Archive for the 'General' Category


Wednesday, March 4th, 2015


I realized after yesterday’s post that I needed to show you my 1777 map. Again, I apologize for the poor photo. And, again, I saturated the colors in this one to bring them out a bit.

So what do you see here? A little to the lower left of center is what we today call the convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. That pink band coming in from the right is now called Tennessee (and called Carolina here). The area above it to the meandering river is Kentucky. Above that are Illinois and Indiana. The green part to the left, which is labeled Luigiana Spagnuola — Spanish Louisiana — is Missouri and Arkansas. That was part of the Louisiana Purchase not too many years after this map was made.

As I said yesterday, all of the inscription on here is in Latin. I meant to try translating it myself, but my Latin is too rusty. I do have two clever nephews that might have a chance with it.

I’m sorry it is hard to see, but the meandering river coming in from the upper left is the mighty Missouri. Where it meets the Mississippi there is no village of St. Louis recorded. At that time the major settlements were on the Illinois side of the river. What is noted on the Missouri River is Fort Orleans, which was an actual historical settlement, though no one is sure just where it was located. The map maker more or less guessed. (Look at the mountain ranges for an idea of how they had to wing it in those days.)

I’ve spent countless house looking at maps.

old Missouri

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015


Sorry for the poor photo. This is a picture of a map in a frame on a wall in my house in faraway suburbia. It is a very old map of the counties in Missouri, and it was printed in 1850. I paid a princely sum (probably around $35 twenty years ago) for this and then had it framed behind protective glass (protective in that it keeps light from fading the colors). Full disclosure: I did saturate the colors in this photo so they would be more evident. The county that Roundrock is in does appear on this map, but some of the counties shown here have been chopped up in the ensuing decades. What you really can’t see are the lakes down in the Bootheel (lower right for those of you who aren’t familiar with the local lingo). That area is in the Mississippi River flood plain, and back in 1850, the Bootheel was filled with old growth cypresses in massive swamps. One swamp was so big that it was named Lake St. Mary, and people on one shore could not see the far shore. The land in the area was found to be more valuable as crop land, and a giant program of channelization was begun to drain the swamps into the river. There is still some regret about that to this day. The swamps are all gone, though there are a few remnants of it that are preserved.

I’ve always had a fondness for maps. I seem to have a better spatial sense than many people, and I just like looking at them. I have a similar map of Kansas on a nearby wall, and it is apparently worth a bit more for two reasons. One reason is that on the reverse side is a map of Wisconsin. When I had the Kansas map framed, I had glass put in the back as well as the front, so now I can flip the frame on the wall and see Wisconsin whenever I want. (Not that easy, really. The thing is heavy with all of that glass.) The second reason is that one of the county names is misspelled. Apparently the county was named after a prominent settler, and his name was spelled incorrectly. In the years after the map was printed, the error was discovered and the county properly re-named. But I have the evidence of the earlier indiscretion.

Hanging on another wall is my bestest map of all. It was made in 1777 by a mapmaker named Zatto, and it shows much of what would be termed the lower Midwest today. It is hand colored, and all of the inscription on it is in Latin. There are recognizable features, though the Ozark Mountains are depicted more fancifully that they actually are.

I love these maps, but there is something illicit about them. Many old atlases that would be valuable on their own are torn apart all of the time to get the individual pages, which can be sold in pieces for more money. I’m pretty sure that’s the pedigree of my maps, and it makes me want to take the back off of the frame of my 1777 map to see what might be recorded on it. I haven’t done that. Yet.


weather chair

Monday, March 2nd, 2015


In faraway suburbia, where I have been spending most of my time lately, we had a little snow come through. March came in like a lion, as they say, though perhaps snow leopard might be more apt

The chair you see above sits on the front porch (stoop) of my suburban home. Libby had salvaged it from someone’s curbside trash during one of her early morning walks and brought it home. She then painted it this bright blue. (Her intent was to color it Santa Fe blue, but I think she missed it by a few shades.) It’s sat on our porch for years now, taunting us to paint the front door the same blue (currently deep green), but we can never whip up the courage to do it.

And when it snows, Libby will take a photo of the chair then post it on social media. She gets a few comments about it, one person saying the chair must be causing the weather rather than reflecting it.

