Categories
outdoors Photography Plants

Meets the eye

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, almost 70 degrees. There was a breeze, but it was warm and gentle and one could go about with a light jacket and feel just right.

I hadn’t been up to Shaw in a long time because of the road construction on I-44. The state is adding an extra lane all the way to Gray Summit, and in the process the lanes are narrow and the road surface uneven. The speed limit is supposed to be 50, but I’ve yet to see anyone follow this. Well, other than myself. A Ford Focus handles beautifully on country roads, gravel, in the city and what not, but it does not do well on uneven roads.

At Shaw I debated on taking the forest path to the wet land, or the country road behind the back. I had my iPod in its new heavy duty Belkin leather case, and it was fun just walking along the road, listening to Bond; taking the ear buds out from time to time to listen to the wind through the trees and the birds singing.

I also took along my camera because, though Shaw is in the middle of its dormant stage, you never know when something will pop up that might be fun to photograph. Such was the case yesterday when I came across piles of cut Eastern redcedar.

woodpile

Eastern redcedar is really a juniper tree, but it still has a beautiful grain and smell. The photography gave me an excuse to get close to the wood and breath in the scent. I noticed that the trees must have been fresh cut, as they were still ‘bleeding’ from the cuts.

cedarcuts

pitch

pitch2

A couple of folks came along and seemed dismayed to see what looked like healthy young trees cut down. After all, this is a Nature Center, what could be more natural than trees? Especially when the Center replaces the stands of trees with what looked like fields of weed. However, this effort is part of the the ongoing effort to remove invasive species all across the park; restoring native wetland and prairie, as well as stands of hickory and oak, which are more natural for this area.

Environments are delicate, and the health of a particular environment is not necessarily obvious in the eye of the beholder. Though a vast empty prairie may look like ruin, and a forest of cedar look richly healthy, the opposite can be and often is in true–prairies are alive with many species of plants and animals that may be difficult to spot, while eastern redcedar forests may contain just that: big redcedar trees and nothing else.

At one time, Shaw was prairie and wetland, but people came along and plowed it under into farmland. When the farms were abandoned and the ground lay fallow, rather than be reclaimed by what was natural wildflowers and grasses, seeds contained in berries eaten by birds made their way to the fertile ground and honeysuckle and eastern redcedar thrived. Unfortunately, redcedar needles contain a high level of acidity, unpalatable to other plants. Both species choke out others by overrunning the ground as well as providing a canopy preventing young plants from getting enough sun.

woodgrain

Like many other areas in the Midwest, work is underway to pull up these invasive plants, and replant native species in their place. Until this is finished, every winter the park is a mass of pulled and destroyed honeysuckle vine and redcedar trees in addition to the marks of controlled burns.

I left the road half way around to take the forest path past the prairie. The park had added a new bench overlooking the hills in a nice place to sit and enjoy the view of the grassland and the sod house on the hill.

hillsidetree

I liked the inscription on the bench: He was in love with this world.

dedication

steppingstones

pond

bench2

Categories
outdoors Photography Places Plants

Purple crocus

Today is Spring, or at least, Spring for me. The weather was warm and the daffodils, tulips, and other flowers were in full bloom. The Magnolia is just now starting too bud, and the Missouri witch hazel ending its cycle, leaving behind a most wonderful fragrance.

I walked Botanical and grabbed some sunshine and photos. Though I know you’re all tired of flowers and that sort of thing I’ll still add a couple to this writing, just to break up the words. Between you and me, I like seeing something besides red, yellow, and orange on the page from time to time.

Crocus

Walking over the bridge in the Japanese Garden, the koi fish followed along in hopes of getting some of the fish food you can buy from gumball-like machines at either end. While I was dropping food into hungry mouths, a fairly large group of people approached and several exclaimed in surprise when they saw the fish. They had strong southern accents — more mountain than plantation — and evidently had never seen koi before.

A couple of women and a young girl ran down the hill to the stream that fed the lake and dropped down for a closer look, while one guy, who seemed out of place, walked around with a quarter in his hand, trying to break into the chatter and laughter.

Another guy yelled down the women, “Watch out, Hannah. That sucker’ll jump out and take your head off!” I finished my feeding and my photos and started to pass the increasingly loud group when the same wit yelled out, “They are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.”

I glanced at him when I passed, this guy with pasty white arms, sparse straggly black chin whiskers raggedly covering blotched, pink chin and cheeks; matted dull, black hair under an old baseball cap, and huge gut falling out from under his too tight and too short gray t-shirt.

Botanical isn’t the only place with the sights of Spring. Tonight when I went downstairs to get a bottle of water, I noticed Zoë at the window, intently looking out. I peeked through the glass and saw several young bunnies hoping about, grazing on the grass.

And the daffodils are up. Life is good when the daffodils are up.

Bright Daffodils

Categories
Plants Weather

Summer in April

We’ve had an unusually warm Spring this year. The temperatures yesterday and today are close to breaking record highs, and I think today we’ll actually make it. That means over 90 F (that’s ‘hot’ in Celsius). This combined with the rain we’ve had has led to an explosion in growth, and even people who have lived here for years say they don’t remember when we’ve had a finer Spring.

Too hot to focus on a couple of projects I’m working on, and that includes writing: professional, weblogging, and some new tutorials for WordPress. I think tomorrow I’ll get up at dawn and find some place by one of the rivers to spend the day. This is one of those times when I wished I had a kayak or canoe to actually take out on the water.

I was driving in the hills last week when something hit my windshield, sounding like a chalk bag hitting the floor. It was a pollen or small seed bag of some kind that had fallen from the trees, and there was this circle of light green dust on my windshield. It reminded me of Tinkerbelle in Peter Pan, and her bag of magic pixy dust. I continued to get hit while making my way through the trees, and by the time I got home, my car looked like it had been attacked by an army of mad Tinkerbelles.

I just now looked to my left at my dark gray slide scanner and noticed it was dusty again, but when I run my fingers across its surface, they come away coated with that same light green fine dust. I’ve been leaving the windows open, and the place is covered with pollen. I have no idea what it will do to electronics. I know that I’ve been taken over by a strong desire to just find a cool green field somewhere and lay down in it.

It’s just now gone on midnight, and from the street below, I can hear laughter from a balcony, mixed with the sound of our wind chimes. “Let’s go to the park, throw around the football,” I hear one voice ask, to a chorus of laughing assent, and then gradual fade to silence as they start to walk away. The voices aren’t all that young, either.