Archive for March, 2008

Hopeless Monday

Monday, March 31st, 2008


These hopeful looking buds on the end of a hackberry limb (I think) are deceptive. They don’t stand a chance.

This is a limb from a tree on Libby’s Island that broke off in the big ice storm we had last winter. It is completely separated from the tree, which is looking pretty sad now, and I would normally drag the branch into the forest but it was too big (still is).

Remarkably, these buds were still trying to push forth earlier this month. Without the energy from the rest of the tree though, they won’t get far. I didn’t tell them their effort was doomed.

Missouri calendar:

  • Average last day of frost in southern Missouri.

Today in Missouri history:

  • On this date in 1945 it was revealed that a secret squad of federal agents had been spying on German Americans in St. Louis throughout the second World War.

Sunday soundings

Sunday, March 30th, 2008


I bought $200 worth of Bentonite last week by telephone. I called the feed and seed store near Roundrock and put the purchase on my credit card. They held the 30 bags (yes, the price has gone up since last year — I blame transportation costs) until Saturday when a man recommended to me picked it up and carried it, along with his boat, to my lake and dumped all of it overboard. My hope is that this will find its way to the leaky bottom of the lake and seal the holes.

In the past, Libby and I have been limited in our application to how far we could throw the Bentonite from the edge of the water. Given that it is mostly powder (much like kitty litter), we didn’t throw it far, so we didn’t get it to where it was likely needed. But with the lake at full pool or nearly so (though I haven’t been there in three weeks, the rains have been good), a man with a boat could get on the water and spread the beneficial clay all over the place. And since the lake is full, the pressure pushing the water through the leaks is stronger. The hope is that this will also push the Bentonite deep into the leaks where it will do the most good.

I had thought about getting more Bentonite since this was a chance to apply it from a boat, but I don’t know how fair that would be to the man I’ve hired. We didn’t say exactly how many bags would be involved. I’d only told him I’d have “a couple hundred dollars worth” of the stuff for him to dump in the lake. I didn’t realize that would amount to 30 bags. I think he’d charge me double and call me names if he found twice that many bags waiting for him. I figure I’ll see how this amount of Bentonite works. If I can see a difference, and the lake is still high, I may hire him again.

This whole Bentonite maneuver is, of course, a reaction to the shock I received when I priced fish for stocking my lake. I decided that kind of money was probably better spent on fixing the leaks so I could stock it with free fish from the Conservation Department. We shall see.


With any luck, I’ll be out at Roundrock today. This day is my first chance in three weeks to get out there, and I’m hoping no other priorities present themselves. If I do make it down there, my agenda will probably include planting some fence posts along the southern property line that is unmarked as well as fooling around with the game cameras. There is still some fencing of pecan trees to be done. Also sitting in the comfy chairs under the shady tarp overlooking the lovely lake in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.


The deadline for the next edition of the Festival of the Trees was Friday. The new edition may already be up over at Avores Vivas em Nossas Vidas, coming to you from friendly Portugal Brazil.

The Festival is getting bigger and better all of the time, drawing readers from across the globe. When you serve as host, you will be attracting all sorts of new and like-minded readers to your blog. So send me an email and let me know when you’re ready to be a host.


All of that flooding that you may have heard about in Missouri has not been around Roundrock, though I expect the ground to be soft there. Most of the Missouri flooding is actually very local, but there is a lot of it. Small communities with only one or two roads in and out of town can face big trouble when those roads are underwater. My brother lives in a small Missouri town, and there was some fear that he wouldn’t be able to join us all in St. Louis over the last weekend. He managed to find a detour, but he went home as soon as he could on Saturday and didn’t come back on Sunday.


What’s Pablo reading now? I’ve picked up a book called The Problem of Altruism by C.R. Badcock. I’ve been trying to understand the reasons people give themselves for not acting charitably toward others. I’m not sure this is the book to tell me, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.
Missouri calendar:

  • Redbuds begin blooming.
  • Phoebes return this week.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Thomas Reynolds, Confederate governor in exile of Missouri, commits suicide on this date in 1887, throwing himself down an elevator shaft after the death of his wife. Strangely, another Thomas Reynolds, a legitimate governor of Missouri, also died by his own hand forty years earlier.
  • The native bluebird became the official state bird of Missouri in 1927.
  • Missouri’s fourth, and current, constitution became effective in 1945.

