Archive for October, 2007

10.28.2007 – Part One

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

green and brown.JPG

On Sunday we made a grand tour of our rural properties, visiting and lingering at both Fallen Timbers and Roundrock. It’s something we rarely do since so much driving is involved, which eats time that could be better devoted to wandering the trails and listening to the forest.

Many months have passed since we were last at Fallen Timbers (that other little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks that we have). In a way, that’s shameful since it was our original escape before we found Roundrock, and we’d spent many happy and contented hours there. But in another sense it was fine that we hadn’t visited in so long. The forest is heedless of us. It really needs no help or supervision by a pair of talking mammals. We have no improvements to maintain, no treasures to guard (not since a neighbor accidentally cut down many of our oldest trees because he didn’t know where the property line ran), and no encroachments to hold back (we hoped). The land could go about its cycles without us, and even from the mercenary perspective of seeing the forty acres as an investment, our absence made no difference.

But deer hunting season is coming up in Missouri, and last year I had found what appeared to be preparations for a hunting station on our property. Now, I have stated before that I have no objection to hunting as a sport or a wildlife management tool. I don’t consider any deer that happen to wander across my woods or spend a night in the leaf litter to be my deer. What I object to is the presumption that because I am an absentee landlord, anyone who cares to can make any use of my land that he wants. One presumptuous interloper will lead to another and another, and pretty soon the place could be overrun because everyone would assume the owner didn’t notice or didn’t care.

So last year I left a note sealed in a plastic bag at the hunting station. It alerted the potential reader that he or she was on private property without permission. It noted that my name and contact information could be found at the county courthouse, and it welcomed anyone to call and ask permission to hunt the land. I put the note on a log which appeared to be a sort of stool for the hunter to sit upon as he or she waited for the game to pass. (The location seemed very good for hunting. From that hillside spot the hunter could see nearly twenty acres of forest across a small valley, giving a long chance to wait for the perfect shot to line up.)

I hadn’t been back to that spot since I left the note, so I was eager to visit it again in advance of this year’s season to see what there was to see. The road in to Fallen Timbers is a mess, and you really do have to give consideration to recent weather before you decide to drive on it. There is one patch of deep mud, and the rest of the road is steep or deep, covered with loose gravel and deep ruts. The ditches beside it have long since filled in, so rain water runs down the road itself, further damaging it. In the days before we had our truck, we didn’t even try to drive in but hiked the last two miles to our part of the forest. Nonetheless, landowners deeper in than we are have built cozy looking cabins or hauled in trailers, using the same daunting road.

The days have been drier recently, so I thought it was time to give the road a try and finally visit again at Fallen Timbers. The route to this part of Missouri is nostalgic, taking us through small towns and past lovely vistas that we first began seeing more than a decade ago, and our recent absence made them even more potent for us. It was not long before we were stopped at the top of the hill where the bad road began, ready to take the plunge and see if we could make it all the way to our woods.

Actually, the first half mile of this road is very good. It happened that years ago a man brought his family to a nicely situated plot a half mile in and set up housekeeping. This man worked one of the many heavy machines for a road construction business. Thus he knew what he was doing when it came to grading and maintaining a road. (The family has since moved on. I suppose he goes where the work is.) It is beyond this first half mile that the road becomes treacherous.

We drove in easily over that first half mile. Beyond that is a short hill to a stretch of road along a ridgetop, so that part was clear and fair, but after that, the adventure began.

From there the road turns and goes down hill to a culvert. There were two large puddles of muddy water waiting for us there, so after we picked our way down the rutted hill, I splashed into the puddles, which were deeper than I expected. They were no trouble for the truck, but we had been driving non-stop for two hours, and the splash of water against the bottom of the engine raised a great cloud of steam that swirled behind us as I raised my speed to get up the long hill before us.

