Archive for July, 2006

Flint-like rock

Monday, July 31st, 2006


In all of my stumblings about Roundrock, I have never come across what I would consider to be flint. As with most other subjects, I am no expert — in rock identification in this case. Yet I think the stone above may be flint or something close to flint.

I came upon this rock in the area of the lakebed where the builder had found some clay to use for packing against the leaky dam. A great swath of ground was shaved clean, and it is only now, years later, beginning to sprout plants. (We had tried seeding grass there several times, but the stuff never took root.) Anyway, with all of this exposed soil that stayed relatively exposed, Pablo thought this might be his best area to search for those elusive arrowheads. I’ve not had any luck — you’d know it if I did — though I have scoured this bit of land many times.

Thus I was surprised on my last visit to find this brightly colored bit of arrowhead raw material emerging from the ground. (Because this exposed soil won’t grow any plants, much of it is being washed into the lake when the rains come. Although not as good as Bentonite, I’m hoping this clayish dirt is helping to seal leaks. I may be naive.) It’s a bit hard to tell in this photo, but this stone sits in one of the rivulets that form on the exposed hillside. I think this stone may not have been above ground until recently, which would explain why I had never seen it before despite my repeated attentions in the area.

I carried the rock (it’s not so big) back to the shelter so it could be a kind of decoration there. But I’ve since wondered if it is one of a kind. Does it have flinty friends beneath the soil across the lake where I found it? I’d be surprised if there was a seam of flint between my limestone bedrock and the sandstone cap (though the round rocks fall in this middle area, and I’m not sure how they found their way there either). More surprising to me, however, would be if there were no other samples of this type of stone at Roundrock. That would mean that the individual stone was brought to the area from elsewhere, of course by human hands. So then I fall into the realm of my wild and indulgent speculation. Was this carried by some First People as raw material for making tools? Was its place there in the ground an indication of an old campsite? Should I redouble my efforts in that area to see if there is something else left behind by those long gone?

It’s stuff like this that keeps bringing me back to the woods!

Housekeeping note: Tomorrow I host the second Festival of the Trees. It’s a big’un, and I’m pretty sure all of the links work.

Missouri calendar:

  • Once again, there is nothing for today on the Natural Events Calendar.

Another View

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

lake view.JPG

This is a different view of the “lake” from what I normally show you. This is looking to the northeast. (I probably took this shot in early June.) That is the dam you see rising beyond the water, stretching from the right side of the photo most of the way across. (Most of the photos of the lake are taken from one end of the dam or the other.)

The water level is, obviously, quite low, and though the leaking seems to have stopped (at this water level), simple evaporation can take away an inch or two of water a summer’s day. All of the green and gravely area you see in the foreground should be water. Where I was standing when I took the picture should be in a foot or two of lake.

The greenery in the lakebed also presents a potential problem should (when!) Lake Marguerite sustain a full pool. Most of that growth will die once inundated, and when it decomposes, the process will devour the oxygen in the water, thus depriving the fish who need it as well. (I think my science is right.) I may face a fish kill once I finally have a lake, which would be ironic in so many ways.

Well, rest assured, dear reader, that should these things come to pass, I will make my reports on them to let you know all of the gruesome details.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watch for young hummingbirds at feeder.

Gone Pecan

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

gone pecan.JPG

gone pecan n. a person who is doomed, defeated, or beyond rescue: a goner.

(from the Double-Tongued Word Wrester Dictionary)

I had a resignation event late last summer about the pecan plantation. For three years Libby and I had trudged into the pecan plantation each spring with fresh saplings to replace the pecans that had died from the summer drought the year before.

The pecans are not in an ideal setting. First of all, the soil is mostly gravel with little dirt to sustain life. (Though on the north and south sides of the setting, some dirt has accumulated from being washed down from the hills for eons.) Second, the pecans either get too much water or too little. The little trees closest to the dam get too much water because of the leaks. The little trees in the center of the acre may as well be in the desert. The trees on the north and south edges seem to have the best conditions since they have both soil and moderate watering.

