Conserving the Prairie Grass

Although you usually enjoy posts about aspects of the farm such as the garden, bees or chickens, something else important is happening on the farm.

The majority of the property is not being used for farming, it’s being conserved for the wild life. Prairies are becoming endangered due to urban sprawl. The tall grasses of the prairies provides food and shelter for a wide variety of animals. Letting the majority of the property go wild resulted in a wide range of healthy wildlife that we don’t see on neighboring properties that are usually brush mowed.

Deer find tall grass to give birth in so that they are hidden from view. We’ve seen 5 generations born here. Usually 2 fawns at a time. They come back to visit every year. Whole herds seek shelter during storms here.

But deer aren’t the only ones who enjoy our farm. Besides your run of the mill birds, squirrels, rabbits and raccoons, we also routinely see skunk, red and grey fox, coyotes, hawks and eagles. We’ve also been told that bobcats and a cougar have been seen in the area but luckily have not come across them.

We like to enjoy and co-exist with nature rather than eliminate it. We’ve seen some sad situations as a result but have more positive experiences than bad. With high fences around the garden and 1/2 inch wire cloth covering the chicken run and open spots around coop openings, we have never had a break in from a predator or had the garden ravaged. In the end, preservation of the land has been easy to do and very rewarding.

Dill and Butterflies

One of my friends is an heirloom seed collector and shares what she has with me. She shared some dill seed so this year we decided to plant it as some customers have asked for it in the past. We sold some but had more plants than we needed. I figured I’d let them go to seed and collect for next year.

One day I noticed something crawling on the dill and when I got closer noticed all the plants were covered with two different caterpillars! The one pictured above is a black swallowtail and the picture below is a Monarch. While most farmers would probably stalk and kill these “pests”, we figured we have plenty dill to share.

It’s exciting to see how Monarch butterflies really took to our garden considering they are endangered. We decided to grow dill annually just for the butterflies. With free seeds, it’s not a lot of work to go through for expanding the variety of wildlife in our property.

Good and Bad Insects

On the right is a baby praying mantis we found in the garden. These predatory insects eat a lot of bad bugs so I’m excited to find them happily breeding here!

On the left are a couple new beetles we’ve never seen before. These beetles are taking over the broccoli plants and the crowns are getting chewed up. When we tried to identify this beetle we can’t find a perfect match. Two of the closet comparisons are the milk weed beetle and the two spotted stink bug. Theoretically the stink bug is considered beneficial because it eats bad insects, but the question is are they eating up the broccoli in the process?

For good pest management you need to get rid of the bad bugs and allow the good bugs to remain. We better figure out the beetle quick. We have a friend who is an entomologist we are going to have to talk to him to about this one.