thoughts on things

Our long weekend ft. Ursa Major, Golabki and Japanese Beetles.

Our long weekend ft. Ursa Major, Golabki and Japanese Beetles.

I mentioned before that my fearless mother-in-law runs a small vineyard in northern Michigan.  Small, I suppose, as compared with Napa Valley.  She planted 400+ organically-grown vines five years ago, and so now three of her four seasons are spent waging war on deer, Japanese beetles and some nasty little creature called a rose chafer.

And she loves it.  She also built a home on the property, erected a giant pole-barn and oversees her empire from atop a fire-engine red four-wheeler.  She’s almost seventy-five.

I’m watching her closely for tips because, as it stands, I can barely mow my lawn without needing a snack and a nap.

Anyway, last week the kids and I drove the four-plus hours to stay with her.  We spent that afternoon wandering the property, picking wild raspberries and inspecting the frog pond.  We enjoyed an old-fashioned hot-dog supper and gathered around the fire and chatted in between face-stuffing s’more sessions.

It wasn’t until after breakfast the following morning that my dear mother-in-law handed us each a pair of gloves and smiled.  “Let’s go squash some bugs.”

At home, we have a modest veggie garden, and we’ve been blessed with relatively pest-free growing seasons.  It never occurred to me that, in order to maintain a healthy, organic crop of grapevines, pests would need to be hand-picked and obliterated.  Did I mention the 400+ vines?

Thankfully, rose chafer season had ended, a fact for which I was grateful, as they’re evidently noxious little buggers that excrete some sort of toxin when smooshed (hence the gloves).  Gross.

However, Japanese beetle season was in full swing, and so, plant by plant, row by row, we engaged in a sort of insect hide-and-seek in which we plucked the creepy bronze interlopers and squished them.  We each devised our own methods.  Mine was the ol’ fling-and-stomp, intermittently followed by the ‘ol shriek-and-dash if I happened to mis-fling.

Japanese beetles
The opposition.

Besides our bug-hunting escapades, we took a few day trips, as northern Michigan has much to offer. We visited the brand-new Headlands International Dark Sky Park, a free park on the Straits of Mackinac devoted entirely to stargazing, astronomy and space.  There’s a gorgeous banquet facility available for rent, which is attached to an incredibly large telescope that I don’t pretend to understand beyond the fact that it makes things reeeeallly far away appear close.  The entire park and its trails were carved out of deep forests, and at night the park allows absolutely no artificial light unless you have a red-light filter.  Or something.  I think.  Whatever the case, if you’re ever in northern Michigan, this place is worth a visit.

Ursula Major
The super-fancy, turbo-boosted telescope at The Headlands Dark Sky Park.

Another highlight was our annual trip to the Leggs Inn.  If you’re into Polish food (and really, even if you’re not), breathtaking views and bizarre woodcarvings, the Leggs Inn will not disappoint.  Established in the 1920s, this giant, rustic landmark features intricate wood- and stone-work, and scrumptious Polish fare, which I can neither identify nor pronounce (but will devour platefuls with abandon).  Thankfully, my Polish mother-in-law speaks the language and can translate for me – and invariably stop me from blessing everyone because, to my untrained ear, all Polish words sound like a sneeze.  So, rather than embarrass myself by attempting to spell the authentic names of the foods I ate, I will instead embarrass myself by telling you I had stuffed cabbage, little yummy dumplings shaped like and tastier than tater tots, and a dark and hearty stew that, were it the only food left on earth, I’d happily eat it forever more.

View from the Legs Inn back yard.

We spent five fantastic days away, three of them with my husband who managed to arrive a day early to surprise us all. 🙂  We’re back home now, catching up on yard work (and honing my new beetle battle skills), trying to introduce our four adolescent chickens to our flock of full-grown hens (drama!), and prepping for the kids’ birthday celebration for which I will attempt to bake a cake from scratch.  No worries; I have Costco on speed dial.

All this as we soak up the final days of summer and try to ignore our impending homeschool start-date of August 22.

What's your take?