just in case

April 11th, 2016


I wrote and scheduled this post some time ago in case I wasn’t around to make one closer to today. If things go as planned, then I will have run in the GO! St. Louis Marathon yesterday, April 10. As such, I may not have been capable of writing a post here on the humble blog. I may have been writhing on the ground with leg cramps that can wake the dead. Or I may have been so utterly exhausted that I’ve slept for days straight. Or I may have been hospitalized. I may still be out on the course. I certainly won’t have descended many stairs (that being the most difficult post-marathon challenge I’ve found), which presents a problem since the bed and breakfast we’re staying at in St. Louis its has rooms on the second floor.

Or I may be imagining my state will be far worse than it actually turns out to be. In any case, this post just in case.

The photo above is of my favorite part of my forest. It’s close to the entrance, which means it’s far from the cabin. I like the mixture of features here. The photo is probably from January, so I’m sure it’s much greener now.

tchotchke, revisited

April 6th, 2016


I have a never-ending mission in my life. Through most of a lifetime of acquisition (and mostly on the loving wife’s part or through the well-meaning giftings of others), I now have a house full of things. Mementos, trinkets, tchotchkes. They adorn and afflict every horizontal surface in my home and accumulate in boxes in our basement. Buddha had said that we are weighed down in life by possessions. I think that is true.

And so Libby has given me permission to adorn (or afflict) our 80+ acres of Ozark forest with some of these possessions. So far, I’ve only managed to do this once. But on my most recent trip to Roundrock, Flike and I managed to secret away one of those tchotchkes and then find a new resting place for it.

The globe you see above was the lucky item this time. (Sorry it’s not a very good photo. Next time I’m in the area, maybe I’ll remember to take a better shot.) We were near the southern property line. Along here, on my side of the fence, there are several mounds of dirt and stone. I suspect these are the leavings of whatever machinery originally cleared the open avenue on my neighbor’s property on the other side of the fence. That must have happened a long time ago since there are largish trees growing betwixt the fence and the mounds, so I suspect said mounds were originally much larger.

Anyway, the particular mound we came upon was also festooned with several round rocks. I don’t find round rocks in this part of the forest. I suspect that if there are any, they are several dozen feet underground in the strata that contains most of them. The southern part of my forest is pretty much the highest in elevation. But there are occasional round rocks to be found here. I’m not sure if they are in their native space or if they’ve somehow been found and left here. In any case, there is now another round object resting among them.

Libby had kept some of these glass balls on the window sills in our kitchen. I was always nervous about these since the windows in our kitchen (in faraway suburbia) face south (ish), which means they get strong sunlight much of the year. My fear was that the glass globes would work like a lens, focusing the sunlight into a tight ray that might burn the wood of the sill. My concerns were met with scoffing, of course. (But I’ve grown accustomed to being treated as a Cassandra.) Until one day I happened to look at the window sill and see a scorch mark in the wood, directly beside one of her glass globes. Suddenly my fears were not so frivolous. The globes were moved to north-facing windows, and the one above was moved to Roundrock.

mystery stone

April 5th, 2016

faux granite

In the gravel near the cabin I spotted this piece of what I first thought might be granite. That would have been odd indeed because there is no granite near the surface of the ground in my woods or even my part of the state. (It has been said, however, that the whole of Missouri is one giant granite mountain, the peak of which is Taum Sauk Mountain in southeast Missouri, most of the mountain being buried under overlaying rock.)

I’m not in the habit of bringing rocks to my woods, and I don’t think I have any scraps of granite sitting around at home, so its presence was a bit of a mystery. But only for a moment.

Once I gave it a moment’s consideration, I realized what I was looking at. Perhaps this will explain it best:

or not

A chip off the old block, it turns out. Somehow, in my rough construction of the retaining wall before the cabin, a chip had been knocked off one of the cottage blocks. So, the source of the mystery was solved.

Still, the presence of that chip where it was, was still a mystery. I had built that wall years ago. I don’t think that chip has been sitting there so prominently against the white gravel, in a place where I traverse frequently, for long. Surely I would have seen it long ago. So why was it where it was when it was? I’ll probably never know.

green buckeye

April 4th, 2016

green buckeye

I need to talk about this now while it’s still timely. When I was last out to Roundrock, I took some small pleasure in seeing my buckeyes coming out with leaves. Along with the pines, and some of the pecans, these buckeyes are among the few planting successes I have had in my woods. I don’t suppose I should be surprised to see them come out in leaf each spring — that’s what they’re supposed to do — but I’m always happy when they do.

As you can tell, I’m nurturing them with the fencing to protect them from marauding deer (who need to rub the velvet off their antlers and probably browse on the tender new leaves), and I do sometimes make sure they get water when the dry days have come. My hope is that they’ll get established enuf that they won’t need the fencing or my loving care, and that they’ll bloom outrageously and attract scores of hummingbirds.

There are two sets of these, on the east and west corners of the cabin. The ones you see above are the east set, and they’re older by a year. They also seem to get more sunlight because they are more robust than their neighbors to the west. (Must do something about that for the western trio.) These eastern buckeyes have brought out deep red flowers the last two years, and I hope I’m down there when they do so again this year. I also hope the western set finally bring out flowers this year. Perhaps that’s what will be needed so they can pollinate and produce some actual buckeyes. I don’t really want the buckeyes, per se, but the idea that they are fulfilling their genetic programming as the result of my nurturing warms my black and shriveled heart.

holey tree post

March 31st, 2016

pecked wood

Continuing the theme I started this week (and ending it as well), I offer this photo I took when Flike and I made our walk along the southern property line.

This, as you can see, is the work of a woodpecker, and I’m pretty sure it’s a pileated woodpecker since this is characteristic of their behavior. In fact, when I came upon this, I recalled seeing similar bored trees in this part of my forest in years past. This must be favored territory for them, which is fine since it’s far from the cabin. (Curiously, the times I’ve actually seen pileated woodpeckers, it’s been along my northern property line.)

I don’t know if this is a nesting effort of if it is for drumming out territorial calls or just practice for some juvenile. You see three bored areas here. The top two are not connected within, but the bottom two are. I think that middle hole just might be a nest entrance some day soon. I could revisit this part of the forest the next time I’m at Roundrock, but I can’t be sure I could even find this tree again. Notice how the leaves had not yet come out on the trees and scrub. I’m sure by the next time I get out there (at least three weekends hence), the landscape will look much different with greenery.

(When I look at this photo now, my eyes are drawn to that tiny cedar tree to the left of the tree. I worry that I didn’t take the time to liberate it from its earthly toil while I was there. A good reason to go back.)

holey post post

March 29th, 2016

holey post

Only half of my southern property line, so only a quarter mile of it, is fenced. The fence terminates at the post you see above. This is a substantial post because the fence coming from the east turns at this point and continues south, so I imagine this post has a lot more tension on it than one along the line. Thus the larger post.

I’ve found evidence of visitors near this post before (and wrote about it in this humble blog long ago). I found a few beer cans beside it and, more disturbingly, many cigarette butts on the ground below it. Someone seems to have occasion to wait around here, though I’ve never seen anyone in the flesh.

But as you can see, this fence corner has had another visitor recently. A woodpecker — my guess is a pileated woodpecker — has been doing some carpentry work on the post. I suppose the bird is driven by blind instinct; it can’t have thought that this would be a suitable nesting site, could it? I understand they will drum on trees to announce their territorial claims, so maybe that’s what this is about.

In any case, it can’t do the post much good. Not only is it now opened at the top, but it has a cavity in it that further weakens it.

I had never given must consideration to this corner post before, but on this day when Flike and I made our visit, I took a closer look at it.

slim post

This post was made from a slab of wood. I tend to think of posts as being round, but this one wasn’t, and I guess it didn’t need to be since it has been standing there hold up the fence for decades.

reduce ~ reuse ~ recycle

March 28th, 2016

Busch 1

Flike and I made a trip to Roundrock over the weekend (before the weather changed and cold, wet snow fell from the sky). I had no agenda, nor did Flike, so we just rambled the woods in our time there. One of the things I like to do in the winter is to walk the fence line just to see what’s up and maybe cut some branches to show my neighbors that I’ve passed by and am paying attention. (Note: I have NEVER had any complaints about my neighbors.) On this visit, Flike and I walked most of the southern fence.

A hundred feet or so before we got there, I came upon what you see above. I could speculate how it got there, and I mean specifically there because obviously the man or woman who emptied that can dropped it (reduce). But unless that person was a hundred feet on the wrong side of a three-strand barbed wire fence, it is not likely that the person dropped it specifically there. And it seems even less like that the person could have thrown an empty beer can the hundred or so feet through dense trees and scrub to land where it was.

I sometimes find beer and pop cans near the fence lines and beside my road to the cabin. (Clearly someone else drives on my rode besides me.) It’s part of being an absentee land owner, and it really isn’t much of a hardship.

Still, how did it get where it was? But there were acres of forest to tramp through, so I just put it in my backpack and continued on my way.

It wasn’t until I got back to the cabin and was unpacking that I took a closer look at the can:

Busch 2

See the regular punctures in it? At first I thought these might have resulted from being struck by the discharge of a shotgun, but I realized the punctures would probably be more scattered and just plain more. Then it struck me that these might be teeth marks. Most likely canine incisors, such as from a fox or raccoon. (There are similar punctures on the other side of the can.) So maybe some fox found the can, smelled something interesting about it, and tried to get it opened to partake (reuse). That could account for its location far from fence flinging distance.

So another little mystery in my woods. I recycled the can.

Skywatch Friday ~ late winter dawn

March 25th, 2016

winter dawn

This was dawn, a couple of weekends ago at my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. It was still winter then, but we’d had an unseasonably mild weekend (part of an unseasonably mild winter) and we chose to spend the night at the cabin. Thus I was there at dawn to take this picture.

The lack of leaves on the trees tells you that this is a winter photo. I could not take a similar picture from that same spot now. I hope to make it out to my woods this weekend. Fingers crossed.

wordless Wednesday ~ blasted

March 23rd, 2016


one-match fire

March 21st, 2016

one-match fire

My third son’s mother-in-law (and thus Emmett’s other grandmother) had given me three boxes of strike-anywhere matches a couple of years ago. I had understood that these were now illegal, that a substance used in them, when concentrated, could be used for bad purposes. And yet she was able to get them from a store. I suppose these are now made from some other substance that is not as dangerous, though I may be mistaken about that or even about the contraband status of the original.

Regardless, in the time that I’ve had those three boxes, I’ve probably built only a dozen fires, which is to say, I’ve barely started using even a single box of the matches. (And I generally succeed at building one-match fires. We use a lighter for the cook stove.) The boxes wait in the mouse-proof cabinet to be called into infrequent service. There are 300 matches per box, times three boxes, less a dozen or so used, equalling more than 800 still to go.

Over this last weekend, Emmett’s other grandparents had been in town to see him (as well as to see their daughter and son-in-law). His other grandmother saw me, and the first thing she said was, “I have something for you.” Then she presented me with three more boxes of the matches. (900 more!)

These matches are a handy gift for a man with a cabin in the woods, and she clearly put some personal thought into them. I see her once or twice a year, we have very little in common other than Emmett and his parents, and yet she thinks about me in this specific way and acts on it, eagerly giving me a gift that is useful and meaningful. That warms my black and shriveled heart.

By the way, Emmett is all recovered from his four days in the NICU. His lungs are cleared of the fluid and he is now home with his parents (just a half hour down the road from us). His cousin Elaheh will be coming to town in two weeks and they’ll get to meet. His other cousin, Kenneth, will, alas, be in Paris, France, then as his Daddy runs a little marathon there and his Mommy runs a half marathon in Vienna, Austria. (And if you care to know, I’ll be “running” a marathon in St. Louis the following weekend.)