Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What's the most interesting outdoor-related ...

... thing to do in Lucas county this week? (asked of Jodi Ogden, Lucas County Naturalist): Maybe watch the shore and other birds at Pin Oak Marsh. We've got sandpipers, gray egrets, great blue herons, a lone pelican and a couple of eagles that have been hanging around.

For those who wish to visit Pin Oak Lodge, volunteers welcome visitors from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Otherwise, call (641) 774-2438 to make sure the lodge is open since the conservation staff is busy elsewhere quite often this time of year. The marsh itself, its trails and other attractions are open to the public all the time.

Poultry passions & vegetable vagaries at the fair

Monday was a great day at the Lucas County Fair --- for those of us who value vegetables, favor flowers and are passionate about poultry.

the food stand, of course, is a continuing cornucopia of carnivorous contentment featuring as it does barbecued pork, beef and lamb sandwiches plus beefburgers with the added attraction of homemade pie. I settled for raisin this year, since Mary Ruth's gooseberry was not on the menu, and was not disappointed.

So far this has been an ideal year for gardeners in the south of Iowa, so Jim Secor --- who superintends the vegetable entries --- was feeling a little overwhelmed by midmorning. Entries already had overflowed the allotted tables and shortly after the photo at the top was taken, he took off to find more (portable) display space.

The situation was similar in the floral department, where every inch of available display space was covered with blossoms.

I made my way next to the poultry and rabbit barn, but averted my eyes when passing the rabbits. So far as I'm concerned, cabbages have more vivid personalities than rabbits. Chickens, on the other hand ...

They're so human in a feathered sort of way --- lively and engaged, prone to burst into song when happy, cackle when distressed and erupt into mass hysteria when assembled in large numbers. The similarities between human males and roosters in full crow are especially obvious.

These lovely White Leghorn layers won my congeniality award, although it should be noted that the hen in the foreground is preparing to crush a recently laid egg.

I'm especially fond of Buff Orpingtons, and this fine specimen of a hen and I spent a good deal of time considering each other. She eventually pecked the lens of my camera when I poked it though the chicken wire.

Her mate, prone to the occasional crow, was the only male bird in the building. It would do human males good to consider occasionally how expendable roosters are.

This trio of demure Orpington pullets won my heart.

But the Dominques were lovely, too.

And their neighboring Barred Rocks wore similar coats of feathers.

From the barns I went directly to the food stand, where the lines (one on each side of the building) were long, but speeded along by volunteers who walked along chatting and filling out order forms. This is an amazingly efficient operation, by the way.

I had planned to photograph my beefburger and pie, but after hauling them back to a barn and settling down behind a counter with  friends who were awaiting the judge --- just ate without a second thought.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Listen to prairie laugh as it dances with the wind

The Nature Conservancy posted via Facebook yesterday a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "the earth laughs in flowers." If you want to experience that laughter first hand, this would be a great week to visit what I call the county line prairie --- a remnant sandwiched between Highway 65 and the Cinder Path on the Lucas-Wayne county line between Derby and Humeston.

I drove down Sunday --- a very windy afternoon marked by shifting light as cumulus clouds waltzed with the sun. It wasn't a good day for photography so I'll be headed back --- there are miracles hiding in the grass. But it was a great day to experience a tiny sample of a time 200 years ago --- and for millennia before that ---  when Iowa's tallgrass prairies laughed as they danced with the wind for as far as eyes could see.

Dense colonies of Gray-Headed (yellow) Coneflowers are putting on the best show right now, but Prairie Blazing Stars are coming on.

This is not a drive-by experience; you need to stop the car, get out and look. Watch for the big white anhydrous ammonia tank on the east side of the highway and pull off there, onto a gravel drive that provides access to the Cinder Path. 

The best way to experience the prairie is to wade in --- don't worry, farm equipment destroyed the prairie, buffalo and prairie fires didn't. But watch where you're going and don't tromp on anything unnecessarily. Wear sturdy shoes and long pants. At the least, walk north a little on the Cinder Path and look to the west.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wisdomkeepers on a Sunday morning

I've been re-reading an older book --- Steve Wall's and Harvey Arden's "Wisdomkeepers," published in 1990 and beginning to get a little dingy now. Subtitled, "Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders," its content remains relevant, however.

