Friday, August 12, 2011

Gardening in August

Sunday, August 13

So, yesterday morning, I dug the buried treasure, eager to see if they actually looked like giant buried Peanut Fingerlings, three to four inches long. I shoved my garden fork in the ground, at a distance from the dried tops, not wanting to spear any of the fingerlings with a tine. The soil turned over easily, still a bit moist from the recent rain, and there they all were -- peanut-shaped all right. But so small they looked like midget peanuts, no more than an inch or an inch and a half long. Not to worry, I thought, just a result of being a bit shaded by the pin oak tree. So I moved to the next spot and eagerly turned over the soil, only to find another handful of midgets. And another, and another. And so few potatoes, the whole batch of eight plants yielded no more than two or three meals' worth. The six red potato plants produced a somewhat better yield. Still, I felt as if the Irish potato famine had been replayed right in my own back yard.

Carl H. Klause, My Vegetable Love: A Journal of a Growing Season

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Habitat of the Month

Tallgrass Prairie

Look out over a tallgrass prairie on a breezy summer day. The gently waving grasses and wildflowers that make up the prairie move like ocean waves. There are very few trees, but some prairie plants grow more than eight feet high. Rich soil and the right amount of rain and sunshine give tallgrass prairies all they need to thrive. This wide-open grassland is an ideal habitat for a songbird like the bobolink.
If you spy a small bird with a white back, an all-black underbelly, and a cream-colored cap on its head, it's a male bobolink.
Bobolinks eat the seed and insects found in the open prairie spaces. They build grassy nests on the ground. The bobolink's nest and egg color blend well with its surrounding to keep the young birds hidden.
Because prairies don't have many trees to perch on, a number of prairie birds sing as they fly. Boblinks pour out lovely liquid songs as they soar above the grasses.
Tallgrass prairies once grew across a large area in the middle of North America. Now, most have been plowed under and replaced by farms and cities. Fortunately, many people are preserving the tallgrass prairies that remain, and in some places, they are planting new prairies. You can visit some of these prairies. Where there are prairies, there will be homes for bobolinks.

Claudia McGehee, Where Do Birds Live?

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Week in Iowa Nature

Summer flowers of damp woodlands include Joe Pye weed and jewelweed, which soothes the itch from stinging nettles, often encountered in the same lowland habitat.

Jean C. Prior and James Sandrock, The Iowa Nature Calendar