Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August 9, 2016

I seem to start out each entry with a weather report or a realization how fast time is going.  This is both..it has been a pretty hot summer and it is August already.  I knew when I planted the garden that it would seem like no time before it was time to clean up the garden.  Cleaning up the garden has already begun.  I started cutting down some plants and will do more today.  The rains have dried up and things are pretty dry now.  We haven't had any real measurable rain in a couple weeks now so I will have to spend time and water dollars by watering parts of the garden this morning. 

The last two years have been pretty awful as far as the vegetable garden, but this year has been exceptional.  There were no terrible spring floods and the weather has been warm.  This is the best year I can remember in a long time for tomatoes and peppers.  The garlic and onions have been pulled up already. 


The beets have also been pulled up and pickled.  The snow and snap peas vines were dying off so they were removed and the lettuce bolted, so that has been pulled.  There seems to be a lot of open raised beds now which is a good thing, less to water.  I have made cucumbers into not only two kinds of refrigerator pickles, but have also made homemade relish which turned out really good.




Butterfly monitoring is more or less done for the season.  I will likely get out one more time before the season ends.  This year was not a very good year for butterflies.  The Monarch situation is pretty grim also.  Where last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch eggs, cats and chrysalis, this year I have little.  I have raised only 2 adults and right now I have two chrysalis and only one cat.  I search for eggs a couple times a week, but have found little. 



I haven't been out at the prairie doing work much the last couple of weeks as it has been too hot.  I hope to start getting out there a bit more once the weather moderates.  A couple of us did go out this past Saturday morning to collect some seed at Brightway.  The seed that was collected will stay in Hickory Creek Preserve by giving it to Paul, Mark and Bernie for dispersal at their HCP sites. 

I only did one Star Wars event the past couple of weeks and that was the Bolingbrook Library on 8-1-16.  I chose to wear the Episode 7 X-Wing Pilot and found that to be way too hot for summer events.  It was a warm night and I was sweating so hard that I soaked the orange flightsuit which bled orange on to the white flak vest.  When I tried to wash the vest to get out the orange dye, color from the wood inserts in the flak vest bled also into the vest and stained it.  I am now trying to remove that.  I may have to re-do those pieces which will be a real bummer, but at least I have a template to follow this time.  I washed the flak vest again with a bleach to try to get the stains out, but don't know if it will work till its' dry. 

Still have to figure out what I am going to do about retirement and health insurance.  I will be signing up for Medicare part A and B and now just have to settle on a supplemental insurance.  I need to update all my financial stuff and go see the retirement planner by next month for sure.






Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12,2016

The dog days of summer have arrived.  There has been a good amount of hot weather but there has also been some days of relief also.  It is much easier to take the 90 degree heat and humidity if you get a break in between.  Also important is a little rain so that the garden does not have to be watered.  The rain is not coming as frequently as I would like sometimes, but at least we do get some from time to time.  There have been a couple more violent storms the last month or so, but so far no power outages or tornadoes in the area. 

The vegetable garden has done better this year than the past 3 years thanks to not so much flooding this spring.  The rabbits are still eating some of not only the vegetable garden, but other flowering plants I have put in this year.  Rabbit damage is still not nearly as bad as it was last year.

Since July 4th fell on a Monday, I had a nice 4 day weekend.  Well, nice in that I was off from work but I had a lot of chores and projects to do around the house.  One of the projects that I had put off for some time was that parts of my back stairs/deck were getting spongy so I knew that there was rotting wood to deal with.  I had to purchase a reciprocating saw just to get some of the old planks off the deck as the people who built it sunk the screws so far in that you could not get them out.  I removed some of the worst planks and did find rotting wood, but for the most part it was just the supports to hold up the mitered corners.  The stringers were still in good shape.  I purchased pressure treated lumber instead of the cedar that the deck was built with and the new lumber was a little bit larger than the original so things didn't line up quite like I would have wanted, but all in all it didn't come out too bad.  I know there are a few more pieces that I will need to address, but I do need to buy more lumber.

On July 3rd I marched in the Bartlett Parade.  Finally, this year the parade was not as hot as the previous 11 years I have done this event.  Normally, the temps are in the upper 80's and 90's for the parade, but this year it was a refreshing 70's in the morning hours and even when the parade stepped off, it was only about 80 with a nice breeze.  Following the parade the wind was a little stronger and that breeze felt great while trying to cool off for the parade.  I still decided to wear my lightest weight costume and it was plenty hot.  I stuck around for 2 beers and had a nice chat with fellow members since I didn't have to get up for work the next morning.  On the 4th, I did more chores and went up to watch part of the Mokena 4th of July parade. 

