Tag Archives: Beth Botts

Beth Botts and Heather Frey step up to the plate

September 2, 2012

I’m on vacation. Soooo…here’s Beth Botts and Heather Frey!

I have to take at least ONE Sunday off each year, don’t I? But I’m happy to turn the whole shebang over to garden writer extraordinaire Beth Botts and the ever-so-energetic Heather Frey, who returns to the scene of the crime.Technical assistant Denny Schetter completes the deal. I hope you’re listening this morning. I’ll be back next week.

Meanwhile, here’s Beth’s report on today’s show:

I’m hosting The Mike Nowak Show this morning

It’s been a busy summer, during which I have shamefully neglected many things, including this blog. As penance, I have to spend the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend filling in for Mike Nowak on his gardening-and-greening radio show, the Mike Nowak Show , from 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow, Sept. 2. The show airs on WCPT, 820 AM and 99.9 FM south, 92.5 FM west and 92.7 FM north. Heather Frey, formerly the show’s producer, will return to co-host.

Of course the big garden issue this summer has been the drought. Recent rains, including the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, may have taken the edge off, but that doesn’t mean we can forget about the effects of the blisteringly hot and dismally dry summer, especially for trees and shrubs. Doris Taylor, who runs the plant clinic at The Morton Arboretum, will be with us to talk about how we can help trees, especially, recover and how to care for them through the fall. (Full disclosure: I’m about to start a new job as a writer at the arboretum. I’ll still be freelancing and speaking on the side; learn more at thegardenbeat.com.)

We’ll also hear about the Green Arts Show  starting next week in Evanston. Ideas about sustainability and the environment provide both ideas and materials for the artists in this show – last year the big hit was a portrait made from salvaged plastic bottle caps. Peter Athans and Anne Berkeley will be in the studio to give us the highlights.

Apple-picking time has come a little soon this year, another gift of our extreme weather. Fruit crops took a big hit from that bizarre week of 80-degree days in March and the survivors are ripening early. We’ll hear about the state of the apple crop from Wade Kuipers, whose family has a farm and you-pick orchard in Maple Park, out west of Aurora.

Sitting in for the goofing-off Rick DiMaio to deliver the gardener’s weather report will be Patrick Skach, who contributes climate data for the National Weather Service and the College of DuPage Meteorology Department.

What about Mike? He’s out West, doing some filming for his TV show, Dig In Chicago, in Denver and hiking in the Dakota badlands and I don’t know where else. He will be back, no doubt snakebit and sunburned, next week.

If you have a comment or a garden question during this week’s show, please call in while we’re on the air at 773-763-9278 (773-763-WCPT for those who like to get cute with phone numbers). Or you can tweet at @mikenow or to me at @chicagogardener. I’m especially looking for apple memories and ideas from listeners. Apples are strongly associated in my mind with the change of seasons — at least they were, back when fruit had seasons and apples weren’t shipped in from Chile in June. We would pick apples every fall when I was young; my mother was fond of piling all the kids in the station wagon several times a year for rambling fruit and vegetable foraging expeditions all over northern Indiana and southern Michigan. There used to be a lot more family-owned orchards and fruit and vegetable stands where you could buy or pick many different varieties of not only apples but plums, peaches, nectarines and pears.

One favorite dessert in my family is a simple, moist, fruity apple cake, almost more apples than cake, that was one of the first things I learned to bake. Since it can be mixed up in a large bowl by a small child with a wooden spoon (as long as a grownup dices the apples and handles the oven part), it has long been a gateway recipe in my family.

My mother, Lee Botts, has a vivid memory of learning to make apple cake in the middle of a huge dust storm in Oklahoma in 1936 or 1937 (drought summers are not a new thing), stirring it in a bowl with a wooden spoon, with sheets covering the windows and dust blowing in under the kitchen door. We think my great-grandmother probably brought the recipe when the family moved from Missouri to homestead in Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th Century.

