Archive for December, 2007

Last day of the year

Monday, December 31st, 2007
Maple seed.jpg

The last day of the year is often a time for taking stock and reflecting on what has passed. My mind is not orderly enuf for that kind of thinking, so I’ll just make some random comments here instead.


That picture above is of some red maple seeds growing in our woods at Fallen Timbers. This is the last of the “found” photos that I knew I had in a box somewhere. Libby scanned this for me from a print photo (remember printed photographs?). While the maples grow robustly at Fallen Timbers, I’ve only had moderate luck with them at Roundrock, but that’s old news.


I vowed to meet my pledge of planting fifty shortleaf pine trees as part of the United Nations effort to plant a billion trees worldwide. I did my part. Did everyone else? Go to the official page to see if the goal was met. A new pledge is established for 2008. Care to join?

I got to see my lake filled to its capacity, and while I also had the misfortune to watch it drain away as well, I got to see it stop draining at a fuller level than the year before.

I was able to camp a few times, though not as many as I would like.

I was able to swim a few times, though again not as many as I’d like.

I found several nifty, new-to-me blogs through the year.

I began to include recorded video on this humble blog of mine.


Maybe looking back is only half of the process. Maybe looking forward is equally important. What, for example, will the new year hold for Roundrock Journal? Tomorrow may tell.

Missouri calendar:

  • New Year’s Eve
  • Hang up next year’s Natural Events Calendar.

Sunday swirlings

Sunday, December 30th, 2007


Some months ago I asked myself to please pay closer attention to the little details at Roundrock. With that spirit in mind, I captured the photo above. Now even though I did so, it doesn’t mean I have anything interesting or informative to tell you about it.


In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been nearly a month since I was last at Roundrock. I only had one decent opportunity to go, and I passed it up thinking the weather was going to be dismal. It proved to be otherwise and I regretted my choice. Now with family in from around the country (and around the world) the chances diminish even more. I may be able to get out on January 1, but the weather forecast doesn’t look promising.


There really is a rooster under all of this! And he lived!


Hillbilly2be was spouting blasphemy the other day. He was thinking of reducing to a trickle the frequency of posts to his informative, interesting, intriguing, inimitable, invigorating, ingenious, and insightful Homesteading Hickory Hills blog. That would be intolerable, irresponsible, irrational, irritating, illogical, insane, and inciteful.

I’m pretty sure the swell of responses to his post convinced him to stay in the game, but just to be sure, you might want to join the litany, nay the chorus, and beseech, nay demand, that he keep posting.


Today is the deadline for submitting to the next Festival of the Trees over at Hoarded Ordinaries. Quick send an email to Lorianne at zenmama (at) gmail (dot) com with your link or a link to a site you’ve come across.

The new year, 2008, is when you will take a month to serve as host of the Festival. I just know it!


I wasn’t paying attention, but in the last week or so, my visit counter topped 50,000. It seems that I can’t go back to see who might have been that visitor and award a round rock, so we’ll just have general merriment instead.


What’s Pablo reading now? I’m still working on my second reading of the Iris Murdoch novel The Sea, the Sea. While I certainly think one can get a better appreciation of a novel by reading it more than once, and while I certainly think many novels really deserve more than one reading, I’ve come to wonder lately if my tendency to re-read novels is a way to avoid the challenge (and potential disappointment) of trying new novels.

Saturday Matinee – 12.29.2007

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Picture 2.png

Today I take you down to the pecan plantation below the dam. Once again, the wind scratches across the microphone. (I keep thinking that I will provide some audio commentary on these little moviettes. Maybe someday.)

You can clearly distinguish the area I mowed down here from the area that I left wild. It was too muddy at the time, but I could probably get in there and cut it all down now. I’m not sure I want to. There are a couple of spots where some willows are trying to get established, and I should probably be merciless to them, but aside from that, I suppose I’m providing pretty good cover for a lot of wild critters.

At about ten second into the clip you can see a small pile of black shapes in the center of the screen. These are short lengths of black tubing I had put around the pecan saplings to protect them from the ravaging bunnies. As the pecans died, I removed the tubing, and when I mowed the area, I collected all of them with the intent of throwing them into a trash bag. Now I think I’ll keep them to put around the pines I replant this spring. Maybe that will protect them from the mysterious slasher.

