Archive for July, 2012

old feeder, new location

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Okay, I still don’t get it, but I’m not complaining this time.

Above is one of the photos I couldn’t get iPhoto to download before. Yesterday afternoon, suddenly, I could.

I took this shot while sitting in my comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. (You may have noticed a trend in the photos recently. I don’t think I left the porch much at all on my last visit to Roundrock.) This is the feeder #3 Son and his wife gave me several years ago. While others have come and gone at Roundrock, this one is the only feeder that has survived. We had it hanging from a tree branch over by the fire ring for a long time, and the birds seemed to find it there without any trouble.

But we couldn’t really see it from the porch, and when we did lean out and turn our heads, we couldn’t see it very well anyway. So I thought I would move it more in front of the porch where we could watch it and be entertained as we took our leisure. The trouble was, there were no accessible branches in that area for hanging it from. So I got that iron post you see to stand in for the branch.

And the trouble with that was that the ground there is quite rocky. I couldn’t simply push the two prongs of its base into the soil — there was no soil. So I took a steel rod (that the builders left behind when they poured the floor of the cabin) and the sledge hammer and pounded a couple of holes for the prongs. I pounded until I hit solid rock, but that seemed deep enuf, and the prongs settled into place easily. (I should probably pile some rocks on and around the post to firm it up. Some big critter — probably a raccoon — has tried to get in the feeder before, and I don’t know if the post is solid enuf to withstand those kinds of gyrations.)

Then I filled and hung the feeder. The nuthatches and titmice and cardinals (and even one phoebe) flitted about but seemed wary of this old thing in a new place. Perhaps a hour passed before one of them dared to land on it. The brave bird was a titmouse. Once the spell was broken, though, the little things found the courage to come and go the whole time we were there. All of the birds deferred to the titmice, who must be the bullies of the neighborhood, but by the time we left that day, there was still plenty of seed in the feeder.

random grasshopper

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Here’s a picture of a random grasshopper I took while I was in Norman, Oklahoma over the weekend. It was on the front of a store in the old downtown section of the city.

Libby and I traveled to Norman for my nephew’s wedding. I’d never been to the town before, though I have been to Oklahoma a few times, so I can verify that the place with such an unlikely name actually exists.

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I’m still having troubles with iPhoto, and all of the discussion I can find online about it doesn’t make sense to me. One thing I saw over and over, though, was how it was a mistake to upgrade to the latest version, which I had just done hoping to fix the problem. So I’ll get an appointment at the Apple Genius bar this week and see if they can straighten it all out. What’s odd is that I can export some pix but not others, and I can’t see any difference in them.

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Also, I found that missing post I wrote about on Friday. By then, though, I had already rewritten the post, and the second draft was better than the first (which is usually the case with these things).

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Finally, I did an eight-mile run on Friday (before driving for nearly six hours to Oklahoma). That’s double my best so far. I’ll confess that I did stop at the halfway point to rest for about 15 minutes and suck down most of a bottle of Gatorade. And as I noted before, by showing myself how much I can do, I rob myself of my excuse for slacking. Also, my legs felt just fine the next day (Saturday). Usually they feel tight and angry for about two days, so I hope this is a sign my body is adapting to my new normal.

picture this

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Well, I don’t know what happened to this post. I wrote it yesterday. Saved it. Thought I had posted it. But it didn’t appear this morning and I couldn’t find it in the archives anywhere. That seems about on par with the way things have been going lately. Sigh!

Anyway, I hadn’t meant to leave that post about the 5K run up all week. It looked a little vain of me, and that wasn’t my plan. (After all, it is only 5 kilometers.) But iPhoto continues to perplex me; it will download some photos and won’t download others. Today you get a photo of a pedestrian alley in an old part of Kansas City known as Westport. It’s a funky part of town with what are believed to be the oldest standing buildings in the city. The Santa Fe Trail begins about a block north of where I took this photo. Behind me as I took the shot is a fine Mediterranean restaurant. Libby and I have enjoyed lunch there together on many Saturdays.

