Archive for December, 2012

burnt glove

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Here it is, the last post of the year at Roundrock Journal. I suppose I should make some summation of the last twelve months at my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, or I should prognosticate about the upcoming twelve months, or I should impart some sage advice about life, the universe, and everything, but I shan’t.

Instead I’ll tell you about burning a glove.

I told you the story, back here, about my intent to burn the pair of gloves I wore when I dragged that dead deer from my lake last fall. Through a combination of rain, high winds, and inertia, we didn’t have a camp fire at Roundrock until our most recent visit (which was some weeks ago). So it was only recently that I was able to act on my plan of burning the tainted gloves. And even then, I could only bring myself to half act on it.

I guess some frugal part of me objected to the idea of burning what looked like a perfectly good pair of gloves. The fire had died down. The mood was relaxed and reflective. The setting was right for tossing the gloves on the coals. And yet it didn’t feel right.

Compromise ensued. I chose to burn one of the gloves, as partial fulfillment of my plan and as partial assuagement of my guilt. (The other remains on the end of the steel bar as you can see in the link above.)

The burning was unremarkable. It smoked and smoldered and curled and collapsed, never breaking into flames. It didn’t smell bad either, which I had expected it to do.

In retrospect, burning the glove was probably not the greenest thing I’ve ever done. I suspect the lining and the wrist webbing were made from substances not found in nature, and turning those to smoke and ash likely added pollutants to the atmosphere. But the deed is done. The vow is kept. The itch is scratched. The story is told.

Onward into the new year, right?


But there is still some 2012 left, and you still have a chance to submit suggested names for the Name-the-Buck Contest. Send me your suggestions be comment or email, and sometime in the new year I’ll make my selection. I’ve already received a number of clever and creative ideas. Add yours to the list. Remember, the winner gets a round rock!


Ilex decidua

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I had already made my order for more shortleaf pines from the Missouri Department of Conservation, in my ongoing and ever-hopeful effort to get more of these beauties growing in my Ozark forest, when I wondered if there might be more I’d like to try planting this coming spring.

Not far from my woods, beside the highway we take when we drive back to faraway suburbia, I see a small tree on the edge of a farm field this time of year that is laden with bright red fruits. It’s eye catching, and I wonder what it is as I hurtle past at highway speeds, just as I wonder why I don’t have a splash of color like that in my forest. The plentiful fruits on this tree linger through the winter, and I imagine they feed the critters during the last lean months before spring abundance. But the drive home is still long from this point, and by the time I get home, get unpacked, get showered, and get my normal weekend routines accomplished, I’ve usually forgotten all about this tree, whatever it is.

This year, however, I seemed to have seen this fruiting species in a lot more places than I have before. Mostly these have been along the side of the road, in that no-man’s-land between highway maintenance and farm field. A small, leafless tree packed with red fruit. Perhaps I’m just paying more attention. Or perhaps the heat and drought of the summer were favorable to it (though I can’t imagine that to be right). In any case, the more abundant reminder of it compelled me to attempt to discover what it is (and if I can get any for myself).

Well, I still don’t know what this alluring tree is I’m seeing beside the road on my Roundrock trips, but I have certainly found something comparable for my forest. (And likely, it is the same plant.)

There is a native holly plant in Missouri that goes by the name of Ilex decidua. Commonly it’s called Possum Haw, though it is not a hawthorn. (I love hawthorn trees — they bear the Missouri state flower — but I don’t think I would have much success growing them in my cedar-filled forest since they are susceptible to cedar apple rust.) The growth pattern and fruiting rate/timing of this holly, though, match the plant I’ve been seeing, and since it is native, I suspect that it is what I’m seeing. In any case, even if Possum Haw is not the same plant, it’s certainly one I’d like to have growing in my woods.

I was pleased to find that the state nursery is selling these, so I put in an order for twenty of them the other day. They’re scheduled to be delivered in April, which will give me plenty of time to consider where I can put them in my forest for maximum critter and eye-catching effect.

Season’s Greetings

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Happy Holidays, however you observe them!


Thursday, December 20th, 2012

This is the valve from the propane canister to our little gas stove. The water vapor in the air was condensing on this because, I suppose, the gas passing through it was cold. (I thought compression made gasses hot. Anyone?)

