One of the great things about people who work on restoring (reconstructing) prairies is that they tend to be good at making things up as they go. Some say prairie restoration is more art than science. I actually think there’s plenty of science in restoration, but there’s no denying there’s a lot of art as well. My favorite examples of restoration art are the fantastic machines and techniques people have come up with to harvest, clean, and plant prairie seeds.
Prairie seed comes in all kinds of sizes and shapes. That variety makes seeds fascinating to look at and study, but can create all kinds of issues for people trying to get those seeds from plant to the ground in order to make new prairies. We’ve certainly had some humbling experiences here – including the comedy of errors that was our failed attempt to modify an old John Deere combine so that its augers would move fluffy prairie grass seed from the head to the hopper. (We eventually sold the remains of the combine for scrap.)
Failures can be educational, but successes are even better. I’ve been lucky to have some smart people to help me come up with ways to make our restoration work much more efficient and effective. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit many other restoration sites around the U.S. and have been amazed at the variety of innovative and individual ways others have solved the challenges we all face.
I’d like to celebrate the innovative aspect of prairie restoration by highlighting some of the best tools and techniques that have been developed, but I need your help. Over the next several weeks or so, I hope to gather up photos and descriptions of some of the unique, beautiful, and intricate ways people have addressed prairie restoration challenges. Then I’ll put together a post (or maybe several) that showcases the best of what I find. Hopefully, the result will be both useful and entertaining.
Please send me your favorite examples of tools, machines, and techniques that you’ve invented or modified in order to more effectively harvest, clean, or plant prairie seeds. Failures and successes are both welcome – as long as they’re interesting. Email 1-2 photos of each example, along with a paragraph or two of description to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep photo file sizes under 2MB. No guarantees, but I’ll try to use as many of your photos and descriptions as I can.