The prairie is brown now. As my county extension agent promised, the crab grass died with the first hard frost. Dropping millions of seeds before letting go. A gift for future years.
I mowed off most of the plant residue on the prairie, leaving only one swath of tall crab grass. A ground cover experiment for the winter.
The mown area reveals little flashes of green. Prairie forbs that took hold in spite of the crab grass and continue to thrive in spite of the frost. And dandelions. The dandelions can yet be treated with glyphosate, though dandelion seeds are as persistent as crab grass. The common sunflowers that began blooming at the start of October, continue to push forth new blossoms, tiny flashes of yellow against the brown.
In mid October, my husband and I visited a prairie ‘remnant’ that is part of the Honey Creek Resort on Rathbun Lake. A remnant is a bit of Iowa’s original prairie that somehow escaped the plow all these years – amazing since 99% of Iowa’s original prairie has given way to agricultural production.
As we walked the trail through this original bit of Iowa landscape, I watched birds soaring high over the trees, felt the breeze that rippled through the Big Bluestem, listened hard for the echo of bygone horses, buffalo, Native Americans and pioneer settlers.
I could not help myself. I gathered a few of the seeds from this remnant prairie – grasses and flowers. Is this legal? I expect not. But I just had to bring some seeds – descendants from Iowa’s original prairie – home with me.
Scattering those seeds, I imagine years from now walking through Big Bluestem, watching birds soar over head, listening for the echo of Iowa’s bygone prairie right in my own front yard.