something new under the Roundrock sun

I’ve been stomping about my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks for twenty years. In that time I’ve seen a lot of things and made a few discoveries (including, possibly, a bear sighting a couple of months ago). I like to think I keep myself open the the possibility of surprise — I’m still hoping to find an arrowhead before I shuffle off this mortal coil — and I like to think I’m a pretty good steward of the earth in my 80 acres.

Since the climate in Missouri decided to change from -13 degrees two weeks ago to 60+ degrees last weekend, I made a dash down to Roundrock, the second-to-last day of the month and the first time in February. I had a few things on my agenda, including a hike to a particularly nice spot about in the center of my 80-acre rectangle. Here it is:

This stream feeds my lake, and it’s a wet-weather stream, so often when I visit this spot (it’s a bit of a hike) I’m standing on the bedrock below the water you see. But what you see in the photo is what I saw on Saturday. I think most of this water is snowmelt, which was still on the ground a few days before. In fact, the lake still had some skim ice on it when I visited. Anyway, this is a nice spot, and Flike and I made our way to it as a way to enjoy the nice day after our first chore of the morning. You don’t see any round rocks in this picture because they’re shy.

And our first chore of the day was do some work in the pines. They are in the tall grass, which is more or less impassible most of the year because of the bugs. (Ozark chiggers are the worst!) So it is in the winter months that I can dare to venture in there. It seems that my pines are favorites of the deer who need to thrash the velvet off their antlers. A couple of years ago, when I last planted pines there, I decided to save some money and not buy steel fence posts to use for the caging about the baby pines. Instead, I cut down cedar trees, trimmed them, and pounded them into the ground beside the pines. I then wrapped chickenwire around them and had a pretty good defense system. For a year.

The cedar posts rotted quickly in the ground here. The pine plantation is about the only spot in my entire forest that has actual soil, and it’s just down hill from my neighbor’s pond, so this soil is often wet. Pretty good growing conditions for pines, but not so good for rotting wood. As the cedar posts weakened, the deer, I guess, saw their chance and used the pines to thrash off their velvet. The poor pines got pretty battered — some were lost altogether — and I knew I had to get more serious about protecting them. To this end I’ve been collecting fence posts from around Roundrock. Some were from trees long gone but some were from the older pines now fifty feet tall and no longer needing protection. All I needed was a reasonably warm winter day to replace the cedar posts with the steel ones, spruce up the chicken wire all fallen and full of weeds, then pat myself on the back for a job well done. Which is pretty much how it went down. Flike was not much help, and he decided if I wasn’t going to throw a stick for him full time, he was just going to chill in the truck.

I managed to rescue four of the battered pines, but the rest in that area are hardly worth saving and I think it’s time I ordered more from the Conservation Department and start again. (It is good soil, and the setting gets sun and water. I ought to do it. I really should.) As I worked in the pines I saw that many of the mature ones had lost their leaders or large branches to the ice storm last month. They’ll recover, but I did spend a little time collecting these fallen limbs where I could. (Some were deep in the blackberries!) I also found a deer antler as I poked around, so that was nice.

And then it was time to go back to the cabin for lunch. Normally, I sit on the porch for my meals. I can look down at the lake and watch for water birds or turtles (none of the former and still a little early for the latter). But as I gazed across the lake I saw a downed tree on the far shore. Another casualty of the ice storm (I thought). The exposed core of the tree was white in the February gray, so it was easy to see even at that distance. Well, I have a lot of trees, and I can’t fight the weather, so I decided to be at peace with nature.

But then I saw another white spot nearby. And what looked like white flakes underneath it. Keep in mind this is probably 300 feet away. So I decided that when Flike and I took our walk to that nice spot (above), we’d first detour to the spot across the lake to have a look at the fallen tree.

And this is what I found:

This was something new under the sun. I have beavers in my lake! I feel like a good steward of the land if it’s attracting new tenants. All of this work was relatively fresh. The chips on the ground were still white and clean, and the weather had only turned tolerable in the last week. (My neighbor lost four calves to the bitter cold just two weeks before.) I wonder if the beavers would have been busy with their work had I not arrived with a barking dog that morning. Actually, I understand they’re mostly nocturnal, so I guess my presence wasn’t a factor on Saturday.

The beaver don’t need to build a dam to create a pool of water for their den since I’ve done that already, so I think they’re bringing down the trees (about a half dozen) in order to get at the tips that they will eat until more palatable food becomes available. A couple of the downed trees were stripped of their branches, which were not around, so I suspect the beavers carried them to their den, which is probably in the muddy little “cliff” just below these trees. (In the very top photo, this area is just out of sight to the left across the lake.) I think their den entrance is usually under the water, but with the fluctuating levels of my lake, it may be exposed later.

My lake has been around nearly as long as I have been stomping around my woods, but it was only this year that the beaver moved in. My assumption had been that my elevation was too high for them to venture that far from the nearby river. Plus, there is a massive Corps of Engineers lake only a few miles from my woods. Seems like there is plenty of beaver homesteading opportunity there. But I’ve read that beaver were nearly completely extirpated in Missouri in the early part of the last century and that restoration efforts have thoroughly turned that around, so maybe the beaver in my lake are part of that rebounding population effort. If so, I’m glad to play a part.

This looked like a Golden Retriever to me. Wearing a Covid mask, of course.

Explore posts in the same categories: Roundrock

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on “something new under the Roundrock sun”

  1. Libby Says:

    What about the bats in the belfry?

  2. I feel so calm reading your post.. how marvelous

  3. Arty beavers! We have some in our stream. They are welcome.

  4. markparis Says:

    In all the years my brother and I spent running around the woods and along the creek and river, we never saw any sign of beavers. Then one day about 30 (or more?) years ago my father and I took a canoe down the river. For the first time in my life I heard a beaver tail slap the water. Now I see beaver dams right next to the industrial parkway we take into town. I guess they are coming back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: