Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kansas thoughts

I haven't spent much time on my land in Kansas this past month because it just.......keeps.......raining. I could have driven out this past weekend (despite the constant rain) but since there were flash flood warnings for the area, I stayed put. I'm not a reckless person (although Dick says I have plenty of "reck"). On Tuesday I decided to drive out and see what the creek looked like since for some reason it wasn't raining. Besides, I was curious to see what the creek looked like when it was running high.

When I got out there, the creek looked like it was flowing at its normal level but you can see how high the water did get by looking at the big flattened stalks of butterbur leaves.

Things still looked a little off though.

In this particular spot I found what I think is a mulching bag to a mower. And that orange blob in the water? That turned out to be a Marilyn Manson cd(!!!!!). Who knows...when I start having to mow acres of grass, or "acers" as they spell it on signs in the country, Marilyn Manson might be the best music to listen to if you want to get your lawn mowed really fast. I saw other bright discs in the water and along the creek bank but they were either wedged too tight in the rock or I couldn't safely get to them. Learning the identity of those musicians will have to maybe until tomorrow since it rained like heck again yesterday.

Overlooking all this landscape rearrangement (I think there was some rock shifting in the creek too) were flitting ebony jewelwing damselflies. They were absolutely everywhere. Sometimes they stopped to take a couple seconds rest on a leaf and then they quickly launched into the air again.

Last week when Meg and I were out on the land, there were butterflies flitting around everywhere...almost to the point where you had to bat them off your face. But today, the airspace was being used by the jewelwings. When you see a white dot on their black wings, it means that that particular ebony jewelwing is a girl. When I was reviewing my photos, I noticed that all the photos of damselflies posing for me were girls who were taking a break from all that activity in the air above them. I totally get that. I take a lot of distraction breaks myself. This one left the creek area and got distracted with my new Blue Q bag. :-)

This is a different sort of damselfly I found later in the woods. Unlike those jewelwing girls, he was very focused and patient with me and my camera. However long it took for me to get a good picture, he stayed put and held his frozen smile for all of my photos. Is he cute or what?

I found him hanging out on a plant in the woods that was starting to flower. Lots of little tiny pink flowers.

I had been seeing a lot of these three-leaved plants throughout the forest and I thought they were very pretty. It was nice to see one in flower...I think.

They were not too hard to identify once I got home. Desmodium glutinosum. It's native to the area and since it's in the pea family, it fixes nitrogen to the soil, both of which are good things. But the seeds....oh, I recognize those things. They have to be individually picked off once a few (Ha! Never a "few!") have attached themselves. And poor Aussie. She wears necklaces of these things in the fall. They're also known as beggar's ticks or beggar's lice. Available here. Seriously. :-)

I left the shade of the woods to walk in an open area full of sunshine. This clear area was made when the owner previous to the previous owner of the land put in a satellite dish and thought he needed an unobstructed view to the stars to pick up his reception. I had the gigantic lawn art satellite dish removed but am thankful for this small spot in the woods that is clear of trees. One of these days I want a greenhouse there and a pond and this is where the chickens will have their coop and I'll have a large vegetable garden.... oh my current imagination has a lot of things happening in the future for this area.

This is also the spot where Meg and I saw most of the butterflies fluttering around last weekend. They seemed to really enjoy the coreopsis although I don't think this particular coreopsis is native to Kansas.

But I think this yarrow is.

This horse nettle flower is pretty and is definitely native...but it has spines and is toxic so I don't want it around me or my future pet chickens. It's got to go and I have some conflicted feelings about that.

The sumac at the edge of the clearing is starting to flower. Last fall these trees were disappointing with their color and fruit and I don't think I'm going to be stunned by any new dramatic show by them this year. Michigan sumacs are gorgeous. I'm not sure how to describe these guys. Confused as why they are where they are? Sitting under some oaks at the top of a hill? I kind of want them out of there. I'm conflicted about that too.

It's been interesting watching my transition from only wanting to grow native plants on my Kansas land to figuring out a compromise. Why the compromise? Because I've learned that hardly anything growing on my land is native to the area. Around 200 or so years ago it was part of a tall grass prairie but when the pioneers settled here, although they arrived with hardly anything, they sure had a lot of seeds in their pockets. Just about everything growing out there should be growing on some other continent. I never realized just how dramatic the landscape was permanently changed until I bought land in the "country" and started researching what it's supposed to look like, or what it was supposed to look like.

See that tree in the background? I thought it was a linden, and it is, but combined within its trunks is a white mulberry tree. Their trunks look nearly identical but the leaves betray what's really going on. One tree should be growing there, the other shouldn't. So what to do? Try and remove the mulberry after all this time? I don't think that native linden would recover. Oh the irony of that poor native linden doing its best to cope with the intrusion of that bully of a mulberry who moved in and literally planted itself inside the middle of it.

