Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17,2014

As always, it has been a very busy couple of weeks of habitat restoration, canning, garden clean up and Star Wars events. 

The vegetable garden is so-so this year but I was able to pickle some beets and some carrots.  I had to buy some additional carrots from the Farmer's Market to supplement my own pathetic carrot crop.  Also, the beets did not produce well again this year and I only got 4 pints of pickled beets from what I grew.  I think I might have to mix in a bunch of leaves again this fall. 

The epic flooding this spring is what I hope was the culprit.  I also managed a batch of "Whimpy Ass Salsa" from the first box full of tomatoes.  This morning I made Chokeberry jam from the berries from my tree.  God, getting those berries to give up juice took an act of god. 

Today will be more garden clean up.  I also have been trying to get more of my low voltage lighting back lighting up the garden path.  So many of them are burned out or shorted out.  I had to buy a new transformer because one of the two transformers in the yard has been burned out for a couple years now.  The new transformer is working but I can't seem to get all the fixtures to light.

I have been spending quite a bit of time at Hickory Creek Junction this year trying to do follow up on areas that have been cut the past two years and also trying to tackle some vast areas taken over by invasive reed canary grass and phragmites.  I have been down in what I call the "cesspool" several times the past couple of weeks spraying and it will take quite a few more visits down there to make really good headway.

I also led a hike for Wild Ones Of Will County yesterday.   Wild Ones is an organization that promotes native plantings instead of introduces species.  The walk lasted over 2 hours and I hope that the participants came away with something from the walk.  I do know that it was a great opportunity to showcase the work that all of the FPDWC volunteers have done over the past 22 years.  Much of the ground we covered was areas that the volunteers have worked extensively. 

I also paid a visit to Lockport Prairie to see the sign that honors Dick Wunderlich which was finally installed.  We waited 7 years for that sign, and it was worth the wait.  Whoever designed it really did present a total picture.

 I haven't done much in the way of Star Wars events this year but did have a chance to do a couple recently.

On 8-10-14 I took part in the Montgomery Illinois town festival parade.  Members of both the Midwest Garrison and Nar Shaddaa Base were on hand for this little parade in the town where our BCO lives.  It really wasn't a very hot day and the parade route was only about 1 1/2 miles, but I swear, I was sweating harder during that parade than I have at longer parades in hotter weather.  Don't know if it is just another case of "old age".  I am finding that the range of comfortable temperatures is getting pretty narrow these last years.

I took a half day vacation on Friday 8-15-14 to do an event at Advocate Children's Hospital.  Since there was no other R2D2 available, I did bring my Artoo.  I loaded up Artoo the night before and then drove into the Service Dept at work to assemble him.  While he was there, I took some photos of him in the shop.  They came out pretty funny.   If you bring an Astromech to a Service Dept and don't get photos....well...that is like missing half the fun.

I also got suited up in my new Jedi costume at work rather than at the Hospital.  At 10:00 AM, we loaded up Artoo in the back of the Parts Van and I rode in the back with him to make sure he was upright.  We arrived at the Hospital, met up with the others that were there that day and started to maker our rounds to the floors to visit the kids that are patients.  It is always a gut wrenching experience to see those kids and their families.  Some are just so sick, pale and thin that it is heartbreaking. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014

I really have not done much this month at all.  It has been mainly a month of volunteer work for the Forest Preserve District of Will County.

The constant rains continued for much of the month of July and I spent a great deal of time emptying the flooded garage of water.  The garden was underwater for a good bit of July on and off.  Where most of the garden seemed to tolerate it pretty good, the tomatoes and some of the vegetable garden are showing yellowing leaves and a general lack of growth.  The one thing I can say that has been great this past month was the temperatures.  Where I am sure that the tomatoes and warm season vegetables would disagree, I personally have enjoyed the fact that the weather this month has been very mild.  Some days in recent weeks it struggled to get to above 70 degrees.  Yesterday and today have been pretty warm and muggy, but another front is coming through tonight and most of this week will again be pretty mild.

I really have had a busy month with volunteering.  I have made it out to Hickory Creek Barrens to spray several times.  Sometimes alone, and sometimes with Linda, Richard and Paul.  The amount of work that needs to be done out there is mind numbing for sure.  We also had our semi-annual FPDWC Resource Management meeting last Saturday and it was a doozy.  The next day was another public workday at Hickory Creek Junction and I also butterfly monitored.  We started a new project at HCJ of trying to control the phragmites.  That project is going to be difficult and will probably take a few years.

