Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Can't Hold A Candle To It!

The morning light at Prairie Hill Farm never ceases to amaze me; throw a frigid winter into the mix and it becomes almost surreal. I liken it to those amazing artists of Alaska like Fred Machetanz and others of the upper reaches of Canada that painted "frozen air", as I like to call it. There's a characteristic of sub zero temperatures and early light that I'm a total failure in describing. It fires neurons in my brain that help me to mentally "feel" and relive this's almost like a taste you can experience, but are inadequate to convey to others.

This morning's light was like that; almost as if a frozen veil, so thin as to not actually materialize, hung over the sky and valley. It was clear and sub-zero, yet almost inviting like a siren. The sun rose as a cadmium red orb you dared to look into.

Georgie and I were sitting in the kitchen having breakfast, looking out across the Waterman Creek valley when she spotted movement on the opposite hillsides near a plum thicket we often watch Deer moving about. I glassed the hilltop thicket and there were 3 Coyotes gingerly making their way across the frozen snow slopes.

We've often watched "breakfast" Coyotes from the kitchen, it doesn't happen often enough to make us complacent though, and to watch 3 at once was a real event! The 'yotes made their way down one draw and disappeared to reappear on the next crest where they jumped a barbed wire fence and made their way down another ravine, giving us our last look.

I'd like to say every morning was as eventful in the winter but it's mostly just the yard birds trying to survive, not so much high drama across the landscape. But high drama does occur here!

(Dew laden Monarch at Cayler Prairie in NW Iowa)

Last night we watched NOVA which is a PBS program worth watching anytime. The program last night was "The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies", a story about North America's Monarch Butterflies. We've long been mesmerized by the Monarchs as they arrive and leave here each year. In a blog this past fall I included a Monarch migration video from the acreage here.

We've long been concerned with the species on this continent, with the political and social uncertainty in the butterfly's winter range of Mexico. I wrote of this concern about 4-5 years back in my journal "A Tallgrass Journal" (scan down for the article). It was just 2-3 years ago that illegal logging in the winter roosting grounds in Mexico helped contribute to a huge die off in that refuge.The loss of the refuge's trees and a record cold winter storm killed millions of Monarchs, the very foundation for the next year's brood. It was reported that 80% of that population died.

The Monarch is an amazing creature and it's life is equally amazing; you can't hold a candle to it - nothing can equal this 1/5 ounce creature's feats!

I'd really recommend watching the NOVA production if you can.
If you weren't able to see it last night, try going online and watching it there; it's available for online viewing here.

If you are interested in subscribing to the quarterly "A Tallgrass Journal" and general articles about the Tallgrass Prairie and the prairie here at Prairie Hill Farm, simply email me and I'll put you on the mailing list. The free web based Journal has been published since 2002.

It may be about four months before the Monarchs return to Prairie Hill Farm, but I'm really looking forward to it! Thanks PBS!

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