The point of this photo was to try my hand again at a close up using the macro function on my frustrating camera. I guess my conditions were a bit more controlled here. Even light. No distance behind the subject for the camera to focus on.

It’s not really crisply focused. But I suppose it’s good enuf for blog work.

a tree falls in the forest

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

We were hiking in the northeast section of our woods on a recent trip to Roundrock and came upon this fallen tree. Obviously it was dead and hollow for a long time. A recent storm probably took it down. (How recent, though? The place has been dry for a long time as well.)

But it must have been a catastrophe for whatever critter had been denning in the hollow trunk. I’m guessing it was a bird based on the grassy nature of the nesting material that was in it. Perhaps this was the home of the owl we often hear at night from this part of the woods. I don’t know what kind of den a raccoon makes, so that could be the evicted party.

I like to find things like this in the forest and try to read the stories they have to tell. What story do you see here?

red squirrel

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

I’ve noted here before that I fill the bird feeder in front of the cabin with black oil sunflower seed. The birds seem to like it. I’ve had titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, and occasionally goldfinches visit and squabble over visitation rights. They provide entertainment when we’re sitting in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake.

In the summer, a chipmunk visited the base of the feeder to harvest the fallen seeds there. It lives in the nearby brush pile and skitters back and forth through the leaf litter from home to feeder. On our last visit to Roundrock, we spotted this red squirrel having a meal at the base of the feeder as well.

I don’t see a lot of squirrels in my forest. I would expect to see a lot. With all of the hickories I have there, it would seem that there would be enuf mast to feed them. (The fewer walnut trees concentrated on the eastern end of the property would help too.) And there are certainly plenty of cavity trees that could provide nests. But maybe the owls are using those and preying on the squirrels.

In any case, about the only times we do see squirrels — both red and gray — is as we’re driving along the Greenway along our northern property line. Like the deer and turkey we see there, they are generally running from my neighbor’s farm field to the north and into the cover of our forest to the south — directly across the path of my truck.

So I get warm fuzzies when I think that my bird-feeding stewardship is benefitting the squirrels too. Of course, I may come to regret that if they grow so numerous that they decided to move into the cabin.


Monday, December 17th, 2012

Not too long ago I posted about a neighbor’s hunting blind that was falling down, on my side of the fence at Roundrock. I had given it a fair amount of time, thinking that the builder or the owner would come along and disassemble it. That hasn’t happened, and since hard core hunting season is now past, I figure that the user of the blind is either not aware of the tumbling or doesn’t care.

In any case, gravity is dealing with it, and I figure it’s become my responsibility now regardless of whose it might have been before.

My plan was to stop by the blind as I drove to and fro at Roundrock and grab a piece or two of the lumber in a slow process of collection. Then I’d add the lumber to my campfires and give it a last, enjoyable use. I finally stopped by the blind on a recent visit and learned that my plan won’t be as simple as I thought.

Whoever built the blind did it right. It was held together with long screws, not nails. My plan was to knock the thing apart to get the separate pieces of lumber, but the screw assembly has made that impossible. Thus when I do stop by the blind to grab a few pieces, I’ll need to bring along a cordless drill or screwdriver. Add to this the fact that the wood is treated to prevent decay. I’m not going to be throwing that onto the flames and release all kinds of toxins in the air you and I must breathe.

In the end, if I stick to my plan, I’ll have a big collection of treated lumber of various dimensions. What to do with it?

For a while I’ve thought about building a sawbuck to use while at the cabin. I had originally intended to harvest a bunch of cedar trees to make this since I have so many of those and their wood is long lasting. Their shape, however, doesn’t lend itself to careful, sturdy assembly. But the treated lumber from the falling-down blind does.

So now my plan has evolved. Rather than knock the old blind to splinters, I’ll more carefully disassemble it and collect its parts with a view to reassembling them as a sawbuck. Of course that will mean more work for me, both in building the sawbuck and then in no longer having an easy excuse for not cutting up so much of the fallen timber in my forest.


Don’t forget the skull-naming contest that runs through the end of the year. If you suggest the name I eventually bestow on the deer skull hanging by my fire ring, you’ll win a round rock from my forest, found especially for you. Post your suggestions in the comments or send me an email.

Flike, of course

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Flike is a happy dog, especially when we’re at Roundrock where there are plenty of sticks for him to bring to me for throwing.

