Archive for September, 2006

False Foxglove

Saturday, September 30th, 2006


When Libby and I were working in the pine plantation on our last visit to Roundrock, I came upon this lovely pink flower that I had never seen before. If my identification skills are up to the task, then I think this is Agalinis fasciculata, commonly known as Beach false foxglove.

From what I’ve read about this plant, it is only found in the southwestern part of Missouri (though plenty of other states can claim it). If so, then mine may be the most northern of Missouri’s since Roundrock is more west central Missouri than southwestern. In any case, I was delighted to find yet another new flowering plant at Roundrock, and I think this really is a first appearance for this plant.

Beach false foxglove is said to flower from August to October, and certainly in past years I have been out at Roundrock and in Blackberry Corner (where this flower is now found) during those months. Surely I would have seen something as delightful as this. Regardless, I’ve found it now, and I’ll look for it every year.


Something seems to be happening to the addresses people leave when they make comments here. Part of the address gets truncated so the link doesn’t work. Sorry about that. I’ll have my tech gremlins get on it.

Missouri calendar:

  • Black gum, bittersweet and dogwood show fall color.

The Turn Begins

Friday, September 29th, 2006


We don’t have any sassafras that I have discovered at Roundrock, but over at Fallen Timbers the stuff grows like crazy, and I love it. I gave you a picture of some Fallen Timbers sassafras some time ago, but now on our recent return I found that the fall colors are arriving.

Only the sumacs and the sassafras — and the Virginia Creeper high in the tall trees — were really turning in earnest, though some of the oaks were taking on a brown/orange tinge, and we found one ash that had already gone purple. It won’t be long in any case. As I sat in the comfy chair at our new camp at Roundrock, I watched a cardinal hop from branch to branch in the trees beyond me, getting ever closer to the ground. Only when the cardinal reached the ground and stayed there did I realize it was actually the red fallen leaf of a Virginia Creeper.

Curiously, the single leaf on the sassafras tree above was the only one that had changed to vivid red. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this phenomenon before, but more commonly I’ll see a number of red leaves on an otherwise green sassafras tree — not a single red leaf.

One trouble with making only periodic trips to our woods is that we might miss the fall colors at their best. It always seems that there are one or two days where the colors are most vivid and diverse. After that, they begin to fade. If we’re not out at Roundrock on just the right weekend, we miss them. But I’ll take what I can get. Soon we’ll be kicking our way through all of the raspy fallen leaves and enjoying the season in another way.

Missouri calendar:

  • Pawpaw fruits ripen.
  • Katydids sing in the trees at night.


Thursday, September 28th, 2006


Pleased to find that we had survived the night un-ravaged by the bachelor party boys down in the valley, we rose as the sky began to lighten and looked forward to our breakfast.

It seems that Libby did not look with favor on the idea of granola bars and cold water for breakfast, which was what we had enjoyed on past overnights at Roundrock. She wanted something warm and tasty. Thus the recent purchase of a propane camp stove to add to the gear we haul with us to the woods. What you see above is actually part of Saturday’s dinner: taters and onions and mushrooms getting boiled to go with the steak. On Sunday morning we partook of bacon and fried eggs. (This is not normal breakfast fare for Pablo and Libby. It was a camping indulgence, and not one we will likely repeat because of all of the grease and the ensuing clean up required. In fact, I probably don’t eat one steak a month either.)

This little camp stove was a delight to have around. It made cooking much easier than what we faced over a fire. I suspect we will take it with us even on day trips to the woods in coming months simply to have a warm lunch.

After breakfast we slowly began breaking camp. We had all day to do this, and there was no rain to make the job miserable, but we also wanted to do some dam work, and I was eager to see if the evening visit by the bachelor party had left any sign of its presence. The bachelors had apparently enjoyed a full and riotous evening because we didn’t hear a peep coming over the ridge from their direction. Not a single gunshot or loud explosion. No roaring engines. There was peace in the forest.

