Prairie Smoke Member Activities and Reports
Spring 2018: Maynard Johnson's Burn
Spring 2018: Helen Myers' Burn
March 21, 2017: Burn Class at Chester Woods
August 13, 2016: Field trip to Shooting Star Nursery
Field Trip to Shooting Star prairie plants nursery in Spring Grove, MN. There were 13 participants lead by Mark Udstuen, Sales Manager; and Jesse Strinmoen, Marketing and Public Relations director.
Photos provided by Sandy Hokanson.
October 8, 2015: Prescribed Burn Class at Quarry Hill Nature Center
We had 15 attendees, plus Jaime and myself as presenters. Jaime Edwards did the teaching. Dave Edwards provided an update on our new independent status, and got new members to join and current members to renew their memberships.
Of the 15 attendees, 10 were from Rochester, 2 from Pine Island, 1 from Oronoco, 1 from Grand Meadow, and 1 from Mantorville. Next time we hold the class, we should hold it in a different town so we can reach outside of our local area. We've held the class in different places over the years (Chatfield and Winona for example), which has been a great way for us to get new members outside of Rochester.
We got 6 new memberships from the class, and 7 other people whose memberships were expired renewed on that night.
September 27, 2015: Annual Fall Picnic at Whitewater State Park
It was a perfect Fall day. The event began with a seed collection foray lead by Joel Dunnette, followed by a picnic, a brief meeting, and spreading the collected seed.
May 11, 2013: Pekin's Bluff Prairie near Houston
You never do know what you will find on one of our field trips. Our chapter member, and bug expert, MJ Hatfield sent us this announcement recently.
On the Prairie Smoke spring field trip, May 11, 2013, to Pekin's Bluff Prairie near Houston, (Scott Leddy, field trip leader), we collected larvae of Sympistis forbesi, a new species, feeding on Triosteum perfoliatum."A new cryptic Sympistis from eastern North America revealed by novel larval phenotype and host plant association (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae, Oncocnemidinae)" was published in Issue 379 of ZooKeys, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.379.5765. Pekin's Bluff is included in the publication.
November 2, 2013 Buckthorn Education and Control Class
November 2nd was a beautiful fall day, the kind of day that is perfect for doing most anything in the woods of Southeast Minnesota. Twenty eight learners, including eighteen members of the Prairie Smoke Chapter, took advantage of the weather to get an introductory education on buckthorn. Greg Lamp, a Prairie Smoke member from Grand Meadow, Minnesota, led three hours of classroom learning and in the field demonstrations as a Community Education class.
The classroom portion provided participants with a fairly comprehensive introduction to buckthorn. The devastation it is bringing to the woods of the Midwest was reviewed. Attendees learned the history of how this plant was introduced, and participated in discussions on identifying buckthorn and how to distinguish it from other native trees. Then buckthorn control methods were reviewed, and considerations to make when choosing a control method, as well as pros and cons. The classroom session ended with a reminder that an individual really needs a passion for the effort to tackle a buckthorn infestation. That passion comes from knowing you have done what it takes to keep your woodland healthy and viable for another hundred years!
The field part of the class was held a few miles east of Grand Meadow at Greg's home. Twenty acres of woods have needed buckthorn removal work for each of the past eight years. The field demonstrations provided folks with visual results of the various stages in a progressive control project. As a reference for the participants, a walk to the neighbor's property line showed the untreated buckthorn infestation and provided an appreciation for the transformation taking place in the woods. Demonstrations were performed for control methods used on this project, as well as some control methods not used on this project so folks could consider them all as they make decisions for their own property.
Over the last couple years, a great deal of progress has been made in controlling the buckthorn on this property. While there's certainly more work to be done, it's already getting easy to see the fruits of this labor and what keeps the passion strong!
Please visit the following link to the Prairie Smoke web site to learn a bit more about buckthorn:
February 24, 2013: Prairie Smoke Annual Winter Get-Together and Meeting
We had a great turnout at our winter meeting, as 37 people gathered at the Chatfield Library to hear Scott Leddy from Meadowlark Restorations give a very informative presentation on remnant bluff prairies, oak savannas, and their ongoing restoration in Fillmore and Houston Counties. After the presentation, we socialized and enjoyed a great lunch prepared by our chapter president, Barb Nigon.
Fall 2012: Chester Woods Park Field Trip/Meeting
Nice weather greeted the 27 people who showed up to our fall get together at Chester Woods Park in Eyota. TPE Executive Director Chris Kirkpatrick spoke to the chapter about his plans for the organization, Joel Dunnette lead us on a hike through the park, and then enjoyed a nice lunch and some time socializing. It was great to see a couple members of the Many Rivers Chapter (the other Minnesota TPE chapter) at our event.
March 13, 2012: Burn Equipment Check
Fourteen Prairie Smoke members showed up to our March meeting and prescribed burning equipment check. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 60s. We spent the afternoon testing and repairing all of our burn equipment, in order to be prepared for the upcoming prescribed burning season. Afterwards, we had a meal together and a brief meeting. It was mentioned in the meeting for everyone to be very careful this burn season, as it has been dry and windy.
