September 25, 2016 – What will we do when all the trees are gone?

podcastbarThis week’s edition of The Mike Nowak Show runs the gamut from the sublime-but-more-than-slightly-obsessive desire to grow pumpkins that weigh as much as small cars to what happens when you, as an unsuspecting gardener who is trying to rescue a nearly extinct plant, find that it is taking over your garden to the idea of the City of Chicago creating a “green” space by cutting down century-old cottonwood trees and replacing them with…well, nothing.

It’s the Great Pumpkin Weigh Off, Charlie Brown!

Saturday is not my favorite day of the week, mainly because I have a radio show on Sunday mornings and I’m usually writing these breathless bits of prose while I have college football on the T&V. Well, I ventured out of my humble domain yesterday to attend the Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Lockport, Illinois. And, despite my usual hermit status, I’m glad I did.

That farm, as I discovered from owner Paul Siegel, has been around since 1909. And while they hosted pumpkin weigh offs in the 90s, that event had migrated around the Chicago area. But now it has returned, and Saturday’s festival had a lot of suspense, though it did not produce a record-breaking pumpkin for Illinois.

The winning entry was grown by Joe Adkins of Wheaton whose entry weighed in at 1,861 pounds. Here’s what it looks like, surrounded by the Adkins family:


However, that fell considerably short of the 2145.5 pound entry that Gene McMullen grew in 2015, which was the heaviest pumpkin ever recorded in North America.  But every growing year is different, which people who grow plants learn quickly.

I wasn’t able to get Joe on the show this morning but Peggy Malecki and I will be talking to a couple of the growers–George Janowiak from the Illinois Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, who has been on this program many times, and Greg Sliwka, who grew his 1,468 pound beauty in a community garden! Here it is:


George is a stalwart for the IGPGA. Just say the name “George” and everybody knows who you’re talking about. Greg tells me that he has a passion for science and gardening. Not a huge surprise. We’re pleased to have both of them on the show this morning.

Can an endangered plant take over your yard? Ask Ron Cowgill.

I have been reporting on the Marshall Strawberry for several years. This is a plant that, to make a long story short, was rescued by a woman named Leah Gauthier. who is a food artist and a bit of an activist.  The Marshall Strawberry was on Slow Foods most endangered foods list less than ten years ago.

Now? Well, I do know that Gauthier has managed to propagate and sell many plants, including several to me and my friends, when I was at Progresso Radio. One of those people was Ron Cowgill, who is the host of a radio program about home improvement called Mighty House.

He planted one Marshall Strawberry in the yard of his Glenview, Illinois business in 2013. A couple of months ago, he called me to say that the plants were overrunning his yard and that he needed some advice about what to do with them. Oops.

cowgill-and-marshall-strawberriesA man, his truck, his tools and his strawberries

Well, my advice was to dig some up and pot them so that we could give them away to even more unsuspecting gardeners. Right? So that’s what we’re going to talk about this morning, as Mr. Cowgill comes to the Que4 Radio studio. I guarantee that it will be fun.

Suppose they created a park and nobody showed up…

This is the story of Park No. 503, located at located at 8900 S. Green Bay Avenue, on Chicago’s southeast side.  Here’s what it looked like a few years ago:


Here’s what it looked like when I visited it last month:


Pretty terrific. If you love lawns. And telephone poles. And don’t like trees. Or places to sit. Or anything else that makes a park appealing.

I know two people who have an interest in why the City of Chicago cut down about a hundred trees to create this sterile, desolate place where nobody wants to be. One is a guy named Chris Mest, who is a certified arborist who is part of an organization called Tree Guardians. The other is a woman named Karen Roothaan, who, like me, is a TreeKeeper, and who just happens to live in that neighborhood. They are both in studio this morning.

Chris also wants to bring up a story he saw recently on It claims that we have lost fully half of the trees on our planet that once were growing here and that, if we continue at this rate, in another 300 years, all of our trees will be gone.

Fun! And you know, don’t you, that it has to do with humans. Oh, come on, you knew that!