Archive for February, 2013

confiscated ladder

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Part of the spoils I gained from confiscating the fallen deer stand was this very sweet ladder. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but I’ve laid my hands on it.

Actually, I’ve left it propped up here prominently in case the builder/user of the defunct stand decides to reclaim it. But it’s been there more than a month, and there’s been no sign of anyone wanting it back. (The lumber I salvaged from the stand is on the ground — off the ground on bricks, actually — near the fire ring, so if the original “owner” does come along, he/she could reclaim all of that too.)

Actually, the thing is pretty heavy, so it’s not like I’m going to trudge deep into the woods with it so I can peer in some up-high tree cavity. But there are a lot of low, dead branches on the trees around the cabin that need trimming, and since I now have a pretty sturdy ladder nearby, I can get that job done (should motivation ever strike).

I think I mentioned before, though, that I may use the ladder parts in the sawbuck I want to build.

So you see my dilemma. I can’t build that sawbuck until I get those branches trimmed. But I’m more interested in the sawbuck than trimming branches. So I sit in the comfy chair and think about something else.

weak tea

Monday, February 25th, 2013

A simple, quiet pleasure in my otherwise frantic and complicated life is to sit in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and enjoy my favorite blend of iced tea. I brew it the morning of our trip to the cabin, decanting one container full for lunch time later, and pouring the rest into a large plastic cup for the drive to the cabin. Generally, this works out just as planned.

On my most recent trip to Roundrock, however, my fumbling fingers fouled my fun.

I use loose tea, which Libby gets for me in a big bag about once a year. It’s blended by a tea company in Santa Fe (and next time I’m there, I really ought to visit the place). When it’s time to brew some, I put a carefully measured quantity into the paper filter and put it in the brewing machine. Twenty minutes later: liquid perfection. Except . . .

When I sat before the sparkling lake last visit and pulled forth my bottle of tea from the cooler, it didn’t look right. It looked weak. I like strong tea, so I’ve grown accustomed to the color my tea should have, and this time it was too light. Once I noticed this, I told myself that I could taste a difference in it too. (Whether I actually did or perhaps just persuaded myself I could, I don’t know. I do know that I managed to drink all of it.)

Once home again, I began the investigation, and I went immediately to what I suspected was the source of the strife. Yes, I had accidentally used two paper filters that morning instead of one. The damned things are as thin as paper, for goodness sake, and I guess I was not awake enuf to feel the difference when two stuck together. (Though how am I able to distinguish this every other time I brew tea?)

But you can see blue sky and a mostly full lake in that picture above, so I really didn’t have much to complain about that fine day.


Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Here is another “casualty” of the windy weather we’ve apparently been having down at Roundrock. Along with branches in the road and trees snapped at their bases, one of the comfy chairs beside the fire ring wound up in the fire ring.

The chair was no worse for its adventure. A little bit of soot has scuffed a few places on it, but its sitting function is unmarred.

The heat and cold are more dangerous for these plastic chairs. They grow brittle and will snap if sat in too abruptly. Or if you’re throwing a stick for your dog and accidentally hit the chair with the stick.

The big box hardware store near my home in faraway suburbia (about three miles from my house according to my running watch, in case you wanted to know) stocks these in the spring, and we tend to buy a couple then to replace their counterparts in the woods that have cracked and broken into uselessness (or into butt pinching mode). There are better quality chairs and lesser quality ones. We’re happy to pay the few extra dollars for the better ones. And when we haul the broken chairs home, we can put them out with our recycling, which gives us warm fuzzies!


Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

A dark and stormy night. And perhaps a day too. Even a day or two.

When we were last out to Roundrock, we had to stop several times on the drive through the forest to clear the fallen branches from the road. In one case, most of a tree was in the way, and I had to use my super powers to drag it out of the way. This is, of course, the norm in a forest, and it shows that any attempts by mere humans to transform the space are only provisional and temporary.

This young Blackjack oak near the cabin was one of the casualties of a recent storm. I wouldn’t normally expect a Blackjack oak to snap like this. These trees are the ones that will dull the chain on my saw the quickest, and I almost never attempt to cut them with a handsaw. The wood is just too dense and unforgiving. Yet among all of the trees near the cabin, the young and the old, this was the one that snapped in the storm.

I know why it happened. When the cabin was being built the tree had gotten scarred (right at the point where it subsequently broke) by some of the heavy machinery that had worked on the site. That was several years ago, and I assumed that since the tree continued to stand and bring out leaves each spring that the scar was minor. But apparently it was fatal.

I actually never liked this tree here. It was too close to the cabin. Imagine (as I had done countless times) if the tree had fallen the other direction and struck the cabin. It was only luck that the storm pushed the tree in the direction it did, but as you can see from the photo, there are plenty of other trees near the cabin I can set my worries on instead.

Actually, unless another storm has come along, this tree still stands as you see above. I did not bring it down the rest of the way. One reason is that I had not brought my chainsaw with me. (I’d say it’s still in the shop getting it’s annual tune up, but that would require it to have been taken to the shop, which is something we keep meaning to do.) As I said, I’m not about to try to cut that down with a hand saw. This snapped oak also rests in the branches of a fellow Blackjack oak nearby. Bringing it down is going to be a complicated job, perhaps more complicated than the last tree I brought down.

Like so many things at Roundrock, it’s a job that needs to be taken care of sooner or later. I think about things like that as I sit in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake.

leaves, like in a book

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Libby and Flike and Queequeg and I had taken an impromptu hike in the 60 degree February day when we were last at Roundrock, and as these things tend to go, we went farther than we had expected, which was not any kind of a problem and led to interesting observations along the way.

As we were making our way back to the cabin along the creek that runs through the Central Valley we passed sections with flowing water. The recent rains down that way, which had helped nearly fill the poor lake, were trickling down from the hillsides and collecting themselves in the creek bed. Yet the farther down the creek we walked, the less water we saw. It disappeared into the earth at some point, and the last few hundred feet to the lake itself involved crunching over dry gravel in the creek. As we’ve observed many times before, we really need a torrent of water coming down the Central Valley in order for it to reach the lake itself.

The fact that we did have such a torrent (likely several) in recent days was shown by two things. One was the fact that the lake was, once again, nearly full. Thus water did feed into it from the watershed (rather than merely the rain that would fall directly into it). The second bit of evidence was the collection of leaves we saw in the dry creek bed, as you see in the photo above.

Notice how they are lined up, side by side, almost as though the leaves are leaves in a book, pages with a story to tell? The moving water did this, leaving its sign that it was here, that it passed through here with business not too far ahead.

And so I was able to read these pages and understand the story that they told. And now I’ve told it to you.

Skywatch Friday – blue sky from gray

Friday, February 15th, 2013

On our trip down to Roundrock on Sunday, we drove through some rain, and overhead the vault of the sky was a leaden gray. The forecast promised blue skies and warm temps, but it was only hope that kept me believing it.

Yet the sky delivered. At about noon, the gloomy gray clouds began to separate and drift away, replaced by big puffy white clouds. And the temperature climbed into the sixties. Not bad for early February in Missouri.

I took this photo from the porch of the cabin, which is a nice place to be in just about any weather.

part of the pack

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I understand that dogs like to rub themselves in foul-smelling things as a way to hide their own scent and thus be better integrated with their pack. On our trip to Roundrock on Sunday, Queequeg found some fresh coyote poop and eagerly rubbed himself in it. He managed to do a thorough job before either of us could get to him to stop him.

Needless to say, his pack did not approve of his attempt to integrate. The poor guy had to sit tethered in the back seat on the drive home (he normally sits on Libby’s lap), and he got a bath just about as soon as we got there.

He’s clean and fresh smelling now, but I know his little mind is anticipating his next trip to the woods and what might be done. Evil little genius.

restored (mostly)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

I knew we’d had rain down Roundrock way in the weeks since we had last visited, at least according to the weather maps. But I hadn’t realized how much rain had fallen in the watershed until I stood on the cabin porch and saw my lake almost completely full again!

What a delightful sight! Compare what you see there with what you see here. The water directly below the cabin is probably over my head right now, and more rain is expected this weekend.

The water was still about three feet below the lip of the overflow drain, and there was no sign (flotsam) that the water had risen that high, but a couple of good rains could do it. It’s not that I want the water to overflow, but I am glad the little fishies get this recharge. It gives them more space to live in, more depth to stay warm in when the serious cold comes, and it has washed a lot of nutrients into the lake to feed them.

I’m also glad the lake is this full just before spring and its (I hope) inevitable rains. Queequeg took me on a walk below the dam when I was out there on Sunday, and while there was a trickle of water coming from under the dam, it was not the kind of flow I would expect from this much back pressure. Maybe that application of Bentonite Seth and I made last summer has made a difference after all.

The temps topped 60 degrees when we were there, but we didn’t go swimming. Instead, I took a nap. Just what I needed.

fish structure – revisited

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

More than seven years ago, I wrote about this cedar skeleton that sits in the lake bed out at Roundrock. It’s hardly changed in that time. (Actually, I suspect it might not be the same skeleton, but I don’t remember having two of these in my lake. Hmmmm.) What’s also hardly changed in seven years is the leaky bottom of the lake. Two photos across all that time, and still the same problem. Sigh.

The point of this, of course, it to provide structure for the fish that (presumably still) live in my lake. Little fish tend to hide from predators in things like this, and big fish tend to hang out near these, to eat the little fish.

When the lake was new and not yet filled (and in many subsequent not filled periods) I got busy creating structure for the fish. Mostly it was stacks of rocks near the shore. As the water receded, I found that most of those stacks of rocks had tumbled. I don’t suppose that is so bad, but why did that happen? Surely all our swimming didn’t involve kicking them to pieces. And surely the rush of water into the lake bed on rainy days couldn’t have done it. (I mean, what rush of water after all?)

So it’s a mystery I’ll have to ponder as I sit on the shady porch or float in the lake.

Chocolate Rush 5K

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I did the Chocolate Rush 5K on Saturday, and you might infer from the photo that I was not alone. Libby and I did it together as a pre-Valentine’s Day celebration. We didn’t run the 5K but walked it together, and Libby was pleased that she was able to finish the 3.1 miles since her daily walks with the dogs are generally no more than two miles.

The run benefited the Salvation Army, and the specific goal was to raise enuf money to buy playground equipment for a certain school. The course was on a hike/bike path that happens to go through my neighborhood in faraway suburbia, though the 5K route did not go in that direction. (The half marathon route that they also held that morning did go that route, and I asked some friends who were running it to please stop by my house and check on Flike and Queequeg.)

Because we were walking, with no desire to go for time but merely to finish, we started near the back of the pack. Pretty soon we were the back of the pack, but we kept a steady pace — better than an average walking pace of three miles per hour — and few times Libby felt confident to run several hundred feet. Soon we were passing groups of walkers. I run this route fairly regularly, so I knew the trail, and I knew when a certain monster hill was coming. I told Libby that I would run to the top of it and wait for her there. (I need to do some serious hill training to prepare for a half marathon I’m running in October. I’m really scared of that one!) It was 30 degrees when we started out that morning and when I got to the top of the hill, I found ice on the paved trail up there. There was more ice on the downhill side. Fortunately, it was obvious and everyone was cautioning everyone else about it. Libby met me at the top of the monster hill, pleased with herself for making it without stopping. (I ran up this hill on the way back, too.)

The 5K route was an out and back, and about the time we were a quarter of the way, some of the runners were already on their way back. Of course everyone made way for them, but that became the norm for the rest of our walk. And once all of the 5K runners had bolted past us, the half marathon runners came dashing by, passing us from behind. (The half marathon route took off in the opposite direction, got to a turnaround point — in my neighborhood — came back to the start, then finished their 13.1 miles by running the 5K route.) There were some serious runners leading this pack.

Libby and I made it to the finish line in respectable time. She was very pleased with her pace. We hung around there to cheer the passing half marathon runners and to wait for some of the finishers. The winner of the half marathon was a 26-year-old youngster, and the fastest woman in the race was only 16. These people are living their lives.

The chocolate theme was related to Valentine’s Day, and at the after party there was a chocolate fountain with all kinds of goodies that could be dipped in it. (I ate perhaps too many Oreo mint cookies.) We also got long-sleeved “technical” tee shirts, which are spun from air they’re so light. These are great for running because they wick the sweat away from your skin and keep you cool.

Because I was walking, I wasn’t trying to set a good pace. I can say, however, that I successfully defended my position as slowest in my age group! And Libby has already asked me to find another 5K we can do.