Having the ability to boil a pot of water, we actually did our dishes — more of a pre-wash really so we could take them home and clean them properly later. We were careful about using the water we had brought along, and we found that we’d only used about half of it, so we could probably stay two nights as Libby wants to do some time. The gear got packed and stowed. The tent came down and was rolled. The fire was out. We left two bananas on a fallen tree as a sort of payment to the forest critters for leaving us alone in the night. (It was curiously quiet the entire night at our new campsite.) And then we were back in the truck, winding our way through the trees back to our road to see what might have been wrought in the night.

I drove slowly are carefully along our road. I’m not sure what the loud explosions down at the bachelor camp were — whether it was an elephant gun or artillery or simply some fireworks — but part of me imagined that the bachelors had thought it would be great fun to set up a trip wire along our road with one of those boomers attached to it. My eyes were looking for such a contraption.

But my eyes were disappointed. Nothing exploded as we drove past. Nor was there any trash dumped on the side of the road. No trees were hacked up. No round rocks missing. Aside from a few scuff marks in the gravel, there was no sign at all that the bachelor boys had been by that second time.

We drove into the pecan plantation and parked near the base of the dam. We have a long-term plan to extend the overflow pipe that emerges from the dam. (Long term is defined as “I need to get that done some time.”) It is beginning to erode the ground below it, and the builder recommended that we add another dozen feet of pipe just to move the erosion a bit farther from the base of the dam. To do this, we will need to dig out the current, partly buried end of the pipe so we can attach the new length of pipe to it.

We did not do this. I worried that the job was going to be long and difficult, but when we examined the end of the overflow pipe more closely, I could see that it was going to be an easy job when the time came. And given Lake Marguerite’s much-diminished state, plus the evil cloud conspiracy to prevent rain from falling on Roundrock, I don’t think we’re going to need the overflow pipe for a while.

We did put some effort into clearing some scrub off the dam, but I’ll leave an account of that for a later post.

The morning had progressed, and we thought we might take ourselves home early to toothbrushes and hot showers. The bachelors seemed to have found more ammunition for explosions and reports were coming over the ridgetop again. So we left Roundrock for the weekend, but there was still another adventure ahead of us.

We thought we would take the chance to drive over to Fallen Timbers just to have a look at the place. We hadn’t been there since the spring, and since we still had most of the day before us, we thought we could spare the extra fifty miles that would add to our drive.

What we were pleasantly surprised to find at Fallen Timbers that our Good Neighbor Max had continued to mow our ridgetop campsite. It was as open and orderly as the day he had first mowed it for us, and it looked as though he been through quite recently. We paid him for his gas the first time he cut the scrub, but it’s obvious that he’s continued to do it gratis since we’ve not heard from him about it all summer.

While we were at Fallen Timbers, we hiked to our western border where a past neighbor who didn’t know where the property line ran had “liberated” much of our forest years ago. We had planted a row of hawthorn trees here to grow into a fierce and unmistakable, dense and thorny barrier. But ridgetops are not wet places, and the hawthorns that still grew there were still tiny and gnarled. They were being outgrown by the local plants, but whatever.

I managed to find the other hawthorn I had planted along the ridge road here, and I was happy to find that it had more than doubled in size over the summer. Maybe it a few years it will even flower and bring forth fruit. With that hopeful idea in my pocket, we got back in the truck and drove ourselves home.

Missouri calendar:

  • Snakes begin winter dormancy.
  • Bittersweet starts to ripen.

9.23.2006 – Part 2

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

one match.JPG

Way back when, we had a different dozer man begin carving a road through our trees that would eventually reach our Central Valley where we imagined we could build a dam and have a big lake. That was not a day when much of anything was going to get done, and the road he began cutting through the trees didn’t go very far. But last Saturday, as we were poking around looking for a new campsite, Libby suggested we drive the truck as far into that twisting, rough path through the trees as we could because she suspected that there would be a good site down there to pitch the tent.

That, of course, is what we did. I was dubious. The land begins to slope there, and I didn’t think there would be a clear enuf area that was also flat enuf for a campsite. But after our recent encounter with the bachelor interlopers, Libby wanted to go as deep into our woods as we could. I’m glad she insisted.

