Friday, June 25, 2010

Prairie Walk--The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Yesterday  I took the camera on a walk through our little piece of little prairie.  I was happy I had  brought it along when I came to this beautiful specimen of swamp milkweed just beginning to burst  into bloom.
Swamp milkweed is the plant Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on and usually you can find a caterpillar or two feasting under the leaves. I inspected all the leaves but did not see one --yet.   Maybe it is still a bit early. Come to think of it, I haven't seen more than a few monarchs so far this summer.
Last weekend we extended one of the pastures down a corridor to the prairie and let the cows into a big patch of invasive canary reed grass that grows precisely where I envision a pond someday.  The grass was up to their armpits but they chomped it down to the ground in two days.
Our crazy cat, Orange, accompanied  us on the walk. Last week before our family reunion Rog weed-whacked a meandering path around the prairie so we don't have to bushwhack our way through.  Unfortunately, he weed-whacked  the path wearing shorts, a t-shirt and sandals.
There is a lot of tall, healthy wild parsnip growing throughout the prairie (see that tall yellow flower on the edge of the path?) and when it it got  chopped off by the trimmer it splattered its malicous juice all over his bare arms and legs.  Now they are covered with a painful, itchy, ugly rash that is sensitive to light and will last months. It was dismaying to  discover how abundantly the wild parsnip is growing out there. Maybe it is even more urgent to tackle than our other challenging invasive,  buckthorn.
This is the area that Sara and Cadence totally cleared of sumac last  fall, now lush with healthy young sumac.  The predominant species in our prairie seem to be invasives and undesirables-  wild parsnip,  canary reed grass, buckthorn, burdock, honeysuckle, wild parsnip and sumac.  Restoring it to native prairie is going to be a major challenge.
Some interesting galls on the leaves of a tree.
Lots of tiny white pines that we  carefully protected when we burned the prairie last spring are thriving.  They must have seeded themselves from the windbreak.
A bunch of volunteer tomatoes have sprung up in the area where we fed the pigs garden scraps last summer.
Rog planted 8 small hazelnut bushes a few weeks ago at the edge of the prairie - the beginning of his nut orchard.  We mulched them deeply with old straw to buffer them from the onslaught of sumac bushes.  So far it seems to be working and the hazels are looking happy.  It be a few years yet before we are harvesting nuts.

6 comments:

gz said...

Where does Sumac come from, originally?

It is a dye plant, although not one I've used....perhaps drying and selling it as a dyestuff might be an option?

katiegirl said...

Oh poor Rog! I had no idea parsnip would do that. And perhaps you could rent some goats to make short work of clearing the invasive brush? There are people/farms out there who rent goats out for that purpose.

Susan said...

Sumac is native to MInnesota, and I really do love it, but it is choking out the prairie. We have made tea and sumac-ade drinks from the berries. I have heard it is a dye plant but I know nothing about that--something to investigate.
I looked up using goats to control wild parsnip but it is on the list of plants poisonous to goats. Cows won't eat it either, but I did find out that people can eat the roots just like cultivated parsnips. http://www.countrysidemag.com/issues/91/91-3/Samuel_Thayer.html

Health Concepts Group said...

We are holding a health and wellness whole food cooking class June 29th and are in need of a selection of fresh produce. I live in Lake City and was wondering whether I can contact you directly to purchase? Thank you.

Susan said...

Hi Health Concepts --I don't know how much we can help you with from our garden yet, but I can connect you up with a couple of organic growers nearby who have a great selection of stuff ready now. 252-9639

Susan said...
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