Hazel Ridge Workshop & Gallery

Newsletter 16 Fall/Winter 2006

Farm, Family and Friends

There are three words that come to mind when I think of this year..mosquitos and speed walking. The only way there was any relief from those blood-sucking buggers was to walk as fast as you could with no loitering, lounging or lingering. We know there were at least four Green Heron nests around the ponds but if we stopped to search the trees we would be swarmed by those little nasties. I donned head netting and the least toxic repellants possible just to work in the garden. But I have to say, I only had to water the garden twice this year. I’m never going to brag again about how "I never have any problems with deer in my garden" because this year it became a smorgasbord for any passing deer, rabbit or woodchuck. For what good they did, I had some great looking scarecrows. We have about 400,000 new residents on the farm..14 honeybee hives. I have always wanted to have a couple of hives to harvest our own honey and wax. An opportunity to have hives from M.S.U. came up and we grabbed it. Working with the handlers from the university has been the perfect way to get hands-on experience. They moved in in April and will over-wintering here as well. Hopefully Dr. Huang will decide to house them at Hazel Ridge for another year. In addition to everything I learned, I was given sixty pounds of our own honey. When they are moved to another location, that will be my cue to get my own bees. Super! (pun intended). We shared the farm with many kids and educators this year. Our scheduled eco-tours have been the highlight of children and adults, alike. It is our passion and our goal to expose as many folks as possible to the wonders of nature. Nick spent every free day he had working in the back. He compares it to working on a painting, "It’s like working on a blank canvas and seeing it grow. The nice thing is that with each season, the color palette changes. It is a continual work in progress." He is very proud of his new prairie. After nurturing large stretches of land, native flowers and grasses are finally filling in and looking glorious. It is a sight to see during peek blooming. Now that the chill is back, I am back using my sauna again. I can’t say it enough: it is the best present I ever got! Nothing like a good sweat lodge to meditate in. I have found a niche in yoga and would recommend it to anyone for total health and wellness. Mind, body and spirit.

Kelly, Nick and I camped at Quetico Provincial Park in Canada this past summer. For seven days we roughed it with a group of 8 people on our own island. There was canoeing, fishing, bird watching, loon ecology and learning about wild and edible plants. My perfect vacation. I would recommend this Naturalist Trip guided by Denny Olson to anyone, in a heartbeat. The girls are doing great. Kelly is in her junior year at Grand Valley working towards an English major with a minor in Elementary Education. She is very excited about studying abroad in the Netherlands in May 2007. Heather and Ahmed have settled in nicely in Bangor. She is successfully designing her own line of jewelry and they have their "feelers" out to open a small boutique for a unique line of clothing.


Not much time to accept many commissions this year but Nick did make time to paint a table for the WKAR-TV 23, 2007 Premier auction. The auction is April 22-28. As the event gets closer, check out their web site for more details at http://wkar.org/auction/ .He also painted a "treasure box" for the Michigan Library Association for their auction.


This was a busy book year for Nick. Three books..adding up to 72 paintings! The Legend of Michigan, the 7th in the Legend series, came out this spring with wonderful reviews. Also this spring, the next in our Hazel Ridge series, Kelly of Hazel Ridge, which just won the 2006 National Outdoor Book Award. We are so excited to be able to share our farm stories with kids and adults. If you want to know who we are and what we value, all you have to do is read Kelly of Hazel Ridge. The importance of connecting with nature is an issue that is becoming louder these days. We are glad to contribute to that dialogue. In conjunction with the release of Kelly, we scheduled 3 days of farm visits this summer for educators, naturalists and booksellers. Sleeping Bear Press hosted one of them, providing food and gift bags. After nearly nine years, they are still great supporters of our work In addition, Kelly and Legend of Michigan were both finalists for the 2006 Great Lakes Book Award. Mackinac Bridge: the Story of the Five Mile Poem, was released in September. It is an historical fiction about the building of the Mackinac Bridge. This book required an enormous amount of research and despite all the headaches, he is very pleased with how the book turned out. We both agree that the best perk of doing children’s books is visiting schools and doing programs with the kids. Their excitement and warmth is so gratifying. It’s all about sharing smiles, laughter and stories! One thing that has occurred more this year than in past years is that Nick and I visiting more schools together. It’s nice. He does his thing and I do mine and we reconnect either at lunchtime or not until the end of the day. The schools love having both author and illustrator present on the same day..and we’re still not sick of each others company.


