Archive for the 'Stewardship' Category

Sunday rooftop edition

Sunday, June 28th, 2009


I mentioned in one of my New York posts last week that my daughter lives in a third-floor walk-up apartment and that the climb up those stairs several times a day was killing me. Well, I was sorely mistaken. It’s actually a fourth-floor walk up. Plus there’s the stoop. It’s only equivalent to four steps, but still . . . it all adds up to 51 steps from the sidewalk to their door, and the higher you go in that stairwell, the hotter it gets! Add another 17 steps, and you can go on the roof, which we did.

From that rooftop, though, you can see the view above. It was a hazy day when we finally managed to muster the energy to push up those last 17 steps, but this view to the west showed not only the Brooklyn skyline, but a bit of Manhattan beyond it. That’s the famed Empire State Building emerging from the mists that you see there.


Turns out it was hot back in the Midwest while we were away. I’m told it never broke into the triple digits in Kansas City, but it certainly flirted with the idea. Aside from the occasional smattering of rain, our stay in New York was pleasant, with temps barely inching into the 80s and a cool breeze blowing constantly. I understand that it is now a bit hotter there, but coincidentally, the hot temps of June in the Midwest seem to have given way to more seasonal and moderate weather, just in time for our return. Nice. (With any luck, we’re down at Roundrock as you’re reading this. With a bit more luck, we’re swimming in our lake for the first time this season.)


Today is the deadline for the next edition of the Festival of the Trees, being hosted at the beginning of its fourth year at TGAW. Send your links to vicky (at) tgaw (dot) com by the end of the day.

Plenty of folks have stepped up over the years to host the Festival. You can see a complete list over at the coordinating blog site, and I’d love to add your blog to this wall of heroes. If you’re interested in being a host, just let me or Dave know.


Down the block from my daughter’s apartment is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company. I encourage you to visit that site and poke around until you uncover the real super power they deal in! Let me know what you think.


I know you have been wondering how Crusher is doing now that he’s a New Yorker. He seems to have taken well to apartment living. He still has all of the energy he had back in his Oregon puppyhood, but even a four-room apartment is plenty of space for the little guy. Here he is in a more relaxed moment:


Missouri calendar:

  • Dog-day cicadas begin to sing.

Festival of the Trees – Edition 36

Monday, June 1st, 2009


It’s a little hard to believe that this wonderful Festival of the Trees has now completed its third year with this edition! So many great hosts; so many great posts!


Pete starts us off by making the case for keeping fruit trees of your own at his blog Summertime Fun. leafbullet2 Mark has this pleasing report about his backyard bounties. leafbullet3 Trees can shelter us as well as feed us as these houses in trees suggest. leafbullet4 And sometimes we shelter them. leafbullet1 Colin from Talk Gardening Online offers advice on how to plant and care for a fruit tree. leafbullet5 Yet despite all of the bounty they can provide us, many sources may be lost.


Sometimes you can find hot pink flowers on a cool green pine, as Nature Geek Northwest points out. leafbullet6 And if you’d like to see more riotous pink, head over over to trees, if you please. leafbullet1 For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter is just a memory now, but have a look at these gorgeous winter trees and you’ll feel the bracing chill again. leafbullet2 This new blog doesn’t have a lot of posts yet, but you can tell what this person loves over at Tree Flowers. leafbullet3 With Ash out on the bike, you never know what trees might turn up. leafbullet4 Sometimes when the words won’t come, you can still use poetry to explore your feelings about trees, as Mather Schneider has done with Family Tree. leafbullet5 The beauty of a tulip tree can deliver a lesson too, as Beverly at Murmuring Trees shares with us. leafbullet6 And did you know that tulip trees can concentrate their sweetness into droplets? Elizabeth does. leafbullet1 Eric has even more to say about tulip trees (plus some links) over at Neighborhood Nature. leafbullet2 Maitri Bagh, Bhilai: Part 1. leafbullet3 Granny J offers a pleasing gallery of gnarls & knots, showing that even when a tree is gone, it can still provide beauty and wonder. leafbullet4 The wild date palms are part of the heaven that is western Crete, as Jeremy shows us in CWR heaven. leafbullet5 Seabrooke shares her love of basswood trees in her post The bee-tree. leafbullet3 And at Osage + Orange we can see the beauty of cottonwood seeds, blanketing the ground and drifting through the air.


Learning to read the forest – Five common types. leafbullet6 The oldest tree in Belgium speaks of endurance. leafbullet1 Even entomologists are not immune from the wonder of trees, as Ted points out in his series of posts about the Trees of Lake Tahoe. leafbullet2 From a Cabinet of Curiosities in the north east of England we learn that the only object in a forest that might be more valuable than a live tree is a dead tree. leafbullet3 From the online journal The Clade, we have this evocative post about ponderosa pines. You’ll wish you were there (unless you already are). leafbullet4 The Divine Bunbun offers some advice about where you might want to park your car in Male Flowers at Prom Season. leafbullet5 There are many characters in the blogosphere, and some of them are exceptional, but Mike of the 10,000 Birds blog introduces us to an Area of Exceptional Forest Character! leafbullet6 When Google held a contest for school children to draw the logo, 90 of the 400 state finalist incorporated a tree in their drawings, as Vicky shares with us.


leafbullet1 The forest as monastery – Thai Forest Tradition.
leafbullet2 The forest as sharing – Whistling Wings.
leafbullet3 The forest as solace – Green Tangle.
leafbullet4The forest as beauty – Green giants.
leafbullet6 The forest as hope – Stoney Moss.


From the department of really-long-ladders come two posts that are hair raising and toe curling – Tree Surgery Part One and Part Two. leafbullet1 Ever the meticulous woodsman, Beau over at Fox Haven Journal notes that sometimes it is necessary to take down a tree or two, and then he shows how it is done. leafbullet6 And finally, Zilla points out that while it might sometimes be necessary to cut down a tree or two, it might also be necessary to leave a pair of pines for the benefit of the community.


Many thanks for all of the great links, and thanks to all of you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Festival. Maybe you’ve found a few new blogs to visit regularly.

Thanks, also, to my crackerjack web designer who did such a nifty job jazzing up the blog for this Festival. See you in three weeks, web designer!

Next month the Festival of the Trees will be hosted by Vicky at TGAW. You can send her your links to vicky (at) tgaw (dot) com by June 28. Vicky is looking toward a theme for her edition:

“For July’s Festival of the Trees, I would love to receive submissions regarding ‘survivor trees.’ Trees that have survived great tragedies or remarkably harsh environments. Trees that have rebounded and found a way to thrive. Trees that have brought hope or comfort. Trees that inspire us in times of need.”


Happy Birthday, Little Bear!

Missouri calendar:

  • Turtles begin laying eggs.
  • Lady’s-slipper orchids bloom.

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.

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.

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.

Take two

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Take two of these:

And turn them into two of these:

And you have two posts suitable for all kinds of uses. My use on my recent trip to Roundrock was to see how well they might work as support posts for the fencing we have put around our pine trees. Here is the result:

What do you think?

Here’s what I think: they’ll do. I need to refine my process a bit though. I made them too long. While Libby held the post in place, I had to wield the sledge hammer above my head to pound them in. I couldn’t get much force in my blows that way. Of course, the farther they went in the ground, the harder I could strike, so I’ve concluded that if I begin with shorter posts, I’ll have a better start.

We’d considered using cedars with even thinner diameter trunks so that we could slip the stake driver over them for pounding purposes, but I suspect a post that thin will be too wobbly for the job. It’s probably worth a try though in case I’m wrong. And in any case, I can afford to lose more cedars.

This brilliant idea — of using accessible and free resources for posts — will only work in the pine plantation where the soil is deep and loamy. I could never hope to pound a piece of wood into the rocky soil of the pecan plantation (or in most other parts of my woods). That suits my purposes though.

I’ve had a notion for a while to swap out the steel fence posts I have among the pines with cedar posts. The experiment on Saturday proved that it could be done, and could be done relatively easily. Using the pole saw, I was able to cut the posts quickly. Now that I know I don’t need them as long, I think driving them into the ground will be easier. Removing the steel posts was simple. The only difficult part was strapping the thicker cedar posts to the fencing, and even that was hardly difficult.

The reason I want to do this because I worry about theft. Think about it. I have perhaps fifty steel fence posts resting in good soil at a remote site on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, unsupervised for weeks at a time. With the cost of raw materials going up, the price for these posts has almost doubled since I first starting using them. I would not be surprised to come down to Roundrock some day and find that someone has yanked all of the steel posts out of the ground and driven off with them because they were sitting there unguarded. The pines would be unprotected, and given that the fencing is tied to the posts, the pines would probably get damaged as the interloper wrested the posts from the fencing. (Can you tell that I’m really good at these doom and gloom scenarios?)

So I thought that if I could swap out the steel posts for cedar ones, I could take away the “occasion of sin” so to speak. I can use the steel posts deeper in the forest where they are not going to be seen or among the pecans where once they go in the ground they will stay.

So Saturday’s work was a little experiment, and it seemed to work out just fine. Perhaps every time I go to Roundrock now, I’ll cut a few more posts.

Computer Update: As I write this, I still have no news on my laptop data recovery. I hope to hear about it this week. In the meantime, I’m thinking of making myself a laptop out of cedar posts. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • On this date in 1870 a case was argued before the court in Warrensburg, Missouri about a dog, Old Drum. The team of attorneys that fought on the dog’s behalf included men who would become senators, governors, and federal judges. Such was the love for Old Drum. The team won damages for the killed dog, and the words spoken into the record have been applied to good dogs ever since. A statue of Old Drum stands on the courthouse grounds in Warrensburg.

Another redundant maple report

Monday, September 15th, 2008

You’ll remember this video post in which #1 Son cut down a tree so that more sunlight could reach the beleaguered maple I had planted up a draw at Roundrock. Well, the maple you see above is at the other end of Roundrock, near the entrance and along a wet-season stream in pretty good soil. This maple is doing well (and as I think about it, has really gotten no more sunlight than the other one has). This maple had a better start, though, in a pot of enriched soil on the deck of my house in suburbia. It grew something close to four feet tall in its first year in that pot. When I transferred it to Roundrock, it reduced its growing pace, but it has come out in leaf nicely each spring. The deer browsed it the first spring, so we improved its defenses, but as you can see, it’s outgrown the fence, and the deer seem to be leaving it alone. Maybe the fence will protect it from whatever it was that attacked the pines I planted.

I actually tried to frame this shot, so imagine how indistinct the tree would have looked if I hadn’t. I tried to put the green leaves of the maple against the dark trunk in the background so they would stand out.

My hope is that this maple will turn a nice burning red in the fall (I have my doubts), and if so, I’ll be able to give you a better contrast shot.

Missouri calendar:

  • Hazelnuts ripen; watch for their ruffled cases.

Today in MIssouri history:

  • In 1856 Kansas Territorial Governor John Geary visits a camp of 2,700 pro-slavery Missourians marching on Lawrence and persuades them to return home.

Saturday Matinee – 8.30.2008

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

#1 Son with chainsaw @ Yahoo! Video

The Saturday Matinee returns, but only through the generous assistance of my web designer who corrected a serious flaw in my picture-taking technique.

You will, of course, remember that perhaps five years ago I had planted a small maple tree in some pretty good soil at the bottom of a ravine just north of the pecan plantation. I wrote about it most recently in this post, lamenting its failure to grow an inch in all of the time it’s been there in the ground. It occurred to me recently that maybe it just wasn’t getting enuf sunlight. I tucked it up in the ravine so that it might benefit from wetter soil, but I think that may have been at the price of sufficient sunlight.

And that brings us back to this tree that #1 Son Seth is shown cutting down in the video. This tree grows between the maple and the life-giving sun. I asked him to cut it down, and I captured the process. He begins by making a too-small wedge cut. Then he goes to the opposite side of the tree and begins his back cut too high. He notices something in the forest. Then he starts a new back cut that is better placed. And the tree comes down.

Yes, that’s a sweet ponytail you see coming out of the back of his hat.

I’ll go back in the fall after the scrub is leafless and clean up the fallen tree. I’ll also take out the rest of the trunk, though I don’t suppose it would do any harm just to leave it like that.

As to the flaw in my picture-taking technique . . .

I had turned my camera 90º when I shot this video. I wanted to get a more vertical image. Unfortunately, that meant that the actual video was on its side since you can’t tilt the camera with video the way you can with a regular still image. (I won’t make that mistake again.) Fortunately, my web designer found some plug in that can correct this goof, though it does cost a bit in image quality, and for that I apologize to both of you who will read this.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • He was reported to understand French, German, Spanish, shorthand, and demonstrated a knowledge of Morse code as well as the makes of cars. He could predict the sex of babies in the womb and picked in advance the winner of the Kentucky Derby six years in a row. On this date in 1935 a newspaper named him “Jim the Wonder Dog” because Jim was, indeed, a dog who lived in Sedalia, Missouri.