2019 Seed Collecting: Same Process, Some BHM Changes – by Fred Wooley

I heard from my brother this morning, from outside Chicago, they got 2 to 3 inches of wet, slushy snow!

“What! Snow already?!”

I guess it is that time, as we wrap up October and flip the calendar to November. We have already had some October mornings of frost on the pumpkins and vehicle windshields. At Blue Heron Ministries, these natural events also signal that we are reaching the end of seed gathering activities.

Emily Schmidt cleaning seed – photo by Josh Hall

We like to think of work at BHM as a series of events, all leading to one objective, restore and maintain natural areas to their original, high quality of native plants and a healthy, functioning system to keep them high quality. Some of the year is spent removing

unwanted, non-native, invasive plants. At some areas we manage, we introduce fire to the landscape at certain times, as once occurred naturally to the landscape, including set by Native American people. Parts of the year are spent planting species to restore the land, plugs in the spring and summer, seeds in the fall, winter, and very early spring; again, depending on the species of plants and the areas being managed.

The summer and fall fruiting seasons often find us out collecting the seeds of those plants. The goal is to collect as many as possible in the most efficient fashion, dry them, and store them. A winter project is to then clean those seeds, which are then planted at our various project sites. This is a tremendous savings over purchasing seeds from vendors that provide such, plus we get the very local genotypes from natural areas right here and the repopulation of these plants is the purist it can be.

BHM employees always comment this is one of the favorite tasks of our year and one of the best times of years. For one thing we are not out just killing plants, as is needed to remove invasives from our worksites. We are reaping the fruits of our efforts, literally, by collecting seeds of desirable plants and making them available in that area we are working, or at new areas being restored.

The work is good, quiet, and clean, no noisy equipment and no chemicals. Just work with a five gallon bucket belted to your waist… pulling, maybe cutting, and dropping seeds into a bucket. All the while we are in some of the most beautiful areas in Northeast Indiana. Though for some seeds, grass seeds mainly, we do have a combine like apparatus that can be pulled behind a tractor that greatly increases our efficiency.

Phillip Bieberich harvesting little blue stem Mongo prairie – photo by Fred Wooley

We don’t keep the fun to ourselves either; we invite volunteers to join our efforts! Every Saturday in October, we offer volunteer days where anyone can come out and join us in these wonderful natural areas, share in the work, and enjoy the camaraderie of being with kindred spirits in the out-of-doors. To all who have joined us in the past, thank you! To others who would like to be a part of this fun and valuable work, please contact our BHM office. Though October is ending, there are still some target species that can be collected. We can arrange for you to join us still, or with a little training and direction, send you to an area to collect and bring back a target species. Please call Director Nate Simons if interested.

Seeds in drying bins in BHM Barn 10_29_2019 by Fred Wooley
Seeds in drying bins in BHM barn – photo by Fred Wooley

While the process remains the same, some big changes were in place this year. Our barn we used to dry and store seed in the past was at the country home of Nate and Aimee Simons. They have relocated, and we no longer had access to that barn. While it was valuable and served our purpose in our early years, we have moved operations to our own barn near our Chapel of the Lakes office. This is a welcomed addition to have work and storage space right near our headquarters. We quickly established new drying racks and storage shelves this fall. On very busy days, we even stretched the BHM mega-tarp on the shop lawn and took advantage of solar drying.

Plans are underway to add to our current garage/barn. That work will happen this fall. Stay tuned and watch for these future changes at Blue Heron Ministries. If you’d like to be a part of the process, part of some very rewarding experiences, please raise your hand or call!

Various seeds out to sun and air dry at BHM office yard – photo by Fred Wooley

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