Prairie Me a Home

The last three weekends my wife and I have attended events hosted on nearby prairies. One is just minutes from our house and is almost 700 acres, the other is 20 minutes away and is nearly 1,000 virgin acres. Some day the city may construct a prairie corridor between the two landscapes, for biking and walking, but I try to imagine what it looks like from a bird’s or butterfly’s vantage point.


Up there a few hundred feet, or a mile, these small patches of land that could take an hour or two for me to walk between, are held in view by another species as if they were one prairie. Scattered between are lawned-over small acreages with large homes, fields of corn and soybeans, gravel roads and asphalt highways. But I like to imagine for a monarch or franklin’s gull migrating through, it’s something whole and complete.

Native Plant Garden

And so I step out back to my relatively small 1,500 square foot garden, watch the sulphurs and red admirals and bumblebees and flies. The insects maybe don’t travel but a few hundred feet to get here, maybe a mile or so, but it’s a good place to be. New England and smooth aster bloom, goldenrod and sunflower too, the last of the year calling like searchlights into the sharp blue sky. But it’s such a small space — it’s not a 700 acre prairie. Is it possible that from the air, the prairie less than a mile south is joined at the hip by my garden?


When I walk from my car to the building where I teach at the University of Nebraska I follow the concrete sidewalks until I get wistful and walk the lawn. There are several small lawn patches, ranging from something like 2,000 square feet to a hundred, all striped in parallel mower lines. What a waste. No one uses these small areas — you can’t hold events on them or modestly sun yourself. Why aren’t they bursting with asters and goldenrod right now? This “cash strapped” public institution could save big bucks converting a few small lawn patches to mixed or tallgrass prairie. And it would extend east from my house, which extends east from the 700 acre prairie. How marvelous.

It is a simple thing — prairie. These last three weekends as I walked through the wild folds I knew that I, too, could be so complexly simple. I am made of grass and blooms, the same carbon, the same sunlight. Denying that world is like denying my own life. I have a feeling the shovel and the lawn will meet again very soon in my small landscape.

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  1. says

    I have a number of customers who are attempting to create small prairie plots in our area. It is such a wonderful effort!
    I also have a small plot I am working on. It has been a work-in-progress for several years and it continues to evolve and develop, but the more I work on it the more I am convinced that it is not meant to be anything but a progressive task. Natural prairies take many years (decades) to establish and I think mine will too. Diligence is the word that comes to mind! Keeping weeds at bay and continuing to plant grasses and forbs is an ongoing process. It is so easy for one species to try to outcompete the others as they work to establish themselves. Last year Yarrow tried to dominate. The year before it was the Rocky Mountain Beeplant. This year we’ve put it more grasses, taken out most of the Yarrow, tried to keep the Smooth Brome out of the patch, and added coneflowers, fleabanes and asters. A few more steps toward a prairie. What a journey! I hope people who want to create prairies in their landscapes can enjoy the process and not be in a big hurry and eventually we can connect our little patches of prairie to the others around us.
    Kathy Settevendemie recently posted..Does it matter where my seed or plant comes from?

  2. Marilyn says

    I am new to this website and want to say how much the articles and comments here inspire me. In my part of the country, as in many, we have seen a great deal of real estate “development” over the past couple of decades. It saddens me to see wildlife being displaced by subdivisions. But this web site gives me hope. It tells me I don’t have to own a large tract of land to be a part of the solution. What I do in my own city yard or small acreage can make a difference. If we can’t take back the large tracts, we can convert our small tracts, and I will live in hope that this will become a national trend.

      • Marilyn says

        Per ( ) :

        70% of US grain production is fed to livestock
        50% of the Earth’s land mass is grazed by livestock.
        More than 60% of the world’s rangelands were damaged by overgrazing during the past half century.
        As much as 85% of rangeland in the western US is being degraded by overgrazing.
        Overgrazing is by far the most pervasive cause of desertification.
        35 pounds of topsoil are lost in the production of one pound of grain-fed beef.
        64% of US cropland produces livestock feed.
        Only 2% of US cropland produces fruits and vegetables.


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