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Prairie Facts

Wilson County News July 18, 2018 Kirchoff Family’s Restoration of Prairie

Don Kirchoff ‘goes native,’ returning family farm to prairie near Floresville

The Wilson County News, July 18, 2018 Edition, Companion of the prairie - South Texas Living, Story and photos by Jeff Valcher ‘Don Kirchoff ‘goes native,’ returning family farm to prairie near Floresville

Wilson_Co_News_Don_Kirchoff_7-18-18.pdf

Family Goal: Leave a Financially Self-Sustaining Prairie

Farm to Native Prairie Philosophy

The Kirchoff Family’s restoration efforts on our 200-acre farm, by Don Kirchoff

One of the goals of the Kirchoff Family is to leave to future generations a restored native prairie that is financially self-sustaining. When restoration efforts replaced row cropping and cattle grazing, new sources of revenue were needed. The initial years of conversion to native grass land produced no income to replace grain and cattle sales. The initial rewards of restoration were not financial. They were the return of many native species to this land that once again had become home to native grasses and forbs that provide shelter, food, and water for returning wildlife long ago displaced by agriculture.

Four native prairie management techniques were planned for restoration: shredding, controlled burns, haying, and prescribed grazing. Two of these four techniques generate revenue: prescribed grazing and haying.
The acreage is selected from year to year for prescribed grazing. 
Haying is rotated from field to field to maximize prairie restoration outcomes.

Prescribed Grazing:

The Kirchoffs sold their cattle at the start of restoration, so there are no cattle continuously on their prairie. Prescribed grazing is achieved by leasing grazing rights for neighbor’s(s’) herds - at selected periods during the year.
Electric fencing was installed to facilitate moving cattle among fields to achieve desired grazing impacts.
NRCS and other prairie specialists provide advice on when and which fields to graze.
Intense grazing generally is acceptable after the growing season and after nesting birds have raised their families. This is normally from November through March.
Neighbor’s(s’) cattle are brought into a quarantine area and fed baled prairie hay for a 72-hour period to clear their digestive tracts of possible unwanted invasive plant seeds before moving them to selected fields for intense grazing.

Haying:

Each year 15 – 20 acres are selected for haying.
Preparation has included significant efforts to suppress semi-woody plant populations of Baccharis halimifolia, huisache; Texas Huisache Vachellia farnesiana; and Texas honey mesquite Prosopis glandulosa by chemical treatment and cutting.
The grasses in fields selected for haying are allowed to reach maximum growth and seed production.
Wood from previous years of treatment is picked up and burned to reduce woody material in hay bales.
The taller grasses (switch grass and four-flower trichloris) produce most of the hay volume and native seed content.
However, the shorter prairie grasses, including windmill grasses Chloris verticillata, gamma grasses, Canada wild rye Elymus canadensis, SW bristle grasses Setaria scheelei, etc., are also rolled up in the bales.
The native grass hay was produced with no fertilizer applications.

   

   

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Forage Analysis Report for the 2017 harvest indicated nutrition values of:
Crude Protein:  8.4%
Acid Detergent Fiber:  39.8%
Total Digestible Nutrients:  53.7%
Net Energy Lactation:  0.54 Mcal/lb
These figures are significantly higher than coastal Bermuda hays produced in unfertilized fields, according AgriLife Extension folks.

Don Kirchoff stands in 6’ tall prairie grass prior to cutting

Hay baling operation performed by local farmer

Scott hauls hay to hay barn using equipment owned by the Family.
The baled prairie hay (with native grass seeds) is stored in the hay
barn and sold when hay prices are attractive.

Hay barn full of prairie hay ready for sale

Scott and Don Kirchoff load buyers’ vehicles with Prairie Hay:
 

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm April 6, 2018, by Don Kirchoff


(Photos by Don Kirchoff unless otherwise noted.)

I worked on the prairie Thursday, mostly spraying invasive woody plants in the oldest prairie fields (west half of property). There is an occasional milkweed in these fields, including an antelope horn Asclepias asperula (image confirmed by Chris Best). I did not see the three emery milkweeds spotted last year.

I also burned three of four small wood stacks in the field N of the house designated for haying this fall. We’ll transplant some of our antelope horn seedlings in these small burn pads as a follow-up to Chris’s similar milkweed experiments.

The population of invasive woodies in the “west” fields can now be measured in scores rather than in the thousands as was the case a few years ago! Some large ones remain that we will have to remove mechanically. Another day and we’ll be finished with these fields for now and the months of battling live woodies in the east 90 acres must begin.

The prairie is remarkably beautiful this year, considering the harsh and dry winter, and provides great opportunities for anyone with a camera.  Attached are a few images, starting with sunrise (top photo).

The cacti promise to be very showy this year: Texas Prickly Pear Cactus Opuntia engelmannii:

 

A spider finally settled down and let me get his photo.

There are images of my favorite woody plant: a grove of Guayacan Guaiacum angustifolium, some still blooming their tiny blue flowers and others producing seed pods.

 


(photo - brilliant blue mature Guayacan bloom, by Delange.org)

There is a one-foot tall onion-like plant with a long, thin purple flower (a lily?). And one of our yucca Yucca constricta is sending up a blossom. I could have spent the entire day just taking photos!!
     

The Eastern screech owl Megascops asio did not poke its head out of the new box at the hog corral, so I did not see him yesterday. Speaking of hogs! There are two new disturbed sites, but the hog population in our area seems to remain unusually small. As a result this is a great year for the spiderworts Tradescantia humilis– blooming heavily with few hogs to root them up.

Don Kirchoff

 

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm March 25, 2018 by Don Kirchoff

These images indicate some of our progress:

Photos by Don Kirchoff

Space for milkweed garden expansion. Zizotes garden is on far right. Have planted two rows of antelope horns. Waiting on rain.

Zizotes garden on 3/25/18:

Zizotes in garden already have flower buds (as do some wild ones in the prairie). I saw one monarch and Brenda saw two monarchs last week.

Three 8” Hiko trays with Antelope horn milkweeds Asclepias asperula planted from seed collected from the lone specimen your interns found last year. We’ll transplant these, scattered, on the prairie in a couple weeks.

Brazil plant Condalia hookeri and granjeno Celtis ehrenbergiana that we planted to Chris Best’s instructions: lightly covered Indian Paintbrush Castilleja indivisa seeds on top of each cell. (INTERESTING CONCEPT!)

Here’s a photo of two Manfreda maculosa Agavaceae we grew from seeds given to us by a friend. The plant on the left had a 6’ tall blossom shaft last fall. Now it appears to be propagating itself with at least three new plants emerged from the pot. The other one appears to be making babies also. I assume this an additional way they propagate. Seedlings we transplanted to the prairie and in our back yard are growing, but MUCH more slowly than these in the pots.

Have not seen any manfreda butterflies; Pat Merkord photographed a butterfly that looked similar; she had a different name for it.

Don Kirchoff

Observations of Dormant Woods & Brush, March 8, 2018, by Don Kirchoff

BEAUTY IN WINTER DORMANCY

Honey mesquite tree Prosopis glandulosa standing tall behind clusters of prickly pear cacti Opuntia engelmannii

These trees (and the clusters of cacti as well) have been growing on this majestic e.xpanse on his family’s prairie in South Texas for many years. Most South Texans know the honey mesquite tree is one of the last trees to sprout its spring leaves, surrendering its state of dormancy! Don observed woods and brush on this very cold day as winter was weaning; the deciduous trees were holding tightly to their peaceful resting state of dormancy.

“How beautiful are nature’s sculptures: dormant trees & bushes of Texas prairies!
The bare mesquite trees resemble lightning reaching from the ground and spreading
across the sky to the heavens!  If only their bark glowed white instead of the winter mesquite black!”

“The understory is a mix primarily of Granjeno Celtis ehrenbergiana, Brasil Condalia hookeri, Lotebush Ziziphus obtusifolia, Catclaw mimosa Mimosa aculeaticarpa, and Agarita Mahonia trifoliolata,” still dormant. There are groves of an evergreen, called Guayacan Guaiacum angustifolium, mixed in with the dormant trees, mesquites, no oaks.

One could make a scrap book of the beautiful dormant winter images of the trees sleeping through a cold, harsh winter.”
Don Kirchoff

How do trees survive winter?

-Plant dormancy is a survival strategy that allows plants to live through unfavorable conditions. We most often think of it in the Fall where a series of programed processes take place that get the plant ready for the freezing weather of winter. The most obvious results are the change of color of the leaves before they fall from the tree. The changing of the length of days and nights seems to be the environmental cue that triggers these changes.
-When they ‘wake up’ from restful sleep they will be faced with expending the extreme energy photosynthesis will require of them!!! After all, photosynthesis is the process of making glucose which cells use as an energy source from sunlight energy, water and carbon dioxide. Only plant cells can do this, and the special organelle in the plant cells that can do through this process is called a chloroplast.

