Friday, October 30, 2009


I have been wondering lately if it will ever stop raining. It has rained almost every day this month. The soybeans can't get harvested when it is this wet. If they don't get harvested soon, many of our neighbors will have a rough time.
Well today it stopped raining - technically. It snowed instead. The heavy, wet snow melted at first, but was persistent enough to eventually cool the ground and now we have about an inch on the ground.
Hopefully we'll have a little nicer weather for Halloween tomorrow night. I have 2 princesses that are looking forward to trick-or-treating.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leaf Drop

After Friday's killing frost and Saturday morning's snow, I saw something I have never seen before. The walnut tree in our yard dropped 95% if its leaves in about an hour. The leaves were dropping faster than I have ever seen! It was quite a sight. Then, driving around town later, I saw that most of the other walnut and some ash trees had dome the same thing. I would see a tree, nearly bare of leaves surrounded by nearly a foot of fallen leaves in a tight circle under the branches - next to a tree full of green leaves. The walnut leaves had not even changed colors yet. I think the frost and snow just triggered something inside it that said, HURRY UP! IT IS WINTER!

It snowed again on Monday morning. My 2 year old LOVED walking in the snow. It looked so pretty on the green leaves. Snow is predicted again tomorrow. I hope we get a few dry fall days to rake up the leaves. Our maple leaves are barely turning!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Welcome to winter!

We have snow on the ground this morning. This just after yesterday's first killing frost.
The summer had pretty cool temperatures. Most of this year's hot weather came in September. We had several days over 90 degrees. Now winter has come early.
I hope that we will actually have some fall days this year... time will tell.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weaning cows

I feel sorry for our cows today. They calves have been taken away. Being a mom myself, I understand how uncomfortable the cows are with this new situation.
But, having perused some old farm equipment catalogs, the separation method definitely beats having the calves wear sharp muzzles. They would allow the calves to eat grass, but the sharp points would hurt the cow every time the calf wanted to drink. So the poor cow would have to kick away the calf. But both mother and calf would WANT the calf to drink, and they would try again with the same painful results.

We finally got some rain this week. about 2.5 inches on Tuesday and a little more later in the week. It was just enough to bring out mosquitoes. Amazingly we have not been bothered by bugs all summer. One of the benefits of the dry cool weather.

Kavin Bailey from Heartland Conservation is still working away at our woody invaders out at the prairie. It is really starting to open up out there. YEAH!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Woody Brush Removal

This spring, Dad and I signed up for and received a grant from the Minnesota DNR for woody brush removal. It is part of the Landowner Incentive Program (or LIP). For us to keep a true native prairie, we need to keep brush and trees out. It provides financial help and expert advice on how to keep our prairie - a prairie - and not let it turn into woods.

No matter how much I like trees shading my house, they do not belong on the prairie. Over the years and through the centuries, the boundaries between forrest and prairie would shift... brush and trees would grown and spread slowly into prairie territory. Then fires would beat back the trees and allow the prairie to take over again. Once white settlement came and divided the prairie into smaller and smaller pieces by building roads and tilling the soil, the major fires ended. No more would fire restore vast acres of prairie.

So those of us blessed with the responsibility of caring for a tiny piece of prairie do our best to maintain the native species. The fires we have had the last 2 years are a major part of that management. The burns were very successful in that the prairie species are thriving.

UNFORTUNATELY, the quaking aspen trees increase after fire. Quaking aspen, and to some degree cottonwood trees are spread by cloning. That is they send out baby plants from thier roots. The quaking aspen rarely grows from seed. Each tree is either male or female, and most large stands are all the same gender - in fact they are the same plant. There is a stand of quaking aspen in Utah that is considered to be the largest and oldest organism in North America. Each tree is part of the same plant and is genetically identical.

That brings us back to our problem. The fires killed some of the quaking aspen and damaged others, but before they died, the roots got the message to grow more trees ASAP while there was still nutrients available in the roots. And grow they did. We have 3 foot aspen trees all over the place! The cottonwoods spread too.

What to do? Repeated burns may help, but we can't burn every year... cutting the tree causes the same "grow now!" message to get sent to the roots...

