Monday, January 15, 2007

A New Chapter: Windswept Cottage

At the end of December, Prairiewolf and I said a sad good-bye to Mobile, Alabama, and to our beautiful house and garden there. A new gardener has taken over that home, which pleases me intensely. She will, I'm sure, make the garden her own. I hope that she has as much pleasure and as many pleasant surprises there as I had.

In the first week of January, a new home with its own unique yard and garden, in a entirely different ecosystem, entered into Prairiewolf's and my lives. We are now living southwest of Wichita, Kansas, near the little town of Clearwater, on 10 acres of land. Our land was presumably once mid-grass prairie, with a mix of tall and short grass species. There's a dry swale that drains most of the section west and south of us, bisecting our land about 1/3 of the way back. In its protected lowlands, there are black willows, a few large cottonwoods, and lots and lots of shrub-form poison ivy.

In front of the swale is the Yard Proper - about 3 acres of mowed grass with the house, workshop/auxiliary garage, and a wide variety of planted trees and shrubs.

Behind the swale is overgrown pasture, full of brome grass, young cedars, and a few clumps of Indian grass, big bluestem and other prairie species.

The sunsets, which we can enjoy from our kitchen table, are sublime. On dark nights, the stars are breathtaking. And the wind is unceasing. (No surprise there, though. This IS Kansas, after all!) I've tentatively named our new home "Windswept Cottage".

We've set up bird feeders just behind the deck, and the birds are rewarding us by literally flocking to them. We have dozens of juncos and Harris sparrows and white crowned sparrows; about 20 goldfinch; and cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, brown headed cowbirds, rufous sided towhees, tree sparrows, black-capped chickadees, and house finch. We've even had a red-bellied woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, a Carolina wren, a song sparrow, a mourning dove, and a Carolina wren.

There have been a pair of red tail hawks visiting regularly (checking out the nesting potential, I hope?!), and a couple mockingbirds are helping me transition from south to "north".

One of the most interesting bird-events occurred on Friday when we put out a bird bath with heated water. We put it out about 1:30 p.m. and watched for a while, noticing that a couple starlings found it fairly rapidly. When we checked it out about 4, almost all the water was gone, which we thought was a little strange. So I refilled it with 2 gallons and watched amazed as about 100 starlings rapidly descended on it, bathing and drinking. Within about 10 minutes, almost all the water was gone...and the starlings drifted off. We repeated the process again, with the same results. By the next morning, we decided that heated water just wasn't going to be on the menu anymore.

The temperature when all this happened was about 17 degrees, and we were amazed at how delighted the starlings were to be bathing in those temperatures. A couple of them seemed to have big gray beards, which turned out to be made of ice when we looked at them through the binoculars. Not my idea of how to cope with subfreezing temperatures!

68 degrees one day and 22 the next. Bearded starlings. Neverending wind. Stunning sunsets. We're back in Kansas, and there are new adventures ahead.


Anonymous said...

Freakin' awesome, glad to see you back. PICTURES!!!

Anonymous said...

Agree, it is time to get the camera up

Anonymous said...

If I may make a request.....

I would love to see pictures of the birds. I miss knowing the names of birds.