Prairie Smoke Member News

National Public Lands Day 2020

In these days of social distancing PS has not been able to offer our usual field trips. But National Public Lands Day (Sept 26th) presented us with an opportunity to safely get out with others and do some good while following COVID guidelines.


Prairie Smoke has been the caretaker of a small Rochester city park called Thompson Mill Race since 2012. This strip of parkland is bordered by paved walkways and lies along Cascade Creek in the heart of the city.  It was donated to the city in 1987 by the Robert Thompson family in 1987 as part of the flood control project.  It was a mill at one time, but it hasn’t been used in decades. The mill building was restored in 1995 and the area planted to non-native grasses.


In 2011 Prairie Smoke board members Dawn Littleton and Ruthann Yaeger approached the City Park & Rec division to see if they would allow us to plant small section of the area to native forbs and grasses as a sort of “pocket” prairie. It took some convincing, but we soon got permission to have at it!  Joel Dunnette and others donated seed and plants and we also got other local native seeds and plants. With the help of the city and several board members including Barb and Walt Nigon we cleared the area and planted over 14 species of forbs and grasses.


This year, it had suffered from lack of care during the lockdown and subsequent restrictions and become severely overgrown with crown vetch, giant ragweed and other aggressive plants.  So on NPLD we gathered 11 members and cleared out many large bags of invasives. We also overseeded with more natives.  It was good to get out and talk to other people who love prairies – we will be safely maintaining the progress we made, whatever the virus throws at us next year!

TMR 1st area cleaned.jpg
Walt at TMR 2020.jpg
Ed & Ruthann TMR 2020.jpg

Prairie Smoke donates books to Chatfield Library

The Prairie Smoke Board of Directors has agreed to donate a series of nature books involving prairies to the Chatfield Public Library in honor of our former President, Barb Nigon. Barb has been a leader in Prairie Smoke for many years and has overseen many changes for the better during that time.  We hope our members read and learn from these excellent books as well.  See the list of books HERE.


People's Food Coop Donation

Prairie Smoke received a $303 donation from Rochester Peoples Food Coop

for the Beans for Bags Program.   Shoppers at the People's Food Coop are given a 

bean for each reusable bag that they use in the store.  The store donates the savings 

from the bags to local non-profit groups.  Shoppers choose which group that they would

like the Coop to donate the savings to by putting the beans in the group's jar.

We are grateful for the community support from this generous program.

Thank you to the People's Food Coop for the opportunity to participate

in this wonderful program.


Vendetta Against Buckthorn

Reprinted with permission from Post Bulletin article for 12/28/2006. Written by staff writer John Weiss.

GRAND MEADOW - Greg Lamp leads a quick tour through the woods behind his house. Look at this tree, he says. He reaches out and snaps off a twig. It's brittle. Any Boy Scout knows that's how you can tell a live tree from a dead one; live twigs bend, dead ones snap off. Lamp moves further into his woods between Grand Meadow and Spring Valley. He snaps off more twigs. All are dead. The trees would make great tinder for a fire. Lamp is clearly thrilled.

His one-man crusade to control buckthorn, a shrub with pretty green leaves and an ugly habit of crowding out native trees, is clearly working. He has a vendetta against buckthorn. He hates it, spends many hours fighting it and is trying to get others to join in his struggle.

His New Year's resolution last year was to get more active in killing buckthorn. That will be his resolution again this year and for at least two more years.

With the help of a special sprayer, chemicals and a lot of work, he hopes to control buckthorn on his 31 acres. It's his way of doing something for the outdoors, and to preserve the biological integrity of one of the many small woodlots that dot this region. "It's a very, very rare individual who has a grove that doesn't have any buckthorn on it," Lamp said.

His research shows it's an ornamental bush brought to this country in the 1850s that is now listed as a noxious weed. It takes over oak or maple forests, invades prairies and dominates the understory where young oaks and maples grow, not letting other trees grow. To kill it, he found a special sprayer to apply a chemical that penetrates the bark and gets into the roots, killing the plant. He's getting good at it, but he has plenty to practice on. He figures there are 4,000 to 9,000 buckthorns per acre on his land alone.

The magnitude makes his passion daunting, he said. That's why he keeps his head down when spraying, looking only at trees near his feet. If he looked up and saw how many more infest the woods, "You would say 'My gosh, I'll never get this sprayed,'" he said. If Lamp gets frustrated, he just goes back to where he sprayed in the past few years and sees all the dead buckthorn, brittle, some already toppled. Then he goes back to spraying.

Lamp hopes others begin seeing the problems, maybe doing their little bit to preserve the old woodlots that are such a part of the rural landscape. Not everyone gets so worked up, he admits. "You have to pick your passion," he said.

Here is a link to Greg's important article:  Buckthorn: A Battle Worth Fighting

Top 10 Tallgrass Prairie Facts

Jeff Nielsen of BWSR sends in the following facts on tallgrass prairie, compiled by Minnesota DNR:

1. Native tallgrass is the MOST ENDANGERED ecosystem in North America and the foundation of PERENNIAL POLYCULTURE. – Kansas University
 2. Native prairie root systems are the BEST natural soil anchors on earth.
 3. In one acre of established prairie there is 24,000 pounds of roots. – Iowa State University
 4. One acre of established prairie can ABSORB 9 inches of rainfall per hour before runoff occurs. – University of Northern Iowa
 5. One acre of established prairie will INTERCEPT as much as 53 tons of water during a one inch per hour rain event. – University of Nebraska, Lincoln
 6. Prairie foliage represents a surface area of 5 to 20 times larger than the soil area beneath it. – University of Nebraska, Lincoln
 7. Prairie planted in roadside ditches makes highways safer by INCREASING the holding capacity for snow in the ditch provided the shoulder is mowed. – MDOT.
 8. Natural competition of prairie plants REDUCES the occurrence of weeds in an area. – Iowa State University
 9. Greater prairie diversity, creates biotic barriers to PREVENT weed invasion. – University of Minnesota
 10. One acre of reconstructed prairie can produce more bioenergy than land used to grow corn for ethanol. – University of Minnesota