Friday, February 28, 2014

Prairie Management Practices and Quaker Revitalizaton: Post 3

In the middle of July last summer, on one of the hottest, most humid days, a wildlife biologist, our district wildlife and conservation specialist, and I took a hike through our prairie.  I was discouraged with the progress of the prairie.  We had planted in 2007 and it had burst forth with wildflowers.  It was beautiful.  Grasses began appearing the next year, though spotty.  We did a proscribed burn three years later – per our approved prairie management plan.  We kept down the bad plants (mostly thistles) and tried to leave the rest alone – per the plan.  But six years in to the plan, the prairie was not near the lush prairie of photographs.  There were wonderful pockets of tall grasses and wildflowers.  But there were also stretches of bad weeds and undesirable grasses.  In 2012 a friend of mine from Pheasants Forever and I spent six hours on an April Sunday afternoon and evening drilling (with a special seed drill) replanting the entire prairie with almost $1,000 worth of specialized warm grass and wildflowers seeds.

And then it didn’t rain for almost four months.  In 2013, I was bemoaning all the work and expenses and effort for so little yield.  So when the state wildlife biologist offered to come out and look over things, I readily agreed.

For two hours we walked through the prairie.  Not around it – looking at it from the outside.  But deep inside the plants over our heads – grasses and weeds.  The biologist pushed aside plants/weeds, knelt down, nodded, pointed, made short comments.  Then he’d move a few more feet and we’d look again.  “So,” he asked.  “Did you do the proscribed burns.”  “Yes,” I said, and gave him the dates.  “What mix did you plant?”  I told him. “What kind of seed drill?”  I answered.  “What are you doing to get rid of the thistles and briars?”  Each question he asked, I answered.

As we made our way out of the prairie, sweaty, weed-seed covered, I asked, “So what should I be doing?”  “Just keep on doing what you’re doing,” he said.  “There’s more going on than you see.  There’s lots of good growth going on.  It’s just down low.  It’s hungry for light.  And the weeds are choking out the light.  So, my suggestion is for you to get out your tractor, hook up your bush hog, and mow it all down to a height of 3 feet.  The heat and cutting will stress the weeks and they’ll die.  The heat and light will help the grasses and they’ll flourish.”

“But,” he said, “keep doing the things you’ve been doing.  It’s working.”
As I said in my previous post, I do believe the soil of Friendly renewal is being prepared.  Good things are happening, even if some are not visible to the larger world (Friends and the “real” world) yet.  I also believe that certain “management” practices need to be put into place.

The good news is that none of them require a proscribed burn!

Instead of saying the exact practices as a prescription, I want to offer then as queries, and invite y’all to dive deep into your spiritual wisdom and invite Christ our present teacher to teach us the “management practices” we are going to need to grow a new prairie that mirrors the life of the prairies that once covered much of the middle of our country and supported an abundance (and variety) of life.

  • Given that there is a correlation between being a loving community and the depth and quality of worship, what can be done to enhance the sense of spiritual community and love in our meetings?
  • Given that there is a correlation between vitality and deep worship, what steps should be taken to increase our meetings’ vitality?
  • Given that each meeting has its unique problems and challenges, how do meetings avoid focusing on the problems and concentrate on strengthening connectivity with God?

Again, I want to acknowledge my friend with whom I began this conversation – many of the queries were originally questions that she sent me and helped get this train of prairie thought going.

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