Tom's Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009

Evidences of grazing on an old pasture

For the last two years we have been restoring what we call the East Basin. This is a 5 acre area that faces south and southwest and slopes down from the Ridge Prairie. Old air photos had shown that this was completely open in the late 1930s. It was probably a prairie remnant that was lightly grazed (because it was so far from the barn, and surrounded by land of other owners). Using my extensive series of air photos, I watched as this area gradually filled in with trees. By the time we started restoring it in 2007, it was fully wooded. However, the trees were undesirable: walnut, elm, black cherry, etc., plus a large clone of quaking aspen (which were girdled in May 2008)..

How did we know it had been grazed? Barbed wire fence! The crew that just finished cutting the now dead aspens kept running into fence, a menace for any chain saw, so they rolled it all up. (See the photo below)

We plan to plant the East Basin to dry mesic and mesic prairie in November. Before then we will burn all the piles of aspen, adding to them all the wood that is lying on the ground. We'll probably be doing this in early November, hopefully with help from some volunteers. (All of the understory vegetation has been sprayed twice with glyphosate.) At present, we are very actively collecting seed. We plan to have at least 100 species to plant.

In the hill country of southwestern Wisconsin, grazing was what you did with land that was too hilly to plow. Most of this land was savanna, although there was also lots that was prairie. This is probably what the East Basin was, since there was not a sign of a tree in the 1937 air photo.


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