Mid-January 2010

It’s mid-January and the cold snap has finally broken. This past Tuesday and Wedenesday (the 13th and 14th) were the first days we’ve gotten above 32۫ F since Christmas.  Ten years ago when I worked at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge my boss told me that there was always a mid-January thaw. I don’t know how often that is the case but it has felt pretty nice the last couple of days.

Last weekend I went X-country skiing at a couple of local parks hoping to see some birds but there was very little out there on both days. Crows, chickadees, red-tailed hawks, blackbirds and a few juncoes. I checked the Christmas Bird Count data that was submitted for my area and there was quite a bit identified but that ran from December 14th to January 5th.  I also wasn’t near any open water. 

The seed catalogs have started rolling in.  I’ve been spending a bit of time going reviewing the Prairie Moon Nursery catalog, trying to figure out what to plant on the north side of my garage. When we first moved htat spot was home to a 10′ tall stand of japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).  I had a co-worker create a custom herbicide mix and I spot sprayed small rings of herbicide the size of quarters on the leaves of the plant. I waited patiently for 2 weeks and then the whole stand dropped to the ground.  I cut the material and put it in its own pile to decompose. Every year the knotweed attempts to come back, and I am continually pulling it and occasionally spraying it. I thought it was gone until I found it had taken refuge behind the neighbors shed.  Lenny, my neighbor, also dumped 200ft of torn up sod into an old dog run on his property just to the north of where I am hoping to plant something.  That sod was quickly covered by creeping charlie which will be eager to colonize my property which is now just covered in bark chips.

The sensible thing for me to do would be to ask around to see if anyone will let me split off some of their hostas and ostrich ferns. Both of these would do well in this shady area and would further shade out any other weeds like the horsetail that tried to invade last year.  Ideally though, I’d like to get a nice mix of native woodland plants like I have on the north side of the house. Unfortunately, that took three years to really get established and it costs quite a bit more than digging up someone’s back yard. Probably the best route will be to order some basics like wild ginger and wild geranium, get those in the ground early and then keep my eye out for any freebies that I can transplant. I’ll keep you posted.

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