Archive for Michigan

March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Making maple syrup is a traditional right of spring, signaling the end of winter. Several species of maple trees grow in Michigan. Although all produce sap suitable for the production of maple syrup; two species, sugar maple and black maple are the source of sap for most commercial maple syrup production. Sap suitable for conversion into syrup may also be obtained from red and silver maples, although such sap usually has a lower sugar content.

**NOTE: The E. L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
is hosting “A Day in the Sugarbush Maple Tapping
this Saturday, March 15, 2014.
Details are noted at the end of this article**

Necessary Equipment

Collection-PailMaple syrup can be produced with a minimum of equipment, but a few standard items increase the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the product, including:

  1. A drill with a 7/16 or 1/2 inch bit for drilling tap-holes in trees.
  2. A metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole.
  3. A collection container (bucket or plastic bag) or tubing line for each tap-hole.
  4. A large pan and a heat source for boiling down the sap. The size needed will depend on how much sap you intend to handle.
  5. A large-scale thermometer, calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  6. Wool, Orlon or other filters for filtering finished syrup while hot.
  7. Storage containers for the finished syrup.

Tapping the Tree

TapTo obtain the earliest runs of sap, tapping should be completed by the first week in March in Michigan. Minimal trunk diameter for trees suitable for tapping is 10 inches at 4 feet above the ground.

To tap a tree, select a spot on the trunk of the tree 2-4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood. At this point, drill a hole approximately 2-2.5 inches deep into the wood. Then insert a collection spout and tap lightly into the tree and attach a bucket or plastic bag or a tubing line to the spout. Open buckets used for sap collection should be covered to keep out rainwater, debris, insects and other foreign materials.

Collecting the Sap

Collecting-SapSap flow in maple trees will not occur every day throughout the tapping season. It occurs when a rapid warming trend in early morning follows a cool (below freezing) night.

To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though there will be little drips that won’t amount to much at first. Place a lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.

After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you are satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat to take inside to start the syrup making process. Do not store the sap as it can spoil.

Turning Sap into Syrup

Syrup-KettleWhen you have a large quantity of sap, it’s time to cook it up to make the syrup. This is done by boiling the sap in a large pan on the stove as long as you have a vent fan and a dehumidifier on hand. When you boil sap, it can produce considerable moisture in the air. Professionals prefer to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to avoid the moisture build up in their homes. There is also a hobby-sized evaporator available.

Boil the sap until it becomes thicker as the water boils off. You will need to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of the pan.

As the sap is boiling, you need to skim off any foam that might be on the top. Using a candy thermometer, boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you have reached this level, let the syrup completely cool. The sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off the good syrup into a glass bottle. Let it cool and you are ready to serve homemade maple syrup.

If you plan to can the syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into sterilized glass containers to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.

Sugar-ShackIf you feel that making your own maple syrup is a task too daunting to undertake, you can visit the Bloomfield Hills’ E. L. Johnson Nature Center this Saturday, March 15, 2014 and participate in tapping the trees, collecting the sap and visiting the sugar shack to watch the boiling process that produces pure maple syrup. Then, you can visit the log home for a taste of nature’s sweetener!

For a guided tour, meet at the Visitor Center:

  • Tours are from noon to 4:00 pm.
  • Tours are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour.
  • Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time: click here for details

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI; phone: 248-341-6485; website:

The Taste of Clarkston Is Back

Posted in Dining with Pat, Local News with tags , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Save the date → Sunday, September 15, 2013 for the 16th Annual Taste of Clarkston that is the signature event put on by the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Independence Township Parks and Recreation and the Village of Clarkston. The event is structured to be family friendly, providing a safe and fun environment for a community block party celebration.

Hours: Noon to 6:00 p.m.
Shuttle buses start running at 11:30 a.m.

Free shuttle parking is available from Clarkston Elementary, Clarkston Junior High and Clarkston High School parking lots.

Village of Clarkston Clock

Village of Clarkston Clock

Main Street will be closed—from Waldon Road on the south, to Clarkston Road on the north—for this event to accommodate the restaurant booths and pedestrians coming to the event.  For the “Detour Map”, click here.

Tickets are available in $1.00 increments; food items are priced at $1 to $10.  They suggest you purchase a pack of $10.00 or $20.00 to get started. Taste Tickets are available on-site at three (3) ticket booth locations.