I also finally got to the Joliet Historical Museum on Friday July 8th to take down and bring home the Rebel Legion display that I had left there following the Joliet Star Wars Day event.  Since I had brought Artoo home a few days before, I had plenty of room in the Jeep to fit everything in for one trip home.  I took my time and folded everything up in the cases so that I would not have to deal with it when I got home.  It was a pretty warm day, so much sweating ensued.

In the late afternoon on July 8th I had the New Lenox Relay For Life event to do in costume.  So, I loaded up Artoo and waited for Blair who was going to change at my house for the event.  Again, plenty warm day near 90 degrees, but the humidity had backed off and by 5:30 PM when it was time to leave for the event, there was again a nice breeze.  It was still hot, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.  We lead off the Survivor's Lap for the Relay and then hung around an hour or so after that. 

Finishing out this past weekend I had butterfly monitoring to do on Saturday and on Sunday was a restoration workday at LaPorte Rd Access.  Again, plenty hot out for both endeavors and it was a sweat-fest especially on Sunday.  My goal for Monday was to not sweat as I think I had sweated out about 5 gallons of water between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. 

Tonight I give a talk to the Joliet Area Garden Club on Monarchs.  Last year I was up to my eyeballs in monarch caterpillars to raise, but this year I only have one and feel lucky to have it.  I found 3 eggs and they all hatched, but 2 of the 3 caterpillars just never ate and died.  This last one has made it to instar #4 and looks like it will make it.  I keep looking for more eggs on my milkweed, but have not found any.  Also, while butterfly monitoring there have been no monarchs.  I am guessing that the storm that hit the sanctuaries in Mexico was a lot more devastating than was first thought.  





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14, 2016


The weekend of June 4th and 5th was pretty heavy duty.  I think it took me several days to recuperate from that.

I took June 3rd off as a vacation day to go to the Joliet Historical Museum for set up for Joliet Star Wars Day.  I packed the truck up the night before with the exception of Artoo who did not fit.  On Friday morning, I had a member stop at the house to load Artoo in his car and we made our way to the Musuem.  Set up went very smoothly as there were several other Nar Shaddaa Base members there to assist with all the unloading and set up.

The next morning it was a very early rise to suit up and head to downtown Joliet.  The weather was threatening rain and possible storms, but the mood was still positive.  The parade did happen because the rain had held off for a few hours.  The parade associated with this event is very short, but the streets were lined with a lot of people.  I spent mostly all day at the NSB/RL table selling "hold out blasters" that a bunch of us purchased as our charity endeavor this year.  Sales were very brisk and we ended up selling out of the little blasters found at the Dollar Store.  We made $650.00 off the sale of those blasters and the $$ was sent to a member who is sick and has mounting medical expenses.

We had a good number of members from other Bases show up and they all reported having a good time and I think that many of them will try to make it again next year.  Hopefully, as the years go by we will have more and more Rebels in attendance.

This year our display featured our Pilots and we certainly had a good variety of different Pilot costumes.

I had my traditional one beer at the "after party" but didn't stay really long as the next day was to be yet another big event.  The great thing about this year is that I did not have to take down and haul home the display.  The display was left at the Historical Museum where it will be "in residence" for the entire month of June.

On June 5th, I took part in a very special SW event for a Make A Wish recipient at the DePaul Theater of the Arts on the north side of Chicago.  The MAW boy wanted to become a Jedi.  Anytime I have to go into the city, I always allow extra time so I left pretty early.  I also brought along an extra Jedi costume for someone else to wear.

The whole thing was a little surreal.  We did a walk through on stage of the program that was put together by another member of NSB.  We barely got back to the dressing rooms and were told that the MAW boy had arrived.

I had made the boy's Jedi costume for this and was relieved when he was suited up in it that it pretty much fit him.


One part of the program was lightsaber training and all of the Jedi were on stage for that with dim lights, lightsabers humming and going through "training".  

After the little boy was declared a Jedi, he was knighted and then taken around to meet all of us.

The event went rather well and by the post at the MAW Foundation, our little program was successful. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May 29, 2016

Memorial Day weekend arrived and with it the opportunity to get a lot of chores done.  I typically spend long weekends working on the "to do" list and in the spring that usually means garden chores.  I have just about all of the vegetable garden in now.  The weather has been pretty cooperative the last week and this spring as a whole.  Where April and the beginning of May were pretty wet and cold, the last 2 weeks have been warm and dry and the ground was pretty workable.  It had gotten to the point where it was too dry but a nice 1 1/2 of rain arrived Friday night.  I brought the chainsaw out and took down the wafer ash in the yard, as it looked really terrible.  It was misshapen from the time I planted it and I thought I could eventually prune it into a better shape, but it just didn't seem to cooperate.

The Joliet Library Star Wars event is less than a week away now.  Hard to believe!  I have that on my to-do list this weekend to get all remaining projects wrapped up before set up on Friday.  I decided it was time to wear the Naboo Pilot costume for the before parade photos and for the parade itself.  After the parade, I will be changing into street clothes to put the Naboo Pilot costume on a mannequin.  I need to drag that costume out and put it on to see what needs attention/repairs.  I have only worn the costume 2 times and it has been years since I wore it. 



Stick a fork in it...it is done!!  My Episode 7 Resistance Pilot is finally finished (except for the inevitable tweaks) and I actually wore it to an event already.  Since I was busy with the display for JLSWD and William's Jedi costume, I knew that I would not have time to finish this costume so I commissioned a seamstress to put the final pieces I started together.  It was over 2 months that she had the flightsuit pieces I had started and had given her...and it was coming down to the wire.  After I finished the display and costume for William, I did finish all of the projects on that costume that I still had to do.  I put together the new chestbox, made the leg flare holder, worked out the attachment of the hose and worked on some tweaks to the flak vest.  Where I am never happy with anything I make, the Resistance Pilot looks pretty good.  It is a pain to wear...but aren't all of the costumes a pain to wear!

And, speaking of wearing it.  I gave the Resistance Pilot its' first road test on 5-21-16.  I wore it to an event in Shorewood that Crix's company was sponsoring.  It was a "Build a Bike" event where kids came and finished putting a bicycle together and then could keep the bike.  It was at one of the Shorewood Firestations that my "MapQuest" led me astray.  I usually have little trouble finding places using MapQuest, but clearly in trying to find the firehouse, they made some errors!  Fortunately, I ran into Crix as he was also riding around trying to find the Fire Station.  Where the costume is hot (aren't they all), it is actually fairly comfortable.  The one huge pain in the ass is the hose from the chestbox.  It is large and stiff and just a general pain in the ass.  I have a second chestbox that I think will be worn more often as I don't intend to add the hose attachment to that chestbox and can leave off the hose at some events. 

On 5-14-16 I ended up going to Soldier Field to do the "Autism Speaks" walk.  It was a nice and cool morning and I had tickets to an exhibit at the Field Museum for later in the morning so I decided to also suit up and do the walk.  Always strange to change into costumes in the locker rooms that professional football players use on game day. 

We don't get to use the Bear's locker room...but we do use the locker room for the visiting team.  I really have not done that many events this year as I have been too busy with other things.  I did enjoy doing this event as it wasn't that long of a morning.  With all of the arthritis issues, I find that I can not do long events anymore as I am in just too much pain. 






After the "Autism Speaks" walk, Laura Smith and I walked over to the Field Museum as I had a ticket to see the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit and Laura is a volunteer at the Field.  The display was amazing...the whole thing is amazing!  I saw a special on the Warriors some time ago and marveled at the whole thing.  I never thought that I would be able to see one of them close up as it was VERY unlikely that I would ever get to China. 






Since it is spring and all of the invasive species are doing their best to flower and set seed, it has been a busy few weeks of spraying at my restoration site.  The weather has not always been cooperative either as trying to find windows to spray have been frustrated by rain and threats of rain.  Tomorrow I will be going out to spray reed canary grass one more time as that is starting to form seed heads rapidly.  We have also found some serious issues of destruction from off road bikes at my site and a variety of other issues there....it never ends.







Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May 10, 2016

Spring has sprung, and with it all of the chores of garden and restoration.  The weather has been truly all over the place, but it has been rather mild and wet.  Thankfully there have been no severe thunderstorms and weather events this spring.  We did have one threaten a couple times but nothing materialized.  I did have to send my generator out for repair after all of these years.  It is fixed and ready for the spring storms.  Which, speaking of storms, the neighbor's mulberry tree split badly at the crotch and was likely to come down on my power lines and garage.  With a storm due to come through that threatened hail also, I had to climb a ladder with a chainsaw and under power lines take down a huge portion of that tree.  Nerve wracking to be sure, but thankfully it went well and I didn't kill myself. 



I did finish the display for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event.  All in all, I am fairly pleased with how the vidscreen came out with its' new panel.  The curtains are done as well as all of the pvc for that.  As in previous years the Rebel display will be at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and they have asked me to leave it up for the month of June following the event.  Works for me, then I don't have to lug it home following the event.  The thing I just need to work out is costumes on mannequins. 



I also had to start and finish a Jedi costume for a Make-A-Wish event we are doing the day after the Joliet Library event.  We are to make the patient "William" a Jedi.  So, to be a proper Jedi, you need a proper Jedi costume.  I made William an entire Jedi costume including outer tunic, inner tunic dickey, tabards, obi and robe.  One of our other members made him a belt, pouches, and a lightsaber.  It came out very nice, I just hope it fits him!!



The last month has been endless workdays for the FPDWC.  Not only have I been doing workdays on the weekend, I have also had my Tuesdays tied up and some nights after work also.  Then there has been the usual endless mixing of herbicide.  We found some serious issues at Hickory Creek Barrens with regard to mountain bikers tearing up a lot of different areas and one of the other volunteers who is a Trail Sentinel has done some great detective work in finding the culprits.  Signs have been put up, but it is anyone' guess how much of a deterrent that will be. 





This year I finally went down to our secret bluebell area and was stunned at how the bluebells have expanded the last couple of years.  The area was absolutely gorgeous and it was nice to just go and enjoy.







Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

March turned out to be a pretty interesting month.  To kick off the month I ended up in Silver Cross Hospital for a couple days.  I went home from work on Monday March 1st and did not feel well.  Later that night I got fever, chills and just felt blah.  Tuesday morning being my day off, I felt lousy and nausea set in all day.  I never got out of bed really and hoped I would be better by morning to go to work.  Wednesday morning, I could not make it to work.  I think I can count the times on one hand that has happened on probably 30 years.  So, I stayed home and figured if I didn't feel better by Thursday morning, then I needed to get to a doctor.  Thursday I could not make it to work and barely had the energy to go to the Minute Clinic at Walgreens.  They said I was too sick for them to treat and I should go by ambulance to the emergency room at Silver Cross.  I opted for going to an urgent care nearby...they said the same thing.  I drove myself to Silver Cross emergency room and got admitted.  Where I felt lousy, I didn't feel "in-patient" bad.  To make a long story short, I ended up staying at Silver Cross from Thursday morning till Friday night with complications of the flu.  The oxygen level in my blood was too low to support function of my body.  I basically got 2 days of oxygen and a started on Tamiflu.  They didn't want to release me unless I took home an oxygen tank and set the house up for oxygen.  I declined and drove myself home and picked up a prescription for 3 more Tamiflu pills.  By Saturday morning, I went to the store and purchased an Oximeter so I could see how my blood oxygen levels were doing, they were bad but coming up.  By Saturday night I felt much better and my oxygen levels were also stabilizing.  I went in to work on that Sunday for over 10 hours as my desk was starting to look like a bomb hit it and as the week went on, I started to feel better and more often, better than I have felt in quite some time.  To be honest, I have felt like crap for 3 years now after a similar bout.  I don't feel like I ever truly got better. 

March was a very busy month.  I did several restoration workdays and a couple projects for the Master Naturalists.  It took about two weeks, but I put together a large information board on the Monarch project.  I don't know what or how they are going to use it, but I made it. 

I also signed on to a invasive plant phenology project.  The project entails going out between the 8th and 14th of each month and looking/reporting on the status of invasive species growth.  March's report showed honeysuckle starting to leaf out, autumn olive and buckthorn with bud swell and reed canary grass coming out of the ground.  Those reports are then sent to the Extension Forestry Dept to be added to a monthly report. 







I also did a few Star Wars events.  On Saturday, March 19th I headed to C2E2 at McCormick Place in my Hoth costume.  The focus of the day was to get a photo autographed by John Ratzenberger (of Cheers fame) who was a cast member for the Hoth scenes in "The Empire Strikes Back". 



Not only did I get a photo I had of him already signed by him, Kathy VanBueningen, Steve Mamman and I (All dressed in Hoth costumes) also took a special photo with him.  I don't have much of a budget and I said that day I spent all of my money on John Ratzenberger.  Autographs and photos of celebrities cost a bit of money.  Thankfully, I am not normally a "celebrity" person and don't generally bother with autographs.  I am also generally not a "Con" person, but had some interesting times through the course of the day.






