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Welcome to the Pine River Review. Our sight is dedicated to our little homestead located along the Pine River tucked inside the Chippewa Nature Center's 1400 Acres of wild in Michigan's lower penninsula. We love to share our pictures, video, comment, and our own homespun music. Step inside our world as we celebrate this beautiful nook!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Exploring the Middle River Region- Part 1

I have "discovered" a rolling rural area isolated in the "Middle of the Mitten Michigan" that has somehow sidestepped the passage of the decades and is its own mysterious inner kingdom. To travel here is to be transported to the family farm dominated rural world of a century ago. It is a landscape dotted with strange field stone homes and barns built with the granite rocks gathered by the first European farmers who turned the soil here after the peninsula was cleared of its magnificent white pine forests around a hundred and twenty five years ago. Many of these large farms remain in the hands of later day family members. This odd timeless feeling is further fostered by the Amish population who pursue their peaceful path tilling the earth with 19th century implements and traveling its roads by horse and buggy. Before the taming of electricity and the mass marketing of a homogeneous consumer culture, a way of life that most of us have bought into one hamburger at a time, America was a quirky patchwork of distinct regions that birthed there own local music, accents, cuisine and customs. This is such a place. These lands are centered around the middle branch of the Tobacco River and so we shall call it the Middle River Region. The Middle River still exists because its citizens are quiet, extremely private, and do not seek the favor of outsiders. There are no hotels, tourist associations, nothing on the radar that alerts attention to this quirky realm. It is my desire to look inside this tiny forgotten region and capture some of its light. Over the next several weeks The Pine River Review will delve deeply into its sights, people, and history. Consider this your personal invitation to tag along!

Pastures of plenty. An Amish farm complex rests it's land under winters snow.
                                                        And so it begins...
      I started off today on the run chasing the light as a photographer must during the winter months. A day with sun is about a once a week occurrence. I had my second cup of coffee in the car driving northwest on M-10 jumping off northward on Lommis road. It doesn't take long then, just past the slow turn we pass a creek flowing clear with winter runoff and suddenly Lommis road turns into Tobacco road and the atmosphere shifts. This is the glacial moraine, the highlands between Lakes Michigan and Huron where the Great Wisconsin Glacier paused 10,000 years ago on its northerly retreat and deposited its stony load of sediments creating an odd and unexpected rolling landscape here in the middle of table flat farmland. I have loaded every camera lens I own in the Chevy along with my Gazetteer, a detailed atlas of the dirt roads that crisscross the countryside. The sun has swung to the south and is reflecting brightly off a fresh layer of soft snow as the first of what will be many of the Middle Rivers signature stone homes comes into view at the top of a rise. This fine home is being lovingly restored starting with a very expensive steel roof.

The first stone home of our tour. 

 I was born in Michigan 58 years ago and have been in and out of nearly every nook and cranny of the State. I look Michigan, talk Michigan, and one day, when I die, my Michigan blood will flow no more. So isn't it ironic that I feel like a foreigner here in my own backyard? The local's eyes puzzle over me. I am obvious and out of place. Even wandering down deserted dirt roads I often feel like the mysterious eye is upon me. I try to shake this feeling of being an intruder but I can't. I recall Freud's words,"The paranoid is never entirely mistaken!"

One never knows what's around the next corner. Note the swirling pattern of the stone columns.

In the Middle River Region folk still hang their clothes out to dry on a sunny day even when the temperature is 10 degrees below freezing.

We will continue our exploration of the Middle Region next week!

Check out Bluff Area Daily each Tuesday for Barn Charm.


  1. Thanks so much for the gracious invitation ! I accept with enthusiasm !

    Thoroughly enjoyed this first foray into the foreign land in the heartland. Saw similar people and places in Pennsylvania in September, but no spiral stone columns like these. Beautiful. Happy hunting...

  2. Really enjoyed that exploration. Look forward to much more.
    Two beautiful homes too.

  3. great post! enjoyed the info and the pics (though some aren't loading for me right now - slow connection I guess). Really dig that first shot - great composition! And the stone houses- just plain neat!

  4. Wonderful stonework in that old house. It looks like they are doing a good restoration job. I was trying to decide if they had replaced the old windows, can't tell from the photos.

  5. Great post, Springman! I love your description of the land and its geological past. The stone houses are fascinating, especially the one with the cobblestone columns - a local adaption of the Arts and Crafts style. I am looking forward to seeing more.

  6. It will be dang hard to get those clothes folded up and into a wash basket...BUT come end of the month they wont be singing the CO-OP BLues like we have been these last couple of months...IM thinking a metal roof with a nice big bank of solar panels may help the problem. Love these old stone homes and you know how it is if your not from the neighborhood they wonder what the Heck ya doing especially if you're taking pictures of their spread--

  7. Awesome! I attended Alma College (ah well, a few years ago) and miss the middle of the mitten often! One of my girlfriends at AC was Mennonite and she'd take us out to their farm. It was magical for us. She always said it was just a lot of work for her!

  8. So you are from Midland Michigan? I hear it is very cold there. My husband travels there frequently for work and has been offered multiple times to be relocated there. But we don't like the cold so we'll stay put in PA. His employer Rohm and Haas was bought by DOW over a year ago. I keep thinking maybe I will go with him sometime just to see what I can photograph...but now I can just look at your photos.

  9. Very nice shots! I love places like this.

  10. I enjoyed your series of photos very much! The barns are great, but the stonework on the houses is really something!

  11. I truly enjoyed the pictures and commentary behind them. Those stone homes are just amazing. You don't find many examples of craftsmanship like that any more. I'm looking forward to seeing more next week!

  12. Thanks for the invite. I'll definitely come along on this interesting tour. Your photos and commentary are lovely!