Nature on My Own Terms: A Narrative of Restoration

2013-03-13 08.53.05In the spring before graduation, my roommate Lucas and I had a combined total of over 250 job applications out. So far he was the only one who’d had an interview. I had promised myself I’d quit that shitty law clerk job as soon as I was out of school, but it was starting to look like it might not be that easy.

It was 2010 and still pretty much the heart of the recession. “The Economy” was an easy scapegoat for the trouble I’d had, but in reality I was just feeling a little lost. My anemic cover letters must have betrayed my lack of conviction.

Lucas came back to the apartment one night in late spring. “Well, I got a job. It’s just a manual labor thing, but I guess it’ll be cool to work outside this summer. Get tan, or whatever.” I tossed him a PBR. “Hell yeah, man! Plenty of time to land something else before the fall.” “Yeah, for sure. It’s just for the summer.”

A month or so later, I’d just been chewed out by my attorney again for misfiling some paperwork. I thought about Lucas out in the sunshine. I walked in my bosses office and basically told him to get fucked. By the end of the week I’d applied, interviewed, drug tested and taken the job. “It’s just for the summer, right?”


On my first day, a crew member accidentally decapitated a bunny with a brush cutter. (more…)

Nature Horoscopes for Winter 2016

paul

Aries

Shame, if you don’t recall, is the feeling you get when you accidentally introduce two people who used to date, or when you misplace a child you’ve been entrusted during a carnival. Thankfully this feeling is usually fleeting for you. You’ll get it again this spring if you see a withered up salamander on your doorstep – that was caused by the salt you dumped there. Instead of taking all this shame upon yourself, feel free to spread it around to other salt users by de-icing the whole block yourself with good old Lake Michigan Sand. Most importantly, shame on your local government for sanctioning road salt, which causes fish kills in local water bodies, hurts the paws of dogs and the feelings of their walkers, and wreaks havoc on the amphibian world by literally broiling them alive in their skin. (more…)

A Pop Music Guide to Frog Calls

Spring is just around the corner and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has posted all the Frog Monitoring workshop dates. Check out the calendar at our sister site Wild Things Community for more details. This may be the nerdiest and most wonderous thing you do this year, so jump on it!

To get you in the mood for the frog call memorization you’ll surely do on the train during your commute, we’ve put together a pop music guide to frog calls. (more…)

Mysteries of the Hogback

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In August 2014 I was an artist in residence at ACRE (Artist Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) in Steuben, Wisconsin. It is located in the lower southwest corner of the state in a region known as the Driftless Area, marked by its lack of glaciation in the last glacial period. I researched and explored the Hogback Prairie, which is located on a ridge not far from the residency. The land has a long history of human interaction- beginning with possibl​e​ burnings by native peoples, heavy grazing by early settlers, and management by The Nature Conservancy and now the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. For a show at the Kitchen Space in Chicago I created an installation titled Mysteries of the Hogback based on my research which ​was​ ​geological, botanical, historical, religious, and folkloric in nature.

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Anarchy Gardening and Uncertainty in Restoration Outcomes

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My grandma was an anarchy gardener. This is of course, not what she’d refer to herself as, but it is the term I used when referencing her style of tossing seeds, seemingly willy-nilly throughout her large back yard in Joliet, IL just waiting to see which species won the epic battle for light, water and nutrients.
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What is the Millennium Reserve?

As we focus some of our restoration efforts on the entire bi-state Calumet area, the Illinois portion of that (which has admittedly gotten the most love from us, but not because we hate Indiana!) is also the geography represented by a group called the Millennium Reserve. Started by former, yet-to-be-incarcerated IL governor Pat Quinn, the goal of this consortium is to collaborate region-wide on improving the environment, communities, municipalities, and the economies of the Reserve geography. We, Habitat 2030, are just one of those partners.

Despite it being Rauner-time (which is like a combination of Miller-time and Hammer-time, but with considerably less beer and no parachute pants and also no state budget), the Millennium Reserve persists, and they even wrote up this nice profile of the work we’re doing in Calumet. Check it out! You can then click on the link at the end of the article that will take you back to this website, and you can fall into a clicking loop until the internet breaks.

Musings on a Farm Restoration: Part 1

My connection to Habitat 2030 began with a simple conversation. On a mildly cold December day at a restoration workday at the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary, I was speaking to a girl working towards the required certifications to steward a site within the jurisdiction of the Chicago Park District. She mentioned the organization and their purpose, empowering young people to become the next generation of restoration leaders. At the time I barely understood what the term restoration meant. (more…)

Quercus Quiz

post originally appeared on The Jackass Gardener. 

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So in an effort to be better at my job, I’m forcing myself to memorize the scientific names of local plants and then figure out how to match those names with their owners by using a Key.

I’ve decided to start with native oak trees as they seem to be some of the most important species in the region and luckily my work has made a Rapid Color Guide for Common Oaks of the Chicago Region with a Key (how convenient!). Therefore, in an effort to not be as dumb, I’m forcing myself to come up with a mnemonic for each of our ten native oaks. Let’s see how this goes. (more…)