Barista for Twelve17 Coffee Roasters in Mount Pleasant, Michigan Anna Flanders talks about the shop in a brief video made as part of a video project for a class at Central Michigan University.
Barista for Twelve17 Coffee Roasters in Mount Pleasant, Michigan Anna Flanders talks about the shop in a brief video made as part of a video project for a class at Central Michigan University.
Animal advocate Dalis Hitchcock, 39, has been a pet groomer for 16 years.
Eight years ago she opened up D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming in her hometown of St. Louis, Michigan. Five years later Hitchcock started a non-profit animal rescue organization called Dalis to the Rescue where she rescues almost 600 animals on average each year.
“Gratiot County is a poor county so a lot of times people get animals and then can’t take care of them any longer. We have a high kill shelter here in Gratiot County and that was the only place that you could really take your animals before I started,” said Hitchcock.
Dalis to the Rescue is the only rescue organization in Gratiot County that rescues every species.
“We have cat and dog rescues, but I rescue anything and everything from bunnies to rats, from birds to lizards and snakes. You name it, I’ll rescue it,” said Hitchcock. “I get them all spayed and neutered and then find them homes.”
Aside from her grooming business and the rescue organization, Hitchcock works with local schools to educate children on the importance of neutering and spaying animals, saying that vet bills for a single rescue cat can cost over $100 and that 99 percent of cats that go to local rescue end up being euthanized, which can be avoided by spaying and neutering.
For more information or questions visit Dalis to the Rescue.
This post was part of a picture package assignment for my JRN 320 class. I chose to do an assignment on an animal rescue organization because of my love for animals and to localize the need for more education about taking care of animals and being responsible.
This story was physically difficult for me because I do have an allergy to cats so I had to leave once I started having difficulty breathing and developing hives on my arms, but the owner Dalis Hitchcock really inspired me with her intense commitment. She has a family and works overtime, completely committed to rescuing and caring for these animals to whom it doesn’t matter if it’s her birthday, Christmas, or if she’s sick. And she does it almost single-handedly just because she’s passionate about it and I really admire that.
Marjorie, who requested their last names not be used, is a full-time caretaker for her mother Catherine, 100.
After getting a hip surgery 14 years ago where she had undergone anesthesia, Catherine, who according to the neurologist already had dementia which wasn’t noticeable yet, started to show symptoms.
“After the surgery she had changed. I no longer felt like she was really safe to be on her own,” said Marjorie. “At that point, she spent half of the year with me and half with my sister.”
Marjorie, who is originally from central Michigan and had moved to San Diego, California, has been living full-time in Midland, Michigan since 2013 with her husband, Frank, and her mother.
“Things had just changed, and it was okay, she was still mom. It’s been a very gradual progression for her,” said Marjorie.
Marjorie said they are not sure what kind of dementia Catherine has and have decided not to test to find out because results are generally inconclusive anyway and would prefer not to put her mother through that.
“It’s just not worth putting her through all kinds of tests just for them to tell me, yup, we don’t know what kind it is,” said Marjorie. “There are two kinds of medications for people with Alzheimer’s and what they don’t tell you is that they work for approximately 20 percent of people and all it does is slow the progression down, it doesn’t cure anything.”
In Rockland Harbor, off the coast of Maine sits a historic windjammer called the J. & E. Riggin.
The 120-foot schooner was built in 1927 in Dorchester, New Jersey as an oyster dredger by Charles Riggin and is named after Charles Riggin’s sons Jacob and Edward, J. & E. for short.
The Riggin continues the tradition of family with its current owners Captains Annie Mahle, 50, and Jon Finger, 56, who have two children Chloe Finger, 19, and Ella Finger, 16, who work on the ship during the summer.
They have a business aboard the Riggin that offers eco-friendly sailing vacations with meals prepared by Mahle and her crew. Though there might be a destination in mind, the ship relies on the wind, tides, and weather to determine destinations and possible itineraries.
The Riggin’s sailing season is from late May to the beginning of October. From November through April crew works on projects on the ship.
Mahle and Finger met in 1989 while working aboard a different ship and married in 1993.
Finger has a Master of Sail 500-ton license and served in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Mahle, originally from Farmington Hills, Michigan, graduated from Michigan State University (MSU) with a degree in psychology.
“I knew I had to go on and get an advanced degree, and I was fine with that, at least until I got to my senior year,” said Mahle. “I realized I can’t make myself take any of the tests, look at any of the schools—I just couldn’t make myself do it.”
She decided to take a year away from school.
“I thought alright, I’m going to travel. I’m going to sail, and I’m not calling home for money,” said Mahle.
A friend of hers mentioned that her parents own a schooner in Maine and when Mahle called the owner said Mahle could have a job if she could begin work the day after graduation.
She began work on the Stephen Taber, where Mahle met Finger, and the ship docks next to the J. & E. Riggin in Rockland Harbor, Maine.
Mahle is not only a captain and a mother, but also a professional cook and a published author.
After graduating from MSU, Mahle studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and trained for three years under Swiss Chef Hans Bucher.
She has published three cookbooks At Home, At Sea: Recipes from the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin, and Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea, which is split into two books.
Aboard the schooner Mahle provides meals for the guests, and cooks with a wood burning stove while at sea for up to 30 people.
The menu is seasonal and tailored to what is brought from Mahle’s garden. She strives to use as many fresh and local ingredients in her cooking as possible.
Mahle said the weather is an element in not only how it affects the boat but also how it affects her cooking and the heat of the stove.
But she said that an advantage of cooking with a wood-burning stove is the enhanced flavor, primarily using mixed hardwoods. Mahle gets up at 4:30 a.m. every day the schooner is sailing so she can light the stove at 5 a.m.
Breakfast is served at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, and dinner around 6 p.m.
Mahle said Finger had wanted to own a schooner since he was 16 years old, but she wasn’t entirely on board with the idea.
“It’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of capital investment, and I didn’t know whether we’d be able to do a family and own a schooner well,” said Mahle. “Turns out it’s the same wherever you go. Raising a family is raising a family. Where you raise your family is less important than how you raise your family.”
She said they came to an agreement.
“First, if either one of us feels like the business is affecting our family adversely, then we get to cry uncle and we’re done, that’s it,” said Mahle. “The second one was that he gets to pick the first 20 years, I get to pick the 20 years, what it is we are doing for work.”
In 1998 the couple bought the J. & E. Riggin from the previous owner Dave Allen who had converted the ship to accommodate passengers in 1977 for a total of 24 passengers and six crew.
“We chose the Riggin first because she had a wood stove and she didn’t have an inboard engine and she was, from our perspective, the right size. We just liked the look of her,” said Mahle.
Mahle said Finger was walking down the dock one day and Allen was changing the oil and the oil was just dripping down Allen’s elbows when he called to Finger grumpily, “You want to buy a schooner?” and when Finger responded yes Allen said, “Let’s go to breakfast.”
“I knew the business, but owning the business—you have to wear a lot of different hats, but you get to choose the hats that you wear,” said Mahle. “There are some hats that you might not be as good at as others but you get to get good at a lot of stuff.”
The Riggin has no electricity while it is away from the dock. The ship’s power is battery operated for lights in the cabins and bathrooms, called the “head” on a ship as a nod to the old days when the toilet was located at the front, or the head of the ship. During the evening, the crew put out lanterns on deck so guests can safely find their way around the deck after it gets dark.
The ship also has a water tank that is warmed by the wood-fire stove so guests may take a shower after the water has been warmed from cooking breakfast.
“Some people I think look at what we do here and feel that we live without,” said Mahle. “And I don’t feel that way, I don’t feel that I have less here. I’m not waiting to get back home so that finally I can x, y, z. Some people will say, ‘Finally you get to sleep in your own bed,’–I do sleep in my own bed. I have two beds. I don’t pine for one over the other, I like them both. They’re both cozy, I’m next to my husband in both places. As a matter of fact, when I’m home, what I pine for are sunsets where I can see everything. The whole, 360 degree sunsets, which I cannot see at home, or just the feeling of living outside. That’s what I miss more than anything else.”
