On Sunday, March 4 and 11, the Union Lions Club will be holding a fundraising pancake breakfast at the Union Fire Station at 6606 Main St. from 7 to 11 a.m.

Proceeds from the March 4 breakfast will be divided among two worthy causes. Half of the amount will be donated to Northern Illinois University’s special education program. They educate student

s entering the field and provide services for the visually impaired. The second portion of the donation is for residents in need of visual impairment aids or procedures. The breakfast to be held on March 11 will benefit the Rodriguez family who suffered a tragic car accident in January.

The Lions will be preparing a delicious breakfast and hope that you will join them on one, or both days.

“Farm Day is a long-standing tradition,” said Suellen Lopez, principal of Locust School. “It began at Hawthorne School and when Hawthorne closed, we brought the students here and we kept the tradition going. The whole day is rescheduled to have farm themed activities. Science, art, music – everything has a farm theme.

“Rebecca Hicky volunteered to incubate and hatch our chicks. Locust students were able to visit local farms and partake in other fun farm related activities throughout the day. This is definitely one of our favorite school days of the year.”

A Zoo to You set up a fenced-in barnyard in the school lobby with a duck, goats, sheep, a llama, and assorted farm creatures. A bus sat by the front door to take kids on a quick farm field trip. Storyteller Chris Fascione, on his sixth Farm Day visit to Locust, had stories ready to go in the Library/Media Center. He juggled to entertain the kids while more classes filtered into the library.

Fascione’s visit was sponsored by the Marengo American Legion Auxiliary who collected funds to defray Farm Day expenses for Locust

As I entered the high school building I was confronted by several anti-bullying posters. A welcome sign in this day and age. I was on my way to a rehearsal for the school’s Spring Musical. They are putting on Godspell this year. I was curious about how drama teacher and director, Kate Griffith would proceed with this play from the seventies.

Asked why she chose Godspell, Griffith replied, “It’s an ensemble piece with awesome music.” This year, she explained, she has a phenomenal number of talented students available. Rather than produce a piece that showcases only a few students, Godspell features everyone in a play that reflects on what community and solidarity really mean.

I commented that this reminds me of the school’s Fall play, A Wrinkle in Time. Griffith agreed that there are similarities. “In both plays, we see reflected in teen culture what we need everywhere—a breakdown of cliques and social strata.”

Since the play is built around the story of Jesus and his teachings, characters will have the names of Gospel characters, but they will be playing “dramatized versions of themselves,” Griffith explained. Senior Raina Tynis will be playing the part of Jesus.

“It’s different than a lead role,” Tynis assured me. “As Jesus I represent a leader of the community who wants to bring everyone together. The play has a strong message that we should turn from being conformists to being whoever we really are, loved for ourselves.”

Godspell is full of wonderful music, and the students tell me the dancing is “hard and fast and fun.” That alone is reason to come to one of the four performances being staged March 8 -10.

Plays about being one’s true self and building community? Posters about ending bullying? An atmosphere of welcome? — Could Marengo Community High School be onto something?

On Saturday, February 17, Drew Mateja represented MCHS at the Sectional Swim Meet in St. Charles. Drew swam in two events (50 Free and 100 Fly) and did well overall. He placed 5th of his heat in the 50 Free with 24.68 seconds, nearly beating his personal best time. Unfortunately, the timing system and scoreboard malfunctioned during his 100 Fly event and the exact time was not recorded.

There are many good reasons to garden vertically. If space is at a premium going vertical is a great solution while at the same time the volume of produce harvested can be dramatically increased in a small space. Growing upwards can offer greater accessibility for physically challenged gardeners. Plant health is enhanced and maintenance chores can be reduced or almost eliminated. There are many approaches that work well to grow upwards. This month we share our experiences with vertical gardening.

Over the last two gardening seasons we have converted the majority of our gardening to a vertical format to achieve several objectives. We wished to down-size our garden space and move it closer to the house near our high tunnel. This consolidated the lion’s share of our work effort while allowing us to produce our favorite crops in adequate amounts.

We utilize grow bags to elevate the plants off of the ground. The bags are filled with a quality compost and soilless planting mix that we produce. The majority of the bags used are 7-gallons, 10-gallons and 15-gallons in size. Landscape fabric is laid over the ground to eliminate any weeding maintenance. The bags sit on plastic pallets that were placed over the fabric to provide air circulation, good drainage and a little more elevation.

The grow bags are used for herbs, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, okra and tomatoes. Five-foot tall concrete reinforcing mesh cages are placed over the tomatoes and okra. To provide needed support bamboo stakes are used to secure plants in all the grow bags. We utilize drip irrigation emitters in the bags to make watering and fertilization an easy task. By using this method there is very little bending required to harvest crops. There is no weeding required and good air circulation is easy to achieve with adequate spacing between the grow bags.

In 2017 we trialed, with great success, a vertical roller hook system in our high tunnel to grow vining tomatoes and cucumbers. The plant is pruned to a single stem which is attached with clips to a cord that is moved vertically as the plant grows. We harvested tomatoes and cucumbers into December. The 2018 plan is to implement this system outside the high tunnel and compare the results. The tomato plants grown in the high tunnel using this method remained disease free during the growing season.

The majority of the effort for our vertical approach is in the set-up and dismantling. We find this system to be much less demanding physically and it reduces wear and tear on the knees and back. Contact us with your gardening questions. sdeberg@ marengo-uniontimes.com

For the past three years Stone Soup Social, has operated a weekly drop-in lunch, available for everyone free of charge. Donations are accepted for the meal, but there are no set fees. An average of 150 people come to the First Presbyterian Church each Tuesday between noon and 5 p.m. for a choice of six different homemade soups created by Mary Ann Regelin, John Brandt, John and Loretta Arient (recent choices were Split Pea and ham, Dill Pickle, Cheeseburger, Depression Era, Garlic Cauliflower and Potato Ham), along with breads, deserts and beverages.

Members of the Stone Soup committee have recognized that there are people who need extra help sometimes. John Arient, who leads the project, says “There are people who don’t qualify for government assistance. They are the working poor, the folks whose incomes don’t quite cover their monthly expenses.” For folks like these, Stone Soup has launched a weekly Sharing Center.

“It’s a place to share goods and volunteer time,” Arient explains. “Each week at the same time we are serving soup lunches, we are also making food available to anyone for the asking.” The food pantry is located in the basement of the church. It is stocked with donated food from the community as well as with food from the Feeding America Foodbank.

Seeing a need and putting it in operation are two very different things. Arient and his team had the idea and the space, but they needed some younger energy. Beth Austin, an instructor at Camelot School of Belvidere, located in Garden Prairie was looking for a place for her high school students to volunteer their services, while also learning some work skills. The Camelot School students and the Stone Soup were a perfect fit for each other!

Arient reports, “These kids are really a blessing!” They cleared out and cleaned the space where food would be stored, moved in shelving and stock the shelves every week. It’s a spacious area where people can come to get needed food. The kids come during their school day each Tuesday for a few hours to help people pack food and carry it to their cars, and to help with clean up. They also enjoy a soup lunch and a visit with everyone —a win-win for everyone.

Dozens of Marengo and Union residents volunteer their time to Stone Soup each week. They cook, serve and clean up, and enjoy a chance to visit with each other and with Marengoans who stop by. If you have already done so, you know how delicious the soup is and how pleasant the company. If you haven’t been there yet, Stone Soup will be at the First Presbyterian Church, 203 W. Washington St. every Tuesday from noon till 5 p.m. Stop by for lunch. If you need some groceries or know someone in need, remember the Sharing Center will be open at the same time.

And if you are looking for a really great way to give some volunteer service while enjoying some good company, call first Presbyterian Church at, (815) 568-7441, to volunteer. 

