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Showing posts from November, 2021

DIY Black Walnut Stain Process and Timing - November 2021

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In our backyard, we have a couple of large, mature Black Walnut trees .  Three large ones inside our property line and a massive one just behind our fence in an easement.  They were here when we arrived and they'll be here after we leave.  Each Fall, they drop walnuts.  A.LOT.OF.WALNUTS.  This presents quite a feast to the critters around our yard as they peel them open, scatter the husks and try to get to the nut.  The squirrels - in particular - seem quite fond of these black walnuts.  They're called Black Walnuts, but when they drop they're actually green . Now, if you go read on the Web, you'll find that many people talk about how Walnut trees produce something called juglone , which *could* cause injury to other plants, vegetables and some trees and shrubs. I say COULD because it seems that it is a commonly accepted notion by many, but there's still some dispute about whether the damage is true . One thing *is* clear: the trees, do, indeed produce juglone. 

We Found Some Fossils In Our Northern Illinois Backyard - November 2021

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I was out in the backyard doing what I spend most of my free time doing these days:  dealing with the leaves.  We have a mix of native trees (Kentucky Coffee Trees, Hackberry) and a couple of large Oak trees.  The Oak leaves come down differently than the the rest of the trees.  Rather than dropping them mostly at once, our Oaks drop leaves a little bit at a time.  And the Oaks are HUGE, so there are TONS of leaves. That means, Oak leaf cleanup lasts for weeks.   How I start my cleanup is by blowing the leaves into the lawn where I collect them in big piles then I begin to mulch them in and bag some of them up.  As part of that blowing with the leaf blower (don't worry...I use an electric one from eGo and it isn't loud), I was cleaning up our firepit area.  And, for *some* reason, I looked closely at the stepping stones that take you from our lawn to the gravel bed.  One one of them - clear as day - was what sure looked like a fossil to my naked eye.  I got down on my knees and

Happy Thanksgiving Via The Band and The Beatles - 2021 Version

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After taking a one-year COVID-related break from The Last Waltz here on the blog for Thanksgiving (with an appropriate detour of " Whatever Gets You Through The Night" from Elton John and John Lennon ), it feels right to come back home to The Last Waltz this year.  Sort of.  Will I watch The Last Waltz?  That's my plan.  But, what's the hangup?  The Beatles Get Back is released today - Thanksgiving Day - on Disney+.   So, what lives at the intersection of The Last Waltz by The Band and Get Back by the Beatles?  It seems that it is this rendition of Hey Jude by The Beatles as performed on David Frost's Frost on Sunday.  Why this song?  First, it is a really lovely number.  But, thanks to my good friend Neil, I discovered a neat little nugget:  If you scroll ahead (or listen all the way) to around 6:19ish mark (during the nah-nah-nahs), you can hear Macca belt out some lyrics from The Weight.  "Take a load off, baby.  Take a load off, baby.  Put it back on me&q

Tracking Chellino Scamorza Cheese at Frankie's Deli - November 2021

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I've long held that this Chellino Scamorza cheese - out of Joliet - is the best pizza cheese for home bakers.  I started buying it when we lived in Elmhurst and picked it up at Angelo Caputos up in Addison.  Since we moved to Downers, the sourcing of the cheese has been spotty.  They have it at Angelo's on 55th here (shared in 2018) , but I had a bad experience with flavor and don't love that store.  I've since gone back and have had no problems.  I also tracked the price at Nature's Best Market in Westmont where they were selling it for $2 cheaper than Angelo's at $5.99 .   I haven't settled on a source, but buy it where I can when I need it.  I recently picked up a meal at Frankie's Deli in Oak Brook Terrace (near my folk's place) and noticed they carry the stuff.  Here's the tag below showing their price:  $7.99. I haven't done enough of a close examination of the price of Chellino Scamorza Cheese over the years, but I think $7.99 is abo

Name A Better Looking College Football Game. I'll Wait.

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My Fighting Illini football team have done something that I've appreciated this year uniform-wise:  they've stuck with orange.  Orange helmets every game.  Sounds like it is something that Bret Bielema has pushed .  And I'm here for it.  This past weekend in Iowa City, we had a lovely uniform matchup with the Illini going O-W-O.  And the Hawkeyes doing their traditional home B-B-Y.   But, that clearly wasn't the best-looking college football game of the weekend.  Not by a mile.  That honor is held by the UCLA vs. USC game.  Here's a look at the 2nd half kickoff that was happening as I tuned in (The Illini game had just finished up).  Both teams wear their home colors during this game - both at the Colosseum and at the Rose Bowl.  At least that's what I thought happened.   Turns out, there's a bit more history to the story.  According to the OC Register  there was a period when it wasn't the calvalcade of colors we see today.  Love this little timeout st

