sunflowers

Bees Bees and More Bees

If you’re squeamish about being near bees, or happen to be one of the unlucky few that are allergic to the sting of bees, then I don’t recommend that you try photographing them the way I do.

I could have got out my DSLR and long lens and stood a respectable 10 feet away and there’s a chance I would have got similar results.

But where’s the fun in that.

Instead, I got out my point and shoot that has respectable macro capabilities and took pictures of bees from 2 to 6 inches away.

Some say it’s stupid, which is a possibility, but I like to think it’s a learned skill.

When I was 12 I had my first run in with bees. I was rummaging around a big weed choked lot across the street from Midway Airport. We used to call these lots prairies. When you grow up in the city, this is the closest you get to something big, open and wild. Even though they’re really not all that big, they are to a 12 year old.

I was wandering around the prairie when I came across some big bumblebees that were going in and out of a hole in the ground. I didn’t know bees lived in underground hives, why would I, so I stood watching, fascinated.

Then, like any red blooded American boy, I went and got a stick and started poking around the hole. The bees still came and went, oblivious to me.

So, I jammed the stick a good foot into the hole and moved it around. When I pulled it out it was followed by a steady swarm of big bumblebees, only this time I could hear them buzzing in anger. I did what any red blooded American boy would do at that point and ran like hell.

I got about 50 feet away, what I thought would be a safe distance, stopped and turned around. A big bumblebee made a beeline straight at me, where I learned where the term beeline comes from, and hit me hard in the chest, stinging me.

I don’t remember pain as much as feeling like someone stuck a lit cigarette in my chest, more of a burn. Within a minute the spot where I was stung began to swell. Within two minutes it looked like someone had slipped a golf ball under my skin. I had been in the Boy Scouts for a year at that point and had already learned some first aid. I went home, mixed up some oddball paste concoction and smeared it all over and around the golf ball in my chest. Have no clue if that helped, but I don’t remember the golf ball being there that long.

I did learn a lesson then and over the years to come.

Bees are like men. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done and as long as you leave them alone, don’t get in there way or stop them, they’ll ignore you and go about their business.

On the sunflowers this day there were also a few wasps. You’ll notice there are no photos of them. I learned a lesson about wasps too over the years.

Wasps are like women. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done, but it doesn’t matter if you stay out of their way or try to stop them. At some point they’ll turn on you like a rabid dog, for no reason. Next thing you know you’re running trying to get away from them and they continue to pursue you relentlessly. You find yourself begging them to leave you alone and cowering in a corner mumbling, don’t hurt me.

So, where was I…

Well, anyway, I get a kick out of seeing how close I can get to bees and how close I let them get to me. I’ve left them alone as they’ve landed on my Hawaiian shirts to check me out. They soon figure out they’ve been fooled and simply leave.

I knew these bees were here for the pollen. I could see it collecting on their legs and all over their bodies. What I didn’t notice till I looked at the pictures was how much pollen was all over the sunflowers. There are a few shots of pollen on some surrounding leaves, pollen that had fallen off. Never did see that with the naked eye.

One thing I would like to do some day is have a few honey bee hives. Not only would this be good for the bees and good for the plants in the area, I would get to reap the harvest of honey. The cost of honey has risen dramatically the last few years as the honey bee population has dwindled. I hunt the stores looking for bargains to feed my need for honey. The wife looks on with disdain as I open a container of honey and dip a spoon into it, then suck off all that golden goodness.

Much better than candy. Much better for you.

The other day I thought I struck a honey gold mine. A never before seen brand of honey, two 5 pound containers of it, sitting on a shelf and at a decent price.

Of course, I had to buy it all.

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I Went Fishing

You would think that the simple statement of I went fishing would be a given for me and up until this year, it was.

I went fishing for the past 18 years 3 to 4 times a week, sometimes more, sometimes year round.

The astute reader that also happens to follow along my WDJ Facebook page would have seen this back on August 1st, the last time I went fishing:

Rather than fishing the Fox River this early evening, time better spent would have been sitting on the toilet and picking my nose for two and a half hours.

I’ll probably hit a few creeks that feed the Fox the first week of September to see if the smallies are making their annual fall run.

No doubt come April and May I’ll be fishing those same creeks.

I still enjoy living two blocks from it and walk down to it’s shore every night. I still enjoy my walks along the river and the spots I’ve found where I photograph sunsets over the river.

I’m sure I’ll continue to explore other stretches of the river, but with a camera in hand.

As for fishing the Fox, I’m done. 19 years, over 10,000 smallies, who knows how much bycatch, waded over 20 miles of it over and over again, easily adding up to hundreds of miles, possibly well over a thousand.

There’s nothing more for me to accomplish on that river when it comes to fishing.

Since waking up on Saturday morning I considered going fishing. The final decision to go never happens till the hour arrives when I should leave if I’m going to go. I had a need for solitude, some quiet, to get some exercise, to get out of my head.

The Fox River has been at normal or below normal flow for the whole month. A recent spike from some recent rains had it still below normal, but new water tends to turn on fish. The creeks were low and I don’t like fishing them then. Like fishing in a barrel and I feel like I’m torturing the few fish that will be in the relatively deeper spots.

I got to the river around 4 PM. Weather was absolutely perfect. Temps just right, the right amount of clouds around to cut the glare of the sun off the river, a nice breeze. I did wind up seeing three other anglers out there. One was a shore angler, they’re trapped by their decision to fish from shore so I don’t pay them much attention and the other two came hiking downstream, got to within a couple of hundred yards of me, turned around and went back the way they came.

Had the whole place to myself, like usual.

I went into this expecting nothing but the serenity of being out on the river. I expected no fish, so to catch 10 and and have 7 others self release was a nice bonus. Having two of the 10 being a solid 17 inches was even nicer.

One of the things I wanted to test was my boredom level. It’s been crushing this year while out fishing.

Didn’t get bored for a second.

Maybe I’m on the road to some kind of recovery, but from what?

The first 17 inch smallie.

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Finding things along the river.

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Almost forgot about the drunken flotilla.

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Not quite right. I was about 5 miles downstream from one dam and about the same distance to the next.

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The second 17 inch smallie.

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This is where the second 17 inch smallie was caught. If you can find this spot and duplicate the catch, and here’s a hint, I’ve caught bigger ones here, then more power to you.

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Fox River Scum

After a few weeks of going through a lack of interest in fishing the Fox River, I didn’t think I’d wind up spending three hours chasing down the source of Fox River scum.

I really did want to go fishing.

Thought I would go hit Saw Wee Kee. Crossing the river on the Orchard Road bridge, I sized up the river real quick and didn’t like what I saw.

Up close and personal it got even worse.

It looks like a giant plugged up swirling toilet bowl covered in floating shit.

The shore under the bridge:

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As I drove drove the road along the river, I stopped to talk to a couple that lives in one of the houses along this stretch. They said this had appeared a couple of days earlier. They also mentioned that it was here last year, but we all agreed this was considerably worse then last year. They live on one of the best spots for smallies, but the guy said he won’t throw a lure in that.

A few more shots of the stretch between Orchard Road and the Saw Wee Kee canoe launch. It’s about a mile:

Did I mention I just wanted to go fishing?

After seeing this, the old Boy Scout in me, the one I’ve been trying to kill off for years because he can’t just walk away from shit like this, decided to wander up stream to see if he could find the source of the problem.

I had no choice but to tag along.

These two shots were taken in Oswego:

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About another mile up stream in Oswego. I think it’s called Troy Park. I noticed far fewer shit balls here:

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A little further up stream at Violet Patch Park, took a quick shot of a couple of kayakers floating down the river. I felt sorry for them:

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Mainly because just to their right, all along the west shore, they had this to enjoy:

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Looking up stream form the same vantage point. Under the bridge where I’m standing are riffles. Things seem to get worse when the scum gets churned up in the riffles:

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The upstream side of the Fox Metro plant. After this, didn’t seem to matter to go check the outflow:

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The Route 30 bridge is the one I was curious about. Last year when I traced this problem back, I stopped here because it seemed to dissipate at this point. This shot is of the east channel. Doesn’t look that bad. I live nearby and the night before I was sitting on the east shore watching the sun set and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary:

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I wandered over to the west side and that’s where it got odd. Can’t tell if this is light reflecting off the scum, which covered the whole west channel for as far as you could see, or if it was some kind of film:

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The next couple of shots, you can see the scum that covered the whole west channel:

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Down the street from where I live in Montgomery, didn’t look too bad:

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North Avenue on the south edge of Aurora. Still there, but it wasn’t looking as bad:

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This next one caught me by surprise. Right at the North Aurora dam looking up stream along the west shore. Upstream is the Mooseheart shit plant with a small outflow. It’s at the mouth of Mill Creek. Would have added an hour to get there to look, it’s a hike in, and I was running out of time:

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Last two shots are from Batavia. You can see some scum, but nothing like further down stream. There is a certain amount of this I’m used to. It’s an urban river and I’ve seen it at all kinds of stages year round for 20 years. Still wouldn’t call this normal, but it’s closer:

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The next few shots is what I documented last year and never did anything with. I had already been standing in it while fishing and this shit was a bitch to get off my waders. While wandering around down around Millbrook, I came across a bunch of it and tracked it back to Route 30 when I gave up. It didn’t look too bad at that point. I thought this was bad last year. It pales in comparison to what is going on right now:

I have no clue if this has anything to do with the scum, but the last couple of years they rebuilt and expanded Route 30 on both sides of the river. For miles on the east side. I know they installed all new drainage/sewer pipes, I saw them lining the road last year. I wanted to blame last year’s event on that.

This year in Aurora on Route 31, they rebuilt 31 for a few blocks. I read they were replacing sewer lines to solve combined sewer issues.

Those both could be incidental to all of this. I’ll never know.

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Farnsworth House

In April of 2001, when the state of Illinois was considering the purchase of the Farnsworth House and the 62 acres of land it sits on along the Fox River, I wrote a letter and sent it to damn near everyone I knew at the time that had anything to do with conservation, along with sending it to the Letters sections of all the papers.

I knew that in 1996, when the Fox had a 100 year flood event, it inundated the Farnsworth House and it cost $250K to restore it. As the infamous WGN radio host Spike O’Dell said at the time of the 1996 floods… “What did you think was going to happen when you paved everything over, water’s gotta go somewhere.”

I had studied architecture and knew all about Mies and the historic significance of the house, why it was built the way it is and why it’s located where it is… and none of that mattered to me.

Apparently I made that quite clear in part of the letter I wrote back then.

Common sense dictates that you don’t build homes in floodplains.

I think the emphasis on why the State of Illinois should purchase the Farnsworth property needs to be reevaluated. The purchase of the house would include 62 acres of land that borders the Fox River. The land alone, with or without the inclusion of the house, should be purchased by the state.
The Farnsworth property is next to, and across the river from, Silver Springs State Park. Adding the 62 acres to Silver Springs would protect a beautiful stretch of the Fox River from development, and guarantee public access to a body of water that is quickly becoming surrounded by private property.
As for the house, if it is included in the purchase, it should be moved further back on the floodplain. I don’t think moving it will have any effect on its architectural integrity. In the long run, the move will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair bills as the house will no longer get damaged by floods.

The picture at the top of this post is from April of 2013, never did bother looking into what it cost to repair it that time. I know there was another high water event just a few years earlier. Those pesky 100 year high water events decided to almost become a regular feature of the river.

I distinctly recall having a conversation about this back then and suggested moving the house to the edge of the cornfield up the hill to the north and east of where it now sits.

Flash forward 14 years to an article that was in the Tribune’s Beacon News on June 19, 2015:

Trust considers moving Mies van der Rohe home on the Fox River

One of the three options being considered is what I suggested 14 years ago.

Ultimately this has nothing to do with the Farnsworth House, the legacy of Mies van der Rohe or whether or not you like glass and steel buildings. I think the world could do just fine with a little less glass and steel.

For me it became a revelation as to why I get bored and disinterested with “issues” so quickly. I have no clue why my brain draws conclusions as quickly as it does, but for many years I’ve felt compelled to share these conclusions with others only to have them met with disinterest and ridicule.

Which is why I now consciously avoid saying much of anything regarding issues.

Yet here it is 14 years and at least two damaging flood events later, someone came up with the brilliant idea that maybe this building should be moved out of the way some how.

Well, there’s a novel idea.

Maybe by the time it gets out of committee and I happen to live to be 90, I’ll see it happen.

But I’m not banking on it.

In the mean time I think an opportunity is being missed.

I hear that on a nice, bright, sunny day the Farnsworth House turns into the world’s largest convection oven.

Imagine the cook offs that could be done.

Maybe this is what Mies intended for the Farnsworth House all along.