Fall Cleanup

As you clean up the garden, remember that leaves and other plant debris are valuable. They can be used to enrich the soil and nourish future plants. (Beth Botts/Morton Arboretum)

It’s cleanup time in the garden, but that doesn’t mean you need to whisk away every leaf and cut back every stem down to the bare soil.

“Some garden cleanup is necessary for good plant hygiene, especially if you’ve had pest or disease problems,” said Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist at the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum. “But if you clean up too much, you can actually waste important nutrients and miss opportunities to keep your plants healthier.”

Instead, choose between what you need to clean up, what you can leave alone, and what you can use.

Here are her suggestions for how to button up the garden for winter.

Waste not, want not. A garden that is too clean and tidy may be wasting useful nutrients and organic matter. The leaves, stalks and other plant debris that fall to the ground are part of a natural cycle that enriches the soil, as they decay to nourish future plants. Keep them and use them as much as you can.

Clean up diseased or infested plants. If any of your plants had a serious problem, such as apple scab on crab apple trees or viburnum leaf beetles on viburnum shrubs, do clean it up to reduce the risk that the problem will return next year. Fungus spores and insect eggs can overwinter on affected leaves and branches. Collect them and dispose of them outside your yard, through leaf or landscape waste pickup. Don’t put them in your compost pile.

Use leaves as mulch. Mulch has many benefits. For example, it improves the soil and provides insulation so winter warm spells don’t prompt plants to sprout too early. Using leaves as mulch is easy and free; just rake them onto nearby garden beds or around trees and shrubs.

Shred leaves with the lawn mower. When leaves are cut into small pieces, they look more tidy and don’t blow around as much. Rake them into a pile on the lawn and run a power mower over them several times to cut them up. Then spread the shredded leaves as mulch or rake them out over the grass, where they will decay and enrich the soil.

Start a compost pile. Leaves are a major ingredient in compost, a nourishing soil amendment. In an out-of-the-way place, make a pile of leaves mixed with some green material, such as end-of-season annuals, and a little garden soil. In a few months, it will break down and become rich, brown compost, which can be added to beds to improve the soil and has many other uses in the garden.

Read more here.

For tree and plant advice, contact the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum (630-719-2424, mortonarb.org/plant-clinicor plantclinic@mortonarb.org). Beth Botts is a staff writer at the Arboretum.


Daily Herald’s holiday lights contest returns.

“If passengers on flights approaching O’Hare can see your holiday lights, then this contest is for you.

Entries in the Daily Herald’s annual holiday lights contest will be accepted through Dec. 6. Visit events.dailyherald.com to upload a photo.

Online voting will run Dec. 8-12. The top vote-getter will receive a $250 gift certificate redeemable at Ala Carte Entertainment restaurants throughout the area. Previous grand prize recipients are not eligible to win again.

The winners of Editor’s Choice awards for DuPage County, the Fox Valley, Lake County and the Northwest suburbs each will receive a $50 Ala Carte Entertainment gift card.

The winners will be featured in the Dec. 22 edition of the Daily Herald.”

-Daily Herald report

Editorial note:  A link to the Village “Exterior Lighting Regulations” can be found here.


Facebook unveiled the company’s new name and logo outside its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. after announcing that it is changing its name to Meta Platforms Inc.

That check from Facebook for violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by cataloging faces without permission isn’t in the mail yet. It could still be a while. Despite that, the case appears to be having other impacts.

Facebook users located in Illinois after June of 2011 were eligible to file a claim in a class-action lawsuit against the social media giant for violating the state’s BIPA law.

Illinoisans had a deadline of Nov. 23, 2020, to join the class action settlement. The website for the case notes final approval was granted in April. However, two class members appealed, preventing payments from being made.

“This appeal prevents payments from being made to any class members,” according to the website. “Class Counsel remains committed to using every possible legal means to expedite this timeframe.”

Abe Scarr with Illinois Public Interest Research Group said such appeals can take time.

“That can take up to one or two years on average,” Scarr said. “I know there have been efforts to expedite the appeal but so far no success there. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait another year if not two to hopefully finally have some settlement here.”

Payments are expected to be up to $400 per person, but a fact sheet says an exact amount can’t be given. That depends on how many claims are filed and the cost of fees and other attorney expenses.

Read more here.

Tree ShortageIf your Christmas tree tastes mirror Clark Griswold’s in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” — tall, voluminous and raised locally — then the ideal conifer might be hard to find at an Illinois farm this season. Yet, growers want you to know that doesn’t mean the reduced supply is as sparse and frail as the sapling in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“Around our farm, as I look at the crop available for harvest this year, I see nice trees that are 6 to 8 feet high. I can count up to about 5,500 trees. It’s a lot of trees, but if I was going to be open until December 20 like we used to be, I might need 8,000 trees to sell,” said George Richardson, co-owner of Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, which was Good Housekeeping’s pick in 2018 for best Christmas tree farm in Illinois. “And we don’t have that many.”

The Richardson family, fifth and sixth generation farmers whose three branches have planted Christmas trees on their property in McHenry County since 1981, took to Facebook this week to tell customers about the operation’s shortened selling season. It expects all 5,500 of its Christmas trees grown over 130 acres to be sold by Dec. 5.

Other local growers offer the same cautionary tale. Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvard is only open Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend in December. Lee’s Trees in Lily Lake has a limited number of tall trees grown on site, but is delivering precut trees from its Wisconsin farm to supplement.

Pioneer Tree Farm in McHenry might have more tall trees available than usual, but it was closed to the public in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.


It’s been just over a year since four people were indicted in the ComEd bribery scheme to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, but the matter is far from over and lawmakers have since passed limited reforms to curb corruption at the statehouse.

ComEd admitted the bribery scheme in the Summer of 2020. The company subsequently agreed to pay a $200 million fine and to cooperate with federal investigators.

Around a week before Thanksgiving last year, three former ComEd officials and a close Madigan confidant were indicted.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime, but he was labeled as “Public Official A” in the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors. Madian was also the subject of a special House investigation. That committee released ComEd emails the day before Thanksgiving last year that referenced “our friend,” which was widely seen as a reference to Madigan. The House committee never subpoenaed Madigan to testify before concluding without any action. Madigan has denied wrongdoing. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said Madigan needs to answer questions about his actions.

In January, Madigan wasn’t reelected as Speaker, a seat he held for all but two years since 1983. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, was elected Speaker. Madigan later stepped down from the office of state Representative before the end of his term and helped select his successor.

His former chief of staff and House clerk Tim Mapes was indicted in May.

The Chicago Tribune reported in August federal investigators continue to investigate, but offered no hints on new charges.

Read more here.

ACROSS ILLINOIS — ‘Tis the season to make memories with friends and family, to feel gratitude for all things great and small, to share joy and spread love. We at Illinois Patch are thankful for our readers, so we asked them to share photos and stories of what makes them grateful.

We’re thankful to see these heartfelt dedications and hope you are too.

“She brings us hope and a new start.”

Patti Fahey

Patti Fahey

Patti and Marty Fahey, of Barrington Hills, writes, “My husband and I are ever so grateful for our granddaughter Savannah. She brings us such joy and fun and helps fill our hearts with gratitude. We have suffered several losses over the past few years, but she brings us hope and a new start. We love you Savannah! Gram and Grandad”

Read more here.

Labor Market

In August 2020, an Illinois Policy Institute analysis predicted Illinois employment would fail to return to pre-pandemic levels unless women returned to the workforce. The pandemic business and school closures had disproportionately hurt working women, especially minorities, so those who left in greater numbers would be crucial for the recovery.

Now more than a year later, it is indeed Illinois’ women, and especially minority women, who are driving the state’s employment recovery.

Of the net increase in employment during the past year, 96% was because of jobs filled by women and 75% of those women were minorities.

Preliminary data shows Illinois labor market beats expectations in October

Illinois has now experienced 10 consecutive months of employment growth, but at a slower pace than the rest of the country.

Illinois added 40,900 jobs from mid-September through mid-October, according to preliminary data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. 

