Posted tagged ‘Roundrock’

Roundrock reckoning 2018

January 10, 2019

Are there weather gods who sometimes smile favorably upon me, or is it merely the machinations of a complex climate and a zillion factors, including the beat of a butterfly’s wing in Beijing, that gave me a nearly 60 degree, sunny day in early January to make my first visit to my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks for 2019? Probably best not to try to examine this too closely.

I did get down to my woods last weekend, and among the chores for the day was to collect the calendar that hangs on the wall in my cabin to make a reckoning of my visits for last year. I have this sense that I’m not getting down there as much as I did in yore, but I don’t want to pull out the old calendars (yes, I’ve kept them all) and run a comparison. I may find my fear mistaken or confirmed, and neither is desirable.

So here is my month-by-month for 2018:

  • January – I made two visits this month, on successive weekends, and the second visit was an overnight (Friday and Saturday, which is itself uncommon), which means it may have been truly favorable weather, or I shivered through the night in the unheated cabin under insufficient blankets.
  • February – An odd middle-of-the-week Wednesday visit, likely to meet someone about getting some work done, though I don’t recall what that might have been. I’d also made a visit only four days later on the following Sunday. Something must have been afoot.
  • March – Only one visit, but it was another Friday/Saturday overnight. The weather was more likely favorable by this time, and I probably had a campfire to burn a bunch of scrap lumber from the fence I am slowly rebuilding around my back yard in far away suburbia.
  • April – Pretty much a repeat of March, with a Friday/Saturday overnight. I think perhaps I should not call these uncommon anymore. (If I can get out of the office early enuf on a Friday, I can get down to the cabin with sufficient daylight left to build a fire and burn a burger.)
  • May – Yep, only one visit and it was a Friday/Saturday overnight again. I probably had most of the scrap lumber burned by then, or else I replaced another panel of the fence and had more.
  • June – I made two day trips to the cabin this month. Both on Saturdays, and the second, on the last day of the month, included swimming in my leak lake, so it must have had sufficient water to dip in a toe or two.
  • July – THREE visits this month. A day trip on the 8th that included a swim as well as another day trip on the 22nd and then yet another Friday/Saturday overnight on the last weekend of the month. It was surely hot and buggy by then, so maybe I was escaping responsibilities at home or something.
  • August – Only one visit, but what seemed to be becoming my norm: a Friday/Saturday overnight.
  • September – Only a single day trip visit on a Saturday late in the month. I may have stolen time to make the visit just so I wouldn’t clock a whole month of my life without a visit to my cabin. I think I was visiting the grands in New York this month, which could account for the infrequency.
  • October – Two day-trip visits on the first and last Saturdays of the month. One year it was both warm enuf and there was enuf water in the leak lake to swim in October, but it was not this year.
  • November – A repeat of October, with two day-trip Saturdays bookending the month. The latter was my one-day-delayed annual anti-Black Friday visit when I thumb my nose at the crass commercialism of our society and escape to the woods.
  • December – Again with the two day-trip Saturdays. It may have been on one of these that I saw an osprey on my lake and on the other that I saw a bald eagle. My son and his wife were in town for the holidays, and I thought there might have been a cabin trip then, but for whatever reason, it didn’t materialize.

For years I have kept a visit journal on the little table in the cabin.* In it I record each visit and what I saw or did then. Who was along. Interesting wild events. And such. If I brought that home with me each January, I could write a more detailed account of my visits, but I fear that would probably bore you, and I also tend to write accounts of most of my visits on this humble blog anyway, so I’d probably be repeating myself.


*I actually began this as an exercise for a story I was working on that eventually became “where late the sweet birds sang” published in the Selected Places anthology in the summer of 2017.


and so, a turn of the year

January 1, 2019

I’ve long thought that the first day of spring ought to be when we reckon the changing of the year.* It makes a sense that I can see — the whole rebirth thing — that I can’t see in making the darkness of winter (in the northern hemisphere) the apparently arbitrary turning point.

But enuf of that. I “finished” the story “Three Small Words” yesterday. It’s part of the One-Match Fire universe though it takes place long after the end of that novel. (I know these characters so well now that it’s “easy” to write about them.) And at the top of the first page of the story I wrote “Copyright 2019 by the author.” It felt daring when I did that. A day early, of course, but also ambitious and hopeful — the first of a year’s worth of efforts in what really is a difficult and only infrequently rewarding craft.

I had intended to write a post here about the comparatively large number of publishing successes I had in 2018. But calculating this is iffy in itself. (Alliteration doesn’t work so well with the letter “i”.) Stories published within the year? Accepted within the year? Submitted within the year but accepted after the turn of the year? (I even have a story that I learned late last year was shortlisted, so should that be accepted soon in 2019, does it count for 2018? Or should I be fudging all of these dubious standards to swell my acceptances in 2019?)

As it stands, here is how 2018 broke down: seven of my stories appeared in print during the calendar year. At least one I know had been submitted in the distant past of 2017. By any count, that’s been my most successful year since I began writing/submitting fiction earnestly. (And as full disclosure, I also submitted eight other works in 2018 for a total of thirteen submissions still pending. Should any be accepted today or later, I’m going to tally them in the 2019 column. And fuller disclosure, I had twenty-seven rejections in 2018.)

In the coming days I hope to write my annual post about my visits to Roundrock for 2018, but I have to get down there to retrieve the calendar hanging on the wall (perhaps this weekend if the weather favors my fate). I’m not striving for any “successes” with those visits — not more than the year before, for example — but I always feel I don’t get down there as much as I’d like. Life interferes. (I read someone’s account of having several hundred rejections last year. Was he more diligent than I or less selective?)

I guess our little monkey brains want to quantify our lives so that we can make better sense of them and hold the (mostly) illusion that we are in control. Whatever.

I hope you stride hopefully into 2019. I know I’ll want to hear all about it.

*And some cultures do, as I learned when I acquired a Moslem daughter-in-law.

return to Roundrock

December 17, 2018

I had received a call two weeks ago from the man I had contracted to do some repair work on the spillways for my (much-diminished) lake. He said they’d done some of the preliminary work, so I was eager to get down there to see. Unfortunately, the weather and other circumstances prevented me from dashing out right away, so it was a week later — last Saturday —  before I could.

The spillway on the north side of the dam has washed out twice. This is not so terrible farther down since it is relatively far from the dam, and it washes down to bedrock, which is as far as it’s going to get in my lifetime. The problem is near the top of the spillway, where it is actually part of the dam and where it is made of dirt. A few more feet of erosion there and the dam itself could be breached, which is not on my list of desirables.

When I’d had the spillway repaired the first time, I duly overseeded it with fescue so that the resulting grass would hold the soil in place when the lake overflow raced down the spillway. The problem with that plan was the “resulting grass” part. There wasn’t enuf soil on the spillway to sustain even the sparse bit of grass I ever saw growing there. So the next spring, when the overflow did happen, there was not much more than gravel meeting the deluge, and it washed out again.

Thus this time I asked the contractor to pour me a slab of concrete at the top of the spillway (where the erosion is most problematic) so that even if the rest of the spillway gets washed out, there will be no risk to the part on the dam. He described what he had in mind, and it was far more elaborate than what I had envisioned, but when he quoted me a price, it was about half of what another man had quoted me for less work, so I agreed.

The slab is not poured yet. When I got to the cabin, the first place I directed my steps was down the hill to the spillway. After more than a year of looking at a deep gouge there, filled haplessly with whatever rocks I could carry and throw in, seeing a swath of black dirt formed and smoothed warmed my black and shriveled heart. There were tracks on the dirt of the big machine that they had used to do the work, and I know that passing over and over soil or rock will help compact it, which is what I suppose must happen before they pour the concrete slab that will rest on it and save my dam.

