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]

 

Pity the Poor Arboretum

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Sign of the Times” (or not). Imagine the woe of the arborist who collected and lovingly tended this collection at the Boerner Botanical Gardens, only to see it possibly destroyed  by a bug. Perhaps the Gardens have committed to long-term treatment of the trees with pesticide? ##.

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Sure Signs of Summer

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Plants | 3 Comments

9:33 am. Location: Lake Forest backyard, sunny perfect day, having coffee and reading Chicago Historical Society journal and the NYTimes, while texting to see if anyone wants to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with me tonight (no one (so far) does, how is that possible!?) being staged by Lake Forest Openlands Association and Citadel Theater Company.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, a robin taking a rambunctious bath, lots of splashing, flies off.

9:35 am. Same Location. Same circumstances.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, Mr. Cardinal takes a bath, but with longer and more restrained splashing than the robin’s. Flies to pine tree, misses, flies on to tulip tree.

Thought: Do birds schedule their bath times for 9:30 on Sundays?

Here are a few more signs that it is, indeed, summer in Chicago:

Currants in a Bowl

Currants from my Garden: Muffins to Follow

Daylilies Ernst 7-17-2014 1-49-59 PM 1510x1952

Daylilies in Ernst Harboe’s parkway, Northfield, IL

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly. Check out midewinrestoration.net

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly at Richmond, IL. Check out midewinrestoration.net for more info

Thank You to Bernard Rosauer, landscape architect, for this photo, taken in Genoa City, WI

Thank You to Bernard Rosauer, landscape architect, for this photo, taken in Genoa City, WI

Last but not least, here’s the start of peach and blueberry cobbler. Thank you, God, for summer!##

Peaches

 

 

Field Notes

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

As I walk past the towering lilies backlit with sun

and enter the field messy with helianthus and brambles

I hear the raucous yells of crows

in the woods near the old spring. What did they find?

Are they mad or jubilant?

Then silence.

Walking down the mowed path I come across one, then two,

then three feathers, turkey by the looks of ’em.

And suddenly, a rustle. Then many beating wings

flying, flying up into the oaks. Six, seven, eight maybe twelve turkey fledglings

and their mother, scared and startled by human intrusion.

Then silence.#

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Garden Markers: The Best Product Yet

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who among you hasn’t been really really irked about plant “markers”? You know, the ubiquitous white plastic tags that snap in half after a season stuck in the dirt next to your plant? Or the sales tags that don’t offer botanical names and are stapled to pots? Or the ones that are threaded thru a slot in the pot and break off when you try to remove them (and/or are bigger than the plant itself)?

Or…there’s the disappearing marker. I have never actually caught one of our dogs making off with a white plastic tag, but I find them lying all over the garden, but never near the plant they are supposed to be identifying. If not the dogs, who then? Squirrels? Chipmunks? Or do the tags spontaneously jump out of the ground on their own?

And don’t get me going on the metal tags that bend, twist and tear, or the stakes that do the same. Or the “permanent” Sharpies that fade…or the waxy pencils that are too fat to write legibly.

Or did I mention the “helper” I hired who decided to “tidy up” the garden and removed every marker from every tree, shrub and plant?  I still have most of these tags in a box (retrieved from the garbage bin that I just happened to look in) because I haven’t the vaguest idea on which hosta or dwarf conifer they belong. Need I say that the relationship with my helper ended rather…abruptly?

Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that the best garden marking system I’ve found (well, yes, I would like to own an embossing machine like those used by botanic gardens but I’d rather fly to Europe with the same money) is from IDeal Garden Markers. The system is comprised of a unbendable steel stake, a rigid black plastic nameplate, and a white fine-point paint pen. I bought the 11 inch, 45 degree stake for most plants; the 7 inch, 90 degree stake for ground hugging plants especially miniature hostas; the “small” size black nameplate, and 4 marking pens (I bought extras because I’ve learned that sometimes the nib gets crushed when writing). After a summer and a harsh winter of use, my IDeal Garden Markers look just fine. I’m re-ordering!

Of course, then there’s the far more irksome phenom: when the tag survives the winter but the plant does not…as in the expensive Primrose in this photo. Why was it sold here if it’s not hardy? Let’s not even THINK about that! Grrrrr…..##

Where’s the darn Primrose I bought last year?

 

Trout Lilies: Durable Little Woodland Stalwarts

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This is a very sweet and interesting post about our woodland Trout lilies by Elgin blogger Pat Hill, who is also the author of the 2007 book, Design Your Natural Midwest Garden which you can buy via her website, naturalmidwestgarden.com. I don’t think I’ve ever met Pat, but judging from her website, we are complete birds-of-a-feather. She was nice enough to feature on her website another new Chicago blogger, Monica Buckley.

Monica is owner of Red Stem Landscapes in Chicago. About her company, she says, “With the encouragement, shared secrets, and guidance of so many, including most notably several years with Art Gara as the oldest intern ever at Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, I left the publishing world to found Red Stem Native Landscapes, Inc., following my passion for creating settings where natives, wildlife, and people can thrive in gardens all over Chicago’s North Side and near suburbs”. Hurrah for her, a fellow member of the Landscape Design Association whereby all of you can find and hire fabulous designers to help you plan, install, and maintain gardens.

For her blog debut, Monica interviewed another favorite person of mine (because he loves plants just about more than anybody on earth), famed botanist Jerry Wilhelm. Please read this interview. Here’s a snippet of what Wilhelm warns us to do in Monica’s article:

“It’s almost as if the whole earth skin has third degree burns… If we don’t put organic matter back into the soil and allow natural thermo-regulation to occur, we will keep having broad climate fluxes, we will face extinctions, and we will be in for a very bad time. Slowly but surely, we have to go in that direction, to preserve the remnants that are left, and to try to return health to the soil. But the remnants are important, you have to have some living tissue, you can’t start it from nothing.”

I am helping as time allows to raise money for finishing the work on Wilhelm’s 5th Edition of Plants of the Chicago Region, which most of you will recognize as the bible of native plantspeople throughout the Chicago region (by which I mean the 25 or so counties in WI, IL, IN, and MI that surround Chicago, plantwise). Now this amazing book will also include the insects, butterflies, and birds that hang out with individual species of plant. Isn’t that just astonishing? So go to Wilhelm’s website, look for sponsorship information, donate $50, $100, $1000 or whatever you can spare, and feel like you are contributing to the preservation of the earth, because you are. Thanks!##

[PS John and I just returned from Cuba–yes, amazing head trip type place–and now we are off to see the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Rachel Carson once hung out. I think I should become a garden and history travel writer who also loves to find places to stay that are worth leaving home for, especially in spring. Or maybe I just want to avoid gardening in the cold and damp.]

 

And Now for my Substitute Guest Editor or…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A View from A Broad!

I have always been a HUGE fan of the Divine Miss M’s and, obviously having too much time on my hands today, I landed on Bette Midler’s website. Actually, I was looking for tickets to the Carole King show in NYC, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Queen Bee burst a gut reading Miss Manifesto’s bloviating blog: she thinks like I do. (And you do.) So here it is for you: http://bettemidler.com/.

Oh, what I wouldn’t do to share a laugh and a Cosmo with her. Enjoy! #

And another thing: Here’s an example of how goofy the world is. For thousands of years, maybe eons, Canada geese have been migrating from Canada to Florida, from Florida to Canada, back and forth, forth and back. All that time, they’ve had all their favorite watering holes along the way, each goose parent teaching their goslings where to stop, especially when they are old enough to lay eggs and want a nice lakeside location to nest by. But then along come humans, and decide to fill in the lake and build a nice big Costco instead. But that goose just doesn’t stop wanting the old scenic location…God bless her.

Goose close up

 

What Does Your Veg Garden Grow?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants | 1 Comment

I lost a month! Somehow with all the gloom and gray and snow, I was totally shocked the other night when I started thumbing through the Chicago Botanic Garden’s course guide, picked out a “spring” class that sounded good, and realized that the class had been held two weeks ago! OMG, it is the end of March and I haven’t given the vaguest thought to gardening (usu in February I’m even starting some seeds)! Foof, get it together, Queen Bee!

One good way to get the month back, vicariously, is to ask people whose livlihoods depend on keeping organized, seasonally speaking, in the garden. One of those people happens to be my friend, Lisa Hilgenberg, who runs the Fruit & Vegetable Garden at (wait for it) the Chicago Botanic Garden. Awesome job, right?

So…what is Miss Lisa–one of the most enthusiastic people I know–choosing to grow in 2014?

Wild Boar Farms blue tomato“This year, it seems to be the unusual color of veg (Queen Bee: it’s spelled veg but pronounced vedge) that appeals to me and seems to also appeal to chefs. An example is ‘Blueberry Blend’ tomato, the new release from Wild Boar Farms in Napa, CA. created by Baker Creek. Wild Boar Farms offers not just one, but three blue anthocyanin varieties!

“We are also going to grow ‘Oaxacan Green Dent’ corn grown in Mexico for green flour tamales, which will be part of our ‘Three Sisters and a Sunflower’ planting. Oaxacan Green Dent CornAnother new veg is the ‘Falstaff’ Brussels sprout, which is purple with a mild, nutty flavor. I’m guessing from its name that is was discovered in England?

“‘Boothby’s Blonde’ cucumber has a nice story. It’s been grown by the Boothby family for five generations in Maine. This cuke is a fashionable old variety that the current Organic Gardening magazine highlights as pale yellow with bumpy skin and tiny black spines, like a science experiment. Boothby Blond CucumberThe Plant Giveaway in May are seeds of Boothby’s Blonde so you can see for yourself if it is.

“There is a bush watermelon too that I’m pretty excited about. It’s called,’Jubilee’, and it has a mere 3-5’ spread producing an oblong 10-12 lb fruit!

“And I’m really excited to grow a culinary collection of stir fry vegs: Evergreen Hardy white onion, cutting celery, Kailaan, Hon tsai tai, Joi choi, Osaka Red mustard, tatsoi and Dwarf Grey snow peas.

Claytonia perfoliata, Miner's Lettuce“And do you know Claytonia perfoliata? We are growing it right now, because it’s so tolerant of the cold spring weather”.

“Oh, and Weedpatch readers should know that the Garden’s newly redesigned Garden View Cafe opens April 8th. Come eat!”.#

A March Sunset just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean…

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“They captured in their ramble all the mysteries and magics of a March evening. Very still and mild it was, wrapped in a great, white, brooding silence — a silence which was yet threaded through with many little silvery sounds which you could hear if you hearkened as much with your soul as your ears. The girls wandered down a long pineland aisle that seemed to lead right out into the heart of a deep-red, overflowing winter sunset.”  ― Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), author of Anne of Green Gables and 19 other books which extol Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Thanks to WG reader Dr. Kate Drummond for sending this photo of a Cape Cod evening in March:

photo (37)