In October 1989 Stu and Tammi Sava decided to leave Lily Lake in Kane County in search of a new place to live.
Their interest in dogsledding brought them to McHenry County to find property with enough room to train their dogs. They found the perfect place in Seneca Township north of Marengo; a house with 8-1/2 acres. Stu got to work cutting in trails through the brush that had grown in since the previous owner stopped using the land for pasture.
Around 2010 the Savas started planting a small patch of prairie in the front corner of the property. What inspired them? It might have been their walks through Marengo Ridge, a nearby conservation district site. Or maybe it was Stu’s longtime friend Jim, a career conservationist, who guided him on what kind of native seeds and plugs to plant. Maybe it was Tammi’s dad, a landscape photographer, with a collection of thousands of images of local prairies and wildlife.
Most likely it was a combination of all those things that led them to begin restoring the land to its natural condition. Once the prairie was established, they began working on the oak savanna. Then Stu began clearing the honeysuckle that had grown thick in the former pasture. Once he clears a section, he seeds it with prairie seed. It’s a work-in-progress as slowly but surely the land reveals its natural beauty.
Stu and Tammi started thinking that they wanted to preserve the land, mostly because of the work they put into restoring it. So they contacted The Land Conservancy to ask how a conservation easement works. Since an easement permanently protects the natural qualities of the land, they agreed that it was what they wanted to do. Also, there are two small areas on the property where the Savas have buried their beloved dogs. These spaces are sacred to the Savas, and it was important that they were protected in the easement.
Tammi said, “When we first bought the property we wanted to make sure we could divide it. Now we want to make sure it’s never divided.”
When asked what it is about this land that is important enough to preserve, Stu got to thinking: “This is the prairie state, right? I like what it attracts, the critters, the insects, the smells … walking out in the middle of it, the grass growing over my head. I like seeing the plants showing up unexpectedly in different spots. One day, I cam upon a newborn fawn. I’m sure I was the first thing it had ever seen. You don’t get that kind of experience on your mom’s manicured lawn.”
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