Archive for November, 2012

no more Rose Stone

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I got a double whammy of bad news on my last visit to Roundrock. First I stopped in the local hardware store, hoping to get some bags of dirt (to fill in what I think is a burrow in the top of the dam). They didn’t have any, but I noticed that they didn’t have the usual stacks of blocks I’ve been buying to continue my wall in front of the cabin. I asked about this, and they told me they had sold out the last of their supply and that anyone who wanted the blocks needed to special order them. Also, they weren’t going to supply the pinkish ones (called Rose Stone) any longer. The colors they would supply were not nearly as vibrant as the Rose Stone.

So here I have a half-finished wall, and in order to finish it (over the years) I’ll have to use different colored blocks. I’m not too happy about that.

The second bit of bad news I got was when I stopped in the local feed store to grab some more Bentonite (again, for filling that burrow in the top of the dam). The man there told me that they didn’t carry it any longer. I had always understood that it was used as a feed supplement, and Roundrock is in the middle of cattle country. But the man at the feed store said that no one bought it for that. It was only people who wanted to plug leaks in their ponds that bought the Bentonite (me).

So now I can’t get my Bentonite as easily either. There is a supply of it in a town about thirty miles up the highway (at least there was the last time I checked, which was probably more than a year ago). I don’t even know where to find it in Kansas City, but if I did, I wouldn’t be happy about hauling all of that weight a hundred miles before I could use it.

So no more Rose Stone and no more Bentonite. The gods hate me.


Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I have to say that I am really disappointed with my new camera. I took many shots when I was at Roundrock last weekend, and most of them did not turn out. They were unfocused, or the camera focused on something that was not in the center of the view finder. I don’t know how to explain this. I seem to be doing everything the same way each time, but I get different, disparate photos more often than not.

Well, I’ll keep trying. And I guess I’ll just try shooting more photos. If I have a 70 percent failure rate, at least I’ll have more in the 30 percent portion if I take more photos overall.

breakfast in blue

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

I’m sorry the posting have been sparse around here lately. I haven’t been out to Roundrock in a few weeks, and I’m sure no one wants to hear more about my running. (I have been running, a lot, but I haven’t done any organized races in a while either.) I hope to be in the woods on the day this posts, though, and maybe I’ll find some interesting things there to tell you about. (It’s become our tradition to go to Roundrock on the Friday after Thanksgiving as our antidote to the consumer culture madness of Black Friday.)

The photo above was from an overnight Libby and I spent at the cabin some months ago. Breakfast was served in our new blue bowls. Given the facilities at the cabin (no plumbing, no electricity, no refrigeration, only a propane stove and a fire to cook over) we tend to be less rigid in our preference for fresh and home made and relax into packaged foods. The oatmeal you see above came from packets. But on a brisk morning, a bowl of anything hot is welcome. In the mug beside my oatmeal is hot tea. It is Sadaf brand tea, which was a gift from our son’s in-laws, who are from Iran and have introduced us to many interesting (and tasty) foods in the last few years. They’ve since moved to some place called Los Angeles, and we only get to visit with them by phone now, but every time I drink this tea, I feel warmed by their friendship.

The blue mugs and bowls came from the same pottery studio in Kansas City. We’ve bought a number of their items over the years and have given a lot of their mugs as gifts. Potters, like all artisans, are creative and hardworking folk, and I like to support them when I can.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, when consumers are encouraged to shop at small business for holiday gifts. Artisan studios are one of the ways I try to support local shops. And if that can enhance my time in the woods as well, everyone wins!

seedling order for 2013

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Hope triumphs over experience again.

I recently placed my order with the Missouri Department of Conservation nursery for tree seedlings to be delivered in 2013 for planting at Roundrock. I’ve ordered twenty shortleaf pines to arrive in April.

I had planted twenty-five shortleaf pines last spring. Then we had that miserable drought with its very high temperatures. As far as I can tell, only one of the twenty-five pines I planted has survived. It’s in the pretty good soil up in the pine plantation, but it’s one of ten that I planted there. I can’t account for why this one survived and the others didn’t.

I had planted fifteen pines on Danger Island inside a fenced area to protect them from the marauding, munching deer. One by one, all fifteen of these died. At least, I think they’ve died. I had big plans to visit them through the summer and trim the grass and scrub growing around them so that they could have more light and less competition. After doing that one time, Libby suggested that perhaps the tall grass would actually protect the little pines during the heat and drought. So we let them get swallowed up. On my last visit up there, I couldn’t find a single live pine, but I also couldn’t find fifteen pines at all. Perhaps some of them are alive and just waiting for their chance to thrive.

