odds and end(s) of year

Just a few quick pictures & thoughts as we head into the Longest Night, and tie up the end of 2021. Can you believe it?!

I did some final supplemental seeding on a 5 acre field of Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) that we will be grazing next summer for the first time. Big bluestem is a native, warm-season grass. 95% of the pastures in our region are cool-season, which produce most heavily in spring and fall. Warm-season grasses (surprise!) provide most of their growth and nutrition during the summer heat. It is commonly grazed out west, but almost no one in the area does it. For more reading, see Iowa State U. on incorporating prairies in multifunctional landscapes.

all the good stuff packed in one photo!

I recently read that Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis), a native legume, is also used in pastures, so I put down several pounds of this as well. It’s a favorite of our Maria Center resident Elsa, who faithfully scouts our existing plants and collects seeds for me. I supplemented her harvest with some from commercial growers, who really help us scale up.

Legumes pull nitrogen out of the air and put it in the soil, helping other plants grow. The seeds are also great for game birds.

I started another little experiment over at Moontree, related to the timing of prairie sowing & the use of fire. More details next year.

It required mixing up a small, custom mix of species. The next photo looks a little suspicious, but I assure you what I’m doing is perfectly legal! 😉

The seeds are quite beautiful…

I recently took a little spiritual retreat at GilChrist and stayed in the Hawk’s Nest cabin. I certainly love to see all the prairie incorporated thoughtfully in the landscape. However… it’s kind of like I didn’t leave work, so it was a challenge for my headspace to not be distracted. “Hmmm… I wonder how they manage prescribed fire. Oh, there’s an invasive species someone should take care of…”

A drone photo would be much better, but here’s an oblique look at their prairie labyrinth, which is quite large.

I easily made it there at highways speeds & cold temps in the electric LEAF, and I knew I’d get a full charge upon arrival thanks to their solar-canopy charger:

Speaking of which, a car dealership by Wal-Mart recently installed this DCFC (direct current fast charging) station. Fortunately it looks like it’s operated by Blink, one of the major networks .This will improve the odds that it will be properly maintained over time. Reliability can be a challenge with DCFCs when the commitment is lacking.

The funny thing is that I doubt I will ever use this station. Almost all EV charging is done overnight where cars are parked, so DCFCs are most needed on highways a good distance from your origin point. My trip to GilChrist was in another state and I didn’t even need a DCFC. Nonetheless, this was a very needed unit near the intersection of US 30/31 and I suspect will be occupied frequently. Plymouth actually has another station coming in 2022/2023, location TBD.

Let’s just keep going with the odds and ends, shall we?

This was fairly unique… a large branch that fell and was caught by the much smaller branches of another tree. The branch was a dead pine and so less dense than one would normally suspect.

And lastly, since we are finishing up our sophomore year of COVID-19, with such angst and pain and suffering, I’ll offer the slightest bit of humor, since I think we could all use it right now.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, for clarity in the circumstances that are before you, the courage to do what needs to be done, and the assurance that it will be all right in the end.

news round up, Christmas edition

IMPA Obtains Building Permit for Bremen Solar Park (Max 98.3) IMPA officials have obtained a building permit for the 35-acre solar park to be located on 1st Road in Bremen.

Marshall County Commissioners Receive Update on Proposed Regional Sewer District (Max 98.3) Jones said in a previous meeting JPR was initially hired by the Marshall County Health Department to conduct a study of underserved areas of the county in terms of wastewater treatment.

Cars killed less amphibians during COVID-19 shutdown (The Wildlife Society)

Prairies Are Making Headlines. But What Exactly Are They? Here’s an Explainer (WTTW)

Techno-optimism for 2022 (Noah Smith) What you should be excited about: advances in medicine, space exploration, and clean energy

Why it’s time to reconsider the ecological contribution of introduced species – even in New Zealand (The Conversation)

The Battle of High Hill (The Atlantic) When two megafires converged on a small town in Oregon, the community faced a choice. People could flee, leaving the town to its fate. Or they could stay and fight.

Federal Infrastructure Money Could Help Indiana Highways Withstand Expensive Climate-related Damages (Indiana Env Reporter) Indiana’s cut from the bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be about $6.6 billion in federal funding for state and local projects and $401 million for bridge replacement and repairs. That is in addition to other funding for the state, including $751 million for improving water infrastructure, $673 million the bill allocates for improving public transportation, $170 million for airport infrastructure development, $100 million to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network and at least $100 million to provide broadband internet across the state.

Poison in the Air (ProPublica) The EPA allows polluters to turn neighborhoods into “sacrifice zones” where residents breathe carcinogens. ProPublica reveals where these places are in a first-of-its-kind map and data analysis.

Wisconsin’s deer population is at a critical high (Wisconsin Public Radio) Advocates say hunters, scientists and legislators all have a role to play in managing the state’s population of white-tailed deer

Wolves make roadways safer, generating large economic returns to predator conservation (PNAS) We show that, for the average county, wolf entry reduced Deer-Vehicle Collisions by 24%, yielding an economic benefit that is 63 times greater than the costs of verified wolf predation on livestock

Groups celebrate win in Kankakee wetlands protection case (Indiana Environmental Reporter) Judge condemns Corps of Engineers’ approval of feeding operation that could damage protected ecosystem.

