Archive for the 'Mysteries' Category

Sunday splurge

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I love it when folks tell me that they enjoy reading this humble blog while they’re having their morning cup of joe. I love it even more when some readers confess that they have sprayed coffee all over their computer screens because of something clever I’ve said. But I think it will love it most of all when someone tells me that he or she has shot coffee through the nose because of my posting. (Pictures would be great!)


No, of course that wasn’t a real alligator in the photo last Sunday. This blog has a long history of readers who are skeptical about the reptiles I display here. Generally I’m coy about the truth, but I’ll fess up about that alligator. Actually, what I liked best about that photo was the reflection of the leaves on the water.


I’ve mentioned the growing problem of Missouri’s feral pigs here before. One solution being suggested is to make hunting of feral pigs illegal in the state. That seemingly counterintuitive suggestion, it is believed, will cause fewer people to release hogs intentionally in order to build up a population that would attract those paying for the chance to hunt them. Allison has more about it over at her blog Ozark Highlands of Missouri. (Also, check out her post on a man who died of rabies from a bat bite. Bad media attention is worse than no attention at all.)


I figured out how to extract the photos from that uncooperative game camera I have, but when I looked at them, none seemed worth keeping, much less worth posting. I got some passing shots of those two interloper trucks and some bleached out shots of a couple of deer. That’s such a clever hiding spot for the camera, but I’m not sure it’s a good spot for getting photos. At this time of the year, without leaves on the trees, it gets the afternoon sun mostly full on. Maybe it will work better there in the summer.


It was two years ago today that I embarked on my ill-starred trip to Kenya. Lost luggage, bad plumbing, heart bypass surgery. What a short, strange trip that was.


As you may have realized, this month’s host of the Festival of the Trees had some technical difficulties and couldn’t get the edition up until late in the week. (The satellite dish that provided internet connectivity to her community in Panama was broken.) The good news is that the latest edition of the Festival of the Trees is now online, so hurry over to A Neotropical Savanna and have a nice, long look.

The next edition will be hosted by Rock Paper Lizard. The deadline for submissions in December 28, so send your links (they don’t even have to be your own creations) to talba [at] shaw [dot] ca. Be sure to put “Festival of the Trees” or “FOTT” in the subject line so your contribution isn’t overlooked.


What’s Pablo reading now? I’m still on Nuns and Soldiers. This is week three and I’m only about half way through it, but I’m savoring every difficult sentence and eerie little bit of plot.

Missouri calendar:

  • Raccoons den up during snow and ice storms.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first Territorial General Assembly meets in St. Louis on this date in 1812.
  • George Whiteman, the first American airman killed at Pearl Harbor on this date in 1941, was born in Missouri and has a strategic air command base in his home state named for him.

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.

Cast in stone

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I have round rocks by the hundreds at Roundrock, but I don’t pay much attention to the many fossils that are there as well.

This one stood out when I saw it. I’m not sure just what is fossilized here. Coral? Sponge? Some thickly veined leaf? Actually, it looks as though there are two fossils here: the latticed item on the left and the star-shaped item on the right.

This is not a facile fossil to research. I found a few online fossil identification sites, but it seems that you must know what kind of fossil you’re looking for, and then they will display an example of it for you. Good for them but not for me.

If you have any clue, I’d be glad to hear it. Otherwise, simply enjoy.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The King of Ragtime, Scott Joplin, was born on this date in 1868. One of his most famous tunes, The Maple Leaf Rag, was named for a nightclub where he performed in Sedalia, Missouri.
  • Positive thinker Dale Carnegie is born in Buffalo, Missouri on this date in 1888.

Sunday greetings

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Happy Birthday, Little Bit!

Long-time readers (both of them) know that I wish I had more walnut trees in my forest. It seems that I do, though, and I just don’t see them. On one of our forest rambles, Libby and I came upon two mature walnut trees growing side by side in the forest. One was a bit twisted and deformed, but the other was straight and tall, as you can see in the photo above.


If you haven’t surfed by Nature Blog Networks in a while, you should have a visit. There are new members coming online all the time, and you just might find a few that you really like.


One year ago I was contemplating green ferns.

Two years ago I was contemplating blue cones.

Three years ago I posted a photo uncannily like the one above.


If you haven’t visited The Cabin Chronicles in a while, don’t. Dana has merged that blog with her other blog, and the result is A Cat in My Lap. Apparently her cat Daisy helps with the blog posting. Go have a look.


I’ve mentioned before the problem of feral hogs in Missouri. The problem hasn’t gone away, though a number of efforts are underway to control them. I’ve not seen any evidence of them at Roundrock, but I understand my county is known for having a population of feral hogs.


If you haven’t visited the latest edition of the Festival of the Trees yet, you should go have a look. It’s being hosted at Via Negativa this month, back where the whole thing began more than two years ago.

The next edition will be hosted at the Panamanian blog A Neotropical Savanna. Send your tree posts, links, and pix by November 29 to Mary at panamaplants (at) gmail (dot) com, and be sure to put FOTT or Festival of the Trees in the subject line.

We’re always looking for new hosts, and January 1 is your turn, don’t you think?


What’s Pablo reading now? I’m just finishing Harry, revised by Mark Sarvas. I’ve been a bit ambivalent about this novel. The main character seems a little inconsistently drawn, highly motivated in one scene and adrift in the next. Clever then clueless. Accomplished yet bumbling. I’m hoping it all ties together in the end.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today. I say take someone you love to lunch today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the abolitionist Missouri editor who died because he believed in freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and – most important – freedom of man was born on this date in 1802.
  • St. Louis was incorporated as a town on this date in 1809.

in media res

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

On our last ramble about Roundrock, we came to what I think is pretty much the center of the 80+ acres. In the old days, before we had the road put in, we would generally hike along the creekbed, which was not very direct nor very smooth, and we would think we’d really made some progress if we got as far as the middle of our forest.

Now we hike there on a whim to revisit old memories. At that spot is a fallen snag. I put a round rock on the log just because I could, and often when we returned there months (or even a year) later, we would find the rock on the ground as though some wild thing was mightily offended that it was there. So each time I would replace the round rock on the log and off we would go.

On our most recent visit, the rock was off the log and several feet away, and this is not a small rock. It’s as large as my boot. I’m not sure what would have pushed it that far. The ground is level, so I don’t think it rolled there.

But something else was different. The log was only partially there. It seems to have really rotted away this season. Let’s give credit to the wet spring and summer for that. When I put the round rock back in its customary place on the log, it broke through and fell into the pulp, which you see above. If the rock is moved from this spot on my next visit, I’m really going to wonder what lurks in the woods.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for mallards.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The American Baseball League approved the sale of the Philadelphia Athletics to Arnold Johnson on this date in 1954 and Kansas City became a major league town for the first time.

Swath of Brown

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I came upon this patch of dead aromatic sumac when I was hiking along the old horse trail near our northeast corner recently. I’m not sure how to account for this. As you can see, the other plant life around it is green and alive. Yet the sumac, and only the sumac it seems, has just given up. The leaves didn’t even have the chance to drop off, so the end must have been swift.

I haven’t seen this in any of the other sumac growing at Roundrock, even the sumac growing nearby on this same trail. I suppose it’s the result of some insect infestation, though I don’t know that. The web worms have been busy in this part of the state, but this doesn’t look like their handiwork.

Should I add it to my list of worries? Or just leave it in my list of mysteries?

Missouri calendar:

  • Common nighthawks begin migration.

Today in Missouri history:

  • William Henry Hatch was born on this date in 1833. He was a lawyer who loved farming, a farmer who was elected to congress, and the sponsor of the Hatch Act, which established agricultural experiment stations that revolutionize farming in the U.S His farm near Hannibal, Missouri later became one of those experiment stations.
  • President Abraham Lincoln revoked John Fremont’s emancipation proclamation for Missouri on this date in 1861.

You decide

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I mentioned in an earlier post that my game camera had caught an image of what might have been a critter I haven’t seen at Roundrock before. Libby is skeptical that the image shows any critter at all. I leave it for you to decide.

The first image is my “control” shot. Based on the time stamp, this shot was taken shortly after Seth and I set up the camera.

Now compare it to this image taken a week later.

Notice what I’ve circled. Does that look like some sort of canid to you? Coyote? Farm dog? Dire wolf?

I know it’s not an Ozark Howler because it’s not black, doesn’t have horns, and doesn’t have burning red eyes.

Based on the time stamp, this shot was taken shortly before Libby and I arrived last Sunday. It almost seems as though the critter is looking directly at the camera (if critter it is and not some trick of light and shadow).

So far I haven’t captured anything on the game camera that would justify getting a better quality model, but a few more mysteries like this one might whet my appetite.

What do you think?

Missouri calendar:

  • Thirteen-lined ground squirrels begin to gorge.

Today in Missouri history:

  • A boy named Joyce Hall was born on this date in 1891. He began selling postcards door to door and eventually turned his business into an international success known as Hallmark Cards, based in Kansas City.
  • Jazzman Charlie “Bird” Parker is born in Kansas City, Missouri on this date in 1920.

Mystery of the cedar

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008


Look closely and you’ll see a mystery I found in my forest.

The cedars grow thick in places at Roundrock. Because of the sharp nature of their leaves (and their maddening ability to slip down the back of our shirts) we rarely push through them. Instead we simply walk around them when we want to get from here to there. If the stand of cedars is thick, that can mean a significant divergence from our intended path.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I could find a stand of these cedars so dense that I might crawl in among them and find a sort of shelter beneath them. I could then cut a grotto inside the stand and hide out there from ruffians and evil doers. My cedars tend to grow in lines rather than clusters, but on a recent rambling walk in the woods, not too far from our new camp, I did find such a cluster.

And it seems someone had beaten me to the plan of cutting a grotto within it.

In the photo above you can see three cut limbs. The hardest to see is at about 1:00. The other two are at about 4:00 and 7:00. I did not cut these. (If I had, I would have cut them closer to the trunk.) As far as I can recall, I’ve never really explored this part of the forest much, but I certainly would have remembered this kind of cutting work.

So someone has been in my forest cutting cedar limbs. The three cedars that make up this clump are not as dense as I would prefer for a hide out. In fact, the southeast and west sides are open. But a fellow could put a chair inside it and be hidden from view from all of the other points of the compass, which might make it a pretty good hunting blind.

Given the rot resistant quality of cedar wood, though, I’m sure these cuts could have been made a decade or more ago, preceding my tenure on the land. I don’t suppose I’m seeing the signs of an interloper as much as a past owner. I don’t see much like this in my woods. There are cut stumps of trees that I guess were collected for timber or to open the canopy to allow grass to grow. All of those are very old though,as shown by the thick growth of trees that have come up around them. This trimmed cedar seems to be more recent.

So I puzzle about these things and try to imagine scenarios where they would make sense.

Missouri calendar

  • Indigo buntings and dickcissels are arriving.
  • May apples begin blooming.

Today in Missouri history:

  • General Maria Joseph Paul Roche Yves Gilbert du Motier, better known as Marquis de Lafayette visited St. Louis on this date in 1825. City fathers were worried that feasting him would bust their budget, but when contributions by wealthy citizens were tallied, the affair cost this city a mere $37.

This bugs me

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008


What is it? Surely one of you clever readers can tell me.

I found this on the day Libby and I were trying to mark the bit of our southern property line that isn’t fenced. Whatever this thing is, it is affixed to a steel fence pose, and if you intend to examine it in person, it is the steel post that marks the southwest corner of Roundrock, just where the road across my neighbor’s meadow enters the trees.

I imagine it is an egg case for some insect. Does that seem reasonable? It must have spent the winter here since I found it in early March when no insects were abroad in the land. The side of the post this is on faces north.

The case (?) has holes in it, as you can see. Are those for air to get in, or does that mean that whatever was incubating in there has already escaped? Is this thing for one bug, or was there a whole horde of them in there?

It’s faintly creepy, at least to my eye, but knowledge is power, so if any of you kind readers (I’m assuming there is more than one person who visits this humble blog) can tell me what this is, you can dispel darkness and make me less anxious.

Missouri calendar:

  • Red morel mushtooms begin to appear.
  • Horned larks flock in open fields.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Legislation allowing the creation of Missouri Normal School Number Five was passed on this date in 1905. Today it goes by the name Northwest Missouri State University.

Friday mystery picture

Friday, March 14th, 2008


What is this mystery item?

I’ll give you a hint. It could be animal, vegetable, or mineral. It might even be more than one. It is common at Roundrock though it is rarely seen (much like a Blue-tailed skink).

I’ll give you the answer in Sunday’s post.

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild turkey courtship gobbling through early May.
  • Elms begin blooming.

Today in Missouri history:

  • John Sappington Marmaduke, former Confederate General and the only son of a Missouri governor to also serve as a Missouri governor, was born on this date in 1833.