Archive for May, 2009

Sunday stuff

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

feather

I had another “incident” here on the blog last week that locked me out. My crack technical team made the fix again, but there seem to have been some permanent consequences. For example, most of my posts going back through the years have lost their category tags. I don’t consider that a great loss since they were pretty dumb categories anyway. But my blogroll is also goofed. It seems to have reverted to an earlier incarnation. Now I’ll have to remember who was on there so I can restore it. Patience, please.

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Two online stores you might not know about:

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Long-time readers (both of them) know that I often rely on the Missouriplants.com wildflower database to identify the various bloomin’ things I find in the woods, but as I understand it, this database is now static — it’s not being updated any longer. While that doesn’t affect its usefulness to me, I’ve begun using an upstart plant identification site as well: the Missouri Wildflower Guide. With both of these, and the books I have on the shelves at home, I am able to dispel at least a little of the taxonomic darkness I live in.

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When I last visited Roundrock and put those two posts by the valve cover and the drain outlet, I also took the opportunity to tie survey tape to the posts beside the surviving pecan trees in that soggy acre below the dam. #1 Son gave me a hand with this. The idea was that when the man on the dozer is maneuvering below the dam to fix it, he’ll see where we have plantings we want to protect. When we were finished and surveyed the acre, I counted 20 posts with tape streaming from them. I think that’s a pretty good survival rate for 50 twigs that were planted in mostly gravel and then benignly neglected for nearly a decade.

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Tomorrow is the Festival of the Trees, right here at Roundrock Journal, so be sure to stop by!

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Saturday Matinee – Pitter Patter

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Pitter patter @ Yahoo! Video

When we were last out at Roundrock, sitting in the comfy chairs under the shady tarp overlooking the glinting lake, a light rain began to fall. I don’t suppose that rainfall is much different in your part of the world, but maybe you’ll enjoy this. Listen closely and you might hear some bird song.

Missouri calendar:

  • Bird song at daybreak is at its peak.

The inlet that disgorges rocks

Friday, May 29th, 2009

inlet

I think I may have shown you this photo before. this is the western-most end of the lake at Roundrock. This is where all of the water pouring down the Central Valley enters the lake bed. Notice all of the rock in the ground. They’re all trying to make their way into the lake, and they’re succeeding.

Where I was standing when I took this photo there were boulders that were too large for me to lift. They weren’t there when the lake was first built. They were pushed there by the force of the water that comes down the Central Valley sometimes. The first thing all of these rocks encounter when they enter the lake bed is Libby’s Island. Some have begun piling against it, which isn’t so bad since my original worry was that the island would get washed away by the incoming water. Most of the rocks are being directed around the north side of the island where they are accumulating like a loose, gravel lava flow.

The water that you see is not connected to the lake. It is actually a scour pool that has formed. It is about twenty feet long and perhaps three feet deep at its deepest and, happily, it has stayed around from week to week. I feared that all of the gravel at this end of the valley would mean that the area couldn’t hold water, but it appears that it can.

I suspect that some of this washed-in gravel is actually returning home. When the lake was constructed, the man on the dozer pushed all of the gravel from the area farther up the valley. I don’t know why he did that. He had to have known better. He made a sort of dam with the gravel across the dry stream bed. You can now stand on the bedrock where he had made this gravel dam because in the ensuing years, all of the gravel has been washed away by the water.

So I have gravel washing into the upper end of the lake. It’s another thing I’m resigning myself to accept, and I don’t mind so much except that it means that Libby’s Island is never really going to be an island.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young bald eagles beging fledging.

Shades of gray

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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I don’t believe the world is black and white. At best we have an infinite number of shades of gray.

For the longest time I wanted my lake to be full. Then I cursed the leaks in the dam. I welcomed every storm, hoping it would fill my lake.

Now I’m grateful for those leaks because they drained away sufficient water from the lake to keep the recent rainstorms from sending it over the dam again. I welcome a less full lake now, and I curse the rainstorms.

