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Prairie Facts

Report on Maddin Workday, Saturday March 17, 2018 by Kirsti Harms

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a well-attended work weekend at Maddin!
Thanks to Michelle Villafranca for rounding up some Fort Worth volunteers to help with projects on our prairie and for hauling out food! 
Thanks to Jo Ann Collins for offering to be the cook.

I came out Friday morning to fix the broken pipes in the well house. I ran into a hitch when I realized that connecting two ends of metal, threaded plumbing doesn’t quite work. (A plumbing mystery yet to be solved.) But I anticipated trouble and brought a cap. Was able to set up a faucet in the shed and run a very long hose to the irrigation pipe. Good thing too, because it has been very dry at Maddin and the wildlife water troughs were drying up.

I’ve also wanted to set up an outdoor privy for larger groups. It was a bit “hill-billy-ish” but I got a privacy screen set up near the bunkhouse trailer!. (The biggest challenge with large groups at Maddin is managing the poo. We had 10 people out there this weekend, and I think that’s about the max for any long period of time, unless we can add some kind of bathroom facilities out there.) Having the bunkhouse trailer is a great plus for overnights, in addition to having endless space for tent camping.

But, it was great to have people out at Maddin!!

Randi Kay Baldwin,
Vince and Michelle Villafranca arrived Friday afternoon, and we did a quick tour to give them the lay of the land. They wanted to see the new fence, so we hiked up the eastern ridge.
Erin and James Hatchett arrived later that afternoon, and we picked them up for the tour.
Jo Ann and Azalea Collins arrived after dark to join us for dinner and the impressive fire when the marshmallows and margaritas came out.
Pat and Glenn Merkord came out Saturday morning.

Saturday was the work day.

The Villafrancas and Randi tackled fallen mesquite branches, which they hauled to the slope down to the creek along the new fence line. We’ve got an erosion problem developing there; they used the branches to fill in the gullies. We probably need to use some seeding and erosion mats to slow down the flow.
I worked with Erin and James to clear paths along Champion creek. We used animal trails as starting points, and cut back tree branches and brush so humans could pass.
Pat, Glenn and Jo Ann tackled mowing roads and cutting mesquite (the yuccas in the road proved to be a bit of a challenge for the mower).
Later, most of the crew worked on cutting (and herbiciding) mesquite on the south side of the prairie dog town.
(Kerry Newberry joined this group. She found the burrowing owls (2 were seen) and mapped the perimeter of the prairie dog town.)
Azalea showed off her talents as the resident artist.

Saturday night was a serious potluck feast and camp fire sit.

That fire pit has become a social center for Maddin visitors. It makes a really nice way to end the day.

Other sightings of significance:

A flock of sandhill cranes flew over (most have left already), the great horned owls are calling, eastern bluebirds and Cassins sparrows are singing, and the common poorwills have arrived. Erin and I were puzzling over woodpeckers that seemed to have white patches on their wings: could we have red-bellied woodpeckers?

Unfortunately, the wasps in the trailer issue continues. The Villafrancas suggested using a shop vac to relocate them. I’ll keep working on sealing them out…

Pat found fire ants on the eastern border near the agricultural fields. Will bring some controls next time I’m out.

The next Maddin visit will be Saturday April 7. A breeding bird survey and mesquite control date are still TBD in May.