The mesquites provide homes for many prairie animals (photos by Don Kirchoff) including the
migratory Swainson’s Hawk                                               the Greater Road Runner
Buteo swainsoni,                                                                Geococcyx californianus,
                           

and the Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus.

The prickly understory provides a rare ‘safe’ habitat for the Northern Bobwhite Quail Colinus virginianus.

The winter images of the honey mesquites in early March were stark contrasts to the spring scenes that arrived shortly afterward! More of the prairie’s emerging forbs exploded with vibrant colors, there was the anticipation of wildflowers and the arrival of migratory birds and butterflies hungry for sweet nectar!

Texas Thistle Cirsium texanum
Photo: Teresa Shumaker

Report: Restoration Workshop & Tour of Farm, March 8, 2018, by Don Kirchoff

“Prairie Restoration Site Workshop and Tour of The Kirchoff Family Farm”

Objectives: Observe the outcomes of “RESTORATION ACTIVITIES” implemented on-site, and share ideas on “CHALLENGES” which include CONTROLLING INVASIVE PLANTS!

HOSTS:
NPAT:
Pat Merkord, Executive Director, and Phillip Quast, Program Director, and
The Kirchoff Family: Brenda Kirchoff, Scott Kirchoff, Don Kirchoff, Owners of Kirchoff Family Farm, LLC.

INVITEES:
-Members of the Maintenance Staff of the San Antonio River Authority, SARA.
SARA was represented by Michael Leonard, Andrew Rulewicz, Alicia Ramsey, Darrell Smith, Kevin Silcox, Kevin Pride, Zach Williams, Kirk Moravits, Justin Krobot, and William Yosko
About SARA: SARA, created in 1937, is one of many such active river authorities in the State of Texas. Its jurisdiction covers 3,658 square miles—all of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes and Goliad Counties.
-Douglas King Seeds, DK Seeds.
DK Seeds was represented by Teresa Shumaker, Marketing Department.
About DK Seeds:
DK Seeds is a sponsor and producer of certified South Texas Native plant varieties and has mentored the Kirchoff Family throughout their endeavors. The company has been based in nearby San Antonio since 1917. 

TOUR and OBSERVATIONS


PHOTOGRAPHERS: We appreciate Teresa Shumaker for multi-tasking and serving as ‘primary photographer’ throughout the day! You are most generous to share your excellent photos! 
And “thank you, Don!”  When he wasn’t driving the ‘mule’ or leading a walking tour (as in the photo below), he took time to stop and admire the prairie, and he captured images which are posted at the closing of this report.

Tour of the Kirchoff Family Farm (by foot and by mule).

Observed, first-hand, the visible outcomes of the family’s restoration activities which they have been implementing on-site for several years.
Shared ideas on a variety of challenges including “invasive plant control.”
Observed the impact a harsh winter has on invasive grasses and shrubs.
Discussed plans and options to further weaken invasive populations, vital to prairie restoration efforts.

INVASIVES BARRIER
The image below illustrates one of several “invasive barriers” proposed by Scott Kirchoff that is in progress.
METHOD: Strips were shallowly “scratched” with sweeps across areas invaded by old world bluestems (silky bluestems), sprayed with glyphosate repeatedly during the growing season last year to deplete the seed bank, then planted in the fall with tall prairie grasses (switchgrass and four flower trichloris).
EXPECTATION: A dense population of tall grasses, planted in strips perpendicular to the prevailing wind, will gradually outcompete invasive stands of bluestems.

OBSERVATIONS: EARLY SIGNS of SPRING
Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus clinging to new growth of Mountain laurel Sophora secundiflora 

and a beautiful Texas thistle Cirsium texanum.

A lone bushy bluestem Andropogon glomeratus,            Young leaves of eastern baccharis Baccharis halimifolia,
       

and “Switchgrass Savanna” among invading False Willow Baccharis neglecta.


Developing the “Milkweed Plot”

Zizotes milkweeds Asclepias oenotheroides: Emerging, though small, and growing in the meticulously designed “Milkweed Plot”, the product of many hours of back-greaking work in 2016 & 2017!

The ‘Zizotes Garden’ - I was excited to spot a few flower buds on some of the plants!
 

We are anticipating expanding the space ‘Milkweed Plot’
(You can spot the original ‘zizotes garden’ on the far right of this photo.)
 
and transplanting these hearty-looking Antelope horns (which were planted from seed in 2017)!

