Posted tagged ‘Roundrock’

blue and white ~ Skywatch Friday

March 13, 2020

This was the sky over my little lake in west central Missouri on Sunday. My wife and I visited the cabin on a day with wonderful weather and got some chores done.

I was on the dam when I took this shot, looking west. The sky looked much like this the entire date, though rain followed several times in the week following.

Go to Skywatch Friday.

back again to Roundrock

February 26, 2020

My wife used to complain, half seriously, that I went out to my cabin in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks every weekend. Not so! Though the last two weekends I have gone out there, and she’s gone with me.

You see that I’m now burning my undergraduate days. I have a box of old papers in my closet that I had pulled out to find an early short story (written in the days of typewriters), and while I never found it, I did find several old notebooks from my St. Louis life and the college work I did then. Having never looked in these notebooks in more than thirty years, I suspected I didn’t need to know what was in them to continue thriving in my fabulous life, so off to the cabin they went. My original thought was that I could use the individual pages as tinder for fires, but I get such satisfaction from tossing the whole notebook on the flames, that I get the fire roaring by some other means (egg cartons — thanks, Yellowstone!) and then consign the pages to the flames thereafter.

Two weekends ago, our trip involved a return to the acre below the dam where I have been clearing out upstart trees and plants among my pecan plantation. (Pecans have a close appearance to hickories, so the “pecans” I am finding in the tall grass, aligning properly with the grid I had planted them in years ago, are given a reprieve until they leaf out and show their true selves.) I’ve subdued most of the upstarts I can with the loppers, so the remainder are chainsaw work. And that was what I was up to two Sundays ago. But the chain was being balky and I had to adjust the tension on it several times. Finally, it just leapt off the bar as I was cutting a tree. I didn’t lose any fingers or toes or eyes or ears, but I suspect it’s time to get the saw into the shop again for a tune up and look-see.

Just as well since our visit this last weekend included one of the grands: Emmett, who will be four next month! He had come out with us once last fall on a mild, sunny day, and he spent most of his time playing in the gravel with one of his toy trucks. In anticipation of this, he had packed three trucks in his backpack, and while they did some serious delivery work back and forth on the pile, he had also discovered the many marbles I’ve placed in the gravel and it became his job that day to rearrange them, especially the two large shooter marbles that he carried around and rolled on the porch floor and buried and dug up and reluctantly left behind when it was time to leave.

These are not the two marbles he carried about, though he did take note of them. These illustrate a little puzzle I have out at my cabin. When I cast marbles on the gravel, I step on them to press them into the gravel. Yet when I return, several of them rest atop the gravel rather than in it, such as the red one in the photo. Why does this happen? I suppose some critters come along and fool with them; I have found marbles out among the leaves beyond the edge of the gravel. But if that’s what’s happening, the gravel doesn’t appear disturbed, and the marbles are still there.

So I have this hypothesis (or would it be a theory?). I suggest that the earth’s crust is constantly, though imperceptibly, vibrating. I’ve tried to find any confirmation of this, but so far only vague, sciencey stuff that’s way beyond my comprehension. Still, if so, it would seem likely that the gravel, as it is settling, works some of the round objects in it to the surface. (But I’m willing to entertain other explanations.)

return to Roundrock

February 6, 2020

I’ve noticed that February around here generally tosses in a 60+ degree weekend to allow folks to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors. It happens so consistently that I’ve even incorporated it into one of my stories (“Boys are like puppies”). And last weekend was the good one, so of course I had to take myself out to the woods!

Only Flike and I went this time. My wife had slipped on the ice earlier in the week and is slowly healing from being sore all over. I had a few things on my agenda, but since I was essentially solo — Flike can’t drive the truck and carry me to the hospital — I didn’t include chainsaw work in the mix. (A shame too; this is the time of year to do that since you can get in close to the trees without being infested with ticks and chiggers. Also, it’s not so wickedly hot as in the summer.)

