Jan “Gramma” Golden, Pollinators & the Food System


9781491867709_COVER_v2.inddJan “Gramma” Golden is a passionate environmentalist who maintains a garden that is not only a certified National Wildlife Federation habitat, but also an Audubon Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary. Her concerns about the fate of pollinators and the food system have led her to write a children’s book that has already proven popular among educators and children alike. She is active in her community, having served as a registered nurse, hospice volunteer, teacher, and Board of Education volunteer. She is passionate about maintaining her gardens and loves the outdoors. She is married with two grown children and three grandsons.


Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass! And it’s October 28th, 2014 and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. How are you doing today? So last week I mentioned I was in the San Francisco Bay area. And, I’m still here. It’s so nice to be in this sunny, sunny place. Shiny, sunny place. And, I want to mention that I did go to the plant-based pizza restaurant in San Jose. And, I want to let you know it was amazing. It’s just a little funky place, but they have so much variety. Everything is vegan! They have gluten-free as well as vegan. Lots of different choices. And you know what I love the best? Of course, the food. I loved. But, what I love the best was the service. There were these young kids that were working in the place. And, they were so polite. I understood everything they said. They enunciated and they were filled with so much joy. It was… I’m not used to that. You know, you go to so many different store and fast-food establishments. Unfortunately, the service is not very good. And, I wonder… Is it related to the food? Can food make you feel better? Can it fill you with energy? Can it fill you with a feeling of joy and life that you want to share with other people? I think so. I think that’s what I was feeling over there. And, I can’t wait to go back. I’m going to try it one more time. I’m not a pizza person. Most of the time I prefer eating whole, fresh plant-based foods. I love my kale and my salads. Things like that. But you know, occasionally, it’s really fun to have pizza. Why not have it when it’s cruelty-free and made from really simple ingredients that are plant-based?

Okay. Let’s move on to the main part of the program. Shall we? I want to bring of my first guest. I’m really looking forward to this. Jan “Gramma” Golden. She is the author of the new children’s book “Bird Lady Meets Mort and Ort” in It’s a Great Day for Pulling Weeds. And, you’re going to find out she’s a passionate environmentalist who maintains a garden that is not only a certified National Wildlife Federation habitat, but also an Audubon Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary. Jan! Welcome to It’s All About Food!

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Caryn. I’m glad to be here with you.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi! How are you today?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: I’m great! But, I bet you’re having warmer weather that were having right here.

Caryn Hartglass: Where are you?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Illinois.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh my goodness.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Yes, you said you’re in the San Francisco Bay area.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well the weather is a fascinating thing to me. I really hope that we’re not wreaking too much havoc with our climate. But, we know we are.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Absolutely. Absolutely. I agree.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Now, a few weeks ago, I was talking with some scientists from the Xerces Society out in Oregon. We talked a lot about native plants and beneficial insects. We talked about the science behind it. I think the conclusions we came to are very similar to what’s in your little book, It’s a Great Day for Pulling Weeds. I think a little bird may have told you all that information.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: It certainly did. Very colorful bird at that.

Caryn Hartglass: So, how did you… Did a little bird share this with you? or How did you really come to know all that you do about gardening and taking care of the birds and the bees and the plants?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Well. I’m an avid gardener and I just love to be outdoors. I’ve always have. But, living in a rural area now… I’ve been increasingly concerned about the loss of natural habitat. The songbirds, our bees, and our butterflies. I’ve actually observed the decrease in the numbers of those in our small area. Even the media, is even growing more concerned. In this nation and in the world. And, if we don’t take action to preserve what we have left, then we’re all in trouble in years to come.  I was actually inspired to write the book so the younger generation will be educated on the need to become more responsible stewards of our environment by becoming gardeners. And, reversing some of what my generation has done over the years- destroying parts of it.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s amazing to me what we’ve done over the last 50 to 100 years in trying to become very efficient with our food production and not even realize what the impact was. So we’re spreading all these toxic chemicals around to kill the things we don’t like- bugs- and the weeds we don’t want to sell.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And, we’ve just destroyed so much habitat. It’s incredible when you grow these beautiful native wildflowers and grasses and they provide seeds and food for all our beautiful friends- the birds and the bees that aren’t really wreaking havoc on our agricultural proof.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: We certainly have been. It’s the small things that are keeping us alive and striving. Starting with the bees and the butterflies. Some people don’t know it but I do address this in my book to educate children and those that are reading it with them. But, actually about one-third of human nutrition is due to our bee pollination and that includes the majority of fruits and many vegetables or their feed crops. And, you being a vegan would certainly be in trouble.

