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Funding Available for Urban Conservation Gardens and High Tunnels Applications for the Urban Conservation Project…

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Tuesday, 7-8:30 pm San Antonio NPAT Chapter Monthly Meeting“MISSION REACH Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation Project”,  Environmental Sciences, San Antonio…

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Prairie Facts

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm June 17, 2017 by Don Kirchoff

‘PRAIRIE RESTORATION’

Submitted by Don Kirchoff on behalf of himself, his sister, Brenda, and his brother, Scott: ‘The Kirchoff Family’

I will share images taken in the last few days of various restoration efforts and successes of our restoration, Don.
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The Kirchoff siblings spend two or three days a week working on various restoration projects on the Kirchoff Prairie. Restoration began when the first fields were planted in 2011 to native seed mixes utilizing a NRCS WHIP grant and with advice from USFWS and NRCS.

We did not anticipate the huge tasks required to control invasive species, in the first years of restoration, and until the native prairie plants became robust enough to prevent invasions of unwanted species!

Huisache (Acacia farnesiana), baccharis (Asteraceae), and mesquite (Prosopis), are some of the woody invasive plants that we are attempting to control.
We use various several control methods and when the plants get ahead of us and larger, we cut them down with a brush cutter or pole saw and treat the stumps with chemicals.

These two images show Brenda cutting larger huisache and Don treating stumps with a chemical mix:


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Switchgrass on the Kirchoff Prairie is already six years tall this year (see Don)

and beginning to form seed blossoms or heads:

From time to time we are surprised by unusual prairie wildlife
...  like this “Shaggy Mane” mushroom


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Wild milkweeds are returning to the Kirchoff Prairie.

To-date we think we have identified: Zizotes, Antelope horn, Green, Emory’s, and vining Milkweeds.
This spring we located an astonishing 20 or so plants scattered mostly in the first fields restored to native prairie.

As we locate new plants we flag them and sometimes bag the capsules to collect seeds.
(Sometimes we don’t notice the milkweed plants until their capsules open and the fluffy contents disclose their locations.)

These photos tell the story.
Images show Brenda checking bagged capsules and collecting seeds from capsules that had opened.
Our most recent milkweed discovery is several that we believe to be Emory milkweeds.

 

October, 2016, we planted zizotes seeds we had collected within 10 miles of the Kirchoff Prairie into 8” Hiko trays. 

April, 2017, Chris Best helped us transplant seedlings into our Milkweed Seed Increase Plot:

You can see our Green Tree Firebreak in the background.

Already the zizotes are blooming and are producing capsules,
which we will bag for seed collection.

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In these images Brenda is checking plants in one of the “wetland” areas on the Kirchoff Prairie.

One is about four feet tall

and the other is a very short ground cover “Frogs Fruit”.

Both were humming with bees and other foraging insects yesterday when we checked them.

During the Workshop conducted on the Kirchoff Prairie in May, 2017,

We transplanted about 200 Indiangrass seedlings donated by Douglass King Seed Company.
We have about a 90% success rate so far and the seedlings have tripled in size.
We are looking forward to having these additional patches of Indiangrass on the prairie.

Prairie management includes prescribed grazing, hay production and controlled burns.

Last fall we cut our first prairie hay and produced 94 large bales of hay.
So far we have used prescribed grazing in Jan – Apr of the last two years in addition to cutting hay last fall for the first time.
The bales of prairie hay contain native grass seeds, including switch grass, gamagrasses, windmill grasses, four-flower trichloris, bristlegrasses, etc.
Those who feed these hay bales to their cattle should be able to spread native grass seeds to their properties.

That is my brother, Scott, doing the hay production: