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Back in Touch After the Summer–and the Election!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Conservation and Ecology | Leave a comment

Horrors! No posts since Memorial Day. But I’m back, driven by the election to closely follow what may happen to America’s land use and environmental institutions…all of which ultimately have an impact on our everyday lives, gardens, conservation areas, oceans, beaches, flora and fauna. In the politically conservative years to come, it will also be fascinating (hopefully not horrifying) to witness our country’s reaction to climate change.

Each of us is witnessing the intersection of these events and their policy implications. For example, John and I attended a wedding in Charleston, SC, on October 1st. The city’s tour guides spoke about plans to build a 20′ sea wall because the ocean is rising so quickly. Local TV news was broadcasting a weeklong special on the seacoast floods that occurred in 2015. And then five days after we left–the disaster of Hurricane Matthew and its weeks of flooding.

I know I feel so much safer here in Chicago. Even so, our town (Lake Forest) has written a Sustainability Plan. What does it obligate our family to do to pollute less?

I’m sure each of us has strong feelings about spending tax dollars on things like bridges along the outer banks of North Carolina that are continually washing away, or whether the Federal government “overreaches” when it buys land in the west for a National Wildlife Refuge [NWR]. Our family owns a house in Richmond, IL where Hackmatack, one of the nation’s most recent NWR’s, is located. Residents’ feelings run strong, for and against, this Federal designation, but until this year I would not have expected armed militias to stage a takeover. But if it can happen in Oregon, it could happen here. Yikes.

I want to be informed and knowledgeable on these issues.

I intend to highlight some of these stories in a way that allows us to think about what we would do as Administrator of the USEPA or Secretary of Interior, or simply if I want to call a Senator and make a comment about how our financial resources should be deployed on behalf of our natural resources. I hope to lace these stories with the history of our conservation and environmental protection movement. I have many books to recommend to you. My most recent favorite: Rightful Heritage by Douglas Brinkley. Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt’s passion was planting trees across the U.S.? (Hard not to think that planting trees is probably the way to “make America great again.”)

And of course, you and I will continue to share stories of photos of gardens and the gardeners who make them. Happy Thanksgiving! ##

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Memorial Day!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Environmental Protection, My Gardens, Plants, Weather | 2 Comments

It’s a picture perfect, sunny, cloudless Memorial Day, but the weekend started with a huge lightning storm that held all the classic signs of tornado:

Geneva Lake, Wisconsin

Geneva Lake, Wisconsin at 7:22 pm, Saturday, May 28

 

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:13 pm, on May 28

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:13 pm, on May 28

 

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:17 pm

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:17 pm

The drama of Midwest topography and weather can create powerful visual displays, made all the more dramatic when contrasted with the detail of the flowers on display in the morning after the rainstorm:

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Welcome to summer, oh Weedpatch readers…Should be the best ever.#

Oh, Brother, Here We Go…Pray for the Monarchs…the Whales…the Birds…and Us

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection | 1 Comment

Did you ever read “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver? It is a wonderful book. In one part, she vividly describes the eerie scene when snow and ice fall on the Monarchs nesting in their West Virginia (as I recall) woods.

But today comes reports that fiction has become fact. Extreme cold hit the Monarchs winter nesting site in Mexico. The pictures are frightening, but let’s have faith that these animals are hardy. But still, it’s bad news. The good news, however, is that both their numbers and the size of their woods increased this year.

But still…We were just in Costa Rica where the guides told us that the whales pretty much don’t migrate that far south anymore…the water up north is nice and warm and there’s no need for them to migrate further south than Baja. Not good for their economy and disturbing that eons of whale behavior is disrupted.

And in Panama, our guide–a birding expert–told us that the birds are already migrating north despite the fact that we (the north) could easily get hit by many more freezing days. That would mean catastrophe for birds coming north too soon.

Our awareness is critical to understanding, and understanding is critical to action. I beseech you to beware the politicians that say that they will destroy the EPA if they become President. Those same people care not for birds, butterflies, and ultimately, life on earth. They have more belief than I do that heaven is better.#

Hosta and Heifers: We Salute Margaret Eyre…”our” ambassador of world peace.

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Plants, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Can you imagine being thanked by an international organization for helping to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth?

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That is the story of Margaret Eyre, who died recently at age 97. John and I had the remarkable luck of knowing Margaret for twenty years, meeting her not long after she became active in her son, Rich Eyre’s, business, Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, in Woodstock, Illinois.  Her specialty was hostas and she propagated the plants and sold them for Heifer International. She raised at least $500,000 for world hunger, allowing Heifer to buy farm animals for people around the world with the agreement that those farmers would give what they received and pass on the gift to others in their community.  Some of those funds were donated to Heifer International Foundation, where the funds remain in perpetuity and the interest is given to projects in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bolivia.

Margaret was known as the ‘Hosta Queen’.  Margaret was thrilled when Tom Micheletti, former president of the American Hosta Society, hybridized a hosta and named it ‘Margaret Eyre’.  She worked every day at the nursery until she was 93 years old.

On December 21, 2015 with admiration and recognition, Mano a Mano International presented Margaret with a plaque for a 4-classroom school in Sora Sora, Bolivia, dedicated in her honor for her years of work on behalf of the people of Bolivia. This school will be completed by April 2016. Here’s the old school that Margaret’s hosta money will replace:

Bolivia old school

Thank you, Margaret, and thank you to all who bought Margaret’s hostas and, in so doing, contributed to BEAUTY AND PEACE ON EARTH. Margaret was a rare and wondrous bird. She will truly be greatly missed.#

Margaret-Eyre

 

 

How Far From a River Do I Want to Build? Ask Some Regular Americans

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection | Leave a comment

NOTE: I wrote this a few weeks ago and sent it to the NYTimes in the hope that it might get published. Well, it didn’t (altho it would have been nice to hear “no” from them, but anyway). So here it is for you to read. I hope you like it better than they did!

If you want a great example of American “think” about property rights versus sensible land use policy in these United States, do what I did this morning. Open the NY Times, read scary stories about record flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries (and we thought 1993 floods were bad), send $100 to the American Red Cross, and then google, “how far from a river do I want to build?”.

The first result was on city-data.com, a website on which seven typical Americans posted their answers to the problematic distance-from-river question, originally posed by “potatosoup”:

From UCONN97 [probably a professor, albeit one that flunked spelling]: “I would start with your town. They should have fema maps for your location that can tell you flood info. I would find out if its even buildable before contacting a contractor. Also, be aware of how where you build may incure additional insurance costs. Finally, if you do decide to build on this land, I am hoping that the land slopes towards the water. I would incorporate a walkout basement type of design into your home. This way if there is a flood, your basement and mechanicals might take on water, but it might not neccessarily be a catastrophic loss.”

Okay, fairly rational answer, but UCONN97 assumes that there is some hilly terrain on which to perch potatosoup’s walkout basement and its no-big-costly-deal mechanical systems. That might be true at hilly UCONN, but probably not in the flatlands of the Midwest.

Next, from desertsun in Houston, Texas:

“I know for example in NJ it is illegal to build on a flood plain or what might be labeled  wetlands. And wetlands can be simply defined by the type of vegetation growing there.

Hopefully you are talking about a place not so burdened with govt communist restrictions.

Personally I would want to build over the river as a first choice or on the river edge as a 2nd choice.

For those who fear mother nature, build on high ground near as possible to the river. Get the house up some but to me building on piers such as you see in any coastal developed area is unattractive”.

I suspect that “desertsun” moved to Texas (which now allows you to pack your gun visibly) from New Jersey, that “place so burdened with govt communist restrictions.” Maybe desertsun believes that Texas will allow him to build a house “over the river as a first choice or on the river edge as a 2nd choice”. All I know for sure is this: Desertsun, please never ever get appointed to a local planning & zoning board, even in Texas.

“Cosmic” [location unnamed, but then again, he’s c.o.s.m.i.c.] offers us insight into the chicanery of the real estate industry when it comes to buying close to a river:

“The first part is buying the land and being led to believe that it is buildable. Lot of those games probably being run. Reason the land is for sale.

If there has been floods in the area also beware FEMA may have made the place a permit nightmare. That happened down on the Ohio River in some counties. They were pretty laid back in terms of regulations, permits, etc. Had some big floods, FEMA came in and then demanded very, very anal building regulations. Know this one contractor who moved up to my county. Sezs [sic] could not even think about making a living there, anything required a zillion pieces of paper.

Do not assume because the land is there it can be built on. NEVER, NEVER trust them realtor types. You may very well find out after the fact the horrible jam you are in. There may even be houses directly in the area, does not mean you can ever build another. Was out to see a buddy I grew up with couple weeks back in a small town, they have a creek running thru the town. Been a 22 year flood cycle, some very bad. FEMA again demanded some houses be moved, some were jacked up, there are empty lots all over. You never will get permission to build on any of them. Empty land may not be what it appears. FEMA really wants to tear them all down, big fights about it.

I would talk to knowledgeable locals first, hopefully some not in the trades or real estate business and get the history / local buzz of what is happening. Can try just the clerks in the Court House, chat them up a bit, ask would they buy that piece of property?

Go wary into danger. Too close to the wrong river is definitely standing [sic] into danger.”

“rubytue” posted a screenshot–the part about “never never trust them realtor types”–of cosmic’s reply, and then proceeded to tell a story about how the previous owner of her formerly double lot wanted to [and did!] sell off one lot separately even though the lot didn’t “perc”. Somehow rubytue conflated the dopey yet greedy landowner with “them realtor types”, but this mix-up in rubytue’s logic might have been predicted as rubytue lists her location as “sometimes Maryland, sometimes northern VA, depends on the day of the week”. Or maybe the flood threat.

But last, finally, a rationale man, mitch3 from eastern Washington, who posted his answer: “As far as possible, nowhere near it”. Bravo, Mitch! Alas, Mitch must be on a planning and zoning board, for like most land use officials he didn’t really want to make the tough call ie “NO BUILDING ALLOWED. EVER. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. THAT MEANS NEVER. EVER NEVER. END OF STORY”. Mitch wavered, dammit. He followed his bold answer and lost all credibility with this pitiful capitulation: “IMHO [in my humble opinion], anyway”.

NY Times writer John Eligon identified the correct issue this morning: “the river levels [are] so high that vexing questions have again been raised about whether anything can be done to truly ease the threat.” Good question, answered by regular Americans uconn97, desertsun, cosmic, rubytue, and mitch3. They appear to hate govt communist restrictions more than they hate paying taxes for cleaning up potatosoup’s flooded riverfront house. IMHO, anyway.#

Whoa…just how would we protect the habitat of a butterfly?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This situation with Monarch butterflies is serious and getting serious-er. And just imagine if our Presidential candidates have to express their views on it? The Donald might propose building a wall, but it would be a beautiful wall…maybe orange and black stripes?

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/jan/enviro-groups-push-feds-on-monarch-butterfly-protections

Second Snow

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How can you not like snow when it blankets the trees in white? So beautiful…so quiet…there’s peace. On earth.

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Brussels Sprouted…into a topiary!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Thanks to Chicago Botanic Garden veggie garden manager Lisa Hilgenberg for sending us a photo of her Brussels Sprouts topiary, which she says was inspired by chefs at The White House. (Recently Lisa was a special guest for a tour of the First Lady’s organic garden and the White House kitchen(s)(s)(s). How cool is that?)…

Brussel Sprout topiary

It’s a lovely thing, this topiary, and it makes me happy to look at a thing of beauty because I was just watching TV news. Another gun massacre. Which means another call to Mark Kirk, who I called this morning to say that Mitch McConnell cancelling health money for the 9/11 first responders is shameful. And I spent all day finding new health insurance (which I didn’t finish yet because I can’t figure it out) because my $900/month Gold Blue Cross policy is now useless at all Northwestern hospitals and “out of network” at Rush (check your policy if you go to Rush). Grumpy? YES, I AM, aren’t you? Makes me want to throw a Brussels Sprout at a Republican.##

Genius at Work!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies | 7 Comments

I am so excited. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and my invention is a success!

The squirrels have been foiled and the birds have a feeder tray along with the usual hanging feeder(s), all “perched” on one post. Here it is for your amazement at Queen Bee’s most clever work to date:

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My gardener, Algoberto, and I collaborated on the design. We got the parts and he welded them together. The pole is stuck in the base of an outdoor umbrella, but it could be hammered into the ground because the top comes off. As you can see, I finally found a site well away from trees and bushes, so there’s still always that problem…

EUREKA! I think Algoberto and I are ready for Costco! What do you all think of our idea?! ##

Brussel Sprouts or Brussels Sprouts?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in My Gardens, Plants, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

When I was 21, my Aunt Rita and my Mom (Aunt Susie to my cousins) gave me a backyard picnic party. I was thrilled to see the long-stemmed rose box, tied with a big red ribbon, since no boy had yet seen fit to present long-stemmed roses to me. So imagine my giddiness, then shock, then dismay when I opened the box to find a long-stemmed Brussel (Brussels?) Sprout plant. HaHa. Not funny.

Fast forward forty years and here I am, picking Brussel (Brussels?) Sprouts from our garden in time to roast them for Thanksgiving.

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If you want the history, I recommend an interesting website: foodtimeline.org. Here you will find the dates of cultivation of Brussels Sprouts (yes, the Romans carted them north, but the Persians and Afghans had them first, then across the pond to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello by 1812) right next to important dates in the history of…my favorite vegetable…brownies.

What I now know from reading Sprout History is that those that write “Brussel” instead of “Brussels” don’t know nuthin’ bout Sprout Geography. Then again, the Crusaders are once again to blame. They stole and renamed the sprout. We are really eating, “Babylon Balls” or some such.

I made some Brussel(s) Sprouts for Thanksgiving (not a big seller) and so there are more in the refrigerator. Here’s two “slaw” recipes in case you are in the same bucket.

http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/shaved-brussels-sprout-christmas-salad/

http://fromthelandweliveon.com/brussels-sprout-cranberry-salad/

Cold and gray today. Almost December… ##