Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from Mother Nature

August, 2012
Surveying the Area

Enjoying the Morning Sun

Greetings from Mother Nature:
It has been a while since I asked the train guys to do some writing.  I have been pretty busy reacting to all the  carbon and hot air that is spewing into the atmosphere; but, you have heard that story before.  Hopefully, more of you will start to do something about it.  I really don't like 100+ degree days more than two or three times per summer in Iowa, but this year I threw more than 30 at you and still no serious efforts to treat me better.   I gave you a couple of years of intense rainfall followed by drought.  I am thinking about next year now and have to decide between drought and floods.

On a more positive note, I thought you would like a couple of pictures of the railroad's resident turkey vulture. He showed up for about a week and the train guy caught him one early morning doing his morning yoga and stretching his wings to enjoy the glorious sunrise.  The spread wing pose dries out his wings, warms his body, and bakes off some of the bacteria he may have acquired while cleaning up my ground.

Many people do not like turkey vultures, considering them not as dramatic as turkeys and not especially pretty.  But you know that Mother Nature does not really care about how pretty anything is; she cares about its ability to survive, perform its duties in the world, and reproduce. 

Our resident turkey vulture was a bit busy this summer.  The coyotes are back and they may have left some carcasses.  Also the intense heat may have been fatal for some small mammals.  Anyway, our vulture was doing his duty of cleaning up the carcasses of animals that have expired.   The turkey vulture has a well developed sense of smell and can notice the gases coming from decaying carcasses. 

I promise to tell the train guys to write my stories more often.  I have a lot to say and it seems like the days are just too busy, but I can carve out some time.

Hope you enjoy the rest of summer and I have a great autumn planned for Iowa.

Talk to you  later,
Mother Nature

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hatching Time

Early Summer Greetings from Mother Nature

It seems like it was just a few days ago and I was sending a picture about spring seeding in the snow and now it is 90 degrees. I got irritated with the train guys for not making a post in April or May, almost so much that I wanted to type it myself. But, then I remember I have no hands and it is up to humans to write text for me. Hopefully, they will heed my need to communicate more frequently or I may get angry with them. It is not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

So last month I decided to let some birds put a nest in the ornamental cherry trees (yes, I know they are not native to Iowa). The train guys did a pretty nice job of trimming them in February and getting rid of the low growth. The result is a much nicer place for a bird to build a nest. She has protection, but she can see if any predator is coming near. It is fairly well hidden; OK, she could have done better, but this is her first year, so give her a break. Remember, she has a bird brain. Fortunately I create a lot of birds so that some will survive.

The train guys did a nice job of using yellow caution tape to keep visitors out of the area and they did not mow near the tree which was also considerate. As you can see, in just a few short weeks, the result. A nice nest with six new birds. I had them take this picture on the second or third day (can't remember now) after they hatched. The babies are still very vulnerable, but the mother is fairly protective and she will be busy feeding them.

With all the neighbors ripping up their trees and insect and bird habitat, the insect population on the train farm is exploding this year. Lots of good bird food, but in the long term it will even out. Unfortunately, the desire to destroy habitat will have a detrimental effect on the birds' ability to find a variety of trees for their nests.

Enjoy the extra insects and birds this summer; next summer will be a bit worse as the humans continue to industrialize and intensify every last square inch of Iowa for a few extra bucks. All that destruction just to put some corn in their cars. The price will be steep, but it will be gradual until it is too late to change.

Yours truly,

Mother Nature

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Frost Seeding

Spring Greetings from Mother Nature:

I gave Iowa a perfectly average winter -- average temperatures; a few days below zero to kill off the weak; and average snowfall. Despite average, still lots of whiners. They should move south and let normal people enjoy what I am doing in Iowa this year.

Time to do a bit of frost seeding; I have been doing it for a few billion years and man has been doing for a few thousand years. The principle is pretty simple. I give you some warm days and cold nights. After most of the frost is out of the ground a warm day will make the soil wet and soggy. Drop a few seeds on the wet ground during the day when it is moist and expansive and overnight the soil will shrink a bit as it freezes (water is densest at 39 degrees). The cycle of freeze/thaw every day will work the seed into the soil and it will germinate when soil temp reaches the proper temp for that particular seed.

With my native grasses, we have been doing this for many thousands of years, maybe 100,000 years or so, but I tend to lose count of the years; I just enjoy the process now.

The train guys did a nice job of putting some seed down on Sunday on the bare soil they disturbed last year while fixing their railroad. They were very considerate harvesting my local ecotype seed; scratching the soil a bit; then carefully evenly distributing the seed. To top if off, they even rolled the ground lightly to ensure optimum seed/soil contact. Nothing happens without good contact and they did a nice job.