Don’t forget the “Name the Deer Skull” contest. Keep those entries coming in.

rebuilding the wall

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

My last trip to Roundrock involved two (yes, two!) major projects. I already told you about my battle with the tree that I was sure was going to fall across the road (and apparently wasn’t). The other major project was rebuilding the retaining wall above the overflow drain in the dam. Over the years the ground beneath/behind this wall has eroded from high water events (in the dim past) and critter incursions.

You see above the wall as I had originally built it. You’ll also see that I have put the blocks in backward. The idea, I think, was that making a concave curve meant I had to put the blocks beside each other such that they were wider on the “outside” than the “inside.” I suppose that seemed to make sense at the time. I don’t really recall. Regardless, there is a design flaw in the overflow drain that — literally — undermines my wall. You can see the black circle in the concrete drum under the wife mesh. When the drum fills with water, it will eventually spill into that black circle, which is actually a one-foot diameter pipe that opens at the bottom of the dry side of the dam. Thus the excess water is bled off before it would go into the spillway.

The problem is that there is no seal between the black pipe and the concrete drum. Thus any water that might pour into the pipe can also leak into the space around the pipe. And if the water goes into there, it will leak into the dam itself, eroding the dirt there and compromising the seal. Granted, such high-water events are not common, but the erosion had washed away enuf of the dirt behind the drum to cause the wall I had built to fall backward. Further, critters seemed to find the space behind my wall a safe haven. There was an obvious path from the edge of the wall to the the water (far) below.

The point of the wall was to keep the dam above the overflow drum from eroding into the drum. Instead, the wall was eroding into the dam. So it was time to take it apart, address the erosion as much as possible, and rebuild it.

You see the cavern that the critters were exploiting behind the wall. I dreaded what I would find in there when I took the blocks apart. In fact, I fully expected some critter to come forth and object to my efforts. Had that happened, I might have tumbled back into the lake.

This is what I found when I took the blocks of the wall apart. No critters. No den. But still a mess. Lots of rock. You can even see the cedar tree trunk (bottom center above the drum) that comprises the “dirt” of my dam.

My plan was to backfill this cavity with Bentonite and “good” dirt then build the wall again in front of it. I pulled out as much of the cedar tree as I could, launched it over the dam, and rearranged the rocks a little. Then I poured my ($9) bag of Bentonite into the space. My hope was what it would filter down into the dam, along the routes any errant water had found its way. I had done this when I built the wall, and the very same thing happened this time. I poured the Bentonite into the space, and it quickly seeped through the gap between the black pipe and the concrete drum, collecting in the bottom of the drum and in the black pipe. It does me no good there, of course, but not much of the ($9) bag of Bentonite went there. Most of it stuck around at the top of the cavity. Well, that’s better than nothing. I then poured my three bags of good topsoil into the rest of the cavity, packing it with my gloved hands.

It turned out that three bags of good topsoil (on top of one big bag of Bentonite) was not enuf to fill the cavity. So Libby and I drove up to the pine plantation where I happen to have some good soil, and dug enuf of it to refill the three empty soil bags and the one empty Bentonite bag. Then we returned and added that to the cavity. We managed to have a little dirt left over (and we used it elsewhere). Then I rebuilt the wall.

You can see several things from this photo. One is that I placed the stones with their “outside” facing out. It certainly looks better this way. The second thing you can see is that the dam above the wall is sort of hanging there. I expect this to settle into place, but if I were a rich man, I’d place another series of blocks in my wall to bring it up higher to make a clear demarcation between dam and drain. You can also see where the Bentonite has collected in the black pipe. That will wash away in the next high water event.

So, better than before, but still not perfect. This will bear watching over the coming months. I may have to do more work on it. But I don’t mind.

less diminished

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

I shared the sad photo above with you back in early September. The poor lake at Roundrock had been shrinking throughout the hot, dry summer. The area you see above should normally be about ten feet deep. Sad.

On my most recent visit to the woods, less than two weeks ago, that same scene looked like this:

That’s an improvement, and I’d like to think that my application of Bentonite last summer has helped, but it’s still barely knee deep here. I’m not complaining, of course, but I worry that the lake won’t be deep enuf to overwinter the fish that are in it.

I watch the weather reports through the week, hoping to see rain move into the Roundrock area, but it’s been dismal in recent months.

I once had someone ask me if I had filled the lake from a hose. I wish I could do that now.