Monarch Mommas

Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Members Paula Van Singel (L) and Kathy Michas serve as foster mothers to Monarch caterpillars in an effort to boost their dwindling numbers.

Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Members Paula Van Singel (L) and Kathy Michas are two of many local ladies who serve as foster mothers to Monarch caterpillars in an effort to boost their dwindling numbers.

My first summer job as a youngster was “walking beans,” which involved getting up at the crack of dawn and going up and down the rows of soybean fields near my central Illinois hometown, pulling out noxious weeds by hand. One of those undesirables was milkweed, and it wasn’t until I moved to Long Grove many years later that I learned of this native plant’s importance in our ecosystem. Yes, times have certainly changed, because this year I found myself actually planting milkweed in my garden on purpose–to attract the Monarchs.

At the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club’s September meeting this past week, members Paula Van Singel and Kathy Michas gave a fascinating program on the plight of the Monarchs, and their efforts to help more of the species to survive here in Long Grove. Milkweed serves as the primary food source for Monarch butterflies, and they lay their eggs on the undersides of the plant’s leaves. Only 1 to 5% of the eggs laid in nature will survive, so Paula, Kathy, and fellow “Monarch Mommas” bring the eggs and milkweed plants indoors once they are discovered, to foster the development of the eggs into caterpillars. They are cared for in a special habitat and fed milkweed until a chrysalis is formed, and in about two weeks the butterfly will emerge and be released.

Why do they do this? Recent studies have indicated that we have lost 90-93% of our Monarch population in North America in the last 20 years. According to Paula, her passion was sparked when she retired and started volunteering in the “Butterflies and Blooms” exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Besides helping the species boost their declining numbers, Paula says she is further inspired because, “every time a chrysalis opens, my faith is renewed.” Every year at this time the Monarchs from Illinois migrate south to winter in Michoacán, Mexico, where they are losing their natural habitat. The forest in which they hibernate has dwindled from 45 acres in 1995 to 1.7 acres today. Their food source of milkweed has become more scarce due to the use of pesticides, and changing weather may also be playing a role.

Did you know that the Monarch is our Illinois state insect? We can help the species to survive in Long Grove by planting more milkweed in our gardens and open spaces, and by being careful (or eliminating) the use of pesticides and insecticides on our property. Or if you really have a passion, you can follow the lead of ladies like Paula and Kathy and make an even bigger difference by fostering some “cats” next summer. You will have a front row seat to one of nature’s miracles!

Win a Watercolor, Save a Bridge

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

Long Grove Living magazine editor Harvey Stein shows off the watercolor painting that you can win in the raffle to benefit the Covered Bridge Fund.

We are fortunate to have many artists living in Long Grove. Resident Tony Stencel is a former combat artist and veteran, having served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard for 9 years as a U.S. Army Illustrator. His art has been included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the U.S. Air Force Art Collection at the Pentagon, and in private and corporate collections. Lucky for us, Tony is also a supporter of our historic covered bridge and the efforts to get it restored and listed on the National Register. Earlier this summer, Tony created the original watercolor painting of the covered bridge shown above, and generously donated it to the Long Grove Historical Society so that we could hold a raffle with the proceeds going to our bridge fund.

Stop by our Historical Society booth this weekend, Saturday and Sunday August 19 & 20 from 10-6 at Vintage Days in downtown Long Grove to see this gorgeous painting for yourself! With a little luck and a small investment in some raffle tickets it could be yours to keep. Raffle tickets are $10 each or three for $25. The winner will be drawn on the evening of Friday, October 27th, during the Historical Society’s Ghostwalk event. Visit SaveTheBridge.net for more information on the raffle and other ways in which you can help to support this cause.

A “Mayberry” Moment

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

When you are a genuinely good person and live to be 98 years old, that in itself is a blessing. An additional result of having endeared yourself to so many people over the years is that you acquire many, many friends. A whole community of them, actually. And in a time of need, those friends can come together in the best sort of way. Recently, Long Grove experienced one such moment, in which citizens randomly pitched in to help longtime resident Barbara Turner enjoy her beloved Woodland again.

Barbara and her family are best known in Long Grove for the donation of the Reed-Turner Woodland, a 36 acre nature preserve just north of our historic downtown on Old McHenry Road. In the last year Barbara’s health has not allowed her to get outside and enjoy the beautiful open spaces right outside her home; even the porch has not been accessible due to a large step down. All that has been recently remedied, when a crew of local businessmen and resident volunteers showed up to build Barbara a ramp out to her screened-in area. Today, she is once again enjoying the bird songs and wildflowers. And despite the current heat & humidity–who doesn’t just crave a little fresh air now and then?

All this came about when several of Barbara’s friends tried coming up with ideas to get her back outside. The porch presented a challenge regarding the ramp design, which was finally solved by a local builder and contractor. Past and current elected officials helped design and organize the project, and waived the building fees. The local Lions Club helped out with building materials and labor, with assistance from a few handy members of the Historical Downtown Merchants Association and Historical Society. All of this could not have been done without the cooperation of the Long Grove Park District, which owns and maintains Barbara’s home as well as the entire Woodland preserve.

In our fast -paced modern world, it is easy to get caught up in the negative headlines and news feeds. It can seem discouraging that we live in a time and place where civility and human kindness take a back seat to being right and being in control. Witnessing everyone collaborate to help a beloved neighbor is an important reminder that by working jointly with others, great things can happen. Small town spirit is still alive in Long Grove! When we labor together, it’s a “win” for all of us.

Ramp construction underway!

Ramp construction underway!

Happy Flag Day!

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the patriotic gift that she created for me.

Posing with Long Grove artist Marie Roth and the awesome patriotic gift that she created for me.

June 14th is flag day, but only one state–Pennsylvania–observes the occasion as a legal holiday. Another interesting bit of trivia that I recently ran across stated that Betsy Ross didn’t receive credit during her lifetime for sewing the first American flag in 1776. So to honor Old Glory and the talented women who create her (past and present), I am highlighting the story of a fantastic gift I recently received.

To thank me for my service as Village President, Long Grove artist and friend Marie Roth presented me with the beautiful painted wooden flag pictured above. Marie has been creating wooden renditions of the red, white and blue for many years now, and has quite a following. She was even recently featured in a national magazine! Marie’s flags are usually made out of reclaimed barn wood, and she is often on the lookout for old farm sites and other possible sources of wood with an interesting history. When she completes a flag Marie always includes a write-up about where the barn wood was found, and any stories she knows about the former owners.

What makes my flag so special is that it did not come from reclaimed barn wood, but instead, from wood that was once part of our Long Grove covered bridge! During my term of elected office the covered bridge has been hit and damaged many times (too many times!) by trucks and distracted drivers. During one of the many repairs, a pile of discarded and damaged boards was left by the side of the road and after several days Marie was alerted to the find. I have often coveted Marie’s flags, and even purchased a couple for gifts over the years. Now I am delighted to have a piece of Marie’s art and a piece of the covered bridge hanging in my home to remind me of the years spent representing our Village.

Speaking of the covered bridge, we are getting ever closer to having our local landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. I will be attending a meeting in Springfield later this month of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, who will be reviewing our application and (hopefully) making a recommendation to the National Park Service for the official designation. Keep your fingers crossed!