In 2003 Fred Delcomyn imagined his backyard of two and a half acres, farmed for corn and soybeans for generations, restored to tallgrass prairie. Over the next seventeen years, Delcomyn, with help from his friend James L. Ellis scored, seeded, monitored, reseeded, and burned these acres into prairie. In A Backyard Prairie, they document their journey and reveal the incredible potential of a backyard to travel back to a time before the wild prairie was put into plow rows. It has been said, "Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie". This book shows us how.
The first book to celebrate a smaller, more private restoration, A Backyard Prairie offers a vivid portrait of what makes a prairie. Delcomyn and Ellis describe selecting and planting seeds, recount the management of a prescribed fire, and capture the prairie's seasonal parades of colorful flowers in concert with an ever-growing variety of animals, from the minute eastern tailed-blue butterfly to the imperious red-winged blackbird and the reclusive coyote.
This book offers a unique account of their work and their discovery of a real backyard, an inviting island of grass and flowers uncovered and revealed. We often travel miles and miles to find nature larger than ourselves. In this rich account of small prairie restoration, Delcomyn and Ellis encourage the revival of original prairie in our backyards and the patient, beauty-seeking soul sleeping within ourselves.
Both Fred Delcomyn and James L. Ellis serve on the board of directors of Grand Prairie Friends, a conservation organization in east-central Illinois involved in prairie restoration projects. Fred Delcomyn, a certified master naturalist and professor emeritus of the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois, is the author of Foundations of Neurobiology along with numerous scholarly articles on insects. James L. Ellis, a botanist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, manages and maintains the University of Illinois Natural Areas. He has published extensively on prairie ecology, conservation, restoration, and management.