July/Aug. 2021 TEC

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July/August 2021


COUNTRY LINES Thumb Electric Cooperative

Annual Meeting Highlights

Scholarship Opportunity For Students How To Prevent Electric Shock Drowning

Foraging for Mushroom Houses


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Contents countrylines.com

July/August 2021 Vol. 41, No. 7



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 by Mike Barton

6 10 TIPS FOR ENJOYING MICHIGAN’S DARK SKIES Our state has some of the best stargazing spots in the country; here’s how to make the most of them. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Whole Grains: These hearty and delicious recipes will satisfy your soul and benefit your health.

14 FORAGING FOR MUSHROOM HOUSES Whether it’s architecture, history or whimsy you’re seeking, these fungi-shaped dwellings in Charlevoix offer something for everyone. 18 HOW TO PREVENT ELECTRIC SHOCK DROWNING You can avoid the hidden danger of being shocked in water if you know what to look out for.

#micoopcommunity I see you, Michigan summer. Bring on the sun, water, and sand. @frankfort_moments (Kathy Smith)

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: Around The World, due Aug. 1; Instant Pot & Slow Cooker, due Sept. 1. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.


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


Win a $50 bill credit! Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Thumb Electric Cooperative (TEC) Holds 84th Annual Meeting

tecmi.coop /thumbelectric

THUMB ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE 2231 Main Street Ubly, MI 48475-0157 1-800-327-0166 or 989-658-8571 E-mail: tec@tecmi.coop

BOARD OF DIRECTORS HURON COUNTY Randall Dhyse, Treasurer District 1 • 989-551-6533 Craig Osentoski, Director District 2 • 989-658-8512

Beth McDonald, Secretary District 3 • 989-550-7470 SANILAC COUNTY Kim Nunn, Vice President District 1 • 810-679-4291 Mike Briolat, Director District 2 • 989-284-3405

Duane Kursinsky, Director District 3 • 810-837-3828 TUSCOLA COUNTY Louis Wenzlaff, Director District 1 • 989-683-2696

Jonathan Findlay, President District 2 • 989-551-8393 Carl Cousins, Director District 3 • 989-871-4449

Dallas Braun, General Manager

PAYMENT STATIONS Huron County Bad Axe—Northstar Bank Pigeon—Northstar Bank Tuscola County Akron—Northstar Bank Caro—Northstar Bank Mayville—Mayville State Bank Millington—Mayville State Bank Sanilac County Sandusky—Northstar Bank Thumb Electric Cooperative is an equal opportunity provider and employer.





Dallas Braun, General Manager

EC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, held Saturday morning, June 12, was closed to the membership due to COVID health concerns and gathering restrictions in place at the time the meeting was scheduled and the official notice published. However, the recorded meeting video link was shared on TEC’s website and social media platforms on Monday, June 14. Louis Wenzlaff, president of the board of directors, opened the 84th Annual Meeting held at the cooperative’s recently acquired warehouse and property located at 2560 Mertz Road, Caro, MI. A total of 529 TEC members participated in the 2021 mail-in and online voting process, which included the election of three directors, bylaw revisions, and approval of the 2019 Annual Meeting minutes and the 2019 and 2020 year-end financials.


Re-elected to three-year terms in District 2 were Craig Osentoski, Huron County; Mike Briolat, Sanilac County; and Jonathan Findlay, Tuscola County. Others nominated for a director position were Paul Kanaski, Huron County; Ernest Messing, Sanilac County; and Kayleen Hahn and Michael Putnam, Tuscola County. TEC members overwhelmingly voted to approve amending the current TEC Bylaws related to member meetings—specifically, to establish a quorum based on the number of votes cast and to allow voting on all issues by mail-in or online ballot. TEC attorney Kyle O’Mara introduced the members of the current TEC Board of Directors, including Craig Osentoski, Beth McDonald, and Randall Dhyse, Huron County; Kim Nunn, Mike Briolat, and Duane Kursinsky, Sanilac County; and Jonathan Findlay, Louis Wenzlaff, and Carl Cousins, Tuscola County. Also introduced was General Manager Dallas Braun. President Wenzlaff also recognized the recent retirement of long-time employee Dennis Smalley, who retired after 42 years of service to the cooperative. In addition, Wenzlaff thanked the TEC employees for their day-to-day involvement that results in the overall success of the cooperative. The employees were also recognized for their dedication to safety, having gone over 2½ years without a losstime safety incident.

