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A Smidgen of Good News…And It Concerns a Trump

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Politics of Conservation, Public Gardens and Parks | Leave a comment

This morning I read the relatively welcome news that Donald Trump the Younger “quashed a competing candidate [U.S. Rep Cathy Rodgers]” as Donald Trump the Elder’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of the Interior and led his father to instead nominate Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke. This is big news, given that the very conservative, evangelical Mrs. Rodgers is the highest ranking Republican woman in the Congress and has participated in “environmental work” in Congress since her election in 2005. In contrast, Mr. Zinke is practically new in Congress.

What did The Younger have against Ms. Rodgers? It appears that The Younger is “a hunter with a professed interest in land issues…a member of a sportsmen’s group, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, that vigorously criticized Ms. Rodgers because of her support for selling off public land” [NYTimes, Dec. 16, 2016]. Indeed, BHA’s website offers lots of articles arguing against selling off public lands. How about this recent one: “Tell Your Congressman Where You Stand on Bad Public Land Transfer Deals”?

Hurrah for a smidgen of good news. It seems the Donald The Younger and the Queen Bee [me] might have something in common: land preservation, or at least not selling Federal land “just because”. Can it be? (Maybe I’ll join Backcountry Hunters & Anglers–only $25 for a membership.)

Donald the Younger’s ardent interest in hunting immediately brought to mind another wealthy hunter who called himself a conservationist: Teddy Roosevelt. Could it be possible that The Younger could become appreciated by people like me for urging his father to set aside more (!) land for national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests, and national monuments? If it takes a wealthy hunter from Manhattan to speak up for bison, okay. Let’s hope. Cancel that. Let’s PRAY.

Donald the Younger’s interest made me also recall another beyond-wealthy “conservationist”: Laurence Spelman Rockefeller (1910-2004), on whom George Bush the Elder bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal in 1991. It was the first time the medal was ever given for contributions to conservation and historic preservation. The President praised “LSR” for “a life and works that would stand in summary of a century in which Americans had come to appreciate the very real problems of their environment, indeed of the world’s environment.” (President Bush did renew the Clean Air Act in 1990 even though conservatives didn’t want to, and he did appoint Bill Reilly, head of the World Wildlife Fund, as Administrator of the EPA, but that was about it for George’s environmental record.)

Laurence Rockefeller began as a conservationist and ended as an environmentalist. They are not the same thing, of course, as his biographer, Robin W Winks, points out in the excellent book, Laurence S. Rockefeller: Catalyst for Conservation. The former, conservation, “was a response to the destruction of the bison, the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the transformation of a once abundant land into barren and sterile soil through harmful farming practices. Its supporters included sportsmen, the great fishing clubs, and trophy hunters. Theodore Roosevelt was a conservationist. Conservationists established the first national park, Yellowstone, in the U.S. in 1872. They restocked streams, rivers…they argued for the protection of forests as habitat for wildlife and for the creation of wildlife refuges and for the study of breeding patterns and mating calls.”

Donald the Younger appears to be a conservationist. But perhaps, like Rockefeller, he will evolve into an environmentalist. “Environmentalism came to mean leaving the natural landscape alone as much as possible rather than reshaping it to man’s definitions of beauty; to building no roads, planting no alien trees, letting nature take its course insofar as possible. Environmentalism recognized human beings are part of the natural order and that they must learn to live within it rather than seeking to transform it. Environmentalism demanded hundreds of decisions as to what constitutes moral behavior…should one put out only those fires caused by man? But if man were part of nature, should not the fires of man also be left to burn? Environmentalism required more education, more planning, and therefore more interference with traditional lifestyles than conservationists would tolerate.” [Wink, p. 15]

Much of America (or at least the Trump group) wants to return to Ronald Reagan‘s America, which signifies a return to the 1980’s: “the slowest period of growth in the modern history of the nation’s national parks, the appointment of a secretary of the interior [James G. Watt] who opposed any additions to the system, the politicization of the National Park System Advisory Board, and more political appointments deeper into the ranks of the national parks than any other president.” [Wink, p. 94]

Into those perilous environmental waters we go. Nonetheless, Donald the Younger advised his father to appoint Zinke, a Montana Congressman who has a degree in geology and spent twenty-three years as a Navy Seal (not much time under the oceans, I see, instead mostly doing “special ops warfare” duty in Iraq and Kosovo) before becoming Montana’s sole U.S. Representative just two years ago, in 2014.

Zinke was busy in Congress: I count 19 bills that he introduced (none passed). Interestingly, in 2010, Zinke signed a letter calling global warming “a threat multiplier for instability in the most volatile regions of the world” and stating that “the clean energy and climate challenge is America’s new space race.” The letter spoke of “catastrophic” costs and “unprecedented economic consequences” that would result from failing to act on climate change and asked President Obama and Nancy Pelosi (then Speaker of the House) to champion sweeping clean-energy and climate legislation. But that was 2010 and now, now is the alt-right. Now is Trump.

Congressman Zinke “drifted” to the right as he ran for higher office, so we shall see what he brings to an agency of 70,000 employees other than what may be a desire to open more public land to “drill, baby, drill”.  On the other hand, there’s still that glimmer of hope that he is not ridiculously idealogical. He actually withdrew as a delegate to the Republican Presidential nominating convention in July 2016 because he objected to transferring Federal lands to state control. To this I say, “YES, you are right, Congressman. Be careful what you wish for.” But maybe he’s just a one-trick pony: get’s his shorts all wrapped up tight about keeping Federal lands Federal but those same Federal lands are open for sale.

But I digress from Donald the Younger. Let’s hope that he will take after Laurence Rockefeller. After all, the Rockefellers and the Trumps are neighbors on 5th Avenue…

Let’s hope Donald the Younger convinces Donald the Elder and Mr. Zinke to find value, as Rockefeller did, in balance between conservation and environmentalism, in developing resorts that are “eco” and sustainable, in revitalizing urban parks to add refreshing green to an otherwise commercial landscape, in saving fishing jobs long-term by putting critical ocean reefs off limits to fishing in the short-term, by understanding that selling Federal land has a long-term cost, and preserving historic places by investing money in their restoration.

Queen Bee can hope that Interior stays strong, can’t she? And please, Donald The Younger, please don’t shoot the bison.##

Back in Touch After the Summer–and the Election!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Conservation and Ecology | 1 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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Reading Up on Land Use Political History

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Books, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection | 2 Comments

This has nothing to do with anything “gardening”, but if you want to read an interesting historical story, check this Lincoln photograph archive article out…Fascinating “garage sale” yarn. Hmm, I guess it is a “conservation”-related story…

Which brings me to this “conservation” insight. I have decided to read every book available on the politics and history of land conservation. Right now I am simultaneously reading The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald and Politics, Pollution, and Pandas: An Environmental Memoir by Russell E. Train, who was President of the World Wildlife Fund but was also a key Nixon-era EPA director and Interior Dept deputy. Before that, he headed the [new in 1969] Council on Environmental Quality, which oversaw the law requiring Federal agencies (like the US Army Corps of Engineers, did you know it has 37,000 employees?!) to publish Environmental Impact Statements [EIS]. I’ve always liked this land use law stuff: my Master’s Thesis was about the value of EIS’s…

Anywho, the two books are a good combination, because one book gives the State/Florida angle on “saving” the Everglades and the other gives the Federal perspective. And it’s really interesting to think about names “from the past” like John Erlichman [who “put the kibosh” on the Everglades-killing Miami Jetport and was a Seattle land use attorney before going to DC], Nixon himself [who wasn’t actually personally interested in the environment but initiated hugely-important environmental protections as a political move to get or stay ahead of the Democrats], VP Al Gore versus House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose 2007 book, Contract with the Earth, is on my reading list.)

And the walk down memory lane also includes deja-vu nuggets like, “[1995] didn’t seem like a very good time for political consensus. In Washington, partisanship had become so venomous that the Federal government shut down for a week over a budget dispute…The GOP majority began crusading to roll back environmental regulations…House Majority Whip Tom DeLay compared the EPA to the Gestapo…”. Or this excerpt from Train’s book: “In 1968, oil was discovered in recoverable quantities on the North Slope of Alaska…[and] the pipeline was being called the largest private construction project in history. I [Russell Train] was determined that we not simply accept the assurances of the oil companies but that we exercise due diligence about possible adverse environmental effects…[Studies, EISs, lawsuits followed…] While there was the inevitable claim of unnecessary delay, it was basically time well spent. As the president of ARCO Oil later said, “had the pipeline been built according to original specifications, the result would have been a disaster, environmentally and economically”. Plus ca change, n’est-ce pas? [By the way, here’s what EPA said in Feb 2015 about the Keystone XL Pipeline.]

PS While poking around on Federal websites, I found this “landscaping guidance for Federal facilities”, which is as good as anything I’ve seen to guide municipal decisions too. You can bet I’m sending it on to the City of Lake Forest which is about to hold hearings (Again. Long story.) on letting Whole Foods cut down 400 oak trees and demolish a landmarked mansion to build a new store and parking on Route 60. UGH UGH UGH. And here’s the Federal guidance on helping pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies, birds, insects, and bats. Here’s one suggestion I have for helping pollinators: restore water to the Everglades! And don’t cut down 8 acres of oak trees in Lake Forest!#

In Your Garden, Choose Plants that Help the Environment

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

Required reading (use this link to read the article) from Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home , via the NY Times. If the plants (that includes trees and shrubs) in your garden don’t help feed beneficial insects and animals, it’s time to re-think your choices. Which means a visit to the garden center, always a highlight of my week!

A Quote from Doug Tallamy:

“To me the choice is clear. The costs of increasing the percentage and biomass of natives in our suburban landscapes are small, and the benefits are immense. Increasing the percentage of natives in suburbia is a grassroots solution to the extinction crisis.

To succeed, we do not need to invoke governmental action; we do not need to purchase large tracts of pristine habitat that no longer exist; we do not need to limit ourselves to sending money to national and international conservation organizations and hoping it will be used productively. 

Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological stakes have never been so high.” #

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The Queen Loves Garfield Farm

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Historic Places, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It’s been forever since I wrote to you, and I apologize for the absence. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing house histories and family genealogies, advocating for better municipal land use decisions (hellooo, City of Lake Forest, even contemplating cutting down 400 oak trees to build a Whole Foods store is shameful) and thinking about what to write about in 2015. Hold onto your hat, the topics may not be limited to gardening or conservation. Hopefully, they will interest you…

So, let’s begin 2015.

Recently, I made some discoveries. First, it took me sixty years, but now I know that I hate big chunks of potatoes in soup. On the other hand, a larger revelation is just how much I enjoy visiting “living history” farms, historic houses, and preserved landscapes and lands. I fall a little bit in love with every place’s history. I imagine myself being one of those ancestors whose were determined to survive and thrive yet always seemed to bring beauty into the picture.

Naturally, I also invariably conclude that I would have keeled over early from cold, outhouse, traversing never-ending mountains and canyons, and too many damn potatoes in the soup. Unless I were Queen, which in my case seems likely, whereupon I would have thrived. After all, I love cake. And I would have been carried everywhere.

I was reminded of my passion for living history farms when I opened the mail two weeks ago to find a precious gift–a middle-school children’s book written by my friend, Anne Brack Johnson.

 

Angie of Garfield Farm

Anne is married to Jerry Johnson, who some of you may know because he is the erstwhile, intrepid, and longtime Executive Director of Garfield Farm and Inn Museum in LaFox, Illinois, which is just west of Geneva. Near St. Charles. Not as far as DeKalb. Twenty years ago it was cornfields and now it’s changed to McMansions and Meijer’s Grocery stores every mile. But nestled in the middle–like a time machine–is delightful Garfield Farm.

Garfield Farm

Garfield Farm is a treasure dating to the 1830’s. Anne’s book, Angie of Garfield Farm, is based on a little girl who was an actual Garfield family member. This pioneer family was smart enough to save EVERYTHING (diaries, tools, buildings) for posterity. And even luckier for us, the more recent residents of the LaFox area have been wise enough to donate money for Garfield’s preservation. The brick house–once a tavern on the route west–the barns, the sheds, the oxen, the way of life…they are all there for you to experience. Please do visit and become members. I try not to miss the Rare Breeds Show in May, but if you would like to learn about restoring an 1842 (!) barn, sign up for the restoration seminars on February 14.

One of my favorite–and certainly most enthusiastic–gardeners will be at Garfield on March 22. Vicki Nowicki is not to be missed. She will be giving a seminar called, “Historic Perspectives on Organic Gardening”. Vicki knows more about organic gardening than anyone I know AND she is the “(DuPage) Queen of Organics” through her heirloom vegetable garden design and education business. Sign up! You’ll have the rare opportunity of a wonderful, romantic venue and a wonderful learning experience.

Methinks I might like chunks of potato in my soup if they were always organic? And slow-cooked in a fireplace dating from 1842?##

 

 

The Polish Garden Writers Club (2 members so far)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I have a friend named Mike Nowak, a fellow hale & hearty Pole and (hail and hardy) garden writer (although Mike is way way way more prodigious than I). He just sent me his new book, in which he wrote the following inscription (which I suspect he writes in every book he autographs, even when the book was not written by him): “To _____: who is almost as funny as I am”. This made me laugh. A rare thing, these days, what with beheadings, floods, social injustice, and difficulty finding the Alpo dog food my dogs prefer.

Um, back to Mike’s book. One thing I realized about myself after I read most of his essays is that I mostly read backwards. That is, I don’t start at the beginning and go forward. Instead, I randomly thumb through a book, breaking the spine at not-the-middle, let my eye alight on a line of text, and then I read from that point forward. If I like it (which in this case I did, a lot), I will page back to the first paragraph of the essay and then read all the way through. This bad habit probably started in college when I learned to read only the first chapter, last chapter, and last paragraph of every chapter in a book. This trick sped up the Russian Revolution considerably….

Mike also helped me discover another bad habit: I am a page corner “folder-over”. (Hmm, maybe it’s “fold-over-er”?) That’s how, like a dog, I mark territory I like. And I folded over an awful lot of pages in this book. Not because I was learning anything about gardening (no one, not even Mike Nowak, actually KNOWS anything about gardening), but because so many pages are very funny. Out loud funny. Being Polish, of course, I especially enjoyed his description of his long-departed relative, Telewizja Kablowa “Cable TV” Nowakowa, who, operating out of a small village near Krakow, is said to have created cooking recipes for over 12,000 insect species…” This made me guffaw, which in Polish, is spelled, guffav. Or guffow. Never mind.

Last, I found out that Mike and I have distinctly different views of only one thing: the color pink in the garden. Oddly, I spent yesterday taking photos of pink flowers to show you in their dazzling array. Then I opened Mike’s book and read that pink is “ubiquitous, relentless, abhorrent, insidious, formidable, unyielding, despotic, and pitiless.” Tell us what you really think, eh, Mike? Mike blames his horror of pink flowers on early color TV sets, but I? I LOVE pink. PINK, PINK, PINK. PINKETY PINK PINK, can’t have enough. It’s a word that’s fun to say! It’s fun to wear (ok, not if you are manly Mike Nowak.) Or maybe I came to love pink flowers because “I Love Lucy’s” hair was so extraordinarily PINK and GREEN on our tv… Nonetheless, I present PINK IN THE GARDEN:

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What more can I say about Mike’s book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus and Other Lessons Not Learned in the Garden? I can say that if I was inclined to spend a lot of time in a bathroom, this would be the book I would want to read there. (Way way better than Reader’s Digest.) Instead, I think I’ll take it to bed with me and let my husband try to figure out why I’m laughing. Out loud. This time.#

[Buy many copies of Mike’s book here: http://www.aroundtheblockpress.com/Onlinestore.htm]

 

Start to a Cheerful Tuesday

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Books, Plants, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Good morning, Weedpatch pals. Here’s a Japanese woodblock created in 1917 to cheer up your morning: gotta love Columbines!

Columbines Japanese_0002

That same year (1917), a native Chicagoan, Neltje Blanchan, who wrote eleven books in her 52 years, said this about columbines in her book, Nature Wonders: Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. The book was published by the company her husband started: Doubleday.

“The Columbine never has the elfin charm in a conventional garden that it possesses wild in Nature’s. Dancing, in red and yellow petticoats, to the rhythm of the breeze along the ledge of overhanging rocks, it coquettes with some Punchinello as if daring him to reach her at his peril. Who is he? Let us sit a while on the rocky ledge and watch for her lovers…Presently a big bumblebee booms along. Owing to his great strength, an inverted, pendent blossom, from which he must cling upside down, has no more terrors for him than a trapeze for the trained acrobat. His long tongue–he is one of the largest of our sixty-two species of Bombus–can suck almost any flower…He is the truest benefactor of the European Columbine (A. vulgaris), whose spurs suggested the talons of an eagle (aquila) to imaginative Linnaeus when he gave this group of plants its generic name.

Fragile butterflies, absolutely dependent on nectar, hover near our showy wild Columbine with its five tempting horns of plenty, but sail away again, knowing as they do that their weak legs are not calculated to stand the strain of an inverted position from a pendent flower, nor are their tongues adapted to these slender tubes. The tongues of both butterflies and moths bend readily only when directed beneath their bodies. It will be noticed that our Columbine’s funnel-shaped tubes contract just below the point where nectar is secreted–doubtless to protect it from small bees. When we see the honey-bee or the little wild bees–Halictus chiefly–on the flower, we may know they get pollen only.

Finally a ruby-throated hummingbird whirs into sight. Poising before a Columbine, and moving around it to drain one spur after another until the five are emptied, he flashes like thought to another group of inverted red cornucopias, visits in turn every flower in the colony, then whirs away quite as suddenly as he came. Probably to him, and no longer to the outgrown bumblebee, has the flower adapted itself. The European species wears blue, the bee’s favorite color according to Sir John Lubbock; the nectar hidden in its spurs, which are shorter, stouter and curved, is accessible only to the largest bumblebees. There are no hummingbirds in Europe. Our native Columbine, on the contrary, has longer, contracted, straight, erect spurs, most easily drained by the ruby-throat which ever delights in any color at all so long as it’s red.”##

Courtesy: birdsnblooms.com

Courtesy: birdsnblooms.com

 

 

 

 

Why is Santana Playing in my Head?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Plants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Another great find in the 2014 plant catalogs! This time it’s DRUNKEN WOMAN FRIZZY HEADED LETTUCE, sold by Territorial Seed Company. Gotta have it… then this summa I’m gonna crank up some Santana, swing those (svelte) hips, and belt out a new tune in my garden: “…I got a frizzy heada lettuce, got a frizzy heada lettuce, got me so blind I can’t eat, it’s tryin to make a meat eater outa me…Got its spell on me baby…I need you so bad, drunken lettuce, I can’t leave you alone…”. And the catalog even adds, “It’s the last lettuce to bolt”. Well, of course she is! She might be drunk and frizzy headed, but she’ll never bolt from ya, baby.

And, no, I haven’t been to Colorado lately. BUT this reminds me that a fine and noble Weedpatch reader, Patti S, sent me a wonderful book: The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart, who also wrote, Wicked Plants:The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. My kind of author! Wonder what lettuce she’s planting in 2014?

Drunken Botanist Cover

Methinks I’ve been inside enduring grayness too long…Getting way too loopy. Think I’ll go have a drink. Or some lettuce.##