Archive for March, 2015

fixing a wall (again)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

wall 1

This may look familiar to you. It’s the retaining “wall” I have built behind the overflow drain on the dam to keep the top of the dam from washing into the drain drum. It’s necessary. It really is. But it’s been a mess and mostly a failure since the start.

I pulled this apart and repaired it before, but the ground behind it washes away and the wall sags. And then the soil above it starts to fall over it. And I have to do it all over again.

I’m standing on the edges of the drain drum. I could probably stand on that grill; I think it could hold my weight. I have evidence that a cow once stepped on it, and I weigh less than a cow. So there’s that. But I didn’t want to tempt fate and maybe bend or break the grill, so I just balanced myself on the rim and did all of the lifting and reaching from there.

wall 2

Here I have all of the blocks removed and atop the dam. Libby and the dogs helped me. The cavity they left behind is larger than it looks here. On the left it actually goes back nearly a foot, and I suspect it housed some critter for a while. The black circle you see at the back of the drum is the drain pipe. When the drum fill to that point, it is supposed to drain down that one foot-diameter pipe and exit below the dam. Supposed to. A big problem is that there is no seal between the black pipe and the concrete drum. So a great deal of the water that fills the drum will exit around the pipe rather than through it. This is why the soil behind the retaining wall gets washed away.

Another problem is that the black pipe enters the drum at an angle (sloping down from here). Thus the bottom of the pipe is more or less resting inside the drum while the top is barely touching. That, in turn, allows dirt to fall into the drum. The drum is nearly four feet deep, and it won’t fill for a long time. I’ll probably get up the nerve to remove the grating and clean it out as well as contrive some kind of seal around the black pipe long before that happens.


wall 3

I had grand ambitions to dig some dirt from the filling-in ditch beside the road along our northern property line and use that to fill the cavity behind the wall. But that seemed like such a long way to push a loaded wheelbarrow, and I still have most of a nice pile of gravel right by the cabin over the lake. Plus rain was threatening. So I took the expedient route and got myself a load of gravel for back fill.

There was another problem with the black pipe. The top of it has become dented somehow, so it increases the opening at the top of where it enters the drum, allowing more dirt to fall in. I tried pulling the dent out of the pipe, and I could have done so if I’d had a better angle. (If I didn’t mind losing my fingers, I could have done it easily.) So I fished around for something I could use to make a kind of retaining wall behind the retaining wall to prevent at least a little less dirt from falling into the drum.

wall 4

This was my solution. I happened to have this spare metal sign in my truck. (You never know when you’ll need one.) It’s bendable, and I thought I would slide it into place and then hold it there will rocks while I poured in the backfill gravel. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

It didn’t work very well. I had more sign than space, and the conditions were cramped. I really need to dig out that whole area behind the drum down a couple feet, fix things properly, then put it all back together well. Someday.

wall 5

Here’s a closer look at the black pipe. Can you see the dented part at about 11:00? The metal sign was intended to address that, and I think it has helped, but it ain’t ideal.


wall 6

This is a reverse shot of the retaining wall after I’ve put it back together. You can just make out the yellowish back of the metal sign in the middle of the photo and all of the rocks I shoved against it to hold it in place while I poured in the gravel. A slapdash job, to be sure.

wall 7

And here it is, finished. I’m not too proud of this work, but the weeds and the bugs (and snakes in this area) will be emerging soon, and I wanted to get something done while I could.

It took two loads of gravel to fill the cavity (and you can see that much of it poured into the black pipe nontheless; there’s even more gravel in the bottom of the drum). It will do, but I’d like to add a load or two of dirt atop the gravel and maybe get some grass growing on it. Maybe when one of my sons is at the cabin with me.

spring’s halting advance

Monday, March 30th, 2015


We were able to get out to Roundrock yesterday for a day trip. Alas, the 60+ degrees didn’t arrive until we were back home that evening, but we managed to get some work done and some forest hiked and some dogs exercised. We even managed to dodge the few raindrops that fell.

Spring is only reluctantly making its return to our little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. None of the trees have brought out leaf, though the hickories are just about ready to bud out. The aromatic sumac also has some tentative, bright green leaves ready to burst forth. But otherwise, the forest is still brown and gray.

Except, of course, for the six red buckeye plants I have in front of the cabin. As you can see above, they’ve ventured ahead of the rest of the trees. (They’re also the first to lose their leaves and go dormant in the summer heat and drought.) I’ve had flowers appear on the three represented by the photo above, but no actual buckeyes have formed yet. I’m not sure at what age that starts happening. The other three, on the other side of the cabin, haven’t flowered yet, but this will be their third spring with me, and that’s when the other set first started flowering.

Libby thinks the second set of three doesn’t get enuf sun, and she’s generally right about these things. There is a Blackjack Oak in front of the cabin I’d like to take down, and I don’t mind clearing some low branches on other trees if that will help too. I guess I need to rush out to the cabin again.

Wordless Wednesday ~ embrace

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015


poke pith and push

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

poke pith

Last November I mentioned the poke that was growing lushly on the side of the dam at Roundrock. I never did anything about it (such as cut it down), and winter came along to desiccate it for me. So as I was venturing across the dam, I stepped gingerly down the side of it to have a peek at the poke.

Poke is vigorous stuff. The stalks are tough. I tried yanking them from the ground but had no success. Then I tried snapping them off, but that didn’t work either. The best I could do (without a machete, which I have in my garage in faraway suburbia), is push them over, as you can see here.

pushed poke

I was standing on the slope of the dam when I took this shot. The top of the dam is to the left. You can see a bit of the northern spillway at the top of the photo.

I’m not sure these former poke plants will decay away. I think the next time I’m out to my woods (soon?) I’ll need to remove them somehow (loppers? saw?) so they don’t form into brush piles on the side of the dam. So much work to do. So little opportunity.

a tree (sort of)

Monday, March 23rd, 2015


Obviously, this is not a picture from Roundrock. In fact, it’s a photo I snapped in faraway suburbia, several milesĀ from my home. The building is Congregation Beth Torah, and I run past here sometimes on my longer, weekend runs. (The longer runs I take on weekends, not the runs I take on longer weekends, though that could happen too.)

The reason I stopped my car in the middle of a busy street to take this photo is to show you that evergreen tree rising in the middle of the image. This species has no botanical classification. In fact, it is not a tree at all.

Look closely and you can tell what it actually is. Perhaps you’ve seen these before. It’s a cell phone tower, cleverly camouflaged to look like a tree and blend in. I’ve seen another one in the city, also in an upscale neighborhood (and also one I have and will run past when I do Rock the Parkway again next month).

There are a number of churches around town that have cell towers disguised as (and used as) bell towers. I guess since temples don’t generally have bell towers, they opted for a tree instead.

spillway strata

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015


So, what do we see here? Aside from a photographic mess, I mean. This is actually a portion of the southern spillway from the lake. Notice the different strata of bedrock as well as the clumps of fescue (the grass that ate the county). This part of the spillway is a lumpy, riven mess, and it’s hardly the smooth path needed to lead overflow water safely away from the dam. Fortunately (*sigh*), that hasn’t been necessary for a couple of years. (But spring rains are coming soon.)

When the spillway was first carved out of the hillside, the surface was smooth. It was a combination of exposed bedrock and packed earth. The first couple of high-water events quickly changed that, gouging small canyons between the slabs of bedrock and pushing most of the packed earth down the hill to accumulate at the bottom. (Actually, it was mostly packed gravel.)

I was supposed to get a healthy stand of fescue growing in the spillway to prevent the erosion, but you can’t seed exposed bedrock successfully, and the high-water events came along too soon for the grass to have been established.

Instead, we just visit here to look at the rock, rock that perhaps hasn’t seen daylight in millions of years. We’ve found a number of nice (though smaller) round rocks here, and this is where I found the stone tool fragment.

Once I win the lottery, I’ll pay good money to get this fixed up real nice. Until then, I’ll live with it.

root home

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

root home

When the north spillway was carved out of the hillside, a lone tree was left standing on a corner of ground about three feet high. I had expected the tree to fall a long time ago, but it hasn’t. Nor has it died despite having so much of its root wad exposed and cut away. Good for the tree. (It will be a problem when it does come down because it will fall across the spillway and need to be cleared as soon as possible.)

We were coming back from a hike when we passed this tree, and I noticed the little hole you see above. It’s a little hard to tell, but the hole is formed from a dead root of the tree. At first I thought nothing of it, but then I looked below the hole and saw this:


It certainly looks as though some critter is excavating that hole. I’m not going to try to guess what kind of critter would do that. A resourceful one anyway.

(Also, notice the “soil” there full of rocks. That’s what I have for soil in 90 percent of my forest.)

I had sat in the dry spillway to take these photos, and the ground was warm from the sun shining down, so I sat longer. Then I laid my head down on the ground and closed my eyes to get a little phototherapy. I may have even snoozed. Flike came by a couple of times to check on me, but I seemed to be okay in his judgment.

new feeder

Monday, March 16th, 2015

filled feeder

Before the hammock was hung and tested, I did manage to get a few things done when we were at Roundrock a week ago. One of the tasks was to fill and hang the new bird feeder, which I talked about here.

The old feeder we had, had hung before the cabin for years. It long outlasted the plastic feeders we had tried, but even it was reaching the end of its useful life. Somehow it had gotten a dent in its bottom tray, and this caused water to collect there as it hadn’t before. This caused the seed to rot and form a congealed mass. I’m sure it wasn’t good for the birds to eat, and it was preventing the unspoiled seed above it from dispensing. It was time for a new feeder.

Libby and I had looked around a great deal to find the right feeder, and this one seemed to be the best of the options we saw. It is made of metal, of course, so it should hold up year round out in my woods. And it has a decent capacity, so when I fill it, there should be seed enuf for at least a couple of days.

There are two chambers in the feeder. Presumably I could fill each with different seed to attract different birds. The side on the left you see above seems suited for thistle, which would draw in goldfinches. Nonetheless, it will also dispense this coarser seed just as the other side will. There are two perches where the birds can feed, but the seed also dispenses into the tray at the bottom.

I’m eager to see how well it works

fallen Buck

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

buck 1

This was a scene that greeted me when we arrived at Roundrock on Monday. Poor Buck Mulligan had fallen from his nail on the tree and was becoming lost in the leaf litter. I’ll often find Buck askew on the tree, presumably from the weight of whatever critter had been sitting on it to gnaw the antlers for the minerals. I set him right and go about my day in the woods. Some return visits he’s askew again; others he’s hanging straight and true. This was the first time in memory that I’d found him fallen altogether.

I didn’t like the angle of this photo when I was preparing it for this post, so I rotated it, as you can see here:

buck 2

Does that look wrong to you? It does to me. It looks as though the skull is going to fall out of the picture and land on my lap. Fallen buck, indeed.

and no more work was done that day

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015


Yes, we made it down to Roundrock yesterday! The last day of my four-day weekend when I did not go to Kentucky because of the snow and ice but when I did feel mostly recovered from my wicked head/chest cold. (Let’s not talk about the run I attempted on Sunday evening.)

I had no agenda for the visit, no chores I specifically wanted to tackle (though there were plenty that could have been tackled). I had no hikes planned. No naps planned. No round rock collecting planned. No sitting in the sun planned. And I had no plans not to follow no plans.

I hadn’t been to the cabin since December 26, 2014. That’s nearly two and a half months away, which is both unprecedented and criminal. I was afraid of what I might find. That mice had overrun the cabin. That the dam had washed away. That all of my neighbors had sold out. And so on.

Nothing of the sort happened, and when we came down the hill through the trees and saw the cabin before us, all was right with the world (at least these 80+ acres of the world).

What did we do? We sat around. We hiked around. We liberated a few cedars from their earthly toil. We threw the stick for Flike. We ate lunch. We sat some more. We hiked some more. We soaked up the sun a lot.

And then what you see above happened.

My most excellent son-in-law, Travis, had done the holiday gift buying this year because my daughter, Rachel, was 8.5 months pregnant and wasn’t getting around very easily. Among the gifts his clever and generous mind came up with for me was a hammock to use out at the cabin. I confess I was skeptical. I’ve never done well with hammocks. They tend to either dump me on the ground with the slightest provocation or refuse to release me despite the greatest effort.

Libby insisted we ought to give it a try, so we took the tiny bag it was in (about the size of a grapefruit) out to where some suitably placed trees were and got to figuring out how to put it all together. It couldn’t haven been much easier. Three parts. No knots. No tightening straps. Just find two trees and string it up.

I guess getting into a hammock must be like jumping into a turning jump rope. You have to time it right and approach with the correct stance. Libby and I were not so lucky at first. We fumbled around. She finally managed to get in and could then barely get out. I got in and eventually rolled out. But we strung the hammock betwixt two other trees so we could have it higher off the ground. This was a better arrangement, and once I got it, I did not want to get out. Ever.

I’m already looking forward to a suitably warm weekend when I can sleep in the hammock overnight. Seriously. It was that comfy. The orange thing you see peeking over the top of the sides in the photo above is the bill of my cap. The rest of me was wrapped in the fabric, which I could easily close over me. I might want a blanket for my sleep over, and I’ll probably take off my boots for that, but otherwise, I was cradled and comfy.

Putting the hammock back in its stuff sack was just as easy. So now it sits in the cabin, waiting for my return.