Archive for April, 2010

Three round rocks

Friday, April 30th, 2010

three rox

From time to time I’m told that I don’t put enuf photos of my round rocks on this humble blog. Mea culpa. Here’s a fine threesome from the area around the cabin. (Actually, this photo was taken long before there even was a cabin, but it is in the area where the cabin now stands.)

These are particularly nice specimens. The orange one at the lower right is my favorite of all we’ve found over the years. Its surface is the most smooth, and its color is a bit different. It’s not completely round; it has a flattish part on the side you can’t see. That would make it work perfectly as a paperweight, for example, but my heart resists removing the rocks from the forest anymore. In fact, I had a half dozen in the garage back home in suburbia that I intended to give as gifts, but after they languished there for more than a year, I took them back to Roundrock (where they belong) and left them on the shady porch of the cabin.

These three are not quite grapefruit sized, the most common size. I’ve found a few that are the size of golf balls, though I expect these are the most elusive since they so easily stay hidden. And I’ve found a few that are as large as basketballs, and I suspect these are even more rare because their size would have required the perfect growing conditions (in that prehistoric mineral soup created by the meteor impact) and because I think they probably are deeper in the ground where they haven’t eroded free yet.

But never mind my speculations. Here are three nice round rocks for your contemplation and enjoyment.

Missouri calendar:

  • National Arbor Day

What a difference five years can make

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

root wad

Five years in the forest can wreak change on anything. I first posted about this old root ball way back here. This was one of the trees pushed down and “brushed” aside when the road through the trees was cut long ago. I took this photo when the fallen tree was still fresh.

Here is how it looks now:


Actually, I’m surprised it hasn’t eroded more in all of those years. You can see how the dirt that was captured in the roots is forming a human-sized pile there. One might mistake that in some distant decade for a burial mound. Long-time readers will recall that my former woods called Fallen Timbers were dotted with such mounds, and I chose to believe they truly were burial sites. (They were all aligned east to west, for one thing, which was a common Osage practice.)

I won’t make that claim about this Roundrock dirt mound (though maybe in one of those distant decades someone else will).

I have yet to find an arrowhead in my rambles through the forest. If there are any there, they are deep under the leaf litter and possibly even under some soil. But upheavals like this old tree may expose them to an eager eye. So far I’ve looked in vain, but I live with the hope that my day will come eventually.

Missouri calendar:

  • Indigo buntings and dickcissels are arriving.
  • May apples begin blooming.

Cherry blossom time

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010


The cherry trees were blossoming when were last out to Roundrock a little over a week ago. I’m pretty sure they are black cherry trees, Prunus serotina, which are found in every county of the great state of Missouri.

Cherries are not common in my woods, but I’m sure I have an average of at least a couple on every acre. There is a mature one that leans over the road near the pine plantation. Every time we visit I expect to see that it has fallen across the road, but every time it surprises me by still standing.

The one you see above is growing marvelously at the very western tip of the lake where the water flowing down the hills enters. Though it is taller than I am, this is a young tree. The area was bulldozed when the lake was constructed, so it is new growth since then. I’ve been watching this tree for a few years. There happens to be good soil where it sprouted — washed down from the hills above — and that may account for its vigorous growth.

The leaves and twigs of this species can make cattle sick. You may recall that the woods of Roundrock were once the pastures of a much larger cattle ranch a generation ago. I wonder if that might explain the seemingly random stumps we find in the forest, clearly cut with a saw. Could the rancher have been removing cherry trees so the cattle didn’t eat bad stuff?

I understand the cherries from these trees are bitter, but I don’t know that from experience. The critters always get to them before I can. But I plan to be hanging around these woods for decades to come. I can wait.

Missouri calendar:

  • The Big Dipper has tipped and spilled into the Little Dipper.
  • June bugs begin appearing.

Fallen Stoneman

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010


You may remember Stoneman, a construction of several round rocks we have at the pond. Stoneman has fallen.

Stoneman made his first appearance on this blog more than four years ago, but he was standing long before then. At first he was built of three round rocks, but in later years we managed to balance a fourth on top, and I even had a tiny fifth round rock to put on, but like so many things, I never found the time to do so.

