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Showing posts from 2019

Dawn Redwood - Late Fall 2019

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Just a little bit over a year ago, our Dawn Redwood looked like this.  It had mostly browned-out and was ready to shed all of it's needles.  Today, you see it above - a mix of brown and green and most of the needles still hanging on.  If you look closely, you'll see that I've attached a bamboo shoot to the top 1/3rd of the tree.  I did right before Halloween when we had that heavy snowfall come down.

If you look back at the 2019 tree inventory post, you'll remember that this tree grew 3 full feet this season.  And that the tip of the leader was all green.    That means that it is pretty weak and thin.  That snow fall was tipping this thing over and I was worried that it would snap off - like the Pear Tree we had in our old backyard in Elmhurst did in 2010.  I haven't fastened it all the way to the base of the tree, but I'm thinking that's ok.  I'm trying to protect the most vulnerable part - the green growth at the very top - from Winter damage. 

This …

Dead Ash Tree - Worm-like Pattern Under Bark

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This is one of my neighbor's Ash trees.  They have a half-dozen or so that have are dead and still standing.  The photo above is striking for two reasons:  the worm-like pattern that is on the tree is the most noticeable.  But, look closer:  see all the holes?  All over the tree?  That's from the Emerald Ash Borer and why the tree is dead.

Here's a closer look at a couple of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) holes on this tree:


There doesn't appear to be any of the Borers hanging around as I presume these trees were killed years ago when the Borer first appeared in Illinois.  The Morton Arboretum suggests that the Emerald Ash Borer is so pervasive that it expects that EVERY Ash Tree in Illinois will be killed.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. 

What happens when all the Ash trees are gone?  Will the Borers move on?  Fly somewhere else?  Just die off?  Or, will they adapt to the environment and start to attack other species of trees?  That's terrifying.

Here (below) is a look at the t…

Downed Oak Firewood - Fall 2019

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A couple of days ago, I posted some photos of a snow-downed limb from one of our massive old Oak trees in the yard and mentioned that I was going to cut and begin to dry the limb for firewood.

"Cut early.  Burn late."

That's what the old-timers say about firewood.  Especially Oak as it takes upwards of a year (or more) to properly season and dry out.  I figured I'd try a little experiment here and monitor how long it would take to dry out and get down to where the seasoned wood that I buy is when it arrives (under 15% moisture).

You can see in the photo above, that this Oak firewood is measuring 24.5% on the C setting of my moisture meter.  I'll try to measure these pieces of Oak over the next year and see if we can establish the timeline for seasoning downed Oak limbs.

Below, you can see some of the pile that I've made out of the limb.  Some of it has naturally split while other parts of it are narrow enough to not have to split.


I've begun to cut it up…

Bald Cypress Knees - Oxygen Access Points

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A week or so ago, I posted some photos of a large Willow Oak tree from a visit to a corporate headquarters and referenced some other landscaping there (the cloud-like hedge).  The campus is surrounded by a TPC golf course named Southwind and has quite a few mature trees.  They also have done a nice job of creating some educational material and signage about some of the trees they have on hand including this Bald Cypress or "Baldcypress" as the sign indicates.

We have a tiny Bald Cypress - or Baldy Cypress - out front on the north side of our driveway.  According to my inventory this Summer, it grew just 1" in height.

But...back to the sign:  the second sentence reads:
"The raised conical knees, part of the root system, are believed to help the roots attain oxygen." Raised knees?!  What the heck?  I had never heard of Cypress Knees.  But...looking around the tree - and sure enough - there were a bunch of these surface roots:


More Cypress Knees:


Had no idea tha…

Driveway Sealer - Re-applied Fall 2019

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This photo above - of part of our driveway - is a few weeks old, but I wanted to drop this down here on the blog, so I could refer back to it in terms of house maintenance.  When we built the house, the concrete guys laid down a nice thick concrete sealer on top of our brand new driveway.  I subsequently worked earlier this Summer to powerwash the whole thing and put on a first coat of sealer.  That meant that it was about two years old before I put on a second coat.

