Archive for May, 2014

acorn cache

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

acorn shell

What you see here is the snapping turtle carapace that I wrote about some months ago. We have it sitting beside the stone steps leading up to the porch. On a recent visit I found what you see here: some critter had been shoving acorns under the shell.

Various critters in the forest will cache acorns. We’ve seen then wedged in the bark of trees, for example, but I’m not sure how effective this under-the-turtle-shell hiding spot is. Some small critter continues to excavate under the stone steps (despite my attempts to refill the hole with gravel and larger rocks when I find it). That’s putting a larder right next to the critter’s den. And I know a pair of chipmunks live in the brush pile maybe thirty feet away. And I think it’s a wood rat who lives in the log where I set out peanuts, also about thirty feet away. And anything with wings or feet could come upon these not-very-well hidden acorns to help themselves.

I’d heard somewhere that squirrels don’t really remember where they’ve buried their acorns but will “retrieve” them based on finding disturbed ground. This leaves many behind, which then spreads the trees through the land. I’m not sure if that is folk lore or based on sound observation, but I wonder about the woodpecker in this video. Even if it could remember where it had stashed the acorns (and evidently it had since it continued to do so) how would it have ever retrieved them?

fire dragon

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

fire dragon

Not really a dragon. It’s a Northern Fence Lizard, which are common enuf at Roundrock, though they’re only beginning to make their appearance now that the weather has gotten warmer. They are known for not being too skittish around people, and there was a pair that had made separate homes in the blocks around the fire ring. That proved to be a problem the last time we were out because we decided to have a fire in that ring.

At first they ignored my work at building the fire of tinder and kindling. They would poke their heads out of their little crevices to see what I was doing or, in one case, turn tail to me as though telling me what it thought of my efforts. Even after we had the fire going, they stuck around for a long time.

I suppose it go too hot for them, or our constant activity turning the burgers and tossing on wood was too up close for them. They skittered off to the leaf litter a dozen feet away. Where they spent the night, I can’t say, but in the morning I did see one of them already patrolling the blocks, perhaps surveying what was changed.

lost weekend

Monday, May 26th, 2014

treeLife conspired and prevented us from making a trip to Roundrock yet again this past weekend. I console myself with the assurance that we’ve given the phoebe yet another week to hatch and fledge her clutch. Maybe when we finally do make it down there, all we’ll find is an empty nest and full hearts.

The weather was a big factor in our non-adventure. The rain, including some likely thunderstorms, was going to move through the area intermittently throughout the three-day weekend. That would mean a soft road to drive across, and we’d just spent a lot of money on that road, so we didn’t want to put ruts in it before the gravel could get packed well. But the forest would be wet too, which would mean that any campfire was an iffy prospect. I could certainly get a fire going with wet wood, but sitting in drizzle around a fire isn’t all that great for musing. And at any moment, we could have been shunted into the cabin to escape a downpour.

Plus we had an obligation in faraway suburbia pretty much exactly in the middle of the weekend, so we’d either have had to go to the woods for a truncated first half or second half of the long weekend. It all just didn’t work out, so we didn’t go out. Which is okay. We did stuff around town (though it was just as rainy there).

Next weekend is going to be interesting. I have a half marathon on Saturday morning, and depending on the weather, I may just carry myself out to Roundrock that afternoon (assuming the legs are interested) or at least on Sunday. That should give the phoebe plenty of time and the weather a chance to sort itself out. We shall see.


forest lion

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

forest lionLittle Queequeg is willful. At least that’s what we call it, but it’s probably better described as not easily trained. When we’re at the cabin I worry constantly that he’s going to become dinner for some watching and salivating predator, so I try to keep him in sight. Still, he wanders off whenever he wants, and we’ve sometimes resorted to leashing him to the porch while we sit in the comfy chairs, wallowing in our post lunch stupors.

He invariably gets his fur filled with burs, and this time of the year he’ll collect ticks too. He obviously does not make the connection between venturing into the tall grass and getting afflicted with these pests. (Flike is a bit more obedient, and his fur is of a silkier sort that doesn’t collect burs as badly, though he gets his share.)

That pose Queequeg is striking in the photo above is typical of him. He seems to want to be in the tall grass or scrub. Perhaps it’s the predator in him that causes him to do this. He’s not likely to collect any ticks or burs in that grass by the cabin. I wish that grass wasn’t by the cabin. I’ve moved the tarp into this area in order to kill that grass, and then I suppose I’ll need to throw some more gravel on the area. Queequeg will find another place to hide.


this ‘n’ that

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Buck Mulligan

That’s Buck Mulligan you see above. He’s still looking good despite his current state of life. Here he is when he first made an appearance on this humble blog.


This humble blog currently has 2,312 posts and 11,651 approved comments (and probably twice that many spam comments that I have cleaned up over the years). I began writing this journal nine years ago, which seems like only yesterday to me. I did take a one-year hiatus in 2011, but I couldn’t stay away.


I ran a 5K over the weekend. The less said about it, the better. Beware of any courses that hills with names! (I did log 38 miles last week, including a monster 15 mile run on Sunday morning, which was my longest distance so far. Gotta build for that full marathon in October. Yeah, I’m scared.)


We did not go to Roundrock this weekend. In part it was because of other obligations, but another part was to leave the poor phoebe alone so she could hatch her clutch of eggs and get those babies fed. I’m not sure if we’ll make a visit over the upcoming holiday weekend or not. If so, I’ll grab more photos and experiences to share. If not, I’ll grab more running miles.


Yes, I’m neglecting those pines I planted. About nine of them (I forget the exact number) still need to be fenced, and that means making more posts from cedars liberated from their earthly toil. That will also require more fencing, which doesn’t come cheap. In other news, all of the money we spent on the road improvements certainly were well spent. The axle-snapping hills we must go down and up to get to our woods are now smooth (ish) and free of washes and ruts. Now to keep them that way.



overflowing with opossums

Monday, May 19th, 2014


You have to look closely at this photo to see its object. No, not the grating, but the critter below it. That’s an opossum, and it’s down in the overflow drain drum. Libby and I spotted it when we walked across the dam on our last visit to Roundrock.

At first we thought it might be dead. We’d seen a dead raccoon in there before. There is a 12-inch diameter pipe the goes out the back of the drum and leads to a small pool below the dam. Water that flows into the drum is taken out that way. But the season has been dry until only recently, and the lake has been low (seasonally adjusted, I call it), so the overflow mechanism hasn’t been put to its designed use.

Instead, this opossum simply walked up the 12-inch pipe and jumped into the overflow drum. The question is whether the opossum can then jump back up to the pipe and walk out or if it is trapped there to face an unpleasant fate. When we first came upon it, we thought it was dead, but as we spoke, it stirred and raised its head to look at us. It may have been sleeping the day away, which a nocturnal critter would do. The drain would make a fairly secure hideaway (though if the opossum could find it, a predator likely could as well).

Next time we’re out to the woods, we’ll steer by here and see what there is the see in the drain. I hope it’s good news.



Wednesday, May 14th, 2014


This greeted me last Saturday morning on our overnight weekend at Roundrock. Normally I’m obsessive about either burning the fire down to ash or dousing it with enuf water to snuff it. But on this last trip, I did neither. I actually went to bed with the coals still smoldering. Of course I thought the coals were out, and there was a slight chance of rain in the night, and I had worked hard to keep the area around the fire ring clear of combustibles. (Though I evidently must lay the tarp on the green stuff that is emerging just beyond the ring again.)

I’d even gotten up once in the night and checked on the fire. It looked out then. But by morning, after I had slept in until the indulgent hour of 6:30, I stepped out of the cabin and saw this string of smoke rising. Part of me felt irresponsible for having left it as I had. But the other part of me was delighted by it, and I was tempted to kindle a new fire, as Libby was urging, to sit before in the early light. But I’d had some experience with morning fires from my son’s Boy Scout days. If we had a fire in the morning, the boys would stand around it, and nothing would get done. We had work to do in the pine plantation, so I didn’t get another fire going.

