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Fields go back to the future

WEAVER — With a mighty fling Saturday, Dolores Weberg launched a handful of native prairie flower seeds into the wind.

Seeds drifted a few yards, mingled with light snowflakes and fluttered down onto an old farm field at Weaver Dunes between Weaver and Kellogg.

Because they are prairie plants, the pale, often tiny seeds, will grow strong roots for three or more years, then spring upward into coreopsis, wild rose, wild indigo and butterfly weed.

They will be more than beautiful to look at, however. They will be a return to the past and a step into the future, said Rich Biske, conservation coordinator for The Nature Conservancy. The conservancy owns the land between Weaver and Kellogg where about two dozen volunteers were scattering the seed on the deep snow.

The conservancy, a private non-profit group, owns 767 acres of Weaver Dunes, a sandy, rare ecological system for Minnesota. It's also a nesting ground for many species of turtles, including the rare Blandings.


The conservancy recently bought 175 more acres, with about 100 acres that were farmed for more than a century, and about 4,000 feet of frontage onto Weaver Bottoms. This will be a perfect corridor between a state-owned marsh complex to the north and Weaver Bottoms to the south, Biske said.

Much of Weaver Dunes is covered with native prairie grasses and flowers.

Winter is a great time to scatter seeds because it mimics nature's methods, he said. Prairie plants tend to be tall and stay above the snow; winter winds knock the seeds loose and scatter them.

Joel Dunnette of rural Rochester, a prairie expert, advised Weberg and other volunteers how to fling seeds. "We don't want to dribble, we want to spread it as far as possible," he said. "Your arms should get a workout."

The area will look ragged for a few years as the plants set down deep roots, but in five years, the old farm field should shimmer with color.

"It's an opportunity to (give) back to the land — put it back where it began," said Weberg's husband, Jeff.

Dolores Weberg said she felt like Johnny Appleseed, only with prairie flowers. Her seeds were soon cast about. On the white snow were little tufts of sawdust and seeds, just waiting for more sunlight, warmth and water to take the old farm field back to the future.

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