Then, late in October, I found a day that was 'right' in terms of temperature (air temps in the 50's and rising for a few hours, surface temps in the 50's and no rain in the forecast).  So, I quickly grabbed the garden sprayer, filled it with sealer and slopped it on.  I used this SealBest Concrete Sealer from Menards (not the high gloss stuff) that retails for $79.99 for five gallons.  You can see it in varying degrees of absorption with a purple/white-ish hue.  And, as I mentioned above, I used a hand-p…

Oak Tree Limb Downed In Early Snow - Fall 2019

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A couple of weeks back (the day before Halloween), we had a snowstorm that came on while many of our trees had almost ALL of their leaves on the branches and limbs.  The photo at the top shows some of the trees and how there are still TONS of leaves on them.  It also shows a big limb that came off of one of the big/mighty Oak trees that we have in our yard.  
Those two things go hand-in-hand.  The heavy, wet snow on trees that were still carrying all of their leaves caused a bunch of tree damage in our neighborhood.  I worked hard to clear as many of the low trees as possible of the snow (using my blower), but this is the damage that we incurred.  Some of our neighbors lost similar branches and I saw one tree crack right in half up the block.  
That limb might not look like much, but after the snow melted I started to cut the thing back up so I could get it out of the yard.  It was all alive and therefore HEAVY.  Full of life (and water).  Too bad, right?  
I cut a cross section of t…

Finished Nanoblock Kaminarimon LED Set

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A few days ago, I posted photos about my first Nanoblock build of the Kaminarimon gate from Japan and today, I'm happy to say that I finished the build.  I put the penny in there for scale.  The LED is piped from the base to the little lantern in the middle that is suspended from the roof structure.  The two little people are cute, aren't they?  Time to move on to the next set - the Shinkansen bullet train.

If I had a shelf in my home office that this could live on, I'd put it up there.  For now, it is just sitting on my desk.  Until it gets wrecked by one of the kids.

Medium-sized Buckthorn Removal - Fall 2019

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Last September, I posted a series of photos showing how I was taking down a Buckthorn tree in the far reaches of our backyard.  It was a small tree, but took some time between cutting and digging out the roots.  I mentioned that I had a few more Buckthorn trees around - and because they're an invasive tree - I wanted to get rid of them over time.  In fact, I included 'Buckthorn removal' in my 2019 To-Do List addendum and didn't get around to taking down any of the trees this Summer. 

That changed this past weekend, when I was out back and tried to take on this tree you see here.  This is a medium tree, but it is in a state of both alive and dead - at the same time.  I know that seems strange, but I'm pretty sure that the main tree is dead, but the suckers on this thing keep coming back, so there's life in there somewhere. 

I first started with sawing off a bunch of the limbs. 

Then I cut it in half - and let the top-half tumble down into the bed.  In the top p…

Final Lawn Lime Application - Fall 2019

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Yesterday, I posted about how I aerated my rear lawn using my neighbor's tractor as part of my fall lawn care duties.  I also threw down a final application of Lawn Lime for the year.  This is focused on trying to make the backyard as inhospitable as possible to the Wild Onion that we have in our backyard

First application of pelletized Lawn Lime was in late April.  4 40# bags.  160#s.
Put down the second application in early August.  4 40# bags.  160#s
Used Mag-i-Cal in September - one month later - for third treatment.  1 54# bag. 
And now this - in early November - my fourth application of lime.  4 40# bags.  160#s.

Four treatments this year.  160 + 160 + 54 + 160 = 534 lbs added to the soil.  That seems like a ton, right? 

With the aeration taking place, I'm thinking that this final fourth treatment will be the deepest in terms of intake into the soil.  I'm planning on doing another round of soil tests this coming Spring, so we'll see what happens with the pH and …

Rear Lawn Aeration - Fall 2019

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Last weekend, I was out cleaning up the yard when my neighbor to the south offered his lawn tractor and aerator for my yard.  I had not have had my lawn aerated since we moved in and it is something that I've been wanting to do.  The tractor fit through my back gate and with the help of my neighbor, we hooked up the aerator - which is a tow-behind variety.  With some help, we put the three big bricks on the back and then lowered down the rig to begin to plug some holes.

I had to be pretty careful because I didn't want to puncture the wires for my automower, so I stayed away from the perimeter and also tried to avoid the guidewire down the middle of the yard.

As for the system, it put in a uniform set of holes across the yard.  Check out the pattern below:


And here's a few of the plugs that it pulled and threw around:


I wasn't able to do the ENTIRE lawn, but I did most of it.  The hill/incline right near the patio, the very edge and the parts near the house were left u…

My First Nanoblock Build - LED Kaminarimon

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On one of my trips to Tokyo, I brought back a couple of sets of Nanoblocks for the kids including this one that is an "Optical Fiber LED+ Kaminarimon" that features 420 pieces.  Nanoblocks are like Legos, but much smaller.  Like...really tiny.  That tiny-ness is a key product attribute making the sets - when fully built - taking a much smaller footprint than a Lego set.  But, that tiny-ness also makes these decidedly NOT FOR KIDS.  Or at least...not for my kids.

This thing lingered on my desk for a couple of months because the kids couldn't make it work - their hands couldn't make the tiny parts work for them.  So, I decided to take over the project and get it started.