At the end of the video, on the right side of the screen, you can just make out one of the white grocery bags I have set out for my decomposition experiment. All three bags are there. This spot is in the open, facing south. It gets full sun and rain here.

I still haven’t figured out exactly how to put up that longer video I have, but I’m getting some ideas. Maybe next week.

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels gather in nests to conserve energy.

Future fire feature

Friday, December 28th, 2007


This photo is doing a pretty poor job of showing you what I want you to see. Back in the day, before we had our road and dam built, this was just about the farthest point we could hike to at Roundrock. We really felt like we had accomplished something when we brought ourselves here.

Now the site is just across the dam and an easy jog to the east. We can visit it often, but we don’t for some reason. I’d like to build a fire ring here. The grassy ground before that boulder and into the foreground is more or less level, and the soil is not deep. The rocks underlying the grass are like small slabs, and I’ve been able to pry them up with the shovel with ease. So I imagine that I could pull up enuf of them to leave a mostly flat ledge of stone. And on that I could build my fires with little (less) worry about the flames spreading. (Of course a giant cedar tree with low-sweeping branches nearby may pose a problem.)

The few rocks I’ve pulled up have gone into a sort of stone wall I’m slowly assembling at the edge of this area. The ground drops away suddenly here, and I thought a wall could be a prudent thing to have, especially if I’m going to have late-night campfires.

I’m not sure why we don’t visit this spot more often. Even if I only pulled up a few stones each visit, I could have the place more or less finished in a season. The critter who has dug a den under that boulder would be welcome to stay, though if it is a skunk, that might be problematic. There always seem to be other, more compelling chores to do at Roundrock. And of course there is all of the rumination time required in the comfy chairs. And the post-lunch stupors.

Some day, though. Some day.

Missouri calendar:

  • During deep snowfall, bobcats stay in shelters.

Sell out

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

rock in hand.JPG

Another round rock and another aimless post for you. I took this photo down in the supposed pecan plantation, close to the dam. I am pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to place the solid, round rock against the wispy, linear grass. A little more color contrast might have helped, but I’m pleased nonetheless.

I hate parting with my round rocks. Each month I meet with four folks I had worked with for many years. We have dinner at some restaurant we all want to try and we play catch up with our lives. This month, because of the gift-giving holidays, Libby convinced me to give each of them a round rock. Actually, I think she had suggested that I give these as gifts last December, and it took me this long to come to terms with such an outrageous and pain-inducing suggestion. But I did it.

Now four of my round rocks have found new homes with people who may not love them as much as I do. A couple promised to put the rocks on their desks at the office, but that may have been merely to mollify me.

More than once people have told me that I should sell these round rocks online. I don’t suppose it would be difficult to do. A photo like the one above would give them some visual appeal. Their meteorite heritage could be a selling point. Their convenient size would make them suitable as paper weights or garden ornaments. I could ship them in USPS flat rate boxes at a reasonable price. I could probably even ask a ridiculous price for them (but who can put a price on love?) to make a little pocket change for myself (which is to say, to pay off my guilt).

I’m just not sure I can part with them.

Maybe one of my projects in the new year will be to try selling a few of these. Sigh.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for this date.

Stupid is . . .

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007


This goes in the category of a-stupid-idea-to-begin-with. It was born of the best intentions, and it will probably serve those intentions some day, but I wish I could undo it.

You probably recognize this as a fence post with a slab o’ceement globbed onto the bottom of it. This was unearthed from my friend Todd’s yard some years ago. I was helping him clean out his garage — and snagging some nice paving bricks for my trouble — when he presented me with this. I immediately thought what anyone else would have thought: fish structure.

Yes, I saw this sitting under the water of my lake, providing habitat for the trophy bass that were waiting for me to catch them. So along with all of the paving bricks I was loading in the back of my truck, I tossed in this incredibly heavy post and slab o’ceement. It rolled around in the bed of my truck for weeks until I was able to visit Roundrock where I could lovingly place it in the lake so it could fulfill its destiny.