This company is earning money with second-life Nissan LEAF batteries (Charged EVs) B2U’s solar/storage facility is located in Lancaster, California, on the edge of the Mojave Desert. It consists of a 1 MW solar farm and several small structures, each containing around 20 LEAF batteries, all in their original cases.

Planting Prairies at Airports Could Make Flying Safer (PBS) By turning hundreds of acres back to prairie, Dayton International Airport is reducing its environmental impact––while cutting back on maintenance costs.

How SARS-CoV-2 in American deer could alter the course of the global pandemic (NPR) A recent survey of white-tailed deer in the Northeast and Midwest found that 40% of them had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Rethinking Midwestern Agriculture (Indiana Environmental Reporter) $10 million USDA grant will allow Purdue researchers to look at how diversifying crops and modernizing current support systems will help Hoosier farmers survive climate change effects.

even more solar cometh

A couple weeks ago I went before the Plymouth City Council to give up an update on the Complete Streets Committee’s tactical urbanism project, which aimed to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at a critical juncture in the city’s greenways trail.

While I was there, I was happy to watch the City approve a $1.6M, 1.0 MW solar energy system with Telemon Energy that will power the city’s water reclamation facility (aka wastewater plant). Construction is expected to start in the spring of next year.

This would have been the largest solar energy system in the county… had Bremen’s new 35 acre, 6.75 MW project not already started construction!

Once this system is installed, Plymouth’s per capita solar energy capacity will be nearly on par with Denver, CO, which is 10th in the nation among major U.S. cities!

With these new systems coming online, that will push our solar installations back to merely 4th largest in the county. Which, of course, is what I want! A friendly solar competition is the best kind of competition.


If that were not enough, Wednesday night the Plymouth Community School Corporation approved a deal for solar systems at two schools, also with Telemon Energy. The news stories I saw didn’t mention exact size, but judging by the aerial it looks to be in the ballpark of 700 kW (0.7 MW).

drawing of proposed array at Riverside Intermediate School

By 2022, Marshall County will have solar energy installations at a school corporation, a City, an electric cooperative, a private industry, a County facility, a non-profit, a college, and multiple residences. Coming soon we will also see pretty enormous utility-scale projects as well. It is indeed an interesting time to be alive.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the county is about to have it’s first fast charger for electric cars come online (DCFC, or Direct Current Fast Charger):

If you’ve been feeling a little dreary about the headlines, read this piece for some optimism about what technology has the potential to bring us, with a major component of that being the energy transition that is unfolding right now.

quick solar co-op update

Things are moving ahead with Solar United Neighbor’s Northern Indiana solar co-op. SUN has enrolled 149 members, who have at least expressed serious interest in going solar at home. 27 of those have already signed contracts and installations have begun!

Co-ops help streamline the process for both the customers and the providers, and help ensure that co-op members get a reasonable price for a quality system. Northern Indiana is blessed to have multiple quality solar energy companies that are locally owned.

We’ve tried to lend assistance with getting the word out about the co-op, via yard signs, community education sessions, and blog posts. SUN recently announced that they are extending their deadline to Feb. 28, 2021 for this co-op opportunity. So please send the link above to anyone you think who might be interested.

Most people are familiar with the concept of rooftop solar, but each design is unique. Here are some of the installations from co-op members that were recently installed:

early winter bush honeysuckle control

We have a Volunteer Time Off program at work, so I’ve been stealing a few hours here and there in the last few weeks to work on some of the bush honeysuckle that is persisting at the Mill Pond County Park (which I wrote about in February).

The Makutu herbicide stick applicator is a great ally in this fight. It’s assembled by volunteers at The Prairie Enthusiasts, one of my favorite ecological non-profits. Just cut the stem & dab the stump with the wand to eliminate the plant. The mixture is simply glyphosate concentrate mixed 50/50 with water, and will ensure that the plant will not resprout. It avoids the danger & noise of a chainsaw, saves back pain from pulling, and minimizes soil disturbance. Although one should always take precautions around herbicides, it practically eliminates any overspray concerns (damage to non-target species), and so little chemical is used that the cost is basically a rounding error.

It’s a great time to be in the woods. So few native plants have any green leaves that the honeysuckle really stands out. You don’t waste time hunting for (and missing) individual plants.

When this invasive shrub is not controlled, our native hardwoods slowly decay & are eventually lost. A simple, affordable tool that gets the job done. The hardest part is really just lining up enough people to actually do the work at the appropriate time. The majority of Indiana’s woodlands are in private hands; unfortunately, it’s not a common practice to actively manage bush honeysuckle. Hopefully this is something that can change.

May be an image of tree and outdoors
May be an image of outdoors


May be an image of nature and tree


May be an image of nature, tree and grass