Archive for May, 2012

Peregrine floats

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

A few weeks ago, when we were at Roundrock, I spotted what looked like Peregrine, the floating log, near the south spillway. Peregrine, you may remember, had been land locked near Wildflower Island for more than a year. The gravel has poured into that end of the lake, making it shallower and giving less float to the things that found their way there, including Peregrine.

I was pleased that the old log had not washed down the spillway, but I lamented it ever getting back into the lake itself and taking up its rightful place as a sort of benign deity overseeing our fishing and swimming. Yet on a recent visit, I saw what looked like Peregrine at the spillway, as I said, and I swam myself over there to check it out. (Note: any allegations that Pablo has discovered the joys of skinny dipping are not confirmed — and the water is still a bit cold this early in the season — but it may be true. No photos, of course.)

It was, indeed, Peregrine that I found there (amidst the flotsam of the lake, accumulated from washing down the hills and waiting for the next big rainfall to wash down the spillway.) As is my wont, I swam the old log across the lake — a bit difficult since it is now so waterlogged that it barely breaks the surface and because its shape prevents it from being pushed in a straight line. I finally pushed it into a bed of water plants where it might manage to hang around for a while.

That’s Peregrine you see above, just down the hill from the cabin where I could keep an eye on it. That was two weeks ago. I had little expectation of Peregrine remaining in the same place, but the sky gods decided not to drop a single bit of rain in my forest since my last visit, so there was no turbulence to dislodge the log from its nest. When I returned this week (on a Tuesday, if you can imagine that!), Peregrine was where I had left it two weeks before.

The poor log is growing water logged, I don’t expect it to float to the surface much longer, which is fine. I’d like to take it to the unburned burn pile in the middle of the lake (whence it came) and sink it there. Perhaps I’ll have the chance, or take the chance.

Note: This is not a bad photo given that I’m pretty sure my camera is shooting craps.

Back from Little Rock

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

In a tradition now two years running, Libby and I ventured to Little Rock (a seven + hour drive, seemingly longer with two dogs in the little car) for the Memorial Day weekend. We visited with #1 Son, Seth, and did/saw lots of touristy things while there. (It was Riverfest Weekend in the cute and thriving riverfront area, but we avoided the sweating masses of humanity there and went for the natural history of The Natural State.)

Perhaps my favorite part of our weekend was our climb up Pinnacle Mountain, a crag of granite just west of the city. The trail up the mountain is only three-quarters of a mile long, but it’s a gain of something like 900 feet in that distance. I was eager to see how Flike did with that, and it turns out that everyone in Arkansas seems to love a good-looking Border Collie!

Here is the beginning of the trail up the mountain:

That’s Seth and Flike you see. Isn’t it nice that volunteers have put these handy stone steps in place? (Note to all: my camera seems to be dying. Even in abundant natural light, I’m getting washed out and poorly detailed photos. It seems that Pablo must get himself a new camera.)

Here is the trail a little farther up the mountain:

Yes, that rockslide is the trail. Flike is there to give you a sense of scale. The yellow paint (can you see it?) is more work by those volunteers to show hikers the best way up.

There were plenty of families on the trail that morning. The little kids did the best of all, running up and down the rocks like goats, making it look effortless, cajoling their huffing and sweating parents to hurry themselves along.

Here is a typical “step” farther up the mountain:

It has a greater rise than you can tell from this photo. Even Flike, with his long legs and eager muscles, had some trouble leaping from step to step, and he wound up splayed a few times. Still, Seth assured me the summit was worth every ounce of effort, so we pressed on.

About two-thirds of the way up, we looked to the west — we took the “easier” west trail since it involved less scrambling over boulders.

This is Lake Maumelle, which looks like a fine bit of work by the humans that live in the area. Seth told me it’s restricted to motorless boats. Sorry about the photo quality; the view is far more breathtaking than you can see here. (So is the climb.)

I wish I could have taken better photos from the summit. The day was hazy, so even with a good camera, I wouldn’t have gotten great shots,

Through the decades, visitors have carved their initials into the granite of the summit. Seth said the oldest he could read/find was from 1929. It made me wish I had a hammer/chisel to add my “PL” to the collection, though I’m pretty sure it’s against the rules to deface nature in this way. Well, I have Roundrock for that.

