Monday, March 19, 2012

Last Look at Winter

I make seasonal treks up The Hill for the specific purpose of taking a last look at conditions that I know are about to make a rapid and drastic change.  The equinox trips preface the most dramatic transformations.  The color has changed some, but this Indian Grass field has remained essentially unchanged for almost five months.  Prairie flowers will soon crowd into the grass stalks. By late summer, these stalks will be lost from view and a new stand of Indian Grass will take over the field.

The grasses are shorter on the crest of The Hill, but the dead stalks will also disappear with the rapid influx of summer green.  Decomposition begins at ground level, causing the dead material to lose its anchorage.  As the new growth rises, the old falls.  The transition is accomplished so smoothly that you’re sometimes left wondering how it happened.  As soil temperatures rise in the late spring, soil micro-organisms associated with the prairie ecosystem begin to feed heavily on soil surface organic matter.  This not only causes a rapid reduction in the amount of dead material, it releases nutrients necessary to the development of the growing prairie plants.  Dead matter goes while the prairie plants grow.  It always reminds me of how people in the old movies could slip quietly out of sight in a pool of quicksand.

The Eastern Red Cedars will soon shed their winter browns and yellows.  The varying colors make each tree stand out as an individual.  Warm spring days will make them merge back into a solid green screen.

The view down the valley will be lost as the deciduous trees regain their leaves.  Each year, the trees grow slightly taller and block a bit more of the view.  The summer view has nearly disappeared.

The leafing of the woods is like pulling a curtain.  The illusion of having a functional deciduous forest returns.  The woods is roughly 30 acres positioned in a long strip along the back of the property.  At its widest point it’s just over 600 feet.  It acts as a forest ecosystem only on the smallest of scales.  Even so, it’s nice to see it green up each year.

Leaves will apply that same illusion inside the woods.  During the winter, you have to look longways through the woods to gain a sense of depth.  The summer view is more restricted, so if you’re lucky enough to be out when there’s no traffic on the road and no trucks on the nearby highway and no one shooting on the next ridge and no one running their chain saw down the hollow and no one riding around on their four-wheeler, you might imagine yourself in the deep woods far from civilization.

We can’t forget the changing of the deer from their winter gray to summer red.  I’m sure they’ll do all they can to boost the Blue Jay Barrens Whitetail Deer population.  This is also the time of year that I concede to a change in management seasons.  Those winter jobs that were not completed will just have to wait until next year.


  1. Since we are so horrible with plants, we admire how you can name each plant and observe every slight change in them. Of late we have been taking slower walks in the park, looking at the flowers and trees and how they change, and notice that we have more varieties of birds that we thought. Blogging has a way of changing how we see and appreciate things:)

  2. Hi Mona. It's always rewarding to slow down and really look at things. It's often been proven that the more you look, the more you see.