This is where we chose to put a prairie restoration 10 years ago. Now the
grasses are taller than a man on horse back can reach, and the forbs that
have been blooming since May have topped out at 14 feet (i.e. ,our farm
namesake, the Prairie Dock). It is a lush, wild place, teaming with life and
adventure. Yesterday as I walked through it, unable to see more that a few
feet ahead, I was reminded of what it must have been like in the old days
when pioneer mothers warned their children to 'stay out of the prairie,
you'll get lost and never find your way back!' Then a car whipped past at 60
mph, and I was shaken from a daydream of a time long past.
But that lush, looming growth of the prairie still has it's place on our
farm. Knowing that downpours like the one last week occur in nature (and
they seem more and more frequent and severe), we decided to put the prairie
where we thought it would do the most good. Now it acts like a giant living
sponge, intercepting our occasional runoff problems, as well as runoff from
a couple of neighboring farms. I saw water GUSH into the prairie, but I
didn't see it come out. It got absorbed. The soils in the prairie are loose
and friable, loaded with worms and other biota, and the hardpan that causes
much of today's flooding problem, is now broken up. The lush perennial
growth of these indigenous plants act as natural living filter, much like
the newly touted artificial wetlands being used in the sewage disposal industry.
Our prairie has other uses too. It is our major insectiary, a place to
foster the growth of beneficial (as well as non-beneficial) insects. It
teams with various types of wasps and other critters. They are all part of
the living dynamics occurring within the area of pest management on our farm.
We graze our chickens in it, or on the edge of it. And when we finally get a
few herbivores it will be part of the rotational grazing scheme. The warm
season Prairie grasses are produce there best pasture opportunities at
different times than most cultivated pasture grasses. Maybe if the chickens
had a few cows to follow, they wouldn't feel so intimidated about going
deeper into the prairie.
We pick flowers and seed from the prairie. The flowers are used in bouquets
for the CSA, and we allow interested parties to pick seed to start their own
restoration. The seed is also a marketable product, and is a cottage
industry of the farm.
We harvest ethnobotanical medicinals out of the prairie. Purple Cone Flower,
Mountain Mint, Bergomot, St. John's Wort (non-native) and Tall Boneset all
find their way into our home pharmacology.
It is a haven and a habitat for song birds, game birds, waterfowl, mammals,
reptiles and amphibians, and in general much of the life displaced by
conventional agriculture and urban sprawl. It's teaming life is what hunters
and naturalists both desire.
It is a source of biomass. Remember switch grass and ethanol production?
Switch grass, a prairie grass was recommended because it is perennial and
could be harvested easily. I wonder if the rest of the lush prairie
community isn't applicable for the same use. And what about using it as a
fiber source for paper?
It is a source of building material. Our straw bale house will be built
using prairie grass in it's walls and chopped prairie grass in the
cob-construction part. It makes great thatched roofs...no finer material
available, at least around here. Too bad building codes and public sentiment
make it almost impossible to use.
And finally it is a place to go and relax. There is no better place to
meditate than among the myriad of life that only a grassland can support. It
is the place I go to recharge and reconnect, and know there is a better way,
and that it is important to keep trying.
This is why we chose to take some of our best soils out of 'production', and
instead, let it lay 'fallow'. It may not be producing corn or soy beans, but
it does serve a purpose.
Prairie Dock Farm
And he saw the tree above him...
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaves...
And the light,
And the balance...
And he saw, magnificent perfection!
Where-on he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew who he was!
Just open your eyes, and realize the way it's always been!
Just open your eyes, and you will find the way it's always been!
Just open your eyes...
The Moody Blues A Question of Balance
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