Saturday, October 01, 2016

Fall In The Tallgrass

Now comes the most engaging season in the tallgrass wilderness.
It's a time of flowers, seeds - and falling back in grass and looking at the sky.
Then we brandish saws to slay the brush and transform it into bonfires
that sometimes cook our food.
It's a rich, easy, splendid time to be in nature.
Few bugs, little heat and humidity, deep colors, the threat of impending winter.
Hurry! Come out and join us!
We love fall for all these reasons. And there are better reasons too. 
Some of our most beautiful flowers bloom in early fall.
We're enriched by them. But we are drawn to seeds. We need plant embryos 

to restore health to more nature.
Plums and grapes once attracted the eyes of foxes, bears, and people. They still attract our eyes. 
Not enough animals these days move plum pits where they're needed. 
So we do. And plums multiply. 
Sometimes kids join in. They are natural in nature. This photo, if I remember right, 
shows prairie pioneers whose recent backgrounds are in Asia, Africa, and South America. 
It makes no difference. Nature beckons every kid - as well as the kid in us. 
A handful of woodland puccoon seeds means "instant rare plant - restored" to an area that needs it. Our lives deserve more that makes us feel this good.  
A prairie dock leaf frames stems of Indian grass, smooth blue aster,
and purple prairie clover bearing seeds. We take in all - but go for the seeds. 

As we harvest, we connect with pasts - from hunter-gatherers to pioneer farmers.
We feel by turns empowered, meditative, companionable, alone in deep nature. 
Then comes seed prep. To prepare these treasures for planting is a kind of agricultural foreplay.
It is magic. The seeds delight our eyes and fingers, complete time capsules of next year's life. 
For many, the onset of brush bashing is a time of celebration. Buckthorn is an enemy easily understood, and readily defeated by mighty stewards.
The threat is obvious here. Bright fall colors mark the oaks, elms, and hickories. Buckthorn stays green and usurps the entire understory so little else can grow. A bully, it must go. 
We celebrate work with food. Life is good. In many senses. 
All of us prepare for winter in our own ways. 
This garter snake will now go underground to an "hibernaculum" with others of its kind.
This hazelnut bush turns colors as it prepares for winter by sending most of the energy and nutrients of its leaves down into its roots, to wait for spring. It also inspires to protect it from the deer, and from fire, until ready to stand on its own. We stewards have work to do. 

Modern seeds prepare for winter by inspiring us to transport them
to future habitats. Then they'll lie in wet ground going through age-old changes,
waiting for the light and warmth of a new year. 
In fall, much rots. Decomposition and renewal sweep away the past, 
providing opportunities for the future. 
This is true for people and nature. 
In late November and early December come the fires.
They are another form of decomposition and renewal. We need and rejoice in them too. 
All through September through December, we rejoice in our prairies and woodlands. The Somme team's schedule is at Or find a group near you in your local park or preserve.

Photo credits 
Well, gosh, I don't even know who took them all. The splendid fringed gentian was almost certainly taken by the great (and recently married) Lisa Culp Musgrave. Most of the others are probably mine, although I notice that I'm in at least one, so I didn't take that. If you see a photo of yours here, please tell me so I can give you credit.

Most of these photos are from Somme. The grass-sprawled boys as well as the line of seeders are from the Orland Grassland. The fat snake is from Deer Grove East. 


Deborah Antlitz said...

Beautifully done. Have you considered fashioning this into a children's book or some kind of calendar/almanac?

Stephen Packard said...

@Deborah Antlitz: Thanks for good words and ideas. A children's book is needed. An adult's book is too. In fact we should have many. (My photos are "highly available" to anyone willing to use them for something like that.) I'll keep trying.

orchidartist said...

Your prose awes me. So much to learn about our precious remnants. We were out today collecting seed too.

Sue Gorr said...

Gorgeous photos and inspiring comments. Love the photo with the boys. BTW I have two small plum trees growing from some plums that you gave me to eat, I think it was 2 years ago. I'm hoping they transplant well. Thank you!

James McGee said...

Nature by definition is not made by people. I wonder if our landscapes really ever were “nature” from the standpoint that human manipulation did not occur. Are our savanna ecosystems really the last surviving pieces of oak, hickory, and hazelnut orchards that fed the great empire which preceded our civilization?

James McGee said...

Anonymous said...

I second all the above. The dock close-up is wonderful. The purple gentian is stunning. The idea of creating a sampler book of the great photos is a good one, for sure. Congrats to Steve for his recognition at the upcoming event this month.
Well-deserved, as we all can agree.