Flying Lessons

Today was one of significance on our Listening Stones Farm. While vacuuming the upstairs bath this morning I happened to look out the window to find a half dozen barn swallows clinging to the roof. At first I didn’t recognize that these were the chicks, if that’s what they’re called. Then the parents came flying in with full cheeks to feed the chicks, which appeared to have been pushed from their nests and were clinging onto the shingles for dear life.

Three swallow chicks await dinner.

Three swallow chicks await dinner.

If you’ve watched little kids on the rim of a pool on their first day of swimming lessons, then you have a reasonable idea of the roof top situation. Ever once in a while, one of the chicks would push off for a short flight, circling around between the distant elm, clothesline, and back to the rooftop where the landing was less than poetic. You might describe it as more awkward than that of a crash landing. Yes, the chicks were getting their first flying lessons.

Another if: If you’ve watched swallows fly, then you know they are acrobatic, athletic and poetic in flight. Same for this most recent generation as they swept through the air with such incredible ease. You could sense the weakness, though, as they would launch themselves into the air and make a couple of circular swoops before coming back to the relative safety of the roof, sometimes actually tumbling in landing. It was frankly a little too humbling to be funny, although had I taken a short video with my cell phone and posted it on Facebook, I’m sure people would have found humor. What happens on the rooftop, however, stays on the rooftop!

Someone is hungry!

Someone is hungry!

Later this evening when Rebecca and I took our standard evening wine on the deck after our work and before going inside to prepare dinner, some of the little ones were perched precariously on the clothesline, preening and awaiting meals. After watching for several moments I came in for the camera. Sure enough one of the parent swallows swept in, braked incredibly and instantly, passed food from beak to beak, then with such beautiful and intricate wing control, swooped off toward the prairie for more insects.

What a fascinating evening. Watching swallows fly is a favored pastime here on the farm. Yes, they dirty the barn and we’ll find droppings on our sheets hanging to dry on the one, yet they more than make up for their messiness with the mesmerizing latent lyrics they write on the prairie sky.

In an instant, with deft wing control, the swallow stops in midair, feeds the young, then as quickly, flies off.

In an instant, with deft wing control, the swallow stops in midair, feeds the young, then as quickly, flies off.

Off for another flight over the prairie.

One of the entertaining rituals happens after letting the cats outside, when the swallows dive bomb the cats as they cross the lawn. Our little hunter, Olive, can’t resist the occasional yet deadly serious flip and leap at the diving birds. So far she has come up completely empty. On the other hand, Silver just is too cool to be bothered. As the birds swoop in he just saunters along as if nothing is happening, seemingly in a world all his own.

Last year he wasn’t so calm. Same with Olive, who would simply try find safety in the grass as the swallows came in from several directions. It was their first year on the farm and the diving swallows bothered them both, and especially bothered was my son, Aaron’s, cat. Those swallows seemed to sense the differences between the cats. Poor Finnegan, who was both old and apparently quite sick, the swallows would come close enough to have pulled fur if they so wished. Not so with the other, younger cats. Now a year older, and with Finnegan in what we call “a better place,” the swallows will come decidedly closer to the cool Silver, yet keep a respectful distance with the little hunter.

It’s hard to say how much longer we’ll have the swallow chicks holding close to the porch top and clothesline. Size wise, mistaking a chick with a full grown parent is already difficult. Some of the difference is in the plumage, and with the nearly constant preening, that will change quickly. The little ones are just as adept at the acrobatic flight as their parents already, although they can’t stay aloft as long. As they gain strength and more mature plumage, our “edge of the pool” sightings will quickly come to an end.

Swallow flight is one of the joys of living on the farm.

Swallow flight is one of the joys of living on the farm.

Swallows are fun to watch regardless. I’ve often said I’d love to soar like one of the white pelicans we see around here almost daily. As comely as they are on land, in flight white pelicans have few rivals And, after years of watching the dives of night hawks in the cities where I’ve lived, I’ve also dreamed of what it must be like to do a complete free fall of such blinding speed, yet with the dexterity to suddenly sweep back toward the heavens. But, like I was telling Rebecca just a few nights ago, I’d just once like to transpose myself into the body of a swallow for a quick flight around the farm. For overall beauty and control of flight, I cannot think of another bird that comes close to such perfection.

As I looked out on the rooftop this morning, watching the little ones making their first flights, I couldn’t help being envious. They were just days away from having that endless and seemingly flawless and acrobatic ability to fly.

Just once. Just once to have such freedom of maneuverability and poetry. Just once.

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Kawishiwi Calling

Our planning and packing for our annual jaunt from Listening Stones Farm to our cabin near Ely is gearing up. Pork ribs are smoked, and we’re thinking of dinners to share, of our favorite fishing spots, of which books to pack, and perhaps even wondering what new memories we’ll be bringing home with us.

Some 28 years ago our first trip was made to Kawishiwi Lodge & Outfitters, a rustic collection of cabins located on a National Forest cove near the entry point of Lake One in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Our first trip down that long, single-lane gravel road was certainly adventurous as we kept a lookout for the buildings pictured in an obscure brochure we had picked up at an outdoors sports show months earlier.

Following a duck in the morning haze.

Following a duck in the morning haze.

Further up the drive, past what was then a fresh clear cutting of timber that in years since has regrown, was a sawmill. “You sure this is the place?” asked my wife, Sharon. We chose this as a compromise between a quest for a wilderness experience and convenience due to our oldest son, Jacob, because of his physical and mental disabilities. He was then eight years old, and his brother, Aaron, was three. To prepare for the trip we had listened to a wilderness tape featuring loon calls, which Aaron had somehow voice perfected. We brought along a babysitter who would watch the boys on the few nights Sharon and I would take off into the wilderness with a camping permit.

While unpacking our gear from the car into the cabin that first afternoon, I stopped for a few moments on the weathered, wooden dock to cast a fly on the fiberglass fly rod I had bought as a teenager some 20 years earlier. As I retrieved the fly, a denizen of the deep, a northern pike with a head the size of a mature alligator, suddenly eased in behind the fly. In my panic, and subsequent casting, my old rod snapped just above the handle. Such was our introduction to Lake One, Kawishiwi Lodge & Outfitters, and the BWCA!

Sunrise on a quiet morning.

Sunrise on a quiet morning.

Over those years we stayed in four or five of the cabins around the lake. In time we would settle into Cabin One … and we renew it every year. As transplanted Minnesotans this has become our “lake cabin” complete with an old, native lumber dock on a channel that meanders through the granite outcrops between Lake One and shallow bays toward the entry point. It was off this dock that we spread Sharon’s ashes after her unexpected and untimely death a few years ago, making this more than just a summer lake cabin.

Rebecca and I were only a few weeks into our relationship when she joined us for the first trip up after Sharon’s death. We’ll again be joined by my cousins, Mick and Nancy Burke. Two of their three children have come up over the years, as have many of our exchange students. Luise Hille, of Germany, has been here for two different weeks over the years, and when her parents were last in the States, their whole family came for a stay across the lake in one of the newer cabins. I was able to join them for a few days of their stay, which meant I was able to stay and fish twice within two months that year. Life doesn’t get much better than that!

When not in the kayak or canoe, we spend time on the airy porch reading and visiting.

When not in the kayak or canoe, we spend time on the airy porch reading and visiting.

Oh, the memories. Two years running a group of pickers rented a row of three of the cabins. Each evening they gathered around a fire pit and played well into the darkness. One year the woman scientist who broke the Alar pesticide study on Washington apples stayed with her husband and boys in the adjoining cabin. Aaron and her boys played in the outcrops behind the cabins all week long. We even met a former high school classmate of my brother from back in Missouri. There was the summer when Sharon came shortly after her knee operation and couldn’t canoe, so the manager and his brother … Mike and Jim … took us to a motor lake so she could go fishing. We caught enough for a shore lunch. A few nights later the boys came knocking. “We’re taking John and going fishing,” said Mike. They placed me in the “king’s seat” and paddled out into the lake, where as we were jigging for walleyes and sipping “illegal” beer a sudden and incredible display of Northern Lights began dancing in the sky. Mike and Jim, and their “shady” helper, Diamond, are long gone, and the son of the dentist who owned the place, Frank Udovich, and his wife, Nicole, took over and have made some subtle yet remarkable improvements on all of the cabins, and they have significantly increased the outfitting side of the business.

A Pagammi Creek bluegill.

A Pagammi Creek bluegill.

