The Rite of Prairie Passage

“. . . less than 1/10th of 1 percent of Missouri’s nearly six million hectares of presettlement tallgrass prairie remains today.”

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Rough blazing star (Liatris aspera), on the campus of Missouri Southern State University’s native “prairie land.” A small portion (14 ac.) of this remnant tract was set aside, thanks in small part to the author’s unrelenting passion for preserving the site. Joplin, MO. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Hello again… and welcome in!

This Zero528 blog entry considers the tallgrass prairies of West-Central/Southwestern Missouri and the perilous time signifying the period during which their demise began – their composition impacted, their form altered, and their existence nearly eliminated.

It is my intention to spark interest in and create awareness of, the tallgrass prairies in North America. However, it is beyond the scope of this blog to delve too deep on the topic.

Holistic overview

The tallgrass prairie ecosystem is widely considered one of the most diverse and yet most endangered terrestrial ecosystems in North America. Many conservation efforts are being conducted to save, improve, and restore portions of remaining tallgrass prairie across its original range.

The demise of North American prairie grasslands began approximately 150 years ago with cattle replacing millions of native grazing mammals followed by the conversion of most tallgrass prairie to tilled crops (Samson and Knopf, 1994). Surely more answers exist which explain this unfortunate occurrence.

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Bison (Bison bison), resting on the native tallgrass prairie of Prairie State Park near Liberal, MO. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Missouri

Presettlement tallgrass prairies once covered 26.7% (47,663 km2) of the state of Missouri (Schroeder, 1983; C. Davit, Missouri Prairie Foundation, pers. comm.). Of the nearly 6 million hectares of tallgrass prairies, less than 1/10th of 1% remains today (C. Davit, pers. comm.).

Missouri’s premium tallgrass prairie region was historically the West-Central region (Schroeder, 1983). This region, situated along the central-eastern edge of the Great Plains south of the Missouri River and west of the Ozarks, was significantly impacted and severely threatened by those who sought to extend the range of the western edge of the American frontier.

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I had the fortunate opportunity during the spring of my senior year at MSSU, to monitor greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) via radiotelemetry on Wah’Kon-Tah prairie near El Dorado Springs, MO. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

The highest percentage of prairie of any Missouri County was Barton County (86%) with Bates and Vernon Counties each containing 78% and 73%, respectively (Schroeder, 1983). This region currently represents the largest remaining area of native grasslands within the state.

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Located on Prairie State Park, Regal Tallgrass Prairie Natural Area was the site of my Master of Science research project – Influence of vegetation structure on density of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) on a tallgrass prairie in southwestern Missouri. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Remembering the Past

Contemplate the timely exhibitions of the various blooming prairie wildflowers, which fortunately can still be witnessed, albeit on a much less grand scale.

A diverse abundance of big-game animals once roamed the grasslands unimpeded  – imagine immense herds of bison (Bison bison) thundering across the prairie, Elk (Cervus elaphus) grazing nutritious grasses, and pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) browsing forbs (non-woody flowering plants) at will.

Listen for echoes of the seemingly innumerable greater prairie-chickens  (Tympanuchus cupido) “booming” upon their leks and recall the exploits of French missionaries and traders and their influence on the Osage Indians of the region.

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Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), peeking at the horizon line on Penn-Sylvania Prairie in Dade County Missouri. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Recollect the terrors inflicted upon civilians by the infamous Quantrill guerrillas that patrolled with a vengeance along the western border of Missouri. Consider legendary bushwhacker outlaws including Jesse and Frank James and lawless bank robbers of the area such as the Doolin-Dalton Gang.

The Rite of Prairie Passage and the Point of No-Return

As a quail biologist/ecologist and Missouri history enthusiast (among other things), natural curiosity found me pondering the point of no-return conditions (cultural, social, environmental, etc.) marking the transition of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem in Missouri –  from its dominance to its near disappearance.

