Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year from Prairie Hill Farm!

Echinacea angustifolia at Prairie Hill Farm
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

The last day of 2013...I have mixed reviews for this year, but as Georgie says "even numbered years are the best".  Something to look forward to, right!?

One event I left hanging out there late in the summer was the transmission lines (to be the largest ever erected in Iowa) running along side our acreage.  This, thankfully has changed.  We had contacted several state agencies and environmental organizations about this and the encroachment on the Waterman Creek Great Blue Heron rookery across from us.  We were concerned about this, as well as the prairie remnants here in the valley that the line would displace, and of course - the ambiance that was still here - the bird songs in the morning, the insect music through the night, the views of the night sky, and the relative silence in the background of the days and nights here.  We had several individuals meet with the out-of-state corporation and it was finally revealed to us that the route has been redirected two miles further north.  Now it will only interrupt farmland instead of natural ground and disappearing habitat in our county.

This may not be the case in other areas throughout the state, particularly where it routes through riparian areas across streams and rivers.  I do know that those folks who were speaking with the corporation are also working on protecting other sensitive areas across the other 16 affected counties in Iowa; all I can say is God Bless 'em all for trying to protect what little Natural Heritage we still have in this "most changed" state in the union!

There will be wind farms built in the area directly to our west and the corporation has "officially" stated they are solely rerouting the transmission line to avoid interfering with the wind farms to be built.  Regardless of their reasons, I am still taking my hat off to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, The Iowa Nature Conservancy, Iowa Audubon, Iowa Sierra Club, Iowa Environmental Council, and the Iowa DNR for their input in this event.  Please support these organizations and state people who are working for your children's children's future in our environment!

We're off to a cold yet sparse start with moisture this winter, but there's a ways to go - we'll see how things shake out, you just never know what the new year will bring.  The Great Horned Owls in the valley have been communicating back and forth each night...probably sizing up their nesting options.  They'll actually be nesting in the not too distant future, perhaps as soon as 3-5 weeks!  And the squirrels in the yard and grove are shoring up their nests and being amorous on the tracts of tree trunks about here and there.  I think they eat too well here as we've gotten two broods a season the past couple years here - that's a lot of Fox Squirrels!  (Keeps the Red-tailed Hawks happy anyway!)  We've also been seeing more hen pheasants than all last year; not many but at least a hopeful few!

What else will the year bring?  Hopefully some more native forbs and grasses in the south pasture.  We just completed our first planting there as the first true winter front moved in about 3 weeks ago.  That pasture will take a few years to complete but we don't plan on going anywhere!  Its fun to watch the changes through the years.

I'm lining up work here in the studio to keep me busy till spring.  Lets cross our fingers on that prospect!

And here's to sending our best wishes out to each and everyone of you - for a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

See you next year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice and a Merry Christmas!

Today is the first day of winter!  Sound excited?  Well sort of...at least from here the days will slowly (agonizingly) begin to get longer and spring will be on the distant horizon to look forward to.  

OK, I don't really want winter to go away entirely, we all need a rest from spring/summer/fall chores, plus it is a great time to get work done here in the studio!  Besides, one gets really fired up during the winter, thinking about those wonderful things we have to look forward to...getting into the garden, or here, the prairie....being able to spend time outside in the warm sunshine.  These things are more precious when you have to wait for them I guess.

My studio time since I last blogged (sorry its been awhile) has been spent filling client orders, framing and painting commission work.  I have several paintings waiting on the back-burner here and hope I can get to them after Christmas has passed.

I did manage one feat of final fall work in the south pasture here about two weeks ago.  As some of you may know, the north pasture is a native remnant, and there are some native grasses in the south pasture but overall the south pasture has been degraded to the extreme by years of constant grazing.  

Georgie and I had been collecting seed from the north pasture this fall and the first week of December had our first winter storm front of "real" consequence coming in, so I seeded as much of the top of the south pasture slope as I had seed for.  We'll continue doing this each year until we have a good native stand of grasses and forbs...it should look great eventually!

One great thing that happened this year on the prairies here down the valley was the Prairie Heritage Center was able to put together a Federal grant, and a REAP (Iowa) grant, to purchase the riparian and prairie area along the Little Sioux River in the valley below the center!  This was done with a great deal of help from various local organizations and the expertise of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.  But we still have loose financial ends to finalize the purchase and land exchange.  

Last year we sold a local calendar through the Prairie Heritage Center to raise funds towards this effort.  This year we are doing this again and the fun thing about the calendar is each month the PHC will draw names of calendar purchasers for prizes.  You'll be eligible for drawings 12 times throughout the year!  We're kicking off the first month with a $150.00 gift certificate toward any purchase here at the studio - drawings, paintings, prints or cards...whatever strikes your fancy!  Each month will be other great prizes too such as Tablets, Digital Cameras, Cabin stays, and more!

The calendar can be purchase for $50 by calling the Prairie Heritage Center at 712 295-2700.

Take advantage of this fun opportunity to support the new land purchase and not only have the reward of  neat new place to walk, fish, or hunt...but to support saving a wonderful piece of habitat and maybe get a prize on top of that!  Hey its Christmas after all!

Speaking of Christmas - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone out there!

See you next year!