38 Restaurant booths will be set up on Main Street serving taste samples and/or meal portions of their specialties. For a list of restaurant participants and prices, click here. There is sure to be something tantalizing for everyone—from soup to sliders, BBQ pork to chicken chili and sweet endings from cheesecake to frozen custard. Every year the offerings are more enticing.

The Clarkston Union Oktoberfest tent will be set up and operating throughout the Taste of Clarkston, along with the Rotary Wine Tent and Wine Garden in Morgan’s Parking Lot.

OktoberfestThe Gazebo in Depot Park will be the site of entertainment starting at 11:45 a.m. until closing.

The “Heart of Clarkston” will be set up throughout the event where you can give your support to non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Habitat Women’s Build, Blessings in a Backpack, Friends of Ryan Kennedy, Easter Seals and more.

In Depot Park, there will be children’s carnival games, blow-up bounce houses and a ticket booth.

Bridgewood Church will have an archery area, children’s crafts, balloon animals and face painting.

For car buffs, the Clarkston News parking lot and Washington Street will feature a Classic Car Show coordinated through Bowman Chevrolet.

According to marketing studies, Taste of Clarkston is attended by 70% of Clarkston area residents and friends and relatives of Clarkston residents. Merchants and volunteers work hard to promote their businesses and take great pride in promoting their historic village.

Homeownership Tax Incentives Still Important to Americans

Posted in Homeownership, Housing News, Tax Incentives with tags , , , on September 4, 2013 by Pat Hansen

As House and Senate lawmakers consider slashing tax breaks as part of their tax reform process, they should listen to the voters who put them in office and they will hear a loud and clear message: Americans overwhelmingly believe the mortgage interest deduction is an important middle-class tax provision that is worth keeping. The latest poll documenting this strong belief is a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll conducted in July 2013.

When the surveyed adults were asked how important it is to keep the mortgage interest deduction for people who own homes, 61 percent of respondents said it was “very important,” and an additional 25 percent said it was “somewhat important.”

The proposals that government policymakers are considering would greatly harm home owners, home buyers, the housing market and the nation’s economy—even though national policy has acknowledged the importance of the home in American family life for almost a century. These proposals include threats to the mortgage interest deduction, instituting a standard 20 percent downpayment on home loans, and ending the federal backstop for housing, which would make the 30-year mortgage less accessible and more expensive.

Americans’ opinions on these issues have remained consistent, even as the economy has struggled to recover from the recession.

Surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012 on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders by the Public Opinion Strategies and Lake Research Partners polling firms had similar results. Both surveys found that an overwhelming majority of American voters strongly value homeownership and would oppose efforts to weaken or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction or diminish a federal role to help qualified home buyers obtain affordable 30-year mortgages. And a 2011 New York Times/CBS News poll found that more than 90 percent of American adults said that it is important for the federal government to continue the mortgage interest deduction.

Owning a home has allowed generations of American families to build a sense of stability, pride and accomplishment. Homeownership has also always been – and continues to be – the single best long-term investment for most Americans, serving as a primary source of wealth and financial security, helping to provide for education, retirement and more for many households.

Homeownership contributes significantly to the nation’s economy as well.

Housing accounts for about 15 percent of the nation’s total economic output, including new construction of single-family and multifamily homes, remodeling and services provided by existing homes. Building 100 average single-family homes generates 305 jobs, $23.1 million in wage and business income, and $8.9 million in taxes and revenue for state, local and federal governments.

Politicians seeking to reduce the deficit by reducing or eliminating government incentives to own a home need to remember that Americans—and the American economy—remain committed to the American Dream of homeownership.

For more information on the value of homeownership, and how you can join the fight to protect it, go to

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.


Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That, Local News with tags , , , on August 30, 2013 by Kevin Fox

Ever dream that your home could look as good as those professionally decorated model homes you visit? Well, now it can with our “Just Like The Model” Builder Estate Sale!

Quality brand name furniture including: love seats, chairs, tables, dining room furniture, bedding, lamps, artwork, accessories and much more!

Dates and Times:
Thursday, September 5th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Friday, September 6th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 7th from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The sale will take place at Savoie Self Service Storage located at 9650 Dixie Hwy. in Clarkston, Michigan.

Click here for more information, including a full list of the items being sold and pictures.

Beware Being Your Own Home Builder

Posted in Homeownership, Housing News, I Wish I'd Thought About That, New Homes with tags , , on July 10, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Homeownership is the foundation of the American Dream, and in today’s “do-it-yourself” culture where “how-to advice” for just about anything can be found on the internet, many people think they could save a lot of money by building their own home. But your home is likely the single largest investment you will make in your lifetime, and not hiring a professional home builder could be a costly mistake for many reasons—financial, emotional and physical.