I hope we can get the dam and the spillway repaired before the next incident, which might breach the dam and empty the lake. But I’ve also come to some resignation if the dam should fail.

This would give me the chance to repair that part of the dam properly and ensure that the leaks there are ended. Maybe we could apply Bentonite more effectively to the face of the dam if we could get to it better. It would also allow a bulldozer into the lake bed itself. I see two benefits to this immediately. Such a machine could scrape away all of the many willow infestations in the middle of the water. It could also clean out all of the gravel that has been pouring into the far end of the lake. It’s a mix of challenge and opportunity, of fear and welcome.

And so this is all part of the responsibilities of property ownership. It’s never going to be easy, and there aren’t going to be simple answers. Someone once said I should write a book about building my lake, but I never thought there was any story in it. I’m beginning to think otherwise.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young woodchucks (groundhogs) leave dens.

Still standing

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

flagged

It was with a mixture of heartache and dread that I watched the weather forecasts call for rain in the Roundrock area as the last week passed. On Saturday and Sunday, I looked at the radar maps showing rainstorms directly over my part of the county. I had hoped that the dry week meant the man I spoke with would have had the chance to get out there to do the repair work to the dam and spillway, but he hadn’t called me, and I suspected that he hadn’t done the work yet.

We decided to go out to Roundrock on Monday to see what there was to see. I hoped we would see a repaired dam and a widened, re-directed spillway. I feared we would see a breached dam and an empty lake bed.

We didn’t see either.

What we saw was the status quo. Nothing had changed in the week we were away. The drive down was ominous though. We passed through several storms; the fields were flooded; the rivers were swollen. But the closer we got to Roundrock, the less rain appeared to have fallen. Certainly the woods were wet, and the tall grass we had to wade through in places soaked our pants, but overall it didn’t seem that the really heavy rains had fallen in the area in the preceding week.

The lake was down about half a foot, attributable to those leaks I used to loathe. I suspect that more water was drained off but that the rains that did fall had replenished some of what was lost. Even so, the leaks seem to have prevented the dam-topping flood I feared all week.

I had also worried (I seem to do that a lot) that when the man did come out with his big machines to push the dirt back up on the dam, he might not be able to see the valve cover or the valve drain outlet. He might bury them with all of the dirt he moved, or worse, he might break them by driving over them, causing an unstoppable draining of the lake. Thus my plan was to mark these two “delicate” parts of the dam so that he couldn’t miss them.

You see the fruits of my work above. I took this photo across the inland sea that is the pecan plantation these days. I hadn’t thought to take a picture of the two posts at the time I finished driving them into the ground, and by the time I “waded” across the soggy acre and remembered it, I wasn’t about to “wade” back again for a better shot.

What you see is the dam rising in the background. The exposed dirt in the top left corner is the eroding spillway. The exposed dirt in the top right corner is the eroding dam. The post on the right marks where the valve cover lies mostly buried in the flowing earth. The post on the left is just a best guess of where the outlet of the drain pipe is. We couldn’t find it. I think it is buried by the rocks and dirt that have washed off the dam. We dug for a while, in several places, looking for the pipe but never found it. So I drove the post in about where I thought it was, and a man on a dozer should be able to steer around the general area and miss the pipe (wherever it may be).

Had I been able to open the valve cover, and had I been able to open the valve, it might have been fun to see the water pressure bursting from the end of the pipe explode all of the rocks and dirt before it. But the ground we were standing on when we pounded the stakes quaked like jelly, and I had no intention of lying on my stomach in that muck to lean down into a buried barrel and reach for a valve that might not even open. Sigh.

Missouri calendar:

  • Coyote pups begin emerging from dens.

Pretty planted plum

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

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Sorry about the blurry photo. Those little screens on the back of most digital cameras just don’t give you enuf detail.

But anyway, poor quality or not, this photo gives you what I wanted you to see. This is one of the plums I had planted only two weeks before. At that time, it was nothing more than a twig. In only two weeks it’s taken off fantastically.

This one happens to be planted with a group in an area that is nearly always soggy. I think there must be a seep in the area because a small stream bed is formed just down hill from it. At first I attributed the vigorous growth to the presence of the water, but then we checked some of the other plums we planted in drier spots, and they were doing just as well. In fact, all of the plums we checked were doing well.

And while most of the nannyberries we had planted last year seem to have failed, there were several that were also coming out with healthy looking leaves.

I wish I could say the same for the beautyberries. Not a single one of them showed a single leaf. It may be that it’s too early for them to come out or that they’re suffering from transplant shock. Maybe they’ll show some signs of life on my next visit.

So it’s not all doom and gloom at Roundrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • The large yellow flowers of Missouri primrose bloom on Ozark glades.

Peregrine appears

Monday, May 25th, 2009

peregrine

Peregrine turned up! He was bobbing in the shallow water just north of Isla de Peligro at the western end of the lake, safe from a one-way trip over the spillway.

I’d suspected that Peregrine was still in the lake. He sometimes does find his way to the western end where he hides among the damned willows sprouting out of the water. As you can see above, he’s riding low in the water, but I think for him to have gotten to the western end of the lake, he’d have to been catching a breeze. The general current (from inflow) goes west to east, so Peregrine should be nosing the dam all the time. But that same west-bound wind that blows leaves and twigs from the overflow drain back in my face must be moving Peregrine around, despite his low profile.

If you look closely you can just make out some rocks under the water by Peregrine. This is a shallow part of the lake, even at full pool. I think you could walk to the island here and not get your knees wet. As the water recedes — it inevitably recedes — Peregrine will likely get left high and dry, and that’s fine with me. I leave him to the whims of the lake gods. If he can spend some time drying out, though, I’m in favor of that because it may postpone his own inevitable descent to the bottom of the lake someday.

Missouri calendar:

  • Memorial Day (observed)
  • Coneflowers and tickseed coreopsis blooming on prairies and roadsides.

Sunday stew

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

rr

That is one big round rock I’m holding in the photo above. Those things are dense, and heavy, especially when they get to be this size. I came upon this beauty when Libby and I were on a spontaneous walk on our last trip to Roundrock. We had hiked as far as the western end of the lake (where the gravel continues to wash in, as you can see above). Normally I would gnash my teeth about all of that gravel, but among the other stones were several round rocks, this one being the biggest and best. Because it was a spontaneous walk, I had not worn the backpack I usually take with me on our hikes. I had no intention of carrying that boulder all the way back to the new shelter tarp in my two hands, so I carried it up the hillside a bit where it wouldn’t get washed away by the next great flood. I’ll collect it on a future hike.

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The Nature Blog Network has now topped 900 members. Just like Google, they will soon take over the earth.

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It seems that Roundrock Journal was out of commission last Monday night. Some file in the spam blocker component got corrupted (I have no idea what I’m talking about) and wouldn’t let even me in. There was a point where the blog itself was unavailable to the universe. When it later rose from the dead, folks couldn’t leave comments. I couldn’t let that stand, so I got my crack technical team on it, and I was back in business in a trice. So if you ran into any difficulties on Monday evening, I offer my apologies.

The solution to the first problem was the cause of the second problem. I had to upgrade to the latest edition of WordPress, and that caused a default on the comment function to require people to login to leave a comment. (Again, I have no idea what I’m talking about.) Anyway, it’s possible that other little surprises will pop up in the days to come, so don’t be shy about pointing them out and, as one fine visitor did, suggest the fix needed.

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This Friday, May 29, is the deadline for submissions to the next edition of the Festival of the Trees, being hosted here at Roundrock Journal. Send your links to editor (at) roundrockjournal (dot) com and put Festival of the Trees in the subject line. Or you can use the handy online submission form. Either way, I welcome your contributions!

