Archive for October, 2014

Skywatch Friday – Hallowe’en edition

Friday, October 31st, 2014

October sky

Another sky shot from our latest trip to Roundrock (now nearly two weeks ago). I was standing in the road next to the cabin, watching a turkey vulture wheeling in the sky. I pointed my camera within its arc, but the vulture never did float into the frame again.

Lots of blue nonetheless, and nearly 80 degrees in late October. I’ll take it!

Adam’s mark ~ re-revisited again

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

adams mark

When I began this series of posts, I had no idea how fascinating it would become over the years.

Way back in 2009, my second son, Adam, joined us on a jaunt to Roundrock. Among our activities was a hike along the eastern fence line where we came upon a locust tree there. Adam cut off a thorny branch that was hanging at about eye level, and then he cut a mark into the scar. I first documented it in this old post. Contrast that image with what I show above, taken only a couple of weeks ago.

Adam’s intent was to bring his son to the site someday to see the cut his daddy made so long before. He’s going to have to act fast on that intention since his mark is nearly gone and there is no sign of a son anywhere. (His sister, Rachel, will be giving me a grandson in January, but she never left any marks at Roundrock to show her offspring.)

I documented the cut and the mark later at this post. You see that there wasn’t too much change at the time.

Two years later (and thus three years ago), I revisited the tree and took a picture of the mark. You can see that the tree has begun growing over it, but it is nothing like what has happened in the three years since then (which you see above).

Adam and his wife, Nina, have completed their residencies and are now beginning fellowships, he in pediatric oncology and she in general oncology. They say they can care for patients from nursery to nursing home.





Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


A few weeks ago in a place called Portland, Oregon, my knees gave out on me. Granted, I was asking a lot from them at the time. And strictly speaking, it wasn’t the knees that gave out but the IT Bands that run past my knees and just happened to hurt so very much at that point on their journey through my legs during my journey through Portland. (Yes, I keep re-living that marathon experience in my head. Here, then here, and finally here.)

But what does this have to do with a poor photo of a cypress tree? I’ve written before about this cypress tree beside the pond at Roundrock. Have a look at the photo in this old (more than 9 years ago) post to see what the tree looked like soon after it was planted. As I recount in that old post, the tree had a humble beginning and a perilous start, being nibbled to the ground by deer soon after I had planted it. Now you see that it is splendidly tall and awash with its autumn color. (Why is the photo so bad? In part, I guess, because I am shooting into the light. In part because the lens of my camera is pocked and pitted like the surface of the moon, and in part because I think the camera just isn’t up to the job.)

When we were on our hike during our last trip to Roundrock, and our feet steered us to the pond, I was happy to see how well the cypress was doing. Usually I just see it through the trees in passing as we drive on to the cabin. On that most recent visit, though, I had the chance to stop and have a closer look.

I’m pleased with its growth. In fact, I’m sure I could remove the posts and fencing around it and it could withstand the assaults of the deer. (Libby suggests leaving the posts and fence in place. I suppose until I need a couple of posts and a good bit of fence, I may as well leave them where I know I can find them.)

And so, back to the knees. When we looked closely at the ground beneath the tree, we saw these:

cypress knees

Those brown, finger-like things you see emerging from the grass are cypress knees. Botanists are not certain of their purpose, though buttressing the tree in soft, wet soil as found in swamps seems likely. My cypress is growing beside a ridgetop pond, far from any swamp, yet the knees are beginning to emerge. I might have gotten you a better photo of the knees, from a lower angle to give more contrast, but it’s still a little early in the season to be laying myself on the ground for photo ops.

I like these knees. I like my own knees as well.


Monday, October 27th, 2014


Look closely. What you see in this photo is a harvestman, or daddy long legs spider arachnid. It is in the Flike’s food bowl on the shady porch of the cabin. Eating (apparently) some of the doggie kibble.

I’d read about this before, and like most of the commenters on that post, had never given a thought to what these spiders arachnids eat. We had gone on a hike, having left the uneaten food behind. I may have half thought that a opossum would come upon it, or a wood rat, but I didn’t care enuf to bother putting the bowl in the cabin. I didn’t, however, think that an spider arachnid would go for it.

In fact, there were two daddy long legs in the bowl when we returned, both with their mouth parts to the kibble. When I bent to take a photo of them, they both scrambled to get away, but the side of the bowl was too steep and deep for them to get out. One eventually climbed atop the other and got a leg over the side. Soon it was gone. The other was left in the deep bowl and soon returned to munching. Later, when I returned, the spider arachnid was gone. I eventually threw the uneaten dog food into the woods for other critters to find and perhaps enjoy.

