Good news, Bad news – June prairie update

It’s been almost a month since I sowed the seeds of my prairie garden. (This picture shows the spot before planting.) The last four weeks have been a good news/bad news story.

Good news: It’s rained regularly, giving the seeds a really good start.

Bad news: Most of what is growing is crab grass. Some areas are almost solid.

Good news: Crab grass is easy to pull out and can be pulled easily when it is small.

Bad news: I can’t be sure each of these little plants is really crab grass and not some unfamiliar new prairie plant.

More Bad news: When/if I pull up the grass, I could at the same time dislodge a fragile prairie plant.

I am impatient by nature. As I walk by the prairie area, my inclination is to pull out one or a dozen or a hundred little grass plants. I want to pick at them like I would at a scab. This may not be the best course. Maybe this is an expected stage of prairie restoration. Maybe I just need to be calm and wait and see.

I have called my friends at Ion Exchange to get their advice. When they let me know, I’ll let you know.

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 20×40. We compromised at an area roughly 30×60. 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.

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 Iowanabout 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!

Throwing away money

Okay, visualize this.  Every day as you drive home from work, you reach in your pocket, pull out a nickel, and throw it out the car window.  Every day.  Sometimes you throw out a dime.  By the end of the work week, you’ve thrown out a quarter or more. By the end of the month, more than a dollar. Does this make any sense?  Of course not.  But people are doing it.

I know this because I take a walk most mornings and along the way I see pop bottles and cans, beer bottles and cans, liquor bottles.  Each worth five cents. I know people throw these containers out their windows every day because I carry a plastic bag just so I can pick up this refuse. No sooner have I cleaned up the roadway than it is littered again.  I can pick up a dollar or more – each day.  
Lazy. Disrespectful. Flagrant. Annoying. The people who throw out trash along the road defy my understanding. For crying out loud, just put it in the waste basket when you get home! Even more astounding is people who throw away money. My husband has seen people at gas stations take bottles and cans out of their vehicles and deposit them in the trash cans just outside the convenience store door.  They could have taken those bottles and cans five steps further and collected the deposit. 
Governor Culver over reached during the last legislative session.  He had the door open to add juice and water containers to the Bottle Bill in Iowa. Then he got greedy and added a tax to the process.  As a result, the whole thing went down.  Too bad. We needed that addition. 
But I guess this proves one thing. Clearly the economy is not as bad as we’re led to believe if people are still rolling down their car windows and throwing out nickels!