Urban Scavengers Strike Again! Juneberries

The Halbachs have long been urban berry scavengers (see also mulberries), but for the past few years we’ve added a new one to our repertoire: Juneberries!

Juneberries (also known as Serviceberries or Saskatoon Berries, and let’s be honest, is there any fruit with a better name than a Saskatoon Berry?) are a nice little decorative tree native to Chicago (also presumably native to Saskatoon), so there are lots of them around. They ALSO happen to make a nice little edible berry for about 2 weeks in June, so if you happen to know where any are planted in your neighborhood (and you get there before the birds, because those tasty little berries go fast when they’re ripe!) you can take home a nice little haul!

We spent about 20 minutes picking, hardly made a dent in what was on the trees, and took home more berries than we know what to do with.

Except that’s not true because we DO know what to do with them, and what to do with them is an amazing Saskatoon berry pie, and another load of jam, as well as some scones which are forthcoming.

Not too shabby for 20 minutes worth of work! It’s amazing how many edible things there are around Chicago, once you know what to look for.

The sink disaster, or, what happens to me literally every time I do a project

The other night I went downstairs before bed to make sure the door was locked, and I thought “hey, might as well just pop in the bathroom real quick!” only to find a giant puddle coming from under the pedestal sink. Honestly, it was completely lucky to have discovered this, even if I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with a big, leaking water disaster at bedtime.

Sure enough, I looked up behind the sink and the rubber seal where the hot water goes into the faucet was completely cracked and falling off, not to mention all of the bolts and connects were completely corroded. The faucet was old anyway, and leaking in another place already, so I thought I’d simply replace the whole thing.

When the fateful day arrived I could tell the bolts were going to be trouble. The one was so corroded it was practically flaking off in my hand, but I could see the other one was rusty as well.

But things were going to be different this time! I had a basin wrench!

(Spoiler alert: things were not different this time, even despite the basin wrench) (but the basin wrench still was amazing!)

I spent literally hours on my back torquing away at those things and I couldn’t get them to so much as wiggle. I tried soaking some paper towels in vinegar and rubber-banding them on for a while, which did a good job getting off the calcium, but didn’t help them budge. I tried WD-40. I tried every possible repositioning of my body and hands. Nothing.

My view for literally hours (roomier than it appears)

It was supremely frustrating because it wasn’t some tricky puzzle that I had to solve, or some hacky work around I was trying to figure out because I didn’t have the right tool (my usual dilemma); my hands simply weren’t strong enough. Of course it was hard on my hands, and lately I can’t always tell if something is impossible, or just impossible for me. But regardless, I couldn’t do it.

Finally my step dad gave me the idea to use a wrench as an extension for a little extra leverage and, voila! I was able to hulk those things off (cracking the bolts in half in the process!) I wish I had started with that, but better late than never.

The Magic Tool
The Vanquished Foe

All I had left to do was to crank off the pipe underneath and that was giving me a lot of trouble too, but at least with that I wasn’t lying on my back trying to do everything in a cramped little space over my head.

I couldn’t get it, so I enlisted Sara’s help. “Be careful because the sink is connected to the wall,” I said. “I don’t want to pull this way, because I don’t want to break the brackets.”

“Couldn’t you just take it off the wall?” she innocently asked. Well, I hadn’t thought about that, so I took a look and…yeah, it just lifted right up. It wasn’t even attached, just resting in the brackets.

During literally any of the hours I spent cramped on my back trying to reach up and twist those bolts, I could have just flipped the thing over and accessed them directly.

“This is why you have a wife,” said Sara.

So, with my newfound access we were easily able to get the last pipe off, and putting it all back together with a new faucet was a breeze. At this point I was feeling VERY triumphant and VERY heroic (and VERY tired and VERY sick of that bathroom), when Sara called from the other room, “Uh, Shane? The oven isn’t working….”

All About My Dad

Alex filled out a survey about me for Father’s Day. Posting for posterity!

My dad is 40 years old. My dad is 100 feet tall.
Every morning when we wakes up, the first thing he does is goes to the bathroom.
My dad is really good at doing things like making cereal .
When I grow up I want to be like him because he's weird .
My dad and I like to play robot together.
My favorite memory of my dad is when he well that's not really a memory because he's not dead or anything.
One thing my dad says a lot is snozzcumber .
If I could tell my dad one thing it would be can you please stop saying tickling and other words like that? And, can you let mommy put me to bed

Haven: Re-visited

Those of you who haven’t been following the blog for very long are possibly not familiar with The Haven, simply because we haven’t been there in quite some time! The last post I could find about it here was way back in 2014!

So The Haven is this remote piece of land we own, and we used to go up there and camp relatively frequently. There is nothing there in terms of shelter, bathrooms, electricity, or water, but what IS there is just this glorious old forest, with enormous trees, some sand dunes, a fire pit, and a lot of memories (and a whole lot of mosquitos!)

We’ve stopped by here and there in the past few years, but it was hard to do such primitive camping with an infant. We haven’t actually spent the night at The Haven since Alex was born, so this was his first trip! He has heard stories about it, and was pretty excited to go. Evelyn and Oliver were detailing all the best parts: the sandy area, the “clearing”, the blueberries, the place where Nala is buried (probably the part Alex was MOST excited about).

Luckily, I think it proved to be everything Alex was hoping for and more!

It was a quick trip, but it was absolutely just as wonderful as I remembered. It’s just a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, and the kids had a great time.

One of the reasons we made this a shorter trip is that usually we spend a chunk of time in town, if for no better reason than to use real bathrooms. We decided not to go into town this time, due to Covid. That certainly makes it more difficult to stay a long time (including not having a place to fill up our water bottles!), but honestly it wasn’t really a big deal (did miss the farmer’s market and the coffee place we usually go to!)

The only downside continues to be the mosquitos. It wasn’t QUITE to the level of mosquito haven, but it does really make it difficult to enjoy a lot of time up there. I just don’t know what to do about it. We tried permethrin for our shoes, and plenty of bug spray of course, as well as some mosquito head netting, and that all made it…tolerable. Still looking to make it better than tolerable though!

We also stopped and grabbed some already-picked strawberries from a u-pick place (and since I am late in posting this, Sara has already turned all of this into many, many jars of jam!)

Even with just the little time we were there, all that outdoor time flat out wore Alex out! Despite getting a decent night’s sleep, he took a 2 1/2 hour nap the next day!! I just take this as a sign of how good it is to get out into nature, with all that stimulation.

So now that we’re back in the habit, I’m hoping to get up there more often. It’s still a pain to load up everything in the car that we need for even a short trip, but totally worth it. A short trip is also nice from the mosquito point of view: you’re kind of in and out before it gets too bad. And hey, with all this quarantine stuff going on, it gets us out of the city and it’s something different to look forward to!

Hero Daddy

Sometimes the heroic thing is not what you do, but what you choose not to do.

So tonight I was putting the kids to bed, and while they were getting ready, I was working on laundry. I came back and tucked Ollie in, and Evelyn was in the bathroom. So I did what anybody would do in that situation: I sprinted into her room and dove behind her bed, the better to jump-scare her.

Now, this all happened in a split second, so I didn’t really have time to formulate a plan: when you see an opportunity, you have to seize it! As I crouched there, hiding, I vaguely thought maybe I would wait until she got into bed and then reach up under her covers and grab her leg.

Except the minute she came in the room and tentatively called, “Daddy…?” I realized I had made a terrible mistake. Grabbing her leg after she was in bed would be TERRIFYING! What was I thinking? Who would even do that?? She would never be able to sleep again! I was hiding on the side where the closet is, which is already terrifying enough on its own; even to jump out and say, “boo!” would probably scar her for life.

She was already coming into the room, and now I was trapped. It was getting to the point that if I moved, or even so much as breathed, it was going to be just as scary. I wracked my brain for any kind of non-threatening way to notify her of my presence, crouched on the other side of her bed. Not even to explain why I was there — that train had left the station — but even to just get over the initial, “Hey, it’s me crouching over here on the side of your bed trying to scare you, not some axe murderer or monster or anything!”

And apparently what my brain came up with was to make a high-pitched, “merp!” (Evelyn later said, “Were you trying to make a guinea pig noise??”)

And it was so ridiculous and non-threatening that it totally worked, and we both had a good laugh over it, and nobody peed their pants, and nobody got scarred for life, so basically I am a hero who single-handedly saved my daughter from a lifetime of PTSD and therapy YOU’RE WELCOME EVELYN.