Natural Phenomenon in an Urban Metropolis

The Chicago River has made great strides towards becoming a clean and vibrant waterway. Reports of aquatic wildlife, including muskrats, turtles, beavers, and even otters have become common place. While walking to lunch, I’ve seen a blue heron perched on a grass covered outcropping of concrete. I’ve noticed the increased recreational activity as kayakers (more…)

Ethnobotany of Curcurbita foetidissima

"Cucurbita foetidissima staminate flower 2003-05-19" by Copyright by Curtis Clark, licensed as noted - Photography by Curtis Clark. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Cucurbita foetidissima staminate flower 2003-05-19” by Copyright by Curtis Clark, licensed as noted – Photography by Curtis Clark. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

While perusing Kelly Kindscher’s Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie last year, one plant especially stood out: Cucurbita foetidissima or Buffalo Gourd, Fetid Wild Pumpkin, Stinking Gourd etc. Not only did the Buffalo Gourd have an extravagant number of medicinal uses, but mystique, reverence, and fear surrounded it. (more…)

Volunteers Restore Wetlands at Eggers Grove

The new Calumet 2030 wing of H2030 is growing, with community and institutional partnerships coming together to heal the natural spaces of the bi-state Calumet region.  Here’s a video of one of those efforts – a native wetland planting at Eggers Grove on Chicago’s Southeast side.

Volunteers Restore Wetlands at Eggers Grove from The Field Museum on Vimeo.

Video shot and edited by Fred Walls.

From the Suburban Farm: 7/18

Up and down, this farm thing seems to be; after all, it is the nature of the enterprise. We are at the peak of summer right now, with harvest and weeding and seeding hitting full throttle. Give it a couple months, though, and our main season transitions first into a smaller-volume fall season and then into winter; a repose for the farm, for ourselves, and for our bodies.


E Pluribus Ursi


With the recent news that a black bear has attempted to move in to Northwest Indiana for the first time in 144 years, I would like to make a plea to the people of Michigan City, Indiana not to remove it, as you plan to, but rather consider the manifold reasons why you should, instead, elect it as your new president of Indiana. (more…)


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Does a mature tree produce sweeter or more abundant fruits? This is
not a science question, but one for the humanities. The young roadside
thickets are full of flowers open wide. Three weeks ago I first saw
this stand of spiny, ‘short trees’ with long scaly bark, and (more…)

Find a Nature Preserve


I highly recommend you find a nature preserve near you to volunteer in regularly. It’s impossible to articulate how special it is to get to know a piece of wilderness in all its stages, meeting all its blooms and residents, temporary and permanent. And seeing the effect our restoration work yields. (more…)


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Light swarms of gnats greet us in the poor floodplain that sprawls
from ‘At Your Own Risk’ class B road to stream. Hundreds of planted
trees neatly in contoured rows give way to a thicket of elderberry and
woodland sunflower. The click and buzz of red bellied woodpecker and (more…)

From the Suburban Farm: 7/13


We have properly arrived to that region of the year, “midsummer”. These are the days associated most in our memory with summer, though the solstice has by now passed. Tomorrow, baseball’s all stars take the field, after all, for the midsummer classic.

This week is also the middle of my season here at the farm. The first three months have absolutely flown by. Riding back from the city on the train yesterday, I felt finally comfortable telling someone I was a farmer. Though wildly enthusiastic about the work, I am still, three months in, wary of my own enthusiasm. I still wonder fairly often if I’m really serious about this or just giddy about the idea. (more…)