So the spillway work is underway. Once they are finished, I’ll need to seed the exposed dirt of the dam and spillway, but I won’t do that until the big machines are gone.

I had also asked the contractor to deliver another load of gravel for me to spread around the cabin site. The more gravel I have there, the fewer weeds and the more fire break I have. And so the pile of gravel was waiting for me. Along with a surprise.

So this requires a little explanation. A tiny section of the big gravel pile is on the left. The wood you see on the right is a remnant of a compost bin that rotted in my suburban yard for years and that I’d taken to the cabin to burn in some future fire. The yellow bucket is a bonus from the gravel delivery. My guess is that it was in the bed of the delivery truck when the gravel was poured into it at the (nearby) quarry. When the gravel was dumped at my cabin, the bucket tumbled out with it.

I tugged the bucket from the pile and set it in the sun where it could perhaps regain its original shape. There are many uses for a sturdy bucket like this around a cabin.

Also accompanying the gravel was a fair amount of organic material, some of which you can see to the top left of the yellow bucket. There were some large chunks of green grass too. Not sure how that came to be a part of the delivery. Maybe it, too, was in the bed of the truck when the gravel was poured in. Or maybe it was on the ground at the quarry and scraped up when the scoop dug into the (huge) gravel pile there. However it found its way to my little cabin, it’s not much of a problem. The couple of wheelbarrow loads of gravel that I’ve already scattered from the pile has been enuf to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

green and blue ~ Skywatch Friday

November 30, 2018

Two things about this photo. The first are the pine trees. I planted these in the only bit of good soil I have in my 80+ Ozark acres. They were little things then, only about a foot tall, not counting the root that was probably half that. In the dozen or so years since then, they grown more than thirty feet tall in some cases. I planted fifty of these in straight rows, and then got another fifty the next year to replace the ones that didn’t make it and to expand the area with more pines. They’re a qualified success, but I won’t consider them a complete success until they provide enuf shade to cause the blackberry brambles beneath them to wither and die away.

The other thing is the vapor trail you see in the sky. As recently as 75 years ago, this was something that had never before been seen in the sky. It’s a thoroughly modern phenomenon. And yet to us, it’s commonplace and unremarkable.

I do love the blue of the sky in the fall.

return to Roundrock

November 27, 2018

The plan has always been that we go to the woods on Black Friday in defiance of the crass consumer culture and its frenzied buying dictates, but this year the weather was unfavorable and the following Saturday was so much nicer, weather-wise, that we postponed our visit by a day.*

As you may recall, we have two bodies of water in our woods. There is the two-plus acre ephemeral lake, coming and going behind an 18-foot tall dam (that needs some repair), and an old cattle pond about the size of a basketball court that is full of silt (which I call loathsome goo and into which I waded — one time! — to plant a pole that I wish I could retrieve now). Before we had the lake built, the pond was the biggest attraction for us in our woods. We’d even cut a path directly to it from the entrance of our forest — about a quarter mile long. (Once the lake was built, the pond diminished in attractiveness to our fickle natures. And once the cabin was built, the lake also diminished, though less so since it’s just down the hill from the cabin.) Thus the pond was getting little more than cursory glances as we drove past it on our way to the cabin, just to confirm it was still there.

But on a solo trip earlier this month, I had steered my feet to the pond and crossed the dam (to get to the other side), finding parts of it nearly impassable due to my nemesis in the forest — blackberries. Having recently acquired a gas-powered weed destroyer, and having recently had my old chainsaw refurbished, I had the means to do something about it. I already had the motive. All I needed was the opportunity. And the not-quite-Black-Friday visit was that opportunity.

