Archive for April, 2008

4.27.2008

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

While I was busy improving my southern defenses, the attack came from the west. And it came in a tank !

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What you see above is a “donut” some interloper made in the soft, wet soil of the pine plantation, which is in the northwest corner of Roundrock. (This is about the only area in my whole forest that has decent soil.) When Seth and I were out at Roundrock Sunday on our shortleaf pine planting mission, we came upon some serious tracks among the pines.

From what we can tell, the interlopers came onto our land from across Good Neighbor Brian’s property. I expect some young fellows whose right/wrong mechanism was running on Kickapoo Joy Juice decided to go for some midnight joy riding and found themselves among my pines.

The part of Good Neighbor Brian’s land that touches my northwest corner is pretty remote, and right now it is guarded by a good-sized pond that has kept the whole area plenty soggy. Nonetheless, the interlopers must have known there was a break in the fence there to have traversed that soggy patch at all.

In addition to tearing up the good soil among the pines, they managed to run directly over one of our pines that was fenced and had two steel posts in the ground beside it. The interlopers continued across a good fraction of our property, so running over two posts didn’t seem to hurt the machine. (So the obvious question is, what kind of machine could take a hit like this and keep running?) The pine itself was snapped off and the posts were bent. This kind of damage (and one other you’ll see below) tells me the fellows were out joy riding at night and couldn’t see what they were hitting.

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Except that apparently they could because, as you can see below, they did manage to steer around the next pine tree. Nicely torn up ground, but it will heal.

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What won’t heal, though, is this entire tree that the bozos knocked down and ran over:

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That trunk diameter is more than six inches. What kind of machine could do something like that and keep running? Some kind of construction equipment, surely, and not just your average ATV.

The interlopers had left the pine plantation and made a circuit around the nearby pond, finding a way up the side of the dam that we had conveniently cut for them a couple of weeks before. They then raced across the narrow shore on the south side of the pond before encountering that entire tree above. There was plenty of room on either side of that tree to drive around it, so what was happening? Were they too juiced to care or see? Did they want to try out one of the features on their tank?

The sky was overcast when Seth and I visited on Sunday, so the photo below doesn’t have a lot of contrast, but it shows the impression of the tracks the machine left in the mud. It certainly looks to my (untrained) eye that those are tread marks rather than tire marks. I guess a small bulldozer like a Bobcat might have been able to do this kind of damage to my woods.

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Honestly, the damage wasn’t all that serious. One pine tree and one forest tree. The road is a little churned up in one place. It isn’t the damage that bothers me but the “violation.” I feel powerless when I see this kind of thing.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. Purchase price: $15,000,000.00.
  • Delegates meet in St. Louis for the first Missouri railroad convention in 1836. Various lines are projected.
  • The 1904 World’s Fair opened in St. Louis, commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.

Mystery of the cedar

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

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Look closely and you’ll see a mystery I found in my forest.

The cedars grow thick in places at Roundrock. Because of the sharp nature of their leaves (and their maddening ability to slip down the back of our shirts) we rarely push through them. Instead we simply walk around them when we want to get from here to there. If the stand of cedars is thick, that can mean a significant divergence from our intended path.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I could find a stand of these cedars so dense that I might crawl in among them and find a sort of shelter beneath them. I could then cut a grotto inside the stand and hide out there from ruffians and evil doers. My cedars tend to grow in lines rather than clusters, but on a recent rambling walk in the woods, not too far from our new camp, I did find such a cluster.

And it seems someone had beaten me to the plan of cutting a grotto within it.

In the photo above you can see three cut limbs. The hardest to see is at about 1:00. The other two are at about 4:00 and 7:00. I did not cut these. (If I had, I would have cut them closer to the trunk.) As far as I can recall, I’ve never really explored this part of the forest much, but I certainly would have remembered this kind of cutting work.

So someone has been in my forest cutting cedar limbs. The three cedars that make up this clump are not as dense as I would prefer for a hide out. In fact, the southeast and west sides are open. But a fellow could put a chair inside it and be hidden from view from all of the other points of the compass, which might make it a pretty good hunting blind.

Given the rot resistant quality of cedar wood, though, I’m sure these cuts could have been made a decade or more ago, preceding my tenure on the land. I don’t suppose I’m seeing the signs of an interloper as much as a past owner. I don’t see much like this in my woods. There are cut stumps of trees that I guess were collected for timber or to open the canopy to allow grass to grow. All of those are very old though,as shown by the thick growth of trees that have come up around them. This trimmed cedar seems to be more recent.