Both Wall, principally a documentary photographer, and Arden, author and advocate, launched their careers with National Geographic. Their interest in the spiritual heritage of indigenous peoples developed there, and has continued.

"Wisdomkeepers," no longer in print but still available, involves visits with 17 spiritual elders of tribes scattered across the United States, among them Frank Fools Crow of the Lakota, Audrey Shenandoah, clan mother of the Onondaga Nation, and Thomas Banyaca of the Hopi. Many have now walked on; a few survive.

It's interesting to come back to this book, and others around here that explore Native American perspectives, in times of trouble like these --- times that probably are less of a surprise to indigenous peoples than they are to peoples of "the Book" --- adherents of Euro, American and Mideastern tribal Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The indigenous perspective seems to focus on humanity as a co-equal product of creation; the Book folks, on humanity as especially created (or evolved) to subdue creation. This "subdue" business hasn't, as it turns out, worked very well in either the harmony department --- or in the long-term outlook for our planet and its resources.

Here are a couple of Sunday morning quotes from Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the first especially appropriate for Iowans --- occupiers of a land between two great (polluted) rivers:

"One of the Natural laws is that you've got to keep things pure. Especially the water. Keeping the water pure is one of the first laws of life. If you destroy the water, you destroy life. That's what I mean about common sense. Anybody can see that. All life on Mother Earth depends on the pure water, yet we spill every kind of dirt and filth and poison into it. That makes no common sense at all. Your legislature can pass a law saying it's OK, but it's not OK. Natural law doesn't care about your Man's law. Natural law's going to hit you. You can't get out of the way. You don't fool around with Natural law and get away with it. If you kill the water, you kill the life that depends on it, your own included. That's Natural law. It's also common sense."


"Another of the Natural laws is that all life is equal. That's our philosophy. You have to respect life ---- all life, not just your own. The key word is 'respect.' Unless you respect the earth, you destroy it. Unless you respect all life as much as your own life, you become a destroyer, a murderer. Man sometimes thinks he's been elevated to be the controller, the ruler. But he's not. He's only a part of the whole. Man's job is not to exploit but to oversee, to be a steward. Man has responsibility, not power."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A little new carpet on the stairs

We replaced the tired, worn and downtrodden runner on the front stairs at the Stephens House yesterday, which isn't a huge deal. But I though I'd point it out because you're not supposed to notice. 

It's industrial grade (heavy traffic), light (the foyer is a little dark sometimes) and complements the beautiful oak of the stair itself. But it doesn't yell, "look at me, I'm the carpet," as some do. That's intentional.

The new runner came from Chariton's Interiors & More Home Center and was installed by Josh Schilling with a little logistical support from Ashley Schneider.

So far as we know, the old runner was put into place as part of the historical society's mid-1960s restoration. It was wine-colored and very badly worn (I've complained about it for a couple of years, others rose to protest its sheer tackiness this spring).

According to one story, the original runner arrived at the museum second-hand from First United Methodist Church. I've not seen the proof on that one, however. But if so, that would make it some of the oldest surviving carpet in Lucas County, practically an artifact in itself (sorry, it wasn't saved).

We discovered beautifully preserved wood under the old runner. Unfortunately, bare wood can be slippery and something of a hazard, so parts of it were covered up again.

We also discovered something about the staircase that I'd not noticed before. The treads on the second flight, from landing bay to upstairs hall, are quite a bit wider than the treads of the first flight. I wonder why.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lucas County Fair, 1884 edition

The 2014 Lucas County Fair kicks off Saturday, so this seemed like a good morning to haul out the oldest county fair photograph I know of --- taken during October of 1884, 130 years ago. It is from the Lucas County Historical Society collection, a bit faded and not that well-focused to begin with. But you get the idea.

This is identified as the display of premium animals at the fair, and the setting is the old fair grounds in north Chariton. The biggest feature of those grounds was a race track, so the display was held partly on the track and partly in the middle of it.

Lucas County's first fair reportedly was held during 1856 on a farm just north of Chariton. Fair grounds just west of town were acquired after the Civil War, and about 1881 the "new" grounds in the north part of town were purchased.

Those grounds show up on the 1895 plat map of Chariton. The street along the east side of the grounds on the map is North 7th, also now Iowa Highway 14. St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Lucas County Health Center and the Chariton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center now are across the highway just east of the old grounds and a row of houses on the west side of the highway blocks a clear view of the site.