There were four of us (and two dogs) on this visit. Myself, my wife, my son, Seth, and his wife, Celestine. Let me tell you about Celestine. She is all of 100 pounds. She is always fashionably dressed (even in the forest!). She has long fingernails that she gives good attention. And she works like ten men! (That’s her in the purple top in the photo above.) Seth loves any chance to use the heavy equipment as well. So having the pair along meant getting some hard work done.

As a general rule, you want to keep your dam clear of trees and brush. Not only can trees compromise a dam (should the tree fall and heave soil from the dam, or should it simply die and its rotting roots provide a conduit for leaking water), but brush can give cover to burrowing animals, whose dens can wreak all kinds of mayhem. I have plenty of brush growing on the pond dam, which the weed destroyer could make a small influence on, but I also have several cedar trees there. My goal on this visit was simply to make the dam more passable, but the long-term benefit of clearing (two of) the cedars was also in mind.

I should add that I have been doing this kind of maintenance to the pond dam for years. I have cleared cedars and whacked brush several times. But as one of my characters says, “Nature always wins!” The two cedars I was targeting this visit were beside each other near the spillway, and their branches were reaching across the dam. They were not a problem when I had last maintained the dam, yet in a few years they had grown taller (and wider) than I am. So after denting the blackberries a bit (enuf to be able to walk across the top of the dam) I fired up the chainsaw to take out the cedars. Cedars have needles and plenty of low branches. They do not lend themselves to cuts close to the ground. I spent a little time with the loppers to just clear a way for me to get to their bases to make the cuts.

The first one yielded to the chainsaw readily, and its lean meant I didn’t have to do a wedge cut but could rely on the weight of the tree to have it open the cut and not pinch the saw. Soon it was down, which presented the next problem. I had a big, heavy tree lying on the water side of the dam. I couldn’t leave it there because it would provide cover for burrowing animals (muskrats in this case since they put the entrance to their dens below the water in the sides of dams), so I needed to drag it into the forest somehow. Not only was this tree taller and wider than I, but it was heavier too. I had to drag it up the side of the dam, across the dipping spillway, and then into the trees nearby. So I began tugging and lurching and making tiny bits of progress.

But then Celestine came rushing over. (Her husband was across the pond with the weed destroyer else I would have called him.) I don’t know how the help of this tiny person made the difference, but it did. We dragged the cedar, more or less without stopping, off the dam and into the forest. (In all, about fifty unforgiving feet).

One down. The other cedar presented the same problems though it had two difficulties unique to itself. The first was that its lean was not as favorable and it did pinch the saw as I was cutting. I had to press my shoulder against the (needle-filled) branches to move the tree off of my saw so I could finish the cut, which I did, but it was not by-the-book chainsawing. The second was that its lean was not as favorable and when it fell, it fell into the pond.

This tree was larger than the first one I had cut. It was too heavy for the combined strength of myself and Celestine. Added to this was that much of it was wet, increasing its weight. Fortunately, my son was finished with his destruction on the far side of the pond. He and I managed to drag the beast into the forest to rest beside the other one, though I then used the chainsaw to cut this fallen tree further so it wasn’t blocking the path leading to the dam. Once it dries some, I hope to drag it a little farther off the path.

There was plenty of other work to do on the dam. I had discovered a fresh den entrance in the top of the dam on my last visit — just about the worst-case scenario — and I did what I had done the last time I found one. I shoved as many large, pointy rocks into it that I could, then I kicked them deeper into the hole. Whatever burrowing animal (I suspect an armadillo) might have been in there could likely dig its way out, perhaps causing further problems, but short of dynamite (or poison, which I’m always reluctant to use, especially around water and in the lake’s watershed), it was the best solution at the time. I’ll need to revisit this and see what effect I might have achieved and what more I can do.

So the day’s goal for the dam work was done. There is still more to do, and with the colder weather (read: no ticks and chiggers), I will likely poke at it a little each visit. On this day, though, we took ourselves and our tools into the nearby pine planation to see what sorely needed maintenance we could do there. We cleared some scrub and I cut down some small trees — I want to add more pines next spring — but our stomachs were calling for lunch, so once we felt like we had done something, we packed up and returned to the cabin.

