Archive for November, 2009

In which I come clean

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I really expected you guys to figure it out right away, but unless you’re being coy, it seems that you haven’t.

That dream cabin I featured on last Wednesday’s post is not a fantasy at all. It sits above the sparkling lake in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. That’s my new cabin! (Didn’t those comfy chairs look familiar to you?)

Here’s how it looks from across the sparkling lake:


I’ve been dropping clues all over the place. It started months ago when I began talking about all of the clearing we’ve been doing along the road. Nimble little Prolechariot had no trouble getting through the encroaching trees, but a big cement mixer could lose a stack or a mirror against some of the branches we took out. And when I wrote about clearing avenues through the trees to bring more breezes to the shady tarp, that wasn’t really what it was all for.

And remember that mystery photo I posted way back here? Those impressions in the dirt were the series of round rocks that are featured in the top right of this blog. I had to remove them to safety because (eventually) the cabin was going to rise exactly where they were sitting.

That post about the long black tube? Yep, that was for the cabin. (It is buried around the uphill side of the slab to collect and divert any water that might otherwise get under the slab.)

The post about the “Economy” chapter in Walden? How did that one end? “Sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake.” (In fact, if you looked closely in that photo you could have seen a white speck that was part of the freshly poured slab, but I didn’t expect anyone to spot that.)

The picture of that huge truck I caught on one of the game cameras? A cement mixer, of course. (Who goes deer hunting in a cement mixer?)

Wipe Your Paws” in yesterday’s post? Yep, that’s right at the front door to the cabin.

Here’s what it looks like from the west:


And here’s a view from the back:


Notice the lake just outside our front (and only) door?

There’s still plenty of work to do. I need to work on the slope behind the cabin to help it drain water away from the slab. And I need more gravel on the east side since it’s hard to walk there. You can see some of the trees that had to be knocked down to clear the space for the slab; it’s actually where the shady tarp used to be, but it’s much larger. I need to cut up those trees, and probably take out several more, to reduce the fire hazard. I want to get some monster sandstone slabs that I know of in the forest and make some steps on the east side.

And that doesn’t even begin to consider the furnishing and decorating of the cabin.

Missouri calendar:

  • Milkweed pods open.

Sunday sampling

Sunday, November 29th, 2009


We saw a bobcat at Roundrock when we were out there recently. I know for some people this is a backyard occurrence, but for us, it’s a treat to see one as frequently as once a year. This one crossed the road ahead of us as we were driving in. It was in no hurry, just sauntering, but it was by in a flash. Had we come by ten seconds earlier or later, we would have missed it. I’ve long suspected that the wild things are all around us when we’re out there, but they stay hidden. It’s the reason I’m reluctant to take little Queequeg (all of 10 pounds!) out to the woods with us. If he strayed from us a dozen feet, he might get snatched by some critter just looking for an opportunity. Flike, on the other hand, is going to be a small moose, and I don’t think he’ll have any trouble venturing through the scrub or warding off predators.


You might find the Outdoors Bloggers Summit an interesting site. I’ve only begun exploring it, but it seems to be a different subset of nature bloggers than I’ve seen at the other aggregating sites. Along with many general outdoors blogs, they have categories for water sports, hunting, hiking, even falconry and mushing!

I support the Outdoor Bloggers Summit


Today is the deadline for submissions to the next Festival of the Trees, over at Via Negativa. Send links to your tree posts (or those you’ve found) to bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com or use the handy Contact Form.

You can follow the Festival on Twitter @treebloggers and on Identica @treebloggers. And don’t forget that we’re always on the prowl for hosts. If you’re interested, just let me know. My new email address is paul (at) roundrockjournal (dot) com.


I guess I didn’t realize that the purple paint that landowners put on trees and posts — to tell trespassers to keep out and not hunt there — is actually a law in Missouri. It is as legally recognized as a Private Property sign. Of course if it’s not personally respected by an interloper it becomes little more than a decoration.


I’ve added a few more terms to the Glossary, so have a look if you’re confused by my blather.


Tomorrow: Something interesting.

Missouri calendar:

  • Voles and mice feed on grass and seeds under the snow.

My seedling orders for 2010

Saturday, November 28th, 2009


After some consideration and dithering, I’ve finally made my seedling orders for 2010 from the Missouri Department of Conservation.

