Loess Hills Prairie

0803141850Dear Climate March Colleagues,

My wife, Linda, and I were married in 1959. We bought a car that got 40 mpg. In the mid 60’s we joined an Ecumenical, Interfaith, Religious Order of Families. We decided that overpopulation was an issue that needed to be taken seriously for the future of the planet. We chose to have 2 children. As a family in the Order we lived on a stipend and engaged in church renewal and local community development worldwide.

We spent 20 years in the Order and lived in many cultures: rural and inner city in the US, with Aborigines in Australia, and with villagers in Kenya. When we returned to Iowa I found that Mother and Dad were living by themselves on the Homestead Farm in the Loess Hills of Western Iowa. They were the age that someone needed to be there with them. Lin and I returned to be with them.

I discovered that the grazing practices of the last 35 years had grazed the Loess Hills prairie down to nubbins. The grazing continued down until the Juniper (Red Cedar) had succeeded the prairie. The prairie’s root system is 5 foot deep. The Juniper has a knot of root 9 to 12 inches deep. I immediately began the process of restoring the native prairie.

  1. Managed grazing with our cattle herd (Practical Farmers of Iowa)
  2. Cutting cedars
  3. Using prescribed fire
  4. Harvesting prairie seed and replanting prairie
  5. Yearly hosting week-long Sierra Club Outings in September to work on the prairie

We opened the Homestead House as a Bed & Breakfast so we could introduce people to the Loess Hills Prairie. Mother and Dad passed on as we spent 20 years on the Homestead Farm. The prairie was essentially restored. In 20 years Lin and I were the age Mother and Dad were when we returned to the farm. We canvassed the family we found that no one in the family was coming back. So we put a Conservation Easement on the Homestead and sold the farmland to Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the housing facilities/barnyard to the Monona County Conservation Board. Since that time 2 families have added another 500 acres to conservation adjoining ours so we’ve set a precedent.

We arranged to move closer to family and moved to Carson City, NV. My sister and her husband and our son and his wife lived in the vicinity, and our daughter and family lived in Camarillo, CA, which is much closer, and began co-habitation with my sister and her husband. We immediately cut the resources used for habitation in half. Within 4 months we had solar panels on our roof. Our electric bill, for two for 2 families, is $9/month.

Coming from Iowa we assumed that we had to mow the lawn. In Nevada you have to water the lawn, then you mow it and throw away the clippings. We turned 2,000 sq. ft. of lawn into garden. We have more produce than we can consume. We’re always giving food away. Our back porch faces north and has become our winter ‘fruit cellar’.

We brought our bicycles. The first year in Carson City we drove our car 2,900 miles. Our car is a 4-cylinder/5-speed stick shift. Our top speed on the highway is 60 mph, and we get 35 mpg on the highway. We bicycle to the dentist, the doctor, the grocery store, bank, local college, and Senior Center. In June 2014 Lin and I celebrated 55 years of living together and conserving the Earth.