So, we enlisted the help of the Minnesota DNR and Heartland Conservation Services and are following the recommended treatment. Heartland is chemically spot treating the little shoots. They are using 2 different approaches. Where the shoots are farther apart, each little tree is getting an individual dab of poison at its base. The ones that are packed in close together are getting 'wiped' with a poison filled custom weed wipe. It is a PVC pipe wrapped in canvas. The pipe has small holes to let the poison soak into the canvas. A valve controls the air flowing into the pipe, which controls how much poison gets to the canvas. It does not drip onto the ground, but keeps enough liquid on the canvas, to apply to the leaves of the tiny trees.

This fall, we will "girdle" the larger trees. Girdling involves stripping the bark all the way around the tree. The strip only needs to be a few inches wide, but it has to go all the way around. This will kill the trees without telling them. That is this fall, the nutrients will still flow through the inside of the tree to the roots, but in the spring, the water and nutrients won't be able to flow up the bark to the leaves.

We appreciate the DNR for their assistance with this project.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yellow days on the prairie

We took a quick trip to the prairie tonight and it is really yellow. The goldenrod, stiff sunflowers and maximillian sunflowers are the dominant flowers. Plus liatris aspera, silky aster and monarda togive a little purple splash.

The grass on the new prairie is taller than the jeep. It was like driving through a forest as the sunlight barely reached the windows as we drove in.

My nose and eyes are itching from the ragweed pollen. The plain, ugly, green plant produces billions of grains of pollen that float on the wind to cause hay fever in many people - including me. The poor goldenrod often gets blamed for hay fever. Its showy flowers are full of heavy yellow pollen. But the pollen is too heavy to float on the wind. All goldenrods depend on insects to carry the pollen from flower to flower.

Monday, August 17, 2009


There is a bumper crop of chokecherries this year. I picked enough berries off of the tree in my yard to make 2 batches of juice. There are many more on the tree, I just picked the ones I could reach easily. I managed to boil them down and press out the juice, then add LOTS of sugar and a little Certo to the juice and boil it into jelly.
I had never done the juice part before, Mom always made the juice and I sometimes helped with the jelly. It would have been more fun with her, but it went OK. Poppy helped me find the recipes and all the supplies were still in the basement. I can handle the Hot Water Bath method of canning. We'll see if I get bold enough to take out the pressure canner this summer to preserve beans. That is a much harder process.

We planted a tree in the yard yesterday. It took us 3 days to dig the hole. I chose a spot where another tree once stood, so of course, we hit massive roots. Poppy sharpened his big chisels and brought them over. Tom and I took turns chopping the roots over several evenings. At last, the hole was big enough and the autumn blaze maple is in the ground. Sophie picked it out when we visited Morning Sky Greenery the week before.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Purple phase

The prairie has its purple robe on. Purple prairie clover, leadplant, and wild bergamot are the most prominent flowers right now and they are all purple. There are a few yellows in the mix with the early and stiff sunflowers, a few golden rods throughout and the two yellow coneflowers on the new prairie. These pictures were all taken on the original prairie. It is so beautiful after the burn this spring.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Turtle nest

When we parked the jeep on the prairie last night, I noticed a hole right next to the road. Poppy thought he saw sea shells around the edges. In the past, we have found small bones near fox dens, but sea shells would be something very new. Upon further investigation, the small white things looked more like little curls of plastic. Kind of like what you get when you peel a label off a soda bottle. I also found a ping pong ball - but it had something in it. It had a small dry rattly sound when I shook it. Oh wait - that does not make sense either... Then we realized - it had to have been a turtle nest that had been discovered by a predator. The little white things were the egg shells and the ping pong ball was a dead egg.

Poor turtles - but that is how it goes. Bad for turtles, good for the predator.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2 new species discovered!

I had not been out to the prairie for a while, so it was fun to see what was blooming. I was really excited to find 2 new plants! On the new prairie, I found Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium). This is growing from some of the seeds I selected for the plantings. YEAH!!

