Protecting trees, public lands and urban chickens

September 18, 2011

The 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees October 2!…but not in Chicago

Remember last year when we did the big broadcast from the Great Lawn at Millennium Park as the kickoff of the STIHL Tour des Trees and there were sixty-something riders in orange who road out of the city and across Illinois for about a week and Rolling Stones keyboard player Chuck Leavell was there and Producer Heather Frey got all excited about him playing for her and posted a video of it on Facebook and then I met the riders in Kewannee, Illinois, where we visited the historic Potter Osage-orange tree and then the riders came back to Chicago and wrapped up the whole thing at the Morton Arboretum?

You don’t? Where the heck were you?

Regardless, another year has gone by and the TREE Fund .is launching its 2011 version of the bike ride. This year it’s called the 2011 STIHL Tour des Trees VA2DC Tour and the action takes place on the East coast. The 2011 Tour kicks off with a 30-mile, 1-day Ride for Research presented by Mid-Atlantic STIHL in Virginia Beach, VA October 2, then heads west to Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville and the Appalachians. Seven days and 500 miles later the Tour concludes with a triumphant entrance into Washington DC on October 8.

While, unless you live near Washington, D.C., you’re not likely to be able to get out and cheer for the riders, you can still support Team Illinois by going to this page and making a contribution. You can also find other teams to support or just make a donation to the TREE Fund here. The TREE Fund provides research grants, scholarships and educational programs to advance knowledge in the field of arboriculture and urban forestry.

Mary DiCarlo, Fund Development Specialist and John Kirchner, City of Chicago forester, join me on the show this morning. They report that once again, Chuck Leavell will be tickling the ivories as part of the festivities in Virginia. In case you’re not aware of his connection with trees, Leavell and wife Rose Lane White Leavell turned her family’s plantation near Macon, Georgia, into what has become a textbook tree farm: Charlane Plantation. He’s also behind The Mother Nature Network, a lively website featuring daily environmental news, green commentary and simple steps to save money, stay healthy, and support the planet.

National Public Lands Day at Churchill Park in Glen Ellyn

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) hasn’t been around all that long–only since 1994, when it was created by by the National Environmental Education Foundation. However, in a very short time, it has become the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands in the United States. Last year, 170,000 volunteers worked at over 2,080 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and in many U.S. territories. And what did they accomplish?

* Removed an estimated 450 tons of trash
* Collected an estimated 20,000 pounds of invasive plants
* Built and maintained an estimated 1,320 miles of trails
* Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
* Contributed an estimated $15 million to improve public lands across the country

NPLD will be held next Saturday, September 24 throughout the country. I went to the NPLD website and searched for events in Illinois within a hundred miles of where I live in Chicago and came up with places like

Deer Grove Forest Preserve, Palatine
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Gompers Park, Chicago Park District
Taltree Arboretum & Gardens, Valparaiso, Indiana
Spring Valley Nature Center, Schaumburg Park District
Washington Park, Chicago Park District
Rollins Savanna, Lake County Forest District
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Gordon Park Beerline Trail, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There are many, many more that you can find on this page on the NPLD website.

I am pleased to say that I will be at Churchill Park in Glen Ellyn, a hidden gem featuring wetlands, prairie and wooded sections. I will say a few words to kick things off at 9:00 a.m. and after we wake people up following my speech, crew leaders will take volunteers out to help with three project areas (harvesting native seeds, planting trees, and trail work). Caribou Coffee is supplying brew, there will be light refreshments, and even small prairie seed packs and a prairie dropseed plant for the volunteers. At 11:00, it’s time for an educational hike of the property.. Please wear appropriate clothing such as long pants and closed-toe shoes.

Renae Frigo, Naturalist with the Glen Ellyn Park District joins me this morning to preview the event to and encourage people everywhere to participate in this very worthy day of volunteering to help the environment.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Nobody here but us chickens…and the people who raise them

Last year it was called the Hen-apalooza Chicagoland Chicken Coop Tour. This year it’s the 2nd Annual Windy City Coop Tour (personally, I think they should have stuck with Hen-apalooza but most people think I’m a loose cannon, so there you go.)