Christmas Cactus - November 2021

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In addition to the five Amaryllis bulbs that we bought and planted last week , we also came home with a Christmas Cactus.  This was picked out and planted by the KotBTs - as he has a love of cactus (thanks, Preston Playz ).   We haven't had one of these before, but have come across them just about every holiday season.  But, is it a cactus?  The answer is *kinda*.  At least according to the Farmer's Almanac : Unlike other cacti, the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) and its relatives don't live in hot, arid environments such as deserts or plains. In fact, these epiphytic succulents are native to the tropical rainforests of southern Brazil, where they grow on tree branches and soak up the high humidity, dappled sunlight, and warm temperatures. The bottom line: Don't treat a Christmas cactus like it's a run-of-the-mill cactus or succulent. They can't take the same sort of sunny, dry conditions that other cacti can. It's important to water these cacti

2021 Christmas Amaryllis Bulbs Planted - November 2021

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Earlier this week, I posted photos of the three tags of the Amaryllis bulbs that we selected for Christmas 2021 .  We went with a few smaller, more common Red Lions and two larger (more expensive) flowers - one red/white (Sunshine Nymph) and the other one greenish (Lemon Star).  That means that this year we have five total bulbs planted up.  Below, is a look at all of them after a couple of days in the soil. The trio of Red Lions (on the right) are in a low, wide pot.  We topped that one with a little moss and a couple of rocks.  The Lemon Star is in the slightly smaller pot on the back left.  That, one too, has moss.  The largest bulb (Sunshine Nymph) is in the larger pot with no moss. Below is a look at the Lemon Star.  This is the one that The Bird picked out and is the only one of the five that hasn't gotten started just yet.  Still dormant.   Below is a closer look at the trio of Red Lions.  All three of these have small green shoots that have emerged from the bulb. And, final

Buffalo Painting at Disney's Wilderness Lodge - 2nd Floor Lounge - 2021

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I've posted a few times about our experience(s) at Disney's Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World over the years .  It was the first place we stayed on our own as a family, the first place we experienced the Electrical Water Pageant and has the best resort-to-park transportation experience on property (imho) with the boat ride from the dock at Wilderness Lodge to the front of Magic Kingdom.  One of the best spots to just sit and relax on property is in the train room in the DVC studios building on the first floor where they have a bunch of Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific backyard trains displayed .   On our recent trip at the Lodge, we found ourselves in an area that we've never really been before:  a little hidden area on the 2nd floor of the resort that feels tucked away and very private.  There's a big desk to do work and a little couch area, too.  I'll post about that part in a different post.   But, by the desk area....there's a really striking painting

Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration Pooh Bear and Piglet Statue - November 2021

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I thought we'd see a lot of these Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary "Fab 50" statues .  But, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I only took a single photo of *just* one of the golden (EARidescent is what they're calling them, I think) character statues that is inside of the Magic Kingdom. Luckily, it is a guy who's big in our house - Pooh Bear.  And, it is a double feature that has the big guy (Winnie the Pooh) giving a nice cuddle to his pal Piglet.   Guess we'll have to go back before the 50th Anniversary Celebration is over. I know this is a minor thing, but it bothers me that there aren't REALLY 50 statues like this one for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World - the Vacation Kingdom.  There are *ONLY* 36 statues .  A bunch of them are two-fers like this Pooh Bear/Piglet one above.  I know that costs are important, but feels like a little bit of the bean counters winning out.

Backyard Ginko Tree Set Buds - November 2021

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At the beginning of the month, I posted a couple of photos showing off the pair of VERY SMALL Ginko trees that we planted this Fall .  The reason we planted TWO of these trees was because the first one that was delivered 1 was damaged and basically cracked in half.   In that post, I talked about how the damaged tree was aging different from the replacement tree that I planted in front .  The one in front (which wasn't damaged) had leaves that were turning yellow (like Ginkos are known to do), while the damaged tree in back was drooping and had more brownish leaves.   My belief then - and still today - is that the damaged tree in back is unlikely to make it and leaf-out next Spring.  But....but...but...what do I see on the tree this week?  It appears that this tiny, thin Ginko tree has set some buds as it headed to dormancy.  See below for a peek at one of the buds that is near the top of the small tree. These are kind of interesting shaped - almost cone-like.  The bud is set on wh

