Archive for December, 2009

Fabulous fossil fragment

Thursday, December 31st, 2009


Amber found this really nice fossil when she turned over a rock near the cabin. Being knowledgeable about such things, she quickly named what it was a fossil of, and she may have said crinoid, but I don’t really remember.

Whatever the critter was, Amber thought that it was covered with silt quickly for such detail to have been so well preserved. (I’m never very sure how my macro shots will turn out. The display on the back of the camera is just too small for checking detail, which is the point of a macro shot.)

We put the rock on the shady porch, and I intend to revisit it. Maybe I’ll get another shot of it for you someday.

When I first saw it, the fossil made me think of this fossil, which a friend gave me:


Missouri calendar:

  • New Year’s Eve
  • Hang up next year’s Natural Events Calendar.
  • Blue moon: second full moon of the month.

Little bit cold here

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

cold bird

How’s the weather where you are? Here in the heart of the heartland, we’ve been snowed on and subjected to some bitter (for us) cold. It’s hard to believe that two Sunday’s ago the whole family was in shirtsleeves down at Roundrock and only a week later, we were huddling around the television, trying to keep warm. Looks like it’s going to be this way for the foreseeable future.

That’s Harry the Heron you see above, first introduced on this humble blog way back here (and looking a bit more spry then).

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels gather in nests to conserve energy.

S’mores (for Kim)

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009


Regular visitor Kim noted that though I have spoken of campfire S’mores here a number of times, I have never shown him what they look like. I think the photo above takes care of that. (Also, this post does show one caught in the wild.)

S’mores are not part of my personal heritage. We certainly didn’t fool around with such nonsense in my Boy Scout days. I’m not sure I’d ever even heard of them until I was an adult. My daughter somehow became a fan (her Girl Scout days were limited as I recall), and they have become a requirement of our family trips to the woods. Since I would do anything asked of me if it meant the whole family would come to the woods with me, I don’t mind making S’mores.

As I understand the recipe, a S’more is simply two pieces of Graham cracker with a piece of chocolate and a toasted marshmallow between them. I think the idea is that the heat of the toasted marshmallow will melt or soften the chocolate, giving you a sugary sweet, gooey mess that you then put in your mouth. Or something like that. (My kids have been known to toast the chocolate a bit too.)

They are much too sweet for me. I certainly don’t need them in order to enjoy time around the campfire. But other people adore them, and I’m happy to be able to make that happen.

That’s my daughter holding the plate of S’mores, and that’s #2 Son standing in the background. The back of the boot you see leaving the frame on the left is mine.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Little dogs in the big forest

Monday, December 28th, 2009


There are several things to notice about this photo. Not the least of which is the fact that Flike and Queequeg are at Roundrock on their first of many visits. There they are, coming around the side of the cabin, exploring, a little nervously, but happily, too.

Notice also the lake in the background, not sparkling but glistening because it is frozen. Queequeg walked onto the ice, to Libby’s great anxiety, but he must have found the surface too cold because he turned right around and joined the rest of us on the land. Flike, on the other hand, had found some open water at the shallow west end of the lake when we were on our walk and didn’t hesitate to galumph through the mud to get into it, to Libby’s great anxiety. A big wet, muddy dog that had to go home in the Prolechariot. (Fear not, gentle reader. We put a blanket on the seat.)

That’s Rachel, my daughter, standing on the left. Her head is cut off, though not by me. Her husband, my most excellent son-in-law, Travis, took the photo with his sooper-dooper new camera.

And notice as well the sloping ground Rachel is standing on. That’s the “hill” leading up to the east side of the cabin. We’re getting some gravel spread there to lessen the slope a bit. That’s also where I fantasize having slabs of sandstone as steps leading up. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Missouri calendar:

  • During deep snowfall, bobcats stay in shelters.

Sunday reflections

Sunday, December 27th, 2009


Our New York family (and their dog, Crusher) is now back in the big city, and our western Kansas family is on the way home today. #1 Son is headed back to college soon, and #2 Son has his new semester at medical school to begin fretting about. The house is empty of everything but happy memories. Update: The New Yorkers moved their flight to this evening rather than yesterday afternoon, so we got to spend the day with them. And the western Kansans have decided to leave tomorrow rather than today, so they are still with us. #1 Son and #2 Son have indefinite plans, so they are around for the time being as well.


Good Neighbor Brian reports that his well is 370 feet deep. That’s about the same as the one Good Neighbor Tom and his brother, Good Neighbor Fred, have. Both sites are on ridgetops, and my future site is not too much down from those.


Wednesday, December 30, is the deadline for your submissions to the next edition of the Festival of the Trees, being hosted this go-round by Jason over at xenogere. You can send him your links or finds to jason (at) xenogere (dot) com, or by using the handy, online contact form. And then get ready for the New Year edition of the Festival!