When I was finally able to do this, Lake Marguerite was in one of its semi-full periods, and I couldn’t wander down to where the boulders were (then submerged), which is where I wanted to place this suburban jetsam.

Instead, I did the next best thing. I stood on the dam and swung the weighted post as hard as I could, releasing my grip at the most promising point of the arc and watching it splash into the water to tumble down the side of the dam and nestle in the deep to begin its new work.

Job well done.

On our next visit to Roundrock, the lake was fulfilling its own destiny as well by leaking out under the dam. Much of the face of the dam was exposed. And there, just a few feet below the earlier high water line, was the post I had so mightily hurled into the deep. It hadn’t gone anywhere. It just sat there looking like the trash that it was. Mocking me with its smugness!

My arms could still remember the weight of the thing, so I left it where it was, fully knowing that it was going to remain within easy reach for a while.

The months passed. The lake diminished. The memories faded. The post sat in plain view on the side of the dam, a reproach to me and my foolishness.

When the water level in the lake reached the point where we could once again stroll among the boulders that should have been submerged, I decided that the post would taunt me no longer. I grabbed the post by the slender end and hoisted it. Then I let it drop a few feet before me. The beast was still heavy! By repeating this jerk and stagger swagger down the sloping side of the rocky dam, I managed to get the post over to the boulders where it would have its permanent home.

And there it sits to this very day. If it were permanently underwater, I could probably, eventually, mercifully forget that I threw this piece of trash into my lake. The water here is deep — more than ten feet — so it is unlikely to ever serve as habitat for any bass or bluegill, but maybe some catfish will have eventually come to snuggle beside it.

The thing is accessible right now. I could drag it up the side of the dam again and hoist it into the back of my truck. But I can’t take it back to my friend Todd’s house because he moved to Nevada. Plus I don’t think he would take it back anyway. I’d have to leave it on his lawn in the middle of the night. I guess I could drive it to Nevada, but I don’t think he really misses it enuf.

Missouri calendar:

  • Kwanzaa (7 days)

Season’s Greetings

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007


It is true that the earth’s axis is the reason for the season, but only in the most literal sense, of course.

This is a time of the year that is holy or special to people all around the world, and it is worthwhile to recognize that. Given the pageant of human cultures, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to acknowledging only one holiday. Here are a few that I know about:

Xmas, Boxing Day, Bridging Day, Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Las Posadas, Ramadan, Solstice, Saturnalia, New Year, Feast of Sacrifice, Santa Lucia’s Day, St. Nicholas’ Day, St. Stephan’s Day, St. Etienne’s Day, Rizal, Quema del Diablo, La Purisma, Dingaan’s Day/Day of Reconciliation, Day of Goodwill, Emperor’s Birthday, Newtonmas, Hari Raya Haji, Feast of the Sacrifice, and Johnkanus.

Happy Holidays, however you choose to spend them!

Pablo and Libby

Missouri calendar:

  • Christmas


Monday, December 24th, 2007


Identity is a slippery thing. Even those we believe we know have plenty of surprises within.

I thought I knew what kind of tree this is, but I probably do not. This tree is on the north-facing hillside overlooking the pecan plantation. It is a remnant of the trees that had filled the Central Valley before we had them all bulldozed and burned to make our once-and-future lake.

For years I called these Slippery Elm, but I suspect my identification was wrong. I think they are actually Hackberry. Note the “warty projections” of bark, which are helpful in making the identification.

Hackberry has a purple fruit that stays on the tree through the winter and is a handy meal for the critters, but I’ve never seen these fruits. I’ll have to look for them the next time I’m out.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for woodpeckers at suet feeders: downy, hairy, pileated and red-bellied.

Sunday delivery

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007


Linda, of Linda’s Backroad Musings, is a rural letter carrier. She recently had a post about the survival of postal letters in the age of email. It’s an interesting post with some facts and figures. As she points out, the age of letters has not passed yet. This is the mailbox we have at Roundrock. (I showed you the mail box over at Fallen Timbers in this post.) This one is by our first fire ring (we’re on our third now) so it’s a bit off the path and unlikely to get rural free delivery.

