Lynne: Have you ever watched Little House on the Prairie and wondered what it was like to be Laura Ingalls running through the tall prairie grass? Well, the farm has an area of prairie grass and at this time of year it is turning the most fantastic shades of purple and gold.
I cannot describe properly the look and feel of the prairie. The wind moves in waves over the grass and the smell is like hay but less dry and the feel is people-less. Just me and the wind, the grass and the sky. I have tried to get the colors and the feel captured in these photos, but at every angle the light is different. I’ve played with Photoshop to give an approximate vision of what I see with bare eyes, but of course it is not the same. We need more than sight to see something properly.
I wondered about the prevalence and history of prairie in this area and came across this book on google, The History of Cass County, Volume 1, edited by Jehu Powell. There are numerous references made about prairies and prairie fires in Cass County. Isn’t it a marvel that I can yearn for the days of vast plains and yet rejoice at the ability to read and search a rare book with ease.
Jehu Powell relates the troubles the pioneers had with prairie fires and I suspect that every acre of grass turned into farmland made them feel safer. I cannot imagine the tremendous heat and roar of a prairie fire, but the grass needs fire to reseed itself and to keep thickets and trees from taking over. One third of the prairie here at the farm is set on fire every year. Careful attention is paid to weather conditions, proper fire breaks and there are firefighters on standby.
Mackie, my black labrador, loves the prairie grass. He bounds up and down through it like a deer. You can just see the top of his head and his ears flapping for a split second and down he goes again. His tongue hangs out and he has what looks like a huge grin on his face. Sometimes, watching him, I wish that I were young enough to run with him. I remember running through pastures barefoot and wondering why running meant fewer cuts on your feet than walking. However, I am satisfied watching him from the Mule and dreaming of past times.
Lynne: This afternoon at the farm, I looked to the north at the fields of wild grasses and was surprised by a mass of yellow. The goldenrod is in bloom. When goldenrod blooms all the insects know that frost is not far behind and all the bees and butterflies and insects can be found with their snouts buried in the pollen.
Since all those creatures were busy with the goldenrod, I thought it would be a good time to get some of those interesting closeup photographs of tiny creatures. I rode out in the Mule (machine type Kawasaki not 4 legged type animal) and stopped near the edge and put my finger to the shutter release. There were so many insects on the goldenrod that I wanted a picture of them all, but these two pictures with the bees show the rich heavy pollen and the bees’ determination to gather it even with a nosey photographer and her camera too close for comfort.
I sneezed for a while afterwards and I blamed the goldenrod, but I found this website, The Great Plains Nature Center, and learned a great deal of information about the flora and fauana of prairies. Goldenrod is not the culprit of fall allergies. Its pollen is thick and sticky to attach itself to the insects that pollinate it. Ragweed is the culprit because it pollinates with the wind by releasing millions of grains of pollen into the air and into your nose. Ragweed is green and fades into the late summer foilage, but goldenrod stands proud and yellow. Guess who gets the blame for allergies.
Next time you see a field of blooming goldenrod, take the time to thank the land owner who is willing to allow weeds to grow. Weeds are only plants that humans have not found a way to make money from, but to the insects and birds those same weeds are their super Walmart and discount shopping mall all rolled into one.
Hummingbirds seem like such sweet birds. After all, they live on sweet nectar and sugar water, but…they are vicious little buzzers screeching and shoving each other with sweetness only on their beaks and never in their hearts.
The farm is a great place to watch hummers. I have counted as many as 75 of them at a time among the flowers and feeders. The air is loud with the hum of their wings and their shrieks of fury as one of them occupies the space another wishes were his. There is little peace where hummers gather, but then peaceful is not nearly as amusing.
Lynne: I have been on a working vacation for the past few weeks. My grandparents had a farm and I have always held an affection for the rural life, but the thought of having a library nearby has kept me firmly within the city limits. Every now and then, however, I have the good fortune to be able to pretend I am a farmer.
The farm I pretend is mine sits on 140 acres of prairie and woods and has a large pond. I can sit on the deck and watch ducks, geese and even bald eagles go about their daily tasks. The night is so dark, I have to use my cell phone to see. There has to be a moral in there somewhere.
I have not been posting much because rural Indiana is woefully behind in its broadband coverage. Blogging is not possible on a dial-up connection. At least, I cannot do it. I begin to froth at the mouth when a page takes 30 seconds to load. It is hard to remember that the internet is really a new thing and not so long ago 3 minutes to download a page seemed a miracle. Anyway, I will be posting a few notes I have taken during my stay.
I get up in the morning and put on the clothes I wore the day before. I have found that changing clothes 3 or 4 times a day is ridiculous and wearing the dirty clothes for morning chores is the smart thing to do. I also put on rubber boots. It may feel weird to clump around in boots to your knees, but it is really necessary when you are caring for horses. Mucking out horse stalls is a good way to ruin even your oldest shoes. I have found also that I have to stop and put on socks with these boots because they will wear gurry sores on your ankles. (Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling is my information on gurry sores–the results of the chafing of oil-skins on bare flesh.) In this day and age, gurry sores are treated by antibiotics and a tetanus shot. (Has it really been 10 years since I had one? Ouch…)
I will continue my tales of the farm in more posts, but I will leave with this musing on the vagaries of chickens. If you have food in your hand they gather under your feet, if you don’t have food they are under your feet and if you are even thinking about food they are under your feet. I stepped on one this morning in my rubber boots. Luckily, the stable floor and the boots were soft and I only stepped on the chicken’s foot. I believe chicken feet are tough. At least, this one has tough feet, it squawked and didn’t budge an inch. I was giving grain to the horses. Silly chickens, they think the horses are going to let them have some.
Next time, I will muse on the the chore of watering…everything.