August 30, 2009
Scott Jamieson is one of the good guys in the green industry. He is now Vice President of Corporate Partnerships and National Recruiting for Barlett Tree Experts, a company that has been around for a hundred years and has locations throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. However, I met him when he was CEO for The Care of Trees, which you may have heard of if you've ever listened to my show. Impressively, he is also on the boards of Openlands and the National Safety Council and is co-chair of the Chicago Trees Initiative. I'm proud to say that the organization I co-founded, the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association, presented Scott with a Polaris Leadership Award in 2008 for his commitment to sustainable practices.
As you can imagine, he knows something about safety in the yard, which is why he's here today. Many people think that they can do their own tree trimming and I suspect that few people understand just how dangerous that can be. Jamieson outlines some potential problems in this article in Family Safety & Health Magazine, which is published by the National Safety Council. Those dangers include being cut by pruners and saws, and being hurt by falling limbs and trunks. Which is why I always tell folks to contact a certified arborist from a reputable tree company, like Bartlett or The Care of Trees.
Another good guy is Benjamin Cox, Executive Director of Friends of the Forest Preserves. You might recall that in early June he was on the show to talk about Miller Meadow, which has become a kind of dumping ground. Well, I'm happy to say that not all the news about the Cook County Forest Preserves is bad. A couple of weeks ago Cox wrote to say that an "air pollution" ordinance in the Chicago City Council that would have put a stop to restoration work in Chicago's parks and forest preserves had been put on hold. In his own words:
"... Aldermen Tunney, Schulter and Shiller moved to have it sent back to committee for review. The ordinance would have banned prescribed burns within 200 yards of a residence and all brushpile burns.
Without question, phone calls from Friends members and other concerned citizens, along with support from several Forest Preserve Commissioners made all the difference. Many thanks to everyone who reached out to their elected officials in support of restoration.
Thank you to Commissioners Silvestri, Suffredin, Gainer, and Claypool, Congressman Quigley, and Aldermen Preckwinkle, Maldonado, and others for working hard to help ensure that city parks and preserves will continue to get the management they need to be healthy."
The "anti-burning" battle has been raging for over a decade. Perhaps at some point the FOTFP and other like minded organizations will be able to show how valuable the time-honored practice of burning open spaces can be. Keep your fingers crossed.
Last week I talked to Bob Erlich, an Evergreen Park resident who is harvesting Monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars, raising them in his garage and then setting them free. He is a member of Monarch Watch, which is part of the Kansas Biological Survey of the University of Kansas. He sent me some Monarch photos from his property, which we posted on the home page. This week he forwards the Monarch Watch Facebook page, which has some spectacular photos taken last year in Mexico, where Monarchs go to overwinter. Take a look. You won't be disappointed. In addition, check out this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sent to me by listener Elsie Sullivan
August 23, 2009
Welcome to The "New" Mike Nowak Show! Well, new time, anyway. I hope that you'll be able to join me every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. for all things green--gardening, the environment, your home, your life. As Mr. Chicago Progressive Talk Announcer Guy says, I'm trying to change the world, one kilohertz at a time.
Local food is coming (back) to Illinois! That is to say, the first important step was taken this week when Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 3990, which creates the Illinois Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Council which will work with state agencies, Illinois businesses, organizations and Illinoisans to build an active local farm and food market. You might recall that my special broadcast in May, Rooted In Austin, covered this issue. In fact, one of the panelists on that show, State Representative Julie Hamos, was a co-sponsor of the bill. I've talked about how more than 96% of our table food is imported from other states or countries. That's simply not sustainable, and it's a food security issue. Actually, it's just plain crazy, given the fertility of Illinois land.
Jim Braun is another person who has been working hard to see that the food we eat in Illinois is actually grown here. For the past couple of years, he has been a member of the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Task Force, whose job it was to determine the potential for Illinois to grow and distribute food within Illinois and in neighboring states. He says that the goal now is to get state agencies to purchase 20 percent of their food locally by 2020. State-funded institutions such as schools would have a goal of 10 percent by 2020.
While this is the beginning of a long journey, my kudos to the task force, Governor Quinn, Rep. Hamos, co-sponsor State Senator Jacqueline Collins, and all the members of the General Assembly who voted for this important piece of legislation. Let's get to work.
