Nature Horoscopes for Summer 2015


photo by Cassi Saari

Virgo – Delicate and refined, shy and beautiful, you, like the leaves of Asarum Canadense, will look great throughout the summer and well into the fall, long after your first flower is gone. This summer, Virgo, befriend the barely noticeable ants that adore you, and practice some myrmecophory of your own: find the biggest watermelon you can, lift it over your head, and bring it joyfully to your many friends to split up and share. (more…)

Beyond Tomatoes and Poinsettias: Growing TRE Plants in the School Greenhouse

2014-06-08 11.12.03

I worked for the Forest Preserves of Cook County before coming to Niles North High School and working as a Hort Club Sponsor. You wouldn’t imagine that the the Chicago area would be a hub for the ecological restoration community, but “Chicago Wilderness” is home to many passionate groups like the North Branch Restoration Project and other individuals who are nurturing the regions most imperiled native plants. (more…)


2014-05-17 15.01.14

Do we need the rain? This year we happen to be in a drought with below
average precipitation since last July. We need the rain, though it may
spoil your plans for a bike ride, beach visit, or dirty the car you
just washed. It will rain or not, whether or not you want it to. If
there is a rain let it be long and gentle, let it soak in. I would
just advise that you don’t go to the beach after tomorrow’s rain. (more…)

In Search of the Inconspicuous

I was walking through a floodplain woods with a friend recently when we happened on a typical resident of that habitat’s ground layer. I joked that we were seeing one of the showiest members of the floodplain flora, than pointed out the humble Honewort. We wondered a bit about the curious common name, and I said this was one species where the Latin name was actually more attractive: Cryptotaenia canadensis. (more…)

20 or 30 Things “2030” Could Mean

2014-06-08 11.00.30
  • The year we will take over the world.
  • The year we will be unnecessary because every citizen is a steward of nature.
  • The year we will finally get hoverboards.
  • Habitat restoration as a field is only 20 to 30 years old.
  • It can take 20 to 30 years for a habitat to begin to be restored.
  • 20 and 30-somethings are old enough to lead.
  • 20 and 30-somethings are not apathetic to the future.
  • 20 and 30-somethings are not 20 and 30-something forever and must always make new leaders.
  • 20 and 30-somethings of today are at the beginning of a new era of human participation in nature.


From the Suburban Farm: 5/24


I’m about a month and a half into my first season working on an organic farm in one of Chicago’s well-heeled western suburbs.

For a while, it seemed as if the sky was falling. For a week it seemed like it rained straight through, keeping us out of the fields. The tomatoes and leeks both needed to get out. We’d dismissed a crew member a couple weeks prior, for lack of a work ethic. We were a man down, a week behind, and (more…)

From the Suburban Farm: 6/20


My boss has frequently cited an inch of rain a week as a rough ideal for a vegetable farm. This past Thursday, we’d gotten six inches in the previous six days.

The small prairie stream half a mile from our farm had flooded, hard, bright orange caution tape fencing off all paddling put-ins. Riding my bike home one afternoon over an alternate route, I found a river merged with retention ponds, a veritable garden of eden for the heron flying overhead. (more…)

From the Suburban Farm: 7/1 & 7/4


Thank God, it’s July now.

The month of June brought us blessings; it brought us two new employees that have been wonderful matches with the crew.

Mostly, though, the month of July brought rain. At one point we got 5 inches in 5 days. We learned, though, that it could always be worse, when our boss talked to a friend who’d just begun a very small CSA farm; in the same five days, he’d gotten hit by 9 inches, putting his carrots underwater for a few days and destroying many of his crops. (more…)