So I puzzle about these things and try to imagine scenarios where they would make sense.

Missouri calendar

  • Indigo buntings and dickcissels are arriving.
  • May apples begin blooming.

Today in Missouri history:

  • General Maria Joseph Paul Roche Yves Gilbert du Motier, better known as Marquis de Lafayette visited St. Louis on this date in 1825. City fathers were worried that feasting him would bust their budget, but when contributions by wealthy citizens were tallied, the affair cost this city a mere $37.

Small and harmless looking

Monday, April 28th, 2008

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You wouldn’t think something so small and adorable would have take over plans, would you.

What I show you here is the very first of the duckweed making its appearance on the pond at Roundrock. It’s those greenish-white dots floating on the water you see above. By the middle of June, it will cover the pond in a varying green expanse, marked by swirls where the wind has blown it.

I don’t know that I care too much about its mission of conquest actually. It will cover the pond and look like a golfing green, and the plants below it may grow oxygen starved because no sunlight will reach them. But maybe it will attract some ducks who will feast on it. And otherwise, what trouble will it be to me? We don’t swim in the pond, but if we did, the duckweed would not be a hindrance. It’s not slimy in any way. Actually, it feels a bit gritty.

I suppose sooner or later it will find its way to the lake down the watershed. Much has probably already washed out of the pond this season and might survive its race down the cataracts of the ravines to wash into the lake. If not that, it will arrive on the feet of a traveling duck or goose.

I’m not sure it can make as much of a conquest there. The surface area is much larger, so it would take longer to cover it. Plus I’m not sure the lake carries the same nutrient load as the pond, which gets a good amount of runoff from my neighbor’s cultivated field just across our road to the north.

Well, it will be something to watch for in the years to come.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Big Dipper has tipped and spilled into the Little Dipper.
  • June bugs begin appearing.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Francis Parkman left St. Louis on this date in 1846 for a “tour of curiosity and amusement to the Rocky Mountains.” The result of his adventure is the classic account of the early American west called The Oregon Trail .

Sunday spectacular

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

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Welcome to Sunday morning. You are one of the average 34 readers who choose Roundrock Journal on Sundays, my lowest visit day of the week. The numbers aren’t that spectacular, so thanks for stopping by.

The photo above is yet another of the game camera pix of deer, deer, and more deer. I found a relatively easy way to crop the incorrect date out of the photo, so until I get the date on the camera correct, I’ll probably just resort to this little trick.

I call the deer above Lefty, because he is on the left side of the photo. I don’t think I need a better reason.

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With luck and a little dry weather, Seth and I are out at Roundrock today, putting those pines in the ground and maybe doing a little cleanup of some of the fallen trees from last December’s ice storm. I think the soggy roads could benefit from a little shovel work to make the ditches flow a little faster too. Libby is due back today from a four-day trip to St. Louis to see her sisters and friends. Seth and Max and I have been bachelors for the duration.

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The next Festival of the Trees will be hosted by 10,000 Birds , and the deadline is in two days! Get your links to Mike at mike (at) 10000birds (dot) com . You can also make your submissions through the Contact Page or the online submission form . Mike’s blog is one of the best-known nature blogs in the world, so if you want to draw a lot of attention to your site, this would be a great chance to do that.

The Festival has been a great success so far. It could be even better if you chose to host it one month. If you’re interested, just send me or Dave and email. You can also visit the Festival of the Trees coordinating blog to see all of the sites that have hosted it in the past. There are still a lot of good links there!

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The redbuds are blooming in Kansas City, which means they may be past by now at Roundrock, a hundred miles to the south. Maybe Seth and I will get to see some though. They are concentrated along the creek in the Central Valley and in some places along the lake shore. I’ll bet they look like a pink cloud in the forest.

The dogwoods are about to bloom in town, which means they must be at their peak down south. We don’t have any dogwoods at Roundrock (despite my planting efforts in the past), but over at Fallen Timbers they grow like weeds. I don’t think we’ll have enuf time to divert over there to see it, but in the past when our visits have coincided with the dogwood bloom, it has been spectacular!

