Wednesday, July 28, 2021

It's Been Worse...Throw a Bit of Fun Into the Mix!

 It's getting on into the end of July and a lot has transpired in the pasture.  Its still very dry and warm...especially this week...temps in the mid 90's and a dew point that's nearly subtropical!  We got lucky about 2 weeks back and received  a little over one and a half inches of rain.  VERY grateful for that!  But still hauling water to the gardens and several smaller/newer trees that are showing stress.

I got a new toy a couple weeks back too...an older electric golf cart!  I am breaking speed records for water hauling now.  It is everything I thought it'd be - useful AND fun!

 

I call it the Prairie Schooner...been "sailing" all over the place in it and does it ever climb hills well!  Both Georgie and I take it for a spin daily. carries 4 buckets of water in the back and a short filled one on the floor in front...when there's no well, and hoses don't reach 100's of feet, this is the next best thing and the ride cools you off too!

Even though its been quite dry (still in a "severe" drought) the pasture's plants have been doing their best.  We're finding things are shorter in stature than "normal" years...and some plants have actually not bloomed and may not this summer now.

But here's a few that have been showing up since the last posting...

 

Wild Four-O'Clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea) with a nectaring Common Looper Moth (Autographa-precationis), along the road fence line on our native pasture. These almost always get past me (the Four-O'clocks), and when I seem to remember to look - they're about spent! I also see these Common Loopers often here...I guess their larvae feed on many things here like the asters and the verbena, as well as many other forbs. Plus I see the Eastern Bluebirds feed on the larvae frequently - everybody benefits! (photograph © Bruce A. Morrison)

 

 
 
The Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) has bloomed all over the pasture but now going to seed. When we first moved here 20 years back it was the only purple coneflower I could find in the entire county "and" in adjoining counties...Waterman Prairie here had only E. angustifolia. But now we're seeing E. pallida everywhere in the roadsides - even in our ditches since the county planted them about 12 years back. The inset shows a native bee collecting pollen...and I'm still trying to figure out what type it is. Although its nearly impossible to see in this image, there are 4 insects on the inset image blossom...the bee, two fly species and a very large ominous looking insect (beetle?) hidden underneath the bee. Didn't see it until I was processing images! (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

 


Lots of milkweeds blooming in the pasture here, this one often overlooked as its fairly diminutive...but the White-lined Sphinx Moth finds it just fine. This is also likely the most numerous "Asclepias" out here...they pack themselves in tightly together in large numbers, but blend into the undergrowth well. Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) SE O'Brien County (photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)


A few more from the pasture...(top left to right) Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea), Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens) and White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)...things are going to seed fast. (photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison)

 

Top left - then clockwise - Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Ox-eye Daisy (Heliopsis helianthoides) with Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum), Grey-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), and last -  Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).  Because of the current drought, the Rattlesnake Master has mostly gone dormant...out of the entire pasture only one has bloomed this summer so far.  The Culver's Root, the Bergamot and the coneflowers are doing fine...the plants are shorter but still blooming well.  (photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison)

 

Its been worse...hot and dry, but we're still fortunate compared to others - and we're making the best of it!

Wishing you a safe and peaceful summer out there!  Be good to one another. 

 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Busy Days...

 Prairie Spiderwort (Tradescantia bracteata)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

June has been more akin to July or August I think...not necessarily humid but definitely hot and dry for us.  This has kept us fairly busy on the acreage.  We don't have working wells and the gardens are both a fair distance from the house...our early mornings are spent hauling buckets of water in a little wagon behind an old mower that still "moves" but that's about the extent of it!  Ha!  Hey, everyone makes due with what they've got , right?


 Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium campestre)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

The pastures got a boost a couple weeks back with some badly needed rain but we've about tapped that out now...I'm waiting to see if we have a repeat of last summer and things go dormant once more.  In the meantime though we've had some nice forbs and grasses return, and some even showing some good signs of spreading some.

 


Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 
 
Every year the Fringed Puccoon seems to move some distance...I suspect ants help the cause...however it has shown up on the south pasture now!  I suppose it may have always been there, but with the sheep grazing so closely there 15 years back, they may have just barely survived and are now attempting to recover?  Or perhaps birds moved it?  I'm sure it's seed would be a perfectly fine meal!  
 

Ground Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Our north slope on the gravel hillside has a small compliment of Ground Plum...I get a kick out of some other common names like "Buffalo Plum" or "Buffalo Berry"...either way its a forb I've run into on other hillsides and pastures in the area...the rabbits and deer in an isolated location like this (small acreage surrounded by mostly crop ground) can decimate or even eliminate tempting tid bits like the Ground Plum...I also find voles a real issue when the resource is so limited!  Last spring I cut some hardware cloth and tried placing some small barriers around these to help dissuade the constant pruning.  This spring I was surprised how well they responded...more robust branching has so far escaped becoming a rodent salad bar. 


Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
Large-flowered Penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

Prairie Ragwort (Packera plattensis)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 
 

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

 
Prairie Garlic (Allium canadense)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

 Many, many others have had a good showing...including the Prairie Garlic (Allium canadense)...I first noticed this allium back in 2012...in the NE corner of the north pasture...had always seen the Prairie Onions (Allium stellatum) here in the fall but this one was a surprise bonus.  This allium has since appeared in several other location - all are on the lower mesic ground - likely the preferred soil type.  The Prairie Onion is always on the gravel hillside - haven't seen it mix with this allium.

 


Prairie Grasses of June
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
 

The warm season native grasses are back and showing well...as I type this I'm thinking I've forgotten to look for the Western Wheat Grass, which we do have a small stand...shame on me!  Oh well.  I did manage photos of the June Grass, Porcupine Grass and the Scribner's Panic Grass.  

I admit I'm the reason we have so much Porcupine Grass in the north pasture.  I was finding it in the ditches adjacent to the acreage but hadn't seen it in our pastures...thought it odd.  One June, when I noticed the Porcupine going to seed I picked a few and dispersed them here and there...they immediately took - had them showing up the very next year.  Now I pick from the pasture and try and seed the ditch cuts made by the county back in 2008 - a major source of erosion that the county created on their own, much to our disgust!  I keep trying to introduce things that can get a foothold there and hopefully its helping.

We've had a week straight of mid to high 90's and this morning as I'm writing, it tried to rain...rather paltry amount - maybe a couple 100ths of an inch.  Pretty nasty winds too though; hope we don't have chain saw work ahead of us!  That's never good. 

With today our last chance of rain for the next week or two, I guess we'll be hauling water to the garden and a few select trees this afternoon.  But there'll be a slight reprieve in the temperature today and maybe tomorrow before were back into the oven.  Grateful for those small blessings!

I'll insert a small plug for something I believe is worth your time.  It is something that we all must wake up to and seriously give thought to.  We should all be more proactive than most of us have been (myself included) when it comes to our home planet.  It's the only one we have, why are we treating it like its not?!  I watched a good program a couple days back.  It's the latest film produced by David Attenborough (and likely the "last" film he will do - he's 93 after all!) "A Life on Our Planet". 

This is a MUST watch and listen. We've over stepped the climate/biodiversity/deforestation boundary - are we listening? Or should we say "Who's Listening"? Attenborough is not trying to make us feel better, but to shake us from our complacency. Do we want to hang onto our personal "life styles", or close our eyes to what we're doing? Are we growing numb to the mantra that science has been trying to impress upon us? There is a chance...but will we embrace it...there is a chance. Are we listening?  Try and give "A Life on Our Planet" a watch...it is not a waste of time.

Have a good Summer ahead and hope to see you on the Tallgrass!