March 2022 MEC

Page 1

March 2022

MICHIGAN

COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

Have You Downloaded CommandIQ Yet?

Find The Right Streaming Service For You Preparing For An Outage

Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion—

Michigan’s Beth Meyer


WATERFURNACE UNITS QUALIFY FOR A 26% FEDERAL TAX CREDIT THROUGH 2022

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Contents countrylines.com

March 2022 Vol. 42, No. 3

/michigancountrylines

/michigancountrylines

6 TAKING THE LONG ROAD Long Road Distillers promises “no shortcuts” ... and the great lengths they go to in securing a gin ingredient reflect that promise. Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Italian: Crowd-pleasing recipes you’ll love. 14 FOOD NETWORK’S HOLIDAY BAKING CHAMPION— MICHIGAN’S BETH MEYER The dazzling cakes baked by Beth Meyer have done everything from help her make connections in a new community to landing her a television appearance.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird

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

Cover photo courtesy of Food Network

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

18 GUEST COLUMN Sweet Surprises: A day of sap collecting yields not only delicious syrup, but precious memories as well.

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

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.

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

#micoopcommunity

When it’s so cold that boiling water freezes in mid-air. #mpenbaeffect @christina.b.lee (Christina Lee)

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Tomatoes, due April 1; Potatoes, due May 1 Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community.

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.

MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

3


VAN BUREN KALAMAZOO

CASS

LENAWEE

MONROE

Keeping The Lights On

ST JOSEPH

Robert Hance, President/CEO

teammidwest.com /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 teammidwest.com Email: info@teammidwest.com BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233 Clarence.Barth@teammidwest.com

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

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164 Gerry.Bundle@teammidwest.com

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868 Jim.Dickerson@teammidwest.com

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762 Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com

PRESIDENT/CEO: Robert Hance

DIRECTOR, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING: Amy Pales

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

4 MARCH 2022

A

s you’ve probably gathered from reading my column every month, I’m not a “business-as-usual” kind of guy. Neither is anyone on my team. Every day, we work hard to bring you the best service experience possible, and we regularly look for ways to improve and enhance what we do. I want to share some of what we have been doing with our electric infrastructure to improve reliability and modernize our system. A few years ago, I shared details on our distribution automation (DA) project, which utilizes our two-way fiber communications system to give us the power of real-time monitoring and intelligent control. That’s fancy talk for “making our grid smarter.” DA identifies and isolates outages and automatically reroutes electricity where possible to reduce impact. In non-outage situations, it helps us monitor equipment and more readily identifies problems. In our southwest territory, we’ve installed smart DA reclosers on 98% of our substation circuits and plan to add at least 50 DA devices throughout the system by the end of 2023. On the southeast side, we’ve added smart reclosers to 80% of our substation circuits and will add more DA devices once we complete work on our southwest side. This investment in smart technology goes hand in hand with our other efforts to keep our equipment in tip-top shape. Each year we test select poles to evaluate their stability and overall condition. Any that fail the test get replaced the following year. With roughly 100,000 poles in our system, we can’t possibly test all of them every year, but we do ensure all of them get evaluated every five years. Additionally, where needed, we have begun replacing our copper wire with aluminum conductor steel-reinforced wire. Doing so helps us handle additional load growth and, in some cases, enables us to create or improve our tie lines between substations. We use tie lines to reroute electricity when necessary, like when there’s an outage. When we replace the old wire, we also ensure the distance between poles is an ideal 225-250 feet. That sometimes means moving or adding poles or updating the construction of a pole. We also replace poles as necessary during the process. Last, let’s not forget our tree and brush removal program, where we actively remove obstructions from around our lines. This ongoing effort is our first line of defense against trees and animals coming in contact with lines and causing outages and safety hazards. We can have the smartest grid in the world, but if we don’t keep the lines clear, we simply set ourselves up for never-ending battles with Mother Nature. As you can imagine, maintaining roughly 4,000 miles of electric lines and equipment is no small feat. However, these projects help ensure that our system runs smoothly and that we can respond efficiently as possible when issues arise.

“ Every day, we work hard to bring you the best service experience possible, and we regularly look for ways to improve and enhance what we do.”


