A Journey of Wonder and Awe at the Big Woods State Park

This is the first in a series of postings about our relationships with the land and the wild places that are in our hearts. Through text and photographs, Dale Antonson shares with readers his connection with Nerstrand Woods.

The path through these woods leads back to myself.

When I need to replenish and tune back into Nature, Nerstrand Big Woods State Park is one destination that is an hour away, just south of the Twin Cities.

Bloodroot  is a true harbinger of spring. This plant has been a Native American cure-all for centuries.

The 1,280 acre park is representative of the forests in south central MN in the early 1800’s.  Contained within the park are basswood, ironwood, sugar maple, elm and ash.  I am grateful to have this place to reflect and absorb the scenic beauty of the earth’s landscape before the Industrial Revolution.

 This is a quiet knoll of ironwood trees I carry in my heart.

The topography of the park includes both flat and hilly terrain for hiking.  Prairie Creek runs through the heart of the park and has carved through the glacial drift over the centuries to the underlying layer of limestone.  Hidden Falls, accessible from the main parking area is a popular place to see this exposed layer of limestone formed 500 million years ago during the Ordovician Period.

 Snow melt and heavy rainfall directly impacts water flow at Hidden falls

 Northfield Pleine Aire painter, Mark Daehlin, captures some of the magic light of Hidden Falls

There are over 50 varieties of wildflowers within the park, many seen along the stepped path down to Hidden Falls.  Technically, these  wildflowers are called spring woodland ephemeral species. Their quick lifespan requires that they flower early in the spring when sunlight hits the woodland floor before the canopy of the trees high overhead has fully developed and filled in.  The flowers fade quickly and the foliage will go into total dormancy by mid-summer. Prime viewing is late April to early May and weather dependent.  There are some areas of the woods that are breathtaking, carpeted with blooming trout lilies. In summer there are later blooming varieties.


 Trout lily

 Trout lilies get their name by their fish shaped speckled foliage

  Dutchman’s Britches  –  A true spring woodland ephemeral species. “White pants” suspended over fern-like foliage.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit –  This exotic flower transforms into a cluster of red berries in the fall.

 Hepatica  – What a thrill to encounter the quiet beauty of this spring gem, heralding the beginning of this new season of growth.

Trillium – The “tri” in trillium means three and refers to trillum’s three leaf pattern and the three petals on its flower.


In the Big Woods, Nature provides you with an opportunity to immerse yourself into something far greater than yourself.  In Japan this is called “Forest Bathing’.  I came across this phrase and it properly describes this experience for me.  You are literally immersed in a 360 degree panorama of life forms far beyond count.


On one hike with my dog we encountered this female gray fox. She was as curious about us as we were of her.


Marsh Marigold grows along Prairie Creek where the exposed limestone and natural springs join forces.

Lyndra, Dale and Jessie are captured in the exposed limestone outcrop along Prairie Creek.


Whether I’m camping there or just hiking through for the day, the Big Woods always enriches my soul.

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Notes, Photography/Art, Seasons | 3 Comments


Article and photos  by Kelly Shea, who is currently living in Puebla, Mexico, studying Spanish and spending some much needed time as a global citizen.

Similar to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, I find myself here in Mexico in the middle of my own metamorphosis. I am at a point in my life of BIG change. I left a “Corporate America” job back in Boston that provided a lot of comfort and financial security….but not very much happiness. Perhaps like the monarch, I felt an instinctual pull to make this change. One day, the fear of staying in that life finally became more frightening than the fear of going. So I went.


















After about 4 months of living in the 4th largest city in Mexico, Puebla, and studying Spanish, I took a much-needed trip to rest and rejuvenate. When I found out the monarch wintering grounds were only about 4 hours away and the time of year was perfect for their migration to Mexico, I booked the trip immediately. Beautiful natural wonders, open space, wildlife, fresh air and water were calling my name.

