Journal for August 6, 2012

Rain!  We’ve gotten about 2 inches in the last two weeks.  Not a lot, but enough to make us feel better, and hopefully make the plants happier.

This is the rain falling on hot, dry vegetation – turning it into a steamy jungle.


Jim Tittle is a film maker who is currently making a documentary about frac sand mining called The Price of Sand.  He came to visit Buffalo County, and stayed with us for a few days last week – taking video and doing interviews with local folks.  He and Mike drove Highway 88 – our road – and filmed the most dangerous part of the route the sand trucks will take – over the ridge connecting us with the next valley.  Here are the guys, getting ready to head out.


We’re still talking a lot about sand mining around here.  We had one big win last week.  The mining companies had applied for a permit to build a sand processing plant and rail loading facility at the bottom of Highway 88, where it meets Highway 35 along the Mississippi River.  It would have meant many sand trucks traveling down our road, and also on the roads through the towns of Alma and Fountain City.  And the plant would have been built right across the road from a K-12 school.  The proposal generated a huge amount of opposition in the county, and at the end of a long meeting in Alma last week, the Board of Adjustments denied the permit.  Here’s the report about it that was broadcast on KARE 11 in the twin cities.

The other part of the sand mining story is the filing of our first-ever lawsuit – against the county and the Board of Adjustment to overturn their decision to allow the R&J mine – the one that’s just up the road from us.  Here’s the link to the document.

On a brighter note – here are some creatures I’ve seen at the farm in the last few weeks.

An American Snout (butterfly).  This species is quite common in the south, but not so common here because it can’t survive our winters.  It repopulates here every spring, but it’s still quite uncommon.  I only see one or two a year.  This is the first one I’ve seen this year.


This is Dotted Horsemint – a less commonly known species of Monarda.  I haven’t found it growing on our land naturally,  but it grows in this part of Wisconsin, and I’ve planted it in our planted prairies.  This one was growing in Big View Prairie – one of our remnant prairies.  I think the seed probably came from Western Prairie – the planted prairie that’s close by.  It’s nice to see more evidence of the natural ecosystem functioning again – with seed exchange happening between different areas.


Indigo Bunting – they’re easy to spot these days – calling loudly from the tops of trees, and the tops of the tallest plants in the prairies.


American Bellflower


A young Bobolink – there was a flock of about 8 in Western Prairie yesterday.  I don’t think they nest on the farm, but we often see them later in the year, when they’re getting ready to migrate.


Great Spangled Fritillary on Field Thistle (a native thistle)


This is an ash seedling, with holes in the leaves made by leafcutter bees – (Megachile sp.)  These bees cut out small ovals or circles of certain kinds of leaves to line the holes where they lay their eggs.

While researching the bees on the internet, I found some cool photos.

A nest of eggs removed from its hole.  The bottom of the hole is lined with leaves, then an egg and some food is placed in it.  It’s covered with a piece of leaf, then another egg with food is placed on top, covered with another leaf, and so on.

A bee in the act of cutting a leaf.

Bees using an old paper wasp nest.  The first year it was a wasp nest, the second year the leafcutting bees took over the holes.


I realized that I haven’t posted many scenery photos lately, so here are a few.  Some are mine, and some are Mike’s.  Mike has an iPhone with a photo app that allows him to take HDR (high dynamic range) photos.  So his landscapes always have wonderful clouds.

Mike’s photos:

Western Prairie


Western Prairie


3 Finger Valley


3 Finger Valley


Buffalo Ridge Prairie


And a few of mine…

This is from several weeks ago – the planted prairie near the house.  This is a very weedy prairie, and I’ve never been very happy with it, but the Spiderwort is thriving, and getting thicker every year.  So at this time of year, it’s gorgeous.


Western Prairie


The house


3 Finger Valley – Green-headed Coneflower under the walnut trees