So this is the photo that iPhoto allowed me to download.

I haven’t been to Roundrock is two weeks now, and it looks like it may be at least that long before I get down there again. That’s criminal. The heat and the drought have made it a challenging place to relax and certainly to do any chores. But even in this kind of weather, sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the shrinking lake would be fine. In fact, if the lake gets low enuf I’ll be able to spread the Bentonite it needs in the places where it is needed. I had the chance to do that last fall but failed to do so. I figured I had all winter to get it done. This time around, should the cosmic forces that rule my life allow it, I will use the next chance I get to apply the Bentonite and maybe finally get a better seal on the bottom of that lake of mine.

Of course those cosmic forces may be taunting and teasing me too. According to the NOAA weather site, Roundrock got nearly an inch of rain yesterday. That’s not enuf to refill the lake, especially with how dry the area is — much of the rainfall would get absorbed into the ground rather than run into the lake bed — but it might make the area that needs the love less accessible for someone carrying a fifty-pound bag of pulverized clay on his back. (Or maybe twenty of those bags.)

Such are the troubles in my humble life. Hardly seem like much when I step back and consider them.

Start2Finish 5K

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

I warned you that I might start making posts here about my new running mania. Here comes one.

I participated in my first 5K run over the weekend. 5K comes out to a bit more than 3 miles, and I’ve been able to run 4 miles at the dog park pretty easily in recent weeks. 5K should not have been intimidating, but it was. I was nervous on Friday night, slept fitfully, and woke early on Saturday morning. The distance should not have been worrying me, so I think it was the “officialness” of the run that was. I’d never done one of these before, and I guess I was nervous about being around “real” runners. When I picked up my packet the night before, there were plenty of these “real” runners at the shoe store, collecting theirs as well. I looked at them and knew I wasn’t part of their subculture. (Curiously, they didn’t look the same way at me. At least I didn’t feel any scorn or disdain or condescension.)

Libby and I got to the race site about 45 minutes early (the local junior college where I used to teach), and people were already gathering. Since I’d never done this before, I figured I would just look at the other people and do what they did, which was stand around and talk. Most looked relaxed. A few were doing stretches (which I understand is now considered exactly the wrong thing to do before running). I was too nervous to stand still, so I paced in circles. I think I was the only one there who was doing that, but I was a noob, so I had an excuse.

Eventually everyone began moving toward the starting area. I herded over with them, placing myself at the back third of the pack. (There were about 300 people running I was told.) We had little tags on our shoes (the green thing in the photo above) that would record when we crossed the starting and finishing lines. Although most were runners, there were quite a number of walkers, and as the race went on, many of the runners became walkers too.

I crossed the starting line at a run and quickly fell into my normal trotting pace. I’m told that a lot of noobs will start out too fast and run out of energy by the latter half of the race. I’d already determined that I could sustain a decent trot over a decent distance, so that’s what I committed myself to.

Shortly after getting through the starting gate, we were headed up a long hill, probably a half mile. Fortunately, this was at 7:00 in the morning, and the temps were not yet 80 degrees. I’d hate to have to run that hill in real heat. But so far in my experience, hills haven’t been a problem. It feels as though I’m using my muscles differently when I run up them. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t daunted by that initial hill. I did have to ignore the voices in my head saying that I couldn’t finish the run. This was really only the third time I’d ever run on pavement, and I was sure I was grinding my lower joints into powder by doing so. Or at least, that’s what the voices in my head were telling me. But there was Libby at the top of the hill, and I certainly didn’t want to disappoint her, so I ignored the voices and listened to my body, which was telling me I could do it.

And I did. After I topped that hill, I had a nice long, downhill stretch ahead of me. (It was an out-and-back course, though, so that nice long downhill stretch would soon be an uphill stretch.) I passed a water station where they held cups out for runners to grab on the fly. I saw people open their mouths and pretty much throw the water in the general direction of their faces, which seemed silly. So far, I’ve never gotten thirsty on my runs, so I decided just to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and maintaining my pace (really my best resource is keeping control).