The location of the Monarch wintering grounds is right near the border of two states in Mexico: Michoacán and Mexico state. “Las Mariposas Monarcas” migrate to the same small area of Mexico every year. The migration takes 3-4 generations to complete full-circle. The migration begins in Mexico and through multiple generations, the butterflies travel through the US and north to Canada, and then the 4th generation travels all the way back to Mexico from Canada: one of the longest migrations of any species.

Male – showing the thin wing veins and the scent glands on the lower wings. Bright orange color.

Female – thicker wing veins; dull orange color.









The area they migrate to is high in elevation (approx. 10,000 feet), and the cool temperature, availability of water, and the Oyamel fir trees and other trees and shrubs are perfect for them and keep them coming back each year. And they come in the millions.

Like many parts of Mexico, the economy is not great, and finding work and making a decent living wage is very difficult here. The butterflies bring the tourists, and the tourists in turn, bring the resulting jobs for some of the locals. But the forests bring other economic opportunity as well: in the form of deforestation. And so there is always an element of competition between the two. Over the years, the effects of deforestation and climate change have begun to impact the butterfly populations and the area has seen a decline in Monarch populations that migrate to the area each year.

After a 2 hour bus from Puebla to Mexico City, another 2 hour bus from Mexico City to Zitacuaro, and a 30 minute taxi ride, I arrived in the small town of Macheros (population approx. 350 people). The next morning, we walked across town and met our guides and horses. The only way up is an extremely vigorous 2-3 hour hike if you have cardiovascular ambitions. I chose to take a horse with a guide up the dusty, rocky, steep terrain. My guide and my horse worked extremely hard to get me to the top of Cerro Pelón (the name of the mountain and one of several different sanctuaries for the butterflies in the area). The ride took about 1.5 hours.


During the ride up the mountain, I noticed the turn in the trail when I saw the first butterfly…a hint of what was to come. By the time I got off the horse 10 minutes later, and started to walk on the trail, there were more butterflies…

One of my companions on the trip noted that it felt like we were in the middle of a Disney movie. I couldn’t agree more – it truly felt that way. I was breathless with the magic of the experience. In the morning when the temperatures are cold, the butterflies tend to huddle in large masses in the trees, too cold for them to fly. But as the sun rises and the temperature increases, they begin to fly and it is truly magnificent to see.

You can literally hear the sound of millions of wings fluttering – it sounds a lot like a whispering wind. listen…
My apologies…the video can only be seen/heard on Safari – Go to full screen for best resolution.

When you come up on a particularly dense area, you have to watch where you step or you will step on the Monarchs that cover the ground. In some places the population is so dense that they blanket the entire earth from floor to ceiling: ground, shrubs, trees and sky. In this area, the noise of their wings is incredibly loud and beautiful.

To see this incredible video, you have to use Safari, full screen.

To witness the culmination of this final stage of metamorphosis in the monarch’s life is truly breathtaking. The enormity of inspiration I can take from this experience and apply to my own path is infinitesimal. The journey of the monarch is fraught with risks and challenges, yet their instincts lead them toward the environment they need in order to flourish. Though there is much that is unknown on my path ahead, my goal is to follow my instincts each day by listening to what feels right despite the risks, challenges and discomfort that inevitably lie ahead. There is something hopeful in knowing that what works for the Monarchs and the majority of species on this planet can work for me, too.   And in this way, I hope to move toward a more authentic life.


The impact of this experience will be with me for the rest of my life. I will never forget the sound of a million butterfly wings, the smell of the fresh earth and pine needles, the touch of the butterfly legs on my hands and forehead, and the sights of the Mariposas Monarcas that are now permanently etched in my memory. What an incredible gift.



