Because L has been in Kentucky for the last five days, #1 Son and I visited Roundrock today without her and managed to have a great time.
We only had a few things on our agenda since we had to be back to pick up L at the train station in the evening (more on that later). So we got to work.
It has always been my practice that we do the heavy work, especially chainsaw work, in the morning when we are still fresh, and before the heat and humidity fall upon us like lead weights. (In my opinion, it is better to leave a job undone than to wield a chainsaw when I am tired.) So after looking briefly at the further diminished Lake Marguerite (down a foot since our last visit), we performed a little surgery on the chainsaw.
It turns out you can put a chain on backwards! Once I switched it, #1 Son took the chainsaw over to the tree he had cut with the handsaw on the last visit and sliced right through the base that was left in about 15 seconds. (A four-inch diameter trunk.) We were back in business, so we hauled ourselves across the dam to perform surgery on some of the trees in the area just above the water where we want to restore to native grasses.
We (he) took down four trees, the largest of which is depicted in its reduced circumstances above. (It’s about a foot in diameter.) He then bucked the logs (yes, bucked. Look it up!) and we hauled the branches deeper into the forest (up hill the whole way).
If you look closely, you may be able to count the rings. He and I did our separate counts and came to the same number: 23. Coincidentally, the tree was the same age as the young man who brought it down. “Evolution favors the tool maker,” he said. He sliced off an inch-thick piece of the trunk to bring home and seal as a sort of memorial to his work of the day. (I don’t think he’ll take it to Africa with him though.)
Also on the agenda was a hike up the Central Valley. Because of all of the rain in the area lately, I had hopes of seeing some flowing water in the feeder ravines or central creekbed. We headed out mostly west from the shelter, keeping the mostly dry lakebed mostly on our left. But even with this effort, I managed to get a bit bewildered. I was intending to go to the third ravine over — the largest and the one most likely to be wet. Yet when we arrived there (thought we arrived there), it was much broader than I remembered.
It turns out, of course, that we had drifted south in our westward march and ended up at the upper end of the Central Valley itself. (This means I still have a ways to go in refining my mental map of Roundrock.) That wasn’t so bad since we were going to return by that route anyway. And all of it was dry, so there was nothing to see. Dagnabit!
Then it was lunch time and the requisite post-lunch stupor. As we sat there, I saw two ducks circle the lake a couple of times. But they must not have liked what they saw, or maybe they could see us in the trees, because they wheeled away and didn’t return while we were there.
Our only after-lunch chore was to take a census of the trees in the pecan plantation. L and I usually do this in September so that we know which ones are dead. In the spring when we replant, the pecans have not yet come out in leaf, so we have to rely on the late summer census to know which ones in the grid are keepers and which need to be yanked out. I figured that the kaput pecans would show themselves just as clearly in mid-August as in mid-September, so that was our task.
Of the 49 pecans, only 22 were clearly alive, but a half dozen of those were robustly alive, which is encouraging. The pattern repeats itself each year. The trees in the center of the acre — those in the rockiest, driest soil — are the dead ones. There were a few surprises, though. Some that I’ve always considered in good circumstances had given up. I blame that on insects or acts of the various dieties that disfavor Roundrock.
As I said in a previous post, we aren’t going to replant the pecans next spring. We’ll give it another try when we finally move to Roundrock and can bestow lots of daily love and water on the poor things. However, I still have those three pecans in the enriched soil in the pot on my suburban deck. I will probably plant those in the spots where I was surprised to find dead pecans today. The soil there is deep, and I think if they are going to make it, this will be where it will happen.
Then it was time to dash home. We had the two hour drive, and we had to unload and put away all of the gear, get showers, and do some laundry (L has been away for five days!) before it was time to leave for the train station. But Amtrak — bless their pointed little heads — had one of its usual malfunctions, and as I sit here typing, L is stuck on a motionless train somewhere outside of St. Louis. Whether they will return the train to St. Louis or limp to Kansas City, no one knows right now. She says she will call me when something has been decided. So I may be hanging around a railway station at midnight with the ragged people shortly.
UPDATE: L’s train arrived at midnight — only four hours late!
NOTE: There are two musical references in this post. Can you find them?