Issue 19

Issue 19 | 03.21.2019 | Holland, MI

A smooth walnut wood sculpture resembling the backs of two birds or a figure blowing a kiss.
Marcia Perry Sculpture. See our interview in the Arts section of this issue.


Holland Weekly Feature Article: Free Expert Advice from Michigan State Extension


Holland Weekly Art: An Opportunity for Shared Understanding: Interview with Sculptor Marcia Perry


Holland Weekly Shelter Loves: Adopt a Pupperz


Holland Weekly Recipe: Fool Moodamis

Madam puppy dog astrologer, Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.
Holland Weekly Horoscope: Sylvia Reads The Stars

Weeping Pussy Willow encased in ice. Photo by Holland Weekly.

Ask an Expert at Michigan State Extension

By Kathleen Schenck
March 21, 2019

Each week Holland Weekly works hard to find solid story ideas of interest and importance to our readers as well as writers to tell those stories. We feel it’s essential we maintain our editorial standards, and offer readers a variety of subject matter.

That said, Holland Weekly is seed-obsessed. Two weeks ago we published a story about Herrick’s seed library, and we’re here today to talk about them some more. (So much for variety of subject matter.) We just can’t get enough, and judging by the public’s response in the short time the seed library has been open this year, neither can you—Black-Eyed Susan seeds were gone in ONE DAY, people! But the loving library has replenished its stock. Black-Eyed Susans for everyone!

Before planting seeds, gardeners know they’ve got to clear out the old to make way for the new. When I was living and gardening in Leelanau County, invasive buckthorn was taking over acres of land. Its particularly nasty thorns and seemingly magical propagation abilities rendered it a giant bully far beyond my slingshot aim. I asked myself as I often do: Is this a job for Google or Dad?

I called my dad, who said this is a job for your county extension.

My what? He explained that I could open the phone book (that thing beneath the potted plant) and find my local county extension’s phone number. They’re an outfit (dad-speak) designed to help farmers and regular people figure out how to take care of problems around the home. Like property taxes?* I asked. More like mice, he replied.

County extensions began in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, which shared university findings on agriculture with the people. But the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, established through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reports that Americans had been sharing helpful ag tips in writing since the early 19th century: “In 1819, a pioneer agriculture journal entitled American Farmer encouraged farmers to report on their achievements and their methods of solving problems.” President Wilson’s law made official the link between the country’s land-grant universities—their research, findings and solutions—and residents during a time when 30% of Americans farmed for a living.

Michigan State Extension provides resources that range in topics from conflict management skills to entrepreneurial marketing skills in the bioeconomy sector. Officially, the MSU Extension focuses on the following four areas: Greening Michigan: Leveraging Natural and Human Assets for Prosperity; Enhancing Michigan’s First Green Industry: Agriculture and Agribusiness; Preparing Michigan’s Children & Youth for the Future; and Improving Health and Nutrition for Michigan Residents.

But they can also tell you how to get rid of buckthorn. You may conduct a search on the site, or utilize the Ask an Expert tool.

Ask an Expert, simply put, is amazing. Take a picture or three of a mystery plant—in my case last week a thorny, evil, smaller cousin to the buckthorn—send it along with your question, and boom: an actual expert responds within 48 hours. The expert assigned to my question was Rebecca Finneran, Michigan State University Extension Statewide Horticulture Educator. She let me know that indeed it’s a barberry found on several invasive lists, and here’s how you get rid of it (dig up plant, don’t compost, pick up as many red berries as possible before the birds get to them).

Several small branches with thorns and red berries against a snowy backdrop.
Barberry. Photo by Holland Weekly.

The service is free and all they ask is you fill out a brief survey afterwards, where one of the questions posits If the answer had an economic benefit to you, what would you estimate that benefit to be in U.S. dollars? I’ve probably contacted Ask an Expert a dozen times in as many months. Considering I have not hired professionals to deal with my overgrown, thorny yard, and considering without guidance I would not know how to start all the fun seeds I’ve gotten from the library, easily MSU Extension’s Ask an Expert has saved me a couple hundred bucks by giving me the knowledge to DIY my own yard, not to mention a couple hundred bucks more in home value. Easily.

If you don’t know of this service, I invite you to try Ask an Expert at Michigan State Extension. It’s Spring and it’s March. State just defeated the Wolverines in basketball for the third time this year, and I’m singing the praises of an outfit associated with the enemy. You know it’s gotta be good.

Go Seeds!


*MSU Extension actually does talk property taxes. Here’s one instance: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/property_taxes_101.