We threaded the Big Green Machine through the trees, humping over large rocks and scraping across the scrub that had grown in the intervening years. At one point we had to get out and drag a fallen snag that was blocking our way, but soon we were in the forest as far as the dozer man had cleared. This was only a few hundred feet, but it was down the slope a bit and the way had twisted and turned enuf that we had an effective screen of trees between us and our regular road.

And it was here that Libby found us a campsite. The space was certainly open enuf for a tent and a table and chairs. We could have a fire ring nearby, and the truck would be close for unloading. (And in the back of my mind I thought that we were far enuf out of sight that we wouldn’t be found if the bachelor boys returned, though I didn’t think that was likely.) We carried away a few rocks from the tent site (and dug out a few more), and soon we had the tent up, which you can see in yesterday’s photo. Then it was time to build the fire ring, which you can see in today’s photo.

We had done a little hiking about and some fencing work on the pines, though I won’t bore you with that. But by the time we had camp set up, it was time to think about building a fire to burn the steak over. So Pablo got busy collecting tinder and kindling, and Libby was industrious with the bow saw, cutting us far more fuel wood than we would need for the evening. After a while, I figured I had enuf raw materials at hand to venture a one-match fire. I may have mentioned before that there is a sense of honor in campcraft to build a fire that only requires one match to get it going. Had #2 Son been there, I would have worried over this much more since he is so competitive, but even so, I did manage to light and sustain my fire with only one match.

It burned nicely, and soon I was adding the fuel logs so they could burn down to glowing coals over which to cook the steak. Libby was at the table preparing the other morsels of our meal, and occasionally I would dare to step away from the fire to help about the camp kitchen, always using the opportunity to fetch another milk jug of water to set by the fire ring. (Someday I should fulminate about my forest fire fears.) Eventually, the logs burned down to coals, and I thought it was time to put the grill on and drop the meat onto it. (Those of you who aren’t carnivores will just have to soldier through the next few sentences.)

As I unwrapped the thick steak that was dripping its juices onto the coals, my well-earned hunger sharpened. I put it on the hot grill and heard it sizzle, and almost instantly I could smell the meat cooking. I worried that every bobcat in the county would soon show up. But, again, I hadn’t counted on the bachelor party.

Within a minute of dropping the steak on the grill, we heard the roar of the four-wheel-drive beasties carrying the bachelor boys back onto our land. I don’t know what their agenda was, but I hoped it wasn’t to find us. They seemed harmless enuf, but even if they were coming by simply to invite down for a few beers, I wasn’t interested, and I figured I’d have to be stern with them this time.

We could just see them through the trees, zipping along our road. After they were out of sight, we could still track their progress to the dam by the sound of their machines. They were clearly at the age where high volume and high speed were important achievements. Dusk was falling, and I couldn’t think that there was anything on our property that would interest them after dark. (I know what your thinking: skinny dipping in our mud-puddle lake. Well, the cabin where they were partying has a much larger and much more successful lake than Lake Marguerite.)

Soon we heard the sound of them coming back from the dam. Periodically, they would stop and shut off their engines. A few minutes would pass and then they would roar along for a while, only to stop for a few minutes again. This happened four or five times, and I don’t know what they might have been doing other than getting rid of some beer. Libby was certain they were looking for us, and maybe they were, but they didn’t find us. I hoped they concluded that we had left for the day. They didn’t return.

Had they peered through the trees at the right point along the road, they might have spotted our camp. We had a large orange water cooler sitting atop a turned over bucket that was like a beacon in the trees. The grill of my truck was pointed their direction too, and at that time, it was probably reflecting some of the setting sun. They might have even been able to follow their noses to our camp of cooking steak or seen the glow of the coals.

But I suspect they had other things to do with their time. Not long after this we began hearing the sound of semi-automatic weapon fire coming from down in my neighbor’s valley. I’d say this cabin is about a mile from us as the crow flies, though crows are too smart to fly over this kind of commotion. Every now and then we heard something that sounded like a cannon boom over the ridge. The boys seemed to be having a good time, which I don’t begrudge them a bit, and as long as they stayed over there, that meant we would have a good evening as well.