Skywatch Friday ~ October blue

Friday, October 24th, 2014

blue sky

October blue is a statement of both color and awe where I come from. The blue sky seems bluest in October. I’m told that it’s a function of the lower humidity in the air. I prefer less prosaic explanations for these kinds of things.

When we were out at our Ozark woods last weekend this was the sky that greeted us. That’s my lake, recharged with recent rains so it’s deep enuf for the fish to survive the winter. My beloved little cabin is nestled in the turning trees across the lake.

We were out on a hike with the dogs, pushing our way through the tall grass and scrub, when I turned and saw this then pointed my little camera and took the shot. It came out very nice.

what is it?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014


Any idea what this might be?

When we were making our hasty retreat from our southeast corner at Roundrock last weekend we followed the eastern fence line for a ways and came upon this curious little thing.

It’s a plastic disc, about two inches in diameter, perforated, and hanging from the fence by a safety pin. It seemed to have two parts, two discs. The side you can’t see is more like a rim than a disc, and it was loose.

My guess is that it held some substance that was allowed to dissolve or evaporate. If so, the substance was long gone. Perhaps some pesticide?

fallen on fence foolishness

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

fallen one

The day was glorious. We had no agenda. Chores could be ignored. And the dogs wanted to go. So we did.

We hiked across the dam, peering into the overflow drain to confirm that my fence stay fix was still in place (it was), and continuing up the north-facing slope to our southern property line. We try to hike the perimeter of our 80+ acres each year, usually in February when the bugs and scrub are on vacation, so it wasn’t time to do that, but I thought we could venture over to our southeast corner since it’s the one we visit the least.

When we got there, we found what you see above. A huge limb from an even huge-er oak had fallen across the fence, pulling the strands down. (They go from upper left to lower right in the photo.)

We really have no direct use for the fence that goes around about two-thirds of our property. We have no livestock to keep in (Queequeg is especially disdainful of the fence and passes underneath it as his whims command). Only our neighbor to the east has cattle to contain, so he maintains that bit of fence. This southeast corner is part of his concern, so I knew he wouldn’t want the fence fallen. (His cattle have gotten into our land a few times. It’s not a big deal to us, but I don’t suppose he likes them getting out.)

So I got the foolish notion into my foolish head that I could clear this huge fallen limb from the fence. It turned out to be a dead limb, so it was brittle enuf for me to break many of the smaller branches (on the left in the photo above, but you can’t see them because — I broke them off). Then, I foolishly thought, I could lift the remainder of the huge limb from the fence and roll it onto the neighbor’s property.


I was able to snap off most of the smaller branches on my side of the fence. But when I tried to lift and roll the remaining limb, I couldn’t. There was still all of the huge limb on my neighbor’s side of the fence, and it was weighty. There was no way I, with my puny upper body strength (the legs are dandy, though), was going to move that huge limb off the fence. I would have to cut it beyond the fence so that the part on my side no longer rested on the strands.

Alas, we had ventured from the cabin without my daypack full of handsaws and other quite useful tools. I did have the loppers, but they were no good against the huge limb.

So instead of resolving the problem, we continued on our hike, stumbling along the eastern fence line and clearing what we could as we went. (There were no fallen trees or limbs here.) Eventually our feet steered us back to the cabin where we found the comfy chairs awaiting us, and we fell into them with satisfaction.

A short time passed and we began to think about having lunch (cold cut sandwiches, a fruit cup each, and a cookie). But the huge limb on the fence was nagging at the back of my little brain, and I proposed that we return to the southeast corner with saws this time to address the problem, at least on our side of the fence.

And that’s what we did.

But we were not alone.

As he hiked up the north-facing slope a second time, we heard the sounds of heavy machinery and the munching of trees off to the west. It sounded as though my neighbor to the south (and east) was using some serious equipment to clean up the open avenue he keeps just beyond our southern (and eastern) fence. We hiked to the east to get to our southeastern corner, but the sounds of his equipment came to us from the west, and came to us closer as the time passed. He was eating up the fallen forest from what we could tell, and if he continued, he would reach the huge limb and munch on that as well, saving us the trouble.

Well, that was no good.

I want to be a conscientious neighbor. I do what I can with hand tools and main force to keep my encroachments on my neighbor’s property clear. I cut the limbs from my trees that grow across the fence, and I try to be very obvious about it so my neighbor can see that I’m doing what I can and paying attention to our mutual property line.

