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Description and History

The meadow occupies approximately 30 acres to the east of the riparian zone.  (The pasture by the barn will be addressed in the Operations section of the ranch web site.)  It appears that one reason this tract appealed to W.P. Vandevert back in the 1890's was that the meadow area was already open and did not have to be cleared.

Claude Vandevert states, " I don't think my grandfather did much land clearing - maybe a few acres.  It was normal for the land to open up occasionally into prairies and meadows without external influence.  Notice Paulina Prairie about six miles South or Long Prairie just South of Lapine." 

The meadow has almost no topsoil and is not irrigated.  Weeds predominate.  In approximately 2003 the ranch pulled hundreds of lodgepole pines out of the meadow between the fence west of the pond and the wetlands below the meadow and next to the river.  The ranch used the larger ones for the OWEB river bank stabilization project.  Many young lodgepoles are growing rapidly between the pond and the fence.  It appears that much of the meadow would eventually become a lodgepole forest if it were not mowed. 

Possible Improvements

The meadow could be made more attractive, without requiring irrigation, by replanting it with dryland grass (Idaho fescue) and wildflowers.  The planting work, using a seed drill, should be done in the fall so winter rains enable germination of the seeds.  The project should probably be done in sections over a period of years.  Three possible replanting strategies are described below and should be evaluated before proceeding further. 

1.   Kill and Till – Start by killing all the plants in a section with Round-up.  Break up the soil (i.e. till the soil) with disks pulled by the ranch tractor.  Seed the land and allow the winter precipitation to germinate the seeds.  This is the most traditional procedure but carries the risk that some soil will blow away or erode before the new plants grow their roots.  Native grasses take 2-3 years to become established. 

2.   Scrape and Re-Apply – In this approach, suggested by a landscape company, scrape off and salvage the existing weeds, forbs, and any native grasses.  After disking the underlying soil, re-apply the salvaged material to provide an organic layer of seed bank, duff, and microbes for a quicker and more diverse native plant establishment.  The roots of the weeds and other vegetation will help prevent erosion.  Seed the meadow with new seed.  Manage the weeds with an immediate aggressive noxious weed attack followed by reduced treatments in subsequent years until complete eradication results.

3.   No Till – Kill all the weeds with Round-up.  Plant the grass seeds without disking up the soil.  Not tilling the soil and leaving the dead roots of the weeds in place will reduce the loss to wind and water erosion.  But some erosion of dry and sandy ranch soil is still likely until new grass roots are established.

If the weeds are not killed or scraped before planting, the new grass will not be able to compete.  Once the grass is established it will out-compete most of the weeds.

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