The Super Bowl is over, and there is nothing to look forward to before the spring thaw other than Darwin's Birthday (February 12, 1809 - but you knew that). Come on out with your backpacking friends for some vigorous outdoor exercise and a bonfire big enough to roast a buffalo! (And, lots of people have asked me to do this again after the fun we had in December.)
Here's the deal: Somme Prairie Grove is a tallgrass prairie-bur oak woodland complex that hosts spectacular wildflowers and groovy animals. It is getting healthier every year thanks to volunteers who have been removing buckthorn (an invasive European shrub), gathering & scattering native seed, and doing prescribed burning with the FPDCC (the landowner, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County). The results have been truly amazing, and the site has recently been recommended for Illinois Nature Preserve recognition. Isn't it empowering to know that you can help nature get healthier?
We will join the volunteers of the North Branch Restoration Project for a Saturday workday. We will meet in the Somme Woods parking lot at the corner of Dundee & Waukegan in Northbrook at 12P (don't be late) and then walk across the street to Somme Prairie Grove. The afternoon will be spent cutting buckthorn and piling up their invasive carcasses on a large bonfire, which will be roaring before we're through. There may also be some sowing of native seed in areas where the buckthorn has been cleared. We will stop at 3P and then we can sit around the fire and hang out until ~5:00P (the preserves close at sunset). I will bring a dutch oven full of sausages & peppers & onions that feeds 8 (or more if you share). You can bring whatever tickles your fancy if you feel like it. The fire is really quite large & quite hot, so don't worry about not having enough BTU's to cook something; scorching is the bigger problem... in other words, your food is more likely to get heat stroke than hypothermia!
Miscellaneous important details:
- Wear grungy wool and/or cotton, which is more forgiving of flying embers than all that expensive nylon we usually promote. Gloves & tools will be provided. Dress warm and in layers; between the exercise & the heat of the fire, I am usually down to a t-shirt even in the coldest weather. When you stop moving, however, you can get cold quickly and may need to put your layers back on ... although standing by the fire will also keep you warm.
- The regular North Branch workday is 9A-12P if you want to make a whole day of it. I will be there at 9A and will return to the lot to fetch our crew at 12P. The time extension is a favor granted by the site steward, as I thought it might be more amenable to people's schedules, as well as making the sit-around-the-fire bit harmonize with the sunset bit.
- There is no limit on the number of people who can attend, but please do sign up if you intend to come so we can plan the right number of tools & gloves. The usual $5 fee is waived since you are volunteering. And, I thank you for your time and energy on behalf of the purple prairie clover and the black-billed cuckoos and all the other neat things that will thrive in the wake of your work. Disclaimer: all the pretty blooming stuff and excellent animals are, of course, dormant & hibernating or migrated right now, but do come back in the spring to see the woodcock mating dance, the corkscrew-shaped, butter-yellow wood betony in bloom, and all that neat stuff!
- Let me know if you are willing to drive others or if you need a ride. I will arrange carpools as best I can, however, I may not be able to accommodate everyone if a large number of people sign up who need rides.
- If you plan to bring anything to share, please post it to the trip comments so others can make informed snacking decisions. Food is not required; I am not looking to make an over-provisioned potluck out of this, I just want people to enjoy the novelty of cooking something on a roaring fire outside. Whatever you bring, NO GLASS ALLOWED in the preserves!!
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