Smoke in OKC

we’ve had incredible wind in Oklahoma City the last 2 days and historically high fire danger. Unfortunately, parts of our state have wildfires burning through acres and acres of property. I’ve read at least one person has died. The fires are 80-100 miles away but the wind is so strong that we’re getting smoke and ash blowing in. These 2 pictures are from yesterday evening when it was getting pretty heavy and I was outside anyway so I decided to document April 2018 in the pocket prairie.

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Primrose

Posting for id later. This is blooming next to my house in another bed, not the pocket prairie. If you know something about this, feel free to share!

March 2018 Update

I spent a day this week (my spring break) out in the pocket prairie cutting down the standing dead. There’s already a lot of grass coming up and plants that have emerged and are forming green mounds. I was really excited to see thousands of 1/4″ – 1/2″ seedlings everywhere. They’re probably all Indian Blankets, but that’s ok. I’m holding out hope that some are Butterfly Weeds and maybe some things I haven’t seen yet.

I removed a lot of the debris that was cut down but much of it was left to decompose and feed the soil microbes. I also got a little tired of cutting (with scissors) and left a few patched of the thick dead bermuda grass. I’m hoping it will shade its own self out when it started coming up from the roots. I’ll let you know how that goes. LOL.

I’ve been so busy with school that I don’t think I’ll be putting a lot into ANY of my gardening this year. I’m really hoping that things won’t get too out of control in my raised beds with no veggies planted and no one tending to them all week, every week. I doubt I will add any new plants to the pocket prairie as I have for the last 2 years. I’ll just be watching to see what it does on it’s own. Hoping the tall, native grasses will continue to spread and make less room for the Bermuda. We shall see. If you can’t tell, I’m a little perplexed on how to get rid of the Bermuda because I can’t pull it all without disturbing the roots of everything else and cutting it obviously just makes it shorter as seen on our lawn. Do you have any thoughts on this? A good voodoo spell? LOL, please leave a comment. I’ll hear you out and maybe even try your suggestion as long as it won’t hurt the other plants and living things. 🚫🌾

Senescence

Here’s a word I learned this semester. Mostly in regards to grass but I think it is applicable to other plants as well.

It has to do with the phase of life of a plant from maturity to death. It’s also when a perennial grass translocates all of it’s nutrients and energy down to the roots for winter storage. Those above ground plant parts that are now dead and can be referred to as ‘standing dead’.  They will eventually breakdown. They have senesced. New tillers will come up, they may be there, poking up, now in late December, depending on the plant. The dictionary definitions available in a google search of the word all say it has to do with deterioration with age. I’m not sure if there’s a major difference in how rangeland professionals use the word and the clinical, dictionary definition.

Senesced switch grass, Panicum virgatum, December 2017

Switch grass and others, senesced, McCoy Pocket Prairie Winter 2017

How is this relevant to the pocket prairie? I think it’s important to know just what’s happened to the grass. It’s senesced. It’s translocated it’s stores of food and energy into the roots. What’s standing out there today is not going to come back to life but the roots are still alive and new grasses and forbs will grow from that if they are perennial in our zone. The standing dead still serves a purpose though. It holds the seeds that wildlife need to make it through the winter. It’s also providing cover for wildlife, insects and domestic roaming pets included. All the dead grass out there isn’t very pretty unless you know what’s happened and that it has a purpose. After that, your eyes start to tune into a different kind of beauty. Slowly. Hopefully.

 

 

Fall 2017

I’ve been super busy at school, taking classes for my degree in Natural Resource Ecology and Management (my option is rangeland ecology). The final grades are in and I’ve got 3 A’s and a B! I was NOT expecting a B in Chemistry but this is awesome. I’ve learned so much and I am excited for spring semester.

When I look at this blog, I know the original purpose was to make the Pocket Prairie a little more legit and to hold answers to anticipated questions. I thought it would be a great place to document the seasons and what I’ve done with the Pocket Prairie. But while I’m studying and learning so much about larger prairies and other rangeland types, I feel a bit ashamed. I’m embarrassed that this is not as educational as it could be. Its got a lot of potential but I’m not a writer. I look back at pictures I’ve posted of things I knew were native but could not identify and think I could do more research. Should be doing more research. arrggg.

I’ve had all the time in the world until school started but I needed help. I can’t figure things out from pictures on the internet. A lot of grasses look the same from afar. Or from blurry pictures on the computer screen and I didn’t know enough to use illustrations to distinguish. I’m getting there.  This is part of why I was really excited to join the Society for Rangeland Management (SRM) Student organization at Oklahoma State University (I commute and study there). Every year there is a professional national meeting of the SRM and the student organizations go and participate in contests and events. One such contest is the Plant ID contest so as a member of Range Club, I’ve joined the Plant ID Team (YEAAAAYYY!!!!!!) and have begun learning about 200 plants’ genus, species, family/tribe, lifespan (perennial or annual) and if they are native or introduced. This is done under a VERY knowledgeable professor who I like a lot. Heck, so far I like them all. About 88/200 plants are grasses. Very few are introduced (non-native). I’ve started learning them and can tell more apart now and I’m happy to say that I can identify most of what’s in the Pocket Prairie.

Anyhow. Here’s the plan from here on out:
I may (will probably) still post infrequently but when I do, it will be in more detail.
If I don’t know the ID of something I’ll ask until I get it. I want visitors to this blog to be able to take away knowledge or at least an exposure to a new name or idea.

I want my next post to be about some of the grasses I’ve learned and about rangeland and prairies in general. Do you have a specific question in that area? Let me know.

It’s about 28°F here right now so no picture today.

I’m saving cutting back the Pocket Prairie for mid March so it’s looking pretty scraggly but you know, the wild birds are finding seeds in there and have a place to hide. It’s more than a pretty thing for me in the summer.  ♥️🌱 JD

 

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

I went out to see the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve today. My first time to go, that I know of. The way my grandparents believed in a sunday drive, it’s entirely possible that I’ve been as a kid but don’t remember. Either way, I’m gonna say, I appreciated it much more as an adult than I ever would have as a kid.  I was starting to feel guilty for having never seen it and it was really starting to feel like a necessary thing .

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Look how tall that grass is (this is nearly 6′). I have to say, this was nothing like I pictured. Ever since the first time I heard of the TALLGRASS prairie, I imagined dense stands of 8′ tall dead grass. Something akin to Pampas grass in the winter as far as the eye could see.  But really, in my mind, you wouldn’t be able to see because the grass was so tall and dense. Like I said, it was nothing like that. It was a lot like a prairie. Ha. Anyway, it was beautiful and very alive. There were things buzzing around, jumping and flying and crawling as well as all of the green things growing out of the ground. And by far, multitudes of flowers (forbs, angiosperms, dicots, whatever) were in bloom.

I was pleased to see several flowers and grasses that I recognized from my own collection, both in the prairie and elsewhere in my yard, but I took more pictures of the things I don’t have or know so I could remember them later.

I’m kinda glad I ended up going alone, this was a much needed quiet getaway. 2 weeks of my first semester back to school are down and I’ve been studying furiously in my off time. Thank goodness for they 4 day weekend and this day trip. I really needed the solitude and peace. I should have sat down in the shade and studied, I took my Rangeland textbook in case I found the opportunity, but I couldn’t make my self sit down even though there are benches on the trail. I wanted to see it all first and by then I was so sweaty I just wanted to get back to the air conditioner in the car.

LOOK AT THIS PLACE!

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So if you’re wondering, yes, I’d recommend this place for a nice hike. But take water, wear a hat and check the weather first. I got lucky with the weather since it was a very last minute decision to go out. It’s about 2 hours, 40 minutes from North OKC to the preserve but there are a lot of gravel roads, cows and bison to navigate. Your mileage may vary.

Most importantly, I was able to get a patch for my blanket. I’ll sew it on later. ♥️ I told Kevin that going out was pretty much doing homework for the Rangeland class and then we watched Unbranded on Netflix which was brought up in class Thursday. See all the homework I did Saturday??? LOL Good times.

Most of the Dallisgrass is Gone..

I’d say that I got 75% of the Dallisgrass out over the last week. I’ve gotten it to the point where I can’t tell what’s other grass and what’s new/baby DG without getting on my hands and knees and inspecting every blade. I’ve gotten everything that was 4′ tall and had seed heads tho. So for identification purposes, here’s what the seed heads look like.

As you can see, it’s left the Pocket Prairie looking a little ragged. I went ahead and watered it pretty good to help settle everything back in and I’m starting to see things perk up. Hopefully the extra light and water the plants can get now will help them be stronger. Some of the plants were a little spindley.

And just for good measure, pictures so you can see how it grows in clumps and gets really dense. It’s got the crowd out game down pat.  This makes it easier to find and attack in the midst of other 3′ & 4′ tall grasses.

The Pocket Prairie, minus a bunch of junky grass:

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Beginning of Dallisgrass Removal

I filled the big blue trash can with what is probably 1/5 of the Dallisgrass to be pulled. It’s hot. I’m sweaty and I hope it rains again and the soil stays wet enough for the grass to come out easier. Nothing like digging in rock-hard dry dirt.

8/29 Update: as you can see in the bottom picture, I’ve been making progress. I worked for an hour or so after school yesterday and an hour and a half today. Hoping to get the last of it tomorrow. I’ll try to get some close ups to help you see what I’m working with.

August Picture Update

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What a difference 2 weeks and 4.5″-5″ of rain can make! Everything is so lush and tall now!IMG_1870The blanket flowers are blooming again.

IMG_1869There are all kinds of crawling and flying things that I’ve never seen before.

IMG_1868The tropical milkweed is covered in aphids… No surprise there.

IMG_1867I’ve got a few Coreopsis blooming. This is one of my favorites.

IMG_1866I have no Idea what this guy is.

IMG_1865Quite a few things climbing on this milkweed.

IMG_1864This has never bloomed before so I need to find out what it is 😎

IMG_1859Another visitor

IMG_1858What kind of grass is this??!!

IMG_1862And this grass? What is it? I’ve got work to do!