This set is Kaminarimon - which Wikipedia tells us - is a very special site in Tokyo.

On the scale of difficulty, this one measures 3 out of 5.

It has an LED base that is powered by a pair of AA batteries or by plugging in a USB cable and that lights up the base panel that you see below.


There are jus…

Lemax Mountain High Adventure Tours - Menards Christmas 2019

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This Mountain High Adventure Tours building from the Lemax Vail Village caught my eye at Menards.  It is one of the few Vail Village buildings that Menards is carrying and it is - according to Lemax's site - new for 2019.  Back in the hayday of Mantleburg, the Village had a few Vail Village buildings and I think that I'm drawn to them in some way.  I also like the seaside nature of Plymouth Corners.  But, besides having a SUPER TIGHT sign ordinance, the Village of Mantleburg forefathers weren't too terribly picky on the architecture style of structures in town.

This is the fifth Lemax Christmas building that I've posted about here this year.

First was the North Pole Tower - part of Santa's Wonderland.
Over the weekend was The Hop Stop craft brew building - part of Harvest Crossing.
The third one that I posted included photos of the Sugar Plum Bakery.
The fourth one was the fly-thru Reindeer wash building.
And now this one with the Hot Air Balloon.

In what I would cl…

Is This A Young Walnut Tree? Or A Weed Tree?

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No...not that kind of weed tree.  I'm talking about a weed tree that has grown up and isn't really much of a desirable tree.  Or, is it a Walnut tree?  You can see the trunk being very tall and thin.  The tree is twelve or so feet tall and has a set of leaves that look just like Walnut tree leaves.  We have quite a few large Walnut trees around the yard, so it isn't beyond reason that a Walnut would have rooted and grown into a tree, I would think?

The leaves of Walnut trees are "alternate compound" or "pinnate leaves" and so, too. are the leaves of this tree.
I know a little bit of the Black Locust tree - which is (I think) a "weed tree".  It has similar shaped leaves, but the tips are rounded where these are pointy.  It is "not recommended" by the Morton Arboretum.   I'm pretty confident that the tree in question - in the red circle - is NOT a black locust.  
But, is it a Black Walnut tree?  
Here's a closer look (below) …

Wilco: Love is Everywhere (Beware)

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A few nights ago, Wilco played on Late Night with Seth Meyers.   Their new single (is that still what you call it?) is pretty good.  Dad rock and all.



The archives are full of Wilco-related posts all the way back to 2004.  Go ahead and nose around in there if you'd like.

Linden Espalier - Fall 2019 Pre-Dormancy

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I took this photo above a week or so ago - with the Greenspire Lindens being entirely green and not having lost a leaf yet this year.  Putting this here in the [garden diary] to note how much the trees hve grown and to document the progress of the Candelabra that I've made this year.

I'll take another photo once the leaves fall off to get a sense for the structure, but below you can see the candelabra that is taking shape.  The red indicates the branch structure that exists so far and the yellow show the bamboo supports that are in place.


Winter gives me a chance to look at this double candelabra espalier and decide if it is going to be five cordons or six cordons or limbs in the candelabra.  Here - below - in teal - is the six limb version.  It looks tight to me.


On the left, this means that I need:
a new 2nd from the bottom left limb.a longer bottom limb on the right. a decision between three and four on both sides.a new fifth left limbcutting the top ones short and shaping …

Weeping White Spruce - Fall 2019

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I bought this small Weeping White Spruce in the end of May this year and planted it on the southside of our property close to the fenceline here (it is a columnar, very narrow tree!) at the beginning of June.  I seem to have failed to measure it and include it in my annual yard tree inventory post this year, so I thought it would be worth sharing this thing as it goes into Winter.

I don't have the best luck with Winter conifers.  This past season, I lost my other weeping tree - the Alaskan Weeping Cedar - even though I tried to protect it with Wilt-Pruf.  Welp, actually, I don't have much luck with conifers anytime as I also lost my first Fraser Fir last season.

I'm torn as to if I should apply the Wilt-Pruf to this Weeping White Spruce, but I'm thinking that it can't hurt.  Last Winter was brutal and the Cedar Tree was just a casualty of it - like the buds on all of my flowering trees and the Wilt-Pruf didn't seem to help on the Cedar.  If I mix up a batch of…

Fighting Illini Football - Homecoming 2019

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A few weeks ago, we packed up the Minivan and went down to Champaign for Illinois Homecoming.  That started with a visit to Memorial Stadium where the Illini were taking on the Wisconsin Badgers and I was able to participate in the annual Varsity I weekend where they welcome back past athletes (see my Football Alumni badge at the top) and all the festivities that includes like a tailgate party, some free tickets and going on the field before the game.   We watched the game (at least most of it) and also had a nice time with my sisters at their tailgate in Grange Grove.