One thing I like to do in (bug- and heat-free) February is walk the perimeter of my property, just to see what’s new (nothing) and to trim a branch or two to show my neighbors that I’m still around and paying attention. This chore involved little likelihood of resulting in a trip to the hospital, so it’s the one Flike and I undertook. My 80 acres is a rectangle, a half mile by a quarter mile, so the whole hike would be only a mile and a half. I could get it done, even with pauses to trim a branch or two, and be back to the cabin by lunch time.

I won’t say the forest was quiet, though aside from the calls of some crows — probably angry with an owl — I heard no birds. I also heard no farm machinery or trucks, though to the south of me someone was doing a lot of target shooting, but that’s expected in the country. I hiked along the fence line while Flike rambled wherever and then darted back to me for a pet of reassurance. I saw nothing changed about the borders, though at one point I crossed a stream and saw all of the acorns above in the bottom of a pool. (I fiddled with the color and darkness a bit to bring out an otherwise muddy image.)

There is a quarter-mile stretch of my south line that is not fenced. Years ago I put up fence posts in a good-faith attempt to define the line, and I tied red survey tape to the posts so I could see them and the “line” they formed. So on this visit I renewed some of that tape. I checked out two bird houses I’d set along there. (I think a critter is wintering in one of them.) And soon enuf I was at my SW corner, which is where my road enters the property. Flike and I then took the road back to the cabin, cutting off a visit to the NE corner, but Libby and I had been there recently. (Though it might have been an interesting visit since the property north of me has changed hands once again.)

I could have devoted the afternoon to working among the pines; we passed them on our way. Many of the mature trees no longer need fencing around them, and I could move those fences to the younger trees that are getting thrashed by the vandal deer. It’s another fine-day-in-February chore since it involves wading into the tall grass there to do the work. Instead, we continued to the cabin where Flike and I had our lunches.

This mask is one of two my son brought back from his visit to Kenya recently. His brother-in-law had selected this one to give to me, and this was my first visit to the cabin since I received it. I hung it facing north so I could get a view of the lake in the photo, which I sent to my daughter-in-law who will send it on to her brother. But I don’t think I’ll leave the mask here. It is in shadow on the north side of the tree, and the features in the black wood (stained — it’s not ebony) are lost to the casual viewer. Fortunately, I have plenty of other trees around the cabin. (It’s a fine bit of carving, and it’s hollowed out in the back, so the hornets can make a nest there.)

After lunch, Flike and I hiked down to the (soggy) acre below the dam to clear more of the upstart trees there. Some that I didn’t get to soon enuf are now crowding the pecans, so I didn’t want to let this nice day opportunity pass. I lopped maybe a dozen upstart trees — hickories, some willows, some thorny locusts — but the stuff that really needs attention also needs chainsaw attention, and I didn’t want to do that on my own with a dog that doesn’t know how to drive.

The more I do, the more I see needs doing. I still don’t think I’ve addressed even half of the trees down there that I should take out. I just don’t have the opportunities I need. (Or, sometimes, the will.) And there’s a grassy slope to the north of this acre that has cedars coming up in it. I’d like to remove those and have more grassy area too. Give me some time.

After our chore in the pecans, we took ourselves back to the cabin to sit down and gaze at the lake. No waterbirds visited on my watch. No vultures circled over the south ridge. I didn’t even see any squirrels out on such a nice day. Nonethless, it was a worthwhile visit.

It was mid-afternoon by then, and I had a sore and hobbling wife at home, and I had made some promise about making some chili to go with some sporting event that was going to be on television that evening. So Flike and I (though mostly I) cleaned up the cabin, put things away, and packed the truck. Then we (I) drove out and made our way home.

I’m already looking at the weather forecast to see when I can go out again. So much to be done.

bits and pieces

January 6, 2020

When I treated myself to my new Macbook Air recently, I expected some transition issues as I moved programs and data from my older laptop to this new one.

