A couple of broads from Wisconsin and Iowa
planting, photographing, creating, and writing
about some of Earth's most remarkable
creatures and plants.
When we decided to move to the “country” several years ago, all I really wanted was peace and quiet, and a small, energy-efficient house. Both are now being enjoyed on our two-and-a-half acres on top of a ridge in southwestern Wisconsin. On clear days, I can see (ok, maybe not forever), but at least sunrises and sunsets, and a whole lot of sky and landscape in between.
We toyed with the idea of having a few chickens in the back, but decided they would probably just serve to drive our already-neurotic dachshund, Olive, further over the edge. She had taken possession of “her” property immediately and seriously. Olive has since left us for that big prairie in the sky, and the chicken idea went away too.
I have always loved and appreciated nature, but I knew nothing about prairies and how they contribute to our environment. All I knew, as we developed our little hayfield-on-the-hill, was that I wanted some gardens, and my vision did NOT include a large expanse of lawn to mow. Husband Jerry had another vision which, alas, did include a large expanse of lawn to mow. Men and their machines.
At that point, I also hadn’t thought much about pollinators – to me, they were either honey bees doing their honey-making thing, or they were just bugs looking for someone to bother. I had no idea that butterflies were pollinators!
Ignorance intact, I went ahead and ordered a bunch of seeds from a prairie nursery, and broadcast (nothing to do with radio or TV, I learned; everything to do with spreading seeds) them in various sections of our excavated “yard.” I had visions of beautiful, tall purple, orange and yellow flowers and grasses, confined at first to their original broadcast area; then spreading stealthily, but prolifically, into the mowed area, until mower man would have to find another hobby.
I was awakened from this dream when, the next spring, grass/hay and thistles appeared to be the prevalent plantings, with a sparse scattering of Black-Eyed Susans and Coneflowers struggling to be free. The prairie life eventually succumbed to the mower as, mower-wise, it couldn’t be separated out from the grass/hay and thistles, and I had no idea how to save it.
In the past couple of years, my friend Robin’s passion for pollinators has renewed – and stimulated – my interest in prairies which, of course, segues with an interest in pollinators. Jerry, also, is on board now with developing a piece of our “back yard” into prairie. He’s been a trooper: doing the nasty weed-killing, getting it tilled and seeking advice whenever needed, which is often.
Anyway, that’s how I got here on this awesome website, and my hope is that this will be a source of good information, if not entertainment, to substantiate and promote your interest in prairies/pollinators.
My husband, Shannon, wanted three additions to our property: goats, chickens, and prairie. I love goats (had one as a kid - his name evolved through a few unfortunate incidents instigated by himself into Sir Milton S***head), and chickens are cool enough, but we already have 14 mostly rescued or rehomed critters in our family. Expanding on that number strikes me as a bit reckless. As I write this, in fact, an African Grey parrot is repeatedly asking me if I've "gotta poop." She's got the phrase down, now she just has to associate it with our desire for a warning whenever she needs to, you know, poop. I've also got a massive macaw doing snotty little things and then giving me a look that challenges me to do something about it. Add goats and chickens? That would probably necessitate an increase in the holding capacity of the liquor cabinet, so I think not.
Prairie, on the other hand, can be counted on to go about its business without kindling any patience tests, so that was a go. And what an enriching experience that decision has led to. (Although, Canada thistle can certainly try one's patience; but its presence taxes the prairie itself as much as it does us.)
Pollination celebration in Gomes-Oanes prairie
The picture above is one of the first I took in the prairie with my iPhone (I've since acquired a Sony Cyber-shot, thus doubling my simpleton-photographer's cache of equipment). When I uploaded it to my computer and saw what I'd caught, I was hooked. That little dance fly cruising upside down beside the pollination frenzy just charmed the hell out of me. I began spending hours a day coming and going from both the prairie and our butterfly gardens, and what became obsession eventually morphed into possession. And Shannon, bless his heart, became the ultimate enabler, allowing me to indulge (on company time) my new appetite for more and more images of more and more creatures I hadn't even realized existed.
There is an incredible richness of biodiversity on just our approximately acre-and-a-half lying in the midst of corn and soybean fields. In one brief visit to the butterfly garden, I saw four species I had never seen before. I'd just turn around, and there'd be a new wasp or moth of some kind on the next coneflower or milkweed. Fortunately, I had connections with a couple of Iowa State University entomologists who were kind enough to help me identify the ones that I didn't even know how to begin researching. And my knowledge and wonder began - and continue to - expand.
My affection for these little life-sustainers has become immense. They work so hard, leave marvelous things in their paths, and ask nothing of us but to be left habitat in which to do their thing (the very thing upon which one third of every bite of food we eat relies, by the way). I hope pollinatinglife.com will help spread the love.
Golden northern bumble bee on Eddy property.
So, now, as we read, watch webinars, go to conferences and meetings, plant, photograph, and create things highlighting these fragile critters upon whom our own continued existence depends, we invite you to join us in an ongoing celebration of pollination, and in the rebirth of one of the most sublime biomes on Earth - the tallgrass prairie. We hope our enthusiasm is infectious. These tiny lives and the habitat upon which they depend deserve our most ardent effort and our utmost respect.