2010 stories that fell through the cracks

December 26, 2010

“O Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel” tops 1,000 views

While I’m not going to take credit for Rahm Emanuel passing the first hurdle in his sprint to become Chicago’s next mayor, I’m not going to rule anything out. After all you can’t buy the kind of publicity that my caroling group,The Frozen Robins, have given him in the past few weeks, thanks to our holiday hit, “O Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel.” Makes me wonder what he’s going to do to get in the public eye now that the holidays are almost over. Well, I’m sure he’ll think of something.

As we lurch toward a new year…what did I miss?

It’s that time of year, kids, when I look back at all of the worthy news stories that should have made it to my program and say, “How the heck did I miss that?” Which is why I am doing my second annual list of stories that caught my eye at one time or another…and which I completely forgot in about twenty seconds.

This might have to be the quote of the year:

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. - Michael Pollan
(The quote heads the chapter on herbicides/pesticides in the recent book “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things,” by Canadian environmentalists Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.This information was sent to me by listener Jeffrey Kunka)

Under the wire: Year-end contributions you should consider

If you have last minute, end-of-the-year decisions to make about charitable contributions, you might consider one or more of these groups that work tirelessly to save our environment and make life better for everyone in our area. These are some of our favorite groups, most of which have been featured on The Mike Nowak show. Any money sent their way is going to help do some real good.

Angelic Organics Learning Center

Chicago Audubon Society

Chicago Recycling Coalition

Chicago Wilderness

Environment Illinois

FamilyFarmed

Friends of the Chicago River

Friends of the Forest Preserves

Friends of the Parks

Growing Home Chicago

Openlands Project

Safer Pest Control Project

Sierra Club, Illinois

Urban Habitat Chicago

Burning cleaner, the new farming, and “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’”

December 19, 2010

“Oh Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel” UPDATE:

My thanks to Beth Botts for filling in for me last week whileThe Frozen Robins and I entertained the kiddies and not-so-kiddies at the Wonderland Express exhibit a the Chicago Botanic Garden. “O Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel” continues to roll along…pretty much like the candidate himself. We now have nearly a thousand views on YouTube. Help us get over the top by clicking on the link above. I don’t make any money on this, nor are there proceeds that go towards some great cause. It just makes me feel like I’m King of the Internets! (How sad is that?)

Going green for the holidays Part I: Enviro-Log

One of the serious drawbacks to the holidays is how much junk (and I mean JUNK!) is produced each year to fill the Christmas maw. You know what I’m talking about. You need a gift for Uncle Pete but you have no idea what he might like. So you pick up some “cute” chotzke that he has no use for, and it ends up in a landfill. It makes me want to join the War Against Christmas.

Some of us are getting smarter about holiday gift-giving. I have some suggestions for ways that you can break the vicious “stupid stuff cycle” below.

Meanwhile, what if you could give a gift–or buy one for yourself–that not only didn’t contribute more junk to landfills, but actually helped to keep stuff out of landfills? I’m talking about the more than 1.5 million wax corrugated cardboard containers that are produced every day in the United States. That translates to 600,000 tons of was containers that are sent to landfills each year.

Enter a company called Enviro-Log. President Ross McRoy says that currently, the only cost-effective way of keeping those containers out of the landfills is a patented process that produces firelogs and firestarter products. If you’re wondering if we’re just exchanging one type of pollution for another–that is to say smoke–Enviro-Logs have a number of benefits over wood. They generate more energy per pound than wood or other firelog brands, burn 60-70 percent cleaner than wood, and can be used for cooking, heating, and recreational purposes.

In addition, burning Enviro-Logs produce 50% more energy per pound and result in 30% less emissions, including 80% less carbon monoxide and 86% less creosote. In addition, The firelog product is listed by the California EPA, supported by the USDA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. I’m not saying that you should build a fireplace just to use this product, but if you already have one, it might not be a bad idea. You can also follow Enviro-Log on Facebook.

Going Green for the holidays Part II: Worthy Organizations

As I mentioned before, we would all be a lot better off if we didn’t buy so much stuff–regardless of what “experts” tell you about jump-starting the economy. Frankly, I don’t believe that the worth of our country should be determined by how much we purchase. Nearly a quarter of all retail goods move out of stores and into homes between Thanksgiving and Christmas That’s grotesque.

So if, in these last few days before Christmas, you’re looking for some alternative gift ideas, or even some ways to assuage your guilty conscience, here’s a short, and by no means comprehensive list f ideas.

It’s a Wonderful Show!

Well, I like to think that it is every week, but I mean something different. For the second year, I will be performing my holiiday piece, “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” LIVE on the radio. I’ve taken the entire movie and mashed it into under fifteen minutes. I play all of the characters except Mary, who will be done by producer Heather Frey.

There will also be another guest artist this year. Jim Solum is a listener who tracked me down at the Chicago Botanic Garden last Sunday while I was caroling. I wouldn’t exactly say he’s blackmailing me, but he did videotape a lot of the performance by the Frozen Robins. To make sure that the tape stays in the right hands, he will be apearring via phone during “Wonderful Slice” today. I haven’t even given him a role yet. I’m still too worried about the videotape…

(UPDATE: The podcast of “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’” is now posted.)

Good Growing

Our Good Growing segment features Kim Marsin of Sweet Home Organics. We’re talking about how she and partner Rachel Reklau decided to go into farming (they’ve been doing it for about a year). Their farm is part of an incubator program that allows them to have access to land they don’t own. Their farming home is Primrose Farm Park, a 1930s heritage dairy/livestock farm in St. Charles, Illinois. They are their first “incubating” farmers, meaning that they lease land and equipment, such as tractors and implements, from Primrose .

Kim and Rachel, who employ organic practices, grow on two acres and keep two in cover crop, which helps build the soil for future years of growing. So, like many of us, they commute to work. The difference is that we might go to an office or a retail establishment or even a radio station, while they go to the farm. We’ll also discuss their  “feed a family” program where they provide produce to a families in need.

My thanks to the good folks at Angelic Organics Learning Center for setting up this interview.

Beth Botts, Squirrels, Christmas Trees and more

December 12, 2010

Let’s show some love for today’s host…Beth Botts!

I’m taking the day off. Actually, that’s only partially true. I’m taking the day off from radio but not from work. Sunday morning, in the middle of what is predicted to be a snow storm (whaddaya say, Rick DiMaio?) I’ll be appearing with my caroling group, The Frozen Robins at the Wonderland Express exhibit a the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Meanwhile, our “tribute” to Rahm Emanuel and the holiday season, “Oh Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel”, continues rolling along on YouTube. We’re somewhere near 700 views and climbing. If you get a chance, link to the video and pass it along to friends. We’ll see how far we can ride this pony.

At this point, I’m turning the proceedings over to Ms. Botts…and the irrepressible Heather Frey. Beth wrote the following piece for her own blogsite, “Growing In Chicago.” You can read about her guest hosting gig there (which will make her happy, I’m sure) or below. I’m a little honked off because I wanted to cover the Project Squirrel story. Doesn’t everybody? But she beat me to it fair and square. So she better come up with some good advice for keeping those characters out of my garden. I’ll be checking out the podcast, missy!

Take it away, Beth:

On the radio: Houseplants, squirrels and Christmas trees

We’ll talk about winter houseplant care with Jean Bragdon from Lurvey’s . Shawn Kingzette from The Care of Trees (I know, he seems to be on about every other week, but he’s sucker enough to keep getting up early on Sunday morning) will chat about the practicalities of live Christmas trees.

And we’ll talk about squirrels, and studying squirrels, and helping scientists study squirrels, and yes, keeping squirrels from eating your crocus bulbs, with Steve Sullivan , curator of urban ecology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.

Steve runs Project Squirrel, which enlists kids and other members of the public, such as, for instance, you, to collect data on the competing populations of gray and fox squirrels in northeastern Illinois.

It’s one of a number of “citizen science” programs in our area, including Project BudBurst , Monarch Watch and — my personal favorite, simply because I have never met anyone who can pronounce the perversely unforgettable acronym — CoCoRaH. Call it Wikipedia for weather geeks, only probably more reliable.

Resourceful producer Heather Frey will be there to handle all the technical radio stuff and bail me out of whatever trouble I get into. We’ll try to get to a garden question or two. It won’t exactly be Glenn Beck, but isn’t that a good thing?

Got a garden question? I recommend you call or e-mail the Plant Clinic of The Morton Arboretum in Lisle , the Master Gardeners of the University of Illinois Extension or the Plant Information Service of the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.