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Archive for February, 2012

freedom to thrive

Beginnings and endings:
“Over the last 50 years, food and zoning laws have worked to minimize subsistence activities in populated areas. Not only have we lost the culture of subsistence, but we’ve instituted legal requirements that make it almost impossible for many people to engage in simple subsistence activities that cut their energy use, reduce their ecological impact, improve their food security and improve their communities. In some cases, these laws were instituted for fairly good reasons, in many cases, for bad ones that associate such activities with poverty…

…We can’t wait until everyone sees a garden full of food as beautiful and lush. Instead, we’ve got to make sure that even those who still think it looks old fashioned and dirty don’t get to control something so basic as our future anymore.”
*Sharon Astyk

Read the rest here: http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2012/02/facing_the_zoning_monster.php?utm_source=editorspicks

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Show up, speak up, grow up and grow it, and do what you gotta do to keep on keepin’ on.

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the fame game


Ok, well only a little brush with media… We’re on the radio! To be sure, there are camera crews coming through The Plant all the time, but I’m a radio kind of girl… we don’t own a TV (actually, we do, but it predates the digital broadcast age and is tucked away under a slipcover… it gets used perhaps every second month as a media player if we’re in the mood for a movie); the radio is almost always on in our house. I like the background noise, and appreciate that I can still be very productive while finding out what’s going on in the world (it’s pledge week, oh no!). The flickering screen of a tv is both mesmerizing and paralyzing; radio is passive, an amiable companion which chatters or sings but does not ply your undivided immobile attention… and as I once said to a friend to explain why I preferred it over tv, “it lets you make your own mind pictures.”

Blake, Tim, and I were guests last Sunday on the Mike Nowak show, a local talk program about gardening and sustainability. Mike has been a long and loyal advocate for the Chicagoland greening community, and we were honored to appear on his show. I was a little nervous beforehand, but really enjoyed the conversation- Mike’s a pro, and I relaxed as soon as we were in the studio. Check out the podcast here:
http://www.mikenowak.net/podcasts/

I agreed to come in for the interview (in spite of my usual stage-fright) after reading Mike’s partner’s blog- this woman is an inspiration- a fantastic writer, feminist role-model, community gardener and neighborhood advocate. Maybe someday I’ll be our block’s “Booklady”- among her many contributions to her neighborhood, she buys kid’s books from thrift stores and gives them out to the children on her block:
http://kathleenthompsonwriter.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/the-bookladys-kids/
Right on!

In other news, the chickens have figured out their waterer, and luckily Goldie is not as big and clumsy as the other three and the waterer in her little coop stays pretty clean. My seed flats are washed and filled with organic soil mix and ready to plant- today I’ll start the early cold-hardy crops- brassicas, parsley and other slow-growing herbs, the alpine strawberry seeds I’ve been cold-stratifying in the fridge, and the first round of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. I’m starting lots, for the Factory Farm, our backyard bed, some to sell at the Green and Growing fair in April (still need to reserve my table!), and any extras will get used at The Plant or given to neighbors. I’m making a big pot of split pea soup with ham shank and green peppers to can, and filing my taxes today… and then working on the house when Alefellow gets home this evening- moving the giant stack of garden implements from the kitchen to the basement, cutting and stacking wood in the shed which we moved across the yard to its proper place near the porch, setting aside enough logs for the oyster and shitake spawn plugs chillin’ in the fridge, finishing the fence around the chicken run… so many projects! I won’t get them all done today but I’ll make a solid effort to do as much as I can.

I made a batch of Biker Bath Salts (an invigorating tired muscle soak with epsom and sea salts, rosemary, lemon balm, oatmeal, orange peel, and essential oils of tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen, lemongrass, lavender, black spruce, and himalayan cederwood) last night for the Bike Swap this Saturday, and am making Biker Body Balm today with beeswax, cocoa butter, organic olive oil, orange and coriander essential oils and other moisturizing skin-nourishing yummies. I’m putting my Vicount on the block in the bike corral, and need to touch up the shellac on the bars, find the “death fork” that we replaced to include with it for completeness (would make a nice lamp base, methinks), and shine up the wheelset- I could use the money more than I need a road bike wall-hanger… I do love that bike (I used to call her my 19 pound girlfriend- light, fun, and fast), but a touring bike would be a much more practical third bike to own for my lifestyle these days, or more realistically, a serviceable leather saddle for my city/trailer bike would make my commute a lot more comfortable… we’ll see what the other bike swappers have to offer- I’m looking forward to this event!
http://chicagobikeswap.org/

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fat tuesday

Happy Mardi Gras y’all! I made two king cakes, one for The Plant, and one for our homebrew club meeting tonight, and big pots of chicken and sausage and vegan gumbos for staff/volunteer lunch today… there’s plenty more gumbo (king cake is only for the quick) so come volunteer Thursday and get a tasty Nawlin’s lunch (that is, if you don’t actually keep Lent. BYOFK, in that case… bring your own fillet knife, and grab yo’self a fish to fry).