TEC’s board president, Louis Wenzlaff, highlighted the following areas: • Reviewed the 2019 financial statement, which showed operating revenues of $21,965,261 and expenses of $20,297,476, resulting in a margin of over $1.6 million, which was allocated back to the members of TEC as Patronage Capital. • Reviewed the 2020 financial statement, which showed operating revenues of $22,898,154 and expenses of $21,097,603, resulting in a margin of just over $1.8 million, which was allocated back to the members of TEC as Patronage Capital. • In 2019, TEC retired just over $1.2 million in Patronage Capital to its members, and in 2020, TEC retired approximately $1.1 million. Current members saw their patronage payment in the form of a credit on their May electric bills. • The cooperative remains financially stable and continues to meet all loan covenants.

TEC’s general manager, Dallas Braun, highlighted the following: • In July of this year, a rate revision (some up, some down) will go into effect. The monthly service charge for most accounts will increase by $5. The impact for an average residential account will be an increase of $2.60/month. This revision will allow the cooperative to continue to meet its financial debt, strengthen its equity position, and continue the responsible maintenance of the system. The last rate increase was back in 2018. • TEC is expected to complete the systemwide deployment of its Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system this month. Deployment began in 2019. • Line contractors will be rebuilding 12 miles of three-phase line in Huron County starting in July. • The cooperative, through the newly created TEC Fiber division, will begin a five-year, $80 million Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) infrastructure project in Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties. TEC Fiber plans to offer competitively priced FTTH internet service with symmetrical speeds up to 1 Gbps. Contractors are expected to be on TEC property this summer installing fiber cable on TEC poles. TEC Fiber will also provide service to non-TEC members outside its electric footprint. In those areas, the fiber is planned to be installed underground. • TEC was successful in an FCC auction last fall, securing $22.4 million over the next 10 years to support the operation of its FTTH internet service. • The cooperative continues to work with its statewide and national organizations to ensure that issues that may affect the availability, reliability, and affordability of electricity and high-speed fiber internet services to its membership are heard by our elected officials in Lansing and Washington, D.C. • The cooperative continues to support/promote ACRE, the Political Action Committee (PAC) for all electric cooperatives. All TEC members can participate directly.

Have a Billing or Usage Question?

There’s an App for That! SmartHub is a powerful account management service tool that offers much more than a quick way to pay your bill. It’s a convenient, two-way communication platform that allows you to access your electric service account and track energy use information from either a computer or mobile device. Join the 4,519 members that are currently using SmartHub to: • • • • • • • • •

Report an outage View or pay their bill Auto pay Schedule a one-time payment Access budgeting tools View payment and billing history Check their hourly and daily kilowatt usage and view related graphs Activate a paperless billing option Set markers to track home improvement upgrades and their impact on electric use

Whether you prefer to pay your bill online or not, you can still register and use SmartHub to check your electric use, report a service-related matter, and more! The registration process for new users is simple and fast, but have your electric bill handy so you can quickly enter the account number. To get the process started and enroll, visit tecmi.coop and click on the “My Account—Pay Bill” button on the home page. Upon a notification of an individual outage, we will attempt to contact members for verification, so please update your phone/contact information if needed. The SmartHub app is free to download and install, and is available for both Apple/iOS and Android mobile devices. Search for it in the Apple Store or on Google Play. SmartHub is not case sensitive, but must be entered as one word. If duplicates appear, the correct app is the one provided by our service partner and product developer, the National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC). The app is supported using iOS 8.0+ and above (iPhone and/or iPad) and the Android 4.1 and above (smartphones or tablets) platforms. For more details, visit our website at tecmi.coop or call 800-327-0166.

• Urged members to continue their strong interest in Thumb Electric Cooperative, stay engaged, and know that we all look forward to meeting in person at the 85th Annual Meeting scheduled for June 11, 2022, at the Octagon Barn. In action taken after the Annual Meeting, the board of directors elected Jonathan Findlay as president, Kim Nunn as vice president, Beth McDonald as secretary, and Randy Dhyse as treasurer.