Amy Wilke, 29, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, works as a deckhand on the Riggin.
She learned about the Riggin from a blog post and it instantly sparked her interest.
“The article made sailing the Maine coast sound incredible and immediately I wanted to go,” said Wilke. “The guy I was dating at the time didn’t want to come with me and forbade me from going alone.”
Wilke said that when the relationship ended a year later, she booked a six-day trip for August 2015 aboard the Riggin.
“It was the first time I had ever stepped foot on a sailboat and it was one of the most incredible weeks of my life. I was heartbroken when I got home and ran a google search for tall ships closer to home so that I could become more involved,” said Wilke.
Wilke returned to the Riggin for additional trips and through that got to know Mahle and Finger.
Wilke still lives in Wisconsin and works full-time as an electric distribution control operator. She uses her time off and vacation time to work on the schooner.
“One of the hardest things to adjust to as a crew member is lack of privacy,” said Wilke. “We have our own spaces but sometimes other people (crew) need to get in those spaces because it may be where something important is stored. We were very fortunate to all get along easily which makes any adjustment process easier.”
Mahle and Finger’s children grew up on the ship and around the business.
“Being a parent is crazy, and amazing, and when you add your kids in a workplace environment- there’s always a high concern on our part about the level of professionalism,” said Mahle. “We created a family atmosphere here, so our kids grew up around crew members and guests who gave them so much. It’s just rich. Rich and amazing.”
“Every year was a different challenge,” said Mahle. “We’d see behaviors and we’d think, oh gosh how’s that going to go on the boat, what are we going to do, and what are our strategies about how to deal with that. But what we tried to do was strike a balance between what the boat needed in terms of while being a family friendly environment not being completely kid focused. It’s not about the kids, it’s about our guests who are coming to stay with us.”’
Though they still managed to get into trouble every once in a while, as children do.
“There’s a lot of eyeballs on them, so they couldn’t be naughty all that often. If one of them were here I think they’d say I got really good at whisper yelling or “the look” where they talk about this laser look that I give them,” said Mahle. “Then I would whisper in their ear and try to have this conversation that was quiet and private so that they had some choice in the matter and some ability to talk about their emotions while not making whatever was going on for them public.”
Mahle attributes the business as a part of what helped shaped them as individuals.
“As they’ve gotten older, they have a really good sense of people now. They’re comfortable around adults and both of them, as I’ve witnessed anyway, have a really clear sense of self,” said Mahle. “The other thing that we’ve taught them is, I hope, because we have so many people around there’s lots of different opinions, and walks of life, and ways of making a living and just because someone else does that, thinks that, says that, and lives that way-is just interesting, speaks about them.”
Eventually Mahle and Finger started having a family friend come stay with Chloe and Ella while their parents were sailing with guests.
“When they got a little older and school got more important they decided it’s really crazy to go from the boat, to home, to friends and repeat. It’s like going from two different divorced households but never knowing where your stuff is at all. There’s three different places your stuff could be and it never felt like it was in the right place for them.”
The couple’s oldest daughter Chloe attends Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania and is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science and Biology though she said that she would also love to run a boat.
Chloe said she thinks her parents would love to see her or her sister Ella take over the ship, but currently the J. & E. Riggin is up for sale.
“They have always made it very clear to us that our level of involvement with the boat and the business is completely up to us,” said Chloe. “They always say that they chose to do this and there is no pressure on either Ella or I to make the same choice.”
“I think I am in complete denial that the Riggin will eventually be sold because that boat is such an integral part of who I am and who I want to be,” said Chloe. “I know my parents will find really good people to take over her care and continue to steward her in the way that we have.”
Chloe said she hopes that if the Riggin does get sold that she hopes it stays in Maine and continues to sail.
