Old Plank Road Nature Preserve, and Swallow Cliff Woods,
December 31 2020 - January 6, 2021.
Photos below are from Hidden Pond, Arrowhead Lake,
Old Plank Road Nature Preserve, and Swallow Cliff Woods,
December 31 2020 - January 6, 2021.
Palos Restoration Project wishes all our volunteers and friends a safe and happy 2021! Though we've been apart for most of the year, we appreciate the well-wishes and words of support we continue to receive. We expect, with vaccines and time, to move slowly toward something more 'normal', however you define that.
First Snow of the Season
Tuesday afternoon the snow began and my heart leapt! After spending much of the weekend indoors (we had a natural gas leak and no heat from noon Saturday 'til late Monday morning) it was time to hit the pavement. After dinner I walked for an hour or more, enjoying the solitude of a beautiful winter evening.
Restoration Pause Continues
Volunteer activities remain on hold, awaiting improvement in our state's Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. Right now the pause is effective until January 9, 2021. We expect to hear, prior to that date, whether it will continue farther into the new year.
What we do now will influence what we're able to do later. We're not out of the woods yet with the coronavirus and don't expect to reach that point until mid-2021 at the earliest. Please be careful and protect yourselves; we want to see you all next year!
I included a few pictures of local homes decorated for the holidays. Most were seen on our walks around the 'hood, with a couple of the more elaborate (i.e. crazy) ones places we've seen in the past.
I'll close with this haiku, author unknown to me, that I put in our weekly email a few weeks back. Happy holidays to all!
We isolate now
so when we gather again
no one is missing
With our restoration days suspended due to Covid-19 cases spiking, we've had the last few weekends off. Last Sunday, a few Palos volunteers drove to Palatine to cut and burn brush at Palatine Prairie.
This site is part of the Park District of Palatine and is managed by Cyndi Duda and her guy Brian. It's a nice little piece of land, nestled between Metra tracks and a big sledding hill, with a paved trail bordering one side. Cyndi, our stewardship aide from FPCC until her retirement earlier this year, still comes to Palos regularly to volunteer with us, so it felt good to return the favor.
This is a remnant prairie; from her description I want to get back during the growing season to check it out. Most of our time was spent doing cleanup and burning some cut logs near a frog pond on one end, though we finished by clipping buckthorn and honeysuckle farther in.
Most of the pictures are from that morning, plus a couple more sunrise pictures from Arrowhead Lake in Palos Heights, one of my nearby refuges for a quick nature fix.
No restoration work to report on this week as we remain on hold due to Covid-19 in Illinois. We learned yesterday that the suspension of volunteer activities will last at least through December 22. I'll be very surprised if it's not extended beyond that date; it's going to take some time to get new Covid cases and hospitalizations down to a manageable number here and across the country.
This is where we're at right now. As I mentioned last week, Forest Preserves and contractor crews continue to do prescribed burns in the preserves. Thus far the weather has been kind, with no sticking snow and only a small amount of rain. I walked through Swallow Cliff last weekend, a couple days after the south woods was burned. It looked like they got good coverage. Every baby honeysuckle or buckthorn that succumbs to fire is one we don't have to cut the next year of the year after. Burn away!
We didn't have a blog post last week: there was nothing to report due to our hiatus from restoration work. That suspension of work started November 15, effective to December 15. We expect to learn prior to that date whether it will be extended or expire. With the rise in Covid cases in recent weeks, my uninformed guess is that we'll be extended.
In March, when our work was placed on hold the first time, we were at the start of the growing season. It was easy to walk the trails each week and capture photos of plants as they emerged and bloomed. That, and the occasional guerilla garlic mustard assault, was a big piece of outdoor play back then.
This fall it's been afternoon walks, sometimes evening walks. The Cal-Sag trail is a good escape. I've ridden it on my bike numerous times, but I see more when I walk a new section. Recently I stumbled upon the inlet to the canal from Stony Creek, saw small trees planted when the fish ladder was put in at Mill Creek, later caged to protect them from deer rub.
Other close-by locations are Lake Katherine and Arrowhead Lake, both in Palos Heights. They help keep me connected to the outdoors which is essential in these times.
Spears Woods Saturday November 14
With Forest Preserves of Cook County temporarily suspending volunteer activities, this shaped up to be our last restoration day for at least a month. Might as well make it a productive one.
We had two chainsaws and one brushcutter, and an eager group of volunteers wielding hand tools and dragging brush. We had just one brush pile, a big one reminiscent of our winter fires. Thanks to Ginger for participating in the "Bring a Friend" program, and for first-time Palos volunteer Mike who came with her. I should note that Mike has some skill with small gas engine devices, which helped with a balky brushcutter.
