Hazel Ridge Workshop & Gallery

Newsletter 18 Fall/Winter 2008

Around the Farm

2008 was a very busy year at Hazel Ridge Farm. Nick was a “buildin’ man.” While driving home one day he happened upon a couple of roadside windows that were “free”. No respectable Hollander will pass up anything free, so he loaded them up and brought them home..pondering what he could build around the beautiful windows. Long story short, I have the most extravagant garden shed in the neighborhood. Check out the Around the Farm link to see pictures of the masterpiece. After 28 years on the farm, he decided to build a carport. I guess he figured my new Honda Fit was too nice for bird poop and tree sap droppings. We call it the Pumpkin Port because the Fit is a lovely metallic orange. It is still running great and with the gas prices these days, the 38/40 mpg is sweet. Besides carpentry, Nick also spends a great deal of time in the back 40 where his nurtured grass prairies are thriving. Each season displays its own beauty, in color and texture, and with all the different groups that come out, the displays of fauna and flora are much appreciated. We have had garden clubs, teachers, public and home schooled kids and nature groups. The word is getting out about the “No Child Left Inside” programs and people are realizing the absolute need to get the kids away from the TV and back out into nature. We are just a small part of that movement and happy to play a role in getting kids (and their imaginations) back outside. During their walks most have been lucky enough to see some of our new and old visitors to the farm. Of the first-time visitors, we saw a lone Cormorant and a Black-Crowned Night Heron hang out for a few days. There were the usual Green Herons, Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers feasting on the gazillions of goldfish in the cabin pond. What a treat to see them dive for those little “goldies” and resurface to feed themselves and their families. What we learned early on in our remaking of Hazel Ridge is that if there is water, there is abundant wildlife. We are up to 5 ponds now and nature is surely benefitting. We have begun the paperwork to leave most of our land to the Nature Conservancy. It will guarantee that nature keeps her natural foothold in at least these 40 acres. We hope, as stewards of the land, we can make a gentle statement to others that “vacant land” is not wasted land. I am thoroughly enjoying Reiki and I am studying and exploring other forms of healing energy. It is incredible the power we all have within us. The girls are doing well. Kelly is eager to be done with school. This last year consists of student assisting and student teaching. She has already learned that she needs more time outside to stay grounded. She is hoping to find a job either in a nature center or any position where she has more options than being in a classroom from 8a.m. – 4 p.m. She has always been our nature girl. She finds her balance when she can breathe fresh air and feel the earth beneath her feet. She has the added responsibility of being a Resident Advisor (R.A.) which keeps her quite busy. Heather and Ahmed are doing well. Despite the economy, her clothing boutique is hanging in there. I visited them in Maine in October to be at the birth of our first grandchild. The spectacular drive thru the mountains was rich with the oranges, reds and bronzes of fall. Noorah Cole was born November 3. Obama Eve! Overdue by 2 weeks they decided to induce her. She labored for 7 hours without any progress. The baby was showing signs of distress and Heather was pooped out so a c-section was done. She was disappointed at first but the health of mom and baby took precedent. The family is doing very well. We look forward to sharing the wonders of the farm with her when she visits from Maine.

Since the last newsletter, Nick has released two new books. W is for Woof: A Dog Alphabet Book and Bambi’s First Day. Sleeping Bear Press has decided to take some of the classics and compress them into a picture book. For Bambi, it is literally Bambi’s first day. Working on the paintings reminded Nick of his old days as art director with Michigan Natural Resources Magazine. He relished in each painting as he reconnected with his wildlife roots. Woof was fun but much harder than he expected. He was bit twice ..(“Oh my, he’s never done that before!”) and traveled hundreds of miles for dogs that didn’t pan out. But it is done and he loves how it turned out. We spent an entire week in July doing our annual “up north book signing tour” It revolved around the 10th anniversary of The Legend of Sleeping Bear. He has just finished the paintings for my 4th book, Itsy Bitsy and Teeny Weeny. A true story about an orphan fawn and lamb we raised together. It will be out spring 09.

Nick painted his largest mural to date, for the new Delta township library. The mural is19-feet high and 27-feet long, depicting famous women of the world. Intricate scaffolding needed to be built in order for us to install it. Installation took two days but it looks great. He had an easier job of it when he was asked to create a mural for a newly built home. Designed in a Frank Lloyd Wright style, the couple wanted a forest scene that melded with the natural view outside. Installing this mural only took two hours and it looks great.

Every school we visit, every conference we attend and every library that hosts us, we share what truly is the best part of creating children’s books. Of course kids like to hear that it will make them rich and famous (I have yet to be on Oprah.) Adults assume it is the thrill of seeing your work in print. But what truly is the best part of this “ride” with Sleeping Bear Press, is being with the kids. Sharing their laughs, smiles and enthusiasm is our biggest reward. The payoff is seeing it click in their faces. They light up when they realize that following their dreams, no matter how out of reach (or impractical) it may seem, is always possible. We feel the same satisfaction presenting at the many conferences throughout the year. This year, we presented for teachers, librarians, outdoor educators, and (of all things), graphic designers. For every audience it is just a variation on our themes of making our hobby our careers, being stewards of the land and “no child left inside”. These themes seem to resonate with most everyone. We were invited to the big Claire’s Day event in Maumee, Ohio, in memory of Claire Lynsey Rubini who danced in this world from May 24, 1990 to July 6, 2000. The mission of Claire's Day is to honor Claire by inspiring children and families of all ages to be lifelong readers through exposure to a variety of literary opportunities and experiences. For more information check out www.clairesday.org . It was a blast. We hope they invite us back for a return engagement. The committee also purchased one of Nick’s paintings for display in children’s section of the Toledo library. What an honor. We enjoyed the madness and mayhem of several Young Author’s conferences. Like-minded kids spend a day doing workshops with authors and illustrators. Talk about energy. Those kids recharge us for months. I presented at many nature centers this year and learned just as much as I shared. Word is getting out there about the richness and abundance of nature’s classroom. We also participated in several “Eco-days” which educated the public on the many ways of going “green”. One total surprise came during the M.R.A. conference. Nick was honored with the Gwen Frostic Award. This award is given to a candidate who has strongly influenced literacy in Michigan through authorship or illustration in any dimension of literacy, including fiction, nonfiction, drama, song, poetry, newspaper, and/or multimedia. There was a little glitch in the presentation. Because Nick was holed up in the hotel room with the stomach flu for the entire 3-day conference, I had to accept it for him. Ah well, it was the thought that counts. We participated in only two art shows this year; the usual Charlevoix Waterfront Art Festival in August and the Quiet Water Symposium in the spring. Both were very well attended. We polled everyone last year about having our holiday show in November and the over whelming response was YES. But because I was busy this November with my new grandbaby, we are sticking with December. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the change next year, though. Here are the hours for this year.

Holiday Open House December 6 – 9, 2007
After work hours – December 6 & 7, 4 – 7 p.m.
Weekend Gala – December 8 & 9, 11 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

For the past two years we have added the extended "after work " hours to test if it would help with the crowd congestion. It has been a wonderful success. Folks that wanted to drop-in for a quick purchase were pleased to avoid the crowds and have a little elbow space to enjoy the art. That also made Saturday and Sunday less hectic. So that is our plan again this year. Limited goodies will be served on Thursday and Friday and the big hoopla will remain on Saturday and Sunday. As always, we are looking forward to welcoming old and new friends.

“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 our open house. Cheers!
Robbyn, Gijsbert, Heather and Kelly