Archive for the 'Green Things' Category

Pretty planted plum

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


Sorry about the blurry photo. Those little screens on the back of most digital cameras just don’t give you enuf detail.

But anyway, poor quality or not, this photo gives you what I wanted you to see. This is one of the plums I had planted only two weeks before. At that time, it was nothing more than a twig. In only two weeks it’s taken off fantastically.

This one happens to be planted with a group in an area that is nearly always soggy. I think there must be a seep in the area because a small stream bed is formed just down hill from it. At first I attributed the vigorous growth to the presence of the water, but then we checked some of the other plums we planted in drier spots, and they were doing just as well. In fact, all of the plums we checked were doing well.

And while most of the nannyberries we had planted last year seem to have failed, there were several that were also coming out with healthy looking leaves.

I wish I could say the same for the beautyberries. Not a single one of them showed a single leaf. It may be that it’s too early for them to come out or that they’re suffering from transplant shock. Maybe they’ll show some signs of life on my next visit.

So it’s not all doom and gloom at Roundrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • The large yellow flowers of Missouri primrose bloom on Ozark glades.

Sampson’s snakeroot

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009


With my woefully inadequate plant identification skills, I have decided that this just might be Psoralea psoralioides, sometimes called Sampson’s Snakeroot (though that seems to be the common name for a different though similar plant).

I found this growing on the south-facing slope, which makes sense since the references I have found for this say it likes dry conditions.

It is another in my continuing discoveries at Roundrock. Though I’ve been going to my woods for nearly a decade, I’m still finding new things to see.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young beavers emerge from lodges.

Lost in the tall grass

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

This is a picture of my pine plantation, believe it or not. It’s amazing to me to realize that just three years ago those pines you see rising above the tan grass were just seedlings, barely a foot out of the ground. Some are now taller than I. (The pines are in the grass; those big green things at the back are cedars growing on my neighbor’s dam.)

I had mowed this area two summers ago. I realize that for an area of prairie grass, that’s left plenty of time for a tall stand to return. Some of my pines have not grown as vigorously as others, and I want to make sure the smaller ones aren’t starved for sunlight. Yet I’m of two minds about mowing. Aside from giving some of the pines a little more love with added sunlight, I don’t think it’s necessary. The pines are mostly all getting to the point where they are taller than the grass. Soon it will be their turn to start shading the grass. Those smaller pines could be kept clear of grass by an occasional visit with the grass whip.

I’ve thought that perhaps I should mow a perimeter around the pines. It’s certainly possible for a ground fire to sweep through the area, and the pines are still too small to survive that. I don’t know that I could cut a wide enuf swath though to prevent a wind-driven ground fire from leaping across. There’s not enuf open area beyond the pines. Then I thought that I should mow a few avenues through the tall grass to allow the critters to move around the area (quail being the critter type I fantasize is flourishing there). I’m not sure the critters need that kind of help though, and mowed avenues might give better sight lines to predators.

This grass has proven too tough for my suburban lawn mower. (I tried it once.) That leaves me with the need to rent the walk-behind brush hog from town — a relatively expensive prospect for what may be a pointless effort.

So I cross my fingers and do nothing at all, which gives the best contrast anyway.

Missouri calendar:

  • Pine siskins and purple finches at  bird feeders.

Today in Missouri history:

  • George Graham Vest, the Missouri Senator credited with saving Yellowstone from commercial land developers, was born on this date in 1830.

A tree falls in the forest

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I promised earlier in the week that I would tell you more about our adventure taking down the leaning, dying tree near the entrance at Roundrock. You see it above. Of the twin trunks, it is the one on the right. (The debris on the ground is part of the former top of the culprit tree.) On the extreme right of the photo you can see the two posts holding up the fencing around the maple I planted. It’s hard to judge, I know, but if the tree fell in that direction (unlikely), it could strike the maple, so I wanted to be sure I didn’t bring it down that way.

The only sensible way left was to bring it down across the road — the direction it was leaning. The area was open and allowed for plenty of scrambling about, and though I suspected it would reach as far as the road, I was confident that Seth and I could clean it up enuf to allow the truck to pass through.

We began by cleaning out that fallen top. We needed a clear workspace, of course, so we chopped it into pieces and carried them to a nearby brush pile. Simple.

