and what of the opossum?

August 20th, 2014

opossum bone

The overflow drum in the dam seems to be a perilous place. I noted a few weeks ago that when we had last visited (in June!), there was a opossum down in the drum. Whether it was sleeping the day away or slowly perishing, we couldn’t tell. It barely looked up at us as we peered in. We once found a dead raccoon in the drum some years before. The problem seems to be that the critters can get it and then can’t get out. They venture up the big drain pipe, jump down into the drum, and then either can’t jump back up to the pipe or don’t know enuf to do so.

You can pretty much guess from the photo above what became of the opossum. You’re looking down through the grating, about three feet into the drum. (It’s slowly getting shallower as it accumulates debris that washes in and doesn’t wash out. (Before that happened, you could see the boot print the dam builder had left in the concrete floor of the drum. I like those little touches.)

The bones are picked clean, as you can see, but there is no apparent gnawing on them. My guess is the beetles and other scavenger insects got to work on the opossum, which is the natural order of these things. Should the rain gods ever smile upon me again and fill the lake, and there is enuf water to pour into this overflow drum, much of this accumulation will be washed away, to end up in the pecan plantation.

Too bad about the opossum, but that’s settled now. What’s not settled, and what will give me anxiety until I can return to Roundrock, is the fate of the newest resident of the drum:

copperheadThis copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) had two ways to enter the drum: up through the drain pipe as the opossum had come or through the grate on the top. In either case, I fear that it will face the same sad end. It clearly cannot reach the grate again, but I don’t think it can reach as high as the drain pipe either. I suspect on my next visit that I will see the sad end of this fine looking creature too. It is a big copperhead, an inch in diameter and at least two feet long. I think that’s big for a copperhead.

If I could get in the drum (by removing the grate, which would require removing the retaining wall atop half of it and then removing the vines that are growing through it, and then being able to re-seat it properly) I would add some sort of permanent ladder or climbing pole up to the drain pipe. Opossums, I learned, cannot jump. And certainly snakes cannot either. But this seems like a wretched way to die, and it’s at least in part my doing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity, but as the astute FC once said, I’m always fretting about something.


and what of the phoebe and her nest?

August 19th, 2014


I’ll begin by apologizing for the quality of this photo. Those white blurs you see at the center are not ghostly phoebe eggs. They are specks of dirt or lint inside the lens. Sorry about that.

But what you see above is what we found when we’d returned to Roundrock two weekends ago. The phoebe nest was empty. Not an addled egg. Not an abandoned chick. Not even phoebe herself flitting about in the trees before the cabin porch. Nope. I think the phoebe finally completed her reproductive business, fledged her offspring, and went on her way.

I chronicled her efforts over the summer in this post and in the many I’ve linked to there. We tried to be considerate toward the phoebe in our visits, limiting our comings and goings through the cabin door and our time on the porch. Our month and a half away (I’m still astonished by this) was what probably helped the most.

I don’t know if the phoebe pulled off two (or more) clutches this summer; they are reported to do that. It may be that she only managed one and just took a long time before she began actually brooding her eggs. In any case, I do feel like a good steward for her.

And then I destroyed her nest.

It was clearly abandoned. The thing was about to fall off the side of the cabin. I removed the Welcome to Roundrock sign she had used as her base and carried the nest over the scrub beyond the porch. Then it gently knocked it free and bushed the dried mud off of the sign. Soon after I took a broom to the wall of the cabin to brush away as much of the dried mud still clinging to it as I could. I’ll need to return with a stiff bristled brush to finish that job.

I noted long ago that a phoebe had tried to build a nest in this same spot a year or two before. That nest never got very far. But that seems like an indication that the setting is favorable, so it may be that I’ll have this issue again next summer. More of my troubles, right?

what of the mouse?

August 18th, 2014


I think this photo pretty much answers the question about the mouse we had to leave in the cabin after our prior trip to Roundrock. I didn’t wish malice toward the mouse, and I think we did our best to capture it and release it (as we had its mate). But I wasn’t going to leave it a supply of bird seed and a bowl of drinking water. As it was, when we did finally return to the cabin — after a month and a half away — I had brought along some mouse traps. I didn’t expect to use them for this mouse, but if this conundrum ever presents itself to us again, we’ll have a more expedient solution.

As I said, the mouse had no food or water. I think it might have begun eating that rug it’s resting on since it’s made of wool. I don’t know if that would have nourished the little beast, but without water for so long, that wouldn’t have been much help anyway.

My biggest fear was that the mouse would have gnawed its way through the siding of the cabin (not all that thick really) and given itself a passage to food and water then a retreat to spacious safety from predators. Worse, it might have brought back its mate. And in a month and a half, I suppose they could have set up family housekeeping in one of the mattresses on the bed.

None of that happened. The poor mouse died of dehydration and starvation. Not a pleasant way to go, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Curiously, when we had arrived at the cabin, we found the porch area right at the base of the cabin wall littered with mouse droppings. Libby wonders if the mate she had managed to capture and release had returned and pined away, trying to reach the mouse in the cabin night after night after night. Not a pleasant thing to think of either.

We are being more vigilant about keeping the cabin door closed when we’re inside or outside. If the mice that got in the cabin really had been evicted from their under-the-tarp nest when we’d moved it that last time, then we need to be vigilant since the newest location for the tarp is much closer to the cabin than before. Such are my troubles, right?

and the answer is . . .

August 14th, 2014


Many questions were answered by our most recent visit to Roundrock. The list of questions includes,

  • what of the mouse that we couldn’t get out of the cabin?
  • what of the phoebe nest on the front of the cabin with its endless supply of eggs?
  • what of the opossum that appeared trapped in the overflow drain on the dam?

and the newest question,

  • what of the lake?

Well, come back next week and I’ll give you some answers.

your firewood for the evening

August 13th, 2014


Months and months ago, our neighbor in faraway suburbia had received a delivery of something or other on this pallet. Having no need for the pallet, she put it at the end of her driveway for the weekly trash pickup. However, it apparently was not on the list of acceptable rejectables, and it was left behind after the trash truck had come through.

Well, Paul and Libby have this little cabin in the woods where they sometimes have campfires, and couldn’t they take the pallet with them and burn it in their fire ring? Of course they could. So the pallet was moved to our back yard patio where it would await our next trip to Roundrock.

That next trip came and went, and we forgot to take the pallet with us. In fact, another trip came and went and we’d still forgotten it. Then, as you know, a month and a half passed without a single trip to our woods. So the pallet became a sort of long-term guest, getting moved around our yard as necessary. It even spent a few weeks in the bed of my truck when it looked like we were going to get to go to the woods (but didn’t).

But last weekend the stars finally aligned and we were able to go to Roundrock, remembering to load the pallet in the back of the truck along with all of our gear. And away we went.

I’ve busted up a few pallets in the past, and I expected to reduce this one to kindling and splinters with little difficulty. I was mistaken about that. This pallet was made of oak, and the sledge hammer bounced off the slats, sending ringing convulsions up my arms. When I was able to break the wood — after repeated bashings with the hammer — I found that in some places it was put together with long staples rather than nails, so separating the pieces from the framing was equally as difficult. But I persisted, and I slowly added the oak chunks to the now-smoldering fire.

firewood 2

With a little encouragement (dried leaves, mostly) I was able to urge flames again. Then the pallet was able to fulfill its destiny.

firewood 3

The oak slats made for great coals, over which we cooked our burgers. And then came time for long musing.

firewood 4

It was all certainly worth waiting for.


August 12th, 2014


Today’s photo tells you that Pablo did finally make it out to Roundrock over the weekend. In fact, it was an overnight trip with a campfire and rain and stuff!

We had business an hour to the west on Saturday morning, and when that was finished, we headed home then packed up and left for Roundrock, getting there just in time for lunch. We didn’t have much on our agenda, so we mostly just unpacked and got familiar again with the cabin and surrounds. I checked the calendar, and we hadn’t been out since mid-June. We missed the entire month of July. I don’t think we’ve ever gone that long without a visit to our woods.

We took a walk and saw some things. Filled the bird feeder. Set out some suet. Put peanuts on the log. Then I began preparing our fire for the evening. There was a chance for rain that evening, so I wanted to get our burgers cooked and consumed before we might have to retreat to the cabin.

It turned out that the rain held off until Sunday morning, after we had cooked and consumed the breakfast you see above.

I’ve noted here before that August in the Ozarks is a time when nature seems to reconsider all of the explosion of growth in the spring. The plants are beginning to look weary, and some are even dropping leaves. It’s a time when I can actually believe that I can make a difference in my woods that won’t immediately be consumed by the forest.

Not sure when I’m getting back though.


in other news

August 11th, 2014

Many of you already know this if you’ve found me on Facebook or other online places I haunt, but the big news I hinted at last week is now public knowledge, and I can share it here.

I’m going to become a grandfather in January. My daughter, Rachel, and her husband, Travis, have a baby boy in the works. According to the latest ultrasound and pre-natal doings, everything is in order and progressing properly. If they’ve chosen a name, they’re not sharing it yet. She’s told us to expect the name to be “non-traditional.” (The names Otis, Milo, and Lief have all been batted about in the past.)


They live in Brooklyn, currently in a tiny, fifth-floor walk up apartment, but apparently their bid on a hundred-year-old brownstone was accepted and now they’re waiting on the usual inspection and what not to take the next step.

We’re all very pleased with the news, but their dog, Crusher, is apparently not so enthused.


I see a lot of New York trips in my future. Better save my pennies.

wordless Wednesday

August 6th, 2014

red face

a correction

August 5th, 2014

At least one of the things I stated in this recent post is no longer true. (Or at least potentially no longer true.)

I got nothing

August 4th, 2014


. . . not even decent grammar (though grammar is for chumps).

Mostly lousy weekend behind me. Although Rachel and Travis were in town for his sister’s wedding, they were (reasonably) busy with his family, so I didn’t get to see them very much. The wedding was very nice; the weather cooperated. It was not too hot and not too humid. The rain stayed away (until Sunday). But I ate far too much. And I had a head cold so I was tired and barely present even when I was present.

Which added up to a horrible run on Sunday morning. I had originally hoped to grab 18 miles, which would have been my longest run thusfar, but several seasoned runners suggested I cut back rather than burn myself out too soon before the marathon in October. So I laced up with the intent to run 13 miles instead. Being full of cold medicine probably did not help. I gave up at 3 miles, calling in the support team to get me home. There was no run in me Sunday. Perhaps just as well. The rain began just as I finished, and while I don’t mind running in the rain, it was cooler than expected for August, and I was wearing my new kicks, which I’m trying to keep in relatively good shape for the marathon. Running through puddles and mud would not help that.

The photo above is from a bronze casting class I took a decade ago. You can see the result of the class in this old post.