But all of this observation and calculation was not very reliable. Trees we thought stood a chance would die. Those we were certain were doomed would hang on. But none of them were thriving. Libby made the very correct observation that in order to get pecans started here, they would need daily attention from us during the heat and drought of the summer, and since we couldn’t do that . . .

So my resignation was that we would stop fighting nature for the time being. We would not replant the pecans, and those that managed to come back each spring and survive through the summer would have to do so on their own. Until we lived full time at Roundrock (and that is still years away), we would not put much effort into tending to the pecans.

The result is that of the fifty pecans we planted down here (and probably that many more among the replantings) only ten show any signs of hanging on and doing well.

Pablo might have been saddened by this in a past mental state. But not so any longer. With resignation comes liberation. I don’t have to worry and fret about the struggling trees. I don’t have to devote all of my waking hours to hatching plans to nurture them. I don’t have to speed down to Roundrock to pour jugs of water on each pecan, not knowing if the water comes too late to save the dessicated twig.

In the meantime, nature is filling the void. We have a whole row of sycamore trees coming up. Nowhere else at Roundrock have we seen sycamores, so these little volunteers are welcome. We also have what I think is a chinkapin oak making a flourishing appearance. We even have what may be a river birch, and I don’t know where that came from. There are other assorted, unidentified trees making appearances, and we can pick and choose among those in years to come.

The grass is conquering the gravel in the pecan plantation. Very slowly, I understand, this will build up the soil as well as moderate temperatures in the ground and help preserve whatever water the dry areas may accumulate. We’ve even tried our hand at a little mulching in some of the more desolate areas among the pecans. Over time, we can improve this ground.

And eventually, Libby and I will be down at Roundrock full time (I mean, I have to hit the lottery eventually). When that happens, my pecan ambitions will return with all of the vigor of the naive landowner I was a decade ago. Then, watch out!

Missouri calendar:

  • Mink kits travel with their mothers along streams.

What is it?

Friday, July 28th, 2006


Anyone care to venture a guess as to what this might be? (Deb of Sand Creek Almanac is disallowed since I’m pretty sure she knows what this is. In fact, the Florida Cracker probably knows too.)

Here are some facts about it:

  • It is home-made.
  • It is made of common window screening (left over from a recent adventure).
  • It is held together with simple staples.
  • I intend to take it with me to Roundrock on Saturday.
  • I intend to use it at Roundrock on Saturday.
  • The end on the right that you can’t see is crimped much like a toothpaste tube.
  • The pencil is for scale only and is not part of whatever it is.
  • The objects behind it are a bronze acorn and a bronze leaf that Libby and I made in our first bronze-casting class, but they also are not part of whatever it is.

I’m hoping that it will survive the trip down to Roundrock without getting crushed. Should my effort prove successful, I should be able to draw a few fairly interesting posts out of it (with Deb’s graciously offered help).

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild plums ripen.

Fire ring, perhaps?

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

fire ring.JPG

Look with me through rose-colored glasses. Here’s another photo of mine that doesn’t do a very good job of depicting what I want to show. But you’re stuck with me as photographer, so don’t complain, okay?

As with the burial mounds and sign trees at Fallen Timbers, so with this possible fire ring at Roundrock. Could this be an old fire ring left by the ranchers, or an early settler, or even some First People that roamed these hills?

We came upon these rocks when we were crawling over the northeast corner looking for a potential quarry site. This was in one of those odd open areas that are scattered here and there in my woods. I’m not sure how to explain these open areas, though here the sandstone bedrock that is so close to the surface might be a more plausible explanation than anything else I should come up with. (I could, say, come up with the notion that this particular open area was a native encampment and so was tread upon enuf to compact the soil, but I won’t.)

Anyway, back to the possible fire ring. The most prominent stone sits at about eight o’clock, and you can see one just above it at nine o’clock. Stones also sit at eleven, one, and three o’clock. Now can you see the pattern?

Will you trust me if I say that it was more vivid in person?

Actually, this is more likely just a random arrangement of stones that my human mind, evolved for finding patterns, has imposed a structure upon. This is the area where plenty of sandstone is breaking the surface of the ground, so this many stones in one area is not unlikely. What is unlikely is that someone would use sandstone to make a fire ring. I happen to know from personal experience that the stuff can shatter if it gets too hot.