The rest of our evening was really peaceful (aside from the nearly constant gunfire, that is). We enjoyed our dinner, and as we sat in the comfy chairs under the trees, we watched the stars come out. The evening was cool but not chilly, and there were no bugs to bother us. Once the sky was good and dark, we decided to walk out to our neighbor’s meadow to see more of the sky. As we rose, I turned on my flashlight to find the way back to our road. Something large and loud suddenly pounded away from us through the trees. I think a deer had bedded down for the evening nearby. I certainly hope it wasn’t an Ozark Howler attracted to the smell of cooking beef.

The night was clear and the vault of the stars overhead was worth the stumbling walk. I could see the Milky Way, which is a treat in itself, and Libby spotted some fast-moving point of light that I am sure was a satellite, though it may have even been the space station. She also saw a shooting star, and though I looked and looked, I didn’t manage to see one.

About the time we were ready to turn in for the night, the gunfire ended down in the valley. Perhaps the evening’s entertainment arrived. In any case, our heads were on the pillows, and though it wasn’t the most comfortable sleep of my life, we found that we were still alive in the morning and eager for a hot breakfast.

Missouri calendar:

  • White pelicans congregate at Squaw Creek and Swan Lake National Wildlife refuges through mid-October.

9.23.2006 – Part 1

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

new camp.jpg

Because it had been three entire weeks since I had last been to Roundrock, I felt entitled to spend two days there, and so I did.

Libby and I rose early on Saturday, and despite the familiar routine of packing the truck with what we normally need, we were about a half hour behind our schedule. This was mostly due to organizing the additional gear we had to pack for an overnight, and the immediate benefit was that our favorite bagelry was open by the time we drove by, so bagels it was as we hurtled down the highway.

The weather forecast called for morning rain, so we thought that we might poke around a bit before setting up camp so the tent wouldn’t start the weekend wet. I was in favor of creating a new campsite. One of the odd little openings in the forest at our western quarter is only about thirty feet from the road, so we wouldn’t have to carry all of our gear far. The ground here is level and not very rocky, and I thought it would make a picturesque camp site. But before we settled on this. Libby wanted to explore some of the areas at the top of the south-facing slope so that we might be deeper into Roundrock for the night.

We headed over there and hiked about a bit, giving special attention to the area where I once fancied I had found a fire ring. There really weren’t any areas here that had the right combination of relative openess, little or no slope, and ground that wasn’t too rocky for sinking tent stakes. (Or for sleeping on.)

So I just about had Libby convinced to set up camp in the odd little opening by the road. We strolled about the flat area, choosing where we could place the tent so it would get morning sun to warm and dry it. Where we could build a new fire ring. Where the table would go. We were just about set, but I hadn’t counted on the bachelor party.

I thought there might be a good chance that our neighbor to the west, Good Neighbor Brian, and his wife might be out for the weekend, and I know they like to visit our “lake” on their four-wheel drive beasties, so as we were driving away from the pine plantation on our road, I wasn’t too surprised to hear and then see a four-wheel drive beastie coming at me up the road through the trees. But then there was another. And another. And another. And none of these bore Brian or his wife. So we were facing interlopers in broad daylight. (It happened that the day before, our future daughter-in-law, who is working an internship with the Missouri Department of Conservation, told us that bow season for deer had opened two weeks early. We were in our woods during bow hunting season, and while I didn’t think there was much to fear from that, I was half prepared to find some bow hunter in our woods. I figured that if this did happen, our presence and noisy activities would scare away the game and the hunter would leave in disgust.)
Of course, I’m not a confrontational person (especially when there are four of them — tattooed, by the way — and only two of us, even if my engine is bigger than theirs), so I pulled over to the side of our road to let them pass (further into our property, that is). Fortunately, the lead interloper pulled up beside us with a big grin on his face. He identified himself as the future son-in-law of a man who has a lake and cabin down in the valley we pass through on our way to Roundrock. (Having a wonderful son-in-law of my own, I figured this might be a good start.) He said the four of them were having a bachelor party weekend at the cabin, and he was just out showing his friends around the territory.

