Boots On The Ground Conservation


  • Seed Shed Doings

    We’ve been very busy collecting and processing native prairie seed for our pending restorations this fall. Seed picking officially started in July, although our two very competent Prairie Divas, Laura and Barb, brought in the first harvest in late May— Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum).

    It’s been a good growing season and now the seed is flowing in. ‘Mass quantities’ hardly describes it. We are on track to find and pick 180 species for the 40 acres we will seed in November. For the volunteers who have been actively picking seed this year—a huge Thank You! For those who have not yet made it out to the prairies, pick a day that suits you and join us. We post the upcoming pick dates on our website daily.
    When the seed hits the shed it is my duty to spread it out on drying tables and racks, built for the purpose. We have 10 tables and as many racks—and lately they are almost always full. When push comes to shove we will even spread seed onto sheets on the floor under the tables. (We are always looking for old sheets to use for this purpose and would welcome your donation.) We also have a greenhouse, donated by Fish & Wildlife, that we use as a giant solar dryer. It is very useful for the ‘juicier’ species that take a long time to crisp up. Seed must be bone dry before it can be stored for later thrashing and sowing.

    Lilium michiganense flower

    I spend 2-3 hours every morning turning, fluffing and bagging seed. In addition I keep an eye on ripening seed of rare plants in my home garden and pick them as they mature. For the second year in a row we have been able to harvest lily seeds (Lilium michiganense) that came from a garden bed we established in 2008. It takes patience but the reward is spectacular. Did you know that there are 10,000 lily seeds per ounce? When the lily pods ripen they turn a lovely iridescent gold, as do the seeds. This year we were able to collect 5.4 ounces of pure seed. Last year the pods and seeds were perfect, but this year I noticed that some of them were host to a small green caterpillar that chewed its way into the pod and munched on the seed. The trials of the prairie gardener!   --Rickie Rachuy

  • Season Highlights

    Northern bobwhite on fence post. Helzer family prairie near Stockham, Nebraska.

    A northern bobwhite calling from a fence post.

  • Prairie Seed Sale 2015

    Read more. To place your seed order, send an email to the seed center.

  • When is a Gopher not a Gopher?


    13-lined ground squirrel.  Ink drawing by Kim Tri.

    Is it a gopher?  That is the common name that I grew up with for the thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys or Spermophilus tridecemlineatus).  Imagine my disappointment when I found out that actual gophers are 1) not closely related, and 2) look like this:


    Plains pocket gopher (Geomys bursarius).  Ink drawing by Kim Tri. 

  • Green Modernism

    Get over your attachment to wilderness, they say. There’s no such thing, and thinking otherwise is downright counterproductive. As for wildness, some might exist in the margins of our gardens – designed and managed to serve human wants – but it’s not especially important. And if you appreciate wild animals and plants for their own sake? Well, get over that, too. Those sentiments are as outdated as a daguerreotype of Henry David Thoreau’s beard, dead as a dodo in an Anthropocene age characterised by humanity’s literally awesome domination of Earth.

    Peter Kareiva, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest conservation organisation, advises we "...jettison [our] idealised notions of nature, parks and wilderness" and quit "pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake."  Read more...

  • Biodiversity belowground is just as important as aboveground

    Although most of the world's biodiversity is below ground, surprisingly little is known about how it affects ecosystems or how it will be affected by climate change. A new study demonstrates that soil bacteria and the richness of animal species belowground play a key role in regulating a whole suite of ecosystem functions on Earth. The authors call for far more attention to this overlooked world of worms, bugs and bacteria in the soil.

  • Saving Pollinators One Thistle at a Time

    Pollinator populations are in trouble for a lot of reasons. Loss and degradation of habitat, pesticides, and disease are all major contributors.  However, at least in the Central United States, much of the pollinator decline can be tied to spiny pink/purple-flowered plants and the way humans react to them.

    Tall thistle, a native annual wildflower, is a big favorite among pollinator insects.

    Tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) a native wildflower, is a big favorite among pollinator insects. Unfortunately, it is seen by many people as a weed that needs to be eliminated.

  • And so it begins...

    The Department of the Interior today announced the release of a National Seed Strategy for rehabilitation and restoration to help foster resilient and healthy landscapes. The Strategy is meant to guide ecological restoration across major landscapes.

    “Having the right seed in the right place at the right time makes a major difference in the health of our landscapes,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This is a collaborative effort to ensure that we’re taking a landscape level approach [to ecological restoration].”

    The website is here     , the plan document is here, and the press release is here