As part of the Varsity I celebration, the Athletic Department hosts what they call the "Legacy Tunnel" - where former players line up and the team charges out in front of when they leave the locker room.  I had a good spot - facing West - and snapped a few photos of the Fighting Illini Football Team wearing their "Grey Ghost" uniforms.  Check out this post that shows the 1998 team photo and the trad…

Willow Oak Tree in Memphis Tennessee - Fall 2019

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I spotted a few of these trees outside of a corporate campus building in Memphis recently and they struck me as a pretty nice shade tree.  The leaves were falling - and are long, non-traditional-Oak-tree-shaped.  Check one out here:


This is from the same site as that cloud-like hedge of Boxwoods that I posted about earlier this month.

It thrives in Tenneessee, but what about Illinois?  Zone 5B?  Not sure.  The Missouri Botanical Garden team lists this tree suitable down to Zone 5, but also includes this note:
Trees or seeds for the St. Louis area should come from northern sources because there is some question as to the winter hardiness of this tree throughout USDA Zone 5. This tree has a couple of features that I can see people being drawn to:  it is shaped like an Oak, but has the leaves (above) that are Willow-like.  Oh...and it grows fast - something you can't say about most Oaks.  From Missouri Botanical Garden:
Quercus phellos, commonly called willow oak, is a medium to larg…

Lemax Reindeer Grooming Barn - 2019

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This one isn't 'new' for 2019, but rather was released last year.  At least....that's according to the Lemax site that shows this Reindeer Grooming Barn being part of the Santa's Wonderland collection and 'new in 2018'. It is, however, new to me and new to Menards as far as I can tell.

This is the fourth Lemax Christmas Village structure that I've put on the blog this year.

First was the North Pole Tower - part of Santa's Wonderland.
Over the weekend was The Hop Stop craft brew building - part of Harvest Crossing.
And most recently, I posted photos of the Sugar Plum Bakery.

Like the rest of the standard structures, the Fly-Tru Reindeer Washing Barn retails for $39.99 at Menards, but will be on their reverse Christmas pricing that has discounts that grow as we get closer to Christmas Day.


As for Mantleburg...I think you know the answer by now:  the Village Board isn't going to annex anything like this in the near term.

Last Night's Tally - With Disputed Numbers in 2019

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Here's the tally from last night's visitors in Downers Grove:  32 kids we know.  20 kids we don't know.  15 adults with costumes.   3 kids no costume.  And 3 Adults no costume.    That would be a total of 73 with a pretty big asterisk.

Last year, we had 24 total.  All kids we knew.  And that was a pretty sad number.

I think it is safe to say that these numbers are in dispute.  For sure, the numbers in the red circles below, I think we can just simply throw out.  It was snowing like crazy and we don't live in Elmhurst any longer so there were no Adults and no babies out there like there have been in some years.


So, let's throw out those numbers.  Minus 21.  Takes our 73 down to 52.  
That seems plausible.  We did the whole 'bowl on the front porch' thing when we were out, so there's no counting those kids.  But, like we do every year, Nat has a little party at our house after trick-or-treating and there are more than a dozen kids that come over for that.…

Macy's State Street Christmas Windows - Prepping For Reveal 2019

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I walked by Marshall Field's Macy's this week and noticed that they've converted their State Street windows to the usual 'Pardon our appearance.  Something Magical is in store.' signage covering up the soon-to-be-revealed Holiday Christmas windows.

One big flag to me is that they've only covered up the State Street side and not the one or two windows on the Randolph Street side.  In year's past, they've used those two windows to do something a little bit history-oriented like this one in 2017.   Hopefully there will be a little Uncle Mistletoe in the windows and we don't get NYC's sloppy seconds again.

Edging for Backyard Path - Brick or Metal or Natural

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On my post yesterday where I scored my yard/garden activity for the year, I included some initial thoughts about what I am thinking about doing next year.  On that list was to build the first section of the backyard 'path'.  I mentioned that I also need to figure out the edging - because what I start with is what I'll end up using going forward.

I recently saw this photo from Laura at Garden Answer where she was sharing the beds out front of her chicken coop and was drawn to the brick edging that she's using.



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Chicken coop area is all cleaned up! Next thing to do is add some greenhouse plastic to the top and sides of their run to give them a warmer, dry place to move around for the winter! It’s going to look so classy... 😆🤦‍♀️ Oh well, happy chickens are more important! A post shared by Garden Answer (@gardenanswer) on Oct 22, 2019 at 8:20am PDT
That is so simple, but looks really nice against the gravel, right?

I found this video where sh…