At the bend in the creek was the only tree my dad said had been on the property when he first came there as a boy. That tree would have been 70 by then and fully mature, and heading soon into the old age trees experience as the weight of their branches become just too heavy to be held up property.
The last time we went to sled, we left my son's sled hanging on the barbed wire fence, knowing we would be back, surely another snow would follow that one and we would be ready for it. But the winter ended too quickly that year and the sled remained on duty, waiting, sort of like the Toy Soldier waiting for the little boy who put it there to return.
Time on the prairie changes the landscape if it is not managed, the grasses can lose a battle with succession. First the sumac circles grew larger and then the cedar seeds were carried in by the birds and found fertile soil, the right relationship beneath the sumac, nestled barely noticeable at first.
My attention has been focused, as you know on protecting our Tar Creek and that slopping hill has the tangled mess of honeysuckle joined to sumac, with vines that reached back on itself and woven into what seemed like a blanket over them, a tangled mess to walk through!
I didn't cry. The hill and the slope are still there, it is almost like that blanket of vines was made to keep it like we left it. All we have to do is remove it. Which won't be easy. But can be done.
For now, I don't have any species that are defined in Oklahoma as noxious, none are against the law. But there ought to be a law against red-cedars, honeysuckle and sumac. Those three would make me wealthy if there was a market for them! All 3 of these species create shade and have replaced some of my prairie species.
What has occurred on my property is called secondary succession because it has not been managed, to restore the Tallgrass prairie each year these fields will need to be burned. Fire will help restore the land for her original plant families. I learned all prairies have some degree of vulnerability to invasive species but without some intervention prairies turn into woodlands and I am determined to push back.
Succession has also made it to the Mayer Ranch in Commerce, OK. First that tall grass prairie was fenced for Mr. Mayer's white Arabian show horses, then the orange mine water began to discharge, flowing directly out of the bore holes the owner had no idea were there, staining his horses and forcing the sale for their sake. After years of waiting for "someone to do something about it"
Bob Nairn saw it and simply stated he knew how to deal with mine water discharges. This week he was able to celebrate the solution to the pollution was not dilution, for the passive water treatment system simply allows that mine water to pass from one bio-reactor pond to the next until what came in is transformed and flows out as water that would now support life. But what has happened to the land?
Through those years it went from tall grass prairie to being abandoned, then when the passive water treatment system was installed, no one thought to pay attention to invasive species and deal with them as they appeared. So now the property is a classic example of how succession happens to unattended property.
Bob Nairn and the University of Oklahoma students have managed the "irreversible" focused entirely on making bad water good, but when you look around the Tallgrass prairie longs for some management too, much like my own land, we have to pay attention, the land needs tending, too.
42 years this month mine water has been flowing out of the Picher Mine Field. Bob's dealing with a portion but the rest of that bad water washes right past us and we say nothing. It spreads over us in floods. But we are silent. That bad water must be managed, fire is not her answer. Our Tar Creek's burning desire? to be clean. She waits for success.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim