Showing posts from 2011

A seasonal cure for homelessness

It is that time of the year. Ok, let me stop for a moment before I convulse with joy. I feel especially blessed to not only have a job, but a job that lets me enjoy it and the people I work with. I come home to an apartment that makes me feel safe and secure. I am thrilled that I have been able to spend quality time with my daughter and other loving relatives this year. I thank God that I am able to feel this way almost every day. Unfortunately there are people who will never feel this way; people who will never know that feeling of joy that comes from eating three meals a day, a nurturing family or even job satisfaction. These people are called the homeless. I remember in my younger days seeing homeless men on the street and bristling at hearing folks call them bums, hobos, and other mean spirited terms.  I remember when I was a kid my grandmother (bless her heart) pointed at a man sitting on the curb and saying to me "don't look at him", "keep walking", &q

Feeding Illinois birds is a no-no

Since last speaking with you I mustered up an army of 48 people to help clean up 55 th and 57 th Street beaches in Chicago for Adopt A Beach Day.   Although we all felt we were doing something wonderful, we found ourselves clearing away trash that should not have been on the beaches. Crap like condoms, baby diapers, tampons, and other stuff were thrown in bushes and trees and found under rocks from people too lazy to walk steps to throw in a trash bin. And the birds were in full battle array! Sometimes you had to almost use sticks to shoo them away. They did not go peacefully. Just so you know, it is now a crime in Illinois to feed birds (any birds) on any beach in the State. As a matter of fact, the fine is $500. The reason the fine is so steep is because of the number of swim bans for the past several summers on our beaches. (Swim bans are when the beaches are closed due to too much bacteria (usually e-coli) in the water.) The reason there is so much bacteria in the wate

Growing season was about sharing

I made several mistakes this planting season. Duh. Let’s start with: - listening to everybody but the pros and my gut; - planting tomatoes too close together even though I knew to plant two feet apart; - planting cucumbers too close together (after awhile they become one property); - planting too few onions, too soon, too close together; - Not buying a heat lamp; (even though the beets and jalapeno peppers seeds were duds); - Not building climbing terraces for the cucumbers and tomatoes waaaaay before I needed them; - planting too many basil plants; - Not planting garlic or bell peppers. The mistakes above cost me time but not money or enthusiasm. And to be honest, even with the mistakes I mentioned above I still did a pretty good job of feeding others. I thoroughly enjoyed sowing, but I really enjoyed reaping. I took pleasure in the comments from both family and friends when biting into crunchy cucumbers, chomping down on juicy tomatoes, going stark raving mad not only from the sc
I must admit I am pretty proud of my little vegetable garden. After several months of tilling, watering, pulling weeds, pruning and tying and lacing, I am ready for a rest - except I can’t rest. Now I have to get my produce to the market, in this case – my friends, who are eagerly waiting to crunch down on cucumbers, tear apart some basil, parsley, oregano and tarragon and bite into some of the biggest reddest tomatoes around. Although the tomatoes won’t be ready until late next month they are already showing signs of bursting into the world. I can’t believe it, my little tomatoes I grew from seed are now real plants that will produce real fruit. When I deliver these vegetables and fruits to others they will know exactly where they came from and exactly who grew them. They will also know that there were NO insecticides or herbicides used to protect their food – only me. They will also know that no vehicle transported them or no refrigeration preserved them, or no warehouse housed the

Now they want to get rid of clean water

I don't know about you, but I have been working my butt off trying to make sure that beaches in Chicago are free of contaminants and litter. Why am I doing this? Because I want to not only swim in Lake Michigan, I want to be able to at least believe the water won't kill me if accidentally swallowed. This week, Congress is debating proposals that would strip the federal Clean Water Act of its power and cut clean water funding. What the hell am I working for? Am I spitting in the wind? Tell your representative to oppose HR 2018, the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.” For 40 years, the Clean Water Act has enabled the EPA to create a level playing field for water quality that has improved our waters and protected public health. In the Great Lakes, the Clean Water Act is the driving force for reducing dangerous toxic pollutants. It requires EPA to help the states implement Great Lakes water quality criteria that keep our beaches clean and our drinking water saf

Taking a time out

Have you ever visited a place that was so tranquil, so beautiful or so nurturing that you had to claim it as your own spot, only to find others already claimed it for the same reasons? The Osaka Japanese Garden in Chicago's Jackson Park is just such a place. Last week I was feeling unbelievably stressed out due to budget cuts at work, everything climbing but my my paycheck, CTA incoveniencing me for a myriad of reasons, and of course family issues. No matter how much I wanted to run away to Mexico or Cuba or Belize, I decided that maybe, just maybe my stress would be reduced by simply visiting the Garden. So last week I trudged over in the evening right before the sun was getting off work. The Garden is as amazing in the summer as it is in the spring and fall. The beauty of the garden, the babbling brooks, the whistle of birds flying low, the slight bend of the pussy willows and the "not in a hurry" movement of the lilly pads only added to the greens, browns, oranges

The supply and demand for organic foods

I recently found out why organic costs so much more than regular food. Last weekend I worked my flat butt off getting the weeds out of my garden. Those suckers did not want to leave. I think there were more weeds than dirt.  I know there were more weeds than vegetables. After grueling in the sun for over two hours pulling those critters, I now consider myself a farmhand. Talk about labor intensive. Can you imagine pulling weeds and pests off fruits and vegetables for 8-10 hours a day, five  to six days a week? Not me. I now have so much more respect for migrant workers. When I was finally done with the back-breaking tedious work, I pulled up a lawn chair, sat under a shade tree, opened a bag of tortilla chips, grabbed some dip and drank lots of wine. It didn't take long but I soon felt better. I'm not advocating becoming a lush while gardening, but maintaining an organic garden is difficult and tedious work so you might as well treat yourself to some libations afterwards!

Community gardening is the neighborly way to go

I am slightly disappointed in some of my vegetables, specifically the jalapeño peppers and beets. They have not grown an inch…literally. It was recently brought to my attention (as in hindsight) not to fret too much as the seeds might have been too old to sow. Never thought about that aspect. Planting my vegetable garden has kind of taken on a life of its own. Neighbors now talk with me at the fence and discuss a myriad of things from farming patterns, to the unusual consistent damp weather (until recently), to the pesky weeds, to plants finally emerging big time. As you know, I have talked and written about community gardening on a continuous basis (some might say ad nauseam). Come to think about it, this is what I am doing.   I am providing an outlet for those who want to talk over the fence but really feel stuck as to what to say. The garden provides that opening. Now everyone else talks ad nauseam about what I’m planting, how I’m planting it and how I’m trying to keep those darn

Oh the joys of vegetable gardening

“…there was peas and greens and cabbage and beans it was the biggest crowd you ever did see; and when mister cucumber struck up that number you should have heard those vegetables scream…”                                                                             The Vegetable Song For those of you who are actually following me while I plant a vegetable garden this year, things don’t look too good from this window. No matter what, I couldn’t get the jalapeno peppers to emerge from their cocoon. And the beets? Well, they reared their beautiful little red heads about 1/4 of an inch out of the soil and basically just went back inside. I guess they couldn’t take Chicago ’s weather either. The truth is – no sun makes a timid vegetable. I was informed by Tom Skilling (Channel 9 weather guru) that April was the cloudiest April in the history of Chicago weather keeping. Oh thanks! Just the info I needed – weeks late. My little nursery needed some serious sun. Nothing I could do except go pu

Obesity is our fault

Okay – this is how I see it. Ronald McDonald is getting all the scapegoat crap slung at him because we-the-parents are blaming him for shoving fat inducing, high cholesterol producing, and Type II diabetes potential food down our kid’s throats? I mean, c’mon. Where are the parents in all this? You’re going to tell me that parents, all of a sudden, just learned how to read labels on food products? Even if the labels lie (which they sometimes do) parents are bottom line responsible for the health of their kids. This means asking for the monthly lunch menu at school; monitoring the sugar intake of your kid, providing healthy fruits and snacks, and “making” them go out and play instead of letting them stay on the computer for hours. It also means providing home cooked meals (maybe even making them in advance) for “latch key” kids (those who come home everyday to an empty house because both parents are working.) Parents have become lazy by sending kids off to school with money to buy what

Another effort for 63rd Street Beach

A hot summer day in Chicago . Temperature above 90 degrees - humidity hitting 75%. Hot air blows into your face. You don’t have a towel so you use your shirt to wipe the sweat off your face and neck. You take a swig of cold-fresh-water from a fountain, bottle or cup. Ahhhhh! Did you know that everyday more than 4,000 children in places like Africa, Haiti , and India die because they don’t have access to clean drinking water? Drinking a glass of water is taken for granted for most of us in the US . What we take for granted is a luxury to others. For the over 4,000 children who wish they could have a cool glass of fresh water the wish unfortunately dies with them. The lack of fresh water is life altering, it is also life threatening. So, knowing this, how can we be so apathetic and self absorbed when it comes to cleaning up our own waterways? Water is what we are . Our bodies are composed of about 72% water. Our brain is over 75% water. Our blood is made up of more than 80% water.

Virginal attempt at a vegetable garden

This article is for the farmer in all of us. In that fruits and vegetables in the stores and so-called farmers markets are just too expensive for me, I have decided to produce a vegetable garden so spectacular that you will want my recipe for success.  I should probably mention that I am so excited about this venture and getting my fingers back into the earth that I can't stand myself. I'll take pictures along the way so that you too can say "I did it!" or not . My girlfriend has a catering business and makes some of the best salsa I have ever tasted. Trust me, I have tasted some very good salsa - here in this country and in Mexico. I am going to challenge myself by providing the fresh vegetables she needs - tomatoes, onions, chives, peppers, etc. Who knows, maybe we have started something -what do you think? The embryonic process of growing my tomatoes began 10 days ago. Yesterday I planted jalepeno peppers. Later this week I will plant herbs (parsley and chives

Adopt A Beach

I was just thinking (this could be dangerous) about fresh clean water and how we take it for granted. According to the World Bank, as many as two billion people lack adequate sanitation facilities to protect them from water-borne disease, while a billion lack access to clean water altogether. According to the United Nations, which has declared 2005-2015 the “Water for Life” decade , 95 percent of the world’s cities still dump raw sewage into their water supplies. So it should come as no surprise to know that 80 percent of all the health maladies in developing countries can be traced back to unsanitary water. The leading cause of child death in the world is diarrhea. Each year, children under age 5 suffer 1.5 billion episodes of diarrhea, 4 million of which are fatal. Even for the children who survive, this chronic diarrhea prevents them from thriving as they should. All because of unsanitary water. I’m asking for two hours on April 30 to help us clean just one of Chicago ’s beac

Coal versus Natural Gas

Some of you know that I know there is no such thing as “clean coal”. This marketing tool is making its rounds and shouldn’t. In the U.S. coal has been the Big Papa for generating electricity. As recently as 2006, it provided 49 percent of the electric capacity while natural gas usage comprised 20 percent, nuclear power 19 percent, hydroelectric power 7 percent and wind/solar 2 percent.  A major reason why natural gas has not surpassed coal nation-wide is probably the lack of sufficient infrastructure as more pipelines are needed to carry natural gas to large consuming areas like the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. About half the gas produced in Texas is exported to other states. Coal advocates point out that the major advantage coal may have over natural gas is the price. But coal accounts for almost 40 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States . Coals’ pollution begins when it is mined, continues when it is burned and lasts long after it has been used. Ever he

Welcome to JoAnn's World

Okay all my friends and family - I have finally made it into the 21st century by having my own blog - OMG!!! How does this differ from Examiner ?  I can talk about greening the community AND restaurants til I'm blue (uh brown) in the face. NO ONE telling me I have to stay within my geographical area of the city. But this is what I'm asking from you - tell me what you'd like to know - in the realm of environmental issues of course (global warming, clean water issues, energy alternatives, organic/urban farming, etc.). Also, tell me about a new restaurant (as long as it's in Chicago) and why you think I should visit. And puhleeze - comment. I won't know if you enjoy or dislike what I write if you don't comment. I'll be writing weekly so look for my stuff. BTW, my cat Garvey (G) says "meow". As always - Peace. JoAnn