December 2021

Thank Yous!

The mission of Blue Heron Ministries is to build communities where Creation is kept; and to keep Creation so that community may be restored. The community that has gathered around that mission over the years has been generous with their gifts and in various and creative ways has taken seriously our responsibility and role to steward our Lord’s good creation as servant rulers and humble royalty…just like Jesus. Thank you all. You bear a family resemblance to the One who made you!

The Blue Crew. Phil Bieberich, John Brittenham, Josh Hall, Shelby Holsinger, Emily Schmidt, Dave Drogos, and Fred Wooley. And Gene Huss, too.

Our Summer Intern. Hannah Guthrie. She is back to school at Goshen College and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center.

Our Administrative Assistant. Beth Williams. She loves collecting seed, teaching her kids to name, collect, and clean prairie seed…and to lead seed collection hikes. And she does a fine job of editing this monthly offering.

Our Board of Advisors. Tom Smith, Peg Zeis, Beth Williams, Neal Lewis, and Nate Simons.

Our Volunteer of the Year. Deanna Vasquez. Yes, you saw her collect seed and assist with the installation of shoreline stabilization measures at Auburn’s Rieke Park.

Prairie Seed Collectors. Deanna Vasquez; Fred Wooley; Josh Hall; Mary Durand; Peg Zeis; Janel Rogers; Judith Nastally; Denille and Alexis Conklin; Kate Sanders; John, Claire, David and Naomi Brittenham; Elma Chapman; Gloria Sherwood; Victoria, Addison, and Fred Mumaw; Beth and Marc Williams; and Nate Simons. Together you steward the genetic diversity of northeast Indiana prairies. The seed you have collected and planted over the years, though the original source may be gone (sadly!), the progeny lives on as living examples of what wild country may have looked like around here nearly two hundred years ago.

Trail and Lawn Mowers. Jim McCulloch and Kurt Stump.

Our 2021 Prairie Planters. Jonathan, Julie, Oliver, Molly, and Ivan Fridley; Amy, Eden, and Willow Huser; Denille (she showed up in the vintage 2002 photo) and Alexis Conklin; Deanna Vasquez; Fred Wooley; John, David, Naomi, and Claire Brittenham; Freya Brenston; Janel Rogers; Kate Sanders; Phil Bieberich; Mary Durand; Peg Zeis; and Aimee (she also showed up in the vintage shot) and Nate Simons.

Our 2021 Generous Financial Donors. Since we do not regularly ask for money from our friends, it is always a pleasure to open envelopes and emails that contain unsolicited funds. It is like Christmas! Thank you all! The Indiana Native Plant Society; Bette Thomson (Thrivent Choice directed); Byron and Abby Getz; Melvin and Denille Conklin; Don and Ellen Luepke (Thrivent Choice directed); Fred Duschl; Jim and Lynn Simons; Joanne McKeag; Ken and Dee Wolf; Larry Hedeen; Lee and Pat Casebere; Lindsay Pals; Marilyn Clevenger; Melanie Clark; Mike Clock; Pat Fulton; Paul Rothrock; Rick and Martha Fansler; Roger and Mary Hawks; Steve Briody; Terri Gorney; and Aimee and Nate Simons.

20th Prairie Planting Party!

By Nate Simons

On the first Saturday in December in 2002 about a dozen friends of Blue Heron Ministries convened to sow prairie seed that they had hand-collected that fall from northeast Indiana’s Lakes Country prairie remnants. Twenty Decembers later, some of those same friends (at least two that I can remember) were joined by a host of others to carry on the annual tradition.

Our first Prairie Planting Party. Dancing the scattered seed into the earth. December 2002

This fall prairie enthusiasts met on six Saturdays to learn about northeast Indiana prairies, to experience first-hand the fruits of former years’ prairie restoration efforts, and to gather native grass and wildflower seed. Veteran seed collectors mingled and chatted with some new faces as they enjoyed afternoons of fall weather, the feel of prairie seed, and a common bond. I am sorry that I may not have all the names of folks who gave of their time to bring in the harvest. Thank you all!

Each Saturday late afternoon, the harvested seed was transferred from the transportation bags onto drying racks in Blue Heron Ministries’ barn.

Around Thanksgiving time, Blue Crew staff cleaned, recorded, and sorted the dried seed. A seed mix was formulated and plans were made to sow yet another volunteer prairie.

