A season in the Nebraska prairies, Part 1

Part 1 in a series of posts and photos showing my time here in Nebraska working as a Restoration and Stewardship Field Assistant for Prairie Plains Resource Institute.

“The beauty here is often subtle.  It doesn’t knock you off your feet at a glance the way the snow-capped Colorado Rockies or the rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest do.  But it can be every bit as remarkable.”
Michael Forsberg

I arrived in Nebraska in mid-March, in the middle of a long and cold spring (it snowed May 1st.).  While it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be – or what I had briefly experienced during a short stint in North Idaho – it was still much different than back home, at least at that point in the year.  Right off the bat I went to work cutting down invading, fire-intolerant Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), driving a tractor (something I had done only the week before for about half an hour on a vintage 1960s Allis-Chalmers), undoing thousands of feet of old fencing, then turning around and building a new fence, and even put in some time on a skidsteer.

And then…

Seeds were mixed. Gallons became barrels (30 gallons = 1 barrel). The seed ring is formed, upon which all the seed in the
Seeds were mixed. Gallons became barrels (30 gallons = 1 barrel) and a seed ring was formed, upon which all the seed in the recipe for the upcoming planting were dribbled out in a dizzying, sometimes slick-shod circle.
Then the ring is disheveled into a pile of heaping seeds and wafting seed dust.
Then the ring is disheveled into a pile of heaping seeds and wafting seed dust; respirators are a must. The seed is then barreled up, loaded onto a trailer, and trucked away to some area, where it is then drop seeded…
Prairies were planted.
…often into former corn and bean fields.
This one was a WRP planting near Broken Bow, NE.
This one was a WRP planting near Broken Bow, NE.
Dormant prairies were burned.
Dormant prairies were burned.
Then it was back to fencing.
Then it was back to fencing.
A dormant prairie in central Nebraska.  Though the surface appears lifeless, in the soil below is an orchestra of life ongoing and life anew as all things small and microscopic prepare for the coming spring.
I observed still sleeping prairies in my spare time. Though the surface appears lifeless, in the soil below is an orchestra of life ongoing and life anew as all things small and microscopic prepare for the coming spring.
IMG_7355
A sunset was at over after a long day (12+ hours) of burning at Griffith Prairie.
Spring finally arrived!
Spring finally arrived!

And a few more trees were cut down, including this Elm (Ulmus sp.)  Though I had done this a thousand times before in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Idaho, it still felt refreshing to be back on the saw.  Thanks to Jeff Gustafson for filming and for his colorful commentary.

One last prairie was planted for the season at Griffith Prairie and Farm. This was the planting mentioned in the post " ". In the seed mix I included a sprinkling of my late dog Eddie's ashes - I'll definitely be coming back and visiting this prairie over the years.
One last prairie was planted for the season at Griffith Prairie and Farm. This was a planting mentioned in a former post. In the seed mix I quietly included a sprinkling of my late dog Eddie’s ashes – I’ll definitely be coming back and visiting this prairie over the years.
But fence work called us back for one more tour of duty. Though on the day pictured, the landscape got more attention than the fence. And the winds of spring danced in the waves of the grasses across the prairie.
But fence work called us back for one more tour of duty. Though on the day pictured, the landscape got more attention than the fence as the winds of spring danced in waves of the grasses across the prairie.  Too bad the unwelcome Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis) dominated this site. Soon though, it will be gone – prescribed fire and overseeding are the keys to Brome’s good riddance.
And not too long after all that, seed collection season began - starting with Prairie Ragwort (Senecio plattensis).
And not too long after all that, seed collection season began – starting with Prairie Ragwort (Senecio plattensis).
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3 thoughts on “A season in the Nebraska prairies, Part 1

  1. That would be a good how-to video for bringing down trees. I’m amazed how many people attempt that when they don’t know what they’re doing.

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