The recipe has changed a bit: We no longer peel the apples – the bits of peel add flavor and color and maybe even some vitamins — and we’ve reduced the sugar.

Use firm, not-too-sweet, flavorful apples, not candy-sweet ‘Red Delicious’ or mushy ‘Macintosh.’ I use ‘Jonathan’ apples whenever I can get them. Jonathans are my favorite all-purpose apples for their perfectly crisp texture and intense flavor, bright and spicy and not too sweet, but they are not the best keepers. Sometimes I use a mix of apple varieties.

It’s a good idea to make this in a heatproof glass pan if you’re not going to eat it all right away, because if you make it in a metal pan and it sits a while, the acid in the apples will cause both the pan and the cake to discolor.

The recipe  doubles just fine in a 9-by-13-inch pan. I’ve also been known to bake it in paper-lined muffin tins, like cupcakes; that’s a good way to take it to the office or for potlucks. Also good for breakfast.

Apple cake From Lee Botts and her Rutledge family forebears

Preparation time: 45 minutes Baking time: About 30 to 40 minutes Yield: One 9-inch-square cake pan

1 cup flour 1 teaspoon each: baking soda, ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon each: freshly grated nutmeg, salt 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened 1 egg, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 1/2 cups unpeeled, cored, diced apples
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a bowl; set aside. Beat sugar and butter with a mixer on medium speed (or use a wooden spoon and a large bowl) until creamy. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.
2. Add 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients to the mixture, beating just until mixed. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the apples. The batter will be quite thick. Spread the batter in a buttered 9-inch-square pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes, usually, depending on your oven. Cool in pan on a rack. Cut in square or rectangular pieces to serve.

Good service and wicked plants

August 26, 2012

Give back to nature on September 29

September 29, 2012 happens to be National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the nation’s largest, sIngle-day volunteer for public lands. NPLD will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. To register a public land site, click here. To volunteer, view our Find a Site map here.

It began rather inauspiciously in 1994 with three sites and 700 volunteers. In 2011, more than 170,000 volunteers worked at 2,067 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and in many U.S. territories. NPLD volunteers: This is just some of what those volunteers accomplished:

  • Collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants
  • Built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails
  • Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants
  • Removed an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places
  • Contributed an estimated $17 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across the country

In the Chicago Wilderness area, there are plenty of places where you can give back to nature and offer residents a chance to help protect and restore the region’s natural areas. In fact, it is being called the Chicago Wilderness Corporate Council Day of Service.

But you need to register to be part of the action. Simply complete this form , then email to dayofservice@chicagowilderness.org ; fax to 630.829.6547 ; or mail to Patricia Cassady, Chicago Wilderness, c/o Benedictine University, 5700 College Road, Lisle IL 60532 . Registration deadline is September 19, 2012. Unless otherwise noted, all activities are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Meredith Cywinski of SET Environmental, Inc. is a Chicago Wilderness Corporate Council officer, who has served as our Day of Service coordinator in the City. She stops by today to talk about the valuable work that will be done in little more than a month.

Wicked Amy Stewart returns to the show

Any person who has written books titled Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects and Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities (among others) is always welcome on my radio show.

Let’s face it, Amy Stewart is probably the best horticultural writer in the business right now. Normally, that would make me jealous. But she’s also smart, cute and has always been very kind to me. It would be a little ungrateful to be that petty, don’t you think? (Not that I’m not capable of being very, very petty.)

And now she is appearing at the lovely Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve in Niles, Michigan on Saturday, September 8 for a talk called A Natural Murder: Using Poisonous Plants and Venomous Bugs to Create the Perfect Crime. If you’re a mystery writer, you’re going to plotz. But if you’re just a gardener or even thinking of doing in your spouse, this talk is for you.

The talk will be from 3:00 to 4:00 pm on the 8th. The cost is $25, or $20 if you’re a Fernwood Member. Click Here to register, which you need to do by September 6.

However, I happen to have a pair of tickets to this event in my hot little hands, which I will be giving away on today’s show. I will also be sending some luck people copies of Amy’s books Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs and The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms.

