Archive for the 'Anachronisms' Category

Sycamore succession

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

sycamore 2

This post was one of my anachronisms. I wrote it on July 20, 2011, which helps account for all of the green you see in the photo. I’m slowly moving most of these to the current incarnation of the blog. I hope you like it.


We have a few sycamores growing at Roundrock, but we didn’t when we first came to the land. I’ve always liked sycamores; I like the ghostly white bark you can see in the winter when the leaves are all gone. Thus when we first started stomping about our woods all those years ago, I kept an eye out for sycamores and didn’t find any.

Then we cleared some of the Central Valley and had the lake put in. I think the combination of the open canopy and the more or less constant water supply allowed the sycamores to begin their colonization. I am pleased.

The one you see featured in today’s post is down in the acre below the dam. I’m having some success with raising pecans there, and if I were having better success I might not tolerate this sycamore. It’s growing right where the grid of my pecans should have one. But that pecan gave up long ago, and the sycamore will fill in the space nicely.

As you can see below, it’s growing much faster than the pecans have. I don’t mind that too much either. When I’m down in that acre doing work, it’s nice to have a bit of shade to retreat to. Plus I just like the look of it: the bark, the leaves, the shape and color.

sycamore 1

The other sycamores are bordering the lake, which seems like suitable habitat for them. There are probably a half dozen growing out there — one has died for whatever reason — and they are all good looking trees. I’m glad they’ve come.

Central Valley, revisited

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Central Valley

That title is literal. I have been up and down the Central Valley at Roundrock countless times, but I specifically revisited it on a recent (September 2011) visit to attempt to get the photo of something that is no longer there.

Roundrock is 80 acres in a rectangle: a quarter mile by a half mile. It is more or less one long valley, falling from west to east. We made our lake by damming part of the valley. Above the lake the valley grows more narrow though it is probably a hundred feet wide just above the lake, gradually losing width to the hillsides the farther west you go.

The ground is relatively flat, so it is a natural game trail, and in parts there is still some grass growing, probably remnants from the long-gone days when my woods was pasture as part of the cattle ranch that was once in the area.

The game trail that ran through the Central Valley was a convenient conduit for we talking apes to get from here to there. Our passage kept the trail open; the deers’ passage kept the trail open. But then the big ice storm of a few years ago brought down some big trees across parts of the Central Valley, interrupting the trail. The wild things, and we humans, had to divert around them to make our way through, and as a result, we visited this part of our forest less frequently.

So on my recent visit, I ventured in to this part of Roundrock to get a photo of the fallen trees that caused the problem, but they were gone. Not gone as in removed but as in sufficiently rotten to fall to the ground for the most part. Where I hoped to find blocked trail I found instead open woodland, as you see in the photo above.

I suppose I need to be suspicious of my memory of the blocked trails. I certainly seem to remember fallen trees getting in my way, but I couldn’t find much evidence of them after a few years. It doesn’t seem likely that they could decay that quickly. Maybe I didn’t visit the right part of the Central Valley. Maybe my memory has been embroidered.

The photo above was taken at pretty much the exact center of my forest. When I want to feel that I have fully escaped the troubles of the outside world, I take myself to this place.

Muddy paws

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

muddy paws

This post is an anachronism. I wrote in on July 14, 2011, and backdated it here. I intend it as a companion to the other post appearing today (October 17, 2009) on the blog, which was the first introduction of Flike.


There is a story told in our family of a certain doctor who, as a small boy, was very upset when he had muddy shoes. The incident is even captured on videotape (yes, tape).

And I can’t help but bring that memory to mind when I see the photo above of Flike, who has just enjoyed an exuberant romp through the muddy half-acre below the dam. He loves to romp among the pecans. The tall grass there does not slow him down; why should the mud and standing water do so either? As far as he is concerned, the open area below the dam is there specifically for him, and he uses it fully.

I usually take him down there early in our day at Roundrock. There is no shade, so I want to get done whatever it is I am doing down there before the heat is too intense. (That’s when you go swimming after all!) Plus, Flike will inevitably get muddy from his time there. The point of the early-in-the-day visit is that it allows him to wear off most of that mud before he hops into the back seat of the Prolechariot for the long ride home.

Adam’s Mark ~ re-revisited

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Adam's Mark

This post is an anachronism. I wrote it on May 15, 2011, but scheduled it to post on this back date. I hope I’m not confusing people with these back-dated posts.

While we were in the wet acre below the dam planting some buttonbush (in what looked like might be nice soil but was actually just a veneer of dirt atop unyielding gravel) I took the time to walk over the the locust tree where #2 son Adam had cut a mark. I’ve been casually watching the progress of the tree as it addresses this wound over the years. You see above where things stand as of May 2011.

Adam has said that if he had known I was going to make his handiwork a regular feature of this blog, he might have made a more special mark. You can see my original post about it here and a subsequent post here.

Regarding #2 son, he was married two weeks ago to his lovely wife Nina at a wonderful Persian ceremony here in Kansas City. Nina’s family is originally from Iran, and the ceremony was in three languages: Arabic, Farsi, and English. They return today (again, May 15, 2011) from their two-week honeymoon in Greece, and this coming weekend they will both be graduated from the University of Kansas School of Medicine as doctors. Then, alas, they will move to Portland, Oregon where they will begin their residencies. I say alas not because there is anything wrong with Portland but because they will be far away from Libby and me.

Dam site improved

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

better dam

This post is part of my anachronism series in which I’ve been writing and posting to this blog after I had “retired” it in May of 2010. I wrote this one on July 17, 2011, and backdated it here. It follow’s yesterday’s anachronistic post about the breach in the dam.


You can see above the repairs that were made to the dam after the breach I reported “yesterday.” If you look at that post you can see where the black pipe buried in the dam had burst and blown out part of the dam. What’s odd is that the black pipe is a drain; it’s not supposed to have high pressure on it.

My guess is that the big-water event we had (back in May 2011?) had sent enuf water through the pipe to have it spray out at the join in the black pipe connection. This had washed away enuf dirt around the pipe so that when the overflow added real pressure to the pipe, there wasn’t enuf earth around it to hold it in place, allowing it to wobble or buckle or whatever, thus breaking the join and really eroding the dirt.

It was probably never as bad as I imagined it to be, as I discussed in yesterday’s post, but I’m glad to have it fixed. Also fixed are the two spillways. My construction guy said that until I get a good stand of grass growing on them, I’m always going to have the potential for erosion. Unfortunately, the spillways are made mostly of gravel, with a few automobile-sized slabs of limestone bedrock mixed in. I’m not sure how I’m going to get gravel growing on that, but I’ll try seeding it this fall (assuming the spillways don’t wash away again before then) and see what happens. I don’t really want to try adding dirt to them so the seed will have some purchase, but I’m not sure what else can be done.

The spillways each have a berm along them to keep the water on the spillway until it gets well beyond the dam. What had happened was that the racing water had run along the base of these spillways, washing them out from underneath. Maybe if I can arrange the rock so that the water tends toward the other side of the spillways (they’re about 15 feet wide) then any erosion will be away from the berm. That could give me a chance to get grass growing on the berms, and it would tend to increase the “channel” along the spillways to the safer side.

You can see plenty of grass and whatever growing on the dam above where the repair was done. The top of the dam (still too narrow to drive on despite my hope that the improvements last fall would change that) has a healthy stand of fescue on it, and I hadn’t even seeded that deliberately. This gives me some hope that I can get the spillways green, at least on the berms. I suspect, though, that these will always be issues for me.

You can also see from the picture above that the water continues to leak below the dam. The construction guy had said that he had packed plenty of dirt on the downstream face of the dam in an attempt to stop the leaks, and at the time he said they had stopped. But he noted that he was working on the wrong side of the dam to do this, and obviously the water had simply waited for him to leave before making an appearance again.

It’s not a terrible leak, and it’s been getting less terrible each year as more silt finds its way to the lake bed. And now that I have some sapling cypress trees planted in that area, I’m actually grateful for the constant water. So I take the good with the not so good.

More dam news

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

This post is an anachronism. I wrote it on June 27, 2011, and back dated it to here. It follows the anachronistic post of yesterday.


