Using images to summarize a restoration project

We get so busy doing conservation that we often don’t report out on the work we accomplish.  Or we create a dry report and wonder if anyone reads it.  I was recently involved with a brush mowing project where we cleared a lot of habitat.  I wanted to try to explain why we mowing a lot of brush, planting seed, and using prescribed fire.  I decided to use Adobe Spark to produce a report on the work.   The link is here:

Presentation can be made with other software such as ArcGIS StoryMaps or Power Point.  They all charge a fee.

A lot of the work we do in grassland restoration takes time to explain.  Visual aids help us bridge a gap.

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Tender Truck for Rx Fire

By Bill Kleiman, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy

If you manage grasslands you likely also do prescribed fire. I have been posting fire and fire equipment articles with the GRN because I also provide content for the Illinois Prescribed Fire Council website….where you can find the extended version of this post and other fire equipment reviews.

A water tender is used to fill up the other pumper units being used on prescribed fires.  Water tenders need to hold and pump a lot of water.  They also are the place you put all those tools and supplies you don’t need in every vehicle.

We purchased an Enduraplas brand 300 gallon skid unit.  This post summarizes how we set up our tender truck using this new unit.

Bolting the skid to the truck bed:

Our truck is a stainless steel dump truck.  It has no tie down points for using straps to hold the skid tank in place.  I am reluctant to use straps anyway as they can be precarious, allowing the tank to slide about the bed and frequently being inadequate of a hold down.

Instead, we looked for a way to drill through the stainless bed and bolt the skid frame down.  We ended up concluding that the dump truck bed had frame members in the way of a simple straight bolt through the tender skid frame.  We were going to need metal fabrication.  We took the truck and tender skid to Bellini Welding in Dixon Illinois.  Their staff Tim McBride spent a day mounting the skid to the truck.  Below photo is the metal L channel that was added with photo below that finished mount.

Brian Bellini – who can fabricate anything, and with flair.

Tim McBride

Below are the baffle balls we purchased and dropped inside the tank.  They took all the slosh out of the tank when the truck moves.

Below is a type of tail gate we fashioned to keep stuff from falling out.

This tender skid unit uses a 5hp motor turning a centrifugal pump that can theoretically pump 120 gallons per minute.  I tested the flow rate that comes out of the 100 feet of ¾’ hose at a mere 13 gpm.  This flow rate is too low for a tender.

Below shows the solution as a plumbed bypass of the hose reel and a wide hose. The output is now a massive 73 gallons per minute.  The line fits in the pallet fork frame for storage.  The hose reel line still works too.


Thank you to volunteer maintenance tech Paul Mellen for working with me to get this tender set up.

Again, more details on tender here:

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Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula L.)

By Eric Hoff and Haley Bloomquist, The Nature Conservancy, Brown Ranch, North Dakota.

Leafy spurge is native to Eurasia and thought to have been brought to the upper Midwest in the late 1800’s.  A very aggressive plant, Leafy Spurge spreads through rhizomes as well as seeds.  Exploding seed pods have been shown to spread seed up to 20 feet from the parent plant!  Seeds are also viable in the soil for as long as 10 years.

Here at Brown Ranch in North Dakota, Leafy Spurge is found from the top of our sandhills right down to the very edge of the wetlands/ sedge meadow.  It does not like to be submerged in water or heavily saturated soils but can withstand a short duration of inundation.

Leafy spurge can flower in the spring and fall. The control of Leafy Spurge is very difficult because of its extensive root system, which can be up to 26ft in depth, as well as the longevity of the seeds.  There are many integrated pest management tools to control Leafy Spurge which include chemical, mechanical, and biological methods. The most common and effective herbicides to combat Leafy Spurge include Tordon, Plateau, 2,4-D, and Facet.  At Brown Ranch we have found Plateau and Facet are the most effective at controlling Leafy Spurge.  Plateau is hard on forbs and caution must be used in areas where the water table is or can be at or near the soil surface.  Facet is not as hard on forbs, is equally or more effective, but costs almost twice as much as Plateau.  As with many herbicides, care should also be taken when applying Facet to areas where the water table is at or near the surface.

