Nov/Dec 2021 Ontonagon

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November/December 2021


COUNTRY LINES Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association

O C HR ISTMAS TREE Michigan’s Unsuspecting Big Business

10 Ways To Avoid High Winter Bills

Fireplace Safety Security Tips For Connected Devices


Not hearing is believing.

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Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 Indian River M & M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201

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

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665

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

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906

Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000

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

visit us at

The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Contents Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

November/December 2021 Vol. 41, No. 10


EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association


6 ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS Help is available for Michiganders struggling to pay their energy bills. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Pressure Cooking: Turn the menu planning pressure off with these delicious Instant Pot meals.

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.

14 O CHRISTMAS TREE Behind the scenes at Michigan Christmas tree farms: The year-round business of producing a seasonal staple.

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.

18 GUEST COLUMN More Than Just a Sports Jersey: How one Alger Delta member's effort and patience helped create a moment he'll never forget.

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

CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

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

Be featured!

Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation

(Required by U.S.C. 3685) 1. Publication: Michigan Country Lines. 2. Publication No.: 591-710. 3. Filing date: 10/1/21. 4. Issue frequency: monthly, except Aug. and Dec. 5. No. of issues published annually: 10. 6. Complete mailing address of office of publication: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 7. Complete mailing address of headquarters of publisher: 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 8. Full names and complete mailing address of publisher, editors, and executive editor: Craig Borr, Christine Dorr, Casey Clark, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 9. Owner: Michigan Electric Cooperative Assoc., 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 10. Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities: None. 11. Tax status: has not been changed. 12. Issue date for circulation data: Sept. 2021. 13. Extent and nature of circulation: Avg # of copies Actual # of copies of single issues each issue during preceding 12 mo. published nearest to filing date A) B) C) D) E) F) G) H) I)

Total No. of copies................................. 243,264 ...................... 243,312 Paid and requested circulation ............ 243,264 ...................... 242,882 Total paid and requested circulation ... 243,264 ...................... 242,882 1) Free distribution by mail.......................... 160 .............................. 160 2) Free distribution outside mail ................. 809 .............................. 887 Total free distribution ................................... 969 ...........................1,047 Total distribution................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 Copies not distributed.......................................0 ...................................0 Total ....................................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 Percent paid and/or requested circ............. 98.7 .......................... 99.7%

16. Publication of statement of ownership: November 2021 17. Signature and title of editor: Christine Dorr, editor

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


Autumn leaves are proof that change can be beautiful. Hanna Wescott

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Sweet Treats, due Dec. 1; Italian, due Jan. 1 Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at community.

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

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



It’s a Matter of (Co-op!) Principles Debbie Miles, General Manager /OntonagonCountyREA

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 •

William Hodges, Vice President Lake Linden District 906-934-3743 • Mildred Ann Gasperich, Secretary Boston District 906-337-5079 • Randy Myhren, Treasurer Green/Firesteel/Toivola District 906-884-4092

Wayne Heikkinen, Director Pelkie/Herman/Aura District 906-353-6496 • Michael Urbis, Director Ewen/Trout Creek/Lake Mine District 906-988-2344 •

George Rajala, Director Chassell/Keweenaw Bay District 906-370-0416 • 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 Ontonagon County REA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


CE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes, and Ontonagon REA all share something in common: We’re all cooperatives. We may be in different industries, but we all share a passion for serving our members and helping our communities to thrive. In fact, all cooperatives adhere to the same set of seven principles that reflect our core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness, and service to the greater community good. October was National Co-op Month, so this is the perfect time to reflect on these principles that have stood the test of time but also provide a framework for the future. Let’s look at the first three cooperative principles.

Voluntary and Open Membership Just like all co-ops, Ontonagon REA was created out of necessity—to meet a need that would have been otherwise unmet in our community. So in 1937, a group of neighbors banded together and organized our electric co-op so everyone in our community could benefit. For a modest membership fee to the co-op, any farmer could get electricity brought to his farm. Neighbors came together to tackle a problem that they all had but couldn’t solve alone. They worked together for the benefit of the whole community, and the newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in our community. While this history may be forgotten, key parts of that heritage remain—the focus on our mission and serving the greater good. In this, we include everyone to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for the entire community. Membership is open to everyone in our service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective, or socioeconomic status.

Democratic Member Control Our co-op is well suited to meet the needs of our members because we are 4 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2021

locally governed. Each member gets a voice and a vote in how the co-op is run, and each voice and vote are equal. Ontonagon REA‘s leadership team and employees live right here in the community. Our board of directors, who help set long-term priorities for the co-op, also live locally on co-op lines. These board members have been elected by neighbors just like you. We know our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we are continually seeking your input and encourage you to weigh in on important co-op issues and participate in co-op elections. Our close connection to this community also ensures we get a first-hand perspective on members’ priorities, thereby enabling us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments.

Members’ Economic Participation As a utility, our mission is to provide safe, reliable, and affordable energy to our members. But as a co-op, we are also motivated by service to the community, rather than profits. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of Ontonagon REA. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for co-op programs, initiatives, capital investments, and supporting other activities approved by the membership. Because we are guided by seven cooperative principles, it’s not just about dollars—it’s about opportunity for all and being fair when engaging with our members. The cooperative way is a values-based business model. Ontonagon REA is a reflection of our local community and its evolving needs. We view our role as a catalyst for good and making our corner of the world a better place. And that sums up the seventh co-op principle, “concern for community,” which I’ll elaborate on in the next issue.

L’Anse-based Ontonagon REA crew members Gil Martinez (L) and David Brown with the REA’s new truck.

Fuel Mix Report The fuel mix characteristics of Ontonagon REA as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 06/30/21.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

REA Purchases New Truck


ntonagon REA recently purchased a new bucket truck which will be based in L’Anse. The 2021 Ford F-550 4X4 Verslift VST-40 has a reach of 42 feet and 4 inches with a bucket elevator and a material handler. According to Distribution Supervisor Mark Urbis, “This truck has more capabilities than the previous truck, and this is the result of having the material handler. This will allow the lineworkers to perform daily tasks that would previously have had to be performed manually. Ultimately, this will result in greater overall efficiency for REA operations.”

Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix
















Renewable Fuels












Solid Waste Incineration









NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas.

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

The truck was ordered in December 2020 and arrived on-site on Oct. 3, 2021. This is the second truck with these specifications that Ontonagon REA has ordered in the last two years. “The crew was very happy to get the new truck and experience what it can do,” Urbis stated. “The crew is excited to put it to good use maintaining and repairing our service lines.”

Regional Average Fuel Mix

Happy Holidays

HOLIDAY OFFICE CLOSINGS Cooperative offices will be closed for the holidays on the following dates: THANKSGIVING Thursday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 26 CHRISTMAS Thursday, Dec. 23 and Friday, Dec. 24 NEW YEAR’S HOLIDAYS Thursday, Dec. 30 and Friday, Dec. 31

Payments may be made at the drop box and will be posted on the next open business day. To report outages or other emergencies, please call 866-639-6098.

From our families to yours, have a safe and happy holiday season!

Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

Type of emission/waste

Your co-op

Regional average*

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide



Oxides of Nitrogen High-level Nuclear Waste





*Regional average information was obtained from the MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 12/31/20. Figures for Ontonagon County REA are based on those of its power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.



Energy Assistance Programs 2021-2022 Season Winter Protection Plan

Earned Income Credit

Contact: Your Local Utility Company

Contact: • U.S. Treasury Dept., Internal Revenue Service, • Michigan Dept. of Treasury,

Income Guidelines 2021–2022 # in Household 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit for lowincome working individuals and families who meet certain requirements and file a tax return. Those who qualify will owe less in taxes and may get a refund. Even a person who does not generally owe income tax may qualify for the EITC, but must file a tax return to do so. If married, you must file jointly to qualify. File Form 1040 or 1040A and attach the EITC.

150% Poverty Guide Maximum Income $19,320 26,130 32,940 39,750 46,560 53,370 60,180 66,990

You may claim a Michigan earned income tax credit for tax year 2020 equal to a percentage of the federal earned income tax credit for which you are eligible.

State Emergency Relief Program (SER)

Add $6,810 for each additional member.

The Winter Protection Plan (WPP) protects enrolled seniors and low-income customers from service shut-offs and high utility bill payments during the winter months. If you are eligible, your utility service will remain on (or restored with the WPP) from Nov. 1 through March 31, if you: • pay at least 7% of your estimated annual bill each month, and • make equal monthly payments between the date you apply and the start of the next heating season on any past due bills. When the protection period ends (March 31), you must begin to pay the full monthly bill, plus part of the amount you owe from the winter months when you did not pay the full bill. Participation does not relieve customers from the responsibility of paying for electricity and natural gas usage, but does prevent shut-off during winter months. You qualify for the plan if you meet at least one of the following requirements: • are age 65 or older, • receive Dept. of Health and Human Services cash assistance, including SSI, • receive Food Assistance, • receive Medicaid, or • household income is at or below the 150% of poverty level shown in the Income Guidelines chart above. Senior citizen customers who participate in the WPP are not required to make specific payments to ensure that their service will not be shut off between Nov. 1 and March 31. Service for seniors can be restored without any payments. Note: All customers 65+ are eligible regardless of income. Customers are responsible for all electricity and natural gas used. At the end of the protection period, participants must make arrangements with their utility company to pay off any money owed before the next heating season.