On the stupid, grinning face of it, this seemed harmless enuf. At the very least they would put a bit more wear on our road and keep down the infiltrating grass. I figured these big boys knew they were trespassing and that they had been caught in the act by the landower. They’d identified themselves, so if there were trouble, they could be fingered, and they knew it. Plus I considered that they likely had plans of their own for the evening that wouldn’t require the use of my woods. So I grinned back and told them that all they would see if they kept on the road was a dam over a dry lake. The implication was that they were welcome to visit, and I hoped they wouldn’t linger.

And so they roared on. This meant, of course, that the campsite so close to the road was now out of the question, and this left us with a quest for yet another new campsite. This part of the story takes us back more than five years.

But I’ll leave that part of the story for tomorrow’s post.

Missouri calendar:

  • Acorns begin to fall.
  • Squirrels bury acrons and nuts for winter.

Cruise Control

Monday, September 25th, 2006

This is something I’ve thought about for a long time. (Perhaps this will reveal something telling about me.) I was talking with an ornithologist many years ago and he commented how effortless it must be to soar like a hawk or a vulture, riding the thermals with wings merely outstretched to catch the rising heat.

When I’ve pondered this in subsequent years, though, I’ve wondered if this might not be so. My analogy is cruise control in an average car.

Consider a long-distance drive. You must depress the accelerator in tiny increments — mere quarters of an inch — to speed up just the right amount. Or you let off the accelerator a similar bit to slow down just the right amount. Or you’re keeping constant pressure on the pedal to maintain an exact speed (always below the limit, of course). These actions are relatively fine, and you could probably do it with a single finger.

But you are using the largest muscles in your body to do it.

And this, I think, explains why so many people experience fatigue from long-distance driving. Large muscles are constantly in play. Thus cruise control is a great invention that takes so much of the fatigue out of operating an automobile.

And then I apply this analogy to a soaring hawk. Is it so effortless? Doesn’t the hawk have to make constant, split-second corrections to the splay of its wings and the angle of its flight feathers to stay in relative control? Doesn’t it have to keep its wing and breast muscles constantly in tension to achieve this? And isn’t it using the largest muscles of its body to do so?

The question you have to ask, then, is why would a bird want to spend so much time soaring if it actually is a lot of work. Perhaps it isn’t so very difficult to soar. Or maybe there is some benefit to soaring that outweighs the effort required. I haven’t puzzled my way to an answer for these yet. But lately I’ve been pondering something else.

Why do we cook our food? It isn’t something that came to us through our evolutionary heritage. Or if it did, it must have come very late. Those who eat foods burned free of parasites will tend to live longer and reproduce I suppose. Still, no other successful creature in nature cooks its food. It must have been an accidental discovery by early humans that has stayed with us, but is it natural?

It’s stuff like this bouncing around in my brain that keeps me from taking over the world.

Missouri calendar:

  • Fawns have lost their spots.
  • Perimmons start to ripen.

A Way in the Woods

Sunday, September 24th, 2006
white oak.JPG

While not the finest photo I ever took, this does give you a pretty good picture of a particular White Oak tree on the south-facing slope at Roundrock. What is special about this tree is not its age or pleasing shape but its location. It sits in a grove of largish White Oaks that are more or less at the top of the slope, just above where I hope to build our earth-sheltered house some day.

There is a mostly level, mostly open stretch of ground going to the west from this tree, and as I picture it in my mind’s eye right now, it looks as though it may have once been a road. Though a road in this part of the forest seems wrong since this “road” leads to nothing but a steep slope down in the Central Valley. Nor is there any clear sign of where this bit of road came from. There is a former road along the northern fence line (that we mostly reopened when we had our road to the dam built), and it parallels this forest road not too far away. So a road here would seem unnecessary.

When I visit this spot on the north-facing slope in person, however, the idea of the open area being an old road mostly dissolves. It is not nearly as open as I imagine it, and it doesn’t travel all that far either. I guess it’s just that way naturally. The slope falls away more steeply beyond this point, so it is possible that the relatively flat and open area is merely the top of a ledge with a thin layer of soil on it.

In the current mental configuration I have for our eventual house, the back of it (the earth-sheltered part of it) will be against/below this so that my roof will be level with the “road.” (Again, am I making any sense?) I think the slope of this “road” will lead water away from the house foundation — and if not, it could be changed to do this — but I worry about the grove of oaks atop it.

A prudent forester would remove tall, combustible trees from around his house to a certain perimeter. That would mean that many of these lovely oaks would have to go. It’s something I ponder in my idle hours. But all of that is dependent upon raising the house where it will have a view of the lake, and unless a good deal of water falls from the sky, there isn’t going to be a lake, even a leaky one. What’s the deal with that?

Missouri calendar:

  • Ramadan (30 days)
  • Tiger salamanders move to ponds in the rain.
  • Hickory nuts ripen and begin to fall.

Horsing around

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006


I last wrote about horseflies just over a year ago. This is their season, and above is an actual (poorly focused) photo that I took. (I just haven’t figured out the zoom feature of Libby’s camera yet.)

When we were last out to Roundrock and #2 Son, Adam, was with us, we had finished our chores and were just horsing around when this horsefly landed on his shirt. I guess the air was cool enuf to make the fly sluggish, because she didn’t dart away when I approached with the camera.

I’m pretty sure this is a girl horsefly since I think I can make out the separation of two eyes on her head. Boy horseflies have what looks like one continuous eye. But more than that, girls are simply attracted to #2 Son.

Normally, given a chance like this, I would dispatch the horsefly, though Libby has told me she doesn’t like the abrupt swats of my cap she sometimes gets on her back when I let fly after a fly. I let this fly fly (it probably would have evaded my assault anyway) since we were just horsing around.


In our early days at Roundrock, before we had our road and could only park at our entrance, we were hiking up one of the feeder ravines north out of the Central Valley. We may have paused for a rest, or we may have been waiting for our older dog, Whimsey, to catch up with us, but I recall in the stillness (of not stomping on fallen oak leaves) the sound of galloping horse hooves. The sound was so incongruous in that setting that I immediately dismissed what I heard as the buzzing of a chainsaw in the distance or the drumming of a woodpecker or just about anything other than a galloping herd of horses.

But when we reached the top of the ravine and stepped onto the path that ran along the north fence (before we replaced it with our road), there were unmistakable, fresh signs of horses there on the ground. I think it was about then that I understood why this path had stayed so miraculously open. Apparently, the horsey set had been cutting across the northern boundary of Roundrock to get from here to there for a long time. I guess word got out that there was a new owner because the horsey folk haven’t been back. We did find a horse shoe along the fence here once, and it hangs on a tree by the shelter.


Unaccountably, Wednesday was my third highest visitor count ever. “Tortle” must be a relatively common search word.

Missouri calendar:

  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Early wintering sparrows arrive.

Lucky locks lately lost

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Recent troubles in the land of Florida brought to mind a past security situation we had at Roundrock.

Roundrock, I’m sure you understand, is an 80+ acre parcel of land on a former cattle ranch. There are many other parcels that had been carved out of the ranchland. Some are smaller than Roundrock; many are much larger. We all share the same road leading into the center of the former ranch, and some of us then divert on easement roads to get to our respective properties. (Actually, the common road is an easement as well, but let’s not split hairs. I don’t think any lawyers read this blog. Not even my sister!)

Well, some years ago we had a small problem with vandals coming in and setting fires. It turned out to be some local youths having their particular idea of a good time (not some malicious evil doer with darker intent), and the malefactors were caught and dealt with. But one of our landowners, who is generally in charge of organizing the rest of us out of our lethargy (for things like getting the common road spread with a new layer of gravel every few years) thought we should have a locked gate along the common road to keep out interlopers. All of us beyond the gate would benefit from its security, yet we could pass through it since we knew the combination to the lock.

