Hazel Ridge Workshop & Gallery

Newsletter 15 Fall/Winter 2005

Farm, Family and Friends

Another busy year at Hazel Ridge. First and most exciting is my birthday sauna is finally built! Nick spent many sweaty, summer hours extending the deck and constructing the sauna. It stands 10-feet off the ground and with heavy gusts of wind it sways ever so slightly. Just enough to rock me to sleep…at 150 Fahrenheit. It feels like a hot house in a tree and is the absolute best present I have ever gotten. The spring and summer has been a good balance of heat and rain and the garden has flourished for it. Being "children-free" for the most part, I planted more flowers than veggies, but despite that, canning freezing and drying season kept me pretty busy. This spring, I watched a snapping turtle lay her eggs and Nick marked the spot so we could keep track of her "brood". Unfortunately this fall, a predator feasted on the eggs. Next year if we are so lucky to witness egg laying again we will "predator proof" it. We did have a bumper crop of Green Heron nestings. Four successful families. They feasted on an abundant supply of tadpoles, fish and frogs. Gratifying proof of our healthy wetlands. Along with our usual school eco-tours hiking the property, we hosted two teacher’s appreciation days and several library and Audubon groups. In the laudatory words of Larry Hert, English Division of Delta College, "The trip to the van Frankenhuyzen farm was one of the most interesting and rewarding professional experiences I have ever experienced." We thought that was pretty cool. The coyote population is still healthy (and noisy), foxes seem to be able to co-exist with them but the deer population has been much reduced. Last years bumper crop has dwindled to a few measly sightings this year. Good for us, bad for cousin Dick and Diane. Last year they harvested several good sized buck and does. Zippo this year. Our Tennessee Walker, Black, died this summer of pancreatic cancer. We buried her in the same pasture she grazed for 25 years. We had an average lambing year but from now on I am doing some serious culling. It is hard to keep up with lambing as our school programs/visits become more popular. We will always keep a few sheep around so Nick can still do paintings of them. Kelly is in her sophomore year at Grand Valley and still loves it. She is going through the usual sophomore angst about a major. She enjoys writing but is not sure if it will be a career. We assure her that there is no rush. She is, however, getting home sick and is very much looking forward to coming home for the holidays. Heather was married in July, graduated form the Seattle Institute of Art in September in and is moving to Bangor, Maine in mid December. Ah, the energy of youth. Her husband, Ahmed, was offered an exceptional position at the Bangor hospital. They are both excited to leave the Seattle rat race and move into the "small town" ambiance of Bangor. The only problem is "you can’t get there from here." Her exceptional skills in fashion design, art and graphics will open many doors. On one health note, I have been seizure free for over a year. That’s a good thing.


One of the Michigan State University Veterinary Clinic murals is done. During the first weekend of November we hung the first of the two 35-foot murals. I was pretty useless with a pinched nerve but friend, Stuart Niles, helped with the hanging. We couldn’t have done it without his help. And we have to agree with the general consensus..it looks awesome! If you get the chance, it hangs in the G Building of the Veterinary Medical Clinic..just above the Dean’s office. Also, Nick will be donating a special painting to the WKAR-TV 23 spring auction. You can check their web site closer to their spring date for more information at http://wkar.org/auction . We have gifted a large collection of materials from Nick’s children’s books to the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan. The library will preserve and make available his sketches, artwork, manuscripts and other related book "stuff" as research materials for students. These are items Nick would have eventually just thrown away. The folks there are thrilled with these and future donations and we’re just glad they will be put to good use.


Our publisher, Sleeping Bear press, is very excited about our new Hazel Ridge series. They are true farm and animal tales based on our 20 years of wildlife rehabilitation. Saving Samantha was released last year and Spring 2006 the third in the series, Kelly at Hazel Ridge will be out. We are very pleased to be able to share our "Shangri-La" with you. Our 25 years at Hazel Ridge has been filled with love, blood, sweat and tears..and we wouldn’t have it any other way. I think our girls would agree. A visitor once said of the farm, "Hazel Ridge is a great place for kids and dogs to grow up." We totally agree. There are two new books since the last open house. Friend on Freedom River by Gloria Whelan and Challenger: America’s Favorite Eagle by Margot Theis Raven. They will both be available at this years open house.


Besides the usual school visits (we love em) and our annual summer book sighing tour, we kept pretty busy doing other things. In February, Nick traveled to Dollywood in Tennessee to research the Challenger book. Nope, he didn’t meet Dolly. He visited the Eagle Foundation within Dollywood. The raptor recovery program they have created to care for eagles and hawks is amazing. A visit there is well worth your time. We were presenters at the Michigan Reading Association in Grand Rapids in March, the Upper Peninsula Reading Association in Marquette in October, eh and many Young Authors Day throughout the year. In May, Nick traveled to San Antonio, Texas to participate in the International Reading Conference and promote Saving Samantha, which was selected as 2005 International Children’s Book Award Notable. It is a big thing and we are very proud. The city is beautiful. We spent a day at Michigan State University via the Audubon Society, doing art programs with home schoolers. We are trying something new this year. Nick is invited to be the guest speaker for the Kirtland Warbler Festival the weekend of May 19th in Mio. He will hold classes at the Kirtland Community College on Friday and Saturday and will also be selling his books, prints and originals. For updated information on the specifics of his classes, check their website closer the festival date at http://warbler.kirtland.edu/ . Right around the corner will be our two annual holiday events. Nick will be presenting a painting demonstration at O’leary Paints in Lansing on Saturday, December 3rd, at 11 a.m. There will many other artists presenting throughout the day and is a great educational opportunity for old and new artists. Plus, Dennis always sets out a great hors d'oeuvres table. We will be selling and autographing books after the presentation. For more information call 517-487-2006. Now for our Holiday Open House.

We will be trying something new this year to try to help with crowd control. For anyone who has been a part of our festivities, you know how hectic it is. Nick barely has time to go to the bathroom..poor guy. So we have added "after work" hours to try and spread our guests out. Thursday and Friday, December 8 & 9, we will be open from 4 – 7 p.m. with limited refreshments. It is our hope to accommodate those afterwork folks who want to get in and out, no muss, no fuss and no big hoopla. Hours on Saturday and Sunday, the 10th and 11th will be 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.. Hopefully it will relieve the congestion, the long lines and allow Nick a bathroom break. If you are adventurous, wear your hiking boots and enjoy a walk in the back 40. Maybe the weather will be more accommodating this year.

So, long story short:

Holiday Open House Hours are:
December 8 & 9, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
December 10 & 11, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.


This is my personal space to add book and music recommendations, share cute, quip quotes and generally add whatever doesn’t fit in the above categories. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon is fiction but gives you an insight of what it is like to be in the mind of an autistic young person. In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea is an intriguing look at what feminism means to Middle Eastern women. And finally, for me, the much anticipated 6th Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diane Gabaldon. But you really shouldn’t start it before you read the first five..sorry. Below are a couple of quotes that really hit a note with me so I’ll pass them along.

"It should not be considered unpatriotic to question authority" unknown

and "The goal of life is living in agreement with nature." by Zeno

We hope you all have a great winter and an early, green spring. Hope to see you at the Open House. Cheers! Gijsbert, Robbyn, Kelly and Heather.