My dam guy called me the other day to say that he had finished the dam work and that I have a good dam and some functioning dam spillways again. I haven’t been out to see the work, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get out there until this coming Sunday, July 3, 2011. In the meantime the weather radar suggests that the Roundrock area has been hammered with rain storms. I hope the hard (and relatively inexpensive) work is not undone.

What might have helped the spillways from getting so rutted from the water rushing down them would have been some grass growing on them. That’s true though problematic. (And I’m not sure even a healthy stand of fescue — the grass that ate the county — would have stood up to the onslaught.) The problem lies in the fact that there is very little actual soil in the spillway; it is mostly just organized rock. And in several places, it is bedrock. Even under ideal growing conditions, I’m not going to be able to get grass growing on all of the spillway or its berms.

My dam guy told me that he repaired the blow out in the side of the dam (it was probably never as bad as I imagined it to be) and that he had packed the soil on the dry side of the dam sufficiently to stop the water from leaking through. He doubts that that will be sufficient. As you can imagine, the problem must be solved at the point where the water leaks into (or under) the dam. By the time it is exiting the dam, it has already gone a long way and a little packed soil isn’t going to do much to stop it.

But every year the dam seems to leak a little less than it had before. I think it is sealing itself, and if I can just get more Bentonite into the water, that might help to make the seal better. Send cash.

Another dam problem!

Friday, June 5th, 2009


This post is an anachronism. I wrote it on June 9, 2011, but back dated it here to coincide with the month and day of our most recent visit to Roundrock — though obviously not the year.


We hadn’t been down to Roundrock in more than three weeks — it’s been busy in our lives with four graduations, three moves, and one wedding among our brood — and we looked forward to a relaxing day on the porch of the cabin, lazing away. That might have worked too, if we hadn’t made the mistake of going down below the dam to check on the cypress we had planted on a recent prior visit. And that’s when we saw the latest insult to my dream of having a reliable dam holding back a steady lake.

In the time since we were down there, the area had enjoyed some toad-strangler rains. While the weather was tearing up other parts of Missouri, it seemed satisfied with merely overloading the capacity of my lake and watershed and putting my two new spillways to work. To over work.

Also put to work was the overflow drain built into the dam. I had had the overflow drain pipe extended and more “dirt” packed on the dam more than a year ago. (You can see the quality of the dirt I have in the photo above.) That’s a 12-inch diameter pipe you see. In the drop from the overflow drain in the top of the dam to the outlet at the base of the dry side of the dam, there are two joints in this pipe. The one you see above is the newer one, the one that was part of the extension work done more than a year ago.

I don’t know why the joint failed. But the water rushing through the pipe had apparently been so strong that it found the weakness and kept up the pressure until it burst. Maybe the water pressure was so high in the 12-inch pipe that water was already pushing out of the joint, eroding the ground around it (the joint is supposed to be underground) until the joint had no outside support to hold it together and the pressure within was able to crack it open.

Whatever the reason, when the pipe gave way, the rushing water was able to fully erode the side of the dam, as you can see in this photo:

breach 2

There’s obviously a whole lotta dam above the breach, and, in fact, the break happens to be where the old outlet used to be. I console myself with the notion that I’m no worse off now than I was before I had the extension made. It’s cold comfort though.

You see on the right of that second photo where the outlet is supposed to be. The white barrel covers the valve for the drain I can open if I choose. (Why would I do that? Well, one idea was that I could bleed off some of the water in the lake if I knew a toad strangler was coming. I’d have to be there to be able to do that, of course.)

So I called my dam guy and asked him to come out and have a look at the problem. I suppose it will cost me a bit of cash, but my real worry is that he may not be able to bring his equipment out very soon to repair it. He’s very busy around the county, and he doesn’t like to bring his big machines in during the wet season, which is right about now.

So, what would life be without challenges, right?

Upmann Cabinet Seleccion

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009


This post is an anachronism. I wrote in on June 20, 2011, and backdated it here.


Only occasionally, not more than once a month on average and at most, I allow myself the indulgence of a good ceegar whilst sitting in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake in our little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. The ceegar of choice is an H. Upmann Cabinet Seleccion. Now, I don’t pretend to have a sophisticated palate for these things. Nor am I widely experienced. As I understand it, this is considered a “premium” ceegar (I guess that means it costs more than $5), but that’s not why I choose it.