Speaking of food, what are you doing on Wednesday at 11:00am? You might want to head over to Daley Plaza for the It's Time for Lunch! Eat-In sponsored by Slow Food Chicago. I will be emceeing this event, which is being held to call attention to the nationwide lack of healthy food in our schools. The Child Nutrition Act sets the standard for the food that is consumed by 30 million children every school day, and it comes up for reauthorization in September. You can go to the Slow Food USA website to find out why it is so important that we put REAL food in our schools.
Among the people who will be speaking are the aforementioned Jim Braun and Rep. Julie Hamos, as well as Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA and Cleo Record from Growing Power. Bring a lunch or pick up a Slow Lunch from one of the participating providers and show your support for giving our kids a fighting chance to eat healthy at school. By the way, the full line up for the event is at Slow Food Chicago.
"Where are all the butterflies this year?" is a question that many people have asked me. I think the answer is "in Bob Erlich's garage." The Evergreen Park man started raising Monarchs last year by finding and checking milkweed plants in his area for both eggs and baby caterpillars. Last year he released 150 from his garage and this year he thinks the number will be around 500. He's also part of Monarch Watch, which is part of the Kansas Biological Survey of the University of Kansas. Unfortunately, the future of Monarch Watch seems to be in doubt. I hope that it can continue, and continue to inspire people like Bob Erlich to do their part for the survival of this touchstone species.
Mike Bryson IS the "Science Dude." Okay, I know that he'd rather go by "Science Guy," but if I'm not mistaken, that name is already taken. Anyway, Mike and I go way back, to softball days at Clarendon Park on the city's north side...but I digress.
These days he's teaching a very cool course at Roosevelt University called The Sustainable City. One of the field trips the class took last spring was a canoe ride down a tributary of the Chicago River called Bubbly Creek. Check out the photos of the creek and the brave, brave students. It turns out that Mike is in the vanguard of a new trend in higher education--teaching sustainability. In fact, Mike says that he and his colleagues are designing a sustainability studies curriculum for Roosevelt this fall. See? Some of the smartest people I know play softball.
August 16, 2009
The New "Self Help Sunday" lineup starts next week!! And I can hardly wait. Starting next Sunday, The Mike Nowak Show moves to 8:00 a.m. on Chicago's Progressive Talk. Here's the new lineup:
7:00 am - "Our Town" with Mike Sanders and Julia Shu
8:00 am - "The Mike Nowak Show" with a guy named Mike Nowak
10:00 am - "Mighty House" with Ron Cowgill and Joe Builder
I certainly hope you'll join me at the new time.
As for today, my buddy Ken Benson is co-hosting. Ken has been a horticultural mainstay at Triton College for years and, over the years, has done it all. In fact, he just got recruited by one of my sponsors, Eco-Lawn, to grow some of their turf for the Eco-Lawn booth display at the Independent Garden Center Show at Navy Pier this week. We'll talk to the irrepressible Miriam Goldberger from Wildflower Farm, the creator of Eco-Lawn, to see how that lawn experiment worked out.
Have you had problems with critters this year? It's hard for me to be an expert on that question because I live in the city. Of course, I do have critters in my yard, but they're more along the line of squirrels and rats and gang bangers. Different kind of problem, you know. But Greg Ecsedy knows something about keeping garden-destroying animals away from your plants. That's because he's the brains behind Bobbex company, which he started twenty years ago and which you hear advertised on the show. Ken says he's been having critter problems out at Triton this year, so we'll get Greg's advice about giving Ken some relief.
When I head off to the theatre at about 1:30 p.m. (and with my new 8:00 a.m. show time I'll never again have to bail from the radio show to get to a matinee), Ken says he will be talking about vegetable gardening. As long as we're on the subject, you should know that the east coast has been having problems with a disease called late blight, which has been attacking tomato and potato plants. And now it seems to be spreading our way (here and here). If you're growing tomatoes in your back yard, that's one thing. If you're an organic farmer, and you rely on tomatoes for your summer profits, that's another. And because organic farmers have fewer remedies in their arsenals, they are more vulnerable to the spread of the disease.
Late blight has been identified in plants bought at Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe's and K-Mart, so if you bought your plants in one of those places, you might keep an eye on them. And if you see signs of the disease (pale green lesions that eventually turn brown to black and appear somewhat greasy) don't fool around. Cut off the plant at the roots, put it in a plastic bag and leave it in the sun to kill the disease, then throw it away. DO NOT put it in the compost pile.
