manufacturing is undervalued. However, with Calumet Electronics’ products suddenly a vital part of the COVID19 battle, employees suddenly had new purpose and a very concrete way to grasp how one little circuit board could have a huge impact.
As individuals contracted the virus, and their symptoms went from fevers and trouble breathing to needing machine-assisted breathing provided by ventilators, production gained national attention. While many businesses have found themselves closed down and unable to engage in even daily activities, Calumet Electronics found the opposite. “When the COVID-19 hit, we were uncertain like everyone else,” said
Problem-solving, which is the backbone of engineering and manufacturing, was put to task as production quickly ramped up to full capacity. Calumet Electronics was not only pushing to produce more ventilator PCBs, but to maintain schedules and production for products of other clients, whose functions are similarly essential, like the PCBs they produce for power grids.
To say it was an all-hands-on-deck situation may be an understatement. What started as an effort to increase manufacturing by 15% quickly exceeded that and hit an increase of 39%. This meant all employees in the trenches, including folks who were more likely to be in client meetings and behind monitors, were suddenly on the production floor. “Fundamentally, we’re built for this kind of ‘all in this together’ scenario. We have hard-working, family- and community-focused people,” said Brassard. “At a really uncertain time, it feels good to be able to help, in whatever way we can.” It’s amazing that in the middle of a crisis that is focused on maintaining physical distance from one another, it is a small-town business with a tight-knit mentality that is able to show that solidarity doesn’t need to be about proximity.
“Fundamentally, we’re built for this kind of ‘all in this together’ scenario. We have hardworking, familyand communityfocused people.” —Todd Brassard
MI CO-OP Community
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
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 countrylines.com. 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.
Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association /OntonagonCountyREA
FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS Fireworks and summer go hand in hand, and we want you to have a safe, fun-ﬁlled season! Keep these safety tips in mind:
Make sure ﬁreworks are legal in your community before using them. Never buy professionalgrade ﬁreworks. They are not designed for safe consumer use. Keep small children a safe distance from all ﬁreworks, including sparklers, which can burn at temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees. Never reignite or handle malfunctioning ﬁreworks. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose nearby to thoroughly soak duds before throwing them away. Keep pets indoors and away from ﬁreworks to avoid contact injuries or noise reactions.