A great comprehensive article about the current health of the populations and the state of deforestation in the area:

A blog piece by one of the owners of JM Butterfly B&B regarding the recent population changes:



Posted in Connecting to Nature, Insects, Nature Notes, Photography/Art | Leave a comment

The Eagle has Landed

​Story, photos, and artwork by James Gregory, Plymouth, MN. This the second submission Jim has made. To see more of Jim’s artwork and the work of his wife, Kristina go to:

Eagle Wing Imprint

   “While skiing across frozen Parker’s Lake right after a new snow, I came across a solitary imprint in the snow with no tracks leading to it. Closer examination indicated that the feathers of an eagle wing, talons and a prey body had fallen from the sky and then leaped in battle to another area where a terrific fight ensued with snow disturbed fifteen feet across.
Then close by  was another area stained with blood, bits of flesh and fur and the remains of a rabbit’s leg. Studying the layout I could see the pattern of the action and could graphically imagine what had taken place.  There was a great struggle on the frozen lake, this is all that was left afterwards. Also I could see the tracks of the scavenging crows that moved in for the spoils.

  The initial image haunted me with it’s iconic wing feathers and the striking ice showing through the snow where the body had hit. After playing around with some sketches I decided to paint a depiction of the battle as shown in the snow and to tie the scuffle areas together with some sweeping brushstrokes representing the combatants. The final painting is a permanent reminder of what I saw that magical morning and a reminder to watch for inspiration from Nature!”

Posted in Nature Notes, Winter | Leave a comment

My Teacher has Four Legs

Editor note: Gretchen and Dick Alford are people from the Dog Tribe and each share their story.

I just returned from the second of our twice daily walks in the back woods with our now 8 year old British yellow lab Bravo, and decided to reflect on what others might describe as a routine experience.  It’s never that with Bravo, however; as each morning and late afternoon provide new scents, sounds and adventures different from yesterday and ‪tomorrow and impossible to replicate.




The seasons change the woods in such remarkable and subtle ways as do the light, bird sounds, squirrel chases, other dogs, neighbors on walks and kids exploring.  I get to learn and appreciate on a daily basis both the complexity and simplicity of life.  My teacher has four legs, bright appealing eyes, a constantly sniffing nose, ears that can hear through windows and doors and a body that moves effortlessly through the woods’ terrain.  If I didn’t need to occasionally reign him in with my words to avoid his going into the roads that surround this little piece of heaven on earth, no words would be spoken at all to communicate fully and oh so clearly.  What a connection, what a gift, what a day brightener no matter what the weather.  I’m more in touch with the universe wherever and whenever I am with Bravo than at any other time. “Bravo to that”!


Having had 6 labs in the field with me over the years, some attributes of each stand out in my memory. All had exceptional hearing, noses and retrieving ability. For half of the 21st century, our latest, 8 and ½ year old British yellow lab Bravo, has stolen my heart like none other.

When we chose him from the litter, we were told he would eat as fast as possible taking no prisoners. After inhaling the contents of his food bowl twice daily ever since, he proceeds to push it aside to capture any kernels that might have escaped. Yet, when we’re at the dinner table, this aggressive eater sits patiently and silently, large brown eyes fixed on the prize, hoping to lick our plates at meal’s end. That same stare shows up around 4:30 every afternoon, as he finds us and reminds us it’s time for a walk and supper.

On mornings when I attempt to sleep in, he goes downstairs to retrieve a shoe which he then brings up to the bed and drops on my chest. “Time to get up, Dad”. I then ask him to “go get the other one”. Sometimes he hits the mark, but often I’m presented with any one of my shoes or slippers he can find in a hurry. He also senses my moods, and quietly retreats to the stairs or loft if there’s tension in the air. He completely understands many hand gestures and one syllable voice commands.

One morning he followed me with my cup of coffee out on our deck, and as usual put his head through the railing so he could stare out at the small woods that is our back yard. He soon spotted and heard the only rooster pheasant I’d ever seen in that woods. He quickly spun around, raced back in the house and headed upstairs. When he returned, he spoke to me without a sound. He sat in front of me, head and pleading/proud eyes poised upward, with a stuffed pheasant in his mouth that he had retrieved from his toy basket. He then squeezed the toy so it would make a squawking sound. Clearly he had made the connection and presented me with the next best thing any master would treasure.