Even more exciting for me was the Spiderwort (Tradescantia) I found growing in a low area on the old prairie. I was wandering around looking for sweetgrass and found the spiderwort buds. It should bloom in a few days. I have never seen it on our prairie before, but recognize it from working in the greenhouse. It is amazing how much more I can see growing after the burn this spring.

Blooming on the "new" prairie: Bergamot, Showy tick trefoil (lots more this year in the burn area), gray headed coneflower, long-headed coneflower, echinacea, hoary vervain, white and purple prairie clover, rattlesnake master, yarrow, milkweed, early sunflower, and mountain mint. The grasses seeding are: canada wild rye, side oats gamma, and VERY TALL big bluestem.

On the "Old" prairie: Surf pea, germander, echinacea, lead plant, black eyed susan, goldenrod (in bud), Delphinium, showy tick trefoil, tradescantia, milkweed (common, swamp, and whorled), wild 4 o'clock, wolfberries, coreopsis, mountain mint, white prairie clover, (the purple is only blooming on the "new" prairie), and the beautiful native thistles.

The Chokecherries are ripe. I don't think I'll be making any jelly this year. But I did make a few jars of raspberry jam.

Our little corn fields do not look very good this year. We have 2 fields planted with corn for the deer and pheasants to eat. We did not get them tended this year and the weeds are taking over. We do plant a little sweet corn for ourselves. Hopefully some of it will fight through the weeds, escape the raccoons and deer, and make its way to our dinner table and freezer.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Deer in the garden

When we left the house this morning, we spotted a bunny in the garden. Then we noticed that the sunflower next to the bunny had no leaves on it. Could the bunnies really have eaten a 2 foot tall sunflower?
I thought it would take a deer to eat the tops off those flowers... Sure enough, there were deer tracks in our garden. Right in town! We had deer tracks once this winter in the snow, but assumed that the bitter cold led the deer to seek easy food like birdseed. Today's deer tracks were more of a surprise.
Little Tori is very sad to have lost her big sunflowers. Yup - all we have left are several 5 - 8 inch stumps with no leaves. Tori left a doll in the window tonight to warn us if the deer return.
I wonder if the deer will return and eat anything else. I have pretty low expectations for this garden. We only water and weed periodically, and when we do go out and work in it, our 'helpers' are pretty hazardous to plants. But it is fun and gets them out in the dirt.

It has been pretty cold around here lately. Highs in the 60s. Pretty strange for July. Also, there has been a lot of lake itch at the beach. We have hardly gone swimming at all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I awoke this morning to a rare a beautiful sound - rain falling. We have not had any significant rain since the 4.5" washout in mid June.

This weekend, as we drove through central Minnesota, I saw corn in non-irrigated fields reaching up to the sky as if it was praying for rain. The usually lush leave were so thin.
I don't have to mow the lawns this week. The grass has not grown at all since last week - and it barely grew the week before that.
I hope this rain will save our local farmers. It will help my little garden too.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Old" Prairie, "New" Prairie

My family is lucky enough to own about 40 acres of native prairie. This is the ecosystem that existed before white settlement. Less than 1% of Minnesota's native prairie remains. 
Our little patch escaped the plow because it is hilly and rocky. Cattle grazed on it years ago, but since prairie once supported bison, the cattle did not hurt it. 

The 80 or so acres around it had been farmed, but through much of the 1990's it was put into a government program called "Water Bank." My grandfather was paid a small rent to keep it out of production for 10 years. He was instructed to plant brome grass, clover and alfalfa. The Water Bank was successful, the clover and alfalfa restore the soils and the grass provides cover for wildlife. Pheasants in particular loved the area.

The problem for me was that the brome grass was invasive. Over the years, it spread to the native prairie and was choking out the native flowers and grasses. We talked about spot treating the brome with chemicals, but decided that unless we deal with the 80 acres of it surrounding the prairie, it would probably be futile. 

Once the Water Bank contract expired, Poppy and I discussed what to do with the land. We hayed it for a year or two while we explored options. My main concern was getting rid of the brome. I would rather have a field of corn or soybeans surrounding the prairie than the invasive grass.

