Tag Archives: NRDC

Green conferences, smart water collection and crafty coyotes

February 19, 2012

MELA celebrates 10 years of making green greener

It was ten years ago that organic landscape designer Connie Cunningham pretty much grabbed me by the lapels and said, “We need to start an ecological landscaping organization!” As I gently removed what remained of my collar from her surprisingly strong grip, I asked why. She told me that too many landscapers and their companies did not understand that, in many ways, the so-called “green industry” was not particularly sustainable.

When I said that the two of us should call a few of our colleagues and see if they were interested in such a group, she said, “You’re the media guy! You make the calls!” As you can probably guess, nobody says no to Connie Cunningham. Thus was born the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association (or MELA to its friends, enemies and uninterested parties alike.)

For almost half of that time, the fledgling not-for-profit organization lived on my various laptop computers–including the one that crashed. Mercifully, I was able to recover the files, thanks to a brilliant but emotionally unstable computer geek (long story–buy me a beer if you want ever want to hear it.)

Having me at the helm of an organization with such an imporant mission might seem to be less than desireable. But one of the things we did absolutely right was to start putting together annual conferences that brought together like-minded people to learn from sustainability experts and to discuss where the movement was going.

Fast forward to this year and the MELA 10th Annual Conference 2012 – Balance: Natural Systems and the Built Environment, Thursday, February 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at University Center of Lake County at The College of Lake County, 1200 University Center Drive, Grayslake, IL. MELA Executive Director Carol Becker and board member Amy Beltemacchi stop by the new WCPT studios to talk about this milestone conference in the history of an organization that seems to be doing very well…now that I’m not part of the day to day operations.

Whether you’re a landscape designer, a contractor, a grower, a supplier, you work for a nursery, you’re an educator, or you’re just interested in how you can become more sustainabile in your own backyard, you should sign up for the conference here. Among the tracks in the conference are

  • Ecology and Land Health
  • Built Environment and Resources
  • Local Food and Productive Landscapes
  • Business Growth and Tech Roll-Out

Click here for a complete conference schedule.

Who’ll catch the rain?

Speaking of sustainability and making the most of our resources, did you know that 31 billion gallons of rain falls every year on Chicago’s roofs? And that capturing only half of it would supply enough water for over 200,000 people?

These and other fascinating statistics are part of a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called Capturing Rainwater from Rooftops. In it, the NRDC looks at capturing rain water as a “green infrastructure” practice in the U.S. that could supply millions of gallons of water for non-potable uses such as yard watering and toilet flushing. The study also notes that such capture would reduce runoff pollution and lower energy costs associated with treating and delivering water to millions of households.

I have long been aware that we in America abuse this precious resource (including me, to be sure.) Water demand in the United States is among the highest in the world, averaging 100 to 165 gallons per person per day—or as much as 4 times more than in some European countries (now why is that not surprising?)

More facts from the report :

  • 270 billion gallons of water are used each week to water 23 million acres of lawn(!) in the United States, at a cost of $40 billion annually
  • Every day, 6 billion gallons of drinking water daily–or more than 2 trillion each year—is flushed directly down the toilet, and along with it the money and energy used to treat and deliver the water.
  • The average cost of water in the United States is $3.53 per 1,000 gallons,7 ranging from $0.94 to $8.50 per 1,000 gallons. One cent can buy anywhere from 1.2 to 10.6 gallons of tap water. By comparison, a 20-ounce bottle of water selling for $1.50 costs the equivalent of $9,600 for 1,000 gallons—2,700 times the average cost of tap water.
  • A consequence of the underpricing of water is that water service as a public utility is frequently undervalued. A Government Accountability Office survey of utilities found that user fees and other funding sources do not generate enough revenue to cover the full cost of providing service in 29 percent of water utilities.

One of the co-authors of the study is Noah Garrison, lead author of the report and NRDC water policy analyst, who appears on the program this morning. He and his fellow researchers suggest capturing rooftop rainwater as a simple, cost-effective way to practice sustainability. The benefits include

  • Inexpensive, on-site supply of water that can be used for outdoor non-potable uses with little, if any, treatment, or for a variety of additional uses including potable supply with appropriately higher levels of treatment
  • Reduced (or no) energy and economic costs associated with treating and delivering potable water to end users because capture systems often use low-volume, non-pressurized, gravity fed systems or require only the use of a low power pump for supply
  • Reduced strain on existing water supply sources
  • Reduced runoff that would otherwise contribute to stormwater flows, a leading cause of surface water pollution and urban flooding

As climate change begins to be felt on a great scale across America and, indeed, across the globe, the water security of millions will depend on developing new laws and technologies to meet the challenge. Collecting free water from our own rooftops is a practical and seemingly effecient start. The time to begin is now.

Are coyotes really wily? Find out at WPPC’s seminar

I had the privilege of speaking at the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee’s annual “Tending the Earth” seminar several years ago. They haven’t invited me back, but I’m sure they have very good reasons. If you’ve ever listened to my radio show, you know what I’m talking about.This year, the good folks at WPPC in McHenry County are presenting their 20th annual Natural Landscaping Seminar on Saturday, February 25, and, as always, it looks as though it’s going to be a great event.

The one talk that caught my eye is “Coyotes: Learn the Facts, and Dispel the Myths,” which will be presented by Chris Anchor, Cook County Forest Preserve District Field Biologist. I tracked him down the other day (much like a coyote) and he told me to take a look at a very cool site called The Cook County, Illinois, Coyote Project.

If you visit it, you will learn that coyotes, which have been called the “ghosts of the plains”, have now also become ghosts of the cities…including Chicago. The Cook County Coyote Project is a comprehensive study of coyotes in Chicago metropolitan areas. Its researchers work with various agencies to capture, collar, and monitor coyotes in order to understand how they live in urban areas as well as interact with other wildlife and domestic animals. Among their findings:

  • As a top predator, coyotes are performing an important role in the Chicago region. Increasing evidence indicates that coyotes assist with controlling deer, rodents and Canada goose populations.
  • Most coyotes are feeding on typical prey items, such as rodents and rabbits, and generally avoid trash. However, wildlife feeding will eventually habituate some coyotes, leading to conflicts.
  • Coyotes are exposed to a wide range of diseases; however, to date none of them pose a serious human health risk. In general, the coyote population appears to be relatively healthy.
  • espite the importance of natural habitat for coyotes, some individuals are capable of maintaining territories in portions of the landscape with minimal or no natural areas and elevated human activity.

Which means that even if you can’t see them, they can see you. Isn’t that comforting? Chris Anchor joins me on today’s show to talk about these mysterious predators.

Also joining me is the WPPC’s Nancy Gonsiorek, who highlights the other speakers at this year’s conference. She notes that the WPPC is celebrating its own homeowner mentoring program, “100 Natural Yards: Bringing Nature Home to McHenry County.”  If that isn’t enough for you, educators can earn 6.25 CPDU continuing education credit hours for attending the program.

The seminar is at McHenry County College Conference Center, from 8:15 to 3:45.  Cost is $30 in advance or $35 at the door, and includes lunch.  For downloadable registration, agenda,  and more information, click here.  Additional questions? Call Nancy Gonsiorek at 815.455-9462.

Growing Power’s 10th Anniversary in Chicago

Another event that is happening on the same day as the WPPC seminar is a workshop and networking event that celebrates Growing Power‘s 10-year anniversary of food justice work in Chicago. The event is on Saturday, February 25th at their new Chicago Growing Power headquarters: Iron Street Urban Farm, a formerly abandoned, 7-acre industrial building on the Chicago River.

There will be a hands-on aquaponics workshop at the event, on closed-loop natural systems that grow fish and plants together, as well as tours of the Iron Street Farm ever hour, To cap it off, there’s a happy hour, where and appetizers from our compost partners will be served.

Here’s the schedule:

Saturday, February 25th, 1:00-6:00pm
Growing Power’s Iron Street Farm – 3333 S. Iron Street, Chicago, IL 60608
Cost:     $10 for a Tour
$15 for Happy Hour
$20 for Tour + Happy Hour
$75 for Aquaponics Workshop + Tour (1:00pm-5:00pm)
$80 for Aquaponics Workshop + Tour + Happy Hour

To purchase tickets ahead of time, visit Brown Paper Tickets. Also check out the event Facebook page.

