I visited my family over Christmas. The weather was more like spring than the beginning of winter. It had been cold and dropped some snow, but there were only traces of it left.
The landscape of my childhood is tall grass prairie and upland forest. Prairie is grassland with flowers and small shrubs in it. A spring bloom on the prairie rivals the California super bloom we’ve heard about the last couple years–and on the prairie it’s an annual event. Upland forest occurs on higher ground than the prairie where the drainage is a bit better and the soil is loose enough for tree roots to expand and deepen. The two exist together, as you can see, but prairie encroaches on forest. There are only about 2200 acres of original prairie left in Illinois, although there are some extensive prairie restoration projects–one of which includes 19,000 acres. Most of the original prairie became farmland, which is, of course in most of the pictures.
Prairie and plain differ in their ecosystems and the type of vegetation growing on them. The Great Plains, which run from the McKenzie River delta in Canada down into Texas in the U.S., support very few trees. They have always seemed a bit desolate to me, except during the bloom season (Texas bluebonnets, for example, can be pretty spectacular). In the U.S., the plains are west of the Mississippi and run to the Rockies in the west. I’m not sure what their eastern border is in Canada.
I probably should have looked up more of this to ensure accuracy, but I’m going on my past education in ecosystems, geography and geology. If you want to read more about the Illinois prairie, this blog post is informative and shows some pictures of the bloom in spring.
I did some walking while I was home–near my mother’s house and in Lincoln Memorial Gardens with my friend Evelyn. It was near Mom’s that I saw all the deer at the edge of the woods one afternoon. There’s a whole herd in there. I went with my brother later in the week and we saw them again, although they were keeping closer to the edge of the woods than they had before. I joked with my brother that they must have known he was a hunter. They were definitely more skittish. Or perhaps two people are more threatening than one.
I was able to do a lot of cooking for other people over the holiday, which I enjoy greatly, and I expect to do more before the new year now that I’m back home. Happy new year to everyone. May it hold what you hope for.