Wild about Bees: Backyard Hives and More

Honeybee populations are on the decline due to lack of habitat, monoculture, pesticides and a variety of diseases. After learning about the struggles of honeybees and how important they are to our food supply, we installed two honeybee colonies. Watching them and their complex community is fascinating.

Backyard beekeeping

Backyard beekeeping

Honeybee colonies include a queen, a few hundred drones and about 60,000 worker bees. Inside the hive, honeybees transition through a variety of jobs over their 6 week life cycle. Following are their roles by age.

  • Day 1-2: Clean cells, keep brood warm
  • Day 3-5: Feed older larva
  • Day 6-11: feed youngest larva
  • Day 12-17: produce wax, build comb, carry food, clear out dead
  • Day 18-21: guard entrance to hive and honey
  • Day 22-40/45 (until death): collect pollen, nectar, water, pollinate plants
Did you know honey has been harvested for centuries? A honeybee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey over her lifetime. Honey does not go bad. All honey will crystalize and you can liquify it by setting the bottle on a sunny window sill. Honey has been used on wounds as an antiseptic for hundreds of years. Some people claim eating local honey reduces the impact of allergies. This may be due to a gradual exposure to local pollens.
Honeybees pollinate many of the foods we eat including cashews, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, watermelons, oranges, cucumbers, lemons, limes, carrots, strawberries, apples, avocado, cherries, almonds and blueberries. Without these foods, our produce aisle would be bare.
Life is not easy for honeybees as they are susceptible to many diseases including varroa miles, colony collapse disorder, American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood disease. Beekeepers lose about 40% of their hives each season. Due to these loses, it is hard to make a profit as a beekeeper.
You can help honeybee populations survive by planting flowers which product pollen and nectar, providing shadow water dishes for drinking, and reducing or eliminate pesticide and herbicide use.
To get started in beekeeping, you will need bees, protective clothing, hives and a smoker. McHenry County honeybee supplies are available from Sue at Harvard Egg and Feed and Warren at Spencer Apiary Supplies.
Plants that provide food and nectar for pollinators are beneficial to our environment whether or not you keep honeybees. They not only provide food and habitat for honeybees and other pollinators, they are drought resistant, low maintenance and do not need fertilizers. The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee has native plant yard plans and recommended vendors and offers a mentoring program. Northern Kane County Wild Ones also has a wealth of resources.
New and experienced beekeepers can benefit from joining the Northern Illinois Beekeepers Association with meetings most months in Woodstock, Illinois.

I Tackled GITAP 2016

I set out to tackle GITAP 2016. And survived. Not only did I survive the annual GITAP, I had a great time throughout the ride. The six day GITAP ride is a fundraiser for Ride Illinois, a bicycling advocacy group. Four weeks ago, 10 miles was a long cycle ride for me. My perspective changed very quickly. My training miles were less than ideal as the the ride date approached. About 4 weeks before the start, I heard about the Schaumburg Bicycle Club. I enjoyed a couple of 20 mile rides with the club led by Lynn. On one of these rides, Roger, a more experienced cyclist recommended I get a rearview mirror which proved to be valuable safety measure.
A 25 mile ride on my own and the 51 mile Udder ride rounded out my training for the month before the GITAP. Besides Roger, Wayne, Karen and Lynn were also helpful and shared their best tips for a successful ride. With their support and lots of pedaling, I biked the entire GITAP 2016 route.
Total miles ridden: 290.78.
I achieved my goal for this week to complete GITAP 2016 route without SAG (support and gear.) SAG volunteers monitor the route to pick up bikes and cyclists unable to complete their ride that day.