Waiting paid off. The opportunity to sign up for a new program presented itself. The government announced a signup period for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). One of the CRP programs called for planting native grasses and flowers. Landowners bid on what rent they will accept in exchange for planting natives and leaving them in place for 10 years. The program includes some cost share for the seeds and planting as well as conservation practices half way through the program. (Burning for example.)

We put in our bid and were accepted into the program. So, in the fall of 2003, we treated the Water Bank area with Roundup to kill all the brome. In the spring of 2004, the area was disked, then when the weed seeds germinated, we treated the area with Roundup again. Then disked, and packed the ground to prepare the seedbed. The grass seeds were planted using a "no-till drill." That lightly cut the soil and dropped in the seeds.

The grass seeds were purchased from a local company. They harvested the seeds for us from local prairies. The grass seeds we used were: Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Side Oats Gramma, and Canada Wild Rye. We applied for special permission to wait on the flower seeds and planted only the grasses in the Spring.

The grass came up in rows - just as it was planted. But along with the grasses came weeds. The reason we planted the grasses by themselves, is that we were able to treat the area with the herbicide Curtail. Curtail kills broadleaf weeds, but does not harm grasses. 

Flower seeds were planted in the fall, just before the frost. We rented the same no-till drill for the flower seeds. I selected 3 different seed mixes - one for upland, one for moist/wet areas, and one for the areas in between. Flower seeds are very expensive, and I did not want to waste seeds for plants that crave moisture by planting them on the hilltops and vice versa. Each of the mixes contained over 20 different species of flowers. 

In January of 2005, Poppy drove around scattering seeds on the frozen ground. (It was too bumpy for me as I was 7 months pregnant at the time.) The seeds he scattered were ones I had hand collected on the native prairie and dried in the barn. 

The plantings were very successful. The new prairie has many beautiful flowers, tall stands of grass, and very few weeds. Last summer, we came to the middle part of the contract and were required to either mow or burn. According to the contract, if we mowed, we either had to leave the clippings in place (which would choke out the growing plants) or haul the clippings away and burn them off site. Burning is beneficial to native grasses, so that was the natural choice for us.

Continuing to do the best job we could, we decided to split the area into two parts and burn half each year. The animals can escape the flames, but the crawling insects cannot. By splitting the area into two, the insects can re-populated the burned area.

So in 2008 we burned half the area. It was only on the "new" planted/restored prairie. This year, we burned the other half. This half included all of the "old" or native prairie and the remainder of the "new" prairie that did not get burned last year.

Baby Pheasant

I saw my first baby pheasant of the season. It was running down the road in the 'new prairie'. I heard at least 2 of them in the grass. This is a little bit late for the first ones. But the poor pheasants had to re-nest after the prairie burn destroyed the first ones. It was sad, but it will create better habitat for them - and they were able to re-nest.

Other observations:
The big bluestem grass on the burned part of the new prairie is 5 feet tall and a few have actually sprouted seeds. The non-burned part of the new prairie has some shorter shoots and there is very little visible on the old prairie. I have noticed that the big bluestem on the new prairie goes to seed earlier than the new prairie - probably due to being a slightly different genotype, but the burn has really accelerated its growth.

The Porcupine grass is almost done dropping its seeds.

Blooming now:
On new prairie only:
Long-headed Coneflower, & Purple Prairie Clover.

On both areas:
Yarrow, Black Eyed Susan, Early Sunflower, Showy Tick Trefoil, Echinaca, White Prairie Clover, and Indian Hemp.

On the old prairie only:
Phlox, Bedstraw, Delphinium (more than I have ever seen), Germander, Prairie Lily, Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Heuchera, Silver Leaf Scurf Pea, and Death Camas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First Raspberries

We headed over to Poppy's tonight to pick raspberries. They were the first of the season. (We ate a few off of our bushes too.) Tori is good at picking them, and Sophie even managed to get a few into the bowl. Most of them went directly into her mouth.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Prairie Sky

Last night, after the children were asleep, I brought 2 friends out to the prairie. My friend Alex had fond memories of stargazing out there years ago and wanted his wife to have the same experience.

