What's Happening

Rufus and the Pretend Prairie

Seed sowing in Salvisa, Kentucky. December 14, 2011.

Seed sowing in Salvisa, Kentucky. December 14, 2011.

Today, our pretend prairie celebrates the fifth anniversary of its first seed sowing. The prairie is our beautiful baby, and I don’t worry with questions about legitimacy.

May 30, 2016

May 30, 2016

Central Kentucky—the Bluegrass Region—was until human settlement, a vast woodland with cane breaks of native bamboo, Arundinaria gigantea. There were no prairies or meadows. Buffaloes foraged on bamboo, along what became U.S. Highway 127, a previously favored buffalo trace, just a mile or so from our farm.

June 20, 2016

June 20, 2016

Our installed prairie is still in the experimental phase—where, I suppose, it will always be. No telling where it will go from here. Biological gods will rule. My hunch is that our prairie, if we do nothing at all, will return to woodland.

July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016

A landscape of oaks, hickories, buckeyes, hackberries and maples isn’t a bad option, even while invasive bush honeysuckle and wintercreeper will continue to be a woodland menace.

Rufus the prairie dog. July 3, 2016.

Rufus the Prairie Dog. July 3, 2016.

So our installed prairie came of age this year. Big blue stem, switch grass and Indian grass grew tall and wide. They’re out competing against the shorter orange butterfly weed and purple coneflower that need a little more room. The taller goldenrods and ironweeds spontaneously worked their way into the mix. The heavy vegetative growth is so thick I can barely penetrate it on foot. There’s an easier, interesting and colorful walk along a mown path that crosses the prairie.

Wild turkey egg. September 30, 2016.

Wild turkey egg. September 30, 2016.

In late September, Rufus proudly brought back a wild turkey egg, clenched carefully between his teeth. A friend of mine who hunts wild turkeys said the nest was probably abandoned. Turkeys lay their eggs in late May through June, he said.

November 25, 2016. Claude Stephens photo.

November 25, 2016. Claude Stephens photo.

Rufus brought the egg home as a generous token. The little showoff! The boy’s a step too slow for a squirrel or rabbit. The wild turkey egg was the best he could do.


Posted by on December 14, 2016 at 7:57 am, in the category What's Happening.
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9 responses to “Rufus and the Pretend Prairie”

  1. Allen Bush Allen Bush says:

    Kristie, here’s a very good link on the steps involved with starting and maintaining a prairie.


  2. Kristie says:

    Hi Allen,
    Love the photos! I’m dreaming of a prairie on a piece of property in central Illinois. One concern i have is the weed issue. We’re surrounded by corn and soybean fields, and the weeds are very robust! How did you prepare the area, and did you struggle to keep the invasive weeds out? Thank you, Kristie

  3. Allen Bush Allen Bush says:

    Victoria, here’s the original “intentional” seed list. Of course, there were hits and misses along the way. And there were subsequent small, sometimes tiny, seed sowings.

    Aster laevis
    Aster novae-angliae
    Baptisia leucantha
    Coreopsis tripteris
    Desmanthus illinoensis
    Echinacea purpurea
    Eryngium yuccifolium
    Helianthus maximillianii
    Liatris pycnostachya
    Monarda fistulosa
    Panicum virgatum
    Parthenium integrifolium
    Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
    Ratibida pinnata
    Rudbeckia fulgida
    Silphium laciniatum
    Silphium pinnatifidum
    Silphium trifoliatum
    Solidago rigida
    Sorghastrum nutans

  4. Allen Bush Allen Bush says:

    Thanks, Anne. There are a few chiggers and ticks to contend with, but the prairie is a beautiful thing.

  5. Allen Bush Allen Bush says:

    Thanks, Joe. Long may Silas run!

  6. Victoria Gorny says:

    What was the original seed mix? Were all the intentional plants from the 1st sowing?

  7. anne says:

    Allen, what you’ve done is so beautiful, I want to get lost in the July 4th photo! It is so foreign to my western eye, and beautiful.

  8. Joe Schmitt says:

    My dog Silas, at eleven, still nails the occasional geriatric squirrel or cottontail (and random unfortunate cats) in our yard but shows little interest in venturing beyond the off-putting furry packaging. Convenience foods would appear to have infected more than the human species. Might Rufus have been asking for a little coddling, shirring, poaching or frying over easy?

    Not sure Silas will ever get a chance at turkey eggs. The local urban toms seem to have imprinted on the letter carrier on the other side of the Yahara River here in Madison and follow him around like a latter day pied piper. The most we get is an occasional mallard pair that waddles in, and infrequent raids by opportunistic falcons on our backyard chickens. It’s a different jungle out there.

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