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