Whatever you call it, the event is scheduled for three hours next Sunday, September 25. It’s a chance for folks to get a look at what it’s like to keep chickens for fun and, er, eggs. Chicago chicken keepers will teach you about their personal experiences with backyard chickens. You can visit their coops and hens, ask questions, and take photos. It’s self-guided, so you can create your own route and visit any or all of the 26 locations between 11AM and 2PM.

In addition, Urban Chicken Consultant Jen Murtoff will give demonstrations of chicken handling and basic hen health at 3532 W. Belden (site #14) from during the same three hour period.

Last year, my friend and chicken owner Michelle Thoma talked to me about the first tour. This year, she is on the organizing committee and will join me once again. By the way, if this sound like something you have been thinking about, you might consider joining Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts. They’re a network of backyard chicken enthusiasts in & around Chicago with some modest goals:

* Learning from each other and enjoying the flock of folks keeping city chickens
* Promoting and preserving city policies that allow backyard chickens
* Reaching out and teaching best practices, and dispelling myths

If you go to their site, you can join their discussion forum on the CCE Google group or even follow them on Facebook.

Landreth Seed Company follow up

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been following the plight of the oldest seed house in America, Landreth Seed Company. The company finds itself in deep financial trouble and needs to sell one million catalogs in the next month. I’ve written and talked on the show about how the social media community has stepped up to get the word out. Last week, I interviewed owner Barbara Melera about the dire situation. You can hear that conversation on this special podcast.

Meanwhile, the company has been posting updates of sales on its Facebook page, Landreth Seed Co. At last count, the status was $57,643 in sales and $1,633 on Chipin.com, which equals 11,855 catalogs. Sorry to belabor the obvious…but they have a LONG way to go.

You can help by BUYING A CATALOG RIGHT NOW!. Also, make your voice heard on social media sites. Here are a few: Facebook sites Landreth Seed Co, Save Landreth Seed Company, Order their 2012 Catalog!, and probably more. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #savelandreth. If you just want to make a contribution, go to ChipIn.com and click the icon on the upper right hand side of the page.

Caring for your fall vegetables

As we lurch into the fall season this week, I thought I’d pass along a great article I received from Diane Blazek at the National Garden Bureau. It’s called, straightforwardely enough, “Frost Tolerance of Fall Vegetables.” Especially if you live here in the Midwest, this will come in handy during the next few weeks.

Cleaning parks, protecting prairie and saving a seed company

September 11, 2011

The Poo Free Parks® empire expands in Chicagoland

This might be the most important statistic you learn today:

The American Pet association estimates that this country’s seventy-one million pet dogs produce over 4.4 billion pounds of waste per year. That’s enough to cover 900 football fields with 12 inches of dog waste!

See? I wasn’t kidding. Here’s another one:

Plastic pollution causes more than 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and uncounted numbers of fish to die in the North Pacific alone, every year.

I tell you about those unhappy statistics as a kind of reintroduction to entrepreneur Bill Airy, who was on the show in April to talk about his business Poo Free Parks®. This company wants to rid our parks of animal waste, while reducing the amount of plastic that is released into our environment. Poo Free Parks is a public-private partnership that installs, supplies and maintains pet waste bag dispensers made from 100 percent recyclable aluminum, filled with 100 percent biodegradable bags designed to naturally deteriorate within 18 months.

Not only that , the dog waste dispensers are maintained weekly by crews driving hybrid vehicles. The service is completely subsidized by the contributions from sponsors, who are recognized for their support on signage attached to each station.

When I talked to Bill in April, he had just contracted with the Elmhurst Park District, where the stations now appear in 22 parks. I see that he has invaded the City of Chicago at Tails On Taylor, and has just signed with the Oakbrook Terrace Park District. In fact, the program is now under contract with over 120 parks in Colorado and the Chicago suburbs and, over the past nine months, more than 50,000 pounds or 25 tons of pet waste has been collected by dog owners using Poo Free Parks facitlies. Woof!

Autumn on the Prairie comes to Nachusa Grasslands

Well, technically, next week’s event will take place on the last Saturday of summer, September 17, but I’m not going to bust the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands for jumping the gun a little bit. Especially because this annual event takes place on what some folks call 3,100 acres of nirvana–especially if you’re a fan of prairies.

Illinois is called the Prairie State, but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of prairie that remains. Nachusa Grasslands is an attempt to preserve some of that land for present and future generations. The 3100 acres consist of prairie remnants, restorations, and reconstructions located between Oregon, Dixon and Franklin Grove, IL. The Nature Conservancy has gradually recreated a vision of 1800 Illinois’ mosaic of prairie, savanna and wetlands.

Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have collected seed to replant former corn and bean fields. They also devote their time to removing non-Illinois plants. Thanks to all of these efforts, Nachusa Grasslands is home to over 600 native prairie plant species as well as many important birds, insects, and reptiles.

Bill Kleiman is one of those people on the front lines of preserving our prairies. Not only is he Nachusa Grasslands Director, he is also a volunteer steward of the land. He stops by the show this morning to promote Nachusa Grasslands 22nd Autumn on the Prairie on Saturday, September 17, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s free and open to the public. Activities include guided tours, horse drawn wagon rides, live music, kettle corn, live birds of prey, local artist at work, children’s tent, a food vendor, and more! For more information, visit www.nature.org/Illinois or call 815-456-2340. And if you want to support Nachusa Grasslands, click here.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Saving Landreth Seed Company one catalog at a time

Last week I explained how gardeners and horticulturists on Facebook and Twitter had sounded the alarm in an effort to save the oldest seed house in America, Landreth Seed Company. The company finds itself in deep financial trouble and needs to sell one million catalogs in the next month just to keep their doors open. No, I’m not making this up. Here’s what I posted last week, directly from Landreth owner Barbara Melera:

My husband, Peter, and I have been working to restore this historic American company for the past 8 years.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, the Company’s accounts were frozen by a garnishment order initiated by a Baltimore law firm. If this garnishment order is not satisfied within the next 30 days, Landreth will cease to exist and a part of America’s history will be lost forever. I need to sell 1 million 2012 catalogs to satisfy this garnishment and the cascade of other indebtedness which this order has now initiated.

If you want to help save this piece of America, if you love gardening and heirloom seeds, if you care about righting the injustices of a legal system badly in need of repair, then please help Landreth. Please purchase a Landreth catalog, and if you can afford it, purchase several for your friends. Please send this link to everyone you know, www.landrethseeds.com. One million catalogs is a big number, but with the internet it is achievable. Please help us to save Landreth.

There are two things here that almost take my breath away. The first is the Herculean task of selling that many catalogs in such a short time. The second is how evil our financial system has become.

And yet, there’s still hope. Owner Barbara Melera will be on the show this morning. During a phone conversation I had with her a couple of days ago, she told me that in the first few days after the social media folks began putting out the word, the company received an order every 10 minutes. I few days later, it was up to an order every 5 minutes. By Wednesday of this week, they were averaging one order every minute.

In a sense, this is the perfect “Ten Years After 9/11″ story, because it’s not about how morally small and shriveled we have become as a society. It’s about an honorable company that has been doing honorable work since this country was founded. It’s about how gardeners cherish the heritage of open-pollinated plants and how they will fight for their literal survival. It’s about how smart people kinow that the future of our food should not be determined by how many alien genes we can cram into a seed. It’s about looking at the past as present and future, in a positive way.

As I said last week, you can help if you BUY A CATALOG RIGHT NOW!. Also, make your voice heard on social media sites. Here are a few: Facebook sites Landreth Seed Co, Save Landreth Seed Company, Order their 2012 Catalog!, and probably more. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #savelandreth.

