In 2000, we bought a 420 acre farm in Buffalo County, in the Driftless Area of 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.
We’re guessing this will be a 150 year project – so we won’t finish it any time soon. But it’s an interesting challenge, and we’re learning a lot about the land, and the plants and animals that live here, in the process.
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 1,000 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.
Here’s a little more information about us.
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 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 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 – (although I recently got my very own electric chainsaw). Mike is 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.