As a reward for that effort I decided to drop about two inches of snow overnight. This will provide some nice gentle moisture during the day. I have a few more nights of below freezing temps planned, so I think the process will work quite well. Hopefully, my birds will ignore this seed. I have lots of other seed available but they are in a mating frenzy -- but that is another story for another time.

Enjoy the warm days and cool nights of spring. Spring is some of my finest work.

Yours truly,

Mother Nature

P.S. I wanted to put the railroad pictures down here, but the train guy who types out what I tell him has not figured out how to do it. Just another problem for Mother Nature, but then I am not going to worry about it; I have other, bigger things to worry about.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feeding the Birds

Feeding the Birds in Winter

Mother Nature has been pretty quiet in Iowa this year. I gave you a rough winter last year and I really believe in averages, so a somewhat average one for the first half of winter. I have been busy in Australia warning them about too much pollution. Lots of warm air holds a really lot of water as they have found out.

In the U.S. this winter, I decided to let a lot of snow fall on the East Coast and Southeast. They are really a bunch of pansies. I always follow up with some warm weather in a few days to melt most of the snow. You would think the world was ending the way they carry on. Oh, maybe they are on to something there in their unique self suffering way.

In the Midwest and on the Great Plains, I prefer some snow followed by bitterly cold weather. How else are you going to have a tundra if I did not set up ideal conditions.

I had one of the train guys take this picture of my birds and prairie grass in December to show you well I have designed my feed supply for the birds. The different prairie grasses hold their seeds for different lengths of time during the winter. This allows some seed to be on the vertical plants for those birds that like to perch and peck. Some of the seed falls on the ground and snow for those birds that like to eat while standing on the ground. This process continues throughout the winter so there is always a nice seed supply available. Pretty darn nice design if I say so myself.

Well, time to go dump some snow on most of the U.S. After all, it is February. Go out and enjoy the snow and sun that will follow in a few days.

Yours truly,
Mother Nature

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Sun

Winter Sun
Mother Nature appreciates Father Sun when he takes the low profile of winter. Sometimes having him a few extra miles away is pretty nice. It aslo allows me to let the Northern Hemsphere slow down and relax while I get busy in the Southern Hemisphere. Seems like I am always picking up after Father Sun.
Amazing how some people get all worked up because it is cold and snowy. They do not appreciate what I am doing by giving them long nights and short days. Time to reflect on your life and what you are trying to do. Christmas is a reasonably nice distraction for the month of December, but many people make it a competitive shopping experience. Sometimes I send a bit of snow and some cold weather to slow them down and maybe stay at home and do something with the people the live and love with.
The solar panel at the Train Farm is still generating up to 2100 watts at peak times, just like summer. The train guys tilted the panel so it is more perpendicular which keeps snow off it and also captures Father Sun's rays at the same angle as during the summer. Of course days are shorter, so total sunlight converted into electricty is much less. And, the train guys are smart enough to use less electricity in the winter to compensate.
Last year, I dumped a lot of snow on the Train Farm on December 2 and it stayed on the ground until middle of March. Mother Nature felt that was a good test, but this year I think I will be a little more lenient and start the snow later. However, you people are still dumping lots of Greenhouse Gases into my atmosphere, so I end up putting some extra water into it (can't help myself on that one) and then the cold air condenses it and you end up with lots of heavy snow. It is coming, but just a bit later this year.
Enjoy December, it really is a very nice month for thoughtful reflection.
Yours truly,
Mother Nature

Friday, November 5, 2010

Notes From Mother Nature

Mother Nature sends November greetings to everyone.
What a peaceful time I sent to all of you in Iowa in the last five weeks. Mother Nature is not always mean or spiteful as some of the media people like to play it. I can be very nice and I proved it once again this October. Very little rain, nice warm days, cool nights, and just a nice hard freeze here in November to get most of the leaves off the plants. OK, there were a few windy days with sustained winds above 35 mph and gusts up to 65 mph. Imagine if I had thrown some rain or snow with that wind. If you are complaining, you have the problem, not me.
This month I was thinking about wooly bear caterpillars. They are kind of contrarian, and Mother Nature likes contrarian characteristics once in a while to spice up the gene pool. Traditionally, we all think that caterpillars are formed in the spring and summer, do their growth activities, and then blossom into spectacular butterflies. That is all pretty and good and simple. Wooly bear caterpillars actually survive through the winter and finish their life cycle in the next year.
Wooly bear caterpillars are crawling around now on sunny days and you know it is too late in the year for them to turn into a butterfly now, just would not have enough time to even procreate for the next generation before the hard freeze. What I have done with the wooly caterpillar is kind of neat.
In the late spring of summer, the female woolly bear caterpillar, like other caterpillars, hatch during warm weather from eggs laid by a female moth. They spend the remainer of summer and fall growing into a relatively large sized caterpillar. As winter approaches, the mature woolly bears search for overwintering sites under bark or inside cavities of rocks or logs. When spring arrives, woolly bears spin fuzzy cocoons and transform inside them into full-grown moths.
Not many humans care about moths, but I have many species of moths and to me they are just as important, if not as attractive as, butterflies. They do all kinds of good things in my overall plan. Humans are busy planting butterfly gardens, but have you ever heard of a moth garden? To Mother Nature, they are all important creations and I love them all. I make my own moth gardens.
Now Mother Nature does not like to predict what I am going to do; I prefer to just do what I need to do to try to get everything in balance. I cannot really predict winter because it depends somewhat on how much crap you humans keep throwing into the air. Last winter the air was warmer and that holds more moisture, so you got a lot more snow. If I was a gambler, I would say that Mother Nature has not really changed anything this year and the air will still hold lots of moisture, so you put it together to figure out what is going to happen.
Anyway, you humans do have people who do good research to try to understand how I work. In addition to good old fashioned, rigorous research, sometimes you have some fun. I believe you call it folklore.