In my experience, the only thing harder than going up a mountain is going down it. The constant stopping and managing your body weight through the flexing of your knees and ankles gets tough (at least for me). By the time we reached the car (where Libby and Queequeg had remained and kept themselves occupied), my right knee was telling me it had had enuf. When we visit Little Rock next time, I intend to climb Pinnacle Mountain again, but I didn’t take up Seth’s challenge that we repeat the climb the second day of this visit. Seth has been known to climb it four times in a single day. I’m sure Flike could do the same. And those little kids with the wheezing parents.

Ah, youth!

found poetry

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

This is a meme I’ve seen a few times on some of the bookish blogs I read. Search your bookshelves and, based on the titles there, “find” the poem that is in them.

Here’s what I found at hand:

Waiting for Aphrodite,

far from any coast,

a great current running

the message to the planet:


passage of darkness.

I managed to get an Iris Murdoch novel in there, but somehow had overlooked Philip Roth. I suppose I ought to look again.

Dangerous pines

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Can you see the pine I planted here? There it is, right in front of the round rock. This is one of the fifteen pines we planted in the fenced area atop Danger Island. They’ve been in the ground for a little more than a month — hardly enuf time for them to establish themselves, much less to soar to great heights — but already they’re being choked by the grass and scrub that is outpacing them.

On a solo trip subsequent to our planting trip, I had visited the island (I swam to it) to check on the pines. I saw then that they were being engulfed by the spring growth, and I knew that on our next trip out, we’d have to go into the fenced area to do some serious weeding.

That next trip out was two weeks after that, so nearly a month since the pines went into the ground. The grass and scrub had two more weeks of growing time before we could address it.

In the days before a trip to Roundrock, I am generally keeping a list of the things I need to remember to bring. On the list this time were garden clippers and the electric weed whacker. They would be helpful for the work we needed to do among the pines.

Of course, I forgot to bring them, so we went into the fenced area with no more than a pair of pliers, the human-powered grass whip, loppers, and two pairs of leather gloves.

My intent was merely to clear around each pine so it could get sunlight. (Any blackberry sprouts we found were, obviously, to be utterly destroyed.) When we stepped in, though, we couldn’t find our pines at all. Fortunately, Libby had the wonderful idea before of putting a round rock at the base of each one. That helped, and soon we were busy with yanking the grass and scrub out by hand. Once we got started, we didn’t want to stop (a swim in the lake was our reward), so we worked until we had the entire fenced square “cleared.” It’s hard to tell from the photo below, but this is most of the square, shorn of its offending scrub and grass. Yes, there are little pines in that photo.

When we had the island built, it was literally a pile of gravel scraped up from the bed of the lake. The builder told me to be sure to seed it with fescue as soon as I could. I was skeptical. Could anything grow on that pile of rocks? You see the result. I can’t keep up with it. But it makes me feel that the pines — if given a fair chance — will do just fine.


Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I can’t recall ever seeing primrose in the sunny areas of my woods. Given its relatively long blooming period, I’d think at least one of my visits would have intersected with a bloom or two. But that’s never happened. So when I was at the nursery some weeks ago, spending far more money than I should have, I picked up a native Missouri primrose plant and plunked it down beside the road just inside the entrance to Roundrock.

On two subsequent visits I didn’t see anything blooming and feared that I’d put it in a place without sufficient sun. (There is a small part of my woods where I am trying to drive back the encroaching forest and foster the native grasses, and that would have been an ideal spot for this flower, but that will be another day.)

Anyway, on my most recent visit I stopped by the primrose and saw that it was as happy as it could be in that spot where I had put it. I took the picture of the flower above, and there were several spent flowers as well as several buds waiting for their chance.


Monday, May 21st, 2012

I’ve been out to Roundrock for two long weekends in the last month. That’s three overnights in the cozy cabin on the shore of the lake.

And yet, I’m not writing a lot of posts to this humble blog. I can’t account for that. I suppose I can blame my camera. In recent months, the quality of the photos I’ve been getting hasn’t been very good. I also can’t account for that. Why would a camera under the same conditions, operated by the same individual as he has done for years, seem to begin taking poor photos? Or is it operator error.

Anyway, I built the little teepee fire you see above on one of my overnight trips, but I never lighted it. In subsequent days, rain fell and wind blew. I expected to come back and find the teepee fallen and scattered, but it wasn’t. (Some of the paper I had packed into it had been deftly removed by the critters — food wrappers and such.)