As I’m sure you can conclude, I have not yet made it out to Roundrock. All of January and all of February went by without a single visit. This coming weekend looks ideal, even overnight ideal, but, alas, I will be out of town once again. I’m determined to make at least one visit this month since spring racing season begins in earnest in April. (I’m on the roster for four races in April and May, totaling nearly 44 miles. And those are just what I’ve already signed up for. I may get taunted into doing other races too.) So I must get out to Roundrock soon.

keep the flame alive

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015



Forgive me for again lamenting my absence from Roundrock. The forecast for the coming weekend isn’t looking too promising for a visit (or for an outdoor run — though I’ve been having some good treadmill runs lately, which I can’t figure out).

What will I do when I finally get myself out to my woods? Will I continue work on the big, big job of digging out the roadside ditch along the northern property line? Will I hike the perimeter of the 80+ acres as I’ve intended to do every February (and have actually done a few times)? Will I clear some trees here and there and cut them into firewood? Will I try to remove the large poke plants from the dam or in the pine planting on the island? Will I take photos of anything and everything? Or will I do none of those things and “merely” sit in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and soak in the peace and solitude?

Whatever I choose to do, I’ll be glad I’m doing it, and I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.


Monday, February 23rd, 2015


Well, I’m going to pass through all of February not having visited Roundrock, which was my fate in January as well. This is unprecedented, unfortunate, and unreal. Blame the weather. Blame the grandson. Blame my inertia. Or don’t lay blame at all.

The silhouettes you see above are of massive, ancient cottonwood trees. They are at a park not too far from my house that has a nearly-half-mile paved path around a nicely maintained lake. The park has the usual amenities, including playgrounds, picnic shelters, restrooms, and, oddly, a “historic area.” I can’t figure out what that might be other than possibly those cottonwood trees. They were very likely around in settlement times. On the day I visited, the lake was filled with geese and ducks. The park was nearly empty of people though because it was about 25 degrees outside. There were three teenagers (one in shorts!) who were fooling around with a basketball and on the swings, and there were about three people and one dog walking around the lake.

Add two people and two dogs to the walkers. Libby and I, as well as Queequeg and Flike, took ourselves to this park to get the dogs out of the house and a little bit exercised. We also wanted to see the most recent improvements to the lake. (I have this thing about lakes and lake improvement.)

Most of the work was being done to the shoreline on the northern side. It had been eroding for years, and what may have once been a stone retaining wall had fallen into the water, not looking so bad itself but serving as a trap for all of the trash and cups and soda bottles that found their way into the lake. It was unsightly and, of course, a magnet to every kid who visited. The new retaining wall is more solid looking as well as neat and tidy. Come spring, when grass begins to grow where there is frozen mud now, it ought to be very nice. (Except for all of the goose droppings.)

a new feeder

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015


I’ve had a number of bird feeders near the cabin at Roundrock. Most were made of plastic and were destroyed by non-winged critters trying to get the seed inside. (I blame raccoons.) The one I’ve had the longest is made of metal and glass, but it is nearing the end of its working life. In fact, the critters made a good attempt at raiding this durable feeder, and you can sort of see in this old post. It’s also dented on the bottom where the seed emerges, so it’s not dispensing as well as it used to. The seed is also getting wet, which it never did before, and rotting.

In other words, the time had come to replace it. I didn’t want to get another plastic feeder since I knew that would have a short life, so I shopped around for a metal one in a reasonable price range. An afternoon of visiting gardening and bird shops lead me to the one you see above. It’s made of metal, as you can see, and it is curiously divided in half, presumably so I can load each side with a different kind of seed. I’m guessing the left side with the finer mesh screen would be best for a tiny seed like niger, while the more open mesh on the other side could hold the larger seeds that would attract different birds.

I’m not going to be so diverse. I’ll fill both sides with only one kind of seed (the backyard birding variety I currently have, and then black oil sunflower seed when I buy my next supply). I’ve not had any complaints from the nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, finches, and occasional blue jays yet.

Next time I’m out to Roundrock (assuming that ever happens again), I’ll take this new feeder out and install it. Then we’ll see.

from a long time ago

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

lake 3-13-03Traveling deep into the dusty, cobwebbed catacombs of my picture horde I found this photo of the newborn lake from March of 2003 — twelve years ago! It was nearly at full pool that day. (Both long-time readers will remember that the builder of my lake reported that it had filled overnight after a monstrous rainstorm. I think what I photographed above was the result of that.)

Notice all of the flotsam at the bottom of the photo. Most of that was either on the bed of the newly carved lake or washed into it from the 100-acre watershed that feeds it. This was all thrilling stuff for me at the time, and while I still get a lot of flotsam at the south spillway (and clogging the overflow drain), it’s no longer as thrilling for some reason.

Also thrilling was when I learned that I had fish in my lake. I hadn’t stocked them; apparently they came in as sticky eggs on the feet of water birds that visited. I’ve since put in about a dozen bass and at least one bluegill from a friend’s overstocked pond. When I stand quietly on the edge of the water, and when the sun is just right, I can see foot-long bass cruise the shoreline, and that’s gratifying (even thrilling).

The lake levels have ebbed and flowed over the years, and perhaps all of the Bentonite I have thrown in the water has helped seal the bottom. I think only a few thousand more dollars worth of Bentonite ought to fix the matter.



Monday, February 16th, 2015

bird house

I think I have six bird houses left at Roundrock. I’d put up several more, but they were soon destroyed by the elements or by the squirrels or perhaps by whatever is also trying to eat the cabin. The destroyed ones ended their wooden lives in various campfires over the years, but the remaining ones seem to be better made, generally store bought, though my friend Duff has made me a few solid ones; he is a wood worker who knows how to do these things.

In any case, I don’t think any of them has ever been used by a bird for nesting. Part of the reason for this is because there are so many natural nesting cavities in the trees and snags of my woods that the birds don’t seem to need any alternatives. But another reason is because other critters have used them instead.

The one you see above is attached to a fence post on my southern property line. I put it there so my neighbor, who maintains an open avenue on his side of the fence (which you can see in the photo, behind the birdhouse — that’s not snow on the ground but overexposure from a sunny day), will see that I am also active on my side of the fence. And what you see in the bird house does not look like a bird’s nest to me. There is another bird house at the other end of my woods and one nearer the cabin that have the same cozy-looking material added in them. (I can open them to look inside. Others I can’t open without taking them apart.) I don’t know what critter would put this soft material in a house, but my guess is that it is flying squirrels. They are native to the Roundrock area, and I did see one once, when #2 Son, Adam, knocked down a snag, and the little squirrel came bolting out of it and ran into the trees. Adam felt really bad about that.

This article suggests that my conclusion is probably on target. If so, then the bird houses used by the flying squirrels would be what are called refugia nests. I’ve been tempted to clean these boxes when I find them in the state you see above, but I never have. I wouldn’t want to destroy the refuge of a little forest animal. Another house near the cabin is filled with acorns. I had thought that maybe bluejays were doing this, but that same article suggests that flying squirrels may actually be responsible.

I don’t really mind that critters other than birds are using the boxes. As I said, I think the birds have plenty of other options (but then, so would the flying squirrels, who are known to have evicted birds from their nesting cavities). I’m happy just to be a good steward of the land. (Though another box I have near the Old Man of the Forest has been used for several years by wasps for their pendulous nest. And while I don’t technically mind the wasps making use of the bird house, it has been an unpleasant surprise when I’ve opened this box only to find an active wasps’ nest inside. Better wasps than hornets anyway.)

Skywatch Friday ~ eye on the sky

Friday, February 13th, 2015

eye on the sky

I can pass this off as a sky photo, can’t I? I mean, I have a new grandson. I can be indulged a little, right?

What you see is a reflection of the sky over Brooklyn one day this week, as seen by the one-month-old eyes of my grandson, Kenneth. When I was there last week, the sky was uniformly overcast with white clouds. It seems that may still be the case.

No, he does not have that much hair already. He’s wearing a warm hat his momma got for him. He even wore it home from the hospital. Here’s a better picture of the little angel:

fur baby

(I have confirmed that he does have a lower lip, in case you were wondering.)

bite me

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

bite me

I’ve written about this before. Some critter (verging on varmint) has been gnawing at the wooden corners of the cabin. This began almost as soon as the cabin was finished, but it only seemed like sampling then. Lately the gnawing has gotten more serious.

I don’t know what it is that they are getting from the chewing they do. We don’t really touch that part of the door frame, so I don’t think they smell skin oils there. Nor do we throw salt on the porch floor. I can’t figure out what’s going on. (Look closely and you can see that even the rubber gasket between the door and the frame has been nibbled on.)

We’ve talked about painting the door (and frame) in Santa Fe blue, but the dark green looks so good, and it matches the roof of the cabin, so maybe we won’t. We’ve also talked of painting the front door of our house in faraway suburbia Santa Fe blue, and while that is more likely to happen, we can’t seem to agree on just which blue is Santa Fe blue. I think a trip to New Mexico is called for, don’t you?