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Showing posts from September, 2018

Budweiser Clydesdales @ Binny's

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On a trip to Binny's to pick up some fancy beers for herself, Nat noticed a sign that said that the Budweiser Clydesdales were going to be appearing at Binny's in Oak Brook.  Well, we couldn't miss that, right?  I have never peep'd them in person before and it was pretty neat!

They were scheduled to be there for a few hours, but the weather cut it short.  Fortunately, we were there for a while before they put them away.

Talk about nostalgia and holidays and the feels all wrapped up in one nice, neat package.

Amazing ambassadors for the brand.  Too bad it is a giant European conglomerate these days.

But they're still bringing out the horses for Suburban rubes like us.  And guess what?  It worked.


Crimson King Maple Tree Seed

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Last year in July, I planted a Crimson King Maple Tree in the back part of our yard.  I chronicled the planting here.  And then gave a late Fall check-in post here before it dropped its leaves for the year.   One of the things that I was struck by was the lack of seeds in the tree last year.  The good news is that right now, the tree is loaded with them!  Here's one of them, all green and ready to burst.  Helicopters as we say, right? 

I'm thinking that the tree was prioritizing putting down roots last year and didn't have the energy to spare to produce seeds.  Isn't nature amazing? 

This season, I didn't pay much attention to the tree and I think that's just fine.  I mean...most people pay NO attention whatsoever to all of their trees, so these trees figure out how to survive on their own.  Just by the eye test, I don't think this tree has grown much in terms of height, but it seems like it has gotten thicker and more full and definitely wider.

Another Year: Allium Purple Sensation Bulbs

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Almost one year ago - in early October of 2017 - I posted some photos of the locations of the Allium Purple Sensation bulbs that I put in the ground in the backyard.  I ended up putting them around the base of a big Oak Tree about half-way back from the house.  I don't think that all five of them came up and I know that we had at least one of them get dug out and taken by a critter, so I'm thinking that we likely have three left.

When I came across the fall bulb section recently, I'm naturally drawn to Alliums.  Since 2011, I've posted about the various Allium bulbs that I've planted, starting with a surprise gift to Natalie that first year.  I also covered the bulbs that went into the ground in the Fall of 2017 in a post in April of this year when they emerged

This year, I have five bulbs to put down of the same variety as last year:  Purple Sensation.


In thinking about the 'path' concept I have in my head for the backyard, I'm wondering if I should …

Flowers On Our Sweet Potato Vines

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We've been growing Sweet Potato Vines for the better part of ten years.  Basically ever since I started to buy and plant containers of my own, we've found a home for one of these.  Or six of them.  With their rock-bottom price (usually $0.99 a piece), I naturally grab one of these and a spike or two and check the box on the "spill" and "thrill" in the fill-spill-thrill container philosophy trio.

But in all of that time, I have never had a Sweet Potato Vine flower.  Until now.  And I have not one vine flowering, but two!  In two different containers.   Here, below, you can see both of the wine barrel containers that I used on our patio and you can see that both of them have a very healthy/robust purple sweet potato vine and both are flowering!


(also note how happy the Lemon Coral Sedum is, eh?)

The flowers are quite striking and add some drama to the normally boring vine.


From this DIYNetwork post, it turns out that the reason I haven't seen flowers bef…

Canadian Hemlock: LOST

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That's our very small Canadian Hemlock up above in happier times:  right after planting.  But, alas, the tree is gone.  Lost it this Summer due to drying out.  Just like our Fraser Fir.  I don't have a photo of the carcass of the Hemlock unfortunately.  I took it back to Menards and didn't take the care to photograph the deceased.

This makes five tree's we've lost.  Two of them pure conifers, one deciduous conifer.

1.  Chanticleer Pear 3" caliper tree.  Which we might lose again.
2.  The Corkscrew Willow I planted for Nat all the way in the back.  Might be a good thing knowing they're ratty trees.
3.  The Fraser Fir.  And our dreams of grow-our-own Christmas Trees.
4.  The Dawn Redwood that we replaced.
5.  This small Canadian Hemlock.

