Hazel Ridge Workshop & Gallery

Newsletter 14 Fall/Winter 2004

Around the Farm
This was the year of the rains! The ponds were overflowing, my garden was un-tillable until mid-June and many of the hiking trails were flooded. Throughout much of this spring we pumped flooding water from one pond to another..keeping them all full. Plus, I didn’t have to water the garden once! Because this summer was quite busy, the weeds got an upper hand in the garden. Somehow that reduced the bug invasion. I called it my "o de’naturale" garden. This was (is) also the year of the deer, as well. No matter how many clinking, clanging noisemakers I invented, to repel deer from my garden, they were oblivious. My scarecrows might just as well have said, "Welcome. Come and enjoy Robbyn’s All You Can Eat Buffet." for all the good they did. But, all in all, it was a good harvest. Especially since Nick and I are "empty nesters" now. Kelly graduated this June and loves Grand Valley State University. It is a perfect fit for her. She has no major as of yet, but what ever she does, we have all the confidence in the world she will succeed. We moved Heather to Seattle via Amtrak this summer. We multi-tasked during our 2-week west coast vacation. We registered her in the Seattle Institute of Art, found her a perfect apartment located within walking distance to her school, the Pikes Market and Bed, Bath and Beyond and finally we shopped for necessities at Ikea. After settling her in, our family enjoyed the remaining time sightseeing and eating. The diverse cuisine was great and with all the walking/exercising we did, it made eating that much more enjoyable. Two months later, Nick filled his van with the rest of Heather’s "stuff" and drove a solo trip back to Seattle. Cross country in 3 1/2 days. He loves driving long distances but he was glad to be back home...10 days later. We had another family of Green Herons hatch and thrive throughout the summer months. They feasted on the abundant minnows and frogs this wet year provided. Nick built a 10-foot high turkey vulture "feeding board" We toss roadkills and "what-have-you" up on the board so the big birds can feast while we watch from a distance. Needless to say, things can get pretty ripe up there, so we often sit upwind from the feeding site. Six years after, Jackson, our Great Horned Owl, died we finally buried him. (Cryogenics..in the barn freezer) With chainsaw in hand, Nick sculpted a Great Horned Owl from an old dead pine tree..becoming the final resting place of our family owl. The carving was so life-like that when it was completed, the crows gathered in hoards to harass it. Several schools participated in our eco-tours and "Painting with Nick" days on the farm. As much as we love Hazel Ridge, seeing our farm through fresh eyes is always an added treat. This August, I had two seizures and after 3 days in the hospital and a battery of scans and tests I have been diagnosed with epilepsy. My EEG showed abnormal activity in my left temporal lobe. My family knew all along I was a tad abnormal. Now they have proof. Long story short, getting the right diagnoses, finding the right doctor and finding the right medication that suits me, makes all the difference in the world. My friends and family have been a great support and I look at this as a new challenge. Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Blakeney and Clara Carroll, the wise medicine women in my life. The mysteries of epilepsy brings out the detective in me. I find it all very intriguing and am open to any stories any of you want to share.


The ink is still wet on the contract for Nick to create two 35-foot murals for the Veterinary Medical Center at Michigan State University. A fall 2005 opening reception is planned. MRA, Michigan Reading Association, has commissioned Nick to paint their theme poster for the Spring 2005 MRA teachers conference. The theme is Reading and Writing for Peace with guest speaker, Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mahatma Ghandi. Nick feels honored to be able to contribute for such an important message. The artwork can be viewed at www.michiganreading.org. He will also be painting another piece for our local PBS station. The WKAR-TV Auction takes place April 8-16, 2005. Check out wkar.org for more information.


2004 has definitely been Nick’s most prolific book year, thus far. Four new books, beginning with our joint project, Saving Samantha, a true story about a rescued red fox. The Legend of the Petoskey Stone continues the Legend series. Both books were released spring 2004. Early fall, came the release of H is for Horse: an Equestrian Alphabet, and is filled with beautiful illustrations and is chocked-full of horse trivia and tidbits. Finally due out before Christmas, is Friend on Freedom River, written by Gloria Whelan (Jam and Jelly’s author). A tale of one family’s journey to freedom by way of the underground railroad. Freedom River will be book number eighteen. Nick is very proud of his book accomplishments. He is particularly pleased that the books not only allow him to share his art work with the mass, but they often carry valuable lessons, as well. We are excited about Sleeping Bear Press’ proposed "Hazel Ridge" series; continuing the tales of farm and animal stories. The next story, a sort of pre-quel to the previous books, is in the works now. It introduces our family and farm to old and new readers, through the eyes of our youngest daughter. Several of our books have done well in the "awards" category. Adopted by an Owl: 2004 KIND Children's Honor Book (National Assoc. for Humane and Environmental Education) Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot 2004 "Living the Dream" Book Award - Manhattan Country School, New York, NY, Edmund Fitzgerald: 2004 Michigan Notable Books List and Saving Samantha 2004 Great Lakes Book Award Finalist. And the biggest perk of all, is sharing these books through school programs throughout the Great Lake states. Teachers and kids are our biggest fans. Thank you all.

Shows and Events

We have clocked a lot of miles on the van this year. This summer we traveled up north to do our annual week-long book signing gig. That is always lots of fun. We attended several Young Authors Conferences, sharing our stories with young readers and writers. Throughout the year we have both visited schools, drawing, story telling and nature journaling with kids We participated in Family Nature Day at Sprinkler Lake Educational Center in the Huron National Forest. In June, we spent a day at the Saginaw Zoo, sharing and drawing with kids and adults. We presented at several teachers conferences including the Celebrate Literacy conference at Grand Valley State University...Kelly’s new digs. It was a special opportunity for her to show us around. The Boniface Art Gallery in Escanaba hosted an exhibit of how a book is created. Using rough drafts, sketches and originals from Saving Samantha and Adopted by an Owl, the museum created a learning center for kids. Along with the general public, over 750 students toured the gallery. Several teachers have, since their tours, extended what they have experienced into their classroom activities. It is such a joy to know that our books have opened up so many doors for kids. Our usual art shows, the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Show and the Crane Festival, were very busy and successful.

Hazel Ridge’s Annual Holiday Open House
Saturday and Sunday - December 11 & 12
11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Please join our family in celebrating the holidays. There will be plenty of food, libations, books and art. It is always fun. If the weather is nice, wear your hiking boots and experience a peaceful walk on Hazel Ridge. If you’re quiet, you may happen upon owls, foxes, coyotes, deer and a myriad of song birds.


This section is my own personal finds. My book recommendations are The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy... a WW11 holocaust story. It was so intense, I couldn’t put it down. For you fantasy folks like me, I have been enjoying The Rhapsody Trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon. Plots within plots within plots. It is a series I hate to see end. In the music section, I have discovered Jessica Riddle (Jacobs).The title is key of a minor. She has a great voice! And the entire family loves Norah Jones!

Quote to ponder:

"Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful."
Ann Landers

Hope to see you at our open house.

Robbyn, Gijsbert, Heather and Kelly