The Chariton fair ran out of steam during the early 20th century, however, and was eclipsed by the Derby District Fair --- a huge undertaking for that small town and located on four-acre grounds on its north edge.

The last Derby Fair was held during late summer 1953 and the current grounds on Chariton's west edge acquired and developed in time for the 1954 fair --- so this is the 60th anniversary fair held on the current site.


Reporting on the 1884 fair was not by any means comprehensive, but here's an account of it from The Chariton Patriot of Oct. 8, 1884:

"The fair was more of a success in its exhibits than the most sanguine hoped for. In the art gallery there was much to claim one's attention: Decorated china, paintings, needlework, scrolls were all home talent and showed great skill of workmanship. There was a case of millinery goods and of silverware which were very fine. Quite a variety of stoves, showing our dealers are alive to the necessities of the people. The furniture was manufactured in Chariton and was all one could wish in good work and beautiful design. the children's department was one of much interest, and we hope by another year they will be able to give a much larger collection.

"The display of fruits and vegetables could not be surpassed; this section of the country may well be proud of her productions. The stand of flowers occupied the center of the art gallery and contained some few choice plants and cut flowers. We were sorry that there was not more interest taken in the floral display as it adds so much to the pleasure of all visitors.

"The poultry was especially fine, the best that has ever been exhibited at any previous fair.

"There was a procession of stock that extended two-thirds around the track which made a very fine appearance and excited the admiration of all.

"There was quite a display of machinery.

"The grounds are large and well adapted for the exhibition; being new it will take some time to beautify them.

"The display of stock was the finest ever shown in the county. Cattle, horses, sheep, hogs were equal in quality to those at the state fair.

The races were fine, some of the best horses in the state contending. The time was fast considering the condition of the track --- being new, of course, (it) was spongey and at least from three to five seconds slow.


"Oct. 2, Green trot for country horses, purse $15. Bay Jim (J.H. Bogges), first; Queen Bell (S. Threlkeld), second.

"Oct. 2, Double teams, purse $30. Gray Team (J.Q. Anderson), first; Black Team (Brown & Little), second; Team (I.E. Owen), third.

"Oct. 2, 2:50 Class, purse $100. Orinda (Chas. Davis), first; Little Tom (E. Stafford), second; Scotch Boy (Albert Cummings), third; George Anderson (J.Q. Anderson), fourth.

"Oct. 3, 3:20 Class, purse $50. Midnight (I.E. Owen), first; Abdalla Star (J.D. Mathews), second; Dolly Duroc (I. Glanville), third; Sorrel Tom (John Ware), fourth.

"Oct. 3, 2:40 Class, purse $100. Hod Pike (C.A. Thompson), first; Orinda (Chas. Davis), second; Weldon Boy (John Bullard), third; Little Tom (E. Stafford), fourth; Ben Bolt, J.B. Garrett, fifth.

"Oct. 3, Pacing Class, free for all, purse $100. Jim Crow (David Wilson), first; Blue Maid (C.M. Thompson, second; Julia Lee (Elias Bingham), third.

"Oct. 4, Trotting Class, free for all, purse $150. Alert (Jas D. Ladd), first: Nellie W. (E.B. Woodruff), second; Little Crow (C.A. Thompson), third.

"Oct. 4, Running Half Mile Heats. Jerry Sparkle (John Ware), first; Red Bird (E.S. Bails), second; Little Mack (W. Griffin), third.

"Oct. 4: Running, Mile Dash. Jerry Sparkle (John Ware), first; Red Bird (E.S. Bails), second.


Equine entries, judged in nine classes, dominated the premium lists --- ranging from "Roadsters" through "Carriage, Family and Saddle Horses" to "Asses and Mules." Cattle and sheep were not divided into breed classes, but hogs were: Poland China, Berkshires and Jersey Reds. There were eight classes of poultry, too --- divided by variety.


The editor of The Garden Grove Express had taken a train up to attend the Lucas County Fair, too --- and was impressed. He published this account in his newspaper during the week that followed:

"The Lucas County Fair at Chariton last week was a success. The Society has new grounds just north of town, and well fitted for exhibitors, and with a good race track. The premiums on stock were nearly equal to those offered by the State Society --- from $2.50 for the best chicken to $15 and $25 in the cattle and horse departments. For the best herd of beef cattle $100 was offered and $50 for the best herd of dairy cattle. These premiums brought out a large exhibit and a correspondingly large crowd of visitors. The whole fair was quite a contrast to the fair in this county (Decatur). There the people of the county willingly paid 50 cents admission and exhibitors, 10 percent entrance fee; here there was a 'kicking' against half that price of admission, and the Society could not pay the premiums. Money makes the mare go, and money is necessary to insure the success of a fair."

I'm guessing Lucas County's current Fair Board would say roughly the same thing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conflating homophobia and Christian values

It'll be interesting to watch the progress of Bob Eschliman's claim, now pending before the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, that his firing last May as editor of The Newton (Iowa) Daily News represented religious discrimination. Here's a link to today's Des Moines Register story about his complaint.

The Shaw Media Group, owner of The Daily News, fired Eschliman last spring because of his anti-gay writings on a personal blog. Eschliman used the term "Gaystapo" in relation to a publication entitled "The Queen James Bible" and suggested LGBT activists were "trying to make their sinful nature right with God."

If this were presented as a free-speech issue it would be one thing. Although it sometimes seems unfair, reputable media owners long have been concerned about the objectivity, real or perceived, of their reporters and editors. And media types generally have been cautious about expressing views publicly about controversial issues, even directed explicitly by their employers not to do so, because of fears perceived objectivity could be compromised.

So there is precedent for dispatching news types who lose through public statements or other means the trust of readers who question their ability to report fairly. 

But there is an interesting twist here. Not that long ago, media owners might well have fired an openly gay or "outed" gay reporter or editor, citing the same concerns about objectivity. In Iowa at least that would be illegal now, and rightly so.

Freedom of religion is new in this field --- prompted by the religious right's drive to conflate homophobia and Christian values. The implication of the complaint is that Eschliman was fired not so much because of what he said, but because he was a Christian.

I'm not buying that. But we'll see what the Equal Opportunity Commission says. And then, no matter what the commission says, we'll see what the courts say during the inevitable appeals process. The Texas-based Liberty Institute is backing Eschliman, so the process could be a long one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blue Vervain

Pin Oak Marsh, July 19, 2014

Verbena hastata (Vervain family - Verbenaceae). Also known as American Blue Vervain. Elegant plants reach six feet tall with erect branches and opposite leaves. Leaves are stalked, pointed and coarsely toothed. Many erect spikes of small, blue flowers in loose candelabra-like clusters near the top of each plant. Blooms midsummer into fall.

Common in wet prairies, low pastures, marshes and stream banks throughout the tallgrass region. The plant is native to North America.

They will know us by those we discriminate against

The outsider vantage point is an interesting place to be so far as Christianity is concerned, offering a less obstructed view of the absurdity involved when a major religion allows itself to be defined by its reactions to a relatively small group of people, most recently the LGBT community.

Especially in light of words attributed to the guy from whom the outfit takes its name: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Love that KJV.

So while it was gratifying on Monday to watch President Obama sign an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by federal contractors --- without the additional religious exemption sought by Christianist zealots --- it will be interesting now to watch the religious right work the loopholes. And there are a couple of those.

Many "faith-based" programs offered by religious organizations with their noses in the public trough are funded by outright grants from the government, not through contractual agreements. So the new restrictions do not apply.

In addition, Obama left standing an exemption that dates from the George W. Bush administration that allows faith-based contractors to discriminate when hiring and firing on the basis of religion. A faith-based charity, for example, may hire only co-religionists if it wishes to do so --- Roman Catholics for a Roman Catholic-administered program, Baptists for a Baptist-administered program.

The boundaries of this exception really never have been tested, but now may be. What would happen, for example, if a Southern Baptist-run contractual charity discovers a gay Southern Baptist among its workers, then imposes the denomination's general understanding that gay people are not Christians, let alone Southern Baptists, and fires him or her? There's the potential for all sorts of other interesting twists and turns here.

And then there's the recent Hobby Lobby U.S. Supreme Court decision that opens the door for "closely held" public corporations to decline services to people if those services are deemed religiously objectional. More room for mischief. What if the courts hold people can be religiously objectional, too, and so it's not necessary to either employ or serve them?

It's going to be fun to watch Christians poke and prod and squirm now in order to legally avoid behaving like Christians.

By most estimates, the Obama order will cover about 20 percent of the nation's workforce and is the most significant act by the president involving LGBT Americans since the demise of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Obama had delayed the executive order in the hope an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) might clear Congress, which now seems unlikely as progressives become increasingly uneasy with the religious exemption clauses included in a Senate-passed measure.

Progressive Christians generally applauded the Obama order and many had hoped, too, that the Bush-era religious exemption would be eliminated. That seems only fair when you're dealing with public funds.

And there are, by the way, quite a number of religious organizations --- some of them quite conservative --- that decline to accept public funding for their good works. To do that, however, requires familiarity with one of the basic rules of life --- if your nose is in the government trough, eventually there will be a ring in it --- and then a string attached to the ring to lead you where the government wants you to go.


Since we're on the subject, sort of, I was intrigued by this piece by Neal Broverman on the The Advocate Web site, "All Gay People are Screwed Up and It's OK."

Some might argue that Broverman shouldn't play the "victim card," but there's a good deal of truth in what he writes and it's good to acknowledge that, to one degree or another, all LGBT people are through no real fault of our own damaged goods. Or at least I've never met a gay person who wasn't.

That doesn't imply that we were born damaged, nor does it mean gay folks aren't entirely capable of transcending the damage. Most actually do. But damage to date has been inevitable, and continues.

And it's important to realize too that LGBT folks are neither the only nor necessarily the most important victims. We live, after all, in a society whose racist and sexist roots still are clearly evident at all levels.

The church always has been the principal instrument of damage, although that is changing to a degree now. But it should come as no surprise that many if not most LGBT people lack faith in the Christian experience.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I would say more, but ...

... it's Tuesday, the 22nd --- monthly great clean-up morning on the square. And I'm running late. Care to join us? Meet at 6 a.m. at the gazebo. Water provided (it's supposed to be 95 before all is said and done today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Right along the concrete trail ...

It's always surprising (but kind of gratifying since it's restful to have places to yourself) just how underutilized Lucas County's public lands are --- and there are thousands of acres to range across. While ranging, I rarely run across more than one or two other human critters --- often no one at all. Including weekends. Odd.

Consider the options --- Thirteen miles of Cinder Path commence in Chariton and can be accessed in shorter segments between here and Humeston at many crossings. Then there's Red Haw State Park, a mile east of town; Pin Oak Marsh, a mile south; and undeveloped areas of the Chariton River Greenbelt, accessible among other places via a gap in the Chariton Cemetery fence.

Range a little father and thousands of acres of Stephens State Forest are freely accessible in southwest and northeast Lucas County. Then there's Williamson Pond, the "sloughs" --- Brown and Colyn; many public access gateways to the greenbelt; the areas (and trails) at Ellis and Morris lakes; and other spots I've forgotten.

So where the heck is everybody?


Even wheelchair users can enjoy Pin Oak Marsh, where a paved trail commences at the Lodge, then winds southeast to an observation deck over the water. It's among the easiest walks in the county, always accompanied by birdsong (the red-wings are a little territorial at the moment, however).

Since I've been roaming the prairie (sort of) recently, I went down to Pin Oak Sunday evening to see what I could see there without straying far from the trail. 

I was gratified to find a small colony of Rattlesnake Master down by the observation deck, and buttonbush with its feet in the water just north of the deck. But waded into the grass just off the path to take a photo (top) of Blue Vervain (Verbena bastata), just coming into bloom now.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) also are showing up brightly now.

And it was great to see --- not far beyond the first bench and to the right alongside the path --- an expanding colony of Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya) spiking up and nearly ready to bloom. 

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) also is blooming low to the ground.

Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) is putting on the most dramatic show at the marsh right now, but be a little careful around this one. Every bit of it is poison --- the root, especially deadly (as "Hemlock" might suggest).


My friend Linda O'Connell tells me, by the way, that Highway 65 is now open between Derby and Humeston and that the balance of the stretch to Lucas (barring some flagging action while shoulders are finished) might open this week. That's great news and also means that the big Liatris (Blazing Star) show right along the highway midway between Derby and Lucas should be easily accessible.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Little hike on the prairie ...

