Prairie restoration expert Marlin Johnson led nine hikers through much more than the prairie on this chilly and clear September evening. A very friendly feline also joined up for a good portion of the adventure. Before trekking through the over nine-feet tall grasses, we stopped at his chicken coop for a lesson on composting toilets and the history of outhouses. The children were especially intrigued.
On to the prairie!
Marlin is a fountain of information about the history of pioneers and prairies in Wisconsin and the 98 acre parcel of land he tends to each and every day. This entry cannot and will not do him justice, but he shared with us types of prairie plants, specific information about each plant, a historical perspective on uses of this plant, and some regular old fun facts. For example, the tallest grass we encountered was known as a turkey foot based on its appearance. The compass plant has leaves which directly point north and south, regardless of when and where they are planted. Native Americans believed the plant called rattlesnake master kept snakes away from their lands. This was just the tip of the iceberg of all the information we heard. Besides learning about birch trees, quaking aspens, wild indigo, goldenrod, and cockleburrs to name just a few, we also enjoyed some ripe, but tart wild grapes and some very refreshing mint leaves.
Our hike also took us to other areas around the prairie including the spring-fed Scuppernong Creek, a beautifully spooky oak known as the Halloween Tree, and an active kiln. On our journey, we crossed a bridge that cuts right through a frog and toad haven in springtime, searched a forest filled with fungi, figured out how many adults it would take to measure the circumference of a large tree, and observed an area Marlin is currently restoring as part of a 2-3 year process that includes planned burnings, consistent weeding, and lots of volunteers. Please let me know if you are interested in helping out.
|Ever been in a kiln before?|
|Life and death on the prairie|
|My daughter is getting less and less photogenic at times. :)|