Home Heating Credit

0–1 2 3

Max. Income

$14,168 19,162 24,156

# Exemp.

4 5 6

Add $4,994 for each exemption over 6.

Max. Income

$29,150 34,144 39,138

You can apply for a Home Heating Credit for the 2021 tax year if you meet the income guidelines listed above (110% of poverty level) or you qualify based on alternate guidelines including household income, exemptions, and heating costs. Additional exemptions are available for seniors, disabled claimants, or claimants with 5% or more of their income from unemployment compensation. If you qualify, you may receive assistance to help pay for your winter heating bills. Forms are available mid-to-late January wherever tax forms are provided or from the Michigan Dept. of Treasury (517-636-4486 or The Home Heating Credit claim form must be filed with the Michigan Dept. of Treasury no later than Sept. 30 each year.



You do not have to be a DHHS client to apply for help with a past due bill, shut-off notice, or the need for deliverable fuel through the SER. This program, available Nov. 1–May 31, provides most of its utility assistance during this crisis season. However, limited assistance is available outside the crisis season. If you receive a DHHS cash grant, you may use part of it toward heat and electric bills. Apply online using MI Bridges:

Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program Contact: Local Community Action Agency You may be able to receive help with weatherizing your home to reduce energy use if you meet low-income eligibility guidelines (200% of poverty guidelines) or if you participate in the Dept. of Health and Human Services Family Independence Program or receive SSI. Weatherization may include caulking, weatherstripping, and insulation. Contact your local Community Action Agency for details. Visit to find one in your area.

United Way Contact: Call 2-1-1 or 2-1-1 is a free phone service operating 24 hours daily to provide information about help that may be available in a particular area with utilities and other needs. Dial 2-1-1 or visit to find available services.

Medical Emergency Protection

Contact: Michigan Dept. of Treasury # Exemp.

Contact: Local Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS),

Contact: Local Utility Company You are protected from service shut-off for nonpayment of your natural gas and/ or electric bill for up to 21 days, possibly extending to 63 days, if you have a proven medical emergency. You must provide written proof from a doctor or a public health or social services official that a medical condition exists. Contact your gas or electric utility for details.

Shut-off Protection For Military Active Duty Contact: Local Utility Company If you or your spouse has been called into active military duty, you may apply for shut-off protection from your electric or natural gas service for up to 90 days. You may request extensions. You must still pay, but contact your utility company and they will help you set up a payment plan.

Michigan Veterans Trust Fund Emergency Grant Program

COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA)

Contact: MI Veterans Trust Fund

Administering Agency: Michigan State Housing Development Authority at

The Trust Fund provides temporary assistance to veterans and their families facing a financial emergency or hardship, including the need for energy assistance. Contact the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund at 800-642-4838 or

MI Energy Assistance Program Contact: Utility or 2-1-1 in late November The Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) includes services that will enable participants to become self-sufficient, including assisting participants in paying their energy bills on time, budgeting for and contributing to their ability to provide for energy expenses, and being energy efficient. Shut-off protection is provided Nov. 1–April 15 for all residential customers. The MEAP is supported by the state’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF). An electric utility that chooses not to collect for the LIEAF shall not shut off service to customers for nonpayment between Nov. 1 and April 15. For a list of electric providers that opt out of collecting the LIEAF, go to

In addition to rental assistance, CERA provides heat, electric, deliverable fuels, water, sewer, and broadband assistance to applicants who must demonstrate COVID hardship. Some examples of accepted hardships are on the website, including qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or has experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the coronavirus outbreak; and can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability evidenced by a past due utility or rent notice. • Eligibility is 80% Area Median Income • Utility caps can range from $1,500 to $2,300 with $300–$500 for credits going forward, depending on family size • Up to 12 months of rental assistance • Broadband benefit • Online app portal and delivered through agencies (such as Community Action Agencies)

Dial 2-1-1 for more information on heating and other human services programs. As connected devices become increasingly popular, it’s important that we know how to secure our digital lives. The U.S. Department of Commerce offers the following tips for protecting smart devices:

Get creative with passwords.

Change your device’s factory security settings from the default password. This is one of the most important steps to take in the protection of internet-connected devices. Consider creating the longest password or passphrase permissible, and use familiar phrases you’ll remember, like the lyrics to your favorite song.

Keep tabs on your apps.

Security Tips For Connected Devices Today’s market offers a plethora of new gadgets and devices that claim to make our homes smarter, safer, and more efficient. But as with any new smart technology, consumers should take extra precautions to ensure these devices are secure. Convenient, connected devices are here to stay—and unfortunately, so are the hackers. But by taking extra steps to safeguard your network and devices, you can keep your digital life as secure as possible.

Most connected devices are supported by a smartphone application. Your smartphone could be filled with apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved, gathering personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense.

Secure your network.

Properly secure the wireless network you use for internet-connected devices. Consider placing these devices on a separate and dedicated network.

Connect and protect.

Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game console, camera, or other connected devices, the best defense is to stay on top of things by updating to the latest security software, web browser, and operating system. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


The Weather Outside Is Frightful B

ut inside your home, it’s so delightful—warm, cozy, and energy efficient!

The holidays tend to bring a flurry of activity to many families whose schedules are already stuffed to the brim, and we aren’t talking about the yummy stuffing that’s served with the Thanksgiving turkey kind of stuff. There is shopping to do, cookies to bake, decorations to display, friends to entertain, and then a big sigh of relief on Jan. 1. Though fun and festive, holiday activities and traditions can put a strain on your finances. Instead of “bah-humbug,” try implementing some of these simple solutions to help you cut costs, saving you money and energy around your home.

operated candles are a safe energy-efficient option while still providing that holiday glow.

Holiday Lighting And Decorations

• Heating

• Switch to LED holiday lights. LED lights are brighter, last longer, and use less electricity than traditional, incandescent lights. Turn off room lights and enjoy the holiday ambiance.

• Light the fireplace. It adds warmth and a cozy mood to the room.

• Use a timer to manage lights. Set timers to automatically turn your holiday lights on at dusk and off at bedtime to cut down on energy costs. • Decorate without lights. Get creative—try reflective ornaments, candles, ribbons, and garland. Battery-

• Turn down the thermostat. Take advantage of having guests in the house to generate heat.

By using these tips this holiday season, you won’t find yourself on the naughty list. Happy holidays to all and to all, happy savings. To learn more, call 877-296-4319 or visit

SAVE A LITTLE EXTRA WITH THESE HOLIDAY TIPS  USE LED HOLIDAY LIGHTS • they’re brighter, last longer, and use less electricity.  USE A TIMER TO MANAGE OUTDOOR HOLIDAY LIGHTS • recommended time is under 8 hours.  TURN OFF ROOM LIGHTS • light the fireplace or candles to warm the room and set the holiday mood.


Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Incentive applies to qualified items purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2021, and Nov. 30, 2021. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit


Enter to win a


energy bill credit!

Santa 1. Mom and daughter celebrating mom cancer-free. Ted Gagnon  2. A new reindeer. Marcy Cella  3. Connor’s first time meeting Santa and he’s not too sure about the big guy in red. Elsa Green  4. Santa visiting Breeze last Christmas. Lynda Graham





Submit A Photo & Win A Bill Credit!

Ontonagon REA members whose photos we print in Michigan Country Lines will be entered in a drawing. Four lucky members will win a credit of $50 on their December 2022 energy bills!

Upcoming Topics and Deadlines:

• Fire and Ice, due Nov. 20 (Jan./Feb. issue) • Pet Showcase, due Jan. 20 (March/April issue) • Antique Rides, due March 20 (May/June issue) To submit photos, and for details and instructions, go to 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

PRESSURE COOKING Get food on the table fast.


INSTANT POT LASAGNA SOUP Theresa Pacel, Cherryland

1 1 3–4 1 1 2 1 1 ½ 4 • 1–2 ½

pound ground beef cup diced onion cloves garlic, minced cup chicken broth (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce (Old World Victoria is my favorite) cups water teaspoon dried basil teaspoon dried oregano teaspoon dried thyme uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces salt, to taste teaspoons sugar, or to taste; start with less and add more if needed cup heavy cream

Cheese Mixture: 1 cup ricotta 1 cup shredded mozzarella ½ cup shredded (not grated) parmesan 1 teaspoon dried parsley



energy bill credit!