I had despaired of planting this year. It just seemed like a losing game to me. But Libby said that didn’t sound like me at all. So I was emboldened to try again. I’m not sure what I can or will do differently this year, but I’ll keep at it. Wish me luck.


obeying the law

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

So it turns out that in Missouri, in order to possess a deer skull with the antlers attached, you must have a permit from the Department of Conservation. Ed of Riverbend Journal was kind enuf to point this out to me. (You may remember my truly harrowing account of how I acquired this gruesome bit of decoration in an earlier post.)

So one day during a recent work week, I made a phone call to the good people at the conservation department and asked what I needed to do get this permit. I feared I would be challenged and perhaps even denied, but it was painless and easy. I explained how I had found the dead deer in my lake (I did not mention how diminished my lake was because of the summer drought), and the agent I spoke with immediately suspected that the deer had died because of the hemorrhagic disease that was being reported throughout the state. The agent asked me a few questions (the county where I’d found the dead deer, its condition, how many points on the antlers) then asked for my snail mail address to send the permit.

The document arrived a few days later. It was little more than a slip of paper with some printed words and a few hand-written notes on it, but it made me legal. The agent said at the time that she recommended that people simply tape the permit inside the skull so that it’s always  available should the possessor ever be challenged. Since my skull is going to remain outside in the weather, I figured I wouldn’t do that but would keep it inside the nearby cabin where I could retrieve it should I need it. I really doubt that I’m ever going to be challenged about the skull, though I suppose if I ever have an agent out to Roundrock to ask about this or that, I’ll be glad I’m legal. Several of my neighbors have collections of dozens of these thing by their cabins, and they strike me as the kind of folk who don’t need no stinkin’ permits.

State law says that if you find antlers in the forest, you’re free to possess them, trade them, even sell them. But if they are attached to the skull, they’re contraband. I asked the agent why this was, and she told me that the fear is that someone might have hunted the deer without a permit. (Getting a deer tag for that season would be the equivalent of the possession permit I have.) So the permit shows that while I didn’t hunt the deer, I aquired the body part lawfully. I like being a lawful guy.

playing with blocks

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

A day’s work above.* My goal is to extend the retaining wall in front of the cabin all the way to the road. Let’s say that’s another fifty feet. These blocks are a foot wide. So that’s fifty blocks. But the wall is four blocks tall closest to the cabin. While that “height” will decrease as I get closer to the road (thus requiring fewer rows), a bit of rough math says I have several hundred more blocks ahead of me to place. (And when I get that done, I want to extend the wall behind the cabin a bit and then build a new ring around the fire pit.)

It’s honest work. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. The hardest part is digging the trench to set the base in. Remember, this is Ozark “soil” I’m working in. I use the pick axe to break the ground, and I shovel it out of the way. I then put a base of white gravel in the trench that I use to establish my level. After a litte trial and error, I get the base block placed and aligned with the block next to it. Then it’s simply a matter of stacking the blocks atop the base and getting a pretty little wall as a result.

After that I backfill with gravel and sometimes the rubble I excavated when digging the trench. And sometimes empty wine or beer bottles. Once I have the wall completed to the road, I’ll be able to create a more level area to the east of the cabin where the fire ring and many comfy chairs sit. That’s the plan anyway.

Lately when I’ve visited the cabin, I stop at the hardware store in town and buy ten or so of the blocks so I can make my small addition to the wall. As hobbies go, I suppose it’s not too bad, but they aren’t cheap, especially buying in small quantities. Back at the beginning, I had two pallets of blocks delivered to the cabin. That was 200 blocks, all of which got absorbed by the wall. When I had those pallets delivered, I worried that the blocks would all disappear before I could get them placed. Not only did that not happen, but the man at the hardware store called me to say that the delivery was ten blocks short and that he would bring me the remaining ten as soon as he got a new shipment. I explained that I had already taken those ten blocks the day I bought the two pallet loads.

I think the world is made of mostly good people. They’re probably a lot like you.

*Okay, more like an hour’s work.

lingering leaves

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I made a post last week about finding a cigarette but on the retaining wall behind the cabin. Here’s a photo of the walkway behind the cabin that shows how it can collect leaves. So you can imagine my worry about the combination of butt and leaves.

Raking the leaves out of here is among the first things I do when I arrive at the cabin during the fall and winter (and some of the spring, and sometimes in the summer). What you see above is a light accumulation. Depending on how long we’ve been away, it could be a big job motivating all of those leaves away from the back of the cabin and along its east side to the trees beyond. And the whole way I’m picking up more leaves.

Yard work, even at the cabin! Still, I’m happy to do it.

far-flung suet cage

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

This is the wire care that I put suet blocks in when I visit Roundrock. It usually hangs from a tree beside the road, not too far from the cabin. When I was last out there, I could not find this cage, so I used the backup cage that had “gone missing” for a few years (but was later found at the base of the tree in the brush — oops!). I looked around for this missing cage but could not find it, and I figured it was either a) lost for all time, or b) would turn up later when all of the leaves were gone and things were more visible in the scrub.

Neither proved to be the case.

Among our “chores” on our last visit was a hike. We’ve found that having a cabin with a shady porch and comfy chairs often means that our trips to Roundrock never venture very far into the 80+ acres, so we make a considered effort to tear ourselves out of the chairs and take ourselves on hikes to distant lands within our realm. And thus we found ourselves crossing the dam on our last visit, heading into the north-facing slope and whatever adventures and discoveries would await us there. But a discovery awaited us sooner than that.

Libby was ahead of me on the dam, and she turned and threw something at me. At first I thought it was a stick for Flike to chase. But it landed at my feet, and I was surprised to see that it was the missing suet feeder. Some critter had carried it halfway across the dam before abandoning it.

The dam is 200 feet across, and the distance from the suet tree to the beginning of the dam is at least seventy-five feet. So the critter carried it about 175 feet before dropping it for whatever reason. Why? I suppose the cage is smeared with suet grease. It must have smelled tasty. But why carry it off? And why abandon it?

I love these kinds of little mysteries.

this is disturbing

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I don’t smoke. (“Wait!” I can hear some of you saying. “What about all of those seegars you’ve mentioned?” Well, since I’ve been running so much, I can’t remember the last time I had a seegar. And, yes, I’m still running.)

You see the crushed cigarette butt above. I found this on my last trip to Roundrock. It appears that someone visited the cabin when I wasn’t there and sat on the retaining wall behind it to have a cigarette. That much is fine. There’s really nothing I can do to prevent people from visiting my woods when I’m 100+ miles away. I occasionally see signs of interlopers, and I suppose even more often I don’t see their signs. Interloping in itself isn’t so much of a worry for me.

No, it’s the presence and location of this butt that has me disturbed.

The retaining wall is perhaps four feet behind the cabin. There is a walkway of gravel between the cabin wall and the stone wall. And over the years, I have found that this walkway will fill with leaves throughout the fall and winter. Among the first things I do when I get to the cabin during those seasons is rake the leaves out of the area. Not only does their presence seem to foster mold growth on the “logs” of the cabin, but I see the collected leaves as a real fire hazard. (And, yes, I realize that raking the leaves away once every few weeks is not much of a deterrent, but a fellow does what he can.)

So the fact that someone chose to sit behind the cabin to have a smoke worries me. A flicked ash or an incompletely snuffed out butt just might ignite those leaves collected against the wooden wall of the cabin. Sadness would ensue.

I have several comfy chairs around the fire ring. Why can’t my interloper sit in those and flick the butt into the ring when done? Or sit on the porch and gaze down at the lake? Life is full of such mysteries.

Overrun 5K

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Yes, I’ve been at it again. Two weekends in a row even!

And, okay, I admit it! I was running for time. I really wanted to set a good finish time with this run. It was the Overrun 5K, with proceeds benefiting ovarian cancer research at some placed called the University of Kansas Medical Center. (Seems like I have some connection there.)

It was 38 degrees when I arrived at the site, a sports complex only about three miles from my house. I arrived as the various tents were being set up, and I stayed in the Prolechariot for a while to stay comparatively warm. Just as the sun was peaking over the horizon, a bank of clouds rolled in to cover it. I knew from experience that once I was running, I wouldn’t feel the cold, but the waiting to run was different.

The course was to take us out of that park and onto suburban roads for most of the 3.1 mile loop. Other cars were arriving, and runners, including a lot of youngsters, began collecting by the tents. With only about a half hour before start time, I climbed out of my truck and joined the huddled  masses.