August 9, 2009
The Mike Nowak Show is moving!! No, not to another radio station. Just to another time--8:00 a.m. starting August 23. I'm still going to be on Sundays. I'm just going to have to get up a little earlier. But it's well worth it, because I'm going to be part of a great WCPT lineup that will help you get your Sundays rolling. Here's what the new schedule will look like:
7:00 am - "Our Town" with Mike Sanders and Julia Shu
8:00 am - "The Mike Nowak Show" with Whatshisname
10:00 am - "Mighty House" with Ron Cowgill and Joe Builder
So there's no reason to go anywhere else on Sunday mornings. Set your clock radio to Chicago's Progressive Talk and keep it there all morning long. I'm looking forward to waking up with you.
Now onto today's show. Beth Botts is back. In addition to co-hosting the show again (so I can head off to perform in "Waiting for Godot" at Redtwist Theatre on the north side), she continues her substantial reporting on the topic of reusing and recycling horticultural plastic. Beth wrote a terrific piece earlier this week for her blog Growing in Chicago, which includes a partial list of garden centers where you can return plastic containers.
One company that is working hard to address this problem is Luurtsema Sales , a big grower based in Jension, Michigan. If you're wondering what their Chicago connection is, Luurtsema supplies plants to the tent-stores that you see in Jewel supermarket parking lots in the spring. Not only that, but spokesperson Rob Arnold says that they will also recycling your plastic pots at those same locations. There is much more about this in Beth's blog post and I urge you to read it.
Do you think that the Chicago River should be clean? I know, I know, it sounds like a dumb question, but when it comes to disinfecting Chicago's second most important body of water, there is a controversy. Margaret Frisbie, Executive Director of Friends of the Chicago River, thinks that wastewater treatment plant effluent should be disinfected. Why? Well, it is recommended by the Illinois EPA, for one thing, after a five year study.
That's why on Thursday, August 13 and Friday, August 14, the Illinois Pollution Control Board is holding hearings on this matter...as it has been doing for months. In fact, this particular issue is about to set a longevity record in Illinois. Now who, you might ask, would be against disinfecting our Chicago Area Waterways, or CAWS? (CAWS consists of the Chicago River, its North Branch and South Branch, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel, the Calumet river system, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Lake Calumet and the tributaries in an area extending from the metropolitan Chicago area to the Lockport vicinity.)
Well, it seems that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago might not be interested in treating that water, despite the fact that it's stated mission is to protect the quality of our water systems. No, really. Among their arguments against disinfection:
- The Chicago River is not a natural river.
- No one gets wet so therefore there is no pubic health risk
- Despite bacterial sewage in the water, the river is clean enough for paddle craft so no public health risk
- Disinfection costs too much
- Disinfection will cause climate change
- Even though MWRD captures 85% of the combined sewer overflows through TARP (deep tunnel) which they spent over $3 billion building so far, the river is still too polluted from sewage to make it worthwhile to disinfect
- Not enough people use the river so therefore disinfection is not worth the investment
Ann Alexander might know something about this. She is a senior attorney in Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest office. Prior to joining NRDC, she served as an environmental attorney for the Attorney General of Illinois. She thinks that, legally, the Clean Water Act requires the river to be disinfected.
It will be an interesting conversation on the show today.
And while we're talking, I hope you're CarrotMobbing (is that a verb?) Carrotmob Chicago is working hard to get as many people as possible to shop at Fox & Obel gourmet market at 401 E. Illinois today between noon and 6:00 p.m. They're doing a "buycott" (which is a word that I coined, thank you very much). It's pretty much the opposite of a boycott. So why are they doing this? Because Fox & Obel has pledged to use 50% of the money they make that day to help green up their store. Works for me.
Just show up if you can to help the cause. Not only will you be helping Fox & Obel, you can turn around and immediately donate your food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Or you can go home and eat it. Or a little bit of both.
August 2, 2009
My favorite meterorologist, Rick DiMaio, is co-hosting today and it's not just because he's a show regular (though that helps). He's also one of the guest lecturers for a course called Science, The Environment & Politics of Sustainability, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Course instructor Michele Hoffman-Trotter is in studio, too, along with Guest Speaker Juli Campagna of the John Marshall Law School. If they tell me to get out my blue book I think I'm going to have a heart attack.
