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Showing posts from September, 2017

We Have A Black Squirrel In Our #NewOldBackyard

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Everyday for the past week or so, we've had this Black Squirrel visiting our yard where he is gorging himself on the acorns from our Oak trees and the big green/black walnuts from our Walnut trees.   He usually isn't alone so when you see him in contrast to the normal grey squirrels, he really stands out. 

Grey Squirrels I see all over.  But a Black Squirrel?  From Wikipedia:
The overall population of black squirrels is small when compared to that of the gray squirrel. The black fur color can occur naturally as a mutation in populations of gray squirrels, but it is rare. The rarity of the black squirrel has caused many people to admire them, and the black squirrels enjoy great affection in some places as mascots.  According to this story on DNAinfo, they're about 1 in 10,000.   I also just submitted an observation to ProjectSquirrel.org and noted all the nut-bearing trees we have on the property. 

Right now, Black Squirrel...we're cool.  But Halloween is coming and th…

Spare Cedar Stock For Raised Beds

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I have had this load of cedar boards and planks of various lengths and widths in my garage for almost two months just waiting for either me hauling them to the curb (my inclination) or for inspiration to strike for a new project.   They're leftovers from our fence installation and include some 2x4's a few 4x4's and some fence pickets/planks.   With all the thinking going into our #newoldbackyard this fall (see this post about pizza oven planning, this post for 'entrance' planning, and this post about the planning for a water feature for some of the latest on #newoldbackyard landscape design), I've been out there looking at how the sun interacts with the yard to see if I could find the best spot for a permanent vegetable garden and maybe even a greenhouse/conservatory/solarium.  In addition to the pure location planning, we've been thinking of putting in a full irrigation system, so knowing where and what the garden looks like/lays out like is important so …

Lionel Old St. Nick Operating Billboard #6-82002

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Yesterday, I posted a photo of an operating log dump car that I picked up for a Christmas present this year and mentioned that I scored a few operating accessories for the boys.  Above, you see one of those accessories in the Old St. Nick Operating Billboard.  This is the first time I've bought an operating billboard from Lionel but I know the basics:  there are two scenes that alternate in between by the rotating of the slats on the billboard. 

The official product listing on Lionel.com show the two scenes and you can see them on the back of the box below.  For each of the boys that I've bought one of these for, I've been buying them boxcars/operating cars and/or track pieces/bridges/switches every year since they were born, so I figure they have enough rolling stock.  To keep their attention, they need operating accessories, right?

And, like me, they only haul out their layout for the holidays and keep a holiday train so the St. Nick piece seems appropriate, right?


This…

Lionel Weyerhaeuser Operating Log Dump Car #82054

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Late in August, I went in and did my annual pre-Christmas shopping of the pre-orders for Lionel O Gauge trains at TrainWorld.  They have a section set up for Lionel that includes in-stock items and a bunch of pre-orders from the 2017 catalog.  The pre-orders usually show up late in the fall - sometime around Halloween - so I typically try to get my order in by September to ensure that they get the pieces on hand in time for the holidays.

Last year, my pre-orders came in on varying dates and included a bunch of Disney-related cars like the Winnie the Pooh boxcar, a Dumbo 75th anniversary boxcar, a Pluto walking brakeman car, and a Buddy the Elf car that arrived in February.   In 2015, I pre-ordered this "Where the Wild Things Are" boxcar for one of the boys.

Each year, I buy the boys in the family a new Lionel item and this year is no different.  However, there are a few new folks added to the Lionel list (one because of birth and one just because) and since I've been gi…

ProTip: Tie Up Your Mums

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Are you like Nat and I and get your mums from Costco?  You know the massive ones in the big plastic pot that is good enough to display on your front porch as-is?  Then, my friend, I have a tip for you:  Get ahead of things by tying up a piece of string or twine about 1/2 up the plant.  That way, they won't splay on you when the buds flower out and get top heavy.

