This is a grass that either hasn’t been here before or we just didn’t notice it and get it keyed out. It really took off in this wet year. It’s in both the East Grass, up near the top of the Near Meadow, and across the creek in the area never cropped that we know of. I walked over there this morning (8/20) and took some pictures of it and of the gully system. The gully system, when I first saw it, was a barren, sunbacked gulch, broken down here and there by cattle crossing it. That was in August of 2000.
Now it looks like this in a wet year:
It drains from the north, where the land’s a little higher across the north fence, and if the creek jumps its banks at the first turn, it picks up creek water in a flash flood; it runs into the creek down this way and off to the right. The blue-gray, upright grass on the right bank is Little Bluestem. The big, bushy, fluffy-topped grass upstream is Switchgrass (in a good year…not that tall in a dry year.) Grass infiltration has converted the almost straight gulch to a series of pools (was another behind me at this point, and more upstream that the Switchgrass is hiding.) The sort of thumb-shaped seedheads in the foreground are Knotroot Bristlegrass. The gulch is gradually widening and filling now by natural processes. Great habitat for odonates, crayfish, and when it’s rained enough, fish (but they can’t get back to the creek thanks to the grass and other vegetation forming “dams.” Water for birds and other wildlife, too. Switchgrass is stabilizing the banks bit by bit. We planted the first switchgrass at the upper end, and then threw seeds of it and BrushyBluestem (not as evident this year; I think the freeze may have knocked it back.)
The new grass, Paspalum floridanum, is a big stout grass, though not as big as either Big Bluestem or Switchgrass. In the left picture, it’s growing in the creek floodplain along with Giant Ragweed. (The Giant Ragweed is considerably taller than I am!) Notice the seedheads with the seeds lined up like beads on a shoelace. Most Paspalums have that seed arrangement, in different sizes. We have several other Paspalums. In the right picture, it’s growing on the lip of the gully system, along with Little Bluesteam and (right side of image) Switchgrass. Across the gulch it’s mostly Little Bluesteam, and behind me, a little higher, it’s also Little Bluestem. But the Paspalum floridanum takes advantage of any site with more water, so there’s some in a dip near what we call Fort Cedar. This part of the land also has much of our Indiangrass which is just starting to put up its gold-bladed spears. When it’s dry, we’ve seen coyotes sprawled out resting in the gulch. This morning I saw the telltale “wobble” of water above a crawfish trying to get out of sight, and the arrow-like streak of a frantic fish hoping to find deeper water. Near this spot was a burrow below an Ash Juniper. And I forgot to show the buttonbush that was blooming downstream a ways. Another time.
On the way back to the house, walking by the west side of the Dry Woods, I spooked a largish solid black bird out of the trees. I think it was bigger than a crow and thus possibly a raven…it didn’t quit look like a Black Vulture, or fly like one either.
4 thoughts on “80-Acres: Another New Species”
Thank you for helping this little bit of prairie come back from the brink.
We went back out this morning, covering part of the east end, up to Fox, down across the creek all the way to the west fence but not all the way south to Owl waterer, back up the gully system, recrossed the dry creek, then up the north fence trail (mostly in shade, thank goodness, and with a breeze. Going up, fairly early, bees were going crazy in the flameleaf sumac flowerheads on Cactus Flat…LOUD hum, and a haze of bees all around the bushes. Coming back, almost two hours later…nada. They got their work done before they got too hot.
A full two-hour walk wore me out; I had to sit down briefly at the creek crossing and cool a bit. R- seemed quite happy to join me in that 5 minute break. A couple of light planes were messing around ‘upstairs’…sounded like aerobatics going on, but they were too high or too far off most of the time to spot. Grasses are turning tan now, many of them, but there’s still a lot of green. Tomorrow I’ll do a shorter walk, and then try another long one. But when I started a mere 15 minutes was my limit. So yay for progress.
There’s another Mexican plum or two along the west fence; R- really cleared out the line building that fence (before that we could walk to it in places, but not walk along it.) We heard a lot of birds early in the walk (started between 7:30 and 8 am) but they diminished fast as it got hotter. I didn’t have the camera along today, so will have to get back out with it on an “energetic” day.
Hi, I’m glad you’ve been continuing the 80 acres updates (for a while – a few years back – I was only checking your 80 acres blog, which seems to be unused these days)… I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the progress of the land as it recovers from its old ranching days.
I’ve just spent the last few weeks catching up on the last… nearly 2 years worth of posts (one day, I thought to myself, it’s been a while since I last checked EMoon’s blog… yeah. A long while). It’s been fascinating to follow your progress as you’ve been recovering writer-brain, thank you for sharing a bit of the process. Also of course I love your little updates on the horses (not being able to have any horses myself!), and whatever other bits of your life you’re willing to share. I’m glad you’re doing relatively well overall.
You’re right, I haven’t updated the other blogs in quite awhile, in part because multi-tasking loses me a lot now. I really should get back into the 80 acres blog, but I did best on that when M- was in HS and R- was working and it felt like more time existed (also…that would be, now, about 2 decades ago. I had more energy. The fiction was flowing well.
Had a horsey good moment this evening. My feeding routine when they’re getting hard feed only once a day (and just enough that they’ll eat their feed-through wormer and their supplement) is to go out, close the barn’s outer gate (driving them out of the barn if they’re in it), then mix feeds and put them in their feed pans, move Rags’s feed pan to the south barn lot, then open the outer gate and late Tigger in; Rags follows. Getting Rags out of the barn when he knows feeding is imminent has been…a struggle, mostly involving threats of Mr. Dressage Whip, until sometime this summer, all I had to do was pick it up and flourish it once. Tonight they were both in the barn when I came out. Tigger, who’s far more obedient in some ways (NOT all) headed for the outside door when I said “Go outside” before I was even IN the barn. He went out. I said “OUT!” to Rags in a firm voice–with no dressage whip in hand–and he turned and walked out. A little way, not clearing the gate, and then turned around as if to come back in. I said “NO! Out!” and before Rags could move, Tigger lunged at him, ears back and teeth bared, and drove him away from the gate. To Tigger I said, “I’d really love to work cattle on you; you’re a natural.” (Tigger did not bite Rags: it was all threat, no nips. He has nipped him in the past when Rags was trying to steal his hay.) Tigger smirked, then turned his back on me to play Sentinel of the Plains, staring into the distance but also keeping an eye on Rags, who played the Misjudged Innocent. So I mixed their feeds, put them in the pans, put Rags’ where it goes, and opened the gate. All was well. Rags now stays a respectful distance from Tigger when going through the barn to his spot in the south barn lot; he turns right around the big water tank that’s on that SW end, just past the west gate.
When it’s raining, they’ve learned the “both feed inside positions”, not the ones I chose of them but it works. Tigger turns right to the “nearest” feed pan on the ground beside the water tank, and Rags goes straight over to where Tigger’s pan usually is. That way Tig gets to look out the south side of the barn. I can’t feed him near the west gate because he’ll block the opening and then I have to go out in the rain to open the side gate in the S. barn lot for Rags. When I quit trying to overcontrol that setup, it started working just fine. I show Tig where I’m putting his as well as point to it on the ground and say “Tigger-food.” As long as he’s in first, he has no trouble finding and claiming his pan. Unless the neighbor’s livestock does something too interesting, in which case he abandons his supper to go see, and Rags immediately goes over to start eating Tig’s, figuring he can get back to his as well before Tigger gives up galloping around watching the cattle or goats or people. Pedestrians interest him as much or more than “Cow/Goat TV.”