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One year ago I was sweltering and complaining about it.

Two years ago I spoke of Peregrine.

Three years ago I began blathering about anthropomorphic trees — and look where that got me!

Four years ago I was a bit bewildered — and just starting down this blogging road.

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We’re headed into a rainy forecast this week for the Roundrock area. There is little left I can do about this to prevent my dam from washing away. I have spoken with the man who will do the repair work, so he knows the urgency of my need. And I’ve relied on the leaks to drain away some of the lake to create a buffer for any inflows. (Odd that I’m grateful for the leaks now.) I’d like to get down there tomorrow to put a couple of posts in the dam where the valve cover and drain outlet are so that the man will see them when he is atop his dozer pushing dirt. But that’s about it. Cross your fingers; it’s as good as anything else that can be done right now.

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Missouri calendar:

  • Listen for the gray treefrog chorus.

Sampson’s snakeroot

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

lavender

With my woefully inadequate plant identification skills, I have decided that this just might be Psoralea psoralioides, sometimes called Sampson’s Snakeroot (though that seems to be the common name for a different though similar plant).

I found this growing on the south-facing slope, which makes sense since the references I have found for this say it likes dry conditions.

It is another in my continuing discoveries at Roundrock. Though I’ve been going to my woods for nearly a decade, I’m still finding new things to see.

Missouri calendar:

  • Young beavers emerge from lodges.

Shade that is made

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

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It’s not all gloom and doom at Roundrock these days. Libby and I managed to find things to enjoy down there on our last visit. Like this unlikely bit of sun dappled open space in the middle of the forest overlooking the lake. It may look slightly familiar to some of you, in some way you can’t quite explain.

Well, maybe the addition in the picture below will help you place it:

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That’s right. Despite my plans for raising a small cabin on this spot, we invested far fewer dollars in a new tarp and some rope so we could create our shade shelter instead. Doesn’t it look crisp?

This is the third incarnation of the shelter at Roundrock. We’re getting pretty good at putting these up now. It only took us an hour this time. Of course we had the benefit of the ridge line already being in place and fence posts at the four corners already pounded into the unyielding Ozark hardpan. We knew our knots. The only hard part was throwing the tarp over the taut ridge line. The tarp is longer than it is wide, and we found that our first placement of it over the line was the wrong way, so we had to pull at the corners to drag the tarp over the line to set it right. Then it was simply a matter of  tying it off and snugging up the lines at the four corners, and we had ourselves a shady shelter, ready for our use in the sweltering, blistering, incinerating hot days of the coming summer.

I really had been planning to put a small, one-room cabin here. I had the money saved up for it. But at the back of my mind I knew we had work to do on the dam spillway and on the road through our land. Then, of course, we had the unexpected erosion problem on the dam itself. So most of that cabin-allotted money will be redirected to more urgent needs. Thus the cabin plans will have to wait until some money falls magically from the sky. Just my luck, it will fall in the form of rain. But that’s gloom and doom talk.

The shelter was incomplete, as you might imagine. It was shady beneath it, but nobody wants to sit on the ground. Thus once we had the shelter duly set up, we installed the most required component: new comfy chairs!

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Don’t they look welcoming? After all of our hard work (fretting about the dam being a big part of it) we decided to test the chairs. In terms of providing a comfy, stupor-inducing state, they deliver quality!

I was worried that the red might look wrong in the middle of the forest, but it doesn’t. Not to my eye (and it is my forest — I mean as much as a person can really own a piece of land). The red is more muted than, say, Prolechariot, and will probably perform its best in the fall.

So some things are set right again at Roundrock. And now I’ll count my small pleasures for a while rather than counting my dollars.

Missouri calendar:

  • Green sunfish and bluegill begin nesting.
  • Antlers begin to grow on white-tailed deer bucks.