Then Seth began cutting the wedge into the trunk of the tree. Remember that the big chainsaw was not working, so he was using the pole saw with the much shorter bar. This wasn’t so bad; it merely meant a series of smaller cuts. Given the lean of the tree and the fact that it was dying so we didn’t know the strength of the wood in the trunk, he made a few small cuts and then stepped back to assess. Then he would step in and cut again.

Actually, I thought his cuts were a little less ambitious than they could have been, so after a while, he gave me the pole saw and I stepped in. I started a new wedge cut a little higher on the tree that would result in a bigger chunk coming out. Then it would be a simple matter of making the back cut and watching the tree fall. My plan was to let Seth make that back cut while I filmed the tree falling in the forest (with audio).

Alas, as I was finishing the downward cut of the wedge, I heard the tell-tale snapping sound coming from the trunk. I withdrew the saw and stepped back in time to watch the tree break free of its remaining trunk and come crashing to the ground. (And that’s why I don’t have any video of it for you.)

Above you see just how the tree fell. Again it’s hard to tell, but the tree did span the road, the top breaking off when it struck. You see the Prolechariot parked safely on the far side of the tree. (The idea was that if we got the tree this far and then somehow could not clean it up, the truck would already be on the homeward-bound side of it so we could still get out.)

Seth began cutting up the fallen tree while I carried the branches to the brush pile. The saw was tearing through the wood easily, and soon he was finished with that work and helping me carry the bits and pieces away. One time he grabbed a length that was longer than he was tall. It had a few errant branches still attached, so it was hard to balance. He lost his grip on it, and the largish bit of trunk found my shoulder on its way to the ground. I shook it off and got back to work, and now, a week later, I can hardly feel the pain of it at all.

We spent more time cleaning up the branches than we did cutting down the tree. Seth cut a few lengths of the trunk as firewood. We stacked these neatly at the entrance so the interlopers would see that we’d been by. Here is a picture of the cut base of the tree.

You can see that we’d only cut through about a half of the tree before it snapped. The wood was soft, and as we carried the chunks of the tree to the brush pile or the cut wood pile, they seemed a lot lighter than I would have thought for an oak. Clearly the tree was rotten, and I have little doubt that it would have fallen on its own this winter. I’m glad we took the chance to bring it down under controlled conditions . . . hmmm. I’m just thinking now that if Libby and I had cut down this tree, just inside the entrance to our land, on the day before deer season when we were there, it would have blocked access to the interlopers. That might have been an interesting gambit to play with them. I’ll have to remember that next year.

Missouri calendar:

  • Bald eagles arriving in northern Missouri; view them at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Proletarian novelist Jack Conroy was born in a coal mining camp near Moberly, Missouri on this date in 1898. His best known work is The Disinherited.
  • Phoebe Couzins died in poverty in St. Louis on this date in 1913. She began her varied career as a hospital nurse during the Civil War and later, as an advocate for women’s suffrage, the nation’s first female lawyer, the nation’s first female U.S. Marshall, and a renown speaker on the issues of women’s rights and temperance. Oddly, she ended her career as a lobbyist for the United Brewers Association.

Already fallen

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In a way, this is a companion post to the one I made last Saturday about a tree ready to fall at Roundrock.

What you see above is a tree that has fallen at our other bit of forest, lovingly known as Fallen Timbers. As you can tell from some of the scrub in the foreground, the tree has been down for a few years.

The southwest corner of our forty acres at Fallen Timbers is on the ridgetop we share with several other neighbors. Although it is hard to discern here, there is an old road that ran along the ridgetop, through what would become our property and on to even more remote spots. A new road was cut into the large tract when the “original” owner decided to chop it up and sell off pieces of it to city folk. The new road makes the passage back to those even more remote spots less difficult, but also less direct. Long after the new road was made, we could tell that people were continuing to use the old ridge road that cut across the corner of our property.

Now, that’s not a great hardship for us. I don’t really mind something as benign as a truck passing through a couple of times a day. But way back in the distant past, our woods was apparently a trash dump. In the first years when we visited our woods there, we would carry out a couple of bags of trash each time. (And this was in the days before I had my first truck and we had to walk the two miles in and out of our forest.) We even found a broken garage door among the debris. That can’t have been easy to haul all that way, so I think that suggests the spot was desirable for dumping trash that couldn’t go elsewhere.

And that brings us back to the fallen tree you see above. When it first fell, I was ambitious to cut it into pieces so the old road would be cleared, but somehow my natural sloth prevented my flighty ambition from holding sway.

Not by design but certainly by default, the fallen tree has ended that occasional traffic along the old ridge road, at least along our part of it. And with that, I hope, the thought of going all the way back there into the woods to dump trash has come to an end. The part of the road (on our land) that is blocked is not very long; it’s hardly something we would have the need to drive on to get anywhere. So the fallen tree remains.

(The red thing you see in the background is Prolechariot.)

Missouri calendar:

  • River otters begin breeding now through early April.
  • Great horned owls couring; listen for “Hoo, hoo-oo, hoo-oo.”

Today in Missouri history:

  • William Carr Lane was born on this date in 1789. He was the first mayor of St. Louis, serving for five terms and then nine years after re-elected for two more. He was a progressive leader, paving roads, creating free schools, and supporting a city hospital and clean water. He was later appointed governor of the New Mexico territory.

Ready to fall

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

These happy looking fungi are growing up the side of a tree just inside the entrance to Roundrock. Some years ago, when my neighbor’s prairie grass fire got out of his control and swept into my forest a little bit, this tree was one of the casualties. It’s hung on over the years, but the extent of the fungus on it tells me that it doesn’t have long to live.

That’s all part of the natural order of things. It’s not an especially desirable tree, and if it did fall to the ground it could begin transferring all of the solar energy it has collected over its many decades into other uses in the forest.

The problem is that if it does fall to the ground, it will block the entrance to Roundrock. We may arrive there some day and find the road blocked. We’re equipped for that challenge, of course, but who wants that hassle when there will probably be other things on the agenda that day? (Worse, what if we arrived down at our woods to find the tree had fallen and some interloper had cut a path through it?)

So as I sit here in the comfort of my home in suburbia, I imagine that my next chore on my next visit will be to take down this tree deliberately. Such a task would be a good one when #1 Son Seth is around. Of course when I next get out to the woods, I may have a fresh look at the tree and change my mind. One problem is that the direction of its lean is toward the maple I have planted near the entrance. In defiance of the forest gods, this maple is actually doing well. I’d hate to bring a dead tree down on it.

Of course a skilled woodsman can pretty much control the direction of a tree’s fall. But the qualifier there — and I’m sure you didn’t miss is — is the “skilled woodsman” part. The one time Seth and I did take down a large tree, it didn’t fall where we had intended. In fact, it fell in the opposite direction. So we’ll see what we will do with this one. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it.

Missouri calendar:

  • Voles and mice feed on grass and seeds under the snow.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Monsanto Company was founded in St. Louis on this date in 1901.
  • Actor Don Cheadle is born in Kansas City on this date in 1964.

This year’s order

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

The Missouri Department of Conservation seedling order form has been online for more than ten day, but you haven’t seen me make a post about all of the trees I’ve ordered this year. That’s because I didn’t order any trees this year.

I ordered shrubbery instead. Next year at this time I may be singing a different tune, but right now I think I’ve planted about all of the trees I have room for at Roundrock. The pecans grace the acre of open land below the dam — at least in the parts of the rocky ground there that can support trees, which I’ve learned about through years of failed replantings. And the good soil area in the formerly called Blackberry Corner is packed with shortleaf pines, which are doing quite well. That doesn’t leave much open space left for planting in the 80+ acres.

I’ve thought that if the Conservation Department offered Red Maples one year, I would order a bunch or two of those and just plant them randomly about the forest to increase the plant diversity. (I did this with some leftover pines this last spring.) I might even prepare some areas for Red Maples if they were available. So far, though, the Conservation Department hasn’t offered them.

So I’m planting shrubbery this year. My eye is more toward wildlife benefit. First I’ve ordered 25 Wild Plum seedlings. These are native to Missouri and provide both cover and food for the wild things. Their fruits are even edible by humans. They grow fast but need full sun. Fortunately, one of their associated species is Eastern Red Cedar. I have plenty of that, and I wouldn’t mind cutting down some of it to open a place in the forest for the Wild Plums.

The other plant I’ve ordered is American Beauty Berry. Another native to the state, it is also fast growing and will do well in shade, so that gives me more planting options. Go to that link to have a look at the cluster of berries the plant will display in the fall. The berries are an important wildlife food source in the early winter, and best of all, they are favored by Bobwhite quail, which I’ve long wanted to nurture in my woods.

So this April I will have delivered to my door 50 plants to put in the ground at Roundrock. The whole thing, including delivery, will cost me a mere $22.00. The critters will get better conditions. I will be kept busy. And you’ll benefit from some posts this spring about my adventures. Everyone wins.

Missouri calendar:

  • Red admiral butterflies search for overwintering sites.

Today in Missouri history:

  • John C. Fremont, later a Civil War general and the first Republican candidate for President, made a bad choice on this date in 1848 and misled an expedition of discovery in the Rocky Mountains into a howling storm and camp of starvation. Eleven men and uncounted mules died because of Fremont’s foolhardy insistence on exploring in the winter.

A green thing

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

This photo is a little old given the season, but a splash of green is always welcome. I took this shot more than a month ago when there was still some green in the Ozark forest. I don’t know what kind of tree this is, though I have them here and there at Roundrock.

I suspect it is some variety of a hawthorn. Most hawthorns have leaves shaped similar to a maple leaf, and you can see that this one does not. There is a variety of hawthorn, though, called the Cockspur thorn (Crataegus crus-galli) that has spoon shaped leaves like in this photo. Hawthorns also have thorns on their branches, and though this one did seem to have something thorn-like, but it wasn’t much like what I’ve seen on hawthorns I have known. The bark looked right, but that could group it into several tree types. I’ve also never seen any flowers on these odd trees of mine, and if they are hawthorn trees, this one would have had fruit on it at the time I visited.

Some day I’ll have to get more serious about identifying the trees in my forest.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Sam Hildebrand, one of Missouri’s most dreaded outlaws, began his career as a Confederate bushwacker with no purpose other than to kill his enemies. He is said to have killed more than 100 men. The Union militia was ordered to capture and execute him on this date in 1863, but he eluded them.
  • Composer Virgil Thompson was born in Kansas City on this date in 1896.


Friday, November 21st, 2008

This tree sits just beside the entrance to Roundrock. I’ve probably passed it hundreds of times, but it was only on my last visit — on the way out of Roundrock — that I noticed it for the first time. (Okay, it’s about twenty feet onto my neighbor’s property, but still . . .)

Do you see a face in this tree? I didn’t at first. I was just trying to get a picture of a gnarled tree, deformed by the barbed wire that was wrapped around it in the past. (You can still see some of it on the right side near the top.) But #2 Son Adam immediately said he saw a face when I showed him the photo. Now I do as well.

This is an example of a pareidolia, though unless it’s some unnamed forest god, I don’t think it looks like any “recognized deity.” Apparently humans evolved with the ability to recognize faces as a survival technique. Unfortunately, that ability sometimes gets put to use in incorrect situations.

(If you go to that link above, be sure to scroll down and notice the tree that looks like a person bowling. We all know it’s actually a thong tree.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Mammals seek winter shelters.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Dr. William Beaumont was born on this date in 1795. He was post physician at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and later president of the St. Louis Medical Society. Early in his career he made groundbreaking discoveries in human digestion because of his famous patient whose shotgun wound to the stomach never fully healed and allowed Beaumont to make first-hand observations of the stomach’s operations.
  • Jazz vocalist Coleman Hawkins is born in St. Joseph, Missouri on this date in 1905.


Thursday, November 13th, 2008

When we first started going to Fallen Timbers (that other bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks we have) I nailed a thermometer to a white oak tree next to our fire ring. For many visits I dutifully recorded the temperatures when we arrived, at the middle of the day, and at the time we left. (That level of fastidiousness was not sustainable.)

That was perhaps ten years ago, and when we were out there recently I noticed that the tree has begun absorbing the thermometer. The tree is growing around the intruder, which is called inosculation.

I’ve often wanted to become “one with the forest” but I don’t think I want to be eaten by a tree.


You know many things. Notice how washed out that photo is. It happened that the battery in my camera was running low that day, and I saw this faded look in many of the other pix I took then. Is low battery strength a cause of this kind of image? Does anyone know?

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for “frost flowers” with first hard frost.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Spain gained control of the Louisiana Territory in the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1770.
  • In 1818, the Territorial Legislature adopts a memorial to Congress asking for statehood.
  • A great meteor shower, falling as thick as snowflakes, lighted up the sky on this night in 1833. The phenomenon convinced many that Judgment Day had come and allowed one captured runaway slave near Boone County, Missouri to make a second escape to freedom.