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Archive for July, 2007

Maple munching

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

munched maple.JPG

You can see in this photo where a branch of the maple I have planted near the entrance to Roundrock has been munched upon, no doubt by passing deer. This branch had grown through the fencing, and when it was in leaf earlier this summer, I worried that I would not be able to pull it back through the fencing. I figured I needed to do that soon or the branch would become too thick to manage, and I’d have to cut the fencing to solve the problem.

But the deer have presented a different solution, one I hadn’t thought of.

How do maples ever grow to maturity in deer country? Over at Fallen Timbers (that other little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks that we have), we have plenty of maples. Big, mature maples. No one fenced those, and still they survived. Yet at Roundrock, every maple I have planted has become deer chow unless I fence it as above. And you see what happens when a maple leaf gets within dinner distance. Maple leaves must be tasty. Anyone ever try one?
I suppose if I really wanted a maple forest, I’d have to plant hundreds and hundreds of them and hope that the deer overlook a few. I calculated once that with the post and the fencing I have more than $7 devoted to protecting each tree. In the pine and pecan plantations, I guess that’s worthwhile. And here at the entrance I wanted to preserve the maple, which was a larger than normal transplant from the suburban yard.

The tree is now taller than I am, and if it keeps growing at this pace, I’ll be able to remove the fencing in a few years because the branches will be up out of munching height.

Unless the deer have a really long ladder, that is.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today. How can that be in the middle of the summer in the Ozarks?

Pecan profligacy

Monday, July 30th, 2007

green pecan.JPG

Despite my seemingly ceaseless laments about the pitiful state of the pecan plantation, things are actually coming along there fairly well. The photo above shows one of the pecans from earlier this month. You can see that it is growing robustly, safe within the protection of its fencing.

The type of fencing around it tells me that this was the very first pecan we ever put protection around, which means that I probably did it about three years ago. That in turn tells me that this must have been one of the first plantings of the pecans and that it had showed early progress.

There are perhaps half a dozen pecans down in the acre below the dam that look about this healthy. Most of the others, those that have survived, are not this robust, but they are clearly going to be survivors. A few are little more than twigs with a leaf or two flapping. And many are gone pecan.

So if you haven’t figured it out already, here’s a tip: don’t take Pablo’s laments too literally. He’s just trying to get attention.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watch for young hummingbirds at feeders.

Sunday stuff

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

cedars.JPG

Regarding this patch of cedar forest in the west end of Roundrock: I am not there today!

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Goodness! That blue-tailed skink post of mine continues to draw attention. The Oh Joy blog has linked to my photo. Looks like a pretty good blog, too.

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Tomorrow is the deadline for submissions to the next edition of the Festival of the Trees. Be sure to send your links to Dave at bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com. He should have the Festival itself up on his blog Via Negativa by Wednesday.

All of my pathetic pleading seems to have worked, a bit. We now have hosts through November December, but it’s not too early to consider being a host for December January or beyond. You really don’t want to see me begging.

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Two years ago I began trying to explain the primary overflow control system in the dam. I used up a lot of words, but I’m not sure I made it very clear. At least the photo in that post lets you see the black pipe that leads out of the drain drum. That’s the part that gets everyone the most confused.

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For those of you who are interested, the wedding came off flawlessly yesterday. Everyone was on their marks and remembered their cues. Thanx to my superpowers, I was able to steer the storm clouds to the north, leaving our party filled with sunny blue skies.

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I’ll leave you to infer what you will from this picture:

empty nest.JPG

Missouri calendar:

  • Mink kits travel with their mothers along streams.

Wedding Day

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

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I’m probably running around playing host and fixer and father of the bridegroom and reveler in the day-long nuptials. And I’ll be wearing a black suit!

Perhaps I’ll have pix for you. Gotta go!

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild plums ripen.

Prairie coneflower

Friday, July 27th, 2007

yellow flowers.JPG

I’m pretty sure this is prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), which is a Missouri native and a welcome member of the community at Roundrock. I took this picture on top of the dam — that’s the lake you see in the background. If you look closely you may be able to see the raindrops dimpling the surface of the water.

I have this ambition to turn the area below the dam into a wildflower meadow. This coneflower came up atop the dam, looking down on my ambition. (Did I mean that metaphorically? I don’t know.) If I ever get to go back to Roundrock, and if the finches haven’t eaten all of the seeds, I plan to snip these heads and cast them about the meadow with the hope that they will germinate and bring forth their pleasant flowers in a year or two. (Or should I put the seeds in a bag and wait until October to cast them about?)

This plant wasn’t here last year. Not too many years before that this part of the dam was raw dirt, having been rebuilt by the dozer man. So that tells me that these volunteers found their way here on the wind or courtesy of some passing bird. If they can sprout perched on the edge of the dam, surely they can sprout down in the pecan plantation, set there intentionally. Right?

Missouri calendar:

  • Warblers begin to gain weight for energy during migration.

Brrrrr!

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

brrrr.JPG

Out of space and time comes this image of the diminished lake at Roundrock. A bit of an anachronism for late July in Missouri, but I wish I were there right now — cold or hot.

It has been nearly a month since Pablo was out to his precious woods, and there is another week and a half before his next chance to go arrives. It’s really a shame that he must do without for so long. Everyone should feel sorry for him.

Missouri calendar:

  • Blazing star blooms on prairies and roadsides.

Oasis on the Plains

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

oasis.JPG

Palm trees in western Kansas? Pablo in western Kansas?

As some of you may know, my youngest son has taken a job as a high school social studies teacher in Colby, Kansas. (He’s also getting married on Saturday.) He and his fiance found an apartment out there and got early possession of it. Thus the weekend before the wedding, we rented a big truck and took many of their things out there.

Colby is about seven hours west of my Kansas City suburban home, and as these things go, we weren’t out of the house that morning as early as I had hoped. Then we made a stop at their old college town where the fiance had a storage locker of her things to be loaded in the truck for the journey west. Then there was chow on the road and stops for fuel (6-10 miles per gallon in that beast of a truck, and it was fully loaded). It was a long drive, with the prospect of unloading a big truck waiting at the end of it.

But many hands, as they say. We reached the apartment by mid afternoon and immediately began unloading. Fortunately (for the movers among us anyway), they didn’t want to set up housekeeping that day but merely wanted their things moved into the first-floor apartment. They will sort it out beginning when they arrive on Sunday, their post-nuptial life having really started then. So unloading was not unpacking, and we simply went back and forth from the back of the truck to the front of the apartment.

It’s a nice apartment for the price. They have a large living and dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and three bedrooms. They even have a washer/dryer hookup should they choose to stay long enuf to want to invest in those machines. But, boy oh boy, are they on the edge of civilization. Just across the street the western prairie asserts itself, and one of those flat, endless vistas western Kansas is so “famous” for begins.

And the palm trees? Well, Colby is along Interstate 70, betwixt Denver and Kansas City (though far closer to Denver). For travelers, it is a sort of oasis, a watering and resting place on the long journey. The town has just over 5,000 inhabitants, but it boasts 500 hotel rooms! Just about every major chain eatery is represented in Colby (yes, that’s a Starbucks sign in the photo), there is a community college in town, and the high school (where #3 son will teach) is massive and new. Colby can even claim host to the Prairie Museum of Art and History, which wasn’t open on Sunday morning when we were free to visit it, but we’ll be back.

Western Kansas cannot support palm trees (in fact, most trees out thataway were found only in the draws where water might collect and the trees could be a bit sheltered from the relentless wind). But the collection of trees you see above rises beside one of the big truck stops south of the highway. What you can’t see in the picture are the steel wires helping to hold the trees upright. They’re made of metal, of course, so they don’t qualify for mention in the Festival of the Trees.

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels bear summer litters.
  • Mars shines high in the eastern sky.

Froth

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

bubbles.JPG

I thought that after yesterday’s rant I should come up with something a bit more light and frothy today.

You’ll remember that wet and wild trip Libby and I had to Roundrock a few weeks ago (I haven’t been back since, by the way). I took this photo on our walk out. The bubbles were collecting in a pool of water that was more or less flowing across the road that first enters our forest.

When the road enters our property, it dips to cross the beginnings of the creek that eventually creates our Central Valley and the lake. There is a culvert pipe there, and some large chunks of gravel have been spread over it to make a solid road bed. But there is a swale there, and the man who built the road for us told us that it would always be wet in that spot.

Because the ground was nearly saturated, the water was running across it without going to the bother of collecting in the tiny creekbed and flowing through the pipe as intended. Thus water was flowing through our swale. At most it was two or three inches deep, and we stomped right through it on our hike out.