Another option for control is mechanical treatment.  Land managers have successfully used weed whips for smaller areas and large tractor mounted mowers to control the plant by keeping it from setting seed.  Mechanical treatment is often followed by an herbicide treatment later in the summer or fall.

A third option for control is utilizing biocontrol agents such as the flea beetle. Flea Beetles have been found to be very cost effective in places where the beetles can over winter.  Here in the Sheyenne Delta, the soils are often too sandy for the beetles to establish their larvae in the root system to survive during the winter months.  Other biocontrol agents include livestock.  While Leafy Spurge can be toxic to cattle and horses, these species are best used to remove desirable vegetation prior to chemical application.  This helps increase chemical reception of the intended target.  Unlike cattle, goats and sheep can graze Leafy Spurge without worry of toxicity and provide effective control by reducing the vigor of the plant and preventing it from setting seed early in the season.

One last tool that may be utilized is prescribed fire.  Leafy Spurge responds well to fire, so why would it be a useful tool?  At Brown Ranch we use fire to delay the onset of seed, thus extending our pre-seed spraying season.  Because leafy spurge responds well to fire, it grows with vigor, which often means it is one of the first plants to emerge and one of the tallest, making it an easy target for chemical application.  Because it is actively growing, that chemical is readily adsorbed and translocated to meristematic tissues.

If unmanaged, Leafy Spurge can out compete native vegetation and can become a monoculture (see photos below of managed vs. unmanaged). The good news is, with dedication, good timing and integrated pest management practices you can control Leafy Spurge and have healthy diverse prairies!

Above is prairie managed for Leafy Spurge

Above is unmanaged for leafy spurge

NEWS: Due to Covid 19 crisis we are postponing the GRN workshop of this August to next August, 2021 in Barrington, Illinois.

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By Bryon Walters, Illinois Natural Area Improvements

Spring is a great time to go after all those exotic and invasive basal rosettes that like to pop up early.

This mix will be very effective towards a wide array of broadleaf annuals, bi-annuals and perennial species. Some of the suspects I encounter in north central Illinois include these:

Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard 4 hours later

Poison hemlock

Poison hemlock 4 days later

Dames rocket

Wild parsnip



Cut leaved teasel

So what is the 1-2 Punch? It is one of the safest and most selective herbicide mixes that you can use.

Write this recipe down and save it with your other favorites! It’s very easy to remember.

1% 2,4-D + 2% Triclopyr, (Garlon, Element and other proprietary names), Surfactant and Dye.

I prefer to fill up 15 gallon drums of this mix in my shop and then head out for the day. I rarely, if ever, carry concentrated jugs of herbicides in my truck. I don’t want to be responsible for cleaning up a chemical spill mess involving concentrated chemicals. Fortunately, it has never happened to me.

Don’t forget the Surfactant! It is the most important ingredient in the mix. Surfactants are stickers that help spread out the herbicide and adhere to the waxy leaf surfaces. I can usually tell if a surfactant wasn’t used by an applicator when I see the vegetation that was sprayed. Usually, there are a few symptomatic leaves but the bulk of the plant looks unaffected. So how much Surfactant do you add?

Remember 1-2 Punch, thus ½ % Surfactant.

Here is how much product I use in 15 gallons. 20 ounces 2,4-D, 40 ounces of Triclopyr and 8 ounces of Surfactant. I put a squeeze of blue dye in the drum lastly.

Lastly, it’s important to know the difference between Amine and Ester formulations. You can cause real problems if you are unsure of the differences.

Amine is the WATER based formulation of the concentrated chemical. Amine is the most commonly obtained and used formulation. Garlon 3A, in which the A designates Amine. It has 3 pounds of a.i., active ingredient, in a gallon. This mix will have a distinct smell and lasts for a day, but it is not bothersome. If you are spraying large volumes of this mix I would advise wearing a face mask. This mix is a general broadleaf control and usually does not effect grasses or sedges, although sometimes small sensitive grasses will turn yellow when sprayed. Use Amine in late Spring and continue with it all Summer. Do not use Ester mixes at these times of the year. I will explain shortly.

Ester is the OIL based formulation of the concentrated chemical. Think Garlon 4E, in which E designates Ester. It has 4 pounds of a.i., active ingredient, in a gallon. This 1-2 mix will form a milky solution. This mix has a much stronger smell, which sometimes lasts for two days when a larger volume is sprayed. You may need to put up a sign to notify the public of chemicals in use. This again is a general broadleaf mix but can cause more yellowing of small sensitive new growth grasses or sedges. Use sparingly as you would do with a glyphosate mix. It is often called LV, Low Volatility, but in truth it is very volatile. Volatility is the ability of the chemical to vaporize and drift away from your target plants. Ester should never be used when the temperatures exceed 70 degrees F. It will adversely effect and even kill desirable plants nearby. It has been known to kill an entire Bald faced Hornets nest. That occurred when a 100 gallon tank load was sprayed in an area when the temps were in the mid 70’s.

I use Ester formulations in early Spring and then again in the Fall. The oil base is very effective on plants during these cooler environmental conditions. If you think you will forget that you have Ester formulations in your sprayers and containers, and you don’t use markers to write this down, then please do not even purchase or mix Ester formulations. Besides, Ester 2,4-D is not readily available.

Use Caution and Care when you are using any chemical products. Adjust your nozzle to a narrow spot stream as shown in one of the photos. Although you can spray and kill Multi-flora Rose and Japanese Barberry with this mix, avoid spraying shrubs because this milder solution will not be effective enough for them. The 1-2 Punch is a general broadleaf mix. Remember, in your I.P.M., the use of chemicals are the last resort to controlling vegetation. Be safe out there.


3 gallon Backpack mix = 4 ounces 2,4-D + 8 ounces.  TRICLOPYR +  2 ounces Surfactant

15 gallon Drum mix =   20 ounces 2,4-D + 40 ounces TRICLOPYR +  8 ounces Surfactant

25 gallon Tank mix =    32 ounces 2,4-D + 64 ounces TRICLOPYR + 14 ounces Surfactant

NEWS: Due to Covid 19 crisis we are postponing the GRN workshop of this August to next August, 2021 in Barrington, Illinois.


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Herbicide Treatments to Reed Canary Grass, Clethodim vs. Glyphosate

Subtitle:  We need to focus on winning the war and not just the battle

By:  Julianne Mason, Restoration Program Coordinator, Forest Preserve District of Will County

April 21, 2020

Like all invasive species, reed canary grass is a formidable opponent.  It is aggressive, robust, produces tons of seed, spreads rhizomatously, and can form monocultures in many wetland community types.  Even during these shelter-at-home days, we have been able to do solo work to treat reed canary grass in high priority areas.  Our current work restrictions have highlighted the need to be both strategic and effective in our treatment actions.

Several years ago, I put in some test plots to compare the longer-term effectiveness of treating reed canary grass with glyphosate, a non-selective herbicide, compared to treating it with clethodim, a grass-specific herbicide.  I used 2% AquaNeat (glyphosate product) with 0.4% Pen-A-Trate II, which is our normal nonionic surfactant.  For the grass-specific herbicide treatments, I used 1.5% Volunteer (clethodim product) with 1.5% Powerhouse, which has ammonium sulfate (AMS) incorporated in the surfactant.  Adding AMS, a fertilizer, to the herbicide solution is suggested on the clethodim label.  Unfortunately, clethodim is not approved for use over water; there is no aquatic-approved, grass-specific herbicide.  The clethodim treatments were made when the treatment areas were fairly dry and no standing water was present.  Plots were sprayed in the late fall, early spring, or late spring in 2017 and 2018.

Photo 1 caption: Reed canary grass plants were treated with clethodim or glyphosate herbicide and marked with pin flags which were color coded to the treatment type.  In this plot, the clethodim treatment was pretty effective since no flowering reed canary grass heads are visible in the July photo.

Not surprisingly, the reed canary grass that was treated with glyphosate died quickly.  However, glyphosate is a non-selective chemical, and there were dead zones resulting from overspray during the treatments.  This was especially significant for the late spring treatments. The reed canary grass was big and tall when it was sprayed, resulting in a lot of herbicide spray used and a lot of overspray death.

Photo 2 caption:  Reed canary grass that was sprayed with glyphosate died quickly.  The quick kill was gratifying, but note the dead zones from the non-selective chemical’s overspray.

