Archive for March, 2010

Time to take a tally

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010


Here you see the visits calendar hanging on the wall inside the Cabin at the End of the Road. And if you look closely you’ll see that we haven’t wavered in our pattern yet. Once again, the month records only one visit to Roundrock, that being on the 19th.

I like to blame the weather, but really I must blame the road. You saw the Ozark Sleigh Ride across the meadow in my Saturday Matinee. That was on a good day. Any rain the day or two before a visit can make that stretch (and two others like it) treacherous, and we’re a long way from help (or even a phone signal) by the time we’re bogged down there.

The man who is to repair my dam and my road can’t even get in to get the work started. He wants a period of dry weather so the ground can get hard again — and that’s not likely to happen in the spring — but when it does, I imagine he has dozens of other jobs around the county that need doing as well.

Sometime in April my trees are coming from the Conservation Department (some people are already receiving them), and I’ll have to get out there to plant them, even if it means hiking in the last mile or so. Such are my woes. Terrible, aren’t they?

Missouri calendar:

  • Double-crested cormorants arrive at wetland areas lat this month.
  • Average day of last frost in southern Missouri.

Pileated probing potential problem

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010


This, I suspect, is the work of a pileated woodpecker. I’ve seen them in my woods, generally flying away from me, and I’ve heard their cackle and drumming. There are certainly plenty of dead trees in the forest for my woodpeckers to mutilate, and I hope they understand that.

If you look to the left of this tree you can see the Cabin at the End of the Road. I certainly don’t want any woodpeckers deciding they should probe that wood for insects. The house in suburbia suffered some woodpecker damage that needed costly repair, so I’m wary. I’m not sure what, if anything, I can do to prevent that on the cabin though. I’ve moved the bird feeder and suet cage away from the cabin, and I’ve decided I won’t plant any berrying shrubs within range of the cabin either. But without a continuous human presence (and how much difference would that make?) I have to trust to luck and live with the results, whatever they may be.

Missouri calendar:

  • Passover (begins evening before)
  • Redbuds begin blooming.
  • Phoebes return this week.

On the border

Monday, March 29th, 2010


I mentioned in a recent post that we had set up yet another bird house when we were last out at our woods. Here it is.

It’s buckled to a fence post, the same post that had frustrated me when I tried to hang a different birdhouse on it the month before. Its intent is to give shelter to the bluebirds that live in the fields and forests. It should serve that purpose well, but it has a second purpose.

You see that it is on a fence post with barbed wire attached. This is the defacto property line to the south. All of that open area to the south is my neighbor’s. (Strictly speaking, that’s not true. When the survey was done it was determined that the actual property line is a bit farther south, about where that line of trees is coming in from the left. But I’m not going to dispute it. The fence makes a clear line for both of us.)

Anyway, periodically my neighbor passes along the fence and cuts back the branches encroaching from my side of the fence. I do the same sometimes, though I have to rely on whatever hand tools I carry in my pack when I’m there. My neighbor can drive his truck right to the work location and bring along whatever big gear he wants.

I’m not sure my minor attentions are even noticed, so I decided to hang the birdhouse as a sign that I pass this way as well and that I am paying attention to the edges of my property. It’s benign. It’s not intrusive. And it’s evident.

(Also, look at that forest. Spring has not quite arrived. The day after we were there, about ten inches of snow fell!)

Missouri calendar:

  • Double-crested cormorants arrive at wetland areas late this month.

Reports from here and there

Sunday, March 28th, 2010


It’s not all about Flike (possibly the best dog ever, though). Queequeg is along for the adventure too. The shot above was of him on our hike back from the southern fence line where we had hung yet another bluebird house. His little legs get tired trying to keep up with his brother, and sometimes he asks to be carried for a short distance. Then he seems to recover and hits the ground running.


Another bit of folklore bites the dust. It seems that purple martins are not voracious eaters of mosquitoes as many have believed through the years. They tend to feed during the day, when mosquitoes aren’t that much about, and they feed high in the sky, where mosquitoes don’t venture. You can read more about it here.


Tomorrow is the deadline for submissions to the next Festival of the Trees, being hosted this edition at Vanessa’s Trees and Shrubs Blog. For her April Fool’s edition she’s interested in posts about humorous trees or humorous posts about trees. Send your links to treesandshrubs (dot) guide (at) about (dot) com. Be sure to put “Festival of the Trees” in your subject line. Or you can use the ever handy contact form.


The sale of the remaining half of our other bit of Ozark woods closed last week, so we no longer own our original 40 acres in the other county. There was a last minute bump in the road when the buyer decided to have his ownership listed in his company’s name rather than his own name, and that involved some new papers that we had to sign hastily and send to the title company, but it worked itself out. The check for the sale is already in our bank account. The deal is done. I had wanted to make one last trip out there, but it never happened. Now it must live in my memories.


That post I made about the blue-tailed skinks we see in our Ozark forest continues to attract visitors. I’ve had nearly 80 comments left there, which exceeds the number at my original thong tree post (though the combined number of comments at the various thong tree posts are greater).


The next time I’m out to Roundrock, I want to check on the wild plums I planted here and there in the forest last year. They’re probably too young to be blooming already, but now is the season, and they seemed to have taken off really well through the summer last year.

Missouri calendar:

  • Palm Sunday
  • Wild plums begin blooming along woods and fence rows.

Saturday Matinee ~ Ozark Sleigh Ride

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Ozark Sleigh Ride @ Yahoo! Video

This is a view of my neighbor’s meadow that I must cross to get to my woods. We had the road built more than ten years ago, and while we have done some maintenance to it in that time, it’s really long overdue for rebuilding. It’s part of the dam repair work I’ll have done (once we get some dry weather), but it will be the last part since all of the heavy machinery will need to pass over this bit of “road” to get to the dam. Better to let them tear up the rutted road on their way in rather than a repaired road on their way out.

Most of the road is actually passable. It’s only those two puddled sections where the gumbo gets so thick that you could sink to your axles. Given that (and the fact that I did get bogged down in that spot years ago with the big Chevy pickup I had at the time), I’ve learned to take this stretch at a run.

I shot this video in the afternoon; the morning passage was more adventurous, with mud spraying onto the windshield. I’m sorry I didn’t think to video that instead.

Maybe by the next time I am down to my woods, this will have been repaired. Maybe, but not likely.

Missouri calendar:

  • Serviceberry begins to bloom in woods.
  • Badgers bear young through early April.
  • Ohio buckeyes begin leafing.

Skywatch Friday ~ Sunrise down the road

Thursday, March 25th, 2010


I couldn’t pass up this shot as we were headed down to Roundrock a week ago. We’d just exited one highway and gotten on to another, which, at this point, heads ESE. The alignment was ideal and I snapped. After another mile the sunrise was over, at least from a photogenic point of view.

Skywatch Friday

Coming on Saturday, an Ozark Sleigh Ride.

Missouri calendar:

  • Newly emerged zebra swallowtail butterflies fly in woodlands.
  • Gooseberries begin blooming.
  • Swallows return.

Still unsweetened (of course)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

tea mix

My supply of Allegro Tropical Blend tea was beginning to get low, and Libby contacted the company to order a new five-pound bag of it. Terrible news! They no longer market that blend. My world went into a tailspin!

I usually brew two pitchers of it over the weekends and enjoy the goodness (unsweetened, of course) throughout both days. On every trip to Roundrock I have a tall glass of it beside me in the truck for the drive down and a container of it in my pack for the rest of the day. I’ve tried other varieties and blends of tea, and while many have been good hot, none has made the transition, nay, the transcendence, to iced well. Little did I realize that the incessant gray clouds of recent months were actually a portent of my beverage doom.

The good people at Allegro told Libby that while they no longer deal in that perfect blend, the man who mixed it for them was still doing so, and perhaps she could try buying it directly from him. They gave her a phone number and a name and wished her luck.

Libby made the call, got a recording, called again, received a voice mail back, sent an email, and eventually sent a check to an address in New Mexico. We crossed our fingers. And waited.

Then one day a strange box appeared on our front porch. Within was what you see above: more than a year’s worth of liquid goodness. The mystery man in New Mexico had delivered. And not only that, but, for less than the cost of the tea when we bought it from Allegro, we received about twice the amount.

So life is good again, and I’m already looking forward to the weekend when I will brew another pitcher of it. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Missouri calendar:

  • Horned larks flock in open fields.

Second Report on the Spoon Experiment

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

spoon 2

Our recent return to Roundrock allowed me to make my required observations of my spoon experiment. (You can find my first report and some of the background of the experiment in this post.)