It was a beautiful, clear summer night. Unfortunately, the moon was so bright, we could barely see the stars. There were enough stars to identify a few constellations and get a sense of how much sky there is on the prairie.

Living in rural Minnesota, it is easy to forget that most city dwellers have too much light pollution to see the stars. Alex grew up in Maine where it is dark enough to see the stars, but the mountains and the trees limit your view of the sky. Out on the prairie it is all sky - 180 degrees from one horizon to the other. When the sky is clear and the moon is not so bright, the stars are amazing!

Taking Alex and Debbie out reminded me just how beautiful our night sky is. I have not gone out stargazing for many years. With 2 little girls, bedtime comes early. I sometimes catch a glimpse of the stars here in my yard, but between the streetlights, trees and houses, the view pales in comparison to the amazing prairie sky. I think I'll make a point to go out to the hills at night again soon. 

There were also a few fireflies blinking in the tall grass - and fireworks across the lake. A nice combination for the 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is blooming now

On tonight's drive I saw:
Phlox, black eyed susan, wind flowers, bedstraw (LOTS), thimble weed, Early sunflower, false gromwell, Yarrow, Meadow rue, Long headed cone flower, Echinacea (just starting), ground cherry, seneca snakeroot, yellow star flower, silver-leaf scurf pea, and prairie lily blooming. The phlox, lily and thimble weed were not blooming on Monday when I brought the RI relatives out for a visit.
Monique is really good at catching dragonflies. She also spotted prairie rose buds. The roses and the purple prairie clover will be blooming soon.
Also, the big bluestem grass on the burned part of the restored prairie is REALLY TALL. It is not showing its seeds yet, so it will get taller yet. The Big blue on the native prairie and the unburned restored prairie is not nearly as tall yet.

The leaves are growing back on the apple tree. It was completely de-foliated by tent caterpillars. The poor tree has not had blossoms for 2 years now due to those pests.

The buffalo berries, while still plentiful, are no longer edible. They still have the yummy pea-pod taste, but are too tough to chew.

The beautiful prairie lily is blooming now. It only blooms a day or two, so I am always excited to see it. We have a couple that bloom in the low area near the culvert, and a couple of plants in the little prairie remnant by the "tower." I have not seen it growing anywhere else on our land.

The wood ticks are especially thick this year. I expect them in late May, but on Monday's walk, we were picking 10-20 off each person. Still, I would chose ticks over mosquitos any day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lead plant

One thing that I have noticed since the burn is that the lead plant did not grow back the same way.
Typically, leaves sprout from the old branches. It usually looks like a dead branch late into the spring before the little leaves show up.
This year, the lead plant in the burned area has gown all new branches from the roots. The old branches died in the burn. The new branches are already as long as the old ones, but they are soft and pliable, not woody like the old ones. They are already budding and should bloom soon.
By the way - lead plant (also known as Devil's Shoestring) got its name because the roots are so tough, early pioneers claimed that they broke the plows.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Turtles, turtles everywhere

Last night we saw a painted turtle laying eggs. She was digging a muddy hole with her back legs. We spotted her easily since she was right in the middle of the road. We watched her for a few minutes, then left her alone.
We drove along near what I call the "Loon pond" and saw yet another turtle. This one was on her way back to the pond after laying eggs. We could tell because she had fresh mud on her back legs and shell. We not find her nest.
When we finished looking around the prairie, we went back to where we saw the first turtle. She was gone, but we could see where she buried her eggs.
Now we'll watch over her nest for the next 10 weeks.
Painted turtles mate between May and July and usually lay 2 sets of eggs. I wonder if it is coincidence or if there is a reason we saw 2 last night. Temperatures are hot now after a cool spring and we have had some rain after a dry spring. Whatever the reason, it sure has been fun!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Porcupine grass

Porcupine grass is one of my favorites. (I have lots of favorites.) It is a cool season grass so it shows up much earlier than the other typical prairie grasses. The best part is the seeds. The seeds themselves are long and covered with tiny barbs - just like porcupine quills. Then they have really long tails. Not only do the tails make the seeds easy to to throw like darts (if you throw them at your companions, the sharp seeds stick to their clothing) but they actually screw the seeds into the ground. Yep- as the tails dry, they twist. When they get wet, they straighten again. This twisting action literally screws the seeds into the ground.
After the burn, it is easy to see the porcupine grass. The seeds are getting ready to release any time now.

Another interesting note, the part of the property that we burned last year is full of sweet clover. That is typical the second year after a burn.

Prairie Turnip

Tonight we dug a prairie turnip. Psoraela esculenta is the latin name. It is also called Indian Breadroot, Pommes Des Terres, and Timpsula. The Prairie Turnip was probably the most important wild food gathered by Native Americans who lived on the prairies.  In 1805 the Lewis and Clark expedition observed plains Indians collecting, peeling, and frying prairie turnips. The Lakota women told their children, who helped gather wild foods, that prairie turnips point to each other. When the children noted which way the branches were pointing, they were sent in that direction to find the next plant.  This saved the mothers from searching for plants, kept the children happily busy, and made a game of their work.  Prairie turnips were so important; they influenced selection of hunting grounds.  Women were the gatherers of prairie turnips and their work was considered of great importance to the tribe. For more information, visit

Anyway, we dug down about 4 inches into the ground and pulled out the egg-shaped root. We peeled back the outer husk and took a bite. Even the girls had a taste. It tasted kind of woody, but would probably be pretty tasty  boiled with spices. 

Poppy and I dug one several years ago, but it tasted AWFUL. We have since learned that they must be harvested in the spring instead of the fall. So we decided to try it again - and this time it was a success. It would be interesting to try to grow them in the garden, but it would take several years to grow the tubers to an edible size. 

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Last weekend, Poppy saw 6 baby skunks running around next to the barn. They were so cute! I was happy to get a few pictures of them. After snapping this shot, I knelt down and put my hand out. One came up and almost touched my hand, but we startled each other. It put its tail up, but did not spray me - thank goodness!
Of course, they are no longer with us as baby skunks would just grow up to be big skunks.

Weather note: We had 2 inches of rain in one hour yesterday afternoon. There was almost 4 inches of water in our bucket. Along with the rain, we had pea sized hail. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Snapping turtle

  We had quite an adventure tonight on our prairie drive. Dark clouds were gathering and it looked like we were going to have a big storm. The clouds passed without giving rain, but they added drama to the evening.

The highlight of the night was an encounter with a BIG snapping turtle. It was hanging out in the road near the apple tree. The shell was covered in moss and mud. It was about 2 feet long. I was surprised to pointed bumps along its tail. It looked like a stegosaurus! 
Poppy nudged it with his foot and it lunged at him. I jumped and both of my daughters were a little frightened. (The girls were not near the turtle and were not in any danger.) We left the turtle where it was and continued on our way. We saw several rooster pheasants and a doe with a fawn.

Blooming on the prairie: Bedstraw, hoary puccoon, vetch, windflowers, prairie turnip, golden alexander, and porcupine grass.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Buffalo Berries

We found LOTS of buffalo berries / prairie plums tonight on the prairie. The plants were easy to spot after the burn. Most years we have difficulty finding the plants in the tall grass. 
My 21 month old daughter ate about a dozen of them. They taste like fresh peas and have a delightful crunch. What a treat!

By the way - this photo was taken in the burn area. Everything is growing back beautifully!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What is growing now

Finally made it out to the prairie again. It has been almost 2 weeks since my last visit. The burned area has grown so thick, it is hard to see the difference between the burned area and the mown firebreaks.
The Windflowers are blooming all over along with Golden Alexanders, Hoary Puccoon, Vetch, and Sandwort. The Porcupine Grass is getting tall and will soon release its long sharp seeds.
The corn is about 6 inches tall on the food plots. We plant corn just for the wild animals to eat. A deer and 2 pheasants were enjoying the fields tonight.
We also plant a little bit of sweet corn in one of the food plots. Some little critter decided to eat the seed and not wait for the full ears. There are little holes all along the corn rows. We are willing to share, but are not happy to share the seeds! Hopefully, we'll still get some corn for ourselves.

