Good Neighbors Blog

From quirky extras that didn’t make it into the magazine to behind the scenes looks into the making of Country – we’ve curated photos and stories we think you’ll enjoy. Won’t you be our neighbor?

Exploring Michigan’s Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Stroll past this bucolic scene at Peterson's Mill before walking into downtown Saugatuck for a day of shopping and dining.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

A friendly wait staff attends to your needs on the relaxing deck at the Jolly Pumpkin Restaurant on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

A grassy, vine-lined path invites visitors to the tasting room and patio at Bowers Harbor Vineyard on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Grapevines stretch along rolling hillsides at Chateau Chantal's winery, with one side of Grand Traverse Bay in the background.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Cheery flowers brighten the view from the large patio deck at Chateau Chantal winery on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

The overlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore provide some gorgeous views from above.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

A diversity of flora and fauna can be seen along the many trails at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Some of the dunes perched above Lake Michigan are 400 feet above the water at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

A pretty flower garden surrounds the patios for visitors to Gill's Pier Vineyard and Winery on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Sailors take advantage of a perfect day on Grand Traverse Bay.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

A refurbished caboose is parked alongside the paved portion of the TART bike trail on Leelanau Peninsula.

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Exploring Michigan's Surprising Northwest Coast

Smoky clouds create a spectacular sunset from the shoreline at Pointes North Beach Resort in Traverse City.

    By John Burlingham
    Senior Editor

    Heading up the western coast of Michigan, my wife, Kathy, and I had an idea about what we wanted to explore but were delighted with the little surprises awaiting us—like the quaint town of Saugatuck. It seems this little gem has more charming bed & breakfasts per capita than any village, town or city on the planet. The Park House, at more than 156 years old, is the wonderful inn where we stayed. It was originally built by the Peterson Mill’s owners as a private residence to house mill workers. Peterson Mill (see photo), right next door to us, is likely the most photographed place in the region.

    Dinner out at Checkrz, an English-style restaurant and pub downtown, was well worth the trip, as was a late afternoon of beer sampling and conversation at Saugatuck Brewing Company south of town. We got lots of advice from our server, Katy, on things to see in advance of our trip up to Traverse City.

    It was difficult to leave our wonderful Park House hosts, Toni and Melissa, who met after Melissa’s husband, Rich, was hired out by Toni for some carpentry work at the inn. We made our way to Traverse City, a fun bustling city at the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay. There’s no lack of places to stay here, either, and our base of operations was Pointes North Beachfront Resort on the east side of town. A short car ride or a pleasant bike ride on the city’s TART (Traverse Area Recreation Trails) brings you to the center of town, where we found an old-time downtown of shops and restaurants.

    One of our favorite stops for great burgers and ales was North Peak Brewing Company, which had an inviting modern/vintage space in an old brick building at West Front Street and Hall Street. Make sure you stop at Tom’s Food Market on Highway 31-72 to take advantage of great prices on the most delightful cherry treats you’ll find anywhere (we lean toward the dark chocolate-covered cherries, and the dried cherries are superb on salads and in desserts).

    Two peninsulas poke out into the bay from Traverse City. If you like to sample wine, or you just want to get great views of the bay, head out to the wineries on Old Mission Peninsula north of town. We began our peninsula exploration on Old Mission’s west coast by fueling up at the Jolly Pumpkin, built in a former inn with lots of nooks and crannies. A wide variety of choices included artisan pizzas, steak and ribs from the wood-fired grill, and lots of sandwiches (we washed our food down with North Peak Brewing’s silky-smooth Siren Amber Ale).

    On our tour of some but not all eight wineries on Old Mission Peninsula, we were most impressed with the 2007 Signature Red from Brys Estate, which approached the quality of California’s finer reds. Of course, everyone will have their own tastes, so make sure to take part in tastings, some of which were free for the first three to five samples. At Chateau Chantal, we enjoyed pleasant wine and gorgeous views of the vine-covered hills sloping down to the bay.

    The much larger Leelanau Peninsula is dotted with 25 wineries, including Gill’s Pier with a very pleasant collection of reds. At Silver Leaf, we got a cheery greeting from a black Labrador puppy and a friendly chat with the owner, who happened to be a fellow Wisconsin native.

    The rest of our trip was spent exploring the amazing topography at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, about a 35-minute ride from Traverse City, and the enjoyable bike trail heading north up Leelanau Peninsula. There are also beautiful beaches, lighthouses and golf courses to explore among the many pleasant diversions in this surprising city by the bay.

    April 23, 2014: Today’s Words to Live By

    Today's Words to Live By

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

    Small Backyard Gardens

      Story and photos by Alysse Gear

      It’s gardening season, and I can already taste the zippy tang of homegrown tomatoes. I’m excited for flavorful, fresh-from-the-garden lettuce, chard and kale, and I can’t wait to grow my first ground cherries. (If you haven’t tried them yet, I think they taste like a mixture of cherry tomatoes and tropical fruit that make a distinctive pop in your mouth. What do you think?)

      I grow my own food because it’s delicious, fun, inexpensive and truly magical. Placing seeds in rich soil, giving them a few sips of water and putting them in the sun yields beautiful food that is nutritious, delicious and accessible. Wow! The power of growing our food is within each of us.

      By growing our own food, we cut back on transportation that both hurts the environment and makes producers pick their veggies way before they’re ready. We know exactly what was put in and on our food. We can afford wholesome vegetables, and don’t have to worry about paying per pound. And we get outside, meeting our neighbors, warming our bodies in the sun and finding friends to load up with the inevitable zucchini surplus. (I’d grate it and freezer it for wintertime zucchini muffins, but that’s just me.) With a few seeds or food scraps, we can grow food anywhere—a front yard, a sunny windowsill, a porch, a balcony.

      Each May, Victory Garden Initiative in Milwaukee rallies hundreds of volunteers to install raised-bed gardens all over Milwaukee County to build communities that grow their own food. We call it our Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz, and we build gardens in yards, at churches, behind schools, at businesses and everywhere else people wish to grow food. With our neighbors, we are creating a nutritious, socially just, ecologically sustainable food system. These gardens plant new agrarian roots all over our city.

      In 2009, during our first Blitz, our executive director and friends installed 40 gardens in one day. We have grown our community-based event to install 500 gardens in two weeks. We break into dozens of volunteer-led teams dispersed across Milwaukee to get the work done, and it’s a blast!

      We create urban food oases, and find success in our methods: 100 percent of our gardeners grow food; 90 percent of our Blitz gardeners share what they grow; 50 percent preserve their garden bounty for later. Of the 963 gardens we have installed in the last 5 years, half have been provided at reduced rates to low-income residents of our community. Each garden serves an average of five people, and 80 percent of those harvest food for at least three months.

      We also use this opportunity not just to grow more food but to teach others how. We have cultivated 55 garden mentors to nurture food system and gardening knowledge among our new gardeners, and we expect to have 30 more this spring. Hundreds of volunteers show up with shovels and wheelbarrows during our Blitz to install gardens across Milwaukee County, spanning all ages, all walks of life, all levels of income.

      Victory Garden Initiative believes that every person, in every household, can connect to their food source through the act of growing it. When everyone is a farmer, we will have a sustainable, socially just food system! What will you plant in your garden this spring? And more importantly: When will you start? The tomatoes are calling!

      During the 2014 Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz, we plan to:

      • Install 500 raised-bed gardens, half of which will be sold at reduced rates to low-income residents
      • Mentor 30+ new gardeners through our Garden Mentor program
      • Build community through volunteering together with hundreds of our neighbors to enable others to grow food
      • Instruct gardeners new and old on the benefits of compost and rich, nutritious soil
      • Get neighbors active in their bodies and in their communities
      • Give people an easily accessible source of healthy, fresh, organic food for eating and sharing
      • Pass on our love for our community and serving our neighbors within it

      Alysse’s favorite windowsill plant: Green onion stems in a glass of water. They just keep re-growing!

      Alysse’s favorite balcony plant: Herbs. My balcony gets morning sun, and it’s just enough to keep my basil, marjoram, mint and other herbs happy so I can put them in salads, eggs, baked dishes and drinks.

      Alysse’s favorite garden plant: Tomatoes. Nothing compares to a garden-fresh tomato, there are so many heirloom varieties, and one “volunteer” tomato plant even sprung up out of my compost last season!

      Monday Munchkin – Cat Carrier

      Heather and her feline friend

      Cat Carrier

      Heather and her feline friend

       

      Melissa Dobos shared this picture of her little girl Heather carrying around their big cat around like a sack of potatoes. What an interesting way to see the country! This friendly  kitty certainly doesn’t seem to mind.

      Visit Quebec Lighthouses Along Canadian Atlantic Coast

      Quebec Lighthouses

      Quebec Lighthouses

      Cap Alright, Havre aux Maison, Magdalen Islands


      Story and photo by John Sylvester

      Gaspé Quebec
      Cap-des-Rosiers Lighthouse on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is the tallest lighthouse in Canada (112 ft). Nearby Forillon National Park offers excellent hiking (it’s the end of the Appalachian Trail) and coastal scenery. There is lots of wildlife in the park, including moose and black bears. We met a black bear on the lawn of the Gaspé Cape lighthouse! Costumed park staff interpret local history at the restored fishing village of Grande-Grave.

      Further south along the coast is Percé Rock, a massive rock formation with its distinctive arch that rises out of the ocean next to the town of Percé. It is one of Quebec’s best known scenic attractions – and for good reason. My favorite viewpoint – for a bird’s eye view – is from the look-off above the town. Ask at the tourist info center for directions. Nearby Parc national de l’Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé (reached by charter boat) is well worth a visit. Hike across the island to visit the largest Northern Gannet colony in North America. You can observe these beautiful seabirds at very close range. There are several lighthouses to visit on a drive around the Gaspé Peninsula, a beautiful drive that hugs the coast and offers spectacular views of the ocean. Allow a few days for this drive.

      Magdalen Islands, Quebec
      Four accessible lighthouses: Havre-Aubert, Cap Hérisse, Entry Island and Cap Alright. The Magdalen Islands are situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a five-hour ferry ride from Souris, Prince Edward Island. The islands are famous for their beaches, artisans and excellent seafood (with a French twist). They are also a mecca for wind sports enthusiasts: kite boarders and wind surfers. Hiking: my favorite hike is to the top of Big Hill on Entry Island (the highest point on the islands) which offers panoramic views of the entire archipelago.

      Kayaking through sea caves on Cap-aux-Meules island is also highly recommended. There are many very good restaurants. My favorite for good food and a friendly Quebecois atmosphere is Café de la Grave on Havre-Aubert Island. There’s often music here in the evenings. Just down the road in the village of la Grave is the studio of Artisans du Sable (artists in sand). They transform sand into unique crafts and sculptures.