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!

What to Keep

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area, in April of this year.

One of our wilder neighbors, caught hunting in our backyard conservancy area in April of this year.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of simplifying. It all started this spring, when I retired from the Village Board and found myself cleaning out six years worth of job related clutter–physical, mental, and the electronic variety. I’ve moved on now to closets, and in a five-bedroom house we have more than a few. With three children now grown and living on their own, I’m pretty sure we can live without the Middle School fashion statements and treasures hauled home from numerous college apartments. Fat clothes? If I haven’t worn them in five years, why in God’s name am I hanging on to them? Yes, the charity pickup trucks have been welcome at my doorstep this summer.

All this purging has gotten me thinking about scaling back my life in other ways. I am volunteering a little bit less these days, while still focusing my leadership efforts on causes and groups that I’m most passionate about. As empty nesters, my husband and I regularly discuss the pros and cons of downsizing our properties now that it’s just the two of us at the dinner table. But as we talk about what to get rid of, it always leads us back to what we want to keep.

We do have an affection for our house where we have raised our family, but the happy memories from the last nineteen years are what we will cherish. Houses come and go. Yet, it is the intangible part of Long Grove that has gotten hold of our hearts and keeps us rooted to this land and this community. Our neighbors have been a blessing, and although I know they too are having similar downsizing thoughts, collectively we love and have been loved by too many individuals in this community to be able to give that up anytime soon. Even though it is part of a larger suburban area, Long Grove has the soul of a small town, and my husband and I feel a very part of that fiber.

Besides our human ties, the other tether holding us to this particular spot on the globe is the beautiful nature that we are fortunate to be a part of on a daily basis. We are the lucky recipients and stewards of the majestic open spaces strewn throughout our Village, set aside by prior neighbors so that native flora and fauna could co-exist with us for years to come. Sightings of coyotes, fawns, monarchs and prairie orchid bring peacefulness and serenity, when we really take the time to notice it. As our future days unfold, this is the richness that we want to remain.

The opportunity to be up close with nature, coupled with small town charm and neighborly kindness is what drew us to Long Grove in the first place. It’s what we choose to keep.

Open space in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

Our backyard view in Long Grove this time of year features many wildflowers and native prairie plants.

 

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!

Meeting the Challenge

Getting our backyard prairie certified with Mary Fortmann of Conserve Lake County (on the right). Shown here is a "very happy" Rattlesnake Master plant!

Getting our backyard prairie certified with Mary Fortmann of Conserve Lake County (on the right). Shown here is a “very happy” Rattlesnake Master plant!

Recently, my husband Aaron and I made good on a promise. In April of this year, I made a public pledge to work towards getting our 9 acres of property in Long Grove certified for eco-friendly practices and land stewardship (see my prior post, Accepting the Conservation Challenge). Last week, I am happy to say, we passed the inspection and are now the proud owners of a “Conserve@Home” yard sign!

We were lucky to enjoy a particularly beautiful October day for our visit from Conserve Lake County consultant, Mary Fortmann. While showing her around our yard, gardens, prairie and woodlands, we chatted about all the things we have done so far to help preserve the many native treasures. Mary had a wealth of knowledge about things growing in our yard that we weren’t sure of, in particular a prairie plant that we had never seen before and hadn’t identified yet. Turns out it is a huge rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium) plant–the tallest one Mary had ever seen! Aaron and I learned so much from our consultation, particularly about species that we didn’t know we had (like Japanese barberry) and didn’t know were invasive (like burning bush). We received lots of tips and suggestions on lawn care and mulching that we will use now and next season. Mary identified many baby oak and hickory trees growing in the native woodland area of our property. I love her suggestion to transplant some of these seedlings to our more “suburban” area of the yard–why hadn’t that thought ever occurred to me? Brilliant! We now have several goals for next year including continuing our efforts at controlling the many invasive species starting to creep in such as teasel and reed canary grass. It will be an ongoing battle, but one worth fighting.

I would like to encourage all residents of Long Grove to schedule a consultation and learn more about how you can enhance your landscape in a sustainable way. The amount of personalized information we received was well worth the $50. charge. In addition, if you schedule a visit for 2017 before the end of this year, the Village of Long Grove will refund half the cost of your consultation ($25) as a way of encouragement. I was so delighted to get my own property certified, that I posted the picture above on Facebook, bragging about the giant specimen. My neighbor Claire threw down a challenge for next year–she is going to grow the biggest rattlesnake master in the neighborhood. Game on!

