Monday, November 30, 2015

Icy Artwork in the Hills

     An ice storm hit the region to paint crystaline pictures on the landscape. While some suffered power outages and there was certainly additional stress on livestock and wildlife, the frozen artwork provided some special eye candy. Trees laden with excessive burdens strained to retain bowed branches. Stems, leaves and seed heads enjoyed a shiny, clear covering which enhanced their usually more mundane form. All the ice sculptures have now melted, yielding the land to a not-quite-so spectacular appearance. It was cool while it lasted, at least through the naturalist's photo-lens.

Green is still prevalent along the
                stream, even during an ice storm.               
Lemon Beebalm wears ice hats while
Indiangrass bows in respect.

Dog Creek, Barber County
A covering of ice presents a
new perspective of Cocklebur.

Nature's artwork achieves some its best work
when an ice-storm hits.

Melting ice creates a surreal but
beautiful earth moment.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Grasslands-4th in a series of the 8 Natural Wonders of the Red Hills

     Grasslands are awarded the distinction as one of the 8 Natural Wonders of the Red Hills.  As the fourth selection (the first three are St. Jacob's Well, Caves, and Wildflowers), this expanse of mixed-grass prairie is the second largest intact grassland in Kansas.   Composed of  short, mid and tall grasses, the primary species include Indiangrass, side-oats grama, little bluestem, sand and big bluestem, blue grama, rough dropseed , sandlove, buffalo and many, many more.  This grassland is sprinkled with well over 500 different wildflower plants adding an amazing floral display throughout the growing season.  I shall honor this category with poetry which hopefully expresses the feelings of all those who make a living in, travel through, or otherwise appreciate the Kansas grasslands.
Grassland Man

I've been on rocky mountains high,
with sculpted peaks that pierce the sky,
slivered with their crystal streams,
filled with anglers' shimmering dreams;
I've walked in desert solitude,
scorned by cactus wren or two,
and heard its sedent, silent wind,
whispering to large saguaro men;

I've spent some time in eastern woods,
watched busy squirrels stash their goods,
and sniffed the essence spring rains awakens,
of leafy perfume to a naturalist beckons;
And of these treasures I chance to hold,
these wonderful pleasures to the soul,
none quite satisfy my quest,
like the Kansas grasslands I like best;

To watch golden rays of slow sunset,
paint serenity on a prairie grouse lek,
hearing chuckled calls as night encroaches,
this scene no other delight approaches;
A thousand diamonds fill the nights,
sprinkling precious jewels of sapphire starlight,
to dance in eyes of nocturnal beasts,
who stalk for voles to fill their feasts;

Sunrise stirs an anxious breeze,
to caress the grass in endless tease,
bluestem applauds in rhythmic waves,
to greet each fresh spectral display;
And hidden midst these blades of green,
a pinkish face of an anemone,
specially picked in such quaint way,
set in its niche of this grand bouquet;

Now rustled by some scampering there,
known by whistle this bobwhite lair,
quickly silencing all quail talk,
the threatening form of red tail hawk;
Whose curious glance acknowledges me,
quite easily in this grassland sea,
its spirit sent on shrieking voice,
to meld with mine and give rejoice;

You may wish to play in mountain halls,
or sing to desert canyon walls,
you may like the feel of ocean spray,
or walk the forestland some day;
But plead ye not to this deaf ear,
those sanctuaries you hold dear,
I'm rooted to my prairie home,
the land I love, the land I roam.