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Showing posts from November, 2020

Lego Cinderella Walt Disney World Castle Build - November 2020

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Step #626.  That's where we are RIGHT NOW on the Lego Disney Cinderella Walt Disney World Castle that we started in July of 2018.  Yes, you read that right:  17 months ago, we started this build .  And it was 11 months ago that I posted here on the blog how I worked with Lego customer service to source some of the parts that have gone missing.  That was January of this year.   You would think that the pandemic would have gotten us going a little bit faster on this thing, right?  But, it wasn't to be.  However, now with the colder weather + us sitting around inside AND staring down Christmas where the kids will likely get EVEN MORE Lego sets, we have a deadline we're facing.  I want to get this thing done in the next week or two.  But, we're at a stage where we're - once again - missing parts.  Between opened bags and just flat out MISSING bags in our set, we have to go back-and-forth between where we're building this (in the screened porch) and the Lego storage

Do Outside Winter Hose Faucet Covers Really Work? - November 2020

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  I don't think anybody really knows the answer to that question, do they?  I suppose the low cost (just a few bucks) and the low-tech solve they provide, it isn't the worst insurance you could buy as we head into Winter, right?  In our house, we have frost-free hose bibs, so I haven't really worried about our hose spigots very much during the Winter, but what happens when things change in the interior of your house where the supply pipe isn't being heated the same way as it was the previous few Winters.  Feels like a good time to think about using something like this?  But, I'm not alone in wondering.  There's a thread on StackExchange that details some thinking here . 

Stacked and Ready to be Processed - Ash Firewood Rounds - November 2020

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 Last month - right at the end of October - I posted a couple of photos and talked about how I had sourced some Ash firewood from one of my neighbors .  They had a crew there to take down a dead Ash tree and I was able to get some of the wood dropped near by so I could get to it.  I left it just laying there for a couple of weeks, but recently, I decided to tidy the place up and get it stacked to it can begin to season and put it in a spot where I can start to process it.  I ended up laying down a couple of 16' 2x4's and rolled the large rounds on top.  Everything (well...almost everything) needs to be cut down to size, so I'll need a chainsaw.  Then, from there, I'll need to split the rounds.  This is one tree, but here's how it is looking all stacked up with some longer limbs that I've sourced from around the yard laying on top.   I have one rack in the back of our lot that is 3/4 of the way full, but I also have the lumber to make a companion rack that I'

Hormel Cup N Crisp Pepperoni - Nice Cups - November 2020

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Just about two years ago, I posted some photos of the new (to me) Ezzo pepperoni that I bought online that was billed as 'cup and char' pepperoni .  I was a little bit late to trying the Prince Street Pizza square that seemed to have kicked off the cupping pepperoni trend, but I was able to get to it in April of 2019 and found it to live up to the hype .  For me, the Ezzo stuff was hard to get (had to order online), so it wasn't something that I was getting all the time.  I had a really nice, thick-cut replacement that Mariano's carried, but they stopped carrying it for some reason during the pandemic. That's when I put my antenna up about new pepperoni.  Over the past year or so, I've been hearing/reading about Hormel introducing something called Rosa Grande .  It is, however, foodservice only.   After reading up on the PizzaMaking.com forums , it turns out that most people there believe that this latest market entrant:  Cup N Crisp from Hormel is really the sa

Seeing It Is Thanksgiving... 2020

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 Nope, not The Last Waltz.  I suppose that's ok.  With the pandemic and all, right?   Instead, here's a little Elton John and John Lennon singing my COVID mantra:  Whatever gets you through the night.  Elton was on Howard Stern recently and talked about playing with John.  The video below has *real* audio, but there doesn't seem to be video from the night.   Whatever gets you through your life It's all right, it's all right Do it wrong, or do it right It's all right, it's all right  Oh, I'll still watch The Last Waltz today.  But, 2020 being what it is, felt like I could snap the line of annual posts here on the blog .  

Sandhill Crane Migration - November 2020 - Northern Illinois

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I was out for a walk over the weekend when I heard a bugle-like noise and looked up to see a row of Sandhill cranes flying south high above the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Here's a video that I took of them - that if you turn your volume WAAAAY up - you can hear what they sound like: The DuPage County Forest Preserve District has this post up from one year ago that talks about these birds and their migration patterns .  They mention that there's a place in Indiana that sees thousands of these guys every year.  On the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area DNR site , they have a count.  As of this past week, they had more than more than 16K Sandhill Cranes there on site.  Woah. 

Frans Fontaine Hornbeams - Lost Leaves in Fall - November 2020

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Just yesterday, I posted a photo of our barren Oak trees in our backyard .  These two mature Oaks have historically kept many of their leaves well into Winter thanks to the phenomenon called foliar marcescence.  In that post , I mentioned that we were seeing something similar on other trees that normally behaved the same was as the Oaks.   Today, you can see the photo at the top of this post showing all eight Frans Fontaine Columnar Fastigiate Hornbeam trees that have lost all of their leaves by mid-November.   Just two weeks ago, I posted about how one of these trees shed its leaves , but the rest were keeping them.  This tree (#4 from the left) has done this same thing before in 2018 .   But now, ALL OF THEM have dropped their leaves.   And that is, umm, alarming. Here's what these same trees looked like one year ago - on November 19th, of 2019 .  FULL OF LEAVES.  Dry leaves.  BUT FULL.  Have a look at this post showing these columnar Hornbeam trees in January of this year .  The

Mid-November 2020: Mature Oak Trees Have Shed Their Leaves - Northern Illinois

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Yesterday, I posted a photo in the garden diary of the recently set buds on our very small caliper Northern Red Oak tree that was planted just this year.  In that post, I mentioned that both *that* young Oak tree AS WELL AS our two larger, more mature Oaks have lost all of their leaves.   Notable, I think - as we're seeing a very different timeline than last Fall/Winter.   I posted this photo of both of the mature Oak trees in our backyard on December 16th 2019 - a little bit under a year ago - showing that both of the trees had A LOT of their leaves clinging to the limbs.  At the time, I poked around a little bit into the concept of foliar marcescence and how it might be a behavior that is aimed at assisting the tree by retaining some of the leaves until Spring to be used as an organic material delivery system when the tree needs it.  Here's what those two same trees look like right now:  barren. Wonder what caused this change year-over-year.  It happened with another set o

Northern Red Oak Tree Buds - Fall - November 2020

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The leaves have come off of our Oak trees.  The large ones have just a few clinging on, but this tiny one that I planted this year is naked.  This was planted back in May of 2020 and seemed to do just fine back in this location.   The larger trees looked like this all the way into December - thanks to foliar marcescence.  That now has me thinking that I should get a post up in the [garden diary] showing the leaves being off the Oaks by late November this year.  But, back to this small Northern Red Oak tree - and the buds in has set in particular.  Like the other trees in this [tree buds] series, these ones are unique ( thanks Rutherford Platt !) and have some unique characteristics.  First, the color - is what I'd call caramel.  Reminds me of the newish high-end vehicle interiors that you are seeing.  Kind of like a brand new, unused football.  They're also pointy.  In the image below, you can see how there are three of them at the tip of one of the branches with some other o

Hot Pepper Suet Cakes - Winter Bird Feeding - November 2020

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Yesterday, I posted a photo of our new suet nugget feeder and talked about how we normally hang a suet cake (that's what I call them) out on our feeder, but the nuggets seem complimentary to the cakes.  Or, at least, that's my hope. I didn't want to forget what kind of suet that I put out, so I'm posting it here in the birding diary:  We're starting the season with this no-melt hot pepper suet dough.  Why?  Well...most importantly, it is inexpensive and available for curbside pickup at our local Home Depot.  But also, because we've used it in the past and it seems that the squirrels *do* indeed NOT like the hot pepper stuff and stay away.  

Greenspire Linden Fall Buds - November 2020

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Earlier this week, I posted an image of our first set of London Plane Tree buds (they're pointy right now) and talked about how nature writer Rutherford Platt talked about how tree buds set in the Fall are as varied as jewelry and diamonds .  Here's the second in my (now) series of tree buds around our yard.   Today, is a look at our Greenspire Linden tree buds.   Interestingly, I've posted about these very buds before - but in Spring - because they get big and bulbous and interesting looking - like this time in early 2020 and also in early 2018 .  But, never shared a photo in the Fall. I bought these trees back in 2017 before we even moved in our house because I wanted to try my hand at espalier with them.   And, even more recently, I showed how these things were covered in aphids and I attempted to spray them with a pesticide .  Here's what the buds look like right now - in November of 2020: I'll get to a few more tree buds in our yard over the next week or so

New Peanut Suet Nugget Cage Feeder - November 2020

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It is getting back to being the bird feeding time of the year.  I take most of the warm weather months off and feed during the Winter when I don't have to deal (as much) with raccoons and skunks and other large critters.  That means that I'm getting our feeders out of the garage and hanging them up, but it also (this year) meant that I added a new feeder to our program. I found this relatively inexpensive ($4.99 at Home Depot) cage feeder that takes these Peanut Suet Nuggets ($2.96 per bag) that would add a different variety of food to our setup.  Below, you can see the cage feeder - with three perches - and the bag of Peanut Suet Nuggets. I didn't fill the whole feeder, but I think that the bag would fill a little bit MORE than the whole thing, but not that much more.  At $3 per bag, I'm interested in seeing how long this will last and how it performs against the weather; not to mention if it attracts some new visitors.  I normally put out a suet cake (hot pepper) so