Proudly displaying our new yard sign showing that our property is certified!

Proudly displaying our new yard sign showing that our property is certified!

Our Daffodil Tradition

Now is the time to pick up some free bulbs at Village Hall, to plant for springtime beauty!

Now is the time to pick up some free bulbs at Village Hall. Plant them this fall for springtime beauty!

Long Grove has a long-standing tradition with the daffodil, and if you’ve lived in the Village for more than a year you’ve seen them. Every spring, the roadsides are lined with thousands of yellow blooms signaling the end of the winter season and bringing the promise of warmer days ahead. Each year the Village of Long Grove offers free daffodil bulbs to our residents for planting in the public right-of-way. And I’m happy to announce that the bulbs have now arrived! They can be picked up now while the supply lasts, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For a little background on this tradition, we reached out to Long Grove Park District Volunteers Jane and Ken Wittig to do some research and I would like to thank them for providing the following history:

Where and when did the Long Grove daffodil tradition start? It has been going on for a long time–this year will mark what may be the 45th anniversary of the daffodil planting practice. No one knows exactly how many bulbs have been provided by the Village over the years. The Village Board allocates a fixed dollar amount to the project annually, and buys as many bulbs as possible with the budgeted funds. Last fall we provided 4,200 bulbs for residents to plant. If that number was consistent over 45 years, about 190,000 daffodils would have been available to beautify Long Grove. 

The daffodil idea came from a group of civic minded women who were the founders of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club in the early 1970’s. The moving force at the front of the idea was Betty Coffin, whose husband, long time Village President and Trustee Robert Parker Coffin, convinced the Village to agree. The project launched as a community effort, with volunteers from the Garden Club, Park District, and Scout troops planting the bulbs. Among the enthusiastic participants were Timmie and John Clemetsen, Lee Bassett, and Barbara Turner. Funding came from the Village and from builders who donated bulbs for planting along the right of way in areas where they were developing homes. The idea was popular, has continued through economic ups and downs, and is still going strong today. We now depend on individual homeowners to carry on the tradition.

Stop by Village Hall now and pick up your bulbs for planting this fall. You will be thankful (and so will your neighbors) this coming April!

Hayrake Trail

Grovetrotter walking group member Jane Primack at the entrance to the Hayrake Trail.

Grovetrotter walking group member Jane Primack at the entrance to the Hayrake Trail.

Thanks to the hard work of a Long Grove Eagle Scout, one of our neighborhood pathway trails was recently extended and restored. Known as the Hayrake Trail, this path along Indian Creek starts on Port Clinton Road and runs north, just to the east of the Com Ed right of way. This path is attractive for a variety of reasons:  it contains woodland wildflowers, winds alongside a lovely creek, features benches on which to rest, and a vintage artifact (old hayrake salvaged from the creek) as a point of interest. But my personal favorite feature of this trail is that it is entirely in the shade. And on the hot and humid August day that I recently hiked it along with my fellow Grovetrotters, that shade was most welcome!

We have Stevenson High School Senior William Jacob to thank for this, as he was the most recent local Boy Scout to choose the Hayrake Trail as his Eagle Scout project. William and his crew of volunteers spent several workdays this summer hauling mulch and clearing brush to restore the front section of the trail, and then extended the trail further north towards an eventual connection to Oakwood Road. In addition, William added a wooden entrance sign to the trail (pictured above) which is visible from Port Clinton Road so that residents can more easily access this community path. William was thanked for his service to the Village and the Park District at the August 9th Village Board Meeting, pictured below.

Long Grove is a community that depends on volunteers to step forward when needed to maintain and improve our many beautiful open spaces. Congratulations to William for gaining some valuable leadership skills, and at the same time giving all of us one more shady spot to appreciate the wonders of nature.

Honoring students at our August 9th Village Board Meeting: (L to R) Ted Tapas, Stevenson High School State  Championship Men's Bowling Team Captain, Dave Lothspeich, Village Manager, Angie Underwood, Eagle Scout William Jacob.

Honoring students at our August 9th Village Board Meeting: (L to R) Ted Tapas, Stevenson High School State Championship Men’s Bowling Team Captain; Dave Lothspeich, Village Manager; Angie Underwood, Village President; Eagle Scout William Jacob.

