Archive for the ‘Missouriana’ Category

March 5, 2016: Saturday along the river

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Magnolia Hollow Lake

The MDC had Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area on its list for management plan public input the other day, and I’d never heard of it before. When I found that it was only an hour’s drive from me, I decided to go check it out. When I got out at the first parking area at around 6:!5 yesterday, it was already pretty birdy — yellow-rumps in the trees, sparrows flitting around, etc.

I walked down to the fishing lake, which is quite a pretty spot (see above).

The yellow-rumps were thick there,

Yellow-rumped warbler

and I spotted a GBHE perched in a tree way in the distance.

Great Blue Heron

I spent some time just sitting on a rock listening to the YRWAs chipping in the trees, and eventually walked back up to the parking area. I drove on, getting out briefly at each parking area. As I was pulling out of the campground parking lot, I noticed a fat little bird in the grass on the shoulder. I stopped and cautiously opened the car door, but he didn’t seem to be worried about me; it was an American Woodcock, bobbing up and down in the full sunlight. He was backlit, so my photos are a little oddly exposed, but it’s the best chance I’ve ever had to get a pic of one.


At the next parking area, I got out and instantly saw a raptor departing into the woods. I ran up to see if I could tell where it had gone, and I could see something perched in the distance. In the binoculars it looked like a koala, but I was pretty sure that was wrong. Fortunately, the camera gave a better ID.

Barred Owl

From the last parking area, a paved path leads to a little deck with a view of Establishment Creek emptying into the Mississippi. Between them there’s a large fluddle. With a spotting scope, that’s a good spot to observe waterfowl. I found Canada Geese, mallards, green-winged teal, wood ducks, and gadwall there, and heard a kingfisher as well.

View at Magnolia Hollow

Next I decided to move downriver a bit (and inland) by visiting Ball Mill Resurgence and its new sister area, Blue Spring Branch Conservation Area. I’d never been to the latter, and I didn’t want Mark Haas to get all the “First Seens” in ebird for it. It’s kind of a weird layout. There’s a parking lot with a sign:

Blue Spring Branch

But the path to get into the area starts about 1/4 mile down the road. I bushwhacked down the hill from the parking area through tall grass and brush, but I wouldn’t recommend that approach. At the bottom of the hill (where I met up with the path) is Blue Spring Branch. It’s a fair-sized creek, but there’s a ford that wasn’t hard to cross with rubber boots.

Blue Spring Branch

I crossed the stream, following the path when it veered across an old fence line into a marshy field. There were some sparrows, and a deafening chorus of frogs. Adding to the soundscape, someone in a farmhouse a quarter-mile to the east started practicing the flute. From there I followed deer trails uphill to the far eastern edge of the Conservation Area. While there wasn’t that much happening on the ground, a mixed flock of geese (Snow, Greater White-Fronted, and a Ross’) came over. I made a loop and wound up back at the Branch, where I flushed 5 Wood Ducks. Added 13 species to the ebird list for the area: take that, Mark!

Of course I had to go to Ball Mill as long as I was in the neighborhood. Things were pretty quiet there, but I did get a nice pic of a bluebird.


One of these days I need to go there after a big rain and see the resurgence in action.

Working my way southward, I headed for Red Rock Landing Conservation Area. Last couple of times I tried to get there, high water made it impossible. The MDC says you can’t get in when the Chester gauge is over 20 feet; Saturday it was at 17 and there was no problem. It was also pretty quiet — what do you expect in mid-afternoon — but there were two killdeer and a Wilson’s Snipe (new ebird record for the area) on the wetland. I walked down to the river and came back up, and saw an armadillo approaching along a side trail. I crouched down so as not to be conspicuous and got out the camera.


At full zoom, I got some decent pictures, but he kept trotting toward me so fast I couldn’t keep him in focus. I was starting to worry that he’d just run right into me, and even as I backed off the zoom, I couldn’t get all of him in the frame.


He hopped over a log just 5 feet from me, and when I turned to watch him go by he finally realized I was there. He quickly scuttled into the flood debris. Those guys really have nothing going for them but the armor — sight and hearing were clearly not priorities for them as they evolved.

Afterward I walked a mile of the trail up onto the bluffs. It was totally dead for birds except some eagles out on a sand bar in the Mississippi. Nice view, though, but it won’t be much after the leaves come out.

