The Prairie Monk

All about prairie conservation efforts in Central Illinois

Sep 11, 2011

Prairie loss


The prairie at the Illini Prairie Rest Stop at Pesotum is being replaced by sewerage sludge races. We are suggesting that the races be re-located to an alternative farmland site. The not-very- ambient sewer races will end up close to the rest stop picnic grounds. Re-location of the site would save the prairie and maintain public contact with the prairie which was the original intent of the rest stop prairie implementers some thirty years ago.

Moving six inches of prairie without its deep roots, and at this time of the year, will be a disaster. Mowing has already removed valuable prairie seed that has not yet reached harvest peak. Removal of the remnant transplants and soils will destroy micro-organisms that are thousands of year old and irreplaceable. The indiscriminate incorporation of weed species including Burr Dock will be devastating to any future prairie development. The lack of notification concerned citizens and groups leaves us non-plussed and sets up a precedence for the destruction of similar sites. We continue to ask the Dpt.of Transportation for a hold on this project its relocation to the south. Contact Ann Schneider, Secretary for Transportation (C/-

Dave Monk Heartland pathways 840 1911 351 1911

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Jul 22, 2010

Podcast of "The Prairie Monk" 7/18/2010: Storm Sewer Inspection and Moisture Gradient on a Slope

This is Dave's show from this past Sunday. Hope it works!

Listen here!

Jul 19, 2010

Updates from Mid July

Updates 7/12/10
This post is compiled by Miriam from conversation with Dave.

On pollinators and food . . .

Pollinators are important! If you haven’t heard about it, the pollinatarium is a bee keepers cottage south of orchard Downs east on Windsor Road. It has mural by Glen Davies. They have a bee hive, you can see the bees wandering around. It’s open on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

This past week was national pollinators week (Check out the national site and the U of I site). There is good reason to be concerned about pollinators since they have a role to play in relation to every food you eat. If you herbicide and pesticide pollinators they have trouble. If you are in California and you want to grow alfalfa, you have to bring in a truckload of bees to do the pollinating because there are no native pollinators.

On prairie restoration philosophies . . .
My prairie preservation is pretty rough and tough because I want to preserve what is left, not to restore.

On language and prairies . . .
If it’s a royal catch-fly, it’s red and stick so that it’s botanical name probably says “I am sticky.” If you are a specialist, you don’t talk about New Jersey Tea you talk about Ceanothus. But if you are talking to other folks, they think you are talking over them and they get annoyed. So you have to be careful. The man I visited at the nursery said the same thing. He used to use common names but now uses the latin names because they are more explanatory but he is still careful because if there are people that don’t understand then they need the direct explanation. This is refering to Bluestem Prairie Nursery (Ken Schaal is the owner), Hillsboro, IL (

On Dave’s visit to southern, IL: the Bluestem Prairie Nursery and the Ballard Center. . .
Ken Scaal is a retired school teacher who bought farm land, put in a pond, a small prairie with a large number of species. His talent has been to teach others, provide prairie seed and note growth patters of the plants. It’s interesting to see how louse-wort can live in one spot until the soil runs out and then it moves. You don’t think of prairie plants being mobile but they are. He knows the tricks of some of these creatures. He knew that one bird nest was a cow-bird nest that replaces one bird’s eggs with their eggs so the other bird is taking care of them. He knows about different plant charactersistics – they might need gravel, they might need clay, bulrush needs to live in water, hibiscus likes to be damp. He gave us a program for WEFT.
Then we went to the Ballard Center, run by a man that owned a farm that also had an excellent forest. So they built a nature center and invited interpreters who are professionals who will make displays and other activities for kids and other adults. There is a bird blind so you sit in the woods in a little shed so it can rain on you but you can see the prairie chickens dancing, and other things, but they can’t see you. Like the people who hunt pheasants and run around holding trees, or they stand up behind a tree and put their hands up so they look like branches in order to blend in.

May 18, 2010

Summer 2010 Journal Project: Stay Tuned!

Good day today. After I photographed the Vet Med Prairie I returned to pillage materials out of a gondola that is next to the bridge site. Then a planner came by and we had a lively discussion. He put together a lot of the sesquicentennial exhibit.

I had a few words to say about the north end component. He explained that there were very few north end pictures available at the archives. We went on to discuss the bridge and its demise and railroading generally. He seems to have a sympathy for rails and has European experience with them. We exchanged information. I asked about the Ice House on Randolph and if it was to become a detention pond for the Washington watershed. He didn’t know. He had to leave.

I went to the ice house and noticed that the Norfolk Southern tracks had some ties that had been recently worked on. I was afraid that that may mean an out with the rail siding but no, they are using the line for local freight and a train came by with about twenty cars on it. It moved over the repaired section very slowly. Canadian National had a derailment on a parallel line. I followed the “local” round and saw that it was turning north and not going to Urbana. It was indeed on a NS line that goes to Urbana. That means the rail roads are working with each other to gather business because this was a CN train on NS tracks and CN was repairing NS tracks. Good. The freight must have come from Mahomet. I will find out.

I answered emails, then realized I had to have a North American Prairie Conference abstract in by the 14th. I formulated the text and whittled it down to 225 words and sent it off before the cock crowed at midnight, if they crow at midnight, and the date changed to May 15:

PRAIRIE PRESERVATION WHERE THERE IS NONE: When, I arrived in Illinois from Australia, some years ago, I was looking for the local prairie ecosystem. I found it hard to find. I started to put prairies in the context of their geology and history. I realized that most locals were also immigrants and that they did not know much about their ecosystem. In six generations they have had to survive, and develop their farmland and urban resources. The newer generations are now seeking a more intimate appreciation of their natural landscape. I began teaching subjects such as “Reading the Landscape”. Interested individuals emerged and helped established not for profit agencies to acquire railroad rights of ways and to care for remnant prairies. These groups have done an excellent job of educating the public. They have been preservationists rather than specialists but they get specialist help. We are most concerned about preserving the gene pool but our educational interests range into associated studies at universities, colleges and into the education of concerned citizens. We need team approaches that bridge institutions and disciplines. We also a need to train team leaders and support personnel for without these individuals we cannot have the impact that is needed for community action. I will give examples of some of the challenges we have met including the archiving of information for future generations.