Plan-SketchGetting financing is an important consideration. As a self-contractor, lenders have strict guidelines and limits on how much money they will give you, and they will require that you provide house plans, specifications and an itemized list of documented costs and bids beforehand.

Even if you feel that you have enough cash to do the job, it is wise to get a loan to cover material or labor cost increases, upgrades or material overruns. Many mortgage companies will not lend money to cover unanticipated costs on a home when construction has already begun.

There is a huge amount of bookkeeping if you act as your own general contractor. The IRS requires that you send anyone you hired to work on your home—subcontractors—who earned over a certain amount a 1099 form at the end of the year. You’ll have to be on-site to document delivery slips, check for inaccurate billing and track material returns in order to stay on budget.

Professional home builders are experts at the logistics and timing of building a home. It is an exact science to make sure permits are applied for, materials are ordered and delivered, subcontractors are hired, utility deposits are paid, and inspections are scheduled at exactly the right time. Even if you’re very organized, it is a process where many things can go wrong and a delay could cost you thousands of dollars and a lot of stress.

5DIMG_2430Building your own home is a risky proposition from a legal standpoint as well. Home builders carry Builder’s Risk, General Liability and Workman’s Compensation insurance on their building projects. As a self-contractor, you will have to assume most, if not all, of the same liabilities. You may want to consult with an attorney regarding potential liability issues, and with an insurance agent concerning appropriate insurance coverage.

Home builders have staff to take care of all the details of building a home, and established relationships with other professionals to complete the job, which is why they can build a home in a relatively quick timeframe. To build an average 1,500 square foot home, you need to be prepared to spend at least 35 hours per week for at least five or six months, and most people don’t have jobs with that kind of flexibility. You will also need the time to determine and order the materials, evaluate bids, and hire and schedule qualified, licensed, insured and/or certified subcontractors.

Finally, if you sell the home you’ve built, you may be responsible for any defects that are discovered afterwards. As the home’s builder, you or your estate will be responsible for claims brought by subsequent owners of the home.

These are just a few of the things you need to think about before building your own home. By hiring a professional home builder, you will get quality of workmanship, building code compliance and an outstanding level of knowledge.

For a free consultation, contact our Sales Manager, Pat Hansen at 248-895-1115, or visit

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

The Economic and Emotional Value of Homeownership

Posted in Homeownership, Housing News, Lifestyle, Local News, New Homes, Sell your Home with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2013 by Pat Hansen

In good times or bad, there is one constant: Homeownership remains the American Dream for millions of American families. And there are many reasons why, both economic and emotional.

Robert R. Jones HomesMost Americans consider homeownership to be their single best long-term investment and a primary source of their wealth and financial security. Generations of families have counted on and used the equity in their homes for their children’s education, their own retirement and other milestone expenses.

Individual household budgets are helped by tax incentives that are designed to make owning a home more affordable. Deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes can result in thousands of dollars of tax savings, especially in the early years of the mortgage when interest makes up most of the payment. Home owners save nearly $100 billion annually on mortgage interest and property deductions alone.

And when home owners sell their primary residence, they get an enormous tax break. A couple who owns and lives in their home for two years and then decides to sell can keep up to $500,000 of the profit tax-free, and a single owner can keep $250,000.

A healthy housing industry means more jobs and a stronger U.S. economy. In fact, fully 15 percent of the U.S. economy relies on housing.

Most of the products used in home construction and remodeling are manufactured in the United States. Constructing 100 new homes creates more than 300 full-time jobs, $23.1 million in wage and business income and $8.9 million in federal, state and local tax revenue. New home owners spend money on decorations and furnishings, to enhance the landscaping and to become members of the community by patronizing local businesses and service providers.

Robert R. Jones Homes (interior photo)Yet a home is so much more than an investment. In good times and in bad, the opportunity to own a home has been a cherished ideal and a source of pride, accomplishment, social stability and peace of mind.  Homeownership strengthens communities as well as families.

Home building increases the property tax base that supports local schools and communities. When a family owns their home, it is an asset that has a direct impact on their financial security and future. People are more likely to take care of things they own so they remain valuable. And a home’s value is determined by how well it is maintained as well as by the condition of the neighborhood it is located in. So home owners have incentive to spend their time and resources improving their neighborhood, even if it is just to protect the value of their investment.