But I guess the gravel beneath it was still filling with water because it was releasing a single bubble every few seconds. This bubble would get moved by the flow until it reached this mass of them, held in place by the grass (growing in the road!).

It made for a nice photo, and I’m glad it wasn’t frog eggs that we saw since they wouldn’t have stood a chance of surviving once the road ran dry again.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is empty for today.

Yabba Dabba Science*

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

yabba dabba.JPG

Forgive me for going off topic today, and for ranting while I do it.

As many of you know, we have a wedding coming up in our household. It will be this coming Saturday, and it will be held at Powell Gardens, in rural Missouri east of Kansas City. The chapel is lovely and the gardens are nice. Right now they have a touring exhibit of a dozen life-sized model dinosaurs tucked in among the plants and trees and waterfalls of the gardens. They’ll be around until October.

Each dinosaur has a large sign before it giving all sorts of general scientific facts, including where the best fossils were found and in what epoch of the Earth — going back millions of years — the particular dinosaur lived. It’s geared toward a general audience, but the science is there.

And so is the little cartoon that appears on the lower right corner of each of the signs.

When I first saw this cartoon, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It is contrary to all of the valid information on the signs. It is scientifically inaccurate, not merely because it suggests that a dinosaur could be domesticated, but that humans and dinosaurs existed on Earth at the same time.

It soon occurred to me, of course, that this was a sort of sop to the Creationists, of which Missouri has more than its share. As you probably know, Young Earth Creationists claim that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time. I thought that perhaps this cartoon depiction on the "official" signage for these dinosaurs might grant some perceived legitimacy to their assertions. Thus they could say that a scientific institution (which a botanical garden can be said to be) is presenting both sides of the argument. Such a concession would be a big win for Creationists, at least in their own minds, for it would appear to give them equal footing with the scientific, fact- and evidence-based accounting for the history of the Earth. (Or you could look at it as the artist suggesting that the Creationist assertions about the Earth’s history are cartoonish!)

I wrote to Powell Gardens to ask about this gross mistake on their signs, wondering if I might get a candid response. I was told that it is supposed that the designer put the cartoon dinosaur and caveman on the signs to draw children’s attention to them. My correspondent said that in retrospect, it would have been better to have used an illustration that is scientifically accurate. This, I am assured, will be kept in mind for future exhibits.

I’m willing to take this explanation on face value. But I won’t be surprised when I hear Creationists trumpeting that Powell Gardens is "teaching the controversy." (There is no controversy. One explanation for the development of life on Earth relies on scientific evidence. The other doesn’t even qualify as science because it cannot provide scientific evidence.)

At the very least, I think this exhibit misses an opportunity to dispel a common misconception — that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. At the worst, it is spreading this misconception.

*The clever term "Yabba Dabba Science" was coined by the Los Angeles Times in an editorial that appeared last May, shortly after the Creationist Museum in Kentucky opened.

Update: Expelled.

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild black cherries ripen.

Sunday rock on log

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

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I am astonished that my original post on the blue-tailed skinks that we sometimes find at Roundrock has garnered nearly 40 comments. (Update: now more than 40.) I continue to receive them periodically, and lately they have been asking for advice on how to care for pet skinks captured in the wild.

I have updated the post with a link to a page giving some care advice, but I’ll say again in this post that I don’t want to encourage anyone to capture any wild creature and keep it as a pet.

(And since I updated that post, a commenter left a note making the same point about leaving nature natural, only she said it a bit more vigorously that I had.)

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The summer is half over (if it isn’t, it sure feels like it is), and I still haven’t been swimming in the lake. My next chance will be two weeks from today (or from yesterday), and I really think I’m entitled to have a dip!

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The 14th Festival of the Trees is being hosted by Dave at Via Negativa. If you have or know of a blog post about trees that you think should be featured, send Dave an email at bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com.

We’re always looking for future hosts. If you’re interested, send me or Dave an email.

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As you read this, As this post appears, I should be in Colby, Kansas, moving a son and future daughter-in-law into their future apartment. They gained possession a bit early, so we’re using a free weekend to get some work done. (They’re helping!)

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Only six days to the wedding!

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There is no skink in the photo above. It’s merely a mostly round rock that I placed on the roots of a fallen snag.

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Missouri calendar:

  • May apple fruits ripen and fall on ground.

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