Though you were the far side of the farm while I was growing up, I still knew you. You were on the way to the farm where my grandmother was born, then her daughter, my aunt, lived on that farm and I would walk through to go to her place. The back corners touched. It was normal for me to live in an area where my family had lived for a hundred years.
In spring, on that back pasture, tiny, white bell-shaped flowers would bloom. And I thought it odd that prickly pear were also there. Wild strawberries were a treat when I could find them. The bell flowers and cactus are gone, but not the strawberries, though I’ve not been able to eat them as an adult. There are so many deer now, they get them first.
I’ve cleared you of sumac. It spreads by roots and spreads and spreads. As pretty as it is after first frost, an acre of it is too much, two acres if far too much! The same for the wild plumbs, even though they brought my great grandparents to this corner of Kansas. They both insidiously spread by roots and seeds. It is constant competition for the space.
Only in my life time has the bradley pear become a wide ranging nuisance tree. They can grow astonishingly fast. In just four years they can see me eye to eye. And, the Japanese honeysuckle, brought to these shores as a ornamental, escaped the confines of the gardens and now live everywhere. At a mature height of twelve feet, and just as wide, they produce thousands of seeds, nearly all of which will grow. To this continent’s detriment, no life, wild or tame, eats and processes the seeds, they just spread them all over you. That, too, is a battle for your open space.
On the hillsides, none of these matter, so many other plants are there, they are just one of many, but in the meadow or pasture, they all quickly become a problem for you. Soon there will be no space for the grass – and your prairie will be gone.
For over half a century now, in my adult years, these acres of ours have been my refuge away from people. In those decades, I’ve seen houses and other buildings come closer and closer to you, I cannot stop them outside of your boundaries, but inside there are none.
I have created a refuge spot, a camping site, just outside a meadow, in the trees, on the top edge of the hillside. The surface there is not flat, but I’ve brought in dirt to create a flat space for a tent as well as fill in low spots to make walking easier. And, I’ve planted grass.
There is no soil on you there, I suppose it has washed down the side of the hill. So, for grass to take root, I spread grass seed on the ground then covered it with a slight layer of soil, Rain pushed the soil down around the seed (and hid them from the birds), and eventually the seed sprouted and enough rain kept it growing. There is no other source of water.
There is a creek, which sometimes has water, on the east side of you, but access is problematic. All along the creek are so many trees and bushes that walking is difficult or impossible. Some places along the creek the hill falls down in a cliff. At the camping site your land slopes gently down within ten feet of the creek bank. Then it drops straight down. I’ve begun to dig stair steps down, but that is taking time and there is so much else to do. Clearing fallen limbs, or dead trees, is a constant task, but burning them is fun. And, picking up rocks which could damage mowing equipment is also nearly constant, but I have used them to fill low places, so they are useful.
I take breaks from work to read and write, or sometimes just to sit, watch and listen as the wind moves leaves on the trees, or birds. The sound of leaves dancing is welcome after winter’s silence. And, a special treat is to hear the whisper of wind between the feathers of bird’s wings. I can never hear that in town.
From the camping site, I see no buildings, so I can breathe. You are my refuge and sanity. I need that to balance my PTSD, cyclothymia and anxiety. Thank you.