Other runners were passing me. Heck, even some of the walkers were passing me. (To be fair, they were speed walkers.) And some of the faster runners were already on their return half, blistering by me and looking so effortless. But as I made the turn to begin my own return stretch, I could see that there were plenty of runners still behind me. Some were far behind me. At the dog park, I generally set a goal of how many circuits I will run, and I eventually reach a point where the voices in my head are quiet and I know I can reach my goal. That was how I felt on the return stretch of the 5K. Even though I was on the uphill stretch of that fine downhill run from a bit before, I knew I had it in me to finish.

As I approached the water station, a nice man was graciously holding a cup out for me to take, so I did. (I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t grateful.) It turns out that you can’t easily drink from a cup while running. I took a couple of sips and tossed the rest onto the parched grass beside the road then dropped the cup into the waiting trash can. Next time, I may just throw the water in the general direction of my face.

As I drew near the last turn, there was Libby again, cheering me on and snapping pix. (Sorry, I look terrible!) Then I made the turn and vowed to sprint to the finish line. Now, realize that sprinting for me is probably not what you have in your mind’s eye. Even so, I hit the after burners and starting blazing. (That’s probably a mixed metaphor. Sorry.) The trouble was, the finish line was not in the same place as the starting line. It was farther away than I expected, and when I saw that, I lost my wild enthusiasm and fell back to my trotting pace. Nonetheless, I did sprint two-thirds of the way to the finish after I made that final turn. It felt really good while I did it, and I’m determined to build my stamina to increase my overall pace.

After the run, when we were driving home, I opened the bottle of Gatorade that I had bought mostly as a joke and took a sip. I’ve never liked the taste of the stuff, and, as I said, I’m never thirsty on my runs. But by the time we’d driven the ten minutes home, I’d finished the whole bottle. So, surprise there! Another surprise is that I find I much prefer running on pavement than on grass. On Sunday I took Flike to the dog park to run a bit, and you can keep your tufts of grass on uneven soil. I’m surprised I never turned my ankle in all the laps I’ve taken there. Plus the scenery never changes at the dog park. The same roots, the same droppings, the same turns. Even the same dogs. I find I’d much rather have a little scenery. Plus I never really got a sense of the distance I’d run in all of those laps at the dog park. Road running certainly gives a different sense of the ground covered. So it’s been a learning experience for Pablo, who’s feeling a lot like a kid lately.

I got a great shirt for participating. It’s bright blue, much like the one in the photo above. (The one in the photo is made of some substance that is not found in nature. And it turns out that it really does wick away the sweat from my hulking flesh better than cotton. I may have to get myself some running shorts made of the same material. This could be an expensive sport. Really, I need some new shoes. Look at the ones in the photo for goodness sake!)

And I got the warm fuzzies for participating. I’m enjoying that runner’s high you hear about. I’m already looking toward other 5K races in the area, and I’m beginning to listen to the other voices in my head that tell me I can probably work toward a 10K (and beyond?).

blue bowls

Friday, July 20th, 2012

We’re slowly setting up house at the Cabin at the End of the Road. We’ve been conscious of the risk of the cabin becoming our storage unit for all of the junk we’ve accumulated back in faraway suburbia, so we’re careful about what we do bring.

We bought that large bowl some years ago from a potter in Kansas City, and I’ve bought plenty of mugs from him. I think I featured a few of them on this humble blog. When we were last in his shop, we saw these two bowls that more or less match what we’d already purchased. (They’re made by the same potter.) So we grabbed them to eat our oatmeal from in our mornings at the cabin.

We’d looked for some dinner plates as well, but on that visit, he didn’t have any. Just another reason to go back to the shop, I say.

Note that we always wipe down that table after we use it. There must be something about the flash on my camera that brings out the smudges. Sorry about that.