Do you know that sinking feeling you get when you’re accelerating and still losing speed? That’s how we went up the hill. We we spinning on gravel and slinging it to the rear (even in 4WD) and going slower and slower. Fortunately, we ran out of hill before we ran out of momentum, but then we faced the muddy section with several cleverly disguised holes that tossed us about as we crossed them too fast. Did I mention that this road is a mess?

There was another mud hole to cross where the road dipped again. We managed to get through it (though one time I did get stuck there — in a little suburban car — and had to hike out and get a tow truck to suck the car out of the mud) and then there was another slippery, gravelly hill to mount. After that, the road was comparative ease. We hardly slipped at all before we stopped at the entrance to our woods, marked by two old tires set out as flower beds many years ago (but lost in the scrub soon after).

As you can tell, the technical team here at Roundrock HQ has solved the reason mysterious, and I can once again post pix for your pleasure. Enjoy

Missouri calendar:

  • Halloween

Anguish on the move

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Since I didn’t take a picture of this subject matter, it makes for a perfect post in my currently picture-less state of affairs here at Roundrock Journal.

Way back when (more than a year ago) I posted about a coconut bird feeder I had hung in the tree by the tarp in our woods. I dutifully anguished about my misguided attempt at feeding wild things and then hoped nonetheless that they would take advantage of it.

On our last trip to Roundrock, when Libby and I were hiking in the Hinterland across the lake, we came upon that half coconut shell, empty of its lard and seed. Here it was, far from where we had placed it. We marveled that some critter would have carried it such a long distance. Even directly across the empty lake that would have been a hike for a raccoon carrying half a coconut. And if the lake had been full at the time, the hike around it would have been even longer.

Why, we wondered aloud, would some forest critter want to carry half a coconut so far through the woods?

And then I re-read my earlier post (linked above). I had completed forgotten that we had purchased a pair of the coconut bird feeders. I had completely forgotten that we had hiked around the lake and into the Hinterland to hang the second coconut feeder. The one we found on the ground in the seemingly unlikely spot may have been directly below the tree where we had hung it a year before. No curious mammal behavior. Just approaching mammal senility perhaps.

I thought, though, that I should set out this kind of lard feeder on the tree by the shelter again. I think I could sit under the shelter of the tarp, and, if I was patient enuf, I could wait for a woodpecker to come along and start eating. I might get a few good pictures that way. Wayne speaks of this sort of thing at the end of this post on the world famous Niches blog.

As I’ve said before, everyone needs a hobby.

Missouri calendar:

  • Bullfrogs begin hibernation.
  • Gibbous moon (between half and full) lies near Mars this morning.

Pictureless Monday

Monday, October 29th, 2007

As I write this I am still being locked out of adding pix to my posts by WordPress. Thus no skinnydipping photos, no pictures of bears in the woods at Roundrock, no images of the ISS crossing the Milky Way. Not even a picture of a round rock.

This reminds me a bit of the very early days, before I had the habit of offering a daily picture. While my very first post has a photo (showing round rocks, of course), the next few were picture free. I thought at the time that I could astound you with my breathless prose and the astonishing facts about my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. In fact, a week passed before I put up another photo.

It’s interesting to me to go back more than 900 posts and try to see what I was thinking at the time. Have you ever gone back to the earliest days of your blog to see what was on your mind at the time?

I had hoped to have my third mini-movie up for you to enjoy on Saturday. It is a pan across the pond, which I thought would be interesting since the photo of the duckweed I had put up last week seemed to interest everyone.

Rest assured that there are still plenty of photos in Pablo’s album (and a few mini-movies), and when the pesky picture posting problem is fixed, I’ll be sure to subject you to them.

Missouri calendar:

  • Average day of first frost in southern Missouri.

Sunday salutations

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

With luck and a clear sky, Pablo will be out at Roundrock today, enjoying the seasonal color and the mild weather. Nothing much on the agenda, which makes for the best kind of visit.

I was asked if I had any news to report about the decay of the shopping bags. Alas, I haven’t been out to my woods since the day I placed them. Maybe I’ll be able to report now.


