The artist and the storyteller
Jim May and Nan Seidler live less than a mile from the highest glaciated point in Illinois, which is 1,189 feet above sea level.
Located east of Harvard in Alden Township, this area is unique in McHenry County, largely due to the rolling topography left by the glaciers. Some of the locals began referring to the area as High Point many years ago, realizing that they had something special. There are over 70 vernal pools, relic oak/hickory woodlands, seeps, springs and headwater streams all within a three mile radius. Jim and Nan thought about preserving their land for many years, and placed a conservation easement on 24 of their 25 acres in August, 2017.
Their conservation easement will preserve the natural features on the land: Oak trees, an abundance of shagbark hickories, a restored prairie and the meandering Nippersink Creek. The easement also allows for farming with conservation considerations. For example, the hay field will always be allowed to be farmed by future owners if they choose, but hay cannot be cut until after mid-July, to allow for grassland birds to nest and fledge their young. Jim, an avid birder, sees bobolinks and meadowlarks nest in the hay field, so it was important to him that the easement preserves this field as habitat for these declining species.
Nippersink Creek winds its way through Jim and Nan’s land, sometimes as a trickle and other times a torrent of flowing water. The easement is located near the headwaters of the Nippersink, meaning that the area contains many seeps where groundwater percolates up from the ground to form a stream. It is important to protect and nurture our headwaters areas, since they have a huge influence on what happens downstream. This stretch of the Nippersink is among the finest of Illinois streams, especially for all of the fish, mussels and diversity of aquatic life it supports.
Jim and Nan moved here in 1989, in a home they fashioned out of an 1840’s post and beam barn. It is a respite and a source of inspiration for their work, Nan as a visual artist, and Jim as a storyteller and author. They felt it was important to preserve the land for all of the wildlife, beauty and mystery it has held for them over the years. Jim plans to include stories about the land and guided hikes through the easement as part of the storytelling seminars he leads at their barn house so that that this unique land can be shared with the community. Their hope is that future owners who will someday have the chance to love this place as much as they do.
Below: Cindy Skrukrud searches for macroinvertebrates during a hike at Jim and Nan's in 2008.
Below: Jim leads Easement Committee members on a tour of his land in 2016.