This precious dog knows us, and is still teaching us to this day with his passion, perseverance and grit!!

Bravo’s Pack


Posted in Animals, Connecting to Nature | 2 Comments

Moments with Nature

Paul Vitko is an artist, and has shared some of the work from his own back yard. If you would like to see more of Paul’s work go to: paulvitko.com.

The challenge is being present in the moment, seeing, translating, and using your heart to create.  Paul Vitko

Ambush bug
Paul Vitko

Creating photographic images can challenge one very deeply. Nature responds to an inner respect for life forms, finding working boundaries, and learning to be ‘non-threatening’. These are all aspects, besides a  camera, that require developing a second nature so you can be free and feeling in the moment.

Paul Vitko

Creating images with a camera is my passion. Traveling around the world  fueled my passion, but soon the photography journey would come closer to home, like right in my backyard. By realizing what an incredible world is in the immediate environment,  I learned to ‘see’ what I wasn’t noticing

Honey Bee
Paul Vitko

An early image of a bee and flower, was my entrance into starting to grow a wildflower garden for continuous opportunities to create images about bees, insects, and flowers. The first garden was very simple, scratched a patch of dirt, scattered seeds, and then in the summer, photographed whatever showed up.

A pollen-covered honey bee
Paul Vitko

I started using a film camera in my late teens; a degree in fine arts (painting & photography); and took many thousands of images. Now when I create images, it is with my experiences, innate feelings, & knowingness. All this is present when I enter a  “zone” where linear time no longer exists. In this space, I feel ‘one’ with the environment, like I am just another life form, being present in the moment. This is where my best work takes place.

Paul Vitko

Hummingbirds bring me great joy, just to be with those moments, sitting, watching and enjoying their movements. The additional enjoyment is creating images during those moments. Yellow jackets and hummingbirds get very competitive around the feeders, especially late summer and fall, very entertaining.

Paul Vitko

Paul Vitko

Just being present in life exposes one to moments not typically noticed, like an eagle landing in a tree in my backyard. About 4 years ago, around the winter solstice, while preparing dinner, this beautiful eagle with a dead squirrel in its talons, landed on a branch that was visible out my kitchen window. My camera was nearby, I went out back to photograph it,  but unfortunately while attempting to get closer, (broke the boundary issue), the distraction was too much and it flew away.

Bald Eagle
Paul Vitko

In my opinion, one can have the fanciest or the simplest equipment, but it gets down to the eye of the person behind the camera. As with most things, there is a timing involved. Will you be present to notice, compose and create the image? It is important, to know how to use your tools, so you can let go of figuring it out. The challenge is being present in the moment, seeing, translating, and using your heart to create.

Hummingbird Moth
Paul Vitko


I have never been stung or bit by an insect in all my years of photographing.

Hide and Seek with a Milkweed bug
Paul Vitko

Cicada Exoskeleton
Paul Vitko

Posted in Photography/Art | 1 Comment

Travels with the Earth Oracle


I recently read an important new book on Earth Spirituality, called “Travels with the Earth Oracle”. This the story of a group of people who traveled to sacred areas around the world.The book is about engaging with the Earth in a spiritual way, through wisdom channeled from  locations around the world.  What I love about this book is that I could feel the struggle that these seekers had working to bring more planetary consciousness into their lives. If you would like to learn more about Travels with the Earth Oracle go to:


“As planetary beings your primary purpose above all others is to help

              sustain the Earth’s balance and fortify its ability to create life.”
The back cover reads: “Join us on our “Travels with the Earth Oracle” where you’ll be meeting spiritual teachers, ancient sages, warriors, planetary life forms and highly conscious beings who walked the planet long ago. Pack your boots, you’re going to be hiking a lot, climbing sacred mountains, sweating inside a great pyramid, meeting with a tribe of rain forest people, and stretching your consciousness in startling ways.

