Voting in Chicago, caring for natives in McHenry, and delivering fresh food throughout Chicagoland

February 20, 2011

If you live in Chicago, please exercise your right to vote this Tuesday

I was thinking about Chicago’s municipal election as I sat in City Hall last Monday, listening to witnesses testify in 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore‘s ad hoc hearing on the long-delayed Clean Power Ordinance. We’re not a nation that particularly cares about its constitutional voting privileges–a mere 37% of Americans bothered to get to the polls last November–and a lot of Chicagoans are likely tostay home this Tuesday.

That would be a big mistake. We tend to think that the big national races are the ones that really count. But the truth is that individual citizens are likely to have much more influence with their local officials than with their U.S. Senator. And while our Congress is busily working to gut the EPA, it’s quite possible that by putting pressure on their aldermen, Chicagoans might actually be able to shut down the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants within the city limits.

It’s something to think about. What if, instead of waiting for the feds to take action, we did it ourselves and, by doing so, set a new standard of environmental actions for the country? I’m just sayin’. Meanwhile, if environmental concerns are on your radar screen at all when it comes to electing our new mayor, you might want to take a look at this story in this week’s Chicago Reader.

“Tending the Earth” next week in McHenry County

I have a soft spot for the Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee, or WPPC (and I keep telling them that they need a name that rolls off the tongue a little more easily) up in McHenry County. It’s not just that they’ve asked me to speak there at least a couple of times…though that doesn’t hurt. I guess it’s more about the great conferences they have each year. For a very reasonable price–this year the admission is $30 in advance, $35 at the door–attendees get some fabulous information from terrific speakers about landscaping with native plants.

WPPC spokesperson Nancy Gonsiorek says that the 19th annual Natural Landscaping Seminar is on Saturday, February 26, 2011 from 8:00 am to 3:45 pm at McHenry County College Conference Center, 8900 US Route 14 in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The program is called“Tending the Earth” and one of the featured speakers is Carole Brown, who will be presenting the talk “Ecosystem Gardening: Native Plants are Essential.” She is a conservation biologist, passionate naturalist, photographer, author and educator.

If you want to know more about what she does, click on to her website Ecosystem Gardening. She says on the website that conservation begins in your own backyard and that she wants to teach people to become stewards of their properties. It starts with these 5 pillars:

1. Sustainability
2. Soil Health
3. Water conservation
4. Invasive plant removal
5. Plant more native plants

When we do these five things, says Brown, we will begin to see more wildlife in our gardens. Every small action can have almost immediate benefits. Okay, let’s do it.

Good Growing: Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks

If you listen with any regularity to my program (don’t forget that you can always download a podcast if you miss The Mike Nowak Show on Sunday morning), you know that I talk a lot about CSAs. That stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a way for local farmers to get their goods to people in their area. They grow the food, you sign up to receive a shipment of their latest harvest for a prescribed period, and they either deliver to you or you pick it up. The only limitation is that, generally, you are required to take what they give you, regardless of whether you know how to prepare bok choi or not. However, it’s a good way to stretch your culinary palette.

But there’s another, closely related model to a CSA that, until this week, I was unaware of. Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks offers year-round home delivery in the Chicago area of local and organic produce, meat, dairy and eggs. The difference between what they do and the standard CSA is that you choose the specific items you want. Of course, you can go the CSA route, too, and opt for a Fresh Picks Box that is automatically delivered to your door weekly or bi-weekly.

Irv Cernauskas says that his company is committed to working with local sustainable farms it personally knows and trusts. Irv is also a member of the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council. So, in addition to talking about his unique business, he is giving me an update on the council’s work in 2011.