Wordless Wednesday ~ sparkle

January 20th, 2016

technical difficulties

January 19th, 2016

old man of the forest

Well, the old blog has been experiencing some technical difficulties recently. Several of you have been kind enuf to alert me to the various manifestations (which I don’t necessarily see/experience since I am the administrator).

My crack technical team is aware of this and is working on it (between feedings and naps and play time with my adorable grandson Ken as well as, you know, living their own lives). I’m told that part of the reason Roundrock Journal is getting hit so much more frequently is because it has been around for so very long. (Nearly 11 years, which in the blogosphere is like eternity.) Apparently the blog has been “indexed” a great deal.

If you run into a particularly alarming error message and want to let me know, you can reach me through email at paul [at] roundrockjournal [dot] com. Otherwise, I beg your patience as my crack technical team does its magic. A never-ending job, it seems.

Also around for so very long is The Old Man of the Forest, a cedar tree in my forest that is much, much older than any of the other cedars I have there. You see its trunk and the blue sky beyond it in the photo above.

chilly and warm

January 18th, 2016

ice and sticks

Although most of the lake was open when I was last at Roundrock, the southern side and parts closer to the dam still had some thin ice on them. (I suspect it’s thickly frozen all the way across now, with today’s forecasted high being only 25 degrees, after an overnight low of 7 degrees. Brrrr!)

What you see above is from close to the dam. I had paused to take this shot while I was clearing the overflow drain. This photo tells a story. The whitish ice is, I believe, being suspended above the water because it is clinging to the branches of the scrub growing there. This suggests that the lake’s water level had dropped since the ice formed (probably the night before). That part is an old story; the dam leaks, so slowly dropping water levels aren’t surprising. (Disheartening, yes, but not surprising.) It is interesting, to me anyway, that there is a sort of measurement of this in the way the ice is suspended.

The relative murkiness of the water is a result of the big storms that had passed through the area (and filled the lake) in the recent weeks. Huge amounts of plant material, as well as silt, wash into the lake after such storms, filling the lake with nutrients and making it a generally hospitable environment for the fish and other critters that call it home. Even at its clearest, the lake water looks like weak tea (unsweetened, of course). In the picture above it looks muddy.

Adding to this little story is the presence of the scrubby growth in the water. It shouldn’t be there, and it wouldn’t be there if the water had been there all summer. But the fact that the scrub is there shows that the lake had been much lower for a long time over the spring/summer, long enuf for plants like this to grow on the exposed side of the dam. The stuff grows. The floods come and kill it. The stuff eventually falls and rots and, I’m told, helps seal the leaky dam and bottom. In the meantime, the fish and invertebrates live amidst it. All good, but it is unnerving to be a human swimming in the water and feel this stuff suddenly on your legs.

The day that Flike and I visited was comparatively warm. Warm enuf if properly dressed and kept active. (Does the grammar in that sentence even work?) But my afternoon, post-lunch stupor was aided as I sat on the south-facing cabin porch by the day’s warmth that accumulated there.

Behold my January afternoon temps:


gadget testing

January 13th, 2016

gadget 1

The man in the red suit left this gadget under the tree for me this year. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a hint: I use it when I go to Roundrock.

Obviously you can’t use it (for its intended purpose anyway) in its state above. But that does make it handy to fit in a backpack if you’re going to be rambling your hills, looking for cedars to liberate from their earthly toil.

The gadget opens, as you can see here:

gadget 2

I’m sure as a clever reader, you’ve figured out what this device is, even in its half-opened state.

And here it is, fully deployed:

gadget 3

I confess I had my doubts about the thing. I’ve broken a few pairs of loppers before. Sometimes the hickory arms snap. Sometimes the metal hinges sheer. And here is a set made mostly of plastic.

The only thing to do, of course, was to take Flike on a long hike through the forest to give a try with these plastic loppers on all of the upstart cedar trees we could find. And so we set off.