Because there were three books published this year, we had a lot of book signing gigs. Some good and some slow..but that’s just the way it goes. We attended numerous conferences in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois; groups ranging from librarians and outdoor educators to principals and k –12 educators. We also presented at numerous Young Authors Conferences. These conferences are jam-packed with kids of like mind sharing their enthusiasm for creating their own books. Their energy is contagious and we leave feeling just as energized as the kids. Nick presented at the Mazza Institute in Findlay, Ohio. The Mazza Museum International Art from Picture Books is the world's first and largest teaching museum devoted to literacy and the art of children's picture books. He entertained a packed house. Our annual show at the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Festival was fun and busy as usual. We couldn’t have done it (and remained sane) without Kelly’s help. Nick was the featured artist at the Kirtland Warbler Festival in Roscommon. This unique area is prime habitat for this protected bird. Check out their web site for upcoming events. http://warbler.kirtland.edu/Default.htm

The day prior to the festival, he conducted a painting workshop, sharing painting and sketching techniques. It was very well attended and folks left energized and inspired to get back to their paints and palettes.

The Bonifas Art Center, in Escanaba will be hosting the Northern Exposure XIII art exhibit through the end of November. Nick will be judging the entries and conducting an art painting workshop on November 10. For more information, click on http://www.bonifasarts.org/ . Nick’s last workshop on the 2006 calendar will be his annual art demonstration and Q & A. session at O’Leary’s Paint in Lansing, Saturday, December 2 from 10 a.m. – noon For more information contact Dennis at dennisc@olearypaint.com

And now about our annual Holiday Open House:

Last year we added the extended "after work" hours to test if it would aid in the crowd congestion problem. It was a wonderful success. Folks that wanted to drop-in for a quick purchase were pleased to avoid the crowds, the traffic jams and very much appreciated a little elbow space to enjoy the art. This adjustment also made Saturday and Sunday less hectic. So because of your overwhelming response, that is our plan for this year. Limited goodies will be served on Thursday and Friday and the big hoopla will remain on Saturday and Sunday.

December 7 –10, 2006
After work hours: Dec. 7 & 8, Thursday and Friday, 4 – 7 p.m.
Weekend Gala: Dec. 9 & 10, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Now for my own personal space where I add books, music and quotes that has struck a chord with me. And by the way, thanks for all of your book suggestions! One can never be too informed or too entertained. This has been a year of expansive topics for me. It runs the gambit from my usual sci-fi to nature, health and wellness, reincarnation, and bee keeping. There’s just not enough time to read it all. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv really highlights the problems with our kids disconnecting from nature and the importance of leading them back to the wonders and peacefulness nature can add to you and your child’s life. He theorizes that many problems that our over-scheduled kids have these days may be connected to a nature deficit in their lives. Jane Goodall’s Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating". She writes about the importance of conscience eating. It really made me examine and change my eating habits. I highly recommend this one. As I have said before, music is so personal that this may not be for you, but the last CD that Warren Zevon made before he died, The Wind, is very moving. There are a few loud rock and roll songs but the songs that make a lasting impression are the soulful tunes he sings about his life.

I heard Barack Obama speak this path month and he said that his mother taught him to always put himself in the other person’s shoes. He refers to an "empathy deficit" in our world. Often times his mother would say to him, "How would you feel if it were you?" If we all used that as our mantra there would be more compassion and tolerance in this world. If you would like to read the speech you can click onto:


Enjoy life and peace to you all.

Nick, Robbyn, Kelly and Heather