Always a tradition, always fun, always a culmination of a year’s effort, Blue Heron Ministries’ employees and friends gathered for our annual prairie planting for 2019 on December 7. Each year a site is selected to hand plant a one-acre plot of new and, given the site’s location, restored prairie.
The work for the project begins during this year’s growing and fruiting season. Seeds of prairie grasses, sedges, and forbs are gathered in late summer and all fall. The bulk material is dried and stored in breathable bags. Throughout the wet and cold days of November and early December, those seeds are cleaned, separated from the chaff, leaves, and stems, weighed and carefully labeled and recorded.
The work at the planting site usually begins two growing seasons before planting with carefully applied herbicides and plant removal. A one-acre site is selected on one of the properties managed during the year by Blue Heron Ministries.
It then all comes together the first Saturday of December. The first Saturday of Advent, we gather to plant an acre of prairie, recognize the preparation of the Christmas season, and celebrate the coming of both a restored prairie and the birth of the Christ child.
This year 24 people, ranging in age from 3 to 83, participated. We gathered at the Presbyterian Chapel of the Lakes (BHM headquarters) and caravanned to Clear Lake and the Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy-owned Clear Lake Nature Preserve. Approximately 12 acres of former old field within the 45-acre preserve is being converted to prairie by Blue Heron Ministries. Within the 12 acres, this year’s one-acre plot was staked out in quarter-acre blocks and ready for us.
It was a cool and cloudy day, but all bundled, we were ready. Two huge tubs of prairie seed were mixed with oats on site; the oat seeds serving as a “carrier” for the tiny prairie seeds. The contents of those two tubs were divided into four portions and four times, director Nate Simons scooped the mix into the buckets of 24 eager seed spreaders. We then four-times stretched out over a long line and walked from one side of each quarter-acre plot to the other dispersing our seeds.
It is a simple process. Now nature takes over. The winter rains and snows carry the seeds into a receptive earth and next spring germination occurs and a prairie begins.
After the planting, participants reconvened at the home of CLTLC Director Bridget Harrison. We enjoyed refreshments and reviewed our day and gave thanks and praise during this beginning of the Advent season.
It is always a wonderful mix of people on these events. We have BHM fulltime and part time employees and family members. That is a tribute to any organization when an employee “gives up” a Saturday, a day off, to participate in a work related event. That speaks to both the dedication of employees and the notion our work is as much mission as it is paycheck. We have volunteers who find great satisfaction seeing their fruits, literally the “fruits” of their efforts, come full circle. And we have friends, supporters of BHM who support us from near and afar and while not always able to be on site for every event they find equal satisfaction of seeing and showing their support for and love of preservation and restoration in action.