Camp CEO: Mentoring with a side of S’mores

Happy Campers: Arriving at Camp CEO and being greeted by my mentee, Trinity.

Happy Campers: Arriving at Camp CEO and being greeted by my mentee, Trinity.

Last week I participated in what will surely be remembered as one of the highlights of my summer–camping with the Girl Scouts! In it’s tenth year, Camp CEO is a premier leadership camp for teen girls and high-level professionals held at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, Indiana. I was invited to attend as one of the 25 female “CEOs” along with 40 high-achieving Girl Scouts selected from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Council who applied and wrote essays to participate. I had not been camping since my days as a leader with my daughter’s troop 20 years ago, and it was incredible fun to be hiking, swimming, and singing songs around the campfire once again.

In addition to these traditional camp activities, what made Camp CEO so special was the opportunity to mentor the girls one-on-one and share stories, life experiences, advice and inspiration. I was fortunate to be paired with Trinity, an impressively smart and sweet girl from Chicago who aspires to be a doctor. I really enjoyed spending time with my mentee as well as all the girls at camp and I was continually amazed by the thoughtful questions the girls asked. They were truly focused on learning and absorbing as much as possible from their time with the adult mentors. Women were present from a wide variety of professions such as science, technology, law, government, finance, communications, entrepreneurs, and more. I was asked to lead a workshop on networking and social etiquette in politics, which challenged me to step out of my box a bit to design a seminar. But I had a ball doing it, and the girls really seemed to enjoy discussing the role of women in elected office particularly in light of the history being made this year in our U. S. Presidential race.

One activity that seemed to really resonate with adults and girls alike was the “Dreaming Your Future” tradition. A couple of times each day, everyone would gather around the fireplace or campfire, and listen as three or four of the CEOs took center stage and shared their own life story and pathway to leadership. As usual, the girls had intriguing questions to ask. I found it so interesting that every woman’s story showcased the fact that most of us are not doing what we thought our careers would be when we were in high school or college–in most cases our journey has taken twists and turns to lead us to a place we never dreamed possible. I know that I never planned on becoming a Village President when I was majoring in Foods-Nutrition/Dietetics during my college days!

As luck would have it, the day I chose to arrive at camp, August 10th,  just happened to be National S’mores Day–score!! Who knew it was a thing? But I cannot imagine a better place on earth to be on National S’mores Day than at Girl Scout Camp! We celebrated with a fabulous bonfire, singalong, marshmallows toasted on sticks, and a few mosquitoes to complete the woodsy atmosphere.  I discovered a new taste sensation–using a peanut butter cup sandwiched between the graham crackers and marshmallow, in place of the traditional plain chocolate bar. I am still thinking about how delicious that tasted–maybe the fresh air and female empowerment are enhancing the memory?

Camp CEO was an all-around wonderful experience. I’m grateful that we have organizations such as Girl Scouts to provide opportunities like this, which bond women and girls together to inspire the next generation of leaders. But the inspiration works both ways, because I came home uplifted by Trinity and all the other young women I now know who give me hope for a bright future for us all.

Adding our hopes and wishes to the "Dreaming Your Future" dream-catcher at Camp CEO.

Adding our hopes and wishes to the “Dreaming Your Future” dream-catcher at Camp CEO.

In Defense of the Flower

The White Fringed Prairie Orchid

The White Fringed Prairie Orchid

It is a testament to our ecological stewardship in Long Grove that we still have many varieties of native wildflowers that bloom in public and private woodlands and open spaces. In fact, we even have one variety that is a federally protected endangered species. I have never seen the white fringed prairie orchid, but State officials assure us it is here and have kept the site location confidential. Just one more way in which our Village is rare and special.

This flower has been recently under attack in our boardroom, as the private property owners try to rally Village support against the State’s attempts to further protect this endangered species. Do we side with the residents or the flower? Should the Village be involved at all? Some on the Board are critical of the State and dismissive of the ecological concerns. Emotions are high and accusations have been made. It has gotten so ridiculous that at the recent Village Board meeting one Trustee suggested that if it were his property, he might just take care of the problem with the use of some “agent orange.” Seriously?

I am in solidarity with the environmentalists, and spoke up in defense of the flower. After all,  isn’t it a resident too? This species has been blooming in Long Grove for more years than I have, and has been protected by the State at this location for decades. The experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Nature Preserve Agency have studied the situation for many years and determined the best course of action for the collective greater good. The owners of the piece of property where the orchid lives beg to differ.