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My iPhoto continues to mystify me. Some pix I can download while others are trapped. I suppose I should go to the Apple Genius Bar with it and see if they can figure it out.

harvestmen

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

These are harvestmen, a type of arachnid that is not a spider. In my part of the country they’re also known as daddy longlegs. We saw several of these groupings, called aggregations, along the ceiling of the porch at the cabin. While a little disturbing at first, we soon ignored them, just as they ignored us.

We often see lone harvestmen around the cabin (though rarely inside), but I can’t recall ever seeing them grouped like this.

It is a myth that these critters are venomous and/or that their fangs are too weak to break human skin. According to Wikipedia, they have neither venom glands nor fangs.

So, I live and let live, at least outside the cabin, like a good forest steward should.

low water at the cabin

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Just about everything about this photo is bad except for the fact that I was able to download it from iPhoto. (I continue to have intermittent problems with it.)

I took this photo while sitting in a comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the diminished lake. (As I said yesterday, our visit was for unwinding and relaxing, so even getting out of the chair to take a better photo was suspect.)

This photo does show you what I want you to see, however. That is, of course, the far shore of the lake, the southern shore. We call that area Duck Cove because that is where saw some dabbling ducks early in the spring. That tree you see in the foreground on the left stands about ten feet in front of the cabin (and I keep saying I’m going to cut it down). But what I want you to notice is that white streak going right to left on the far shore. This is what remains of a cedar tree that washed into the lake in the spring. It got hung up on the underwater brush pile near the middle of the lake, and it offended my eye for several months. When the water grew warm enuf to swim, I went in after it. I swam it across the lake to Duck Cove and pushed it on the shore right at the water line. I meant to go after it the next time I was hiking over there to drag it into the forest, but I never did. so there it sat.

Now you can see how far the lake has dropped. That former cedar is about twelve feet long. I estimate that the lake has dropped six vertical feet from full pool.

I’m actually a little surprised that the lake is as full as it is. By now I’d expect it to be much lower. Perhaps the leak is beginning to heal. Still, we could use some rain. Know any rain dances?

reflection

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Through some miracle, or maybe it was merely a change in barometric pressure, I’ve managed to download a photo from iPhoto and upload it to this humble blog. I continue to be mystified by the process and can’t explain why it wouldn’t work before or would this time.

Anyway, we were out to Roundrock last Saturday for a day of mostly sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. It wasn’t nearly as blistering hot then as past visits: it only got to about 96 degrees while we were there rather than the 100+ degrees of earlier visits. Nonetheless, we stayed in the shade and only did a minimum of chores. Really, the chore of the day was unwinding and relaxing, and we applied ourselves to that work vigorously.

We got about an hour later start than usual because I wanted to get in my run at the dog park with Flike, and we had to wait for the park gates to open first. I thought I could skip showering after that and just swim in the lake, but after making a record ten laps of the park (about four miles!), I pretty much needed a shower. So that devoured a little more time in the morning too. But we were on the road eventually, and because we didn’t stop along the way, we got there only about a half hour later than we usually would. That left plenty of time for relaxing, swimming, throwing the stick for Flike, relaxing, drinking iced tea (unsweetened, of course), and contemplating our good fortune.

We heard several loud splashes in the lake (dropped another foot or so since our most recent visit despite the half inch of rain that fell in the area on Thursday), but they were out of sight, so we can only speculate on what they might have been. A great blue heron sailed low over the water and landed on the opposite shore. It skewered a minnow or some silvery fish from the water for our entertainment. We didn’t see any deer resting in the shade of the willows, but we did see about ten racing across the road ahead of us as we drove out.

Alas, we had things to do back in town on Saturday night and Sunday, so we couldn’t stay the night at the cabin. The nights do seem to cool down there despite the heat, but the air was still, and it might have been a stuffy night in the cabin (with two long-haired dogs) if we had stayed.

