The Northwest Illinois chapter works in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The area contains hill prairie, oak woodland, sand prairie, oak savanna, sedge meadow, oak barren, and tallgrass (black soil) prairie. We work to protect, restore and manage these fire-dependent habitats.
NIPE projects are primarily located within Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Stephenson Counties in Illinois. We invite you to join us!
Seeds! Seeds! Seeds!
Our Prairie Enthusiasts spend a considerable amount of time collecting and processing seeds for planting either in our own prairies or in others’ prairie installations and restorations. From mid-May until mid-October, NIPE staff and volunteers scout for and gather seeds from a wide variety of prairie forbs and grasses. The seeds are brought to our seed shed at Lonetree Farm for drying, milling, weighing, and mixing. This year, most of the work was completed by early November.
Prairie Diva (a.k.a. NIPE Seed Coordinator) Barb Siekowski reports:
“The seed was distributed to 16 projects - the largest at over 40 acres - and/or overseeded at numerous sites with a range of habitats, from dry to wet prairie and dry to mesic savanna and open woodland. Planting began in November using both a tractor with a mechanical seeder and by hand.”
Fun Seed Facts for 2018:
Number of seed picking days: 40
Number of volunteer hours for seed picking: Over 400 (including Hanley Savanna, see below)
Bags and weight of seed picked: About 215 large lawn and leaf bags, plus numerous small bags.
Total seed weight: Over 2,700 pounds
Varieties of seed picked: Almost 200, from various public and private sites and along road sides and our own rare species gardens at Lonetree Farm
The first species collected: Prairie Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) in mid-May
The last species collected: Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) and Riddell's Goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii) in early November
NIPE’s Rickie Rachuy reported in her October 2018 Seed Shed Doings on an unexpected plant/insect dilemma at Lonetree Farm: Over the spring and summer, Rickie successfully raised Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata), a rare plant. Monarch caterpillars proceeded to eat every single plant (84 pots’ worth!), ignoring the neighboring common milkweed. Rickie hopes the Poke milkweed were able to grow healthy roots before being munched and can regrow next year. If so, she will deploy row cover!
Grant Update: NIPE has received most of the grant funds available through its grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. Funds can still be earned through additional volunteer land stewardship and publicity efforts. The grant runs through October 2019, giving NIPE time to receive all available funding.
Volunteer Efforts: The varied prairies at Hanley Savanna allow NIPE volunteers to pick a good diversity of prairie seed. Between June and mid-October, volunteers logged in 135.75 seed-picking hours over nine mornings. Weather was challenging, leading to unpredictable attendance. Depending on the day, from one to twelve volunteers donned seed aprons, hand pruners, and work gloves to collect the seed.
Gatherings: Hanley Savanna continued to be a popular place for gatherings during the autumn. On September 9, a sizeable 35 people attended the NIPE/TPE Donor Appreciation Event. The weather, so rainy during the previous week, was gorgeous, allowing people to sit outside the shelter and to enjoy the wagon ride through the prairies. Leanne Martin spoke about her plant survey of Hanley, and Barb Bernard reported on her bird population observations. The Jo Daviess Horticultural Society took a tour of Hanley on September 16, and NIPE put on its own Volunteer Appreciation Picnic on October 15. As is traditional, the last seed picking at Hanley took place before the picnic. Here we see the gang getting ready to pick showy goldenrod.
Closed for the Season: Hanley Savanna closed to the public on November 15. It will reopen on April 15. 2019. NIPE will continue its restoration and maintenance efforts during the winter and early spring, weather permitting.