|October 13, 2018|
|October 15, 2018 Not only is it amazing that everything would still be green and growing this late in the year, the sunrise lit the snowy leaves with gold. It is sorcery of the highest order!|
It could be worse as I have complained before. It could be a permanent mining operation, a hog lot, a brothel, a crack house, or noisy gun-blastin', chainsaw-wielding permanent neighbors... or any number of even more horrible things. They have restored the land directly across from me which means they will soon be out of there for good, but they continue to dig to the west in the same pasture. Before I could celebrate the return of peace and quiet, I discovered one of their signs hanging on the neighbors gate 3/4's of a mile to the east. I am not sure how much I will hear when they have moved operations there. The sound may be funneled away from my house. I should be so lucky.
I have tried not to resent the limestone mining but I do. I hate that they are disturbing soil that took millions of years to develop. They are utterly destroying a tall grass root system that took tens of thousands of year to evolve, to establish itself. Though they seed back native grasses it will never be the same. It will not be genuine prairie but a thin man-made imitation of a tall grass prairie. I heard this valley was plowed up during the war so that lessened my anxiety a great deal regarding the destruction. At least they are not destroying untouched prairie simply to dump a giant slab of Flint Hills limestone in a Kansas City shopping mall parking lot. (The mining company is owned by a landscape company based in Kansas City according to the signs.)
The landowner is getting a huge amount of money from the sale of rock 20 feet deep beneath his land - pure gravy for him. The men who show up every day to scrape the earth and dig the limestone are earning a living. And, as far as destruction of the environment goes, this is fairly benign. In a few years's time only a true expert of the tall grass biome will be able to tell it was mined. My farmer neighbor said cattle will avoid the new growth, so the cattle can tell a difference. I guess they are experts, too.
Even though the mining is a huge Disturbance in The Force around here, I still sit at the barn listening to my horses quietly eat their hay. I can watch the crows wheel around the tree tops monitoring the resident hawk when he is perched on the electric pole. The crows are silent so they must not have young in the nest or fledglings. I am not certain hawks prey on young crows but normally the crows raise holy hell whenever the hawks are around. Crows are very smart so perhaps they are merely warning EVERYONE that a hawk is in the air.
The other day I enjoyed seeing the hawk on the utility pole. From the barn I had a front row seat. He faced the wind so his feathers would not ruffle. He still needed to shake his tail and wings to settle his plumage. He seemed to be resting in the sunshine just like I was. His keen eyes caught something at the base of the pole and in one liquid movement he simply plummeted like a stone to the ground. If he caught anything I could not tell. He lifted a few feet and winged out of sight to the west. I hoped he had reduced the mouse nation numbers! A few minutes later he was back at the top of the pole. Now that I knew he was hunting I did not want to disturb him. If I moved at all, he would calmly fly away. I resigned to wait but he was there for only a few more minutes. He has lived here for many years. It is his home, too, and a guy has to eat.
A day or so before, I moved a hay bale causing a little critter to scurry into hiding. I think it was a prairie vole because it was smaller than a rat but much larger than a mouse. It came out of hiding in full view, within reach of me, despite the bright sunlight. It watched me carefully as I cut the baling twine on the bale. I thought maybe there was a nest in the bale itself and that is why it was so brave. Maybe I was the first human it had ever seen. I did not find a nest so I do not think I tossed any newborns onto the horse side of the fence.
There are generations of animals that make Spiritcreek home. There are generations of coyotes. They raise their young in my pasture. They come up close to howl - just below the bank behind the house. I love hearing them. I love catching an occasional glimpse of them during the day. I hope the cotton tail rabbits are plentiful for the coyotes to eat.
Just before it turned cold, I was wading through the tall grass around the barn and happened to see a tiny snake trying to escape the human giant thrashing ever closer. I was not even afraid (but I did carefully watch for any larger snake that might have also been in the grass!)
There are generations of song birds born and raised in the trees surrounding my house. There are humming birds that return every year to raise their young - and pee all over the front window and the porch boards below the feeder. There are crows and opossum and squirrels and skunks. There are fox and bob cat who travel the creek hidden from the eyes of hunters. There are surely creatures I am not even aware of - such as wood chucks, one of which was high in a thin tree one afternoon. Amazingly enough, I had never seen one and did not know what it was.
There are lizards, toads and at least two kinds of frogs. Turtles and fish and crawdads. Butterflies, including Monarchs, and one lunar moth that hatched on the front door. There are a multitude of dragon flies and an infinite supply of fireflies. Every summer I happen upon another insect species that I have never seen before in my entire life as a Kansan. And spiders of all shapes and sizes and colors. Spiders.
The animals were here long before my great-to-the-100th-power grandmother was born... long before this land was "owned" by any human being. If humans do not utterly destroy the soil and water here, the generations of animals will continue to flourish long after my dogs and horses are gone, long after I have returned to ash and stardust. I am most grateful to be here now - even with the mining across the road. The animals will outlast that, too.
|A year ago, October sunrise. The clouds bear the shape of a mighty red tailed hawk.|