Archive for the 'General' Category

ticks are upon us!

Monday, May 23rd, 2016


Libby and Queequeg and Flike and I went to Roundrock on Saturday, with the intent of staying the night to listen to the whippoorwills as we sat around a crackling campfire. We were thwarted in that hope, but we did manage to make a good overnight weekend out of the trip.

There was all of Saturday to be filled before we could listen for the whippoorwills, so we managed to find things to do. Libby and I took a long hike through our woods (leaving the dogs in the cabin since the ticks are already thick in the scrub). Because the top of the dam was a dense growth of tall grass (grass that might have prevented the spillways from washing out — again — had it been growing there before), we diverted around it, going to our eastern property line and pushing through the scrub there, thinking foolishly that the dense trees would stifle the scrub growth. Flike might have made it through there with us, but Queequeg would not and would have been carried. (It would have been easier had we just crossed the dam.)

We had no specific goal in mind on our walk, and when we finally found ourselves across the lake and on the north-facing slope, we wandered through the trees, looking at this and that, and more or less following our feet to the west. The growth is in full ambition mode now, and I know that by August, this will seem to have been not a good idea, but what does youth know, right?

We made our way to the western end of the lake, which was at full pool and looking splendid, and crossed in the gravel to the south facing slope, making our serpentine way back to the dogs and the cabin. We stopped at a small pile of stones where we hope to some day build an actual house, and I left a pink gemstone atop it. (It is a 2-inch diameter piece of glass.) We direct our feet to this part of our forest frequently, and I’m eager to see if the gemstone remains or is carried off by some “collector.” It’s a big item, so I don’t think it will go far, but I won’t be surprised when I return and find it knocked off the rock and in the leaf litter.

We spent the rest of the afternoon picking ticks off of our clothes. We did have a campfire, but unexpected, distant thunder and lightning arrived, as well as a few drops of rain, and I think that may have quieted the whippoorwills. This means, of course, that we must return and stay the night so that we can listen for them again.


Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

I don’t know how many people are still reading this humble blog. I know some malware has frightened a few away; there are times when even I can’t get to the site. For those of you still visiting, welcome and thank you.

Today is my 11th anniversary with the blog. (Never mind half of 2010 and all of 2011 when I was on hiatus.) There is always something new going on at Roundrock. Unfortunately, I’m not always there when it happens.

I’m hoping to get out to my woods this weekend, perhaps for an overnight. Maybe I’ll have new stories to tell.


Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

You may know that I am reading the novels of Iris Murdoch in sequence. I’m currently reading The Bell (for the third time) and enjoying it a great deal. Some say it is her most approachable novel. In any case, the more versed you are in mythology, Plato, Buddhism, and the like, the more deeply you can appreciate her novels. To that end, I bought myself a nice reading copy of The Metamorphoses, written by Ovid. My intent was to read all of these myths and become a better Murdoch reader as a result. I acquired it last fall, and I haven’t gotten through the introduction yet.

But never mind about that.

One of the stories that has always interested me is that of Daphne, a nymph who was being pursued by the rapacious, salacious Apollo. About to be subdued, she begs for deliverance from various sources (her father, who is a river god, and others) and is transformed into a laurel tree.

And so much for today’s mythology lesson. What interests me is how this transformation has been depicted in art through the ages.




You get the idea.

It’s fascinating (to me, anyway) what the sources of these myths are, how the ancients understood their worlds by telling these stories. What seems consistent in these depictions is that Daphne is transformed in an upright position. What might have inspired that understanding?

I think those are all bogus, PG-13 depictions and that the real inspiration for this myth was something a bit more . . . graphic. Behold this tree in a park not far from my house:


nuf sed?

big, big buckeye

Thursday, April 28th, 2016


I know I talk about this buckeye in front of the cabin a lot. (It’s actually three buckeye plants in that cage.) I’ve had it in place for four or five years, and after its first year, it brought out flowers. I’m pleased with its progress, though I’m years away from removing that fencing from around it. (Those vandal deer!) The trio on the other side of the cabin are doing well enuf, but they’re not nearly as robust as these three. I think I need to get them more sunlight.

Anyway, these three seem to have hit their adolescent growth spurt. You can see how the branches are now a couple of feet above the top of the fence. (I can remember when they were wee things at the bottom of the cage.)

If you look closely, you can see the many flowers emerging. I think by now they are in full bloom, and I’m hoping some hummingbirds have arrived from the south to enjoy the nectar. Wish I could be there to see it.

traveling tarp

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

tarp 1

This is where the tarp spent most of the winter. I placed it there to squelch the grass and weeds there were coming up in this area that I’d prefer be exclusively gravel. (You can see the lake at the top of the photo, which is why I don’t use herbicide on this area.)

The tarp method of green plant eradication is more effective in the growing season, and that’s why I left the tarp in the same place for so long; winter ain’t the growing season.

But on my last trip to Roundrock, I decided to move it to a new area of upstart greenery in my gravel. Here is what I found beneath it when I pulled it away:

tarp 2

Plenty of dead grass, and plenty of leaves as well. I don’t think I would have left those leaves there when I laid down the tarp (although I may have). Maybe little critters brought them in?

I moved the tarp closer to the cabin this time:

tarp 3

It should do the job well here, and more quickly, so then I can move it again to a new place. (Everyone needs a hobby, right?)

This tarp has been a workhorse around the area. We’ve had it since before the cabin was built. In fact, it was our shelter tarp for several seasons, more or less rising right where the cabin stands today.


Monday, April 25th, 2016


This photo is a close up of the back of one of the comfy chairs at the fire ring at Roundrock. I don’t think I’d ever noticed this pattern of gnawing on the side of it.

Some critter went to a bit of trouble to gnaw on this part of the chair. This is the back, as I said, and the side, and it’s nearly three feet above the ground. The critter would either have to perch on the arm of the chair to do this or exploit the chair when it was in this unfortunate state:

drunk chair

Actually, that doesn’t look like a better angle for a gnawing critter. The part of the chair that is gnawed on is protected by the grill (on the right of the ring, barely noticeable).

In any case, my guess is that Libby or I had handled some food (perhaps ground beef or a sausage) preparing it for cooking on the fire and touched this part of the chair. The grease then attracted the critter, who made a thoroughly non-nutritious exploitation of the plastic.

We have four of these green chairs, and they are worth talking about. We’ve had these longer than the many others of their kind that have come and gone. They have outlasted the others by holding together despite the bitter winters and searing summers for longer than the cabin has been standing. They were a gift from our friends Todd and Tracy years ago, and I think they’d be surprised to learn the chairs are still around and giving us good service.

Skywatch Friday ~ April blue

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

blue sky

The green is slowly returning to the forest down in the Missouri Ozarks, and I won’t get this view of the sky in another couple of weeks. That’s the roofline of the cabin at the left and a Blackjack oak rising from the lower right.

Four days of cloud cover and rain followed the weekend when I took this shot.

one-match fire, too

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

one-match fire

My trip to Roundrock last weekend was an overnight, so that meant a fire. I think I could count on one hand the number of fires I’ve had on trips that were not overnights (mostly when we had guests out who wanted to make foil dinners and roast marshmallows, I think). I’m reluctant to have a fire, put it out, and then leave; I always fear the fire isn’t fully out and that it will flare up in my absence. Better to give it an overnight (when I’m sleeping?) to ensure it is fully out before I leave.

I spoke before about the great, great quantity of strike-anywhere matches I have, as well as my snail’s pace at using them. My pride in building one-match fires does not help with their use. If I built a one-match fire every day for a year, I would use only one-sixth of the matches I currently have. Since I don’t smoke ceegars anymore (#runnerproblems) I don’t use the matches for those either. So I suppose I should make sure the dispensation of the matches is listed in my will.

Anyway, the fire was a success, and I was able to cook my dinner over it:

hot dog

It wasn’t very tasty, to tell the truth, but Flike didn’t object when I shared it with him. Then a few hours of musing before the coals as the night sounds wrapped around me. I heard the frogs, of course, as well as many barred owls all over the Central Valley, and even some yipping coyotes. It was only when I rose in the middle of the night that I heard a whippoorwill.

phoebe is back!

Monday, April 18th, 2016

phoebe nest

Flike and I made an overnight trip to Roundrock this past weekend. (Partly a self-indulgent reward for that little bit of running around I did the weekend before.)

One of the first sights I saw upon stepping onto the cabin porch was the new phoebe nest. I thought I saw signs of it on my prior trip since there was splattered mud on the porch floor then. Let a few weeks pass and she’s able to build her nest anew and, I suspect, lay some eggs in it.

As long as I was around, phoebe left the nest but scolded me from the branches of the trees in front of the cabin. When I’d sneak up on the porch and peek around the side, I would see her sitting in the nest, which strongly suggests to me that she was sitting on some eggs in there. Last year I had stuck my camera into the nest and got some blurry photos of eggs (and later chicks), but I decided not to do that this year.