26 up, five down.  Two of them replaced.  Net of 23 trees alive and well in our reforestation.  In two seasons.  Only one of which is a conifer (Weeping Cedar) and two of which are deciduous conifers (replacement Dawn Redwo…

Two More Tree Heights in Tree Inventory

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In June of this Summer, I posted a series of photos that attempted to document the full tree height in our inventory on Hornbeam Hill.  I didn't get every tree, but I was able to put a height (approximate) on most of the new trees and that post was meant to serve as a reference post for documenting some of the trees as they grow.  But, there are at least two trees that went in *after* that post was shared that I wanted to document. 

First up is the replacement Dawn Redwood.  That's the photo on top.  You can see the height of the tree (currently) is just shy of 63" tall.

Below is the newly planted Bald Cypress in the front yard by the driveway.  That one is currently 51" tall. 


I'll be going back to these trees (if they make it over the Winter) next year and hope to see some 'creep' going on as they shoot upwards.

Menards Christmas Creep - 2018

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Continuing the annual tradition of trying to document on the blog the various times we first come across the Menards Enchanted Forest Christmas setup.  Posting this on the 24th of September, but I took this photo a week ago.  I've talked over the years about the notion of "Christmas Creep" and how I'm just fine with it.  Mid/late September is right in the middle of Fall holiday planning for most, but I understand why retailers are moving Christmas earlier and earlier. 

I've done the Christmas Creep documenting on the blog over the years. 

Here's 2017's version that I posted on September 28th.
Here's 2016's version that I posted on September 26th.
Here's 2015's version that I posted on October 6th.
Here's 2011's version that I posted on September 17th.

So this is the second earliest, but based on when I took this photo, it might have been a tie? 

As for the actual display, they have both their Halloween stuff up in the main seasonal s…

Backyard Tree Identification: Mulberry Trees

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Earlier this month, I posted about I was taking down a few Buckthorn trees on our property as part of early Fall/late Summer yard maintenance.  After peeping at the leaves on those Buckthorns and following the recommendation of our landscaper who marked them as such, I was pretty confident in removing them, despite their somewhat mature size.  The benefits of removing them far outweigh their continued survival.  There were, however, a bunch of other trees on the property that I couldn't at first identify and wasn't sure if I should keep or remove.

So, after some initial searching on the internet, I thought what I had were Mulberry trees.    You'll notice in the photo above something unique:  The leaves on one branch had very different leaves.  On.the.same.branch!  The leaves at the top of the photo have a few lobes on them, while the leaves near the tip - at the bottom of the photo are more egg-shaped.  Strange, right?  All signs pointed to Hackberries, but these were not…

Robin's Nesting Shelf - With Nest

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I posted back in August how a bird's nest had fallen from one of our big Oak trees down to the yard and how the kids were fascinated by it.  I read up a bit and figured out that we could build a nesting platform for both the replacing of *this* nest and hopefully the usage of other birds (Robins?) next season. 

I found these easy plans for a nesting platform/shelf here.    I had 1/2" plywood on hand, so I decided to use that.  I know that Cedar would be better, but I had the plywood on hand.  I made the cuts, assembled the thing and even tweaked it a bit.  I added a series of drainage holes to the bottom of the platform and to the bottom/sides of the walls.  Figured for both drainage and airflow. 

After I built it, I had the Bird paint it.  You can kind of see that she used some metallic paints on the back/sides of it.  After I asked her if she wanted to finish it, she insisted that it was done.   So, I put down a few coats of spray-on clear coat to both protect her paint jo…

Screened Porch Ferns Making A Late Summer Comeback

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I planted two different ferns on the northside of our screened porch earlier this Summer.  That post with the full details can be found here in the garden diary.  One of them (Autumn Fern) was planted on the left of this transplanted hosta and one of them (Japanese Painted Fern) was planted on the right.  If you look back at the post when I planted these, the hosta in the middle wasn't there yet and we didn't even have our mulch for the season, so I planted these in some clay.

They both immediately sufferend.  Dried out.  Figured they were dead.  Only thing I lost was the two bucks apiece, I figured.

Well, on a recent walk around the screened porch, what did I discover?  That both of these ferns have made a comeback of sorts!  They're both green, and have shoots popping through the mulch.  Amazing!  You can see their little beings on the far sides of this photo.  Incredible, right??  Well, maybe not to you, but this is an incredible sight to me.  Hey...thanks, Audrey Hepb…

2018 Randall Park Soap Box Derby - Downers Grove Block Party Tradition

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On a recent Saturday, we took the three kids down a couple of blocks to Fairmount Avenue to the annual neighborhood Block Party and Soapbox Derby.1   This is the second year in a row that we've participated and you can see a video and my post from the 2017 edition here on the blog.