The next day (March 20), I attended a Blue and Gold Cub Scout banquet in my X-Wing costume and brought Artoo along. 
The event was for the son of one of the Stormtroopers that lives in New Lenox.  I was very grateful that he came to the event for Mark and Sally Wieclaw and the New Lenox Relay for Life and thought it important to support those that supported me.  It was also a very interesting day. 



Spring is trying to break through, but the weather is all over the place.  We have had days in the upper 60's to low 70's and right now it is only in the upper 20's.  I have been taking plants in and out for the last two weeks.  It has also been WINDY!!  Some days the winds hit 60 mph.  A possible storm was headed our way so I decided to see if my generator worked.  I could not get it started and there seemed to be something else wrong with it so I had to call the local repair shop to pick it up.  After about 10 days, they brought it back (over $100.00) and I hope it works.  I have to get out there this week and try to get it started.  I have also transplanted some seedlings and moved other seedlings like the tomatoes to a bigger pot.  I hope the weather straightens out a bit so I can leave the plants out for longer periods of time.

I also continued work on the display piece for the Joliet Library Star Wars Day event.  I started that in February making the curtain panels and the pvc stands for the panels. 


I got that all done and painted and now have moved on to making the new graphics to replace the sheet of plexi in the current Hoth Vidscreen.  I got the new plexi cut and masked and painted the lines that will divide the display into 3 parts.  I have my ideas on what to put in the 3 panels, but am not too clear on exact layout.  Working on this project made me haul out the Cricut machine. 



Where I was not too happy working with the machine on the Hoth project, new graphics purchased on line have made some of this job easier as purchasing the real deal is easier than trying to create your own graphics to use.  Today I am going to try to get some of the layout on the plexi and more of it cut.  Getting the stuff laid out will be a pain. 





And, since I have not gotten to the movies in quite some time, I want to get out to see "Divergent-Allegiant" which is the last of the Divergent series of books.  It has been so long since I read the book, I don't remember much other than "Tris" gets killed at the end...let's see if the movie follows the book.  I suspect that it will as the previous movies in the series followed the books pretty close.









Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016






February has been strange in the weather department for sure.  One day it is snowing and zero and the next day it is 60 degrees.  I have been doing some seed starting with mixed results.  I will need to re-start some of the tomatoes but the peppers came up nicely.  I wonder what this garden season will be like.  One starts out each year with renewed enthusiasm, but the last several years have not been good due to a lot of spring flooding.  We will see what 2016 brings.

On 2-6-16 I went to the Hollywood Blvd Theater in Woodridge to see "The Force Awakens" for the third time with a bunch of members of the Midwest Garrison. We had a private screening at noon.  The Hollywood Blvd theater is an experience in itself. 



There is so much to see in there besides the movie.  Each theater is decorated with a theme from an iconic movie.  The theater we saw TFA in was based on the Wizard of Oz.  Where I do like TFA, I guess I am not as blown away by it as some are. 




I have been doing some workdays for the FPDWC, both public and just going out on small workdays and scouting missions.  On Feb. 14th we had the annual "Dick Wunderlich Memorial Workday" at Lockport Prairie.  It was very well attended and we got a lot done.  It was certainly tedious work as most of the buckthorn addressed was small so it was 3 hours of bending over with a chainsaw getting medium and small whips.

For this workday I always bake carrot cake.  This year I got a heads up that we were going to have a large crowd, so I had to bake two of them.

We will be following up with two workdays in the next couple months for more cutting and a big herbicide blitz of the re-sprouts and seedlings. 

I also went out to Hickory Creek Junction doing a scouting expedition with the steward and we found many, many interesting things from forts being built on FP property to a very busy family of beavers and the results of their tree removal.  Yesterday I went out to HCB with Linda and we did a lot of cutting of autumn olive with hand tools.  My right shoulder is still screaming about that one. 



On 2-18-16 I attended a kick off rally for the New Lenox Relay for life at the request of Sally and Mark Wieclaw.  The Relay will be themed on "Star Wars" this year, so they asked for a few costumed participants. 

I was very grateful to get Laura and Chris to come and I think our presence helped a little with the enthusiasm.  They took a lot of photos of us to use on their Facebook page.  I need to go and find their fundraising page and make a donation too. 

It was a short evening, but I find it difficult to do evening events these days and get up for work the next day.  I was so tired on Friday, but soldiered on. 

I have many, many things on the agenda for the next couple of weeks.  Again, it gets more and more difficult as I find myself with less and less energy.