10 TIPS For Enjoying Michigan’s Dark Skies

Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, which shroud the state in near-total darkness. This makes it the perfect destination for some of the best stargazing in the nation. Michigan has committed to establishing areas that are devoid of the artificial light commonly found around cities, which partially obscures the night sky. These include six dark sky preserves located in state parks; Headlands International Dark Sky Park and Dr. T.K. Lawless Park (Michigan’s only internationally designated dark sky parks); and the pristine, quiet shoreline and forests in the Upper Peninsula. Each of these spots provides for the perfect dark sky viewing experience, and they are located all across the state. With so many spectacular locations that let you truly see the extraordinary dark sky above, you are sure to be starstruck by Michigan’s dark skies. To be well prepared for your night of stargazing, follow these 10 tips:




Find the Perfect Spot

Once you’ve left the city lights behind, it is time to find the right spot to set up for the night. Any of Michigan’s dark sky preserves are perfect for stargazing in the Lower Peninsula, but if you are hoping to see the aurora borealis——or northern lights——as well, you’ll want to go somewhere you can see the horizon. The aurora borealis will likely appear low on the horizon rather than overhead because of Michigan’s distance from the north pole. This makes the Upper Peninsula’s unobstructed shoreline along Lake Superior perfect for chasing the northern lights.


Check the Weather

To really optimize your dark sky viewing experience, you want to be sure to pick the perfect day. Choose a night with a clear sky forecast——clouds and rain could really put a damper on the night. It’s not just the weather you should keep an eye on, either. Light from the moon can make it harder to see the stars, so avoid nights where the moon is full. Also, though Michigan’s Great Lakes help to darken the sky, their shores are often 10 degrees cooler at night than sites farther inland. This means warm clothes and lots of blankets are a must.


Find a Place to Stay

After confirming there will be a clear night, you’ll want to book your sleeping accommodations——such as a state park campsite——ahead of time. Luckily, Michigan’s six dark sky preserves are located in state parks, and most have camping available onsite. While Headlands International Dark Sky Park doesn’t allow you to set up camp, the park is never closed and there are many nearby accommodations for spending the night.


Find Art in Constellations

A constellation is a grouping of stars that forms a distinctive shape, usually that of an animal or mythological being. As the year goes on and the earth rotates around the sun, different constellations become visible, so research which constellations can be seen overhead from your dark sky destination at the particular time you’ll be there. This summer in Michigan, look for Virgo, Sagittarius, and the Summer Triangle. Also, Ursa Major and Minor, known as the Big and Little Dippers, are visible all year long in Michigan. Since they are simple and easy to identify, they can help direct you to other constellations as well.

Stargazing at McClain State Park, photo courtesy of Pure Michigan


Look For More Than Stars

The sky is home to more than just the moon and stars. Check the orbit of the International Space Station to see if it will be visible, or learn the names of the satellites that will be gliding across the dark sky overhead. These man-made structures are visible at night when the sun reflects off their surfaces. You can also find out which planets will be visible depending on the time of year, or if a meteor shower will light up your night. It’s best to research your viewing location beforehand so that you can know what to expect, and it may give you something to hunt for as you focus your gaze among the stars.


Don’t Get Lost—Bring A Map

There are billions of stars in the Milky Way—— and looking at a sky full of seemingly endless stars is awe-inspiring. This is why you need a star map. A map can give you a sense of what you are looking at and help you navigate the celestial skyscape of constellations and planets. Print a map to bring with you or download an app to your phone. Either way, having access to a map while stargazing is a great way to learn about the universe above and keeps you from getting lost in the sea of stars.


See Far Away, Up Close

A night of spectacular dark sky viewing doesn’t require a fancy telescope. Actually, without the proper practice and experience, viewing the sky with a telescope can be challenging. Rather than spending money on expensive equipment, bring a pair of binoculars! Binoculars can help you focus and get a better view of the stars——plus they are portable, which allows you to travel easily with them in hand. Kids can also create their own telescope using common household items like paper towel rolls, which makes for a fun craft before your trip.


Allow The Stars To Shine— Use A Red Light

To allow the twinkling lights of the stars to really shine, you want to avoid creating any other light that will obstruct your view. Limit the use of all your devices and flashlights, and be sure to find a spot away from other artificial light sources like street lamps if you’re not in a dark sky park. When you do need a light, use a red light. Red lights allow your eyes to stay adjusted to the darkness, while still helping you see things——such as where to walk on the trail or reading your star map. You can purchase a special red-light device, or simply tape a few layers of red cellophane over your flashlight!


Join A Celestial Celebration

Michigan’s stargazing and astronomy community——amateurs and professionals alike—— seizes every opportunity to gather and admire the stars. On the shores of Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge, Headlands International Dark Sky Park hosts many of its own events, complete with astronomer presentations, telescope demonstrations, and space-themed celebrations. In August, you can also celebrate the Perseid Meteor Shower at Michigan state parks.


Just Look Up

The first step to viewing the night sky like never before is turning your eyes to the sky. Get yourself to where they can really be seen and look up——in Michigan, beautiful dark skies are everywhere. Step away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine and escape to the sky’s natural brilliance. Just set up your blanket, grab a thermos full of hot chocolate, and surround yourself with good company while you wait for Michigan’s dark skies to light up in a sea of stars. Reprinted with permission from Pure Michigan and michigan.org.



EXHAUSTED from doing lawn work with GAS-POWERED equipment? Make the switch to battery-powered lawn equipment and get money back from Thumb Electric Cooperative’s energy rebate program. Equipment Type

Rebate Amount*

Purchase Price*

Battery-powered lawn mower


Pre-tax purchase price of $200–$400


Pre-tax purchase price of $401–$1,000


Pre-tax purchase price of $1,001 and up


Pre-tax purchase price less than $100


Pre-tax purchase price of $101–$200


Pre-tax purchase price of $201 and up

Lawn care equipment (battery powered) including edger, trimmer, chainsaw, pole saw, power washer, and leaf blower

*Lower of rebate amount or half of purchase price will be rebated.

Download rebate form at tecmi.coop


American Pride 1. My Dad——My Hero! Denise Puvalowski  2. Grandpa’s flag. Nancy Bartle  3. Proud to be an American. Heather Wyckoff  4. Our 100-year-old farmhouse on July 4, 2020. David Filion  5. Helping to bring the flag in for the night. Ona Warchuck  6. Cooper’s pride. Annette Decker  7. God bless America! Sarah Durr







Enter for a chance to win a


energy bill credit!



Submit Your “Water” Photos!

Submit your “Water” photos through July 20 to be featured in our September issue! Submit your best photo and encourage your friends to vote! The photo receiving the most votes will be printed in an issue of Country Lines along with some of our other favorites.

Enter Your Photos And Win A Bill Credit!

To enter the contest, visit tecmi.coop/photocontest. Enter your picture, cast your vote, and encourage others to vote for you as well. If your photo is printed in Country Lines during 2021, you will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of four $50 credits on your December 2021 bill. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes

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

WHOLE GRAINS Nutty, tasty and filling recipes.


FARRO SALAD WITH MINT DRESSING Amy Schultz, Great Lakes Energy

Pickled Onions: ½ cup vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided 1 red onion, thinly sliced Farro: 1 cup dried (uncooked) farro 3 cups water ½ teaspoon salt Salad: 4 cups arugula 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved 1 large cucumber, seeded and diced 1 carrot, thinly sliced Spiced Chickpeas: 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) ½ teaspoon smoked paprika ¼ teaspoon garlic powder ¹⁄ 8 teaspoon cayenne pepper • freshly ground black pepper & salt, to taste 1 tablespoon olive oil



energy bill credit!

Around The World due Aug. 1 Instant Pot & Slow Cooker Favorites due Sept. 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. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.


Dressing: ¹⁄ ³ cup fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon dijon mustard 1 teaspoon sugar 1 garlic clove, minced ¹⁄ 8 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste ¹⁄ ³ cup extra-virgin olive oil ¹⁄ ³ cup chopped, fresh mint Mix together the vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and red onion. Let sit at room temperature for an hour. Meanwhile, make the farro; simmer 1 cup dry farro in 3 cups water with ½ teaspoon salt until tender, about 25 minutes (will make 2 cups cooked). Drain. In a large bowl, toss cooked farro, arugula, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrot together and set aside. Drain chickpeas and blot with paper towels; toss with spices (do not add oil yet). Heat a large 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once oil is hot, fry for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, make dressing. Add chickpeas to salad. Toss with dressing. Top with pickled onions. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos


Ruth Benjamin, HomeWorks Tri-County 5 cups water 1–1½ cups mixture of fresh and dried fruit, cut into small pieces (fresh apple, pear, or peach combined w/ raisins, dried cranberries/ cherries/apricots, etc.) ¼ cup multigrain cereal (e.g., Bob’s Red Mill) 2 cups old fashioned oats ½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract ½ teaspoon cinnamon • favorite nuts (walnuts, pecans, or slivered almonds) • favorite yogurt

Combine water and fruit in a 4-quart saucepan with lid. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for several minutes, until fresh fruit is soft and dried fruit is plump. Add multigrain cereal and oats. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Cover and let sit for a minute. Spoon into serving bowls (makes 4–5 large servings). Sprinkle with nuts and top with 4–8 ounces of yogurt. Garnish with fresh berries if desired. Also can be served with milk or half-and-half. Refrigerate leftovers for easy warming later in the week.

OLD-FASHIONED BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES Morgan Wernette, HomeWorks Tri-County

HEARTY RAINBOW MASON JAR SALAD Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy ½ 1 1 ¼ 1 1 4 1

cup dry red quinoa lemon, juiced tablespoon olive oil cup crumbled feta cheese cup mini grape tomatoes, sliced orange bell pepper, diced radishes, diced cup chickpeas

1 1 4 4

cup shelled edamame cup diced celery cups fresh spinach leaves mason jars

Cook the dry quinoa per package instructions and let it cool. Toss the quinoa with the juice of one lemon, olive oil, and feta cheese. Set aside. Place equal parts of each ingredient in a mason jar, starting with the quinoa mixture. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 days in a sealed container. Enjoy!

1 1½ 1 ¼ ¼ 1¼ 1 ¼ 1 •

cup buckwheat flour teaspoons white sugar teaspoon baking powder teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt cup buttermilk large egg teaspoon vanilla tablespoon shortening maple syrup or honey, for serving

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly mix in buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and shortening until smooth. Grease skillet. Drop batter by large spoonfuls. Cook 3–4 minutes until bubbles form and edges are crisp. Flip and cook another 2–3 minutes until brown. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup or honey.



Employee Spotlight The following TEC employees have recently been promoted. TEC wants to congratulate Brandon, Mike, and Brandon on their new roles.

Brandon LeGault is the current operations supervisor in Ubly. Starting July 6, he will become the construction project manager. He will be in charge of overseeing all system contractor activities. Brandon has been a TEC employee since 2000 and has previously held apprentice lineman, journeyman lineman, and assistant engineer positions at TEC.

Mike Affer is the current Caro operations supervisor. On July 6, he will be moving to the same role in Ubly. Mike has been with TEC since 1998, and he has previously held journeyman lineman and line department foreman positions at TEC.

Brandon Bruce is the current line department foreman in Caro. On July 6, he will be moving into the operations supervisor position in Caro. TEC has employed Brandon since 2005, and he has previously held apprentice lineman and journeyman lineman positions at TEC.

TEC welcomed the following new employees. Congratulations to Andy, Mitch, and Doug from all of us here at TEC.

Andy Davis was hired in May as Thumb Electric’s information technology specialist. Andy has been married to his wife, Michelle, for 11 years, and they have two children, Amelia (7) and Porter (2). Andy attended Central Michigan University before earning a bachelor’s degree in networking and security from Baker College. Andy comes to us from North Ottawa Community Hospital, where he was in charge of network security and infrastructure. In his free time, Andy enjoys traveling, occasional home improvement projects, and tinkering with electronics. “I am very excited to be a part of the TEC team, and I am looking forward to raising my family in my wife’s hometown,” said Andy.

Mitch Hirn was hired in May as Thumb Electric’s marketing and communication specialist. He is the son of Jim and Becky Hirn. Mitch has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Central Michigan University, and he interned at TEC during the summer of 2019. In his free time, Mitch enjoys golfing, watching sports, movies, and jet skiing.

Doug Booms was hired on June 7 as Thumb Electric’s mechanic operator. He is married to his wife, Shauna, and has a son, Austin. They are also expecting another child in September. Doug is a graduate of Harbor Beach High School and also has a degree as a diesel mechanic from University of Northwestern Ohio. In his free time, Doug enjoys snowmobiling, spending time with his family, and being up north.

FIBER UPDATE humb Electric has partnered with National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) to deploy the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project. The NRTC contractors are currently on the property and are gathering engineering data to prepare for the installation of the fiber network.


• Fiber Buildout. Construction contractors began the fiber buildout in June with a small pilot project. TEC’s goal is to begin full construction by the end of July. Materials such as reels of fiber are arriving on-site and are ready for installation. • Customer Hookups. TEC’s goal is to begin customer hookups in late summer or early fall. The tentative plan is to begin in Tuscola County, as it is a more densely populated area than the rest of the counties TEC serves. This will bring fiber to the most members possible at the

start and allow for contractors to move forward more effectively as the project advances. • Completion of Project. When TEC first introduced the plan for bringing FTTH to the Thumb area, the goal was to have the project completed in eight years. After additional planning and strategizing, TEC currently predicts that the buildout will be finished in five years. Moreover, there have been discussions of other options that could further reduce the length of the project. With additional funding and other opportunities, the entirety of the fiber installation process could be finished within the next three to four years. For more information on FTTH, please visit the TEC website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Updates will be provided as soon as they are available.

Smalley Retires After 42 Years With TEC After 42 years of dedicated service with Thumb Electric, Dennis Smalley has decided to retire. He was hired on April 16, 1979, and retired on April 16, 2021. Dennis worked as a plant operator before taking the position of generation & transportation foreman. His knowledge and experience will be missed at TEC. All of us at TEC wish Dennis the best in retirement. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

Foraging for Mushroom Houses By Emily Haines Lloyd || Photography by Mike Barton


hen you turn the corner to the charming cul-de-sac and first spy the houses perched one after the other at an almost fairy-tale level—words like charming and quaint are almost impossible not to use. It harkens to Middle Earth or Narnia, and one expects hobbits, dwarves, or fauns to wander out and offer you a cup of tea and biscuits after your long journey. However, these homes designed by architect Earl Young, often referred to as the Mushroom Houses, aren’t found in storybooks or magical forests, but rather right in the heart of Charlevoix, Michigan. And one doesn’t need a magic wardrobe or ruby slippers to reach them—they are available to visit in small electric GEM vehicles, complete with a tour guide. Edith Pair owned an art gallery for years in Young’s Weathervane building and was flooded with curious 14 JULY/AUGUST 2021

out-of-towners trying to find “the mushroom houses” (dubbed for the curvy, overhanging rooftops)— something they’d been told not to miss while in town. “It was a lightbulb moment. I just thought, I could take people to see them,” said Pair. “We started with walking tours in 2006, then got into horse and carriage setup, and now we have our GEM cars. It’s so great to be able to take people around and tell them about this really interesting

notoriously low ceilings, presumably because he himself was fairly short. Pair would love to include more interiors in future tours, but for now, people still get to enjoy the one-ofa-kind spectacle of the Mushroom Houses. “It’s a privilege to share the stories,” said Pair. “I’ve seen some people hop on the tour prepared to be bored, but once they hear the stories, see the stones that were almost magically moved and maneuvered—everyone becomes mesmerized. Even me, still, after all this time.” The houses offer whimsical views and rich stories, and are a testament to “Stones have their own personalities. Young’s own inner voice People say I’m crazy when I say so, but that encouraged his desire to build something unique they really do.” –Earl Young and lasting. Each home has its own character, easy to spot. His buildings feature and the man who built them believed wide, flowing eaves, exposed beams their natural elements were the magic and rafters, and a horizontal design behind the masonry. that harkens a bit to Frank Lloyd Wright. “Stones have their own personalities,” Young told a reporter for the Detroit Free Press in 1973. “People say I’m “My dad knew Earl Young,” said Pair. crazy when I say so, but they really do.” “There are so many great stories about his work. He used boulders up to several tons, which he’d haul out of the lake with workhorses and chains. I mean, can you imagine?”

piece of artful architecture and history we have in Charlevoix, and then give them tips on some other things they should see or do while in town.” Pair’s tours give a wide range of information on Young’s unique journey to his vocation, as well as a look at all of the houses in town. Earl Young grew up in Charlevoix, a self-taught architect and builder who constructed 26 residential homes and four commercial properties. He notoriously scavenged Northern Michigan for large boulders, limestone, and fieldstone, and constructed his unique structures to blend in with their natural surroundings. Given that his career lasted over 50 years and he built well into the 1970s, Young’s homes are

Pair isn’t alone in her wonder and amazement at what Young managed to accomplish with the tools and machinery available to him. Mike Seitz, a South African architect, came from his home in Texas to visit his wife’s parents in Charlevoix. Once he caught sight of the Mushroom Houses, he couldn’t leave until he bought one. His reimagining of four houses, including one designed by Young’s daughter, Virginia Olsen, garnered some attention, particularly as he imported thatched roof specialists from Europe to install natural, yet durable, rooftops. The four Young properties sit dispersed, each different while sharing the imaginative design of the bold architect. Each one is bespoke, with exposed rock and beams, and available to rent for private stays. Guests should be prepared to duck occasionally, as Young’s Mushroom Houses have