Still, I keep hoping that some day some interloper will leave me a note. Linda had suggested that I leave the flag up and maybe some wayward letter carrier would see it and come by. So I’m counting on that. I’ll let you know.


Pablo did not make it out to the woods last Sunday, and he was kicking himself for his choice. Libby and Seth left early that morning for St. Louis, and I was free to do whatever I wanted with the day. But we had had a significant snow storm a few days before, and the reports suggested that the snow was deeper to the south. I didn’t expect the 100+ mile drive down on the highways to be bad, but I worried about the last two miles across a washed out gravel/dirt road that went up and down and around the Ozark hills.

The sun came out and the temps moderated, and by mid-day it was lovely outside in Kansas City — and probably even nicer at Roundrock. I could have driven all but the last two miles and then hiked in, but I didn’t.

So did I go out today?


So far, the stars haven’t aligned properly to allow all of our offspring to be at home at one time. We’ve seen all of the faces, just not all in the same place at the same moment. It looks like it may be next weekend before we have everyone together (including my brother, his wife, and their fine son in from central Illinois).


The next Festival of the Trees is being hosted by Lorianne at Hoarded Ordinaries. Her deadline is December 30 — next Sunday — so you still have time to send her a link at zenmama (dot) gmail (dot) com. Or you can use the splendid automated submission form, which often works.

The new year promises new hosts, and we’re hoping that you’ll be one of them. Just let me or Dave know that you’re interested, and we’ll give you all the help you need.


Mark of Biomes Blog is back after a short time away from the blogging world. Why don’t you head on over there and let him know the world is a better place because he puts his fingers to the keyboard, okay? (Be sure to click on the ads and make him wealthy.)


Maybe Blogger doesn’t hate me specifically. Lately, when I’ve left comments on Blogger sites, I’ve been able to leave my URL as a clickable link. I guess what is happening is that Blogger is slowly rolling out a new system for leaving a hot link signature, and not all of the features were (are?) installed right away.

I’d read somewhere that the new system is an attempt to prevent phishing through hot-linked signatures. I don’t know how that would work, and I’m not sure that Google really isn’t bent on world domination, but I’m willing to grant them some credibility for the moment as we see how this new mechanism unfolds.


What’s Pablo reading now? I’m still working on The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch. It will be a long haul. I’ve read this book once before, in fact, it’s the first Murdoch book I ever picked up. Now my ambition is to read all of her novels in order. This one puts me past the half way mark. What will I do when I am finished? Perhaps re-read all of the Philip Roth novels in order? Find a new author? I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out.

Missouri calendar:

  • Beavers feed on sapling reserves.

Saturday Matinee – 12.22.2007

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Picture 12.png

I once read a description of a wisp of wind on the surface of the water as a “cat’s paw.” I liked that description; it seemed about perfect.

When we were last at Roundrock, there was a whole passel of invisible cats pawing at the surface of the lake. I hoped to capture some of these cat’s paws in the video, but I only managed to get one, right at the beginning. (I think the angle of viewing makes the difference. Farther up the hill I could see them readily, but that was too far away for the camera to capture them. Closer to the water I had a better focus on the water, but the angle wasn’t as good. Sorry about that.)

So here at Roundrock Journal I’ve given you cat’s paws, cat’s mouths, and even cattails. I’ll have to figure out some cat’s whiskers to share with you.

Don’t laugh at my “lake.” It’s slowly improving, and in another century, it may even fill in the whole lake bed.


I haven’t had any luck uploading my four-minute video yet, so I haven’t posted it for you. I’m hoping to get that straightened out for next Saturday. Stay tuned.

It takes me about a hour to upload a 40 second video, and I spent about that time earlier this week doing so with the video above. But after an hour, I got a message that the upload failed because the video was too long. (That explains why the four-minute video wouldn’t go up.) Anyway, I’ve posted this one at the other service, which allows longer videos, so maybe I’ll have the four-minute clip up for you next weekend. It could happen.
Missouri calendar:

  • First day of winter/solstice: shortest day of the year.