Day 1 – Coal City to Oglesby 

Distance 55.28 miles. Cities on our route: Morris, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, Utica, North Utica
I picked up my registration packet, loaded my luggage on the truck then set off on my bike early in the morning. Today would be the longest bike ride I ever rode. Headwinds were a challenge for the first 13 miles. Just as I approached the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail, I met up with another GITAP rider Kent. We rode together for most of the next six days. The I & M Canal trail is mostly packed limestone with the rest a combination of grass, packed dirt, loose gravel and a few spots of sand. The best parts of the trail were shade, shelter from the wind and no auto traffic. About the 26 mile mark we ran into Wayne and Chris and rode with them the rest of the day. We stopped in Ottawa for lunch. Our ride took us up to the locks across from Starved Rock. The last 5 miles were hilly compared to the relatively flat road the rest of the day. Dinner at the Lehigh Park campground with entertainment by the Henry Torpedo Boys and the nightly meeting about the next day’s ride.
GITAP 2016 Riders

The average GITAP 2016 cyclist is 64 years old

DAY 2. Oglesby to Washington. 
 
Distance  64.56 miles. Cities on our route: Lostant, Tonica, Wenona, Toluca, Roanoke
Again, today would be the longest bike ride I ever rode. It was also our longest day of GITAP. Mostly country roads, lots of corn and soybeans with a steady rise in elevation, rolling hills with a few bigger hills. Temps were 95, high humidity and 11 MPH headwinds. I realized about 1/2 way through the day I was not drinking enough water. SAG brought in many riders today. We were warmly greeted by Washington Mayor Gary Manier and Assistant Superintendent of Washington Community High School Joe Sander who emphasized their appreciation for the outpouring of support after the town was hit by a EF4 tornado. The folks at Russell Fitness helped me replace my broken gloves.
DAY 3 Washington to Bloomington/Normal
Distance 53.50 miles. Cities on our route: Milton, Morton, Mackinaw, Danvers
My ride felt much harder today and I noticed I felt thirsty starting out. Temps in the mid 90’s really drained me. Loved the rainbow of painted bikes along the in Milton and the entire town of Mackinaw came out to welcome us at the top of the Mackinaw River valley. They were a site for sore eyes with rest rooms, water, fresh fruit, cookies and a warm welcome.
bicycle art along the trail in Milton, IL

Bicycle art along the trail in Milton, IL

 

Day 4 Bloomington/Normal rest day
Distance  24.39 miles.
Another 95° day with high humidity. At breakfast I ran into Normal with a fellow rider for geocaching and lunch. Heading up the Constitution Trail, we cached our way into town then met Kent for lunch at Flattop Grill. On our way back we pick up a few more geocaches. Amazing how short a 24 mile ride seemed.
Day 5 Bloomington normal to Pontiac
Distance  45.52 miles. Cities on our route: Lexington, Chenoa,
Today’s ride mostly north and east. Strong headwinds from the north at 14 MPH plus gusts. Cycling in farmland, the wind is relentless. With partly cloudy skies temps remained in the 80’s. After the ride I heading into town to see the The Pontiac Museum. Their Pontiac auto memorabilia includes cars and a large collection of hood ornaments. We stopped at the Route 66 Museum and saw the VW bus owned by artist Route 66 evangelist Bob Waldmire. Did you know actor Bobby Troup penned “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” while driving along the route to Los Angeles? Part of our ride today took us on the pavement of the original Route 66. The Gilded Arts Museum displayed tools and explained the techniques on this art. We learned an ounce of gold was more than enough to cover the museum floor with gild. The city of Pontiac hung out a huge welcome sign and Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift. We caught the Vermillion Players opening night of “Legally  Blonde” musical with the entire cast aged 16-25. Great job.
Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift.

Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell of greeted individually as we waited in line for dinner presenting each of us with a with a small gift.

Day 6 Pontiac to Coal City
Distance for 47.53 miles.  Cities on our route:  Odell, Dwight, Gardner
Today’s ride took us back in time along many miles of Historic Route 66, the Mother Road. Our first rest stop was the restored Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell. The rest of the day was not as hot, mid 80s and flat. Another day of corn fields and soybeans for miles on end with a few wind turbines thrown in for variety. While the mileage was not as high as other days, my energy level was beginning to wear. Our route took us along various sections of Route 66 including the Dixon Information Center housed in an restored gas station. The volunteers were out in force with cold water, fruit and granola bars for us. A welcome site!
Dwight, IL info center

Built in 1933, Ambler’s Texaco Station is not the Dwight, IL info center which welcomed us with cold water, fruit and granola bars!

