5 Tips for Planning Your Spring Garden

What are you planting in your garden this year? Whether you are growing herbs, flowers, vegetables or fruit, here are five tips to help you with your green thumb this spring.

cropped flower

sproutrobot

  1. Timing is everything. Plug your zip code into Sprout Robot to make sure you are planting the right thing at the right time. This easy to use website gives you step-by-step instructions with illustrations to help you get started.
  2. Use native plants and flowers when you can. Attend our free Midwestern Native Garden workshop in partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserves to find out how you can makeover your garden with native plants on Thursday, April 18 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Welcome Center at Ryerson Woods.
  3. Be creative! You can recycle almost anything to use as a planter. Subscribe to our Pinterest gardening page to get inspired by tips and ideas. Garden Pins1
  4. Protect your plants and trees. Mulching helps to maintain soil moisture, control weeds and improve soil fertility. Take a look at many organic options available at The Mulch Center in Deerfield, a Friends of Ryerson Woods sponsor.
  5.  Enjoy the outdoors with children. Nurture your garden and pass along your knowledge to a young person to help them appreciate nature. Show them how to collect vegetables from the garden or watch flowers grow. Use the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights from Chicago Wilderness’ Leave No Child Inside initiative as a guide.

Adriana McClintock
Director of Development and Communications

WHAT TO READ by Marion Cartwright

As we are about to launch our 2012 programming wrapped around the theme Lessons from the Prairie, we’ve decided to offer a new aspect to our blog.  Several times a year, we will invite individuals from the conservation community to share their list of recommended reads with our readers.  Here read about the books that have influenced our good friend Marion Cartwright.  With vast experience in organic gardening, ecological restoration and environmental education, we are so pleased to share Marion’s list of must-read books.  Enjoy!

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The Garden at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest, a recent project of Marion Cartwright’s.

The current 5-year Farm Bill is set to expire this September 30 and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are working on recommendations.  Now is the time to write your members of Congress.  What do you want to tell them? What will you recommend be kept, dropped, changed in this next farm bill?  How much can any of us be expected to know about how our food is raised, transported, processed, made safe for consumption?  How much say do we have about soil and water health in our country? What is a healthy American diet anyway, given the way recommendations keep changing over the years?  How many U.S. citizens don’t have access to the healthy foods?  How are other countries dealing with agricultural policy and practices?  Big picture questions.

Then there are the personal, in my backyard questions.  If you want to grow more of your own food and flowers following organic practices, how do you go about that, in the place you live?  What if you want to raise chickens for eggs or goats for milk and cheese?  What if you want to take out the Scotch pines and Norway maples and plant native trees?  Do you know what pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers your neighbors and local government agencies are using? Is your soil and water healthy?

These questions have been front and center for me both personally and professionally for 35 years.  I have read a lot, attended lectures and conferences and town meetings, started gardens at schools, grown gardens for my own family, and created 1-2 acre organic market gardens in more than one place.  I have also spent over 10 years working to restore degraded native woodlands, prairies and wetlands and delivering environmental education focused on keeping native ecosystems healthy.  The need to read has been intense.   Here are a few of my go-to sources, the ones that provided either inspiration or factual information to guide me.

Older, but also wise, and still relevant and inspirational today:

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, Ballantine Books, 1966

If you haven’t read it yet, it’s time.  If you have, this in one book to read again (and again) ‘nough said.

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The Albrecht Papers: Soil Fertility and Animal Health, by William Albrecht, Acres, 1975.  A soil consultant recently summarized the life and career of soil scientist Albrecht by saying, “Everything this man ever wrote is 100% correct.”   The health of plants and animals on a farm (and ultimately human health) are dependent upon the soil health.  We hope to breed plants to tolerate diseases, but if plant nutrition is deficient that will remain a vain hope.  Why didn’t more farmers and university professors and U.S.D.A. and extension service staff study read this book?

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Forest Farming: Towards a Solution to Problems of World Hunger and Conservation, by J.Sholto Douglas & Robert A de J. Hart, with  a foreword by E.F. Schumacher, Rodale Press, 1978. Agriculture in mountainous, rocky or dry regions is a disaster and is happening more and more with the pressure of overpopulation, but trees are salvation, providing food, clothing, fuel, shelter, soil retention, water cycle balancing. This book will lead you to read more about Permaculture.

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The Unsettling of America, by Wendell Berry, Sierra Club Books, 1996. Wendell Berry is an articulate and knowledgeable advocate for family farms, local economy, the value of human work, and the cultural and spiritual life of farming.   A distillation of years of Berry’s thought can be found (on-line) in his April 2012 address for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  He was selected this year to give the annual Jefferson lecture, the most prestigious honor the national government bestows on academics.