Annual Liquid Tree and Shrub Fertilizer Application from Davey - November 2021

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If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see a hose that is attached to a long three-foot(ish) spike.  That's the tool used by the arborists at Davey who came by recently to fertilize all of our trees and shrubs.  This is the second year that I've feed some of our trees with liquid fertilizer from Davey - last year, however, I feed just the Oaks in back and the troubled Norway Maple in front .  This year, I had them feed EVERYTHING.  Davey uses something called Arbor Green PRO liquid fertilizer .  They inject it into the ground around the drip line of trees and shrubs - and do it late in the year (right now) - when the trees have begun to shed all their leaves. Here (below) is a look at the description of the slip they dropped on our front door: "Soil injected fertilizer for all trees/shrubs to improve landscape health and vigor." I went out and looked around at some of the spots where the tech injected the fertilizer and found little holes with soil that a

2021 Christmas Amaryllis Bulbs Selected - November 2021

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One of the first 'moments' that kicks off the holiday season each year for me is the annual purchase and planting of Amaryllis bulbs (or what my kids call: "Christmas Flowers").  Normally, I buy a couple of varieties - some from big box stores and some from Wannamaker's.  This past weekend, I was at Home Depot and found what you normally find at big box stores:  Amaryllis kits.  That's a bulb, a little pot and a disc of 'soil' that expands when you add water.  I don't love those - especially since it seemed that when I opened the boxes for the kits, I noticed that the stalks had already emerged from the bulb, but due to being in the dark they were white(ish).  But, right next to the kits was a bin of bare bulbs - both Paper-whites and Amaryllis.  The Amaryllis bulbs were $7.99 - about half of what I normally pay for a high quality bulb.  I grabbed three of them.  And a low, wide clay container to plant all three.  Those three are all the same vari

Rabbit Protection for Arrowwood Viburnum - November 2021

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As part of my Fall planting this season, I put in a pair of Chicago Lustre Arrowwood Viburnum shrubs that were called for in our backyard plan .  I put these two near the fence on the north side of one of our beds and when I planted them, I noticed that when you read about Viburnum, it seems that rabbits like to eat them up.   Noted in the garden diary.  And solved for today. When I was beginning to overwinter our backyard, I made sure to grab a couple of cages from wire (chicken wire and grid wire) and make a little perimiter ring for each of these young Viburnum to keep the rabbits at bay.  I started making these wire rabbit-proof cages for tender plants last year and have had good luck with them .   Below you can see the two shrubs with different material cages around them - with the goal being to keep the pesky rabbits (who I continue to see hanging in our beds) away from these until they get established next season. 

Hicks Yew Hedge - Two Full Growing Seasons - November 2021

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I planted a Hicks upright Yew hedge in the far back of our yard in the middle of the Summer 2019.   At that time, I planted 15 #1 shrubs about 30" spaced on center.  Here's how they looked when I first started showing the gaps between each Yew .  And, I documented what the hedge looked like in October of 2020 here with growth going up and out for each Hicks upright Yew.  Below, you can see what the hedge looks like RIGHT NOW.  This is now after two full (2020 and 2021) growing seasons and half (2019).   Here's a top/bottom look from 2020 to 2021 - one year of growth:  I'll be honest....I *know* that they grew, but the photos stacked as they are below aren't conclusive to me. I recently planted a bunch of other #1 Hicks Yews around the yard in hopes of bringing this look to other parts of the garden for cohesion.   My plan is to help protect as many of these Yews as I can from the rabbits this Winter, but I know I'll see some damage in the garden. 

Abiqua Drinking Gourd Hostas Pre-Dormancy - November 2021

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In late September, I brought home a trio of Abiqua Drinking Gourd Hostas and planted them near our new (this year) firepit area.  After seeing them on the racks for a couple of seasons, I finally 'got to know' them and learned that they're some of the largest hosta varieties .  Placing this photo below into the garden diary as way to show them right as they head into dormancy.  A note:  they're haven't been eaten one bit by the rabbits while other varieties have been mowed off at the ground.  These also are doing better after the first couple of frosts than other varieties.   I'm looking forward to these coming back next Spring and filling in the spaces in between each other during the growing season.  

Another Look: Red Oak Tree Fall Show - November 2021

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On Tuesday, I posted a photo of our Northern Red Oak tree turning yellow and putting on a nice bit of a [Fall Show] and today the tree is a striking orange and maroon that warrants a second photo/post in the same week.  The photos in this post (landscape at top, portrait on bottom) barely do this justice.  The reds are dark maroon and are coupled with a Frankfort Tiger-ish yellow/orange combination.  As I said earlier this week, this tree has been different every.single.season - sometimes going brown, sometimes keeping leaves, sometimes dropping.   But the color of the tree right now?  I don't think it has ever done this before.  Maybe it is the most striking tree in our whole neighborhood right now.  

Compost Bin Snapshot - Early Fall 2021

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These are the days for filling up our compost bins.  Each Fall, the leaves in our yard drop all of their annual leaves and I use the mower to mulch them up and pick A LOT of them up off the grass .  My process is actually a little nuanced in terms of mulching vs. bagging.  I use my Ego leaf blower to clean out the beds and push all the leaves to the middle of the yard on the grass.  From there, I use my mower - with the bag attached - set to the lowest level to begin to mulch-up and vacuum all the leaves.   However, I don't immediately clear the mower bag once it is full.  If you've done this (like I do), you know when the bag is full because you start to see dust and little leaf parts flying around because there's no place for them to get ejected into the bag, so they kind of fly out the sides.  I'm doing that on purpose - so I leave a little bit of leaf litter (mulched up, mind you) behind on the lawn to feed the soil. But, after doing that for a couple of passes, I e

View From My Recent ORD Takeoff - November 2021

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Back in the before-times, I used to do these posts (on occasion) that I titled:  view from my office.  They were (usually) early mornings from our office on the 64th Floor of the Aon Center.  The most recent one from our office was all the way back in December of 2018 - almost three years ago.  I also used to (in the before-times) post interesting shots from my flights including this rainbow one from 2019 .  I haven't been to the office much in the past two years NOR have I been on airplanes much.  But, on a recent trip out of O'Hare one early morning, I noticed the skyline was looking particularly nice.  Here's a sunrise (no-filter) photo from my window seat looking east. Our office is moving out of the Aon Center near the end of the year and it doesn't appear that I'll be down in the office before closing things out, so it appears that the days of seeing those beautiful sunrises from the 64th floor are likely over.  It was a good run.  Eight years there, six of

Northern Red Oak Tree - Yellow Leaves Fall Color - November 2021

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Putting a photo of the large Red Oak tree - the tree swing tree - in the garden diary here to show a little look at the Fall show that the tree is putting on during the first week in November.  You can see in the photo below that the tree is a mix of green and yellow and has held much of the leaves still on the limbs this late in the season - which is typical for this tree and Oaks in general.   I posted a similar photo a year ago - in early November - where the same tree had already lost many of the leaves for the season.   For tracking in the [ tree diary ], I noted that both of our large, mature Red Oak trees had dropped ALL of their leaves by mid/late November last year .  Will be tracking if foliar marcescence will persist this year like it did in 2019.  Here's a photo all the way into December when this tree had leaves clinging to the branches . An additional note about this tree - it didn't produce any acorns this season.  Or, at least, it hasn't dropped any acorn

Catalpa Tree Fall Show - November 2021

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Another post for the [ fall show ] file here on the blog - but this one features a native tree that I've grown really fond of over the past few growing seasons:  our large Catalpa tree.  I last posted about this tree this past Summer , but when I was out on a walk around the garden recently, I noticed that the tree was putting on a nice, yellow show.  See below for the leaf color in early November 2021: Our Walnut trees have mostly dropped all of their leaves, but this Catalpa is still holding on (for now).  I've begun to look around the Web to try to figure out how to sow some Catalpa seeds and it seems that I need to leave the pods on the tree - have them cold stratify outside on the tree - and then pick and plant the seeds in the Spring.  Just like I did with the Kentucky Coffee tree seeds this Spring .

A Little Hosta Fall Color - Yellow Leaves - November 2021

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Some of our hostas - that the rabbits haven't gotten to yet - are putting on a nice Fall show of yellows and oranges.  First...below...you can spy the Christmas Tree hosta that is planted by the large Northern Red Oak tree swing tree.   Interesting combination of orange, yellow and green that shows the perennial in a state of transition.  Really like how this one looks in late Fall. On the other side of the backyard, a different hosta is going from green to yellow underneath the Greenspire Linden trees that are espalier'd into a horizontal cordon. After reading this piece in the NYT from Margaret Roach entitled: Take A Walk In The Garden Before It's Too Late - I've done just that:  gotten out and walked around most mornings to simply observe the changing season.  One of my 2022 to-do's is to focus on a four-season garden with Fall being one of the seasons I *know* I need to focus on if I want to extend the garden past the hot Summer season.

Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Munchkin' Fall Colors - November 2021

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This dwarf Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea - planted in our backyard - is putting on quite a Fall show.  Deep red, almost purple leaves covering the whole shrub.  Interestingly...it is doing this show by itself - meaning the matching pair is still green.  One of the larger ones - behind this one - is partially red (you can see part of it at the top of the photo below), but otherwise, the balance of the Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea quercifolias aren't/haven't gone red just yet.  These are planted in a bed that we can see from our kitchen windows - so for that reason (being able to enjoy this Fall show), I'm really happy with this late-season delight.   Also...of note....I recently covered these hydrangeas when I talked about having to move them to make room for an upright Hicks Yew behind them . 

