Tweets, veggies, real women, toxics, treasures and shattered glass

August 7, 2011

Mike goes to a garden party…get ready to Tweet!

One of the most influential garden shows in America is the Independent Garden Center Show, or IGC, as it is known in the biz. It’s happening at at Navy Pier Tuesday, August 16 through Thursday, August 18, featuring 1,000 vendor booths and dozens of seminars. As they modestly say on their own website: “IGC is the industry’s only must-attend event.” Of course, that’s if you’re in the horticultural business. If you’re an average backyard gardener, probably not so much.

That’s where media types like me come in. We’re the ones who are supposed to attend these events to pass along the best and hottest new things in the garden. Many of the media folks who attend are professional garden writers who belong to the Garden Writers Association (GWA), as I do. As you can imagine, more and more of the writers count on social media like Facebook and Twitter to get their messages out…which is where the garden party comes in.

If you follow my show or website at all, you know that LaManda Joy is one of the forces behind the Peterson Garden Project, a historic 40th Ward victory garden that has become the largest community garden in the City of Chicago. She is also known as the proprietor of The Yarden blog, and her Twitter handle is @TheYarden (surprise!) On top of that, she and husband Peter have one of the most beautiful gardens on the northwest side, for which I despise her…but only professionally.

As a kickoff for the IGC Week in Chicago, LaManda has graciously agreed to host a Twitter garden party in her yard, as part of a weekly Twitter conversation called #gardenchat. If you’re not into Twitter, your eyes are starting to glaze over. Believe me, it’s okay. All you need to know is that I’m co-hosting the event, from 7 to 8pm on Monday, August 15, with @BG_garden, whose real name is Bren, and who has her own website and blog. If you’re on Twitter, just go to #gardenchat.

But even better, the event will be video streamed on my website. It’s not up yet, but by next week you’ll be able to log onto my uStream Channel, “The Mike Nowak Show,” which will be on the home page of this website. I. Am. So. Psyched. More info next week.

Sustainable Food Fundamentals:
Veggie Fest returns to Naperville…bigger than ever

Did you know that the largest vegetarian food festival in the United States–and possibly North America–is happening next week in suburban Naperville? It’s Veggie Fest 2011, and you’re going to love the fact that the admission is free and there’s free parking (one of the advantages of being in the suburbs).The event takes place on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Meditation Center: 4S 175 Naperville-Wheaton Road, Naperville, Illinois, 60563

When I say that it’s “possibly” the largest festival of its kind in North America, I’m quoting Michael Ribet–a vegetarian of 42 years–who is Director of Sponsors, Vendors & Demos. He says that last year, 22,000 people showed up. This year, they’re expecting 25,000, which just might eclipse the Toronto festival.

I know that I could list the exhibits–you know, vegetarian food court, food demonstrations where you can learn new vegetarian recipes, dozens of experts speaking on vegetarianism, spirituality, and healthy living, live music, activities for kids and more than 100 exhibitor booths and more.

But no. I’m not that kind of guy. I’m a lot more shallow than that. When Ribet told me that there was going to be vegetarian junk food, I was ready to hop in the car. What’s he talking about? How about vegetarian corn dogs! I can’t even imagine how you would begin to fix a vegetarian corn dog. Michael also mentioned cakes, cookies, panini sandwiches, sushi, Connie’s pizza (which is a long-time supporter of the festival), falafel sandwiches, Chinese, Thai, and North and South Indian cuisine. Okay, not all of it sounds like junk food.

I’m fascinated by the Vegetarian Challenge, which encourages people to “ease” their way into becoming vegetarians. Folks are encouraged to try a vegetarian diet for a week. If they make the pledge, they get goodie bags, support: tips, restaurant lists and recipes. You might be surprised to learn that the Veggie Fest people expect a couple of thousand people to give it try.

Duluth Trading Company is looking for a few good women

Hey, aren’t we all?

Sorry, I’ll get to the story.

If you’re a real woman who does real work and likes real clothing, you might just be the next catalog model for Duluth Trading Company. But you have just one more week to apply–until Saturday, August 13. Duluth calls itself a ” solution-oriented workwear” company, mainly because their products are tradesman-tested and approved, Among their lbest -known products are the Longtail T®, which prevents embarrassing revelations when you get into the crouch position (think Dan Akroyd as the plumber on Saturday Night Live).

In 2005, Duluth Trading decided to expand its clothing line to accomodate women who work just as hard as men (which means all of them, at least in my experience). Duluth prides itself on using professionals on its catalog pages – but no professional models. The 10 members of the Real Women Test Panel are involved in environmental fieldwork, construction, landscape design, organic farming, are large and small animal veterinarians, vet surgeons and master gardeners.

One of the Duluth Real Women models is Rebecca Claypool, an agroecology grad and Midwest produce farm owner. She and her husband operate Yellow Barn Farm in Avoca, just west of Spring Green, Wisconsin. While they use organic practices, they’re not yet certified. Yellow Barn’s produce is available through a CSA and at local Farmers’ Markets.

Claypool stops by today to tell me how women can enter the contest by going to the Duluth Trading Real Women Contest page . The winner, who will be announced at an event at Duluth Trading’s flagship store in Mt. Horeb, WI, on October 1, will receive a $1,000 Duluth Trading shopping spree and the opportunity to participate in catalog and online photo shoots this Fall.

Says Stephanie Publiese, Duluth Trading’s senior vice president of product development and marketing:

“Duluth builds products with hands-on, self reliant women in mind – women who view clothing as an asset for real life and work, not a fashion runway. We want the women who grace our pages to inspire others by photographing them in their own environment and highlighting the hard work that makes them so inspiring.”

Works for me.

“Toxics to Treasures” ain’t your average tour

You have to admire the Southeast Environmental Task Force–they don’t shy away from the reality of their neighborhoods. In fact, they embrace it.

That’s why they created the “Toxics to Treasures” tour–a 3 hour tour of the natural areas, restoration work and industrial sites found on the  Southeast side of Chicago. And afterwards, they head over to a local establishment for a couple of sammiches and a glass of cold, frosty milk. Or something like that.

Peggy Salazar, Executive Director of the SETF, says the lastest tour focuses on energy production in the Calumet region, taking people through blocks of fuel storage tanks, past mountains of coal and ending up at a sea of solar panels. (Who says Chicago doesn’t have diversity?) The tour will wind its way through sites in Indiana, Southeast Chicago and West Pullman, before ending with a buffet at Club 81 Too.

The tour runs from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, August 13. The $35.00 cost includes lunch. The tour starts from the restaurant: 13157 Avenue M in Chicago.

For more information, call 773/646-0436 or go to the SETF blog.

Five weeks after the hailstorm, the Garfield Park Conservatory makes a slow comeback

Unlike the hail storm that laid waste to the he Garfield Park Conservatory, its recovery is not going to happen overnight.

And yet, the work continues to restore this hallowed institution to a glory that will be potentiall greater than before the freak weather event shattered approximately half of the glass panes in the roofs of the historic Fern Room, Show House, and ten propagation greenhouses.

Mary Eysenbach, Director of Conservatories for Chicago Park District, says that while some events have necessarily been canceled at the conservatory, others are going on as planned. Here are the lists:

Open to the Public

  • The Palm House, Sugar from the Sun, Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden, and Horticulture Hall inside are all open to the public.
  • The Monet Garden, Sensory Garden, Labyrinth, City Backyard Garden, and most of the City Garden outside are also open to the public.
  • Three meeting rooms – the Classroom, Community Room, and Jensen Room are all open.
  • The display houses now open to the public were not damaged in the hailstorm. The glass roofs of these rooms were renovated in recent years with modern laminated glass that survived the storm. The rooms that were damaged had not yet been renovated.

Closed to the Public

  • The Fern Room, Show House, Desert House, and Aroid House are closed indefinitely.
  • The majority of the Bluestone Terrace and small portions of the City Garden are also closed indefinitely to ensure the safety of the public.
  • The Aroid House was not damaged in the storm, but is closed because it can only be accessed through damaged rooms. The Chihuly glass pieces in the Aroid House were not harmed.

The clean up process alone is being estimated at $2 million, Meanwhile, a number of benefits will be raising money, all or in part to aid in the reconstruction of the conservatory. Of course, the generosity of the public will be key in bringing back this venerable instituion. For a Better Chicago is matching donations made to CPC, up to $10,000. But every dollar counts. You can click here to contribute to the Gafield Park Conservatory.