There are a few things to keep in mind while on a hike with people who love the prairie --- like the one Mary Ellen and I joined  Saturday over around Medora. That's the youngest member of our party above and below.

First, the pace will be very slow. We spent more than two hours exploring a 20-acre prairie remnant in the morning, then moved on after lunch to spend more time than that meandering around a small part of the nearby --- and much larger --- Medora Prairie.

But no one wants to miss anything, so every time anyone finds something of note everyone gathers around to ooh and aah. Or just to talk.

And when someone finds something he or she doesn't recognize, everyone gathers round to try to figure out what it is.

In addition, the terrain will be rough and trails are unlikely. There will be brambles, bugs, tree stumps, branches to trip over, occasional mud and a variety of other hazards (wear sturdy shoes, long pants and when passing through brambles lift your arms to avoid scratches).

But I don't think any of us rambling around southern Warren County on Saturday could have thought of a better way to spend part (or all) of the day. In all, about 20 people were involved, some arriving late, others leaving early. Eight of us finished up at about 4 p.m.


Most of us met about 10 a.m. at Hickory Hills Park, a lovely Warren County Conservation Board area along U.S. 69 just south of Medora (a ghost town consisting of the Medora United Methodist Church, a store --- closed, and a house). We returned to Hickory Hills later for a picnic-style lunch in the pioneer barn.

The hike was hosted by Region 6 of the Iowa Prairie Network and Martha Skillman, at 83 or so grande dame of  the southern Iowa prairies and owner of the first prairie tract we visited, was among us.

Principal organizers were the Network's Andy Asell, also our primary guide; and Pam White. Andy, son of Chariton's Charlotte and Lyle Asell, lives at Indianola with his family and works for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He seems to live, breathe and sleep prairie.

Our area of interest was located about three miles northwest of Hickory Hills, rich in prairie remnants. The Warren County Conservation Board's Rolling Thunder Prairie (signed and locatable on maps) is here. The Medora Prairie, 360 acres owned by the Nature Conservancy, is a mile and a half northeast of Rolling Thunder. Martha's 20 acres is sandwiched alongside a "b" road between the two. Medora Prairie is open to the public but neither it nor Martha's property is marked.


From Hickory Hills we drove over to Martha's property, which she purchased in 2005 to protect and improve not long after it had been identified as a prairie remnant, meaning that although it had been grazed the sod had never been broken and the plant base was largely intact. There are four open prairie areas here, dissected by wooded ravines.

In the years since, Martha, Andy  and others have cleared overgrowth that prairie fires would have controlled before EuroAmerican settlement and Andy has constructed a rough trails system that allows visitors to move (in some cases with considerable effort) from one prairie patch to another.

Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens), a prairie native, was putting on a considerable show here, in the area nearest the road.

I was hoping this little butterfly would open its wings for me, but there were just too many people moving around and we managed to spook it.

Elsewhere on Martha's prairie we found dozens of prairie varieties, including butterfly weed (now moving beyond its blooming prime in most areas we visited)...

... yellow coneflowers (confusingly called officially gray-headed coneflowers)...

and a few examples of pale coneflower, also moving beyond the prime blooming season.

We finished up at Martha's without getting to the final prairie segment of her property, but it was 12:30 and time to regroup and head back to the Hickory Hills barn for lunch. Some with afternoon obligations headed home.


The Nature Conservancy began acquiring the Medora Prairie tract during 1996 and has worked since to deal with overgrowth --- including extensive burns in its western territory last year. So Andy was interested when we headed back to the land after lunch to see what native plants had emerged there.

One gratifying find was Starry Campion (Silene stellata). Earlier in the year, Andy said, this section of burned-over prairie and woodland had been a great place to find morel mushrooms.

We moved on to the highest point of the prairie, in roughly the middle of the tract, taking the usual time-outs to stop and confer about this or that.

Although this colorful little lily, known as Blackberry Lilly (Iris domestica), is not a native plant but rather an escapee from some long-ago domestic garden, we were surprised and pleased to find a colony coexisting happily with prairie milkweed along a ravine.

Except for the long hike back to our vehicles, Saturday's tour concluded on this gorgeous ridge with views north toward Indianola. I'd like to go back someday and just sit here and take it all in for an hour or so.