Photographer Mike Barton has colorfully captured the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix in this hardcover book that features more than 190 photographs. To purchase a copy of the book, visit: http://www.amzn.com/0989926877

For more information or to schedule a tour, visit: MushroomHouseTours.com /MushroomHouseTours @MushroomHouseTours



Tree Planting Guide Please use this guide to plant trees that will not someday interfere with power lines. Before planting, visualize how big the tree will grow in 20 years’ time. Trees interfering with power lines become a hazard that can cause injury, increase rates due to the expense of removing trees planted too close to the power lines, and also cause service disruptions. Thumb Electric and its contractor, Kappen Tree Service, have been working to aggressively and responsibly remove trees from TEC rights-of-way rather than just

trimming them back. As a result, outages are significantly down, as are “blinking light” circuit problems, since trees are a significant contributor to these service reliability issues. Thumb Electric’s goal is to not only provide the most reliable and safest service to our members but to reduce the ongoing, recurring expenses of trimming the same trees every vegetation management cycle. Members, please do your part and allow permission for tree removals rather than just trimming when the professional crews of Kappen’s are working in your area.

Tree Removal Schedule 2021 power line clearance is scheduled in the following townships.

• Tuscola County: Vassar, Juniata, Fremont, Dayton. • Huron County: Sigel, Bloomfield, Rubicon, Sherman, Paris. • Sanilac County: Delaware, Minden, Marion, Forester.

50' 40' 30' 20' 10' 0'






Small Tree Zone: Trees less than 25' tall/spread at least 25' from line

50' Medium Tree Zone: Trees 25'–40' in height/spread at least 40' from line


70' Large Tree Zone: Trees larger than 40' in height/spread at least 60' from line

PAPERLESS BILLING Thank you to all our members who signed up for paperless billing! The following members won a $50 bill credit in a recent random drawing. • Jeannie Colandrea

• Michelle Keehn

• Joel Nicol

• Jeff A. Long

If you haven’t signed up for paperless billing yet, you should consider it. In addition to going green, saving money, and becoming less cluttered with bills, you can also win prizes. Sign up today, and you could be one of our next paperless drawing winners!


YOUTH TOUR SCHOLARSHIP The 2021 Youth Tour has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In place of sending students to Washington, D.C., the Thumb Electric Board of Directors has decided to offer a $1,500 scholarship in each of our served counties. With a winner already selected in Huron County, we are currently looking for applicants in Sanilac and Tuscola counties. To apply, visit our website or Facebook page to find the application link. Applicants will then submit either a short written story or a short video presentation on their career choice and why it would work in the electric cooperative world.

Deadline: August 4, 2021

facebook.com/thumbelectric/ • tecmi.coop

Thumb Electric is now on Instagram! Stay up to date on the latest co-op news and community events. Follow us at @thumbelectric. And remember to follow us on Facebook if you haven’t yet! facebook.com/thumbelectric/

Win a


Where In Michigan Is This?

energy bill credit!

Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by July 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at countrylines.com/community. May 2021 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Tim Budnik, a Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op member, who correctly identified the photo as Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron. Photo by Michael Herbon. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.


Each year, 3,800 people in the U.S. die from drowning. Electric shock drowning occurs when an electric current escapes boats, docks, and lights near marinas, shocking nearby swimmers. There are no visible signs of current seeping into water, which makes this a hidden danger. The electric shock paralyzes swimmers, making them unable to swim to safety.


Boat Owners

• Never swim near a boat or launching ramp. Residual current could flow into the water from the boat or the marina’s wiring, potentially putting anyone in the water at risk of electric shock.

• Ensure your boat is properly maintained and consider having it inspected annually. GFCIs and ELCIs should be tested monthly. Conduct leakage testing to determine if electrical current is escaping the vessel.

• If you feel any tingling sensations while in the water, tell someone and swim back in the direction from which you came. Immediately report it to the dock or marina owner.

• Use portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are “UL-Marine Listed” when using electricity near water. • Regularly have your boat’s electrical system inspected by a certified marine electrician. Ensure it meets your local and state NEC, NFPA, and ABYC safety codes.




CALL 911

DO NOT enter the water. You could become a victim, too. Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Thumb Electric Cooperative tecmi.coop facebook.com/thumbelectric

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.

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