“What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything.” — Laurence Sterne
Say “dry gravel prairie” and it doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? But a visit to the Sauer Family/Prairie Kame Forest Preserve in October is a reminder of just how beautiful these gravel prairies can be.
On arrival, I spend a few moments reading about the site.
The hill is about 30 feet high, and according to the forest preserve, is “situated on the leading edge of the great glaciers that moved through and retreated from this area” more than 10,000 years ago. It’s a stunning interruption of the flat prairies and cornfields all around.
Listen! Crickets sing. Big bluestem and Indian grass sieve the wind.
A “marsh hawk”—also known as the northern harrier—flies over, looking for mice.
Planes from a nearby regional airport soar over too, their pilots looking for an afternoon’s adventure in the sky.
Other fliers hang out low in the tallgrass.
Showy goldenrod bumps blooms with Canada goldenrod.
The prairie brims with fresh flowers…
…and wildflowers going to seed.
And such seeds!
Watch out for rattlesnake master, with its bristling globes that prick inquisitive fingers.
Listen for white wild indigo, rattling its seedpods. What, no seeds inside? Tap a pod and watch the weevils spill out.
Crush the gray-headed coneflower seedheads. Inhale the lemony fragrance. Mmmm.
A broad-headed bug patrols the bush clover.
Leadplant’s leaves catch the light, showing off the silvery hairs that give this plant its name.
It’s my first prairie hike since I was unexpectedly sidelined six weeks ago. What a wonderful feeling, to be out on a tallgrass trail! What a gorgeous day to be outside.
What a beautiful day to be alive.
Laurence Stern (1713-1768), whose quote opens today’s post, was a novelist and cleric whose work was included in 18th Century anti-slavery literature. He struggled with tuberculosis or “consumption” most of his life.
Save Bell Bowl Prairie!
Gravel prairies are rare in Illinois. It’s not too late to Save Bell Bowl Prairie, an important gravel prairie remnant in Rockford slated for demolition by the Chicago Rockford International Airport. Click here for simple things you can do to help protect this prairie from demolition.
Upcoming Programs this Autumn
Tuesday, October 11, 2022 (7-8:30 p.m.)—The Tallgrass Prairie; An Introduction hosted by Twig & Bloom Garden Club, Glen Ellyn, IL. This is a closed event for members. For information on joining the club, visit their Facebook page here.
Friday, October 14, 2022 (10-11 a.m.)—-A Brief History of Trees in America. Discover the enchanting role trees have played in our nation’s history. Think about how trees are part of your personal history, and explore trees’ influence in American literature, music, and culture. Hosted by the Elgin Garden Club and the Gail Borden Public Library District, Main Branch, 270 North Grove Avenue, Meadows Community Rooms. In person. Free and open to the public, but you must register. Find more information here.
Thursday, October 20, 2022 (10:15-11:30a.m.)—The Garden’s Frequent Fliers: Dragonflies and Damselflies, Lincolnshire Garden Club, Vernon Hills, IL. This is a closed event for members only. For information on joining this club, please visit their website here.
Nature Writing II –Four Thursdays–October 27, November 3, 10, and 17, 2022, (9 to 11:30 a.m., in-person). Offered by The Morton Arboretum. Experiment with a variety of styles and techniques as you continue to develop your own voice. The same qualities of good writing apply to everything from blogs to books! No matter your background or interest, become the writer you always dreamt you could be. Register here.
Thanks to John Heneghan for the Northern Harrier identification in this week’s post.