woodland battles

Not sure why I’ve let a few weeks pass without a fresh post to this humble blog. Nothing compelling to say, I suppose. I’ll try talking about my most recent visit to the cabin in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks.

Although it’s been dry for a couple of weeks here in faraway suburbia, Roundrock apparently got some rain shortly before our visit two weekends ago. Various kinds of mushrooms were popping up in the forest and in the gravel around the cabin.

Our agenda for this visit should have been to cut more encroaching limbs from the road leading to the cabin. But the will wasn’t there, and instead we sat in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and just enjoyed the solitude.

I did manage to push myself up from that comfy chair eventually, long enuf to shovel several wheelbarrow loads of gravel to another area around the cabin. I had laid the old tarp over the area a couple of months ago to kill the grass and weeds that had been growing there. I removed the tarp last visit (and moved it to another green spot that needs to be gray). I raked the dead plant matter from the uncovered spot and then laid down landscaping fabric (as a weed barrier — not sure how well this actually works). After that I began shoveling gravel into the wheelbarrow to pour it on the landscaping fabric. It took seven loads to cover the area about two inches deep, which I think is probably the minimum needed to thwart seeds from finding the soil and sprouting. (I have something living in the drain pipe I have buried in the gravel behind the cabin, and this beastie chews through the plastic pipe and then pushes aside the gravel above it to make entry/exit holes. I’ve tried a few things to dissuade the beastie, but I suppose my presence a couple of times a month mean little to a full-time resident. Still, when it comes time to spread gravel over these holes, I may have problems with the underground tenants.)

After getting this task done and the tools put away, I returned to the comfy chair to reflect on my work. I watched the hummingbirds at the feeder (a recent and nice addition to our weekends there). I watched the turtles in the lake. The turkey vultures in the sky above. The little gray birds flitting in the trees. And the wasps trying to reconquer the cabin porch. (So far I’m ahead in that battle, having added chemistry to my arsenal, but, again, they’re full-time residents and I am not.)

There are other battles as well.

I found this debris on the rug inside the cabin. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but those bits are metallic. It took me only a few seconds to turn my eyes from the floor to the ceiling, where I saw this:

What you see is the apex of the ceiling above the litter on the floor. The metallic material is an insulating sheathing that the builder wrapped the cabin in before putting on the metal roof and the “log” siding. Something has chewed a hole in the sheathing for whatever buggy purpose it has. My guess is that the insect was trying to get into the cabin from above. The metal roof is ridged every foot or so, I think to add strength to the structure of it as well as ventilation. But the ridges are open to the world at the eaves, and tiny critters can easily enter there to build nests or winter over. (A dark green, metal roof is not a bad solar collector in the winter.) And that’s what I think has happened. Something matured in that ridged area and then for whatever reason chose to tunnel out rather than follow the ridge to the light.

Even standing on a chair, I could not reach the apex of the ceiling, so on my next visit I intend to bring a ladder to get my old self up there. I’ll apply chemistry to the hole and then cover it with a metallic tape. Then we will see.

But there’s another battle being waged outside the cabin too.

You may recall that these marbles stand in for my grands until they can come visit the cabin. (Grand #8 is still in production in St. Louis, but in a couple of weeks that should change.) On recent visits we’ve often found one or two of these marbles missing. Just gone. Not moved a few inches away but vanished. These marbles are easily two inches in diameter, so impossible for a bird and not necessarily easy for a critter to carry off. On our last visit, one was missing again. (The pale one near the top left.) I was mystified. But I think I’ve figured it out. I had walked over to the huge old log down the hill from the cabin to set peanuts on it for the birds and the wood rat who lives in it. As I was walking back to the cabin I saw the pale marble in the leaf litter. This would be about thirty feet from where it had been placed in the gravel. Then I understood. Wood rats are also known as pack rats. In the spring, when the wood rat would clean out its nest, we’d find hundreds of peanut shells outside the back entrance. Among this is often bits of aluminum foil that we sometimes use to cook with over the fire. The wood rat clearly likes shiny things, and the fact that the missing marble was nine-tenths of the way to the wood rat’s lair suggests to me that it is the culprit. And my wife speculated that the lair is probably packed with other, smaller marbles harvested from the gravel. (Except how can the rat appreciate the shiny things in the dark of the log?)

It was a satisfying visit. A little bit of relaxing. A little bit of working. A little bit of puzzle solving. I’m hoping to get back there this coming weekend (if the hurricanes don’t send too much water to the Midwest as they’re forecasted to) because the contractor I’ve hired to repair the spillway has told me this time he’ll really get it done.

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