Saturday, January 09, 2016

Arrival of Winter, in earnest

The Missouri Wine and Grape Board designates January as Norton Month,which is a certainly appropriate designation with the temperatures dropping to normal winter weather lows, snow, winds out of the Northwest, and the short days that encourage thick and inky wines like a good Missouri Norton. While, yes, every day is Norton day in my house, the Wine and Grape Board just gave me an extra nudge to walk down to my basement for some random old Norton that I've been hoarding for several years. My basement houses more than the washer, dryer, and my entire Classics library; it holds all the Oregon pinot noir, all the fancy Nortons and nice, drink-soon Chambourcins, and all those other wines that I don't want housesitters to think are open game for consumption while I'm away. If I left fancy wine in the upstairs racks, they would be quickly consumed by petsitters or houseguests without my approval. It's happened before. So, January is Norton month and I plan to use that to my advantage as justification for increasing my Norton holdings.

The North winds came in quickly last week as I was checking out flood damage from the 8 to 12 inch rain events that occurred throughout the Ozarks. I saw a second round of frost flowers on the hike to see a scoured out streambank, a streambank with native spring vegetation like eel grass and coontail tangled in the canopy about 8 feet high. The crisp morning hike wasn't full of devastation in this natural setting. I will never proclaim that our natural systems are "resilient, dynamic and ever-changing" because they're not. We're dealing with highly disturbed ecosystems today, but to see the water levels in this karst landscape return to relatively regular pool after so much disturbance from an erratic flood event was somewhat reassuring. I have serious concerns about the caves at this site, including one with a river and a sump in it that connects to a spring, classic karst landscape. We ventured a few hundred feet into the cave and found a few bats but won't know the extent of the impact of gravel accretion, high water events and woody debris until we go in for longer than a short while as we did this week. Karst systems, while they may seem pretty resilient and sturdy because they're rock-based systems, are still sort of fragile: too much water flushing through the system can disrupt fragile flora and fauna including bats, invertebrates and herpetofauna in associated caves, springbranch biota, and water quality. The floodwaters have receded recently, leaving behind damaged structures well outside of the floodplain (so do they have flood insurance?), and we're only now assessing the damage to natural communities. If this is the new normal condition, events to be expected on an annual basis, I fear not only for the sustainability of natural communities but also for human habitation.

I had a nice hike this week through the uplands and even found a blooming spring wildflower, Isopyrum, but it's an anomaly, not the pattern. The days are definitely growing longer, and the window for burning native landscapes for the sustainability of natural communities is opening up, wide and clear. My Carnival decorations from New Orleans are out throughout my Craftsman bungalow, including a new set of purple/green/gold lights around the door. I overheard a server at my lunch restaurant today try to explain what an esteemed geologist group has proclaimed, the Anthropocene Epoch, a concept I think I wrote about three years ago, but now it's getting truck in the general public.

January is Norton month. Mardi Gras is really early this year so Carnival ramps up in January. The days are getting longer. The Australian Open begins in 8 days. Distractions!


HiggsBoson said...

That last picture made me homesick. Gosh, I miss the Ozarks!!

Allison Vaughn said...

Lodge Glade, where most ecologists pull back the proverbial reins on their proverbial horse and say "whoa....."