By the end of the morning, when we returned from our work, the coals were burned to ash and I felt good about leaving. Later that afternoon, rains did come to Roundrock. And there have been thunderstorms in the days since.


sack of seeds

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

sack of seeds

What you see here is the sack of black oil sunflower seeds that the local birds have been disdaining for six months. They have scrupulously avoided the feeder — the one they can usually empty in a few days — and the pile of these seeds that I poured in the road, thinking the turkeys or the ground squirrels would eat them, has remained untouched after more than a month.

It’s bad seed.

But I found a use for it. And that’s why you see the sack so close to the fire ring.

It turns out that black oil sunflower seed burns nicely.



I had to take several photos before I got one that showed both the seeds and the flames. These things burned really well. I’m guessing the “oil” part of their name had something to do with that.

Through the course of the evening’s campfire, I threw in many handfuls of the seeds and they caught readily. It was gratifying to finally get a use out of them. So now they are gone, and I’m going to buy some new seed for our next trip to Roundrock (which may be a while so the phoebe can hatch her eggs — I hope). This time, however, I’m going to buy a smaller supply of the seed in case it turns out to be bad too.

report on the phoebe nest

Monday, May 12th, 2014

You may recall my recent post on our discovery of a phoebe nest built on the front of our cabin, right next to the door. We had decided to skip a perfect weather weekend and didn’t go to Roundrock as soon as we might have in the hope that the phoebe could incubate her eggs without being scared off the nest.

This is what we found more than two weeks ago:

phoebe eggs

I’d read what I could find about nesting phoebes and determined that if we left the place undisturbed for about two weeks, the eggs would likely be hatched.

Well, we went out to Roundrock last weekend, and here is what we found:

eggs 2

I had feared that our earlier coming and going would scare momma phoebe away and the nest would be abandoned. Quite the contrary had happened, which warms my black and shriveled heart.

We tried to avoid the cabin porch as much as we could (though that was hard since we spent the night there), and most of the time the phoebe returned to her nest to sit on the eggs, but if we had to step on the porch (or out the cabin door), she darted off. We spent most of Saturday working in the pine plantation, far from the cabin, and I hoped that the phoebe returned and felt secure at her nest. We left earlier than we might have that day. Now it looks as though we’ll have another two week period of staying away from Roundrock, to give this expanded clutch, and its momma, a chance to survive and thrive.

I’m sure I’ll have another report for you about this little drama.

old man of the forest

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

old manWe’re never certain, nor are we ever surprised, when we head out on one of our spontaneous hikes about Roundrock. Generally there is no plan; we just go. Plans are often thwarted or changed anyway.

On a recent visit our feet lead us to the Old Man of the Forest, a cedar tree that is much older than all of the others in my woods. I have a lot of respect for this tree. It must have been around in the days of the cattle ranch, now half a century gone. It bears a scar down its trunk (which you can make out if you look closely at the photo above), so I suppose it was struck by lightning at least once. It’s watched the pole forest grow up around it. It’s been around for not having moved at all.

I’ve never been able to get a good photo of the Old Man of the Forest, but I think this one is the best of my efforts. Because the leaves were not yet out on the oaks, I was able to step back and get a better perspective. I’m looking generally west in this photo, in the still early morning.

Many years ago I had an epiphany (not that I believe in such supernatural revelations, but, whatever) that I am going to live to be 100. It came upon me so clearly and certainly — and completely unbidden — that I now half believe it to be true. It helped me step back and get a perspective. I’m certainly living my life as though this insight were true. In recent years, I’ve grown more fit than I have been in my entire life. I’m running half marathons! (Two coming up soon.) I’ve lost some weight. I’m not eating stupidly anymore. And I’m generally leading a healthy and active life (of body and mind). If I do live to be 100, I want them to be good years.

And so this post about the Old Man of the Forest and random hiking in the woods. Plans change. Plans evolve. Surprises come. Or they don’t. And yet some things endure. They persevere, perhaps with no clear goal in mind. But . . . onward.