View from Red Rock Landing trail

It was interesting looking at the eagles from up on the bluff; one immature took off and flew across the sand bar to perch in a tree, and I was puzzled by the coloring in his wings — brown on his back, shading pretty abruptly to black on the wing tips. I’d never seen that before, but a quick look in Sibley showed exactly that pattern. Then I realized that I’m not usually looking down at an eagle in flight.

After a mile or so on the trail, it was about 2:30 PM, and I was getting a bit tired — I think my total walking distance for the day was about 9 miles. I headed back and went home. Total species for the day, 49. Not bad when neither shorebird nor warbler migration has started.

Ride to Cedar Lake

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Sunday ride to Cedar Lake

Cedar Lake

I recently read in Cape Girardeau History and Photos about Cedar Lake, and was surprised to learn that I’d lived within about 15 miles of it for 15 years, and had never even heard of it. So I drove my bike over to Maintz Wildlife Refuge today and rode some gravel roads down to Millersville. Sure enough, I was able to get a glimpse of the lake (above) from county road 481. One reason this lake hasn’t been developed is that you can’t see it from any paved road. Another is that it’s out by Millersville, and there just isn’t much going on there.

It was a lovely ride, though, and I’d like to see more of the lake. There’s a gravel road that crosses the dam at its south end, and I think goes up around the east side of the lake from there, but I took the barbed-wire fence and “no tresspassing- keep out” signs to indicate that people didn’t want me to ride over there. If I can get permission, I’ll try again later and see if I can take some more pics.

Col de Scopus

Monday, July 19th, 2010

In honor of the Pyrenees, I planned a ride with some hills today — down to Burfordville, then out UU to Scopus. Here’s the Col de Scopus, or one of them…


I never visit Scopus without taking at least one shot of the old Scopus school, which was built by the WPA in 1936. Very picturesque.

Scopus school

I went a little way south on B from Scopus, where I was rewarded with this work of public art. Everyone who has used a chainsaw has had the experience of getting it stuck so badly that you need another saw to get it out; this sculpture tells a story of an occasion when they ran out of saws, apparently.

Chainsaw sculpture

I turned around and went back north, and was about to leave Scopus entirely when I realized that the building on the corner was actually a store. I had to stop and visit, and that was definitely worthwhile. Not that the store had much (though they did have Powerade), but it is clearly the social center of Scopus.

Scopus -- Bridges' store

This is Laina, who doesn’t own the place “No, I just stay here. Six days a week.” She was very friendly, happy to have me take pics of the store, and told me to be sure to come back. Sometime when I’m not hurrying to avoid the heat or stormy weather, I’ll come back and see what the regulars can tell me about the schoolhouse.

Scopus -- Bridges' store

Finally, coming back on highway 72, I saw this produce stand. They had big cups of fresh blackberries for $2. Standing there eating fresh blackberries about 50 miles into my day’s ride was about as good as it gets. Of course, I had a blackberry seed stuck in my teeth for the last 20 miles, but it was worth it.

Honor system

59.8 miles today. Tomorrow 61.2, and then Wednesday is a rest day.

Election Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Saturday Sophie and I volunteered to canvass for Obama, and although she had to work Sunday, I went back and volunteered again.  This close to the election, all the effort is directed at getting out the vote, so we were visiting households already identified as favoring Obama or at least leaning that way.  Even so, it was kind of a revelation to us.  These were overwhelmingly white neighborhoods we were in.  Most of the people we saw were elderly – just the kind of Democrats who were supposed to be pissed off because Hilary didn’t get the nomination.  And yet we repeatedly heard things like “Oh, yes, I’m voting for Obama.  Yes, I know where the polling place is.  I never miss an election.”  Or as one old guy said, “Well, I guess I’ll vote for him.  I’m sure as hell not voting for a Republican!” 

Considering all the right-wing rants I read in the call-in column in the local paper, it restores my faith in my fellow man to find out that there really are Democrats in Southeast Missouri.   These people live in modest homes in middle-class neighborhoods; a lot of them are retired, and living on fixed incomes, and they clearly see that Obama is the candidate with their economic interests at heart.   I don’t think the Bradley effect is happening here; they weren’t trying to tell me what I wanted to hear, while secretly planning to vote for the white guy.  The few people we ran into who seemed like they opposed him on racial grounds were pretty openly hostile.  Ironically, those few were in the poorest neighborhoods, and had the most to lose from a continuation of trickle-down economics. 


Missouri overall leans slightly toward McCain, and this part of the state is strongly Republican.  However, if we can get about 40% of the vote in this region, the strongly Democratic populations of St. Louis and Kansas City can put Missouri in the Obama column.  The last time I actively worked for a presidential candidate was when Bill Clinton ran the first time, and I think there’s even more enthusiasm for Obama this year than there was for Clinton in 1992.  Even out in the boonies where we live, there are Obama supporters – Obama yard signs in Fruitland!  On highway Y!  At the livestock auction yard on highway C! 


The national polls and electoral maps look good.  Still, I’m anxious.  As one of Cabell’s friends blogged, “”I feel like it’s Christmas Eve, only with the suspense of wondering whether Santa is going to bring me a pony or set my house on fire.”

A less cheery side note about the Altenburg Fair

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

I’ll just paste the text of the letter I wrote to the local paper:


For many years I’ve enjoyed going to the East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg.   The authentic rural atmosphere is a nice contrast with the larger, more commercialized SEMO district fair.   This year, though, I was disappointed to hear the announcer at the mule jump make a very mean-spirited joke:  A local farmer sees someone dipping water out of a cow pond with his hand and drinking it.  In German, he warns the man that the pond water isn’t safe to drink.  The man explains that he’s a Muslim, and speaks only Arabic and English, so if the farmer doesn’t speak Arabic, he should speak English to him.  The farmer tells him in English “Use both hands, you’ll get more.”   

It’s not a particularly funny joke, and especially not to any of my Muslim friends, as the point seems to be “Ha ha, we hate Muslims.” 

I have always encouraged newcomers to the area to attend the Altenburg Fair, for a taste of real Southeast Missouri life.  After this year’s fair, though, I think I’ll have to warn them that they’re likely to encounter some real Southeast Missouri intolerance as well.


The Altenburg Fair

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Once again, it’s my favorite local event of the year — the East Perry Community Fair, better known as the Altenburg Fair.   I hate the SEMO regional fair, which has a zillion rides and carnies and country music groups and generally awfulness.  But the Altenburg Fair has two rides, a miniature golf course, and booths from places like the local hardware store, where they give away yardsticks.  Most important, they have the Mule Jump.

Mule Jump at Altenburg Fair 2008

In this event, the owner leads his or her mule into the U-shaped enclosure.  The mule must come to a stop, and then jump over the barrier.  Each round they raise it an inch or two.  The mule above, Bucky, won the smallest size category, and is shown clearing the bar at 54 inches.  It was above his ears when he was standing in front of it.

This kid, Preston, kept losing control of his mule Sarah.  They didn’t win, but he’ll be back next year.  You can tell.

Altenburg Fair 2008

Afterward we got a beer or two.  Robin had a brat and a ribbon-fried potato, I had a fried fish, and Sophie had a pulled pork sandwich.  Sadly, we didn’t get around to the Pickle on a Stick booth.   We did have a look at the prize produce, though.

Sophie with the big 'ol pumpkins

Good times, as always.

Another trip to Family Friendly Farm

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

So, as mentioned previously, I’ve quit eating confinement-raised animals this year. And as also previously mentioned, I’ve been buying chicken from Family Friendly Farm over near Oriole, MO. This spring I put in an order and put down a deposit on 30 chickens, half a hog, and a turkey. Yesterday was the first day I was scheduled to pick up some of the chickens, so I drove to Oriole with a cooler or two, and pulled up at the farm.

First thing I saw were the puppies — their dog had a litter early in the spring, and they’re trying to sell pups. We don’t need another dog.

Puppies at Family Friendly Farm

Although I must admit the mother does a great job of watching over chickens, etc.

Anyway, after I’d parked, Matt came out and we went to his processing shed, where I helped him bag 15 chickens. They’d slaughtered them on Friday morning. Matt tells me they had five people working, and killed, gutted, plucked, and iced down 350 chickens in a morning. I had planned to come then, as Matt said I could have as many chicken livers as I wanted for free if I would fish them out myself, but I had to teach a workshop and couldn’t make it.

Anyway, I got my chickens ($2.10 a pound, including the discounts for pre-ordering and picking up on scheduled day), and loaded them in the car. On the way out I took a few pics of the newest batch of chicks, now about 2 or 3 weeks old.

