The family turned over 42 acres of the property in the form of an easement to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission. They dedicated it as a state nature preserve in 2002. The move protected the land, as well as the trees, some of which were there when the first Julians farmed the property. It is one of three remnants of bluegrass savannah in the state being monitored by the commission.

Dan Cox, eastern preserve manager for the commission, said the original plant communities changed rapidly because of land development and agricultural use.

“Much of the flora you see here is not what was here originally,” he said as he led field day participants on a tour of the preserve. “Our management goals on this site are to try to bring back those native plants as best we can, manage the non-native species and see what kinds of seeds still exist in the soil here.”

Through the use of prescribed burns and manual labor, they work to clean out the understory to return the land to the open, prairie-like condition that existed prior to the 1800s, and also knock back non-native species and help germinate the native plants.

What resulted from the Julians’ decision to move cattle off that parcel in 1993 is a living laboratory, said Joyce Bender, commission branch manager for nature preserves and natural areas, who has been working on the preserve with Jane Julian for close to 20 years.

“We don’t know all the answers yet, because so much has gone missing over the years, but we’re going to figure it out,” Bender said. “It won’t be what it was 200 years ago, because it can’t be. Restoration here is kind of a misnomer. We’re really just trying to enhance the native species that are still present on the site.”

“I just feel so lucky to be able to live here and, of course, live in Kentucky, a beautiful, beautiful place with great farmland,” Jane Julian said. “I think my job is to find young people who are going to want to live here and farm for the next generation. That’s what all old farmers have to do, if you don’t have children or grandchildren who want the farm. You have to find somebody else to take it over.”