Archive for February, 2010

Scattered thoughts from a scattered mind

Sunday, February 28th, 2010


Despite the tedious days of cold and gray — from which we’ve only recently received a break in my part of the country — the neighborhood cardinals have been singing lustily. I suspect it is the lengthening of daylight, rather than the (absent) warmer temperatures, that governs this. (Plus that lust business.) I understand that cardinals are expanding their range across North America. Good for them!


Friday past was the deadline for submissions to the next Festival of the Trees being hosted at The Voltage Gate. You can look for the 45th Edition to come up there tomorrow. Be sure not to miss it.

If you’re interested in subscribing to the Festival via email, clever Dave has installed a new widget that will allow this. (The old Feedblitz function will still work if you are using that.) Go to the coordinating blog and click on the Subscribe by email link in the left sidebar near the top to get started. This new function has several advantages over the old:

  1. It’s faster. New posts can show up in your email inbox in minutes.
  2. There’s no advertising at the bottom of the email.
  3. It’s easier to subscribe via a form right in the sidebar (or for logged-in users, a single click), and it’s easier to unsubscribe via a link at the bottom of every emailing.

For more information, head on over to the Festival coordinating blog.


One year ago I was talking about sucking toads.

Two years ago I revisited a fallen giant. (Time to visit again.)

Three years ago I offered pecan plat palaver.

Four years ago I got to the heart of the matter (again).


Back in the evil days of absinthe, a substance known as thujone was identified as the cause of all of the supposed bad effects of the drink. While this is valid, the amounts of thujone present, even in the unregulated versions of the drink, were found to be minute, especially after the distilling process. So enjoy your absinthe.


The Nature Blog Network continues its quest for world domination. As of this reckoning, they are only seven blogs shy of an even thousand members.


The realtor called yesterday while we were out to say that the buyer for the remaining half of Fallen Timbers was down to make his personal inspection (all the way from Chicago) and approved the land, so as soon as the title company can get the paperwork together, it’s a done deal. We reaped many years of wonderful use out of that property, and we made a fine profit from the sale. (Plus the improvements to the dam and the road at Roundrock are not going to be cheap.) Also, remember that timber trespass we had there years and years ago? It was along this half of the land, and the survey we had done to prove the property line cost more than a thousand dollars. It turns out that we can deduct that from the profit of the sale. At least some good came of that.

Missouri calendar:

  • Purim (begins evening before)

Gnarls and nostalgia

Saturday, February 27th, 2010


I know instantly where this picture from my photo vault was taken because it is of a dogwood tree. Since there are no dogwoods at Roundrock (except maybe for a few down in the Central Valley, but I’m not sure about those) I know that I took this shot at Fallen Timbers.

I’m tempted to make one final trip to those woods and walk them for the last time. If all goes well, I’ll only have about a month to do that, but I doubt that I will. First of all, I hardly have had enuf time this year to visit Roundrock, and I’d hate to give up an opportunity to do that.

Second, though, is the road into those woods. Like Roundrock, it’s about two miles off the county road, and even in good weather, it was terrible. I literally had to point the Prolechariot to straddle the deep ruts in the road, with a sharp drop off on one side and a quick rise on the other. Over our years of ownership, there was never a campaign among the neighbors to improve that road, and I’d heard from a few that they liked it just the way it was.

Still, it was our first piece of woods, and there is a nostalgic pull to it. Maybe.

Missouri calendar:

  • Boxelder bugs are seen on warm days until April.
  • Watch for the flap and glide of mourning doves’ courtship flights.

Formless Friday

Friday, February 26th, 2010


These are the latest bits of glass I’ve set on rumination rock. I’ve put smaller bits of glass gemstones here before, and they’ve all eventually disappeared. I’ve wanted to believe that the critters had carried them off, but I suspect that they’ve merely been washed away by the rain and are now buried in the duff below the rock.

These dragon tears are a bit stouter and may resist washing away. I haven’t been by rumination rock in a few visits (that takes me back at least as far as November, so don’t remind me of this sad fact), but I should add it to my list of tasks for my next visit.

If you look closely at the tear at about nine o’clock you can see a pretty good reflection of the area immediately before and above rumination rock. That tall thin shape is me taking the picture. I wish I was there now.

Missouri calendar:

  • Opossum young are born and climb into the female’s pouch.
  • River otter litters are born now through late March.

Running with the big dogs

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

the boys

There was a time when I had human boys who stood at the top of these stairs and waited for me to entertain them. They’ve now made their way into the world, which is the way it should be.

It has become our afternoon routine for the dogs to wait at the top of the stairs while I throw balls to them. If it’s a tennis ball or other ball about that size, Flike will generally snatch it out of the air (if I give him a decent toss) while Queequeg will mostly just watch and give excited commentary.