There were several food tents, some offering fresh fruit. Others had bagels and breads. One had cupcakes. And one was giving out what looked like ice cream. Since it was only 38 degrees, I avoided that. I also avoided the free donuts. But I did feel that I could carb up with a quarter of a bagel, and so I did. And then, as I was waiting around, I had another quarter of a bagel. And then another. And finally, a fourth. I hoped I wouldn’t regret that when I was running.

For some reason, the organizers had the walkers start first. Supposedly the walkers went a different route, but even from the start, I was going around walkers. I guess I’ve grown nimble enuf that I can get around such obstacles without too much complaint, and they are out there, doing their part. Anyway, we runners were started a bit farther back than the walkers, and we were all herded to the starting line to wait for the go signal. I was wearing my new running watch, and I needed to turn it on to fetch the satellite signal so it could time my run. But the starting horn went off before I had turned on the watch. Fortunately, I was at the back of the pack, and I had enuf time to acquire a satellite (and the little sensor on my shoe) before I crossed the starting line.

And so I was off.

I tried to stay mindful of my usual mistake: starting out too fast because the pack was moving so fast. But I also wanted to push myself on this run and have a fast overall experience. It turned out that many of the “runners” were actually going to walk the 5K route, so at the start, I was going faster than most of the pack anyway. The organizers talked about how straight and flat the course was, but the first mile was a long uphill push. Then came a short level stretch followed by another long uphill push to mile 2. Still, I tried to keep my pace up. I was breathing hard, and I could feel the strain, but I felt strong, and I felt I could sustain it for three miles. Nonetheless, there must be something about me that tells walkers that as soon as I pass them, they need to start running again. There were many runners who would walk for short stretches, and it seemed that when I passed them, they used that as their signal to start running again. This would happen several times during the run. Some I never saw again as they took off, but there were several runners that eventually seemed to give up on staying ahead of me and let me leave them behind permanently. (I take that as only a gauge of my progress as a runner and not as a matter of pride or boast.)

After mile 2, the run was literally downhill the rest of the way. I had been pushing myself the entire time, but I tried to ramp up even more for the last mile. (It was about this time that those four quarters of a bagel reminded me of their presence in my stomach. Garlicky belches in the middle of a run are really not all that pleasant, believe it or not.) My running watch gives me my average pace (minutes per mile), and I glanced at it once or twice as I ran. The number looked pretty good one time and pretty disappointing the other. I’m really more interested in overall average pace rather than moment-to-moment pace, so I don’t use the watch for in-progress updates other than to know the distance I have gone.

Anyway, I turned the corner off of the suburban street and into the sports complex. The finish line was perhaps a half mile ahead. I could see the blue arch I was headed toward. Somehow, somewhere I found the energy to push up my pace even further. I won’t say I sprinted that last half mile, but I was running hard, and I passed a few more people in that last stretch on my way to the finish.

The area just past the finish line was crowded with well wishers (this was one of those situations that did not need more cowbell), teammates waiting for the rest of their crew to come in, volunteers handing out water, and a few souls there to clip the timing chips off of the shoes of the runners. Anyway, I came roaring in, and all of these people were pretty much in my way. I managed not to knock anyone down, but it seems like there must be a better way.

By this time I was certainly no longer cold. The sun was making flirting appearances between the clouds, and I suppose the temperature was warmer, but I couldn’t have told you one way or the other. After catching my breath, I wandered over to the tents. I figured I earned a bagel this time, and I wanted to try the fruit punch flavored Gatorade (not bad, but I’ll stick with lemon lime). Plus I had what I thought were reasonable hopes that I would not finish last in my age group, so I wanted to wait until they posted the times. Unfortunately, the postings weren’t coming fast enuf. Two donuts and two cupcakes later, I figured it was probably wiser for me to leave. The times would be posted online later in the day.

So how did I do? Best time ever, that’s all! I shaved two minutes off of my 5K run the Sunday before, and that had been my best time ever. My average pace was well under my goal to achieve in 2013. It was a good run for me.

I ran this time without the support of my crew. My team was in Kentucky at that film festival she goes to each year, so I had to manage myself.

I was going to say something humble about how my mere 5K run is barely anything compared to the run my daughter and excellent son-in-law ran on the same day. But it turns out that run was cancelled. I understand that their running club organized themselves to do some relief volunteer work instead.