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Stolen (err, reposted) from Casabon’s Book. Thanks, Sharon (yeah, we’re on like, a first name basis… not)!

Yes. It’s a nervous tic, actually. Prepare to laugh. Holy crap, indeed.

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Stirrings of spring

Get cozy! These chairs came with our house... Love 'em? Local? Make us an offer... we've got a stuff surplus. Oh yeah, and they swivel!

While the nights still hold enough of a chill to warrant a small cheery fire (and the weatherman wants a bit of snow this Saturday), we’re currently enjoying a stretch of glorious warm and sunny weather… that is, warm for February in Chicago. The air is crisp, the sky cerulean; the swelling buds on the trees cut a striking outline against this clear blue backdrop. Sap is running, bulbs are bravely breaking soil and poking up their green-cloaked nascent flowers. The raspberries and roses got some much needed pruning yesterday, and I spent the better or worse part of an hour picking up trash at The Factory Farm. I was rewarded for my bravery by finding a whole solid dollar among the refuse! I think I’ll deposit it in the karmic bank.


The bees are back! They’ve been buzzing around their hive entrance the past two days, getting some fresh air and sunshine before returning purified to the warmth of the hive. I’ve missed them. I am very much relieved to see that they have thus-far survived the winter, mild though it has been!

I went on a two-hour long tree identification walk at the Conservatory this morning, led by Jim from the Treekeepers program. Picked up some pointers on identifying common Chicago trees by their bark, buds, and branch structure, and enjoyed the fresh air immensely. I learned that native hawthorns only keep their thorns when they are immature, and on lower branches and suckers, as they evolved them to protect against the browsing of deer, but that African hawthorns have thorns the whole way up (giraffes are much taller than deer). I also learned the difference between a tree and a shrub… to a dendrologist (someone who studies woody plants) the difference is purely semantic- there is no real dividing line. To Illinois case-law, however, “a tree can be climbed by a ten year old boy”. Who knew?

Invasive buckthorn... makes a great impenetrable hedgerow (they even stopped tanks in Europe during the second war) but birds spread their seed widely and they crowd out native understory species.


Gnarly! (the buckthorn, though that beard is also rockin'


I'm pretty sure this one was an ash tree... native to floodplains, they do well in our compacted, often poorly drained soil. Unfortunately, they don't do so well with the Emerald Ash Borer.


The bark of this ash shows scraping marks where the arborists have been checking for signs of ash borer activity.

The geese keep the lawn nicely cropped and *ahem* very well fertilized. Landmines everywhere!

Whenever I start to wonder why we live here, I need only to walk or ride a few blocks and step into the Conservatory and all is right again with the world- it’s a lush, humid, tropical oasis I can visit almost anytime for free. Such riches!

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happy heart day

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oil slick


It’s back… just when you thought we could relax about the Keystone Pipeline for a bit, the Senate is working to overturn our president’s veto and push this through. They could vote as early as tomorrow, and looks like some moderate Dem’s might jump the fence on this one- they need phone calls and emails from their constituents to say, “Hell, no!”. One phone call is worth many emails or thousands of clicks on an online petition…

Please call and tell your representative to reject this shortsighted dirty pipeline.

When I was very young, my dad worked for for a while for an oil and gas company selling pipeline right-of-ways, mostly across farmland… it was a “good job”, the best he ever had. He was good at it, being a farm boy that they could relate to, he was often able to gain the trust of folks who wouldn’t have given a company suit the time of day… which bothered him. He quit, leaving behind a good paycheck and health insurance, with a young kid (me) and another on the way, because he didn’t feel right about what he was doing.

I’ve always admired the courage that decision must have taken… we grew up poor, but with principles, and were taught to stand up and do what’s right, to make your own way… Sure, sometimes it was hard, but it made me the strong person I am today. I hope that we can convince our senators and congressmen/women to have the same strength to say no to this, and to dirty oil money.

Come on, now. No to Keystone, now, again, not ever. And yes to campaign finance reform so we can get some policy that’s good for America, not for filling out someone’s reelection coffers. And we wonder why we have such low voter turnout? Most people I talk to who don’t vote, it’s for this very reason- they think that they can’t possibly count. But you know what? We can make that call. Write that letter. Move to Amend, and overturn “Citizen’s United”. Show them that we are paying attention… and that this matters… to borrow a phase from the tea baggers, “We want our country back.”


If you do nothing else, sign a petition. Sign twelve. Help restack this deck… and give the earth a Valentine tomorrow, not a massacre. Thanks.
http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/kxl_24hours/?r_by=34968-197435-3t_Rx_x&rc=confemail

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