Archive for November, 2009

Skywatch Friday ~ Geese Moon

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


I heard a noise and turned my eyes to the sky to see this tableau. Sorry about the blurry picture, but the geese weren’t going to hang around long enuf for me to get the composition right.

Missouri is pretty much in the middle of the migration flyway, so twice a year we see a lot of birds moving through. Our good neighbors to the north and south take care of them in the summer and winter, and we enjoy their too-brief visits in between.

Skywatch Friday

Tomorrow: A double feature on the Saturday Matinee.

Missouri calendar:

  • Collect pecans as they drop from trees.

Marking a memory and a friend

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


This stone is heavier than it looks, and that is a good thing. After we buried Max between the mighty oaks and the robust pines, we went to another part of the forest where I knew there were some slabs of sandstone because I wanted to use one of them as a marker. (This is what we used for Whimsey’s grave on Libby’s Island.)

Some day soon, when the ground is not saturated and the sun is shining, I intend to lie on the ground here and carve Max’s name into this stone. That shouldn’t be too hard since it is sandstone. I’ve been able to scratch my initials into other pieces before, so if I use the right tools (including a measure of patience and a dose of persistence) I should be able to do a nice job.

The rock was perhaps halfway to the other end of our land, but it was close to the road, so we drove over there to get it. I unearthed it with little difficulty, and I used the two wheeled cart to get it up to the road — it was far too heavy for me to carry it very far. Once we were at the waiting truck, I realized it was also far too heavy for me to want to muscle it into the bed of the truck, and since it was already on a wheeled device, we decided to wheel it back across our road to where Max rested.


(Look at the poor condition of that road of mine! As soon as we get some dry weather, I guess I”ll need to get some loads of gravel spread.)

We have some spare daffodil bulbs at home, and I think the next time we are at Roundrock, we’ll plant them in the ground beside this grave. (And for those of you wondering, yes, I did leave two dog biscuits atop the box when we put it in the ground.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Scan leafless trees for gray nests of bald-faced hornets.

The road taken

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

road taken

This is the road through the trees that leads down to the dam. I’m actually looking up the hill in this photo. Beneath all of those golden leaves is a solid bed of gravel (on top of Ozark hardpan).

During the growing season the road looks so narrow and confined that we doubt we can get even the nimble Prolechariot down it. This time of the year, however, it looks big enuf for a truck to come down without trouble.

We have been doing a lot of cutting back of the encroaching trees, but that’s easier to do in the summer when the branches are full of leaves and look like their encroaching. In the winter, it’s just not going to seem that way.

Missouri calendar:

  • Birds begin gathering at feeders.

A moment’s delay

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009


We were returning home from Roundrock recently and met with this momentary delay on the two-lane (paved) road before we got to the highway. A nearby rancher was moving his cattle from a pasture on one side of the road to the pasture on the other.

It was a quick business — so quick that I barely had the time to get the camera out to take this shot. If you look closely, you can see a man in light blue with his arms in the air. One of the beasts had missed the gate into the new pasture and was moving along the wrong side of the fence to stay with the rest of the herd. The man was able to muster the bluster to chase the cow (or bull?) back to the gate and with the herd.

The horse rider you see in the middle of the road was a girl all of about eight years old. She looked competent as she rounded up the strays and got them across the road as well. There was even a dog at work on this little project. Probably a Border Collie. They’re excellent dogs, you know!

Once the cattle were crossed and the gate was closed, we were allowed to pass. Waves to and from everyone. A nice ending to a nice day.

Missouri calendar:

  • Hellbender eggs begin hatching.
  • Leonid meteor shower peaks.

An unpleasant, necessary task

Monday, November 16th, 2009


We went out to Roundrock yesterday. For me to go to the woods on the second day of deer season, it had to be a matter of life or death, and it wasn’t the former.

Max, the dog who didn’t know he was a dog, had been slowing down for the last year, and in the last few weeks, his condition worsened significantly. Before we took him to the vet on Saturday night to be put to sleep, he had not eaten or had any water for days, he could not stand, and his eyes were vacant and shrunken. We thought he just might not wake up one morning, but when he began evidently suffering, we thought we had to provide him some difficult mercy.

And so we went to Roundrock on the second day of deer season with an unpleasant but necessary task. Rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast, but we had no choice. We drove down through the pelting rain, grateful that we have a screaming red truck, and entered our woods honking our horn. The rain never stopped, though it lessened a bit, and so I got to digging. There is actual soil in the pine plantation, and because I knew the day was going to be miserable, I decided to dig there since I wouldn’t have to fight with all of the Ozark rocks. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that the soil was already saturated from a rainy summer. Once I was down about three inches, the hole filled with water. Soon I was digging mud that was underwater, not having a clear idea of how deep I was going or if the bottom of the hole was evenly excavated. Finally Libby told me the job was done. We placed Max, inside the nice box the vet had given us, in the hole and reversed the process. All the while the rain was coming down, we were cold and soaked, there was thunder to the south, and we heard rifle shots all around us.

Max is now resting among the pines. He always liked to go to Roundrock with us but we knew that the next time he did he wouldn’t be coming back.

He had a good life and will be missed.

Missouri calendar:

  • Canvasback, redhead, scaup, merganser and ringneck duck populations peak.

Sunday observations

Sunday, November 15th, 2009


Now is not the best time to look for round rocks (and not merely because the hunters are in the forest). Many leaves now cover the ground, hiding the crowns of the round rocks emerging from the soil. Even so, on some of the steeper hillsides, especially close to the ravines, the leaves tend to slide on by, and since the soil erodes here more, the emerging round rocks are more exposed. I found a very nice one last time I was out there, but I was too far from the truck to want to carry it back. And besides, my house and yard are full of round rocks.