Saturday Matinee – 3.29.2008

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

When I said last Saturday that I didn’t have any video for you, I misspoke. I found this interesting tidbit in my archive, way back behind the hundreds of photos of deer I have from the game cameras.

Spring seemed to be in a hurry to get to my part of the Ozarks on this day and was rushing through the trees. Apparently it thought better of the idea and yielded to winter a couple of times since then. Still, I was able to get this video of our shelter tarp. We’ve since snugged up the lines so the tarp will behave more respectfully.

Missouri calendar:

  • Double-crested cormorants arrive at wetland areas late this month.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The cornerstone for the first Catholic cathedral west of the Mississippi was laid on this date in 1818. Though the mostly wooden building lasted only 17 years, its successor stands on the riverfront in St. Louis to this day.

Not a duck

Friday, March 28th, 2008


From the dam, far on the end of the lake from where this little scene is, I thought I saw a duck on the water. Actually, we’ve seen a few ducks on our lake, but only as they are fleeing our arrival. We’ve never seen them happily bobbing on the waves.

I don’t suppose our lake is duck friendly, at least for the dabblers. Except at the shoreline, the water is too deep for them to find food in the mud under their webbed feet.

Yet here was what looked like a duck, out in the middle of the water, just hanging around as though its job was to greet us and thank us for providing such a nice place to hang out. I tried focusing on it for a picture from atop the dam, but it was too far away to show anything more than a speck on the vast inland ocean that is my lake when it is at full pool.

We embarked on our customary hike around the lake, and though we were getting ever closer to this oddly stationary duck, it was not fleeing us. When we reached the other end of the lake and were comparatively close to it, I identified, of course, what I was seeing. I took a picture of it anyway.

This is in the western end of our lake, and since last summer, it has been thick with scrubby growth where the waters had receded. Hidden among all of that was this log, and I suppose I knew at one time that it was there. The fact that only the tip of it is above water suggests to me that I’ve weighted the other end of it with rocks, but I guess I never noticed that this end was free. It was hidden in the scrub that was too thick for me to venture into without dire purpose.

Should the lake recede again this year, I intend to visit this log and see what there is to see about it. I don’t like it sticking above the water. (I favor an unbroken expanse of water.) Thus I might chop it apart. Or I might pile rocks on this end as well. Or the scrubby growth might return and thwart me again. We shall see.

Missouri calendar:

  • Wild plums begin blooming along woods and fence rows.

Today in Missouri history:

  • President Martin Van Buren issued a proclamation which completed the annexation of the Platte Purchase area to Missouri, establishing the northwestern border of the state in 1837.

Circular musing

Thursday, March 27th, 2008


When we were last at Roundrock and took our obligatory hike around the almost full lake, we saw several spheres like the one you see above. I’m sure it’s obvious to you what the sphere is, but at the time I didn’t realize it.

I recalled spherical algae colonies I’d seen in the salty water of the Caribbean, and I understand there is a freshwater version of them that is common in Missouri waters. Still, it seemed too brisk for such an ambitious building project, but I’m willing to believe anything positive about my lake.

What you see is a cleaned up version of what I showed in this earlier post. The farther we walked around the lake, the more of these we saw. I soon understood what I was looking at, and I’m glad I did all of my initial speculation inside my head.

Missouri calendar:

  • Serviceberry begins to bloom in woods.
  • Badgers bear young through early April.
  • Ohio buckeyes begin leafing.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Waltus Watkins buys the first 80 acres of his eventual 4600 acre plantation on which he would establish the largest woolen mill west of St. Louis. The land and structures are now a park northeast of Kansas City.
  • In 1896 a tornado strikes St. Louis.

Heart of the Matter – Part 7

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008


I came across this round rock on the side of Libby’s Island (a.k.a Wildflower Island and Barataria) when we were stumbling about one of the dry parts of the lake bed on a recent visit. I’m surprised I’d never seen it before given how much we visit this island and how the rock was just sitting there in an obvious place, waiting to be found.

What especially interests me is the round-rock-within-a-round-rock. I’ve seen quite a few of my round rocks that have been cleft more-or-less cleanly in half, and many show the more-or-less concentric rings of the rock’s “growth” over the more-or-less millions of years in the mineral soup. (The soup was created by the meteor impact in the shallow sea that once covered this part of the earth we now call the great state of Missouri several hundred million years ago, but you know that already. In case you don’t, though, you might want to go here.)

The round rocks all grew around some nucleus stone, but I’ve always thought that the gradations in the growth were mostly continuous, not like rings of a tree that happen in a sequence based on growing seasons. The fact that this rock broke along what seems to be a clear point of transition within the sphere makes me wonder about my conclusion. I really don’t think these rocks were subject to periods of growth and then periods of stasis. That might explain why this rock seems to have the transition point though. Perhaps some dramatic change in the chemistry of the soup one day caused a hiccup in the growth process. (I’m speculating wildly, of course, and you are welcome to jump in and correct me.)

I suspect this poor rock was just going about its business when the bulldozer arrived one day to begin building the lake. I’m guessing that the rock got under the treads of the dozer and got partly crushed, breaking off the outer layer and exposing the inner sphere. Maybe that is why it broke so differently from the other round rocks I find crushed in the lake bed and on the hillsides.

Missouri calendar:

  • Newly emerged zebra swallowtail butterflies fly in woodlands.
  • Gooseberries begin blooming.
  • Swallows return.

Today in Missouri history:

  • On this date in 1804, Congress divided the Louisiana Territory into two areas, one of which became the District of Louisiana with government in St. Louis. Missouri was formed from this.

This bugs me

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008


What is it? Surely one of you clever readers can tell me.

I found this on the day Libby and I were trying to mark the bit of our southern property line that isn’t fenced. Whatever this thing is, it is affixed to a steel fence pose, and if you intend to examine it in person, it is the steel post that marks the southwest corner of Roundrock, just where the road across my neighbor’s meadow enters the trees.

I imagine it is an egg case for some insect. Does that seem reasonable? It must have spent the winter here since I found it in early March when no insects were abroad in the land. The side of the post this is on faces north.

The case (?) has holes in it, as you can see. Are those for air to get in, or does that mean that whatever was incubating in there has already escaped? Is this thing for one bug, or was there a whole horde of them in there?

It’s faintly creepy, at least to my eye, but knowledge is power, so if any of you kind readers (I’m assuming there is more than one person who visits this humble blog) can tell me what this is, you can dispel darkness and make me less anxious.

Missouri calendar:

  • Red morel mushtooms begin to appear.
  • Horned larks flock in open fields.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Legislation allowing the creation of Missouri Normal School Number Five was passed on this date in 1905. Today it goes by the name Northwest Missouri State University.


Monday, March 24th, 2008


Perhaps I should begin with a little description. What you see above is the opening of the overflow drain set near the top of the dam. That’s the lake water at the top of the photo. The small retaining wall we built to keep the top of the dam from eroding into the drain is at the bottom of the photo.

(You can see a crude representation of it here. And here.)

I took this photo when we were last out at Roundrock, just over two weeks ago, and it tells me that we missed some excitement several days prior to that. The accumulation of twigs and leaves on the screen covering the overflow drum shows that in recent days, water had topped the lip of the drum and had been pouring in. The flotsam that couldn’t fit through the screen collected on the top of it. When the waters receded, the debris remained.

Just after I took the photo I stumbled down the face of the dam to clean the debris off of the screen. If enuf collected there, it could effectively block the drain, which would then cause the overflow to pass over the emergency spillway — the last resort for draining excess water from a lake.

The builder told me that he had visited a new dam he had constructed for a much larger lake and found the overflow drum blocked by a log jam. (I don’t know if the logs were tree sized or if it was more like firewood — more likely — or even twigs.) Barely any water was draining into the drum even though the water was high enuf that is should have been. He told me that he waded into the water at the drum and began tugging at the logs to clear them. The water then was able to surge into the drum. He said that the next thing to happen surprised him. The whole dam began to vibrate, apparently from the sudden force of the water passing through it.

I don’t know if he was scared at the time, but I know I would have been. Imagine standing in the lake beside a drain that is sucking in water at a tremendous rate. All the while the earth is shaking under your feet.

He told me that the dam held up and is working fine to this day. I saw it once, long after the incident he described, and it was beautiful, holding back something like 17 acres of water and looking so lovely that I decided I needed a lake of my own.

But I’m going to be sure to keep the drain cleared every chance I get.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for pussy willows’ fuzzy blooms.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Governor Hadley signed legislation calling for a bond issue to finance a new capitol building on this date in 1911. The old building was gutted by a fire started by a bolt of lightning.

Sunday sayings

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008


I have so very many pictures of deer that the game cameras have captured. I’m reluctant to delete them, even the bad ones, even the ones that don’t show anything at all, because of all of the trouble I had extracting them from the cameras. So here you go — another picture of the deer. (Once again, ignore the date stamp on the photo.) These two are at the site where we spread corn and peanuts. The camera is looking to the northeast. It’s good to know we have so many deer at Roundrock, but now I’d like to know what other critters roam my woods.


If you’re reading this on the day I posted it, then Pablo is either in St. Louis or is returning from St. Louis. That makes two weekends in a row that Pablo has traveled to see family members and thus two weekends when he has not gotten to see Roundrock. I’m hoping next weekend will get my priorities back in order.


Don’t forget to email your tree links to Juliana at Árvores Vivas em Nossas Vidas for the next — and first bilingual — Festival of the Trees. The deadline in March 28. Send your links to arvoresvivas (at) gmail (dot) com

Your turn to host is coming up soon. Just let me or Dave (bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com) know when you’d like to have your shot at fame and glory.

Thingfish23 makes a return to blog posting over at Taming of the Band-aid. He’d been away for a while attending to life and the real world in general, but he hopes to be a more frequent poster here in cyberspace. Why don’t you pop over there and say welcoming and encouraging things!


One year ago I was thrilling you with an account of a trip to Roundrock.

Two years ago I was feeling frustrated.


Yep, that was the joint end of an old bone I found in the woods at Roundrock that I posted for you on Friday. I’m not sure I would have been able to guess it if I didn’t know what it was.


What’s Pablo reading now? I finished An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. While the story telling certainly had voice, I didn’t much like the ending. I think I understand what the writer was trying to do (the destruction of homes is metaphor), but, hmmm. The book I’ve just started is called Views from the Back Forty by James Jackson. He’s a writer who has appeared frequently in the Missouri Conservationist magazine, and I’ve read all of his other books, including The Biography of a Tree, which follows a white oak from acorn to rotting log over 100 years. This new book is less ambitious and is a collection of short essays about having chosen the rural life.

Missouri calendar:

  • Easter
  • Walk a trail to enjoy the sounds of spring.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first laws setting speed limits and licensing automobiles was signed into law by Missouri’s governor on this date in 1903.

Feather in a stump

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008


Here comes a Saturday, and I don’t have a video to share with you. I had tried to film one I would have called “Rock and Roll” but the rock wouldn’t roll. Go figure.

Well, every time lately that I’ve embedded a video, my formatting gets all whacked out, and I have to call on my esteemed tech monkeys to fix it for me, which they do, but I wish I could figure it out so I could fix it myself.

So anyway, as to today’s photo. It is a turkey feather I stuck in an old snag. This is near the pond, and close to where I have left the game camera for the past two weeks. Perhaps I will get some pix of turkeys if this feather is any indication.

I won’t be able to get out to Roundrock until next Sunday at the soonest. I wish I was there now.

Missouri calendar:

  • Female red-winged blackbirds arrive this week.
  • Bats are leaving hibernation caves.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Missouri officially adopts its flag on this date in 1913, nearly 100 years after achieving statehood.