Marengo resident Judge Edward Shurtleff recalled the Grand Jury that examined the case of the two police officers who fired their weapons in self-defense during the 1924 milk strike in Garden Prairie. Richard Saunders was mortally wounded in the incident

The year 1924 was a tumultuous year for McHenry County’s milk industry. As 1923 came to a close dairy farmers in the Chicago Milk Shed were at odds with dealers. The Milk Producers Association represented dairy farmers, and the price of milk was negotiated with the large dairies in Chicago - a great distance away from the dairy barns and pastures. Finally negotiations broke down and on New Year’s Day the dairy farmers in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and northwester Indiana went on strike. In McHenry all of the farmers honored the strike with only one exception; the dairy farmers in the Union area. After a marathon negotiation session the strike was finally settled on January 14th.

The agreement reached in January, 1924 was for only three months, and almost immediately after the strike was settled new talks surfaced about another strike in April,f 1924. In an editorial that appeared in the January 4, 1924, edition of the Woodstock Daily Sentinel; the newspaper’s editor Charles F. Renich reported that according to the US Department of Agriculture “the Producer in the Chicago District receives the lowest price paid in any large city district in the United States.” If true, then the farmers lost more ground in mid-March when they settled for $2.55 per hundred pounds – a 12 ½ cent reduction from the previous agreement.

In December, 1924 tensions between milk producers and dealers rose again; this time in neighboring Garden Prairie in Boone County. Gifford Milk Products posted their offer price for milk in the Belvidere Daily Republican. One of these short blurbs appeared in the November 29, 1924, issue of the newspaper and announced; “Effective December 1 and until further notice, we will pay $2.00 per 100 pounds for 3.5 test milk at Garden Prairie.”

Predictably tensions rose; local milk producers wanted $2.25 per hundred pounds, and by December 8th area farmers picketed the plant. The picketers also blocked the highway leading to the plant and stopped trucks that were delivering milk. Garden Prairie’s mayor appealed to local and state law enforcement for to help to clear the highway through the little village. Boone County Sheriff Fair responded to the picket site and spoke with the strike organizer John Sullivan of Marengo. Sullivan told the lawman that the picketers would not close the highway.

The strikers broke their promise; on the following day a milk truck driven by Frank McKiski was headed towards the milk plant when it was stopped on the state highway. Approximately forty angry picketers swarmed the truck. Illinois Highway Patrolman Paul Clendening and Belvidere Police Department Officer Fremont Nester were called to the scene to open the highway, and assist to in getting the truck through. Clendening jumped on to the truck, and told the picketers that the truck was going through – the mob became furious. Logs, branches, bricks, and cans were hurled at the truck and the two police officers. A gang of men threw a railroad tie at the vehicle. One witness later testified that the crowd screamed; “get him, hang him, and “get the cop.” Clendening defended himself by using his revolver as a club and struck one man in the head. The angry mob continued its attack, and finally both officers fired warning shots into ground and in the air to scare the mob. Unfortunately; one .45 caliber steel jacketed bullet found its target in the leg of Richard Saunders of Marengo. The bullet entered Saunders left leg between the hip and the knee, and travelled into his abdomen causing a mortal wound. The shooting broke the picketers resolve, and peace was finally restored – the road was open, and milk deliveries resumed.

The twenty-four year old Saunders was treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital and initially doctors felt the patient would fully recover. But, on the December 11th Saunders condition worsened and he passed away. As customary in those days both officers were arrested, and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, assault with intent to commit murder, and assault and battery; however, they were both released on a “liberty bond.”

Judge Shurtleff, a Marengo resident, convened a grand jury to hear the officers’ cases. The panel spent one week examing evidence, and on December 20th the jury reported to the Judge Shurtleff that there would be no indictments in case.

As the remaining days of 1924 ticked off the calendar milk deliveries to Gifford Milk Products were being made in increasing amounts. I couldn’t find a newspapers article that reported that the strike was officially settled, but eventually milk flow to the plant resumed to prestrike levels.

The January 7, 1925, edition of the Belvidere Daily Republican featured another short blurb announcing the price that Gifford Milk Products paid farmers for their milk - $2.00 per 100 pounds. Looks like things returned to normal – at least for some of the people involved in the milk strike. 

A Feb. 23 hearing compelling Arnold Magnetic Engineering, Inc. and its landholder, 300 West LLC, to show cause regarding a requested extension on a previous court order to bring water lines to contaminated wells has been held over. The two entities have not met a Feb. 16 deadline date, and must now produce a report on remediation objectives and status, along with a revised comprehensive site investigation plan by Mar. 2.

The civil litigation, under docket #13CH1046, was filed in 2013 by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to force compliance with required on- and off-site testing of groundwater at the plant site, located in Marengo. They also sought corrective measures for groundwater contamination from production chemicals that leeched into the water table contaminating seventeen private and commercial wells in a one-mile proximity of the plant site.

The issue surfaced when Marengo crews attempted to install a well on Ritz Road and discovered the condition. In May 2010, Arnold retained a consultant group with monitoring wells to produce on-site samples. The subsequent findings detected concentrations of the vinyl chloride, PCE, TCE, and other carcinogens. The plume is migrating toward Railroad Street and potentially reaching the Kishwaukee River basin.

McHenry County Judge Michael Chmiel has presided over the case and monitored the progress. During its Feb. 22, 2016 meeting, the city of Marengo entered into an agreement for the two entities to bring water lines, connecting the municipal water system with the plant site, Railroad Street and Ritz Road. The 7-1 vote also called for a contingency annexation agreement to bring the 90-acre industrial parcel into the municipal boundaries.

“The water main is in, and they are proceeding with the acquisition of easements that will allow the piping… so that aspect needs to be addressed before piping goes to the residences,” said Marengo City Manager Joshua Blakemore. “The city’s agreement with Arnold and 300 West is outdated, and we’re also in negotiations to bring those contract stipulations into current terms. There is no timetable for the completion of the updates, due to their efforts to obtain the necessary easements.”

Additionally, the agreement covered piping locations through an engineering contract with McHenry-based HR Green, also the city’s engineering firm. “There was a contract for engineering services, and it was basically for observation services and other items on the city’s behalf,” he said. “There was a deposit on file, from Arnold and 300 West, which covered the costs of the service contract. The final cost amount was $37,000.”

Effectively, the entire project was estimated at more than $3 million and at no cost to the municipality. Hook-ups to the water main were similarly to be completed at no cost to impacted homeowners, and the applicable usage rates were to be assessed at the “in-town” rate, despite waiving the requirement for annex into the city proper.

“We recognize and understand the frustration of the impacted residents and continue to ask the court to hold the defendants accountable for completing the work,” said Annie Thompson, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office’s press secretary. “Under the judge’s consent order, the defendants are required to continue providing bottled water until the hook-up project requirements have been met. The order spells out the schedule for the hook-up project. Because the defendants missed the Feb. 16 deadline, our office sent them correspondence to that effect, and will push for them to complete the project.”

In that correspondence dated Feb. 22, responding to the request by Arnold Engineering and 300 West invoking an extension due to a “force majeure” (weather), the attorney general’s office noted that the IEPA office had not been notified 48 hours prior to any such potential event, as ordered, and that a Feb. 15 email to the IEPA showed no indication that an event had even occurred.

It further stated, “In addition, obtaining the easements and the permits is a condition precedent to the affected residents’ laterals to the water main and obtaining water service from the city of Marengo. As of Feb. 14, two days prior to the deadline…the defendants had not conducted negotiations with the affected residents regarding the necessary easements.”

Thompson said, “The water main is completed, and we are currently reviewing (their) request for a deadline extension, due to inclement weather conditions, for the installation of the water lines that will connect the mains to the houses. At this point, the information we have is that 300 West is paying for the work required under the order, and not Arnold Engineering, although they are equally responsible for the funding. This is a continuing concern for us, and it has been brought to the court’s attention.”

The issues of non-compliance penalties being incurred by the two entities through IEPA mandates along with damage claims from impacted property owners are still open-ended questions yet to be resolved.

