Newsletter Issue 13, Fall/Winter 2003
Farm, Family and Friends
Another year has passed and life on the farm is still good. There have been several new additions since I last wrote. Two kittens, now over a year old, were ceremoniously presented to Nick for his birthday. Bob, a 10 pound domestic short hair tiger with a bobbed tail and his brother, Bob’s Brother, (Bob-b, for short) a domestic grey longhair, have settled purringly into our lives. They have grudgingly tolerated Buddy, our new German Shepherd pup. He was born this spring, and at 5 months is already 55 pounds. We’ll get pictures on the web site before too long. More animals but less kids. Kelly is a senior and has been busy with college applications. Grand Valley University is her first choice, but we’re still waiting to hear. Heather has proclaimed a major and is very excited about her new direction. She will finish up her junior year at Western then head out to the Seattle Institute of Art, fall 2004, to enter in the Fashion Design program. For a gal who loves clothes, this is a perfect fit. (pun intended) The continuing drought-like conditions have had both positive and negative consequences on the farm. For the good, this is our second year in a row with relatively no mosquitoes. To be able to sit on the back deck after dark is pure luxury. On the other hand, all 5 ponds on the property are at their all time low. This March all the bass from our two stocked ponds were floating belly up at spring’s thaw. A deadly combination of shallow water levels and a very cold winter were lethal to much of the pond life. Insects, amphibians and reptiles have found their way back to the water. Nature always finds a way. That includes the many nestings of bluebirds we had this year. Seems the new land with its open prairie is to their liking. There was at least one wood duck nest on each pond. All the families hatched and moved on except for one lonely and forgotten chick. We watched her grow throughout the summer... by herself and with a survivors tenacity. When fall arrived she hooked up with several other Woodies and left us. Maybe she’ll return next spring. What we didn’t get to see this year, were the elusive little Green Herons. Each time we thought we found their nesting site, they moved. The babes hatched and matured without human spies this year. Numerous coyote sightings for me, but not for the rest of the family. I really did see them! Several school groups visited the farm for our eco-tours and painting sessions. I never know who has more fun, the kids, the parents or us. A tour bus full of 45 picture-snapping, fun-loving MAZZA folks dropped in on the farm to see the behind the scenes of the Hazel Ridge Workshop and Gallery. They left with an awareness of what inspires Nick’s paintings... and a bit of manure on their shoes. Nick’s sister and brother-in-law, Ella and Piet, visited from the Netherlands. During their three week stay they traveled through much of Michigan, saw Niagara Falls and explored the wilds of Canada. They boarded their plane with many pictures and wonderful memories. Nick traveled to the Netherlands for a family reunion and while he was in the area he and his childhood friend, David, did a 3-day trip to Berlin to meet the real Mercedes from Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot. She lives in the same house as she did when she was a child during the war. She and husband Peter are warm and generous people and as a favor to Nick, she signed several copies of Mercedes. One copy went up for auction at WKAR, our local public television station. With the signatures of Mercedes, Col. Halvorsen, the author, the illustrator and another pilot... plus several original drawings in the book... the book climbed to over $560.00! Someone acquired a rare collectors item. Thank you.
Cecile and Bill Fehsenfeld have built their 4th (and last?) Schuler Books and Music store. They’ve designed a place specifically for a van Frankenhuyzen mural. The Alpine store in Grand Rapids is now their third store with an original "Nick" mural. If you’re in buying a book, check it out. After being on a 3-year waiting list, the Haslett library proudly exhibits a 30-foot plus mural. The memorial mural is dedicated to the memory of a beloved member of the Friends of the Library, Ritva Kamrin. The bright colors and cheerful theme is an appropriate tribute to her. The MAZZA Institute www.mazzmuseum.org has purchased a second painting for their museum. It is quite an honor to have paintings hung in their museum of Children’s Book Illustrations. Nick is proud to be the artist to design a theme of peace for the 2005 Michigan Readers Association (MRA) poster. Thousands of the posters will be distributed to teachers throughout Michigan. First there were chairs, then came tables. This year, WKAR, public television will have area artisans have their way with a treasure chest for their public auction. In the past Nick has created something with a Legend of Sleeping Bear theme. You will be able to view it at our Holiday Open House. The annual auction is for a good cause... quality, commercial-free television.
Since last I wrote, there has been three new books out. The Legend of Leelanau continues the Legend series, as well as The Edmund Fitzgerald, Song of the Bell, a beautiful tribute to the memory of the ill-fated ore carrier and it’s crew. Both were skillfully and sensitively written by Kathy-jo Wargin and both have already chalked up several awards. P is for Passport, a World Alphabet is illustrated by many of the Sleeping Bear illustrators. Nick painted the cover and two letters. See if you can find which ones he did. Our most awarded book has become Jam and Jelly by Holly and Nellie, by Gloria Whelan. Most recently winning the 2003 National Outdoor Book Award making it a total of five for that book. Adopted by an Owl, another book we are very proud of, has overwhelmingly won the 2003 Great Lakes, Great Book Award from the MRA. And finally coming this spring, Saving Samantha, the true story of a red fox pup we raised and released. The paintings will rival Holly and Nellies lush and vibrant colors of our natural world. My writing could never compare to the beautiful prose Gloria created for Jam and Jelly, but I had fun writing about Samantha and what she meant to our family.
Shows/Events There is always plenty of food, friends and art to enjoy. Books will be available for purchase. If you’re adventurous, bring your hiking boots and enjoy a walk on the back 40.
We are pleased to say Nick was accepted into 2003’s Leigh Yawkey Birds in Art. His painting, Moonrise Over Myakka, is one of his favorites and he is proud to be part of the traveling exhibit. We have both been busy with conferences this year. Teachers and media specialists statewide have enjoyed our programs, MAME, MRA and Celebrate Literacy, to name a few. School visits still keep Nick busy in the spring as he travels state-wide drawing and sharing his "make your hobby your career" message. The Charlevoix Waterfront Art Festival was a success. For the entire day, Nick was signing books, non-stop, and the girls and I did everything else. Nick and folks from Sleeping Bear Press traveled to Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota to attend book fairs promoting his books. He loves those events because he always comes home with bags full of free books! We will be heading out to Toronto with the whole family over the Thanksgiving weekend. It will be a three day Edmund Fitzgerald book promotion tour with our Canadian cousins. It will be great to have both girls with us and mix business with pleasure (as usual). Our annual Holiday Open House is set for Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
I’ll open with a couple of good book recommendations. Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O’Brien and The Secret Lives of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Both excellent reads. Now I’m going out on the limb here to make a couple of music recommendations. Music, like art is quite personal so these may not suit your fancy. But I love it when I find new music, so I like to share. The Opera Babes with their CD , Beyond Imagination, is an edgy new twist on opera. For all of you who have always wanted to try a "bit of the high brow stuff’, this is a fun introduction of today's most popularized operas. Also, The Be Good Tanyas with their CD, Chinatown. The voices of these gals, singing funky folk, makes me want to play them all day. And now for my end of the newsletter quotes...
"There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle." Samuel Butler
"Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance." Dave Barry?
Stay safe & be happy. Kelly, Heather, Robbyn and Nick