Sunday, June 29, 2014

From the Tallgrass at the Neal Smith NWR

This is a slight duplication from my Prairie Hill farm studio blog, but definitely prairie related.  And I'm afraid that this exhibit has taken much of my time this spring and early summer to prepare.  Oh, I have had the odd chance here and there to spend time in our own prairie pasture here...not a lot new there except I am finding more Prairie Garlic (Allium canadense) this year.  I believe I saw my first plant here in 2012; they are now in two separate locations...not a lot of plants but encouraging to find more.  I have not "knowingly" harvested this for seeding before, so I'm presuming I am either wrong in that respect or they were here to begin with and are just now making some effort to come back.

I am seeing some early success of the seeding I did in the south pasture "top" late in the winter.  I only had enough seed for about the top third of the acre there...I'm seeing asters, some Partriidge Pea, and some goldenrods and Gray-headed coneflowers (of course), and even some false Gromwell...which surprised me a bit because it always seemed slower on the start-up.  But the spot is weedy and nothing I can mow to assist things getting a head start.  I did spend an afternoon on my knees in there pulling weeds, and it hopefully helped.  Time will tell.

photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

I got an interesting photograph there last week during some of our rain storms - some pretty wild clouds looking up that south pasture toward the SW.  I have no idea what these formations would be called, but for about 4 hours after this was taken, we had mammatus formations pop up unusual evening.

The pastures started out very slow and somewhat sparse this spring - we hadn't had rain here since June of 2013.  But the sky busted loose in late May and it just doesn't seem to want to stop.  We've easily had over 13 inches of rain here since June 1st!  Not to mention hail and high winds...we're still cleaning up branches and larger limbs in the yard from a big blow that completely blocked our driveway with a huge tree trunk a week ago last Wednesday.

But more about the "From the Tallgrass" exhibit at the Neal Smith NWR.

Just 22 miles east of Des Moines, near Prairie City, Iowa, you'll find a truly unique refuge.  The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990, within the National Wildlife Refuge System, to "actively protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and sedge meadow. These were the native habitats existing on the Refuge’s 5600 acres prior to Euro-American settlement."

The refuge approached me in 2012 to do an exhibit of artwork and photography depicting the tallgrass, and I accepted.  This solo exhibit, at their J.N. "Ding" Darling Art Gallery, will feature work on the prairie theme and genre.

The exhibit will open on July 1st in the afternoon, and will run through August 20th.  More information about the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, its hours and other contact information can be found online at -

Its a great place to visit, as I've mentioned here on this blog in the past, and I'm looking forward to it!  If you're passing by the area this summer, take a little time and stop for a visit, you will be glad you did! 
Hope to see you on the Tallgrass!