A Bad Location For A Trail?

If you have been following this blog you might recall the following photograph from a previous post entitled Another Day In The Ozarks…Not!, which chronicled one of the many wildfires we have experienced on our property.  As I was frantically searching for the source of smoke emanating from somewhere on our land, I was impeded in my progress along one of our fire trails by a tree which had fallen as a result of a lightning strike.

Lightning destroyed this tree

Not long after that incident, but before I had a chance to muster up the chain saw to cut up and remove the fallen tree seen above, we were unfortunate enough to experience yet another fire on our property.  The photograph that follows may also look familiar to you, as it is from a previous post entitled To Quote Yogi Berra “It Feels Like Deja Vu All Over Again”, in which I recounted another in our series of fires.  This second photograph was taken after the second fire burned through the area where the fallen tree had lain, and you can see that the fire succeeded in burning up any trace of the tree.

Downed tree is now gone

Today Retta and I took our dogs walking, and we decided to stroll along the same trail that is shown in the pictures above.  When we arrived at the location where the former tree had previously fallen, and than been consumed by flames, we were greeted by the sight of another, larger tree blocking our fire lane.  The following photograph shows this second fallen tree, which you will notice is located right next to the remains of the lightning-struck tree trunk from the earlier incident (which is on the left in this photo, as we approached the tree from the opposite direction as in the first two photos).

Another tree bites the dust

My first thought when I saw the downed tree was to wonder if lightning caused the destruction.  Could lightning really strike the same place twice?  It would be quite a coincidence if two adjacent trees were downed by lightning in the span of 7 months.  The second thought to enter my mind was, darn, that’s going to be a big job cutting up and removing that tree from our fire lane.

A good chain saw project

The trunk is probably over 24″ in diameter at the point where it crosses over the fire lane.  While I am not inexperienced in the use of a chain saw (I usually have the local farm store sharpen about 30 chains for me each season), I am no Paul Bunyan either.  I thought that this particular tree might be too large a job to tackle by myself, so maybe I would recruit (or hire) someone more experienced than myself to undertake this job.

As I scrambled up the slope to get a closer view of the tree, the cause of it’s demise became apparent.

Hollow tree trunk

From the opposite side of the tree you can see that this tree was hollow.  Not dead, as there were fully leafed branches, but severely weakened by the structure of it’s hollow trunk.  It was probably knocked over recently by gusty wind conditions that often accompany the frequent thunderstorms that spawn in the Ozarks.  So now I am not certain if I will hire someone or not.  If I can determine that the trunk is hollow at the points that I would have to cut it for removal, than I will go ahead and do it myself, otherwise, I’ll start looking for help.

Mineral Lickin’ Good

Feeder Number 2

The picture above shows one of the two wildlife feeding stations we have set up along a creek in a field below our house.  We have created these sites so that the abundant game that inhabit the area will be attracted to areas where we can see them as we go about our daily routines.  The other feeding station, for anyone interested, can be seen in a previous post entitled Birds Of A Feather.  You may notice that in the lower left corner of the photo there appears to be a patch of ground that is rock strewn and has been vigorously disturbed in some manner.  This is one of the mineral licks that I have established near our feeders. 

Year old mineral lick

Creating a mineral lick is a simple endeavor.  What I like to do after I find a suitable location for the lick is to gather up some downed limbs and build a small bonfire, which clears the area down to bare soil.  Then I place a commercially prepared dear and wild game mineral block directly on the soil.  Over time, the block will become eroded.  Some erosion will have occurred by direct consumption from the area wildlife, but a good portion of the block will simply weather into the ground where it sits.  Not to worry – the deer will actually lick the soil in order to get the minerals they crave.

Four year old mineral lick

This is what will happen over time.  This particular mineral lick was established four years ago.  I have decided against filling in the hole each year.  Instead, I intend to keep replenishing this site with new mineral block periodically, and observe how large the mineral rich “crater” will grow (it sure beats sitting around watching the grass grow).    The deer have pawed at the ground with their hooves in order to loosen the mineral rich soils, leaving only the Ozarks rocks behind in their wake. 

Replenishing the minerals

The picture above shows how simple it is to replenish the lick.  All that is required is to unwrap and toss a new mineral block on top of the pile of rocks that have accumulated in the pit. 

The mineral blocks contain a variety of essential minerals for deer.  Here are some of the ingredients in the blocks I use – salt, magnesium limestone, calcium carbonate, soft rock phosphate (phosphorus), calcium iodate, cobalt carbonate, sodium selenite, ferrous carbonate, ferrous sulfate, iron oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, zinc oxide and lignin sulfonate.

If that weren’t enough to whet the appetite of wild game, the blocks also contain cane molasses and natural apple flavoring.  But the real question is this: do these mineral licks do anything for the deer, or am I just spinning my wheels in undertaking this activity?  Research seems to indicate that robust antler growth requires a minimum amount of certain minerals, particularly calcium and phosphorus, in the proper ratios (see Mineral Supplementation – Necessity or Never Mind?, by Brad Howard and Brian Murphy).  The commercial mineral blocks that are available in any farm supply or feed store are concocted of minerals designed to maximize the potential for antler growth in bucks by supplying the key minerals required for that purpose.  In many areas, the soil composition presents sufficient mineral content such that mineral supplements are unnecessary, while in other areas, the soil is lacking in some critical component.  To be on the safe side, I have opted to provide supplements for “my” game, just as I also opt to take a multi-vitimin for myself each day.

The fall and winter seasons are the time of year to begin to establish a mineral lick.  By establishing the lick at this time, it will be ready and available for use in the spring and summer, when the deer will make the most use of it.  And Retta and I will be sitting around, watching the deer take their daily dose of minerals.

In Memorium

September 11, 2001

On the morning of September 11, 2001, an anonymous amateur photographer began posting on the Internet photographs he was taking of the horror that was unfolding before his eyes.  This photographer released the photos into the public domain, believing that the benefit to the public outweighed his exclusive rights to his creations.  The photo above is just one of the many he/she posted at the time.

There are many thoughts and emotions that run through my mind as I contemplate the events of 9/11/2001, and the subsequent actions that these events have led us to, but there is one in particular that I will comment about on this rural-oriented blog.  And the thought that comes to mind is the profound difference in the fear mindset that must be occurring between residents of highly populated metropolitan areas, such as the photographer above, who obviously lives in the New York area, and residents in sparsely populated areas, such as myself.

The anonymous photographer above witnessed the initial moments of the World Trade Center catastrophe from the window of his residence.  Grabbing his camera, he began taking pictures of what he was seeing.  He felt compelled to leave the safety of his home, and with camera in hand, began a photographic journey into the heart of lower Manhattan Island.  As I contemplate this, I cannot help but wonder if this person re-lives all of those awful, gut-wrenching pangs he must have felt on that day, each and every time he looks out the window, every time he walks down those streets, and every time he commutes into the city from his home.

I would imagine that people such as this photographer, who live in densely populated areas, encountering locations and situations where the threat of terrorist events are very real, must have a constant awareness (even if only in the back of their minds) that they are in a potentially risky environment.  Particularly when the public is bombarded by the near constant reminders that terrorism exists, and surrounded by some politicians who would exploit that fact to their own political ends, it seems that a person who lives in a “likely” terrorist attack setting might tend to become fixated on the potential threats around them.  At the extreme, they may become immobilized by the fear of becoming a victim in a future attack.

Living in a sparsely populated rural area does not seem to invoke the same type of fears that might flourish in an urban environment.  Terrorism relies on mass, random killing to promote the fear it seeks to create.  And by definition, a sparse population generally presents little opportunity for the “mass” portion of the definition to emerge.  What likely target exists in a hamlet where the sign at the edge of town reads “Population – 735?”  None, I would surmise.  Therefore, those who live in these areas, who travel the back roads and conduct their business in one-horse towns have little to remind them of terrorist activities on a day-to-day basis.

I suspect few, if any, rural people are paralyzed in their fear of terrorist attacks, while many urban dwellers might be.  Perhaps urbanites should consider the possibility of frequent “therapeutic” visits to bucolic rural areas, in order to relieve the pent-up stress caused by the constant reminders of their vulnerability.  And perhaps rural folk might consider an occasional foray into the “belly of the beast,” so as not to forget that there is still a very real threat to many people out there.