Sweet Treats due Dec. 1 • Italian due Jan. 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, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to


Set the Instant Pot/pressure cooker (6 quart or bigger) to the “Sauté” setting on low and cook ground beef and onion until almost done. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Turn off and drain well. Return to pot and add broth, marinara sauce, water, dried herbs, and broken noodles. Lock lid and set to “Sealing.” Cook on high pressure (on “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting) for 8 minutes, then do quick release. Remove lid and let simmer/warm for 10 to 15 minutes or until lasagna noodles are cooked through. Then add salt and sugar. Mix the 3 kinds of cheese together with the parsley and dollop into soup, stirring until mixed well. Add heavy cream and mix well. Taste again for salt and sugar. Serve! Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

INSTANT POT EASY PULLED PORK Victoria Nelson, Great Lakes Energy

1 pork shoulder (about 4.3 pounds) 2 tablespoons olive oil

Dry Rub: 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 teaspoons chili powder 2 teaspoons black pepper 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

BBQ Sauce: 1½ cups water 28 ounces Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (use only ½ the bottle)

Cut pork shoulder into large pieces (about 6 parts). Make the dry rub and rub well into both sides of the meat. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” and add the oil. Add meat to brown all sides (about 3 minutes per side). Mix 1½ cups of water with ½ bottle of BBQ sauce. Once all meat has been browned, remove meat from Instant Pot. Add mixture of water and BBQ sauce to Instant Pot to deglaze bottom of pot. Add pork back into pot. Lock lid and set to “Sealing.” Choose the “Manual” setting and set to 60 minutes. Wait for pressure to build (you should see the pressure pin pop up after a few minutes). After 60 minutes of pressure cooking, carefully release pressure to “Venting.” Use forks or tongs to pull apart the pork; it should be super tender and fall apart. Serve on sandwiches or eat as is.


1 teaspoon olive oil ½ cup chopped onions (white or yellow) 3–4 garlic cloves, minced 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks 2 green Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored, sliced into chunks 3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken) 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk 1 teaspoon honey • salt and pepper, to taste ½ teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon curry powder

INSTANT POT MINESTRONE SOUP Laura Campbell, HomeWorks Tri-County 2 3 1 2 2 1½ 1 ½ 6 1 1 1 1 1 1

tablespoons olive oil cloves garlic, minced yellow onion, diced carrots, peeled and diced stalks celery, diced teaspoons dried basil teaspoon dried oregano teaspoon fennel seed cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (16-ounce) can cannellini or kidney beans, drained and rinsed zucchini, chopped (3-inch) parmesan rind bay leaf bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

Set the Instant Pot to the “Sauté” setting and add the oil and onions. When translucent and fragrant, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the squash, green apples, broth, coconut milk, honey, salt/pepper, cinnamon, and curry powder. Stir; set the pressure cooker to “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode and cook for 15 minutes. When the pot indicates it has finished, quick release the steam. Open the pot and, using an immersion blender, very carefully blend until creamy. You can also transfer to a highpowered blender. Stovetop Instructions: Add oil and onions to a large pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Sauté until fragrant and translucent; add garlic. Add the squash, green apples, broth, coconut milk, honey, salt/pepper, cinnamon, and curry powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender or high-powered blender to blend the soup until creamy.

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste ¹⁄ ³ cup freshly grated parmesan 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves Set a 6 or 8 quart Instant Pot to the high “Sauté” setting. Add olive oil, garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2–3 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano, and fennel seed until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in stock, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, zucchini, parmesan rind, and bay leaf. Select “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” setting; adjust pressure to high, and set time for 5 minutes. When finished cooking, carefully quick release the pressure. Stir in kale until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in red wine vinegar; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with parmesan and parsley, if desired. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


The Crib with its new paint job, pictured here at sunrise.

BEACON OF HOPE How North Manitou Light Keepers Are Protecting Maritime History By Emily Haines Lloyd


here is a mystery, magic, and something altogether romantic about lighthouses. Whether it’s tales of swarthy sea captains and ghost-like specters wandering catwalks or the simple metaphor of light in the darkness leading one to safety, lighthouses feel like they have stories to tell.

The Crib, pictured here in 2016, was rusted and covered in bird guano when NMLK acquired it and began restoration.


The story of North Manitou Shoal Light Station, built in 1935 and known locally as The Crib, in the straits between the Manitou Islands and Sleeping Bear Dunes, has its own rescue story to tell. It starts with a peculiar notice in 2016 alerting the public that there would be open

bidding on The Crib in a public auction. If you’re wondering how one goes about purchasing a lighthouse, ask a group of friends who collectively are the North Manitou Light Keepers (NMLK), a nonprofit group formed specifically to purchase, restore, and open this maritime treasure to the public. In their everyday lives, these lighthouse rescuers are known as Todd and Natalie Buckley, Dave and Sherry McWilliam, Jake and Suzanne Kaberle, and Dan and Anna Oginsky, who all live and work around Michigan. “Within just a few days, a couple of my friends had mentioned there was ‘this lighthouse’ for sale,” remembers Dan Oginsky, president of North Manitou

We wanted to honor the Coast Guard and the noble work they and this lighthouse did to keep people safe in the straits. We also want to build community, giving people something positive to rally around.