The main reason for tonight's visit was to try to catch bugs with Tori's new net. We caught a few bugs with the net, but we were caught by lots of wood ticks.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Crop circles

Around here, crop circles are made by Center Pivot Irrigators. Basically, they are giant sprinklers that rotate in a circle as they water an entire field worth of crops. 

We have one on one of our fields. The field is a "quarter section" or 160 acres. It is 1/2 of a mile on each side. That means the irrigator is 1/4 of a mile long. It uses 650 gallons of water per minute. That is a LOT of water.

The farmer renting our field turned on the big sprinkler today. This is earlier than usual, but since we just experienced the 3rd dried May on record, he needed it. At the rate we are going, the irrigator is not going to get much rest.

It is interesting that conditions are so dry, yet Pope County is one of the Counties eligible for flood relief for flooding earlier this spring.

These images came from Wikipedia. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009


4 year old Tori spotted a plant in the burned area of the prairie. It was taller and thicker than anything next to it and she showed it to me. I told her that it was a milkweed plant. Being 4, she said she thought a "Juice-weed" would be better. So, I demonstrated why we call it a milkweed by breaking the stem so she could seed the milky liquid inside. We even tore a leaf to see that the "milk" went all the way out to the edges.

What fun to share the world with children!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What is growing now

This morning, I visited the mini-prairie where cattle grazed all last year. There were more thistles growing than I remember, but the flowers and grasses were coming along nicely. There will be LOTS of Star False Solomon's Seal. (I always feel bad for flowers with the common name 'false' something or other. It is not their fault that the person who named them thought they looked similar to something else - but I digress.) There were also Zizia, hoary pucoon, yellow star grass, strawberries and lots of violets blooming.

We visited the big prairie and found more violets than I had ever seen before. They are so short that I can't see them when the grass is tall. We saw a couple of windflowers blooming along sorrel, blue-eyed grass, zizia, hoary puccoon, in bloom. One prairie smoke going to seed and a flowering buffalo berry plant.

Searching for pre-flowering plants, we found silky aster, sunflowers, prairie turnips, goldenrod, coneflowers, bastard toadflax, and bedstraw.

It is still pretty sooty out there. We have not had any rain to wash the ashes away.

The tent caterpillars are all over the bushes and trees. I am afraid for the health of the apple tree. Last year they ate all the leaves and blossoms. After the caterpillars died off, the leaves came back, but it was too late for apples.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Cows

The rest of the herd has arrived. Most have already calved, but there are a few cows that will have their calves soon. I have 5 cows and 6 calves this year. I am not entirely certain how many other cows are in the herd. Most of them belong to someone else.

The beautiful hillside that was covered in cheerful yellow dandelions is now looking gray and fuzzy. But at least the girls enjoy blowing the seeds around.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Oh the lovely scent of lilacs drifting in the window. I picked some yesterday from out at the farm - so now the scent really fills the house.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flowering plants

Today on the burned area I spotted prairie smoke, wind flowers (all over), native thistle, silky aster, and meadow rue. These plants were big enough to identify by the leaves. There were lots of other plants coming - and grasses too, of course.

With the tall stuff burned off, I was able to find a large buffalo berry plant, 10 paces west of the turn off on the south drive. I spotted the burned remnants of past year's berries. The new shoots are just starting to show.

The other thing I noticed today, is that with everything burned off, I can really see the ants moving around. Almost everywhere you stand, there are ants scurrying back and forth on the ground. Many of these ants move and store (thereby planting) seeds.

Pretty cool!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hoary puccoon

Saw the first Hoary Puccoon blooming on the non-burned areas. Mouse eared chickweed too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cows are home

Last night, Pat delivered 4 cows and 5 calves to the farm. All mine. One set of twins. The heifer has not calved yet, so she is still in Benson with the rest of the herd. More cows are coming, but he brought mine first. It is so nice to see cows back at the farm.

Greening already

Blades of grass are unfolding all over the burnt area. They emerge from the ground folded over, then pop up once the loose end is free from the ground.
I don't know if it is all brome grass or native. It is NOT little or big bluestem since it is definitely not a bunch grass.

With the cattails burned short, we were able to see a goose on a nest in the loon pond. I hope it makes it through the season.

Dad and I saw 2 buzzards sitting by the broken attic window of the farmhouse. I had never seen them sitting on a house before. We worried that something had died in the attic, but there was (thankfully) nothing there.

I saw a female cardinal in our lilac bush today. The male was there too, but I had seen him before. It is harder to spot the females. I try to keep our bird feeders filled, but the squirrels eat the seeds as fast as I fill the feeders. I'll have to borrow Poppy's live trap, once he has captured all the red squirrels living in the wall of his porch. He caught two already this week.

Monday, May 4, 2009


In an effort to be good stewards of the land, we burned over 60 acres today. The burn covered the native prairie and portions of the "CP25" CRP planting that we did several years ago. Over half of the CRP area was burned last year.

The burn started at about 11:00 a.m. and was not out until about 5:00. There were still a few spots smoldering, but it was done going anywhere.
The Heartland Conservation Services team, led by Terry Tank, did an excellent job. Dad was hoping to get a larger area burned, but Terry determined that it was not safe. He did not want the fire to escape into the swamp. As it was, the fire almost got away into a little wooded patch. We would not have minded that burning, but it bordered on out neighbor's property, and we wanted to keep the fire out of there. The team contained the flames quickly.
It was a very slow fire and hopefully burned off all the nasty brome grass.
The pasque flowers got singed, but were still standing, and I saw green prairie smoke plants in the burned areas.
I saw a couple of deer flee the area before the burn started, and saw a raccoon running around in the area that was done burning. I think he had hidden in the cornfield. Only part of that burned. When we left, there were geese on one of the sloughs we burned around. They'll all be OK.
The plants will green up soon and the grass will be super tall this year.
At least - that is what happened last year. :-)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


We are scheduled to burn the prairie tomorrow. The "new" prairie got burned last year. I am so excited to see the native prairie respond to fire.

I took some before pictures yesterday. There are prairie smoke plants budding, and shoots of bedstraw, asters, heuchera and others growing. The pasque flowers are blooming. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beaver living in stock pond

Took a Mule ride with Poppy and the girls around the farm. We missed the pussy willows. They are all fuzzed out. I cleared some guck from the culvert leading out of the spring-fed stock pond. It appears that beavers have moved in. They cut some a small tree and have removed lots of low-hanging branches.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pasque flowers

There were more pasque flowers blooming on the prairie than I ever remember seeing before. I only checked the usual hill.

Sophie and Tori really like being out there. We have to drag Sophie back into the car to go home. She likes to walk and walk. So does Tori.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Minnesota spring

80 degrees yesterday. 40 today. SIGH

There are 4 crocuses in my yard. I planted about 150 bulbs 3 years ago. Most of them were eaten by squirrels.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ice off

The Ice was officially off Lake Minnewaska on the 17th.

We have green grass in our yard, but we could use a little rain. That would REALLY green things up.
The temperature is hovering right between winter jacket and fleece pullover. We have been eating in the porch anyway.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green things appearing

We had an easter egg hunt around Dad's house today and Mom's tulps, hostas and a few other plants are poking up. There are little green shoots of grass in the yard and one of the trees is budding - or pollenating.

The native plants by the creek in Barsness park have been burned. Hopefully our prairie will get burned soon too.

There is still ice on the big lake, but we were out in light jackets this afternoon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Late Blizzard

After a taste of spring, we had one more blizzard. March 31. We were supposed to get snow the day before, but it didn't come until about 7 or 8 am on the 31st. It was perfect snowman snow and we played in the yard with the cousins.

As of today, the snow is almost gone again. 

It was cold and windy, but we'll probably get the 'mule' out soon and visit the prairie.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Green grass and no snow

After a long and VERY COLD winter, I have at last spotted new shoots of green grass in the back yard. There were little piles of snow this morning, but as of 7:00 p.m., our yard was snow free.
We even played outside for a little while in the sandbox.

But - the forecast calls for snow....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wind Flower

Ah, the lovely wind flower, also known as Anemone Canadensis. The Anemone is said to have sprung from the tears of the Goddess Venus as she wept for her slain lover.