Photos - Kirchoff Family Farm January, 2018, by Don Kirchoff

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm September 24, 2017, by Don Kirchoff

“The Texas kidneywood in our demonstration plot at headquarters has been in heavy bloom and teaming with insect life.

I think the only kidneywood we have on the property are from Rector Chapel Cemetery (Wilson County), where we found these plants and seed.  These bushes are making lots of seed that we should be able to collect and spread, such as along the south fence line where we need a windbreak from invading grass species.

These images are just a sample of the variety of unusual insects that we have been seeing.”

Don Kirchoff
September 24, 2017

Red-bordered Metalmark (Caria ino)—iridescent green spots glowing in the sunlight!

 

Green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) - ‘Poor beautiful Butterfly!!”

Info on the Texas kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana) from LBJWC:
“Texas kidneywood is an unarmed, much-branched shrub, 3-10 ft. tall, with an open, airy structure. A many-branched shrub with an open crown and gland-dotted, aromatic, resinous leaves and flowers. Its 3-4 in. spikes of white flowers are fragrant, as are the deciduous, finely divided leaves. Leaves up to 3 1/2 inches long, consisting of a central axis and as many as 40 small leaflets, each about 1/4 inch long, pungent when crushed. Flowers white, small, with a delicate fragrance, arranged in spikes up to 4 1/2 inches long at the ends of branchlets, appearing intermittently from May to October. Fruit a pod about 3/8 inch long, often with a threadlike tip. Seed pods are somewhat persistent.

This tree and its relative, the more westerly E. orthocarpa, were once used in remedies for kidney and bladder ailments, hence the name.”

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm August 11, 2017, by Don Kirchoff

August 11, 2017 Don Kirchoff sent in this update:

The two inches of recent rain on the Kirchoff Prairie surely kicked life back into the recovering prairie. The switchgrass and four-flowered “false rhodes grass”, trichloris pluriflora Fourn. is ready blossoming, and should now make lots of seed.

We engaged in quite a few projects this summer, including:
Applied chemical treatment to areas heavily invaded by huisache and bacarus
Cut with brush cutter and pole saw some large huisache and bacarus and applied chemical treatment to stumps
Sprayed with glyphosate the “KR bluestem” patch where a few switchgrass, four flowered tricloris, and long-spike silver bluestem are making a come-back.  This is a problem area in SE corner of property, because prevailing winds blow invasive seeds onto recovering prairie
Also broadcast to this area seeds of Canada wild rye and side-oats gramma collected from other areas of the prairie
Sprayed patches of invasive old-world bluestems that recover quickly following rains
Sprayed areas infested with Johnson grass where dense bacarus had left bare soil for Johnson grass to recover (robust prairie seems to choke out Johnson grass)
Treated areas with glyphosate for volunteers to transplant seedlings this fall, including:
-Diversity Plot #3
-Several intervals in terrace trenches
-Windrows across the south field. (Others can be added.)
-Collected a couple dozen tulle bags of zizotes capsules from milkweed garden
Processed the seeds in a large paper bag at 10 locations in W, SW, & W fields so escaping seeds could find a home on the prairie
It was a hoot watching the parachutes carry escaping seeds – sometimes high in the gentle breeze! (Another dozen or so bags remains to be collected.)
We treated garden with Sevin & fungicide to increase seed production, but now we see caterpillars. 

(This close-up shot gives a new perspective.)

We have plans to expand garden, hopefully with other species found on the prairie, when and if they produce capsules;
Started our annual TPWD Managed Lands Deer Program (deer survey)
and regularly download images from game cameras:
Mother bobcat with at least one kitten (do not yet know how many)

and a Coyote:

We have a healthy deer population:

Feral hogs (although not causing problems at this time): 

More photos around the prairie include the ripening prickley pear cacti,

and a concealed nest of Mexican Paper Wasps that NO ONE should encounter.

High quail population. 

We maintained the Indian Grass patch populated with seedlings donated by Douglas King Seed Company and transplanted in our May 13, 2017 Volunteer Workday

…and this barely puts a dent in the work that could be one on a recovering prairie!

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm August 4, 2017, by Don Kirchoff

Color and Plant Variety Even in HOT, DRY SUMMER!

