My intent has been to write about my prairie at least once every month. But sitting here in my office, looking out across the area where I so hopefully planted a prairie last spring, all I could see was snow. White, windswept, barren. What's to write about there?
Last week's blizzard threw a white blanket over everything. From several hundred yards away, my prairie looked no different than the lawn that surrounded it.
Landscape designers talk about including plants that add 'architectural interest' even in the winter. I've planted bushes - Brilliant Red Chokeberries and Royal Star Magnolias - in my gardens to do just that. And I leave the blackened seed heads of Purple Coneflowers and Blackeyed Susans standing through the winter both to feed the birds and provide interest against the snow.
In the prairie? Well, it was apparently just too early for there to be architectural interest on the prairie. But I miss my walks in the prairie, so I pulled on my boots and waded through the drifts to take a closer look.
Turns out there was more going on than I could see from my office.
I found a single sunflower that had been blooming right up until the snow. Less than a foot tall, it braved the wind and cold. A hint to the tall plants that will mark the prairie in future years. Tiny grasses reached above the snow. Probably crabgrass! But I was remarkably glad to see them anyway.
Because crisscrossing the prairie, invisible until I was right on top of them, were tracks of rabbits and squirrels and even smaller animals - field mice? voles? The tracks reminded me that even in its early stages, the prairie is hideaway and home and food store to animals and birds. Who knows what is going on underneath the drifts?
I'll walk across the prairie again this winter. Often, because even in the winter, my prairie is teaching me to look close.