BE PREPARED Our region can produce some extreme weather conditions, regardless of the season. Be prepared with these tips.

Items To Have On Hand • Water: At least one gallon per person, per day, plus some for pets. • Food: Nonperishable, especially items that don’t require cooking, along with a hand-operated can opener. • Lighting: Flashlights, candles, and matches.

• Telephone: Cordless phones won’t work during an outage, so have a corded phone available.

• Communications: Have your mobile devices fully charged if outages are imminent so you can stay in the know. A battery-powered radio is also helpful. • Medical: First-aid kit ready with any needed medical supplies, and filled prescriptions.

• Personal sanitation: Moist wipes, hand sanitizer, and garbage bags.

• Tools: Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. • Batteries

• Battery-powered or wind-up clock • Extra blankets

During A Power Outage • Stay away from downed power lines and warn others to do the same. Call us immediately to report downed power lines. • Don’t touch a person or object in contact with a power line; the electric current could flow through you. • Stay inside your car if it comes in contact with a power line.

• Turn off all appliances during an outage to avoid a circuit overload when power is restored. Leave on one lamp to know when power is restored. • Never leave burning candles unattended.

• Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Food will stay frozen for 36 to 48 hours in a fully loaded freezer and about 24 hours in a partially filled freezer.

Outage Reporting At Your Fingertips When you’re in the dark and trying to report your power outage, there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in a crowded phone queue waiting for the next available rep. We offer easy and convenient ways to report your outage. SmartHub: SmartHub, our secure online portal and mobile app, is the quickest and easiest way to report your outage. Sign up for SmartHub at teammidwest.com or download the app from your app store. Telephone: Our telephone system is equipped with an automatic outagereporting system; dial 800-492-5989 and follow the prompts. We must have a current telephone number for your account. Please update your account information using SmartHub or by calling our office. We have limited incoming telephone lines. If you call and receive a fast busy signal, please use one of the alternate methods, or hang up and try again. Please do not use email or social media to report your outage; these platforms are not staffed 24/7.

MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

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TAKING THE

LONG ROAD By Emily Haines Lloyd

f Emerson’s ethos holds true and life really is about the journey and not the destination, then the folks at Long Road Distillers are taking the scenic route for sure.

in Northport, apples from Peach Ridge Farms in Alpine Township, sunflower seeds from Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch in Belding, and perhaps the most elusive ingredient from a location stand point—juniper.

Long Road Distillers, the first distillery in Grand Rapids, has built its brand around its own moniker—No Shortcuts. It’s a nice sentiment and looks good on t-shirts, but it can be harder to commit to with invoices, payroll, and then for good measure—a pandemic staring you in the eye. But that’s what makes Long Road a special breed of business.

Most juniper for U.S.-based gin is sourced from the Pacific Northwest, where the weather and soil are perfect for the piney/woodsy-flavored berries. So, how do you keep your promise to source locally?

I

“Michiganders have a long history as makers,” said Jon O’Connor, co-founder of Long Road. “When Kyle and I started, we knew we wanted to make a product we could be proud of. There’s always a faster, cheaper, or easier way to do things, but that’s not why we started Long Road.” O’Connor and co-owner Kyle VanStrien took that simple premise into creating their line of spirits. Take, for instance, their MichiGin. It’s a clever name and, again, could be a nice gimmick, but not to this company. This gin is not only 6

MARCH 2022

distilled and bottled in the Great Lakes State, but each and every ingredient is sourced here. The gin’s base spirit is distilled from red winter wheat from Heffron Farms in Belding, Michigan, that was milled on-site at the distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side. It has been redistilled with a variety of Michigan botanicals, including sumac, white pine, and goldenrod wild-foraged in Byron Center and Greenville, Galena hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance

“We were camping with family one weekend, and my wife’s cousin told me about the juniper bushes all over Beaver Island,” said VanStrien. “It took no time at all for Jon and me to set up a trip to go see for ourselves.” In 2015, VanStrien and O’Connor took their first trip to Beaver Island, the 56-square-mile island surrounded by the blue waters of Lake Michigan, to scout for the wild juniper. Locals and owners of Island Airways, Paul and Angel Welke, offered the wide field behind their house for the crew to look at. From there, word spread, and other generous folks offered their land or passed off tips on where they’d seen the juniper bushes on the island.


“We’ve been lucky to forge some great relationships with families here. They know we want to highlight Beaver Island, not take advantage of it.”

longroaddistillers.com Locations in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Cadillac

Kyle VanStrien

“It’s a small, tight-knit community. It was important to us always to be mindful of how we approached our picks,” said VanStrien. “We’ve been lucky to forge some great relationships with families here. They know we want to highlight Beaver Island, not take advantage of it.” In 2019, 27 employees made the trip over on the ferry owned by Bill McDonough, who also owns the local grocery store and often tosses car keys to the Long Road team for them to use on the island. In 2020, just a skeleton crew of six arrived by plane, due to COVID-19. Luckily, in 2021, things rebounded a bit, and the team returned with a group of 24, who

harvested over 150 pounds of wild juniper over three days. The team stoops, squats, and sits around low, spreading juniper bushes, pulling off ripe berries, with others clinging tightly for next year’s harvest. Conversations between team members vary from cocktail recipes, cooking techniques, sports scores, or gentle ribbing of one another from their individual bushes. Nearly 200 pounds of juniper berries are harvested each trip that eventually yield just under 1,000 bottles of MichiGin. The berries have a woodsy, earthy flavor that is distinct to the terroir of Beaver Island. Unique flavors for a truly unique product.

“It just wouldn’t be reasonable for a large distillery to go out and handpick juniper. It’s costprohibitive,” said VanStrien, “But for us, it’s personal. As we grow as a company, it’s this great reminder of our mission and doing things the right way. We’re proud to be able to produce something that features the farmers and families we are able to partner with around the state.” If the most epic journeys include taking the road less traveled, then it’s clear the folks at Long Road are okay taking an uncharted course. But they know, as all good travelers do, that the company you keep and the friends you make along the way end up being the real reward. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

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ATTENTION MEC INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS: We’ve now included the full CommandIQ suite of benefits for free with your subscription. That’s an additional $10 in monthly benefits at no additional charge.

What’s CommandIQ? A FREE mobile app that helps you manage the devices connected to your Wi-Fi. Set Up a Guest Network to Protect Your Main Network

Give all your guests temporary access to your network without giving them your main log-in credentials. You can even schedule the length of time for the network to remain active.

Update Your Wi-Fi Name and Network

Easily change your Wi-Fi ID and password any time you need to do so.

Test Your Network Speed and Monitor Your Usage

Do a bandwidth test to see how fast your internet is and check which devices are connected, as well as their bandwidth usage.

Schedule Screen Time

Set time-limit schedules to automatically turn off the internet for specific devices or family members during designated times and days.

Parental and Device Controls

Limit or block access to specific types of content and any website or app that you choose. No more sneaking FaceTime calls with friends when homework needs to get done. You can also enable safe searching and YouTube restrictions to prevent them from seeing inappropriate content.

8 MARCH 2022

We’ve All Got Priorities. Now Your Devices Can Too. Do you want to ensure that you have the best connection possible when working from home? With My Priorities, you can prioritize devices or certain online activities, and you can set up a schedule to have those items automatically get bandwidth priority at certain times and days.

Hackers Are a Busy Bunch. Luckily, So Are We. Any device that connects to the internet is susceptible to hackers and malware, including smart home devices. For this reason, ProtectIQ guards your entire network and all connected devices by updating your router multiple times each week with protections against the latest known threats.

Get Started

Learn more at teammidwest.com/ commandiq or download the app from your app store to start exploring the benefits. You need to use MEC Wi-Fi to take advantage of the app, and if your router looks like this, you’ll need a new one. We’ll provide it for free. Give us a call at 800-492-5989 to learn more.


Need a new water heater? Purchase one from MEC. You have two options: 1. Pay $465 2. Sign up for our water heater load management program and get your water heater for $225 out-of-pocket. We’ll give you an instant $50 rebate as a credit during purchase to bring your upfront cost down to $175. You will then receive a $4 credit on your bill each month for 60 months to cover the remaining $240. As a participant in the load management program, you agree to let us shut off your water heater during times of peak usage. You still have access to your water heater and the hot water stored in your tank. We generally control water heaters three to four times each month for three to four hours. However, we can control anytime from 11 a.m.–9 p.m. To qualify, you must: • Own your home • Have good payment history on your MEC account • Use over 400 kWh per month

Post Office Update The U.S. Post Office has changed its first-class mail delivery standard from three days to five days. Please keep this in mind when mailing payments and allow for extra time.

Please note: We don’t install water heaters, and if you move before the 60-month period ends, you will need to pay the balance remaining.

Interested? Give us a call at 800-492-5989 for more information.

Plant Trees Safely

Before you dig, call 8-1-1 to locate buried utility lines.

LOW TREE ZONE

MEDIUM TREE ZONE

LARGE TREE ZONE

Avoid planting within 20 ft. of power lines.

Plant medium trees (under 40 ft. when mature) at least 25 ft. away from power lines.

Plant large trees (over 40 ft. when mature) at least 50 ft. away from power lines.

If planting is unavoidable, only plant shrubs and small trees that reach a mature height of 15 ft. or less.

Over 40 ft.

40 ft. high or less

Maximum tree height 15 ft.

Keep shrubs at least 10 ft. away from transformer doors and 4 ft. away from the sides. 4 ft.

10 ft.

0

10 ft.

20 ft.

30 ft.

40 ft.

50 ft.

60 ft.

70 ft.


MI CO-OP Recipes

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

ITALIAN

Crowd-pleasing recipes you’ll love.

WINNING RECIPE!

SWEET POTATO TURKEY SAUSAGE MINESTRONE SOUP Janet Cather, Midwest Energy

• 1 2 2 4 1 2 1 3 4 1 • 1 • •

RECIPE CONTEST Win a

$50

energy bill credit!

10 MARCH 2022

Tomatoes due April 1 • Potatoes due May 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.

butter or olive oil, for sautéing large onion, chopped cups chopped celery pounds fresh or frozen sweet potatoes, cubed (around 1 inch) large carrots, sliced package Polish turkey sausage, sliced (I use Eckridge Farm Smoked) (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans or butter beans, rinsed tablespoons Italian spices cups chicken or vegetable broth cup water salt and pepper, to taste bunch fresh kale (stripped from stem), chopped, or 1 package frozen or fresh spinach Parmesan/Asiago shredded cheese for serving hot sauce, for serving, optional

Sauté onion, celery, sweet potatoes, and carrots in a large saucepan with butter or olive oil. When veggies start to brown, add sausage and stir every few minutes. Transfer into a slow cooker (adding a liner makes cleanup a breeze). Add all remaining ingredients (note: depending on how large your slow cooker is, you may want to add the kale first, so the other ingredients weigh it down). Turn slow cooker on “Low” and cook for 6 hours. Serve with Parmesan/Asiago (or your favorite shredded cheese) or hot sauce, if desired, on top. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos


GRANDMA’S MEATBALLS Sharon Libich, Presque Isle • 1 ½ ½ 4 4 4 6

olive oil cooking spray pound ground chuck pound ground pork pound ground veal ounces dried breadcrumbs large eggs ounces whole milk ounces grated Romano cheese

3 ounces grated Spanish onion 2 ounces finely diced fresh garlic 2 ounces finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves 2 ounces finely chopped fresh basil leaves • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture feels a little loose. Using a small scoop, roll each meatball to the size of a golf ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cook for approximately 35–40 minutes. These meatballs can be used in sauce for a spaghetti dinner or part of a meatball sandwich. Enjoy!

TOMATOES AND LINGUINE Lois Korpalski, Great Lakes 8 2 1 1 ½

ounces linguine noodles cups chopped tomatoes tablespoon dried basil teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper

3 2 ½ 4

green onions, sliced garlic cloves, minced cup grated Parmesan cheese tablespoons butter

Cook linguine according to package directions, to al dente. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, green onions, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Drain linguine and add butter to it while hot. When melted, add tomato mixture and enjoy.

ITALIAN SALAMI AND CHEESE STUFFED BREAD Valerie Donn, Great Lakes Energy

ITALIAN TORTELLINI SOUP Theresa Mandeville, Cherryland

1 pound Italian sausage, browned and drained 1 bag frozen cheese-filled tortellini 2–4 cloves garlic, chopped 1 sweet onion, chopped 4 cups beef broth 1 cup red wine 2 cups chopped carrots

1 teaspoon basil 1 teaspoon oregano 2 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 2 cups quartered zucchini

Brown the sausage and set aside. Prepare the tortellini according to package directions; cool and set aside. Sauté the garlic and onion until onion begins to tenderize. Combine the broth and wine; bring to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer until desired tenderness. Add the basil, oregano, diced tomatoes, sauce, and paste; continue to simmer. Add the zucchini and simmer until just tender. Add the browned sausage, onions/garlic, and tortellini. Serve.

1 tablespoon butter, melted 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic 1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough, thawed ¼ pound thinly sliced deli Genoa salami

6 (1-ounce) slices mozzarella cheese, cut into strips ½ cup ricotta cheese 2 green onion stalks, diced 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Stir together butter and garlic in a bowl. Roll out bread dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. Place on lightly greased baking sheet; brush with butter mixture. Layer salami and cheese, spread ricotta, and add onions down a 3-inch strip of center of dough to within ½ inch of top and bottom, leaving 4½ inches of dough on each side of filling. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the top of the salami and cheeses mixture. Cut twelve 3-inch-long strips, 1 inch apart, along both sides of filling. Fold strips across filling at an angle, alternating sides to give a braided effect. Pinch dough at bottom and top to seal. Cover; let rise in warm place 30–45 minutes or until almost double in size. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine egg and water in a bowl; brush over braid. Sprinkle top of bread lightly with Italian seasoning. Bake for 25–35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and cut into slices. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

11


Secret Energy Wasters D

id you know that many of your household electronics continue to use electricity even when they aren’t on? Device chargers that are left plugged in after the device has been removed from the charger also continue to pull electricity. This means that your household is still using electricity even if you aren’t. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, this wasted energy adds up to roughly $200/year in electricity costs. Here are some tips to reduce the drain: • Unplug devices and chargers when they aren’t in use. • Put your computer into sleep mode when unplugging it isn’t practical. • For devices that aren’t easy to unplug, consider using an advanced power strip that can automatically shut off the power for you. Here are some of the types available. Be sure to look for ones that also include surge protection. Timer power strips shut off the power at a set time º every day.

Activity monitor strips use motion sensors to look º for signs of activity in the room. If no activity is

detected, it shuts off the power. While convenient, this type isn’t always reliable—especially if Fido roams about. Master-controlled strips turn off the power for º

the entire strip when the item designated as the “master” gets turned off. These power strips also often have an “always on” outlet in case you want to plug something in, such as a wireless router, that should always have power even if other devices plugged into the strip are turned off.

Masterless power strips cut the power when all the º devices connected to it are turned off.

Remote switch strips allow you to turn off the º power via a remote. However, you have to remember to shut it off.

• When replacing or adding new electronics to your home, select ones that are energy efficient to reduce the amount of power consumed while in standby mode.

SURGE PROTECTION Keep your electronic equipment safe.

A power surge is typically caused by lightning, changes in electrical loads, faulty wiring or damaged power lines. Install power strips with surge protection to protect sensitive equipment. • Easy to use (just plug them in) • Protect electronics plugged into the device • Must be replaced over time or after a major surge event REMEMBER: Not all power strips offer surge protection. Carefully read the packaging labels when purchasing.


Why Does My Power Blink A Few Times In A Row? ave you noticed your power blinking a few times before an outage? Alternatively, have you experienced blinking one or two times, and then your power returns to normal? Both of these occurrences are evidence that the system is working as it should when a temporary fault happens on our lines.

H

We follow the industry-wide practice of utilizing oil circuit reclosers (OCR) to act essentially as breakers on the system. When things like lightning, animals, branches, and vehicles come into contact with our lines, an OCR opens to stop the fault and then closes again quickly. Hence, the blink. If the disturbance on the line remains, the OCR will continue to trip two more times. If, after the third blink, the disturbance still remains, the OCR remains open, resulting in a power outage. Overall, OCRs help protect the entire system, and they work with our distribution automation (DA) system to reduce the number of customers impacted by an outage. To learn more about DA, see our president and CEO’s column on page 4.

COMMON CAUSES OF

POWER OUTAGES

WEATHER Lightning, high winds, and ice are common weatherrelated power interrupters.

TREES Outages happen when trees interfere with power lines. This is why we remove them when they are within 15 feet of either side of our lines.

WILDLIFE Squirrels, snakes, and birds can come in contact with equipment such as transformers and fuses and cause equipment to momentarily fail or shut down completely.

EQUIPMENT The electric grid is a highly complex infrastructure with many mechanical elements that can fail due to age, performance, and other issues.

ACCIDENTS Unfortunately, machinery and vehicles occasionally collide with our equipment, which can lead to downed lines, broken poles, and more.


Photo courtesy of Food Network

Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion—

Michigan’s Beth Meyer By Emily Haines Lloyd

T

here is a scientific precision that goes into baking, with a combination of chemistry, biology, and physics at play. For those who decorate cakes, there’s another equally important part, which is the creativity, whimsy, and joy. Baker Beth Meyer shows there is a vital third ingredient to a successful creation, and that is the love and care she puts into each cake she bakes that truly turns each one into a work of heart. Meyer, who recently found herself on the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown, began her love of baking on a much smaller stage—her mother’s kitchen. While she would dutifully crack eggs or fry doughnuts, she marveled at how her mother would take sheet cakes and cut them into shapes to create delightful showstoppers for birthdays and special occasions. “They weren’t exactly masterpieces,” said Meyer. “But the care my mother

14 MARCH 2022

took to make these cakes the centerpiece of an event made them feel extra special.” Following her mother’s lead, Meyer would lovingly make cakes for her own children’s parties. As she grew in her skill and creativity, her cakes quickly became the talk of the party. While living in Texas, Meyer threw her son’s birthday party with a Southwest theme, including both Texas Longhorn and cactus cakes covered in fondant, as well as specialty cookies decorated as snakes and other animals as party favors. Soon, Meyer was flooded with requests from other parents asking if she could make a cake for their upcoming celebrations. Even in the Texas heat, things snowballed. “Then one day, my husband told me his company was sending us on an overseas assignment,” said Meyer. “In some ways, it made it difficult to even dream about baking for a living, but the cakes actually helped us connect with our new communities.”


“Cakes have always been about helping people celebrate their big moments in their lives, to make memories. That day reminded me life is worth celebrating. Every moment of it.” While on an assignment in Africa, Meyer was definitely feeling disconnected. She brought one of her cakes to a party where the United States ambassador and his wife were in attendance. The ambassador’s wife reached out later and asked Meyer if she would create one for their upcoming anniversary. She ended up making several more in her time there.

The whirlwind of meeting television producers over Zoom, being selected, and flying out to Tennessee to shoot the show on a soundstage would be enough to spin a person’s head. However, there was still baking left to do. Meyer and Dowling created a gorgeous holiday window vignette that impressed judges and eventually won them the $10,000 grand prize.

“There’s nothing quite like the Secret Service coming to your door to pick up a cake,” said Meyer. “It also drove me to keep wanting to get better.”

Meyer knew exactly what she wanted to do with her winnings—make her dream of a brick and mortar bakery come true. Meyer located a perfect spot in her hometown of Mattawan to open The Cake Boutique by Beth Meyer and got back to the work she loves—creating cakes that dazzle and elevate any celebration. One look at her gallery of cakes on her website and you see how special her gift is and how much care she puts into each one. So, when asked if she could possibly pick a favorite, it was surprising that she knew right away which one held the most meaning.

Once the family returned stateside— first Texas and then Michigan, Meyer went back to her profession of teaching while remaining a student, as she would take cake decorating, sugar flower, or isomalt classes on weekends. It was at a cake show in Arkansas that she met MaryJo Dowling from Pittsburgh. MaryJo, or MJ, was equally enthusiastic about baking and decorating, and while the two lived nearly 400 miles apart, they maintained their friendship. Just a couple years later, Dowling reached out to Meyer with an interesting proposition. Dowling had been selected to interview for a Food Network competition show. While COVID-19 had initially put it on hold, they were now moving forward— quickly. And Dowling needed a partner. “When MJ called, I didn’t even need to think about it,” said Meyer. “I simply told her ‘I’m in.’”