A smooth walnut wood sculpture resembling the backs of two birds or a figure blowing a kiss.
Marcia Perry Sculpture. Photo courtesy of Marcia Perry.

An Opportunity for Shared Understanding: Interview with Marcia Perry

By Kathleen Schenck
March 21, 2019

Holland Weekly caught up with Marcia Perry via email about her sublime sculptures and her process as an artist. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I’d like to cut to the chase and ask about this piece (above photo). Its smoothness and shape suggest something both human yet otherworldly. How did this piece come into being?

A ripe piece of walnut tree summoned my attention from the crowded pile. I got acquainted by removing what was soft, frail, separating; then explored deeper, feeling and listening my way through the tree’s flesh. Sharp-bladed gouges exposed deeper, older layers and patterns of grain that asked to be followed where subtly intense colors lurk–gleaming brown, orange, red, green, blue, purple near the heart. I open the spaces between the paths drawn by the whorling grain, pierce through to connect the in- to the outside, and keep alert to clues of turnings, intersections, meetings of matter. Returning from breaks, things seem to have changed on their own, and if they haven’t, I turn the piece upside down or sideways and resume the silent conversation, musing about whether a certain birdness should be respected or ignored, yet letting my hands work mindlessly.

With the form revealed, the smoothing begins in earnest. My tool marks, evidence of my forceful repetitive labors, must be removed to show the gorgeous, unsullied surface, the fluid lines. It must look and feel as hard as bone and smooth as baby’s skin. And this takes a long time using a variety of tools–rasps, spokeshaves, files, power sanders and grinders with special attachments plus sheets and discs of sandpaper trying to reach in and smooth where fingers don’t fit. At least four rounds of sanding are needed and thankfully each progressively finer grit goes faster than the last. When the surfaces are all gleaming, a final baptism of water raises the grain for yet another final sanding. Then it’s time to mix and heat the linseed oil with gum turpentine and anoint the proceed with the anointing process. Up to nine applications are usually needed before the surface has properly absorbed the oil and sealed itself.

Then the challenge of how to mount or hang or otherwise display the work. I know that handling the sculpture is the best way to help it communicate, but there are certain conventions about presenting artwork that are not always worth fighting.

Can you talk about your background a bit, and if there was a moment when you knew that sculpture was exactly what you wanted to do?

I didn’t know I’d grow up to be a full-time professional artist. I had many interests that I hoped would converge at some point. Several have.

My original career plan, based on an early interest in and aptitude for interspecies animal communication (I could bark and meow and mimic various critters) was to become a Dr. Doolittle who raised and trained horses and a menagerie of other animals while pursuing hobbies like art, music and theatre in my spare time. That plan derailed when my family moved from suburban Warren to provincial Holland when I was a high school junior. By the time I arrived at the University of Michigan, I was decidedly undecided. For the next decade I went exploring by working a wide range of jobs, traveling, getting a master’s degree in Texas, traveling, teaching and then I took job in a corporation. Everything I did was fun and everywhere I went I also carved wood. But it was only after resigning from corporate and married life that a brief conversation with an artist friend got me thinking about art as a career. It took a couple of years of soul-searching and testing myself before I totally committed to making sculpture first and foremost. The experience was filled with drama and delight. The more I sculpted, the more I wanted to sculpt. It’s still true.

What do you find good, challenging, or otherwise about being an artist in West Michigan?

GOOD: I was drawn back to West Michigan after traveling all around the world and rejecting a secure, urban, corporate (married) life. I needed a home near a sparsely human-damaged environment to heal and contribute I-knew-not-what unique offering of myself to the wider world. Saugatuck’s lakeshore community has been a great place for me to make my home. Access to fabulous natural landscapes, superb cultural arts and supportive friends remain the best gifts for sustaining an artist like me.

CHALLENGING: Of course, financial viability is an ever-present challenge for artists unwilling to sell time and talents to do what other people want them to do rather than what they are compelled to create. But it can be done! Using creative talents to provide what you need to survive, feel connected, be productive and happy while NOT wasting money on what doesn’t serve your “best self” seems to strengthen artistic endeavors.

The Holland area’s traditional conservatism can exert a damper on artistic ambition. But it has greatly lessened since my family moved here 50 years ago when it felt so oppressive. I now appreciate that there is a huge energetic benefit from the friction created between contrasting elements and that source of energy can fuel us artists to create work that transforms conflict into something beautiful, an opportunity for shared understanding.

Whose work do you admire locally and why?