Found: Beehive Honeycomb Abandoned - Patriots Park

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Over the weekend, we went out walking (and playing Pokemon Go) around Barth Pond at Patriots Park down on 55th Street in Downers Grove and one of the kids came across this two-tiered honeycomb that has been abandoned by the occupants.  Based on the color, this hasn't been a vibrant, active home for a while.  Neat to see and fun to have to kids show an interest in nature.

London Plane Tree - Buds Set - November 2020

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We had a storm come through last week that dropped all the remaining leaves - and I mean ALL - in the yard.  With the leaves off the limbs, I've started to investigate the structure of some of the trees and noticing that most of them have set buds before they head into dormancy.  The first tree that I looked at was our new (this year) London Plane Tree.  The brief history of the tree is that I bought this with some birthday money from Nat's Grampy in early Spring , planted in May and it was immediately stressed , it seemed to recover and full leaf out this Summer, only to return to a stressed-state during the late Summer heat .   Below is a look at one of the limbs of this tree that shows off what are quite pointy buds: The London Planetree buds you see above are almost thorn-like at this point, but based on what I see online, they'll continue to grow out and get a little bit 'bent' in the appearance of their tips .    It also says that the Plane Tree (or Maple-leaf

The Falltime Mr. Fox - Our Neighborhood - November 2020

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 We have a pretty active NextDoor online community.  And as you'd expect, there's TONS of animal/critter sightings on there - including the occasional coyote ( Here's one that I saw on my walk to the train on our block ).  But, Downers Grove has what I think is A LOT of foxes in our town.  We have so many that there's now a restaurant named after the phenomenon (at least, I think that's why they named it that way).  I've posted about some of them on the blog including earlier this year when there was one sitting on the driveway across the street from us early one morning .   This past week, The KotBT and I were out in our front yard dragging our garbage cans down to the curb in the early evening when we spotted the Fantastic Mr. Fox crossing our street - from the creekside of the block to our side.  Here he is trotting across the street: I have a series of other posts about critters/wildlife on the blog including a close-up encounter with a fox up in Wisconsin

Mulching Leaves Into The Lawn - Fall 2020

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By the time the middle of November comes around, I've been doing leaf clean-up in our yard for at least four weeks.  We get early drops (Walnut), constant drops (Catalpa, Maple, Kentucky Coffee Tree) and late drops (Oaks) and it lasts more than a month.  If I waited until they all came down, it would be a huge mess.  Not that it isn't a good idea.  It just isn't how I address the situation.  When I started this year, I spent time using the mower and bagged up all the leaves as they dropped - by mowing about once per week.  I filled our compost bins pretty quickly.   But, with our bins filled, what do I do with leaves still on the grass?  I decided to try something new this year:  I just mulched them in the lawn.   You can see it below - this is mostly a lot of oak leaves (which are hard to break down) that have been mulched up and left behind.   I don't love this look, but I wanted to try it.  Here - below - is a close-up look of the mulched in leaves.   And here's

Garden Wish List for 2021: Toad Lilies (Plant Dreaming)

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I grabbed this screenshot a while back from Erin the Impatient Gardener's instagram handle when she was doing a late Summer/early Fall walkabout.    One thing to note (for me):  I find it hard to find and follow gardeners that are near our zone (We're in Zone 5b) and that's a BIG reason why I follow the Impatient Gardener so closely:  she's in southern Wisconsin and deals with many of the same things we deal with here in the Chicago suburbs.   But...back to the screenshot of her Instagram story: the copy she overlaid to her image says it all (for me):  "You should know and grow toad lilies." I took this screenshot because, frankly, at the time I knew NOTHING about Toad Lilies.  That was...Until now.  After hearing Erin talk about these, I went to the Google machine and was introduced to these Japanese perennial plants.  From the Wisconsin Master Gardener : These perennial herbaceous plants, native to Asia (from the Himalayas to Japan and the Philippines), are