Amy is also going to be in Normal, Illinois, on the campus of Illinois State University for almost a full day of events on September 6. They include a talk on Wicked Bugs at 9:30 a.m., a Garden Soiree with Amy Stewart from 4 to 6 p.m., and a Midwestern Night in the Garden of (not so) Good and Evil, where Amy talks about Wicked Plants.

Unfortunately, I don’t have tix for those events. But if you hit the above link, you can get more information on how to reserve tickets.

Congratulations to Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

As I like to say, sometime the good guys win. That’s the case of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, which I’ve discussed on my show and which became a reality on August 15 when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made the announcement.

It’s hard to believe that this will be the first refuge in our region, which is why so many groups, like the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, Openlands, Friends of Hackmatack, The Trust for Public Land and people like Senator Richard Durbin fought so hard for its establishment.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior press release:

The refuge, which will not be officially established until the first parcel of land is purchased, will provide for restoration of wetlands, prairie and oak savanna habitat and provide a home for 109 species of animals and plants that are of concern. The list includes 49 birds, five fishes, five mussels, one amphibian, two reptiles and 47 plants.

The Service will also provide ample environmental education and recreational opportunities for visitors, including the 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the refuge.

Good stuff, folks. Congratulations to all!

The return of Beth Botts and Heather Frey…

…for a week, at least. I’m taking the day off next Sunday, September 2 and leaving my show in the capable hands of horticultural writer Beth Botts and good buddy Heather Frey. Be nice to them, okay? Of course, the enigmatic Denny Schetter will be spinning the dials. You don’t have to be quite as nice to him. I’m not exactly sure why.

Finding funding for Cook County Extension

May 13, 2012

Another year, another Cook County Extension crisis

Here we go again. I received an email last week from my friend Ron Wolford, Cook County Extension Educator, under the subject line “It’s Back!! Another Cook County Extension Budget Crisis.” It seems that every year, some governmental body or another decides that Illinois Extension is some kind of frivolous expense and needs to be trimmed.

Sigh. So we’ll try to explain it one more time. Legislators and policy makers everywhere, this time please pay attention. I’ll start with an excellent post by Beth Botts, who is co-hosting the show this morning. She titles it Cook County Extension needs your help telling its story to fight new funding threat. From the post:

In the Chicago area, if people have heard about the Extension at all, they may have some dim sense that it has something to do with farmers or 4-H. It seems like a vestige of the agricultural past. In a time when county staffers and commissioners are trying to close to close an estimated $427 million shortfall in the county budget, they see funding for what they think is an anachronism as an expendable frill.

So board president Toni Preckwinkle is planning to eliminate Cook County’s entire $411,000 contribution to the Extension budget. Since state and federal matching funds and grants are based on local funding, Cook County Extension director Willene Buffett estimates that this would end up costing more than $740,000, or about 65 percent of the Extension budget in Cook County. It could end Extension programs in the county. “How can you say that the largest populated county in the state will not have an Extension program? How can you say that?” asks Buffet.

Indeed, how can you say that? Especially when Cook County Extension, in one way or another benefits these institutions and programs:

• Garfield Park Conservatory
• Oak Park Conservatory
• Forest Park Community Garden
• Wicker Park Garden Club
• Cheney Mansion
• St John’s Lutheran Church
• Polaris Charter Academy
• PAEC Elementary
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Pritzker Elementary
• WestSide Youth Tech Entrepreneurial Center
• New Birth Christian Center
• Westside Health Authority
• Museum of Science and Industry
• CEDA PLCCA Maywood Head Start
• CEDA Resurrection Health PRO CARE
• Head Start –Bellwood
• Nobel Elementary
• Ryerson Elementary
• Morton Elementary
• Orr Community Academy High School
• Cease Fire
• Chicago Talent Development Charter High School
• Garfield Elementary School
• First Congressional Baptist Church of Chicago
• Children’s Health Clinic
• Maywood Youth Mentoring Program
• John Hay Academy
• Hope Institute Learning Academy
• Neighborhood Recovery Initiative

And that’s just in District 1. There are 16 other districts!. Furthermore, There are 5.5 million Cook County residents, and Extension has reached nearly 1 million residents since January 2011 through face-to-face teaching by staff and volunteers, and web-based outreach. 60,000 volunteer hours were contributed by Extension volunteers – a program value estimated at $1,307,400.00

Given those fact, it’s impossible to say that Cook County Extension isn’t efficient or cost effective. Joining me today to talk about this issue is Julie Emerick, a member of the Cook County Extension Advisory Council since 2007. Julie, Beth and I are all Master Gardeners, so you can understand our concern.

How can you help? The Cook County Board is meeting Monday, May 14, and this is a good time to contact your commissioner and tell him or her how important Extension is for the well-being of Cook County.

Send your message to:

Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County Board
118 N. Clark St., Room. 537
Chicago, IL 60602
Phone: (312) 603-6400
Fax:  (312) 603-4397

Commissioner Robert Steele
3936 W. Roosevelt Rd., 1st Floor
Chicago, IL 60624
Phone: (773) 722-0140
Fax: (773) 722-0145

Commissioner Bridget Gainer
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Phone: (773) 561-1010
Fax: (773) 561-1025

To find your local county commissioner’s name and address, click here .

Got organic veggies? Kilbourn Park Greenhouse does!

Well, if you’re planning on getting your vegetable garden started, I would certainly advise doing it in the next few weeks. The weather has been absolutely fabulous and you don’t want to get too far behind. And if you haven’t had a chance to plant seeds, I have good news. The annual Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse Plant Sale is next Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.

Kilbourn Park floraculturist Kirsten Akre once again stops by to preview the 2-day event that features more than 150 varieties of organically-grown vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings.The admission is free and plant prices vary. In fact, if you to see the full spectrum of what’s available, check out the Catalogue of Seedlings for sale.

The sale features a wide variety of open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Other highlights include an assortment of greens and onions.  These seedlings are grown with the support of a team of dedicated volunteers who make this Plant Sale possible.  This yearly fundraiser supports the greenhouse and our work to connect kids to nature and healthy foods.

Here’s the info:

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse
3501 N. Kilbourn Avenue
Chicago, IL , 60064

More on the fate of Chicago’s landfill ban

Last week, Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force and Mel Nickerson from the Environmental Law and Policy Center appeared on the show to talk about three possibilties:

1) That waste hauler Land and Lakes might legally grab Chicago property that was once an active landfill. The property is on the Chicago-Dolton border along 138th Street and the waste company wants it annexed to a neighborhing Dolton site, which is still an active landfil.


2) That an ordinance proposed by 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale that would lift a moratorium on landfill dumping within the city limits of Chicago would be passed.


3) That the state would get involved and pass legislation banning landfill dumping in all of Cook County. State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) introduced Senate Bill 3728, which would prohibit new or expanded Cook County landfills. But just as quickly, the bill was pulled from the Senate Environmental Committee hearing, which was cancelled and the vote delayed.

The first two possibilities are unacceptable. Which leaves option #3.

Where are we a week later?

That legislation continues to be debated. On Wednesday, an Illinois Senate Committee unanimously approved legislation to prevent new or expanded landfills in Chicago and Cook County. The legislation, HB 3881, introduced by Sen. Harmon and supported by dozens of community and environmental groups, will preserve Chicago’s 30-year-old landfill moratorium.Without a landfill ban, waste companies will once again be able to ship garbage into the area.

This is where all of you come in. HB 3881 will be voted on by the full Senate next week and my environmentalist friends tell me that the waste industry will be fiercely opposing it. You can find out more about the issue by going to the No Chicago Landfills website or their Facebook page.

Meawnhile, it’s important that you write to your state legislator to demand that the ban be preserved. Log onto No Chicago Landfills page to send a message today!