Kalamazoo printmaker, naturalist, author and friend, Ladislav Hanka, comes first to mind. I find his work enriching, inspiring and beautiful each time I engage with it. There is a resonance of truth and beauty in his imagery that does not leave me and makes me glad to be able to share in appreciating and honoring the natural world.

I admire artists who have given themselves to their work and abandoned their egos, their need for extrinsic recognition and are freed to wholly be integrated with the art itself.

I read that several local artists will be showing their works in the third annual Artz and Gardenz tour this Mother’s Day weekend. Have you participated in years past? What are you doing to prepare for this year’s tour?

Yes, I am one of the original seven art studios located between Holland, Hamilton, Fennville, Douglas and Saugatuck who tried an experiment to showcase art and gardens to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend. This year we’ve added new guest artists at all of the seven stops plus plant experts and vendors of heirloom garden plants, mushrooms, native plants, trees and orchids.

Last year I began the creation of an extended sculpture and garden environment around my studio where art can blend with nature and feed me, too! Muskegon artist, Amy Wilkinson (also an excellent gardener), will be on the premises to discuss her paintings and sculptures all weekend. A new Saugatuck farm-to-table eatery, Pennyroyal, will provide delectable snacks, and organic seedlings and trees will be ready to take home and plant. Metal sculptures by local artists Steve Peters and Christine Currie will also be installed along the art trail-in-progress. I aim to have a few new outdoor sculptures and furniture to introduce to the world, too, assuming the snow ever stops…. This tour promises to be the best ever, providing a rare chance to enjoy spring scenery and gardens, acquire terrific art and plants, and peek into artists’ home studios to see how we do what we do.

How do you choose wood, and where does it come from?  

I use wood that has been rejected in some way by humans. Some wood has had a prior purpose for furniture, structures, industry, etc. while other trees have been cut and abandoned. Occasionally someone brings a special tree or piece of wood to me hoping I can give it another life as art. My process is primarily intuitive and it feels as though the tree chooses me, but I tend to prefer deciduous fruiting trees, the ones traditionally associated with the feminine principle. And the odder and more sinuous or complicated, the easier it is to find my way through to its essence.

When do you know a piece is finished? 

When I address it and it responds. There is a point when the form takes on a life of its own–a life apart from the historic life of the tree and separate from me and my preferences. It is distinct, whole and itself. In the earlier process, there is a direction that propels me to make particular choices, but seldom an identity. When that “sense of itself” appears, my role is merely to clarify and refine that identity–like a sketch artist would draw an outline–although it takes much, much longer and there’s much more dust.

If there were anyone in the world you could gift a piece of your work to, who would it be, and which piece would you choose? Why, why? 

For the short easy answer–I would like to give another of my carved chairs to a school or library or similar place where anyone in a private moment could use it and where such things are seldom present.

I should explain that to mollify my personal objections to selling spiritual entities, my transactional business model is the adoption rather than the sale. I believe that creative offspring, like children, exist to make their own way in the world and I am here to provide a good start, but not to control them beyond considering their safety. While a work is emerging, I am emotionally attached. But once the piece awakens fully, the relationship shifts and I can comfortably distance myself to allow the person or persons for whom it is meant, to encounter and acquire it. But, alas, I am not a soothsayer and can only rely on my intuition of that profound connection–or its lack–to inform me who both needs a particular piece of art and is capable of assuming responsibility for its life going forward.

A woman in overalls sits smiling in a working arts studio.
Marcia Perry in her studio. Photo courtesy of Marcia Perry.

Marcia Perry Sculpture Studio  can be found at 6248 Blue Star Hwy., Saugatuck, MI 49453. This Mother’s Day Perry would love to greet you at Stop #4 on the Artz and Gardenz Tour.


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An ears-back Jack Russell Terrier looks longingly into the camera.
Skip is a Jack Russell Terrier mix available for adoption at the Allegan County Animal Shelter. Photo courtesy of the shelter.

Adopt a Pupperz

By Allegan County Animal Shelter
March 21, 2019

Each week Holland Weekly features a local shelter dog who is available for adoption. For more information, and updates on whether or not the dog is still available, please contact the shelter.

Skip is listed as a senior dog. Older dogs are less likely to be adopted than younger ones. It takes a special person to love and care for these pupperz. Seems a pretty nice thought that Skip could live out her golden years not in a shelter but by your side.

From the Allegan County Animal Shelter:

Meet Skip

Good day! My name is Skip. I would like to tell you a little bit about me in hopes that you will come on in and meet me!

I am a sweet older gal looking for a home where I can be spoiled and loved. I do want to be with my people most of the time, and would be a great companion while we are out and about or staying in and watching TV. I just love snuggling and loving!

*Bonus, I am already potty trained!*

I would prefer to be the only animal in the house, but I could make an exception if my new brother of sister is the right fit for me. Quiet dogs that give me my personal space would probably be the best option. Cats are pretty interesting to me; if there are cats in the home I will need to be redirected to leave them alone. Kids are not a good fit for me at this time, so I need a home without children.

If you think you have the right home for me, give the people at the Allegan County Animal Shelter operated by the Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance a call at 269-686-5112 or come visit me during the shelter hours. See you soon!

Skip looks ahead from a crate.
Skip. Photo courtesy of Allegan County Animal Shelter.

A clear bowl of bean dip with lemon wedges and pita bread.
Fool Moodamis. Photo courtesy of Ala’a Deen Cuisine.

Fool Moodamis

By Anonymous
March 21, 2019

This recipe comes to Holland Weekly from a cottage-industry-in-the-making called Ala’a Deen Cuisine in the Zeeland area. The author wishes to remain anonymous until the business is up and running. We are very lucky to have this private recipe shared with us today. Thank you, Ala’a Deen!

Ingredients

1 pound whole dry broad beans (fava beans)

1 teaspoon salt

3 lemons

5 cloves of garlic

1 green fresh chili

Half cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Wash the beans with tap water, then soak the beans in about 4 times the water for 10 hours. Change the water about 3 times during the soaking time.
  2. Drain the water, then put the beans in a pot and add 4 times the water to the beans.
  3. Put pot on stove. Before it boils, turn the flame down to as low as the stove can go.
  4. Let it simmer for 6 hours. Check the water, always the beans have to be covered by water. If you need to add water, always add boiled water. If you add cold water, it will stop cooking the beans.
  5. After 6 hours the beans should be very, very tender. If not, then it needs to be cooked more.
  6. Mash it with the potato masher. Or you can use the electric masher.
  7. To make the marinade, in a mortal put the garlic and a little bit of salt and mash them together until they are paste. Then add the sliced green chili and more salt and mash them some more.
  8. Put the paste in a bowl and add the juice of the 3 lemons and mix with fork or spoon. Then add olive oil and the rest of the salt.
  9. Put the fool in a serving bowl, then add the marinade and mix gently.
  10. Mince fresh parsley and add.

Optional: You can add red chili paste as last touch. The quantity of salt is also optional.


Madam puppy dog astrologer, Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.
Madam Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.

Sylvia Reads The Stars

Week of March 21, 2019

Aries Mar 20 – Apr 20

Aries, it’s your birthday season! Finally. Whew! This week is yours for aimless strolls. Maybe check out a park you’ve never been to, or haven’t been to in a long, long time.

Taurus Apr 20 – May 21

I love when we are all together doing nothing.

Gemini May 21 – Jun 21

Nothing makes me happier than playing dodge and weave with my humans. They really aren’t very good at it, but it’s so cute to watch them try. What activity can you involve yourself in this week for the sheer joy of it? You don’t need to be talented, just present.

Cancer Jun 21 – Jul 23

Stop counting the things that need doing and start counting your blessings, Cancer. This week especially. Revel in what small or large blessings you possess.

Leo Jul 23 – Aug 23

I smell the damp earth when I go outside and inhale deeply, then snort like a cute little piglet. What adorable quirk have you tried to keep hidden that could use a little air?

Virgo Aug 23 – Sep 23

So. Many. Birds! It’s like Birdapalooza this week, Virgo! Can you make out what all the chattering is about? Zone in on one or two songs that particularly thrill you, then investigate deeply. This could be a metaphor…

Libra Sep 23 – Oct 23

Balance is key, but so is provocation. Can you do incorporate both this week?

Scorpio Oct 23 – Nov 22

Everyone needs a hobby. You will discover a new one this week.

Sagittarius Nov 22 – Dec 23

Sadge, I don’t take walks to exercise as much as to catalog every single scent I encounter. What can you log this week? The number of eyelash wishes that come true? I encourage a similar flight of fancy.

Capricorn Dec 23 – Jan 20

Capricorn, I was out in the yard and I thought of you while hot on the bunny trail. What will you chase this week, and why? My star readings say choose wisely, because there’s always more than one bunny to chase.

Aquarius Jan 20 – Feb 18

My prediction for you this week involves patience, or lack thereof. It’s rare anyone gets in trouble from too much of it.

Pisces Feb 18 – Mar 20

If you think it’s a trick, it probably is.


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Thank you for your interest in Holland Weekly.