There are other factors at play in this; for brevity and confidentiality I have simplified the issue. But in the end, it all comes down to money. And if that doesn’t work, well, the State has something as a last resort called eminent domain. Never underestimate the power of a flower.

Glorious Garden Walk

Just a small portion of the beautiful gardens created by Jo and Harry Moser of Kildeer.

Just a small portion of the beautiful gardens created by Jo and Harry Moser of Kildeer.

Today the members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club brought a little bit of beauty and joy into the lives of others. Five area private gardens were open to the public for tours this morning, to share the wonders of nature and raise a bit of money in the process. Whenever I attend this event I invariably come away with creative ideas and inspiration, and also a healthy dose of garden-envy. We have some seriously talented (and hard working) gardeners in our corner of Lake County! The gardens featured this year in the annual Garden Walk were quite diverse and unique:  vegetable gardens, unusual flowers, water features, a serene Japanese garden, fruit trees and berries, wildflowers, orchids, cactus, a garden shed to die for and even a couple of fairy gardens–we saw it all. Thankfully, Mother Nature set a perfect scene today for the gardens in all their glory.

By volunteering and participating in this event I was once again reminded of the best things our Village has to offer. Neighbors working together for a common goal were raising money for scholarships and stewardship work in our public Woodland and open spaces. And in the process, showcasing some outstanding gardens and those who create them; providing beauty and inspiration to fellow green thumbs in our community. Our local garden club is a real asset to Long Grove all year round, but in the summer it truly shines the brightest.

Woodland Wonders

Beautiful woodland flowers such as these bluebells are blooming this week at Reed-Turner Woodland.

Beautiful flowers such as these bluebells carpet the ground this time of year at Reed-Turner Woodland in Long Grove.

Last Friday marked the end of a hectic workweek, and I needed to go someplace to relax and mull over a few Village concerns tossing about in my mind. Since it was about as perfect of a Spring day as we get here in Long Grove, I decided to take a stroll through one of my favorite places–Reed Turner Woodland Nature Preserve. Early May is an ideal time to experience this local treasure because a majority of the native Illinois wildflowers are in bloom and it is simply glorious! With the redbud trees flowering alongside the phlox, violets, and Virginia bluebells, the palette of purples at the moment is stunning. Some of the other woodland varieties that I spotted blooming right now include: trout lily, jack-in-the-pulpit, May-apples, and red and white trillium. Several years ago, resident Kathy Wiberg trained me to be a guide at the preserve so that I could lead groups on field trips, and to this day I appreciate knowing the names and stories of so many wonders to be found in the woodland.

But to me, the greater beauty of Reed-Turner Woodland is intangible; it’s not the flowers but rather the serenity of the setting. The first visit I make in the Spring always gob-smacks me with the grandeur of nature and my own insignificance. I came to the preserve this particular day to let the woodland comfort me and to be reminded why I love Long Grove so much. At times, that can be a challenge. I have a favorite bench that sits up high on the ravine, overlooking the curving creekbed below. Our recent Spring rains have left a gentle but steady flow of water over the rocks and fallen limbs, and the murmur of this never fails to soothe my soul. For me, this is a tranquil place where I sometimes ask silent questions. And if I can calm my mind enough to allow peace to come, I will usually hear some answers.

This 36 acres of high quality biological diversity was given to the community many years ago by the Reed-Turner family and in the 1980’s was dedicated as an Illinois State Nature Preserve. The property is currently maintained and restored by the Long Grove Park District, with Barbara Reed-Turner still leading the way for preservation with her ongoing spirit and love for the land. When I need some personal inspiration to keep going, she is one of the residents that I most often think of.

This coming weekend, May 14th and 15th, the Long Grove & Kildeer Garden Club will be holding their annual native plant sale at the log-cabin Nature Center located at Reed-Turner. In addition to knowing that you are supporting the major fundraiser for our local community group (which sponsors a Stevenson High School scholarship and paid summer internships at the Woodland), you can rest assured that the plants for sale will work in your Northern Illinois yard, because they all come from local gardens. If you are interested in visiting the plant sale (I’ll be working on Sunday from 10-12–come say hello!) or strolling the woodland trails, Reed-Turner Woodland Nature Preserve is located at 3849 Old McHenry Road, in Long Grove. For hours and more information please call 847-438-4743.