As one of the travelers said, “It is a lot cheaper and less stressful to read this book, rather than to have been a participant on one of those trips”.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holiday Books for Nature Loving Kids

During the holidays, you can buy my books at a 50% discount off of the retail price. Each book is priced at $12 + $3 shipping = $15. I will sign all books. Books can be returned for 100% refund.

Nature Seeker Workbook

Wade Cover 020913_flt@300 copy 2Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a naturalist in Minnetonka/Hopkins. Over 600 books have been sold in three years. It is a unique personal field guide to the natural world in Central Minnesota.
Over 50 field-tested activities. Hundreds of detailed and original drawings.
Highlights natural history through all seasons
Entire units to forest and wetland ecology
Includes Nature songs, poetry, weaving and more
For students  2nd – 6th grade 157 pages  (2013)



OceanographyOceanography includes challenging activities on physical oceanography, biological oceanography, interviews with oceanographers and a teacher’s key. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 5000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 6th revision (2015). 144 pgs. topics:
Plate Tectonics          Marine Communities
Geology of seafloor   Marine Plankton
Mapping the Seafloor   Marine Food Webs
Ocean currents               Food pyramids

To learn more about Oceanography and Getting to Know the Whales go to:  www.oldnaturalist.com/oceanographywhales/ or go to the pull down menu at this site and go to Publications. Click on Whales/oceanography.

GettingtoKnowWhalesThis book had to be written because of the author and illustrator’s passion for whales. Whale biologists have readily contributed data to make whales come to life for children. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 5000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 5th revision (2015). 146 pages


Whale Biology Topics
Draw a whale         Prehistoric whales   Whale and dolphin key      Whale dissection
How Whales feed       Lunge-feeding flip book           How Whales Breathe
How long doe a Whale dive?       A Day with a Blue          Whales  How Fast is a Whale
Whale Migration              Year in the life of a Humpback Whale

How to purchase:
1. Send a check for $15.
2.  order by email:  larrywade16@gmail.com
3. call me to order:  (952) 288-5025
4. You can also pay by credit card through PayPal go to: /www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/  and scroll down  ( Nature Seeker only – $19.46 includes shipping)
5. All three books are on Amazon – $ 21.00 includes shipping
At Amazon, only purchase the following editions:
Whales in the Classroom, Oceanography 6th edition
Getting to Know the Whales, 5th Edition
Nature Seeker Workbook

Larry Wade
15524 Day Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345

Will ship within 24 hours. Send me your email address and I’ll get the tracking numbers to you. The last day for the sale is Dec. 22.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Gatewood School Poetry Residency 2016

Many thanks to the Gatewood PTO, who funded the poetry residency for many years.

Maple Leaf Glasses

Maple Leaf Glasses


Tiger Fly
It’s a beautiful butterfly

Golden as the sun
Sometimes I wonder
How old it was
But now I’m sad
Because it is Dead
A beautiful butterfly
I once could’ve said
Sonia Lerner



Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the diversity of cultures
In the colors on our posters
In the foggy rain on our skylight

Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the sparks of inspiration
In the brightness of our teacher
On all the different flags

Where Does Beauty Hide?
In all the growing trust and respect
In all the knowledge in the books
On everything worked for
In all of Gatewood!!

Jeulien Long-Wynne



Sea Star

Sea Star

So small and fragile
This fish eats from the bottom
It pricks your finger
Paris Cruse






shark jaw

shark jaw

Ocean predator
Sitting with its mouth wide open
Swimming in heaven

Jude Lulu








The whale bone is hard
Humongous and very rough

Found by the seashore
Hans Greenwood



The tree is so big
The leaves dance down the tree to the ground.
The wind sings to the tree and me,
I feel like an ant being among the nine tree trunks.
The branches sway,
Waving “hi” to anyone who comes by.
The leaves,have many colors,
So unique.
Isabella Gomez

Ben and Bennett

(Note  the video only plays using Safari)


Bear skull

Harder than a rock
As smooth as a stone
I wonder if my head is gonna be as big as that bone
I feel like it got hit by a gnome
Sum up the poem
It’s harder than a stone