Homeownership builds stronger communities, provides a solid foundation for family and personal achievement and improves the quality of life for millions of people. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission has said that homeownership can “produce powerful economic, social, and civic benefits that serve the individual home owner, the larger community and the nation.”

Keys in DoorIt is important to know that despite the fact that housing and homeownership policies over the last century have contributed to the growth of the middle class and helped the United States become the most dynamic economy the world has ever seen, homeownership is under attack. Policymakers are proposing radical changes, including ending the mortgage interest deduction and mandating minimum 20 percent downpayments, that would threaten the dream of homeownership for millions of Americans.

The National Association of Home Builders’ website,, has more information about the threats to homeownership and how to take action to protect it.

To learn more about homeownership in the metropolitan Detroit area, visit

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Explore the Paint Creek Trail

Posted in Dining with Pat, Holidays, Local News with tags , , on May 22, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Paint Creek Trail (Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia |

Photo Credit: Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are looking for an outing this up-coming Memorial Day weekend, consider walking or biking on the Paint Creek Trail. The Paint Creek Trail connects the communities of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion in Oakland County, Michigan. It is an 8.9 mile linear park and was the first Rail-to-Trail in the State of Michigan. It was converted to a trail from the former Penn Central Railroad.

The non-motorized trail is 8 feet wide and has an all-weather surface of crushed limestone which was chosen because it is an environmentally friendly surface for the trail’s close proximity to Paint Creek. If you like to hike, jog, bike, ride a horse, cross-country ski, fish or just watch nature, the Paint Creek Trail is for you.

The Paint Creek Cider Mill, a favorite stop along the Paint Creek Trail, is now open year-round, 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Visit their Facebook page for more information.

Paint Creek Cider Mill (AcrylicArtist |

Photo Credit: AcrylicArtist |

Bike Fixit Station: The Friends of the Pint Creek Trail donated their first gift to the trail – a bike fixit station located at the Paint Creek Cider Mill. Cyclists can inflate their tires and make adjustments or repairs utilizing the tools attached to the station. In addition, with an iPhone or Smartphone bar code scanner app, cyclists can scan a QR code and read repair instructions onsite.

Trail Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily

Parking: The Paint Creek trail offers 8 parking locations:

Rochester: Visitors may park at the Rochester Municipal Park, located off Pine Street north of University, and west of Main Street (Rochester Road).

Rochester Hills: A 12-space lot is located on the north side of Tienken Road just west of the Paint Creek Trail between Livernois and Rochester Road. A portable restroom is also located at this site from May-October.

Oakland Township: Four parking lots are available:

Dutton Road: The first is located on the north side of Dutton, west of the Trail, between Livernois and Orion Rd. This lot is the smallest of the parking lots as it only fits 5 vehicles.

Silver Bell Road: This lot is located on the south side of Silver Bell, west of Orion Road, approximately one mile north of Dutton on the Trail.

Gallagher Road: This lot is located on the north side of Gallagher, just west of Orion Road, approximately 0.6 miles north of Silver Bell on the Trail.

Paint Creek Trail Office: This lot is very close to the Gallagher parking lot. It is located at 4480 Orion Road in Rochester and is at the corner of Orion and Gallagher; this is a public parking lot that can hold up to 80 vehicles.

Orion Township: Parking is available at the intersection of the Paint Creek Trail and Clarkston & Kern Roads. There are two parking areas at this intersection. The parking area south of Clarkston and west of Kern is suitable for horse trailer staging. A restroom is also located at this site.

Village of Lake Orion: The Trailways Commission owns a 12-space paved parking lot located behind the Atwater Commons Plaza. The Plaza is located at the corner of M-24 and Atwater. The parking area is located behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken, near Converse Court and is marked with signage.

It’s Almost Spring . . . Time To Think About Building

Posted in Construction, Manors of Deerwood with tags , , , on March 14, 2013 by Pat Hansen

With inventories of existing homes dwindling, many buyers are considering building a home, to the delight of many home builders. Recently, we at Robert R. Jones Homes, have received several calls from prospective buyers who have discovered our prestigious community in The Manors of Deerwood in Clarkston. They say they are attracted to the large, treed homesites – each over a half acre in size and several larger than one acre.

Manors of Deerwood Lot (New Home) | Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesThe property was formerly farmland, but is now nicely wooded. We are bordered on the east by Independence Oaks County Park and on the west by privately owned parcels, large enough to keep horses. To the north are 30 acres of privately owned land, yet to be developed, and to the south are earlier phases of The Manors of Deerwood community.

