Prairie, Plain and the Holiday

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.

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This is the landscape of my childhood. Sorry for the phone-quality pictures.

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.

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Prairie gone to farmland…

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.

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A doe and her near-yearling in a glade.

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.

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More of the herd at the edge of the woods.  The deer usually see you first and start watching you.

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.

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Lake Springfield from Lincoln Memorial Garden. More birdlife than I’d seen in a while was in the woods behind us.

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.

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My friend Kandy and I, who have now known each other for 50 years, and her husband Jim met for breakfast the morning they were heading back home after seeing her family for Christmas.

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33 Responses to Prairie, Plain and the Holiday

  1. Thank you for this interesting post. The area looks very beautiful, and light is, as you said, like in spring. About one hundred years ago many Finns left for America “to find gold” meaning to have work with decent salary. Many of they headed to Illinois. It looked familiar, there is four seasons. Even my hubby has distant relatives there
    Happy New Year to you!
    Kristiina

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thank you, Kristiina! There are a lot of Finnish names on rural mailboxes in northern Illinois. I think many became farmers. I’m always amazed when I recognize a landscape that’s somewhere else entirely from where I knew it. I don’t know why, as it’s the same earth and at one time there was only one continent. So I can imagine settling in a place that looked like what I knew, especially after a journey like they made.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Interesting to learn a bit more about your hometown. The wildflowers sound intriguing and aren’t as far as CA to visit. I need to learn more. 🙂
    Happy New Year and Decade, Lisa!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. shoreacres says:

    You’re right that there’s nothing prettier than a prairie bloom. Of course, there can be good years and bad years, and the timing can vary considerably, depending on weather conditions. I’m sure it’s the same there as here in Texas; there are multiple sites to consult to see how the bloom is developing — everything from Facebook groups to Texas Parks and Wildlife bulletins.

    I do love the prairies. The winter grasses can be as gorgeous as the wildflowers — you clearly had a wonderful trip, and I enjoyed the photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks! I wish the photos had been better, but the phone still captured the light–and you’re right about the grasses. Along about October, they just get lovely and stay that way and look wonderful in a breeze. And like the cherry blossoms, yup, the bloom is hard to predict!

      Like

  4. Jane says:

    Thank you. I hate to admit that I didn’t realize there was a difference between plain and prairie. And you gals look great!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sylvie Ge says:

    The lake looks so cold and pure! There was a time when I could not stand prairies, but although I do not believe even today I could not live in such surroundings long term, I can now see the beauty in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lavinia Ross says:

    Thank you for the education on plain vs. prairie. Your parents live in beautiful country, Lisa!

    My oldest and dearest friend I have known since 1965. She one of those people I can pick up our conversation where we left off, even if it has been some time since I have seen her. May you and you friend have many more years ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Lavinia! Old friends are good friends. I have couple others I’ve known since kindergarten, so more than 50–and some college friends too and that’s a while back. It’s nice to be known in that way; not that new friends aren’t exciting and fun as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A fascinating insight into the landscape that made you, Lisa. No apology for the photographs needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Zambian Lady says:

    Nothing better than being with family and friends during the festive season.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. paolsoren says:

    What a great series of photographs. With the exception of snow so much of the prairie that you show is similar to the area of Victoria where I live.
    Make sure you have a wonderful 2020. It’s all in your own hands. And thanks for the year we had together via the blogosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Going home never gets old even if you do. 🙂 I love to cook for people as well but it’s harder these days. House full is a smaller amount of full. Happy New year to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Karen says:

    Happy New Year and here is hoping it will be a bountiful one in your garden.

    Like

  12. tonytomeo says:

    The vastness of the plains is fascinating. I remember that the scenery did not change much between Amarillo and Oklahoma City, . . . or between Moriarty in New Mexico and Amarillo. I see MUCH more variation within ten miles in any direction from here. I am in a redwood forest right now, but can walk to chaparral.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ellen Hawley says:

    This is close enough to Minnesota for the photos to take me back there. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Maria says:

    I’ve been to Illinois and it is full of prairie land. It’s very cold also.

    Liked by 1 person

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