The dead zones were less obvious but still present during the late fall treatments, which were made after many other species had gone dormant, and during the early spring treatments, which had less overspray because the plants were treated when still small.  The dead zones were mostly colonized by reed canary grass seedlings, which is not surprising. There must be a lot of reed canary grass seed in the seedbank under reed canary grass plants.  Within two years, the reed canary grass stand that was treated with glyphosate during the late spring had returned to a robust reed canary grass stand.  If you had seen the end result, you would not have believed that the reed canary grass had been sprayed with herbicide and killed just two years prior.

Photo 3 caption:  By the second year after treatment, the area treated with glyphosate had returned to a reed canary grass stand.

In contrast, the reed canary grass plants that were treated with clethodim took many weeks to months to turn yellow and senesce.  All of them looked sick and none of them flowered, but they didn’t look especially dead after treatment.  Even a year or two after treatment, many of them had resprouted weakly and were not fully dead, just severely stunted.  However, the other plants in the area that had been previously suppressed by the reed canary grass, like sedges and wetland forbs, were unaffected by the herbicide treatment and had greatly increased in vigor and cover.  Two years after the initial herbicide treatment with clethodim, the treated area had recovered the native cover and diversity of a sedge meadow.

Photo 4 caption:  In the clethodim treatment plots, reed canary grass was killed or significantly reduced.  Sedges and forbs were unaffected by the herbicide treatment and greatly increased in vigor and cover.

Overall, the best results in this study were: 1) treated in the late fall with 2% glyphosate, when the reed canary grass was still slightly green but almost all the other vegetation was dormant, and/or 2) treated with 1.5% clethodim in the fall or early spring, with a follow-up treatment to missed individuals and ones that did not fully die.

Photo 5 caption:  Reed canary grass was treated with clethodim herbicide, and a sedge-dominated community remained two years after the treatment.

Although following up with multiple treatments of clethodim may seem like more work, I think it is worthwhile and actually less work in the end because it allows the native sedges and forbs to flourish.  In many of our natural areas, and especially immediately under invasive plants, the seed bank may not be our friend.  It may have seeds of more invasive plants instead of native species.  Creating “holes” in the vegetation with non-selective chemical use can just make space for more invasive plant recruitment, spray and repeat, spray and repeat.  To break out of that cycle, an end game is to facilitate renewed dominance of the native matrix, which seems to happen better and more quickly when a grass-specific herbicide is used to treat the reed canary grass.

Photo 6 caption:  Comparison of two adjacent plots where the reed canary grass was treated with clethodim and glyphosate herbicide, viewed two years after the treatment.

NEWS: Due to Covid 19 crisis we are postponing the GRN workshop of this August to next August, 2021 in Barrington, Illinois.

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Brush mowing

By Bill Kleiman

The Middle Rock Conservation Partners have had a long winter and early spring of brush mowing.   MRCP purchased this large brush mower in early winter and have been working to keep the machine going.

Above is the Fecon FTX200 being moved to the site.

The MRCP Hill tract is very dense with box elder and honeysuckle. The brush is being mowed, than planted with prairie seed harvested with a combine.   Then they plan to backpack treat resprouts and keep up the prescribed fire over the years.  Remember prescribed fire?

This is what the view is at times from the cab.  The reverse screen shows the thinned area.

Before shot with a bur oak just a bit left of center.  Photo below is a after photo with panorama view.

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Hay rakes for fire breaks – an equipment review

By Bill Kleiman

At Nachusa Grasslands we have miles of fire breaks that are mowed once a year in the Fall.   We typically use a batwing mower and mow two to four passes with the mower and make them wide and mowed short.  Often, there is a stewardship lane as part of the fire break, so the mowing is to widen either side of the lane to have a very wide fire break.  Have you noticed that fire breaks that seem wide are not so once the fire begins?  I have.

When we mow prairie the biomass is still there on the break.  What if we could get that vegetation off the fire break, or at least off to the side of the fire break?

This review will show three types of hay rakes we have tried over the years.

A few points on rakes before I get started:

  • Raking a fire break makes it easier to control the fire line.
  • All rakes move the hay to one side. To move it to the other side you drive the other direction.
  • All rakes leave a windrow of hay. That is their function.  If you have a hay baler you can bale it up and use it.   We don’t own a baler, instead, we use a tractor mounted PTO driven leaf blower to blow the windrows off the fire break.  It works slick and I will show that on a different note.

