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Archive for June, 2007

Landed log

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

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Apparently I did not do such a good job of liberating Peregine (the traveling log) and setting it adrift in the lake. (See here for the backstory.) The lake level has diminished since that day, and poor Peregrine is back on shore, looking forlorn. In fact, it looks like the log didn’t travel at all but just floated in the water in the same spot until the inevitable receding could let it rest on the mud again.

Well, there appears to have been a lot of rain in the Roundrock area this week, so maybe Peregrine is afloat again. If not, I’ll need to be sure to give it a hefty push into the deeper water next chance I get. It’s been too long on the land.

Missouri calendar:

  • Bats bear young this month.
  • Venus meets Saturn in the western sky in the hour after sunset.

Sign of Hope

Friday, June 29th, 2007

some hope.JPG

Life-giving rainfall seems to be feast or famine at Roundrock. The trees I have planted can’t rely on me to visit regularly and water them, so they must depend on what falls from the sky or what they can find in the ground. We knew this when we planted our many trees, so if they succeed or fail, we accept what comes.

And so we resigned ourselves to the failure of two cypress trees we had planted in good soil near the lake several years ago. These weren’t nursery bought but volunteers that had come up in our suburban back yard. (We have two large, happy cypress trees there.) Although these Roundrock transplants had made comebacks in past springs, they would lose all of their leaves by mid-summer and remain sticks through the winter, and they showed no signs of return this spring.

The problem, of course, is water. Our idea was that these two trees would rise by the shore of the full lake, and their roots would reach to the nearby water to keep the tree nourished. The lake didn’t cooperate, as long-time readers of this humble blog know. As the water line receded, the trees’ chances did as well.

But the cycle begins again, as you can see above. Amidst all of the green jumble in the photo, you can just maike out some pale, wispy leaves just about at the center. Those emerged unexpectedly from the forsaken stalk of the presumably dead cypress, telling me that there is life in the old stick yet. They’ve made their appearance late in the season, but there they are.
This was the year the lake achieved a full pool (though only briefly, but that’s a different lament), so this cypress, the one close to the water line, seemed to bounce back and show a bit of its potential. The sickly green of the leaves tells me that it wasn’t much of a bounce, but the stick lives and there is some hope.

Missouri calendar:

  • Eastern bluebirds begin third (last) nesting.

Bedrock

Thursday, June 28th, 2007
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So many years ago, when Libby and I were in land-acqusition mode, we saw an ad for an 80-acre bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks and decided we wanted to see it. So we called the realtor and arranged to meet at a certain gas station beside the highway — it was only two lanes then — and follow him to this intriguing forest.

And we did. And then we followed him into this intriguing forest. At the time, Roundrock was a trackless wilderness. The road we rely on today wasn’t built, and the most obvious way into the woods (and allowing an obvious way out) was to follow the creek that more or less began at the corner of the property and more or less went down the center of it.

This was a hot day, and being fools, we hadn’t brought along any water. Nor had the realtor, who should have been experienced in this sort of thing.

But we pushed our way down the creekbed until we came to the spot you see above. That is actually some bedrock, exposed by the flow of the intermittent creek passing over it. This is a different part of our forest, which I wrote a bit about yesterday. Anyway, on our long-ago walk, the realtor stopped at this point, and we all commented about the heat.

Whether his next act was stage managed or whether it was spontaneous, I don’t know. He bent over this bit of exposed bedrock and dipped his hands into one of those standing pools of water. (Hard to see in the photo.) Then he splashed across the back of his neck to cool off. He said he wasn’t sure but he thought that this spot might actually be a spring. (The rest of the creek we had crunched down was dry at the time.)

To a couple of naive land buyers, this sounded magical. I’m sure he realized it. I think I had enuf savvy at the time to realize that he was probably trying to entice us, and I noted at the time that his “discovery” was tentative — that it might be a spring.

Our hike continued down the creek for a ways, and we had circumscribed the entire 80 acres later, so we eventually knew we wanted this woods, but as you might guess, this “spring” never turned out to be a spring. (There is a small seep spring farther down the creek, but it hardly qualifies, and he hadn’t pointed it out to us as we passed, so I don’t think he knew about it.) But in our many treks about our woods, we sometimes come to this spot, and unless it has rained in recent days, there is no water on this bedrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • Dog-day cicadas begin to sing.

Vacancy

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

vacant.JPG

No one is home in this small snail shell. I don’t suppose a snail abandons its shell since it can continue to make it larger as needed. My guess is that the former resident fell victim to some bad end, and the shell was all that was left behind.

I don’t find a lot of snails or their empty shells at Roundrock. I’m not sure why that would be (unless I’m just not observant). Could it be that the general conditions there are too dry? Predators? Insufficient food? I don’t know.

I found this shell far up the creek in the Central Valley, close to where it crosses into the property line of Roundrock. The slope is steeper and valley is narrower, so there is a sort of microclimate that is protected from all but the mid-day sun. It seems wetter in this spot, and perhaps that is where snails will do best. I’ve found a couple of other things in this area that I haven’t seen elsewhere at Roundrock including the sole Blackhaw tree and the Wild Hyacinth.

