back to Roundrock

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I went down to my cabin over the weekend for a day trip. My wife is off in St. Louis, coddling our newest grand, Paul. I had no firm agenda for my woodsy visit, and the overcast skies and occasional drizzle seemed intent on keeping me on the cabin porch. I had thought the temperature was in the 50s, but when I checked the porch thermometer, it was actually in the low 40s. I was not dressed for the weather.

After nearly two hours of porch sitting and this or that minor chore, I saw the sun begin to appear through the clouds, which caused the wind to pick up. My one thought driving down to the cabin was that I could have a fire in the ring and get rid of a lot of junk wood I’d been collecting. But the windy day nixed that.

Our neighbor in faraway suburbia had given us a grocery bag full of purple coneflower seed heads, and I thought the growing sunlight suggested it was time to go scatter them. There is a grassy hillside not too far from the cabin, which I’ve been trying to expand by cutting away scrub and trees, that I thought was perfect for the native wildflowers, so I turned my feet in that direction.

In the summer, we tend to avoid venturing too far from the cabin since the ticks and chiggers can really ruin the days following a visit. But with the cool temperatures lately, I thought that fear was diminished. The result of this absence was that familiar sections of my forest looked unfamiliar to me. I knew the direction to go, but along the way I didn’t see the usual landmarks — this tree, that rock — I expected. But I reached my destination and scattered the seeds, hoping for a rain or two to help them find the soil. (Nothing in the forecast for now.)

Then, since I felt free to push through the scrub, I took a look at a few other places in this part of the forest. Since the lake was down, I could walk to one of the two islands we have (calling them “islands” is more hope than actuality). A decade ago I had planted a dozen shortleaf pines on the island, and I schlepped many steel fence posts and chicken wire to fence them in against the marauding deer. On my visit over the weekend, not only were there no pines left, but the fence was pushed down and half the fence posts were askew. So, probably beginning on my next visit, I will begin disassembling the fencing and save what I can. The fence posts, and maybe some of that fencing, may find future use in the pine plantation.

I also took the chance to poke around at the top end of the lake. While there was no standing water, there were pools, and much of the ground was soft or muddy. There were deer tracks everywhere, which is fine since I want to be a steward to the wild. The other island (which may have qualified as such only a half dozen times in the last decade) was overgrown. I can remember when it was a pile of gravel that I didn’t think could ever support life. The channel beside it was filled three feet deep with gravel washed down from the hillsides in the watershed. Trees were growing in it.

Among those trees was a nice sycamore. We had no sycamore trees when we first came to this forest. But when we had a few acres cleared and the dam built, sycamores began appearing. Most are twenty or more feet tall now. I managed to find one with smooth bark low enuf to the ground for me to carve my initials. Of course I didn’t have a pocket knife with me and had to use a key, but it’s a start.

I made my way back to the cabin, seeing all of those landmarks I’d missed on my first passage, and did a few things there (though I didn’t shovel gravel or split logs), but then it was getting time to go back home.

The sky, by this time was an unbroken vault of blue, and the temperature was in the 60s. It might have been nice to stay, but I had two dogs at home who were probably crossing their legs, so I decided to be a good dad.

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2 Comments on “back to Roundrock”

  1. markparis Says:

    We are well within the range of the sycamore tree, but I can’t recall seeing one. It’s probably because I am not familiar enough with the way they look to recognize one. I’m going to try to familiarize myself and look for sycamore on my regular dog walk.

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    Mark, sycamores are easily identifiable. Look for the white limbs in the upper branches and a mottled, peeling bark on the trunk (tan and green and white). Also, leaves much like a maple’s, though the size of dinner plates.


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