Still, I’ll probably scour this area quite attentively on my next visit. Maybe I’ll find an arrowhead.

Missouri calendar:

  • Warblers begin to gain weight for energy during migration.

Interlopers – Part 6

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
shaggy dam.JPG

It may be hard to tell in this photo, but what you are supposed to see here are tire tracks in the tall grass growing atop the dam.

The dam top grows more narrow the farther you go across it — mostly due to accommodating the overflow drain — and though I think I could carefully drive my truck across the dam, once I got to the other side, there would be no where to turn around and I’d have to back the truck across the narrow part of the dam. A perilous business. Which is a long way of saying that these are not my tire tracks in the grass.

Fortunately, I know whose they are. Good Neighbor Brian, the generous fellow who mows my easement and road because it is a lot of fun, confessed once that he and his wife will sometimes ride their four-wheelers down to our “lake” because it is a pretty place to sit and contemplate. I’m glad they like it.

They’ve invited us to roam their land all we wish. Much of it is meadow, and I don’t think I’d venture into that tall grass until the bitterest day of winter to avoid chiggers. But more than half of it is forested, and somewhere in there he has a cistern that I’d love to find. I suspect it’s an old home site, and I’d sure like to poke around in the area to see what there is to see. Libby and I took them up on the invitation once and prowled his woods for a while, but we never did find the cistern. That’s really more of a winter job when the scrub has dropped its obscuring leaves.

In the meantime, Good Neighbor Brian and his wife are welcome to visit our woods as much as they’d like. At the very least, they’ve made it easier for me to walk across the dam.

Missouri calendar:

  • Blazing star blooms on prairies and roadsides.

Sandstone quarry

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006


I think I’ve found my quarry site. Above is an example of a nice piece of sandstone just lying atop the ground in our northeast corner. This is the general area where I had expected to find a ready supply of the stone, and I knew that if I prowled the area enuf, I’d probably find signs of it breaking the surface.

You can get an idea of the size of this piece by noting the toe of my boot in the bottom of the photo. (Yes, those are yellow laces.) The land here slopes gently to the south, which I think will facilitate the digging of a quarry to expose more stone. A run of exposed ledge, with a nice vertical face to it with horizontal cracks would be ideal, of course, but I’ll take what I can get.

The stone in the photo above is obviously too big for me to handle with muscle power alone. No doubt I’ll rely on a pry bar to free it and wheeled assistance to move it. In fact it is too big for the eventual use I am envisioning (a stacked facing stone), so it seems likely that I would cleave such a large stone into several smaller, more easily handled ones, and I could probably do this in situ rather than take it elsewhere to hammer on.

I have thought that if I can readily uncover enuf sandstone, I might use it for other purposes as well. I could see a hearth made of this. Or steps leading up a hillside from the lakebed. I have some walls in that vague, nebulous part of my mind called fanciful ideas that I might someday build in the real world. So if there is sufficient stone, and I can get to it (disregarding for the moment whether I have sufficient skill to dress the stone), I might be hauling out larger pieces of the stuff.

There are many trees in this area, though none is too large for me to cut down with my chainsaw and some thoughtful consideration. Uprooting the stump may be more of a problem, but I’ll see whether I need to do either of those as I begin to excavate where I think the sandstone lies hidden.

Of course, it’s possible that Libby won’t let me do anything with this particular stone. If you look closely at the center of it, you can see a depression that is filled with brown leaves. When I cleared this with a stick, we found it to be a nicely round depression, looking as though it was asking to have a round rock placed in it. I’m pretty sure I’ll have no trouble finding a stone like that at Roundrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels bear summer litters.

“and the number of the counting shall be three!”

Monday, July 24th, 2006


I’ve noted before that the north-facing slope at Roundrock is only slowly revealing its secrets to me. That is due, in large part, to the fact that I don’t hike about this slope enuf, but even so, it seems to be a secretive place. One part of it I sometimes refer to as the Hinterland. Another part is called the Mighty Pole Forest. And most recently we came upon a seriously spooky area on the north-facing slope.