January 29, 2012: Prairie Smoke Annual Winter Meeting
More than 30 people showed up to the Prairie Smoke Winter Meeting on Sunday, January 29th at the Chatfield Public Library. After a brief meeting, officers were elected for the upcoming year, and then Jacob Ryg, Rochester City Forester, spoke about Rochester's Urban Prairie Program, its history, and management plan. Everyone also enjoyed food and beverage prepared by Prairie Smoke President Barb Nigon. Our next all-member get together will be in the summer. Hope to see you there!
January 15, 2012: Crystal Spring Fish Hatchery Tour
The Prairie Smoke Chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts enjoyed a tour of the Crystal Springs State Fish Hatchery on January 15th. The main emphasis of the tour was on water quality and the basics of fish production. Forty five lucky people got to see the whole process from the trays of eggs to the huge breeder trout. We saw how the eggs are graded and sorted, how the fry are fed and learned how tricky it can be to raise quality fish. The hatchery has native plantings to control erosion and reduce maintenance costs. This is important because the various species of trout raised there are dependent on good water quality before and after release.
Winter is a good time to tour, as eggs are hatching and fish are going on feed. This opportunity was a very special one, as the hatchery is not open weekends, except by appointment. We thank our board member and hatchery volunteer Chuck Kernler for being our tour guide and sharing with us the fascinating world of raising fish. He was patient, insightful and very knowledgeable. A great trip!
September 3, 2011: Field Trip to Aldo Leopold Reserve and Shack
The Prairie Smoke Chapter hosted a field trip to the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2011. Members from three states attended! The group had a guided tour of "the Shack", the river edge, and the prairie restoration on the grounds. After the tour, lunch was shared in the "green" Visitor Center, which held memorabilia of Aldo Leopold, his family and his land ethic legacy. The finale included a bit of invasive removal from the prairie planting near the Center. Those attending were: John Harford, Dawn/Brian Littleton, Vlad/Bonnie Sokolov, Suzanne/Dale Rohlfing from Minnesota; Jan Ketelle from Wisconsin; and Doug Hancock from Illinois.
August 15, 2009: Shooting Star and Annual Picnic
This gathering started at Shooting Star Native Seeds and ended at Walt and Barb Nigon's cabin near Spring Grove. In between, there was fascinating information about a commercial native seed operation, a chance to take a little native seed home, a view of fields of grasses and blazing star (to mention just a few), some terrific food, and great fun.
Thanks has to go to Walt and Barb Nigon for orchestrating another successful Prairie Smoke event. The day started at Shooting Star Native Seeds. (Check out the Shooting Star Website) Walt and Barb have a beautiful spot not far from Spring Grove complete with several grills and reestablished prairie plots. More than 30 people shared talk of birds, bugs, and prairie while enjoying Walt and Barb's hospitality. It was another fun and successful Prairie Smoke outing.
July 12, 2009: Weaver Dunes
Weaver Dunes is a large and unusual tract of sand prairie near the Weaver Bottoms on the Mississippi River. On July 12, 2009 Rich Biske of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) led a group of 3 Prairie Smoke members and two other visitors on a tour of some of the preserve owned by TNC.
We first visited part of the 120 acres that had been burned in fall 2008 following brush and tree removal. Those activities have opened up areas and released many prairie plants from shade. And now in some places you can see from higher dunes all the way to the Mississippi River. Then we walked through a 30 acre area of that had been planted to prairie in 2003. There is good growth of native grasses, with a scattering of forbs. This former cropland is relatively level, having none of the rolling nature of the rest of the dunes. We continued into more pristine areas, with considerable rolling dune structure, and diverse native flowers and grasses. While in this central and NE area we found plants and animals unique to sand prairie. Although seldom found elsewhere, Goatsrue and Silky Prairie Clover are common at the dunes. And we got lucky and found Rough-seeded Fameflower, in bloom!
Each pretty pink flower of this little beauty opens for one day only and strictly in the afternoon. Besides the varied flowers, we saw many damselflies and dragonflies - most notably Halloween Pennants festooning many tall stems. The most abundant and visible butterfly was the Regal Fritillary. This butterfly is endangered in the eastern US, but common in the west. Regals are not found many other places in SE MN, but are common in season at the dunes. We even found a mating pair and got excellent photos!
Although it was late afternoon, we still found several interesting grassland birds - both Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, and we even flushed a Short-eared Owl! TNC's Weaver Dunes is 592 acres, but they recently acquired an additional 175 acre tract to the south which includes over 4000 feet of waterfront on the Weaver Bottoms. We hope this will be a big benefit to the many turtles that use the dunes for egg-laying. But 100 acres of this new tract are in row crops, and will need to be restored to prairie. This is where you and I can help. TNC will mechanically collect some of the major grasses, but seed for many of the diverse forbs must be collected by hand. The turtles may not care, but insects and birds and snakes and even people will really appreciate having new areas be diverse prairie resembling the best of the dunes.
You can enjoy a few hours at the dunes, help with this seed collection, and help ensure that the new areas are diverse, and attractive not only to people but to many kinds of wildlife. Sessions for collection are held a couple times a month in summer and fall.
For more information on Weaver Dunes, including directions, see:
For information contact Mike Schlasner at or (507) 289-3959.