Saturday was the day of the nannyberries at Roundrock. But first, our arrival.
You may recall the slight difficulty we had a couple of visits back when we were crossing my neighbor’s meadow. I had called my dozer man and asked him if he could come by and make whatever fixes were needed and spread some new gravel on the road. He said he would take a look at the problem and give me an estimate, and since we hadn’t heard from him by the time we were headed down to the woods, I assumed he hadn’t gotten around to the job yet.
But he had. When we came to our sad road across the meadow, we found that it had a fresh load of gravel added and spread.
Unfortunately, someone else had also made this discovery and had driven half way down our road before deciding to turn around and drive out. I suppose my interloping driver had decided the roadbed was too soft to proceed but not too soft, apparently, to attempt a three-point turn. And this, as you might imagine when you understand how wet the area has been recently, left a nicely chewed up patch of road with deep, fresh ruts and mud. Someone had made a nice mess of the repair work, and I will have to call back my road builder and spend more money.
Fortunately, we could see this mayhem from a distance, so I gave the old truck some gas and we pelted across the mess with enuf momentum to propel us through it. (I’m not sure we did the roadbed any favors ourselves though by crossing it while it was still wet, but how else to get to our woods?)
And so, into the trees we went, and the road was much better here. Our destination was, of course, the lake to see if it was any fuller, and then the nannyberry planting would commence. The pond, which we pass on the way, was as full as I’ve ever seen it, and some of the cattail beds were mostly immersed. The fallen stalks of the cattails made a handy sunning bed for a couple of resident pond turtles, and though we drove by more than 50 feet away, they quickly plopped back in the water. I couldn’t make any kind of reliable identification from the distance, looking into the sun, and the briefness of the turtles’ presence, but what little I saw and the habitat involved suggest they may be a pair of western painted turtles (Chrysemis picta belli), and I think a camera and a little bit of patience might go far in resolving this.
The lake, I am happy to report was fuller than on our last visit. Sadly, the leaks below the dam were stronger as well. We walked out onto our dam to survey the lake. The scrub tips still rising above the water give the illusion that there is more dry land than there actually is, but when we pushed through this scrub last winter, it was taller than we are in most places, so that gives you an idea of how deep the water actually is in these areas.
We had 25 nannyberry plants and one maple to put in the ground. The maple is a volunteer that was growing happily in a big pot on the deck of my suburban Kansas City home. In the fall it would turn a brilliant scarlet red, and I thought that I would dearly love to see that red across my lake and reflected in its blue waters. Thus I vowed to replant this red maple, and I had prepared a bed for it some weeks back overlooking the lake in an area where I think it can stay moist much of the time.
The plan was to plant almost half of the nannyberries on the south side of the lake, almost half on the north side of the lake, and the remainder by our new campsite. I wanted to see how identical plants would do in the different environments. On the south side of the lake they will get less sun but more moisture. On the north side, the opposite. And by the new campsite they will get better soil. This ambitious planting agenda would call for a long, indirect hike around the lake, and we needed to figure out a way to carry the plants easily and still allow their roots to stay moist.
And thus Libby’s solution:
This bucket some interloper left behind has proven its worth to us many times, and I keep intending to get a few more. What you see in the bucket are the nannyberry plants — 25 of them on the right — and the sinuous red maple with its root ball of rich potting soil on the left. The nannyberries were still moist from the packing around their roots (sphagnum and shredded newspapers), and the maple was still dormant, with its roots protected in the potting soil. (Nonetheless, Libby took the first chance she had to dip some lakewater into the bucket to keep the roots happy during our long morning of work.)
And away we went. I had a few spots in mind for the nannyberries, but conditions on the ground (literally) were going to dictate. My general planting method is to sink the shovel in the ground, pry a wedge opening, drop the roots of the plant into the wedge, and then close it with my boot. I modify this for circumstances: the pecans had actual holes dug and filled partially with good soil. But the pines seem to have thrived with this wedge arrangement, and the nannyberries look like their root systems are robust enuf to look after themselves once started:
(Sorry about the low contrast in that photo. But look at that snarl of roots!)
So I plunk down the shovel in a likely spot for a nannyberry and see what I find. With luck there is enuf soil in the spot to sink the shovel seven or eight inches and do my wedge thing. But most of the time I strike a rock (and not a round one either). So I lift the shovel and try a few inches or a foot to the left or the right. Sometimes I find soil. Most times more rocks.
This meant that I couldn’t always put the plants where I wanted them, which is pretty much on the forest edge overlooking the lake. Still, there is plenty of forest edge overlooking the lake, so we managed to find suitable ground for seven or eight of them on the south side of the lake. Since the lake was higher than on our last visit (isn’t that a nice thing to write?), we had to go a little farther up the Central Valley to make our crossing, and this put us within a stone’s throw of Gefarinsel. I thought that maybe we could put a grove of nannyberries on top of this grassy island. So far the top of the island has nothing but grass, some wildflowers, and a nice pile of round rocks. I had tried to put some sumac on the northern slope of the island, but they never took.
So up on the island we went, and down into the grass the shovel went. And it clunked on a rock every single stab. So we gave up that idea, and I think I’m going to have to put some plant up there that can thrive without much water because the top of the island has no shade, and the elevation means it will drain away its water faster. Plus I was getting tired of digging and wanted to get back in the shade.
Thus we took ourselves to the south-facing slope where we hoped to plant another seven or eight nannyberries. The ground here, however, is even more rocky and unwelcoming than on the other slope, and I don’t think we put in more than four of the plants before we — amazingly — began to hear the lunch bell ringing. We did find this fitting spot for a nannyberry though:
This snag had fallen recently and exposed a nice bed of rich-looking soil. The nannyberry is the twig in the foreground with the orange tape tied to it. A few of these plants were already bringing out leaves, and given their robust roots and general planting requirements, I think I can be hopeful about their chances of survival. We tied the orange tape to each nannyberry we planted with the hope that we will be able to identify them in future hikes about our woods. I don’t want to clear plants I’ve deliberately planted.
We made our way back to the shady shelter and opened the lunch cooler. And, of course, there are those comfy chairs to sit in. The woods were filled with the singing of the tree frogs and the chortling of the frogs down by the lake. The wind was coursing through the trees overhead. The day was warm. The lunch was good. The post-lunch stupor ensued.
But there was still plenty of day left ahead of us.
- Wild plums begin blooming along woods and fence rows.