My observation: not much has changed in the month since I last looked. If you pressed me, I might say that the spoon has lost some of its gloss. It felt a little rough, and I take that as an indication that something is happening to it; I wouldn’t want to put such a rough spoon in my mouth.

Several of you noted that the spoon is probably intended to degrade after being buried in the ground. That’s probably the case, but this is a scientific experiment, and you can’t begin with conclusions. Should I ever find myself in that self-serve yogurt store again, I’ll try to remember to snatch another spoon so I can begin a subterranean experiment with it as well.

Missouri calendar:

  • Look for pussy willows’ fuzzy blooms.

Now I can rest my weary head

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


The big chore of our trip to Roundrock last Friday, and the reason I took off of work to do so when we had decent weather, was to deliver these two beds to the Cabin at the End of the Road. I don’t think the Roundrock area got the same snow dump that we did in Kansas City on the first day of spring, but even if it rained, I wouldn’t have wanted to haul exposed mattresses through it or carry the weight of two heavy wooden beds in the truck through some of the muddy sloughs we have for roads down there.

But all of that worry is behind me now. We delivered the beds without incident, set them up, tested them briefly, and then went about our other business in the near 70º day.

We’ve camped at our woods a few times, using an assortment of tents, my favorite being this one. Those have involved cots and ground mats, and while you can survive just about any camping misadventure for a weekend, if it doesn’t have to be that way . . .

So now we have two comfy-ish beds to sleep in when we spend the night in the woods. I’ve never actually slept on one of these, and the boys didn’t seem to mind them when they were little guys, but in later years they couldn’t tell us enuf how uncomfortable they were.

We shall see, and perhaps soon, too. When my order of 100 plants comes in from the Conservation Department next month, we intend to spend two days planting them, so we’ll be testing those beds then, if not sooner.

Missouri calendar:

  • Walk a trail to enjoy the sounds of spring.

The last day of winter

Monday, March 22nd, 2010


The weather for last Friday at Roundrock was nearly 70º and sunny. Alas, a work day. For Saturday the temperature forecast was for a high of only 34º with an 80 percent chance of rain and snow. What was poor Pablo to do but take a day off of work on Friday and go down to the Ozarks for a wonderful spring day?

And wonderful it was! We left the city just before dawn, leaving jackets and coats back in the closet. There had been a run of dry days last week, so the chance to drive into our woods without bogging down in the mud was one we didn’t want to miss.

We had a few items on our chore agenda — we tend to enjoy our trips to Roundrock if we have plans for outr day, even if we discard the plans the minute we arrive — and one among them was to see if the pair of geese we had seen on our last trip were still paddling about the lake.

When we arrived we scanned the lake but saw no sign of them. I had been hopeful that they found our lake to their liking and would raise a family there, but it seemed more likely that they were merely passing through, and that looked to be the case when we arrived. So we got to work on one of our chores about the cabin.

With that done, I fell into one of the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. From the west I heard a whirring sound, and then two geese glided past my view of the lake, splashing down just out of sight on the water. The geese had returned. Or at least two geese had returned. I’ll assume they’re the same ones as before because that fills me with warm feelings. They paddled about the lake for the rest of the day, moving to the opposite end whenever we had business down by the water. Libby thinks they may be geese that have spent some time at suburban parks since they didn’t seem too wary of us.

Since we had no pressing demands back in suburbia, we devoted most of the afternoon to just sitting around and taking in the view. (Yes, I just split an infinitive!) As the sun warmed the cabin, we could hear the metal roof popping with expansion. Birds and frogs were calling. The sky was a flawless blue above us. The sunlight sparkled on the water. The air was warm; I know global warming is going to have bad, long-lasting effects on the planet, but for the moment it didn’t seem so bad, not bad for the last day of winter anyway. All was well in the world.

Eventually, knowing that #2 Son was due to arrive at our house sometime that evening, we pushed ourselves up reluctantly from the comfy chairs and began our drive home. The air seemed thicker as I steered the truck along the highway. Ahead of us a large bank of dark clouds loomed, and when we got to our driveway and let the happy dogs out of the truck, the air was actually cold.

We awoke on Saturday, the first day of spring, we had returned to more typical weather: four inches of snow!

Missouri calendar:

  • Female red-winged blackbirds arrive this week.
  • Bats are leaving hibernation caves.