Saturday, June 12, 2010

Notes from Mother Nature

I have been very busy (with the help of the train guys) in trying to re-create what Iowa looked like 200 years ago. The train guys are trying to make models of Iowa railroads in the 20th Century. Mother Nature is trying to re-create my beautiful tall grass prairie.

Prairie: The prairie re-creation uses local ecotype seeds as well as some seeds that were buried during the 100 years of farming operation on my ground. When the farming ended and the railroad construction began, many seeds that had been dormant for the last century were brought up to enjoy Father Sun and Sister Rain and they have bloomed profusely.

I do have a variety of plants that thrive in different weather conditions. So, sometimes I will throw them a hot and dry year, sometimes a cool and wet year, sometimes a normal year. Each year, different plants will dominate the prairie depending on the weather conditions. I use lightening sparingly and the train guys help with an occasional prairie burn. Please stay out of the prairie and do not pick the flowers. I need all the seeds that I create each year for the birds that stay here each winter as well as for planting more flowers. The train guys do some selected seed harvesting and planting that helps speed things up a decade or two.

Woodland: My timber needs a lot of work. I have mostly native Iowa trees and the farmers and cattle did not do too much damage to the woodland on the south side of the creek. I have a nice variety of native trees that attract a wide variety of birds. The tree spacing is not too dense, so it is easy for the birds to move around from tree to tree.

However, I have too many invasive trees and shrubs. While I love all my plants, the trees and shrubs from Europe and Asia really belong back where they came from. My Iowa plants have some trouble competing with these invaders. The train guys are working on keeping the invaders out, but it is a challenge. I could probably do it on my own, but it would take me about a 1,000 years or so to get the native plants organized. I am in no hurry, but some of the train guys are, and I welcome their assistance.

The area north of the creek is being planted with native trees and shrubs and it will be a few decades before they are strong enough to dominate the ground. All that hemp planted in World War II created quite a dense route structure that will take a while for the new plantings to overcome.

Hazards: Mother Natures has lots of ways to help my plants and animals survive; but, some of them create hazards for humans. There are mowed pathways and you should always walk on the mowed paths. If you wander into the un-mowed areas, you will find lots of ticks. My ticks like to catch rides on animals passing through and they will crawl up your legs as they look for the most convenient form of transportation, not to mention a quick snack on your leg.

I also have plants that can cause some distress to humans. Poison ivy is a nice plant that protects the other woodland plants. My animals know what it looks like and they avoid it, which allows the neighboring plants to grow without becoming a snack for deer and bunnies. Unfortunately, humans do not recognize it and you will know the next day if you walked in the poison ivy.

Unfortunately, the rabies virus is present in many animals. Not much that Mother Nature can do about that pesky problem. If any animal does not run from you, it probably has rabies or another virus that makes it very sick. DO NOT approach any animal that does not move or moves very slowly. Tell one of the train guys immediately and they will know what to do.

There are lots of insects of all kinds present. I love my insects. They make great food for the birds and it is fun to watch the swallows swoop and dive into the swarms of mosquitoes and gnats. As Father Sun retires for the night, lots of bats will come out of the trees for their snack time. I enjoy sending them out in swarms at sunset. People with sensitivities to mosquitoes should wear some sort of mosquito repellant.

Father Sun and Brother Wind are often present. Humans should always put on sunscreen and bring a windbreaker, even on a hot summer day. The farm fields heat up during the day and this creates a lot of wind movement. The weather is usually hot and windy, cold and windy, or wet and windy. Bring appropriate clothing.

Solar Panels: Despite the presence of the train guys, I enjoy what is occurring on the 18 acres of the railroad. The solar panels have made the railroad carbon neutral. They calculated how much energy they use for the house, railroad operations, and travel to and from the railroad and designed a solar collector system to offset the carbon usage.

My trees, plants, animals, and insects provide a nice environment at the train farm and are almost in a natural balance the way Mother Nature intended the earth to be. I wish a few other humans would try to do the same thing. After all is said and done, I always win. Sometimes it takes a few hundred years, but I have lots of forces at work to try to achieve balance on earth. Your assistance is appreciated. Mother Nature thanks you for your efforts.