Archive for the ‘Roundrock’ category

bits and pieces

September 20, 2022

I may have shown you this photo before. That’s a particularly nice round rock, about the size of a grapefruit, with the tannish color that distinguishes it from most of the others I have in my forest, which are generally whiter. The location is where my cabin now stands, so this is a very old photo.

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I am now on LinkedIn. I’m not sure why. But if you want to “connect” or “follow” or “stalk” or whatever is done there, look me up.

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I’ve also updated the About Me section on this blog. You can get to it by clicking on the link in the sidebar on the right (on larger screens) or by clicking here. I’m still the same old me though.

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The reprint of my story “Travel Light” in Made of Rust and Glass will be delayed until the end of October because the publisher (and his whole family) contracted Covid. In our mostly vaccinated civilization, the virus tends to manifest as a very bad cold (that’s how it affected me last April), and that seems to be what happened to the publisher et al. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

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Cross your fingers, gang. It looks as though that massive cypress tree in my back yard will not have a harvest of “cones” this year for my dogs to bring in the house. I have found a few in the yard (a little early in the season, too), but when I look up in the tree I don’t see the hundreds of them at the tips of the branches I saw last year. The dogs will still bring in the feathery leaves from the cypress, but they don’t puncture the skin on the soles of your feet when you step on them in the night. The squirrels, on the other hand, have built a second big nest in the cypress, and they regularly visit the bird feeder to empty it.

Beneath the cypress tree, in a raised bed built especially for them, my impatiens have lost their fight with the heat and drought of this summer. Last year we had removed two ash trees on our western fence line (that sounds so grandiose). They had kept this flower bed shaded from the afternoon sun. This year the impatiens received the full force of that sun, with atypical heat, in a worse-than-normal drought. Though we were vigilant about keeping them watered — and I had added peat to the soil before planting and mulch on the soil after planting — the impatiens couldn’t thrive and barely survive. They’re an understory plant not suited to too much direct sunlight. So now they’re spindly, losing leaves, sending up few flowers. I keep hoping for a second act when the milder fall temps come. (And I calculate what different flowering plant might do better in that bed next year. Maybe wax-leaf begonias?)

return to Roundrock

September 12, 2022

Libby and I went down to Roundrock on Sunday, mostly because there was a break in the hot weather. We had no agenda for the day, which often results in the best visits.

When I arrived on the cabin porch, I saw this dragonfly resting on the door. I was surprised that it didn’t fly away at my approach, but then I saw that it was caught in a spider’s web. I pulled away a couple of strands of the webbing, and the dragonfly flew away, through the trees toward the lake. So I got a few human decency points for the day.

I did have a vague notion that I might spread some of the gravel from the recently delivered pile onto the parking area. I had covered a big part of it with a tarp a month or two ago to kill the grass growing there. And I’ve heard that if you spread the gravel thick enuf (at least four inches), the grass and scrub won’t grow back (except for this one type of plant that seems to thrive in limestone gravel). But I was doing my best to talk myself out of doing the work because it was, well, work!

I was dithering in the cabin when Libby called me out and said there was some mammal swimming in our lake. It happened that we’d heard a tree crash to the ground moments before, so it was easy to identify the mammal. It was one of our elusive beavers! We had finally seen one in the flesh. It swam for a little while then dove under the water, popping up in a different part of the lake. It did this twice. I suspect it was judging the threat level of the two bipeds up the hill. After that we didn’t see the beaver again, though we did try to convince ourselves that a large sunning turtle was a beaver. Still, it was great to see one live. They’re mostly nocturnal so we were lucky to see one during the day. But it had been nearly a month since I had been out, so I guess the beavers thought they had the place to themselves.

I eventually talked myself into spreading some gravel. I didn’t want to leave the area open to the sun as it was once I removed the tarp. I figured the mostly dead grass would just green up again and laugh at me. So I pulled out what dry stuff I could and then got busy transferring the gravel from the big pile to the exposed parking area. One wheelbarrow load at a time. I dumped 15 loads in the area, and Libby spread them with a steel-toothed rake. Then we had lunch. After lunch I returned to drop and spread four more loads. I estimate that I covered about half of the parking area, and that’s how it’s going to stay for a while because I moved the tarp to the other half of the area. This method of thwarting growth works best during the active growing season, and I’m hoping that I still have some of that. But I think in a couple of months I’ll just remove the tarp from that area and spread the gravel there too. That will pretty much use up my pile, so I’ll need to have more delivered. You see how having an 80-acre forest with a cabin and a lake is just like having a yard in suburbia. There’s always maintenance.