Lunch was turkey sandwiches, which should not be surprising, and various chips and veggies. I had my customary iced tea (unsweetened, of course), and we all sat about for a while, musing and enjoying the really fine late-November weather. I took the chainsaw down the road a little way to do a little more clean up of the shagbark hickory I had cut down for my friend Todd. Some of the fallen top of this tree was edging into the road, but I cut it away, giving myself two nice hickory logs for some future fire.

We poked around the cabin, raking fallen leaves away from the wooden structure. We also went on a hike around the diminished lake. Once a mature buck deer had died and was floating in the lake. It was a huge chore dragging its carcass out of water and high enuf on the bank so it wouldn’t slide back in. On this day, with the water level being sadly low, I saw something else in the lake that looked suspiciously like an animal body, so I wanted investigate. It turned out to be an exposed rock; at full pool it would have been under about four feet of water. The dogs, especially Queequeg the Pomeranian, got full of burrs, though my wife and Celestine had a nice chat as they brushed and combed him mostly clean.

The weather forecast for the next day, Sunday, was a blinding snowstorm of great accumulation (four to five inches, which is a fair amount for this part of the country, especially so damned soon in the season). This was hard to envision as we sat on the cabin porch in our shirtsleeves in 60+ degree sunshine. But we thought we should get ourselves home since Seth and Celestine had to drive to St. Louis on Sunday, and my youngest son and his wife and son were driving back to their home near Kansas City from her parents’ home in some place called Indiana. They were returning a day earlier than planned because of the pending snow storm. There were some things of theirs at our house that they might be stopping by to collect on their dash home, and we hoped we could be there then to see them.

So homeward bound we soon were. I’m not sure when I’ll be back down to my little cabin, but if the weather is favorable, it will be the next chance I get.


*Still, I did not go shopping on Friday, though late in the day, after a friend who was similarly inclined confessed that she did go out and buy a book for herself, I did as well. I got myself Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I’m hoping I like it enuf to have another go-to writer.

a tree falls in the forest*

November 1, 2018

I mentioned earlier that I had found a hickory tree that I thought was suitable for cutting down and cutting up** for my friend Todd’s barbecues. As I was watching the fire die near the end of my Saturday cabin trip, I realized that I needed to harvest that tree then or I might never get around to it. (I don’t like using the chainsaw when I’m alone in the forest, and most of my trips are solo adventures.)

So, thrilled by this uncharacteristic decisiveness on my party, I pushed myself up from the comfy chair and fetched my chainsaw out of the cabin to see if I could get the thing started, a prerequisite to actually, you know, using it. I had also remembered to bring the gasoline from home, so the stars were aligning.

When I leave the chainsaw unused for a long time, it’s harder to start. In the past, when I’ve done this, it usually takes three sessions of vigorous pulling on the starter cord (as well as colorful language) before the machine sputters to life. After my third, failed round with the cord this time I was beginning to despair, but I gave it a fourth try and I did get the saw running after all!

The tree I was cutting down was standing beside my mostly overgrown road down into the acre below the dam. It was leaning toward the road, but I wasn’t worried about it someday falling and blocking the road because a) it was youngish and looked vigorous, and b) I rarely drive down that road. But its lean, in the perfect direction for felling it, meant I didn’t need to do the usual wedge cut and could go directly with a straight cut across the trunk (at its base) and the lean would direct the fall better than any wedge cut could.

I’ve cut down many trees in my forest. This one was different only in its perfect setting. The lean. The open space for it to fall into (the road). The perfect weather. The running chainsaw. I had no expectations of anything special happening with this harvest.

Which really enhanced my surprise when something special did happen.

I was cutting directly across the trunk, an inch or so above the ground, and I was about two-thirds of the way through it, waiting for the tree to begin pitching forward, when it happened.

