Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Past & The Future - An Iowa Prairie

Returning part of our acreage to native flowers and grasses has been on my mind since we moved to this acreage four years ago. Interviewing sources for the article I wrote recently on Iowa's endangered species spurred me to action.

My research led me to Ion Exchange in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. The helpful folks there walked me through site selection and preparation and choosing the right kind and quantity of seed.

Though my husband has made it clear that this is my project, I knew he would never be far away. I staked out an area 40'x80'. He moved the flags to 20x40. We compromised at an area roughly 30x60. Applications of glyphosate and several weeks later, the existing lawn and weeds were effectively dead.

We planted our prairie garden this past Memorial Day weekend. David tilled the ground. I firmed up the seedbed by running the tractor over it. The biggest task was mixing the seed in 10 times the volume of wet sand and spreading it by hand. This action was, I believe, also the most satisfying.

As I walked over my plot, broadcasting the seed/sand mixture in one direction and then another, I thought about bringing the land back to what it was 200 years ago - or trying to. Who knows which of my seeds will grow? Or if they'll be the same plants that once grew here? Regardless, this bit of prairie will be unique to our land preparation and the randomness of my seed scattering, and the vagaries of today's weather and wildlife.

I am eager to see the result, but I'll have to practice patience. Prairie gardens do not establish quickly; three years to reach maturity. I'm in it for the long haul - remembering the past and looking to the future - on my own little piece of Iowa prairie.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Wild Things

"Carol! Look out in the horse pasture!" my husband yelled one morning last month. "I think that's a coyote." I scrambled to the window just in time to catch a clear glimpse of what was certainly a coyote. Before I could get the binoculars, the neighbor's dogs ran out barking, scaring our uncommon visitor back into the trees.

We talked about it for days. I had never seen a coyote 'in the wild' before. Let alone in our back yard.

Then a week ago, I looked up from my computer screen to see a wild turkey running across our front yard. Just one, running full tilt. No doubt escaping the neighbor's dogs.

Granted, wild turkeys are fairly common in the Iowa countryside these days. I see them from time to time as I drive.

But still, coyotes and turkeys are not the animals that graced the Iowa fields as I grew up here. They're quite a sight to see. What is ironic about seeing them just now is that I recently wrote an article for The Iowan about the status of threatened and endangered species in Iowa.

I learned in writing on the wild side that the 21st Century landscape of Iowa has changed more than any other state. Our agricultural bent makes that logical, but I admit I hadn't thought of that before. The folks at the DNR say we should be excited - thrilled even - to see these wild species. I know I sure was!