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What’s Pablo reading now? I’ve picked up a novel about the Ozarks called Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. Looks like it will be grim reading. The copy I have is from the library, and I think the most recent borrower before me was a smoker. One of Woodrell’s earlier novels, Woe to Live On , was made into the movie Ride with the Devil , which some of you may remember from a few years back.

Missouri calendar:

  • Ozark darters spawn in rocky riffles.
  • Egrets begin nesting in heronries.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Big Neck Affair ended on this date in 1830. It was a six year period of ill will and some deaths between settlers in central Missouri and the local natives headed by their chief, Big Neck. A series of investigations and trials found that accusations by both sides were unfounded and the fear that was fomented was unwarranted. Closure came when General Ignatius Owen was acquitted for his part in the unrest and pacification.

Saturday matinee – 4.26.2008

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

This thirty-second video shows you the force of the water coming out of our overflow drain in the dam. We’ve actually seen it stronger than this.

If time continues to be like a river (as it was yesterday), then this post continues the established trend. The water exiting the pipe is at the extreme end of my watershed (not counting the intermittent pond among the pecans).

As you can see, I need to do something about that erosion problem. We thought about extending the pipe, but its current angle in relation to the changing slope of the ground will require that we bend any extension. Those corrugated pipes don’t bend at all (even with my super powers in force) and we haven’t seen any such pipes that are shaped in angles. (At $100 per length, it’s not something we want to experiment with.)

We’ve thrown a bunch of rocks in the gouged area to blunt the force of the water and spread it across a wider area, which has helped (I think). Many of those rocks were simply pushed downstream.

Our latest idea is to pour a sort of concrete water course below the exit. If we can make it big enuf, we should be able to get the erosion stopped, at least near the base of the dam, and then we can start backfilling.

If my typical luck holds, that area ought to be dry pretty soon.

Missouri calendar:

  • Crappie are spawning.
  • Mink kits are born through early May.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The Battle of Cape Girardeau, not major but strategically important to the Confederate advance into Missouri, took place on this date in 1863.

Uprooted

Friday, April 25th, 2008

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If time is like a river, then this blog is part of the flow, and this post is another point along the way.

Actually, that’s literally true in a way. Yesterday’s post showed a point high in the watershed of the intermittent creek that ultimately feeds our lake. Today’s post shows a point a little farther down that same creek.

Libby and I came upon these exposed roots in the creek bed when we were marking our southern property line some weeks back. There were plenty of very large trees growing in this part of the woods, which is lower and more protected. A bit more soil has collected in the area, and, of course, there is a somewhat reliable supply of water.

I suppose a tree can easily survive having its roots exposed like this. I guess these were probably dead by the time we came upon them, though another strong flow could easily have reburied them since.

I’ve read that many of the original inhabitants of the area — the Osage, Sac, and Fox people — would use tree roots to make dyes. I can see how that idea would come to someone when I come upon little tableaus like this in the forest.

This exposed root happens to mark about the point where the creek re-enters our property and stays there for the rest of its run. There were lots of nice round rocks in the area. I’ll have to take you there to show you next time you drop by.

Missouri calendar:

  • National Arbor Day
  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin arriving.
  • Hickories bloom.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Hiram “Bullseye” Bledsoe was born on this date in 1825. He served in various military campaigns including operations with Confederate forces in Missouri and later through the South. A master of artillery, he was held in high regard by both sides in the war. He was later a judge and eventually a member of the Missouri state Senate.

What next, a kiln?

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

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And of course you’re wondering what this picture is supposed to be showing you. It’s a little surprise Libby and I found when we were at Roundrock recently. You’re looking at a bit of stream bed at just about the very top of the watershed. What I want to show you is what is under the water.

The whitish substance is soft clay. I didn’t reach into the water and try to grab a gob of it, but I did poke at it with a stick, and I was able to bore into it a bit. If you can see a bit of cloudiness in the water, that’s from my little effort.

I don’t suppose I’ll be digging this out and throwing pots with it. (And where do you suppose the word "throwing" came from that people would use it to describe making pots?) I have no creative skills in the real world, and I’ll leave that to those who are far superior than I .

What I would like to see happen, though, is for this softish clay to erode into a fine dust in the water and get carried all the way to the lake a quarter mile away where it could find its way into the leaks and help plug them. I understand Bentonite is a better clay for the job, but I’m not going to look down on any clay that is willing to help.

