Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Turning of the Season

The beautiful red bud trees in bloom.

For a couple of weeks the air has been filled with the burning of the Flint Hills. The ranchers burn the prairie to control weeds and cedar trees, and to provide their livestock with an ocean of tender new grass. The fires glow deep orange and red against the smoke filling the sky, and even with the incessant Kansas winds, there is a smoky haze hanging like incense in the air. It is my favorite time of the year.

The lilac colored red bud trees are in bloom. The delicate sprays of lavender are beautiful splashes of color against the vibrant green of new growth. The air is warm but feels cool against my skin. It is Kansas weather at her best.

All the animals are out and about now. A red tailed hawk perched in a tree directly east of my house was studying the chickens last Sunday, still as a stone. Sometimes a red tailed hawk will take a chicken, but mostly they eat prairie voles, snakes, and rabbits. My chickens are so small a hawk could easily kill one but I only had to step outside where the hawk could see me and it flew away. As long as the chickens stay close to the house, I think the hawk will leave them alone.

Red winged black birds, the males handsomely dressed in black plumage with the red and yellow shoulder decorations, are here. These poor birds are considered pests and in some places poisoned in large numbers. Whatever plant or animal is tough enough to survive, even thrive, amid the carnage human beings wreak on the planet, is universally despised by people.

There are many coyotes, flushed from their homes by the fires and probably hunting the other animals temporarily displaced by the flames. I like coyotes, even though I know they can and probably will eat my chickens. They are handsome and smart. They are the last Kansas predator, nature's last courageous stand against the Kansans who have taken everything as their own. Try as the farmers and hunters might, they can not eradicate coyotes. Whenever I hear the strange yipping howls as they move unseen through the pastures and timber around my home, I am happy. We have not destroyed every thing - yet.

The other day as I arrived home from work as a covey of quail was crossing the drive way. There have always been a few of them on my property, but I was happy to see about fifteen in this group. I came to a stop so they would not fly away and could cross the gravel in peace. They are so tiny and cute. I am not sure how human beings manage to kill them with guns. I guess they use some sort of shotguns. You would have to kill a lot of these jaunty little birds to make hunting them worthwhile. During hunting season, I hope these little guys know to stay safely in the timber next to the horse pasture and around my yard. No one can hunt on my land. It is not much of an oasis, only 26 + acres. When I win the lottery, there will be some serious Kansas acreage taken out of hunting territory.

My chickens are waiting to be let out of their pen and Ginger will be in a snit for having to wait past the royal breakfast time. Ol' Duke is content to lay in front of the screen door until I decide to exit. Dr. J, my kind-hearted vet admonishes me about Duke's weight all the time. Duke is not obese, only five pounds overweight, 85 pounds instead of 80, but Dr. J thinks that is too much. I know I need to look after the Dukenator. He tends to everything important about Spirit Creek, even though no one ever told him. One evening I was outside when he tore out at a dead run up the drive. I could not imagine what he was after. It was a hawk that most likely had caught a mouse in the grass at the edge of the gravel. Duke did not want that hawk anywhere in his territory. He knows a scoundrel when he sees one.

For years, Patti, as if she were seeing them, would ask if wild violets grew around my house each time we were together talking about healing herbs and plants. I always had to say no until I moved to Spirit Creek. Here the ground is covered in wild violets and every spring they remind me of Patti.

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