Sunday at Black Partridge canceled due to high winds.
Though the 20 ft. wind speed was barely within limits, Sunday was no day to be in a woodland. I walked for an hour later in the afternoon and saw numerous examples of the force of that wind (below). Steward John Marlin made a good call by canceling - live to play another day.
Suspension of volunteer group activities
Due to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Forest Preserves of Cook County is temporarily suspending all group volunteer activities, from November 16 - December 15. We will see, at that time, if the suspension will be lifted or extended.
We'll be back, rested and ready to roll, when we get the green light again.
Saturday November 7, Willow Springs Woods - Katydid
Joe found a big patch of brush south of the prairie at Katydid, and we cleared it with chainsaw, brushcutter, and hand tools. We had great help from first-time Palos volunteer Nicole, and from Gian Luca and Leo, whom I hadn't seen for quite a spell.
Later, looking across the prairie to the north, Kathy spotted a line of vibrant red shrubbery that she tentatively identified as barberry. Joe confirmed. More brushcutter mayhem with Doug at the helm? We'll see.
Sunday November 8, Hidden Pond Woods
We continued to remove a line of brush along Kean, near Woodland Drive and the storm ditches. It doesn't extend too far from the road but is a massive tangle in places. Some chainsaw-worthy targets are present, so it was fortuitous when Bob Erck showed up, saw in hand. Others might be better handled with a brushcutter, which may be next month's plan.
We were joined by another first-time Palos volunteer, Seasons, who lives just a couple blocks away, and by Mary and Michael, both veterans of our March work nearby. Did a real nice piece of work, already looking forward to December at Hidden Pond.
My apologies for the late post, I had it ready to go around 4:00 p.m. today and Weebly deleted it when I hit 'Save'. So I was ticked off and went for a walk, grabbed a couple nice twilight pics included below.
Spears Woods Saturday October 31
Halloween morning at Spears we worked on a patch of honeysuckle near the Boomerang Slough trail junction. More than honeysuckle, with common and glossy buckthorn, bittersweet, barberry, and among other invaders seen and cut.
Our crazy warm spell was just getting started and we had a good group helping with the day's task. Joe and Margaret hung out well into the afternoon and were able to fellowship with local trail users while waiting for the embers to die down.
McClaughrey Springs Sunday November 1
We had a really good turnout for this one, though I wasn't able to get there so I don't know too much detail. I do know there were two brush piles burned. Thanks to all who came, including first-time Palos volunteers Julie and May.
Cap Sauers Holding Sunday November 1
We hand another good group of volunteers Sunday afternoon, including two first-time Palos volunteers, Polly from the Master Naturalist program and Jason, an avid hiker and student of nature at Cap and other local preserves. I believe Amy, another Master Naturalist, Cyndi and Kathy all did both Sunday sessions.
The wind was brisk and the ground a bit dry so Bob chose to stack the day's cut brush for burning next month. As is the case with no burn, we cut a ridiculous amount of brush in time there. One month of drying and it ought to fire up without much trouble. A great way to cap off a busy, successful weekend. Our sincere gratitude to everyone who participated.
McMahon Woods & Fen Saturday October 24
We returned to the prairie at McMahon for the fourth time this season, still dealing with pop-up patches of honeysuckle scattered here and there. Saturday was another gorgeous day, a great time to be on the prairie unless you're a honeysuckle.
We had two first-time Palos volunteers Saturday, Amy from the Illinois Master Naturalist program and Otoniel from Dominican U. Great to have them and both did a terrific job. With Jim and Kevin swinging chainsaws and Doug on the brush-cutter we had plenty of firepower, and lots of dragging to get their victims to the fire. We also cut numerous strays with hand tools. It was a good, productive day.
Swallow Cliff Woods South Sunday October 25
We gladly welcomed two more first-time Palos volunteers on Sunday, John and Christy. John's logged time at other locations, while this was Christy's first time out. Otoniel was back to help on consecutive days, with the team rounded out by Joe, Jim, Kathy, and steward Jackie.
For so small a group we got an impressive area cleared in our three hour shift. Maybe it was the invigorating air of an autumn morning, or we're discovering new superpowers. We're breaking through to an area cleared in previous sessions to provide a clear path for future prescribed burns. We also uncovered a small ravine, running downhill from the trail, which I was not aware of previously. Clearing thickets of brush gives you a much better sense of the terrain.
I'm Jan Pietrzak with the Palos Restoration Project. This blog and website were created for your information and enjoyment.