The founding members of NMLK on a Crib Cruise in 2017, pictured left to right: Anna and Dan Oginsky, Jake Kaberle (wife Suzanne not pictured), Dave and Sherry McWilliam, and Todd and Natalie Buckley.

Light Keepers and Great Lakes Energy member. “At first, you can’t help but think—‘how cool would it be to own a lighthouse?’ It’s only later you start to realize what a big undertaking it’s going to be.” Dan, his wife, Anna, and their friends realized that if they were serious, they needed to create a more formal organization and started NMLK as a nonprofit to explore the specifics of what custodianship of a lighthouse would look like. They decided to move forward with the bidding process and came up against one other serious bidder, each day outbidding the Light Keepers and testing their resolve. Finally, the team decided just one more bid, and then it was time to step away gracefully. They placed their final offer … only to be outbid once again. “With 24 hours between bidding rounds, we had a few hours left when my wife, Anna, came to me and asked, ‘Would you be mad if I thought we should bid once more?’” Dan said. Anna had finally taken a long look at the pictures of The Crib and told Dan, “It told me not to give up on it.” The Light Keepers conferred and made one last bid. With that final bid, they secured the lighthouse. It’s an exciting story of an endearing victory, except now the Light Keepers had a “mothballed” lighthouse, covered in guano (yup, bird excrement), and the mighty task ahead to restore it to some former glory.

—Dan Oginsky

With a laundry list of not-inexpensive tasks to complete, the Light Keepers drew on the community and the affinity so many have for lighthouses. The team set an ambitious five-year goal to have The Crib ready for its first visitors in July 2021. “We wanted to honor the Coast Guard and the noble work they and this lighthouse did to keep people safe in the straits,” said Dan. “We also want to build community, giving people something positive to rally around.” In the end, more than 160 bags of garbage, guano, and debris were hauled away from The Crib. Then scaffolding was built so that the lighthouse could be blasted, primed, and painted. Next came the removal of steel plates and 1930s windows and the replacement with new, clear glass— letting the light shine on the inside for the first time since the 1980s. The NMLK is already looking at phase 2 of the project, which involves

renovating the lighthouse’s interior— including a kitchen, great room, and multiple sleeping quarters that would allow individuals to stay overnight at The Crib. While always keeping things moving forward, the Light Keepers were able to take a moment to celebrate. With two weeks to spare, the first visitors took a charter out to The Crib for a tour, with more scheduled throughout the summer. NMLK is looking to expand tours more next summer and recommends signing up for their newsletter and membership at to be the first to know. So if you’ve ever wanted to visit a maritime feat in the middle of one of the country’s most beautiful areas, or have ever dreamed of being part of a rescue mission of history, maybe it’s time to see some folks about The Crib and what it means to be a lightkeeper.

Getting power out to The Crib is a big part of phase 2 planning. Once NMLK started talking to folks in the community about how to power up, community members connected the team to Cherryland Electric Cooperative, who recently went out to The Crib to test equipment and see what it would take to power up the mighty beacon.


O CH R ISTMA S TR E E Michigan’s Unsuspecting Big Business By Emily Haines Lloyd


he Christmas season is bursting with joy, hope, and a healthy dose of nostalgia. We take it in through all our senses— the sight of fresh snow and glistening lights, the taste of holiday recipes handed down through generations, the sound of carols on the radio, the feeling of holding handmade ornaments. But perhaps nothing brings us so quickly into the holiday spirit than the smell of fresh pine, evergreen, and spruce. Is there anything as completely magical as a fresh-cut Christmas tree? While we get lost in the memories and moments that flood us around our trees, it’s easy to forget that Christmas trees are also a business, in fact, a pretty big business in Michigan. “Michigan is the third largest grower of Christmas trees in the country,” said Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA). “There are 2 million Christmas trees harvested each year in Michigan, but the magic is that there is one perfect tree for each person or family.” With only Oregon and North Carolina producing more Christmas trees, Michigan farms grow more than 37,000 acres of commercial trees that produce a $35 million industry for our state. With an average growing cycle of 10 to 12 years before harvest, these are an investment in time, land, and resources, making them a huge commitment. Scott Powell, manager of Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton, Michigan, is part of the family-owned team that is not only the largest Christmas tree grower in Michigan, but is in the top five producers annually in the United States. “Christmas trees are our business. For every crop we grow, there are real American families who put their hard work in every day,” said Powell. “There is a lot of joy in the work, but also a lot of responsibility as stewards of the land. We take care of it for future generations to work and enjoy.” While Dutchman is heavily involved in providing trees to wholesalers—think big-box parking lots with strung lights, making it easier for families to

