We’re going to make a prairie. That’s right. A prairie!
My husband and I have spent two summers here on this windy hill in Zone 6b North Central Oklahoma, and have learned that the plants that were originally here do much better than the weaklings we bring in from the garden center. We’re sitting on top of clay, limestone, some sand and the occasional clod of “real” dirt, so the plants around here have to be tough. They need to hold their own.
We’ve also learned that mowing is a waste of a perfectly good summer afternoon (not to mention the gasoline, contribution to climate change, and the fact that our inherited Grasshopper mower tends to have lots of flat tires and dead batteries). Since we are currently in disagreement over how fun it would be to have (pick one) goats, donkeys, sheep or miniature horses to do the mowing for us, we’ve decided to go natural for now.
There are native grasses that can survive our burning summers and windy winters. They don’t need to be mowed or sprayed or watered. Plus, they’re lovely. We’ve discovered some original stands of buffalo grass around our five acres — it’s much more friendly than the imported bermuda grass.
Because we’re living on land originally settled by my grandparents, we wait to pull up, cut down or otherwise remove any growing thing until it’s been identified. What if my dear sweet farmwife of a grandmother planted that before I was born?
As the wind blows and the birds fly overheard, I thank my grandparents for leaving us this place. It’s beautiful. My sibilings and I spent our summers and Christmas holidays here every year of our lives. We know the rocks and woods like the backs of our hands. As an adult, I’m getting to know this place in a completely different way. I’m appreciating the native asters that spring up when all the store-bought plants have withered and died in the summer drought. Now I know where the goldenrods will pop up in summer. It took me nearly two years to identify the little early bloomer on the south boulders as a member of the foxglove family. And, my husband learned that the “scribble scrabble” understory bushes we almost removed are actually native beauty berries. The squirrels, birds, raccoons and possums are thanking us right now for leaving them.
Two years in, we’re taking it one step further by going native. And we’re not sure what the nearest neighbors will think — hopefully it won’t shock them. For years they’ve been helpfully mowing the back near the woods, where I just found another stand of buffalo grass. It’ll thrive if they stop mowing it. But what will they think when goldenrods, coneflowers and switchgrass and other “weeds” grow with abandon? Will they worry about mice and snakes? Will they hate us?
This blog will document our journey. We’re posting it here in hopes of finding prairie-knowledgeable people, who can maybe weigh in with advice every now and then.
Also, at what point do I buy a prairie skirt? Do I need to wait for an actual prairie? And don’t prairies need bison? Would Mr. Hilltop notice if I snuck in a couple of bison? Hmm …