This course is particularly timely as Congress wrestles with the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which recently passed the House by a single vote and now lurches toward the Sebate. How does one think critically about the issues involved in changing our country's energy policies? As its title suggests, the class examines the ethical and legal debates about topics such as Biodiversity, habitat destruction, water issues and more.
I have the feeling that I'm going to be peddling pretty rapidly just to keep up.
If you're a vegetarian--and even if you're not--you might want to make a trip to Naperville next Saturday and Sunday, August 8 & 9, for Veggie Fest 2009. Jonathan Kruger says there's just about everything you want in a festival: 100 food vendors, restaurants & exhibitors, cooking demos with free samples, health talks by medical professionals, children's programs with crafts, games & activities, and plenty of live music. As far as I can tell, about the only thing that won't be there is meat.
Oh, did I mention that all of this is FREE? It takes place on the grounds of the Science of Spirituality Center. Have a veggie burger for me.
And speaking of veggies...there's a rumor that a huge carrot--and I mean about ten feet tall--has invaded Chicago. Okay, it's all about something that I discussed a couple of weeks ago: the "buycott" (copyright 2009 by Mike Nowak, all rights reserved) of the Fox & Obel gourmet market at 401 E. Illinois, at McClurg - Near Navy Pier in the Streeterville neighborhood.
Carrotmob Chicago is behind not only the buycott but the giant carrot. They're trying to show that the power of the purse can work for good. Next Sunday, August 9, from noon to 6 p.m. they're asking you to stop by the market and buy something--anything. Why? Because Fox & Obel has pledged to use 50% of the money they make that day to help green up their store.
And that's the whole Carrotmob concept: make businesses compete to see who can be the greenest and then reward them for it by mobbing their stores. Get involved. Log onto their Facebook page, Twitter your friends or even call them using ancient technology like a cell phone...and then show up next week and use your green to create green. It's a good concept.
July 26, 2009
Beth Botts is my co-pilot today...and also on August 9. That's because I'm doing some theatre in the next five weeks and I'm going to be ducking out a little early while Beth--and whoever else wants to take this kind of abuse--wraps up the last half hour of the show. By the way, the play is "Waiting for Godot," which I hope more than two of you have heard of, and it's at Redtwist Theatre on Bryn Mawr at Kenmore on the north side of town.
And, of course, you know Beth, former garden writer for the Chicago Tribune, who is now a senior editor for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and writes her own blog about gardening. Let me put it another way: she's overqualified for the position of radio host, but is graciously helping me out anyway.
Marcus de la fleur is another person who knows his stuff. He is a landscape architect who considers himself an "environmentalist...in the bio-political sense" and he's seeking ways to make sustainability practical. His first effort was the 168 Elm Ave. Pilot Project in Elmhurst, which includes features like a green roof, rain barrels, porous pavement, rain gardens, gravel grass, a cistern and a bioswale. You might want to spend at least a few minutes on the website to see what de la fleur accomplished and how you might incorporate some of those practices on your own property.
Now he and his wife Cathy are bringing this green thinking into the city with their new pilot project at 3141 W. 15th Street. It's a kind of "This Old House" with a decidely environmental approach. You can follow Marcus and Cathy's progress on their blogsite: "Reshaping Our Footprint." Their goal is no less than to "help dissipate the lingering ignorance about green options, technologies and lifestyle choices." Works for me.
Speaking of rain barrels and such, during a trip to Detroit recently to visit mom, I discovered that an old friend of mine from college days has found his way into the green industry. John Muresan is known as Mr. Rain Barrel in the Detroit area. His motto: ďA Rainy Day is a Good Day." All I know is that he's had a lot of good days this year.
July 19, 2009
Do you know what a “buycott” is? If you don’t, it’s because I just coined the phrase (I think I'm going to break my arm patting myself on the back) for a group called Carrotmob Chicago. They’re holding a “buycott” of a Chicago store called Fox & Obel on Sunday, August 9 from noon to 6:00 p.m, as a reward for environmental responsibility.
Carrotmob is a concept started on the west coast, which, as the name implies, uses the “carrot” rather than the “stick” approach to help businesses that make socially responsible decisions. When Carrotmob finds a business that is willing to pump some of its profits into sustainable efforts, they rally the troops for a “buycott.” That is to say, you call your neighbors, your friends, your car mechanic and buy as much as you can from that business in a few hours. So instead of punishing bad businesses, you reward the good ones.
If you’re still not clear on the concept, check out this video from the Carrotmob website.
Here in the Windy City, Laura Flanigan (interestingly known as “Carrot top” for her red hair) says that Carrotmob Chicago wants to prove that Midwesterners can make this concept work, too. Here’s their Facebook page.
Fox & Obel Is a gourmet market, cafe and caterer at 401 E. Illinois, at McClurg - Near Navy Pier in the Streeterville neighborhood. So you can pick up some culinary delights and you can help a good cause at the same time. Your purchases can be donated on the spot to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It’s a win, win, win, win, win and win situation, as far as I can tell.
I’ll be covering the event LIVE on my show that day, so tune in.
They’re baaaaaaack! Unfortunately, I’m talking about bedbugs. Yup, these nasty little critters have begun to be a problem again the U.S. That’s why Safer Pest Control Project Executive Director Rachel Rosenberg says that they have organized the seminar “Beating Back Bed Bugs: Everything You Need To Know To Protect Your Property” at Loyola University from 9:30 a.m. to Noon, Wednesday, July 29.
One of the sponsors of that seminar is a friend of The Mike Nowak Show, Rick Moskovitz of A-Plus Pest Control, Inc. Rick is on the program today not only to talk about the bed bug problem, but to announce a new line of insect repellents that he has developed.
You’re going to like these because the active ingredient is non-toxic cedar oil. Not only does A-Plus have a mosquito and tick repellent for our species, but they’ve produced a flea, tick and mange control for your dog or cat, and a fly, mosquito and tick control for horses. I don’t own a horse, a cat or a dog, but I’ve already tried their cedar oil products and I predict that they are going to protect a lot people and pets from a lot of insects.
July 12, 2009
Stay tuned for...Garden Wars!! Okay, maybe I'm trying too hard to jazz things up a little bit. This is the time of the year when gardeners like to strut their stuff and the way they do it is in the many garden walks throughout the city and suburbs. I'm featuring two of them on the show today, though it's not as if they duke it out in the compost pile.
Former Chicago Gardener of the Year and current President of the Sheffield Neighborhood Association Laury Lewis is in the fabulous showcase studio on South Pulaski Road, representing one of the city's most colorful events, the 41st Annual Sheffield Garden Walk, Saturday and Sunday, July 18 and 19. This is what I call a garden walk on steroids. Sure there self-guided tours of more than 90 gardens at what they call the "Summer's Best Festival" (I'll bet Taste of Chicago would like to have a talk with their PR folks about that) but there's also music, dancing, food, drink, kids activites and more.
As far as my producer Heather Frey is concerned (and I'm discovering that, more and more, it's all about her), she's getting a back stage pass for Rusted Root on Saturday night. Also performing: Cowboy Mouth, Poi Dog Pondering and more.
FYI, proceeds from this volunteer-managed festival provide continued support for neighborhood schools, local institutions, and community projects.
Meanwhile, in a galaxy, er, neighborhood not far away, (I can't seem to break free of the metaphor) there's another venerable Chicago garden walk that takes place on Sunday, July 19. This is the 51st Dearborn Garden Walk, Presented by the North Dearborn Association, says Greg Hodapp, Co-Chair of the Dearborn Garden Walk.
I love the contrast between these two distinctively different events. Where the Sheffield Garden Walk goes for rock and roll, the Dearborn Garden walk has opted to create a “Literary Garden Tour” as part of its program. Peg Callard Chairman, Garden Vignette Committee, says that garden representations of stories like “Return to Never Land” (no, nothing to do with Michael Jackson), “The Emperor and the Nightingale,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Tales of Alhambra,” will highlight the horticultural tour.
According to Carol Truesdell of the North Dearborn Association, the hour-long architectural tour of historic Dearborn Parkway is back, due to popular demand, with three start times: 1:30pm, 3:30pm, and 5:00pm. The tour includes both pre and post-Chicago fire structures, sites that have been used in movies, homes formerly occupied by famous celebrities including a U.S. President. Well, there goes the neighborhood!