The terrain is rolling and will accommodate both walk-out and daylight basement sites. When visitors wind their way back to our property, they are pleased by what they see. Every site has a variety of trees, and during the spring, summer and fall, a variety of wild flowers color the landscape. The atmosphere is very quiet and peaceful.

Galleria Home Plan | Clarkston, MichiganThere are 15 remaining homesites to choose from. Our homes start in the high $400,000’s. There are numerous home plans to choose from, as well as the in-house capability to design a custom plan to suit individual needs. We are available for a personal consultation to help you plan your new home. You may call us at 248-895-1115 to schedule a consultation.

The Manors of Deerwood is located approximately 2 miles north of the charming Village of Clarkston, just minutes from I-75 and M-15.

Preparing For Winter in Michigan

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , on November 2, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Winter in Michigan can be fun for those who enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice fishing and more, but dangerous winter storms also occur to make winter in Michigan hazardous. A little preparation can go a long way in turning a dangerous situation into a safe one.

The first step we can all take is to stay informed about the weather and make our plans for work, travel or recreation accordingly. Tune to NOAA Weather Radio or check weather reports on local television or radio.

Preparing for a Winter Storm

  • At home, keep handy a battery-powered flashlight, extra batteries, radio, extra food that requires little or no preparation, and bottled water.
  • Make sure you have extra blankets and lots of warm clothes.
  • Be aware of potential fire and carbon monoxide hazards if you are planning to use an emergency heating source such as a fireplace or space heater.
  • Emergency generators with sufficient capacity can temporarily operate your furnace and refrigerator and other essential items when power is lost.
  • To save heat, close off unneeded rooms, cover windows at night and block cracks under outside doors with towels.
  • Eat right; maintaining adequate food and water intake makes it possible for your body to store and use energy for producing its own heat.
  • In a vehicle, keep blankets, additional warm clothing, windshield scraper, booster cables, flashlight, battery-operated radio, first aid kit and high energy snacks.
  • One of the best things to keep with you when traveling is a cellular phone so you can call for emergency help if needed.
  • If you get stranded in your vehicle, attach a brightly colored cloth to your antenna or somewhere on the vehicle to attract attention. Run the engine about 10 minutes each hour for heat. Open your window slightly, for fresh air, and make sure your exhaust pipe isn’t blocked with snow. Turn on your emergency flashers when the engine is running in order to attract attention. Exercise by moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.

Always make sure you have winter emergency supplies at home and in your vehicle.  Dress appropriately for the weather, no matter if you’re traveling a few city blocks or many miles. Never take any unnecessary chances with winter weather.

How do Leaves Change Colors in the Fall?

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , on October 9, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Several factors contribute to fall color, but the main agent is light, or actually the lack of it. As the autumn days grow shorter, the reduced light triggers chemical changes in deciduous leaves causing a corky wall to Fall colors - redform between the twig and the leaf stalk. As the corky cells multiply, they seal off the vessels that supply the leaf with nutrients and water, and also block the exit vessels, trapping simple sugars in the leaves. The combination of reduced light, lack of nutrients and no water, add up to the demise of the pigment chlorophyll, the “green” in leaves.

Once the green is gone, two other pigments show their bright faces. These pigments, carotene (yellow) and anthocyanin (red) exist in the leaf all summer but are masked by the chlorophyll. The browns in autumn leaves are the result of tannin, a chemical that exists in many leaves, especially oaks.

Sugar trapped in autumn leaves by the corky cells also known as the abscission layer is largely responsible for the vivid color. Some additional Fall colors - yellowanthocyanins are also manufactured by sunlight acting on the trapped sugar. This is why the foliage is so sparkling after several bright fall days and more pastel during rainy spells. In general, a dry fall produces the most vibrant color.

Weather conditions in summer and early September, largely determine how brilliant each season’s colors will be.  According to David Beachler, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, a hot, dry summer inflicts stress on the trees; therefore, when it cools, the chlorophyll that breaks down in the leaves can produce a quick colorFall colors - orange change. Autumn rain is desirable, but continuous cloudy weather is not, since that would stop the production that creates the brilliant reds and golds found in oaks and maples, Michigan’s most prevalent tree species.

There are nearly 150 different species of trees in Michigan’s 18.6 million acres of forest.  Our state boasts a colorful mix of yellows, reds, golds and oranges. Some of the most beautiful colors are displayed by such hardwoods as aspen, maple, birch, sumac and oak.  When combined with a background of evergreen forest, the result is one of the best shows in the nation.

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