“Those penalties against the defendants are specified in the consent order, and continue to accumulate for those violations of the order. We are prepared to seek payment for them,” said Thompson. “Our office cannot seek damages on behalf of the homeowners, which we have explained at public meetings. Impacted residents have every right to seek damages and obtain legal counsel, and our understanding is that many homeowners have already done so.”

Thompson also said the companies are required by the judge’s consent order to provide bottled (potable) water to the impacted homeowners for drinking, until such time as the line work and connections are completed. “Should they comply with the Mar. 2 order, a trial date is scheduled for Mar. 8,” she said. 

Sacred Heart Parish in Marengo is launching a new local Conference of a Society that is 185 years old. Founded in France in 1833 by a group of young laymen, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a lay Catholic organization of volunteer women and men, committed to offer person-to-person help to all those in need. It is funded mainly from donations.

Inspired by the works and writings of the Catholic Saint Vincent de Paul, the Society seeks to “embrace the world in a network of charity.” This means that members do not emphasize simply giving assistance to those in need--though they certainly do that—but call for members to seek to grow in their own spiritual lives of charity in partnership with those they serve. Since 1845 the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has grown exponentially in the United States. There are local conferences in every state of the Union, in large cities, small towns and rural communities.

Putting a more contemporary voice to the Society’s mission, their website states the goal to “End poverty through systemic change.” Each local conference goes about its work based on how they discern local needs. The Sacred Heart Chapter’s mission statement says, “We provide relief to the needy in our Marengo/ Union community by assisting with food, bill payments and other types of life’s hardships that people are going through.” Conference members will go out in pairs to visit all who request assistance, ascertain their needs, and work with the local conference to meet those needs.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are two ways to contact the Sacred Heart Conference: Call their dedicated line at 779-548-5057 and leave a detailed message. Someone will soon return your call. You can also email them at shdispatch@svdp-marengoil.org.

If you feel drawn to become part of this conference and share in their mission (Catholic Church membership is not required) or if you would like to make a donation to help support their outreach, you can use the same phone number and e-mail address. All inquiries and offerings will be most welcome.

At this point in the winter it is tempting to think about starting seeds. For a vegetable gardener, nothing more effectively takes the mind off off the cold winter weather than seeing the first seeds sprout in the starting trays. Experience has taught us that only slow growing seeds like some herbs and perennial flowers should be started this early in the year. However, for those of you yearning for some fresh garden grown food, we have some suggestions. If usual local sources of seeds are not yet available, open those seed catalogs that have piled up or try online sources.

February in McHenry County is too early to plant seeds or seedlings outdoors. Starting cool season crops right now in containers or grow bags is a great option to put some fresh greens on the table in March. To avoid spindly seedlings, it will be necessary to provide supplemental lighting over starting trays or containers.

An almost constant supply of salad greens can be provided by planting successions of mixed baby greens. As the temperature warms containers can be moved outside into the sun and brought back inside to avoid frosty nights. Greens can be grown well into the summer until the heat causes most varieties to bolt.

Radishes are a great cool season crop to start in a container and many varieties may be ready to eat in three to four weeks. Be sure to space the seeds a couple inches apart to allow room to develop into nice sized edible roots. A window box is a good container for growing seeds in a row. Kids can handle radish seeds so involve them in this project.

Fresh garden spinach is a favorite at our house and is easy to grow in containers or trays. Check the days to maturity when purchasing spinach seeds and choose those varieties that grow quickly. Spinach is a good crop for succession planting to keep a continuous supply on your table.

Snow and sugar peas are a great spring crop that kids usually love. When selecting seeds take into consideration that peas grow either as vines or bushes. We suggest that peas be planted in starting trays so that they can be ready to go into raised beds with frost protection using row cover. Peas usually take 50 to 65 days to mature and giving them a head start indoors will get them on your plate by late May by transplanting in late March or early April.

Take away the winter blues by trying some of these ideas and involve your children or grandchildren too. Contact us with your gardening questions. sdeberg@marengo-uniontimes.com


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