Obligatory Flike Report: Flike has confirmed his long-held suspicion that the table in the kitchen often contains tasty things that are out of his sight. He’s getting so big that he can put his paws and his head on the table top, and one day this week he spotted a tray of ham and cheese sandwiches (on rye bread). One was within easy reach, and he grabbed it. The sandwich didn’t last long in his possession.


We awoke on Xmas morning to drifts of snow about the house in suburbia. I could not even get the back door open because the snow was blocking it. Makes me wonder what the woods and waters of Roundrock look like. I understand the storm that hit us was worse to the south.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Foiled (again)

Saturday, December 26th, 2009


Somehow we got a tradition started that the kids must have foil dinners whenever we all go out to the woods. I first ate these handy meals when I was a Scout in my callow youth. Later my own sons were initiated to them when they were Scouts. It’s a mostly mess free way to prepare, cook, and serve a meal, as long as the people you’re feeding don’t have very discriminating palates. Or care too much about cleanliness and presentation. Or mind if their food might come out still raw or thoroughly burned and you can never be certain which it will be. So you can perhaps see why my children are always so eager to have foil dinners.

Our foil dinners were a combination of ground beef, diced potatoes, sliced carrots, and onions. We forgot to bring salt and pepper, though we often add that as well. As an alternative, we also had ground turkey. In ages past, I’ve even used sliced chicken. All you have to do is combine all of this in the proportions you want onto a generously sized piece of heavy duty foil. Wrap it tightly, then place it directly on the coals that your three Eagle Scouts have already provided. After twenty minutes, you flip them and let them cook for another twenty minutes. The fats in the meat provide the oil to keep the food from sticking to the foil, in theory. I’ve seen people put a few drops of cooking oil in the foil, but that would require forethought.

The meals spent their required time on the coals, and the kids all made themselves appetizers of hot dogs on buns with mustard. (We had brought these along as a backup in case anyone didn’t want a foil dinner.)

The dinners turned out pretty well. Only a half dozen of my diced potatoes were burned to a crisp against the foil. Others reported similar results. We even made foil dinners for the pups, though we left out the diced potatoes, the sliced carrots, and the onions. They had no complaints.

After lunch, the kids all made themselves S’mores, which hardly bear describing since they are so universally known.

Missouri calendar:

  • Kwanzaa (7 days)

Season’s Greetings

Friday, December 25th, 2009


It is true that the earth’s axis is the reason for the season, but only in the most literal sense, of course.

This is a time of the year that is holy or special to people all around the world, and it is worthwhile to recognize that. Given the pageant of human cultures, it would be a shame to limit ourselves to acknowledging only one holiday. Here are a few that I know about:

  • Xmas
  • Shabe Yalda
  • Boxing Day
  • Bridging Day
  • Chanukkah
  • Kwanzaa, Festivus
  • Las Posadas
  • Ramadan
  • Solstice
  • Saturnalia
  • New Year
  • Feast of Sacrifice
  • Santa Lucia’s Day,
  • St. Nicholas’ Day
  • St. Stephan’s Day
  • St. Etienne’s Day
  • Yule
  • Durin’s Day
  • Winter Veil
  • Rizal
  • Quema del Diablo
  • La Purisma
  • Dingaan’s Day/Day of Reconciliation
  • Day of Goodwill
  • Emperor’s Birthday
  • Newtonmas
  • Hari Raya Haji
  • Feast of the Sacrifice
  • Johnkanus

Happy Holidays, however you choose to observe them!

Pablo and Libby

Stealthy giving

Thursday, December 24th, 2009


When we drove down to Roundrock on Sunday, we made a stop at the gas station to fill our tanks and to supplement the supply of fine food for our fantastic forest frolic. I also took the chance to buy the gas container you see above, filling it with gasoline. After we got to the forest and everyone was busy getting lunch started, I excused myself and drove over to Good Neighbor Brian’s place to leave him this gift. I tied a bow on it and left it on a stump where he will be sure to see it.

Good Neighbor Brian does countless things for us, many of which we’ll probably never know about. He regularly mows our road and dam. He scares off interlopers. And he’s always good for long, rambling, cheery conversations. He says it’s not work but play for him.

I didn’t leave a note with the gift, but I doubt he’ll have any trouble figuring out who left it.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for woodpeckers at sut feeders; downy, hairy, pileated and red-bellied.

A good time was had by all

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


On Sunday, the whole family went out to Roundrock. There were nine of us, well, twelve, actually. Four of them had never been to our woods before, but to have all of them collected in any one place at the same time is an event, even more so to have that place be the woods and waters of Roundrock.