“Without a doubt, the heart cake,” said Meyer. The cake, an anatomically accurate heart, was commissioned in October, and without asking many questions about the event, Meyer assumed it was for Halloween and asked how gory of a cake the client was looking for. The client said that just a plain heart would be fine. So, when Meyer went to deliver the cake the day of the event, she was

If you’re looking to commission Meyer for one of her masterpieces, make sure to give yourself at least two weeks to order, and more if you’re smart. Meyer’s cakes are in high demand and just the thing to bring special occasions to the next level.

both surprised and touched to find out her cake was the centerpiece of a party to celebrate a young man’s one-year anniversary of his heart transplant. The young man hugged Meyer and left an impression that seems unlikely to fade. “Cakes have always been about helping people celebrate their big moments in their lives, to make memories,” said Meyer. “That day reminded me life is worth celebrating. Every moment of it.”

56300 City Center Circle, Mattawan 281-387-0640 bethscakeboutique.com

MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

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Call 8-1-1 Before You Dig

id you know that accidentally damaging an underground utility line while digging on your property can put your life—and the lives of others—at risk? Not only that, but you can also incur significant charges if we must come repair damage.

D

Therefore, we urge you to call 8-1-1 at least four business days prior to starting work. A line locator will visit your property to mark public underground lines for free. Examples of projects that require a call are planting trees or shrubs; adding a new garden, landscaping, or fountain; installing a deck, patio, swing set, sign, pool, or mailbox post; staking a tent; and building a structure or addition on your home. In fact, anytime you or a contractor plans to dig, give 8-1-1 a call.

Neglecting to call 8-1-1 and damaging one of our underground lines can result in paying significant fees for repairs.

Statement Of Nondiscrimination In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity, in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA (not all bases apply to all programs). Remedies and complaint filing deadlines vary by program or incident. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the responsible Agency or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English. To file a program discrimination complaint, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, AD-3027, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by: 1. mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; 2. fax: (202) 690-7442; or 3. email: program.intake@usda.gov. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 17


Guest Column

Sweet Surprises

By Paige Hutter, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member

I

t’s 7 a.m. and I sit up in bed, dreading the bitter cold waiting outside. I rub my eyes, get out of bed, and fumble my way downstairs. In the kitchen, my Grandma is busy cooking waffles. I perk up at the smell wafting from the waffle iron. After I eat, I get my snow clothes on. It is officially sap season, and we are busy collecting sap to make maple syrup. Since my sister, Lexi, is the only one ready, she is the only one that comes along for morning sap collection. When we get out into the woods, I start hauling sap that dripped from the trees overnight. I look into several buckets, hanging from the maple trees, but they are empty. The sap is barely running this morning. We pour the sap we did collect into the giant bin that’s on the trailer, which is hooked to the quad. Then, we all climb on the trailer and drive to the next cluster of maple trees. I hop off the trailer and race to the best tree. JACKPOT! A sap icicle hangs down from the tree. I snap it off and start sucking on the slightly sweet ice. Just then, Lexi runs over to me, waving an even bigger sapscicle! I laugh and return to my work. I pour the slushy sap into the big bin and return the bucket to the tree, hoping the tree will give us even more sap at the next collection. Finally, we get to the last cluster of trees. There’s just a little sap in the bucket beneath each of these trees. I sigh and once again pour the sweet sap into the big bin on the trailer. Just then, Grandma comes up behind me. She points to the top of the trees, and I gasp. A huge barred owl is sitting in the branches of an oak tree. Usually, the syrup is my sweet treat for helping with sap, but this was even sweeter! Paige is a homeschool student in the sixth grade. She loves reading, drawing, and horseback riding. Paige enjoys being outdoors in nature. Sap collecting is one of her favorite times of the year because she gets to make memories with her family.

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

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by March 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at countrylines.com/community. January 2022 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Dallas Bond, an Ontonagon County REA Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as the 45th parallel marker on U.S. 31 in Kewadin, Michigan, just north of Elk Rapids. It is constructed in honor of Hugh Gray, the former Michigan Dean of Tourism. The crypt contains information from each of Michigan’s 83 counties and engraved stone from each county. Photo courtesy of Judy Gasco. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.

18 MARCH 2022


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