Here was where Mick caught his first smallie, a mighty three pounder. Ah, those moments fishing are always fine. One dusky evening we were paddling back to the cabin when a huge beaver swam beneath the canoe, keeping pace with us. At the other end of the lake, Pagammi Creek has provided us with many bigger-than-a-whole-hand bluegill and some scrumptious shore lunches on a nearby rocky island that served as escapes for Aaron when a canoe became too confining. Pagammi was where a fire started on the Saturday we were packing out two summers ago, a fire apparently started by lightning that burned thousands of acres and put a scare into the Ely community before finally being controlled. Last year a natural succession had already greened the hillsides, and the bluegill hungrily grabbed a Gill Buster tipped with a leech as my kayak was put adrift by the constant wind.

We’ve shared dinners and campfires along with many nights around the big table as son Jake rolls the dice for another game of Zilch. Since the remodeling, the breezy porch, now with floor to ceiling screens to abate the mosquitoes, welcomes all of us readers, and in the heat of the day, the dock and lake beckons us as swimmers. In all directions the wilderness beckons, and the canoes, kayaks and fishing rods are always steps away.

Sunsets are wonderful here, too.

Sunsets are wonderful here, too.

Nowadays, after all these years, I’ll sometimes simply slip out before breakfast … even before the sun rises … in a kayak with my fly-rod and camera, paddling around the shallow bays casting for smallmouth and bluegill. Sometimes I actually go for the fishing. Other times it is simply for reflection and reminiscence. Remembering family and friends we have shared time with here over the years, those good years with Sharon before her depression became so overwhelming, and since her death, the times with Rebecca and our cousins, the Burkes. Once again I can hear Kawishiwi calling. Our trips have become like those penciled height markings on a door jam; each darkened line marking memories of my mature years.

Butchering Days

The Friday before last marked ten weeks since we’d gotten a straight run batch of fifty Red Ranger broilers, with the goal of raising high-quality meat for our freezer.

A couple of raccoon incursions brought us down to something like 45 or 46. Have YOU tried counting dozens of active birds and felt entirely confident about your result? In truth, the last time I felt completely sure about our count was when we put them out in the retrofitted dog kennel in the barn. I picked up every single one and transferred them individually to a plastic tub for transport, and there were actually fifty-one.

We didn’t lose any to illness–these Red Rangers are super healthy birds. They do what their name implies, and so in addition to the mostly organic and transitional feed they mobbed over morning and night, they also spent a lot of time roaming around the pen, feasting on whatever happened to present itself as a tasty morsel–bugs, weeds–maybe even the occasional small rodent.

Granted a stay: a few of the remaining Red Rangers

A few of the Red Rangers granted a stay in the week between the first and second processing sessions.

In between lugging fifty pound bags of feed and forty pound buckets of water (my shoulders are beginning to resemble a football player’s), they gave us a lot of joy and laughs with their chicken-y antics. Opening the kennel gate in the morning was like watching the opening of a football game, when a team’s players bust through a banner and come charging out onto the field—a river of red feathers and energy. The cockerels would raise their hackles and face off, then go racing off in another direction to do the same with another young rooster. The hens followed me to the far reaches of the pen, expecting me to lead them to some rare and exotic tidbit they’d overlooked.

But after ten weeks (and 2 ½ bags of feed a week!), with half the flock (that is, about twenty-five roosters) raising their voices at dawn in a chorus sounding like party favor noisemakers left overnight in a puddle of spilt vodka lemonade, it was time to put meat in the freezer.

John spent a lot of time thinking about our system, and how we’d set it up for maximum efficiency. We ordered a kit including a drill attachment for de-feathering, a medium “killing cone,” and a small, sharp knife (of course we have plenty of knives, but this turned out to be a really nice tool), set up buckets and tubs to hold blood, feathers, and innards, a table for processing and hangers for plucking, and picked up some ice to chill the processed birds before their ascent to the basement freezer.

We also ordered in a couple of large killing cones, and were glad we did—the “medium,” which looked like a reasonable size, wasn’t large enough for our not-super-large birds, and the “large,” which looked ridiculously big coming out of the box, were a perfect fit to slide the whole bird in snugly and still be able to slip a hand in beneath to coax the head out the bottom. John mounted those side by side on a board attached to the chicken pen fence, with the propane turkey cooker set up adjacently for heating water to scald the birds before plucking. Most all of the supplies we purchased will be useful for years to come, so the investment will pay off over the long run.

The first Saturday, we butchered about twenty-six birds between 7am and 1pm. We were incredibly grateful to have help in the form of a couple of experienced farmer friends–Sean Hyatt (and cousin Callan), who operates a diversified farm near Milbank, and Terry VanDerPol, who grazes beef cattle near Granite Falls. I had only butchered chickens once before, as part of a Dakota Rural Action skill session at Glacial Lakes Permaculture in Estelline, SD. Permaculturist Karl Schmidt was gracious enough to allow a bunch of greenhorns to assist in the processing of part of his flock.

However, being a participant in a group session is not the same as doing a flock yourself, and it had been several years since John had processed birds, too. The help and “skill-refreshers” we got that first day (as well as how far we got in the project) meant that yesterday’s completion went even more smoothly—John and I started at 6:30am and processed the remaining seventeen birds by ourselves in a little less than four hours.

If you’re keeping track of numbers, you’ll see that the number of birds I mentioned ending up with after the raccoons were done and the number we butchered are not the same. That’s not because my count was wrong to begin with; it’s because I read that Red Rangers make decent laying hens, so I moved a couple of the smallest pullets to the laying flock before our first butchering session. The morning of the butchering, I also added to the broiler flock the “surprise” Americana rooster I got in a supposedly straight run of pullets from the farm store this spring. Stiltz was quite the troublemaker, so I wasn’t sad to see him go. But, he won’t be a “company chicken”—I know now why the hatcheries tout the desirability of yellow skin in fowl destined for the table—under all that pretty plumage his was an unappetizing dingy grey.

RIP Stiltz. The farmyard sure is quieter without you!

RIP Stiltz. The farmyard sure is quieter without you!

I was the main “grabber and sticker” that first butchering day, and my eyes kept landing on a pretty, plump pullet with tones of slate blue in her plumage. I avoided taking her to the cones, and that night, I moved her over with the laying flock as well. She didn’t “take” as well as the other two did—the next morning, she was back in the broiler pen. During yesterday’s processing, I left her in the kennel until last, then moved her again, thinking she might not be as likely to hop the fence if the rest of the broilers were gone.

John and I headed out to dinner last night (our first anniversary is today!), and returned just at dark. As I feared, she was nowhere to be found in the henhouse, so we went out with flashlights and found her settled down for the night under a cattle panel leaning against the broiler pen fence. In my party dress and muddy shoes, I fished her out, carried her back into the coop, and set her on the lower roost. This morning, she was back in her old stomping grounds, and I caught her again (fishing net this time), brought her into the coop, and set her right in front of the feeder. I just took a break from writing and went out to check, and you’ll never guess where she is, again. This might be a lengthy training process…

A few of the Red Ranger pullets are now members of the laying flock.

A couple of the Red Ranger pullets are now members of the laying flock.

Eventually, I’ll open the gate between the pens and give the hens and their two roosters full range of both spaces, but it’s probably best to give it a week or so until everybody is clear about where they’re supposed to sleep at night.

We toyed briefly with the idea of getting another batch of Red Rangers for fall. After all, it might be nice to process (not to mention haul feed and water) when the weather is cooler. But after looking at available freezer space (not much) and realizing that we probably don’t need to eat a whole chicken every single week of the year (there’s always leftovers and stock!), not to mention the imminent arrival of canning season and all the projects that entails, we’re pretty sure we’re done with meat birds for this year.

The freezer's getting full!

The freezer’s getting full!

Now, I suppose it’s time to head back out and re-re-re-locate that pretty blue-grey pullet.

 

 

Beyond Yellow

A yearling White Tail walks through our dominate yellow prairie.

A yearling White Tail walks through our dominate yellow prairie.

With a nice little breeze tickling our prairie the other evening, I smothered myself in DEET and took my camera into the our fledgling wild and native grasses and forbs. Once inside the grassy “jungle” a realization hit rather quickly (besides the mosquitoes that were seemingly unimpressed by the supposed deterrent): We are immersed in a sea of yellow! Yellow Cone Flowers. Yellow Wild Sunflowers. yellow this and yellow that. Every direction, all 360 degrees of them, are beaming with yellow.

Browsing through my recent archives of images from our eight acres of prairie starting from about a month ago, yellow has been a dominate theme. Not just with the flowers, either, for Rebecca’s garden was flush with yellow warblers for awhile and the gold finches, which are really more yellow than gold, are constant visitors to the feeders and tree branches around our solarium. Out in the prairie, almost every blooming forb to date is some form of yellow. Impressively, the yellow comes at you from all angles, shapes, sizes and hue. Corporate Kodak would be impressed!

