Fernwood Symposium, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve and The Local Beet’s 2011 CSA list

February 27, 2011

Next week: An all-star lineup at a great gardening event…in Michigan!

If you’re a gardening fan and you live in Chicago, you know what’s happening next Saturday. Yes, it’s Fernwood’s Spring Garden Symposium at the Fernwood Botanical Gardens in Niles, Michigan.

Okay. I’m betting that some of you thought that I was referring the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, which also opens on the same day. I’ll talk more about that next week. But for now, I’m going to defer to the fine folks at Fernwood because

a) I’m speaking there next Saturday
b) They refer to me as a “Horticultural Heavyweight”. (I’m not kidding. Check out this link. Hmm. Maybe it’s because I’ve put on a little weight lately.)
c) Their event also features my friends Beth Botts from Growing in Chicago and Roy Diblik from Northwind Perennial Farm.

Their symposium also features Chris Woods, who I’ve never met before. That’s why he’s on my show this week. He’s a native of England who now lives in Santa Barbara, California. He trained as a horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which is just outside of London, England. I’ve been there and I’m already in awe of Chris, though I’ve never talked to him. Since coming to the states, he has served as Director and Chief Designer of Chanticleer, a private estate near Philadelphia, and now owns a garden design business and works as a consultant.

Fernwood Executive Director Carol Line will also be part of the conversation, and her C.V. isn’t too shabby, either. She came to Fernwood from the Chicago Botanic Garden and has worked at the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Los Angeles), Denver Botanic Gardens, The Morton Arboretum, and the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.

I’m sure she would love to have all of you head out to Michigan for this first March weekend. Me, too.

25 miles north of Chicago, a rare ecosystem finds new life

[Update: The podcast of this conversation is now posted: http://www.mikenowak.net/podcasts/?p=episode&name=2011-02-27_20110227_20110227_adelmann_collins.mp3)

On Thursday I was privileged to walk one of the rarest ecosystems in the world, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the City of Chicago. Here’s the YouTube video of that hike. Many people in northeast Illinois have always known this area along Lake Michigan as Ft. Sheridan. Geologically speaking, it lies on part of the Highland Park moraine, which formed as the final glacier retreated from northern Illinois about 10,000 years ago. And it’s part of the Lake Border Moraines Bluff Coast, a hilly area that extends from the town of North Chicago at the north end to Winnetka at the south. At that point that the land flattens out again and remains relatively even through Wilmette, Evanston, and on into Chicago.

From 1888 to 1993, Ft. Sheridan was a U.S. Army military base. When the base was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act of 1989, the land was dispersed among the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the newly-created town of Ft. Sheridan and the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Later, in 2004, a federal law authorized the transfer of the bluffs, ravines, and shoreline at Fort Sheridan to a non-profit land conservation organization for the purpose of providing permanent protection. In 2006 Openlands acquired the land and, with a generous $4 million contribution from the Grand Victoria Foundation, began  restoration of this ecologically sensitive property.

That winding stretch of land has been renamed the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, and the tour I took last week was in a section called Bartlett Ravine. My guides were Robert Megquier, Director of Land Preservation, and Aimee Collins, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve Site Manager. To give you an idea of why this acquired land is so important and special, here’s a piece from the Openlands website:

Cool, moist, and shady, Lake Michigan ravines are different from any other ecosystem in the region. What’s more, the ravines at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve are unique to the world, according to botanist Gerould Wilhelm. “Bartlett Ravine contains a very rare amalgamation of plant life…it’s completely unlike any other timber tract on the planet, and it sustains a tremendous amount of biodiversity.” More than 150 native plants can be found in Bartlett Ravine alone, and the three ravines combined provide a migratory stopover for tens of thousands of birds every year.

Ironically, the limited access to Ft. Sheridan helped to preserve some of characteristics of the ravines, bluffs and shoreline. In the past few years, Openlands has been removing the invasive species and opening up the land to both native flora and fauna. Even in the dead of winter, the efforts of the Openlands staff is clearly evident–from restoration techniques to interpretive signs to the addition of art along the trail.

I’m pleased to be able to speak in studio this morning to Aimee Collins and Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann about this wonderful project, as well as the many other accomplishments of an organization that all Chicagoans should be proud of.

Good Growing: The best darned list of CSAs in the Midwest

I was cruising the Internets yesterday and decided to check in on my friends at The Local Beet. I’m sure glad I did because they’ve just posted their 2011 list of Chicago area CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture. Rob Gardner is on the show today to talk about it but he says that much of the credit for compiling the list of 75 farms and farmers should go to Wendy Aeschlimann and Robin Schirmer.

The timing is great, because the 2011 FamilyFarmed Expo is happening from March 17 to 19 at the UIC Forum in Chicago. It just so happens that at the Expo I will be moderating a panel of experts who will be speaking about Small Space Gardening: How to grow food in your back yard, on rooftops, back porches, and in container, both indoors or out.

Last but not least, it’s great to have this list of CSAs because I can add it to a bunch of other lists that Intrepid Green Reporter Leah Pietrusiak has put together with the help of Kathleen Thompson. It covers gardening and environmental classes, events, green festivals, talks and more. It’s quite possible that www.mikenowak.net now has the best list of lists anywhere!

Voting in Chicago, caring for natives in McHenry, and delivering fresh food throughout Chicagoland

February 20, 2011

If you live in Chicago, please exercise your right to vote this Tuesday

I was thinking about Chicago’s municipal election as I sat in City Hall last Monday, listening to witnesses testify in 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore‘s ad hoc hearing on the long-delayed Clean Power Ordinance. We’re not a nation that particularly cares about its constitutional voting privileges–a mere 37% of Americans bothered to get to the polls last November–and a lot of Chicagoans are likely tostay home this Tuesday.

That would be a big mistake. We tend to think that the big national races are the ones that really count. But the truth is that individual citizens are likely to have much more influence with their local officials than with their U.S. Senator. And while our Congress is busily working to gut the EPA, it’s quite possible that by putting pressure on their aldermen, Chicagoans might actually be able to shut down the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants within the city limits.

It’s something to think about. What if, instead of waiting for the feds to take action, we did it ourselves and, by doing so, set a new standard of environmental actions for the country? I’m just sayin’. Meanwhile, if environmental concerns are on your radar screen at all when it comes to electing our new mayor, you might want to take a look at this story in this week’s Chicago Reader.

“Tending the Earth” next week in McHenry County

I have a soft spot for the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee, or WPPC (and I keep telling them that they need a name that rolls off the tongue a little more easily) up in McHenry County. It’s not just that they’ve asked me to speak there at least a couple of times…though that doesn’t hurt. I guess it’s more about the great conferences they have each year. For a very reasonable price–this year the admission is $30 in advance, $35 at the door–attendees get some fabulous information from terrific speakers about landscaping with native plants.

WPPC spokesperson Nancy Gonsiorek says that the 19th annual Natural Landscaping Seminar is on Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 8:00 am to 3:45 pm at McHenry County College Conference Center, 8900 US Route 14 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The program is called“Tending the Earth” and one of the featured speakers is Carole Brown, who will be presenting the talk “Ecosystem Gardening: Native Plants are Essential.” She is a conservation biologist, passionate naturalist, photographer, author and educator.

If you want to know more about what she does, click on to her website Ecosystem Gardening. She says on the website that conservation begins in your own backyard and that she wants to teach people to become stewards of their properties. It starts with these 5 pillars:

1. Sustainability
2. Soil Health
3. Water conservation
4. Invasive plant removal
5. Plant more native plants

When we do these five things, says Brown, we will begin to see more wildlife in our gardens. Every small action can have almost immediate benefits. Okay, let’s do it.

Good Growing: Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks

If you listen with any regularity to my program (don’t forget that you can always download a podcast if you miss The Mike Nowak Show on Sunday morning), you know that I talk a lot about CSAs. That stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a way for local farmers to get their goods to people in their area. They grow the food, you sign up to receive a shipment of their latest harvest for a prescribed period, and they either deliver to you or you pick it up. The only limitation is that, generally, you are required to take what they give you, regardless of whether you know how to prepare bok choi or not. However, it’s a good way to stretch your culinary palette.

But there’s another, closely related model to a CSA that, until this week, I was unaware of. Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks offers year-round home delivery in the Chicago area of local and organic produce, meat, dairy and eggs. The difference between what they do and the standard CSA is that you choose the specific items you want. Of course, you can go the CSA route, too, and opt for a Fresh Picks Box that is automatically delivered to your door weekly or bi-weekly.

Irv Cernauskas says that his company is committed to working with local sustainable farms it personally knows and trusts. Irv is also a member of the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council. So, in addition to talking about his unique business, he is giving me an update on the council’s work in 2011.

A win for front yard veggies, two great conferences, and trying to get a win for clean air

February 13, 2011

Victory Garden!! Northbrook allows front yard veggies!

You might remember last year’s late summer brouhaha involving a modest vegetable garden that a modest family in Northbrook just happened to put in the wrong place–their front yard. When a neighbor decided to issue a complaint, Alex Lyakhovetsky and his mother Dora quickly became the poster children for the suburban Locavore movement

It seemed a little bizarre to me that a lawn, which has been described as a “biological desert,” might be preferred over a plot of land that produces food. Regardless, the matter ended up on the agenda of the Village of Northbrook Board of Trustees. I attended the meeting where Dora presented them with a basket of tomatoes that had been grown in her own yard. “It’s wonderful,” she said, and placed it on the table in front of them.

Fast forward to Tuesday of this past week, when the board met to discuss whether a vegetable garden was an appropriate use of a front yard. Lee Goodman, who spoke eloquently to the board last September in defense of the Lyakhovetsky garden, fired off an email to me. It read:

The Northbrook village board decided tonight to allow people to have vegetable gardens in their front yards, without any size restrictions, and without prior permission. It took us a long time to get this decision, and I consider it a total victory. Hopefully people will follow Dora’s example and plant vegetables, and other municipalities will follow Northbrook’s lead.

Woo-hoo! I called the Lyakhovetskys and the lovely Dora (who laid a beautiful cantaloupe on me last fall) called it her “victory garden.” Hence the headline above. Alex Lyakhovetsky and Lee Goodman are on the show this morning to discuss the action of the City of Northbrook.

Garfield Farm presents 25th anniversary native plant seminar

Garfield Farm Museum has an all-star cast for its 25th annual Prairie, Woodlands, and Wetlands Management Seminar on Saturday, February 19 from 8:30 am-4:30pm. A couple of the speakers, Roy Diblik from Northwind Perennial Farm and Connor Shaw from Possibility Place Nursery, are friends of my show. Also featured are John Engstrom, Cathy McGlynn and Jerome Johnson.

What I like about this day long event is that it’s directed at the average land owner–from backyard gardeners to owners of natural area acreage. The seminar covers all the key methods and techniques of preserving and using the best adapted plants for the Illinois environment.

Jerome Johnson, Executive Director of Garfield Farm Museum and Cathy McGlynn join me on the program this morning. Cathy is Coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP) and will be talking about new and established invasive plants in prairies.She will also talk about the New Invaders Watch Program (NiWP) and how the average citizen can get involved in stemming the tide of invasive plants. How do we do this? By knowing about each plant’s natural history, identification, native look a-likes, control methods, and current known locations. Sound like a lot of work? You betcha. And necessary, too.

There is a $50 donation for the all day seminar which includes lunch and refreshments. That is SUCH a deal! I want to help Jerome fill the place next Saturday.

Speaking of great conferences…

The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee, or WPPC (and I keep telling them that they need a name that rolls off the tongue a little more easily) is holding it’s 19th annual Natural Landscapign Seminar on Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 8:00 am to 3:45 pm at McHenry County College Conference Center, 8900 US Route 14 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. This year’s program is called
“Tending the Earth”.

On next week’s show, I will be talking to Carole Brown, who will be presenting the talk “Ecosystem Gardening: Native Plants are Essential.” She is a conservation biologist, passionate naturalist, photographer, author and educator. I’m also hoping to talk to Steven Apfelbaum, chairman and principal ecologist of Applied Ecological Services, Inc. His talk is called “Nature’s Second Chance”

Normally, I don’t preview my shows a week in advance, but the WPPC had some issues with getting their conference invitations out via snail mail recently, and I’m stepping in. They invited me to speak up in McHenry County a few years ago and they’re a great organization. I hope people turn out in force for the seminar.

Valentine’s Day is “Clean Power Ordinance People’s Hearing” Day

How about sending a love note to Chicago’s air tomorrow?

49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore was on the show a couple of weeks ago to talk about how a hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance, which he introduced last year, had been put on the back burner by the Chicago City Council, more than likely at the behest of the Daley Administration.

But that’s not going to stop Moore. Tomorrow morning, starting with a press conference at 9:30 a.m., Ald. Moore with convene his own ad hoc hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance, and I encourage you to be there. The site is City Hall Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, 121 North LaSalle Street in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Greening Together: A Benefit to Re-Elect Joe Moore, which was postponed by the Blizzard of ’11, has been rescheduled for this this Wednesday at Uncommon Ground Restaurant, 1401 W. Devon Avenue in Chicago. Even if you don’t live in the 49th Ward (and I don’t), you might want to consider supporting this true champion on environmental issues and citizen participation in Chicago government.