We didn’t have a fire this visit (one-match or otherwise), mostly because those take tending, which restricts what we can do, but also because it had rained heavily overnight. Though the roads were dry, there were robust puddles everywhere. Even so, the lake is down about four feet from full pool. We could use more rain, but there’s nothing in the forecast. Warmer dry weather stretches out as far as my weather app can see.

one-match fire Friday

August 19, 2022

A day-trip to the cabin yesterday, and I built a one-match fire to cook our burgers over. It’s all in the preparation!

even if you can’t see it, you know it’s there

August 16, 2022

Back in 2014, as I was walking through my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, I saw a bird rise from the ground and flop around as though wounded. I wasn’t fooled. It was a whippoorwill, trying to draw me away from her ground nest. I walked carefully to where I had seen her rise, and I found these two chicks.

I had never heard a whippoorwill until I went to Scout camp as a boy. And then the things seemed to sing their three-note song incessantly through the night. Something about that fixated in me, and to this day, I love the call of the whippoorwill.

Most people will never see one. They are night birds that hunt by flying with their mouths open to catch any insects in their path. But you can still know that they’re there because you will hear their night call in the spring and early summer. Here’s a link if you want to hear one yourself.

In one of my stories, whippoorwills play an important role, not only for their natural existence but because they stand as a metaphor for knowing something exists even if you don’t have direct evidence of it. Someday maybe I can share that story with you.

throwback Thursday ~ a little cabin in the woods

July 28, 2022

Here’s a view of my little cabin in the woods from November of 2009. I’d taken it in extreme zoom from across the lake. This was very soon after it was built. There is no double retaining wall in front of it yet (constructed by yours truly), which was something I did slowly over succeeding seasons to shore up the foundation. You can’t really see it from this shot, but the cabin is perched on the hillside, and I was certain at the time that it would slide into the lake if I didn’t act.

Aside from the lack of a retaining wall, this is still mostly how it looks today. I’ve taken out one or two trees, and the beaver have taken out many others, though they’re mostly on the shoreline.

a recent visit to Roundrock

June 28, 2022

Though the temps have been miserably high for mid-June in my part of the country, last Sunday was much more seasonable, and Libby and I decided to dash down to Roundrock for the day to enjoy our little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. We passed through a little rain on the way there, so the forest was wet when we drove in (on our nicely solid, recently re-graveled road through the trees). We had talked about maybe having a fire in the ring, but the wet kindling would have made that a challenge, and inertia made it impossible, so we didn’t.

We had no agenda for the day. I wanted to cut the grass below the cabin leading to the lake, since my New York grands will be coming next month, and it’s likely they’ll want to try fishing since we’ve recently pulled some lunkers out of the lake (though I worry that the lunkers may pull my grands into the lake). That involved firing up my cantankerous weed whipper, so I put that off for as long as I could. But the day progressed, and the sun was beginning to peak out of the clouds, which would make the shoreline work hot, so I finally got my gear together and got started. It’s now my policy to buy power tools that are made in America so that I can use English swear words when I’m trying to start them. I aired a lot of English as I tried and tried to get my weed whipper going. It eventually happened, and I made my way down the hill to the lake where I attacked the mix of grasses and scrub. But the engine died a number of times as I worked, and I only got about half of the work done before it died and would not start again. I called it good and retreated to the shade of the cabin porch.

I had put off cutting this grass on previous visits in part because the daisies were blooming there and I didn’t want to mow them down. But I also wanted to cut the grass and scrub as close to July as I could so it would have less time to grow tall again before the grands arrived. About halfway up the hill to the cabin these beauties were blooming, and I’m glad the whipper’s engine gave out before I got to this point.

In my old blog, Roundrock Journal, I used to identify these plants by using several trusty references. But now I just take them as they come. A pretty white flower tower. That seems sufficient.

So we sat in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and ate our lunch of salad and cheese and crackers. (We might have had chicken sandwiches if I’d gotten a fire going, but that didn’t happen.) I drank my iced tea (unsweetened, of course). And we watched the lake. A few turtles were surfacing on the water to get a breath of air before diving to the bottom again. A few times a hunting bass created ripples as it struck at an insect on the water. The dragonflies patrolled the surface, eating plenty of mosquitos, I hope. The turkey vultures circled over our south ridge. But the beavers never made an appearance. They’d done more work on their lodge, including packing the sticks with mud, because a nice crop of grass was growing on it.

We did take a hike onto the dam, in part to check on the repaired spillway. It’s in good shape, but it doesn’t look as though we’ve had any rains strong enuf to put it to use. The dam was thick with tall grasses, and we waded about three quarters of the way across, as far as the overflow drain. It was still free of sticks and debris since my last visit when I cleaned it. That also tells me we haven’t had a strong rain in a while. The grass beyond this point was too dense for our tick-avoiding selves, so we turned around and hiked back to the cabin. Even though it wasn’t excessively hot, it was more pleasant in the shade, so we retreated to the porch again.

I’m not sure how long we sat there, but the clouds had begun massing again and I feared a storm was coming (there was a small chance of it in the forecast), so we began packing up to leave. If the storm came, it was after we left, for we drove home in strong sunlight.

I’m not sure what the grands’ schedules are for July, so I don’t know when we’ll all be coming down again, but I think I can probably squeeze one more solo trip down there to tidy up for their visit. Always something to be done in my forest.

bits and pieces

June 16, 2022

Those cool, wet days of spring that I mentioned in a recent post are gone. They’ve been replaced by heat reaching the triple digits in the afternoon and blue skies without a drop of rain in them. We removed two ash trees from our backyard last year, so more sun gets to the area. That’s been good for the grass, but the impatiens in the raised bed around the cypress are in for a scorching summer. I had anticipated this and did what I could to prepare the bed this year. I mixed a lot of peat into the soil before planting. My hope was that it would help retain water so the impatiens wouldn’t dry out as quickly. And once I planted them, I spread mulch around them with the hope it will help cool the soil from the sun and maybe reduce the evaporation from the ground. Just this week I bought a new hose so I could more effectively hand-water them (supplementing the impact sprinkler in the yard). I expect August to be the real test.

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That photo above is of a spiderwort that was blooming by my repaired spillway at Roundrock. An added surprise is that green insect crawling on it. Somehow I managed to take a decent picture of it. But here’s a rule of thumb: any time you want to create a breeze, just try taking a photograph of a flower.

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And speaking of Roundrock, the lake has been there for nearly as long as we’ve been stomping around that little bit of forest of the edge of the Missouri Ozarks. Probably about fifteen years. We never officially stocked it, though in the early years we did see little fish in the shallows. They were probably delivered as sticky eggs on the feet of wading birds. (We also have a small pond higher up in the lake’s watershed that has some fish, though the journey for a fish from there to the lake would be a long one and would only happen in a huge rainstorm.) For a couple of seasons, we would stop by a friend’s farm on the way down to fish one of his overstocked ponds, taking what few fish we caught in large buckets the rest of the hundred miles to our lake and pouring them in with good wishes.

But in all of that time, we never fished our lake. What swam beneath the surface, we did not know. We swam in it, but didn’t have any encounters. And then the beavers moved in, and we stopped swimming in it. We could occasionally see some fish patrolling the shallow water near the shore if we stood silently and the sun was right and the gods were smiling.

Then, on a whim last visit, Libby said she wanted to try fishing. I had a little bit of tackle tucked into the corner of the cabin, but I think the last time I used it was fishing my friend’s pond a decade ago. I carried the pole (with a reel I had to re-assemble a little and a tiny lure that looked dried out and sad) down the hill before the cabin and tried a cast as Libby was coming down the hill behind me. The reel wasn’t really interested in cooperating, and I don’t think I had enuf weight on the end of the line, so my cast didn’t go more than ten feet from the shore.

And I almost instantly got a hit! It was a fighter, too. Libby was still coming down the hill as I reeled in what turned out to be some kind of sunfish of edible size. (I took a photo of it, but it came out blurry. Sorry.) Well, we weren’t in eating mode, so I wanted to release the fish as soon as I could. I’d had some practice with this when I caught bass during my callow youth, but this sunfish had a much smaller mouth than a bass, so I had some trouble getting the hook out. I did eventually, but I’m pretty sure that poor fish had a sore mouth for a while. Libby was at my side, giving me guidance.

So I cast again, thinking it was purest chance that I got a strike right away. And I got another strike by another big fish. It fought as I reeled it in, and it turned out to be a bass of keeper size if I were a fisherman (rather than a dilettante). I was determined to get a good photo of this one, but the bass jumped off the hook and fell into the dusty grass at my feet, flopping around and perhaps considering great existential questions. I managed to usher it back into the water, and I suppose it had a story to tell just like the sunfish I caught.

