Winter comes to the Rock Prairie

August 4, 2023

In 1978, I moved from Green County, Wisconsin, where I'd grown up, to Rock County, the next one over.   The two counties could not be more different.  Green is mostly rolling hills and very small towns; Rock is mostly flat and the population of its second largest city (Beloit) is more than all of Green County put together.   

We have a small place in the country where I've lived for more than 25 years, in an area known as the Rock Prairie.  The prairie spans nearly the entire country from east to west, as much as 18 miles wide in places.  With its deep fertile soil, it is one of Wisconsin's best agricultural areas. 

Our home is surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn and soybeans.  In the fall after harvest, the fields become vast open regions, punctuated now and then by small stands of trees.  There used to be many more trees but they've been removed over the years to make room for more crops.

The wind on the Rock Prairie is a moody and almost constant presence.  It rarely whispers and most often roars.  With nothing to slow it down, it can be merciless in the winter, turning even a minor snowfall into driveway blocking drifts.   When the snows are heavy, the wind has piled it 6 feet high and more.  It's toppled trees into our power lines and left us without heat or electricity for days.  We live only 5 miles from town but it might as well be a 100 when the snow is bad and the wind is behind it. 

But when it is calm, even a bitterly cold winter's day can be pleasant.  You can take a lot of cold if the wind's not blowing.   This photo was made on a quiet day when the air was nearly still, with a grey sky and a little bit of fog.  The light was soft, gentle, very pleasing. 

The view is looking north across the road from our house at what is left of a line of trees that once extended more than a mile back.  I walked that line of trees in the summer a couple years ago, never thinking that someday they might not be there anymore.  I'm thankful there are a few left. 

Winter comes to the Rock Prairie.jpg
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