Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rushing Forward!?

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

The signs of progress and the phenological records of the past just aren't in agreement this spring on the Tallgrass here.  For people who often get impatient (I'd probably qualify most of the time), its been a bonanza around here!

This week we've had May records broken easily...Monday had our first Monarch Butterfly flying through (had 3 yesterday)...surely looking for milkweeds to lay their eggs, because the specimens that Georgie and I have been seeing were very faded after a long flight from the south.  We do have milkweeds up - hope they find them before the poor things expire!

In fact I was out looking for milkweed plants and checking for possible eggs when I also discovered the the Blue-eyed grasses were up as well...looked like they'd been up for some time too!  I have never seen Blue-eyed grass much before May 15th, in fact that is usually my "go to" date when looking for them!

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
© Bruce A. Morrison

But Monarchs in April???  Here??!!  That is really unreal...I remember years when we waited well into June for them.  Well - welcome Monarchs!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Little Early...or Too Late?

Iowa Wetland Study No.1
photograph - silver halide print - © Bruce A. Morrison
I'm going to celebrate Earth day a little early, although it isn't until this Sunday.  This will be its 42nd year and its now observed in 175 countries.  The thing that saddens me about our attempts to celebrate our planet is that we are truly in need of observing this day 24/7/365...did I get that right?  I mean every day we draw breath - all year long.  
In my life time I've seen promise...more restrictions on industrial pollution, attempts to restore habitat and set aside more for our great grandchildren.  Many success stories of bringing species back from the brink.  Other issues too numerous to go into here.  
But there is overwhelming opposition to these issues as well.  Cries of removing government restrictions on industry...regulations, etc.  I always try to be upbeat, even when I don't feel that way, but this is too important...its our lives...our legacy to our children's children's children!  
The photograph at the top of the blog was the first 4X5 large format photograph I ever took of a prairie wetland - almost 40 years ago.  Its one of many images now on exhibit at the Witter Gallery in Storm Lake, Iowa in my solo exhibit titled "From the Tallgrass".  The photograph is a sad reminder to me - its of a wetland that is "no more".  Its now covered in was a beautiful working ecosystem - now the ground no longer breathes there, no conversion of CO2, no cooling the summer air nor filtering runoff and pollutants.  Wetland choruses no longer sung.  Asphalt.
Recently there was a bill in the Iowa legislature to sell a thousand acres of Iowa public land.  The gist of this bill was to sell 1000 acres of public land that could still be farmed.  Now I don't know what the legislator(s) who put this language into the bill were thinking of using the money for that would come out of a sale of public land, but this was our land - your land , your grand kid's land.  Iowa is "the" state in this union known as "being the most changed" as far as its resources...its natural heritage.  AND someone "still" feels we've gone over the top and need to sell parts of a park, or preserve, or prairie ground to return to what it was rescued from!  You'll hear arguments of a need for more corn to feed livestock, for more income opportunity for some individual(s), for more land to give back to the state's coffers in taxes.  There's always a reason to go back, to not look forward to what our future is potentially holding for us if we only think in the "Now".  Thank goodness there were enough voices raised with this bill (mine included) that the language was dropped. 
So I'm starting to celebrate the official Earth Day a tad early and plan to keep celebrating, being concerned, loving and embracing this amazing rock we're circling that close star with. 

 White-throated Sparrow - male
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)
I'll celebrate with the little things - this morning the White-throated Sparrows returned!  They'll be around now for a few weeks before continuing on north to their breeding grounds.  I'll celebrate them and every spring migrant that pauses as they pass through.  I'll celebrate the rain we're receiving today!  I'll celebrate the old farmstead we live and work on...not as farmers but still embracing the earth with our vegetable gardens, berry crops, the native prairie pasture, the bee hives lending a hand with pollination.  I'll celebrate the Earth each day with my art work and photography...with the sounds and smells that are our natural heritage.  I'll support organizations that are working hard to preserve this natural heritage - not squander it on the profit of the moment.

In Iowa, check out and support really worthwhile organizations - with your heritage in mind; like the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Nature Conservancy or any related organization in your own state or country.  And an excellent publication that shares what others are doing every day to embrace their natural heritage is Woodlands & Prairies Magazine...I highly recommend these!

Its not too early to Celebrate Earth Day.  And it is not too early to "Really" care.


Sunday, April 1, 2012


Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla patens) on a private remnant
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
90 degrees this afternoon here at Prairie Hill Farm...and its not April Fools!  Or maybe it is...the weather's getting a good laugh anyway. 
I finally got out onto some private remnants here in SE O'Brien County about 3-4 days back and was pleasantly surprised to find some more Pasque Flowers - right where they should be!  The ground is native pature that's been grazed for many years, but the hilsides are steep and I suspected, last year when I was first given permission to walk there, that the slopes looked like they should have some pasques...they were there.  Wonderful!
The Wild Plums are also out now...this is 25 days earlier than last year.  What else is new - everything is a month ahead of itself! Why I even just finished "mowing" the fire breaks a half hour ago on our own native pasture here and that's no April Fools either!  Never had to do that in April before.
We did get our north pasture burned in March...we're leavig the south pasture and the ditches alone this year the invertebrates and "us" a rest there.
The only thing that I messed up on is my seeding.  The weather just became so warm so fast that my planned late winter seeding never happened.  I suppose I'll try it as soon as a "sure thing" for rain is on the horizon - we've really missed out on precipitation and are listed as being in a "severe" drought here in this corner of the state right now.
 (click on image for a larger view)
Next on our agenda is hauling our "From the Tallgrass" exhibit down to the Witter Gallery in Storm Lake for the Thursday night opening and artists reception (5:30-7p.m.), the exhibit will be there through April 26th if you can't wander down next Thursday. 
Hope to get to see more "wonderful" things this spring - hope you do too!  
See ya on the tallgrass!