As I wrote last year, this is a really fun family event.  The families that put this on go out of their way to make their block party a really special experience and they draw in families from not just their block, but from people like us - who live a few blocks away.  Once again, they had a DJ tent set up, a really well-put-together starting gate/ramp, a big food spread including hot dogs, a frosty keg and lemonade/water setups for all the kids (and shandy setup by combining the keg and lemonade setups for me!), a snow cone station, a number of sawhorses set up by the garage to tune up your car and every tool and wrench and impact driver you could ever need.  Oh, and they invited Guac and Tacos from D…

Planting a Bald Cypress - Front Yard Tree

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I mentioned in a post that I picked up a late-season Bald Cypress tiny tree at Home Depot recently, but didn't want to mark it down (officially.  Or as official as a blog post here counts as...) as the 26th tree that we've planted since we moved in.  But, now, you can see in the photo above that it is, indeed in the ground.  So we're now at 26 trees.  Full list is at the bottom of this post.  
As I mentioned in the post when I showed off the newly purchased Bald Cypress, this is a tree that we've been stalking for some time.  I *almost* pulled the trigger on a large one at the Growing Place that had a columnar habit, but passed on it at the last minute.  I have a feeling I'll be back next year to buy *that* tree.  But for now, we'll have to try this little guy.
The reason for the little one is both because it was cheap (sure!), but also because of where I planted this thing.  I wanted it to go in the front yard, between our driveway and the neighbor to the nor…

Hostas are Blooming - White Flowers, Glossy Leaves

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I've written about hostas on the blog here than maybe any other plant in the garden.  And I've even disclosed why I think I love these things:  my mother and her willingness to toil year-after-year in our super shady, forested yard where the only thing that grew were hostas.    Today, I'm sharing this photo of some hostas that are blooming these spectacular white sets of blooms just in time for the fall season.  I took this photo back in August, but just getting around to posting it now, so if I look back at the garden diary in the coming years, note to self:  August photo. 

These are simple hostas - not variegated or particularly large.  I also know where they're from:  In the last few weeks before we tore the old house down on our lot, I went over there and dug out a bunch of hostas that were in the front yard and just kind of threw them down in the backyard - in an area that I thought was past the far-reaches of the construction fence.  I put them down in the same …

Work-in-Progress DIY Firewood Rack

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Just a few days back, I posted a link to these DIY firewood rack brackets that Menards was carrying on their site.  I ordered five sets and got busy working with three of them.  Here, above, is a work-in-progress show that shows the position of one of the racks that I'm building.  This one is the one right outside of the family room door and I've built the rack in a vertical orientation. 

I ended up using some rough sawn cedar that was left over from my fence installation, but that move caused some issues.  Turns out, rough sawn cedar 2x4's aren't the same size as normal, dimensional construction lumber.  They're a bit bigger.  Not true two inches by four inches, but bigger by just a hair. 

Here's the height difference.  On the left is a traditional, Home Depot bought 2x4.  On the right is a rough sawn Cedar 2x4. 


And the thickness difference.


I first went to Home Depot and the one by us has just an indoor lumber yard, so they have limited supply.  The guy loo…

Neighborhood Anemone in Bloom - 2018

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Tis' the season for the arrival of these beautiful anemone flowers down the block from our house.  Just about one year to the day, I shared a similar photo of these blooms that are in the front yard of a house a few doors down.  Those of you who have been with me for a while will know that we had an anemone perennial at our old house in Elmhurst.  And it came about because of a re-do of Nat's wedding bouquet

Earlier this Summer, I shared a photo of the 'teardown haul' that I pulled out of Nat's Sister's yard before they started construction.  In that pile of stuff was a perennial that shared some of the characteristics of the anemone plants - with leaves the same shape.  I stuck that plant in the back of our yard and tended to it just a little bit.  After some shock, it appears to have rebounded.  And is growing foliage, but no blooms.  I suppose we won't know until next year if we do, indeed, have anemones or if I rescued some weed that I unknowingly tr…

Our One And Only Tomato - Mortgage Lifter 2018

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What has happened to my green thumb?  I mean, c'mon!  We used to have a huge, lush vegetable garden that threw off more produce than we could consume.  Here's a few exhibits:  2012 version. More 2012.   Potatoes in 2013Rapunzel Tomatoes in 2015.  And even carrots.