Yellow, yellow .. everywhere is yellow!

Yellow, yellow .. everywhere is yellow!

As much as yellow is welcomed, we are quite pleased when we see a few native Purple Prairie Clover heads sticking up here and there, which have added some charm and variety. We are in desperate search for other differing colors. Rebecca found a couple of lavenderlish Bee Balms blooming, and in a corner by her garden, her Cardinal Plant is showing off some vividly red blossoms. Otherwise, it’s all yellow … with the exception of the green, warm season native prairie grasses.

The following morning Rebecca suggested we go on yet another hike through the prairie. We make a trek almost daily. This time it was upstairs first for a long sleeved white tee-shirt and long pants … anything to keep the mosquitoes at bay. With the sordid heat and a naked sun pounding down on us, we were fortunate that the pesky pests were snuggled in tightly to the bases of the plants. We started at the garden and made a big wide looping circle around the house and grove before coming back in through the road ditch to the driveway. In that “awkward” portion of the grove we also checked on three of our elm tree plantings and found they are doing quite well. I’ve not looked them since many of the bushes and trees in that area, including two other elms, were destroyed by a skunk or coon digging in after the smelly fish-based fertilizer we used. The animal was quite efficient in digging out and laying the bare root plantings at the edges of the holes as it went clear to the base in search of a dead fish.

Side Oat Grama is emerging, and is seen here with a couple of Native Purple Clover.

Side Oat Grama is emerging, and is seen here with a couple of Native Purple Clover.

If given a report card on our tree and shrub plantings we would come out looking quite well. Besides those few we lost to the smelly fertilizer, our only other losses included the four grape vines and one of the plum trees in the orchard. All to standing water after the days upon days of rain. All the other trees and shrubs seem to be doing well thanks to those same rains where we had better drainage. Rebecca’s garden and the other shrubs and trees we planted last year are doing well … with exception of the one apple tree in the yard that our resident white-tailed buck debarked scratching velvet from his stately rack last fall.

Then there is our prairie, all eight acres of it, all awash in bright yellows amidst the stark greens of the native prairie grasses. My goal on our walk on this morning was simple: to find anything out there to photograph beyond yellow.

We were very hopeful of finding more that the two or three Bee Balm plants, and yes, we found many clumps of the Purple Prairie Clover and a few of the white variety. Both were far from being considered dominant.

Some of the earlier forbs have begun to wither and head into dormancy as new successions come forth in this constant march of summer. Since this is our first real summer when the prairie looks like, well, a prairie, it will mature and change with time and climate conditions. Although we have been  dropping new sneaked wild forb seeds here and there, and even wedging in a few of our favorite forbs such as the Cardinal Plant and a flat of Prairie Smoke, we may be a year or two away from seeing any results.

Almost coral-like, this purplish plant going into dormancy stood out simply because of the color.

Almost coral-like, this purplish plant going into dormancy stood out simply because of the color.

Years ago our dear friend and prairie maven, Kylene Olson, executive director of the Chippewa River Watershed Project, told me to never assume that a prairie will look the same two years in a row. With that in mind, perhaps we should simply enjoy our bright sea of prairie yellows without complaint, for rarely is a color so warming to the soul. How can one maintain even a hint of madness with such gay day brighteners all around?

Our “Mysterious” Prairie

An overview of the prairie shows patches of grass and forbs. It certainly is far from being a mature prairie.

An overview of the prairie shows patches of grass and forbs. It certainly is far from being a mature prairie.

Beau Peterson, from the NRCS, was out Monday morning for a walk over our prairie, then asked if he could use our land as an example to show others who might be inspired to go native or who are considering converting commodity land into CRP. We were equally humbled, honored and pleased.

This is my second prairie planting, although the first might be excused since it was only a small, backyard native garden. This one covers eight acres of good farming ground with what Rebecca calls “good seed stock” for when nature eventually reclaims the prairie.

We have some patches of willowy foxtail, of which we have differing opinions.

We have some patches of willowy foxtail, of which we have differing opinions.

We put a call into Beau because neither of us could find one of the prime grasses in our mix, Side-Oats Grama, along with other native plants we were expecting. About two steps into the prairie Beau stopped and pointed to a sliver-thin stem of hiding Side-Oats and explained that it was one of the later grasses to emerge. He thought the prairie was coming along quite nicely.