There is one point in the main valley where a gate from the glory days of the ranching empire had once stood. The gate was still there on the post, pushed back against the fence and nearly lost in the scrub and grass that had grown up through it. But our organizer, let’s call him Ron, was undaunted and soon had the gate swinging freely. For several months a note and many loose short lengths of chain hung in a plastic bag beside the gate post. We were each told to get ourselves a sturdy, weather-worthy lock to slip through the last link of the chain, adding another short length of chain beyond our lock. Eventually, it was understood, when all of the property owners beyond the gate had had the chance to add a lock, the gate would be closed and the chain put to use to keep it locked. Then as we came and went, we could simply open our own lock on this daisy chain, open the gate, and then close and lock the gate behind us.

The plan worked more or less just like that. In the months before the gate was locked, we put two locks on the daisy chain: one combination and one key lock. I can’t speak for the other landowers, but generally, when Libby and I were out at Roundrock just for the day, we would open the gate when we arrived and then leave it open all day. Only when we left would we close and lock it behind us. We figured that any other landowner who came during the day would appreciate finding the gate already open, and should he or she stay after we had closed it, he or she could still get through, knowing the combination of one of the locks. (And if someone who shouldn’t be there happened to be on the wrong side of the gate after it was locked, well, that would be a lesson, wouldn’t it?) I think there was only one time when we were leaving the gate open for the day that we came to it at the end of the day to find it locked.

This arrangement seemed to work fine, though I did hear some grousing from the person who had to get out of my truck to unlock and open the gate each time we arrived.

But then something changed. I’m not sure why it happened or who was responsible, but the gate was moved. The gate was taken off of the post where it had hung for decades, and a new post was set up on the common road nearer the paved road. This idea would greatly increase the number of landowners who would benefit from the security of the gate, but sometimes it’s best not to mess with a working solution.

The problem was not with the new location of the gate but with the hanging of it. There was no post in this new spot. In its stead was one of those wire baskets filled with our plentiful Ozark crop: rocks. Into this was slipped a length of wood, and into this wood were screwed the gate’s hinge pins. The plan was to hang the gate on these pins and then chain the gate closed to the second wire basket full of rocks on the other side of the common road.

Apparently there is an art to hanging a gate properly. This gate never worked. If the pins were pointing up, any interloper could simply lift the gate off its pins and speed on past. (I think even resourceful cattle could work out this solution.) So the bottom pin had to point up and the top pin had to point down, but the holes that had been drilled into the wood to hold the pin hadn’t taking this into account. And the assembly of the basket was difficult enuf to prevent anyone from going to the trouble of removing the length of wood to replace it with one with properly spaced hinge pin holes.

So the moved gate now hangs at an odd angle from its makeshift post, resting on some rocks and parallel to the road. We speed past it when we arrive, and I suppose any interlopers do as well, though we haven’t had any troubles recently. (Apparently those hunting interlopers I had some months ago are actually landowners beyond the gate. They just don’t hunt their own land.)

As for the chain of locks, I haven’t seen that in years. I suppose someone has it, ready to re-attach it when the gate is finally fixed. I still carry the key for one of my locks on the ring in my pocket and a spare key for it in the catch-all compartment between the seats of the truck. Some day when Libby and I arrive at Roundrock we will find the gate closed and locked and I’ll be glad I have that key since I’ve forgotten the combination to the other lock.

Missouri calendar:

  • First day of all/autumnal equinox: day and night are equal in length.

Danger in the detritus

Thursday, September 21st, 2006


I wish this photo was in better focus, but you go to the blog with the photos you have, to paraphrase.

#2 Son, Adam, spotted this little millepede among the leaf litter when we were returning from our visit to the Experiment on our last visit to Roundrock. Rain had fallen only hours before, and I suspect that brought more activity to the forest floor. Or it may simply have been the stronger eyes of the young that spotted what is always there.

I think this might be Apheloria virginiensis, though the photo (and my skills) don’t serve the purpose of identification very well. If it is this particular millepede, then it was fortunate that we did not handle it (aside from brushing some of the fallen leaves aside). These millepedes can secrete a cyanide compound as a defense mechanism.

We left the millepede to escape in the leaf litter and continued with our chores for the day. It makes me think, though, that I should crouch more often in the forest, with a stick in one hand and a camera in the other (a camera I can focus better), and stir up the leaf litter to see what I might see.

Missouri calendar:

  • Listen for migrating birds during evening hours.