The past few years?  We've had no garden.  None.  Zero.point.zero.


We've tried container gardening.  It isn't working out, folks. 

This year, I planted just one tomato plant:  a Mortgage Lifter

And see that small tomato on the top of this post?  That's it.  One measly Mortgage Lifter ripened on the vine this year. 

Nat is fed up with my lack of production, too!  She recently mentioned that she, too, is pining for the *literal* salad days of yore when we had home-grown produce.  I posted a photo of an raised-bed enclosure that is my inspiration for a Spring project.  There's a lot to do - including the patio expansion, pizza oven construction, landscape plan fulfillment.  But also this:  a ra…

Cadence Kitchen Downers Grove - Coaster Collection

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I've hit thirty in the [coaster collection] here on the blog with the posting and sharing of this coaster from Cadence Kitchen & Co in Downtown Downers Grove.  This is the second in a row of Downers Grove joints on the coaster collection with the most recent one being Alter Brewing Company back in August.  I took this photo on our third visit to Cadence Kitchen and each of them have been nice meals and experiences.  Each of them also was on a date night with Nat, so those meals tend to be a bit more relaxed.  One other thing about this one:  I took this photo of the coaster at the bar - that's where we sat.  At the corner seats of the bar actually.  After a night at SMG meeting the teachers. 

From the sounds of it, we're going to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to upscale dining/bar options in Downtown Downers Grove soon with the eminent opening of Pierce Tavern this fall.   If they have custom coasters, I'll be sure to add them to the collection he…

A DIY (And Custom) Firewood Rack For This Season?

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Last year was our first Winter in our house and was also the first year where we ordered a Face Cord of firewood.  I documented that Face Cord - and the location of the rack - here on the blog.  I set up our only rack in our screened porch, where it was covered and protected from the elements.  But last year we didn't have any furniture in the porch, so it was easy to do.  This year?  Nat has set up the room with a full set of furniture and even an indoor/outdoor rug.  So, that means space is limited inside. 

At the same time, I've considered firewood rack options - including posting some inspiration here on the blog.  The placement of the rack has been bouncing around in my brain for the better part of the Summer.  I want to put it in a place that is protected from the elements, but not too far from the door because I know I'll want to walk out there in my house shoes to grab wood for the fire.  Also, I know we'll end up ordering two Face Cords this year because we b…

Putting Down Some Pelletized Gypsum - Beds and Lawn

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Posting this mostly as a reminder to myself here in the [garden diary] that I recently put down 80 lbs of pelletized gypsum.  Both on the front lawn and in the beds that I've planted around the foundation.  The instructions recommend applying this stuff at the rate of 40 lbs per 1,000 square feet, but I didn't do that.  I have about 15,000 square feet of landscape and that would require 15 bags.  I bought two and decided to concentrate on the beds and the front sod.  I didn't do the parkway area, but I intend to go back to Menards later this Fall to pick up a few more bags so I can do the parkway and driveway areas. Why? Because of the product benefits that the bag lists is the neutralization of roadway salt.

But, why did I put this stuff down in the first place?  Well, the actual science is marginal.  I've read things on the Web that both say:  it helps and it doesn't help any.  But, see the first bullet point on the front of the bag in the photo up top?

"He…

Fall Tree Planting: Bald Cypress

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Recently, we made a stop at the Home Depot to pick up some painting supplies for a project and I, as I usually do, wandered out to the garden center.  There....I was confronted with a bunch of small fall-planting-ready trees.  Most of them were fruit trees, but mixed in on the pallets were a few shade trees.  But there was one small tree that caught my eye:  a small (less than 1" caliper) Bald Cypress.

Priced at $19, I had a hard time passing it up.  That's it in the photo above and you can see that it is small and...dare I say....scrawny.    But at $19, it isn't all that much different than the Dawn Redwood that I planted as a replacement earlier this Summer.

Nat's folks have a couple of Bald Cypresses and there are a few down at Barth Pond (that we use to mark the water level of the pond!) and at Whittier School in our neighborhood.  Each time we walk by them or see them, I remark that I'd like to have one of those trees on Hornbeam Hill.

Now?  We have one!  A …