Holiday suggestions and environmental warnings

December 11, 2011

Want to give “green” this year?

Each year, I am more than a little disturbed by the obscene display of materialism that is “Black Friday” in America. Not to mention the following and equally obnoxious “Cyber Monday.” Yeah, I know I’m swimming against the tide but, geez, is this our defining characteristic as a society? Buying more stuff than we know what to do with? Really?

However, I do understand that you want to be a generous friend or relative during the holidays. In which case, I suggest that you buy “green.” Thanks to my beautiful and talented webmaster Kathleen, we’ve posted a web page that will help you find some items that fill the bill as far as sustainable and/or socially aware items go.

Of course, you can give the gift of food–and by this I mean seeds–to the ones you love…especially those who like to garden. Many of you have been following the campaign of the historic D. Landreth Seed Company , which is attempting to sell one million catalogs to keep the 227 year-old company alive. Owner Barbara Melera stops by again this morning for another update on how the mission is doing. By the way, as I mentioned last week, she donated about one hundred packets, featuring cilantro, chervil, basil and chives seeds, to the WCPT Holiday Harvest Food Drive. She’s the best.

The 2011 Chicago Gardener of the Year: Enrique Gonzalez

Last week I mentioned that the community garden on my block in the Logan Square neighborhood, Green on McLean, had won a third place prize in the Mayor’s 2011 Landscape Awards competition. I’m proud of all of the people–adults, teens and kids–who helped to transform the double lot on a drug-dealing corner from a litter-strewn eyesore to a place for families to grow vegetables and have potluck dinners.

And I’m happy to continue a tradition I’ve had on my radio show for what must be a decade or more now, of interviewing the Chicago Gardener of the Year. For 2011 it’s Enrique Gonzalez of Hoxie Prairie Garden at E. 106th Street and S. Hoxie Avenue in the Pullman neighborhood. When I read this story, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune two years ago, I realized that Enrique and his neighbors have experienced a lot of the same things that I’ve seen in my own neighborhood. My hat is off to him and to all people who take control of their lives, garden by garden, throughout Chicago and every city in America.

Our national environment under attack (mainly by Republicans); NRDC’s Josh Mogerman reports on Keystone XL Pipeline and more

For years I have worried about painting with a broad brush when it comes to politics and the environment. That is to say, it seemed unfair to say that Democrats are generally for environmental issues and all Republicans are generally against them. After further review, however, there’s no way to get around it. That statement is absolutely true. Yes, there are some Democrats (far too many, actually), who are toadies and stooges for corporate polluters. Shame on them.

But there’s really no way to say that Republicans, to any significant degree, give a rat’s you-know-what about our environment. It disgusting and terrifying, really. And if you care about our planet at all, you should run screaming from the Republican party and how, if they were given the chance, they would drain the Great Lakes and set up a big industrial park if they could. For instance, take a look at this article on the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council called Anti-Environmental Budget Riders: A significant assault on health and environmental protection is underway in Congress.

In this story, the NRDC looks at the12 spending bills for fiscal 2012 that Congress must pass to fund the government and the anti-environmental policies that some House Republicans want to push through at the same time. It’s not that those policies have anything to do with funding the government. It’s just opportunism rearing its ugly and environment-destroying head.

It is disturbing that House Speaker John Boehner has announced that he plans to hold payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits hostage to a bill that would rubber stamp approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. If you’re not familiar with Canadian tar sands oil, you probably need to tune into my show today (or the podcast, once the show is over), to hear NRDC’s Josh Mogerman wax poetic on how environmentally destructive extracting oil from tar sands really is. Or how we have been sold a bill of goods about how many jobs would be created by running a 1700 mile pipeline through the middle of the United States.

In fact, just a short month ago, when Keystone XL protestors marched around the White House and many were arrested, and then the Obama Administration decided that it would delay a decision until 2013, it seemed as if it was a clear cut victory for environmentalists. Perhaps not so much now, even though we’re pumping more CO2 into the air than ever.