The tree began to bleed.

I mean copious amounts of blood, which my whirling chainsaw was spreading across the forest floor, across the chainsaw, and across me.

At first I thought that some critter lived inside the tree and that I had sliced into it. But a moment’s reflection allayed that. The tree was too small (maybe a foot in diameter) to have a cavity big enuf for a critter, at least one that contained enuf bodily fluids to produce what was gushing from the cut.

It was water, of course. And it was pouring from the cut. I killed the chain saw and stepped back, watching as the water rushed and then oozed. Apparently there was enuf of a cavity in the heartwood of the tree to have collected a lot of water, and by cutting into it, I had released this water.

It was startling, as you might imagine. Normally the most common by product of cutting down a tree is very dry sawdust! I was two-thirds done with the cut (as you can see from the wet and dry portions of the stump in the top photo) and had to stop just to collect my wits.

And still the tree was standing; it hadn’t begun its fall. Once I realized what had happened, I knew I could finish the job without offending the forest gods. The ooze had stopped and the chainsaw had started, so I applied myself to the job once again and very soon a tree fell in the forest, making a lot of sound.

Then it was a simple matter of cutting the trunk into manageable pieces to load into the bed of my truck. I was curious to see what kind of cavity was in it, but that was disappointing.

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but only the lowest part of the tree had any cavity. The left end of the log on the top right shows it. Not so much. The end you can see of the log next to it is dark from the color of the heartwood rather than from a cavity. You can see my chainsaw resting on the stump, which gives you more perspective to the size of the tree than the rest of the photo does.

The tree had fallen hard onto the road, and as I bucked the log, I rolled it back and forth across the road to get the saw through it.

And amidst all of this mayhem was a turtle. Half buried in leaves and grass in the road was a common box turtle. It was in the space betwixt the top right log and the one next to it. I don’t think the tree fell directly on it, but when I was rolling the log around, I’m sure I rolled over it once or twice. The carapace appeared undamaged, so I carried to turtle into the forest and set it beside the base of a tree. It never emerged from its shell.

I got back to the business of bucking the log so that the road I rarely used would be reopened. That done, I carried the saw and gasoline back up the hill to the cabin. (The saw needs to cool before I put it back in its case and back into the cabin.) Then I jumped in my truck and backed it down the road. This road has been washed out and gullied by water coming down the hillside, so I put the truck into four-wheel drive just to make sure I could bump through it all. I had no problem.

When I got the truck in position and dropped the tailgate, I took a moment to check on the turtle. It was gone. I couldn’t see it anywhere around either. I think it made good its escape from the noise and heavy things falling from the sky.

The logs were loaded soon, and the road was cleared, and Todd’s present was ready. After that it was time to clean up and close the cabin for the day. The fire was out. The dogs were eager to go home. We still had daylight to travel by. And a good day in the forest was concluded.


*also the title of one of my One-Match Fire stories, which I wrote about yesterday.

**I love how these two contradictory-seeming wordings are exactly right

a day in the woods

October 30, 2018

My plan to have an overnight at my little cabin on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks last weekend was upset by last-minute grandparenting duties on Friday afternoon, so we hauled ourselves out there on Saturday morning and made a full day of it.

My goal had been to have a fire Friday evening, burning up a lot of junk that had been accumulating, and sitting around it musing about the universe as the darkness gathered. Since there had been rain in the forest recently, I felt more comfortable about having a fire; the fire ring is well contained and circled by plenty of open gravel. Still, I worry, so a wet forest lessened my concern. Thus when we went down on Saturday morning instead, I decided we could still have the fire and more or less tend it all day.

Before that, though, we hiked up to our northeast property line to survey the clearing that our new neighbor is doing along the fence. He’s cleared what I guess will be a wide road there, but I didn’t see anything different about it since my last survey, though later in the day we did hear some heavy machinery up that way.