I’m not sure how I ended up favoring this brand. I think it was given to me by a friend on a camping trip (after all of the boys were sent to bed — as if they would stay there!) and we adults sat around the campfire solving all the worlds problems, swapping stories, and smoking ceegars. I suppose that’s how I wound up favoring these, but it’s a common-enuf phenomenon among the human animal that when you find something you like, you tend to stick with it rather than risk disappointment on something new and different. (It’s why I generally order the same thing at the same restaurant, which I do much more often than smoking a ceegar, by the way.) I will say that years after I developed my fixation with the Upmann’s, I tried another ceegar that had been a quest of mine, and I was gravely disappointed, as I noted here.

So on our last trip to Roundrock (on June 19, 2011, which makes no sense in the dating of this post of course), I allowed myself my indulgence, and I enjoyed it. I now tape the ceegar bands into my visit journal, though, oddly, I don’t write anything about the smoking of the ceegar. I try to record facts about my visits in this new journal; seems like that would be something to record.

I realize these things are not good for me, but they do feel like an indulgence, and the smell of a ceegar reminds me of my grandfather, who smoked the cheapest ceegars he could get, buying them by the box. I won’t have one if any of the kids join us on our trips to the woods — and that’s growing less likely as the days pass; only one of my children even lives in town any longer. And I often feel jittery the day after I’ve smoked one.

Still, sitting on the porch, with the dogs at my feet, Libby beside me reading poetry out loud, the birds in the trees calling, the wind in the leaves. It doesn’t seem that bad really.

Backfill – Reading Room

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

reading room

This post is an anachronism. Although it is dated to post on September 27, 2008, I wrote it on February 1, 2011, and back dated it. This is intended merely to fill in one of the remaining holes from the period when the hard drive crashed on my old computer.

Poor Libby. Even though we have a quiet cabin deep in the middle of an 80-acre forest, she just can’t get any reading done there. It’s too noisy and busy. (That’s true whenever Flike is around.)

To solve her problem, Libby carried one of the comfy chairs to the other side of the lake and up into the trees. It was there that she could find the solitude she needs for reading.

Too bad it doesn’t work out that way for her.

In order for her to make her getaway, I have to keep the dogs occupied (shut into the cabin). Otherwise they would simply follow her across the dam and up into the forest. Regardless, the dogs are wise to this scheme. As soon as I let them out, and as soon as they figure out that Libby is not around, they decide to bolt across the dam and investigate the north-facing slope there, where they happen to know a comfy chair awaits. (If you look closely at the lower left of the photo, you can see Flike.)

Backfill – Some kind of sunfish

Friday, September 26th, 2008


This post is an anachronism. Although it is dated to post on September 26, 2008, I wrote it on February 1, 2011, and back dated it. This is intended merely to fill in one of the remaining holes from the period when the hard drive crashed on my old computer.

My daughter-in-law Amber has been taking an inventory of the fish in Lake Marguerite at Roundrock. One fine day while I was off doing something (perhaps sweeping the cabin porch steps), Amber was down at the lake, using my old tackle to see what surprises the lake might have. She had plenty of strikes and kept pulling them in. I had begun running down to the water with each catch, but after the first dozen, I let her just keep a running memory of them for me.

This is one of the first she caught that day. It’s also the only photo I took that was in focus. She pulled in some bigger ones but you’ll just have to take my word on that.

Long-time readers know that I’ve never stocked my lake (though there is some suspicion that a neighbor might have put some crappie in it). These are “wild fish” having gotten into the lake as eggs on the feet of visiting water fowl. (Also, I have a pond at the top of my property that has some fish in it. We’ve pulled some stunted sunfish from it. It is possible that on some wet and stormy day, fish from the pond might have washed over the spillway and taken an exciting trip a half mile to the lake.)

With the little bit of tackle I had on hand, Amber was only pulling in sunfish. The dam builder who was out recently to refurbish the dam said that he met up with some large catfish in the overflow pool at the base of the dam. Who knows what other surprises are lurking in the tea-colored water of the lake? Amber will find out!