It was near this spooky place that the above revelation was made to me. Amidst the overcast gloom of the forest, this tree was virtually shining with light. It is an understory tree — at least it is right now — and it was downslope just a little from us as we were hiking. Thus it was highly visible to me and I was drawn to it.

With good reason. This is a Black Walnut! Long-time readers of this humble blog know that I have been on the look out for walnut trees growing naturally at Roundrock. They are native to Missouri, and there really is no reason why they couldn’t grow in my woods. Thus I was tickled when I found a walnut tree last year growing on the north-facing slope. (You may recall that its triple trunk was naturally woven.) Later I planted a walnut in good soil in my northwest corner. This one had been growing in my neighbor’s compost bin, and she let me have it. So I had two walnut trees at Roundrock.

And then there were three. When I saw these leaves glowing in the forest, I knew instantly what I was looking at. Here was another Black Walnut making its way in the forest. At the time of discovery, we were on a different mission — looking for an armadillo den — so we didn’t linger. But I would like to return to this tree and clear away what competitors it has (those I can deal with using a hand saw and loppers) to give it more chance to grow and flourish.

It’s possible that I have more walnuts in my woods. (The fact that they seem scarce could be, of course, that I’m not very observant. It could also be that the few mature trees that may have been here could have been cut down for their valuable timber back in the ranching days — though I think I’d find more cut stumps if that were the case. Or it may simply be that I don’t have any more.) And so it could be that I have all sorts of other trees and plants I don’t yet know about, and my forest is more alive and diverse than I know.


Roundrock Journal will be hosting the next Festival of the Trees. I’d be happy to include one of your posts about a particular tree, a forest, your memories of trees, your poem of a tree, or any kind of treeish post. Just send me an email with a link to your post by midnight on Saturday, July 29th, so I have time to add it to the Festival.

Missouri calendar:

  • Northern fence lizard eggs begin hatching.


Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

petite purple.JPG

This delicate flowering plant was growing thickly in the gravel bed that is supposed to be the channel around Libby’s Island. This is another flower I’d seen for the first time at Roundrock this year, though it occurs to me that maybe I’m just beginning to pay more attention and really seeing things I had merely glanced at in years past.

Selfheal, or Prunella vulgaris, is a prairie plant in the mint family. It seems to be doing well down there in the gravel that is supposed to be lake, and as Libby and I circled the island, we saw this just about everywhere we looked.

It’s a fine flower, favored by butterflies and moths I understand, but it is a little ironic that while I am trying to grow wildflowers on the island, they seem to be doing just fine growing around the island. I’ll take them as they come.

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild black cherries ripen.


Saturday, July 22nd, 2006


I think this might be Eryngium yuccifolium, more commonly known as rattlesnake master. This was a new discovery for us on the day we were stumbling about looking for the armadillo den that I had found some months back. I had a hard time identifying this because I kept looking at sources for green flowers. (It has a greenish cast!) Once I had exhausted those I thought to try white flowers, and there it was.

Rattlesnake master gets its common name from folklore claiming that it could protect one from snakebite. One account had it that Native Americans would chew the root and then spit the paste on their hands. Then they could handle rattlesnakes without being bitten. Like so much other lore, there is probably some kernel of fact to it, but I’m certainly not going to rely on this plant to help me become a snake handler.

This is a prairie plant, and it was growing on a grassy slope. I’ve thought about trying to clear more of the north-facing slope to allow a little of the prairie to reclaim itself here, and happy little discoveries like this one encourage my ambition.

This one happened to be growing close to the armadillo den that I had found on my own and then refound with Libby. What this means is that I am pretty sure I can find this specific plant again, and I think I’ll try just to see how it develops. I have an old print photo of something that might be buttonbush, but I have no idea where I took the photo — whether at Roundrock, Fallen Timbers, or some wilderness park — so I think I should start burning into my memory where such delightful finds are being made.

Housekeeping note: The comment spammers must be in their summer doldrums. Instead of getting a thousand spam comments in a day, I’m now only getting several hundred. If anyone wants a lead on cheap pharmaceuticals, however, I can give you some links.

Missouri calendar:

  • May apple fruits ripen and fall on ground.