It’s looking as though we won’t get back down to Roundrock for nearly a month, which is a crime, but family obligations make their demands. I can live off the memories of the woods and the anticipation of future visits though.

deer in the shadows

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Well, don’t ask me. I don’t understand. For more than a week, iPhoto wouldn’t let me download any of my pix, and then suddenly today, it will. I’m sure there’s some setting or switch, or it’s the barometric pressure or karma, so I’m not going to try to puzzle it out. I’ll just go for it.

What you can barely see here is a deer hiding in the leafy shadow of that small willow directly across the lake from the cabin. We almost never see deer during the day at Roundrock. Yes, we might startle some grazing in the farm field to our north as we drive along our road — and then make for the safety of the forest, running directly in front of us to get there — but it’s a rare thing to see a deer otherwise, at least during the daylight hours.

But maybe not when you have unreasonable drought and unseasonable heat. When we were last down to Roundrock, sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the diminishing lake, we saw this deer come down to the water. It didn’t bend for a drink but just stood at the shore. We were across the lake and up the hill, yet when Libby rose to get a better angle to see it, it saw her too. That’s when the deer moved into the shade of that willow, and it stayed there for twenty minutes or so.

One time when I took myself down to the water to swim, as I emerged from the alley of trees before the cabin and stepped into the warm, warm water, a half dozen deer bolted from resting places to the west, again under the willows at the water line.

Is there something about just being near the water that a deer finds relaxing in the intense heat? Or was this pair of observations just a coincidence? Or could it be that this kind of thing happens all the time and I’ve just been too dim witted to observe it?

The last time I was out — a solo trip to contemplate the universe — I must have seen twenty deer, which may be a single-day record. I suppose it’s possible that the mild winter lead to an explosion of the deer population. Or the intense heat and drought may have something to do with it. Or maybe it’s barometric pressure or karma. Whatever the case, I don’t mind. They’re not vandals. They seem to be leaving my pines and pecans alone. Maybe they’re getting a little more accustomed to a benign human in the area.

Whatever the reason, I’ll enjoy it.

another story, another day

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

For some reason, iPhoto will not download any pix, so I can’t drop one in here for you today. Just as well. It was a crappy photo anyway.

On our last trip to Roundrock, Libby and I ventured over to Danger Island (which is not an island at present thanks to the drought and the ever-leaking bottom of my lake) to see how the pines were doing that we planted there in April. I had planted fifteen then, and I knew they would have to live or die on their own, that I wouldn’t be able to visit them with any regularity to water or weed them.

I had cleared the robust growth of scrub and grass from around them once, and the Libby wondered if that might have been a mistake, that it might have been shading the baby pines while they got their roots established. She may have been right.

When we made our census on that last trip, only six of the fifteen had survived. The other nine were brown and evidently dead. It happened that many of the brown pines were in the area I had more conscientiously weeded on that earlier visit. But a few were dead in the scrubbier area too, so I’m not making too much of that observation. It’s possible that I had simply pried apart enuf gravel in the wrong spot for some of these pines, that there wasn’t enuf soil to sustain them or hold any water. I can’t say.

We’ve had much more experience in the pine plantation at the former Blackberry Corner. In that bit of better soil we’ve probably planted more than fifty pines over the years, including ten more this spring in an effort to expand the area. I’m happy to say that those ten are doing just fine. I didn’t lose one of them. But a lesson we’ve learned from this effort is that some pines we had given up as dead had come back. I don’t know if this is even possible, but in a few of the cages we have there, we have two pine trees coming up. Each spring we would plant a new pine where an old one “died,” and I think some of those dead ones weren’t really kaput. So maybe some of the “dead” pines on Danger Island will return as well.

I told Libby that I wasn’t going to fight with the pines on the island anymore. They would live or die on their own. I’d water them if I had the chance, but I wasn’t going to replant them. That much was certain.

She said that didn’t sound like me talking at all. So now I’m already looking toward November when I can order more trees.