The Perfect Storm

My research indicates the culprits responsible for the downfall of the tallgrass prairies in West-Central/Southwestern Missouri, consisted of an extensive list of fortuitous occurrences. These events occurred cumulatively at an accelerated rate and spanned the time period near the dawn of the Civil War through the post-war era. A tumultuous time to be sure.

As pioneers (mostly European immigrants) pushed the boundaries of the frontier and found their little piece of the green earth, they began to keep a written account of their lives and those events happening around them and to them in West-Central/Southwestern Missouri.

In addition, as they traversed from county to county, early Missouri land surveyors logged their visual accounts of the differences in the landscape and varieties of wildlife species encountered.

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Somewhere on The Great Plains. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Therefore, written historical accounts provide insight into factors which cannot be discounted as potentially having deleterious effects on the tallgrass prairies of the region – the relocation of its native caretakers, the conquering spirit of the individuals who settled them, the invention of tools that broke them, the laws enacted that limited their management, the expansion of the railroad which fragmented them, the contentious livestock controversies which altered them, and the turbulent Civil War times that produced rugged vigilantes who gallivanted across them.

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Hereford cattle grazing in Oklahoma. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Moreover, these events were happening simultaneously and were set against the backdrop of a fire control law (burn ban), human population explosion, increased grazing pressure, cultivation of hay, invention of barbed-wire fence, martial law, lawlessness, bushwhacker violence, guerrilla warfare, oaths of Union loyalty, and Southern sympathy.

It is likely that small-scale farming by the settlers, which fragmented the landscape – coupled with the laundry list of other forces and influences noted above -had perhaps already begun to take its toll.

These combined events created the perfect storm of conditions which sparked the subsequent downward spiral of the tallgrass prairie and the habitat it provides to a host of wildlife species.

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Dickcissel (Spiza americana) male calling to a prospective mate on Prairie State Park near Liberal, MO. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

My research describing how, when, and why the tallgrass prairie has all but disappeared in Missouri, is strengthened and formed in part through critical examination of historical records vividly describing the lives of the aforementioned pioneers who braved the western edge of civilization amidst the volatile events occurring during the mid-nineteenth century.

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Gaining momentum on my proposed signed “Prairie Passage” Auto-Tour Route for the West-Central/Southwestern region. This passage (auto-tour route) would link the highest concentration of remaining native prairie tracts within Missouri, all of which offer free public access. Image © 2016 R.L. Peterson

21st Century and Beyond

Today, only a fragment of the North American tallgrass prairies remain. In the name of conservation, preservation, and restoration, it is imperative that this precious resource, and the ecological linkages which rely on it, be protected as much as possible.

Visit the Missouri Prairie Foundation to discover how to actively participate in discovering, and helping save, Missouri’s native prairies. Additionally, visit GrowNative to ascertain information about supporting biodiversity on the local level.

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Prairie State Park (Missouri) celebrates a biennial Prairie Jubilee – a festive event for the entire family. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson.

The call is to anyone and everyone to enjoy this resource. So, don’t delay – grab a pair of binoculars, hiking boots, backpack, and/or Brooks running gear and hit the trail of a native prairie nearby. As the seasons change, so do the prairie scenes…fascinatingly beautiful.

Keep a good thought! Bob P.

SIDE NOTE: In my opinion, managing for biodiversity is key to proper prairie management. Under carefully monitored conditions and with a proper burn plan in place, fire can be an effective management tool – with the objectives being to suppress woody encroachment and to create a heterogeneous landscape necessary to support biodiversity.

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Conducting a prescribed burning exercise while interning at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, OK. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Fire suppression has occurred historically as a result of liability concerns and recently, due to severe drought conditions. For information on prescribed burning and other upland management tools, visit Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation.

All photos and images © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Literature cited:

Samson, F., and F. Knopf. 1994. Prairie conservation in North America. Bioscience 44:418-421.

Schroeder, W. A. 1983. Presettlement prairie of Missouri, second edition. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City.

Iron Horse Recovery Drink

“. . . especially formulated, with ‘Iron Horse’ athletes like Lou Gehrig and Lynn Alice Jennings in mind.”

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The Iron Horse Recovery Drink – for athletes, blue-collar workers, or anyone seeking a cool, tasty, and vegan pick-me-up. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

An iron horse is said to be coming across the landscape – tunneling through mountains, spitting and hurling cinders, and blowin’ a cloud of dreary steam with every snort. Whinnying – a neigh the likes a body ain’t ever heard!

Excerpt from ‘Balfour Comes to America,’ by R.L. Peterson

Greetings again, my friends!

I’ve woven my eclectic interest and enjoyment of trains, running, and veganism into this Zero528 blog post featuring the Iron Horse Recovery Drink recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

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During the steam engine (locomotive) era, the “Iron Horse” would make a water stop at the tower (tank) enroute to its destination. Beaumont, KS. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Iron Horse Athletes

This drink is especially formulated, with “Iron Horse” athletes like Lou Gerhig and Lynn Alice Jennings in mind.

Lou’s endurance and strength earned him the nickname the “Iron Horse,” while Lynn may be alive today due to a toughness she developed in competition and a physiology built by a lifetime of running.

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My personal choice for running shoes and apparel . . . Brooks! Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

The Iron Horse (locomotives and trains)

I’ve taken an interest in trains since my youth. As kids, our Grandpa Ralph would take my brother Dave and me track-side to watch the trains up close and personal as they “rolled by” near our childhood home in Lamoni, IA.

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Kansas City Southern (KCS) locomotive waits in a siding in Joplin, MO. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Prior to the merger which produced the Burlington Northern, the red, gray, and white livery of the Burlington Route locomotives (probably SD40-2’s) pulled the tonnage of their squeaking freight train right by us. I’m certain I must have waved to the freight conductor – what little kid wouldn’t?

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Never attempt to drive around lowered gates. Trains have the right-of-way, and trains and cars do NOT mix. For more safety tips, please visit Operation Lifesaver. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

I had the privilage of working two years as a certified freight conductor with the Union Pacific Railroad (Cheyenne to Green River, WY). And yes, I waved at many a little kid!

Click here to compare the benefits and environmentally sustainable aspects of rail vs trucking.

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Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway depot in Kingman, KS. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Iron Horse Recovery Drink and Veganism

This Iron Horse Recovery drink is a healthy snack when coming home from a long slow distance (LSD) run, evening at the gym, or after a hard and hot day workin’ on the railroad.

The recipe is vegan – as are all the recipes on Zero528. However, some vegans might dispute the use of honey, while others might not. For all the goodness of this yummy drink, one would never imagine it was vegan.

Being vegan is a personal choice, as is not being vegan. If someone isn’t certain what being vegan entails, I simply encourage them to investigate the matter at their convenience.

“Nothing worse than pushy salesmen,” said Burt Miller on The Andy Griffith Show. I couldn’t agree with Burt more, and so I’m not one to attempt to persuade others on the sometimes sensitive topic of veganism.

Pre-race festivities at the 2016 Monster Dash in St. Paul, MN -Frankenstein and me (I’m the one on the far left), and the Wicked Witch and my Mom (far right). LOL! Mom was my good luck charm for my PR- running the 5K at 20:21! New goal…< 19:00.

For me personally, being vegan isn’t about a “diet”– it is about choices. I feel good about the choices I’ve made for me, and I feel better about myself when I consume foods which are healthy and prepared and manufactured in an ethical and sustainable manner.

In addition, I like single ingredient products; e.g., Krema/Crazy Richard’s Crunchy Peanut Butter contains ONLY peanuts.

Iron Horse Recipe

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Too good not to share! Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson
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All of the ingredients ready to blend. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson
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Drink up – like the old Iron Horse steam locomotives would’ve at the end of the line. Photo © 2016 R.L. Peterson

Methinks you’ll enjoy this drink.