“These old boats need to keep going to stay alive so they don’t get converted into a dockside restaurant or something like that,” said Chloe. “They were built to sail and that what they do best. We are keeping a piece of history alive by continuing to work her.”
26-year-old U.S. Army veteran Cassi Ackels-Weatherby has always been a skater. As a child, she enjoyed inline skating and going to the skating rink. In 2009 Ackels-Weatherby decided to try roller derby.
Ackels-Weatherby said her mother pointed out a flier hanging in the hallway of their workplace.
“She made a comment about how I should play because I’m a brute,” said Ackels-Weatherby. “I went to practice the next day.”
Her roller derby career was interrupted shortly after joining the Central Michigan Mayhem team when she was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. She was there for a year and worked as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, what Ackels-Weatherby said is just a fancy term for a truck driver.
She was deployed for a second time to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 2015-2016 and since coming back has active with Central Michigan Mayhem and is the head of both the fundraising and event committees for the team.
After returning from her deployments Ackels-Weatherby settled on Battle-Scarred Beauty as her roller derby name. She said wanted it to be feminine but also to acknowledgement to her military experience, something that had been part of her life for eight years
During the day, she works as a Board Services Coordinator at the National Charter Schools Institute in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Ackels-Weatherby and her mother usually meet for lunch and sometimes carpool to work.
Since returning from her last deployment Ackels-Weatherby has been living with her mother while looking for an affordable place to live that will allow her to bring her 5-year-old Saint Bernard Lady, and her 4-year-old German Shepherd, Sheriff.
Ackels-Weatherby said she would eventually like to go back to school and pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
For a sports assignment for school I’m following Cassi Ackels-Weatherby, a roller derby skater for Central Michigan Mayhem. The story and additional photos will be posted next week.
Since buying Brown Farms in Wheeler, Michigan in 1976 from his mother after his father’s death, James “Jim” Brown, 76, and his wife Phyllis, 75, have owned and operated the farm along with two of their four children, Matt and Darren, and a handful of hired workers. They farm cash crops and currently grow sugar beets, cucumbers, corn, soy beans, and black beans.
According to their son, fourth generation farmer Darren, 47, he estimates Brown Farms now owns about 3,500 acres, a far cry from the 40 acres Jim bought in 1976.
Now a full-time worker on the farm, Darren started off as a residential truck driver and hauled propane until the day his daughter Ellie, now 14 years old, was born.
He lives less than five miles away from Brown Farms with Ellie and Barbara, Darren’s wife of 17 years. Barbara is a teacher at Breckenridge High School and the couple have three children, two of which are from Barbara’s previous marriage: Benjamin, 24, and Lindsay, 21, both of which are working in Grand Rapids.
Ellie is a freshman in high school and an avid dancer with a passion for cows. She has shown steers for seven years and the family currently has 10 cows.
She hopes to attend South Dakota State University and work with cows.
“The cows outnumber the people in South Dakota,” Darren jokes.
Darren’s parents Phyllis and Jim still live on the farm and Jim has yet to retire, still running for parts and driving the big tractor, but now taking off days to go golfing once in a while.
Phyllis grew up on a farm held an active role on Brown Farms and after marrying Jim.
“When the boys were little I used to drive tractors once in a while,” she said. “When they got tractors with cabs on them, I would put the kids on the floor on a blanket and they would sleep all afternoon while I drove. Back then, you took meals to the field. You packed the dinner and you took it to the field and all four kids, tried to keep them on a blanket so they could sit there and eat. There used to be more late nights then working, so sometimes that was when they saw their dad. They were in bed by the time he would come home.”
Phyllis said she hopes to see the farm continue and became emotional about the uncertainty that her grandchildren will want to continue the farm.
“What do you do with the farm if your kids don’t want it? Or need it,” Phyllis said. “I think that’s basically what Jim’s worked for, is so that there’s something for them. We weren’t blessed with a lot of grandsons; we only have four. You can’t pick what the kids are going to do. As long as they’re happy, the ground is a good investment.”