Disneyland Roses - Leaf Mulch for Winter Protection - November 2020

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Last month, I began to prep some parts of our yard for winter with the addition of chicken wire protection to keep the rabbits away from nibbling on the evergreens all Winter.  I started with the Canadian Hemlocks and also wrapped our Weeping White Spruce columnar tree , too.  In those posts, I mentioned that I was planning on trying to protect a couple of our Disneyland Roses using a similar technique - wrapping a ring of poultry netting around them - but this time, filling them with mass to protect from winter frosts. Below are a couple of photos that show the currents state of our two sideyard Disneyland roses.  First, the eastern-most one.  The chicken wire is wrapped around the rose and filled with mulched/chopped-up fall leaves to provide mulching protection.  I also threw down wood chips around the bottom to keep critters from getting inside:  The more western one - below - is the larger of the Disneyland roses.  This one, too, was wrapped in chicken wire and mulched from the b

COVID-19 Testing - November 2020

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For a variety of reasons, we decided to get some tests done on our family recently.  And, first the good news:  all the tests for our entire family came back the same:  negative.  No COVID-19 detected.  But, the experience was mixed.  First, the stress of trying to secure a test?  Unreal.  We're ten months into this thing and there's still a run on tests.  We were able to secure a series of tests mostly, I think due to persistence and luck.  I kept refreshing my browser and finally booked appointment windows.   Ten months in, with cases hitting a high point right now.  And it is still tough to get tested?  That's more than shameful.  But, the news isn't all bad in terms of testing.  Why?  Because despite cases in Illinois hitting an all-time high and seemingly going higher every day (see chart below), the part of the testing process that worked WELL was post visit.  Once I booked the appointment, the experience was easy.  Pull up, they swabbed my mouth/throat and six or

Same Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Dropped Leaves (Again) - November 2020

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Two years ago, I posted - with some alarm - that one of our Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees had suddenly dropped all of its leaves while the other seven clung to their fall leaves vis foliar marcescence.  That post was back in November of 2018 can be found here .  If you look at that post, you'll note that it was the fourth tree from the left.  Today - I'm sharing this photo of the stand of columnar hornbeams above and you'll notice that....wait for it....the SAME tree (fourth from the left) has done the same thing again this year.  It has shed most of its leaves.  Below is a different angle of these same hornbeam trees where you can see all eight of them. And, here, below, is an even closer look at the difference between some of the trees and #4 - the tree that has lost leaves.   This is when the [ garden diary ] pays off for me.  I would normally be very concerned about this tree - was it stressed?  Was it dying?  Do I need to be worried about it coming back in t

Chanticleer Pear - Fall Show - November 2020

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Yesterday, I mentioned that we don't get A TON of fall colors in our yard - mostly due to the variety of trees that we inherited, but posted a photo of our small Bald Cypress in the front yard that was showing some fall colors .  We have a couple of Chanticleer Pear flowering trees in our yard (I know, I know...) that normally retain their leaves for a good part of Fall - leading into Winter.  There have been a number of years that I've tried to wrap a couple of these trees with Christmas lights to only have to deal with the leaves that have stuck around.  This year, however, two of these trees (We technically have four with two in decline) have decided to put on a really great Fall Show with oranges and reds.  Here is the one on our north fence line you can see below: I'll get out and measure the caliper of this tree this Winter, but I'm thinking this tree has grown just a little bit this year.  

Bald Cypress - Fall Show - November 2020

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We don't have a ton of trees that put on a nice "Fall Show" in our yard.  We seem to mostly go from green to yellow to (very quickly) brown.  A little bit of orange here and there including on the Dawn Redwood that looked really nice with orange needles this Fall .  But, the tiny Bald Cypress that I planted in the front yard two years ago is doing something it hasn't done before:  put on a Fall Show.  You can see the dark orange (almost rust color) on the needles is a nice contrast to the yellow maple leaves laying on the ground at the base of the trunk.   This tree seemed to do well this season - even had some late Summer growth - but, with our neighbors pouring a brand new driveway (you can see it in the photo above), I have some concerns about the location.  At this point, however...it seems like we'll just have to 'limb it up' as it grows to keep it off the neighbor's driveway.

Cherry Pits - DIY Holiday Projects On The Horizon - 2020

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 Nobody:  what are you going to do with all your quarantine time when the weather gets cold? Me:  Have I shown you our forty pound bag of dried cherry pits? Back a few years when it seemed like I had more time, I would often try to DIY some of our holiday gifts.  Seems like we might have more of that, ummm, time this year.  And cherry pits are a key part of our strategy.  More to come when we get things set up and ready.

Dwarf Alberta Spruce In Decline - November 2020

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A little under a month ago, I posted something with *almost* the same exact headline on the blog .  It was back in October that I noticed that our dwarf Alberta Spruce was in decline.  Today, it has gotten much worse.  The entire backside of this tree has hallowed/browned out and we're left with patchy green needles and not a lot of hope.   Documenting this here - in early November - so I can revisit come Spring.  