Fountain Grasses Planted In #NewOldBackyard

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Just a few days ago, I posted a photo of the three fountain grasses that Nat picked up in an early fall sale.  After a week or so of them sitting on our driveway, I finally found the time to dig up the holes and plant them in the #newoldbackyard.  I toyed around with planting them in different configurations, but after laying them out in various places, Nat encouraged me to put them in a line because the bed where these are located now, isn't quite defined yet.  And instead of putting them out further from the fence, I lined them up along the fence in a row.  That way, the kids would be a lot less likely to trample them when they come/go in the yard/neighbor's yard. 

To give you a sense of the context of their location, I put them to the south of this Japanese Flowering Cherry tree that I planted at the very beginning of July of this yearIf you look at this photo, these are between the daylilies and the hostas.    I am going to try to baby these and give them a lot of wate…

Hello Old Friend: Anemone In Our New Neighborhood

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On the way to and from the bus stop with the girls, we walk past one of our new neighbor's house in the Randall Park neighborhood who have replaced their entire front yard with a perennial garden.  Not an inch of green grass to be found.  Not even in the parkway.  In one of the prime spots adjacent to the sidewalk is this big, sprawling Anemone plant.  If you click on the photo, you'll see that it is still blooming a bit this late in the season and gives me a little bit of joy every time I walk by it.

If you've been following along since we were in our old house (before Equation Boy/Man's house), you might remember that we had an anemone there, too.  It was in the front/side yard, just outside of our front porch and was awfully happy with the location.  The first time I posted about the plant was back six years ago here on the blog.  Our history with anemone goes back to Nat's wedding bouquet - as her friend/florist stuck a few blooms amongst other of Nat's f…

Geneva Lake Excursion Corporation Vintage Sign

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A few days ago, I posted a photo of the Playboy Club and Resort in Lake Geneva that is on display at Pier 290 in Williams Bay that is part of a pretty great memorabilia and photograph collection inside the restaurant.   They also have some artifacts from the golden age of Lake Geneva including this massive sign that they have in what appears to be the stage/band area.  There wasn't a band playing on the day we went to Pier 290 for lunch, so I went over and took a look at this hand-painted wooden sign.  It features "26 miles of shore line" and proclaims that "The best way to view beautiful Lake Geneva is by boats of Geneva Lake Excursion Corp". 

Looking at the map, it appears that the Geneva Lake Excursion Corporation had two locations - one of which is in the very location of Gage Marine in Williams Bay where the Pier 290 restaurant is located. 

Wonder if they just *found* this piece on location?  Or if they rescued it and brought it back to it's rightful …

Does My Magnolia Tree Have Sooty Mold?

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A few days ago, I posted an updated photo of our Saucer Magnolia tree in the front yard and mentioned this blight/mold/black stuff that is on quite a bit of the leaves.  You can see it in the photo above.  After digging around on the Web, I think that it might - or might not be Sooty Mold.  The University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension has a post up that is titled:  Non harmful tree conditions that catch your eye but require no management.  In the section on Sooty Mold, they provide the description and a photo that looks an awful lot like the one above.   Here's a screenshot:


But if you look elsewhere on the topic of Sooty Mold, the photos look totally different.  Most of the articles reference insects and/or aphids, which our Magnolia doesn't appear to have inhabiting it right now.  I also found this photo of something called Fungal Leaf Spot in the Science Photo Library, which isn't exactly what I am seeing on our leaves.   I'll keep poking around and see what …

Lake Geneva Playboy Club and Steve Martin

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We went out to a kind of fancy lunch recently to a place called Pier 290 in Williams Bay up on Lake Geneva that is run from the folks who run Gage Marine.  It is a waterfront dining destination (for some) and we wanted to give it a try.  We drove by a place called Harpoon Willies that seemed more our speed, but we ended up staying the course and heading to Pier 290.  I went with the Wedge, which I have to say:  they got a bit too cute with and wasn't awesome.  Wedge's are best when they are dead simple with super high quality ingredients, right?  The one at Pier 290 is a balsamic-based dressed wedge, which was their first mistake.  
But, that's not the point of this post.  Nope.  While the food was just fine at the restaurant, their wall of honor/memorabilia/photograph collection in the hallway on the way to the restrooms is, by itself, worth the visit.  And one of the displays there is all about the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva that you can see above.  (Side note...the Gr…

Fountain Grasses Destined For The #NewOldBackyard

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Nat picked up these three fountain grasses (pennisetum alopecuroides 'hameln') at Costco of all places.  They were priced right, so after she texted me a few photos of the various varieties (including a variegated version), we ended up with the three pots you see above.   According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, these are a particular hardy variety that seem to be able to be planted pretty much anywhere.

Over the weekend, I dragged each of the pots to the backyard and placed them in a spot where I thought they'd look good.  Then I walked back to the patio to take a peek from that view.  Didn't love the first layout.  Nor the second.  Nor the third.    I ended up laying them out to form a sort of hedge along the fenceline, near one of the rear gates.  The issue is that our beds in the back are totally undefined at this point.  So, by placing these things, we begin to define at least part of them future of the beds for the #newoldbackyard.  So, while I've transpl…

Late Summer Saucer Magnolia Tree Update

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Just over a five weeks ago, I posted the first photo of our new/young Saucer Magnolia tree in the front yard of our #NewOldFarmhouse after I had 'limbed it up' for the first time.  It had grown a bit since being installed in June and the pruning I gave it will hopefully fuel its upward trajectory.

Above you'll see a photo I took this past week after I gave it another minor pruning where I continued to 'limb up' the main leaders.  I took off a few suckers and removed leaves and shoots that were coming off low on the main branches.  

Flipping back and forth between the early August post and this photo tells me the late summer growth is hard to detect in terms of size, but is noticeable in the buds being created.  The leaves - in some places - have become discolored - which has me worried, but I'll post a closeup of it on the blog and show off the newly emerging buds, too.

I have big hopes that this tree will grow up - with our family - and be a meaningful part …

The Future of Downtown Downers Grove

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Tonight, the Village Board of Downers Grove is meeting to discuss the future of Downtown Downers Grove.  According to the agenda, they're actually doing this:
Discussion of the proposed downtown development regulatory framework developed by the Comprehensive Planning Ad Hoc Committee and the Plan Commission in accordance with Village Council direction. But, a closer look at the documents attached to the agenda show that the dry description actually reveals quite a bit more interesting ideas and what appears to be a big deal.  There are 115 pages of documents attached to tonight's meeting, but buried in there are some interesting nuggets, charts and drawings. 

If approved, the plan laid out - appears to me at least - to provide the blueprint to continue the reinvention and reinvestment of downtown Downers Grove.  The plan lays out specific locations and recommendations for improvement and calls out 12 specific 'Downtown Catalyst Sites" that you can see above.  Click o…

Halloween Inflatables - Big Pumpkin and Frankenstein

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It is no secret that I have a soft spot for two holiday-related items that are, umm, not super cool.  The first is Christmas Village structures.  Have you met Mantleburg?  The other?  Holiday-themed inflatables.  Most recently, I've covered how we picked up this blinking eye owl Halloween inflatable.  And I've posted some photos and videos of other Christmas and Halloween inflatables at Menards over the years.  I even have a playlist on my YouTube Channel showing some of these Menards inflatables.

The spark for this whole thing around inflatables can be traced back to this post in December of 2013.  That's when I finally caved and bought our first inflatable.  You'll note that the Christmas of 2013 lines up with the Babe growing up and having some holiday-related awareness.  She and now her sister and brother have certainly influenced my purchase behavior.

And, to be fair, I think Nat isn't sold on them.  Scratch that....I *know* she isn't sold on them.  She…

First Look at Potential Backyard "Entrance" Solution #1

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In the past couple of posts, I've talked about the need for backyard planning in our #newoldbackyard including the placement of a potential pizza oven and pavilion and my desire (despite Nat's properly-grounded resistance) to incorporate a waterfall/water feature into the 'entrance' of the backyard along with some stone stairs.  
Because we've been so deliberate about all the choices that went into our New Old Farmhouse, I thought it was only appropriate that we enlisted some professionals when thinking about phase 2 of our landscape design and specifically to help us figure out the best way to provide some privacy screening and transition from the front yard to the backyard - as this will be the main traffic route for us and guests.  If you look back at this post that shows the pizza oven placement options, you can see the existing patio that we are working with and if you peek back at this post that shows a photo of this so-called 'entrance' to the backy…

My 2017 Fantasy Football Squad

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I'm laying out my current fantasy football roster - the 2017 Little Lebowski Urban Achievers - for all to judge, mock and critique.  Our league - The Marini/Parrillo War League - is run with an iron fist by the Commissioner Equation Boy/Man and includes my nephews, my Dad, Equation Boy/Man's Dad and nephews on that side.  
My team was totally auto-drafted as I've done in the past and it usually doesn't turn out amazing.  The league is pretty low stakes and because I put in *just* a little bit above the minimum effort in sorting out the buy weeks and inactives, I usually sneak into the playoffs and win maybe one round before being taken out by one of the boys who is all over his team with weekly tweaks and roster moves.  
The team - lead by just one QB in Dak Prescott and WR Odell Beckham Jr (who was the first pick by the computer) has a bunch of guys I've never even heard of!  So, there's that, which is nice, right? 

Late Summer Tree Dreaming: Alaskan Weeping Cedar Tree

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Back in this post on the King Crimson Maple from mid-July of this year, I mentioned that while I was doing what I consider to be a decent job of populating our #newoldbackyard with a nicevarietyofdeciduoustrees, I've failed at establishing any conifers or evergreens.  What is probably a backwards approach to establishing the arboretum of sorts.  I also mentioned two specific species of trees that I've had my eyes on including this one you see above:  Alaskan Weeping Cedar.  More on the tree can be found here.

But, where to put it?  I've made no secret about my desire to fully build out the #newoldbackyard as recently as this week with the placement of a wood-fired pizza oven, an expanded patio with some sort of pavilion structure, some trees to screen the neighbors to the north.  All of that seems to require planning, which I'm thinking requires some professional.  That is...if we want to get it right.

To that end, I've taken a few landscape professionals up on …

#NewOldBackyard Waterfall Inspiration - Part of Entrance to Yard

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I've posted quite a bit on the blog here about the #newoldbackyard this summer as we've begun to grow into in and start to use.  I've noted a few areas of concern including what I'm calling the 'entrance' to the yard and some sightlines/privacy-needing areas.  I've begun to solve one of these areas with the espalier'd Linden trees.  And, most recently, I've enlisted some professional help with thinking through the layout and design of the 'entrance' part of the yard on the north.

One of the things that I've shared with the landscape designer is this video that you see below as some inspiration.  If you look back at the post showing the 'entrance', you'll note the grade difference from where our patio is located down to the bottom of the fence.  There's quite a big of grade difference that we're currently managing with just flagstone steppers.  What if there was a better way?  With stairs, plantings and....wait for it.…

Backyard Pizza Oven Placement - Time to Decide?

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Over the years, I've been quietly (and not so quietly) pining for the day when I can build a wood-fired oven in our backyard.  Between the lifestyle we have (with young kids) and this being a pretty hands-on, weekend-time-sucking project, it seemed like it wasn't ever quite time.  But now?  I'm still not sure it is the right time for tackling something like this - what with the digging of the foundation/footings, building the frame, then cutting and creating the dome from firebricks.

But, I also want to - and need to - get going on the full planning for the #newoldbackyard including some fall tree/shrub plantings and hardscape upgrades, future water feature placement, the eventual placement of a vegetable garden and greenhouse, irrigation system, a sports court and more.

At our old house in Elmhurst, we built out a backyard pavilion that we used to shelter us from the sun that housed our patio and I'm keen to replicate some parts of that with a new pavilion in our #…

Coming Soon: Starbucks By the Lake Geneva Walmart

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This seems like a relatively important development for our family:  a Starbucks is set to open in the outlot of the Lake Geneva Walmart.  Most mornings when we're up in Twin Lakes, I head out to either Bodi's bakeshop to pick up some donuts or to McDonald's for a couple of Big Breakfasts.  Then, I usually take a trip to the Walmart to pick up rations for the day.  Having a Starbucks there - and one with a drive thru - will be really nice and make a quick addition to the routine.  And, gives me another reason to make that 15 minute trip besides buying knock-off American Girl Dollie stuff for the girls along with the turkey and cheese stuff for Dallas' turkey and cheeses.

Star Wars Stormtrooper White Sox Bobblehead

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On a recent Saturday, we packed the kids in the minivan and took them down to see a White Sox game.  When we arrived - which was early - we were surprised by the crowds waiting to get into the park and the noticeable buzz around the gates.    There were huge lines waiting to get in even before Comiskey Park opens.  Strange, right?  I mean....it *is* the White Sox, right?  They're terrible.  In last place.  (In Hahn, we trust, btw)  The place should be empty.  I guess it was a Saturday night, so there are the fireworks, but in today's world, that seems like a stretch to think that people would be willing to go to a Sox game just for fireworks like we used to when I was a kid?  (Maybe the whole Disney fireworks thing has jaded me for fireworks now?)

But then we saw the t-shirts.  And the costumes.  There was a lady with Princess Leia buns.  A dude with a wookie hoodie.  And the buzz?  It was because it was Star Wars night.  Nat poked around on her phone and realized that they w…

Espaliered Linden Trees - Update

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Just a few days ago, I posted some of the steps on the espalier system that I put in our #newoldbackyard arboretum for a pair of Linden trees.  A slight update here.  I made more progress on both espalier systems.  (or...do you say 'pleached'??)  Here's a look at the Linden on the left in the two photos below.  You'll see that I now have three courses of wire up and you can really get a sense for how much longer the lowest branches/limbs are than the ones that are higher up on the trunk.

An overview of the way I'm thinking about this espalier project can be found here on the blog.

And a look at how I rigged up my DIY espalier system can be found here.

I am planning on one more run of wire across the top and will have a four-level espalier.  You can also get a better look at the turnbuckles that I'm using.  Also, on the right, you can see that I have the first course/level/wire up on the Linden on the right.  These will end up matching.  But won't be perf…

Lemax Spooky Town: Creepy Crawlies Pet Sitting

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Here's another 'new' structure from the Spooky Town collection out of Lemax that Menards is carrying this year.  I posted photos/details on the Ghostly Manor and the Grim Reaper's Department Store already here on the blog.  This one - Creepy Crawlies Pet Sitting - is priced much lower at $39.99 and isn't animated/doesn't move in any way.  But it is pretty cute anyway.  Lots of colors and a nice idea to add to Spooky Town.

You know...Mantleburg doesn't have a pet sitter...  Maybe the Mayor of Mantleburg will convince the powers that be to annex this one?  Seems doubtful being a one-off, but if other Spooky Town structures join Mantleburg's city limits, I would think this one would follow.  But, that's all wishing/hoping for now.  The City Council isn't meeting for weeks and by then, perhaps these will be on sale at Menards?  *That* might weigh on the council's decision, right?



DIY Espalier System For Linden Trees - Part 1

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Back in May, I bought two very small/young Greenspire Linden trees with designs on giving the art of espalier a shot with them in our #newoldbackyard.  I initially trimmed/pruned them up to make them two-dimensional and they sat for a more than a month in the driveway in Elmhurst before we moved into Downers.  Then back in July, I posted a few photos that showed these Lindens in their containers awaiting their final position as our new fence went in.  
Once the fence was in, I was able to plant them in their final locations, along the south property line, butted right up against the cedar fence - which in this part of the yard is 6'+ tall.  
There were additional steps including the installation of the posts for the espalier system back in the beginning of August.  I sunk 3 steel posts in the ground in preparation of the wire system.  
And that leads me to this post and an update on the process.  After a few trips to Menards and some thinking/cogitating, I was able to figure out h…