I chatted with Good Neighbor Brian the other day, and I remembered to ask him how he managed to get his big tractor and brush hog all the way across the dam and then turned around to make the return pass. (See the photo above.) He told me he didn’t. For the couple of seconds it took before he continued, I wondered if I had a new, mystery benefactor who was mowing my grass. No, it turns out. Good Neighbor Brian did mow the top of the dam, he simply hadn’t used his big tractor and brush hog. Instead he used his smaller garden tractor. I think I’ve said before that he has all the toys!


You still have two weeks 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 wacky goings on. You’re probably familiar with Jade through her blog Arboreality, which has hosted the Festival four times already.


I’ve made more than 1,600 posts to this humble blog. That’s a lot of tedium for the medium. I remember how proud I was when I hit the Century Mark. (Photo of Pablo at that link.) I hope there’s been more signal than noise since.

Missouri calendar:

  • Most leaves have fallen; forest floor blanketed.

Deer Season Opener

Saturday, November 14th, 2009


Today is the first day of the ten-day high-powered gun deer season. That means Pablo will not be in the woods for the next ten days at least. (In fact, the soonest I can get down there is the day after Thanksgiving, but with family in town, that may not be possible. Dagnabit.)

I’ve stated here many times before that I do not object to hunting as a sport. Done correctly, it can be an effective management tool for wildlife and resources.

I’ve also said here before that I don’t really consider the deer at Roundrock to be my deer. They pass through and may spend a lot more time on my neighbor’s land than mine. In any case, aside from the fish in my lake, I don’t sit well with the idea that anyone can own wildlife.

Nonetheless, I have signs posted at the entrance to my woods (and at a few other likely access points) saying it is private property. Any interloper hunters would be trespassers. So far, no one has approached me to ask if they can hunt my woods. If they did, I would say yes.

Well, I know that someone does hunt in my woods with no regard to asking permission. I’ve had a few interesting incidents I’ve recounted in past posts, and the opening of deer season always gives me the occasion to set up the game cameras to shoot at the vehicles on my road through the trees. (Can you see the camera in the photo above?) I’ve gotten good enuf shots to recognize the vehicles (though not the license numbers), and I know exactly whose they are. (The same guy who wants to do me the favor of stocking my lake with his favorite game fish.) Am I going to confront him? No. I’m much too shy, and anyway, I live two hours away and only get down there about twice a month. He lives in the area. There’s no end to the mayhem a vindictive person could do.

I’ve thought about this though: I’ve thought about having a nice sign made that I would place at the entrance to my woods saying “SMILE. YOU’RE ON THE INTERNET.” The reader wouldn’t be, of course, but would they know that?

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today. Let me supplement. Deer season begins today.

Skywatch Friday – Dawn

Thursday, November 12th, 2009


How did you greet the dawn? This is what I saw on my way down to my woods in the Missouri Ozarks recently.

Skywatch Friday

If you like visiting the many Skywatch sites, you might also enjoy the Festival of the Trees, a blog carnival about trees, forests, and the people who love them. This month it’s being hosted at Avores Vivas, a Brazilian blog that presents a bilingual edition. You can find out a lot more about the Festival, including a complete list of past hosts and how you could become one, at the coordinating site.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for “frost flowers” with first hard frost.

Written in the leaves

Thursday, November 12th, 2009


There is an anecdote in Walden about a visitor coming to the cabin and finding no one there. Later, when Thoreau returned, he found that the visitor had left a note, written on a leaf.

What you see above is one of the fallen leaves from the ginkgo in my backyard up in suburbia. There are so many reasons to love ginkgo trees, and the parchment-like quality of the fallen leaves is just one of them. The leaves are tough, and you really could write a note on them. Maybe a love note. (Yep, I confirmed you can write a love note on one of these leaves.)

I managed to rake up all of the fallen leaves that you may have seen in Monday’s video. The tree is shorn. It won’t be dropping any more leaves this year. I already miss them.

gone now

Missouri calendar:

  • Canada goose population at waterfowl areas is at its peak.

More cypress stories

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009


This is the seed cone from one of the bald cypress trees in my backyard in suburbia. There are scores of them on the ground and hundreds of them still up in the two trees. I spent the morning one fine Saturday recently collecting as many of these as I could find (being careful to avoid collecting the other roundish, brownish things also on the ground in the backyard). My plan was to scatter them in likely spots in the woods at Roundrock in my benign attempt to get some to grow as volunteers there, much as I have the walnuts of an earlier post.

My dispersal method will be about the same. Since cypress tend to thrive in moist soil, I intend to drop them in the “headwaters” of the mostly dry stream that forms the Central Valley of my woods. That’s just inside the entrance, and I always like to poke around there to see what there is to see. I’ll also deposit some at the top of one of the ravines on the north side of the property. The plan is for the water (when it comes) to carry the seeds downstream, depositing them in various places along the way. Many of these will no doubt get left in gravel. Some may wash up on dry ground. Some may make it all the way to the lake. But a few, I hope, will find some benevolent nooks and set down roots. Of those that grow, many will be ravaged by the deer and other critters, but the odds still favor a few of them making it.

Cypress are common in the Bootheel of Missouri, known as “Swampeast” to those from there. This is Mississippi River bottom land, and before channelization to drain the land, great swamps and lakes filled the area. In my part of Missouri, the west central part, cypress trees are not native. And in my part of that part, mostly ridgetop, cypress trees would not have grown naturally at all. But I have two growing there that I planted as little sticks years ago. One is now much taller than I, and I hope it grows to be 150 feet tall, which is possible.

So I am hopeful about my little effort with the cypress seeds. It’s a long-term project, obviously. They say that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now!

You can find my earlier Cypress stories post here. Sycamore stories are here. And Maple stories are here.

Missouri calendar:

  • Veterans Day