Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Heading South?!

"Low water Morning"
oil painting - 6X12" - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view

This is pretty much a re-posting from my studio blog...the conditions here on our own pasture and in area prairie remnants are continuing to "head south"!  I certainly don't mean that term as anything derogatory to "regions" - in this case I'm making an exclamation to our drought and heat this summer!
We've only had 2 tenths of an inch so far in July here...after less than an inch in June and with weeks of being in the high 90's - some in the low 100's, adding in some days of dehydrating winds, and things are getting nasty!  This isn't on a par of the droughts in other areas though...especially what Texas experienced last year.  Its just affecting more of the continent this year than has been seen in quite some time!

I'm grateful I'm not farming here this summer!  But if I were, the crop insurance would be the only blessing available!
Our native pasture is often my stronghold of inspiration...I'm sorry to say it is not the inspiration of past least not since about 3 weeks back.  The prairie will certainly get through the drought just fine, but the plants are now going dormant as they literally dry up before our eyes!  Another aspect of this is that we'll get little viable seed from the summer drought and heat.  The grasses and flowers are drying up as they go from the flowering stage to fruiting and maturation...many of the warm season grasses are simply losing flowers are they form...all drying up for the season.

Our early bloomers that I've been following through the spring and early summer are now becoming stunted or just plain drying was fun while it lasted.  Well "unusual" any way!

The painting at the beginning of the blog was inspired in part by the dry summer we are struggling through this year.  I suppose if I were to go to this same spot today, it'd be even lower!  I do like the gravel embankments as an element of this painting - as well as the drama of the early morning light and the longer shadows.  I'm not sure if I'd feel the same about it as the water levels drop even more...but maybe treating the composition and light differently would make an engaging image as well.
Here's to finding inspiration in adversity!  Keep cool out there and hope to see you on the Tallgrass!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Getting Used To It

New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
at Prairie Hill Farm - June 2012
photo © Bruce A. Morrison 
(click on image for a larger view) 

I think I'm getting used to it...not the summer heat and humidity, but the early blooming that has continued since early spring.  Another example here in the native pasture are the New England Asters.  The one pictured above was photographed the last week of June.  I was really taken aback by it;  these guys are usually an August through September bloomer!  Now we have even more asters blooming here...Smooth Asters (Aster laevis) and Silky Asters (Aster sericeus)...its just plain crazy!  (I'm afraid I'm beating that expression to death this year.)

My burning question sounds kind of stupid maybe...but if everything blooms so early this summer - what happens this fall???  Are all our September flowers going to be finished in August and all our October bloomers in September??!!!  We always have a tremendous push here by fall nectaring insects in late September and early October.  What is going to transpire here when that should be occurring?  Are the insects going to be early as well or miss that period and suffer?  I suppose if I see Monarchs migrating in August, that will answer that question for me.  We have been keeping strong numbers of Monarchs so far...we are over run by the milkweeds (Asclepias sp.) this summer.

Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens)
O'Brien County privately owned prairie
photo © Bruce A. Morrison 
(click on image for a larger view)

 I did manage to get out and walk a neighborhood native (private) prairie last weekend.  The slopes had been burned this spring, the first time I remember seeing them burned.  I was anxious to see how they fared and was pleasantly surprised!  I was about 10 days too late for what must have been an amazing Lead Plant blooming!  I did find a small number of individual plants with blooms that were later, but 95% were finished.  The grasses were robust and thick, and another plant that will have a boom there (if the bad drought we're experiencing doesn't hinder it) is the Rough Blazing Stars (Liatris aspera)...very thick there.

I retreated to Waterman Creek below this prairie and walked the creek bed for the remainder of the morning; it was already quite humid and oppressive...the retreat the the water provided, with somewhat leaky hip boots, kept me cool. I posted a 4 minute video of that walk on my art studio blog last week too.  You can see the video here -

There was a decent flush of Monkey Flowers (Mimulus ringens) along the creek bed there...I included one individual blossom in the video.  I don't know if the seed production of these will make it back to the seed bank this year though - its showing to be a potentially heavy infestation year for grasshoppers here in the county...the extremely dry summer weather is likely contributing. Past experience with Monkey Flower seed production has shown that grasshoppers absolutely love this plant's seed pods in the fruiting stage!

I've had some interest in the audio recording from the last blog here on The Tallgrass Journal.  I audio tape natural sounds as a hobby.  I've used lots of varying methods...some a bit experimentally, within a limited budget.  The audio I recorded of the prairie birds (Prairie Music audio file) was a crudely put together setup from existing equipment that worked extremely well and one that I hope to use more when I have time and opportunity.  I set up a web page if you're shows the setup - hear to recording again, just go back to the last blog here-

Keep cool this summer - see you on the Tallgrass!