Planting Duff Lake Fen by Ben Aberle

The culmination of our two-year seed collection campaign is finally upon us as we finish sowing the seeds at Duff Lake Fen before the ground thaws. This seed has been eagerly collected by many hands over the past two years and represents a pure genetic code. It was patiently cleaned by hand, and carefully stored. It was anxiously transported in rainy conditions and rigorously mixed with over a ton of oats. The prairie seed alone weighed almost 450 pounds!



Now, we breathe a sigh of relief as the seed rests on the ground waiting for the right conditions to begin life anew. We rest too, but not for long, for we will collect again this summer and overseed the entire property next winter.


The work of sowing seed in a wetland requires mathematical foresight, fearlessness operating an ATV, and a willingness to let go. We had to make sure to spread the total amount of seed evenly over a large area (about 56 acres will be planted this year). The first step is knowing how many pounds of seed per acre. The next step is calibrating our equipment.



Sometimes this means to drive at a natural pace with perfectly flowing seed. Sometimes it means driving pell-mell over frost-heaving muck bumps in order to get the seed to come out. Once our equipment is calibrated we try to cover as much area as we can while the ground is still frozen.


The state of the ground is important when it comes to traversing the wet morass that Duff Lake has become since the ditches were filled. Any ground that isn’t covered with water needs to have seed on it. However, that doesn’t mean that the ground will be solid enough to hold a person or ATV. Duff Lake has many places which look solid but were very recently open channels o water.


So we tested our limits an trusted that it we got stuck then we could also get out. We found out that most of the formerly-ditch-ground could be traveled while frozen. We also discovered five areas that could NOT be. Luckily for us we had a tow strap handy and fellow comrades (and trucks, ATVs and tractors) to pull us out.



For me it has been rewarding to return native seed to a place where I have worked so often and have come to know very well. The planting felt like a culmination of what we have done thus far although there is much more work to be done.

%d bloggers like this: