Archive for February, 2014


Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

blueAfter we hiked part of our southern property line at Roundock, we scooted down to the Central Valley and made our way back to the cabin. It’s a bleak time of the year in the Ozark woods. Color seems drained from everything and any bit of it amidst the grays and duns stands out.

I almost didn’t see this bit of bright blue though. We were down in the dry creek bed of the Central Valley, Libby and the dogs ahead of me, when I thought I saw an unexpected color on the forest floor, deep in clutches of a snarl of fallen limbs. I had to skirt around a cedar and then push my way through its dead lower branches to get to what I thought I saw. And what you see above is what I saw below.

It’s the carcass of a mylar balloon. After its brief and festive life, when it had evidently escaped its bonds for a while, the balloon had fallen somewhere within the watershed that feeds my lake and been washed downstream for at least a little way before becoming ensnared in the clutch of the fallen limbs. It was covered with dried leaves and twigs, and it might have remained there forever had not a bit of its bright blue still been visible to my eye.

Over the years I’ve found several fallen balloons in my forest. Here’s one of a similar color, though found in a different part of the forest. And here’s an especially interesting one.



Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


I seem to have a theme this week of things fallen to the forest floor in my little woods.

I knew that several big storms had passed through this part of Missouri since our last visit, some with snow, some with ice, some with wind. I expected to see exactly what I show here. This was the most dramatic result of the storm that we came across on our hike that day, but I had to stop the truck on the way in to clear some fallen branches from the road. And I have already shown you the poor pine with the snapped top.

You can see the trunk this part of the tree came from there in the background. You can also see that it has lost most of its bark near the top. It’s been dead a long time, bedeviled by wood peckers, boring insects. denning critters, and just harsh weather in general. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of it came down, though it might stand undisturbed like that for another decade too. The broken part, on the other hand, will now decompose even more quickly, returning to the soil all of the solar energy that the tree had absorbed in its considerable life, enriching the ground and contributing to the endless cycle.


Monday, February 24th, 2014

buttsOn our most recent trip to Roundrock, we hiked about half of our southern property line, which I’d mentioned before. Only half of our southern border is fenced, and that’s the part we hiked. On the other side of the fence, our neighbor to the south has kept a wide avenue open. Occasionally we can see tire tracks there, and I presume he uses the avenue for access to more remote parts of his own property. There may be other uses too.

At the end of the fence line, at the midpoint of our southern border, we came upon what you can see in the photo above. If you can’t make them out, they are cigarette butts. There were more than a dozen there. Someone had evidently spent a long time standing in that one place. The problem, from my perspective, is that the one place was on my side of the fence, on my property.

On past hikes here, I’ve sometimes found beer and pop cans. It seems to be the place where people wait around. The trees and undergrowth are thick here, and a person standing at this point could remain unnoticed, if that was the intent. Still, that unnoticed person would have to climb over or through a five-strand barbed wire fence to get on my side. I don’t think a hunter would do this; why would a hunter be smoking if he/she wanted to catch a deer unawares? But what other reason would a person have for standing around for a long time in a remote area on someone else’s property?

There’s not really much I can do about this, and I don’t know that I even want to. But I am a bit disturbed by the cigarette butts. They can be a fire hazard in a forest. There was no sign that the butts had started smoldering in the leaf litter and dry grass. I guess the person ground them out when finished. What puzzles me more is why this bit of my woods seems to be so frequently visited by others.


Skywatch Friday ~ not as advertised

Friday, February 21st, 2014

cold sky


I was really eager to go out to Roundrock last weekend because the forecast called for sunny and 50 degrees. That didn’t happen. The sky remained overcast the whole time we were there, so the temps never rose to a comfortable level for sitting around and pondering life. In the end we cut short our visit. And in the end the clouds began to clear, as you can see in the photo above.


please stand by

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Well, once again I’m having blog troubles. My tech team tells me that because the blog has been around so long, it’s well indexed and so spammers are hitting it like crazy. I’ll take that on faith since I don’t know what it means exactly. I’m sure the fix will be in soon and I can post my slightly interesting photos and slightly interesting commentary about them.


I’m told the problem is fixed now. Something to do with the server getting spammed.


Sweetheart 2

topped trees

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

toppedAdmittedly not the most perfectly composed photo, but what can you do when you’re shooting toward the sky, right?

I knew that Roundrock had experienced some severe winter storms in the interval since our last visit, and I really expected the pine plantation to be beaten up. Happily, the pines had mostly weathered the storm well. A couple were leaning a bit, I imagine from the weight of ice that must have been on them, but the rest seemed to be doing just fine.

Only the shortleaf pine you see in this photo suffered any obvious damage. It lost its leader. We saw it lying on the ground nearby. Whether it snapped through the effects of ice or wind (or both) I don’t know. I hope it didn’t break at a point weakened by a boring insect, but if so there is not much I can do about that, being far away for far too long to really manage the pines much.

So this pine has lost its leader, and that will affect its growth for the rest of its life. In my observation, it will not create a new leader the way an oak does but will instead have the topmost branches reach for the sky equally. I’ve seen some pines look like lyres after a trauma like this. That would be fine, and it would give some feature to the pine “forest” but I suspect the tree is always going to be weak at this point, and possibly suffer future trauma.

We need to give some love to our pine plantation this year. Not only do I have twenty-five new pines on order to plant here and there, but the fencing we have raised around each one has been ravaged by the punk deer who must scrape the velvet off their antlers and seem to find our pines (or the chicken wire fencing around them) to be ideal for the task. Some of the fencing looks stomped down, and many of the pines have long scrapes where their bark is gone altogether. (I think the pines can cope with this.)

So more fence. More zip ties. Perhaps more posts. (I should be cutting down suitable cedars to use as posts. I should be stock piling them now while I have the leisure.)