I’ll keep looking.

Missouri calendar:

  • Cricket frog breeding at its peak.

Field of Flowers

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

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I may have mentioned this idea before, but just go with me, all right?

I periodically “despair” when I wander through the pecan plantation, the acre of open land below the dam. I have planted fifty pecan trees down there, and replanted about that many over the years. Only a handful, maybe ten, are what I would consider successful. Pecans are slow growing trees, but many of mine, excluding the ones that have simply died outright, seem to think they should start over completely each year. They die off to the ground each winter and send up fresh leaves at their base in the spring.

There are the other ten, of course, some of which are now nearly four feet tall and branching nicely. They are scattered where the soil is good and/or the water is reliable. But my fantasy of having a cathedral stand of towering pecans to stroll under doesn’t look likely.

So I have this other idea for the plantation. I’m thinking of trying to make it a wildflower meadow. We see the most wildflowers down in this open acre, but they are generally just single specimens, not a multi-colored blanket of flowers that dazzle they eyes.

I blame this idea on my recent trip to Eugene, Oregon and especially the campus of the University of Oregon. The flower beds there are done in wildflowers. They are colorful, diverse displays.

Of course, I don’t have the budget of the University of Oregon. Or the staff. Or the rainfall. Or even the soil. But I’ve begin looking into wildflower seeds; unfortunately, these things don’t come cheap. A pound of Missouri wildflower seeds would cost me anywhere from $75 to $90, and one site I visited online suggested that seeding is best done with eight to nine pounds per acre. I’m not strong in math, but I can do that much cipherin’. I suppose most of the cost is in the collection process. Done by hand by real people in field conditions and all that.

Compounding the problem is that the ground is not properly prepared, at least according to the seeding instructions I have read. The various grasses there (that have done well in all but the rockiest areas) have spread a thick carpeting across the ground. This is supposed to be mown and raked away or burn to the ground before seeding. Otherwise the seeds I would sow would simply rest on the fallen grasses and never germinate.

I’ve thought about getting potted wildflower plants and plugging them in the ground here and there, but there are comparably expensive, and because of my infrequent visits, I can’t guarantee that they’ll get watered sufficiently to get established.

My attempt at seeding Libby’s Island with wildflowers has not yet proven to be a success. It may still be a bit early to expect the many seeds we scattered there to make a showing yet, of course, but the soil there is better than in the pecan plantation.

I suppose I should try to collect seeds myself. This will take a little research and a lot of effort, but maybe in small steps I can get myself to where I want to be.

Missouri calendar:

Skin (in and out)

Monday, June 25th, 2007
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On a recent afternoon, while Libby and I were sitting in the comfy chairs at our new camp, I looked through the trees and saw a wisp of something flapping on the trunk of an old snag.

The wisp was on the far side of the tree, so I only saw it when the breeze blew. And it was perhaps fifty feet away, so when I did see it, I didn’t get a good look at it. I thought perhaps it was some remnant of the bark the tree once had or maybe a vine that had come loose somehow.

When it came time to push ourselves out of the comfy chairs and continue our walk, I steered my feet over to the snag to see what there was to see.

The wispy thing turned out to be the snake skin you see above. The discarded skin was easily three feet long, and it hung from the tree above our heads. How it managed to stay there, I don’t know, but it was still supple, so maybe it was only recently crept out of.

My guess is that the snake (I have no idea what kind it might have been) had slithered up the tree in its attempt to get out of its old skin. Mission accomplished it then left the tree and left the old skin on the tree.

We left the old skin there though I wish I could have kept it. But we had a long walk back to the shelter tarp, and I didn’t think such a delicate thing would survive the arduous trek through the forest. So there it remains.

Missouri calendar:

  • Smoketrees bloom on southwestern Missouri glades.

Sunday reflections

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

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One of the unforeseen consequences of staying in a really fine bed and breakfast with a lovely garden is the desire to fix up your own house and garden when you get home. I had hoped to go to Roundrock today, but . . .

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Whilst in Oregon, I got a short training from my web designer on the use of Photoshop Elements. The knowledge is now lost, all lost, but maybe an idea or two will resurface. Still, I don’t really want to doctor the photos I give you of Roundrock since I want you to see what I see there. But maybe I can come up with some other uses.

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I mostly get spam comments on this blog (though I’m always grateful for everything you have to say), but even though I suspect the comment I’m about to comment about was bot generated (it was made to a post from last October, and it begins “Greetings friend of nature”) I think it is worthy.

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Hike For Discovery is a fund-raising technique used by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Basically, if you’re a hiker going on one of their 27 expeditions, you pledge to raise a certain amount of money. If you want to support a hiker, you can contribute toward that person reaching the pledged amount.

My daughter had run a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon through this organization several years ago and was personally enriched by the experience and managed to raise her pledged amount.

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The deadline has nearly arrived for submissions to the next Festival of the Trees. This month’s host is Wren of Wrenaissance Reflections. Send her your posts or links by this weekend at treefest [at] wrenaissance [dot] com.