When Can You Listen to Christmas Music? November 2021

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Earlier this week I flipped over my Christmas music tracking advice website to read:  "Yes" as of Monday, November 1st, 2021.  I've posted about " Can I listen to Christmas Music? " before including last year (when I posted on November 1st ) and have posted about it over the years. If you go to the Christmas Music Permission site and scroll down, you'll see that I have it listed as a project that I established in 2015.   Ever since then, I've posted about the project - and how I flip it from "No.  Don't be a lunatic." (which is up from Jan 1 --> Oct 31) to "Yes.  Go ahead." (which is up from November 1 --> Dec 31 - almost every year. In 2015, I started the "Can I listen to Christmas music?" project back in 2015 . In 2016, I posted on Christmas music from 2016 and included a Buzzfeed video. In 2017, I posted on listening to Christmas music from 2017 on November 2nd In 2018, I posted about the move to a new landi

Dawn Redwood - Turning Orange - Early November 2021

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I've posted photos of our Dawn Redwood here on the blog over the years - usually including a photo showing the needles turning orange in a nice Fall show.  Last year, I posted in late October a fully-orange tree .  This year - we're in the first week of November and just *some* of the needles are turning orange.  You can see in the photo below a few of the pairs of orange needle-lets (is that what they're called??) surrounded by green ones.    This is my favorite tree in our yard and I'm really interested to see it keep growing. It is slow-going (unlike the Bald Cypress in our front yard), but it just keeps putting on a little bit of height each growing season.  I posted photos showing the usual Fall flush of growth in late August this year .  It seems that 2020 (Orange in October) is the outlier.  As, this photo from November 2019 shows a mixed orange/green tree .  That's where I think we'll end up this year - something like a mid-November orange Fall show.  20

Ginko Trees - One Month In Update - November 2021

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This Fall, I planted two very small Ginko trees as part of my overall fall planting program.  One in the backyard.  One in the front.  Why two of them?  Because the first one I ordered was broken upon delivery.  I was PRETTY SURE that the tree was going to die.  But, I planted it anyway .  Because that one was broken, the online nursery sent me a second one to plant - and that one showed up in a healthy condition .  Now...about one month later (those were planted the first week of October), what do the trees look like? First, then broken one.  The tips of the top branches are holding limp, brown leaves.  Not good.  Based on my experience, Ginkos go yellow before brown.  So, my presumption is that these are lost limbs. And, for comparison's sake...here's the one in the front:  Some browning on the tips, but this one is in a much better place.  Seeing a little bit of that yellowing on the tips, too.   I'm not sure if I can be certain, but I think I'm operating under the

I Find You Highly Disgusting - Audio Clip

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Just...when you need the perfect little sound clip in video form for your use to share over text with your partners, spouse, family, fantasy football league, friends, you go looking on YouTube.  Sometimes you find it, sometimes you don't.   Good news, dear Blog readers.  I have you covered.   First...I'm SURE that you've been seeking out the " Twin Sub Z's" line from Meet the Parents , right?  Oh...that's not the one you're looking for?  It should be. But, I understand.  We can't use *that one* all the time.  What's that?  You want the "I find you highly disgusting." line?   Good news.   You can click through to YouTube to grab the original url of this " I find you highly disgusting " clip.  When you need it.. .head over to YouTube .  Then...Copy --> Paste --> Send it.   What's that, you say?  You're confused?  You don't know why I interrupted garden blogging for this?   That's ok.  It *is* confusing. 

Last Night's Tally (No Tally) - 2021 Halloween Visitors

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In what I know many of you will find to be a dissatisfactory notice, I'm disappointed to report that last night - Halloween 2021 - there was no visitor trick-or-treat tally that was conducted.  This is (now) the second year in a row that I've failed to both conduct the tracking assessment as well as failed to post the results here on the blog.  I'll take a COVID pass for 2020.  But, this year?  Just a product of the new neighborhood, going out with the kids to trick-or-treat and not being able to control the tracking.   Now...like a lot of you, we have video evidence that I could go through to try to recreate the visitor list and make a tally, but I don't have time for that this morning.  Here's an example showing the Mandalorian and his buddy who plays for the Chicago Bears.  ( Note...I grabbed this screenshot without the kids faces showing on purpose... ) Of note, I have started to track the weather on Halloween.  Yesterday - Halloween 2021 was perfect.  50's