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News from Prairie Hill

Dear Friends,

Here it is July already! Our gardens are looking bountiful. The early risers amongst us pick fresh produce each morning and stick it in the fridge in the common house for all to enjoy. What a luxury to have fresh salad makings on hand! 

If you are in town, we encourage you to come by and see the progress on our newest building. Things are moving along quickly now and soon it will be ready for four new households to move in. We are so excited to welcome them home!

It's so fun to see the siding going up on our newest building. And now there's a front porch that soon will be sporting cozy chairs and a table or two for porch picnicking! Photo by Pat Ryan.

A summertime vacation break

It's summertime. The folks on our Sales and Marketing committee are taking a break this month, so we won't be hosting our regular information meeting and Meet and Greet session on Zoom. We are still available to answer questions or take you on a tour. Just send us a note at 
Donna Rupp and Gina Sharar cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the new Prairie Hill pergola. Photo by Val Bowman.

Our new pergola is officially open!

Scotty Hayward and the Yahoo Drummers played at Prairie Hill to help us celebrate the official opening of our new pergola built by Women Imagine. We ate, we drank, we sang, and we danced—it was a grand celebratory evening!  Lots of people have been enjoying this new outdoor gathering space. Come by and try it out!

Shami Morse, all packed up and ready to take off! Photo by Val Bowman.

A retirement adventure

Our friend Shami Morse recently retired, rented her Prairie Hill home, and set off on an adventure. She's taken a biology internship at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Des Moines. It’s a large-scale prairie reconstruction project established in 1990 to protect, restore and manage native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. These treasured landscapes that once covered nearly 85 percent of our state have now been reduced to less than 1 percent of the land. Saving that tiny tidbit is so important to our ecosystem and our history. Here's an excerpt from her letter to us written about a week into the internship:

It’s been fun, tiring, satisfying, educational, and everything I imagined. I’ve spent my first week learning how to drive various vehicles and how to operate the pesticide applicator. (Sadly this is still needed to control some of the invasive species). But much of the time has been spent out in the field with my fellow interns, three recent college graduates who are very knowledgeable and kind. 

Bison Area at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Shami Morse.
We drove into the Bison Area to conduct the weekly bison survey: We drive the truck slowly around the herd, trying to get a count and checking their condition. They all mostly ignore us. 

There are three other weekly surveys, with all data entered into an iPad to record GPS location and responses to specific research questions:

1) a survey of the snake boards in the savanna, prairie, and sedge meadow (only garter snakes so far this season)

2) the monarch survey which involves walking along 15 marked transects (50 meters) and recording how many monarchs you see and what flower species are in bloom

3) the orchid survey—visiting orchid sites that have been recorded over the years, counting the number of plants found, and noting if there is seed to collect soon. (These were apparently easy to find in the spring, but now require hunting around in thick underbrush at the recorded GPS locations.)

Shami invites us to come visit. Here's a link in the refuge hours.
Blue grama grass seed head. Photo by Jeanette Corley.

July's featured plant: Blue grama grass

The photo above shows a close-up of the seed head of Blue Grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis) (Poaceae family). The green blooms hanging down will soon turn yellow. When the plant goes dormant in the fall the entire plant will turn tan. It is a perennial short-grass prairie plant and is a beautiful addition to any short native prairie planting. We have planted it in our turf along with the deep-rooted Buffalo grass. Blue Grama is a bit taller than the Buffalo grass and is also more drought tolerant. For more information, visit the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Blue grama grass as seen in the fields. Photo by Jeanette Corley.
The bright orange butterfly weed in the garden outside the common house is doing double duty—attracting butterflys and just looking pretty. Native Americans used the roots of this plant to treat pulmonary ailments. Photo by Janet Lane.

Snippets of life at Prairie Hill...

--You suddenly realize that despite moving to a totally new area, you can feel your roots digging in faster than in any previous place.

--It’s like living out in farm country where you know all your neighbors and they are knowledgeable about many things.

--When you ask for help with x, y or z, your request barely hits the airwaves before you have multiple offers.

--It takes three times as long as you might expect to go from your home to your car because you see so many people you want to stop and chat with along the way.

Come by and see for yourself! We would love to show you around. In the meantime, be well and take time to relax and enjoy your summer!

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Iowa City Cohousing · 140 Prairie Hill Ln · Iowa City, IA 52246-2029 · USA

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