Singhs nurture nature among farm fields

From the Quad City Times:

About 14 years ago, Tony and Joyce Singh were looking for a place in the country with space, the kind of place where she could feel comfortable hanging her clothes out on a line without frowns from neighbors.

Joyce also was open to a place where she could raise chickens and goats to provide learning experiences for their three children, ages 5, 6 and 7 years, all of whom she was home-schooling.

Driving down a gravel road in rural LeClaire, Iowa, they spotted a “for sale” sign.

But it was what they saw behind the house – trees and hills – that really intrigued them.

The house sat on 16 acres, part-woods, part-hayfield, that previous owners used to support their horses.

“It was like, ‘Wow, I love it,’ ” said Tony, of the Singh Group-Merrill Lynch. “The ponds, the hills, the sun and shade areas. It was a mix of different ecosystems. We felt it was special.”

The Singhs bought the property, and since then they have made it into a kind of nature preserve, planting about 4,000 trees, building up two ponds and establishing a prairie-plant hillside….

After four years of incremental increases, Joyce realized, “This is taking a long time,” so they hired Galesburg, Ill., prairie restoration expert Peter Schramm to help her enlarge the planting to between two and three acres…..

The value

Schramm, a retired Knox College professor who pioneered prairie restorations some 40 years ago, lauds the Singhs for their efforts. “It’s a wonderful thing,” he says of the couple’s prairie. “It’s the best wildlife habitat you can plant.”

He refers to the famous “build it and they will come” phrase from “Field of Dreams” to explain that if you plant a prairie, animals, insects and birds will find it.

Prairies also stabilize the land, preventing soil erosion, and they enrich the lives of those who visit them, he says. They are something people can enjoy.

“It’s like listening to operas or anything else,” he adds.

And, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “In wildness is preservation of the world.”