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Pond Ice and Green Thoughts

February 3rd, 2009

Too busy catching up on projects and activities over the weekend.  Ah, but that’s good right?  The weather can’t make up it’s mind however, swinging from cold to warm days and back again.  I think tonight the low will be around 7 degrees F, but in a couple of days the high will reach well above 50 degrees.  Just maybe this is the last really cold spell for the winter?  The ice will probably be gone in a week or so.  I’ve started making the rounds and pruning a few more trees- and it’s time to prune the apple trees too.  That’ll be a project for this weekend, along with the garden if we have time.

The snow melted off most areas around the property, but the pond is still frozen over.  I was never quite confident enough to walk on the ice beyond the really shallow corners.  I did see some folks ice fishing on a few smaller ponds in the local area.  Our pond is mostly filled from the watershed, with many warmer spots where the groundwater runs off the property- hence the ice along some of the shoreline areas is far too unstable.

I’m not sure if these cracks in the ice go all the way through, but I’m not walking out there to check either!  The snow has melted off, but the ice has gone through several freeze and thaw cycles.

Cracks in pond ice

Here’s where one of the circles in the ice has thawed, with cracks branching out.   The stump was from a hundred year old oak tree that had a rope swing on it from two decades ago.  The tree eventually died and woodpeckers tore it all apart.   I wonder how long it will last…

Hole in the pond ice

It’s not all ice, snow, brown and gray…  I found my little Shortleaf Pine tree the other day- actually there’s two of them.  They were the only two that survived after planting a couple dozen seedlings two years ago.  But this one is doing great, and has started developing branches.  

Shortleaf Pine

Naturally I picked a drought year to attempt planting those seedlings in the spring of 2007.   If I had done the same last year the survival rate would have been much higher.   But I’ve ordered more native plants again- especially smaller shrubs and trees that help local wildlife such as sumac, buttonbush, elderberry, etc.  (I love having elderberry plants around- they’re great for sauce and jelly during the late summer’s harvest!).   The plants will arrive in March or April, and I’ll spend a week or two trying to figure out where to put the seedlings.

I really appreciate Missouri’s State Forest Nursery and the fact that they make native plants available at very fair prices.  It’s almost too easy these days to choose landscaping plants that really don’t belong in many regions across the country.  We may see a plant or shrub we really like but without realizing it we end up spreading invasive species that detract from the biodiversity of the native environment.    I do appreciate new plants and beautiful landscaping, but at least for the fields and forests in Missouri’s rural areas I hope to foster a more natural approach with native plants.  It makes you wonder though- we’ve got non-native Autumnberry trees around that are very invasive, and yet they’ve been here for about a hundred years now.  I’ve got a bunch of them I need to cut back and remove, but at least the Autumnberry fruit is edible and can make decent jelly too.

Winter Sun and Fun in the Barn

January 13th, 2009

A beautiful sunny day, but cold!  And it’s going to be colder for the next few days.  I’ve been asking for snow, and look!  We actually got enough flurries to dust the ice on the pond.   I like how the trees stand as gray sentinels on the hillside- in summer you can’t see this corner of the pond very well because of all the leaves on the trees.

Fox Haven Pond in winter

The long range weather forecast doesn’t have any snow it in this month- will we go all winter with that one small snowstorm in December? 

Worked in the barn yesterday with the woodstove going- I’ve used it a couple times, but this was the first time I’ve kept it going for such a long time and it was pretty nice.  Why didn’t I put the stove in last year!?!   I had it piled in a corner, but didn’t find the “gumption” to tackle it until last fall.  I’m so glad I did- outdoor temperatures were in the high 30’s yesterday and the barn warmed up to around 50+ and a lot warmer near the stove.  That’s enough to fiddle comfortably with a host of things that need cleaned up.  In the afternoon the boy came home from school and did his homework while laying on cardboard near the stove.  He thought it was fun, and enjoyed the warmth.    

Staying warm by the woodstove

(The picture above was a little fuzzy in the darker light, so I applied some “watercolor” filtering to it.)   But working inside the barn gave me time to move some work lights around in preparation for cleaning up the work bench.  I’m embarrased to say I’ve put it off for almost 3 years!  I use it alot,  it’s just that tools and small items come and go from the bench top and it’s a disorganized mess.  And since it’s an outdoor barn/equipment shed, there’s always a lot of dust and grime.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll get started on that soon.  

But the main area inside of the barn is a different story… I’ve got that somewhat organized to maximize use of the space, and I like to keep the floors swept regularly.  It always feels so much better to keep things in order, and clean up the dust.  With tractors and mowers, dust and grass clippings are a way of life.  Our real work bench is closer to the house in the garage, and it’s in a lot better shape.  Still has a lot of junk piled around it, but at least it’s organized junk if there is such a thing!

