Prairie Haven

Prairie Haven is about our adventures trying to restore an old Wisconsin farm back to the prairie and savanna landscape that was here before the land was settled.  Here’s a little info about us.

Marcie O’Connor

marcie 3-31-10

 

marcie from craft camp cropped small 6-22-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started learning to identify plants when I was about 10 years old, studied botany and ecology in college, and have remained interested in plants and in restoration ecology ever since.  I turned the yard of every house we lived in into a wild landscape.  One back yard became a woods, the front yard had more sun so it became a prairie.  I turned the yard of our cabin along the St. Croix River back into a wetland.

Now I focus on restoring our farm (about 500 acres of Driftless Area prairies, savannas, woods and wetlands) and the citizen science of identifying and documenting all the animals and plants that I find here.  I also record what we are doing with this blog, moderate the Driftless Area Prairies Facebook group, host annual gatherings for the Golden Eagle Count and National Moth Week, conduct an annual Butterfly Count, give tours of Prairie Haven and give several talks a year about our project.

 

Mike O’Connor

Mike 9-29-12

Mike is less involved in the decision-making about our restoration project, but he helps with a lot of the work.  He does all the mowing, and helps with all the projects that are loud and require gasoline engines (many of which have been converted to electric over the years).  I prefer projects that are quiet and involve hand tools.  He’s also the technician who keeps the computers, radio-connected game cameras, weather stations, solar panels and farm-machinery going.

Recently he bought a drone, and has been using it to document our farm and the restoration work we do here.   You can see some of his drone photos and videos HERE.

Mike has his own blog: Haven2.com.

The Farm

In 2000, we bought a 420 acre farm in Buffalo County, in west central Wisconsin.  It had been a dairy farm for many years, but by 2000 the cows had gone, and the only crops were 150 acres of corn and soybeans.    I decided it would be fun and interesting to try to restore it back to the way it would have been before it was farmed.  I had no idea it would be such a long, complicated project, or that it would be so rewarding.  Recently we added a few more pieces of land, so now we have just under 500 acres.

Our land has 5 large dry bluff prairie remnants, and numerous smaller prairie openings.  Much of the woods is overgrown savanna.   There are about 50 acres of wetland with remnants of wet prairie and sedge meadow, as well as old, abandoned farm fields.  So in addition to planting prairie in the old crop fields, we’ve been working to enlarge the bluff prairies, open up the savannas by clearing out smaller trees and brush, remove invasives, and replant damaged areas of the wetland.

I began by being mainly interested in the plants, but now I’m enjoying learning about other pieces of the ecosystem – birds, animals and especially insects.   In 2010 I got very interested in moths, and started keeping a record of the moths I’ve found here.  So far I’ve identified over 800 species, and I’m still finding new ones.

Another part of our effort here is to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can.  The restoration project is a pretty substantial carbon offset, but we’ve also made the switch to renewable power.  We’ve installed solar panels which make more electricity than we use.  We have geothermal heat, and an electric car, both of which are run using the electricity we make.

Click HERE to learn more about the history of our land.