I wish I could say that’s the only issue that should be on everybody’s radar. Alas, our Great Lakes continue to be in peril, thanks to zebra mussels, quagga mussels and other invasive species, including Asian carp. Unfortunately, if big business continues to get its way, there will be little in the lakes except invasive species. We’ll get to as many of these issues as possible…but we probably need more than two hours.

Don’t burn your Christmas trees in your house…for more reasons

Last week, I talked briefly about why you shouldn’t burn Christmas trees in your fireplace. The answer is the creosote build up and the danger of starting a fire. After the show, I received an email from a Dave Zaber, a listener and environmental consultant who wrote:

Just a quick caution: unless the purchaser has explicit information regarding the use of pesticides on Christmas tree farms, any number of very toxic insecticides could be used directly on the trees.  Some are even allowed to be applied up to the end of October. 

In most cases, very little is known about the chemicals that result when these pesticides (and/or other ingredients) are burnt.  In many cases, particularly when they are sprayed earlier in the year, natural processes will break down some of these chemicals before harvest.  In other cases (e.g. dinotefuran), the systemic absorption of the chemical by the tree means that  it will be spread throughout the living tissues and therefore unsusceptible to wind, rain, and sunlight. 

So, other than organic or no-spray trees, don’t burn them indoors. 

A list of neurotoxic insecticides that the State of Pennsylvania extension recommends for application on Christmas trees includes the following:

Organophosphate/carbamate anti-cholinesterase insecticides: highly toxic to mammals, birds, fish, bees.  Exposures can result in long-term central nervous system effects.

Neonicotinoids: Super toxic to bees, systemic, persistent in water. Thiamethoxam
Imidicloprid -systemic

Synthetic pyrethroids: highly toxic to fish, carcinogenicity. Bifenthrin

Here’s even more information about pesticides and Christmas trees that you might find useful. Dave joins me today to talk more about this issue. And the NRDC has information about real v. fake trees and Christmas tree care in this article: The Tree Choice: Care and Decorating Tips for the Holidays.

GreenPrints, “The Weeder’s Digest,” for the holidays

Pat Stone, editor of GreenPrints, is back on the program to talk about winning the Garden Writers Association award in 2011 for over Best Product for Magazines with under 200,000 circulation. Pat has been putting together funny, inspirational, moving and weird stories about gardening for more than twenty years into this easy to handle, easy to read publication.

This just might be a perfect holiday gift for one of those hard to please people on your shopping list. Check out the link above, where you can get a sample of what they have to offer.

Changing the world one community garden at a time

June 5, 2011

“Green on McLean” changes the world

As I sit here writing this entry, I’m trying to come up with the right words for what happened last Monday at the corner of McLean and St. Louis in my little neck of the city. And I’m tempted to use words like “remarkable” and “gratifying” and “heart-warming” and even “miracle.” I know, I know, it’s a bit much. But then, most of you don’t know what it’s been like to live on this block for ten years. (For that information, read last week’s post at Past Shows on this website.)

Let me just say that the Green on McLean community garden got off to a spectacular start on Memorial Day. Despite a brutally hot day, about twenty-five neighborhood folks showed up to lay down cardboard, shovel mulch and soil, pick up debris, lay down lead-blocking fabric, remove junk trees and cut fallen branches, and generally work together to change the neighborhood for the better. Click here to see the YouTube slide show of the work day.

On my radio show last week, I said that I wanted to do nothing less than “change the world.” I qualified that statement, however, telling Seamus Ford and Amy Beltemacchi from Root Riot Urban Garden Network that by “world” I meant “my block.” I didn’t know who was going to show up to create this garden. But it turns out that I needn’t have worried. We got a steady stream of volunteers, including Seamus and friends of mine who don’t even live in the neighborhood.

After four hours of steady work, we had four 8×4 garden beds laid out and planted with tomatoes, cabbages, brussel sprouts, squash, cucumbers and even a few ornamental flowers. Several days later we added some onions. Swiss chard (Go Team Chard!) seeds and pole bean seedlings are ready to go. Given the ethnic makeup of my neighborhood, it’s almost a sin that there are no peppers planted yet. But we’ll get to them.

This Sunday, we will add two more planting beds. The lawn has been mowed. Two neighbors attacked the huge mulberry branch that fell into the empty lot months ago with chain saws. (Who knew that so many Chicagoans owned chainsaws?) One of the volunteers has promised to turn those wood blocks into benches for the garden. We can’t believe the number of people who stop and tell us how beautiful the garden is and then tell us that they want to come to a work day.

Not that everything is perfect. Since we need to water the garden, the Chicago Water Department gave us a wrench to use to open the hydrant across the street. Unfortunately, after a couple of days of running around the city to pick up permits and the wrench, we discovered that the hydrant had been fitted with a special lock. When we asked if we could have a key, the city told us that, instead, the Water Department was going to have to come out and change the lock. How long will that take? We don’t know. So, yesterday, we ran a length of three hoses from my house (five doors down and across the street) to the garden. Neighbors have volunteered their own water spigots for the garden’s use.

And if you thought that getting people to work together in a garden would immediately remediate the gang problem, guess again. While the gang bangers have not disrupted our work in the garden, and have even paid us compliments about our accomplishment, they seem to multiply in the June sun. Just the other day, I noticed a couple of police cars stopped in the street next to the garden. Several gang members were spread eagle against the cars. Of course, they will be detained for a few hours or a day and then be back on the street–probably our block. Ah, some things never change.

Some people ask us whether we’re going to fence in the garden. We don’t think so. The neighborhood children love the garden and we don’t want to keep them out. They help us plant and water–even if they have to use their squirt guns. It’s good karma. Does that mean nothing will ever be stolen or vandalized? Hey, I’m optimistic but I’m not insane. For now, we’re going to tempt fate and keep the garden open to everybody at any time.

All we know is that Green on McLean has already “changed the world.” People in our neighborhood are talking to each other, offering help and whatever–chainsaws and shovels and sweat equity–they are capable of providing. It’s a good feeling. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. We’re going to be rewarded with fresh, healthy vegetables in a couple of months. On the other hand, we’ve already been rewarded.

You know what? Even in a tough neighborhood life can be good.

Protecting our resources, Part I:
Help is on the way for Chicago’s “endangered” river

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s Josh Mogerman joined me to talk about how the Chicago River had become one of the “most endangered rivers” in the country, due to high levels of pollutants in the waterway. NRDC has been one of the chief supporters of disinfection, going so far as to join in a lawsuit to stop the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District from dumping raw sewage mixed with stormwater, as well as algae-fueling pollution, into the Chicago River system.

Lo and behold, I receive a message from NRDC on Tuesday:

The Metropolitan Water reclamation District and the Illinois Pollution control board made it clear today that a cleanup of the Chicago river is likely to commence quickly, just weeks after the U.S. EPA sent a letter demanding that water treatment plants end the practice of dumping undisinfected sewage into the Chicago River and adjoining waterways.

This morning a veto-proof majority of Commissioners for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicagoland (MWRD) said they would vote in favor of a policy position that supports disinfecting sewage dumped from their water treatment plants into the Chicago River, where the effluent makes up 70% of the waterway. Commissioners Michael Alvarez, Patricia Horton, Kathleen Therese Meany, Cynthia Santos, Debra Shore and Mariyana Spyropoulos said that they would vote in favor of the change. The vote was deferred and until the June 16 MWRD meeting.  Also, this afternoon, the Illinois Pollution Control Board, which has been the venue for a marathon legal battle over disinfection, issued a proposed decision that largely reinforces the policies put forth by USEPA. The Pollution Control Board will take public comments for a week before issuing their final decision on June 16.

Ah, the power of The Mike Nowak Show.

By the way, in case you didn’t get a look at the video of the post-apocalyptic Asian carp fighters on the Illinois River, you need to take a look at this.

Speaking of rivers, this year’s heavy rainfall in the Mississippi valley is going to have more consequences than just flooded towns and fields. It is also about to produce the largest “dead zone” ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. In case you don’t kinow what that is, a dead zone is where nutrients like nitrogen, fertilizer and even river silt dump into a body of water, causing massive algae blooms that suck most of the oxygen out of the water. That is causing even more problems for gulf fishermen, who haven’t exactly had an easy time of it in the past year.

By the way, we’re not the only country that creates dead zones in its bordering waters. Scientists say there are more than 400 dead zones worldwide. Which is just another reason to go easy on the lawn fertilizer. Four-step, Schmore-step, I say!

Protecting our resources, Part II:
Gun club gets the boot from Cook County Forest Preserves

Organizations like Friend of the Forest Preserves work hard every day to see that this precious and vulnerable land is restored, restocked, protected and preserved–along with its flora and fauna–for the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public. Sometimes, short-sighted policies and financial arrangements result in the degradation or neglect of these parcels.

But sometimes, the voice of the people is heard. That’s what happened this week when a request by the Blue Park Gun Club for a permit that would have allowed it to shoot onto forest preserve land was sent back to committee, where it will probably not be seen again. The land is located near Oak Forest in the Tinley Park Preserves.

FOTFP Executive Director Benjamin Cox reports that Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th), who opposed the permit request, sent a strong letter to President Toni Preckwinkle urging a veto if the permit was approved by the board. She responded that she would, indeed, veto the measure, which seems to be the final nail in the coffin for the request. Cox is on the show this morning to report on how the phone calls, letters and messages probably made the difference. So I join Cox in congratulating all those folks who fought to protect that land.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
49th Ward farmers markets gear up for the season

The first question that has to be answered is how exactly to spell that phrase. Is it farmers market, farmer’s market, or even farmers’ market (all of which I have seen on the various Internets). For the sake of simplicity, I am going with choice #1: farmers market.

That being said, every year, more and more farmers markets appear around Chicago (and all over the country) each year, as consumers discover the myriad benefits of fresh, local food. As blogger Rob Gardner reported a few weeks ago on the show, The Local Beet has just unveiled its new, improved Farmer’s Market Locator. I tell you that because I can’t possible report on every market out there.

However, when something interesting pops up, like the Loyola Farmers Market, which opens on Monday, June 6, I’m your guy. Loyola University Chicago is unveiling the 49th Ward’s second farmers market (more on the other one in a second): the Loyola Farmers Market, at 6556 N. Sheridan Road, near the University’s Lake Shore Campus in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

What’s so interesting about this market is that it’s the first one in the area (please correct me if I’m wrong) that is sponsored by a university. Students in the University’s Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) class came up with the idea, in an effort to promote the benefits of locally grown food. The market will be managed by Gina Lettiere, coordinator of the University’s Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy (CUERP), and student assistants and volunteers.

Market hours are Mondays from 3 to 7 pm through October 17.

Meanwhile, it’s the second season for The Glenwood Sunday Market, which was voted the most popular farmers’ market in Illinois for 2010 in the America’s Farmland Trust farmers’ market contest. This market in the heart of Rogers Park  strives to be one the greenest markets in the City of Chicago, featuring organic and sustainably locally grown produce. They define locally grown as within 200 miles of Rogers Park.

And it’s definitely a city destination–you can step off the Red Line at Morse Avenue and walk down the stairs to the market.at the intersection of Glenwood & Morse Avenue.It’s open every Sunday 9am -2pm  through October. (The Winter Market is located at 6956-58 N. Glenwood on second Sundays Nov.-May.)

As always, Sustainable Food Fundamentals is sponsored by Pearl Valley Organix. They produce HEALTHY GRO™ products for your lawn and garden, as well as Pearl Valley Eggs. And they do it in a way that is sustainable, turning their chicken manure into several OMRI listed fertilizers, and even recycling their waste water on site at the Pearl Valley Farm. I’m proud to have them as a sponsor on The Mike Nowak Show.

Illinois legislators wrap up and go home (for now)

Last week, I reported on how the immediate future of Illinois Extension might be linked to the expansion of casinos in Illinois. While lobbyists and supporters of agricultural and horticultural programs worked to get the agricultural bill passed, at least some of that might be funded through gaming revenues.

Pam Weber from Extension Partners wrote at the end of hte week:

The Department of Agriculture’s budget was in House Bill 124 (HB124), and contained the amounts that Extension Partners had supported: County Board Match $10,800,000 – Youth Educator $994,700 – Cook County $2,749,200

That was a clear victory, because the Cook County provision had almost been cut completely, which would have wiped out a lot of good urban Extension programs. The problem, as I explained last week, is that those expenditures are tied to passage of a gambling bill, as Weber explains.

A huge expansion in gaming passed the House on Monday and in the Senate Tuesday afternoon.  Senate Bill 744 (SB744) with House Amendments provides for five additional casinos, slots at horse tracks, expanded gaming stations at existing casinos, money for depressed areas, money for the horse racing industry, money for foreclosure prevention, money for agriculture related programs including Soil and Water Districts, County Fairs, U of I Extension, forestry and historic sites.  The sponsors also assured their colleagues that extra money would be available for education as well.  I would caution that while the recipients of these funds are giddy right now, these funds will not be forth coming for some time.

I, for one, am not giddy about relying on gambling for any state revenues. Nor is Governor Pat Quinn. Nor is 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar. Nor is Congressman Mike Quigley or Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. I know that these decisions are not easy, and anybody who listens to my show or reads my posts knows how important I think Illinois Extension is, but I also believe that gambling preys upon the people who can least afford it–even those who would benefit from Extension. I wish that there had been another way to fund these vital programs. I will hold my nose and hope for the best. Final words from Pam Weber:

[T]he… measures that have gone to the Governor await an unknown fate.  The budget is not his, and with his pen he can make numerous adjustments to the numbers or totally veto the budget. The Governor’s response to the budget could have us back in Springfield in June. The buzz around the Capitol in the waning hours was “special session”!

Get ready for another “Hosta Happening”

The good folks at Rich’s Foxwillow Pines are getting ready for another “Hosta Happening” next Saturday, June 11 at their location at 11618 McConnell Road in Woodstock. Even though Rich’s place specializes in rare and unusual conifers, they hold a couple of these events each year to benefit the Heifer International Foundation.This event goes from 9am to 4pm.

Once again, you can say hello to 93-year-old “Hosta Queen” Margaret Eyre, who has not actually been dividing the plants this year, but directed the volunteers who did the work and will be around as the good will ambassador. The Hosta Happening has several hundred varieties of hostas for sale–all at $5.00 a pop! Among the highlights:

  • 12:30 p.m. – CEO of Heifer Foundation, Domingo Barrios, will discuss Heifer Foundation gifts in endowments, wills, trusts, and estate planning.
  • 1:30 pm – Mark Zilis of Q&Z Nursery in Rochelle, Illinois will give a talk on ‘Hostas of Distinction’. Mark will also have his newest book for sale: The Hostapedia: An Encyclopedia of Hostas by Mark Zilis. This new book describes every hosta that Mark has encountered over the past 30 years.

For more information, call 815-338-7442 or write to coniflora@richsfoxwillowpines.com

My thanks to Spring Bluff Nursery for their hospitality

Thanks to Tim and Ken Norris and the whole staff at Spring Bluff Nursery in Sugar Grove for being such great hosts yesterday. The heat and humidity were stiflingt, so I was glad that I was able to present my talk in air conditioned comfort. If you haven’t been out to this lovely, secluded gem in beautiful Kane County, you need to plan a field trip.

The 1800s farm house is the most prominent feature on the property, but there are also lovely display gardens and even a community garden that provides fresh produce for people in the area. There are a number of events coming up, among them, Photographing Your Garden, led by Donnell Collins, photojournalist & Waubonsee Community College instructor. It’s a seminar on how to get the most from your digital camera…in your garden,, of course. Saturday, June 25, 11am-1pm – Cost $35. Register and pay in advance.

The other one is Girls’ Night Out! on July 21.It’san evening of great plant sales (beginning at 3:00
pm) and a fun night for the ladies! Gourmet tastings and a free perennial with registration begin at 6:00. No charge, but bring canned food item donations.