Dutchman Tree Farms

Robinson Tree Farm

get their tree during their busy lives—they also have a Choose & Cut business that is run by the teenagers in the family, who have grown up trimming and shearing alongside their families for their entire lives. Others in the Christmas tree and nursery business, like Needlefast Evergreens, a Great Lakes Energy member in Ludington, Michigan, are equally connected by both Christmas trees and family lineage. Started by Bill Nickelson in 1954, the current Needlefast is run by Bill’s son and grandson, Jim and Ben Nickelson. Even Ben’s 11-year-old son has gotten into the business—growing a few rows of strawberries in the off-season and making sure the berries are cared for as he saves enough for next year’s plants. “The entire business is about family,” said Ben Nickelson. “On Thanksgiving morning, our family comes together and loads trucks full of Christmas trees before we settle into our meal. The next day, families from all over come to visit us to find their perfect tree.” While many farms have passed through generations, there are those who are still run by their first generation, like Robinson Tree Farm in Traverse City, Michigan, owned by Darrell Robinson. However, the sentiments run just as deep.

Needlefast Evergreens The Association encourages school field trips and can connect educators with farms in their area.

“You can’t help but be moved as you watch families come year after year, growing up alongside my own family,” said Robinson. “And then you’ll have someone offer to pay for another family or donating one to a family in need—and you know you’re in the right business.”

The MCTA also provides help with coordinating tree donations from Michigan farms for the annual Trees for Troops program. Trees for Troops is a nonprofit program where various farms from around the state donate trees for U.S. troops and their families—to ensure they know others are grateful and thinking of them for their sacrifices during the holiday season.

Nickelson agrees. “Most of the people who visit our farm are lifelong customers. So often in our everyday, we are looking for things to make life easier. But when the family shows up, picks their tree, decorates it—well, we remember to look for the things that make life better.”

“It’s the best crop, for the best reason,” said Powell. “While celebrating the birth of Jesus, we also get to be a part of memories for families, to celebrate and remember those they love and have lost. For our family, it’s very personal.”

The Michigan Christmas Tree Association (MCTA) is a nonprofit membership organization serving Christmas tree growers in the state of Michigan. The MCTA promotes and markets real Christmas trees to the public, while assisting growers in the state with education and business connections to improve the profitability of their farms.

To find a Christmas tree farm in your area, visit



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Quick Tips To Avoid High Winter Bills Looking to lower your bills this winter? Use the 10 tips below to conserve energy.

Seal air leaks and insulate well to prevent heat from escaping and cold air from entering your home. Reduce waste heat by installing a programmable thermostat. Turn off lights when not in use. Lower your water heater temperature. The Department of Energy recommends using the warm setting (120 degrees) during fall and winter months. Unplug electronics like kitchen appliances and TVs when you’re away. Open blinds and curtains during the day to allow sunlight in to warm your home. Close blinds and curtains at night to keep cold, drafty air out.


Use power strips for multiple appliances, and turn off the main switch when you’re away from home.


Wash clothes in cold water, and use cold-water detergent whenever possible.


Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, which use at least 75% less energy.


For Extra Value, Add Extra Safety By Derrill Holly

fire in the hearth is a warm and welcoming part of winter for many of us, but open flames inside the home should always be tended to safely. Before you light your fireplace, consider safety first.


Patty Davis, deputy director of communications for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), offers the safety planning tips below. The agency cites home fireplaces, chimneys, and chimney connectors as the leading causes of residential fires attributed to heating equipment. According to the CPSC, an open and properly maintained flue ensures that fireplace gases can be vented to the outside through the chimney and closed to help keep heat inside the home when the fireplace is not in use. Be sure to have a protective barrier in front of your fireplace to prevent a child or grandchild from coming into direct contact with the glass front of the fire screen. The surface temperature of the glass front can heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause very serious burns to a child. “If you use your fireplace for supplemental heating, you should include a full inspection with your system checkups,” said Davis. “You should also make sure you have at least one carbon monoxide (CO) detector on each floor of your home to reduce the risks of CO exposure.”

Odorless and colorless, carbon monoxide can quickly build up in the closed interior spaces of a home, leaving all occupants incapacitated and hindering escape. “When a CO alarm is activated, people can get out and then contact firefighters to deal with the carbon monoxide buildup that prompted the alarm,” said Davis. Fireplaces should be considered fuel-burning appliances, subject to the same safety precautions, inspections, and maintenance standards recommended for other items in that category. “Get a regular inspection, just as you would for a furnace or heating system,” said Davis. The inspection should be done by a qualified chimney company professional. That inspection not only helps to ensure the system is tuned up for efficient operation, but it also gives the homeowner warning of wear or damage that could potentially cause fires or other problems once the season is underway.

