Today marks a seven year stretch of publishing a post in my online diary here on my blog. Seven years straight, starting back in 2015 when I stopped posting on my Illinois political-meme blog (which lasted just a couple of years) and came back home to my homestead on the Web. This year, I've hit 365 posts - this one is the 365th one and there's no reason to not keep going in 2022. Just post, baby. I'm like the Al Davis of blogging in 2021. By my quick count, there are 260 posts in the [ garden diary ] for the year, so that's 260/365 = 71% of my posts were related to our yard and garden. I suppose I'm not surprised by that number, but it certainly points to where my interests are (currently) and how I've been able to use this place on the Web as a reference for what I've planted, what has worked and what I need to work on. That feels like a good way to look at the new year: Recognize what I've done, think about the good and the bad and focus on
Showing posts from December, 2021
In the midst of the gingerbread-cooking-making party in recent weeks, Mr. Hankey made his first visit to our house. The kids, while intrigued, weren't quite sure to make of him. And Nat shut it down pretty hard as soon as I started singing the song. Maybe in a few years when the KotBTs is old enough to discover the show on his own we'll have another visit from Mr. Hankey during Christmastime.
Up at Angelo Caputo's in Addison, they're selling pizza cheese for a full buck cheaper than Frankie's Deli in Oak Brook Terrace . Cheapest I've come across was at Nature's Market in Westmont, but that $5.99 price is (now) almost four years old. For tracking purposes, I shredded six of these #1'ers, but ended up using probably four of them across 10 bar pies and 2 skinny Detroit pies on Christmas Eve. Also, four white Cheddars was probably 50% too much, too. Next year - with the same amount of bar pies, I could factor 4 scamorzas and 2 white cheddars. They bill it as "Cheese for Pizza" from The Chellino Cheese Company, Joliet, Illinois on their packaging. And that's how we use it.
All three of the containers are up with flower stalks, but the Red Tiger and the Sunshine Nymph are well ahead of the Lemon Star. In just two weeks since my last photo update on these Christmas flowers, the buds on these two have opened wide and the flowers are beginning to unfurl. Pacing-wise, these two are ahead of last year's version, but the Lemon Star is noticeably behind AND also pretty skinny and lean. I'm not expecting a H U G E flower explosion from the Lemon Star (based on the bud size), but we should get flowers well into January this way - so I suppose that's a win of sorts. Also, a note for the diary here, I began to water them with a 10:1 water:rubbing alcohol (91%) when they were about six inches tall. I'm unsure if it had any impact on them what-so-ever.
We have this tiny, plastic replica of a Jungle Cruise boat that a special Dole Whip was served to us in on a trip to Disneyland in our living room. And, I didn't want to get too far away from Christmas before I forget to post a photo of what Nat did to convert it to a Jingle Cruise boat. She applied a little sign that is perfect for us (name blurred out) and is a nice touch for Christmastime. IYKYK. I suppose this is a bigtime #DisneyAdult post. I'm embracing it.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted a scorecard from my 2021 Yard and Garden To-Do List and ( after grading on a curve), gave myself a solid B on the report card . Did I get everything done on the list? Nope. Just 17.5 of the 25 completed. 2 of the 25 semi-completed. And 5.5 (more than 20%) incomplete. What were the 5.5 that didn't get done ? 1. Stain patio container (the half one) 2. Do more bonsai (combined) 3. Figure out small tool storage and build something (combined) 4. Keep going to mulch pit for wood chips and bio solids. So, let's call those the first four of potential 2022 to-do items. What could the other 21 look like? A good place to start are the various posts that I've already tagged in my potential 2022 list and my running list of 2022 plant 'wish list' items . Those are full of quite a bit of random thoughts, ideas and concepts that I didn't want to lose based on this season's experience and garden diary. There's way more than
In our backyard, we have a couple of mature (and a few smaller, understory) Catalpa trees . I've posted about them from time-to-time and talked about how I've come around on them and have grown to really enjoy the species . And how the Catalpa tree has become a sort-of gateway into the whole "Native Tree" world. This Spring, we came across some Kentucky Coffee Tree seed pods at a Downers Grove park and successfully germinated them and grew some seedlings . We're currently attempting to overwinter those tiny seedlings by digging their containers in the ground . What I've learned from those seedlings was that the seeds required a winter rest. Or...what they call stratification. That means that they require a period of dormancy that comes along with the cold temperatures of Winter. For the Kentucky Coffee tree, that happens with the seed pods hanging on the trees all Winter until Spring when they drop. Based on that experience, I've decided to try
As is the tradition, Nat's family has secured a couple of six-packs of Anchor Brewing annual "Our Special Ale" - aka the Anchor Christmas Beer . I've posted about this beer a number of times over the years, but my interest doesn't really lay in the subtleties of the flavors in the beer. But, rather in the packaging - and in particular the trees that they feature on the bottle label and six-pack carrier. The folks at Anchor Brewing typically put up a big holiday beer page each year, but I don't seem to be able find this year's version. Here's the 2020 page and the full archive of the previous 46 labels over the years . However, it seems that they've created a new Web experience at a new subdomain: https://raiseanchor.anchorbrewing.com/ - which seems to totally omit any talk about the Christmas beer for this year and mostly celebrate a new packaging design. The Christmas beer page typically tells the story of the tree they selected, but sinc
Last year (2020) appears to be the high-water mark of Festivus being recognized in our household as an official part of the holiday season. That's when Nat included the holiday on our Family Christmas card alongside Christmas, Hanukah and the new year . This year, in the rush of the holiday season, our card went out without the inclusion of Frank Costanza's holiday - and that's a miss on my part. Note to self: during proof'ing next year, get Festivus back in there. As for celebrating today, we'll be skipping the pole (it will have to stay in the crawlspace), but I'll try to see if the kids can pin me in the Feats of Strength. I think I can still take them, though. One of the things that I am struck by is how little is known about Festivus from many of my coworkers. Most of which...are far younger than me. This December 23rd feels like an opportunity. An opportunity to educate the Yutes about Festivus. And why the belief system is fascinating. Tha
This marks the second year in a row that we've booked a drive-thru Christmas lights experience. Last year, we were up in Northbrook to do what - at the time - I thought was a COVID-specific experience of driving through a zig-zag of Christmas lights . The whole need for social distancing coupled with the stir-crazy-ness of staying home provided a perfect combination to fall in love with the drive-thru light shows. This year, the group up in Northbrook ( Let it Shine Lightshows ), expanded to put up a show at the Fox Valley Mall parking lot in Naperville/Aurora. For my oldest's birthday party (Nat's family), we booked some tickets and went out there over the weekend. I don't know if it was the music or the lights or the fact that were were doing this thing again, but I'll tell you that I had a smile on my face the whole time. Is it out-of-this-world? No. Is it a fun way to spend 30 minutes? Sure is.
We're now five full growing seasons in with our pair of Greenspire Linden trees ( Tilia cordata 'Greenspire' ) that we've espaliered into a four-tier horizontal cordon. Planted in 2017 , I initially went one way with the layout of the branches (at one time, I had six tiers and was even planning on shaping it into a candelabra form ), but last Spring (2020), I finally had a cogent thought (after looking at these trees for years) and made a call to prune A LOT back and go with a simple, four-tiered horizontal cordon. In the Summer of 2020, I got busy pruning things back and because I was SCARED to really go for it, I ended up leaving a few little branch 'nubs' 1 with some growth on them just to make sure I wasn't pruning off TOO MUCH of the tree at once. You can go look at this photo here and you'll see the little orange things that I left (at the time). With all the leaves dropped from these trees, I can start to look at the form they've crea
I've done a few of these [view from my office] posts since we were all sent home at the beginning of COVID that were from my front porch and (even) an airplane . But, it has been since mid-March when I was last in an office for work. In that airplane post , I mentioned that we're moving offices - out of the Aon Center - and into a 'west of the river' mid-rise. Over the past few weeks, I've visited a few times and am busy getting situated in the new setting. The view? Quite a downgrade. The commute? Quite an upgrade. From a 20-25 minute walk across the Loop to a four minute walk from where I emerged from under Union Station. Having been in the office a few days, I'll say: I'm surprised by how much I've enjoyed being here. I really still do NOT know what I'm using office days for in terms of work (we're a hybrid team now, so have a mix of WFH and office days), but I'm glad I've come downtown to give it a shot. The new office i
This photo (below) shows off the buds that have formed (lateral buds) on our Dawn Redwood tree . This is the tree that I monitor the MOSTLY closely through all four seasons in the garden. It is, by far, my FAVORITE tree. It was one (originally) that we planted with the kids on Earth Day and was the first tree we put in. It had to be replaced , but in spirit...I consider this the same tree. Each Spring, I watch this tree and how the buds are ready to open - while I hold my breath - that the tree has survived ANOTHER winter. This year, it opened up - what I THOUGHT was VERY late (April) , but in doing a little research of past years, it was right on time. The tree is covered with lateral buds on all of the very thin limbs - you can see a run of them below: I suppose I should revisit that guide from UW-Stevens Point that walks us through the Winter buds . These are opposite buds, aren't they? The photo makes it look like they're NOT perfectly lined up, but they're N
In the flurry of late-season planting in the backyard, I managed to sneak in a trio of dwarf ornamental grasses - Miscanthus sinesis 'Adagio ' - in an area underneath the tree swing Northern Red Oak. They're tucked in behind a colony of Japanese Forest Grasses and in front of the Belgian Fence Apple tree espalier. One of the noteworthy characteristics of this cultivar is that the flower panicles grow up and out into these gently curving/arching feather heads that provide a lot of Winter interest. This is the first season we've had these and I'm happy to see the initial view we're getting after these being in the ground for just a short period of time this year. See below for a look at the feathers at the top: I can already imagine what these will look like in the coming years as they fill in and thicken-up. I've historically left ALL of my grasses in place over winter and these seem to be no different. If you're looking for an inexpensive, zone 5
We made a stop at the Potbelly's in Willowbrook right off of Route 83 for lunch recently and sat underneath this poster that you see below. It advertises the DuPage County Centennial Flower Show in Hinsdale on June 9,10, 11. At the bottom it reads: "Presented by the Home Gardeners of DuPage County". It is in a lovely vintage frame. And, if you look even closer at the bottom, you'll see this copy that speaks to how the poster was created: "Made by WPA Federal Art Project, Chicago, Illinois". See below for a closeup of that section: Pretty cool, right? I mean...what could be better than a vintage poster that is both LOCAL and about something that I'm into (gardening). A quick spin around the Web and it wasn't hard to figure out the provenance of this poster. The Library of Congress has a listing for it and even dates it: Jun 22 1939. I'm guessing that's the day it was added to the collection, so my hunch is that it was sent to DC
Yesterday, I posted a terminal bud of our small Harry Lauder Walkingstick tree and talked about how Rutherford Platt was fascinated by tree buds and said they were as varied as jewels. The next up in my [Winter tree buds] series is a revisit to where I started (last year) with the London Planetree that I planted in 2020. Here's last year's post showing the buds . Below, you can see some other looks at the buds including terminal and lateral buds. They're pointy and red. And look good for this time of year, don't they? This tree has been (somewhat) temperamental. It reacts poorly if it is neglected in any way, but then responds really well when water is given to it in any way. You could say that it is both needy and resilient. It is planted in the back of the yard and is in a gap in between the scrub shrub and the largest tree we have - the hackberry tree that is covered in galls every Summer . It will provide a lot of shade for future families, but for us? I
The photo in this post is featuring the leaf bud of a small Harry Lauder contorted Walking Stick tree that we bought back in 2020 and was DIRECTLY inspired by our trip to Disneyland Paris and the landscaping around their Haunted Mansion called Phantom Manor . I planted it in the backyard in the Summer of 2020 and have had it wired up with some bamboo poles ever since. Early this Spring, I moved around the poles and wires because the growth was causing a little damage due to the pole locations . Most every Winter, I try to include some updates and photos of the various leaf buds from some of the trees that I've planted, but in looking back through the [buds] archives , I don't seem to have included this particular tree and bud in the catalog. The most recent buds that I posted a photo of were the damaged Ginko tree from this Fall . Here, below, is a look at a couple of the Harry Lauder Walkingstick tree buds: Buds of our trees that get set in Fall and persist over Winter
Back in May of this Spring, I planted three Autumn Ferns - Dryopteris erythrosora - that I picked up from a big box nursery in an area of the backyard that is becoming a little Japanese-garden-inspired section with a dwarf Japanese Tamukeyama Maple tree anchoring the bed. I took that photo this morning and it is striking when compared to EVERYTHING else around our yard. Those three ferns are seemingly UNAFFECTED by the frost and the onset of Winter. Everywhere else I look, my ferns are gone. Ostrich ferns? Gone. Japanese Painted Ferns? Gone. Ghost Ferns? Gone. Lady Ferns? Gone. But, these? They're tall, proud and....GREEN. What the heck is going on?!? When I planted them , I referenced this listing from the Missouri Botanic Garden that talks about how they are "semi-evergreen". I noted that in the original post, but I didn't think MUCH about it. I suppose, I should have because this is a pretty great feature. One of the things that I'm thinkin
The Wintertime is *the* time that we feed the birds around here. Due to the critters we have around the yard (Raccoons, mice, voles, etc), I mostly lay off adding any feed to the feeders until the first frost arrives. Once we hit that mark, I then tend to provide fresh food each weekday - both for the critters AND the birds. Back a few years, we went through the process of becoming a "Certified Wildlife Habitat" via the National Wildlife Federation and part of the criteria is a yard that provides food for wildlife. They ask for confirmation of a couple of types of feeding including natural nuts (we have Oaks and Walnuts) and seeds (birds, critters) and suet (birds). We confirmed we go about it both ways - natural via the nuts the trees drop AND the addition of feeders with seed and suet. We put the critter feed - which is a mix of corn, cracked corn, sunflower seeds and some nuts - on the top of the fence. The KotBTs likes to put it out in three spots. And, for the b
The last time that I checked in on the five Amaryllis Christmas bulbs was almost two weeks ago . We have five bulbs in three planters. And three different varieties . In late November, we had growth from all five with the initial appearance of a few of the flower bulbs. Today? We have stalks shooting up in four of the five. And good foliage growth in the final one. Below, in the photo, you can see all of them. On the right is the largest bulb (Sunshine Nymph). Behind it is the slowest starter, but another good-sized bulb (Lemon Star). And on the right is the trio of the big-box bulbs (Red Lion). Now is the time that I'm going to begin to start 'poisoning' them with an alcohol/water mixture in an attempt to stunt their growth (so they don't get too 'leggy' and flop over). Without a true 'control' bulb, I won't really know if the alcohol mixture is working. One other note: when were picking out the bulbs, so too was another woman. Wh
There we were, minding our own business on a little trip out in Oak Brook, when we came across one of John Lennon's prized Rolls Royce phantoms sitting out front. Two quick things: First, pretty sure this isn't a Phantom V ( as only 517 of them were made ) and second, it isn't John's, of course. If you head here and scroll down , you can see that John's car had a third side window - and was stretched out longer than this beauty below. Would make a heckuva wedding-day car, wouldn't it? That's what I'm guessing it was doing out.
I've mentioned that we've now traveled up to Wisconsin the past couple of years to cut down Christmas trees after the place we had been going down in Braidwood stopped being fun. The farm is called Evergreen Acres and they opened in 1975 . It is a great place. We bought both of our trees there this year - Family Room and Green Room trees. When you check out of Evergreen Acres, they give you a little business card that serves as your receipt. If you know me at all, you know that I'm likely to complain about the costs of things. I'm pretty sure I live in a fantasy world where I think things and services should cost way less than they should. We've been looking for a fridge for our basement for a year. I have a certain price in my mind that I want to hit - in order to buy a fridge. And, we have a particular format (French door, if you must know) that we (I) want. I've shopped it. And shopped it. And, haven't found anything close to the price that
For the past few years, I've tried to create an early-season yard and garden 'to-do list' that keeps me focused on completing some key tasks. I've also worked to keep score on those lists over the years to make sure there's some level of accountability involved. Starting in 2019, I had a short 10 item list and a 7 part addendum. The scorecard: 12 of 17 complete. 70.5% Last year, in 2020, I had 25 items on the list. The scorecard: 22 of 25 complete . 88%. This year, I had another 25 items on my list and with December, it seems like it is a good time to score my activities. How did I do? Here's my 2021 to-do list: 1. Planting Priority Area 1 in the backyard. Not done. Punted because of the fire pit area. 2. Planting Priority Area 2 in the backyard. Check. Way more than a simple, check though. Planted hostas , shaped the beds , Ghost Ferns , Brunnera , Ligularias, transplanted hostas and an Oakleaf Hydrangea and a Weeping Nootka Cypress tree as a