The spring weather has continued to be cold and windy and rainy. Just in the last few days the air has felt a little warmer, and plants are looking greener. We’re hopeful that spring may be coming at last.
Spring snow showers on April 2
The best spring ‘first’ this year was our first ever Pasqueflowers. I’m very excited to have them growing here.
Pasqueflowers are one of the earliest prairie flowers to bloom, and they grow only on dry, sandy prairies. I’ve seen them on neighboring prairies, but never on any of ours. The folks who grew up here say that they used to see them in one particular spot on the farm, but the subsequent owners plowed that area, and the prairie plants there have disappeared.
So – a few years ago I got permission to collect Pasqueflower seeds from a nearby DNR property. I pushed them into the soil on several of our dry bluff prairies, kept my fingers crossed that some would grow, and this year two clumps bloomed – on two different prairie points.
The only other spring flower I’ve seen so far is Sand Cress – a tiny member of the mustard family that also grows on dry prairies. (A slightly fuzzy photo – from another windy day.)
In between rainstorms and cold windy days, we’ve been doing our spring ‘clean up’ projects. The first priority is always to clear the trees that have fallen across our trails. This was the biggest one and the most challenging to remove. This photo was taken after we’d cleared out all the smaller branches.
Cutting something that big was scary – so we invited our friend Mac to come over to help with advice and moral support.
Cutting the trunk with our biggest – and loudest – chainsaw.
Once the logs were in smaller pieces, Mike could move them out of the way with the bucket on the tractor. Here he’s finishing up – smoothing out the gouges the tree made in the trail.
The next project we call ‘pick up sticks’ – picking up any trees that have fallen in prairies and savannas where we need to mow. This is a before/after look at Hidden Oaks Savanna. It has lots of standing dead trees and many of them came down in the strong winds we’ve had recently. Now it’s mowed and ready for spring.
Garlic Mustard is normally my spring project, but that’s been delayed a bit this year because it’s been so cold that the plants are still too small to find easily. So I’ve been doing clearing work on some of my favorite prairie hillsides.
This is Hidden Oaks Point. The big trees were cleared several years ago, but small buckthorns and honeysuckles are invading at the edges, and it has lots and lots of brambles.
I cleared a big area of buckthorn and brambles at the top, just below the dry bluff prairie. This is what those brambly areas look like, before clearing.
The cleared area, looking from the top – the prairie plants are moving down the slope, so hopefully this will give them some help.
This is a similar project on Indian Grass Point – clearing out brush and small trees down the slope from the bluff prairie.
All this clearing work has meant lots of piles for Mike to move. He loves the challenge of getting as much into his bucket as possible – sometimes so much that it’s hard for him to see where he’s going.
The wet weather and brown landscape at this time of year means that it’s easier to notice the bright colors of lichens and fungi. These were growing on an old rotting aspen log. The orange fungus is Red Tree Brain Fungus; the rest are various greenish lichens.
I have to look closely to find green plants right now – they’re still small and close to the ground.
The early spring leaves of some plants are purple when they first come up. This is Monarda (Wild Bergamot).
Early Wood Betony leaves can be red, or green, or sometimes both. Here are several plants crowded together, each with a different color combination.
Overwintering butterflies are still appearing on warm days – Mourning Cloaks especially like the slightly muddy trail that goes up our Western Valley.
A very tattered Eastern Comma
And there are still a few Infant Moths flying
Twisted Oak Savanna
Sunrise over Center Valley