Comins, Michigan


As you head north up M-33, between Fairview and the intersection with M-32, you’ll come to Comins. Entering town from the south, you’ll learn that Comins is billed as the “Ghost Town with a Lot of Spirit.” There are an unusual number of empty spaces in downtown Comins. And pretty much what isn’t empty space looks really new for this part of northern Michigan. The ghost town reference, I’ve assumed, is because the town was devastated by an F2 tornado on July 3, 1999.

The tornado hit Comins at 7:32pm. It cut a big swath through town, completely destroying a Mennonite church and the pastor’s home, the township hall, the fire department, the post office, four other businesses and about ten homes. Other businesses and homes were heavily damaged. Most of the town’s tall beautiful trees were uprooted. But the Comins Party Store survived. And, as its sign says, it’s “the best little store in town.”


OK. It’s also the only store in town. And its currrent owner is determined to keep his store thriving, cute and super-clean.

Here’s a view of the store’s new entrance.


The Comins Party Store doesn’t have a lot of anything. But it has a little bit of just about everything. Australian licorice, vintage candies, sweets of all sorts. Coffee. Lots of beers and wines that are not easy to find in this neck of the woods. At my last visit I noticed that they have marshmallows that are the size of tennis balls. If you didn’t dress warmly enough you can buy a sweatshirt. Or if you dressed too warmly you can buy a t-shirt. You can pick up a sandwich–sometimes there are hot dogs on the outdoor grill–and eat it at the picnic table. A few weeks ago there was no room at the picnic table, though. (But it didn’t seem like this gang was eating much.)


There’s more room at the picnic table now. The owner’s handiwork is scaling the roof.


You can get gas and propane at the store. And be sure to wander around and check out the vintage signs. Some, like this one, we probably better not think too hard about how it got there.

cummins_armyThere’s lots of old gas station signage on the exterior.


This sign sort of sums up the Comins Party Store “attitude:”


Best of all? Every time you come into the Comins Party Store you’ll get a friendly greeting. And if you come back again, the greetings just get friendlier and friendlier. Nice folks. Good little town.

You can visit the caboose too. It was donated to Comins in 1985.


Pileated pair


It was 16 degrees below zero and the suet feeders were empty. This pair of pileated woodpeckers landed on the trunk of one of the tall trees between the lake and our front room windows and started bobbing around. Steve imagined they were saying “get out here and fill these feeders ‘cuz we’re hungry and cold.”

He bundled up, filled the feeders, and of course these big guys are shy and so they’d flown off. But when he came back inside, the pair quickly flew back and stayed at the feeders for a good long time.

The male is the one with the red mustache on the log feeder. The female is at the paddle feeder. Pileateds have wingspans from 26 to 30 inches. The adults are 16 to 19 inches from crest to tail. We’re happy to give them some help getting through the winter.

Hillman’s 2013 Applefest


Any of my regular readers know how much the loons on Long Lake matter to us. Every chick and every adult is special. This year’s twins are doing fine. Their parents have flown south and the adolescents soon will too. They have been flying low over the water, practicing their take-offs and landings.

This decorative decoy is handcrafted of Northeast Michigan Northern White Cedar. Bob Theiner, who lives on Theiner Trail in Hillman, carved and painted this adult loon with its just-hatched chick. It has landed an honored place at our Long Lake cottage. Here’s our 2013 chicks about a week after they hatched. An excellent interpretation, Bob!


Theiner, of Bob Theiner Decoys, was a featured maker at this year’s Brush Creek Mill‘s Applefest. Honestly, the Hillman area doesn’t grow many apples (and Posen already has dibs on the potatofest). But we have lots of home-grown talent, like Theiner, a master decoy maker. Here he is–along with his creations:

applefest9_lowres applefest10_lowres


We couldn’t be happier with our loon decoy purchase. Theiner’s work is top-notch. If you’re interested in his decoys, leave me a comment. Theiner doesn’t have a website (yet) but I can forward your comment on to him. Also, here’s his decoys Facebook page and his Flicker page.

HIllman did not catch a break on the weather today, but the event was still wonderful. A little rain, OK a lot of rain, just meant more of the event moved indoors. Great hot apple cider, homemade apple dumplings topped with ice cream and caramel, and lots of welcoming folks. Welcomes are something HIllman is especially good at.

Here’s the refurbished Brush Creek Mill, staffed mostly by an army of volunteers.


You can learn stuff here (yoga, computer skills, weaving), buy stuff at the River’s Edge Gift Shop, stop by and visit with a Montmorency County deputy sometimes, and check out the mill’s small collection of historic objects.

Here’s the view from the mill’s entrance looking toward Hillman’s new bridge, spanning the Thunder Bay River.


The bridge’s design echoes the design of the historic camelback bridge it replaced.

Even the mill’s mascot was decked out for Applefest.


There weren’t many apples for sale, but this farm booth had choice vegetables, beautifully displayed. (Check out the quilt covers!) We purchased a big green cabbage, the one behind the frilly leafed one, and will be steaming it for dinner.


The tomatoes, one of which I ate with lunch, are wonderful. And that’s quite remarkable, this late in the season.


The inside makers included jelly and jam specialists. Small batches of unique flavors like banana split (banana, pineapple & strawberry) and red velvet apricot plus all the traditional flavors you’d expect.


There were vendors of vintage pottery. I even “found” my grandmother’s drum table. I’m not kidding, I think I remember putting one of the scratches in it!


This is a working mill. The water powered wheel is powering the alternator.


This is the 8th year for Applefest and no Applefest would be complete without…you guessed it…yarnies!