So, for my wooly bears, you have come up with some observations on the brown and black portions of the caterpiller. Typically, the bands at the ends of the caterpillar are black, and the one in the middle is brown or orange, giving the woolly bear its distinctive striped appearance. When the middle band is very narrow, winter is predicted to be very difficult. A wide band indicates a mild winter.
Dr. C.H. Curran did a lot of the initial research in 1948 and using a very small sample of 13 creatures, he sort of accurately predicted winter weather. He duplicated this research over the next eight years and the folklore got widespread attention.
Now Mother Nature endorses all research, good research as well as not very rigorous research. Using the non rigorous standard and the observation of one wolly bear at the train farm shown in the picture above, you can easily see that there is very little brown on this caterpillar. She rolled into a ball (like she is supposed to do) when one of the train guys picked her up and put near a pile of wood to help her find a nice spot to overwinter. Therefore, based on one data point and continued bad behavior by humans, Mother Nature will help you deduct that this is going to be a rough winter in central Iowa.
Maybe you could use your snow shovel a little more than your snowblower this winter to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. I will provide adequate snow for you to practice on.
Talk to you next month.
Mother Nature

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Mother Nature sends her autumn greetings to all her readers. After a rough winter, hectic spring, and wet summer, I am able to relax a little this fall. As you know, Mother Nature merely reacts to what humans are doing to me, but for a while, I will take it easy. When the days and nights are almost equal in length, my world is somewhat in balance.

This month I was thinking about frogs and toads. The train guys now have two ephemeral ponds (thank you train guys). The original is at Lake Woebegon and the new one is in the drainage way from the grape fields. Ephemeral ponds are really great for frogs. Lots of water in the spring for the tadpoles to develop in, then slow dry out so as they become frogs, they leave the area. The big snapping turtle comes to visit each year and he has plenty of food in and around the pond. Plus some sun and shade and a pretty safe place for him to hide from his predators.

This year, with all the water, the ponds did not dry out. Even now, in October, there is water standing in Lake Woebegon. So, Mother Nature produced a record number of frogs this year. They are everywhere. When the train guys walk in the tall grasses or run the tractor, there are always lots of frogs jumping. When they move dirt, there are usually a few toads in each bucket load. The train guys are very nice to take the time to grab the toads and frogs and throw them in deeper grass or water so they do not get hurt during railroad operations. (Mother Nature thanks you for protecting my small creatures).

One picture is of a northern leopard frog. They are very common in Iowa and there must be hundreds this year at the train farm. They seem to be pretty annoyed when the train guys are working where they are living. The seldom move until the train guy is just about stepping on them; then they glare at the guys as if they are saying, "Get out of my area."

The butterfly picture is also interesting. Mother Nature put out a record number of butterflies this year, which made the frogs and butterfly predators very happy with an abundant food supply. This butterfly has had a run in with a predator. Notice that about 1/2 of the left wing is gone and a good chunk of the right wing is also gone. When the train guy found him on a Sunday, he assumed the butterfly would be finished off in a day or so. When the train guy returned the following Saturday, the injured butterfly was in the same spot! He was doing what butterflies do in cool weather, just slowly moving his wings to absorb some sun. Amazing that he lasted six days in the gravel without someone finding him.

So, life goes on. The butterfly will be a meal for maybe a frog. The frogs are big and will make great meals for the hawks and other predators that need them to survive. The frogs have done their duty eating lots of mosquitoes and other insects this summer, and now they become another part of the food chain. Of course, a few will survive to breed again next summer and the cycle will be repeated.

I have not decided how much rain to send next year, but I think there will be plenty again. After all, Mother Nature is a bit annoyed by the actions of humans putting so much junk in the air and warming it up. All I do is react to what is happening and I will probably continue to drop a lot of rain in each storm. When will you learn?

Have a nice October and enjoy the warm sunny days and cool nights.

Talk to you later,
Mother Nature