Bennett Frodermann and Ben Joppa



Where does beauty hide?
The colorful Artwork of the halls
The pictures of families
On the American flag
In the darkness of our classroom
The sounds of the 5th grade pod
Where does the beauty hide?
Inside our school
Dee Johnston




Gatewood School

Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the clear skies above us
In the colorful posters on the walls
On all of the flags
Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the creativeness of our artwork
In the friendship of all of us
In the designs on the couches
In the colors on the walls
Where Does Beauty Hide?
Inside the school

Kaia Johnson



Deer Antlers

Furry but hard
Small but has big scratch marks
I wonder how it got scratch marks
I feel sad because the deer is gone
Without its antlers
The antlers are small
But  BIG in its own way

Isabella Gomez



student work at Gatewood School

student work at Gatewood School

Where does beauty hide
Inside the class
In the posters
Brightness of our teacher
In the sky light
In the darkness
In the friendship of all of us
The the walls in the hallways
On the flag
In the library
In the classroom.

Kevin Machoga


Where does beauty hide?art
In the helpings of our teachers
In the culture all around us,
In the peaceful blue sky,
In the talented work of art,
In the calmness of our library.
Inside our school

Sheily Leguizamo


Where does beauty hide?
In the brightness of our teacher
In the
life of the students
In the
colors of the flags
Where does beauty hide?
In the unique drawings on the walls
In the laughter of the students
In the smell of
Where does beauty hide?
In our school!
Arianna Bull


Where Does Beauty Hide?
Inside our classroom

In the Star Spangled Banner
In the Minnesota posters on the wall
Where does beauty hide?
In the brightness of our teacher

In all the country flags in the hall
In the artwork on the walls
Where does beauty hide?
In the Gatewood sign in front of the school

Inside of Gatewood Elementary.

Liam Raymond Urbanowicz

Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the greatness of our art.

In the sounds of learning classrooms.
On the colorful posters.
In the friendship of all of us.
Where Does Beauty Hide?
Inside the school

Layla Sremcevic

Where does Beauty hide.
In our class.
On the American flag.
In the colorful posters on the wall.
Where does Beauty hide?
In the brightness in our teacher.
In the friendship in all of us.
In the classroom’s learning.
In the library that keeps us reading.
Where does Beauty hide?
In the different culture´s flags.
In the office that has our awesome principal.
In the lunchroom that lets us eat.
In the clear skies that keeps me happy.
Where does Beauty hide?

Jake Joseph Nordean



Posted in Nature Poetry | Leave a comment

Fish Whisperer

First snorkel
Perched on a rock in the rapids
A large muskie swam up and rested beside me
wondered if I should be panicked.
Hoped that I was not wearing anything shiny
that looked tasty to a muskie.



Welcome to the underwater world.

This northern pike was blind on the right side. No wonder it was so friendly.

This northern pike was blind on the right side. No wonder it was so friendly.

Be open to the unknown. Beauty and the mystery awaits you.

Bowfin or dogfish, a bottom feeder. Primitive, creepy and beautiful.

Bowfin or dogfish, a bottom feeder. Primitive, creepy and beautiful.

Life abounds,  a spiritual connection with the water beings.

This painted turtle swam right up to me. I thought it was going to bite my nose.

This painted turtle swam right up to me. I thought it was going to bite my nose.

The lake water  is part of you now.
The water inside your body
may have once been part of the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALight changes constantly
Depending upon the clouds and the wind.
It dances on the plants and the fish,
Creating a hypnotic connection.


Largemouth bass

Sometimes you see things that makes you thankful to be alive
And you stop breathing
Because you are afraid the experience might end.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike

My first large northern pike
Inching my way slowly towards it.
Hoping it would stay just one more second
Making promises that I could never keep.
Awed by its tremendous power and elegance.


Water lilies
magical living beings
Connected to all the elements of life.
Their roots are in the earth
And live in both the water and air.
The sun is needed for photosynthesis.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

This bass sashayed past me and told me it was the king/queen of its neighborhood.