I was glad to pull into the parking lot, collect my bags and head home. My first GITAP was a success and a ton of fun. I met friendly people and enjoyed my week in small town America. Ride on!

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens Rockford

Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens on the Rock River in Rockford boasts 11,00o square feet of tropical plants to enjoy. Massive palm trees soar several stories into the air within the glass enclosed building. Nestled among ponds and waterfalls, the greenery to give soothing background sounds. There are plenty of places to sit and take in the sights, allowing your body and mind to relax as you your senses take in everything around you. Whimsical sculptures appear dotted along the winding pathways. Plants stream down from the ceiling, along the walls, from pots and decorative picture frames.

We timed our visit for the butterfly exhibit where dazzling splashes of color flitted about the room and allowed for up close examination. Caterpillars and chrysalis hung in the first room as the prepared to emerge. Adult butterflies dried their wings in preparation for their move to the main exhibit area. It was interesting to note each type of caterpillar created a unique chrysalis.

Before we entered the main exhibit, we took off our coats to prevent hitchhikers from leaving with us. We entered through a set of double doors to prevent escapees. Once inside, we were handed sponge swabs doused in Gatorade to attract the insects. Every color of the rainbow was represented in the flying collection. The butterflies perched on greenery or screens allowing visiting to get an up close and personal look at each insect.

Butterflies up close

Butterflies up close

Outside the conservatory, walk through the colorful gardens near the front entrance, along the side and rear of the building filled with seasonal plantings. A lagoon with two fountains adds to the fun. Statues are perched in various locations along the paths. Bring your lunch and take in the sights from the patio area outside or indoors.

IMG_7506

The conservatory gift shop offers moderately priced wind chimes, note cards, jewelry and other remembrances of your trip. Toni’s Cafe of Winnebago serves soups, sandwiches and desserts.

A variety of classes from photography to yoga are available. Managed by the Rockford Park District, Nicholas Conservatory is open every day except Monday. Entrance fees are reasonable, even more so when you visit on Tropical Tuesdays when entrance fees are only $3.00.

After your visit, stroll along the Rock River. There is a paved path popular with walkers and bicyclists. We even found a unique group of statues comprised of rocks, of course, along the Rock River.

Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook

We recently toured 15 Royal Tern Road, Sea Pines and the Peabody Estate built by Francis Stuyvesant Peabody. His 36 room Tudor Revival Style on 848 areas completed in 1921. F. S Peabody earned his fortune with the Peabody Coal Company. Always looking for new places to visit and seeing little parts of the world in my backyard, I ventured out with my adventure buddy April M. Williams.
Woah….that was the first word out of my mouth when we walked into this time capsule. I think I even surprised our tour guides with my gasps. The beauty, foresight and opulence of this estate is really beyond words. Anyone can look up Mayslake and the Peabody Estate and get a bucket full of information.  Taking a tour and hearing the “little stories” is worth a trip out to Oak Brook, Illinois.
 Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois. Photo credit: Peabody Estate.

Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois. Photo credit: Peabody Estate.

Social class, I guess, has always been a “thing”. Important. You’ll find this holds true when touring old mansions. Mr. Peabody’s bedroom, as the leader of the home is on the highest level of the home. Three steps up from Mrs. Peabody’s room. I’ve learned over recent weeks that husbands and wives often had their own sleeping rooms with private doors that connected them so guests and servants would not see the comings and goings.
What I found so enthralling was the beautiful wood wall of shelves that hid Mr. Peabody’s great escape route. A secret stairway which led through the many levels of the mansion to the “world ending” shelter of the basement. No one truly knows why he had this safe room but it’s fun to speculate why. Upon leaving the master’s suite there is a progression of levels from the sleeping suites to rooms. Mr. Peabody’s, Mrs. Peabody’s, guest rooms, head maid and so on down, down, down. The rooms go from sheer opulence to rooms with just a bed. I must say though, all had spectacular views of the property.
Besides the lowering levels there were other signs of rank, other than the obvious separate entrances for servants. The bedroom doors had beautiful door knobs and wood exteriors on the side leading to the hallways. However, on the inside of the rooms the knobs were plain, simple, white. A reminder to the staff that they were, well, staff. Subtle reminders.
Nothing was overlooked in this mansion. The fire hoses built-in to many of the rooms and the built-in safes that could hold an army to the central vacuüm system. Wow, central vac in 1920!  Who knew!

Chapel at Peabody Estate in Oak brook, IL. Photo credit Peabody Estate.

These are just the simple, silly little things that draw me in and make me wonder about time gone by and the people who once lived. There is so much more but you should lean them on your own and feel the experience.

Waikiki Hula on the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound

Watching graceful hula dancers is one of my favorite activities during visits to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Many nights during the week you can watch a hula show for free at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound on Waikiki Beach. Located just east of the famous Duke Kahanamoku statue, you won’t miss the crowds filling in just before show time. The Hawaiian hula is a living record of the island’s history and legends of the Hawaiian people. The dancers’ movements, music and chanting combine to tell the stories of their forefathers.

The show starts after the tiki torch lighting which adds to the festive atmosphere. The outdoor shows feature local hula dancers ranging from novice keiki (children) to aunties (adults). I like to go to the show multiple nights to watch different halau (dance groups) perform. Each group has its own repertoire of songs, costumes and instruments.

Hula Kuhio Mound Waikiki

If you are anywhere along the beach, you will know the show is about to begin when you hear the traditional blowing of the conch shell. Sometimes a torch lighter joins them as they make their way along the beach. This alerts vacationers to get their spot so as not to miss the start of the show. Bring a beach chair or pick up an inexpensive beach mat from any of the local quick marts and grab a spot near the mound.

Usually a narrator will introduce the history of Hawaiian culture and language to the group. Before the dancers begin, you will learn about each song’s message and the story it tells.

These dancers may wear traditional hula attire or more modern dress. To make the time-honored hula skirts, the dancers harvest and treat the long flat leaves of the green ti plant. Colorful tropical flowers are fashioned into beautiful, fragrant leis. A variety of nuts grown in the islands are strung together as necklaces.

Dancers share the mound with vocalists who chant and sing the traditional stories. Musicians join in with their mix of modern and traditional instruments to make each tale come alive. The large drums made of gourds or tree trunks have a full sound which carries along the beach.

Weather-permitting, you can catch these hula shows Tues., Thurs. and Sat. at 6:30-7:30 p.m. (6:00-7:00 Nov.-Jan). These hula shows are one of my favorite stops on trips to Waikiki. Check out these shows often to learn more about the people and culture of the Hawaiian island. Aloha…

18th Annual AES Superfest Hamfest Milwaukee Wisconsin

18th Annual AES Superfest Hamfest Milwaukee, Wisconsin was held March 31, 2012. Amateur radio equipment manufactures, Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS),  Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA), American Red Cross and local ham radio clubs were there with booths and exhibits.

Ham radio operators from Wisconsin and surrounding states attended the one day event. Volunteer examiners (VEs) were on hand with FCC tests for those so to be new hams and hams upgrading their licenses.

The American Red Cross and other disaster preparedness agencies displayed their emergency response equipment including radios.

American Red Cross Disaster Response Vehicle

American Red Cross Disaster Response Vehicle

It was a full house at AES for their annual Superfest!

Madagascar Is My Favorite Country (that I barely know)

People ask me all the time what my favorite country is. I really don’t know how to answer that; in particular: do they mean my favorite country that I’ve already been to, or the country that I most want to go to? So I usually split the difference, most attracted to countries I’ve seen a bit of, and like, but didn’t get enough time there, and want to go back! At the top of that list is Madagascar. It’s nothing like the movie. It’s not like most people’s conception of it, either. Most people assume that, because it’s so close to the African continent, that it must be predominantly African. No, not really.

