Archive for January, 2010

Sunday collection

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

cabin

Let’s go straight to something interesting for once. The Festival of the Trees was featured on Nature Blogs Network this week. Go to the link and read the informative and sometimes humorous interview with the three coordinators of the Festival. (Then hurry back here.)

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Did I ever mention how nice it is to come to the end of a long walk in the woods and see what you see in the photo above? With luck and some dry weather, I hope to be out there today. It will probably be too cold to walk the property line — a chore we try to do every winter just to see what’s going on with our neighbors — but there are other chores we can get to, including cutting up some of the trees that had to be knocked down to build the cabin. With fire season coming, I don’t like the idea of having that much slash so close to the cabin. Come by and help if you’re in the neighborhood.

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And speaking of the Festival of the Trees, the newest edition, number 44, should pop up at treeblog tomorrow. This will be the second time Ash has hosted the Festival, and it should be a good time, so be sure to visit and leave a comment.

You can follow the Festival of the Trees on Facebook, Twitter, and Identica. And if you go to the coordinating blog, you can see a list of all of the past hosts. Plenty of arboreal goodness there for your cruising and musing.

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We have had some clear days recently — despite all of my grousing here — with skies that are blue and a sun that actually shines, but the temps have been too cool to get out and enjoy the days. February is often the coldest, most weather-laden month of the winter around here, so there may still be plenty of cloud before the silver lining is apparent.

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Still no solution to that mystery book discovery I mentioned this week.

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Remember way back when Blogger seemed to hate me and I couldn’t leave comments on so many interesting and informative blogs? It appears that I’m heading into another season of that. Lately I’ve been leaving comments on blogs only to return later and not find my comments there. It’s possible that whatever I had to say was so pathetic or obvious or lame or off the mark that the blog owner decided to show some mercy and delete my comment, but it seems to be happening a lot lately. Regardless, I’m still visiting your blog as much as ever.

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I’m not one for washing cars. Apart from my inherent laziness, I think cars can become a shameful vanity, and the volumes of water needed to wash one are wasteful to my mind and ethic. Nonetheless, even I will wash a car (or truck) when the dirt gets caked on thickly enuf, as I noted last week on the Prolechariot. Only I wasn’t the one to wash it; Libby was. Nor did she personally wash it. She took it to one of those wash places where the truck rides on a rail system through a bay full of soap and spray and plenty of noise. She specified that she did not want the wax at the end of the wash, yet when she got home after the endeavor, she found small drops of wax on the clean surface of the truck. But they weren’t wax. They were actually only droplets of water, frozen in the cold on the drive home.

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And here is the answer to yesterday’s mystery photo. Libby had set some candles to burning on the stove at the house in suburbia and then turned her back on them (for a couple hours it looks like.) When I got home, I found the mess you see below. (It cleaned up easily.)

mystery 2

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Mystery photo

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

mystery 1

Any guesses as to what this might be?

It’s not out at Roundrock. Rather, it is somewhere back in suburbia.

I’ll give you the answer tomorrow.

Missouri calendar:

  • Full moon: the side facing us is lit by the sun.

Skywatch Friday ~ Gloom over the city

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

KCsky

This shot is from last weekend. I was standing in the middle of a skywalk between two buildings in my home town, Kansas City, looking north at the downtown. The sky was actually much more expressive that day than it had been though I don’t think my camera captured that well. For several weeks we had been blanketed by a monochrome, featureless gray sky. (We’ve had some relief from that in recent days, and there has even been some blue up in the wild blue yonder.)

Skywatch Friday

Missouri calendar:

  • Eastern moles are active in tunnels deep underground.

A flash of red in a world of gray

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

cardinal

This is a scene out of the kitchen window of my house in suburbia. It arrested my eye when I happened to glance out, and I grabbed my camera to capture the shot. (Note, this is shot through two panes of, ahem, dirty glass, and the zoom is set to its absolute maximum. Also, the unrelenting gray skies of recent days did not offer the best lighting for capturing color. Still, I tried.)

We have several feeders in our backyard, filled with safflower seed. It’s a bit more expensive than regular bird seed, but it is not much liked by starlings — the motorcycle gang of feeder visitors — and it is apparently liked by the rest of the winged kingdom (as well as by squirrels and chipmunks). There are times when I’ve counted nine cardinals in the cypress tree in our yard, all waiting their turn at the feeders.

Notice the mottling on this cardinal. I would normally attribute these whitish patches to the inadequacy of my camera and the lighting conditions, but I have seen this particular cardinal in our yard frequently this winter. It is truly colored that way. Perhaps this is what is termed leucistic, in which pigment is not evenly distributed, though I don’t tread confidently into this kind of science.