Swimming out into the hinder lands
Turned to see a muskie following.
It circled once and then swam off.
Humbling to experience the raw wildness of nature
And how it feels to be something’s prey.

Posted in Animals, Connecting to Nature | 3 Comments

Saving the Planet, One Weed at a Time

For the past 21 years, four of us have transformed an abandoned lot into a native prairie.  The project has given us an opportunity to express ourselves as guardians of the Earth.  What would our Earth be like, if all humans did even 1-2 years of guardianship service for the land?

Hoary Vervain Likes to grow in dry conditions.

Hoary Vervain
Likes to grow in dry conditions.

There is a lot of talk about “saving the planet’, but I don’t believe the Earth operates on such grandiose terms. The caring of one person is important even if it doesn’t make the evening news.

Queen of the Prairie A wetland plant in the rose family with beautifully scented flowers.

Queen of the Prairie
A wetland plant in the rose family with beautifully scented flowers.

After 3-4 years the land took on a life of its own. A blooming prairie, bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, mice, sparrows, and us guardians –  formed a web of life.  The more connected to the land we were, the more life we felt because we were included.

Cup Plant The leaves of the plant form a "cup" that birds and insects drink from.

Cup Plant
The leaves of the plant form a “cup” that birds and insects drink from.


When we first started creating the Friends of the Trail Prairie, people walking by on the bike path would shake their heads in disbelief. Once a policeman stopped and asked me if I was feeling okay. One observer summed up all the other people’s thoughts, “What are you doing down there, do you know?”. It is no wonder, people were in disbelieve. It was an abandoned lot sandwiched between a suburban road and a bike path. One acre of European spurge, Canada thistle, ragweed, and brome grass.

Native Big Bluestem We plant over a hundred plants a year. We use the burlap from Peace Coffee to control weeds for the first two years.

Native Big Bluestem
We plant over a hundred plants a year. We use burlap from Peace Coffee to control weeds for the first two years. All new plantings need to be watered by hand.

The weeds in most restored prairies are treated with a heavy dose of  Round-up and land is left fallow for a year.  In 21 years we have not done any herbicide spraying because of the detriment that herbicides have on the land and on the subsurface water table.

Pale Coneflower

Pale Coneflower

Being at the prairie is like ingesting a type of food that I need for my own survival.

Butterflyweed A favorite of monarchs and pollinators.

A favorite of monarchs and pollinators.


This past season many of our native grasses did not grow. The thatch has built up over the years and smothered many of our plants. We need a burn on the prairie to reduce the thatch and weeds, but have been unable to get a permit from our city. Now we must extend our guardianship to the city government to speak up for the land.

Mountain Mint An August favorite of my types of pollinators.

Mountain Mint
An August favorite of many types of pollinators.

People walk by the prairie now and say, “It looks beautiful, thanks for your service”.
My thought is,
“It is not a service, but a partnership with the land.  We get more from the prairie, than we actually give”.

Rattlesnake Master A favorite of pollinators in July. The plant is a a northern type of agave .

Rattlesnake Master
A favorite of pollinators in July. The plant is a a northern type of agave .


The prairie has been beautiful this season because of all the rain we have had. But there have been several drought years. During those years, it was painful to be on the land and watch the plants slowly die from the lack of water. However, following those drought summers, the plants emerged, alive again.

Friends of the Prairie 21 years later

Friends of the Prairie
21 years and counting










Having a relationship with the land is different than landscaping a yard. At the prairie we encourage some plants to grow, by watering and protecting them from aggressive weeds. But in the end, the plants tell us whether they want to live or die there.

 Ironweed Blooms in late July to early August

Blooms in late July to early August

Monarda If you give it too much love it tends to take over. A favorite of pollinators in mid July.

Monarda or Bee Balm
If you give it too much love it tends to take over.
A favorite of pollinators in mid July.












Posted in Nature Guardians, Summer | 5 Comments