• Ian Thompson

Taking Out the Trash - A Life-Affirming Experience?


From my earliest memory and again today, Sunday evening is the night to take out the trash. I've gotten to take out the trash while living in big cities, small towns, the suburbs, and rural places. It was never a particularly enjoyable experience, then this evening I realized that I was actually looking forward to it. Not so much the trash, but getting to explore the 700 feet of prairie remnant situated between our house and the road in the cool of the evening. That made me think about how much beauty this land puts into our our lives, even while doing mundane little tasks. All of the images below were taken this evening on our way to the trashcan and back. Come join us for the walk.


The heat index today was 108. The first stop is to turn the water on to refill the stock tank for the buffalo and horses. Here is Buffalena loving on her first-born calf, one of four new calves our herd was blessed with in May.


On our way to the road, two bobwhite quail dart from cover in the tallgrass and fly over the driveway right in front of us, much too fast for a picture. This is where they came out of. Painted buntings also speed between the trees and perch above the ground, grasping onto last year's stalks of tallgrass. These are the most colorful birds imaginable. Annual visitors to the farm, they are back for just a short time before starting their return journey to Central America. This prairie remnant, which provides a home to these and many other bird species, is gorgeous from a distance, but it becomes more impressive the closer you get.


Walking out among the tallgrass, we come upon a clump of Green Milkweed almost immediately. A hungry troop of about two dozen monarch butterfly caterpillars are devouring a couple of these plants. For more of this incredible creature's story, please see our last post.





The monarch is not the only creature that depends on native milkweeds. Tonight, a longhorn milkweed beetle joins the monarch cats for dinner. This is the first time we've ever seen one of these in person.






A short distance away, gratuitous beauty. A butterfly checks out some native yarrow flowers. Learning how to identify the plants that live on this farm's prairie pastures has been a challenge. One day, we'll start learning the butterflies that are also a part of this interconnected web of life.















Three more of the native wildflowers we encountered this evening, sensitive brier (a plant that visibly moves in response to touch), Indian paintbrush (a flower that relies on native grass for food), and prairie larkspur (a deadly beauty).


This winter, we hand-planted hundreds of patches of native prairie plants in a degraded edge of this prairie to rebuild diversity. On our way back to the house, we checked on the progress of some of these plantings. Left to right: Indian blanket (Amy's favorite flower), a patch of partridge pea (improves the soil and its seeds feed the bobwhites), and cowpen daisy (one of the best pollinator plants for sandy soils).


The tallgrass prairie is such an amazing, diverse, life-affirming place. Every week, the patch that lies between our house and the road overpowers the drudgery of a walk to take out the trash with the anticipation of coming across something beautiful and often unexpected. Thank you for joining us on this short walk.


On Nan Awaya Farm, we're trying our best to be good stewards of this land. We'll leave you with this image of something else we passed on our walk. This is an area that someone in the past bladed to almost sterile soil. Last year, we buried our compost under the soil in a rectangular area, then planted it with prairie seeds as an experiment. A new, little island of life is reemerging from what was recently nearly barren sand.




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