Hepatica acuta

Bill's Woods



Cypripedium reginae

Dicentra cucullaria
What duh?  The address bar shows "www.ladyslipperfarm.com" ???

Itasca Ladyslipper Farm, which formerly occupied this domain, ceased business in 2022.  Because we already paid for this domain and its hosting, I decided I may as well continue using it for other purposes.  The purpose now is to utilize the space for offering photos of our land, its flora, and perhaps occasionally a little of its fauna.  Have no fear;  although the URL says .com, I'm not currently selling anything from this site.
  Anyone interested in purchasing lady's-slipper seedlings might check out our sister site spanglecreeklabs.com.

Winters here in northern Minnesota are miserably cold and six months long.  For years I've accessed nature photos on the Internet in an effort to ward off winter depression and sustain my spirits, but I've begun to think I should be giving back, and that is my motivation for posting photos here.

By way of background, my wife and I purchased 35 acres with a house and small barn here in Itasca County in 1997.  The property has a history of at one time being a potato farm.  The landscape consisted roughly of 10 acres of former potato fields, 10 acres of natural tamarack/black spruce bog, and 10 acres of woodland with understory degraded by intensive cattle grazing.  While producing seedlings of Cypripedium orchids has occupied a major part of my time since arriving here, I have been spending ever more effort planting trees in the former potato fields and restoring biodiversity to our woods.
Trillium flexipes
Cypripedium acaule

I have been planting wildflowers native to Minnesota and especially to Itasca County, where we live, but I have also introduced many native to elsewhere in Minnesota, particularly southern Minnesota.  My philosophy is that with a warming climate, many species presently growing in southern Minnesota will relatively soon be at home here.  Indeed many of these plants were already expanding their range northward since the end of the last Wisconsin glaciation, but after the settlement here of European civilization, the present expanse of corn and other agricultural fields in southern Minnesota and the vast spread of urbanized landscape in the Twin Cities area have blocked the further natural migration of plants northward.

When my wife and I arrived, with the exception of several 20-foot bur oaks, a taller paper birch, and a couple large northern white cedars, the half-acre yard was unshaded grassy lawn.  During the summer of 1998 I dutifully mowed the lawn while contemplating what to do with it in the future.  At the time my attention was largely occupied with the replacement of the existing failing septic system with a mound system west of the garage. The following summer I stopped mowing the lawn except for paths between buildings, and by late summer I was rewarded with several small purple fringed orchids "popping up" and blooming.  The plants must have been growing there all along but got mowed down with the grass.  Most of northern Minnesota is forested, and I began reforesting the former lawn primarily with basswood and paper birch.  I transplanted a foot tall American elm seedling from elsewhere on our land to directly south of our house, the plan being for the fast growing species to give us shade before long.  The elm fulfilled its mission by rapidly growing up to some 30+ feet but then became infected with Dutch elm disease and quickly succumbed as did most of the elms in our natural woods.

Once I ceased mowing, the former lawn itself became a sea of yellow dandelion flowers in the spring.  I laboriously hand-pulled these weeds in areas where I was planting natives, but in a couple years the main dandelion relief came in the form of native ferns, mostly lady ferns and sensitive ferns that choked out the dandelions.  The ferns themselves are very aggressive, and I continue to have to cut them back whenever they invade wildflower areas.
Dodecatheon meadia
Trillium grandiflorum
My plan for this website is to add my favorite photos for each year beginning with those taken last year, 2022, and in each succeeding year.  I'm currently 80 years old, so that may be a short list!  I intend, however, to work on archived images from previous years and will post them by year as time permits.  In addition I aim to include information about the sources of plants and seed and to offer tips from my experience that may be of use to individuals hoping to grow or propagate various plants in the photos.

Please check back from time to time to see what's new.

Photos by year:

2022 Spring, 2022 Summer, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009
Cyp. pubescens
Lilium michiganense
Homegrown National Park Flag
Claytonia virginica

The view from our front window on 23 December 2022 shows, depending on your perspective, either a winter wonderland or a frozen wasteland:

Front Window View

Copyright 2023.  All rights reserved by William K. Steele