Not surprising was the fact that Microsoft Word did not come across when I had the Apple Store make the transfer for me. It was only when I got home that I discovered this. (They could have told me!) So I dragged myself back to the Apple Store and tried to set things right. Also not surprising, this involved me handing over more money. No longer could I have a static copy of Word on my computer. In this new world order I must subscribe to the software. Microsoft will kindly keep my version of Word up to date for a “nominal” annual fee. Okay, so I have paid more than this fee a few times on dinner with friends, and there are some books in my collection that cost me greater sums. Still, I feel powerless, like I’m exactly where their craven capitalist hearts want me to be.

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The photo above is one I grabbed randomly from the 10,000+ I have on my computer. (Those did transfer properly from the old to the new machine.) At least I thought it was random in the moment I selected it. But it turns out to have a deeper meaning than I realized.

As you can tell, it’s one of the many masks we having hanging around the cabin at Roundrock. I took this photo nearly a decade ago, the the poor mask has faded a good bit since then. (It even housed a nest of hornets one year. Nice!) And all of that is fascinating on its own, but read on.

The work on my newest novel, which still only has a tentative title and no category on this humble blog, is racing along. It’s fantastic to feel as invigorated as I am about it. But it’s beginning to take on a life of its own. As the story progresses, I realize that I need to add this or that, chief of which have been new characters to carry part of the load. I had come up with one character who was going to be the main antagonist, but she had other plans. I don’t want to spill the beans (really, where did that expression come from?*) but she may be transitioning into the ultimate protagonist. And this story is becoming something like peeling an onion (an expression with a more obvious origin), with layers and layers I hadn’t realized. It’s a lot of fun, but I hope my creation doesn’t get out of my control. (The Frankenstein’s monster metaphor is not lost of me.)

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The holidays are now behind me. My out-of-town family visitors have all returned to their respective homes and my household is returning to what I consider “normal.” I managed to acquire a head cold from those sweet little virus vectors my grands are, but it is passing just in time for the new year at work to begin. We’re collecting things left behind by the Seattle gang, and when we’re convinced we’ve found it all, we’ll mail a package that direction.

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You may have done this yourself. Using the juice of a lemon as your ink and a toothpick as your pen, you write a super-secret message on a piece of paper that is invisible to the eye. Then your recipient holds the paper over an incandescent bulb, and the heat of it “chars” the dried lemon juice and the message appears. This being the 21st Century, though, who has incandescent bulbs in their lamps, right?

An alternative method is to hold the piece of paper over the flame of a candle, achieving the same result (though with a higher risk of burning the house down).

And so I am reconsidering the wisdom of sending such a secret message to my five-year-old grandson. (I have precautioned his mother.)

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Another outfit that may have me right where they want me is WordPress. I use the free version of the software, and for the most part, it is all that I need. But you may have noticed that the separators betwixt the subjects in posts like this one are no longer centered. Nor can I use asterisks as I did before (they change into bullets). Further, I don’t seem to be able to add color to the text, which was something I could do in the days before I upgraded the software.

I’m sure all of this would be resolved if I should buy the commercial version of the program.

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*Believed to have originated in ancient Greece where votes were cast with white or black beans dropped in a bag. If the bag was spilled, the outcome was revealed too soon. Thanks, Wikipedia!

feral swine

December 4, 2019

I received a letter recently from the USDA that told me of an effort in the (very large) area in and around my woods to eliminate feral swine. I’d known they have been a problem in Missouri for a long time, but I’d never seen any sign of them in my woods (not, apparently, that I would necessarily recognize the signs it turns out), so I didn’t think I had anything to worry about.

But the letter talked about a systematic effort among a number of state and federal agencies and sought land owner cooperation.

I sent an email to the man who signed the letter — a name I recognized from years ago when he visited my woods to consult about maybe building a dam — saying I was happy to participate but didn’t think I had a problem. I didn’t expect any response since my acreage is comparatively small.

He wrote back almost instantly to thank me and ask permission to “walk the woods” to look for sign. (I love the expression “walk the woods” since it is exactly what one does.) He also said that the evidence of invasive feral hogs could be subtle. I told him he could visit at any time, though I don’t know when this will be or if I’ll get any kind of report after he does.

The original letter goes on to say that feral swine are “dealt with” generally through baiting and live trapping but “other options” are available “in certain cases” and “when appropriate.” Perhaps it involves sausages.

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Did you know a herd of wild pigs is called a sounder?

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The photo above is one I captured along the Indian Creek Trail I ride (when the weather allows). Maybe this could be a solution to the feral swine matter.

here and there

November 18, 2019

Where have I been that I haven’t made a post for two weeks? Well, here and there, but mostly here, without a lot of motivation.

Two weekends ago — a four-day weekend for me — my wife and I went to Paducah, Kentucky to see my mother. She is not doing well, and all of my (many) siblings are making their farewell visits. She is resigned to what’s coming, and she’s well cared for; her sister and my sister, both nurses, live in town. Still . . .

The drive home from Paducah to Kansas City was harrowing. An early season sleet and snow storm, and ridiculous temperatures for early November in the lower Midwest, meant our drive was pretty much white knuckles the whole way. (My drive, that is. My wife sat in the passenger seat and did the navigating and running commentary on the weather, the road conditions, the wiper blade conditions, the nearness of semis, and whatever else came to mind when she lifted her eyes from the book she was reading (about arrowna fish, of all things!).)

The photo above is what a wheel cover on my truck looked like the next day. The freezing rain had fallen on it, was spun out, and froze like this. The rest of the truck was about the same. All better now, but yikes!

This same sort of thing happened last year when we went down for a film festival and had to come back in a wicked storm.

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On our way down to Paducah, because we were passing only six miles from the cabin, we detoured and made a quick visit. We spent less time there than the detour took to get there and then back to the highway, but it was a nice little chance to see the cabin. (On our way back, we passed again within six miles, but we did not choose to detour off the highway. All we wanted was to fetch the dogs from “camp” and get our tired selves home.)

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However, last weekend, we did make a trip to the cabin. The weather was dry and the sun was out and the temps climbed into the 50s. Plus we had grandson Emmett for an overnight, and we asked him if we wanted to see our cabin. His enthusiasm for this prospect warmed my black and shriveled heart. So we moved his car seat into my truck, packed a day’s worth of gear, squeezed the two dogs in with us, and drove to the cabin.

Emmett had a grand time, in part because Grandma bought him a monster truck to play with when we got there. That’s Emmett you see at the top of the photo, pushing his monster truck up the gravel pile, which proved to be the most interesting feature of the whole place. That’s also another successful one-match fire I made to burn our hot dogs over. (I don’t think I ever need to eat another hot dog in my life.)

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Emmett also found some of the many, many marbles I have scattered in the gravel around the cabin. He collected a few of these and then buried them in the gravel pile, only to “discover” them later.

I’m okay with this. The marbles in the gravel are for whimsey and color, and I hope that as the grands visit the cabin, they will find them and delight in them, just as Emmett did. If they sneak some away in their pockets after a visit, that’s fine with me. (I have plenty more.) Emmett brought these three to me as I sat in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. Before we left for the day, I returned them to the gravel, but we have a traditional Black Friday visit to the off-the-grid cabin coming up — I refuse to be a Consumer Culture Casualty — and Emmett may “find” them again.

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Yesterday I spent two hours preparing a submission of One-Match Fire for a potential publisher and, due to some unholy state of sin on the part of Submittable, I lost all of the work I did! Microsoft teased me by saying the document was in auto-recovery, but I couldn’t access it, so I just re-did all of the work. I eventually made the submission successfully though I have no idea what my prospects are. I’ve submitted OMF to six publishers/contests, and so far I’ve received two rejections. One must have a thick skin for this business.

staining the cabin

October 17, 2019

My wife and I, plus our two canine helpers, spent the weekend at our little cabin on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks with the goal of beginning to stain the freshly pressure-washed exterior.

