Blue Heron Ministries

An opportunity to be stewards of our Lord's creation within the context of community

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Join Us This Month!

October Prairie Seed Harvest – October 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th from 10AM-4PM

Every Saturday in October, we travel to different areas of Steuben and LaGrange counties to collect native prairie plant seeds.

Come, gather with Blue Heron Ministries friends for the opportunity to fellowship, visit unique natural communities, learn about native plants, and enjoy the autumn harvest. The whole family is welcome! Children often find this to be a fun experience.
We’ll meet at the Presbyterian Chapel of the Lakes (2955 W. Orland Rd) at 10AM and carpool to the site(s). We have all the tools and buckets, just bring your lunch.

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Join Us Later This Week!

September Prairie Seed Harvest – September 16th from 10AM-4PM

We’re going to head into the prairie a little earlier this year for the fall harvest. We’ll be after some species that we normally don’t have the opportunity to gather in October.

We’ll meet at the Presbyterian Chapel of the Lakes (2955 W. Orland Rd) at 10AM and carpool to the site(s). We have all the tools and buckets, just bring your lunch.

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Rainy days and Mondays never get us down! It’s seed time! – By Fred Wooley

Rain fell off and on all night and into the early Monday morning hours, accompanied by occasional flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder. Driving into the Blue Heron Ministries office to gather by 8:00am, eight employees encountered skies ranging back and forth from dark to light to very dark, and intermittent rain. Distant thunder was continuous. All was quiet if not cozy in the small BHM office, lined with bookshelves, desks, counters, and dry-erase boards. We sat in a circular fashion, as is our morning tradition, on the variety of chairs, and discussed plans for the wet day ahead, offered thanksgiving, and prayed together.

It’s now the third week of summer and the first seeds of some plants are ripe and

Peter Bauson emptying chaff cleaned

prime for picking. Seed collecting was today’s major focus. In the event of unrelenting rain, we would clean seed already gathered the past couple of weeks and stored at the barn. Some of the crew would work on equipment, some on cleaning and organizing
herbicide containers, others would stay back to plan future projects and write for this newsletter.
Aaaaand… if and when the skies clear, we’re back out to gather more seeds, the target plants identified in today’s morning meeting. Most of the crew left the office for the
barn and quickly divided into the seed sorting and cleaning tasks. The barn is not big and packed fairly tightly with equipment, supplies, chemicals, plant potting materials, and other items that cover our business over the year. The loft above has no hay, but shelving and racks for drying, separating, and storing seed.
Seed collecting begins in very early summer and progresses through late fall. Volunteer collectors and BHM employees will cut and strip plant seeds from a number of sites

cleaned seed ready for storage

throughout the region that offer pure and local genotype species. Enough seed was collected and on racks by July 10, BHM employees today were able to shed rain coats, don dust masks, and screen and bag pure seed.
Many proclaimed how great a Ziploc bag looks filled with pure seed. You could say you hold in your hand the efforts of one or more people visiting some of the most beautiful natural areas in northeast Indiana, collecting, laying out to dry, and now screen-cleaning the seed. In that bag is the sunshine of 2017 that fueled the process of soil, water and this unique plant to grow, flower and fruit. Though just pure seed, in that bag are also that plant’s, roots, stems, flowers, and fruits of many early summer rains for many years to come.
Think about that. A rainy day and Monday will never get you down.

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Plug planting at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site – by Fred Wooley

A recent project took us to the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site in Rome City. The Historic Site has acquired a neighboring farm. The agricultural field of about 70 acres is being restored to the natural landscape it once was. Still in its early stages, a short grass prairie is beginning to look like it’s been there for years, like it belongs…because it does!

Five scattered wetlands have been restored through a process of breaking drainage tiles and moving earth to create low dams.
Enter, Blue Heron Ministries. BHM worked with the Historic Site to develop a plan to re-vegetate the wetlands. The goal is to create a native wetland plant edge between the

plants in flats

open water of the wetlands and the adjacent prairie installation. In late June and early July, BHM made five trips with varying crew sizes to plant 2 x 2 inch plugs of native wetland species of sedges, rushes, and of course, forbs…nearly 30 species in all.
We procured over 4,000 wetland plant plugs from Heartland Restoration Services in Fort Wayne and another nearly 1,000 plugs were gifted by the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, left over from a project they had completed. Thank you TNC!
Over the course of five days, crews of four to six made the trip to Rome City and planted plugs. The wetland plants were first separated into three zones, one out in the

Brett Bloom drilling holes

standing water, one along the muddy edge, and one just a little higher above the mud flats. A gas-powered auger with a three inch bit facilitated the placing of plugs. In deeper water, the plants were cut in with long bladed planting knives.
While working, we encountered numerous side attractions which added to what could have been monotonous work of plugging plants. Leopard frogs were active along shorelines and bullfrogs were “baroooooming” out in open water. A harrier flew by giving its characteristic call note and that of a spotted sandpaper broke the silence and revealed its teetering poster across the water.
We’d occasionally chase a family of mallards around the ponds, not intentionally, but as we circled the wetlands with flats of plants, the ducklings and mama kept a safe distance going from side to side. The most unusual sight for me, a mammal checking out our freshly planted greenery, was an adult woodchuck! It allowed me to walk right up to it! A woodchuck in water might partly be like a fish out of water. It eventually had enough and exited the water and laid a soggy trail to some distant hole in the prairie.
Woodchuck checking out freshly  planted plugs
There were also Dave Fox and Tiffany Conrad sightings! Dave and Tiffany are site manager and site interpreter at GSP. They came by a couple of times to get photos, take measurements for laying strings to prevent geese encroachment, and mostly to share their excitement and that of their staff, volunteers, and public. We look forward to our return visits to monitor success of the project as the wetland sedges, bulrushes, grasses, and wildflowers establish, spread, and fill in the wetland edges. We think Gene Stratton Porter would have approved the restoration work and we think you will too. Consider taking a hike with your family!

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That’s A Thorny Subject! – By Nate Simons

And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

The first man heard these strong words from his Creator as a result of his rebellion. And the world has never been the same.
I am often reminded of this part of the Story when we work to restore vitality, diversity, and beauty to wild places in and around northeast Indiana. Basically, the work of ecological restoration is to undo, bit by bit, the curse. Or as Scot McKnight writes in Blue Parakeet, “A Jesus community undoes the distortions of the fall because it seeks to live out the fullness of the Story.” Much of the work of Blue Heron Ministries is removal of weeds (or plants we deem unfit because they do not belong) from areas in which we want to see desirable or native plants and plant communities thrive.
So thorns and thistles are considered “weeds” in the garden we call “home.”
Late June and early July thorns and thistles abound. It is time to control Canada


Thistle. And we do. But it is also time to harvest berries. Black raspberries. Red raspberries. And gooseberries.
Black raspberry brambles have spread along the fencerow at the edge of our prairie. Red raspberry canes arch (and spread) over wire supports in our garden. We planted three gooseberry bushes in our garden twelve years ago after transplanting them time after time as we moved from home to home over the years…an original gift from a friend. It is a good year for berries. After a bad year for gooseberries last year, this has been a bumper crop year. But all three have something in common. Thorns! They grab and scratch and poke and don’t seem to let go. And yet, the work and the sweat do yield a wonderful prize. Black raspberries, red raspberries and gooseberries for fresh eating on summer fruit salads, warm crumble-topped pies, jars of sugary jam, and frozen for winter treats.
I enjoy the fruit of the scratchy, pokey, sweaty labor. I wonder if maybe the curse is lifting a bit. I wonder if sweet berries (yes, gooseberries are “sweet” if you wait to collect them when they are pink-to-maroon and ripe). I wonder if the death and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the coming of his Kingdom on earth….such that we can see and taste some goodness in those thorns and thistles. And I look forward to the day when the curse is finally lifted for good. It might be a day when new and thornless varieties of my beloved fruit will abound. That will be a sweet day indeed!
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8: 18-21)
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

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Deadline Approaching- Fall Field Steward Internship

Blue Heron Ministries hopes to fill one field steward internship position for the remainder of the 2017 field season. We are a nonprofit Christian land conservation organization based in Angola, Indiana.
We work with other nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, and private land owners around northeast Indiana and southern Michigan. Blue Heron Ministries is an opportunity for folks to apply the hands-on craft of ecological restoration to steward our Lord’s creation within the context of intentional community. A description of this internship is as follows:
  • Intensive and arduous labor.
  • Term will be September 5 thru December 15 (flexible). If the internship is a fit both ways and if projected workload is adequate, the internship may evolve into a full time field position in 2018.
  • 35-40 hours a week.
  • $11/hr.
  • Invasive species control predominantly in wetlands in Steuben and LaGrange and surrounding counties (Indiana and Michigan). Some travel for distant projects (up to 3 hours) will also be likely.
  • Control of herbaceous and woody invasives (i.e. reed canary grass, common reed, autumn olive, bush honeysuckle, etc.) will involve herbicide applications.
  • The intern will participate in Blue Heron Ministries’ prescribed fire team (late summer and fall).
  • Prairie and wetland seed collection and installation projects are a minor component of our work, as well.
  • Work conditions will be cold or hot, wet, and poisonous (sumac and Massasaugas)…but where else can you enjoy the presence of God while caring for His creation in such a tangible way?
  • Intern must have a positive attitude, the willingness to learn and take direction, the ability to work independently and with a crew, and possess an attention to detail. No experience necessary.
  • Intern will obtain an Indiana pesticide applicator’s license during the internship.
  • Interns will gain knowledge on a number of topics including but not limited to:
    • Plant identification and monitoring
    • Land management practices within prairie and oak ecosystems
    • The lawful, ethical, and safe use of herbicides
    • Wildlife surveys and monitoring
    • Opportunities to network with other conservation organizations
Send resumes to Attn: Nate Simons by August 21, 2017. Applicants will be called for interviews later that following week.

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Join Us Later This Week!

Duff Lake Fen Walk – Friday, August 18th at 10AM

There have been lots of changes at LaGrange County Parks’ Duff Lake Fen, over the last few years. This area was previously grazed by cattle and has undergone various steps to restore its natural features.

John Brittenham will lead us through the fen, as we learn about the restoration process and see what’s in bloom.
We’ll meet in the parking lot of Pine Knob Park (2825 E SR 120 Howe, IN 46746) at 10AM.