Wet Spring

Reader Contribution by David Boyt
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Usually, by this time it is dry enough to be able to mow what passes for a “yard” around our house. I’m not big on landscaping, but things are getting out of hand, even for me. Most of what is growing in the yard is a combination of fescue (seeds blown in from our neighbor’s pasture), and an assortment of other grasses and brush. Like most folks in the area, we haven’t even been able to get in a decent garden, so far.

The old tractor has been sitting so much that a pair of wrens has decided that the tool box would be a good place to set up housekeeping. They did this several years ago. I wasn’t even aware of their presence until I heard the tractor start to squeak before I even turned on the ignition switch. It took a while to locate the source of the “problem” which was the aforementioned wren’s nest. Looking around, I noticed one of the parents scolding me from a safe distance. I considered the dilemma of whether to use the tractor, but concluded that I had used the tractor nearly every day during the two weeks or so that the eggs had been in the nest so far. Not realizing that I was carrying three extra passengers, I had been using the tractor almost daily to bring logs out of the woods and move lumber around the sawmill—yet somehow ma & pa managed to keep an eye on things and incubated the eggs. Sure enough, they flew back to the nest as soon as I parked the tractor and walked away, even though the tractor was at least 100 yards away from its original location. I’m sure they kept an eye on me the entire time. I watched as the babies grew, being careful to leave the tool box lid open just enough to allow the parents to enter with a continuous supply of food. They really are amazing creatures. Intelligent, curious, and certainly devoted to family. I had to wonder whether they felt any sadness when the young left the nest. I didn’t get any photos of the wrens, but here’s a photo of a green snake (can you find it in the photo top, right?) that has been helping keep down the insect population around the sawmill.

This is my first year to participate in the “skywarn” network of ham radio operators. Even with Doppler radar, volunteers are needed to visually confirm weather conditions. I love having a good reason to get out and watch the sky as a storm moves in. Basically, we select a place with a good view of the sky and radio in any threatening weather activity. I’d recommend ham radio to anyone interested in alternative communications. Natural disasters can take out land lines and disrupt cell phone service, but with a ham radio and antenna, there is always a way to get a message out. We mostly communicate through the local “repeater” which re-broadcasts transmissions over a broad area. We can select a different frequency for more private conversations, though any conversation can be monitored by someone listening on the broadcast frequency. It is a lot like the CB radios only much more tightly regulated.  It takes a little studying to get the license, but it isn’t difficult (especially now that Morse code is no longer required).

The drought of the last two summers killed a lot of the oak trees, so there is a lot of salvage work to do. The Norwood sawmill allows me to put the wood from the dead trees to good use. Without it, we would have to decide between letting professional loggers come in or letting the trees rot out in the woods. On the nice days that we do get, I enjoy running the mill. With a sharp blade and everything adjusted right, it hardly seems like work at all… until I stack the boards. Oak gets heavy after a while. Every log has its own story to tell as I mill through it. Damage from lightning, branches that have died and fallen off, even the variation in the pattern in the rings on the stump tell of times of drought and plenty.  They provide an interesting snapshot of what the climate was like in the past, and the older ones even show the effects of the drought back in the dust bowl times. Hopefully we won’t be experiencing that again! Comparing growth ring patterns of trees is a branch of science called dendrochronology that allows archeologists to date wooden beams in 10,000-year-old buildings to within a few months of when the tree was cut. Amazing! The photo of the sawmill shows me working with a salvaged sweetgum log that came out of a yard. Actually, I turned the log for the next cut with the help of “Henry”, my faithful old Ford 8n tractor (while the wrens watched). 

I always enjoy visitors. If you’re in southwest Missouri, drop me a line … I can always use some extra help at the mill!