December 6th, 2013
This was the sky over the lake at Roundrock on the second to last day of November. I was standing on the dam at mid morning and shot to the west. The tree you see is dying on the shoreline. It is slowly losing life in its branches, and I suspect it will eventually begin dropping them into the lake, where I’ll need to retrieve them since this is our prime swimming and fishing area.
I love the sky in the autumn when the lower humidity brings out the richer blue color.
December 4th, 2013
The only chore I had in mind for our most recent trip to Roundrock was to cut some logs from the willows Libby and I had cut out of the dried part of the lake bed. I wanted to see how they burned, imagining they would burn fast without much heat since they were a very soft wood to cut through.
She and I had cut those trees out several weeks before, and I hoped that by having them sit in the sun for that time, they might have dried enuf to make a decent fire out of.
So while Libby and Queequeg hung out at the cabin, Seth and I (and Flike, of course) hiked over to where the cut willows were and began to saw fire-sized logs from them. These were not thick trees; they were more like multiple branches from a common trunk. The thickest was about 2.5 inches in diameter. That made them easy to cut both the first and second time.
Seth and I worked on them until we had cut as many as we could carry back in the empty knapsack I had given him. And then we carried them back, back to the cabin and the waiting fire ring.
I built the fire as I usually did, starting with scrap paper (bagel bags mostly) and then adding tinder and kindling atop that. Most of this was from twigs and branches that were wind fallen in the immediate area. And then I laid our new logs on top of that and presented a lit match to the package.
The fire started readily, and before too long, the willow logs were aflame.
I think I may have harvested them too soon. They hissed the entire time they were on fire. I guess they were still too green. And while they they didn’t burn very fast, they also left little ash. I’m not sure what to make of this, and since there are still plenty of willows growing in my lake bed, I think the matter deserves a lot more investigation and experiment.
December 3rd, 2013
What you see, between the trees, is the frozen lake at Roundrock. I was standing near the fire ring up by the cabin when I took this photo. The sun was just right to illuminate the rough surface of the ice. By mid-day, when the thermometer on the porch registered close to 60 degrees, the shallower parts were melting, and I’m sure in the time since, the water was all open again. (Though the forecast calls for some serious winter temps in the coming week, so I expect this will freeze over once again.)
As you can see, the photo posting problem here at Roundrock Journal seems to be fixed. Thanks, as usual, to my crack technical team, who always manage to find some time in their busy and well-lived lives to take care of me!
Ouch! That’s all I’m saying.
December 2nd, 2013
Our traditional anti-Black Friday trip to Roundrock was a low-key success. We went with not much in the way of a specific agenda, for chores or merriment. I had a vague notion about having a fire using the willows that Libby and I had cut out of the lake bed a few weeks before, but that was about it.
We hit the road at our usual time and stopped only for gas and groceries (that doesn’t count as Black Friday shopping, does it?). When we got to the turn off from the paved road, we saw no fresh tire tracks in the washboard mess we call the road in. We normally visit on the weekend, so we often see tire tracks there, but since this was a Friday (granted, a holiday Friday) I guess it should not have surprised us to not see any other visitors.
Most of the leaves have fallen in our forest, though the oaks have hung on to many to drop slowly through the winter. Thus it was hard to see our road through the trees, and it was fortunate that we were familiar with it so that we knew its twists and turns when we couldn’t see the white gravel before us. Nothing had changed at the cabin in the two weeks since we’d been there (except, of course, that change is constantly going on, especially at the micro level). We parked and unloaded the Prolechariot, and Flike immediately dashed off to find a stick for me to throw, his impression that our trips to the woods are all about him and stick throwing. Fortunately, Seth was with us and could oblige Flike when I was busy. Queequeg, on the other hand, seems intent on wandering off without supervision. I don’t much worry about Flike, but Queequeg is meal-sized for many predators common in the Ozark forest, and he’s what in humans would be called willful. He won’t come when called if he doesn’t feel like it.
We had a full day. It may or may not have included a campfire, and it may or may not have included a long walk up the road. As you might have guessed, the blog is currently not allowing me to upload photos, so I don’t want reveal too much since I do have pix for specific illustrations should the problem be resolved soon.
November 29th, 2013
I’ve always been resistant to our consumer culture. I’d read one commentary that said our economy is built not on buying but on frenzied buying. That’s more than a little sad, but what’s worse is that by 4:30 this very morning, I already saw posts on Facebook by people I’m related to saying how mad the shopping was out there.
Determined not to be a typical Consumer Culture Casualty, for years I have spent Black Friday in the wholly un-American pastime of not shopping but rather going to the woods for a day of frolic. So in a little while we’ll be packing the Prolechariot with a day’s supplies, getting out of the way as the dogs leap into the back seat (in their own kind of frenzy), then steering toward Roundrock. The forecast calls for nearly 50 degrees, though that will probably only occur for a few minutes late in the afternoon, but if we keep busy, sawing logs, or rambling in the forest, or throwing sticks, we should stay warm enuf and have a good day. Traditionally we have a campfire, and I see no reason not to do so this year too.
And then we’ll return home in the gathering dark and hear the accounts of others who took themselves into the manufactured and manipulative mass madness of shopping for “deals” and be grateful that we are not part of that.
How will you/did you spend the day?
November 27th, 2013
This is just about the worst time of the year to hunt for round rocks. The fallen leaves cover the ground and hide the rocks emerging from the soil. Yet I was on a mission during our last trip to Roundrock. I wanted to find some round rocks, and I went to an area where I’ve found a good many of them.
As far as I can tell, the round rocks are buried in a layer in the ground. Deep beneath them is the limestone bedrock. And in some places, the sandstone overlays this layer of round rocks. But on some hillsides, this layer is exposed, and that’s where I go to find the good ones. (I can also walk up the Central Valley and generally find a few in the creek bed, but they’ve washed down from above.)
And so that’s where I was, on a hillside where the layer of round rocks was exposed. But the fallen leaves were not helping in my mission.
Yet I soon found a round rock poking above the leaf litter. This is uncommon unless I have placed a found round rock on top of another, flatter rock, either for collecting later or for simply display randomly in the forest. Yet the rock I found was neither of those.
It was the rock you see above. The peanut-shaped rock you see above. I don’t think I’ve ever found a cojoined pair of round rocks in my forest. Part of it (the right side in the photo above, the side with the chip) was above the soil, but the rest of it was in the ground. I don’t know how it came to be standing vertically as it was, but once I realized what I had found, I didn’t leave until I had the whole thing unearthed.
I left it as you see it — note the deer bone beside it — and I’ll collect it on a later visit after the rain has cleaned it a bit. It will go to the cabin where we’re gathering the more interesting and more perfect round rocks.
And I did find other round rocks that day, which was my intention. It was a good day in the forest.
November 26th, 2013
Yes, I stuck those two feathers into the bark of that cherry tree.
We sometimes find a couple of turkey feathers on the ground in our forest during our ramblings. I used to think that they were the result of a predator having a successful hunt. And when we find a half dozen feathers in one spot, I think that may be true.
But the occasional feather or two may just be part of a seasonal molting by the turkeys. I’ve read that they will molt in the spring and the fall, and that’s what I suspect I am finding most of the time.
Also, did you know that you can determine the sex of a turkey by its droppings? Male droppings are j-shaped. Female droppings are spiral-shaped. If the conversation at your Thanksgiving dinner table begins to fade, just bring up that interesting tidbit. You’re welcome.
November 25th, 2013
A few weeks back I wrote about the house cleaning of the log by the cabin where I set out peanuts for the critters. I concluded that post with a photo of the inside of the log, but it wasn’t a very good photo. This is my follow up attempt. It’s not much better.
It makes me wonder, though, where the living quarters are. The fallen tree is perhaps forty feet long, but the thick part is less than half that, and as you can see in the earlier post, there is a back door at the halfway point, so that reduces the potential living space even more.
If you look closely at the center of the photo, in the darkest, deepest point, there is some aluminum foil stashed down there. We use this occasionally for our cooking, either for foil dinners or to line the Dutch oven for dump cakes. Some of it apparently ended up in the fire, which the critter (a wood rat most likely) scavenged and stashed inside the log.
All of this makes me think that something is living inside the log.
Add to that the fact that I can set half a bag of peanuts on the log and then come by not even a half hour later and find most of them gone. Yes, the birds might come along and grab them, but I suspect that something far closer to the peanuts is collecting them and stashing them close by. I keep meaning to set up my game camera on the log after filling it with peanuts, but the last time I tried this, it didn’t work. I’ll try again.
November 22nd, 2013
We had dramatic weather when we were down at Roundrock last weekend. Rain, lowering clouds, occasional sunshine, and more clouds. I captured this image looking north across my neighbor’s corn field. The temperature rose twenty degrees while we were there, from 50 on our arrival to more than 70 degrees in the afternoon. The wind was blustery, and the sky kept changing costumes as we walked and wandered and waited and watched.
November 20th, 2013
This is in the western end of our forest. The ground is more or less level here, and there is even actual dirt in places. If we didn’t have a sparkling lake to overlook, I think we would eventually build our house in this western area.
We were on a hike in our woods on a nice day, and our feet led us here.
It sure looks open, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. We are often walking around dense growth or deadfall. We can rarely go in a straight line in our woods. It only looks that way. (Can you see Flike on the left?)