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It All Adds Up…or…Plants of the World, Unite!

I think one of the best things about life on earth is the NY Times. I’ve been reading it daily–and fairly closely–every day since I was a teenager.

There is so much information in every issue that it can make my brains hurt. And since there is not enough room in my cranium (please no remarks) to store all this written material, I am compelled to share the paper’s good and fascinating information with…you. From time to time, that is. I won’t pester you with doomsday too often, promise.

Here’s some recent good stuff that relates to gardening, which relates to conservation, and animals, and minerals and health and capitalism and government and, well, to my life. And to your’s.

For example, an example of animal conservation. You will recall, no doubt, that our 19th and early 20th century cowboy ancestors thought the Prairie Chicken so delicious that they shot dead one million birds from the tallgrass prairies that lined the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana and Texas. They probably killed ’em all in just one day. Or maybe two. Anyway, it’s 2015 and now a TOTAL (!) of 104 birds struggle to survive at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Eagle Lake Texas. Despite the best efforts of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the chicks that they had carefully and fairly recently hatched were dying.

Why? Because, the NYTimes tell us, an invasive species–red fire ants–“were decimating the insect population of the prairie. While adults eat plants and insects, the chicks dine primarily on insects, [so] the chicks were starving to death”. The good news is that “exterminating the fire ants and adding more plants that attract insects in the refuge has helped.” Last year, 60% of the chicks survived. Sadly, though, “a storm dumped more than 10 inches of rain on the refuge and the new chicks drowned or died of exposure”. Can you spell, “climate change”?

Next, the NYTimes leads us to the war between organic companies and the Monsanto regarding GMO labeling on the food we eat. The Federal government requires any product labeled “organic” to be free of ingredients produced from GMO seeds. On the flip side of that coin, Monsanto hires many professors to testify against the labeling horror in states that might want to follow the Federal  effort with their own labeling legislation. [Since consumers now doubt the profe$$or$, Monsanto’s advertising is soon going to feature more believable “mommy farmers”, but I digress.] But since the “organic movement” doesn’t feed the world or make billions in profits, the Agriculture Department in 2014 “approved GMO soybeans and cottonseed designed by Monsanto and treated with Dow-produced herbicide”.

Let’s keep going here. While the Feds or states don’t make most food companies disclose what’s actually in our food, the Federal government will now allow companies to say “made without ractopamine”, a chemical given pigs and chickens and some beef so that the animals can gain muscle weight while using fewer calories. Did you ever know about this practice before today? (I didn’t.) You want to know just how bad this stuff is? The Chinese won’t let us bring pigs or chickens into China because they don’t trust it. The Chinese! Now that explains why the big boys, like Tyson, are all of a sudden eager to have the Feds create a “made without ractopamine” label…they want to sell their animals to China (and to the EU and Russia and all the others that ban ractopamine.) So it was really not the organic crowd that got this label labelled…it was the mega-ag fellas.

Stay with me here. Can any of my readers imagine CROPS (ie plants) that don’t die after being (accidentally) sprayed by RoundUp? Well, okay, it’s old news that we eat soybeans and corn which are genetically engineered to withstand RoundUp. The new news is that the Ag Dept has approved corn and soybeans that can withstand spraying with 2-4 D. 2-4 D? OMG, do you remember Agent Orange?! Here’s the grim facts and “government speak” of this craziness:

“The Agriculture Department, in its environmental analysis, predicted that approval of the crops would lead to a 200 percent to 600 percent increase in the use of 2,4-D nationally by 2020. But it said analysis of the effects of that increased use was the responsibility of the E.P.A. The Agriculture Department said ITS [emphasis mine] approval depended mainly on whether the crops would harm other plants.” 

EPA is whether humans are poisoned. Ag is whether plants are poisoned. This is why people hate government.

Now, just in case you worry about human trafficking or slavery or child soldiers, as the State Department does, the NYTimes tells us there is a 356-page disclosure rule via Dodd-Frank that requires our companies to disclose “conflict minerals” in their products (like frozen shrimp from Thailand sold by Costco or tin that gives Party City’s balloons their sheen).

So, here’s an idea. If we can require such an onerous disclosure rule that probably has little real impact on slavery (compared with, say, paying decent wages), can’t we know that the food we eat was made with seeds resistant to the chemicals that kill the insects that kill the Prairie Chickens or the milkweed that feeds Monarch butterflies or the herbicide that killed people that lived or soldiered in Vietnam? Just sayin’.

Gardening these days requires a lot of thought.##

PS Here’s some good news: McDonalds, which uses 2 billion eggs annually, wants to let their hens be cage-free. This will take ten years to accomplish, but hey. Free the hens! Free the hens!

chickens

 

 

 

UP in the Garden, UP in the Prairie, UP in the Lake

It’s the end of March and the weather has been down (a horrible cold blustery day last Sunday, March 29) and UP (today is 60 and sunny). I heard a radio report  that ships won’t be able to get to Burns Harbor, IN for another two weeks because the Lakes are still too frozen. But out in the the gardens, it’s fun to notice hints of color popping UP thru the soil. And yesterday was, “Drop Everything Day! It’s perfect for the prairie!” so off we went to the farm to be pyromaniacs. Fire it UP! And then on the way home, two geese in Redwing Slough in Antioch gave me a great big chuckle…Bottoms UP!

color in the garden 
P1140754
witch hazel

snowdrops

prairie burn

prairie burn 2

prairie burn 3

pond
HAPPY EASTER TO ALL WHO LOVE PLANTS AND ANIMALS.##                

Reading Up on Land Use Political History

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!#

Here’s a great deal!

Weedpatch Subscribers: I hope we have 100% participation in this lovely offer from Kay MacNeil to receive Milkweed seeds. Just send her $2 and a SASE. (I just did. And I will find a great spot along a roadway or park to toss the seed. This is my ‘suburban guerrilla’ planting for pollinators campaign.) But I digress. Here’ s Kay’s offer:

“Hi, Rommy. I am the chairman of the Garden Clubs of Illinois President’s Project, Milkweed For Monarchs.  This is an effort to educate gardeners and others to spread more Milkweed around their yards and community. The idea is that next fall we will harvest and clean milkweed seed  and give it to IDOT and hopefully also the Tollroad.  I also send 3 kinds of milkweed seed to anyone who can’t find another source if they send me a stamped self addressed business envelope with $2. If you go to Milkweed for Monarchs for information, you will also find my new  How To Become A Caterpillar Mother” information”.

Kay’s address is: Kay MacNeil – Milkweed for Monarchs, 689 Golf Club Lane, Frankfort, Il 60423.

Thanks for helping the Monarch Butterflies! And don’t forget to plant dill or fennel or parsley for the Swallowtails.#

Re-Blogging the Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide

Benjamin Vogt, a Nebraska landscape designer, has a blog that I recently added to Favorite Places: The Deep Middle. His post on March 17 was a Resource Guide to information about pollinators and native plants.


The Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide
I’m [Benjamin Vogt] celebrating 2 years of Milk the Weed with the nerdiest, awesome-ist list of links on butterfly and pollinator gardening I can come up with. It’s certainly not a complete list, but I hope it’s helpful to you as both a practical and philosophical guide. Prairie up!

(from The Deep Middle, B. Vogt)


Here are a few links from the article to get you started:

Basic Steps for Propagating Milkweed

Milkweed & Monarch Concerns

How Monarchs Use Milkweed

Create a Habitat for Monarchs

Butterfly Gardens 101

Pollinator Partnerships

Benjamin’s article contains a wealth (pages!) of resource links.  Visit his site to see them all. Note that his statement sentences do not look like links, but if you hover over the text, it will highlight to show the link. I have also posted a link to his article on the “Cool Links” page, so you can have that resource at your fingertips. Prairie Up!#

A New Way to Look at the World

Sometimes those forwarded emails are just too good to pass up and need to be shared. When I received a forwarded email about World Maps, I tracked down what might be the original source, at a blog called “The Story Reading Ape”. The Ape shares some unusual ways to look at the world:

map-1billion

map-australia

map-insidecircle

 You will find a link to this blog post on my Cool Links page.  Curious about where in the world they drive on the left hand side?  How about how many countries have McDonalds?  See the original blog post: