poke pith and push

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)

March 23rd, 2015


Obviously, this is not a picture from Roundrock. In fact, it’s a photo I snapped in faraway suburbia, several miles 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

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

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

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

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

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.

irony upon irony

March 9th, 2015

blue sky

I haven’t been out to the cabin a single time this entire calendar year. That’s very bad. I’ve never gone this long without a visit.

Part of the reason is that the weather has not been favorable. It’s been too cold or snowy to venture into the woods. (Also, gotta get my miles. Also, grandson Ken has come along.)

It’s ironic, therefore, that bad weather has actually given me the chance to go to the cabin and sit in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake.

Last weekend was our traditional time to go to Paducah for my mother’s birthday. I took Friday and Monday off from work so we could have a long, long weekend in that exciting, glamorous city on the Ohio River.

But then weather came along and buried Paducah and much of southern Illinois in snow and ice. Many of the interstate highways were closed. If we could even get to Paducah, we would have been home bound the entire time, and we all would have gone insane. (And the running would have been miserable, if even possible at all.)

My mother called on Thursday and told us not to come. It was a prudent choice to make, and we all agreed it was wise. This meant we would miss the glamor of Paducah as well as the sparkling conversations, but there are always other times.

But that meant we had a free weekend and could take our sorry selves (and the dogs) to Roundrock. (Also, run.) The weather in west central Missouri for the weekend was forecasted to be sunny, dry, and mild. Perfect, in other words, for a triumphant return to our woods.

Enter the next irony.

Friday afternoon, when we would otherwise have been driving to Kentucky, I grew sick with a slight throat itch that became a full-blown head cold. I had a miserable Friday night, tossing, turning, blowing my nose copiously, coughing up phlegm, feeling achy, and generally being laughed at by whatever gods dole out irony. (No doubt they’re Greek.)

We did not go to the cabin on Saturday.

I’ve decided to give up beer for 2015, but I am certainly not giving up Roundrock for the year. I’ll fix this somehow.


March 4th, 2015


I realized after yesterday’s post that I needed to show you my 1777 map. Again, I apologize for the poor photo. And, again, I saturated the colors in this one to bring them out a bit.

So what do you see here? A little to the lower left of center is what we today call the convergence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. That pink band coming in from the right is now called Tennessee (and called Carolina here). The area above it to the meandering river is Kentucky. Above that are Illinois and Indiana. The green part to the left, which is labeled Luigiana Spagnuola — Spanish Louisiana — is Missouri and Arkansas. That was part of the Louisiana Purchase not too many years after this map was made.

As I said yesterday, all of the inscription on here is in Latin. I meant to try translating it myself, but my Latin is too rusty. I do have two clever nephews that might have a chance with it.

I’m sorry it is hard to see, but the meandering river coming in from the upper left is the mighty Missouri. Where it meets the Mississippi there is no village of St. Louis recorded. At that time the major settlements were on the Illinois side of the river. What is noted on the Missouri River is Fort Orleans, which was an actual historical settlement, though no one is sure just where it was located. The map maker more or less guessed. (Look at the mountain ranges for an idea of how they had to wing it in those days.)

I’ve spent countless house looking at maps.

old Missouri

March 3rd, 2015


Sorry for the poor photo. This is a picture of a map in a frame on a wall in my house in faraway suburbia. It is a very old map of the counties in Missouri, and it was printed in 1850. I paid a princely sum (probably around $35 twenty years ago) for this and then had it framed behind protective glass (protective in that it keeps light from fading the colors). Full disclosure: I did saturate the colors in this photo so they would be more evident. The county that Roundrock is in does appear on this map, but some of the counties shown here have been chopped up in the ensuing decades. What you really can’t see are the lakes down in the Bootheel (lower right for those of you who aren’t familiar with the local lingo). That area is in the Mississippi River flood plain, and back in 1850, the Bootheel was filled with old growth cypresses in massive swamps. One swamp was so big that it was named Lake St. Mary, and people on one shore could not see the far shore. The land in the area was found to be more valuable as crop land, and a giant program of channelization was begun to drain the swamps into the river. There is still some regret about that to this day. The swamps are all gone, though there are a few remnants of it that are preserved.

I’ve always had a fondness for maps. I seem to have a better spatial sense than many people, and I just like looking at them. I have a similar map of Kansas on a nearby wall, and it is apparently worth a bit more for two reasons. One reason is that on the reverse side is a map of Wisconsin. When I had the Kansas map framed, I had glass put in the back as well as the front, so now I can flip the frame on the wall and see Wisconsin whenever I want. (Not that easy, really. The thing is heavy with all of that glass.) The second reason is that one of the county names is misspelled. Apparently the county was named after a prominent settler, and his name was spelled incorrectly. In the years after the map was printed, the error was discovered and the county properly re-named. But I have the evidence of the earlier indiscretion.

Hanging on another wall is my bestest map of all. It was made in 1777 by a mapmaker named Zatto, and it shows much of what would be termed the lower Midwest today. It is hand colored, and all of the inscription on it is in Latin. There are recognizable features, though the Ozark Mountains are depicted more fancifully that they actually are.

I love these maps, but there is something illicit about them. Many old atlases that would be valuable on their own are torn apart all of the time to get the individual pages, which can be sold in pieces for more money. I’m pretty sure that’s the pedigree of my maps, and it makes me want to take the back off of the frame of my 1777 map to see what might be recorded on it. I haven’t done that. Yet.