Insecticide Spray Application on Linden Trees For Aphids - November 2020

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A week or so ago, I posted about how our pair of espalier Greenspire Linden trees had come down with an infestation of aphids .  I asked the Master Gardener at the University of Illinois and they confirmed they were Linden Aphids and recommended a synthetic insecticide.  They also pointed me to this post from Colorado State University that lays out the two types . Persistent Contact Insecticide Sprays. And Systemic Insecticide Sprays. First the latter:  systemic.  These are ones that 'move through' the tree and can handle aphids that you can't reach with a topical/contact spray.  From CSU: A few types of insecticides have the ability to move into the plant and move systemically. Because of this mobility these systemic insecticides can provide better plant coverage and often provide better control of aphids than do non-systemic insecticides. Systemic insecticides are also able to kill aphids that are protected within a leaf they have curled. Timing of application is also

Pre-Dormancy Amber Queen Epimedium - November 2020

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 This is the first season of this trio of Amber Queen Epimedium (Barrenwort) in our yard.  I planted it late this season - in September - and mulched it in ahead of winter with wood chips.  The grouping is just to the west of our largest Catalpa tree and with the wood chip mulch, I feel like I've protected these as best as I can before their long winter's nap that is coming. Here, below, is what they're looking like in early November: I'm quite hopeful that they'll do ok this Winter as they've shown NO SIGNS of stress after being planted.  They haven't shown much in terms of growth, but I'm thinking that they're satisfied in terms of water as they prepare to head to dormancy.  Fingers crossed that come Spring, we'll have three come back and put on their first yellow-flower-show in the Spring.

Firewood Consumption - Early November 2020

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We're moving into the cooler temperatures around here that means that the pace at which we burn through our firewood stash increases.  We've been using our screened porch a lot more this Fall and that means that we're burning in two fireplaces - the family room and the porch.  Based on the rumor'd 'firewood shortage' that we were facing, I ordered early.  In late August, we had three face cords delivered and I stacked them on our new firewood racks outside .   At that time (Late August), we had all five racks full .  Here's where we are today - below.  First the inside racks.  You can see that they are all full - with some wood on top of each: Next is the Oak rack outside of my office door (below).  That one, too, is untouched and fully loaded.   Next up is the Cherry rack outside (below).  This was FULL of Cherry firewood inside the rack and loaded on top with mixed hardwoods.  Today, it is about 1/3rd of the way full, but the top of the rack is full of

Backyard Tree Canopy - Early November 2020

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  I haven't done this in year's past, but I thought it would be useful in terms of tracking the leaves and foliage to track an early November backyard tree canopy.  We have a couple of large Oak trees that have foliar marcescence - or the ability to keep some of their leaves late into the Winter.   You can see some of those trees in the image above.  Oak tree on the right and on the left.  Up high, on the right side, I'm documenting *some* larger Catalpa leaves are still on the limbs.  And the massive hackberry that straddles our fence line on the northside is still flush with dry, brittle leaves.  

Biggest Presidential Election In History - 2020

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 Four years ago, I posted about my history of voting in presidential elections and pointed out that 2016 was the first time that I voted for a Democrat on top of the ticket.  Here's a refresher from that post: At the end of that post in 2016: I figured that it was set up like this: "It's chicken or fish, man." I chose Hillary. As much as I wanted steak to be on the ballot, it wasn't.  And today, I still desire there for to be steak on the ballot.  But, I'm faced with a decision:  chicken or fish.  I have to chose one of them.  And it seems like the choice is very clear.  I voted by mail a few weeks ago , but today, I'm even more confident now that I cast the right vote. As for this time around? I think it is clear that we are - as Joe Biden - puts it: in a battle for the soul of our nation .   While my vote doesn't really matter in Illinois (we know Biden will carry Illinois), I'm still proud to have cast my presidential ballot for a return to

Can I listen to Christmas Music on November 1st?

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The calendar has flipped over to November first.  That means one thing:  Go ahead.  Break out those Christmas tunes.  Play that Christmas music.  It is time.  Visit one of my annual projects here:  Can I listen to Christmas music ?   This year - 2020 - has been tough and that means there's never been a better year to turn this from no --> yes on November 1st.   I started the "Can I listen to Christmas music?" project back in 2015 .  And have posted about it every years since. Here's the post on Christmas music from 2016 . Here's the post on listening to Christmas music from 2017 .  Here's the post from 2018 when I introduced a new landing page .