The Festival is now a year old and you can help sustain the glory by being a host yourself. If you’re interested, send me or Dave (bontasaurs [at] yahoo [dot] com) an email

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It seems that I am not the only one with a disappearing lake. (Thanx, Duff!)

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Missouri calendar:

  • Spiny softshell turtles lay eggs on sandbars and gravelbars.

The continuing adventures of the transplanted maple

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

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You will recall the epic adventure of me planting this little red maple on the far side of the lake at Roundrock. Here is how it looked on our recent trip to the woods. It seems to have found its new accommodations to its liking and is thriving.

We had planted maples here and there at Roundrock in past years only to see them nibbled to stubs by the marauding deer. Now we’re being more selective in our planting and caging the little trees to protect them from the hungry beasts. Given the effort involved, our maple planting ambition is considerably reduced.

And I’ve given more thought to location. We had received two maples as a gift some years ago. They were cultivated from the maples that grow in Walden Woods, and I liked the idea of that kind of heritage in my forest. We planted them by the pond so we could enjoy their red reflections in the water in the fall. (This was before we had the lake.)

Unfortunately, these maples died. They died of thirst. The trees were set about fifteen feet back from the water, and I must have thought at the time that the ground there would be sufficiently saturated by the pond to keep the young maples wet enuf. Not so, of course.

Thus even though the maple above looks to be doing well, it still must survive the heat and drought of an Ozark summer. We chose to put it just above the lake in a slight fold of the land that might drain a little water past it. I hope that will help keep its roots moist, but I think I’m going to have to be vigilant about carrying water to this tree through the summer to ensure its survival. (It is also on the north-facing slope, so the ground will tend to dry out a bit less.) Fortunately, the lake will be close and I can just dip a couple of buckets of water from there to pour around the tree.

So everyone should have a hobby, right?

Missouri calendar:

  • Female coyotes wean pups.

Scuzzy

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

scuzzy.JPG

In a sort of disgusting way, this is appealing. I don’t know why the algae in this photo doesn’t come across as bright green. It certainly was in person when I stood on the shore of the lake to take this shot.

This is, or course, algae that had grown lushly in the weeds that had been flooded when the lake reached full pool earlier. I’m not sure why we’ve had such an algal bloom this year. Maybe the heavy rains that filled the lake also washed plenty of nutrients down from the hillsides. Or it could be that my neighbor to the north had fertilized his field heavily. (He’s growing wheat there this year, and I think it’s about ready for harvest, so maybe he’ll put in another crop yet this season.) Part of the drainage for that field leads to my lake.

In any case, great mats of algae are floating just below the surface of the lake. And along the edges, where the water has obviously receded, the algae has been left hanging around, preparing to die and turn black. I’d like to think that all of this living and dying in my lake is working to plug the leaks in the bottom, but I suppose that is wishful thinking.

Despite the scuzz, if the stars had aligned properly on recent visits, Libby and I would have swum in the water without hesitation. But it was the temps, not the scuzz, that kept us away. Surely next time we’ll be able to slip into this green water. Anyone care to join us?

Missouri calendar:

  • Prickly pear cactus blooms
  • Canada goose molt is at its peak.

Last Day in Oregon

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

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We spent much of our last full day in Oregon at the King Estate winery, south of Eugene in some rolling hills. We’re not drinkers by any definition though we sometimes will enjoy a bit of wine. (And beer — see below.) Our goal, however, was merely to have a nice lunch in a nice setting, and we achieved that.

This winery is supposed to be the jewel of Oregon’s wine industry, and not having any experience of the other wineries in the state, we took that on faith. (Actually, our innkeeper couldn’t recommend it enuf, and she keeps an excellent inn.)

So thence we proceeded, and we had a wonderful time. The food was good, though the portions were “dainty” and the $12 cheese plate included only three pieces of cheese. Aside from that, though, all seemed right with lunch.

We also gave a try at a “flight” of wine, which was a small sampling of six wines. The hope of the restaurant, of course, was to entice us to buy a bottle of whichever wine we especially liked. That didn’t work out for them — they kept filling my iced tea (unsweetened, of course) so who needed wine? But we did buy a bottle to give as a gift to some friends who are wine aficionados.

King.JPG

We could have taken a tour of the winery, which was highly recommended, but we had plans we had to return to Eugene for (our son-in-law needed the car), so we didn’t linger. But we did take the long way back and wound through the hills (that you can see in the photo atop).

On Wednesday (which has already passed as you read this), we have a day of traveling including a four-hour layover in Salt Lake City. Getting through security is such a time-consuming process that we aren’t going to try to get out of the airport to see the sights. (I faced the same dilemma when I had a five-hour layover in London, but that began at 5:00 a.m., so it was even less likely that I could have seen any sights.) We’ll get home close to midnight. And then work again the next day.

Solstice story – Some years ago a friend of mine had invited a bunch of his buddies to his house to help him build an extension on his garage. I was invited as well, but my skills were more in the beer drinking area. Anyway, it happened to be Solstice, and I made a comment that it was the longest day of the year. His other friends thought about that a moment and then commented that of course he would invite his buddies to provide free labor on the longest day of the year. True story.

Missouri calendar:

  • First day of Summer/Solstice: longest day of the year.

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