Our party consisted of Libby and me, our daughter Rachel and her most excellent husband Travis, #1 Son Seth, #2 Son Adam and his girlfriend Nina, and #3 Son Aaron and his wife Amber (the best thing that ever happened to him!). Also, and for the very first time ever, Crusher, Queequeg, and Flike went to the woods with us!

For some reason, the kids wanted to see the new cabin, cook their lunch over a campfire, and make S’mores. And since they were all collected in town for the holidays, and since the weather forecast suggested temperatures in the sunny upper forties, and since Sunday was the one opportunity we all had to go, we made sure all of those things happened.

We left town about two hours later than our normal time, leaving the house in suburbia at about the time we’re normally arriving at the woods, but that was fine since the temps had not found their way into the forties yet, nor had the sun found a break in the clouds. Both of those things resolved themselves to our satisfaction soon thereafter however.

The kids wanted to cook foil dinners, and this meant getting a good bed of coals established, so I had my three Eagle Scouts get going on making a fire while everyone else got busy with the tables and chairs making a sort of kitchen and dining area on the relatively flat ground behind the cabin. (Why not in the cabin? I think they may have found it a little too cold in there since the day’s sun hadn’t warmed it yet.) I flitted about betwixt this and that, supervising, kibitzing, fussing, and worrying. I wanted to make sure everyone, especially our one neophyte, Nina, was having a good time, that the dogs were not being carried off by bobcats, that the forest wasn’t going to burn down. Flike had never seen a fire before and tried to lick it (so the kids told me). Crusher, it turned out, hated smoke. He’s an urban dog living in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment in Brooklyn, so the whole woodsy adventure had him nervous. (That’s Crusher you see in the photo above. He was most comfortable there with his momma holding him.) Queequeg, being tiny but with long hair, had some trouble navigating the unlevel ground and grasping scrub though he was determined to explore. We collectively decided the pups needed to be restrained while we were cooking and burning things, so Crusher stayed with Rachel while Queequeg and Flike sat in the comparative luxury of the cab of the Prolechariot.

After lunch, we made a short hike in the woods. Amber, ever-so-politely, asked if she could collect a nice round rock to have for her very own. Well, of course she could! And I happened to know where there was an especially good one not too far away. (The late fall and early winter is not a good time to search for round rocks since the forest floor is covered with leaf litter. Amber said maybe she ought to come back in the spring to look for some, and I thoroughly approved of the idea. I hope she and Aaron can come.) So we set out, with the dogs all off leash toward the upper end of the lake. Had we gone all the way to the inlet where plenty of Ozark rock has flowed in, we very likely could have found a half dozen nice round rocks for Amber, but I knew of a good one not quite so far, and when she saw it, she was delighted. I offered to carry it for her in my backpack, but she held it lovingly in her hands the short hike to the cars.

The dogs stayed with us the whole hike (always a concern when you train your dogs to a leash). Queequeg was determined to keep up and explore despite the conspiracy of the rocks and the scrub and the deep leaf litter to slow him down. Crusher alternated between traveling under his own power and riding inside someone’s parka. Flike was glorious! He darted all about, sniffing everything, keeping up and easily bounding ahead on his long legs. (He weighs 30 pounds now!) He seemed to love being in the forest, which was my hope for him all along — to have a companion who can ramble through the woods with us.

The kids all had evening plans back in suburbia, so we left the forest earlier than the warm temps of the day required. It was a wonderful time having them all at Roundrock together. I’m already trying to convince the universe to let them collect again for another family visit to the woods.

Missouri calendar:

  • Beavers feed on sapling reserves.

Baggy, buggy problem

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


I don’t know how much of a problem this is, but it’s one I’m going to give some attention to. What you see is a bag worm hanging from one of the shortleaf pines at Roundrock.

I realize that it could represent a problem, but this is the only bag worm I’ve found so far, so maybe I’m ahead of the infestation. From what I’ve read, I have the winter to find and remove any other bags I see. In the spring any that contain eggs need to be gone so they can’t hatch and release more bag worm larvae (of a clear-winged moth) to do more damage to the pines.

As infestations go, this one seems to be a vanguard. I’ve seen evergreen trees — though the insect doesn’t limit itself to evergreens — that are “covered” with these bags. If this happens to be the only one I had, then I’m ahead of the problem this cycle, but I doubt it’s the only one. It’s merely the one I happened to see when I was busy doing something else in the pines (putting up new posts and fencing). And if I don’t eradicate all that are there, the infestation could be much worse next time.

So the first chance I get this winter (which is more than two weeks away at the soonest) I’ll spend some time among the pines, looking for more bag worms. There are sprays I can use, and one deterrent is to keep the grass below the trees closely cut, so I’m not completely defenseless, but like so much else, success requires vigilance.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.