We had cemented the rocks together, and they held for years and years. I’m not sure why they should suddenly topple. I suppose the cement we used on them (which I think was actually some kind of glue) may have dissolved or decomposed. Maybe some randy buck decided to rub his antlers on the round rocks and knocked them down. Or maybe it was that late-season, wet snowfall we had in March, which had brought down so many trees.

I haven’t decided whether Stoneman will rise again or not. If so, I’ll need to give it a better location where it won’t be lost in the grass.

Missouri calendar:

  • Ozark darters spawn in rocky riffles.
  • Egrets begin nesting in heronries.

Peregrine reappears

Monday, April 26th, 2010


Peregrine reappears! We were taking our hike up the Central Valley on our last visit to Roundrock and crossed the rocky channel between the shore and Libby’s Island. And there we found the elusive Peregrine, stuck in the shallows nearby.

Peregrine, you may recall, has been missing since last summer. It was always my practice to find out where he washed up whenever we swam in the lake. He tended to be on the south shore, usually becalmed in some weeds. And I would swim him across the lake and return him to the same spot on the north shore (just below the cabin, though there was no cabin then). Then the wind and the waves could take him wherever they wished. But in later visits last summer, Peregrine wasn’t turning up anywhere. Libby suggested he had been washed over the spillway in one of the high water events we had. That was possible; certainly other logs nearly as large had washed over the spillway.

So I assumed that was the last of Peregrine. I looked for him halfheartedly from the shore all winter but never spotted him. It was only when we were on Libby’s Island that I could see him. And it occurs to me why I had missed him for so long.

I think he is finally water logged. I think he sank to the bottom, which just happened to be in the shallow channel beside the island. The lake was high for most of the fall and winter, and he may have been under the water all of that time. Now, as the water level is beginning to drop, he is emerging.

I don’t think he’ll be floating away anymore though. I think he may be done with that part of his life. If so, if he is going to sink to the bottom, I think I’m going to try to take him back to the underwater brush pile where he originally came from and see if I can sink him there.

That will have to wait for swimming weather however.

Missouri calendar:

  • Crappie are spawning.
  • Mink kits are born through early May.

Sunday links

Sunday, April 25th, 2010


My 100 plants arrived this week from the Missouri Department of Conservation, but a conspiracy of dark forces (mostly a lot of rain and prior obligations) has kept me out of the forest this weekend. We’re going to nurture the plants through the week and hope they hold on until next weekend when we will get out to Roundrock for a marathon planting session. We may even make a more thorough test of the beds out there (having only taken naps on them — though they work fine for that). The question is, will the dogs be a help or a hindrance to us? Should they come along or stay home with #2 Son?


I’m pretty sure that’s Lithospermum canescens in the photo above. It’s commonly known as hoary puccoon, and it’s common throughout the great state of Missouri.


We’ve only recently received some sustained rains in our area, and the lack of it had lead to several people suggesting that this year’s morel season was going to be a bust. I think that may have turned around in the last few days. We’ve only found morels once at Roundrock — across the lake and under some cedars — and never again. I can think of three explanations for why we’ve had such poor success: we just haven’t been down there during the finding window, the conditions truly haven’t been favorable for their growth, or some other critter got to them before us, including those bipedal talking mammals who sometimes leave evidence of their presence.


You still have a few days to make your submissions for the next edition of the Festival of the Trees. Jasmine over at Nature’s Whispers will accept them until her deadline of April 28. She’s interested in posts reflecting a May Day theme, which can include traditions of spring rebirth celebrations. It should be a festive festival. Send your links to dream (dot) lizard (at) googlemail (dot) com. Or you can use the handy contact form.

Though we have a number of hosts lined up, we’re looking for someone to helm the July 1 edition of the Festival. That could be you. Please visit the coordinating blog to see how it might be done, then let me or Dave or Jade know. We’ll give as much or as little help as you want.