Rake 1 of 3: A John Deere hay rake.  It is simple with three rubber tires.  One rear tire turns the rake shaft.  The two handles above the front wheel raise and lower one side or the other of the rake.  Watch these two short videos to see how they work on fire breaks:

As you can see the rake moves quite a bit of mowed prairie off to the side.  Used they go for $1,000 to $3,500.  New they are at least $7,000.


Simple to run.  Get to know it and it will work consistently, but likely require attention daily.

You can pull this with any size tractor, but also with a pickup truck and sometimes a UTV for a short run.


The rubber tines that move the hay get beat up from prairie ant mounds, rocks, stumps, fencerow humps.  You can buy replacement tines in Farm stores or from JD.

The round metal hoops that these rubber tines spin “within” get bent from the ant mounds, etc..  When the hoops bend it catches the spinning tines and locks them up, or breaks them off.  They can be bent straight with some grunting.  About every day you will be bending a few back straight.

The drive shaft that connects the tire to the rake has a highway mode.  You disconnect the shaft and store it on a peg on the frame so you can now go tearing down the road to get to your worksite.  But…that shaft can bounce off the mounting peg and slide off the rake with the shaft lost in the road ditch.  So take some wire and affix it so it can’t slide off.

It is hard to turn this rake around if you get in a tight dead end.  It reverses worse than a hay wagon due to the front wheel turning.  You disconnect it and grunt a bunch to turn it around or back it up.  Reconnect and go.

If you come to an obstruction like a fence row the old ones raise up with hand cranks.   You get off the tractor and crank both adjusters, drive past the obstruction, get off again and lower the rake, and get back on the tractor and proceed.  What fun you are having.  Some of the used ones have an hydraulic lift cylinder which is likely worth the expense.


Rake 2 of 3: Sitrex brand four wheel hay rake. $1,700 for a new one.

Watch this short video of the rake in action:

Those four wheels simply turn as they make contact with the vegetation.  They don’t spin fast.


Not expensive.

Does the job, but not as thorough as the other two.  You might need to make a few passes to get the same amount of hay moved.

It stores pretty well in a shed or outside.

If you come to dead ends you can typically lift the rake all the way off the ground and reverse.


It can be a puzzle to figure out how to get this running each year. The frame maneuvers about for transport or trying to rake to the other side.  I painted hints on the frame to remind me how I had it set up.  And I took photos.

The clips that hold the frame pivots  can fall out and two of the four wheels will fall off.

Watch for pinching your fingers as you rotate the frame around as you puzzle how that thing is to be set up.

When you go through a gate you may need to rotate the frame.

Rake 3 of 3: Kubota RA1035.  $7,000 new.

This model is a 3-point hitch style with a PTO that spins the rake.  In the photo above you can see that the rear rake tines are tilted back and up.  As the tines rotate they turn down to move the hay to the driver side and then lift up towards the rear of the rake.  Some carnival rides work like this.

We have used this one for only one season but we like it a lot.

Watch this video clip:


This rake moves the most hay.  It is impressive.  You can really move the thatch and mowed material to the side.

You can drive as slow as you wish because the PTO is turning the rake, not your wheels.  Going slow on prairies is better as there are various obstructions you need to watch for that are not in a typical hay field.

This 3 point hitch model allows you to lift up the rake when you come to rough ground, a fencerow, etc..  Very convenient.  The wheels are typically on the ground but you can transport with the rake in the air if you wish.

If you come to a dead end you can lift up the rake with the 3 point hitch and turn around.

The rake tines are long and I expect them to handle the abuse of vegetation tussocks of a prairie.

The gear box has a gear release for when you forget to raise the rake over that fencerow hump.  You hear the gearbox going click, click, click, and then a bit later reconnecting to the rake.

This unit stores in a small space because the tines come off and are stored upright.

It takes very little horsepower to run this rake.


This one cost $6,500.

I need a few more seasons with this one to know about reliability.


Hay rakes are good to use on fire breaks.  Look for my review note on PTO leaf blowers that we use to eliminate hay windrows.




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