Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

It officially feels like winter.  The clocks are turned back so it gets dark early.  Most trees are devoid of leaves and the weather has been brisk and it has been dreary a lot.

I have finished all of the necessary fall garden clean up.  There are only a few things remaining, but if they don't get cleaned up, they can also wait till spring.  I am hoping for some dry weather to clean up the last of the leaves to grind up and mulch my russian red garlic I planted once the weather freezes.  Speaking of the Russian red...it has broken through the soil surface.  I planted it the second week of October and hoped it would not sprout above the soil, but Gary P. who gave me the bulb said it would be ok.

The big news at the house is my new windows!  I waited 28 years for them.  Since I moved in the house in 1986 I have hated those windows.  They barely opened, some needed to be propped up with a 2x4 and one was broken.  They all leaked and had those crappy triple track storm windows that were a day long project if you wanted to wash the windows.

The new windows are Energy Star and look great.  The crew that installed them also used white aluminum trim and there was no rot in the window frames.  Now I just have to pay for them.  I do have a year to pay with zero financing.

On Saturday I got another Star Wars event in.  This one was nice and close in Joliet.  We were invited to attend a Children's Halloween Party at a hall.  There were not many kids that showed up, probably because the weather outside was so beautiful!  It was one of those last gasp of summer kind of days that I am sure everyone wanted to be outside enjoying. I wore my X-Wing costume again and was relieved to find that it was again fitting a little more loose so that means I am losing a little more weight.  I also brought Artoo with me.  Even though Artoo is not hugely electronic, the kids always seem to love to see him.

I have been doing a whole bunch of costuming projects again.  I completed a new sculpt of my Endor rank badge.  I didn't like the one I had so making a better one was a long time coming.  Also, since it would appear that the Biker Scout greeblie for their thermal detonator is half of an Endor rank badge, I decided to sculpt one of those too.  After making the sculpt, I molded both of them.  I had issues again with the mold and have narrowed it down to the paint on the surface of the sculpt.  Rebound fares much better than the Mold Star, but I am going to have to seal the pieces with clear or something in the future.  I had to mold both the badge and greeblie twice.

I also tried my hand at a 2 piece mold using a Pilot code cylinder.  It came out ok, but not great.  No matter how hard you try, you do end up with an annoying seam and there was lots of issues pouring the casting material down that little hole and not getting bubbles on the "honey wand" portion.  I managed to cast about 8 of them but am not really happy with them.  They can be something held in reserve in case I lose one of my metal ones.

On Sunday I went to visit Tom Olmstead who has ALS.  He no longer has use of his arms and legs as the disease has progressed that far.  He talks to you using a computer that is somehow activated using his eyes and a metal dot that is on his forehead.  His spirits are surprisingly good and I am blown away by his courage and the courage of his wife Lisa.  I just don't know how I would be in a situation like that.

On Saturday, a few of us went out to Hickory Creek Barrens and did some prep work for the Work off the Turkey workday which will be held at the end of this month.  We got two piles started so that two to four groups of people can be working and hauling brush to burning piles and be working in two directions.  I hope to get a LOT done at the workday.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014

Today is a beautiful fall day and some of the days I love so much.  Where I don't like the fact that it gets dark early and stays dark in the morning, one has to go with the flow of the seasons.

Yesterday I had a bit of a odyssey.  I wanted to attend a Star Wars event in Mt. Vernon IL but the trip would have been really expensive gas-wise - about $85.00.  So, I began heading to Bloomington IL (about 2 hours) and met up with another costume member and then road with them to Mt. Vernon.  I began the trip at 7:30 AM Saturday morning and did not get home till 12:30 AM on Sunday.  The event was a parade for the Mt. Vernon Fall Fest.  The weather was perfect - not too hot and not too cold and there were certainly a lot of people along the parade route.  The hostess was one of our members who lives in Mt. Vernon and also owns a local Irish Pub.  We had an entire back room of the Pub to suit up in and to hang out.  The place was huge and an awesome old building.  Loved all the old buildings along the downtown parade route.  I wore my Hoth Trooper and apparently (as posted on Facebook) the costume had at least one fan along the route.

Last Sunday I did the "Best Evah 5K" event again.  This was a fundraiser for the Max Lacewell Foundation.  We had fewer participants this year, but still a nice, short trooping event.  I wore my Endor Trooper for this event and I chose that because there was a Scout Trooper along. Always like to do the yin/yan thing with Rebel and Imperial costumes.

I have been working on finishing up the fall garden clean up and am really in pretty good shape thus far.  I am almost done with the cutting down of things and have distributed some of the season's compost.  This morning I mowed and also took in the last of the geraniums that were outside.  We did get a frost last night and some of the tender stuff got hit.  Thankfully, the geraniums I have are pretty hardy and didn't show any damage so I was able to cut them back and bring them inside.  