Twenty-four veteran and budding prairie enthusiasts wait in line to receive their ration of prairie seed. Photo by Fred Wooley

Twenty-four children of all ages met at the Clear Lake-area tree farm of Rick Eckert. The goal was to scatter a generous weight of prairie seed evenly on a previously-readied strip of earth at the edge of Rick’s tree plantation. Rick’s vision, presented a couple of years earlier, was to provide travelers on State Road 120 and visitors to and residents of Clear Lake with the gift of color, and beauty, and life in the form of a neighborhood prairie. So, the goal was accomplished. The culmination of the vision will have to wait.

Like feeding chickens, the prairie seed was scattered on the prepared earth. Photo by Fred Wooley

Prairie enthusiasts have learned that the wait is worth it. The hope of seeing a diverse prairie emerge from scattered prairie seed is a confident and patient expectation of a promised future event. That promise is grounded in the faithfulness of the Lord, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, who has demonstrated year after year and millennia after millennia, that as long as the earth remains seed will “produce seed after their own kind” and that “there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” (from Genesis 1 and 8)

In the twenty years that Blue Heron Ministries’ folks have planted prairie, they have seen the faithfulness of God. Their annual return to do it again is testimony to that faithfulness.

Final step, “stomping” the seed into the earth. December 4, 2021
Photo by Fred Wooley

An Award-Winning Restoration

By Nate Simons

According to an official press release, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) presented the 2021 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence to eight recipients who were honored for extraordinary initiatives in protecting the environment.

“We are excited to recognize our 2021 Governor’s Award winners for their efforts in innovation, waste reduction, and improvements to Indiana’s environment,” said IDEM Commissioner Bruno Pigott. “These award winners are paving the way for other organizations to learn how to increase environmental protection efforts in the state.”
LaGrange County Parks and Recreation Department was awarded one of the eight honors for the Duff Lake Fen and Savanna Restoration project at their Pine Knob Park near Howe.

  • The LaGrange County Department of Parks and Recreation, Wolcottville for “Duff Fen Restoration Project” The Parks and Recreation Department acquired Duff Lake Fen in 2 parcels: 108 acres in 2013, and 21 acres in 2016, to bring the total acreage of Pine Knob Park up to 254 acres. The motivational intent with the Duff Lake Fen/Savanna Restoration project was to hydrologically and vegetatively restore approximately 182 acres of the property, and the adjoining Pine Knob Park property, into a native grassland. Prior to acquisition, the property was in agricultural use as cattle pasture, hay, and row crops. The restoration included two years of invasive removal [really, it is an ongoing process], a $944,400 investment, 182 acres restored to native savanna, and 36 endangered, threatened, and rare species protected.
Duff Lake Fen. August 2020. Photo by John Brittenham

Current LaGrange County Parks’ director Mary Franke nominated the successful and exemplary project to serve as a model for other municipal landholders to follow and also to honor former Parks’ director Mike Metz for his visionary leadership in the project.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence are Indiana’s most prestigious environmental recognition awards. They are reserved for the most innovative, sustainable, and exemplary programs or projects that positively impact Indiana’s environment and demonstrate measurable environmental, economic, and social benefits.

In a highly competitive award program in which only one award per category per year is given, LaGrange County Parks won the honor in the “Land Use/Conservation” category.

Blue Heron Ministries is both proud and humbled to have been and continues to be partnered with LaGrange County Parks in the planning, implementation, and continued care of the large-scale prairie restoration effort at Pine Knob Park.

View from the Crew

by Emily Schmidt

Josh Hall shows off his trenching job at the City of Auburn’s Riecke Park. December 1, 2021. EnkaMat and straw mats were installed and trenched into the ground to stabilize the shoreline and prep for planting in the spring.
Upon realizing she is without her safety glasses for a day of brush cutting at Spikerush Fen in IDNR’s Pigeon River Fish & Wildlife Area, Shelby Holsinger improvises with swimming goggles. December 7, 2021
Sarah Wilson and Josh Hall work together to load and clear stumps at Lagrange County Parks’ Delt Church Park. December 10, 2021
Sarah Wilson discovers a hands-free way of moving tree limbs at Delt Church Park. December 10, 2021
Dave Drogos keeps an eye on the fire at the point of ignition as Phil Bieberich preps the leaf blower for use as a suppression tool. Gary and Judy Johnston’s Fatherland. December 13, 2021
John Brittenham puts out the last of the flames at the Johnston’s CRP. December 13, 2021
John Brittenham strings fire through the interior of the unit, at our own Badger Barrens Sanctuary. December 14, 2021
We’re all hung up! Dave Drogos comes to the rescue with the chainsaw at LaGrange County Parks’ Duff Memorial Park. December 21, 2021
Chips are flying as Shelby Holsinger limbs up felled trees at Duff Memorial Park. December 21, 2021
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