Thus I was presented with this great opportunity to show my neighbor that I was being conscientious, paying attention, and had some hand tools. I could cut the limb free of its fence encroachment only moments before he would arrive on the scene to do the very same thing. Why, he could get there and see the work already done, with the cut still warm from my saw!

And that’s what we did. Libby and I took turns with the hand saw, reaching across the fence in an awkward way to cut it far enuf that it could fall free of the fence. All the while his tree-munching machinery was getting closer to us. We cut. The limb sagged so that our saw pinched. We lifted. We continued. We sawed. We used colorful language. And then the limb snapped, as you can see below.

fallen tw0Free of the fence. I tossed the cut part of the limb onto the pile of the smaller branches I had snapped off on our first visit. Then I packed the daypack and hoisted it onto my shoulders before we made our hasty retreat into the forest lest we have to meet our fast approaching neighbor and make small talk about this and that, which neither Libby nor I is good at.

We escaped successfully and got ourselves back to the cabin to have our lunch. We listened as our neighbor and whatever his tree-munching machine was progress along the southern fence line and then up the eastern fence line. We talked in a general and non-comital way about returning to the southeastern corner to see what our neighbor had done, but there was no enthusiasm for that kind of foolishness, and when our post-lunch (post-lunch-stupor) feet started moving again, we hiked to the north.



big times in Kansas City

Monday, October 20th, 2014


These are big times in Kansas City. Even I, not much of a team sports fan at all, have been paying attention to the major league baseball team we have.

My brother was in town last weekend from Chicago and was going to meet us at a downtown restaurant. He called to say he was passing the fountain with the water colored deep blue. That didn’t help us get a fix on his location since nearly every fountain in Kansas City is now spraying blue water.

I was banished from the office one day last week and told not to return until I had a Royals shirt on. I drove to a nearby big box store and found one that would do then paid far more for a tee shirt than I thought reasonable so that I could return to work. I now wear it to work on every day the Royals have a game.

Many, many runners in the Kansas City Marathon on Saturday were wearing Royals shirts or caps. (I was on the sidelines, cheering some friends. My legs are still a little weary from the endeavor I undertook in Portland.) One sign a fan held said “If the Royals can make it to the World Series, you can run this marathon!”

My son and his wife are flying from Portland to San Francisco for Game 4 of the World Series, justifying the considerable expense by noting that it’s really not that costly in context of their medical school student loan balances.

Even the local bagelry is in the spirit, serving these cookies. We stopped by on the way to Roundrock yesterday morning to get our breakfast bagels, and Libby couldn’t pass up the cookies. (Not to worry; we cancelled the extra calories with a cup of fruit.)

It should be an exciting couple of weeks coming up. The Royals haven’t been in the World Series since 1985, when they beat St. Louis. I was living in St. Louis then and was rooting for the Cards. Times change, don’t they?

name that tree

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014


Libby and I had a little debate about what kind of tree this is. I asserted that it’s a mulberry. The leaves look right — you can even see some lobed leaves up there. And the bark on the slender trunk matched that of a young mulberry I had taken down on the south-facing slope. (This tree was atop the ridge of the south-facing slope.)

She couldn’t say what kind of tree it was, but she doubted that it was a mulberry. So the question remains unanswered.

I’m pretty sure mulberries are not native to Missouri, and so I would want to cut it out of my forest. But I suppose I’ll give it some time first. It didn’t have any fruits on it to confirm my suspicion, and I can wait until then before I take action.


Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

rock in tree

I’ve written about this bit of inosculation before. What you may be able to make out in the photo above is the round rock (about the size of a baseball) that I had wedged between the trunks of a tree when we first started coming to Roundrock (nearly 15 years ago!). I wanted to see if the tree would grow around the rock, and it certainly has.

Below is a photo of the same rock a year or two after I had first placed it. The tree was already beginning to surround it then.


When I had first placed it, I would revisit it on subsequent trips and find that it had fallen loose and was on the ground below. So I would dutifully replace it and check on it at my next time in that part of the woods. Eventually, the stone stuck, as you can see in the photo at the top.

And so I had to continue the experiment. On my last visit to Roundrock I had to place another round rock in the same crotch of the tree.

rock in tree too

I expect to find that rock loose and on the ground at my next visit. And if so, I’ll replace it then. And I’ll keep replacing it until it sticks too.


Update 8NOV2014 – I visited this tree today and found the second round rock still firmly in place.