All of my neighbors assure me that they never go onto my property. One neighbor insisted he’s never seen my cabin, though only a few sentences later he told me what a pretty lake I have. He couldn’t have seen the latter without passing the former. Similarly, after we planted the original pines and they grew tall enuf, we raised the fencing around them. Oh so coincidentally, my neighbors’ pines soon got similar fencing around them. I really don’t mind if my neighbors indulge their curiosity and drive into my woods. They’re welcome to walk the woods too, and I’ve told them all that. I honestly appreciate having extra, friendly sets of eyes checking out my woods when I’m not there. But I think it’s a tiny bit comical that they claim one thing and so evidently do the other.


a chilly visit

Monday, February 17th, 2014

frozen lake

Libby and I made a chilly visit to Roundrock this last weekend. I had been watching the weather forecast all week, and with the possibility of a day in the 50s, including ample sun, I knew I wanted to go.

Of course, reality often does not meet expectation.

We deliberately got a later start that morning so the temps could begin their climb (from 18 degrees at dawn). (Also, I put 7 miles on my new running shoes. So far, I love them.) Plus, Roundrock is about 100 miles to the south south east of Kansas City, so there was some hope that it would be a bit warmer in that direction anyway.

All of our warm thoughts and hopes, however, didn’t have much effect. When we reached the Cabin at the End of the Road, the thermometer on the porch reported only 29 degrees. It was even cooler inside the cabin. The sun was being thwarted by the clouds that never really lifted (until we were leaving, of course).

Nonetheless, we got about enjoying our winter woods. February is our customary month to walk the property line. The woods are more open and lines of sight are longer. (Plus, no bugs.) We walk the border merely to see what’s going on with our neighbors and occasionally to cut some low branches or scrub to create a clear and obvious trail.*

Flike and Queequeg had no trouble with the cold or the dense woods. Flike bounded off wherever his manic personality took him, coming back to me with what I’m certain was the dog equivalent of a big smile on his face. He was having a great time in the woods. Queequeg, whom I’ve described as “willful” before, completely disregarded the neighbor’s barbed wire fence — being small enuf to fit right under the lowest strand — and wandered into the neighbor’s property. He rarely came back when Libby called for him, and she eventually resorted to putting him on a leash. You can probably imagine how difficult walking a small dog on a leash is in a forest dense with undergrowth.

But walk we did (except for Flike, who mostly bounded), and we eventually covered half of our southern property line. There was no apparent activity on my neighbor’s side of the fence, but nearly everywhere we looked we saw downed tree tops or branches. The winter storm of recent weeks seemed to have done its job of culling the old and weak to give the next generation of plants a chance at the sunlight.

At that point, we still had a nice, mostly downhill walk back to the cabin where lunch awaited us. (Spinach salad. A bagel. And a sugar cookie.) Since we would be on our own property for a quarter mile in three directions, Libby let Queequeg off his leash, and once he realized where we were going, he started bounding too, getting back to the cabin first.

Lunch was nice, if brisk. We stuck around to set out suet and peanuts for the critters and generally clean up around the cabin. Then we decided to go home. The temperature had “bounded” to 34 degrees, but the sun was hiding. Since there were also chores awaiting us back in faraway suburbia, we decided to climb into the Prolechariot and steer ourselves that direction. A good, if brief, trip to the woods.


*I’ve been cutting that “clear and obvious” trail for more than a decade. And the forest has been filling it back in for just as long. There are some spots along the fence line where it is easy and open for walking, but for the most part, there is no sign of an intended path. Nature always wins.


Darwin Day

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

It’s Darwin Day, everyone. A celebration of science and reason, held “on or about” February 14.

Show some sense. Celebrate!

wish I was there

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

rainbowThis photo is from the coast of Oregon, perhaps five years ago. That was the last time I was there, though not the last time I was in Oregon.

You can tell I need to get out to my woods. I’m dredging up old photos from the files just to have something to put up here.

Still, the coast of Oregon is a nice place. I remember it was cold that day, though not as cold as Kansas City is facing. The high today is forecasted for 19 degrees, but the weekend may creep up into the 50s. There’s still plenty of snow on the ground, and it isn’t going to melt enuf even with a warm weekend to lay bare the sidewalks and trails for someone to go running outside. Looks like more treadmill miles for me, but if I can just get out to the woods this weekend, I’ll hike some miles too. Wish I was there.


the long wait

Monday, February 10th, 2014

meadow roadThis is the road across Good Neighbor Brian’s meadow that leads to my woods. I’m actually on my property, looking out, so this is what we see when we are leaving for the day. (I don’t think we were leaving when I snapped this. Rather, I seem to recall we were on a hike that took us by the entrance.)

Early on I had stated that I wanted as few straight lines as I could at Roundrock. This road, I conceded, would be an exception, coming across the meadow in the most efficient way possible since it passes over someone else’s property (though I have an easement to do so — I think it’s even sixty feet wide). Nonetheless, this road is not straight. For some reason that has nothing to do with topography or evident circumstances, the road takes a slight jog about half way down. You can almost make it out in this photo. My hope to have few straight lines hasn’t been realized very well. The Greenway, where the road passes along the northern fence line, is a straight line a quarter mile long. The sides and corners of the cabin mark straight lines, and I even told the builder I wanted it to show symmetry as much as possible. My early idea of an organic, random experience at Roundrock has only been partially successful.

Between the weather and other commitments (read: running) we haven’t been down to Roundrock in far too long. But the weather is looking better for this coming weekend, and I think I’m going to commit to making the overdue visit. If so, perhaps I’ll have some splendid, fresh stories and photos to share with you all.

Happy birthday, Peanut!