We loved this land’ – Couple donates property for prairie corridor trailhead

“They still call it the Lettuce Patch, because this corner of the field can grow anything.

The woman who had owned the land before them named it, just as she had named the nearby Crick Crossing, Wildlife Refuge, Poison Ivy Canyon and the Hill with the Special Grasses.

Lucile Johnson had studied English at Nebraska Wesleyan University in the 1930s, but she spent most of her life learning about the trees, grasses, animals and streams on her farm a half-dozen miles from the west edge of Lincoln.

“We both liked to walk in the snow,” said her friend, Judy Stiefel. “That’s how I learned the names, too.”

Stiefel fell in love with the land after she and her husband, Tim, started renting it from Johnson nearly 50 years ago. She would ride her horse along the water and through the trees and up the hill, checking on their cattle.

The Stiefels bought the land, and they learned where the beavers built their dams and where to look for the fox pups.

“They were the cutest little devils you ever saw,” Tim Stiefel said. “They’d stick their little heads out.”

The couple stopped farming and ranching a few years ago, and started selling off their acres. They thought about what to do with Johnson’s former farm. They wanted a buyer who would take care of it, who would appreciate its wildness, who wouldn’t carve it into housing.

“Lucile’s land, this land, we loved this land,” Judy Stiefel said.

It made sense, then, to sell 100 acres to the city of Lincoln last year and to donate the adjacent 13-acre Lettuce Patch to the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District.”
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Salter, Peter. Lincoln Journal Star 11 March 2018.