Caryn Hartglass: Yup.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: If that was the case.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, we would all be in trouble because even those people who eat animals- you have to grow plants to feed those animals. And, if you can’t grow them, you won’t be feeding the animals either. So, we’re all in trouble.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s fascinating… I’m just always so surprised and disappointed with so many of my fellow human beings. But, those of us who do garden and garden organically, the bees are thriving there. They come and their thriving. And, yet there are so many places where they’re dying and they’re not thriving. It’s not that hard to pick a route. How to bring them and how nourish them and how to protect them and how to thrive.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Well, you’re absolutely correct, and it’s a simple fact of providing what they need. We need to… just take the plants that you mentioned. To attract them to our area and give them refuge within those native plants and that’s by providing water for the wildlife. Buy a birdbath or a shallow dish or a pond in your yard. We also need to create some protective coverage, in our own yards. That again will draw them and protect them. Build some things for them to live in. Build different plants. One of my lessons that one of these colorful birds teaches Birdlady is about the need to allow milkweeds to grow in your garden. They’re the only plant that Monarch butterflies can lay their eggs on. And, the caterpillars that’s the only… They drink the milk from the milkweeds and that’s the only that they can fly by in order to live and become a butterfly in their cocoon. We have to be aware of ways to attract the smallest of things in our garden so that we can keep ourselves alive over time.

Caryn Hartglass: And, the herbicides kill those milkweed plants.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: That’s right. A lot of people… They’re unsightly and the pods grow into other plants. We were able to maintain two small patches in our gardens around our home and we were thrilled to be able to see five caterpillars munching away on the leaves. And they grow very rapidly. We were able to see the chrysalis. They kinda hide those, I guess. We were very pleased with that because butterflies are really important pollinators.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, what is a certified National Wildlife Federation Habitat? How do you make that happen?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: There’s certain criteria that you have to prove to become certified. You have to provide them shelter. You have to provide water. You have to provide food, among other things. Our yard actually has all of those. We have a pond with waterfall raceways. We have bird-feeders. We have birdbaths. We’ve got the natural native grasses. We have the milkweed now and we have a prairie garden. The birds are attractive to all the various types of flowers that we have in the fall. So, we provide a habitat for them to be attracted to. We were then certified by National Wildlife Federation. We have a plaque out by our driveway to proudly show that we are, you know, people who really care about the environment.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I would hope that more and more places became National Wildlife Federation habitats. That would be a nice goal for people.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: I would too.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, what about becoming an Audubon Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary? Is that similar? What do you have to do?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Very similar. They have certain criteria that you have to provide. You can do this from the internet. Now, on their website.  Provide certain numbers of these criteria. They then are able to certify you. And, again we have a plaque for them. We just, recently, became Certified Monarch Waystation because of what we offer the butterflies to also be attracted to our garden. Our garden surrounds our house. Like I said, we have a prairie garden and we just love being outdoors and the critters around us.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m not sure how long you’ve been doing this garden but has it changed in terms of the birds and butterflies that have come to make your garden their home.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Oh, definitely! We love to sit on the front porch and observe the birds that visit our bird-feeder with the matter of a half an hour. It’s amazing the different varieties that are coming. When we bought the property and built our home we had no trees whatsoever on the property. We’ve added all sorts of trees and added for the protection and it attracts all kinds of wildlife so we sit back and enjoy and wonder.

Caryn Hartglass: So, tell me about some of the birds and what they look like and what they act like. Because a lot of us don’t pay any attention to our surroundings and we don’t even see any birds. I live in New York City and most of the time, I just see pigeons.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Sure! We’ve moved out the rural area seventeen years ago. We bought property. Back then, in our grasslands, where homes weren’t built yet, we saw a lot of Meadowlarks and those have a bright yellow and a beautiful trill to their voice. They love to be on the highest peak of the trees and sing their hearts out. I just love them. They’re actually my favorite. Then, we also have Bobolinks, which almost look like they have a tuxedo on. They’re black and white. But, unfortunately, the loss of some of our grassland areas and lots that get mulled. Those have disappeared. Almost to where I haven’t seen a Meadowlark very much these past several years. I caught a glimpse of one Bobolink this year but they used to swarm the meadows and the grasslands. So, those are two of my favorite that I don’t see very often anymore but visiting our yard, our feeders, would be the Goldfinches. I love those. They’re really small. Bright, bright yellow. The males are very yellow and they attract the females with their color. During the summer months, the Goldfinches are more dull. Then, we have some beautiful different types of woodpeckers. We have downy woodpeckers and we have Bluejays… cardinals. Cardinals in the winter are just beautiful. Those are bright red and a little more dull on the female. So, we put peanuts out, built a track… The Bluejays, which of course are blue, get very protective and scare some of the smaller birds away. But, they come back as the Bluejays take the peanuts we put out and carry them off somewhere else.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, you may not have an answer to this question but a lot of people tell me how intelligent birds are. I’ve heard so many different stories. I even have one of my own. But, has anything happened with any one bird or several birds in particular that really surprised you.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Well, to start with two character birds in my book are very intelligent.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s right!

Jan “Gramma” Golden: They’re the most intelligent ever! They teach Birdlady a lot of lessons. But, I guess you’re right… I believe they communicate with one another- within their species. In fact, I talk about that in the very beginning of my book.

Birdlady is wondering if birds really communicate. She comes to the conclusion they really do. How else would they know to encourage their babies to start fluttering their wings and take flight? Or the bluebirds in the houses… We put houses along the driveway. First, the mother comes in and keeps the eggs either warm or cool. Then, all of a sudden, she’s ready to leave and the father comes back and takes his turn. They communicate with one another. So, they are very smart within their own species.

Caryn Hartglass: They are and unfortunately, we don’t want to acknowledge. We could learn so much from all of them. If we just paid attention a little bit.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Absolutely. That’s why my two visiting birds in my book came back to Birdlady and taught her several different lessons. About how to be more protective of the environment in her gardening practices.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Now, these two birds, Mort and Ort. I never heard of birds like that before. And, they came from Noah’s Ark apparently. How did they live that long?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: They did. And they disappeared quickly. But, they really left Birdlady with lots to think about. And, a responsibility to share with others what they learned from them. But, actually Mort and Ort are the names of the birds. Those were names when our now 37-year old son Chad, was four-years old. They were his imaginary friend’s names. He couldn’t tell us what his friends look like. But, they were his imaginary friend’s names. And, I just kept them live in my heart and wanted have them in a book. To teach children and adults alike about the lessons that they have taught Birdlady in this book. And, in the next couple of books I plan on writing as well.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s really lovely. I love that you kept them alive.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, unfortunately, many people are frustrated feeling like everything’s going wrong in the world and there’s not a whole lot that they can do. Especially, as you get older people get more cynical and really feel like there’s nothing that they contribute and yet, you are just so vibrant and doing so many wonderful different things. I am just so enamored of the work that you’re doing. I want to thank you for that. So, what is that you do to keep going and to do good?

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Well, I feel that it’s not done until my life is done. I’m here to do what I’m doing. I was created to do what I’m doing. And, I’m pursuing it. I retired recently from a forty-three year career in healthcare. I’ve been an RN for that many years. I’ve taught the last eleven years of my career. My goal when I retired was three things: I want to travel more, volunteer more and write a children’s educational book about nature. And, I accomplished all three of those actually, within the first year of retirement. Now, I continue with my plans for my next two books that I have in mind. I am a hospice volunteer so I keep busy with that. I’ve been on the school board of education for eight years already. I take time, obviously, with my loving family. Children, grandchildren, husband. Immediate family. Just enjoy what you’re doing until it’s over. So, hopefully I have many years to complete all of that.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s terrific. And, in your garden are you growing food in addition to flowers or wildflowers.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Well, where we live we are inundated with wildlife. Deer love to come to our pond and drink. They love to eat our flowers. They devastate neighbors who have vegetable gardens. They just love that. Got a lot of rabbits so we gave up on our vegetable gardens. Probably 25 years ago where we lived, we used to have vegetable gardens, and they did quite well. Actually, when I was young, I helped my father in our vegetable garden. That’s why I’ve learned quite a bit of what I knew about different vegetables back then. But, my important job back then was keep pulling weeds out of the garden. So, right now we have flowers in the garden but we don’t have vegetables. The only vegetables we did have this year were pumpkins. We have three very large, large pumpkins. We had a lot of blossoms but they didn’t mature to live into pumpkins. So, we had three live ones- one for each of our grandsons.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s great. Gramma Golden, thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I enjoyed it.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. I hope many children read and learn from your book.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: I hope so too. Thank you so much, Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Take care.

Jan “Gramma” Golden: You too. Bye!

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Bye bye!

So, if you’re interested in this book. You might look for “Birdlady Meets Mort and Ort” in It’s a Great Day for Pulling Weeds. It’s really lovely and the pictures are pretty and I love the story. There you go. Alright. We have two minutes more before we take a little break. But, I wanted to continue telling you about my travels here in the Bay area. So, some of you may know the Millennium Restaurant. I got to eat there last night. I was just reminiscing how far we’ve come in the 20 years since this restaurant started. The Millennium Restaurant started in 1994 and I remember when it first came on the scene. It was one of the first… If not… The first elegant vegan restaurant. And, now it’s in so many cities around the world. We more and more of these restaurants to choose from. But, how exciting it was when which restaurant came on the scene where… Those of us who were vegan could actually go out for a celebratory elegant evening and have a very lovely meal. The food continues to surprise and excite. Everything they make there is very fresh and very creative. They tend to use many many ingredients to create a symphony of some very very unique flavors and sauces. You won’t find food like this anywhere else. We have the original Millennium cookbook at home and we’ve learned a lot from it because the chef, Eric Tucker, is just a genius. He describes how to make and marinate tempeh in the Millennium cookbook and they offer that at the restaurant as well. But, I don’t think anybody makes tempeh as creative as they do at the Millennium. Except us at home because we use their style of how to prepare it. So, if you’ve ever had opportunity to go there, good for you. But, it was just really lovely to reflect on how things have improved and changed for the better, in the last twenty years. I’m so glad that they’re still there. I had the opportunity to speak to a doctor who is plant-based. We share a lot of stories about the medical community and how so few doctors know about nutrition. I want you to know in the next upcoming programs I’m going to be bringing on different doctors who are starting to become tuned in hospital settings to nutrition. These aren’t the celebrity vegan doctors that we know about and have heard so much about. These are new and up and coming ones and it’s really exciting to see them on the scene.

Why don’t we take a quick break and we’ll be back in a few minutes with Doctor Susan Thompson and we are going to be talking about food addiction.

Transcribed by Jennifer Tzoc, December 28, 2014

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