The only job sectors to lose were the information sector and the educational and health sector.

Read more from Illinois Policy here.

220 7.13

At the often intense Barrington School District 220 school board meeting July 13, 2021, district parents and other stakeholders showed their support for the district not mandating students wear masks in school. (H. Rick Bamman / Pioneer Press)

The Illinois Association of School Boards voted Nov. 18 to terminate its membership with the National School Boards Association after the national group sent a letter calling on the Biden administration to investigate parents protesting at local school board meetings as domestic terrorists.

The letter sent Sept. 29 asked President Joe Biden whether confrontations of school board members by parents outraged over COVID-19 mask mandates and school curriculum constituted domestic terrorism under the Patriot Act.

“The decision follows previous attempts by IASB to initiate changes to the governance structure, transparency, and financial oversight of the national association,” a news release from IASB stated. “IASB suspended payment of dues to NSBA for 2021-2022 but continued to work to try to bring about needed changes.”

Since sending the controversial letter nearly two months ago, 26 state school board associations have chosen to distance themselves from the national education organization. As of Nov. 20, 15 of those states have discontinued membership or stopped paying dues to the NSBA.

“The Board recognizes the need for a healthy national organization that can provide training, federal advocacy, shared resources, and networking opportunities,” IASB said. “IASB communicated to NSBA that ‘IASB no longer believes that NSBA can fill this important role.’ In September NSBA sent a letter to President Biden calling for federal assistance, without knowledge or support of its state association members.”

Read more here.

Barrington Elves

Holiday window displays Nov. 26-Dec. 31 throughout downtown Barrington will feature elves.

Submitted by Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce

Local artists are hitting the streets to create holiday window scenes for Destination Barrington’s Holiday Windows campaign. Starting this week, you will see mischievous elves beginning to appear on windows throughout town.

From Nov. 26 through Dec. 31, residents and visitors can follow the elves throughout Barrington to view merchant windows participating in a villagewide Holiday Windows campaign. The annual theme for the holiday season is “Just Elfing Around Barrington!”

Windows will include festive décor, holiday lights and elves in all sorts of mischief on their windows.

Local artists from the Barrington Area Artists Association and Kaleidoscope School of Fine Art, as well as student artists from Barrington High School, will team up with multiple merchants to create holiday scenes the entire family can enjoy. The program is coordinated by the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Make Barrington your family destination for some holiday cheer this season,” BACC President/CEO Suzanne Corr stated in a news release. “The holiday windows will offer a great family outing. Come shop, stroll and be merry.”

Visitors to downtown Barrington are encouraged to post an “Elfie” (a selfie with an elf) from their visit and tag the BACC Facebook and Instagram pages for a chance to win a local shopping spree.

BACC will host an official ribbon cutting ceremony in downtown Barrington at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, to officially kick off the holiday season and the Destination Barrington Holiday Windows Campaign. The event will include a performance by the Barrington High School Madrigals.

In addition to the “Just Elfing Around Barrington” holiday windows, the Village of Barrington will host Barrington’s Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting Ceremony from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

For details on the holiday window displays, visit www.barringtonchamber.com or call (847) 381-2525.

Whether you associate log cabins with American presidents, childhood toys, or general coziness, here are five Chicago-area cabins for sale.


62 East Surrey Lane in Barrington Hills (listed for sale in 2016) is referenced by Chicago Magazine in their current article.

Whether it’s the idea of craftsmanship in our mass-produced world or getting in tune with nature, many of us have a romanticized view of living in a log cabin in the woods or near a lake. But log homes in the Chicagoland area? You’d be surprised to learn there are a number of them, whether in Barrington Hills or Highland Park or the five currently for sale below. Although this type of construction goes back to the Bronze Age, many Americans associate log cabins with the country’s humble origins (seven U.S. presidents were born in one). These homes can also take you back to childhood, when you may have played with Lincoln Logs, invented by architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s son John in Chicago in 1916. These log homes seem perfect as we get closer to the colder months of winter when we’re all stuck inside with cabin fever.

Read more from Chicago Magazine here.

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