Last week was my birthday and as always, it was completely un-eventful.  I treated myself to a movie again on Tuesday.  I was debating whether to see "Left Behind" or go see "Guardians of the Galaxy" again.  Guardians won out as "Left Behind" looked interesting...but a bit depressing and I was depressed enough.

 Last Saturday we also finished our first ever workday at LaPorte Road Access.  It went well and we put at least a small dent in the work that needs to be done there.  I hope that work does progress as every invasive killed there will be one less that makes its way to the Barrens.

And, the big news on the home front.  On October 28th this old house gets new window!  I shopped around and contracted to have Home Depot install new replacement windows in the house.  Got the place measured and the install will be next Tuesday.  I have lived in my house since 1986 and one thing that I hated about the place was the windows.  They were old and drafty and one has been broken for several years.  They have those crappy triple track storm windows that are a nightmare to clean so I seldom washed the windows.  Also, some of them take an act of god to open and I have scraped and puttied and repainted them several times.  Where I can't afford the windows at this time, will I ever really be able to?  So I just decided to go for it and got 1 year "same as cash" financing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

And it would seem that my last post said..."wow...September already" and now it is "wow....October already".  So much for trying to add to this blog every two weeks. 

September was a pretty full month with a few Star Wars events, garden clean up and chores at home. 

I think I am way ahead of the fall clean-up game when it comes to the garden.  We experienced a lot of cool weather in September so things are rapidly declining in the garden and I have already cut down probably 80% of it.  Even though I had "nuked" a lot of the garden last fall and tried to cut back on the plantings, there was still a lot to clean up.  It was still better than previous years though. 

I also found that some of the raised garden beds were long past their prime and it was time to do some re-building.  Two of the beds were hopelessly broken, so I went to Home Depot to get lumber and supplies to re-make 3 of them.  WOW...has lumber gone up.  It cost almost $100.00 to buy just enough treated lumber to re-make only those 3.  Since I made 18 of them in 1996 - that would have been $600.00 in lumber for those 18....and I know I didn't spend near that much in making those.  So, I remade 3 of the boxes and installed 2 of them.

I also had some painting chores to work on.  Where I painted the whole house last fall, I never got to the windows and trim.  I scraped and painted the beam at the front door and the bay window and also the trim on the garage.  I also cleaned the patio stone and the deck and then sealed the deck for winter.  Next should have been the windows.  Since I moved in the house in 1986 I have hated my windows.  It takes an act of god to open some of them, one is broken, and they all need another round of paint and caulk.  And then there are those crappy triple track storm windows.  I rarely wash my windows because of the pain in the ass of those storms.  I decided to price some replacement windows and got my first estimate yesterday.  At $895.00 a window from the first place, looks like window replacement is NOT in the near future.  I have two more people coming out for estimates next week and hope that they will be cheaper.   

On 9-7-14 I participated in an event to visit to a boy named Carter from Frankfort with leukemia.  It was a surprise given by his grandmother.  We Star Wars characters were hidden in the garage and then the grandmother hit the garage door button, and we poured out of the garage.  It ended up to be a bit too much for Carter and he was pretty shook up and hid behind his parents pretty much the whole time.  We tried to make the best of it and did a little "tour" of his neighborhood for awhile, came back, but he would still have no part of us.  It happens sometimes.  I got a donation of a Master Replicas Luke Skywalker lightsaber from the Service Manager at work to give to Carter.  That still was not enough to coax him out of hiding.

The Jeep got some more work too and I had a pretty severe bill to pay for that.  In addition to a new front bumper (the old one rusted away) and some other rust repair on the body, I had a massive issue with the rear brakes and replaced the rear wheel cylinders, brake drums and shoes.  That bill was over $1,000.00.

I also made my way to Montrose Harbor on 9-14-14 for the Make A Wish Walk for Wishes.  The weather was nice and cool in the morning, so I decided to wear my Imperial Gunner.  I have not worn that since last November.  Since it was cool out, I didn't need to have the fan running, which is pretty noisy.  The event started very early in the morning which is great when one talks in terms of going to Downtown Chicago as the streets were absent of traffic on my way to Montrose.  I was already headed home by about 9:30 AM just as the day was starting to warm up a bit much for my costume. 

I finished work on all of those holsters I was making.  They turned out pretty good considering I made them from first making a pattern and then working my way through cutting, stitching, dying and final assembly.  I was really glad to get all of the leather working stuff off of my table after several weeks. 

I went to the September Master Gardener/Master Naturalist Pot Luck and it was another great meeting.  One of the ladies came in with what she thought were American Chestnut burrs/nuts from trees at her childhood home in Virginia.  The story Joanne told was that her father planted nuts from the original American Chestnuts on her farm when the last of those started to die off from the blight.  I have had an interest in the American Chestnut "story" for quite sometime and was excited to get two of the burrs with nuts.  I wanted to find out how to start seedlings from what I had so I sent photos to the American Chestnut Foundation looking for some information.  As it turns out, the TACF looked at those burrs and said...sorry...those are not American Chestnuts but Chinese.  Joanne was disappointed when I told her that her trees in Virginia were Chinese Chestnuts and not American. 