Chicks at Family Friendly Farm

Yeah, they’re awfully cute, and here I’m planning to eat them.  Still, they are running around loose in a nice grassy place, so I think it’s ethically preferable.  My friend Sarah, who is a vegan, says my current eating habits are worse than just buying Wal-Mart chickens that have been raised in boxes, because I’m just trying to assuage my conscience.  I say she’s killing defenseless plants all the time, and it’s just kingdom chauvinism.

I took my chickens home and froze 4 of them whole for roasting later.  The other 11 I cut up and froze in bags of sorted pieces — boneless skinless breasts, thighs, drumsticks, a big bag of wings, and several large bags of backs, necks, and bones for making stock.   Tonight we’re going to have Hannah’s favorite, chicken puff pastry.


Friday, April 18th, 2008

I woke up this morning at 4:36 AM because the house was shaking.   It wasn’t all that strong, but lasted surprisingly long.  At least 15 seconds after I woke up, and from what I hear, that was halfway through it.  The windows rattled, and I said “Is it an earthquake?” to Robin, who agreed it was.  Then we went back to sleep.

It wouldn’t be news if this one happened in California, only magnitude 5.4.  We don’t get many around here, though.

Great Trailer Homesites of Missouri, vol. 1

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I frequently go by here — sometimes it has a trailer here, other times not. At the moment it’s vacant, and what a great opportunity!

Trailer spot with graveyard

It’s on a fairly quiet country road, and it has a really nice view of a valley to the east — right out past those two big oaks. And as an added attraction, just to the right of the oaks, there’s this mini-graveyard:

Robins Mini-graveyard

There’s actually another little stone over to the left that didn’t make it into the picture.  Anyway, a great place to raise kids.  “Eat your peas, honey, or the Robins family will come get you in the night.”

Okay, I made a New Year’s resolution

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Yeah, I did. I resolved to quit buying and eating confinement-raised animals.  Chickens at least, preferably also pigs and cattle.  I’m an omnivore, and have been all my life with only about an 18-month hiatus some 30 years ago.  I have no particular problem with killing innocent chickens, piggies, cows, etc. and eating them.   However, I do have a problem with torturing them first.

I don’t need to go into the whole Confinement Animal Feeding Operations story — suffice it to say that I think animals ought to be able to run around, see the outdoors, that sort of thing.  I already eat mainly eggs from chickens raised by a friend in the Chemistry department.  I frequently ride my bike past his place and see the chickens running around out in the field.  Damn good eggs, too.  He also sells chickens, and this year I plan to start buying them.

Of course, there’s a problem here — I’ve been in the habit of eating a mesquite-broiled chicken breast (you get them at Sam’s Club, frozen in a bag) every day at lunch.  I can’t afford to eat a breast from a wild-and-crazy-running-around-loose chicken daily.  So I’ve switched to Boca burgers for lunch.  My concern for the treatment of soybeans is limited at best.

Now I also like pork occasionally, even sausage.  What to do?  Well, there’s a meat processing place right in Pocahontas.  It’s the kind of place you can take your deer around to the back to get made into chops or whatever.  They also have pork chops, loin, and 12 kinds of brats.  Seems likely that these would be from local, wild and crazy pigs, eh?

So yesterday I went to Reis Meat and picked out some chops and some brats, and I asked the woman at the counter, “Where do the pigs come from?  Are these from local pigs?”

The woman looked a bit confused, but then she answered.  “Oh, no, no they aren’t.”  My heart sank.  Damn, they get their pigs from some giant operation in Nebraska or something.  She continued with, “They’re from Bollinger farms down by Bloomfield.”

Yeah. In other words, about 50 miles away.  I don’t know Bollinger farms specifically, but I did some reading on the web — there have been some bills in the Missouri legislature recently about confinement operations — and it turns out that there are some large-scale confinement feeding pig farms in the state, but they’re all in the southwest part, not near us (or even 50 miles away).  So, unless someone out there knows different, I’m pretty sure my pork chops came from pigs that, like the ones I see around here, are sort of lolling about in muddy farmyards.  Not maybe the ideal existence, but then again, well fed and not locked in a stall too small to turn around in.

As a colleague was pointing out, there’s also venison.  I know a number of people who hunt — maybe I should try it.  I certainly don’t think it’s more ethical to eat animals that other people kill than to kill your own.  For that matter, apparently you get a discount on chickens from my friend the chemist if you help slaughter them.

So, we’ll see where this leads.  I may wind up on a tofu-only diet, or I may become Nimrod the mighty hunter.  Stay tuned.