Every day brings changes to the land–the seasonal changes being among the most obvious–but from year to year we see changes–both desired and undesired–as a result of what we, our neighbors, and the weather do.
This odd-looking object is the result of weather–two years of drought, during which the eastern gama we’d planted down by the creek barely hung on, followed by flooding rains and flash floods and finally an early very hard freeze (down in the teens).
Eastern gama on the place is a change we made, as it is a native in the area, and a deep-rooted tallgrass that can stand both drought and flood, while helping to stabilize erosion-prone lower areas. Our “seasonal” creek receives runoff from many square miles upstream, including highways, developments, and agricultural land, some of it–to be tactful or arrogant, take your pick–not managed the way I would manage it. Too many cows, too little grass. So it had erosion problems when we bought the place, and it still has erosion problems, and every now and then it becomes a typical flash-flooding, soil-ripping, tree-toppling monster.
This is a view downstream from near our north fenceline. The eastern gama whose floral structure I just showed it in the lwer right (you can see the stalk sticking up and you can see other tallgrasses we planted (more eastern gama and switchgrass) along this side. In the distance is ‘tractor ford’ (in dryer weather than this!) which needs another load of rock. When we got the place, this bank was just about bare except for some sunflowers and giant ragweed. Where they’re close enough together, the tallgrasses are indeed hanging on in flood and drought, and holding the soil. But in this last set of floods, when the whole area was under water, we had a bank blowout between two clumps of switchgrass.
When we do the winter root-division transplants from the grass-garden near the house, this is an area that will get more chunks of switchgrass and eastern gama, for sure.
Farther downstream, we’ve been removing non-native invasive trees, mostly by girdling and leaving them as standing snags (useful for cavity-nesting) but some of these have finally come down in storms.
Here a chinaberry has fallen across the creek (and broken off); in other places, bank erosion has undermined both snags and live trees (mostly cedar elms and junipers.)
And here, several girdled chinaberries have come down.
These were the dominant canopy trees in the small area of woods just across the creek until girdled, and since their death that part of the wood looks very different:
We had planted a number of acorns over there, but thought the drought killed any chance of seedling survival. However, there are some. And now that the trees have come down, we’ll encourage the growth of natives and see what grows. Bur and red oaks may make it. Cedar elm can, and I’m hoping to get some Mexican plum and Texas redbud in there, too. Some, but not all, the juniper will come out–it’s winter shelter for wildlife.
On the whole, the creek is doing what creeks do–depositing soil here that it ripped away there, shifting from side to side, reminding us that however hard we work to “make things better,” there’s a lot we don’t (and can’t) control. Still, working to lessen erosion is one of our main tasks, so we’ll continue to plant things that help hold the soil, bring in rock, etc.