Flike with then lash about with the ball in his drooling mouth, but he has learned to drop the ball on the top step so that it then rolls down to me waiting at the bottom. I catch it and toss it back, and the whole routine continues for a half hour. Long before then, however, the tennis ball becomes sodden with dog slobber, which is gross, but the boys like the game.

I’ll often make my throws short so they don’t reach Flike. Then Queequeg leaps into the game, marshaling the ball down the stairs to me. He really seems to have a great time.

This is great interaction, with lots of praise and a little instruction, but it’s not much exercise for any of us. We’re waiting for the weather to improve (read: drier and slightly warmer) so we can take them both to the off-leash area at a nearby park. We’ve taken them a couple of times and they have loved it though Flike was terrified at first by all of the other dogs who wanted to say hi to him. He’s already bigger than most of them, but in his head he’s still a little puppy — he’ll be six months old this weekend. But once the greetings are over and the other dogs have lost interest in Flike, he enjoys racing back and forth for tennis balls or just running for the sheer enjoyment of running. Queequeg joins him, and being a mature dog of more than a year old, he’s hardly afraid of the other dogs.

We’ve all been suffering cabin fever around here, and it’s great to get the dogs out to run at the park, but Roundrock is 80+ acres of off-leash area, and I’d really like to take them out there!

(Four months ago, Flike was about the same size as Queequeg.)

Missouri calendar:

  • Listen for western chorus frogs; sound is like a thumbnail run along a comb.
  • Killdeer begin arriving.

The Green Fairy

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

green fairy

Another task I can check off of my list to get done in this life is to partake of the absinthe ritual. I managed to complete that over the weekend.

Absinthe used to be an illegal drink, in part because of bad press its competitors fabricated about it, and many lurid novels (and even paintings) from the turn of the last century included characters depraved by the supposed effects of absinthe. It was said that absinthe could bewitch men and lead them to their doom, hence the name the Green Fairy.

Absinthe has now been legal in the U.S. for nearly three years. It is a licorice-flavored spirit (not a liqueur) that is pale green in its unmixed form. But part of the allure of this drink is the ritual followed to prepare it. There are variations on this ritual, but the one we followed went like this:

A small amount of absinthe is poured into the bottom of a glass. (You see in the photo above that more than a small amount was provided — and we were charged correspondingly for it too.) Then a special slotted spoon is placed on the rim of the glass. Sugar cubes are rested on the spoon. If you observe the fire ritual, as we did, then a small amount of absinthe is sprinkled on the sugar before the cubes are set aflame. Can you make out the blue flame in the photo below?

green fairy 2

The fire is allowed to burn for a short while. (Further variations on the ritual call for the flame to reach down into the glass to burn the absinthe there, though some purists insist that this should never happen. I’m not sure two flaming glasses of alcohol in a fancy-schmancy restaurant were something they wanted, so they didn’t let the fire get into the glass.) Once the sugar is caramelized a bit, supposedly to give more flavor to the blended drink, cold water is dripped onto it to quench the flame and dissolve the sugar into the waiting absinthe. The carafe you see in the top photo is made specifically for the absinthe ritual to introduce the water.

The adding of water and sugar to the absinthe turns it from pale green to opalescent white. (Also, supposedly the burning and the water will dilute the alcohol in the absinthe, making it a relatively harmless drink and far from the corrupter of mankind it was fabled to be.) The barkeep then slides your prepared absinthe to you and you begin to enjoy the subtle blend of flavors.

Except I didn’t. I’ve never liked the taste of licorice, and my drink was more strong than Libby’s. It burned at the back of my throat. I was determined to drink it all — since it was so very expensive — but at one dainty sip at a time, it took several hours. We’re not barflies, and the whole experience was an exotic adventure for us, but I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.

I was, however, a remarkably witty and convivial conversationalist when we met up with our dinner group shortly thereafter.

Missouri calendar:

  • Flying squirrels begin breeding.
  • Skunks breed through late March.

Too many days

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


I don’t think I’ve ever passed this much time without visiting the woods. Only once this year so far, and that more than a month ago. Normally, winter is an ideal time to go. No bugs. Long lines of sight. No sweating.

The stars just haven’t aligned for me this winter. Between competing demands for my weekends and unfavorable weather, we just haven’t had the chance. The biggest reason has been the terrible condition of the road into our woods. Good Neighbor Brian sent me an email the other day saying that the road across the ridge, leading to both his land and mine, was virtually gone. He said you had to point your truck in the direction you wanted, hit the gas, and not stop. Once we get past his land, I have another stretch like that I must get across before getting to my woods. And then in there are a couple of spongy spots. All of this was aggravated by the construction of the cabin, especially the arrival of the laden concrete truck, but the road was needing some love for a long time before that.

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve talked to a man about fixing my road and shoring up the dam, and he left me a message over the weekend saying that he hasn’t forgotten the work but that he hasn’t been able to get his heavy equipment into the work sites. A long series dry days, or a long series of freezing days, would make the difference and let the trucks get in (including my little Prolechariot), but spring is nigh, and around here it’s not known for freezing or dry days.

Missouri calendar:

  • Spotted salamanders move to breeding ponds this week.


Monday, February 22nd, 2010


No, not a very good picture, but if you were there in person, you might be able to understand what I’m trying to show.

I took this shot standing close to the fire ring, which is beside the road through the trees leading to the dam off to the left. You see, of course, the Cabin at the End of the Road, and in the space between where I was standing and the cabin is the area that will be the path from the road. Simple enuf. I discussed this with the man who will (someday) repair the road and dam, but that was more than two months ago, and his schedule (plus ground conditions) have not permitted him to get to my job.

I hung the red tape so that the man will know where I want gravel spread for the path. Looks a little wide for a path, especially in this photo, but without better placed trees, it was the best I could do.

Missouri calendar:

  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Chipmunks come out of hibernation.


Sunday, February 21st, 2010


Remember when I posted about Flike (or maybe it was Queequeg) shredding all of that paper in our house when we were away? Yeah, it’s happened three times again since that incident. There is a video feature on my game cameras. Maybe I should set one up to see who the guilty party really is.


Your Daily Coyote.


I’ve had a little fun poking around in the City-Data forums. Like all forums, these are conversations between strangers about common subjects. At the link you can go to the forums for your state and then see the subcategories that have interested participants. I’ve poked around in the category for the county Roundrock is in as well as in the discussions for the towns nearby. I haven’t found anything astonishing yet (okay, some of the fringe politics is out there, and the spelling can get a bit phonetic), but I keep looking. City-Data itself also contains a wealth of information. You might enjoy poking around.


You still have just under a week to send your submissions to The Voltage Gate for the next Festival of the Trees. The deadline in February 26. You can send the link to one of your posts of something you’ve found on your rummaging about to thevoltagegate (at) gmail (dot) com or by using the handy contact form.

We’re looking for hosts for June and July. If you’ve been looking for a way to make some new virtual friends and increase your blog traffic, hosting the Festival is a fine way to do it. Just let me or Dave or Jade know.


You see the round rock above. It’s been more than a month since I’ve last seen one out in the wild.

Missouri calendar:

  • Walleye move onto shoals for spawning through April.

Saturday snippet

Saturday, February 20th, 2010


The deal isn’t done yet, but the sale of the remaining half of our other bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks progresses. Soon our tenure there will be only a memory. We hadn’t gotten out there much in the last couple of years, but I always enjoyed checking on the growth of the hawthorns I had planted there whenever we did go. I had planted about fifty along the disputed property line after the timber trespass, mostly because they are visible in the spring forest when they are in blossom and because they have sharp thorns. The ones on the ridge top have grown slowly, but those in the better soil down the hill really took off.

There was one other hawthorn that I had planted from a fruit that I liked to visit. I’d collected a bucket of the fruits from the tree that had grown in my front yard in suburbia, and I pretty much just dumped them in a line along the edge of the open area where we camped and had our fires. Years went by and I never saw any hawthorns from that effort. But then one day I did come across a strange-looking little plant that on closer examination proved to be a hawthorn. Out of the thousands of haws I had sprinkled in the area, one had taken root.

Once I recognized it for what it was, I cleared all of the growth around it to allow it space and sunlight. I’ve looked in the area for other tiny hawthorns, but I never spotted any. Still, one little surprise can be enuf. When I last looked at it, the hawthorn was a couple of feet tall and looked more like a bush than a baby tree. I hope the next land owner allows it to grow, though I suppose I’ll never know. It might be nice to get out there one last time before the deal closes, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll surprise myself.

I would plant hawthorns by the hundreds at Roundrock if I could — they are great for wildlife, providing nectar, fruit, and shelter — but the prevalence of cedars there prevents me. Hawthorns are common victims of cedar apple rust, which can come from being too close to cedars (and, I suppose, from the birds that transport the infection between trees).

(That’s not a picture of the tiny hawthorn in the winter. It’s just a random photo I grabbed showing the general state of things around the area right now.)

34 – The number of days since I’ve been out to Roundrock.

Missouri calendar:

  • Coyotes breed through March; listen for howling.

Finally it’s Friday!

Friday, February 19th, 2010


I have to wonder what the person was thinking who put this sign here. Doesn’t that just call out for doing exactly the opposite of what is instructed?

This is on a door in a building in downtown Kansas City. I think this was once the main entrance to the building, but since it is no longer the grand edifice it was once was — I think it was a bank, but now it is merely overflow office space for a nearby business — the entrance had been moved to another side of the building.

Nonetheless, plenty of people flow past this door each day. And I suspect that in each of them there is a small imp urging them to do exactly what the sign tells them not to do. And further, I suspect some of them actually do so. Not that I did, of course.

33 – Number of days since I’ve been out to Roundrock.

Missouri calendar

  • Turkey vultures begin arriving.