This coloration is sometimes called “pied” which means having two different colors. The Pied Piper of Hamlin got that name, supposedly, from the color of his clothes, not his own pigment distribution. The word “piebald” could also apply, though it generally refers to a combination of black and white. Flike is piebald. The “bald” part is an old word for “white” which is how the bald eagle got its name — from its white head.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Missouri Natural Events Calendar is blank for today.

Acorn cache

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

acorn

On the way back from our hike on our last trip to Roundrock, I paused by a tree near where we plan to build our home someday, and I spotted this little vignette. Some critter, probably a bluejay, had cached this acorn in this scruffy oak’s bark.

Many birds will store food in tree bark, but bluejays are the most common in our area. I think it would take a larger bird to transport an acorn. In our hikes I’ll sometimes find peanut shells far in the forest from where I leave them on the log near the Cabin at the End of the Road. I’ve watched the crows visit the peanuts. Usually they’ll swallow one whole and then carry off a second one. It’s not surprising that I would find the empty shells here and there (and on our hikes, if I remember to do it, I sometimes leave piles of peanuts on logs deep in the woods, so finding the shells scattered is not unlikely.

I just like the idea of knowing that the forest is a busy place even when we’re not around. And it reminds me that there is always something interesting to see in the forest if I just take the time to look for it.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watch for chickadees feeding on insects in bark crevices.

A mystery worthy of the Great Detective

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Flike, the best dog ever, has learned to jump on the furniture. It was inevitable. He is big (40 pounds according to the vet) and strong, with long legs and an ever-curious spirit. Once he learned he could leap onto our bed, he made that his favored place to sleep at night. (It’s not so bad. He curls into a ball down by our legs.) And if he wants to jump on Libby for some cuddling while she’s reading a book in the comfort of her recliner, he can do so. He hasn’t gotten onto any tables, but he can certainly put his front paws up there and see whatever might be hidden there. He snagged a whole sandwich once that way.

Among his victims is a pink love seat in our front room. In order to get a toy or to get Queequeg or to get into trouble, he jumped up there the other day, knocking the blanket askew and upsetting the cushion. And that little incident led to a mystery.

When Libby was busy putting the love seat back together, she found something hidden beneath the cushion. There was a book sitting there inside a Barnes and Noble bag. She didn’t remember hiding anything there. She’d never seen it before. So she took the book out of the bag and realized that it was a gift for me. (Nice how that worked out, isn’t it?).

The book is The Bedside Companion to Sherlock Holmes, by Dick Riley and Pam McAllister. It’s a wonderful little book (the 2005 edition) that is packed with commentary and trivia about the great detective, his creator, Victorian London, and short synopses about each of the stories and novels. There’s even a crossword puzzle about the various mysteries that were never written but referred to in the other tales. It will be great for easy reading.

But the mystery remains. Who bought the book? And who hid it there? And who forgot all about it?

Thanks, whoever you are!

holmes

Missouri calendar:

  • Snowy owls seen in Missouri when food is scarce in the Arctic.

Kale Soup

Monday, January 25th, 2010

kale soup

I think the first time I ever tried kale was in Africa. I was invited to the home of one of the men in my son’s village for dinner and among the many offerings gathered on the large table was a steamed green called kale. I liked the taste instantly. It is much like spinach though a bit more fibrous and with a more distinct taste.

Fast forward a couple of years when Libby gets the recipe for kale soup from her sister. Having not had kale since my time in Kenya, I immediately endorse the idea of her making a big pot of the soup, and then we sit down to eat it.

Wonderful! We have it about weekly now. The recipe below makes enuf soup for at least four people, and since we’re only two at the table (despite what the dogs want us to believe) we generally have it on succeeding nights.

You see a bowl of the goodness above. All of the major players are there: fresh corn, kidney beans, kale, tomatoes, and kielbasa. There is nothing special, however, about the spoon.

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small kielbasa, coarsely chopped (we use turkey kielbasa)
  • 2 large boxes of chicken stock (we use the low sodium variety)
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bunch kale, leaves torn from stemps and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups of leaves)
  • 1 small can corn drained (Libby cuts fresh kernels from the cob)
  • 2 teaspoons good-quality sweet paprika (optional)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and kielbasa and saute until onions are golden and tender, about 10 minutes.

Rinse well and dry kale.

Raise to high heat, stir in all remaining ingredients, and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook about 30 minutes, or until the kale has become tender.

Optional: Remove about 2 cups of the soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Return it to the soup and stir to blend.

High in fiber and so good for you, this soup’s flavor will intensify with time, so don’t hesitate to make it a few days in advance.

Keeps well in fridge in air tight container.

Missouri calendar:

  • Squirrels bear spring litters through March.

Sunday musings

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Pile o'Rocks

Two weeks ago, when I reported that I would have to resort to posts about things in my life other than Roundrock since I hadn’t been out there for so long, something surprising happened. My visit count increased by fifty percent! I don’t pay much attention to visit counts, but I get a weekly email from the mechanism about it, and I generally can’t resist the urge to open it and see what’s going on. How do I account for this sudden rise in interest? Could it be because I deviated from the standard subject matter here? Does that imply to readers are jaded with the subject of Roundrock? And how would fifty percent more people even know that there was different material on this humble blog?

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Don’t forget to visit the latest Festival of the Trees over at xenogere. The next edition — #44 — will be hosted by treeblog (again), and it’s wide open. There is no theme, so any treeish blog post, podcast, photo, poem, video, or other digital contribution is welcome. Send them via email to mail (at) treeblog (dot) co (dot) uk, and put Festival of the Trees in your subject line. Or you can use the handy contact form. Deadline is January 30, so that gives you a week. Plenty of time!

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The Nature Blog Network is once again approaching one thousand members. Let us hope they are benign overlords when they complete their conquest of the blog universe. Meanwhile, the Outdoor Bloggers Summit continues its focus as well.

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Most of the snow around here has melted, and a green, fibrous substance is all over the ground. I can almost remember what this stuff is called. Also, wasn’t there something that used to be up in the sky that was round and orange? And wasn’t the sky blue at one time? Help me with this.

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This reminds me of FC. Not the zeppelin, but those other things. (By the way, I ran the numbers again, and he is still older than I am!)

Post Script

We have sun and blue skies today, and the temps may get above freezing.

Missouri calendar:

  • Watercress, a wild edible, is green around springs.

Saturday Matinee ~ Down the drain

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Overflow drain in action @ Yahoo! Video

This video shows water welling up in the overflow drain built into the dam of our lake. The other end of that white pipe is down in the bottom of the lake. The snow melt pouring into the lake is keeping it full, and when the level in the lake reaches the top of that white pipe, the water spills out of the pipe and into that catch basin. Then it pours through the pipe in the back of the basin to emerge below the dam, as you see in the video. (For more about how this overflow drainage system works, go to this post.)

As you can see, we haven’t had the repair work done to the dam yet. I had hoped that the weeks of freezing weather would have allowed the dozer man to bring out his heavy equipment to get the job done. I think he has other paying customers too. Now with the warm weather and the melting snow (plus all of the rains forecasted for this week), I’m sure the roads are going to be soupy for a long time. I just hope the repairs are done before the spring rains come. Another major overflow event might breach the dam.

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But enuf of this doom and gloom. How about something happy?

Happy Birthday, FC!

Missouri calendar:

  • First quarter: sunlight falls on the moon’s right side.
  • Bobcats breed through June.

Fine feeder for our feathered forest friends

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

feeder

Among the gifts I received this year was the bird feeder you see above. Setting it out was one of the chores that Libby and I took care of when we were out to Roundrock last weekend.

My original plan was to hang it just off the front porch of the cabin, but Libby suggested that was a bad idea. It would attract the wrong kinds of critters closer to the cabin — not birds but the critters that scavenge the ground beneath the feeder. Sure, those critters are all over the place in our forest, but by giving them a reason to congregate at the cabin, we would be inviting them to move in when the idea occurred to them. And we’ve barely done that ourselves.

So I hung the feeder in a tree near the road, not too far from the cabin, but a fair distance. It’s close to where I put the peanuts that the crows devour. We’ll see how it works out.

We’re storing the seed inside the cabin, in a steel barrel that popcorn comes in. We’ll see how that works too.

When we first acquired our other little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, I would take bags of bird seed out whenever we visited. Then I would pile the seed on the many tree stumps there. I wanted to let the critters know that the new owner was a nice guy. Not sure how well that worked. This feeder might work better, though like the peanuts, the birds will have to wait until my return to see it filled again.

Curiously, the suet feeder was empty when we were out there on Sunday. After a couple of months of ignoring it, some winged beasts finally devoured the suet. I’m guessing the heavy snowfall and bitter cold drove them to the madness of eating what I offered. I’m going to move the suet feeder over by the road for the same reason I didn’t hang the seed feeder on the porch. It currently hangs on a tree that is just off the cabin porch, and if it is attracting woodpeckers, I’d rather they not congregate so close to my wooden cabin.

That’s the lake you see in the background. It’s white because it is frozen. I didn’t see any eagles gathering near it, but I’m always hopeful.

Missouri calendar:

  • Peak numbers of bald eagles gather this month near open water and big rivers.