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Memorial Day!

It’s a picture perfect, sunny, cloudless Memorial Day, but the weekend started with a huge lightning storm that held all the classic signs of tornado.

The drama of Midwest topography and weather can create powerful visual displays, made all the more dramatic when contrasted with the detail of the flowers on display in the morning after the rainstorm.

Welcome to summer, oh Weedpatch readers…Should be the best ever.#

Hosta and Heifers: We Salute Margaret Eyre…”our” ambassador of world peace.

Can you imagine being thanked by an international organization for helping to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth? margareteyre That is the story of Margaret Eyre, who died recently at age 97. John and I had the remarkable luck of knowing Margaret for twenty years, meeting her not long after she became active in her son, Rich Eyre’s, business, Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, in Woodstock, Illinois.  Her specialty was hostas and she propagated the plants and sold them for Heifer International. She raised at least $500,000 for world hunger, allowing Heifer to buy farm animals for people around the world with the agreement that those farmers would give what they received and pass on the gift to others in their community.  Some of those funds were donated to Heifer International Foundation, where the funds remain in perpetuity and the interest is given to projects in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bolivia. Margaret was known as the ‘Hosta Queen’.  Margaret was thrilled when Tom Micheletti, former president of the American Hosta Society, hybridized a hosta and named it ‘Margaret Eyre’.  She worked every day at the nursery until she was 93 years old. On December 21, 2015 with admiration and recognition, Mano a Mano International presented Margaret with a plaque for a 4-classroom school in Sora Sora, Bolivia, dedicated in her honor for her years of work on behalf of the people of Bolivia. This school will be completed by April 2016. 

Thank you, Margaret, and thank you to all who bought Margaret’s hostas and, in so doing, contributed to BEAUTY AND PEACE ON EARTH. Margaret was a rare and wondrous bird. She will truly be greatly missed.#   

Brussels Sprouted…into a topiary!

Thanks to Chicago Botanic Garden veggie garden manager Lisa Hilgenberg for sending us a photo of her Brussels Sprouts topiary, which she says was inspired by chefs at The White House. (Recently Lisa was a special guest for a tour of the First Lady’s organic garden and the White House kitchen(s)(s)(s). How cool is that?)…

Brussel Sprout topiary

It’s a lovely thing, this topiary, and it makes me happy to look at a thing of beauty because I was just watching TV news. Another gun massacre. Which means another call to Mark Kirk, who I called this morning to say that Mitch McConnell cancelling health money for the 9/11 first responders is shameful. And I spent all day finding new health insurance (which I didn’t finish yet because I can’t figure it out) because my $900/month Gold Blue Cross policy is now useless at all Northwestern hospitals and “out of network” at Rush (check your policy if you go to Rush). Grumpy? YES, I AM, aren’t you? Makes me want to throw a Brussels Sprout at a Republican.##

Brussel Sprouts or Brussels Sprouts?

When I was 21, my Aunt Rita and my Mom (Aunt Susie to my cousins) gave me a backyard picnic party. I was thrilled to see the long-stemmed rose box, tied with a big red ribbon, since no boy had yet seen fit to present long-stemmed roses to me. So imagine my giddiness, then shock, then dismay when I opened the box to find a long-stemmed Brussel (Brussels?) Sprout plant. HaHa. Not funny.

Fast forward forty years and here I am, picking Brussel (Brussels?) Sprouts from our garden in time to roast them for Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts 11-15-2015 1-13-10 PM 4000x3000

If you want the history, I recommend an interesting website: foodtimeline.org. Here you will find the dates of cultivation of Brussels Sprouts (yes, the Romans carted them north, but the Persians and Afghans had them first, then across the pond to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello by 1812) right next to important dates in the history of…my favorite vegetable…brownies.

What I now know from reading Sprout History is that those that write “Brussel” instead of “Brussels” don’t know nuthin’ bout Sprout Geography. Then again, the Crusaders are once again to blame. They stole and renamed the sprout. We are really eating, “Babylon Balls” or some such.

I made some Brussel(s) Sprouts for Thanksgiving (not a big seller) and so there are more in the refrigerator. Here’s two “slaw” recipes in case you are in the same bucket.

Shaved Brussels Sprout Christmas Salad

Brussels Sprout & Cranberry Salad

Cold and gray today. Almost December… ##

So Beautiful, So Scary, It’s the Future

Fall is in its glory, with beautiful weather days, clouds, pumpkins and leaf colors surrounding us here in Chicago.

Revel in this loveliness, dear readers, because Climate Change is with us everywhere always. Last Saturday, I attended a seminar at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The subject? A scientific study of which trees we should be planting because they are well suited to….future heat levels in the Chicago region. Here’s some winners: American Hornbeam [Carpinus caroliniana] ‘Firespire’, Kentucky Coffeetree [Gymnocladus dioicus] ‘Top Hat’, Miyabe Maple [Acer miyabei] ‘State Street’. Here’s a loser: White oak. My heart weeps to think this tree may be gone from Chicago by 2050. As I write, the biggest hurricane EVER is looming down on wonderful Manzanillo, Mexico, which we once had the pleasure of visiting, bringing with it 12″ of rain across the American Gulf Coast. 2015 is the hottest year on record. The oceans are already three degrees warmer than the 20th century average (and it takes a lot of heat to heat up an entire ocean), and drought will mean MILLIONS will be starving in Africa. India and Pakistan hit 118 degrees last spring, leaving no water supply. Thousands of people died. Did we even KNOW THAT? (Pet peeve: TV weather reports never show international maps, as if no one lives in foreign countries. Even Canada doesn’t show up on the TV news.) But 25 “red” states are suing the Federal government for trying to reduce emissions via regulations to be published by the EPA today. It’s a disingenuous ploy to seem like they are saving coal mining jobs since most states** are preparing plans to do the right thing, climate wise, and meet the regulations thru their own cap-and-trade programs. (**Hard-core Governors that are suing the Feds without creating their own air quality plans are Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma.) I’m grateful to live in Chicago, which seems fairly insulated from the big environmental disasters. But the “hot” news from elsewhere makes me want to either pull the blankets over my head and hide OR do something pro-active. I live in a big house (actually, two houses), own three cars (none battery powered), and own numerous gas-driven tractors, lawnmowers, chain saws and leaf blowers. Which means that I’m more responsible in thought (admission: I think electricity is the best invention ever) and deed for bleaching the coral animals than the average guy, although not anywhere as bad as the Koch brothers, the Tennessee Valley Authority (yes, the Federal government’s own power plants), or Exxon Mobil. Their coal companies power my house and their refineries power my vehicles. Moi? Mea culpa. Here’s a great Forbes article that explains the big polluters and the trade-offs we make. No matter how many (heat tolerant) trees I plant, it’s time for me to say “no” to gasoline and coal. Maybe one less person will starve or one more coral will live because I didn’t blow the leaves away quite so fast or (gasp) raked and composted the leaves. Less air conditioning and “cleaner” cars. Ya think?## Sounds like I’m singing the blues today.  

Look but Don’t Touch

I know, I know, dear readers, that I have been absent from writing since April. And even today I am only given you un petit soupcon of a post. Here’s our lovely vegetable garden showing off broccoli and lettuce, but alas, there’s been too much humidity and rain to actually garden in it. But tonight, tonight, we will be consuming some of that lettuce–planted back in April when I should have been writing to you. All my best. It’s a rain forest out there… Rommy  

Richmond-Veggie-Garden