About one third of our master plan was to be planted in wildflowers and prairie grasses. Other areas would include clover and grasses for the sheep pasture, the orchard and vineyard, the pond, and the house. In the spring of 2010, we focused on the ground cover.
There is a local company called “Native Connections” that is very knowledgeable about the species of plants that would fit our criteria for each area in the field. We worked with them to get the perfect mix of seeds put together. Before they could plant, however, we had to do one more Round-Up killing. It hurt to have to do this, because in the spring we had a breathtaking fluorescent yellow bloom of a flowering plant called “winter cress” that we’d never seen before. Once again, though, if you want one thing to take over you have to beat back the current resident.
Once the field was recovered, Native Connections came out with a “no-till drill” and planted the whole field. It was not an inexpensive operation, but we considered it an investment into our dream. They told us we wouldn’t see the grasses mature for a few years but that each year we would see new plants beginning to take hold. This first year all we will likely notice is brown-eyed susans.
We did some planting of our own. We went to the county conservation district and bought about 300 little spruce trees in the spring and planted them all along the perimeter of the field along the north and east sides. This is one more of the project steps that takes years to mature, so we thought we’d do it now. As spring led into summer, we found that it was extremely difficult to keep all those trees watered! By the end of the summer we’d lost about a quarter of them.
Joe and I put in a small fenced garden on the south side of the barn so that I could learn to grow vegetables. I have a lot to learn about managing the soil to make it fertile, but as I see it I have all the time in the world to get good at it. I planted a couple rows of asparagus, a row of strawberries, and one rhubarb plant outside the fence. The fenced garden will eventually move, but I think I can keep these perennials there, next to the barn.