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

All photos by Don Kirchoff unless otherwise noted
We have included some responses from Chris Best, CB an ecologist and State Botanist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and close friend of the Kirchoff Family. He has volunteered many hours on the Kirchoff Family Farm and has also been featured in previous ‘UPDATES” documenting the preparation of the milkweed garden area and planting milkweed seedlings in early 2017.

The Kirchoff Prairie is graced with color and plant variety even in the hot, dry days of summer, including:

Old Man’s Beard with its insect populations

 

Purple flowers CB: “The purple flowers are Ruellia, probably Ruellia nudiflora; wild petunias.”
 

                                                                          Ripening seeds of a plant that had long red flower
                                                                          stems. CB: “The drying stalks full of capsules
Ripening seed pods of the Wild Foxgloves              could be Standing Cypress.
“Prairie penstemon”, Penstemon cobaea                (Photos - blooms @ LBJWC.)

Two native trees produce similar looking, edible fruit: 

                                                                                           
Brasil, Brasilwood, Bluewood condalia, Condalia hookeri and the
Texas persimmon, Mexican persimmon, Diospyros texana

The Brasil tree is a VERY thorny ‘small tree’ and is semi-evergreen. Its edible fruit is only ¼” in diameter and turns black when ripe in summer. Fox, raccoon and birds enjoy the fruit – humans must compete to harvest fruit. Blooms and fruit attract birds and butterflies; it is a larval host for the American Snout butterfly Libytheana carinenta. (American Snout butterfly photo"butterfliesandmoths.org”.)
 

Texas persimmon, Mexican persimmon, Diospyros texana
Texas persimmon tree has multiple trunks and its bark is light gray in color… its leaves grow up to 2” long. (Texas Persimmon tree trunks photo from LBJWC)

Its fruit is 1” in diameter and ripens from July into September with a flavor described like prunes.

The Texas persimmon tree serves as a larval host for these two beautiful butterflies:
Gray hairstreak Strymon melinus and Henrys Elfin butterfly Callophrys henrici
(photos from butterfliesandmoths.org):
   

The Kirchoff Family Farm also serves as home to several Bee hives, including this one that outgrew its screech owl box!

We also saw Granjeno bushes that had lots of orange berries and Brazil producing lots of seed this year (photos are on their way)!

THE STORY OF OUR ZIZOTES MILKWEED GARDEN:

  Here is what we did to arrive at this point:
Collected seeds from scattered, isolated plants located within a few miles of Kirchoff Prairie
Planted the seeds to 8” Hiko Trays in Oct, 2016
Prepared ‘milkweed garden’ area; transplanted seedlings to this Kirchoff Prairie garden plot Apr, 2017
 
Same Garden Plot July, 2017:
     

Treated plants a couple times with Sevin and fungicide when aphids and fungus appeared.

Enclosed some capsules with tulle bags to prevent loss of seeds
 

Capsules started opening late July; some seeds blowing away in the wind, others collected in tulle bags.
   

Some of these plants have more than a dozen seed capsules each. We have collected a few tulle bags of seeds from other plants that have emerged at random in our older prairie fields
I have another group of 30 seedlings to be added to this garden this fall.
We plan to apply Sevin only to plants in future from which we hope to produce seeds. The others we’ll leave untreated for the wildlife.
It appears that we will have far more seeds from this year’s production than we can use. Any ideas on what to do with excess seeds?
 

Very large wasps appear to be collecting aphids. 
Quail frequent the area, but I don’t know if they eat the seeds.
We have not seen any monarch caterpillars on them.

Chris Best’s replies.

“First, I am really impressed with your great successes on your zizotes seed production!  You have put theory into practice and have demonstrated that this can be done.”

“That large wasp on your zizotes plant looks like Tarantula Hawk Wasp.
Don’t get stung by one of those - the venom is truly fierce!
It turns out they are important pollinators of milkweeds. 
Here’s some info from a Wikipedia article:
Pepsis grossa, formerly and perhaps better known as Pepsis formosa,[1] is a very large species of pepsid spider wasp from the southern part of North America, south to northern South America. It preys on tarantula spiders, giving rise to the name tarantula hawk for the wasps in the genus Pepsis and the related Hemipepsis.
Only the females hunt so only they are capable of delivering a sting, which with that of the bullet ant is considered the most painful of any insect sting scoring 4.0 to the bullet ant’s 4.0+ on the Schmidt sting pain index.[2]
In Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas, four species of plant accounted for 73.6% of all plants which were used by P, grossa adults for feeding on, these were the milkweeds: Asclepias texana and Asclepias sperryi; Mexican buckeye Ungnadia specisosa and honey mesquite Prosopis glandulosa[9] Wasps of the genus Pepsis do seem to be important pollinators of milkweeds which are regarded as noxious weeds as they are poisonous to grazing livestock.[7]
Wasps of the genera Pepsis and Hemipepsis produce large quantities of venom and when stung humans experience immediate, intense, excruciating short term pain. Although the immediate pain of a tarantula hawk sting is among the greatest recorded for any stinging insect, the venom itself is not very toxic.

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.
——————————

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:


——————————

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


——————————

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.

————————-

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:

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm, May 13, 2017, by Don Kirchoff

Kirchoff Family Farm: Prairie Restoration Activities, May 13, 2017

Those who arrived early were greeted by Scott Kirchoff and his Crew who had prepared great breakfast tacos cooked over a camp stove!! Scott’s crew, Amy, Katelyn, Tristin, and Aden, remained on the prairie and provided expert help throughout the day!

FUTURE EDUCATIONAL & WORK PROJECTS - ESCAPE THE CITY!!
Attendees expressed how rewarding it was to have the opportunity to
get out of the city and
work on restoration activities while
gaining valuable ‘hands-on’ educational experiences!

They discussed scheduling monthly “Prairie Workdays!”

PRAIRIE WILDLIFE:
Pat and Glenn Merkord led discussions of prairie wildlife;

Thank you, Pat and Glenn! Bringing your “mule” enabled
everyone to participate in the highly educational tours!

While walking toward the farm house
Krista Powell and Teresa Maslonka paused so a
quail hen and about a dozen tiny chicks could cross the driveway.

EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT:
The Bill Fehr family and son, Jesse, whose Eagle Scout Project
was to construct 3 Burrowing Owl Roost Sites on the prairie,
performed maintenance on the owl sites.
(Sorry we hope to add a photo of the Fehr family
working on this project!)

COLLECT/PLANT NATIVE SEEDS:
Brenda Kirchoff explained how to collect NATIVE SEEDS
and demonstrated planting native seeds into 4” Hiko Trays!

Our “Thanks” to Douglas King Seed Company!
We appreciate your donation of 400 Indian Grass Seedlings; 200 were planted Saturday. 
(More volunteers and definitely more soil moisture were needed!!  The remaining 200 plugs will be kept alive until it rains and another planting effort can be attempted.)


Several zizotes plants had been observed in previous years. Pat Merkord recorded green milkweed last year and USFWS interns confirmed antelope horn earlier this year.

Attendees observed the four milkweed species (zizotes, green, antelope horn, and vining) re-establishing on the prairie.
Workshop attendees observed that these young zizotes plants already are flowering and are expected to produce many seed capsules in a few months. Newly planted zizotes seedlings begin flowering a few weeks after transplant to Seed Increase Plot:

Zizotes seeds were collected from nearby plants on county roads and planted into 8” Hiko trays in October, 2016.

Sixty-four seedlings were transplanted to a seed increase plot on the prairie in early April, 2017.

Report on Kirchoff Family Farm April 6, 2017, by Don Kirchoff

Don Kirchoff wrote:

“Yesterday, 04/05/17, ecologist, Chris Best and I transplanted 20 zizotes seedlings to our milkweed garden on the Kirchoff Prairie.

(We have 45 more ready to transplant and approximately 30 small ones that should be ready for transplant this fall.)

More significantly, the two USFWS interns conducted their monarch habitat survey yesterday located an Antelope Horn milkweed plant with four seed capsules on the N side of the property. 

Chris said that because the plant had seed capsules it is certain that another plant exists within a bumble bee’s foraging distance of this first plant discovered.

No antelope horns we have transplanted to the prairie and grown from seeds we collected in the Edwards Plateau or DeWitt County have survived in our black clay soil. Therefore, the plant discovered yesterday by the interns must be native and must have unique genetics for it to thrive in this Wilson County black land environment.

We will wrap the plant in bridal cloth to assure that the seeds to not escape us when the capsules open.”
Don

References:
Zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides)
USFWS
Antelope Horn milkweed (Asclepias asperula) 

 

Observations of Kirchoff Family Farm, January, 2016, by Don Kirchoff

Observations at Kirchoff January 2016

Check out who’s been visiting our water guzzlers at Kirchoff Family Farm!

Cardinals

Black Vulture

Bobcat

Great Horned Owl

Night Time Rodent

More Cardinals

Green Jay

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

Bob White Quail