Saving a shared kitchen, an heirloom seed company and a spectacular lakeshore ecosystem

September 4 , 2011

Logan Square Kitchen update

Last week I talked about the hoops of fire that Zina Murray, who is literally chief cook and bottle washer at the Logan Square Kitchen has been jumping through to keep her facility operating in the City of Chicago. After months of having her shared kitchen space harassed by the Chicago Department of Public Health, Murray decided that she had had enough and started a petition to make the Department of Public Health more responsible to innovative businesses like hers, which gives food entrepreneurs access to a commercial kitchen on an hourly basis.

I’ve decided to add a link to her petition on my home page. The icon keeps you up to date on the number of people who have signed the online document. (At this writing, more than 550 concerned individuals had signed the petition in little over a week.)

You might think that spending endless hours fighting CDPH and finally resorting to calling out the city in a public petition would be all that a small entrepreneur would have to endure.

But you would be wrong.

The Department of Public Health is not the only agency that has been making Murray’s life one massive Excedrin headache. Last week, I wrote about how City Council had recently passed a new Shared Kitchens Ordinance. It went into effect on September 1, and its goal was to streamline the licensing process for kitchens like LSK. Did I mention that there are now only TWO shared kitchens in Chicago? It’s not exactly the easiest way to make a living. So, in essence, the new ordinance was passed to regulate exactly TWO businesses in the city.

Enter the Chicago Department of Business Affairs, which is yet another agency that has the power to stop a budding business dead in its tracks. And if you read Murray’s latest LSK blog, you might be convinced that that’s exactly what they have in mind. She reveals a litany of unreasonable demands from Business Affairs, which include

1. The business license will take the form of a picture ID badge, so owner and license must always be in Kitchen during production. If restaurants had to do this, the owner would have to be in kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day or be closed. Sick? Funeral? Your business has to shut down, even if you have employees with sanitation certification.

2. Want to grow and have employees? They have to get their own license, $330 per pop. No other food businesses are required to license chefs individually.

3. License must travel with you to remote locations. Let’s imagine the chefs at Lollapallooza posting their business licenses out at the concert. How about every caterer that has a gig at the Chicago Cultural Center or Public Library?

And that’s just the beginning. She finishes by saying

Today is Logan Square Kitchen’s second birthday. A year ago, there were three shared kitchen in Chicago. Today, there are two. You can bet no one else is rushing to open one. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never opened LSK.

What the City is doing to this woman is unconscionable. You might want to drop Mayor Rahm Emanuel a note on the Chicago Mayor’s Office Facebook page to let him know that you know B.S. when you see it.

Do you love heirlooms? Save Landreth Seed Company!

There has been an explosion of activity on Facebook and Twitter in the last few days over the news that the oldest seed house in America, Landreth Seed Company, is in deep financial trouble and might go under. I’ll let company owner Barbara Melera tell the story:

My husband, Peter, and I have been working to restore this historic American company for the past 8 years.

… We set about to restore this Company because it is the most historically important American small business in existence. It is the only American company, still operating daily, that existed when this country became a nation. Its founders were honorable men who helped establish and guide the agricultural and horticultural industries of this country in the 1700s, the 1800s and the 1900s. Landreth exemplifies American business and the ethics and integrity that built this nation.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, the Company’s accounts were frozen by a garnishment order initiated by a Baltimore law firm. If this garnishment order is not satisfied within the next 30 days, Landreth will cease to exist and a part of America’s history will be lost forever. I need to sell 1 million 2012 catalogs to satisfy this garnishment and the cascade of other indebtedness which this order has now initiated.

If you want to help save this piece of America, if you love gardening and heirloom seeds, if you care about righting the injustices of a legal system badly in need of repair, then please help Landreth. Please purchase a Landreth catalog, and if you can afford it, purchase several for your friends. Please send this link to everyone you know, www.landrethseeds.com. One million catalogs is a big number, but with the internet it is achievable. Please help us to save Landreth.

Mr. Brown Thumb also has an informative post which reveals that not only is Landreth one of the few woman-owned seed companies in America, it also has an African-American Hertiage seed line.

This already has echoes of what happened just a few short weeks ago when Sid’s Greenhouses were forced to close their doors. In that case, it was the banksters who pulled the trigger. In this case, it seems to be the lawyers. Yup, two of everybody’s favorite groups–banks and lawyers.

So what can you do? Obviously, BUY A CATALOG RIGHT NOW!. The social media are all over this, with Facebook sites Landreth Seed Co, Save Landreth Seed Company, Save Landreth Seed Company, Order their 2012 Catalog!, and probably more. If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #savelandreth.

It’s a measure of how well loved this company is that even their competitors are urging people to buy catalogs to save the company.

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve prepares for its grand opening

It was eight short months ago that I was trudging through snow drifts on the shore of Lake Michigan just 25 miles north of Chicago. It was an opportunity to see how Openlands was reviving, restoring and recreating a preciously rare fresh water lake ravine ecosystem.

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, nn 2007 two major grants—$4 million from the Grand Victoria Foundation and $2 million from the Hamill Family Foundation— jump-started the first phase of site improvements at the Preserve, which focused on extensive ecosystem restoration efforts in Bartlett Ravine.

That winding stretch of land has been renamed the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, and the tour I took in February was Bartlett Ravine, with guides Robert Megquier, Director of Land Preservation, and Aimee Collins, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve Site Manager.

A few days ago, I returned, and you can see the video slide show of the tour on the home page. Aimee again led the way, but because this was a mere week before the grand opening celebration, we ran into Robert Megquier on site. As you can see in the slide show, workers were feverishly putting the finishing touches on the preserve, in anticipation of officially opening the gates on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 11:00 a.m.

The Grand Opening of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve will feature children’s art activities and scavenger hunt, birds of prey demonstration, stunt kite demonstration (with intermittent breaks, please bring your own kite(s) for flying), tours of the preserve (plants, art, and general), and even tours in Spanish Spanish). Click on this link to get directions. The event is free and open to the public.

What you’ll see are 77 acres of varied terrain, including three lush ravines, towering bluffs (some rising 70 feet above the beach) with overlooks affording sweeping lake vistas, and an innovative interpretive plan that helps visitors understand and connect with this truly unique environment.

As in February Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann will stop by the show today to talk about this magnificent accomplishment. To date, Openlands has raised $10.3 million of the $12 million required to complete the project from corporations, foundations, and individuals. If you would like to contribute to the Campaign for the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, please contact Openlands Director of Development Jennifer Mullman via e-mail or by phone at 312-863-6261.

If you have a little more cash to contribute to the project, you might want to consider attending La Grande Preserve: A Benefit for the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a week from today at the preserve. It starts at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m., but you’ll get a special tour of the trails, overlooks and ravines and enjoy a delicious picnic by Froggy’s catering. Proceeds from the event will support ongoing ecological restoration and public education programs at the Preserve.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Another visit from organic trailblazer Kinnikinnick Farm

I haven’t talked to David Cleverdon of Kinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia, Illinois, since last March when he told me stories about what it was like to be an organic farmer in Illinois in the “old days”–1994. He said when he would offer his vegetables at the Rockford Farmers market, people would see his sign, say something like ” He’s that organic guy,” and continue walking by.

Well, I won’t say that he’s in the mainstream now, but he’s a lot closer than he was 17 years ago. But farming is farming, whether you’re doing it organically or not, and one of the big challenges is weather. In fact, when I caught up with David yesterday to confirm his spot on today’s show, he told me that dealing with weather issues over the past few years has caused him to change the way he runs his operation.

I tried to ask him more about that but he said he was dealing with a group of children who were milking a goat. I feel his pain. When we talk today, I guess I’ll ask him about that, too.

By the way, Kinnikinnick Farm is an established, cerified, organic farm that sells produce directly to Chicago chefs and farmers market customers. The farm grows a wide variety of greens, heirloom tomatoes, root crops, and seasonal vegetables starting with asparagus and snap peas in the Spring and ending with butternut squash and sun-chokes in the Fall.

They sell their produce every Wednesday in Chicago at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park and every Saturday at the Evanston Farmers Market, corner of University Place & Oak Ave.