My focus lately has been toward planting shrubs that will provide food for the wild things, thus I haven’t ordered actual trees since the pines (which are doing fabulously — except for those bucks that have to rub their antler velvet off using them). Generally, the bundles include 25 seedlings. Last year when I ordered wild plum and beautyberry, we had fifty plants to put in the ground. We did it all in one day, one afternoon as I recall, but near the end we were putting two beautyberries in each slit we made in the ground. (This was because they looked like dried up twigs. Okay, we were also tired of planting by then.)

My order this year is a bit different. It’s all new things, none of which I’ve ever seen at Roundrock (but all of which are Missouri natives). What’s really different, though, is the number of items I ordered. In April of 2010 I’ll have delivered to my home in suburbia 100 plants that I’ll need to get into the ground as soon as I can after they arrive. (I haven’t told Libby about this yet. I figure I can wait until April to let her know.)

These are the plants I ordered: Witch Hazel, Elderberry, Black Chokeberry, and Golden Currant. Most of them form thickets or take the form of shrubs. The Witch Hazel can begin blooming as early as January, and the others are scattered through the spring, ending in June, so I hope eventually to have an unbroken spring of blooms in my forest.

First I’ll have to get them in the ground.

Update: The bill came for the seedlings yesterday. It’s only $38 and some change, but Libby was reading it closely and realized that there actually are 100 plants we’ll need to put in the ground. I told her we’d do it over two days, spending a night at Roundrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Skywatch Friday ~ Blue Friday

Friday, November 27th, 2009


Today is known in U.S. commercial culture as Black Friday. It’s the big Xmas sales day after Thanksgiving when all of the retailers hope to get their balance books back in the black.

But it is also Buy Nothing Day, a day dedicated to resisting crass commercialism and the zombifying dictates of Madison Avenue.

I’m just going to call it Blue Friday, after the beautiful blue sky I saw over my woods in the Ozarks.

Skywatch Friday

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Eager interlopers

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

I’ve known for a long time that I have interlopers in my woods at Roundrock. I’ve often seen signs of them when I visit: matted grass and tire tracks left in the mud, rearranged things, and at this time of the year, photos of strange trucks taken by the game cameras.

And I know that hunters are avid about finding great spots for hunting deer. So it isn’t surprising to me to find some pix of interloping trucks on the game cameras, but this has to be the strangest truck I’ve ever seen make its way into my woods during deer season:

big truck

The road needs improvement; it’s especially bad in some places, and a big machine like that can turn an otherwise passable bit of road into a bowl of gumbo, which it did. The road across my neighbor’s pasture is a rutted mess on a dry day, but now it is a sloppy, rutted mess, best taken at a run just so you can plow through on momentum. The nimble Prolechariot made it through, but Pablo can dither no longer. I must hire someone to repair the road, get some loads of gravel delivered, and spread it around. All I need is money and some sustained dry weather.

I don’t suppose the fellow driving that truck above surprised any deer, arriving in that big, noisy thing.

Also, sadly, the game camera I had set up at the entrance was pointed too much at the sky, as you can see, so I didn’t get many good shots from it. The other camera, deeper in the forest did snap 122 photos, and some of them are even worth posting.

Missouri calendar:

  • Thanksgiving
  • Red admiral butterflies search for overwintering sites.

Wordless Wednesday ~ Fantasy

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.


Tuesday, November 24th, 2009


I always liked this little tabulation from the “Economy” chapter of Walden. Thoreau writes of the money he spent for materials for his cabin beside Walden Pond. (Really, why is it called a pond? It’s 61 acres in surface area!)

Boards…………………………………………… $8.03 ½
Refuse shingles for room and sides………… 4.00
Laths………………………………………………. 1.25
Two second-hand windows with glass…….. 2.43
One thousand old brick……………………….. 4.00
Two casks of lime………………………………. 2.40
Hair………………………………………………… 0.31
Mantle-tree iron………………………………… 0.15
Nails……………………………………………….. 3.90
Hinges and screws……………………………… 0.14
Latch……………………………………………….. 0.10
Chalk……………………………………………….. 0.01
Transportation…………………………………… 1.40
In all……………………………………………… $28.12 ½

He notes that the Boards were mostly shanty boards, that the cost of the Lime was high, that the Hair was more than he needed, and that of the Transportation, he carried a good part on his back.

I don’t suppose you could build a one-room cabin beside a lake these days for $28.12 (and a half cent).

Still, it’s a nice thing to think about when we’re sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Long black tube

Monday, November 23rd, 2009


A long time ago, when I first started planting pines in the former Blackberry Corner, I bought this length of black corrugated pipe. My intention was to cut it into short pieces and put them around the tiny pine seedlings to protect them from marauding critters. Somehow I lost the momentum on that project; I never cut the tube into pieces, and it was pushed to the perimeter of the Pine Plantation.

Over the years, the grass tried to claim the pipe for its own. So did a number of gnawing critters. The tank interlopers chews up a bit of it too. (Don’t know what happened to the pix in that post.) But when Libby and I had a use for it at the other end of Roundrock, we went in search of it. To find it, we had to poke around in the grass and blackberries for a while, but Libby eventually found it. Then we had to extract it. This took a lot of tugging and grunting, ripping it free of the grasping grass. You can see how long it is, now imagine yanking all of that out of tough prairie grass.

Then we had to get it from the Pine Plantation to the shelter tarp area. The solution was obvious. I simply tied it to the back of the truck and drove there, dragging the tube behind us. Simple.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Sunday Shenanigans

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009


They say you can’t tell the players without a program, and sometimes you can’t tell what Pablo is blathering about without some help either. (Only sometimes?) You may have noticed the new button on the upper right: Roundrock Glossary. If you click on that you’ll be taken to a page that lists many of the common terms I use here, with helpful and erudite definitions for each. If there is some word or phrase I use that is still puzzling you, let me know so I can add it to the Glossary.


Obligatory Flike Report: He went to the vet for his distemper shot on Thursday and was found to weigh 19 pounds! (He seems heavier.) The vet kept telling Libby what a “marvelous” dog he was and wanted to know where we had found such a fine specimen. Flike was the most timid of the pups in the passel, and for a couple of days, Libby was sure he couldn’t even walk because all he did was lie on the floor. Well, he can walk, and the vet noted that a mellow nature is probably best for a Border Collie since they are otherwise frantic dogs that will turn their nature into trouble if they’re not kept busy and exercised. Most people, he went on to say, take the most outgoing pup in the litter, which can grow into a problem.


You still have a week to make your submissions to the next Festival of the Trees. Host Dave, one of the originators of the Festival, has set a submission deadline of November 29. You can send your links (posts of your own or those you’ve found here and there) to Dave at bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com. Be sure to put “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line. Or you can use the handy Contact Form.

The Festival team is delighted to announce that we’ve been joined by another. A girl, even! Jade Blackwater has come aboard to add her own zest to the shenanigans. You’re probably familiar with Jade through her blog Arboreality, which has hosted the Festival four times already.


The two cypress trees in my backyard in suburbia have commenced their month-long dropping of leaves, and despite frequent rakings (of the yard) by the two of us, Queequeg manages to bring in dozens of them in his fur each time he goes out. He comes in looking as though he has dreadlocks. By the way, Queequeg, who is tiny compared to Flike, is now the alpha male in the household, which is fine with me since he has to “manage” his much larger, younger brother. Also, Crusher is coming to town at the Xmas holidays. I don’t know what he’ll make of Flike.


I hope to have some interesting pix from the two game cameras that I’d set out at Roundrock for deer hunting season. I’ll share anything good with you all. (Usually I just get photos of swaying shrubs somewhere in the camera’s field of view. And we’ve all had enuf shrub!)

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Saturday Matinee ~ Double Feature

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

On our rainy trip to Roundrock last Sunday I finished up one bit of work while Libby drove the Prolechariot down the road a piece to turn it around. So I waited for her return. The red thing in the foreground is the handle to the two-wheeled cart, and the black snakey think is a length of corrugated plastic pipe that we had a use for elsewhere in our woods.

Waiting in the rain for a ride @ Yahoo! Video

Also on the bill today is a look at how the water was flowing into the hole I was digging for Max’s grave. It wasn’t just seeping in; it was flowing in. That made an unpleasant job even more difficult.

Flowing @ Yahoo! Video

Missouri calendar:

  • Mammals seek winter shelters.