Then it was Libby’s turn to cast. On her third try, she got a strike as well! Hers turned out to be another bass, even larger than the one I had pulled in. I managed to get a somewhat decent photo of this beast:

With no scale and no ruler, I can’t tell you how big these bass were, but they were big enuf to fuel my imagination that my old lake is packed with lunkers just waiting for the right gear and patience to find them. (Or not. It is kind of cruel to do this to a fish if you’re not intending on eating it.) In all, we pulled out three keepers on seven casts.

So I think about the grands coming for their annual visit next month. I have enuf old poles that I could affix some static lines with some bobbers and hotdogs for bait that they could fool around with. But if they got a strike at all like the ones Libby and I got, I’m pretty sure the rods would get yanked out of their hands and disappear in the tea-colored water. So I need to think on that.

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Not that I’m counting, but so far this year I’ve had six stories accepted by lit mags (and two reprints). One is a story I had written thirteen years ago that got rejected 25 times! That’s a record for me (the six acceptances, but also the 25 rejections). I told Libby the other day that if I had worked as hard at anything else in my life as I have been about my writing ambitions lately, I could probably offer to buy Twitter for $45 billion.

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Here’s a bit of my undergraduate years, consigned to the fire:

rumors of progress at Roundrock

May 13, 2022

The dogs and I had gone down to my little cabin on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks on Wednesday, more or less spontaneously, because I had this notion that we could spend the night and I could hear the whippoorwills. (It was too hot for that and we later retreated to suburbia where there is air conditioning and running water.) But as I was sitting in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake I could hear a vehicle coming down the road toward the cabin. Good Neighbor Craig sometimes does this when he has news (since I get no cell signal at the cabin) or just to visit. And there have been times when I’ve heard vehicles approaching only to hear them stop and reverse once they get within sight of the cabin (or, more likely, within sight of my red truck parked by the cabin). I suspect they are folks who are just exploring or maybe want to throw a line in the lake, but they see the landowner is present and decide to retreat.

This time was different. The sound continued, but it did not continue down the road. At first I thought it was my new neighbor to the north, doing something on his land, except that I noticed new growth coming up in that field as I passed it that morning, and it seemed unlikely that he’d be taking something mechanized there to smash it. So I rose from the comfy chair and steered my feet toward the sound. Far ahead through the trees I could see a big red machine moving into the forest beside my road, and as I grew closer I could see that it was digging up the ground in there.

I was alone (except for Flike, who’s a big baby, and Queequeg, who I’d sequestered in the cabin), but if this was an interloper with timber trespass plans, I was going to have to confront him. When I got close enuf, though, I recognized the man in the cab of the big red machine as the man I had spoken with a couple of months ago about repairing my road and spillway. So what was he doing digging up the ground in the trees?

I don’t know how soon he spotted me watching him, but he finished what he was doing before he jumped down from the machine to say howdy.

It turned out that he had just dug the first of three trenches off of the main ditch coming down beside the road. The point was to bleed off some of the water that comes down the road so it doesn’t continue down to the dam and erode the spillway. The north spillway has been a problem since it was first built fifteen years ago. I’ve had it “repaired” several times, but we were apparently fixing the wrong problem. It was never the water from the lake that was eroding the spillway but rather the water racing down the road that hit the spillway from the side and chewed into the dam itself. So the fix had to begin with diverting the water coming down the road, and the three trenches he dug were intended to help with this by diverting the water before it got to the spillway.

Now, I’ve been waiting for three years to get this problem addressed. I’d hired three people to do it in that time, and each time they did a little initial work and then disappeared, not returning my calls or texts. This fourth man is the one who built my cabin, and he seemed pleased to be invited back. Even so, the weather was not always cooperative, and I suppose he had competing work around the county, but I began to fear that he would be a no-show again. And yet there he was, doing some initial work.

He and I spoke at some length about what still needed to be done (a culvert put in at a muddy spot farther up the road; some gravel for other parts of the road; repair to the spillway itself, which involved hauling large rock about as far into my forest as you could; and maybe another water diversion feature up by the cabin). It was all ambitious, and he spoke of some family issues that might intervene as well as the storms predicted for later in the week. I was just glad that work was finally begun.

He dug the three trenches (and a fourth farther up the road at that muddy spot that I didn’t see until I left), but then he had to get home (those family issues). I returned to the cabin and the comfy chair, noting how high the sun was still in the sky and how long it would be until the whippoorwill sang and how miserably hot it was. (The thermometer on the shady porch had been fixed at 90 degrees all day; it was worse in the sun.) So Flike and I had a conversation about maybe just going home instead of spending the night. He favored this, so I began packing our gear.

We drove out, past the three new ditches and then the fourth one I hadn’t known about way up the hill, and then on home. I called the day a good start on a long-needed project and thought I would stay in touch with the man as much as I dared to nudge him along for the other bits that needed doing.

Except that he sent me a text the next evening saying all of the work was done! Three years of waiting and frustration seemed to have been addressed in a day and a half of work.

I was tempted to jump in the truck and hustle down there to examine it, but Friday morning began with strong thunderstorms in Kansas City that were moving in the direction of Roundrock. More rain is forecast for Saturday. On Sunday, my wife returns from a long stay in St. Louis (to care for Small Paul). So the soonest I can get out to my cabin and all of the road work is Monday of next week, which is fine since the temperatures will have moderated some by then. And before, I might have added a few days to that delay since I would not want to drive on my poor road so soon after a rain. But if the fix is in, that won’t be an issue any more.

So I’ll occupy myself by pulling weeds from my garden in suburbia until I can return again.

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Here is a pretty good picture of the beaver lodge across the lake from my cabin. Thought I’ve seen plenty of signs of the beavers, I have yet to see the little beasts themselves.

The dark spot to the left of the pile of sticks in the above-water entrance to their den. I suspect they have an underwater entrance as well.

Roundrock rumblings

April 4, 2022

I’ve been visiting my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks frequently in recent weeks, but I haven’t posted about it here much. It’s a retreat, so I don’t want to feel obligated to give an account of it all of the time. (Still, I was gifted a special rechargeable battery that can power my laptop specifically so I can do some writing out there. I’ll probably report on that sometime in the future.)

I was out to my cabin last weekend because I had an appointment to see a man about fixing my road. There are some soft spots where the water doesn’t drain and I churn them into mud when I pass over them in my trusty truck. (Which my son named the Prolechariot.) I also have the ongoing problem of the spillway on the side of the dam threatening to wash out and drain my little lake.

I’ve been trying to get people out to address these problems for years. Literally years. I had one man come out three and a half years ago to discuss the work. He finally did some work two years later. Then I had another man come out to deliver some rock to temporarily fix the spillway, but after that he never returned my calls. And most recently I had a third man out to do it all right, and he agreed to do so. But he delivered two loads of rock and then I never heard from him again (despite calls and text messages). My neighbors who also need similar work done report being unable to find anyone locally willing to do it.

This fourth person is the man who built my cabin eleven years ago. He did fine work then, but his interests and employment drifted toward long-haul trucking. Then a new baby joined his household and he decided he needed to be home instead, so he’s resumed his more local jack-of-all-trades work.

I met with him near the paved road so I could lead him back the two miles to my cabin. (When he had first come to the site eleven years ago, he asked if he was in Arkansas.) He confessed that he wasn’t sure he knew the way there after a decade. We drove in and stopped at a couple of places where the road was at its worst to discuss options. Then we reached the cabin. (It’s three-quarters of a mile into my woods, which is a trick since the long sides of the property are only a half mile long. The road is not in a straight line however.) The first thing he did was congratulate me for taking such good care of the cabin he had built. Apparently most of the work he’s done has not been maintained by the owners, growing faded and moldy. It happens that my cabin was on the faded and moldy road itself, but I had pressure washed and stained it just two years ago, so I got credit for being meticulous.

In any case, his pleasure at the state of the cabin seemed to set the right tone for the rest of his inspection. I showed him where the road down the hill turns (and where the water coming down the road doesn’t) as well as the washing-out spillway. We talked about likely solutions. He seemed to see things my way (at least in terms of solutions). And he ballparked a price that I thought was reasonable. And he said that he thought he could begin the work in a couple of weeks, weather permitting. (Spring rains will slow things down, but this is the closest to movement that I’ve seen in a long time.)

So maybe it will happen.

Here is a picture of the lakeshore just below the cabin. Obviously the beavers are being industrious:

And this is an odd picture:

I have conducted some “experiments” in my forest related to biodegradability. One used plastic bags (the kind you get at grocery stores). I set them out on a south-facing rock where they would get the full force of the sun and any weather. Then I tracked them as they degraded. Mostly they didn’t. They shredded, but that wasn’t really decomposing, and it would result in microparticles in the soil. The one bag that did do what I think was true decomposing was one I picked up at a market in Oregon. It was touted as being made of organic materials that would break down into benign materials. Even so, that wasn’t happening fast. I eventually collected the bags and sent them to the landfill. The northern spillway runs where the bags had rested for a couple of years.

What you see above is a spoon I got from a yogurt store that was also touted as environmentally friendly, made of natural materials that would decompose. I had screwed it to the trunk of a tree and left it there for a couple of years. The orange color faded, but the substance of the spoon did not. Then someone suggested I put it in the ground. That’s where you see it. A paving block has sat atop it.

The spoon doesn’t seem to be decomposing. It’s sat there nearly as long as the cabin has sat just up the hill from it. Maybe in a few thousand years it will begin to breakdown.

Or maybe I misunderstood what was supposed to happen. After nearly a decade the spoon is still here, but the yogurt shop closed long ago. Did I have it backward?

Roundrock at year end

January 1, 2022

The last day of December in 2021 offered a favorable forecast for my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, so Flike and I took ourselves to the cabin for the day. We had no specific agenda, which often makes for the best visits. (Actually, I had no specific agenda. I think Flike intended to play with a stick the whole time.)

Because today, New Year’s Day, is forecasted to be bitterly cold with snow and ice falling from the sky, one thing I did want to do was fill the bird feeder and set out peanuts for the forest animals. I did that, and I hope it makes some difference in their survival, though nature has managed to continue without my intervention for a long time.

I also checked on further beaver depredations along the shoreline below the cabin. I didn’t see any new downed trees, but I did see this:

This was a tree they took down before. They evidently returned to it to strip it of its bark. I understand they can eat and digest the inner layer of the bark, so I guess they were fattening up for the coming bad weather as well.

Of the dozen trees they’ve taken down, this is the only one on the cabin side of the lake that they’ve stripped. Most of the other downed trees are less accessible to them. One or two got caught up in other trees as they fell, so the beaver can’t easily get to the bark. The one above is a white oak, and perhaps they favor that flavor because they’ve left untouched other (downed) trees that aren’t white oak. (I haven’t marched myself across the lake to observe their toothsome handiwork there because I don’t want to disturb them in and around their den. (Still, it would be cool to have a closer look!)

In addition to scattering marbles in the gravel around the cabin, I have intended for a long time to affix bits of glass (commonly called dragon’s tears) to the trunks of trees to carry the whimsy to another level. That’s what you see in the top photo. I have attempted this before, but finding the right glue to work on porous tree bark has been a challenge. I may have gotten past that obstacle now, and today’s bitter cold and wet will be the real test. If this latest glue works then I must give some thought to just how I want to decorate the trees. The other side of the tree above has a scar running from its base to far above what I can reach. I imagine filling that with dragon’s tears, perhaps in a rainbow of colors or with specific colors marking certain points, like every foot (to measure the growth of the grands, of course). I don’t suppose I’ll do this on any trees closer to the lake since I don’t think the beaver will appreciate the effort, but I can see myself hiking deep into my forest to adorn some tree in some random place.

Just before getting to the cabin, I met up with my neighbors to the west. They are running a small cattle operation, and sometimes we have to coordinate where their cattle will be when I arrive so I can get past closed gates and curious cows to reach my forest. But on this day they had something else to show me. My neighbor has been building an ultralight airplane and it is now finished. He was eager to show it to me. So before continuing to my cabin, he and I drove past his airstrip (yes, he had an airstrip built on his ridge top pasture) to his hangar (yes, he built a large metal building specifically for housing his airplane).

Because it is an ultralight, there is very little to it. Most of the body is welded steel, and the wings are fabric stretched across wood framing. The engine looks not much bigger than what I have in my lawnmower, and the seat (the whole “cockpit”) looks steampunk (though he does have digital instrumentation). Honestly I think my bike is more sturdily built.

I’ve told him I want to be present for his maiden flight, but he has demurred. He said maybe he’d let me know when he has his second flight. (He doesn’t want to be featured in some Youtube disaster video, he says.) But most likely, he said, his decision to fly will be spontaneous (courage, foolhardiness), so me being 100 miles away when his mood strikes will inhibit my chances of being present.