I mentioned here before that when the man who built it handed me the key to the door (ten years ago next month!) he said I should stain it every three years. And so a decade passed without me doing this big chore. Fortunately, the pressure washing mostly restored the wood (or washed away the dirt and stripped the original stain so at least it looked restored).

They photo above, with one of many large walking sticks we found on the cabin — this one was about four inches long without its front legs extended — shows the “logs” under the porch roof. These were the least dirty and best retained the original stain, but after mastering the mad skillz of deploying a pressure washer, you see how I got down to basics. I loved the look of the wood, and I half wished I didn’t have to stain it, but I needed to protect it, and I organized a three-day weekend at the cabin to get started.

We brought along three gallons of the stain that Craig and his father-in-law recommended. I had calculated the square footage I needed to cover (about 750 square feet of logs and soffits and ceiling), read the greatly varying coverage reported on the cans (anywhere from 200 to 400 square feet), and figured that we could make a good start of the job, and then I could determine how much more stain we would need.

I had brought a ladder from home to reach the high spots, and my wife would work on the window frames then the lower logs. We had our brushes, our masking tape, and our drop cloths, plus we had just about perfect weather, with an unbroken vault of blue sky above us. (You could set a novel in a place like this!)

And so, we began. The wood was thirsty. My biggest worry was overlapping brush work. I really didn’t want the stain to be marbled with darker and lighter spots due to double application. I needn’t have worried. The cedar logs took the stain evenly despite the number of passes my brush made over it. (The only place where there was even the slightest bit of obvious overlapping was on the finer grained tongue-and-groove soffits and porch ceiling, but even then it was only noticeable because I was looking for it.)

With this worry out of the way, I was able to work more quickly, and in less than an hour I had all of the ladder work done (except for the entirety of the porch). My wife had moved at a similar pace, finishing the window frames and staining the lower log siding swiftly and smoothly. Having made much faster progress than I expected, we broke for lunch (sandwiches and cold, refreshing beverages).

After lunch we returned to the work. Each of us had a separate gallon to work from, and it seemed to me that we were actually going to have enuf stain in the three gallons to finish the entire cabin.

I think we spent 4.5 to 5 hours working that Saturday, and in that time we stained three sides of the cabin. We still had about a half gallon of stain left besides the whole unopened gallon. All that was left for us was the porch, which was actually the hardest part because of the ceiling and the extra soffit and the support posts and the desire not to get any stain on the concrete floor there.

But we’d done enuf for our first day, so we cleaned up as well as we could and put our gear away. Then it was time to build a one-match fire to cook our burgers over. It happened that only two days before the area had received nearly three inches of rain. I feared that the tinder would be too wet to catch, but that wasn’t the case. I soon had a fire roaring, and we added logs as well as the last of the scrap lumber I had brought from home to get enuf coals to shovel under the grill for our (and the dogs’) burgers. All of this happened in daylight (since my wife hates to cook in the dark for some reason), and after we’d finished eating our food and drinking our cold beverages, we continued to stoke the fire as the sun set.

A barred owl hooted occasionally, and far-off farm dogs barked, plus what sounded like fireworks came from well to the southwest, but it was too late in the season to hear a whippoorwill. Still, the fire burned and crackled, and the crickets chirped, and the full moon rose through the trees to the east. There is a point with a campfire when you have to decide whether to add more wood and stay with it longer as it burns or stop stoking it and let what’s there burn to ash. We reached that point and decided to stop stoking. We still had work to do the next day. I eventually quenched the few remaining coals with a gallon of water, and we retreated to the cabin.

Of course it smelled like wood stain inside the cabin, and despite repeated washings with soap and water, I’m sure my hands were part of the reason. But rest came easily after a day of work, and even the dogs let me have most of my bed this time.

I woke as I habitually do sometime after 3:00 a.m. and stepped outside. The forest was quiet, which is something I rarely experience except in winter visits. But then I crawled back into my warm bed, the approximately 44 degrees outside on the porch was not so wonderful to someone with barely anything on. Somehow I managed to fall back to sleep for another two hours, but the sun was preparing to peek over the trees to the east, and there was breakfast to be had as we waited for the temperature to rise enuf to apply more stain to more wood.

Breakfast consisted of instant oatmeal (pretty much a staple at the cabin) prepared on a propane stove. There was also fruit, and my wife made herself some instant coffee that she declared acceptable. I had my iced tea (unsweetened, of course). The dogs disdained their kibble and would only eat their soft treats (and any of our food they could cadge).

Then came the second day of work. Once again, I did the ladder work, which involved the eaves and the entire ceiling plus the first three logs from the top. My wife did the rest. By careful maneuvering of the drop cloths, and some additional taping, we managed to make our way across the porch, staining as we went, and barely getting any drops on the floor. Because the ground slopes away from the front of the cabin more steeply than elsewhere, some of the ladder placement was sketchy and challenging. But by then I had been up and down the ladder dozens of times, and I was so near the end that I didn’t let myself worry about things like falling to my death.

By lunch time, reader, we had finished. I had taken Monday off at work so we would have a three-day weekend to do as much work as we could, and we managed to do all of it in less than two days. (Yes, I found that I could have been more thorough about pressure washing some parts of the porch, but it’s all so much better than it was.) Plus we still had about a third of a gallon of stain left. And here is the result of our labors:

It’s actually a little darker than I had hoped, but it may lighten as it dries. Even if it doesn’t, it’s fine. It looks good, and I feel that the wood in protected (for another three-to-ten years). Next up is repainting the door and frame. The critters have chewed up much of the lower door frame, and I doubt they’ll respect a fresh coat of paint, but it will look good.

So on Sunday afternoon we packed up and headed home, leaving ourselves an entire Monday free to do with what we would. (And what we did was tend a barfy three-year-old as his mother coped with her own stomach cold and her infant daughter.)

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My cabin sits about a hundred feet uphill from my lake. Much of the cabin is surrounded by gravel, and it’s been a ten-year job to keep the weeds from overtaking the gravel. Part of the solution is to have four inches of gravel on the ground, but even that’s not enuf sometimes. I also have begun experimenting with landscaping fabric under the gravel, to prevent weeds from finding light. I don’t want to use herbicides on the weeds since I’m so close to the lake, so I also use the old tarp you see above, moving it to various gravely places to sit for weeks or months to starve the weeds of sunlight. The best time to do this is during the growing season, and the move I made last weekend (just to the east of the fire ring) will probably remain there all winter.

This old tarp was our original shelter in the days before we had the cabin. It did a pretty good job, trussed in various ways to stay taut and shed water and snow. Where the cabin now sits there was once this:

an overnight at the cabin

September 4, 2019

After walking miles on Saturday morning at the zoo with my three-year-old grandson (and his parents and his infant baby sister), and then coming home and generally cooling off for a couple of hours, my wife, the dogs, and I decided to go to the cabin at Roundrock for an overnight. We didn’t leave until 4:00 in the afternoon, which, I think, is unprecedented for the lateness of our departure.

It was not our most productive visit to the cabin.

First of all, I know you’re thinking that you’ve already seen the photo above, and it’s true because you have. But in the month since my last visit (!) the wasps have been busy. Behold:

I think the work is done; there were no wasps working on this while we were there. Part of me wants to scrape all of that off of the cabin, but I’ve left a phoebe’s mud nest on the cabin (also under the porch roof) for years, and wasps are our friends. Still, I’m trying to arrange a power washer to clean the exterior of the cabin prior to re-staining it, and if I do, both of those mud structures will be gone.

My hope was to have a fire on Saturday evening to sit before and contemplate the universe and my sorry place in it, but when we turned off the paved road to bump along the two miles of gravel road to the cabin, we splashed through a bunch of puddles; rain had apparently fallen that very morning. If so, the kindling on the forest floor would be wet and might not catch no matter how much tinder I used. I had a copy of the local newspaper to use as my tinder, and since that resource is in good supply (and free), I wanted to see how well it worked.

I have built fires in twilight, but I wasn’t eager to do that this time, so once we got the truck unloaded, I began collecting kindling and crumpling the newspaper to serve as tinder. The kindling was wet, so I gave myself permission to use more than one match to get the evening fire going. I needn’t have bothered. The newspaper sheets burned quickly and were soon gone, and the smallest bit of kindling had the smallest orange flames licking on it as a result. They didn’t last long. The tinder was gone. The kindling was wet. My mood was dampened. So I didn’t try lighting the fire again. (Note to self: Brown paper bags make better tinder. They burn hotter and longer than newsprint.)

With no fire to sit around, and with far more than 12 hours already on my consciousness clock for the day, and with the sun setting behind the western ridge earlier than official sunset, we decided to retreat to the cabin for the evening. We had a new LED lantern we wanted to use (and promptly broke the older LED lantern). I sat at the table and made notes in my visit journal, and some notes for a story that was blossoming in my head all afternoon, and then retired early. Flike had gotten into my bed before me though and claimed pretty much the center of the space. Since there are still horseflies buzzing around, he’d had a bad afternoon, so I tried to ease into bed around him. His rapid panting soon subsided to gentle breathing, so I was glad of that.

I managed to sleep for nearly twelve hours. It’s a little indulgence I allow myself at the cabin (and it helps balance the rest of the time when I wake freakishly early). Then it was time to rise and see what might be done with the day. Outside the remains of my attempt at fire (above) reproached me. The air was cool — in the 60s — so a dip in the lake wasn’t going to happen. I thought about maybe cutting down a tree beside where I park the Prolechariot, but that never happened.

About all we did was make and eat breakfast (oatmeal, various fruits, coffee for my wife, tea for me, both iced and hot, both unsweetened) and sit around. She read while I continued making notes for that story. I would rise occasionally to throw a stick for Flike to chase and to make sure Queequeg hadn’t been carried off by a bobcat. But actual chores, like spreading more gravel or pulling weeds, or even wandering down to the dam to see how much worse the spillway had become, didn’t happen.

I think we only stayed long enuf for lunch because we had lunch to eat in the cooler. But once that was dispatched, we began the hour-long process of packing up and cleaning up so we could head back to faraway suburbia where there was indoor plumbing and hot showers.

random photo Monday

August 12, 2019

Another photo from the archive. This is not only one of the round rocks from my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks, but it is my favorite round rock. I keep it on the bookshelf beside my desk at home so I can see it constantly.

It’s not perfectly spherical, but it is among the smoothest surfaces I have unearthed. These rocks “grew” in the chemical stew that was created when a meteor slammed into the shallow, salt-water sea that once covered what we now call Missouri. The mix of pulverized minerals and the salt water (called breccia) caused substances to adhere to shards of stone (mostly shale) and grow into the round rocks that dot parts of my forest.

I am returning today from my long weekend in Paducah, Kentucky. I got to see my mother and aunt and sister as well as my daughter and her husband and my three sweet grands who travelled there from New York, some of whom are coming to Kansas City tomorrow for a two-week stay!

return to Roundrock

July 30, 2019

What with babies being born and travel coming and such stuff, my weekends have not really lent themselves to overnight trips to the cabin. So when a window opened this last weekend, I took it despite conditions not being perfect (meaning: hot and dry and buggy). We left on Friday afternoon, and when we reached our woods, Good Neighbor Craig was on his tractor pulling his brush hog, mowing our road in because why not? (He sometimes grazes his cattle across our easement through his prairie, and he’s certain we’re greatly inconvenienced by this, so I think he is trying to buy our good graces by mowing our road. And I don’t object because why not?)

The bug most prominent on the buggy weekend was a black wasp that was busy building the nest above. This is on the ceiling of the porch where we spent most of our time. Nest building is apparently a noisy business for wasps. The wasp would return to the nest with a daub of mud and then go into the newest chamber and buzz ferociously. This was repeated throughout the afternoon and the next morning (once they day warmed enuf).

We sat on the porch for several hours, just getting attuned to cabin time. There hadn’t been much rain in the area lately, though one storm did pass through earlier in the week. The surprising result is that the lake is still holding at nearly a full pool. For this late in the summer, that’s a real win (for my ego and for the fish that will have to winter over in whatever water remains).

It wasn’t all indolence though. After sitting around, I slung more gravel and pulled some weeds encroaching on the cabin. Then I got busy building another successful one-match fire:

We cooked some (really awful) Salisbury steaks on this fire and otherwise sat around it well into the darkness. And though I didn’t expect to hear one this late in the summer, a nearby whippoorwill serenaded us a few times. Distant owls hooted. And my wife said she’d heard coyotes yipping after I was asleep. Also, a neighbor was busy in a field to the east apparently, tilling or harvesting or mowing well after nightfall. It was barely audible, so it didn’t intrude on our campfire musings, but it was constant, and odd.

On Saturday morning I finally did what I’ve been meaning to do for months: I cut down that oak tree that had thwarted me for so long. (Actually, it was my inept understanding of my chainsaw, but I’ll blame the tree.)

Not the best picture, but you can see the base where I cut the tree on the left and the fallen tree behind my chainsaw. I cut the trunk into two-foot sections and took off the limbs. The logs I carried up the hill to the wood rack by the fire ring, and the limbs I dragged through the trees to a brush pile I’ve had for longer than I’ve had the cabin. And since I had the chainsaw warmed up, I took out some other branches that were reaching into the open space betwixt the cabin and the lake as well as a cedar tree that was doing the same (though not the one you see in the photo above). Later, when I sat in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake and gazed down the gentle hill, I saw new trees and branches that would now have to go too. (Though not on this day.)

This was hot and dirty work. I’d forgotten how much sawdust a working chainsaw can throw on a person. And even though I had tackled this job early in the morning before the sun would scorch that bit of earth, I was sweating. So I did what any sensible person would do in 75-degree weather in the Ozarks; I went swimming.

This was only the second time this summer I had gotten into the lake. I’m not sure why, though fear of flesh-eating bacteria and brain-eating amoebas may have something to do with it. Happily, I don’t have the rafts of blue-green algae floating in the lake this year. So I donned my suit (and cap and sunglasses and shirt to ward off sunburn) and stumbled down the hill and into the water because why not? The water was much warmer than the air, and as usually happens in these cases, I was soon deliciously warm and buoyant. My wife soon followed me in, and we paddled around the water for easily an hour, just taking it all in. A pair of curious turkey vultures circled overhead, and the dragonflies patrolled the water’s surface. I did gaze up toward the cabin once, just to see how open the open area looked from that perspective, and I agreed with myself that more work needed to be done.

Eventually we had to reacquaint ourselves with gravity and stumbled up the hill to the cabin to dry ourselves and do more power relaxing. But there were no more chores that were going to be done that day, and we slowly began packing up and sweeping the cabin and porch, putting away this and that, cleaning, and straightening. The dogs would have none of it and chose to do their own relaxing in the truck, which was fine with me. Flike, the bigger dog, is terrified of horseflies, of which there were many that day. And Queequeg, the smaller dog, is coyote bait. So better for them both to be in the car (with the windows down).

We packed up slowly, which is always the best way because we tend to overlook and/or forget fewer things by doing so. Eventually we were all set to go and locked up then pulled out.

I’m not sure when I’ll be getting back to my cabin. I’m driving to Kentucky soon for a long weekend, and then my daughter and three grands will be coming to Kansas City for two weeks. I think she’d like to expose her kids to cabin life (that is, building fires!), but August is miserably hot, and who wants to have three toddlers with bug bites driving them crazy on their long drive back to New York? So it may be the end of August before I get back.