We had dramatic weather when we were down at Roundrock last weekend. Rain, lowering clouds, occasional sunshine, and more clouds. I captured this image looking north across my neighbor’s corn field. The temperature rose twenty degrees while we were there, from 50 on our arrival to more than 70 degrees in the afternoon. The wind was blustery, and the sky kept changing costumes as we walked and wandered and waited and watched.
This is in the western end of our forest. The ground is more or less level here, and there is even actual dirt in places. If we didn’t have a sparkling lake to overlook, I think we would eventually build our house in this western area.
We were on a hike in our woods on a nice day, and our feet led us here.
It sure looks open, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. We are often walking around dense growth or deadfall. We can rarely go in a straight line in our woods. It only looks that way. (Can you see Flike on the left?)
We often find box turtle shells here and there in our forest. According to one estimate I’d read, I could have as many as 800 turtles roaming the 80 acres of my woods. (That doesn’t seem likely though. I’d be tripping over the things if I had that many.)
Often we will collect these shells (since the turtles have no use for them any longer) and add them to the growing number near the cabin.
Above you see our latest addition, and it’s unlike any we’ve collected so far. It’s from a snapping turtle that, until recently, lived and thrived in our lake. I knew the snapper was there. I’d actually seen in a few times in the shallow end — one time as Libby and I were preparing to wade across the stretch of water to get to Danger Island to tend the hapless pines we’d planted there. I’d made the tactical decision not to tell Libby that we had a snapping turtle living in our lake.
You can tell from the toe of my boot in the photo above that the turtle had a long and apparently healthy life. That shell is the size of a turkey platter.
I suppose the snapper migrated to our lake. The lake has only been around for a little more than a decade, and it seems to me a turtle that size must be older than that. Regardless, it was a welcome addition, and despite all of the swimming we do in that lake, we’ve never encountered it on its own “turf.”
But one visit, a couple of months back, as we walked down to the dam (which we usually do as soon as we arrive and unpack) we smelled something awful. Something was rotting nearby. Not thinking to look toward the water, we poked around in the scrub and trees to find the dead thing. It was Queequeg who found it for us when he inexplicably pushed through the tall grass and went down to the water’s edge.
And there it was, the big snapping turtle already in a stage of decomposition. The smell was potent, but I knew I would eventually collect the shell. We persuaded Queequeg to rejoin us and went on our way. I would return on a subsequent visit, after the scavengers had done
there their bit, a bit more.
This photo shows the turtle as we first encountered it. You can see that the scavengers had begun their work. Look at those claws! I think I can still find them. Maybe I’ll make some earrings for Libby with them. What do you think?
I hired a man to mow our road (since Good Neighbor Brian, who usually does it, had been recovering from some surgery recently), and as we strolled down it one day with the dogs, we found some bones where the grass had once obscured our view.
It’s not uncommon to find bones at Roundrock. Often most of a complete skeleton of some critter will turn up in a spot. Other times, we find a single bone, separated from its fellows, all on its own. I found the two you see above near each other on the freshly mowed road. I’m not sure they’re even from the same critter though.
One is, probably, a leg bone. The other is a vertebrae, likely from a deer (?). The dogs were not interested in them (they wanted to get back to the cabin where we had kibble waiting for them), so I toyed with them and came up with the little image you see above.
What to do with it though? I didn’t want to carry it all the way back to the cabin just to do I-don’t-know-what with it. So I stopped at a place where we had found a deer carcass and stuck it in the same tree where Libby had hung the deer’s skull. That was a year ago, and the skull is still there.
We’ve been mystified in recent months by our feeder. When we visit, we find it emptied and we fill it with black oil sunflower seed, and the birds flock to it, even fight over it. Titmice, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, even cardinals will spar over the feeder as we watch, delighted, from our comfy chairs on the shady porch.
But not so much lately.
The birds haven’t been coming. I realize that many birds don’t hang out in the Ozarks through the winter, but the phenomenon we’ve noticed began last summer. They’re just not visiting.
I filled the feeder in August, fully expecting to find it empty on our next visit (perhaps two weeks later). It wasn’t. In fact, it was barely down at all. We didn’t worry at first. But on our next visit, perhaps another two weeks later, the feeder was unchanged. The seed hadn’t diminished at all.
I began to wonder then if the seed had gotten wet somehow and gone bad. So I poured it out onto the road near the fire ring (for the turkeys) and refilled the feeder with fresh seed.