He should have been here a year ago when pigweed and lambsquarter dominated our eight acres. We took our Cub Cadet to the prairie twice, and Beau’s predecessor brought in a prairie-friendly farmer with a brush hog to top off the pigweed as it was coming into the seed stage. After this cutting some patches of grass were emerging in places, and much to our surprise, we were told that the prairie was coming along nicely. Apparently it takes some practice to read a prairie.

Purple wild clover peaks up here and there for a beautiful contrast.

Purple wild clover peaks up here and there for a beautiful contrast.

Our experience here hasn’t been radically different than it was in my backyard planting. Late that fall years ago we received plugs of grasses and forbs and frantically went to work planting what we could. We were told that establishing grasses first was key in providing a base or foundation, so those plugs went in first. Starting early one morning I worked diligently to dig them in before a forecasted blizzard was expected. By mid afternoon I was scraping away snow to dig in the last plugs of Bluestem, Indian Grass and Side-Oats Grama … and none of the forbs were even touched. Fortunately Sally Finzel, of Morning Sky Greenery, said she would overwinter the plugs if I brought them back to Morris.

The following spring weeds completely overwhelmed the garden, which was thoroughly discouraging. Toward the middle of June she called and asked if I was ever going to come for my seedlings. “Why? The garden is shot. Pigweed has taken it over.” Sally encouraged me to come for them regardless, finally using a very sound economic argument: “It’s your money.”

We love these "little dancers."

We love these “little dancers.”

After returning with the forbs, I took a deep breath and took a hand spade to the weeds and discovered something rather interesting — beneath that pigweed canopy was a very healthy stand of prairie grasses — not unlike what we have experienced here. Two very long, hot and humid days later, the wilting weeds were piled to the side and all the forbs were planted save for five wild onion plugs. They would go in later since they continued to grow and eventually bloomed right in the seed tray.

This beauty dominated the prairie in the early succession.

This beauty dominated the prairie in the early succession.

That little garden also offered some interesting obervations about prairies: Never expect the same look two years in a row, since different conditions may favor different plants, and that prairies mature differently; burning a prairie will encourage a bountiful flush especially in the first year; and, that native prairies offer very interesting moments in their cycles of life, presenting an ever-changing profile through the seasons, so keeping a camera handy is paramount.

"Mexican hats" or yellow coneflowers are rampant.

“Mexican hats” or yellow coneflowers are rampant.

Our larger prairie has followed form from my backyard experience, and we are both having such fun discovering what the prairie offers from day to day. Right now the prairie is awash in yellow blossoms. Golden Alexanders have given way to Blanket Flowers, Common Ox-eye and Yellow Coneflowers or “Mexican Hats,” to name a few. More and more flowers will be blooming as we move through the green season, and our grasses are maturing nicely, too. Interesting, as well, is that what we see growing seems different than our prescribed seeding plan, and some of what appears on the seeding plan has not yet appeared in the prairie. And, the reason we called Beau. Ah, but what a fascinating mystery!

ourprairie5

We find ourselves walking through the prairie almost daily looking at both fading and new wonders. You might find me laying in the prairie with my camera seeking new and hopefully interesting images. Among our plantings were a few cottonwoods and burr oaks, which were planted in two different areas to simulate an oak savanna. On one of our walks we spooked a fawn. As it bounded through the belly-high growth it was hard to say which of us was most surprised. We have heard pheasants “barking” out there, too, which is a bonus … although neither of us are hunters. We have yet to attract meadowlarks or bob-o-links, although both species nest in the nearby Clinton Prairie.

We are quite pleased that our little prairie at Listening Stones Farm can be counted among the beautiful native prairie features of Big Stone County. Besides the National Wildlife Refuge, two diverse areas of Big Stone State Park, the Clinton Prairie along with a number of federally protected wildlife and waterfowl management areas, several farmers have left their original wetlands undrained. Thankfully they take great care and add time to their hectic farming schedules to protect them.

Yellow dominates the prairie right now.

Yellow dominates the prairie right now.

Indeed, we sometimes find ourselves in debate on whether Big Stone, Lac qui Parle or Yellow Medicine Counties have the most devoted prairie acres, and to be honest, one of the selling points for us when we bought our Listening Stones Farm 18 months ago was the close proximity of two active wetlands, our large and overgrown grove, plus the eight plus acres of tillable we now enjoy as prairie, thanks to the help of Pheasants Forever and the local NRCS. Our prairie adventures are really just beginning.