Archive for November, 2015

as the twig is bent

Monday, November 30th, 2015

twig bent

“Tis education forms the common mind,

Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.”

Alexander Pope

I’m not sure why the photo above appears so grainy (aside from having a crappy camera that works just well enuf to keep around). It’s the season of slanting sunlight, and while I wasn’t shooting directly into the sun, the angle was sharp, so we’ll pretend that accounts for it.

When Flike and I were rambling about Roundrock on our last visit, we came upon this bent sapling not far from the entrance. When I’m not there, this is the bit of Roundrock I often find myself thinking about. It’s the western part of my rectangular forest, level ground filled with upland trees and even some actual soil. The cabin and lake are at the other end of the forest, so I don’t tend to get to this western part as often as I’d like. But the day was mild and the dog was eager, so we took off afoot and our wandering lead us here.

I like to think that you could plunk me down in any part of my forest and I would know instantly where I was. Even so, when I came upon this bent twig, I was surprised that I had never seen it before. Just beyond this part of the forest, to the west, is Good Neighbor Brian’s meadow atop the ridge. Any weather coming from the west first hits the forest here. We often find downed branches or even snapped trees in this part of our woods, presumably because the high winds aren’t blunted yet by the trees. So I suppose I should not have been surprised to find a bent sapling I had never seen before.

But it looked too perfect, inviting a person to walk under it. Imaginative Pablo paused, though, fearing it was actually some portal to a different world, so he let Flike pass under it first. Nothing happened, so Pablo followed.

We continued on our ramble, but not before I came across an “inclined” tree:

bent tree

There was much guffawing here on the humble blog when I first wrote about thong trees (ten years ago), but they are an actual thing. This particular White Oak is not a thong tree (most trees deformed in this way aren’t), but it has the distinctive shape. Since it is in the stormy western part of my forest, I’m not surprised that it would have suffered some mishap that bent it to the ground and caused it to take that abrupt turn skyward. What did surprise me, though, was that I had never seen this tree before. I admit I don’t stomp about this part of the woods much anymore, but in our early days, this was where we frolicked. This is one of the areas where I would know instantly where I was (if you plunked me down, that is).

So Roundrock continues to surprise me. I once sat for an hour beside a small pond, waiting for a person who never arrived, and I was amazed by the number of things I witnessed in my receptive stillness.

black friday

Friday, November 27th, 2015

The weather gods conspired and sent freezing rain on Thanksgiving afternoon, lasting through most of the night and restarting this morning as I write this. The temperature plummeted, and my forty-minute drive home from my son’s house yesterday evening included a couple of hydro-planing incidents on the highway.

So we made the decision not to go to Roundrock today, our traditional visit to avoid being yet another casualty of our crass consumer culture. I think we could make it to our woods, but our time there would be miserable — freezing and wet, with sodden fire wood and only the close four walls of the cabin for shelter — but I’m not up for that kind of challenge today. Even so, we intend to stay out of the mall and the shops (though bagels for breakfast sound appealing). Normally, I might have tried to get a run in when an opportunity like this came along, but I don’t trust the pavement or being skimpily dressed, far from home, and reliant only on myself. (Plus I’m still nursing a sore hamstring from the marathon more than a month ago, so I need to take it easy.)

The good news is that the storm that has inundated faraway suburbia has also been hovering over Roundrock. My hope is that the lake is getting a nice recharge, giving the fish in it more depth for finding the warmer water and surviving over the winter.

Wordless Wednesday ~ two greens

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

two greens one

some progress

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015


If you’re reading this, then it means Roundrock Journal has been up for two days in a row. My crack technical team has moved the blog to a new server, which I understand means that we’ve outrun the spammers and the malware for a while.

What you see in the photo above is actual grass growing in the north spillway. When I was last out to my woods, I was pleased to see this finally happening. There was also grass growing on the dam, and I expect the stands will survive the winter and grow lush in the spring. I didn’t venture across the dam to see how the south spillway was doing since the top of the dam was thick with scrub and, at the time, it was likely also thick with ticks and chiggers. The south spillway doesn’t get as much sun since it’s at the base of the north-facing slope, and this time of the year, when the sun doesn’t rise as high in the sky as in the summer, that spillway would get even less. But I suppose some grass has begun growing there.

So we do what we can. The forecast calls for several days of rain at Roundrock this week, which I hope will help recharge the lake and give the fish enuf depth to overwinter without freezing. Unfortunately, rain is in the forecast for Friday, my traditional anti-Black Friday day to go to my woods. I may not head out there this year. But if I don’t, I’m sure I’ll find something to do other than become a consumer culture casualty.

open house

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

open house

When Flike and I were last out to Roundrock, just a couple of weekends ago, we were walking along the southern property line and came upon this little scene.

I had bolted this bird house to the fence post years ago, in part to give the birds (or other random critter) a house but also to give my neighbor to the south a sign that I pass this way on occasion. (That open area beyond the fence is my neighbor’s, though technically, by the official survey, it’s mine as far as the trees. I wouldn’t want to make an issue of it since at the northern half of my property a similar overlap exists — the survey versus the fence line — and I don’t technically own the road I had built and use every time I visit.) I have no complaint about my neighbor to the south; I’ve not even met the man or woman. But I want to show that I’m paying attention. Thus the house.

But I didn’t expect to find it sitting open like this. You can see the tab at the top of the box on the right that has to be turned in order for the front “door” to drop open. This is a tight turn; it wouldn’t have happened accidentally, and it seems like it would be too difficult even for a persistent raccoon. But I can speculate without information and get myself nowhere.

In any case, someone or something opened the bird house and left it open. I can’t say how long it’s been that way. At least a few months since that was about the last time I was in this part of my forest.

Similarly, as you know, someone (or more likely some robot) has gotten into Roundrock Journal a lot lately, hijacking the domain and otherwise flooding the comments with spam. For most of a week, even I couldn’t get in. My crack technical team, back in their high castle in New York, have been working hard to correct this, but it is apparently only temporary. The onslaught is relentless and I’m told that the longer a web site has been around, the more it gets hit by malware because it has been “indexed” so much (whatever that means).

There are a few fixes that might give longer-term relief, but they are actually more costly than I want to devote to my hobby blog. I’m not sure what our next step will be, but I’ll keep posting until we decide something.

trackless forest

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

trackless forest

When Libby and I first came to the woods, it was more or less a trackless forest. The hand of man was evident here and there with occasional tree stumps that were cleanly cut (though long since rotting into the earth) and what certainly had the look of old routes among the trees where a truck might have passed regularly. My 80+ acres plus the 600 or so adjacent to it were once part of a cattle ranch, as the bones we would sometimes find of cattle clearly showed, so the thought of a pristine forest was closer to idealism than reality. But we were neophytes to the forest and chose to believe what we wanted.

One of the first things we did to leave our own mark was to carve a path from our entrance all the way (a quarter mile) to the pond in the northwest corner of the rectangle our land comprised. We were proud of our achievement, and with each visit we would clear more branches and otherwise improve our path. One thing we did was direct our route into the several open sections of the woods. These are anomalies, running several hundred feet and going north/south. I suspect they are the sites of old fires made of huge piles of trees that were cleared for the cattle ranching days. If I’m right, then the soil beneath the fire sites could be altered by the ash such that it is no longer favorable to most trees (except for cedars, which seem to be able to grow in just about any condition).

That is what you see in the photo above. This is one of the open sections that we used for our path. Flike and I had hiked in that section of the forest on our last visit. (Queequeg stayed at home because he is disobedient, and Libby was in Kentucky at the annual film festival she regularly attends.) I was trying to find our old path and not having much luck. Nature has been busy reclaiming the forest, and it was only when I came upon trees with evidence of cleanly cut low branches that I knew I had passed this way before. (I will also be rambling about in the forest, randomly rambling I believe, and find some young, brown cedars lying on the ground, evidence that I had passed that way before and had liberated them from their earthy toil. I suspect my feet take me on common routes over the hills of my woods.)

Once we had the road cut, there was really no need for the path to the pond. Unused and unmaintained, it has reverted back to trackless forest. Still, I like to go there and relive the thrill we felt when we were first landowners with 80+ acres to enjoy. I still enjoy it.

edgy post

Monday, November 16th, 2015


Yes, more technical problems with the blog, and the tech team on an extended vacation (during which I did not want to bother them). But they are back in New York, and Roundrock Journal seems to be back in business.

What you see in the poor photo above is a consequence of the recent work I had done to rebuild the spillways. This is a tree that had been perched on the edge of the spillway, but still rooted in the ground and alive. Yet the repair work required digging out more of the hillside, thus uprooting this tree.

The dozer man pushed the former tree into place just as you see it. (Another poor photo below. It was hard to get a decent shot because the exposed earth was so gray/white that it bleached out everything in the image. I had to monkey with these photos just to get them to give this much contrast.)

The fallen tree is resting on its upper branches, now on the ground, and is clinging to the lip of the ledge over the spillway. What I need to do is trim some of those upper branches and then, I guess, tie the tree to the Prolechariot and try to drag it away from the edge. If I don’t lose a bumper in the process, I’ll call it good.

edgy 2

I need to get this done sooner rather than later since a good rain would probably erode enuf of the ledge there to let the tree slid into the spillway. Then I think I would have a much bigger job. Even if I could cut the trunk into manageable pieces (must get chainsaw working), I would have that massive root wad to deal with. I’d need to get it out of the spillway so it didn’t impede/redirect the flow of any overflow from the lake. And that would probably involve the Prolechariot, a lot of rope, and perhaps a bumper.

So the technical problems continue, just in a different form.

Skywatch Friday ~ November Ozark sky

Friday, November 13th, 2015

November sky

Looking north across the little pond at Roundrock one early November day. We didn’t have a rainy autumn, which I understand is why our leaf color wasn’t so vibrant this year. But I think these turning oaks contrasted with that blue sky make a nice image nonetheless. I expect that on my next visit to the woods, most of those leaves will be on the ground.

Wordless Wednesday ~ fearful symmetry

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

fearful symmetry

still here

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Pardon the technical difficulties. My crack technical team has been in some place called Hawaii (which is an absurd-sounding place that I have not personally verified actually exists) for a wedding. I didn’t feel that I should bother them with a pesky detail like the blog being down during their vacation time. But they seem to have discovered it on their own and performed the rites and rituals needed to restore it.

So I’ll try to get some posts up here to give some semblance of normalcy to the joint. Stay tuned.