When Deb and Robert Benada became the new owners of the Crystal River Bed & Breakfast, one of their goals was to bring back the prairies.
That was several years ago, and today the couple’s property includes a short grass prairie and a long grass prairie.
“We’re both very interested in it,” Deb said of natural vegetation. “Robert has the scientific mind. He can just grasp the concepts.”
When they lived and worked in California, they began to learn about native plants and converted their yard in such a way.
They wanted to do the same when they moved to Wisconsin and bought the bed and breakfast in Rural.
The work began in the spring of 2010, as the two areas were prepared for restoration.
“Once we got started, we had to kill all the weeds. That took a year,” Robert said.
The two prairies were seeded in the fall of 2010.
The Benadas worked with a consultant from Prairie Nursery, in Westfield, to determine the proper seed mixes for each prairie.
The soil in the tall grass prairie, which is near the corner of State Highway 22 and Rural Road, varies from moist to really wet, Robert said, while the soil in the short grass prairie, located closer to the bed and breakfast, is sandy.
Last year was the first year the tall grass prairie looked like something, and this is the first year for the short grass prairie, Deb said.
“Prairie plants start very slowly from seed,” Robert said. “It takes some years to see the clump grasses.”
The tall grass prairie is now full of wildlife, including monarch butterflies, turtles and a variety of birds.
Incorporated within the short grass prairie is the Crystal River Inn Labyrinth.
Robert created the seven-circuit labyrinth, which is mown prairie grass and flowers. Known as a classical labyrinth, it is the oldest known form, used since 2000 BCE.
It is not a maze.
There is one path into the center, and the same path is then taken out again.
Traditionally, a labyrinth is walked in silence, because it is a path of meditation.
“It’s a real metaphor for life,” Deb said. “Every time you think you’re getting what you want and getting to the center, you go away from it.”
When people walk on the path, they may pray, chant or just try to clear their minds, Robert said.
“It can be used by anyone who wants a good meditation path,” he said.
Their labyrinth is located on the south central portion of their land, in an open field.
Signs direct people to the path from the west side of the old sheep barn.
It takes about 25 minutes to walk their labyrinth, and they invite not only their bed and breakfast guests but area residents to walk it.
They will hold their first Labyrinth Guided Walk at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 13.
Go to the inn for a short, 15-minute description of their prairie labyrinth and ways to walk it.
Following the talk, people may walk the labyrinth at their own pace, and more than one person may walk it at a time.
They will continue to offer guided walks every Saturday throughout the year, including in the snow.
Individuals are invited to walk any time, and groups may contact the Benadas at 715-258-5333 to arrange a special visit.
Robert says in addition to meditating, it is a way to walk through the prairie and observe the insects and birds.
“This is a way of meditating or praying that uses your mind, your body, your spirit,” Deb said. “It’s a wonderful tool. You can celebrate life in a different way. It calls you to be open to whatever comes to you, to quiet your mind. It helps you clear your mind, to be more creative, to be open to what comes.”