Although I just turned 72, when I think of summer, visions of getting out of school and having months to run around outdoors and also work alongside my parents in field and garden come to mind. How glorious to have such freedom to be outside.
At the monastery, many volunteers, Paul Boutwell and I will be enjoying that freedom together—being outside and looking after the sisters’ bounty of land and nature. It’s truly a great adventure implementing this grand plan to restore all of the fire communities of southern Wisconsin at Holy Wisdom Monastery; prairie, savanna and oak woodlands. To date, the sisters and their many helpers have restored well over 100 acres of prairie, and have started on the restoration of savanna and oak-hickory forest.
Last November, we planted 20 acres of prairie and in May this year we planted another nine acres. We had a new storm water detention facility installed in the old soy bean field where the nine acres were planted in May. Prairie seeds were planted on the berms that form the stormwater detention facility and wet prairie seeds will be sown in the basin in November this year. So far this spring, a lot of weeds have come up in those newly sown prairies; mostly lambs quarter and a few bull thistles. We will have to mow these weeds off to about 10 inches in July to let light into the newly emerging prairie seedlings. In our walks over these new prairie areas, we have seen about a dozen prairie plants we can recognize and many other non-descript little greenies that will be our prairie in a few years.
Another project that we have expended a lot of energy on is the removal of weedy trees and shrubs from the old fence rows and along the Highway M right-of-way that borders our new prairies. We removed them so they do not drop their seeds in the new prairie and overwhelm the little prairie plants. Also, by removing the trees and shrubs, we eliminate the shade and root competition so the new prairie can develop properly.
Then there is the constant effort to control the most aggressive of the exotic invaders such as garlic mustard, and reed canary grass. There is no shortage of work.
I have given several tours of the older prairies at the monastery this spring and, this gives me hope for the future. If you had a chance to see the display of lupine in the Mendota Prairie just east of the monastery building, you know what I mean.
This large task of restoring the ecological integrity of the sister’s land makes me feel fulfilled and I know we are doing the right thing. We are a part of God’s creation and caring for that creation must be a good thing.
I hope you will find time to come and visit Holy Wisdom Monastery this summer. Better yet, sign up for one of the volunteer work days and be a part of this good work.