Those two stalky plants in front are mullein. I've always liked mullein because of its super soft leaves. Apparently the leaves were used as diapers by Native Americans. But is the plant native to North America? Nope. Another sneaky stowaway hidden in some European's dirty pockets. So what to do when you actually like the weeds (which I suppose you can correctly call European wildflowers) that are now permanently part of the American landscape?

And just to further confuse the native plant issue going on in my head, a month ago I saw this Blue-eyed grass blooming in a grassy area and thought it was just the prettiest delicate little thing.

I have no idea why but after identifying what it was in the "wild" and then seeing it again at a nursery, well, I bought one and brought it right home. Huh? I could have dug up some of the plants to transplant into my future rock garden but they looked so happy where they were. This new plant that would eventually be put in the rock garden is named Sisyrinchium "Lucerne" in Lucerne, Switzerland. I think what happened is that the American version went to live in Switzerland and came back to the States all hybridized. I thought that was kind of funny when I researched the nativeness of this native plant that is now a non-native. Oy. This trying to be true to what should be growing out there is a sincere workout for my head.

I struggle with trying to restore or maintain what should be growing out there with knowing that once what was living there can never be like that again. Why do I want to grow native plants anyway? My primary reason is that they attract native bugs and butterflies, little personalities I like to chase with my camera. But those guys are already out there. I guess I'll try to grow native plants where I can but when I can't, I can't, and I'm not going to feel too guilty about it. Well, maybe just a teeny bit.


Mental P Mama said...

This is the best botany class I've ever had. Ever. Boy, do I love your place!

Toon said...

I'm pretty sure a Marilyn Manson CD is considered toxic waste. Get it out of there!

Maureen said...

The satellite dish reminds me of when we rode out to a dairy farm deep in the Ozarks, and after walking through some enormous cows, we went into the house to talk about buying one, they had the biggest TV I've ever seen.

Leenie said...

Wow! Nice botany lesson. I had no idea so many of our "weeds" were "European wildflowers." I found the big mullein stalks a good weapon to "scare" cows into heading for home. They had no idea how flimsy the sticks were. Love the blue-eyed grass and all the other flowering things. I have some botany in my last post but I'm just guessing about their names. Fun to have all those flowery neighbors.

Maria said...

Lauren-Aw, thanks. It's really fascinating stuff-researching the botanical history of the area. I knew that living in a city and in a neighborhood, just about everything growing has been planted but I am still floored that in the country, it's kind of the same thing. It's really kind of amazing in a somewhat appalling way that everything out there has been relandscaped by humans. Natural or half-ass landscaped, I still love that place too.

Russ-Heh heh heh. Like minds. I grabbed what I could and since today is trash day, all those Marilyn Manson cds are now festering for eternity in a dump somewhere sealed in a heavy duty Costco garbage bag.

Maureen-Are you sure you weren't wandering around in Texas where everything is big?

Leenie-What a good use for the mullein! Hahaha. When I was into natural dyeing in the 70s I was always looking for mullein but it always seemed to be at the wrong time of year because they were so small when I did find them. Or maybe since they're biannuals, I was looking for them in the wrong years. Anyway, they're supposed to make an excellent yellow dye. One of these days I should take up natural dyeing again but since I like the mullein plant itself so much, I'd feel too awful killing it. Ragweed? That's different. I have no problem being as mean as I can to it. >:-) I am very inconsistent with my grow native standards.

Eve said...

Everything looks beautiful in your neck of the woods Maria. And that Michael Ray...what a character! I hope the rains slow down for you. I just love that mullein...I used to have big ones like that when I lived in northern NY. I'd always leave them growing in the gardens.
I like your blog and must come back to visit!

Rural Rambler said...

Maria I have already commented on this fun post at my blog and sent an email too, so as not to drive you crazy or you think I am a stalker I won't repeat it again BUT I was just reading away back some posts just enjoying Maria being Maria and I saw where you had replied to one of my comments and asked about the Missouri Wildflowers place. YEAH! We love it there. We have purchased quite a bit there. CH bought 200 bucks worth of buffalo grass seed there and we can't find one buffalo blade of grass :) Not their fault, ours for sure. Everything else we have gotten there has done super! It is quite an experience to visit there :)

Maria said...

Eve-Thanks for visiting. Yes, Michael Ray is a character and I better start writing about him soon because he's warmed up and has been busy. Yesterday I was trying to remulch the turtle sleeping area and he kept stomping on my feet and trying to push me down. What a brat. I think he likes the challenge of getting 8 bags of mulch all compacted and evenly dispersed though. He is better at it than I am for sure.

Pix-I just emailed you. I forgot to mention that my friend Sarah pointed out an old oriole nest high up in a tree outside her kitchen window to me this past spring. You're right. They do look like something that has been knitted. I haven't run into too much bird activity on that land. I've been told birds move in once the birdfeeders come out so that will be fun to watch when they do....grosbeaks and orioles and hummers, etc. Sarah has a lake so she gets herons too. She also has turkey vultures that come back every year to nest in an abandoned VW bus on her land. :-)