You can see the outline of last year’s nest on the boards of the cabin, to the right of this year’s nest. One late fall trip last year, I found the nest fallen to the porch floor, so I swept it off. Phoebe had apparently concluded that this spot that was so successful last year (we counted three broods) that she returned to within inches of it this year. At the other end of the porch are two spots smeared with mud that were. I think, first drafts of this year’s nest.

GO! St. Louis Marathon 2016 ~ Part Four

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Days later and I’m still upset. I have experienced being among the last in on a race and seeing the vendors packed up and gone. But never the race officials.

But I suppose I shouldn’t carry around this bitterness. (It just slows me down.)

What else can I tell you about the race?

After I finished, we made our way back to the bed and breakfast, making a short stop at the local grocery story to pick up some chocolate milk and some epsom salts. I intended to soothe my wounded ego as much as my wounded body. The bed and breakfast where we always stay when we’re in St. Louis has a pool in the back — a cement pond, I fondly call it — and I intended to get in it after the race. Ice baths are an actual thing that many runners indulge in after a hard run. I don’t know the biomechanics of it, what good it does for your muscles, but I was determined to try it, and the cement pond allowed me to do so without filling a bathtub with ice. I don’t think the temperature ever rose above the mid fifties that day, and the sun never did make an appearance. Plus, the host at the B&B told me the water temperature was in the 30s in the pool. (Ideal ice bath temperature is between 50 and 60.) So when we got back, I took off my (soaked) shoes and socks, emptied all of the little pockets in my skimpy shorts, and then stepped in the pool. I only went in as far as my hips, and I only stayed in for about 5 minutes (ideal time is 15-20 minutes). My feet went numb, but the pain in my thighs did go away. Libby got it on video and posted it to Facebook. Ha ha ha!

Then I went into the house and prepared a hot bath with the epsom salts. Again, I don’t know the biomechanics of it, but many runners swear by this post-run treatment too. The B&B is an old house, and the tub I was to use was large enuf for three people, and plenty deep. I drew the water, stirred in the salts, and then somehow coaxed my legs to lift themselves high enuf to get over the top of the tub and into the water. It was blissful! It was heavenly! I could fill the tub to the rim if I wanted, with copious amounts of hot water. I soaked in there for most of an hour, and I felt about as great as you can after having run (and walked) 26.2 miles. But then, a problem.

I couldn’t get out. The tub was deep. I couldn’t push myself up enuf with my arms and had to use my legs. But every time I bent them, they cramped up severely. I literally sat naked in that empty tub for a half hour, waiting for the cramping to subside after each attempt. I finally called for Libby and she came, but she wasn’t strong enuf to be able to pull me up. So I just kept trying, finally sliding high enuf up the side to perch there and let the cramping subside again. I did eventually get out, of course. I put on some clothes and gingerly walked down the 17 steps from our room to the ground floor of the B&B, then out on the town for some well deserved pizza and beer.

The equivalent of the index finger on my right foot is swollen and smarting. I expect to lose that toenail and possibly two others. When the rain came and soaked my socks, I could feel three of the toes on my right foot rubbing against my shoe. This was partly the result of me running on the right side of the road where it sloped to the gutter. This caused my right foot to slide inside my shoe to the right (downhill). I tried to correct for this by running in the center of the road where it was flatter, but I don’t think I caught it in time. The coming days will tell the tale.

I realized the day after the marathon that I had run it with the arch support inserts in my shoes. This was a little experiment I had begun some months ago to see if it would prevent Achilles tendon problems after a run. That worked, but I didn’t know if I could go a full marathon with the inserts. Then I did it without even remembering they were there. So that’s a win.

My running watch once again gave me a low battery message during the run. Granted, I am not a fast runner and my finish time is higher than most, but it was still well within the advertised capacity of the watch battery. So I’m disappointed.

I seem to have forgotten the pain of the run. (My legs are mostly better, and I intend to try a short run this weekend.) I’m already thinking about what I can and must do to make the New York City Marathon a good run. And I’m actually thinking about running more full marathons. It may be that my body only has one of these in it each year. (I hope to find out when I run NYC in five months.) If so, I’m resigned to that. But if I can train better, and fuel better, and find some forgiving runs, maybe I can tease out two a year.

Finally, I really thought the medal for this run was ugly. (You may recall my posts about how ugly I’m finding the medals lately.) But when I crossed that finish line and they hung that medal around my neck, it didn’t look so ugly any longer. It now hangs with my two other marathon medals, and I’m happy with it.