More recent:

Reclaiming The Commons: Community Farms and Forests in a New England Town, by Brian Donahue, Yale University Press, 2001.   Helpful example about how a community can organize and support a local farm (with animals) for the local community and also harvest a local woodland for syrup and wood for the community. Still going strong today in Weston, MA.

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How To Grow More Vegetables (and fruits nuts, berries, grains and other crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine, by John Jeavons, Ten Speed Press,  1974 first edition, 2006 7th edition.  A primer for the backyard gardener with limited space.  Though I don’t find the need to double dig my beds as frequently as Jeavons, there is a lot of helpful information to help you with a garden plan and an extensive bibliography and supply catalogue list.   Jeavons is all about soil sustainability and encourages gardeners to grow their own compost crops rather than bring compost in from the outside (robbing Peter to pay Paul as he sees it).

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The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements, by Sandor Ellix Katz, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006.  Chock full of facts and figures on where modern industrial agriculture and the food industry have gone awry and ideas for positive change, both at the policy level and in our own homes. Each chapter includes a list of Action and Information Resources.  For people interested in taking more direct responsibility for their own health and nutrition, this book goes into detail about how to grow it, forage for it, ferment it or cook it yourself and it gives lots of examples of how food was grown and prepared “traditionally” for years.

And even if most of you have already heard about these or read them, my personal list just wouldn’t be complete without them:

In Defense of Food (2008) and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), by Michael Pollan, Penquin Press.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is Pollan’s simple, clear message in the former.  It’s all here: how we produce and market food and learning how to eat healthily again.

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Pollan provides an inside look at industrial farming and organic, sustainable farming practices.  You will also go on foraging and hunting trips with Pollan.

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Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture by Wes Jackson, Counterpoint, 2010. Agriculture has gone through an Age of Monoculture.  And it is not sustainable.  If we hope to continue providing food in perpetuity, we must transition to the Age of Perennials. Jackson has been doing research since 1976 at his Land Institute in Kansas to help us make this transition.  The new farm bill needs to support this research and effort.    Write your government representatives and senators.  Come to the Smith Nature Symposium at Ryerson Woods on May 19th to learn more from Wes Jackson himself, the keynote speaker!

Marion Cartwright is a long-time member of Friends of Ryerson Woods and previously a member of the Board of Directors. Thank you, Marion!

Guest Post: Emilian Geczi on Richard Louv

In anticipation of best-selling author Richard Louv’s upcoming talk for FRW, we invited our good friend and esteemed colleague Emilian Geczi to submit a guest post on our blog about the significance of Louv’s writings to him and his work.  Enjoy!

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Emilian Geczi on Richard Louv

Like many conservationists, I came across Richard Louv’s writings well after reading the works of Thoreau, Leopold, Carson, and others who popularized the environmental cause in the United States. Louv, like his predecessors, has been able to strike deep chords by utilizing an accessible, almost poetic, language to describe our relationship to the natural world. I read these authors’ works as much for their message as for their expressive and lyrical style.

But there was something about Richard Louv’s writings, particularly his Last Child in the Woods, that set him apart from most other nature or environment writers I had read. American environmental ethics and nature writing are largely discourses between individuals and nature, or individuals and the land. Aldo Leopold, for example, went to great lengths in A Sand County Almanac to argue that people are part of a larger natural community and that the land is entitled to ethical considerations as much as our fellow human beings are. This land-based ethic has been a powerful force for positive change ever since.

But this conceptualization of our role in the world has its weaknesses. The land, for example, is an alien concept to many youth growing up in our nation’s cities. For many – too many! – Chicago high school students who participate in service learning trips at local forest preserve sites, the trips are their first experience of a safe, green space where they can explore, laugh, discover, unwind.

Richard Louv points to a different and complementary ethical philosophy: an intergenerational ethic where the focus shifts from the relation between the individual and the land to the relation, mediated by the land, between a child and a parent figure. What are the outdoor experiences that you remember fondly from your childhood? What outdoor family traditions – picnicking, hiking, fishing, gardening – do you hope to pass on to your children? These are the kinds of questions that Louv asks us to consider. Our family practices and cultural heritage become as important in this conceptualization as the land, and this allows conservation organizations to engage new and non-traditional allies in their work: libraries, faith and community service organizations, health agencies, and others.

I draw on Richard Louv’s philosophy every day in my work at Chicago Wilderness. Our member organizations’ Leave No Child Inside programs are predicated on the value of childhood experiences in nature, not just to children’s emotional, social, and physical development but to nurturing the next generation of conservation leaders and supporters. The Leave No Child Inside initiative’s premise is that our children will not become the next Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, or Henry Thoreau unless they have fun outside with a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other adult role models while growing up.

Emilian Geczi coordinates the Chicago Wilderness Leave No Child Inside initiative. He works with environmental, educational, faith-based, and other organizations to support programs that connect children with the outdoors. He has an M.S. degree in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. To learn more about the Leave No Child Inside initiative, visit the kidsoutside.info website or contact Emilian at emilian.geczi@chicagowilderness.org.

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Friends of Ryerson Woods is thrilled to offer our supporters and the residents of our region the opportunity to hear from acclaimed author Richard Louv, who coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder.” His ground-breaking bestseller, Last Child in the Woods, linked the lack of nature in children’s lives with the rise in obesity, attention disorders and depression. This galvanized an international movement to reconnect children with nature.

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Louv discuss his new book, The Nature Principle, which offers a new vision of the future, in which our lives are as immersed in nature as they are in technology. This event is presented in partnership with the Institute for Integrated Environmental Education, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest Open Lands and Liberty Prairie Conservancy.

An Evening with Richard Louv

Friday, April 20

7:30 p.m.

Prairie Crossing Charter School Gymnasium

1531 Jones Point Road, Grayslake

To sign up for this FREE event, click here.

Guest Post: Nature in the Classics

After his wonderful presentation at our most recent Nature in the Classics concert with the Music Institute of Chicago Academy, we asked Jim Setapan if he would share a few more words about the relationship between nature and the great classical canon.  Jim is Director of the Academy and Conductor-in-Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago.  Don’t forget, our last Nature in the Classics concert is coming up on Sunday, March 18!  For more information, please see our Events listing. 

It is clear that love of nature was of paramount interest to many of the great composers. A brief list of some of those for whom a daily communication with nature was a necessity would include Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Elgar, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, and Mahler.

The list of works inspired by nature shows that many, many composers drew their inspiration from all matters outdoors.  A short group would include:

Vivaldi- The Four Seasons

Respighi – The Birds

Messiaen – many pieces inspired by bird calls

Prokofiev – A Summer Day

Joan Tower – Sequoia

Ferde Grofe – Grand Canyon Suite

Samuel Joners – Palo Duro Canyon Symphony

Frederick Delius – On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Borodin – In the Steppes of Central Asia

Many German Lieder (songs) speak of the beauty of nature

Beethoven – Symphony #6 (Pastorale)

A list of musical pieces inspired specifically by water would include:

Debussy – La Mer (The Sea)

Johann Strauss jr. – Thunder and Lightning Polka

Benjamin Britten – Four Sea Interludes from the Opera “Peter Grimes”

Wagner – Flying Dutchman Overture

Smetana – The Moldau (a river running through Prague)

Handel – The Water Music

Schumann – Symphony #3 (Rheinish)

The inspiration continues today; the Chicago Symphony’s 2012-13 season includes a section called Rivers, with music based on this feature of nature.

Nature informs not only the content of classical compositions, but their form as well.  Take for example the Golden Section – a sense of perfect proportion ( a division of a length so that the ration of the smaller part to the larger is the same as that of the larger part to the whole; approximately 0.618) which occurs widely in nature, and also in architecture, the visual arts…and music. Some composers used this perfect sense of proportion of form, pitch, rhythm, and tempo instinctively – Bach, Mozart, Brahms; and others, such as Bela Bartok, used it consciously.

A similar relationship has often been at work in the creation of a musical motive, such as the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: its development and growth throughout a piece of music parallels nature’s life cycle.

What a wonderful giftt nature has given us musicians!

Jim Setapen
Director of the Academy
Conductor-in-Residence
Music Institute of Chicago

Listen to Dale Bowman’s “Outside”

Listen to Dale Bowman’s “Outside”

Take a listen to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dale Bowman share his passion for the natural world in his podcast “Outside” (via iTunes). This week Bowman interviewed Friends of Ryerson Woods Advisory Board member Doug Stotz, Ph.D. and senior conservation ecologist for the Field Museum.  He gives context to the eruption of snowy owls this winter, then discusses other topics, from Northerly Island to Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.

Art Opening: Photographs by Colleen Plumb

Sunday, March 4, 2012
1:00 – 3 :00 p.m.

FREE ADMISSION

Don’t miss the Chicago area opening of Animals Are Outside Today, an exhibition of photographs by Colleen PlumbIn this solo show, Plumb examines relationships between humans and animals, studying how animals are woven through the fabric of culture. Living and dead, real and fake, as displays or companions, these images investigate our ambivalence or perhaps multivalent attitudes toward animals, exposing both our kinship and disjuncture from other creatures of the Earth.

Opening includes a talk by the artist and a book signing.  Her book Animals Are Outside Today is available for purchase online. This event will be held at the historic Brushwood home at Ryerson Woods.

Exhibition runs March 4 – April 29.