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Prairie Woes

November 21, 2018

 

I've had a bad year for a number of reasons--mostly family health-related. It's kept me from maximizing my "pollinating life." It can end now, this damn year. I couldn't be more okay with that.

 

As you can see, we had a pretty good year for monarchs, though. We only raised and released 79 this year, but because of our ever-increasing "crops" of meadow blazing star (the monarch magnet) and milkweed, we were amazed on a daily basis at the number of monarchs we saw on our property. The numbers could also likely have been increased by the needless mowing down of a phenomenal swamp and common milkweed habitat in the farm field surrounding our property at just the time the super generation was developing. I was livid, but if you advocate to the best of your ability and you still fail to influence the right people, I guess your best isn't good enough and there's a lot more work to be done. At least we had the habitat for the displaced butterflies to make an easy move.

 

Our partridge pea was out of control this summer, but the honey bees were happy. Some apiarist near us owes us at least half a case of honey, I would wager, because that patch of blossoms was crazy buzzy with them. There were also an impressive number of leaf-cutter bees in there, and I was happy about that. The number of bumble bees, however... Bumble bees love partridge pea, so I was excited about the prospect of our prairie swarming with them this summer--even held out hope I'd spot a rusty patch in their midst. (They've been seen 15 miles from here.) But, the number of bumble bees was actually way down (as was that of long-horned bees). Now I'm worried sick my beloved bumble buddies are dying off in our area. Might have to have a go at starting a colony in the spring. We'd talked about it this year, but I was confident we wouldn't need to...

 

The forbs were different this year, though, with all the rain and other weird weather, so that might have influenced a lot of what we saw and didn't see. I mean, it was actually chilly--in August, during daylight, in Iowa--on a few days. And then we had such an early freeze... I also missed out on the aster feeding frenzy, one of the highlights of my year, due to travel and weather.

 

Shannon and I have planted another acre of prairie to the east of our place in a mix that's heavy on forbs. And no sooner was the seed down than it rained. I mean RAINED. We figured we'd just watched a thousand dollars worth of seed wash into the cornfield. There have been some grasses that were in the mix coming up, though, and we've been putting down a lot of seed from our second prairie out there, so maybe in a couple years we'll see a nice habitat for our favorite little neighbors.

 

Our very first prairie was too out-of-control grassy and weedy, so we didn't mind too much seeing it plowed up in the process of removing an old outbuilding. (Didn't mind, that is, if we didn't think about the ground nesting bees that were probably killed or driven out, or about my lovely stand of Ohio spiderwort and nodding onion that was destroyed.) I've collected a lot of seed to reseed the area, but we were waiting for it to dry out a bit so the contractor could level it out more, and then it snowed, and then it froze... Good grief.

 

Prairie woes.

 

But our determination is undaunted! We've planted a lot of bare roots and potted plants in between the rain and snow of this autumn, the seed has been flying, and we just can't get enough prairie--no matter what we come up against. We're bad vegetable gardeners, so we've given up on that; now we're committed to growing the critters that grow the food. And we're loving it. Most of the time.

 

May this early winter be early in its departure, too, so we can soon welcome back our fellow inhabitants of the Gomes Oanes (GO) Home Prairie (Shannon and I are both introverts, so the name came naturally). Here's hoping for a bug-filled 2019. Be well.

 

 

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