Prairie Birthdays


collecting seed

The Naturalist School collects prairie seed in late August at Hitchcock Nature Center. (Photos by Robert Smith.)

The life of a naturalist is governed not by calendars but by phenologies. In A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold observed: “During every week from April to September there are, on the average, 10 wild plants coming into first bloom…. No man can heed all these anniversaries, no man can ignore all of them.” This does not take into account the countless births and hatches, movements and migrations, gestations and ripenings, solstices and equinoxes, love, and the waning of moons and seasons and lifetimes in woodlands and prairies.

seed in hands

Living by nature’s rhythms sounds idyllic and lovely, but it comes with uncertainty, sometimes bad weather, bug bites, and hard walking. And when there’s native seed to be gathered and a prairie to be sown, a naturalist becomes gatherer and a sower. Leopold concludes: “Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation…”

sowing seed

Sowing our wild seeds in a prairie restoration with the help of the wind.

Becoming a naturalist is not always a vocational choice, but it is a life choice. It is a decision to “live in each season as it passes” as Thoreau advised. We can help you with that. The early fall session of the Naturalist School begins September 3rd. For information, click here.