FIREPLACE SAFETY TIPS Every year, nearly 20,000 residential fires are linked to fireplaces. The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these tips to help you keep your family safe:

1. Consider scheduling a fireplace inspection and cleaning by a certified professional. 2. Install a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home. These devices offer low-cost protection and provide early warnings of potential problems. 3. Keep flues, dampers, firestops, flashing, and chimney caps in good condition. 4. If you have small children and/or pets, consider a secondary screen. A glass screen can reach temperatures of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so an extra barrier can protect them from serious burns.


Guest Column

Picking Out My Own Game Jersey By Brian Maki, Alger Delta Cooperative member


here’s nothing more fitting in this world than picking out your own game jersey. Ask any sports player. The sweat and sacrifice are monumental to end up wearing something that represents you, your school, and your community. It’s really considered the “holy grail” of all sporting experiences. I had been team manager from 1985 through 1988. After practice one night, Marquette’s legendary basketball coach Gordy LeDuc said, “Brian, three kids quit the team today. There’s only nine on the bench.” As a 17-year-old kid, I was still looking for my chance. He asked: “You wanna join the team?” “Sure,” I said. “I’ll keep stats for you. I’ll do whatever it takes, coach.” He smiled. Mr. LeDuc threw me the key to the old storage room, a place where team jerseys were stored. It was a place I knew well but had never believed that I would ever pick out my own jersey in my wildest of dreams. But I did. Thirty-three years ago. On Jan. 26, 1988, my dreams turned into reality. I would no longer be remembered as just a team manager. On that special night, I would crush many failures with my very first shot. With three seconds left, I broke for the ball, and while double-teamed, I heaved a magical 55-foot shot at the buzzer. The horn was long over by the time the ball hit the backboard and went in. Game over. People bolted from their seats and pushed me to the ground, chanting my name. It was (and still is to this day) the greatest moment of my life. The odds were stacked against me that I would ever find myself in that jersey. But, there I was, a winner. This shot was an accumulation of effort, focus, patience, luck, experience, fate, practice, and faith to seal my fate and my destiny into basketball lore. Talk about a “holy grail” experience.

Win a


energy bill credit!

Brian Maki is a computer consultant and enjoys traveling in the U.P., writing, and learning about new technology.

WIN $150!

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit to submit.

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by Dec. 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at September 2021 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Jodie Samkowiak, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Mackinaw Island House Hotel, looking from the marina side. Photo courtesy of Corey Niedzwiecki. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.

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Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association /OntonagonCountyREA


When children are old enough to understand rules, then it’s a good idea to have house rules around electrical safety. Make sure that an electrical safety plan is part of your overall emergency preparedness plan. When your children know what to do and not to do around electricity, accidents are less likely to occur.


DON’T plug too much stuff into one outlet or extension cord. It could damage the electrical

Keep electrical stuff far away from water. Water and

electricity never mix. Use caution outdoors and keep all electrical appliances at least 10 feet away from hot tubs, pools, ponds, puddles, and wet surfaces. Never place electronics near the shower or bathtub, and keep liquids and drinks away from computers, video games, and TVs, or anything that has a cord and plug.

system in your house or even cause a fire. Show children how plugs work, and let them know that even if they are curious about the slits of an electrical outlet, nothing else should be placed inside.


Never put metal objects in an appliance or outlet.



DON’T yank an electrical cord from the wall. Pulling on a

DON’T ever climb the fence around an electrical substation. If a ball or

cord can damage the appliance, plug, or outlet.



DON’T FLY! Teach children to never

fly kites or carry helium balloons on long strings under or near power lines. Electricity is always looking for a route to the ground; kites and balloons make the perfect conduits. If a kite gets stuck in a tree that’s near power lines, don’t climb up to get it. Contact your local electric cooperative for assistance. The kite and the string may conduct electricity—sending it right through you to the ground.


some neighborhoods, power lines are buried in the ground. It can be difficult to tell where these lines are located. Teach children not to dig in the ground in any areas you have not told them are safe.


pet gets inside the fence, contact your local electric utility for assistance— they’ll come and get it out for you.



Transformers are often large, green, metal boxes sitting on the ground. Teach your children that these are not mountains to be climbed or treasures to explore. Tell your children that if they notice one of these boxes open, they should alert an adult immediately.


Look out for power lines before you climb a tree. The electricity can go right through the tree branch—and right through you!



When lightning strikes, it’s time to head inside. Children should know to go indoors when storms are approaching, but especially when thunder sounds and lightning strikes.