Ramblings and Remembrance

December 7th, 2008

Brrr…. okay, winter seems to have come early this year.  Getting a lot more done inside, but at this rate we’ll be through our woodpile by the end of January.  Which is a good month and half sooner than expected!  That’s okay, just means I’ll need to split a little more on the nice days; most of it is seasoned already as unsplit rounds.   But next year?  We’ll really need to get busy.   The pond has been wavering between ice and open water the past few days.  The boy and the yellow lab are both curious, and sometimes the designs in the ice are fascinating.

Boy and Yellow Lab looking at pond ice

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It’s time again also for the Festival of the Trees!  Mary at A Neotropical Savanna has put together a beautiful theme and collection of shared thoughts relating to the world of trees. 

“This issue of Festival of the Trees comes after a month of autumn color in parts of the northern hemisphere and at the beginning of a month of snow and thoughts of Christmas trees, whether you celebrate it or not. There seems to be something about this time of year that prompts reflection…”

Reflection indeed.  I love reading about the thoughts and creative endeavors of so many others throughout the world.  After all, it’s our shared Nature isn’t it? 

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Time also to wish a hearty Congrats! to all you Oklahoma fans out there for the Big 12 Championship win last night.  We had better hopes for Missouri– and they have been great this season- but the Sooners are almost playing in a different league.  That and the front-end guys on the OK offensive line, I think their height ranges from 6’4″ to 6’8″ with an average weight over 310 pounds!  And that’s college football?!   It’s still fun to see- I enjoy watching a few of the bowl games over the holidays, and catching the spirit of the schools and students.   And lest I forget, Congratulations to Navy on Saturday for their big win over Army.  That’s a game of historical proportions, and many sailors and soldiers watch it all over the world.

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I also send out a hearty Salute to my younger brother, an Army Sergeant Major, returned this week from Iraq and other environs.  Welcome home!

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Speaking of our troops, it is also National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and we remember the service and sacrifice of so many then and now.   For me the story is unforgettable, as are the lessons it has taught.  But time has a way of fading the memories and trials of generations past.

“You say Pearl Harbor to a lot of the kids today and they ask, ˜Who was she?” Samuel E. Clower

But we lost over 2,400 Americans and almost 1,200 more wounded.  Most of those who were killed died within the first 15 minutes of the attack on the navy ships.  And the long, bloody Pacific War was set to begin. 

“I was looking out to sea at 8 o™clock in the morning and these planes started coming over and I thought, ˜More maneuvers again today on Sunday?™ Jaekel said. œI thought the Air Corps was doing a full attack. They dived and came down and I thought, ˜Oh boy, this looks like it™s real,™ and then I saw meatballs [or Japanese rising sun emblems] on the wing of one [plane] and one of them launched a torpedo. [One plane] came around the channel and it went by where I was and the rear seat guy was pumping shells, shooting at us and I just lied down and tried to crawl up between the ties. [The gunner] was so close that I could see the expression on his face. I didn™t get hit, but the guy right below me was in the phone booth and he got hit and the phone booth just shattered.”    Haile H. œJake Jaekel

And yet the U.S. and Japan have come so far, with a shared vision for world stability and peace, and as staunch allies today.  After spending some time in Japan, I can only embrace our shared history with friendship and respect, and hope that others in the world may look toward peace among nations in the years ahead.   It’s also a fitting weekend to see the nomination for the incoming Veteran’s Affairs Secretary, General Eric Shinseki, as one who will lead public policy administration efforts toward the care of our veterans, and whose own service brings his career- and Japanese-American heritage- full circle.

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Sometimes things never seem to change.  Yet they do of course, and it’s important to find time to appreciate the nuances of life that unfolds around us.  Here the pond’s ice has thawed, been moved by wind and water and then broken apart. At night it freezes again in geometric patterns.

Geometric patterns in the ice

On Trees and a Life Before

November 12th, 2008

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

                                             Joyce Kilmer – 1913

 

 Oak Tree in Autumn

 

Many of us know of this beautiful poem.  When I think of trees, nothing I’ve read evokes such feeling or understanding for the simple beauty that a tree represents.  My mother had a framed copy of this poem hanging up for years that I’ve always loved, and it was her mothers’ too.   I remember wondering who Joyce Kilmer was, but never really took the time to find out about her.  Today, reading an old book of poems from 1929, I found that Joyce Kilmer was a soldier.

Sergeant Alfred Joyce Kilmer served in the 165th Infantry (69th New York), with the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.  He was born on December 6th, 1886, and killed in action near Ourcy, July 30th, 1918 at the age of 31.  Sargeant Kilmer is buried in France.  As I looked for a little more about him, I found that Joyce Kilmer was a very popular author and poet.  He had planned to continue a career in writing and journalism.  I’m sure many people knew of Joyce Kilmer before I did, and it shows how the passage of time so often leaves the stories of our lives behind.  For Joyce Kilmer, it is the poem “Trees” that people most remember.

Lest anyone think he was too firmly ensconced in sentimentality for nature or trees however,  I laughed when I read that,

… a 1915 interview with Kilmer pointed out that while Kilmer might be widely known for his affection for trees, his affection was certainly not sentimental – the most distinguished feature of Kilmer’s property was a colossal woodpile outside his home. The house stood in the middle of a forest and what lawn it possessed was obtained only after Kilmer had spent months of weekend toil in chopping down trees, pulling up stumps, and splitting logs. Kilmer’s neighbors had difficulty in believing that a man who could do that could also be a poet.”

I see no difficulty in believing that at all, and would like to think his love and connection with trees might have been joined by a practical approach to life.  When I plant a tree, or cut and stack wood for our winter’s fire, I’ll think of him and his poem.  However late, I was glad that I learned more about Joyce Kilmer personally while reading his poems from an old book, in front of a fire on an Autumn day, the day after Veteran’s day.

It was also a surprise, bittersweet and haunting, to know that a poem I’ve always enjoyed and that has brought such beauty and inspiration to so many, was written by someone who endured such hardship, and whose life was cut short so far from home.  Thank you Sergeant Kilmer, for your words and your service.

 

Chores and More for November

November 3rd, 2008

Such a busy weekend!  We’re still recovering from our sugar highs after a fun Halloween week.  After trick or treating we stopped by a local community center where many little games and tables were set up for the kids.  It was silly, goofy, dopey and just plain fun.  The young one loved it, and all the kids won prizes.  Nice lead in to the weekend to get a lot of chores accomplished. 

The peak of the leaf color change was a few days ago, and as quickly as the colors peaked, they are fading quickly to browns.  But it was just beautiful this past week- here’s a shot of the oak trees on the north side of the pond.

Oak trees in Autumn at Fox Haven

The big agenda was servicing the tractor- it was due for a complete service of the engine and transmission systems.  I’d never really done a lot of servicing except for oil before, but after talking with the dealer I realized I could save over $350 by doing it myself!  So after getting gallons of fluids and filters, I spent the better part of Saturday on my back turning wrenches.  It was kind of fun really, especially with the boy to help and learn too. 

I never realized how nice it is to have someone helping, especially when you need that one particular wrench that’s just out of reach.   We talked a lot about safety and why certain parts were connected like they were, and about the PTO shafts and other moving parts. I don’t know that he enjoyed it as much as I did, but hopefully he learned something.  We finished up, and it felt pretty good to save so much money.  I was dreading the cost, but learning a little how-to can go a long way.  

It was also time to remove the mower deck from the tractor, and get it cleaned up and put away for the year.   These things do a great job, but if you just let them sit they’ll rust out in a few years. 

John Deere 62D Mower Deck

After cleaning the top side, it was time to go underneath with the scraper.  After a couple of hours most of the chunks of grass, old paint and a little rust came off.  Blades will need sharpened again too.

Cleaning underside of mower deck

 Then it was time for a fresh coat of paint to protect from rust, and voila! Almost good as new.   Here’s my two helpers… one of whom figured out that after sweeping the floor it was a great place to scoot around on a skateboard!

62D mower deck after repainting it green

While sitting there scraping away, I realized that it was a better job for the winter if I could heat the barn.  Well, our “barn” is really more like a big equipment shed with a concrete floor, but we still call it the barn.   I’ve got an old wood stove and I’m thinking of buying stove pipe and such to go through the metal roof.  It’s not something you change your mind about half-way through (or after the hole is in the roof!) so I’m still mulling it over.  Whatever I do I want to make sure the roof doesn’t leak…   But I may just get all the materials this week while the weather’s still nice and try to get it done.  Wouldn’t it be great to be out there on a cold, snowy day with a toasty-warm wood stove!?

Not to be outdone for Autumn, here’s my little bonsai maple tree.  This little guy is over 4 years old now believe it or not, and that’s a petunia flower growing in the pot.  My goal is to shape it like a mature tree eventually, but to keep it about this size.  I had two of them, but the other one grew too fast and I didn’t keep up with it.  But it’s neat to see how small some of the leaves become (they’re about the size of a nickel), and I enjoy watching it change colors in the fall.  We’ll see how long I can keep it growing! 

Bonsai Maple tree in Autumn

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