But the same thing happened. Weeks passed and it wasn’t eaten. Months have now passed, and it has not been eaten. Sure, we see the occasional random bird visit the feeder while we’re in the comfy chairs, but not the half dozen at once, all waiting their turns to get a single seed to carry off and consume elsewhere. (We once saw a tiny goldfinch defend the feeder — successfully — for a half hour before it finally flew off.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, this curious behavior began when we brought a new bag of black oil sunflower seeds to the cabin. I’m beginning to suspect that we bought a bag of bad seed. Also possibly not coincidentally, the bird shop where we bought the seed had recently changed owners, and the seed we were sold was a new brand we’d not used before. In fact, the big 25 pound bag does not have a brand name on it at all. I suspect we now have a bag of useless bird seed in the cabin.
Not to worry though. The seed I had poured out on the road by the fire ring was utterly gone by our next visit. It may be that our turkeys will be well fed this winter.
I spent a lot of money on a metal cabinet for the cabin at Roundrock because I wanted something that was mouse proof. Now, we’ve never had any sign of mice in the cabin. I’m told that this is in part because we keep the ground immediately around the cabin clear so that mice fear to venture across it lest they be nabbed by a predator. I don’t know if that’s true, but in any case, unless we are there with food for our hungry stomachs, there really is nothing in the cabin that I think would attract mice.
But the cabinet is handy for stowing things and generally reducing the clutter inside the cabin. (And there is some oatmeal in there, inside a mental tin inside a metal cabinet. Any mice that can get to that have earned my respect.) And it’s also handy for adorning with meaningful magnetic objects. Above you see my latest addition.
The 13.1 is my newest metallic adornment. Now, I’ll confess that I was originally disdainful of people who put a 13.1 sticker on the back window of their cars, announcing to the world that they had completed a half marathon. To me it was like saying “hey, look at me, I’m half an athlete.”
That was until I actually ran a half marathon. Survived a half marathon. The bright red Prolechariot, which you can see reflected in the door of the cabinet, now sports a bright red 13.1 sticker in the back window. I earned that thing! It will stay there until I replace it with a sticker that doubles that number (in October of 2014, I hope).
But back to the mouse proof cabinet. You can see a number of magnets on it. The ORC is for the Olathe Running Club, of which I am a member (and which has made a huge difference in my running life). The blue compass rose at the left is the symbol of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City where Libby and I volunteered for more than a decade. The red and white magnet is a piece of art glass from the contemporary art museum that we visit often (and where my daughter, Rachel, had her wedding reception). And the bluish magnet in the top right is a depiction of the Steel Bridge in Portland, Oregon that my son ran me across quite a few times when we were there visiting last summer. It’s a runner-friendly bridge, unlike at least one of the others that I feared would cost me my life as I ran across it.
So the mouse proof cabinet abides. As circumstances allow, I’ll add more magnets to it, and someday, someone will look at all of them and have no idea what each meant, but life is full of mystery in that way.
When we were last at Roundrock, we were busy with some chore inside the cabin, but I heard something splashing around in the lake below. Something big splashing around. I thought at first it might be some geese landing on the water, but the splashing was too random and ongoing for that. So I suspected a deer might be thrashing about in the shallow water. (Or a moose from the sound, not that we have moose in Missouri, of course.)
I dashed onto the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and whipped the camera from my pocket to get the really poor picture you see above. The interloper is there, just disappearing into the leaves of the tree that are nearly its same color.
It was a dog. Something along the lines of a Golden Retriever, I think. It was intent on something to the west and disappeared, so I couldn’t see if it had a collar or not. But I wasn’t too keen on attracting its attention regardless. Flike and Queequeg were with us, and I didn’t want them making friends with some roving farm dog (or worse, some feral dog). So I let the thing splash away unmolested. (And given that it must have had some Golden Retriever in it, had I scolded it and told it to go away, it would have probably wagged its tail and come loping up to me to say hello.)
I wrote of a recent solo trip to Roundrock in which there were three dogs in the lake below the cabin, and they looked as though they were interested in coming after me. I wonder, now, if the dog above was the same one I saw on that mid-week visit before. Of course, we’ve had several encounters with dogs in our woods, a notable one recounted here. I suspect I know about only the tiniest fraction of the doggie incursions in my woods; they probably have more presence there than I do.
Just a note: that bit of the lake you see is sadly diminished. At that point the water should be about 7-8 feet deep. The lake is holding water better than it has in the past, and in a hundred years I think the leaky bottom will be plugged, but Pablo has resigned himself to this state of things.
I’ve written here about using the old shelter tarp to cover the grass growing near the fire ring to kill it off. I don’t want to use any herbicides in this area since it is so close to the lake. Obviously, picking out all of that grass by hand would drive a marginally sane man fully insane. (Plus it would probably lift a lot of actual dirt out from below the gravel and put it atop the gravel, giving future seeds better opportunity.)
So the tarp went down, held in place by the cut lumber you see there, which, I’m sure you’ll remember, I salvaged from a tree stand that had fallen from a tree once growing but now dead on my property line. It fell on my side of the line, and I let it sit for a year or two before I decided the original owner didn’t want any of it.
The tarp stayed in place for at least two months. It was mostly a factor of us not getting down to the woods often enuf in the early summer that caused the tarp to stay in place for so long, but it certainly did the job we’d intended.
When we lifted the tarp, all of the grass and scrub was withered and brown. I raked it up and used it as tinder in my next fire. Note Flike there for scale. He’s a 75 pound dog, so he’s larger than he appears here.
The tarp was moved to the parking pad (just to the left of these pictures), and it sat there for a month and a half. We finally moved it on our last visit to another area nearer the cabin. It did the same good work in its second location, and I’m hoping it’s doing that now in the third location. (I understand that we might not get as dramatic a performance in the winter months since the life-giving sun is not as strong, so the grass is more dormant. We shall see.)
I know that the grass will begin its reconquest of the cleared area — indeed, it probably already has and is waiting for the spring to sprout. But I now have a tool for dealing with it, and maybe I can keep it from getting as bad this time. It’s another chore to add to the list at Roundrock.
Don’t they look content? They’re actually intent. Libby was hand feeding them some hot dogs that we had cooked on the grill beside our hamburgers. It’s amazing how the boys can concentrate when they want to. (I understand that Border Collies can herd sheep simply with their eyes. Looking at Flike in this photo, I can see how he could mesmerize just about anyone he wanted. Not me, though. I know all of his tricks.)
This is one of the photos I mentioned the other day. My tech team solved the problem, so I’m good to go (until the next problem).
I apologize for the problems here of late. Our whole family blog network somehow got hacked a few weeks ago and a Malware message came up whenever anyone came to Roundrock Journal of any of the other blogs (just family stuff). We got that corrected eventually, and then the photo loading problem appeared. That seems to be fixed now. So, back to the regular blogging routine.
I think the blog got hacked over the weekend. It wouldn’t load anything more than the banner at the top for a while, but my crack technical team got it fixed (after one of them ran the New York Marathon and the other did on-site reporting of the New York Marathon). It looks as though there might be some lingering issues though. I am currently unable to post any photos to the blog.
Granted, at least half of my photos are poor anyway, so it’s not as though you’re going to suffer by not having a photo for today’s post. But I wanted to show you a before and after display of the area I had covered with the tarp to kill the grass growing by the fire ring. It’s dramatic.
And I have this really nice photo of Flike and Queequeg that I wanted to share because it is a rare moment to catch Flike standing still with Queequeg nearby. And I wanted to show you the very strange interloper I spotted on my last visit to Roundrock. It’s not a good picture, but that makes it more interesting.
The asters were still blooming when I was out there two weeks ago. I love the asters, especially the purple ones, and I even managed to trick my fussy camera into taking some nice close-up photos of them.
I don’t think I’ll make it out to the woods this coming weekend. Libby is going to Kentucky for her annual trek to the River’s Edge Film Festival, which I’ve spoken of here before. I’m not sure why that would prevent me from sneaking off to the woods, though she is leaving behind two dogs, a tank full of tropical fish, and three birds to care for. (Yes, three birds. When Seth and I had gone to the cabin for an overnight a month ago, Libby snuck out and bought herself a pair of love birds. They are lovely, but they don’t sing. They have a harsh kind of shout for such tiny things. Flike is afraid of them, all 75 pounds of Flike.) And my daughter-in-law Amber is likely going to borrow my truck for a little trip she’s taking. That leaves Seth’s Prius for getting us around this weekend, and I don’t think that can tackle the road out there right now, as bad as they are.
So here you go. An aimless post that’s not much more than throat clearing. (At least I didn’t talk about running.)