When faced with terrible adversity, some people just give up. Not here at Roundrock Journal! For some reason mysterious, which my technical team is crawling all over, I am currently unable to upload photos to the blog. (That includes the nifty leaf logo that I’d been using recently to divide paragraphs on my Sunday posts.) I’ve tried using other computers with no luck, so it can’t be the relative age of my iBook that is causing it. Thus you are left with my adipose prose to paint pictures for you. I’m sure my technical team will have the problem fixed presently, so don’t fret.

In other meta-news, Roundrock Journal is now home to more than 900 posts, all written by yours truly. I honestly never expected to last this long.


Go over and visit Mark. Then click on the ad in his upper right corner and make him wealthy. (It worked for the Florida Cracker!)


The submission deadline has passed for this edition of The Festival of the Trees, but we’re all looking forward to the spooky presentation promised by Silviasalix at Windywillow. It may even be up already.

We’re also all looking forward to the edition when you host the Festival.


Did Pablo get himself a new laptop yesterday? Yep!


Missouri calendar:

  • Well, the calendar is empty for today. Sorry!


Saturday, October 27th, 2007


This is part of the base of a tree. This tree happens to be close to our new campsite, but there are quite a few trees like this throughout the woods at Roundrock. This hole was formed when a low branch of the tree died and rotted away. It gives access to the hollow core of the trunk, and I suppose a lot of forest critters make use of this doorway to sanctuary.

What I find curious about these holes is the gnawing and scratching I commonly see around them. I imagine a drama with a small forest critter being pursued by a larger one. The little critter probably leapt into this hole (having known it was here) and found safety within the trunk. The larger critter dashed up and was surely disappointed, but with the frenzy of the chase still in its blood, it gnawed and scratched at the knot, perhaps thinking it could dig its way in.

There may be some sense to that. The forest floor is littered with fallen trees. Some are rotten enuf that they are barely holding themselves together. I’d guess that at least once a hungry forest critter has gnawed and scratched one of these rotten logs and gotten to the soft filling inside.

That’s the story I’m going with anyway.

Missouri calendar:

  • Snow goose population at wetland areas is at its peak.

Scrub jugs

Friday, October 26th, 2007

scrub jugs.JPG

A familiar sight at Roundrock, but not for much longer. These are jugs of water we set beside the pecan plantation four and a half years ago. The plan was to use these to water the baby pecan trees during the dry summer months so they would survive and send their roots deep into the gravel.

We may have even done that a few times. But the pecans lived or died by forces beyond our occasional influence, and the water bottles mostly sat off to the side in reserve. They drew comment from everyone who saw them (family members and Good Neighbor Brian). Finally, I decided they qualified as litter and decided to haul them out.

Some of these jugs had cracked open and drained themselves dry, but most of them were still filled with water. All of them were brittle. Generally, when I grabbed a jug by the handle, the handle snapped off in my hand. Often this would happen after I had tilted the jug to pour out the water. The flow of water grew a bit more “erratic” at this point, and had the lower legs of my pants not already been wet from stomping around the soggy parts of the pecan acre, I might have been upset. Some of the jugs splintered enthusiastically, and poor Pablo had to bend to the ground to pick up the tiny shards of plastic.

The jugs are now all gone from the pecan plantation. There are some still among the pines, and they’ll be the next to go. After that, I think the only ones left are at the fire ring at our new camp. Those get used and replaced frequently enuf to keep them from qualifying as trash, so they will probably remain.

Missouri calendar:

  • Striped skunks are fattening up for winter.

Travel light

Thursday, October 25th, 2007


This was the bed of my truck in the pre-dawn of our last (overnight) trip to Roundrock. Here’s the breakdown:

  • yellow bag – sleeping bags and blankets
  • white boxes – books to donate to the local library
  • red cooler – edibles
  • tools – various
  • long green bag – cot
  • long black bags – tables
  • gray bag – tent

And here is the view from the other direction:

packed 2.JPG

  • orange cooler – potables
  • white jugs – fire suppression system

I don’t think we carried a single thing we didn’t need, which is unlike our early days going to the woods when the bed would be twice as full just for a day trip.