But you see that the fire burned just fine last Friday night as Libby and I sat around it, listening to the whippoorwills and the barred owls. As the evening progressed, we drew our chairs closer to the fire. In the morning it had burned itself to white ash.

Water snake

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

I was fishing from the shore just below the cabin recently (and got only one strike, which I didn’t hook) when I saw this little head pop up from the water near my feet. At first I thought it was a frog, which are common enuf near the shore. But as I looked at it more carefully, I saw that it was a snake.

Balancing the fishing pole in one hand, I managed to extract the camera from my pocket with my other hand and zoom it all the way in to take the picture you see above. No, it’s not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but it does the job.

Then I made the mistake of trying to step closer, and the snake glided away just below the surface of the water. It was clearly a snake, and I hoped I could get a decent picture of it, but I was too slow. I expected the snake to move to the shore and then slither into the tall grass, but it did the opposite, not only heading out toward the center of the lake but diving as it went.

Back at the cabin, I tried to look up what kind of snake I might have seen. I didn’t get to see its markings very well, but there are several harmless water snakes that are native to Missouri.

Later I went swimming, entering the lake at the very place where I’d had this encounter. Among my destinations that day was Danger Island to inspect the pines we had planted there. (Must visit as soon as possible to cut the scrub away from them and get them some sunlight!)

As I walked down the side of the island to re-enter the lake, I saw another snake slither into the deeper water. Life abounds.

No place like home

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Through much of the night, and even during the day sometimes, we are serenaded by several barred owls that live in the trees near the cabin. Their distinctive call, “who cooks for you? who cooks for you all?” is soothing and welcoming as we sit in the comfy chairs around the crackling fire.

Commonly, we hear one of these owls calling from somewhere east of the cabin, but still quite close. It happened that we were in that part of the woods hiking recently, and Libby spotted the cavity high in the tree you see above.

This was in the right part of the forest for our regular barred owl, and I tell myself it’s the bird’s home.

One night, as we were sitting around the fire, contemplating the universe, and listening to what seemed like a half dozen barred owls calling back and forth across the lake, it was all interrupted by the single, haunting note of a screech owl (sometimes known as a squinch owl). All of the owls went into a frenzy for a minute after that. They all began hooting and calling, rapidly and repeatedly.

Were they claiming territory? Calling a warning to each other? Responding to a challenge?

It was a bit of entertainment for us, and it’s always good to know that we are just two of the many residents of the forest.

Book spine poetry

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

This post is a bit of a departure for good old Roundrock Journal, but why not, right?

There is this meme running through the blogosphere lately about “found” book spine poetry. You examine the books on your shelf and “find” the poem that is among them based on the titles you see.

Thus, after a minute or two of searching, I “found” this poem:

Waiting for Aphrodite,

Far from any coast,

A great current running

The message to the planet:


Passage of darkness!

You can tell I’m no poet, but I can pretend with the best.

Stalled walnut?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

I’ve written of this walnut tree a number of times on this humble blog. Quick recap: I dug it out of my neighbor’s compost bin and planted in the good soil of the pine plantation. I fenced it and spoke kind words to it. That was perhaps seven or eight years ago now.

Every year it comes back with green growth, but it seems to have stopped getting bigger. I don’t have any quantitative comparison points aside from the height of the fence, but I’d have thought it would be thriving by now, shooting taller than I am (which isn’t all that tall, really).

Maybe this will be the year. Maybe I’ll wander to to the back of the Pine Plantation to find the walnut arching over the top of the fencing, robust and happy. (Or I’ll find that the parts of it that did arch over the fencing were nipped by the marauding vandal deer.)

It could be that the soil in this area is more favorable to shortleaf pine than to walnut. Some of those pines are now more than twenty feet tall! (The envy of my neighbors, all of whom insist that they’ve never been back on my property. And then they’ll say, “That sure is a pretty lake you have.” You can’t see the lake unless you drive all the way into my land. I don’t mind. Much.)

I do have native walnuts growing in my woods. Not a lot, but some. (I don’t have any native Shortleaf Pine — I’m a bit too far north for their natural range.) But I don’t have a lot of really good planting conditions, so I had reserved this corner of the former Blackberry Corner for this walnut I had favored, hoping for the best. So far, I’ve been mystified by the lack of response.

But I press on.