Sunday, July 18, 2010


I have to admit that the constant work of transforming our landscape from grass to prairie and from prairie to more prairie is still completely overwhelming to me. Not that I'm doing it, but to have the landscape constantly being worked over, with large swaths being sprayed and mowed and other swaths being burned feels to me like an ongoing struggle of large proportions.  I can't imagine how farmer's wives feel, but I imagine that the even rows and consistent crops are somehow orderly and comforting, even as you learn over and over again the hard lesson that you are not in control. My environment feels chaotic and full of invaders.

Steve, on the other hand, relishes every minute of it. He continues to be the happiest man alive, mostly because of his work outside. This is the second year of a multi-year attempt to extend the prairie behind and to the west of our house. Last year it involved tilling up what was already there, namely grass and weeds, and a swath of prairie flowers that hadn't taken very well and had become mostly grass and weeds. Actually, some of it was sprayed the summer we got married (much to my dismay), so some form of killing has been going on over there for at least two years. Spraying goes on and on, as the weeds continue to assert themselves and the Roundup keeps everything yellow and then just dirt dead.

This year, in the spring, the whole area was tilled and seeded in prairie grass and flowers. That, of course, doesn't stop the weeds. Mostly what comes up this year is still weeds, and Steve goes out on the tractor and mows them down again and again. He also looks closely to see the fragile-looking native plants, which barely seem to grow an inch over the course of the summer, wispy grasses and tiny, delicate leaves and stems. I went out searching for them to take pictures for this blog and couldn't identify a one.

But they're out there.

And they need some help to assert themselves over the sturdier crop of weeds. Steve sits on the porch, at the dining room table or in the living room each morning and night pouring over a giant book called simply Weeds. All the non-natives, all the hideous strong grasses, all the pretty but invasive flowers, are in that book.

Just seeing the strength and size of the grass trying to grow up in my new garden gives me a fright. It's a formidable enemy, the weeds of Central Minnesota.

Next year, I'm told, the prairie will slowly start to win. At the end of that year, we can burn it to help the natives even more.

Lately Tim has started mowing less of the Commons, the large lawn between the houses. He's scalloping the edges and leaving two paths going through to the pond. I know what this means-- soon there will be spraying, and we'll have entered another three-year cycle of death and weeds. Spray, mow, burn. Spray, spray, spray, mow, mow, mow, burn and hope for the best.

OK, yes, eventually we do get coneflowers...

and grass prairie as well... if you like that kind of thing...

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