Wild Ones   Meeting in a Nutshell  

September 9 was Lorrie Otto’s annual birthday tour of Riveredge Nature Center with Andy Larsen. Andy guided us to the Center’s 20 different soil types and noted the difference in vegetation and insect activity (in "obligate relationships"). 146 plant species cover Powers Hill, leaving little room for alien species to take root. Carol Beach provided the Button Blazing Star (Liatris aspera), Hairy Coreopsis, Porcupine Grass (Stipa spartea), and Blue-eyed Grass for one site.

We learned Riveredge has its own waste treatment system composed of two cells lined with heavy-duty plastic. Two years ago gravel and soil were deposited and wetland species were planted (e.g., Ironweed, Sneezeweed, Blue Flag Iris, Fox Sedge, and Green-headed Coneflower). Bacteria works on the waste. By the time the waste passes through both cells, virtually all nutrients have been released for plant uptake. No odor and the plants are thriving.

October 13-15 is the Wild Bird and Backyard Habitat Expo at the Waukesha County Expo Center.

Diverse Enrichment

Wild Ones memberMary Lee Croatt shares with us her three hours with fellow members of the Prairie Enthusiasts burning four to five acres of her prairie:

A burn doesn’t just happen. In the cold of January, I write our county supervisor requesting a burn permit for the season. I update him on our progress in prairie restoration, even enclosing a SASE to make his life easier.

Coulee region Prairie Enthusiast VP, Barb Christie, puts us on a calendar. She groups volunteers for spring burns and brush work. We are all then able to plan ahead for our property and one another’s projects.

The morning of the burn we telephone the sheriff’s department to state our intention of a "supervised, prescribed burn." No hassle. A brush cutter defines the border. Only a section of the prairie will burn, to protect much needed invertebrates.

We all dress in long pants, long sleeves, leather work boots, and leather work gloves. I forget to wear a hat as protection against flying sparks. (It’s wise to wear a kerchief around our necks to pull up like a bandit over our mouth and nose.) We also carry drinking water to hydrate during the work.

Our equipment includes a couple of hard- tined rakes for scratching the thatch from the mowed path. There are at least four flappers, which look like truck mudflaps on long wooden pole handles. The strongest man carries a heavy water pack on his back. It sprays water through a hose and wand to douse flames that extend beyond the border, wet areas beforehand to protect them, and put out any remaining flames at the end.

We divide into two groups to burn a fire break around the edge and against the wind.

Conditions are perfect: Cloudy, cool (40 degrees), with a mild wind.

I have the job of spreading the fire with a child’s rake by lifting burning grasses to new spots. Sometimes the heat is so intense, I have to turn my face away and back off.

Before heading home, we walk over the land to check for smoldering coals and douse them out with water.

The Prairie Enthusiasts collect money as a donation from its burns to use for procuring future land restoration: $20 for the first acre and $5 for each additional acre.

Consider This

DO seed/plant Black-eyed Susan, Branched Coneflower, and Sweet Black-eyed Susan to get continuous blooms of Rudbeckia.

DO explore http://plants.usda.gov/

Editor’s Note: Comments and suggestions from any experience level appreciated! Email carp@execpc.com (call 414.352.2290 if no email). Thank you. Jane Carpenter

What’s Coming Up?

10/14 - Prairie Seed Gathering

On Saturday, October 14, Wild Ones of North Milwaukee will sponsor an opportunity for people who become members of Wild Ones ($20), or are already members, to learn about gathering prairie seeds by actually doing it. Those who are interested should meet at Schlitz Audubon Center at 9:30am for information. Participants will learn about identification, cleaning, storing, and sowing. Bring paper bags and marking pens.

11/11 - The Organization in Nature’s Design

On Saturday, November 11, Ken Schroeder, Natural Landscape Designer, will give a talk and slide presentation on how nature organizes plants on the landscape. His slides capture the design elements to use in reconstructing native landscapes.

Come to our annual seed sharing, even if you don’t have seeds this year. You may have next year!

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Updated: Jun 12, 2005.