“Such an October gentian, dusted with tamarack gold, is worth a full stop and a long look, even when the dog signals grouse ahead.”
--Aldo Leopold, from “October,” A Sand County Almanac (1949)
For many of us, Aldo Leopold comfortably joins Henry David Thoreau and John Muir on the high pedestal of writer-conservationists -- or conservationist-writers, since Leopold certainly thought of himself as a conservationist first. He also took some of the first steps beyond environmental conservation into environmental restoration when he and his family began doing prairie restoration near “the Shack,” their cabin retreat in the sand counties of central Wisconsin. The Center for Prairie Studies was pleased to host a screening recently of “Green Fire,” a new documentary film about Leopold’s life and work.
In October the stems of our prairie grasses turn a lovely reddish-brown hue, and the goldenrods and asters continue to provide splashes of color in the landscape. Leopold’s ultimate goal, expressed most succinctly in his seminal essay, “The Land Ethic,” was to convince us that we must “enlarge the boundaries of [our] community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” This is a lovely time of year to visit CERA (the college’s Conard Environmental Research Area) and observe the ecological restoration efforts that have been taking place there since the late 1960s.
October is also harvest time, of course, traditionally a time to acknowledge the land’s gifts under the farmer’s stewardship. In mid-September, the Center sponsored a tour of the farms of Mark and Robert Dimit, just north of Grinnell. The Dimits have what some would call a conventional corn-beans-cattle operation, impressive in its scale and in the technology they use to manage farming on a large scale, but equally impressive for reasons less obvious to the eye: their love of the land and the care they bestow upon it.
October is a good time to think about how we can live on the land in a way that harmoniously combines our agricultural and natural ecosystems.
|Cornfield nearly ready for harvest near Kellogg, Iowa||A view of a cornfield from the head of a combine|
|Another view from the head of a combine||Tallgrass prairie, September, Neal Smith NWR|
|Sunflowers in the CERA prairie||
Larissa Mottl, outreach coordinator for