I was able to snip the first cedar with ease. And so with the second. And the third. And if I got into triple digits that afternoon in my woods, every one of them was cut cleanly and easily. I suspect this has more to do with the blades being sharp and new. (They are metal.) But I really expected some part of the plastic to fail, yet it held together.

The arms are a little short for the work I put them to, and I had to bend closer to the ground to reach my targets than I would have with the longer-handled loppers. But I suppose bending and stretching are good for a fellow. I think these are probably intended to light duty work, such as trimming shrubs and thin branches in yards of faraway suburbia. Their comparatively light weight would make them suitable for that.

Aside from being able to slip them into a backpack, I don’t know what benefit the folding business brings. It seems more like a gimmick than a benefit. But it’s another tool for the arsenal.

the Cabin at the End of the Road

January 12th, 2016

lake view

When a fellow needs to get away, a little cabin in the woods certainly seems to do the job of providing peace of mind and sanctuary. I’ve spent countless hours sitting on my cabin porch, gazing at the view you see above. (Also, at a more diminished lake. In fact, generally at a more diminished lake.) Despite the damage to the spillways, I was able to relax with Flike on the sunny porch (the temperature rose to 57 degrees that afternoon in early January) and think a lot about this, and that, and nothing at all.

Long-time readers will remember that Libby and I had owned a second piece of Ozark land. (It was actually our first foray into land ownership. We called that property Fallen Timbers.) Those 40 acres were near a small resort town called Lakeview Heights, a curious place of smallish getaway cottages running along a ridgetop surrounded by the Lake of the Ozarks. The cottages were supposedly built by wealthy Kansas Citians who visited them for their own peace of mind and sanctuary. But through the decades the cottages were sold to locals (who lived in them for their day-to-day lives). We eventually sold that other piece of Ozark land at a considerable profit (having done nothing to it in the way of improvement) and used the money to build the cabin at Roundrock (among other needed things). Now I have my own cottage with a lake view.

back of cabin

It isn’t all fun and games though. I’m years overdue for staining the “logs” of the cabin exterior. Each fall I tell myself I must get this job done (along with doing something, anything about the wretched lawn I have at the house in faraway suburbia — we are the shame of the neighborhood), and each fall I don’t. My latest strategy is to simply stain one side of the cabin. I could start on the west side. It’s small, and I could practice my art there before working on the other, more visible sides in subsequent years. And I may even do that some day.

But even without the staining work hanging over my head, there is plenty of cabin maintenance I need to do with each visit. I’ve written here several times of the regular chore of raking away the fallen leaves that collect behind the cabin. I don’t like the pile of combustibles collected against my wooden cabin. After a rain, the leaves there will create a microclimate that allows mold to grow on the lower logs (another reason to get that staining done, dammit!). And wet or dry, the leaves provide sanctuary for little burrowing critters right against the cabin foundation.

What you see above is what I found on my last visit. Very few leaves had accumulated since I had raked them away several weeks before. That’s seasonal. My raking work is done mostly in the late summer through early winter when the leaves are falling. I appreciated this respite from that on my recent visit so much that I took a picture of a chore that didn’t need doing.

I’m also getting a break this time of year from interior chores. Somehow, plenty of insects find their way into the cabin (though not mosquitos, thankfully). There is no food or water for them there, so when we arrive for a visit, we generally have a sweeping job to do. At different times of the year the cabin also hosts other insects. For several years we’ve arrived at the cabin during its wasp hatching period. The wasps have been harmless to us, and I generally just leave the door open and hope they find their way out on their own (though I have “motivated” them with the broom sometimes). We’ve also had a hatching of lady bugs for several years. We’ll arrive to find them by the hundreds within the cabin. They’re also harmless, and they’re easier to catch and release outside.

The interior of the cabin is unfinished. The walls are made of a thin metallic insulating sheet over which the “logs” were laid on the outside. Someday, if we ever choose to bring in electricity, I’ll need to add insulation between the studs and joists and then put up drywall to “finish” the interior. But that’s not likely to happen for a long time (if ever), so in the meantime I’m using the insulating sheet as a canvas for all of the stickers I collect. Different areas have different “themes” to their stickers. What you see below is the Oregon-themed section. (My new granddaughter, Elaheh Laurel, lives with her parents in Portland, Oregon.) The sticker on the lower left is made in the shape of Oregon and is made of actual wood. “Put a Bird on It” relates to the television show “Portlandia.” Powell’s Books is, of course, a sacred bookstore in Portland. Only the Swap-bot sticker is out of place, though it is an enterprise that is run by the mother of my grandson Kenneth Gunner (who just observed is first birthday!).


Another themed area of stickers relates to the running I do. I’ve collected a surprising number of stickers at races for this or that product or event. Yet another area has to do with soil and water conservation. And there is an area that has a specific political focus, one that I suspect is not in keeping with the general political leanings of the good people in this part of the Ozarks.

Should we ever insulate the cabin and put in drywall, all of these stickers will be hidden away. I’d read about a man who was taking apart the stone chimney of an old cabin on some land he owned (the book Hardscrabble by John Graves) and coming across an old tin among the stones with a note inside, cursing whoever took apart the chimney. The man was collecting the stones to build his own chimney at his own cabin, so he made sure to put a note like this in his construction.

I like to think that some day decades from now, perhaps when the cabin is being taken down or more hopefully when it is being expanded by some future owner, these stickers will be revealed. I wonder what kind of story they will tell then.

overflow drain ~ before and after

January 11th, 2016

overflow before

This is the overflow drain, built into the water side of the dam, a couple of feet below the top. Its job is to bleed off high water and drain it out through a pipe under the dam so that the high water won’t need to go to the spillways and certainly not over the dam itself.

Obviously, it’s under capacity. I think I could have about three of these in the face of the dam to do what needed to be done after the last big water event. And even then, I would need to contrive some way to keep them cleaned of the flotsam that inevitably collects when surface water is flushing into them.

This is what covered the screen atop the drain when I got to Roundrock two Saturdays ago. You see the water in the lake, just a few inches below the drain. Even several days after the big storms, the lake had hardly drained much at all. I suspect surface runoff continued pretty heavily long after the storms, replenishing what leaked out of the lake under the dam. (Yes, it’s still leaking under the dam.) In fact, when Flike and I went for a ramble up the Central Valley that day, we came upon several places with running water in the normally dry creek. (This running water did not find its way into the lake immediately downstream. I wrote about my stream piracy nearly ten years ago. Hard to believe this humble blog has been around that long.)

One of my last chores of the day was to clear the flotsam from the top of the drain. I used a pitchfork for most of the work since the water was too close — and the side of the dam too steep — for me to get close enuf to use my hands. Flike approved of this since it meant that I was tossing plenty of sticks into the air for him to fetch.

Here is how the drain looked just before we left for the day:

overflow after

Not perfect, but certainly better.

Skywatch Friday ~ winter sun

January 8th, 2016


I don’t think I could attempt a shot like this in the spring, summer, or fall. But during the winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, the sunlight is weak enuf to allow a photograph with my camera pointed directly at the sun, albeit with a tree blocking it.

This view is looking south (of course), and I’m standing on the edge of an open area of my forest that has been taken over by grasses. I’ve been doing what I can when I can to foster this opening. I’ve cut out many upstart trees in the grass and am slowly removing larger trees from the perimeter.

Two days after I took this photo, the temperature dropped and clouds came. We are finally having seasonal weather this winter.

For other looks at the heavens above, go to Skywatch Friday.

Happy First Birthday, Kenneth Gunner Johnson!

deja vu, all over again

January 6th, 2016

In the aftermath of all of the wet storms that raged across the southeastern United States (and other places), I was curious about how Roundrock might have fared. I had watched the weather maps to see if it reached far enuf north to find my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, but most of the times it looked as though Roundrock only got a glancing blow.

Flike and I took the first opportunity we had to venture down there, a mild Saturday last weekend that turned out warmer than I had expected. But there were other things there I hadn’t expected as well.

I really wasn’t surprised to see the lake full. Even on the fringe of the storm, a lot of rain had fallen in the area. All of the telltale references on the drive down (rivers crossed, Corps of Engineer lake arms I passed, flooded fields) showed how much water had collected in the area.

And when I drove down through the trees toward the Cabin at the End of the Road, I could see the lake shimmering in the sunlight. I let Flike out of the truck, and he immediately started darting around, looking for a stick for me to throw. Before unpacking the truck, I chose to walk down to the dam. I knew the dam was still there since the lake was still there, but I wondered if there might have been any damage to it from the big water event.

Here is what greeted me:

north spillway

This is the north spillway; the dam itself is to the right (just beyond Flike — what’s he doing?). Compare it to this photo of the last time the spillway was heavily eroded. The damage is about the same. I’m sure the cost of repairing it will be about the same too. Nice.

Here is the south spillway, partly shaded by the ridge between it and the sun low on the horizon:
south spillway

(Flike on the right, with stick.) I’m not as worried about this side since that white stuff you see is bedrock. The spillways might erode into ugliness, but the bedrock will outlast the flowing water, at least during my tenure.

The grass I had seeded on the spillways to help prevent this kind of erosion didn’t have enuf time to get sizable to do the job. And who expects a spring-like storm in the winter? Thanks, el nino!

So . . . sigh!

The spillways have been something of a disappointment to me. Sure, the two of them are better than the one I had before that was too close to the dam. But it seems that when there is a big water event that the spillways are intended to deal with (twice now), they just get washed away. I wouldn’t even mind having raggedy spillways if the erosion at the top (on the northern one) didn’t creep so close to the lake itself. Another 20-30 feet of erosion and the dam would have been breached, the lake gone, my neighbor to the east just a little annoyed, especially if any of his cattle met the lake as it was roaring through.

I’m not sure what to do next. I will need to have the dozer man come out again and patch it all up. I just hope that doesn’t need to happen soon. In the meantime, I’ll throw rocks into the chasm and pretend to myself that I’m making a difference.


You may remember that knocked-down tree that was perched on the rim of the northern spillway. Well, you can see that the heavy rains have dislodged it. I’m tempted to cut off that root wad and shove it into the top of the new chasm as part of the fill. Of course, that would require that I get my chainsaw repaired. And in the interim I would need to spend a lot more time at the gym, doing upper body work so I could muscle that wad up the spillway to put in it at the top of the chasm.

The real solution — one I had considered the last time this happened and got talked out of — is to pour a pad of concrete at the top of the northern spillway. Then any water that runs over it won’t erode anything at least until it’s far enuf from the dam not to be a threat.



dug in

December 30th, 2015

dug in

Direct your attention to the pair of openings at the base of that fallen tree in the photo above. They lead to the underground den of some critter, and I’m pretty sure it is an armadillo. The Aztecs called them turtle-rabbits. The nine-banded armadillo that lives in Missouri, sadly, cannot roll itself into a ball the way other species of ‘dillos can.

I see these den openings all over Roundrock, which would suggest that I’m overrun with armadillos, but it’s been years since I’ve seen a live one. Once or twice a year I find the remains of an armadillo, but that is because the hard “shell” of their outside bleaches white and is easy to spot on the forest floor.

Armadillos do not hibernate, and given the recent ice storm that passed through the area, I’m guessing that the ‘dillos at Roundrock are glad they have these many dens to hunker down into.

tavallodet mobarak!

December 29th, 2015

So, for some unfathomable reason, both NBC and NPR chose not to deliver this important piece of news: my granddaughter, Elaheh Laurel, was born on Saturday, December 26, in Portland, Oregon. “Elaheh” is the Farsi word for “goddess.” A lot of texting and Facetiming has been darting about the intertubes, but I won’t get to see her in person until early February when Libby and I make a trip up there. In the meantime, the other in-laws are in Portland for a month’s visit, which is great since mom is recovering from the C-section delivery.