It’s cool and refreshing, easy to make, vegan, and best of all it tastes really yummy.

Furthermore, it is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin E, antioxidants, potassium, and fiber.

Ingredients
• 1 cup Almond Breeze Almond Milk-Original
• 1 Tbsp. cocoa
• 2 Tbsp. honey (not clover)
• 3 Tbsp. Krema/Crazy Richard’s Crunchy Peanut Butter
• 2 ripe bananas, peeled and quartered
• 10-13 ice cubes

Instructions
1. Add all ingredients into blender and mix until creamy
2. Enjoy!
3. Keep a good thought! Bob P.

Makes 2 servings…enough to share with a buddy!

Credit where credit is due:
Recipe inspired by runningveganrecipes
All photos © 2016 R.L. Peterson
Union Pacific Railroad, 2011. Simplifying Logistics: The benefits of rail in a multimodal shipping system.

Vegan Recipes

“The products I use and promote in my cooking, baking, and across all the varied categories featured on Zero528, are those companies whose products I would have used regardless.”

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I started writing vegan recipes at an early age… lol!

Greetings and welcome in!

This entry represents my second blog post. I hope you’re enjoying the content of my blog thus far. Yes, I know I’ve only made one entry – Ha Ha.

At your convenience, please take a moment to navigate to my Home/About page and FOLLOW my blog. This action isn’t necessary to enjoy my blog, but allows email notification of each new blog as it posts.

Speaking honestly – I do not profess to be a master chef or baker or even the creator of some new batch of magically wonderful recipes, rather, to present options for preparing recipes which I have altered and/or slightly manipulated to vegan.

The products I use and promote in my cooking, baking, and across all the varied categories featured on Zero528, are those companies whose products I would have used regardless.

A brief list of the companies whose overall sustainability mission aligns with mine, include Clif Bar, Brooks Running, and Blue Diamond/Almond Breeze Almond Milk. And, least I forget,  my new employer… L.L Bean.

Stay tuned, as many posts (w/lots of photos) are in the vault getting ready to be launched soon. Thanks for your support.

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Keep a good thought! Bob P.

Running . . . Adventure Awaits!

“. . . running is something in my life which is under my control.”

Running is something I used to do mainly because I liked being a member of the clean plate club and loved to eat a lot of sweets. I had previously raced a few 5Ks but as they say, “life happens.” And so, life did and is happening. At that time however, I reasoned that being active in this manner might counteract/offset my supposed need for ice cream and other yummy treats. Well, that didn’t work out so well.

I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors just for the simple sake of soaking in a beautiful day or exploring some place new, but it was rare that I just went out to “run” for the sake of running. I’m a competitor at heart, and my competitive spirit was recently rekindled – and that spirit has boosted my enjoyment of running (for pleasure, fitness, and competition). Barring any injuries, running is something in my life which is under my control.

People run for any number of reasons: to free their minds, reduce their anxiety and stress, or to be an active participant in life and soak in the grandeur of the great outdoors (thank goodness). It can be a solitary activity and others need and want that “alone” time, but I truly believe humans are social creatures. For me, I prefer the company/support of a good friend on the trail or close by. I do tend to walk ahead – so remind me not to do that but to walk/run beside my running buddy.

I was recently motivated to become a healthier me. I am now actively involved in a daily routine which has me running and racing 5Ks, and soon – trail running, 10Ks, half marathons, and eventually full marathons (look out Boston here I come).

Whatever the personal motivation might be to exercise, run, walk, jog, hike, sight-see, or bird-watch, I hope to see an increase in the number of people on the hiking trail or gathered together at the start/finish line on race day. No more procrastinating . . . after all, “Adventure Awaits!

Keep a good thought! Bob P.

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Just completed a 5K. Clif bar, bananas, and water . . . ah! Pic by P.L. Wiese.