“Spring creep” is yet another sign of global warming. Harvard scientists have found that spring is arriving up to ten days earlier on the calendar than it did as recently as two decades ago. It’s been found to favor invasive species of plants. Imagine, up to thirty percent of the plants that would have been familiar to Thoreau are now believed to be extinct in his Concord area because of recent changes in climate.

Missouri calendar:

  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin arriving.
  • Hickories bloom.

Saturday stones

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

in 1

I can’t leave round rocks where I find them. Even after all these years stomping about the woods and collecting them by the dozens, it’s still a treat for me to find one. And when I do I tend to put them somewhere they will be seen. I suppose I started doing that so I could find them later when I wanted to carry them to one of the many piles of them I have about the forest. Later I guess it just became a way of adorning the woods.

The one above is in harm’s way, and I’ll be surprised if it’s still then the next time I pass. This is down in the Central Valley, and the rock is just about where the water would flow if we have a very heavy rain. (We’ve seen leaf litter deposited in the scrub along here at shoulder height before.) A strong flow could wash that rock right out of there.

Not so with the round rock below. This one is up a nearby draw, sitting higher above where the water would flow. I wedged this rock between the two tree trunks on one of our first rambles about the woods, so it’s been there for almost a decade. It was an experiment then. I wanted to see if the tree would grow around the round rock, consume it. The photo doesn’t give the detail you can see in person, but the devouring has begun. It’s especially evident on the right side of the rock where the bark is beginning to build around it. This process is called inosculation, which I’ve written about once or twice before.

in 2

Some critter lives in the roots of this tree. I imagine the round rock wedged in the trunk above the entrance is a handy identifier for when the critter has friends over so they know where to go.

Missouri calendar:

  • Cedar-apple rust appears.
  • Coyotes bear young through May.

Skywatch Friday ~ Blue Yonder

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

wild blue

It’s getting harder to capture sunrises on my part of the planet. They still happen, of course. They’re not being secretive about their arrival or anything. But though I am an early riser, I’m often not about with a camera in hand at the right time or place to record the sun’s appearance.

This shot is from April 11, and we were on the road to our woods, still stuck in suburban Kansas City when the sky revealed the coming day. We’d had rain two days before, and I guess there was some lingering drama in the clouds to give this kind of vignette.

Skywatch Friday

Missouri calendar:

  • Turtles crossing roads; watch out!
  • Chimney swifts return.

Pigs about the forest

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010


No, not the feral hogs that are causing trouble in some Missouri counties, but pignut hickories. Most of the hickories in my forest are Carya glabra, the pignut hickory. (I say that, but I’ve never actually examined them with a good guidebook in hand. Maybe they are black hickories, which are indicators of poor soil, which I certainly know I have. I should look into this.)

Regardless, whatever kind of hickories they are, they have exploded with leaves in recent weeks, bringing green to much of the understory. The photo above is actually from more than two weeks ago. When I was in the forest more recently, I noticed that the red of the sheath (calyx?) on all of the emerging hickories is gone.

Winter was rough in a couple of places, finishing up with a late season snowfall that brought down a lot of trees at Roundrock, but spring has been about perfect. (The oaks have been blooming like crazy!) I hope to make all kinds of pleasing discoveries this season.

Missouri calendar:

  • Earth Day
  • Oaks bloom.
  • Lyrid meteor shower peaks; moon interferes.

Birdsfoot about the forest

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010


I often marvel here that though I’ve stomped the fields and forests of Roundrock for a decade now, I sometimes find a new flower or plant that I’d never seen before. I am just as pleased to see old friend however. This birdsfoot violet growing beside the road near the dam is an example.

I first saw this particular plant on my visit more than two weeks ago and then again this last Sunday. This violet, which is a native, can bloom from April through June, and it has been know to send out flowers in the fall sometimes. (I’ll watch for that.) We rambled about the Central Valley (looking for what I thought might be a pair of dogwoods — they weren’t), and though not as common as the rue anemone, which are still blooming, we did see many of these violets.

It gets its common epithet “birdsfoot” from the shape of its leaves. You can read more about it here.

Missouri calendar:

  • Giant Canada goose goslings begin hatching.
  • Columbines bloom.