I don’t suppose I could dig out this clay and carry it to the lake myself with any hope of it doing the work I need. I don’t think lumps of clay would do the job, and without some turbulence to help break it up, I don’t think throwing chunks into the lake will make a difference. Perhaps I could dig out a chunk, let it dry, and then grind off powder from it to dump in the lake. Or I could go to the feed store in town and buy a fifty pound bag of Bentonite and half fifty days worth of powdering effort all at once.

Still, I hope that it is eroding from here and finding its way to the lake. Maybe I should try to expose more of the bed so that more of it can get washed downstream. So many plans!

Missouri calendar:

  • Cedar-apple rust appears.
  • Coyotes bear young through May.

Today in Missouri history:

  • Missouri’s Council of Defense was organized on this date in 1917 to support the war effort. In addition to increasing crop output, it advocated the elimination of the German language in official spoken and written communication and led to the eventual elimination of Missouri’s fifteen German-language newspapers.
  • A bill creating the Missouri State Highway Patrol was signed by Governor Henry S. Caulfield in 1931.

Why did the turtle cross the road?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

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Sorry about the odd shape of this photo. I tried to crop it a bit to bring out the subject matter, which is that fine snapping turtle that was crossing the county gravel road not too far from Roundrock. When I looked at the details for this photo, I learned that I took it nearly two years ago. What’s scary to me is that I remembered I have it in my archive — this specific image — yet I’d have to think hard to remember what I had for dinner yesterday.

Well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing. Turtles die by the thousands on Missouri roads each year, and as far as I know, I’m not responsible for one of them. (I was crossing my neighbor’s meadow in the truck once and heard something crunch under the tire, but I could never find what it was.) Once when we were going on a float trip (on a river not far from Roundrock, which we hadn’t acquired yet) we saw dozens of turtles crossing the country roads we had to pass down to get to the outfitter. The kids decided it was a turtle movement of some sort, and we expected to read about a revolution in the papers the next day.

We see turtles regularly at Roundrock, and just about as frequently, we come upon bleached turtle shells here and there in the woods. A wise man I know is creating photo documentation of the turtles on his land, which is admirable, but which I probably wouldn’t do since it would involve work and consistency.

Missouri calendar:

  • Turtles crossing roads; watch out!
  • Chimney swifts return.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first issue of the Missouri Intelligencer appears at Franklin in 1819.

My dear deer

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

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I’ve probably bored you by now with my talk of all of the photos of deer I have collected from my game cameras. Actually, most of them are pretty poor pix. Many don’t have an animal in them at all. Many of the others are too bleached by the flash or (apparently) the angle of the sun.

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I’ve pretty much gleaned the best ones for you, and given the relatively low resolution level of the camera itself, they’re only passable. (Imagine what the bad ones look like!)

The usual caveat applies: ignore the date/time stamp on the photos.

I’ve received a few suggestions about attracting other game to the cameras, and I intend to give some of them a try (but donuts to attract bears?). In the weeks to come, I hope to be able to share a different range of critter photos with you.

I did manage to get the photo below with my hand-held camera. I’m hoping that the full lake is attracting all sorts of fresh wildlife to Roundrock.

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Missouri calendar:

  • Earth Day
  • Oaks bloom.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men opened in Jefferson City on this date in 1927. It allowed the separation of younger, first-time offenders from more hardened criminals in the regular state penitentiary.

Deferral of the pines

Monday, April 21st, 2008

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I mentioned yesterday that my order of shortleaf pines arrived last week but that I wasn’t able to get down to Roundrock over the weekend to plant them. My next opportunity won’t be until this coming Sunday, so I decided to give them a better chance of lasting that long by sticking them in a pot. (I had done this a few years ago with some of the pecans I had received. It seemed to work then, though pecans are such slow growers that who an tell if it really worked?)

So these pines and another pot like them are sitting on my back deck (not that I have a front deck), and they can remain indefinitely until I can attend to them. If I thought they were going to be there more than a week, I’d probably separate them so their roots don’t grow together.

They look a little yellow at the top, but they came from the nursery that way. I don’ think that will be a problem, but I’ll keep an eye on them through the week.

Missouri calendar:

  • Giant Canada goose goslings begin hatching.
  • Columbines bloom.
  • Lyrid meteor shower peaks; moon intereferes.

Today in Missouri history:

  • The first train on the St. Louis to Springfield route – a culmination of 15 years of effort and financial wrangling – arrived in Springfield on this date in 1870.
  • Mark Twain dies in 1910.