I also got a head of Gary Patton's Russian Red garlic that I will plant this fall.  I am preparing one of those two new garden beds for that.

The whole American Chestnut thing led to Richard Wachenheim telling me that there were American Chestnut trees that were dying on one of the properties purchased by the FPDWC down in Wilmington.  After we did the National Public Lands workday at Romeoville Prairie on 9-27 we headed down to Forked Creek Preserve in Wilmington to take a look at the trees. 

What was also on this site in close proximity to the Chestnut trees was remains/foundations/walls of some very old buildings.  They sparked a great curiosity in me about their origins.  As with all natural areas these days, there was invasive species starting to "litter" the area around those foundations and what must have been the "yard" at one time.  This was a project that I decided I would like to take on.  I think it is important to remove those invasives from the areas of the foundations to make sure that trees and what not do not start to grow among them and ruin those foundations.  At this time I am trying to make that an official project AND learn more about the site.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014

September is here already!  Didn't do much over the Labor Day weekend but work on some projects.  The weather was supposed to be rainy just about all weekend so I didn't plan too much outdoor stuff.  I did meet up with the family on Sunday for a really nice visit at Horsetail Lake on 123rd Street.  I just don't see them that much anymore so it was a very nice visit. 

The other thing I worked on was some holsters for my Star Wars costumes.  After finding that I fit into my Imperial Officer costume again, I wanted to make a black holster for that costume and also wanted to replace the really lame holster I have for most of my Rebel costumes.  Since I could not decide on a more squared vs more rounded holster for the Rebel DH-17 - I decided to do both. 

I completed the black holster in pretty good time but I just need to figure out how I want to attach it to the belt...with loops or two slices in the backing to loop the belt through. 

The Rebel holsters are a little more complicated because of the dye.  I am trying to match my old belt and I only have a couple of dyes to choose from so I am trying to layer a more red brown and a medium brown to try to match the color.   As always, am finding I am not a huge fan of the water based dyes, they just don't seem to cover well and I am getting mixed results.  After 2 coats of dye I feel I am making progress so I did cement the seams to be hand stitched and that is drying.  I am trying to be more patient with the dying process and leave things dry really well between coats.

I did do a few more Star Wars events recently.  One of the events was a Library waaaay up on the north side.  I had taken that on as event coordinator because the library said they really wanted a female Jedi so that women/girls were represented.  I took that event because of the request, but as always I was completely ignored by patrons because we had Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and several other more desirable characters.  Thank goodness I am already used to that...lol. I really knew that would happen but kudos to the Library for thinking of girls.  Traffic was brutal and it was really hot that day so the commute to this event was not fun.  The library did have a lot of interesting things for the kids to do and they really did a nice job of this event.

I also did a wedding last Saturday.  One of the members of the Midwest Garrison got married and had a bunch of us at the entrance to the reception.  Since I mainly went to help others get dressed and get photos, I didn't wear either one of my bucketed Imperial costumes but instead tried on my Imperial Officer costume.  The last time I wore that costume was 2010 and it was way tight...I really didn't fit into it anymore.  I was delighted and surprised that when I tried on the Officer costume it fit again.  I guess there is something to be said for all of the problems I have been having with my teeth.  I really can't chew much anymore and have had so much pain that eating is not on my priority list.   And, really, I have been cutting back and trying to be more wise in my food decisions the last couple months.  Obviously, I still have a lot of weight to lose, but after 50 years of dieting, I will take what I can get.

Yesterday I took a "day off" and took the Metra downtown to the Civic Opera House.  The Lyric Opera was conducting a sale of their old costumes.  I got down there just about when the doors opened and was meeting Kathy VanBeuningen down there.  I was NOT prepared for how long the line was.  I found Kathy about 3 blocks away in line and joined her.  We had a really nice, lively discussion on all sorts of things and were joined in line by a young man who works as a makeup artist for the Opera and is a drag queen by night.  He was so interesting to talk to.  I am really disciplined on my time and knew that I needed to get back to the train station to catch the 12:30 train back to Mokena.  We stood in line for over 3 hours and still were about a block away from the entrance when I had to leave to get home.  A few people that got inside and made purchases wore their purchases out and got a huge round of applause from the hopefuls in line.  I went home without ever even getting in the front door.  Sad...but..I needed to stick to my time schedule and who is to say I would actually find anything to buy.  With all of the people that had made it in to the sale and all the bags I saw leaving, I really wasn't sure there would be anything left anyway.  They did say that they were bringing out new costume pieces throughout the day.

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 screaming...so 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.