I also was asked to present a program for the Master Naturalists at Isle A La Cache Museum.  I worked long and hard on a PowerPoint presentation and had only 9 people at the program.  Those that did attend seemed to enjoy it and get something out of it. 

I am leading a walk at Hickory Creek Barrens coming up next month for the Will County Wild Ones so I have more preparation ahead for that venture.

I have really done very little on my Star Wars costuming hobby this entire year.  I have just lost a lot of the passion for it while I watch endless arguments and other nonsense.  I find that I just don't have the desire to do as many events anymore.

One thing that I did accomplish was to finally get around to making a new Jedi costume.  I had some natural colored Osnaberg around for quite some time and always intended to re-make my original Jedi costume.  The costume went together pretty quickly as I had made some alterations to my original pattern the last time I used it.  This time I cut the pattern pieces out and the tunic went together without issue. 

While I was at it, I also added a little "bling" to my one pair of very plain Jedi boots.  I really liked the plain boots that I bought used a couple years ago because of how comfortable they are.  I walked the 3+ miles of the Racine Parade in them and they were as comfortable at the end as they were at the beginning.  I put some straps on the boots at the ankle.  I used an old mens belt and took some buckles off of a couple cheap belts I had bought awhile back.  I really like how the boots came out and love the fact that I have a great looking pair of really comfortable Jedi boots.

I also finally got around to replacing my old refrigerator.  The old fridge was constantly puking water out on the kitchen floor and was starting to raise up the tiles on the floor.  My kitchen floor is enough of a mess and I would like to take up that sub floor and see what is underneath but didn't want to do that until I got a new fridge.  The new fridge looks almost exactly like the old one but I don't think it has as much room inside.

I got notice at work that my paycheck should look a little better starting next week.  The owner used to pay half of my healthcare but cut that benefit when the economy started to tank.  Paying for my own health insurance for the last 5 years has been tough.  It has really been tough to make ends meet and I really could not save any money anymore.  With retirement (hopefully) approaching, it was really difficult to continually be in a downward spiral.  The good news is that the owner has decided to re-institute paying 1/2 of my health insurance premiums.  That is HUGE for me.  I don't know how long it will last, but I will take it.   I can finally loosen the purse strings a bit.  Maybe I can afford to go places once in awhile and also get caught up on so many of the things that need replacing around the house. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July 5, 2014

It would seem that I have spent a lot of my free time the last 8 months cleaning up after Mother Nature.  With all of the moving about of snow all winter just about every weekend, now it would seem that it is flooding.  From the time all that snow melted, I have been flooded out 4 times and the last couple weeks have been extra horrendous. 

On 6-22-14 I got my 3rd flooding event, and it was a doozy.  The rain came down hard and fast and I was left with my entire lot under water.  Once my lot was completely filled up, the water started flowing westward through the neighbors yards.  The drains on the property were not draining at all-zero!  The flow of water from the front to the back was like a fast moving stream...which is really what it was.  All of my mulch floated everyone and I had to rake it back up from neighbors yards and put back in my beds. 

The garage was completely under water yet again, but this time I decided to hell with trying to squeegee it up and instead outfitted my wet/dry shop vac for the wet mode.  After vacuuming up bucket after bucket after bucket of water, I then put the fan in there to try to dry it out a bit more.  I can't actually get to the one back corner of the garage because of the GTO on jackstands. 

The water finally drained down but everything was a soppy mess and pretty much remained so until this past Monday night when the shit really hit the fan as a two monster storms pass through within hours of each other.  The worst part about these storms was that the power also went out shortly before midnight.  I quickly had to haul out the generator and got that running and spent the night semi-awake to re-fill the gas tank on the generator.  Around 4:00 AM it was evident that I needed to get some more gas.  I headed out in the Jeep looking for an open gas station that had power.  The power outage was very extensive.  The size of the outage really worked in my favor as I knew that an outage that large would get the ComEd crews out sooner than just a spotty outage.  Just as I was getting the generator and myself ready to leave for an appointment in Romeoville, the lights came back on around 8:30 AM.  Perfect timing and much appreciated. 

I had to go to Romeoville to meet with the FPDWC Staff there to make sure the Powerpoint program I was working on would open in their computers.  I am scheduled to give a talk this Thursday at the Isle A LaCache Museum on "Living With Wildlife".  I have spent countless hours working on that program and wanted to make sure it would actually play.  As luck (or should I say no luck) would have it, the power at the Museum was out as well so there was no way to check to see if the program was compatible.  So I left the presentation on a thumb drive with the employee at the Museum and asked that she try it when the power came back on.  As yet, she has not gotten back to me.

Yesterday was the 4th of July and I journeyed up to Racine Wisconsin for the 4th of July Parade with the Wisconsin Garrison.  The weather was perfect, sunny and mild.  The float that the WIG made was another exceptional one.  It ended up winning 1st place in the float division for the entire parade.  Also great was the fact that we were #27 on the parade agenda!  Usually we are back at around 130 or so.  It was great to be at the front of the parade this time as it cuts down on all of the hours of standing around waiting to step off.

 I walked the parade again this year as I made sure to wear a costume where my boots could make the 3 mile journey.  I was a bit concerned that I might not be able to make it as easily as prior years, but I actually made the walk very easily with a lot of energy to spare.  The joints in my right foot were NOT happy though as that foot became completely painful after I stopped walking and was on the float for the ride back to the Marina where we start out.  I was going to stay for the BBQ, but my joints were all I thought it best to make the drive home as they would only get worse. 

The rest of this weekend is just working on various projects around the house, garden, and costuming. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014

Last weekend was busy indeed.  I took a rare vacation day on Friday 6-6-14 to set up the Nar Shaddaa Base display at the Joliet Historical Museum for the 5th Annual Joliet Library Star Wars Day.  Where the display was slightly smaller than last year, it still took a lot of effort to select, pack, load, unload and set up.  I got to the Museum around 10:30 AM and spent several hours doing set up. 

We also had a request to make an appearance Friday night at the Joliet Slammers game, so I brought an extra costume with me.  After I finished setting up the Nar Shaddaa Base display, I went over to the Library to help haul some pieces for the Library display down but had to get back to the Museum, pick up my Rebel Fleet Commander costume and head to Silver Cross Field for the Slammers game.  It was a warm evening, but thankfully not too hot as the Commander costume can be a little warm.  I forgot to pack a pair of socks to wear in the RFC boots, so had to use the slouch socks I had on and that didn't work out well.  At least the costume still  It has been quite some time since I wore that costume and it fit and was a little looser than last time I remembered wearing it.  Always a good thing.

I stayed at that Slammers game longer than I intended and as soon as I got home I gathered some other last minute things together for the next day.  I got up early (as usual) and got suited up in my Jedi costume and headed to Joliet around 6:30 AM.  It was mass chaos and a blur from then on.  The event went well and has gotten so large that it is a bit scarry. 

This year things started off with a parade because the local American Legion Band wanted to join in.  From there I spent most of my day at the Base display because there was too many things that might get stolen.  The day went so fast that I can't really believe it. 

One thing that brought tears to my eyes is that the members of our Jedi Squad presented me with a new lightsaber that was constructed by one of our members.  It is a work of art and truly beautiful.  I am so grateful for it. 

I have also still been busy spraying at my restoration site.  I was out there yesterday again for 4 hours spraying all sorts of nasties.  Then there is also butterfly monitoring.  We got a really late start for monitoring this year because of the weather and the first few trips along the route have been very dismal in the amount of butterflies we have seen.  We are scheduled to head out today again and hope that we find a few more than the last trips.  While out spraying yesterday, I did see a Great Spangled Fritillary and we should have Little Wood Satyrs out. 

I have tried to get some work done in the garden as well.  I am really grateful that I started editing out some of the plants in the fall.  Things get out of control really fast and some of the plants (especially the number of asters) were out of control.  I had some issues with my "spitting carp" fountain, the thing got all of the water pumped out. Which was a good thing I guess as the pump did not sustain damage and I got a chance to clean out all of the leaves and debris out of there and re-filled it. 

The vegetable garden is doing a LOT better than last year and I actually have quite a bit growing that I could not even get started last year.  Fingers crossed that it will be a good year.  The cherry tree is disappointing this year.  Where there were tons of blooms, there are few cherries.  I don't know if the blossoms didn't get pollinated or what.

I also ended up with a new project for today.  My mailbox post has been doing the lean for a couple months now.  I finally just broke it off and will have to replace the post and mailbox today if I hope to get mail again this week so it is off to Home Depot as soon as they open.

Also started this week was a Yavin Medals project.  Since Tuesday was raining, I made a trip to Countryside to Reynolds Advanced Materials and picked up some molding and casting supplies.   Jeez...did prices on that stuff go up!!  I almost had a heart attack when the clerk told me my total bill.  I started off making a new mold for the medals and then started casting with the "cast magic" system of powders and paints for the casting materials. 

The first ones did not come out like I liked, so I switched base colors from red to blue.  I was still not very happy with that and switched to black and tried brushing the gold color powder into the mold in a different manner.  The last attempts seemed to work better and I quickly ran out of casting materials.  I ended up with about 14 useable medals and had to toss about 4 of the others.  Those medals still have to be clear coated and painted on the back, a logo decoupaged on and then a ribbon added. 

 I also hauled out my Y-Wing flak vest and will attempt making one of those for Scott from Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31, 2014

And, another month shot to hell.  Another month of nothing but work. 

I have been spending the greatest amount of my "free time" this last month at my prairie restoration site.  This time of year the amount of work is mind numbing as it is a race against the calendar to control some invasive species before they set seed.  It is a never ending cycle of mixing spray, loading the Jeep, dispersing spray over vast areas, going home and then starting over again. 

There is so much work to be done at Hickory Creek Barrens that it is starting to be overwhelming to say the least.  Once in awhile, you get a "reward" for all your hard work when you see an important and uncommon native plant making a comeback.  This year, after the site was burned, we found a nice population of Shooting Star and a very exciting population of Wood Betony. 

Also, I finally got in my first butterfly monitoring route for the season.  The spring has been wet, cold, overcast, raining and just plain not conducive for monitoring.  Went out Memorial Day weekend on Sunday.  The weather was perfect, but there were very few butterflies to be found.  It is always tough to tell what kind of a season one will have, but it is not off to a good start. 

On Sunday, May 18th I finally got together with my two sisters and my brother.  We met up at Horsetail Lake in the Cook County Forest Preserves.  Another beautiful day, sunny and not too hot.  It was a casual get together and pic nic and an opportunity to get caught up.  Joan, Laura and Stef will be leaving for Germany soon on a trip that I could not go on mainly because of work.  I get little to no time off of work and that is grating on my nerves.  There is no one that does any of my job when I am not at work and even being off a day, the pile of work is astounding.  I am exhausted after so many years of that and it is starting to really grate on my nerves.

Also over the Memorial Day weekend, I spent a lot of time in the garden.  Last year I never really got much done and the garden showed it.  Last fall I started to nuke some of the plantings that were really getting carried away so that I could freshen things up a bit this spring.  I just bought a bunch of new prairie plants to add into the garden to replace all of those "way too many" plants I removed.  I also made sure that this year I actually got the vegetable garden planted.  Last year was really hit and miss and my vegetable garden was probably the worst it has ever been. 

We got flooding rains for a good part of the spring, and now that everything is getting big and could use a drink, there really hasn't been any rain.  I has sprinkled a bit and looked like rain, but never really rained much. 

After I get back from the restoration site later today, I hope to have enough energy (though I doubt it) to get some of the prairie plants I purchased last night at the FPDWC native plant sale into the ground.  If I don't get them planted, I will have to do that tomorrow.

I have also been working feverishly on the Rebel Legion/Nar Shaddaa Base display for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day.  I had to make a new Jedi belt for the one costume I am planning to display because I will probably be wearing my belt.  I have also been making signage and gathering together some of the massive quantity of items that I plan to set up.  I will have Friday, June 6th off as an actual vacation day to do the display set up at the Joliet Historical Society.  The next day is the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event....likely to be exhausting as always.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014

Well, this time a whole month has not gone by in between entries here.  I would like to keep that up but know that is unlikely!

On May 4th (May the 4th Be With You) I really had to do something Star Wars!  I had the opportunity to do an event in Orland Hills, so that was nicely close to home.  One of my fellow Rebels and an employee of the Walmart in Orland set up a fundraiser in conjunction with Walmart's overall fundraising effort for Children's Miracle Network.

I loaded up Artoo and we joined several other members in the front of the store taking photos with customers for a donation.

We had a great response and filled up our donation jar quickly.  The donation jar had to be emptied and we filled it again.  At the end of the day we had collected nearly $600.00 in donations!  Not too shabby for a bunch of

I have also been doing a LOT of work at my restoration site.  I worked there on Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday night and yesterday.  This time of year is really a "beat the clock" sort of thing.  Getting garlic mustard sprayed before it sets seed is a huge job.  While out spraying garlic mustard, I have also been spraying seedlings of honeysuckle and buckthorn and tons of other invasive species as one tries to get them while the plants are still small.  We had some warm weather this week so plants are really taking off fast after a sleepy spring.  I still have not gotten out for my first butterfly monitoring route of this season yet.  Like last year it has been to cold, too windy, or too overcast most days.

With the warm weather and rain this week (the garage flooded again on Friday) the garden is also taking off and so are the weeds!  Earlier this past week I had finally decided that it was time for the Korean boxwoods to go.  I planted them about 15 years ago fully expecting that they would have died long ago as they are not winter hardy.

They were extremely cheap, so I didn't really care if they lasted.  They got so big that for the past years I have had to trim and shape them.  They made it through some very tough winters but this years polar vortex was too much for them.  I am sure that they would have recovered, but they looked terrible and that was a good enough reason for me to finally cut them down.  I took the chainsaw to them and then ran them through the chipper to use as mulch.

The vegetable garden is doing better this year than last year.  I had terrible germination of both beets and carrots last year.  This year the seeds are up...a little too up as a lot of thinning will be necessary.  The snap and snow peas are also up as well as lettuce.  My tomato and pepper plants are not doing well though and neither is the cucumber seed I started.  Sometimes I just wonder.

Today for a change I am staying home and getting some housecleaning and work done around the house.  I did pack a nice, large box of clothing and other things for the Morning Star Mission re-sale shop and finally delivered that this past week.  I may go out to Lowe's today to pick up a few (stress few) annuals and possibly some vegetable plants to make up for what mine are definitely lacking!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

Ok, I say this every time I post.....where has the time gone?  It it May the 4th....and
May the 4th Be With You!

The last month has been uber busy, as always.

I have done LOTS of workdays, sometimes back to back Saturday and Sunday.  Huge workdays where I chainsawed to keep over 100 people busy and the usual small workdays.  I even had a Tuesday workday for the "Usual Suspects" with a lunch afterward.  The Tuesday workday was one of the first of the garlic mustard spraying season and we had a good number of "Suspects" comb a large area of HCB with tank and backpack sprayers.  After several hours of spraying, we all headed back to my house for lunch of my crock pot pulled pork and various other side dishes.  Yesterday I was back spraying as the weather of rain in the forecast just about every day put a real kink in the spraying works. 

I also helped do another burn at Lily Cache Prairie on 4-8-14.  The last time we burned the South Unit and this time we burned the North Unit.  The North Unit went faster and burned completely.  After the burn we went back to my favorite BBQ place nearby called Baby Back Blues. It was a little warmer for this burn, but not as bad as some others. 

On 4-11-14 I was called in the AM to assist when the FPDWC decided to burn Hickory Creek Barrens.  That day the weather was much warmer and that is usually a problem for me as I tire quickly in the warm temperatures.  That burn went fairly quickly also and a good portion of the preserve got a much needed clean out.  There were several areas that I would have liked to see burned, but either it was not in the plan for the day or the areas simply didn't catch because of too much water. 

I stayed behind to monitor burning piles and what not after the crew left and got a surprise on the east end as one of the runners on the trail told me about a fire advancing toward the trail.  I knew that the fire would not go anywhere, but people tend to get a little crazy when they see woods I used my feet to make a fire line and then stamped out the flames as they got small when they hit that line.

I put together a RFT helmet for a friend doing that costume.  It went pretty smooth.  I tend to be more nervous and critical when I make things for others rather than for myself.  I recycled my Hoth Commander costume to another member and that costume got finished and approved and debuted at C2E2.

I had intended to go to C2E2 only on Saturday, but as usual, many other things came into play and flushed my plan down the toilet.  The main thing was that Saturday of C2E2 was also the big Comcast Community Workday at Whalon Lake and my chainsaw services were needed for that.  So, I ended up going to C2E2 on Friday and Sunday. 

On Friday I got down to McCormick Place REALLY early as we were asked to appear on the CBS 2 Morning News which starts at 5:00 AM.  I ended up getting downtown at around 4:00 AM and made my way to meet up with the rest.  Suffice it to say it was an interesting morning.  The live tapings for the the news ended at 7:00 AM and then I had many hours to kill before the Con opened at 11:00 AM. 

Surprisingly, things went pretty fast.  I wore my Endor Commando costume and participated in the "Meet the Rebel Legion" panel that was given.

I returned to C2E2 on Sunday and was supposed to do the "Running of the Hoods".  Unfortunately, one of the other Hoods didn't make it and the 3rd Hood had already done it on Saturday, so I didn't get a chance to run with my ice cream maker.  I really felt bad about missing that as it looked like the Saturday Hoods had a great time of it.  I wore my X-Wing Pilot on Sunday in case we actually did do the Running of the Hoods. 

I have been doing a little work in the yard, but not much.  I did sow the carrot, beet and turnip seeds in the vegetable garden and they are up.  I also mowed the lawn for the first time and planted a bunch of milkweed plants that I had ordered awhile back.  The milkweeds are an effort to attract more Monarch butterflies to my yard and give them some additional larval food sources.