October 2017

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This patch of Buffalo Grass originated from a single seed, planted in bare soil about 10 months before this photo was taken.  It is important to have rhizomatous and stoloniferous species included in seed mixes designed to cover bare soil.  No bunch grass can cover this much ground in less than a year.

October is a good time to be outside.  It is a good time to plant.  You can get away with watering less than in September, but there is enough time before a freeze to get some root development, which begets plant establishment.

Opposites come up together.  The physical properties of nature play out in human lives and the trajectories of human cultures.  Cultural polarity smacks of Newton’s third law.  In America today (but not for the first time), there is a mutual feeling among one half of the voting populace that the other half is not just mistaken, but despicable.  One man loses his media empire for the same offense committed by another who is elected president.  Fear and change come up together.  Progress is real.

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“This is fine.”

It is a bit too early for most seed harvesting because the warm season grasses that dominate Central Texas savannas mostly turn ripe in November.  You can, however, get some of the stuff that ripened in the summer, when for many it was too hot to collect.  A few species hold their seed for quite a while after ripening, like Marbleseed.  It started producing ripe seed around June, and by early October about a quarter of the year’s seed is still on the plant.

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Onosmodium, aptly nicknamed Marbleseed

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Silver bluestem is also available in October, if we get enough rain in the late summer and early fall.  The rains of Hurricane Harvey made a good crop of Silver Bluestem this year, and boosted fall seed production across the board.  Those rains also scoured some reveg projects of less than a year old, where White Tridens and Buffalo Grass (pictured above) performed especially well.  Pedestaling occurs when soil is washed away from the base of the plant but roots remain, and this happened among bunch grasses (shown above), while Buffalo Grass in a low spot seemed to trap all or nearly all the sediment before it had a chance to move off-site.  This is a case of functional diversity, both structural and biological, improving the resilience of the project.

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A few of us filled 2 brown paper grocery bags with Silver Bluestem seed harvested from this meadow in about 2 hours.  We didn’t make a dent in the available supply.  This site was burned 26 months ago.

 

The physical properties of nature pervade biological systems.  In Everyday Survival, Laurence Gonzalez posits that life expresses the second law of thermodynamics despite the common sense appearance that life defies it.  In summary, the second law of thermodynamics states that high concentrations of energy will naturally spread into low concentrations of energy.  Our bodies collect and organize calories into tissues, and this process appears to run contrary to the normal march towards equilibrium that characterizes all matter in the universe.  However, when we consume energy from our environments, we burn most it, and what we keep to actually build tissue is but a small fraction.  Thus living things accelerate energy dissipation from that stored in our environments.  We are just like other organized systems that form in nature for the same purpose, like vortices and lightning bolts.  Gonzalez extends this idea to the apparent vagary of nature that is modern society; waste is deeper in our natural history than even life itself.

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A typical seeded patch.  Green Sprangletop, Sideoats Grama, Indiangrass, Plains Lovegrass, and others start to cover bare ash 14 months after burning.

October is our last chance before winter to easily target non-native invasive deciduous woody plants.  They will be harder to spot once their leaves drop.

Can our innate tendency to release energy actually benefit the land?  Or are living things, along with all matter in the universe, predisposed to disintegration?  We can build tissue while the world burns, so maybe a bit of both…

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…but only with the right kind of love.

 

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