After that we poked around the cabin — the ripening buckeye in the photo above was a happy find — and looked at the much-diminished lake. The recent rain hadn’t recharged it and I always worry — I fret a lot, don’t I? — that the water won’t be deep enuf for the fish in it to overwinter. But that’s never been a problem in all of the years, so I should stop worrying, shouldn’t I?

Our feet had steered us into the acre below the dam where years ago I had planted 50 pecan trees in more or less straight rows. Most of them died so I planted 50 more. Of those 100 hopefuls, about a dozen survive and  though they haven’t begun bearing nuts, they are nearly all taller (much taller) than I am. In one I found what you see in the photo below. Is this a mockery of my pecan plantation ambitions or just some festooning for Hallowe’en?

Years ago, in fact I think before the cabin was even built, I had cut down a hickory tree and delivered the logs from the trunk to my friend Todd. He uses the wood for his barbecues (though my palate is not sensitive enuf to appreciate whatever distinctiveness this gives the cooked food). In that time, Todd had moved from Kansas City to some place called Reno, Nevada. And then he moved back to St. Joseph, Missouri. In all of his travels, he had carried these logs with him, cutting off whatever he needed for his barbecues. He told me recently that he was down to his last bits of hickory from my forest. He didn’t say outright that it was time for me to supply him with more, but that’s the message I took. Anyway, as we were walking back to the cabin from our pecan peregrination, I saw a shagbark hickory tree that I thought was the right size for cutting down and cutting up to deliver for Todd. And someday, I thought, I might even do that!

So, a wet forest meant that the kindling I could collect would be wet as well. And experience has taught me that wet kindling can mean that a one-match fire might not happen. I think this is why I dithered about getting a fire started, that I might not do it with only a single match this time. I don’t know why this is important to me (other than that One-Match Fire is the title of my novel and a “challenge” among the characters in it). But I had a lot of tinder (mostly paper bags from my many visits to the bagelry) and I figured that enuf of that would make the difference.

It only just did (with the application of two matches, sadly). I burned up all of the tinder I had and resulted in only a few tiny flames high in the teepee of kindling sticks I had so carefully built. (Normally, you want the flames to be at the bottom, working their way up.) So I frantically dashed through the forest, looking for more kindling to add to them, hoping I could keep the flame alive long enuf for it to dry the rest of the wood and catch properly.

Perseverance paid and I did get a real fire going, adding thicker kindling and eventually adding a few pieces of larger wood, also wet-ish but when it started snapping I knew the fire had caught properly. Here is a look at the fire, supplemented with one of those packets of razzle dazzle to enhance the flames.

I didn’t burn much of the trash lumber I have been accumulating. It’s mostly rotten fence pickets and braces, and they were more wet than the wood I found in the forest. I did burn one old bird house that had fallen from its nail in a tree. And I’d brought some fallen branches from home that went into the fire. But once we had enuf flame and coals to cook our lunch (pork chops we’d gotten somewhere), I stopped stoking the fire since I didn’t want to have some monstrosity I would need to tend into the evening as it burned out enuf to leave it (or quench it with the water I had at hand).

The weather was about as perfect as it could have been. We arrived in the 40s, but by lunch time (approved of and shared with the dogs), the temps were somewhere in the 70s. It was easy to sit in the comfy chairs and eat our late lunch (supplemented in my case with iced tea, unsweetened, of course) and watch the fire. And we did this for a long time. We talked vaguely about power washing the cabin exterior and re-staining it. About maybe getting more gravel spread on our road through the trees when the men (finally) come to repair the washed out spillways (an unasked-for but appreciated benefit of the lake being low is that I don’t have to worry about the spillways being fully breached by a big water event). About upcoming travel plans. About everything and nothing.

The fire sputtered and mostly died. I quenched the sizzling coals with water and spread them around the ring. It was time to pack the truck and head home.

And then I experienced something I never have before in my forest, but that’s another tale for another day.