Friday, October 31, 2008


"It makes me feel creative," I told my sister yesterday when she commented about my crazy hat. I need to be a little crazy when I spend the day in front of the computer copying and pasting text, scanning illustrations, and cropping photos. The November 2008 issue of our family's newsletter, the House 'n Barn Herald, is scheduled for publication this afternoon. So far, wearing the hat has preserved a portion of my sanity, though I can't say the same for the rest of my family.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sunday cowboy

One advantage of eight siblings is that I can almost always connive someone into posing for a picture. Sunday after church Logan kindly indulged my photographic need.

When he was little, Logan charmed the grandmas with his "precious moments" smile. In the past year or so, he's adopted a more serious expression.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Nothing says fall quite like a pile of squash behind Zehnder's in Frankenmuth. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Allis Chalmers 190XT

for my brothers

I wish I would have grabbed one of the boys to pose for me as I shot the tractor with the rainbow Sunday afternoon. But I didn't know I was going to photograph the tractor when I raced out the door. The tractor happened to be in the right place as I tried to capture the rainbow as it faded into the clouds. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Feet washing

I have set you an example that 
you should do as I have done for you. 
John 13:15 NIV

My sister-in-law washes my feet. Photo credit Amanda Byler.

Feet washing is "a physical sign of agreeing to follow Jesus' example," my Dad reminded us Sunday evening before we ladies filed back to a classroom and the waiting basin of warm water and the men gathered at the front of the sanctuary. Our church practices feet washing at our biannual communion service. Kneeling to wash and dry feet and then rising to greet one another with a holy kiss is a reminder that we should serve one another with the same humility and willingness that Christ served us. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008


babies killed last year in Michigan
First Baptist Church, Auburn, Michigan

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Child-size sink and commode at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library. 

Friday, October 24, 2008


My sisters say my blog has gotten boring since school started. Perhaps my life has gotten boring. Anyway, if you would like to skip the following post, my summary of a speech I attended for my TESOL class, I will never know.

John McWorter's address on the Power of Babel was designed to counter the notion that "most of us are running around speaking it [the English language] wrong." 

Languages change and evolve. Modern English was preceded by Middle English and Old English. Our society embraces the changes in language from the Beowulf poet to Chaucer to Shakespeare, yet we expect the development of language to end with Jane Austen. In reality our language has changed and sentences that are perfectly correct today would have been barbarous two hundred years ago. 

Obsession with "correct" English, McWorter contended in his speech to faculty and students at SVSU, is fueled simply by fashion. To McWorter a fixation on grammar rules is as ridiculous as "hanging garlic in the doorway to ward off spirits."

McWorter was an engaging and entertaining speaker who, as he admitted, often makes pale grammarians turn red in the face. McWorter believes that "you don't make mistakes in the language you speak naturally." It's perfectly acceptable to say, "Billy and me went to the store" despite what grammar books may say. 

However illogical the English language may be, there is a time for those rules McWorter admitted. Public school teachers or teachers in a TESOL environment would do their students a disservice not to teach them Standard English. 

Still if in an informal setting a student wants to drop the "s" from the third person singular verb McWorter argues that is a perfectly legitimate use of the English language. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Punkin harvest

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock--
When the frost is on the punpkin and the fodder's in the shock.
--James Whitcomb Riley

Pumpkins wait to be unloaded from a hay wagon. We've been raising and selling pumpkins for nearly twenty years. In May Dad rounds up a crew of helpers, stuffs packages of seeds in his shirt pocket and finds his favorite hoe. Dad paces the distance between the hills of pumpkins and then breaks up the ground with a hoe. One of the helpers stoops to push two pumpkin seeds into the ground and cover them lightly with dirt.

Catch and toss is the rhythm of unloading the small pie pumpkins from the wagon. Logan and Naomi, on the wagon, toss the pumpkins to Libby or Betsy who then relay them to Brian who lines them in rows to be sold. The two pumpkins behind Libby had their stems broken during the process. Without their "handles" the pumpkins are no longer good for decoration.

The display of pumpkins is reflected in a puddle in the driveway. Our family doesn't celebrate Halloween. With our roadside stand we try to communicate thanks to God for the harvest and provide our customers a place to purchase pumpkins that doesn't glorify the devil through skeletons, ghosts and jack-o-lanterns.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Her hair

1 Corinthians 11:6,15

long, honored
flowing, swirling, growing
deluge, cascade, trickle, evaporate
straining, clashing, vanishing,
shorn, ravished

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


If you were a tree
what kind would you be?

I think I would be one of these.

David was an olive tree
The Lover was an apple tree
The righteous man is a well watered tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree...
Poems are made by fools like me,
but only God can make a tree.

Monday, October 20, 2008





Sunday, October 19, 2008


If leaves were for eating
how would they taste?

Taste and see that the LORD is good Psalm 34.8 NIV

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Naomi and I amused ourselves on the covered bridge over the Cass River Friday afternoon while the rest of our party waited for chicken dinner to-go from the Castle shops beneath the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth. Earlier in the afternoon we dropped seventeen pounds of wool from Betsy's sheep Lou at the Woolen Mill to be cleaned and processed into quilt batting. 

When Naomi and I switched camera places and I became the model I was pleased to see her composing the photo by trying different camera angles. Her shots were a little blurry, probably because of a slow shutter speed, but that just adds to the atmosphere of the picture. She can learn about aperture and shutter speed later--it's more important that she learn to see a photograph before it is taken.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Part of my motivation in attending a lecture for my TESOL class (linguist John McWhorter spoke on the Power of Babel), was arriving on campus early enough yesterday evening to shoot photos. The sky was just displaying the spectacular hues that signaled that the sun reaching the horizon. I don't often haul my camera around campus with me, so it was a treat to capture the familiar sights, especially with such exciting light. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008


A few years ago my grandma, great-aunt and great-uncle embarked on a color tour of the trees in the lower peninsula. When she returned home and had her prints developed, Grandma discovered she had been shooting with black and white film.

I decided to turn one of my tree shots to black and white. With the shift to monochrome, the mood of the picture changed from warm and inviting, to somewhat foreboding. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Photo credit: Libby Cook

Happy Birthday Amanda!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Unsweetened iced tea and a dessert table just as big as the main dish table--those are characteristics of the Gilbert Family Reunion that I anticipate each year. Here are some facts about our trip to southern Michigan:
  • 300 miles. We left around 6:30 a.m. and returned around 11 p.m. (I'm not certain of the time because I didn't open my eyes wide enough to see the clock when I stumbled out of the van toward my bed).
  • 2 churches. Raisin Center for Sunday school and morning service (we heard a special speaker from Wycliff Bible Translators) and Raisin Valley for the Truth Project in the evening (we met Brian, the new pastor).
  • 17 Cooks and Bakers from Aunt Olive's (my Grandma's) descendants at the reunion.
  • 1 crock-pot of sauerkraut and sausage (an unappetizing smell at 6 a.m.).
  • 12 week old youngest attendee--Kaelyn.
  • approximately 150 photos.

Raisin Center Friends Church

Raisin Center Parsonage

Lenawee County Fair Grounds

Maple Tree in my Uncle Paul's front yard

Raisin Valley Friends Church

Monday, October 13, 2008


Not everyone's philosophy of travel includes stopping to photograph scenery. I resigned myself to one park-and-dash session yesterday, which included this custom-made sign down the road from the Raisin Center Friends Church where my cousin's husband pastors.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

O Lord God,

Make us willing to receive the supply
of our need from thy bounty.

"Seventh Day Evening: Future Blessing." Arthur Bennett, ed. The Valley of Vision. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Last year at the family reunion Dad's cousin Gary told me that my sugar cookies were almost as good as his grandma's and my grandma's cookies. He assured me that with a little more practice they would be perfect. To help me in that process he was willing to taste-test my cookies for me. 

He's not the only one willing to taste-test my cookies. After Naomi and I baked a triple batch of Grandma Gilbert's Sugar Cookies on Thursday afternoon, I stacked the cookies in a large plastic container to take to the reunion on Sunday. I had a few cookies left over and I put them on a small plate on the counter in the kitchen. The cookies were there when I went to bed, but when I got up in the morning there was an empty plate. 

Grandma Gilbert's Sugar Cookies
Great-Grandma Gilbert didn't have measuring spoons in her kitchen and she baked her cookies in a wood stove. When my Grandma wrote down the recipe she included oven temperature and ingredient measurements--except for the flour. "Sticky, but not too sticky. What's that supposed to mean?" my Aunt Phyllis asks in frustration when she tries to duplicate Grandma's cookies.
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 to 6 cups flour
Cream together sugar and shortening. Beat in eggs and buttermilk. Mix in dry ingredients--adding enough flour so that the dough is stick but not too sticky. Turn dough onto floured surface and roll to 1/4-3/4" thickness. Cut with floured round cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes. 

Friday, October 10, 2008


We harvested over 11,000 pounds this season!
Our family picked 2,462 quarts of blueberries (3,693 pounds)

Michigan is one of the nation's blueberry producing states. Last year our farm yielded 5,350 pounds of blueberries. In 2007 Michigan farmers harvested a total of 93 million pounds of blueberries from 18,500 acres netting $165,456,000 (36 million dollars more than apple sales!). 
Source Michgian Agricultural Statistics 2007-2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008


We are proud to be Americans. We wave flags and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance and paste "God Bless America" bumper stickers on our cars and convince ourselves that we are the most powerful and advanced nation in the world.

It's easy to feel proud to be an American when we are surrounded by Americans. Pride is not the prominent emotion I've felt when interacting with students from other nations. More often I've been embarrassed to be an American. 

I met a fellow American, at the orientation meeting for all the Conversation Pods at SVSU, who could represent the stereotypical American. He was big, loud, friendly, and culturally insensitive. A group of ten or so of us, two Americans and the rest of the students from China, Taiwan and India, introduced ourselves. One of the students from India introduced himself as Aashish. My fellow American remarked that his dad smoked that in the seventies. 

The student from Taiwan brought a Chinese student to our Conversation Pod on Wednesday night. He's only been in the United States for a month, but he's quite a storyteller and delighted in his audience. He told us about baking biscuits, about using the APA format to write a paper, and about trying to read the New York Times. Though he's found Americans to be polite, he told us, he's not found them to be overly friendly. Recently when he was eating his lunch in the cafeteria, a girl sat down opposite him. He was was excited about finally making an American friend. He was startled when the American girl looked across the table and asked him, "Do you eat dog?"

I am glad to be an American, but I am not always proud to be an American.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Autumn colors

for my aunt in Arizona
from her niece in Michigan

A gentleman in a pick-up truck saw the emergency flashers on my car and stopped to see if I needed help. Then he saw my camera and rightly guessed that I was not experiencing car trouble but artistic inspiration. 

I love country roads.

Our annual family reunion is this weekend in the southern part of the state. My expectations for the trip include photographing the brilliant golden maples that grow near my uncle's farm. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Snowy, the billy goat, is visiting our farm for the next month so that we can expect kids in the spring. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

Coyote chase

We were late to Sunday school yesterday morning due to a chase that included nine people, four or five pitchforks, a horse, two tractors and one coyote. The coyote eluded us again. After the first sighting Thursday morning, the coyote visited our outside chicken coop several times and mauled four of Libby's chickens on Friday night. Our pastor loaned us his .22 yesterday, but the coyote has been scarce except for a glimpse Libby caught of him lurking in the tall grass when we returned from church, and a sighting at five o'clock this morning. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love
Psalm 143:8 NIV