Libby, Max, and I made a trip to Roundrock today — long overdue in my opinion. The weather was cooperative, rising from 32 degrees when we arrived to 43 degrees by the time we left.
This was a working visit for the most part. When we grew close to our turn off from the four-lane, divided highway, we detoured into town and stopped at the local feed store to pick up some Bentonite. We figured that if we really have to spread 11 tons of the stuff in the lakebed to sufficiently plug the leak, we ought to get going on that task. Today we began modestly by only getting 200 pounds, but we spread it judiciously.
At Roundrock the first thing we did was stop at the pine plantation and water the few pines that have survived the deer assaults. I’m pretty sure some snow fell in the Ozarks last week (take at look at Karl’s posts), but I don’t know if it came as far north as our part of the state. The ground seemed dry, so we gave the surviving trees a good drink. Next month I pick up our new shortleaf pines to plant. I plan to replace a good number of those that died, and I intend to try planting some here and there in the forest. (From what I have read, I’ve learned that they prefer dry, rocky soil. My pine plantation is deep, rich, and moderately moist soil. I think I’ve mentioned before that I probably should have planted the pecans where the pines are the vice versa.)
From here it was on to the “lake.” If any snow fell in the area, it didn’t drain into the lakebed when it melted. The level was unchanged, which isn’t so bad really. It has now stablized at a level higher than it had in past years. Maybe all of that Bentonite tossing we’ve been doing has had some effect.
As you know, Lake Marguerite is formed by damming the central valley that runs through our 80+ acres. As a result, its two sides closest to the dam have some exposed ledge that is mostly shattered. It is possible that water is leaking out of the lake through this ledge, so our task of the day to was to spread the Bentonite on and around the shattered ledge. This was actually well above the water level, but I don’t think that’s a problem. When the rain comes, the Bentonite clay, which looks like the salt on a pretzel (the big, chewy kind that are so good when they are warm!), will either wash into the cracks in the ledge stone or will wash down into the lake. In either case, it will be applied where it needs to be. I hope to have photos of our work in some future post.
Our second task of the day was the fault of our compost bin at home. We inherited a very nice bin from our neighbor. It is perhaps three feet wide by four feet deep by five feet tall. Yard waste and (non-animal) kitchen scraps go in here. By spring we usually have all of the rich, composted soil we can use. In our zeal, we made sure to bag all of the leaves we’d raked in our yard, and Libby even managed to confiscate several bags from our neighbors. Alas, the dry winter we have had has meant that the composting has not been as vigorous as we normally experience. As a result, we had a half dozen bags of leaves to add to the bin and it didn’t look like they were going to get there. So we’ve been taking them to Roundrock. Now if you haven’t been to an oak forest you won’t appreciate the irony of having a half dozen bags of leaves sitting on the thick leaf litter of the forest floor. The plan, however, was to spread these leaves in several low areas in the pecan plantation where the water leaking from the dam pools in the spring and summer. Our hope is that these suburban leaves will compost here and enrich the soil for the lusty pecans in years to come. Whatever. We drove the leaves down into the plantation and dumped them in several likely spots, so they will merit a few return visits in the coming months to see how things are progressing.
Our next adventure came on an impulse. The northeast quarter of our woods (well, not really a quarter — more like an eighth, but that means more than 10 acres) is a spot we walk around, but we’ve never really hiked through it. I think we’ve passed through only once or twice, always on our way somewhere else, but we’ve never taken the time to hike the rises and falls to see what there might be to see. The assumption has always been that there isn’t anything to see. But you know where this is going, eh?
Leaving the truck in the pecan plantation, we simply steered our feet north up the hill and wandered around. Aside from being a deer graveyard, the site of several oddly shaped trees, one strangely cut tree, and a potential sandstone quarry — all of which I hope to bring up in future posts — we had a wonderful time just taking time in a part of our forest that we’d really never seen before. Our feet took us in a large circle, leading us back to the truck after about an hour, and we decided it was time for a sit down in the comfy chairs under our shady tarp.
You see in the photo above what greeted us at the shelter. We now have a skylight in our tarp. The tarp itself is old, and more than once we’ve had to repair or reset it after the abuses of the wind and accumulated snow have done their thing.
Well, the sun felt warm, so we didn’t mind too much, though we did discuss what we ought to do about the situation. The shelter has been a great refuge for us, so I’m pretty sure we’ll replace the tarp, though one that size doesn’t come cheap. this will give us the chance to redo the ropes that hold it up and down, so in the end, it will be an even better arrangement.
There is little color in our forest right now, but this is the season when Ozark witchhazel is in bloom. It’s goofy, stringy yellow flowers are among the first to come out in the winter. So I had the notion that we should hike our woods looking for anything yellow, hoping we had some witchhazel. This was a stupid idea. First of all, we hadn’t eaten and we were still outward bound when we began to feel shaky and weak. (Fortunately we keep two comfy chairs on Libby’s Island, and a short respite there recharged the batteries a bit.) Second, it turns out that Ozark witchhazel doesn’t grow naturally in our part of the state. (I only learned this after getting home this evening.) It was a fool’s errand I’d set us on, but we had the chance to see more of our woods (mostly east of the Mighty Pole Forest) that we don’t often visit.
Well, the plan then was to skedaddle to town again and get something to eat. (We did not bring our lunch, which is uncommon but not unprecedented.) We managed to return to the truck alive after a big round hike (cutting across the dry part of the lakebed to shorten the distance) and threw ourselves into it. But we just couldn’t quit.
As we drove out we stopped at the pond and convinced ourselves that a few minutes clearing some low branches would make the area more lovely, so we hopped out of the truck with saws in hand and spent more time in our stewardship roles. I’m pleased with the work we did, and my hope is that the brushpile we’ve been accumulating there will be beneficial for the quail that I’m certain will return to this part of the Ozarks some day.
We, too, intend to return to this part of the Ozarks some day, and I hope it is soon.