Here we share some observations about and snapshots of
the Passive House
we had built in Oakland County, Michigan. All photographs were taken by us unless otherwise noted.
—Maura and Kurt Jung
Thursday, 10 April 2014
Our home site is situated in the lovely moraine uplands of northwest Oakland County, a region that 15,000 years ago was surrounded by the retreating Saginaw, Huron and Erie glacial lobes. What the coarse-textured soil in the area lacked in fertility it made up for in the natural beauty of oak savannas in the highlands and prairie fens and marshes in the outwashes. These fragile habitats have not fared well with post-settlement farming practices, widespread development, introduction of aggressive invasive plants and animals, and explosion of deer populations. Suppression of fires has degraded oak openings. Drains and peat mining have destroyed many fens, systems that depend on water that upwells from underground. Fens in particular support many threatened and endangered species including the mild-natured and beautiful Massasauga rattlesnake and Poweshiek Skipperling butterfly.
One of our goals here is to undo some of the ravages of the last couple hundred years. We have been active in removing autumn olive, black swallow-wort, phragmites, and garlic mustard, all of which support fewer native bird and insect species than the native plants they displace. Yesterday, the friendly and capable crew from PlantWise in Ann Arbor conducted a prescribed burn to help restore the gem on our property, a perched prairie fen. The burn included a wooded area that slopes down to the fen and which we hope to restore to an oak savanna in the years ahead. The burn itself was subject to many variables including temperature, wind conditions and snow cover. Throughout the operation, the prodigious amounts of smoke produced belied a fire that was always well controlled and slow moving. These fires do not damage established trees.
The controlled burn is an important step in maintaining the rich ecology of the fen and just one of a large set of practices needed to preserve this increasingly rare habitat.