I will confess that the back seat of the truck was filled as well, but that was mostly with spare clothes and other soft items.

Missouri calendar:

  • Peak fall color ends.


Wednesday, October 24th, 2007


At the time of the year when green is beginning to leave the palette of the forest, I was still able to find this eye-opening splash of it in the pond at Roundrock.

This is, of course, the duckweed that blankets the top of the pond. It’s an annual visitor each spring and summer, and more likely, it never really goes away at all but lurks in some protected place all winter to re-establish its riotous population growth in the spring each year. In February the surface of the pond is clear and blue, but by July it sports various shades of green as the floating colonies of duckweed grow and swirl and meet to shut out all sunlight reaching the other plants in the pond.

You can see how thickly the individual plants have grown because they are able to trap bubbles of air beneath them. If I stand very still beside the pond, some of the frogs that leapt into the water at my arrival will return and poke their little heads up from the green. Often, they will have to blink their eyes several times to clear the duckweed. (At least that’s what it looks like they’re doing. Do frogs have eye lids?)

It is likely that by this time, most or even all of the duckweed is gone from the surface of the pond. A few cold nights is all that seems to be required to slay the stuff and send it sinking to the bottom of the pond (where it joins the loathsome goo, I suppose).

Missouri calendar:

  • Juncos arrive from Canada.

An experiment

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007


Like the mad scientist I was sure I would be when I grew up, here is another experiment I am conducting at Roundrock.

What you see are two grocery shopping bags. The one on the upper left is the true subject of the experiment, though I suppose you could say the one on the lower right is the control. Let’s say that.

When I was in Oregon back in June we did a little shopping at a grocery store that used plastic bags that were suppose to decompose in about two weeks in the weather. I kept one of those bags deliberately with the intention of using it in this experiment.

Alas, the bag went astray, and I’m pretty certain it was used to clean up after Max (the dog who doesn’t know he’s a dog). But the idea of the experiment lingered. I wanted to set out the bag in an exposed area in my woods with the intent of visiting it each time I went to Roundrock to see how it was decomposing. I thought I could take regular pictures to document its dissolution and then bore you with long-winded accounts of their progress.

So the night before our last trip to the woods, I stopped at the local health food store and bought some safflower oil (can’t get it in the regular stores) just so I could have one of their special decomposing bags.

Only their bags aren’t as enthusiastic about their journey to entropy as the ones from Oregon. The message written at the bottom of this bag says that after a year of exposure the bag will begin to show signs of decomposition. That’s going to make for some very boring progress reports. Libby thought this rate was so ridiculous that she suggested we set a conventional plastic bag beside it just to see what it might do across the year. Wouldn’t it be funny if the conventional bag dissolved sooner?

I have an order in for a few of the Oregon bags, so maybe before the end of the year I’ll have a third bag to set out for my experiment. Then you’ll get to see some action. I’m counting on it.

Missouri calendar:

  • Green-winged teal migration is at its peak.

Fire flower

Monday, October 22nd, 2007
fire life.JPG

This solitary sprout greeted us when we got to our new camp at Roundrock several weeks ago. You see that it is growing up through the grill, having found purchase in the soot and ash of the camp fire station.

I have no doubt that many plants prefer the type of soil found in a fire ring, but there are strips in our forest when trees don’t grow that I have attributed to them having been the site of burn piles. I’ve always thought that a “scorched earth” plan was intended to make land non-arable.

Before we built our fire, I raked all of the fallen leaves away within a ten-foot diameter. Safety first, and all that. Also, I do not park my truck that close to the fire. The “road” to our campsite is tight and twisty, and I have to jockey the truck back and forth to turn it around and slip into its dedicated parking space. At the time I took the photo above, I had simply not yet done the jockeying work.

Missouri calendar:

  • Don’t miss the fall colors of cypress and tupelo gum trees at a swamp in the Bootheel.