011

The Streeets of Madagascar

Guess again. Well, since it’s so close to the Swahili coast of Africa, then it must have been an Arab entrepot. Not exactly. Madagascar was settled first and foremost by Asians, of Indonesian origin, with linguistic connections to this day, but little or nothing else—except rice, and noodles, and a certain slimness of figure. Sure, some of that comes from a Vietnamese admixture via the French, but not most, and certainly not all.

Madagascar is also one of the most expensive countries to get to, so maybe its inaccessibility is part of its desirability. It also helps if you speak a little French, since that is the language that most people will use with you, as a foreigner, as the French were the colonizers. Strangely enough, English is one of the four official languages, even though hardly anyone—except hotel clerks—can speak it.

035

What a view!

The capital Antananarivo is equal parts Asian, French, African, and… unique, its own style. The architecture is French, but not really, while the food is Asian, but not really, while the poverty is definitely African, even if it doesn’t really look like it. That was the biggest shock, that the country was as poor or poorer than most of Africa. Watch out for pickpockets.

But the strangest sight was the last one, catching an early morning flight, and catching a ride to the airport in total blackness, around 3 a.m., when I saw literally thousands of early morning runners, clogging the roads and jogging the highways. I guess they were beating the heat. But for my early flight, I’d have never known. I’ll get back one day.v

Hardie Karges has traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries over the course of forty years. He is the author of “Hypertravel” and the seven-part series “Backpackers and Flashpackers: Guides to World Hostels.” He expects to open his first backpackers’ hostel soon.

Red Run Raises Funds to End Child Sex Trafficking

The Red Dress Run started with a couple of women jogging through downtown Algonquin. Their red outfits caught the eyes of passing motorists and let them get the word out: they’re running to save the lives of little girls at risk of sex trafficking.
Local moms Cortina Nystad and Kristen Guerrieri started The Red Run 5K in 2012. Over 500 runners and walkers participated. Registration is now open for the second Red Run 5K Run/Walk, which will be held Aug. 10 at Presidential Park in Algonquin.
“I personally volunteer with both of the local organizations we support,” said Kristen Guerrieri. “I visit Anne’s house monthly and last night was my first outreach with The Dreamcatcher Foundation!  This is pretty dark stuff.”
This year’s USATF-certified race will benefit the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a survivor-founded, survivor-led and focused organization in Chicago. Brenda Myers-Powell, Co-Founder, will be the featured speaker at the event. Additional beneficiaries include the Salvation Army PROMISE (Anne’s House), a local residential program that provides aftercare for victims and Love146, an organization that provides prevention and aftercare solutions internationally. Prizes will be awarded for the top male and female finishers and for the top three finishers in each age category.
After the race join the exclusive post-race breakfast at Port Edward Restaurant ($15 per person), with a percentage of the proceeds benefiting the Red Run.
the red run
To register, visit theredrun.org. Pre-registration is $30 for runners and $25 for walkers. Registration fees increase by $10 on race day. For more information or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, contact Kristen Guerrieri at kristen @ theredrun.org. Concerned citizens can call (888) 373-7888 or text “INFO” or “HELP” to befree (233733).

Arctic Daydreams to Whitehorse Alaska and Skagway

I went to Alaska in 2006 and liked it so much that I swore I’d go back, so in 2011 I went to Whitehorse, across the border in Canada’s Yukon Territory. From there I figured to go up to Dawson City, only a couple degrees south of the Arctic Circle. And Whitehorse seems nice, too, at first glance, but nothing spectacular, so I decide to press on to Dawson City the next day, leaving any intimate encounter with Whitehorse for the back end, since I’d already rented the car, and felt somewhat pressed to justify the expense.

Downtown Hotel in Dawson City

Downtown Hotel in Dawson City. Photo Hardie Karges

Dawson City is a bit of a disappointment, actually, though the drive up is very nice. Dawson City’s selling point is authenticity (dirt roads, plank sidewalks), and that’s a tough thing to sell. The minute you advertise it, it ain’t so authentic any more. What makes Dawson genuine, though, is the fact that what made it famous is still there, gold, and people still pan for it. It’s a bit pricey, though, in summer.

Sign posts

Sign posts. Photo Hardie Karges

So I get the big idea to go to Skagway, Alaska, in the opposite direction from Whitehorse, though not so far. The little towns unfold in reverse order from the way up, a little cluster of people wherever a river crosses or a road divides, anywhere a need might arise—Stewart’s Crossing, Pelly’s Crossing, Carmacks and Moose Creek, roads going places where until 1955 only a stern-wheeler could go. That’s 1955, mind you, NOT 1855.

Street view

Street view. Photo Hardie Karges

But I learned before in Alaska that the northern reaches were less spectacular than the southern coast, and the same holds true here. The drive from Whitehorse to Skagway starts off splendid and becomes spectacular approaching the US-Canadian border. The lakes here are a color that I’ve only seen previously in the Caribbean, due to the reflective shallow bottom, no doubt. And the border crossing itself is about as exotic as anything I’ve seen this side of Kosovo, too. I’m sure that in the wintertime it’d only be more so.

Skagway is nice, but more of a typical tourist trap, if that’s where the line of authenticity gets drawn. Ferries and cruise ships disgorge passengers here daily, leaving dollars in coffers and lives enriched along this little strip of America connected to itself only by water. This was one of THE prime places to be in the world not much more than a hundred years ago, as gold was discovered up around Dawson City and this was on the route there. So I find a nice hostel in Skagway—everything but the WiFi—and spend the night. Again, one day is about enough, especially since the meter’s ticking on the car.

Alaska views

Alaska views. Photo Hardie Karges

I get up early the next day hoping to find a bear up and at ‘em looking for breakfast, and sure enough, I find one, walking down the country highway as if it’s his own. The border’s no hassle on the return, either, out here in the long lost lonesome, one of the world’s most beautiful border crossings, no doubt. But it feels good to be back in Whitehorse, almost like home by now. I even keep the car, to explore the immediate environs, splayed out for miles in every direction. You can have the tourist traps. Whitehorse has few tourists, but many subtle pleasures. It even has Indian pawn. That’s authentic. I’m a lousy tourist, but a better traveler.

MCG Uplift Foundation Raises Funds for Local Causes

The MCG Uplift Foundation began as Eric Schroeder’s dream. Eric is a young guy who opened Mortgage Capital Group five years ago. As part of his business policy, Eric is committed to giving back to the community. Eric started the non for profit MCG Uplift Foundation to achieve this goal. Click on the image below to see a short 3 minute video where Eric explains in his own words why he started the MCG Uplift Foundation.
Once a quarter, through the MCG Uplift Foundation, Eric allocates funds for causes his employees have choosen.  This summer Eric rented a hot air balloon complete with a pilot. Together, they are working with the chosen causes to use the balloon to raise money for each of the selected organizations. Many of the causes are small and local like the Algonquin Red Dress Run, Animal House Shelter in Huntley, Crystal Lake South Gators Baseball, It’s All About Kids, Home of the Sparrow, A Friend in Deed and more.
MCG Uplift Foundation ballon

Watch for the MCG Uplift Foundation ballon sailing over the Crystal Lake area

This summer, watch for the MCG Uplift Foundation balloon as they sail over the Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Elgin and Richmond areas. The balloon is schedule to fly sunset cruises on these dates, weather permitting.

Tuesday July 2 evening            Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Friday, July 5 evening              Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Saturday, July 6 evening         Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Sunday, July 7 evening            Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills
Friday, July 12 evening           Lake in the Hills
Saturday, July 13 evening       McHenry
Friday, July 26 evening           Algonquin
Sunday, Sept. 1 evening           Lake in the Hills
The balloon will sail additional dates. Keep watch as they fly over the area a wave hello when you see them. On some of these rides, the balloon will land and lucky spectators will get a chance to go up in a tethered ride in the MCG Uplift Foundation balloon.
%d bloggers like this: