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!

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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

 

 

 

 

Spring MUST be near…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

While grocery shopping at Jewel, my nose detected a known, but distant, fragrance. Here’s what I looked down to find, and took a big, deep breath (yes, I inhaled!). On this gloomy, snowy, boring day, may these daffodils bring you hope that spring could actually arrive this year!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Pelican Perils

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

Hello from rainy (but warm) Islamorada, in the Florida Keys.

This morning, I sent an email to a bunch of girlfriends to say “good morning” with this photo that I took on my arrival here yesterday:

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So today I was googling “wildlife in the FL Keys” so I could figure out where I should visit, and I found two alarming pelican stories. First, a short film clip from the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue Center about why we need to pick up the (damn) trash wherever we are:

 

 
Then I saw this: Brown Pelicans Found in Lower Keys with Pouches Slashed I looked again at “my” pelican, but he (she?) appears to have a wound, but on second look, probably not a wound inflicted by psychopath humans.

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Welcome to “paradise”, right? So please please, my Weedpatch pals, do something beautiful today for a wild thing. Pick up some trash, feed a bird some good food, “like” the Facebook page of the vets who help animals survive in this world. Thank you. Now back to a rainy Florida afternoon with the pelicans.#

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.##

 

This Land is Your Land! And so is Lake Michigan…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Historic Places, Weather | 3 Comments

I know, I know, it’s gray outside. Waking up in the morning to “no contrast” is a struggle. But let’s be optimistic and say that the monochrome makes us appreciate the sun and chlorophyll so much more than those people who never see seasonal change. Here’s a few photographs of the Openlands Preserve at Fort Sheridan. We are so lucky that people stepped up to the fundraising challenge and funded the preservation of this 77-acre parcel of lakefront property after the US Army decommissioned it in 2004. Walking in this natural environment–really not a house in sight–is a real treat. Here are a few photos from a recent morning walk:

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Ice and water, seagulls cawing, a few souls walking about with their dogs, one man sitting on a cold bench staring at the lake. Yet the waves still wash up on the shore, relentless, energetic.#

Happy New Year! Time to Dream of (Wacky) Vegetables to Plant…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants | Leave a comment

Need some laughs? An alert reader sent me a fellow blogger’s (“The Art of Doing Stuff”) post about visiting a CSA farm in Canada and some of the wacky plants it’s possible to grow. Take a look at the great photos in this article (and scroll down to get your laugh by reading the text for “spigiarello”!): http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/heirloom-vegetables-things-youve-never-thought-of-planting/

On cue for January 2, my Jung’s Seed Catalog arrived. I’ve thumbed through, and my personal favorite wacko vegetable for 2014 is…Cauliflower Veronica Romanesco (I even like her name!):

cauliflower veronica romanesco

Won’t your kids think this is an improvement on cauliflower? Eat up, Johnny!

What wacky flower or vegetable do you, dear readers, want to grow this year? OR, for armchair gardeners, is there a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm that you want to give a personal “shout out” to, here on these inscrutable (my favorite word today) pages? Here’s an organic CSA farm, “Green Earth Farm”, owned by some friends, Scott & Kathy Mor, in Richmond, IL (get your veggies, eggs, and heritage turkeys from them, if possible!) ##

Coldest Day on Record–Not So. Maybe. Go Figure.

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Uncategorized, Weather | 6 Comments

This morning I heard a TV weatherman say this is the coldest day (-16) on record in Chicago. Of course, I had to Google that assertion, especially because I wondered if, in my lifetime, I had now lived through the hottest and the coldest days on record in Chicago. Not surprisingly, I found out that the Cable TV was mistaken (large gasp!) or at least, misleading. Turns out, the coldest recorded temperature day in Chicago occurred on January 20, 1985 when it was -27 with a -60 wind chill. In the city (note: CITY) of Chicago.

The Tribune is no better than Cable TV at creating confusion: “The Chicago area hit a new record low for today. At 8 a.m., it was minus 16 at O’Hare International Airport, according to the official recording station for the city. The old record was minus 14, set in 1988 and 1884”. Interesting, since there was no O’Hare Airport in 1884 so there was no official recording station at O’Hare to know it was -14 in 1884. (Note: Chicago AREA hit a new record.)

And, of course, the coldest day (-36) in Illinois (note: STATE of Illinois not CITY of Chicago or Chicago AREA) occurred in 1954, but that was in Congerville, Illinois, which may have disappeared into vapor that day because no one has ever heard of it since.

Here’s the best source of historic high/low temperature information for you weather geeks: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=chi_temperature_records

And for those gardeners who miss summer, the hottest summer was in 2012, when we had four days over 100 degrees, but the hottest day ever was on July 24, 1934, when it reached a truly sweltering 105 in Chicago (but in 1954 East St. Louis climbed to 117!).

BIRD WATCH UPDATE: Despite the cold, it’s sunny outside today with little wind. At 10 am, our bird feeders were in full frenzy, with all kinds (even cardinals and a red-bellied woodpecker) in a hungry mob. At 10:30, virtually every one flew away but into the same evergreen: a large Western Red Cedar [Thuja plicata] and only a few Dark eyed junco’s returned until 2:30 pm when they all appeared again. What’s that about? Do they take a noontime siesta together?##

Photo by Carolina Bird ClubPhoto:  Courtesy of Carolina Bird Club

Polar Plunge!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Here’s a brief but spiritually invigorating (brrr, especially today!) video sent from subscriber and great humanist Mordechai Levin, who lives along the Nippersink Creek in Richmond, McHenry, Illinois. He suggests that the creek be renamed, the “NipperMink”…

 

If you know of the wonderful work of the poet, Mary Oliver, you will enjoy this poem of her’s (I don’t have permission to publish it, but I hope she will forgive me when each of you buys her latest book, A Thousand Mornings, or Evidence, the earlier book containing this poem, entitled, It Was Early:

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it, especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out as I walk by, as he did on this morning.   So many gifts! What do they mean?   In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice, and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.   Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.   Little mink, let me watch you. Little mice, run and run. Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.”

HAPPIEST NEW YEAR, FULL OF BLESSINGS, WHEREVER YOU FIND YOURSELF STANDING.

Potorius vison [Mink] by John James Audubon, printed 1844.

Potorius vison [Mink] by John James Audubon, printed 1844.

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STOP the presses and read this!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Many of you know that I volunteer with a GREAT charity called Mothers Trust Foundation (MTF). It is so great that it won the “2013 Human Services Philanthropy Award” by Make It Better magazine, and the prize was a free professional videotape for marketing our organization. This week the tapings were done, which included testimonials by social workers from Lake County (IL) and some of the oh-so-desperately-poor kids they help, each discussing how MTF came to the rescue.

Today MTF’s Executive Director, Cheri Richardson, received two emails, which she forwarded to volunteers and I want to share with you. The first comes from the movie director, Adam, describing his experience with “Henry”. But make sure you keep reading…read down and take in the email from Brenda, the social worker from an elementary school that suggested that Henry’s story might be just right for the movie. And then believe in all things right and good. There is a Santa…or is there an angel among us?

From Adam the Director:

“Cheri: Wow – what a story.  And two incredible interviews!  That kid was something else – such a little character!  He has been through SO much and yet he was so resilient and funny.  We’ve been quoting him nonstop.  He was just a piece of work.  The first thing he did was challenge himself to conduct the first ever blooper-free interview.  Next, he told us about his design for a perpetual motion machine.  Free energy!  He described it in great detail, then asked me, “do you know how many schools you could power with a machine like that?”

I responded, “all of them?” His answer: “35.”

We were dying…so cute and funny!

And Brenda was amazing.  She cried.  And pretty much had us on the verge of tears.  That’s a social worker who cares!

I’ll tell you what – MTF has some fans out there.  The challenge will be cutting this thing down to a manageable length – there are so many gems of wisdom and insight “in the can” – we have an embarrassment of riches”.

And here’s the show-stopper from Brenda the Social Worker:

“Hi Cheri!

It was a blast watching Henry and hearing him tell his “Life Story”!  I didn’t know if I should have laughed or cried….so I did a little of both!  The crew was really fantastic, just like you said they’d be.  I hope we were able to represent Mothers Trust Foundation in a way it should be represented!  Thanks for giving us the privilege!

It was quite a day for Henry….right after his interview, he had to go to the police station to meet DCFS.  They were planning to take him into custody and put him in some type of temporary foster care.  Well, long story short, they couldn’t find family or foster care setting that would take him immediately—so I have him!  Yes, he is at my house right now.  It looks as though he will be here for the holidays!  The family was evicted from their house because of squalor-like conditions (sewage backup) in the home.  It’s condemned and no one can get in.  Family is split up right now.

It’s very interesting…my hubby and I are usually alone and not used to entertaining a 12 year old.

Hope you have a very special Christmas season.  Take care, Brenda

 P.S.  If you know of anyone who is a foster parent in the Waukegan/Zion area, please let me know”!

Merry Merry Christmas, Weedpatch readers. May your hearts be full of peace and love for all the Henry’s and Brenda’s in the world. xxx’s Rommy ##

Silence All Around

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Uncategorized, Weather | 7 Comments

I was thinking about what I could write about while driving home from the dentist today. I looked into a forest preserve I was passing and thought, “Nothing. I can’t think of anything to write about gardening. It is just so damn gray today”. But inspiration sometimes comes out of being quiet and letting the silence in, you know? So here I was, sitting at my desk, quietly, a little somber, when I looked at a book winking from the shelf, and instinctively knew that Donald Culross Peattie would have something to offer.

For those of you who may not know Mr. Peattie, he was a naturalist and author who was born in Chicago in 1898, went to the University of Chicago, worked for government and newspapers, but spent much of his life in France. He wrote about the inter-connectedness among all living things, about nature’s “head scratchers”, and about wonder, the big picture, the tiny aspect (maybe the little gasp we make when we glimpse a first bloodroot in spring), oddities, and even ugly dis-pleasures. Mr. Peattie also wrote about utopians, botanists, wilderness plantsmen, and the romanticists. Take this sprig of his thoughts, for example: “[Compared to Romanticism]…our aims today are cautious, niggardly, unattached to fundamentals. One science is out of touch with another, and they are all shockingly out of touch with philosophy, art and religion. There IS one-ness about Nature, but scientists are lazy about looking for it. Take the sexuality of plants, for example…”. Ah, Mr. Peattie, you must have been a Scot. Poetic yet scientifically demanding.

Maybe I like Mr. Peattie so much because fabulous black and white woodcuts illustrate his nature books.

Anyway, Mr. Peattie must also have been staring out the window onto a gray December day, for this is what he wrote about today in his book, An Almanac for Moderns [1935]:

“Now everywhere in the woods, silence. There is not a single hum from the fields, of insects tuning up their tiny orchestras. I cannot think what can have become of even the crows; the squirrels today have fled the boughs; there is no scampering of chipmunks; there are no brooks that speak, only a slow dwindling of rivulets, and no pods that click, no sudden whirring of pheasant from under foot. The sky is heavy with unshed snow, and even when it falls, it will make no sound, spinning down in the first great, starry flakes, in silence. Everywhere, only silence…silence”.#

December 2, Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois

December 2, Silence in the Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois