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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - DECEMBER 2010 Journal Archives

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Cloudland Cabin Cam December 30, 7:41am - HIGH WINDS and more fog

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December Prints of the Month

JOURNAL UPDATED Friday the 30th - surrounded in the woods!

12/01/10 It is a crisp and quite clear day early this morning - the landscape is at quiet rest with nothing stirring at all - like everything is holding its breath just waiting for something to happen. And indeed something is happening - welcome to DECEMBER! The landscape is brown and blue and beautiful - the sort of scene that you can take off hiking into without much thought of where you will go or end up, with the only sounds being the gentle rustling of leaves underfoot - AND, now that we've had a bit of rain, there will be running water here and there to soothe the soul even more! Yup, winter is a delightful time of year in Arkansas, and I will treasure each and every moment I get to wander around in it.

I was high atop Rich Mountain well before sunrise yesterday and it was a brisk 25 degrees with a howling wind. I waited for a sunrise that never happened - actually the sun did rise, but it was behind a large cloud layer and by the time the sun appeared above the clouds there was no color in the sky for me to take a picture of. But no matter - I enjoyed just being there to experience the dawn of a new day in the Ouachitas (I had driven there from my program in Benton the night before and slept in the back of my car - well, "slept" was a relative term since I probably only actually got a few minutes of real shuteye the entire night, but it was enough).

The display of nearly 40 canvas prints at the Mena Art Gallery is no more, but it will travel to the OAK LEAF ART GALLERY on the square in Harrison today and will remain there all during December. I'll add a few new canvas prints to the group this morning, then will be in town this afternoon to hang the exhibit. I hope many of you get the chance to stop by and view these canvas prints - some up to five feet wide!

Speaking of prints, we have decided to offer three different images at the special Print Of The Month price this month, and you can get them either as naked prints or as special black mat prints. They won't quite fit in a Christmas stocking, but will look great on the wall next to the fireplace!

SLIDE PROGRAM NOTE - there is still plenty of room for our shows in Springfield this Friday, and in Bentonville on Saturday (1pm start time). And a special THANKS to all who came to the Benton show the other night - always wonderful to meet and greet to many of you!

12/02/10 I had a Cloudland Moment today - seems kind of early in the month to have one but I guess these sorts of things don't follow a calendar. It was a very long day that began early this morning with me outside waiting for the clouds to clear so that I could see the crescent moon dancing with Venus in the eastern sky. There are some nice and colorful clouds playing with them. The rest of my day was spent in the print room working on a number of different projects that just kept piling up. It is late at night now and I am happy to report that I am completely caught up with all of my printing, YIPPIE COYOTE! (starting a new paragraph so that this one does not get too long)

The afternoon was bright and sunny and quite warm - it felt just wonderful! The air was rare and sweet, and hard to believe it was December (although winter is still three weeks away). When I finished work tonight and shut down the gallery I wandered out into the black night - no moon at all, but yet it seemed to be light enough for me to wander around in the woods without aid of a flashlight. It was chilly, with a slight breeze, but the coolness felt really nice and I soon found myself lost in the woods (being lost is often a relative term). I sat down in a thick pile of leaves and leaned up against an old tree of some sort and started to gaze up into the heavens. The stars were bright, and especially the Milky Way - man it was really glowing! And though I normally notice it when it is running north-south, tonight it was running west-east across the sky, and when I followed it all the way down it ended right smack in the middle of Orion's Belt just above the eastern horizon. It was a beautiful night in the wilderness and I was thankful for a few moments of rest in such wonderful surroundings. As the chill began to creep in I got up and started moving and headed downhill. And then there was a faint glow way out there in the woods - a glow that grew with each step that I took, and before long it hit me, and a Cloudland Moment happened. The girls had spent the afternoon and evening unpacking the holiday stuff and had just turned on the Christmas tree lights, and that was the warm glow that I saw from afar. I was instantly warmed up, and realized that while I had pretty much been wearing blinders for no telling how long of late - concentrating on little else but constant business chores - there was a log cabin in the woods here that was my home, and inside were the most important people in the world to me, more so than all the printing I could do in a lifetime. And, of course, sitting right there at the base of that glowing tree was my faithful dog - sniffing around for a holiday treat! It is so easy to get lost in the holiday shuffle when everything else but family seems to be so important - just remember to take the time along the way to be with and enjoy those that are closest to you.

12/03/10 Is the moon a man or woman? That question came up inside my head early this morning while I was exercising on the underwater treadmill - it was 4am-something so the mind can wander a bit without anyone knowing. The sky above was coal black but filled with a zillion tiny bright dots; Venus was rising in the east and about as bright as I've ever seen her; and over there below the planet, just above the horizon, was a tiny silver sliver of a moon, laying back almost in a totally-reclined position. My immediate thought was of a ballerina, arched back and just hovering there in a perfect pose. And that got me to thinking about whether the moon is male or female. No doubt in this phase she must be a lady - petite and sweet and just lovely. But later in the month when that sliver has grown up to be a giant and bright mass of gray cheese, he is most certainly a man, big and burly and rough, and LOUD. (Although I've never seen the "man in the moon.")

OAK LEAF GALLERY in Harrison OPEN HOUSE AND RECEPTION on Friday, December 10th, 5:30pm - 7pm (located on the square, sponsored by the Harrison Art League). There will be nearly 40 of my special gallery-wrapped canvas prints on display, plus refreshments. I'll be there wandering around to talk about the photography and the canvas prints. This will be followed at 7:30pm by my slide program at the Lyric Theater next door - books and calendars will go on sale at 7pm at the Lyric (special program prices!). This canvas print exhibit will be on display at the Oak Leaf Gallery all month, however since they have no staff and only a handful of dedicated volunteers, there is no specific schedule of when the gallery will be open. If you want to drive to Harrison to view the canvas print exhibit, please call the Ozark Arts Council office at the Lyric at 870-391-3594 to make sure someone can let you in.

SPRINGFIELD slide shows tonight - still room left! As of yesterday there were 270 folks singed up for the two programs, which means there is still room left in both the 5pm and 7pm programs - give the Nature Center a call to grab one of the seats! And we look forward to seeing everyone there tonight!

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The powerline right-of-way leading down towards the cabin filled with beautiful tall grasses

12/06/10 It's just after 3am this morning and it is a wee bit nippy outside at 20 degrees. The sky above is filled with bright stars, although they get somewhat clouded with the steam that rises each time I exhale. MONDAY is always my most favorite day of the week and today is no different - I'm up early since I just can't wait to get started! Today begins another very long and hectic week for us with slide programs in Ft. Smith, Conway, and Harrison, plus we'll have a reception at the Oak Leaf Gallery on Friday and also the first of two open houses in December here at our canvas prints gallery on Saturday. I'll be on the road today and Wednesday as well. I LOVE this time of year, but it will soon be all over so I'm soaking it all in while I can.

We had a bit of mischief to deal with here yesterday, all of it surrounding our chickens, literally. Neighbors have been telling us about a pack of wild dogs up on Cave Mountain this fall and they paid a visit to Cloudland yesterday a couple of times. I chased them off the first time by running after them, screaming as loud as I could - they had been headed right towards our chickens who had just taken refuge under our outdoor shower. I chased them on past the gallery and up the hill towards the East meadow until they disappeared out of sight.

The next time the wild dogs showed up I made a little bit more noise with a 9mm pistol - I think all the lead wizzing just over their heads got their attention and they once again disappeared up over the hill in a hurry.

Throughout the day my lovely bride reported bald eagles circling down close to the cabin several times. And once I stood and watched an immature bald eagle teaming up with a giant red-tailed hawk - it was obvious they both had their eagle eyes on our birds!

And then after dark a pack of coyotes started yipping and howling right outside the cabin - they were within a few feet of the outhouse-turned-chicken coop in the side yard - I think they were hungry and wanted a chicken dinner! I ran out the door and once again filled the air with lots of lead and noise and the coyotes took off at full speed. The ladies were safely tucked away inside their little oak roost, but I suspect if these coyotes got to working at it they might be able to tear into the place and get at them. The rest of the evening was quiet with no sign of wild dogs, coyotes, or eagles.

By the way, we don't shoot at birds around here - they are free to soar and play as they like, and we are hopeful that they keep their distance from our chickens and cats (although we used to have owls that feasted on the colorful coy fish that lived in our little pond out in front - we no longer have any fish).

I actually did get some work done yesterday, including making a really neat 20" x 38" canvas print of the Druid Peak Wolf Pack of an image I took when we went to Yellowstone in the winter several years ago. It was an amazing moment in time for us to stand there and witness this, and the canvas print is pretty amazing too. It will be one of the new canvas prints on display (and for sale now) at the first of two open houses at our gallery this coming Saturday from 10am-4pm - no toilets here so please pee before you arrive!

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Before work yesterday morning I knew that an epic sunrise was eminent the moment that I got up and looked out the window - even though it was an hour before sunrise there were hints of color in the cloud bank that covered the eastern skyline, and it was a pretty sure bet that some intense color would soon follow. I spent several anxious moments running different scenarios through my brain about places I could drive or hike to in order to get a great photo of this upcoming event, but they were all out of reach time-wise, and so I decided to do something I rarely ever do - nothing. I decided simply to enjoy the light show while walking on our underwater treadmill, and even though it was tough for me to just watch instead of record, that is what I did. And it was indeed one spectacular light show! The colors were quite intense and widespread, and so much so that I gave up my watching post, grabbed my camera and ran out on the back deck to take a few snapshots. I now have a plan for the next time this happens - if ever, and if I have enough time to make it work.

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Lots of folks have been reporting frost flowers this past couple of weeks - these are the little white ribbons of ice that seem to grow out of the stems of small plants alongside roadways. They like to grow when the temp is down in the 20's like it is this morning. I have photographed them many times and they are indeed a beautiful sight - especially if you will get down on your belly and view them up close. Here is a frost flower photo from my Buffalo River Dreams picture book:

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And here is one taken this morning - they were everywhere!:

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FYI, I have just posted the complete schedule of 2011 photo workshops - which includes four one-day workshops, three weekend workshops, and a one-day Photoshop class. Since folks have already ordered gift certificates for workshops that had not been announced yet I figured I had better get them scheduled and posted here!

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12/13/10 A wee bit chilly this morning - "colder than Billy Ned" as my mom used to say. But only 10 degrees so it would be worse. Yesterday morning we woke up to find the ground covered with SNOW - the first of the season and quite unexpected. The night before Pam noted how loud the wind was and that she could hear it sweeping across Beagle Point, a half mile away. And it did indeed blow really hard all night, and blew in the snow. By noon yesterday the snow had all been blown away and the ground was back to its normal brown winter coat.

The very first year that the girls moved here to Cloudland, Amber and I started a long tradition of hiking up to the Faddis meadow after the first frost in the fall to pick a persimmon from the big and beautiful persimmon tree that always produced a bounty of fruit. We would often spend a good bit of time picking out the very best one that we could reach. Sometimes we would detour through the woods while hiking back to the cabin and visit other trees and boulders and just explore the forest. Once back at the cabin we disassembled the ripe fruit and selected one of the seeds. After cleaning the seed (they are REALLY slick!) we would cut the seed open to see what the winter ahead would hold for us - persimmon seeds can predict how harsh the winter will be, and if there would be a lot of snow. That tradition has now come to an end - we found the big old tree yesterday on the ground - the high winds ripped it from the earth and blew it over. The tree had been loaded more than ever with plump fruit this year. Amber will be off to college by the time the next first frost hits, but no matter how far away she may roam from Cloudland I will always think of her with great fondness every time I pass the spot where the old tree stood, and will remember those little hikes we used to take together.

And just FYI, here is what to look for when cutting open a persimmon seed.

Knife: If the shape inside the seed is that of a knife, it is believed to mean the winter winds will be cutting cold (like it was yesterday).

Spoon: When the shape inside the seed looks like a spoon it is said to mean it will be a heavy winter. The spoon represents lots of shoveling.

Fork: The appearance of a fork shape within the seed is believed to mean that winter will be easy with only a light dusty of snow now and then.

This will be our last week of programs and I will be sad to see them end. I love giving these programs each year and there is never enough time to speak about the topics or answer all the questions. Even though this year has been especially exhausting with all of the travel, because Pam's parents have helped out so much we have survived just fine. We'll be in Russellville tonight at the Doc Bryan's Auditorium (book sales will begin at 6:30pm with the program to follow at 7), and then the final program of the year will be in Dover on Thursday - same time. Our holiday season will close out here at the canvas gallery on Saturday with our final open house from 10am to 4pm - all the canvas prints on the wall will be 1/2 OFF, and all books will be on sale at the special discounted program prices - $20 per book, which includes sales tax.

For any last-minute Christmas shopping if you can't make the programs or open house you can always order any of our products online and they will be shipped within 24 hours - this includes photographic prints as well on normal photo paper - we are done printing canvas prints for this year, however you can still reserve one from the canvas gallery online gallery at the special price.

As always, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY!!!

12/15/10 It is early this morning - still a couple of hours before first light. I've been up working and working out for a couple of hours and trying to get several days worth of work done today. It is cool outside, but not nearly as frigid as it has been the past couple of mornings. Clouds moved in during the night to help hold some of the heat in.

I was out late last night wandering in the woods - actually making my way up to Aspen's meadow to check on our water well that had gone almost completely dry yesterday. I spent a few hours during the day filling up a 550-gallon tank with water from St. Paul and set it up for gravity feed into our holding tank. By the time I reached the setup last night to check on it the connecting hose had frozen, but most of the water had drained successfully so all was well.

It was a BEAUTIFUL night out, crystal clear with zillions of stars. I suppose some folks were out watching the "meteor" shower that was going on, but I didn't notice any additional shooting stars than normal - I always see lots of them on clear nights no matter what time of year it is. The big constellation, Orion, was standing tall and beaming his bright belt stars and rising in the east to proclaim his domination of the nighttime winter sky. A BRIGHT 3/4 moon was opposite him in the sky and lighting up the wilderness like a giant spotlight - it was easy to hike at just about any speed, making sure to hold out a hand in front of the face to warn of any limbs. It was quiet, with little wind in the forest, and only the rustling of the leaves underfoot to break the silence.

Speaking of light bulbs, we have one inside the little chicken coop to help keep the ladies warm during these cold night. They shut down egg production last week and this light is supposed to help them get back to producing eggs also. The hens are so funny. We put up many bird feeders last week (can't have them out while bears are active so we take them down in the spring until now). The birds knock off a lot of seed that end up on the ground, which is where doves and juncos prefer to feed. But now the chickens make a bee-line for this seeded ground and have a blast with all the new-found food source (they generally feed on bugs all day long, but there are no more bugs for them to find in the winter!). It is fun to watch the interaction between the chickens and birds - the chickens usually win out, but anytime a hawk or eagle is in the neighborhood the hens will head for cover, which gives everyone else plenty of time to feed on the ground seed.

I was sitting at the cabin computer yesterday working and saw a speeding bald eagle come whizzing by the cabin at eye level - normally they will soar around for a while but this guy was eager to get back home I guess.

We've not heard any coyotes in the area lately, nor have heard or seen the stray dog pack. A neighbor has reported hearing a hyena on the mountain, which is the second report we've had of one being spotted or heard. Someone put forth the theory that the state has released hyenas to help control the wild hog population. I would be very surprised if that were true.

We had a terrific program in Russellville the other day - a record crowd for the event that has always been sponsored by the TakeAHik hiking club (and the outdoor rec. department at the university). We only have one program left - tomorrow in Dover - and then the Iceland and Arkansas Autumn programs will be retired. It has been one heck of a 19-program marathon - the most we've done in a while. But it has been worth all the travel and expense to meet and see to many great folks, especially so many Journal readers. The hours and miles take a heavy toll on everything around here, but I absolutely LOVE giving the programs - as you can probably tell when it is tough to get me to shut up!

And we'll have the last open house of the year this coming Saturday at the canvas print gallery. The gallery is open at other times of the year but only by appointment, and often we are limited once the gallery gets transformed into workshop classes later in the spring. We might have a spring open house on the first Saturday in April, but that is not set in stone yet.

2011 ARKANSAS CALENDARS ARE SOLD OUT. This is our 10th year of doing these scenic Arkansas wall calendars, but the very first time we have run out of stock before Christmas. There are still many dealers around the state that have them in stock, but I suspect they will sell out too in a hurry this week, so if you want one be sure to check your local bookstore (the calendars are no longer available for order from our web site, nor will we have any available for sale at the Dover program).

Looking out the window now I can just barely make out a few dark shapes of trees that are backed by deep blue/black sky. Soon the blue will get lighter and orange glow will appear along the horizon. I don't know if the sun will appear or if the day will be cloudy, but I look forward to each hour of it and hope that you have a grand one too!

E-MAIL AND WEB PAGE NOTE. The internet and e-mail have been really weird this week - if you sent an e-mail and did not get a reply - it may not have ever reached us, or placed an order and did not get an automated reply, please contact us via e-mail again or phone.

12/16/10 A very quick update this morning - mostly just for commerce reasons and not for sympathy! I'm having surgery tomorrow to repair some damage to my left shoulder. I'm left handed and have been unable to teach myself how to write well with my right hand - so that means that since my left arm will be out of commission for at least a week, if you want a book personalized for Christmas, then you must place your order TODAY. We'll be heading out early Friday morning for surgery. And since we'll be on the road most of today - headed to Dover for our last program of the season tonight - please get your order in as soon as possible. I'll stay up tonight and into the morning hours to autograph if needed, but will not be able to personalize any more books if an order comes in after today. We WILL still have AUTOGRAPHED copies of all books available, I just won't be able to personalize them.

OPEN HOUSE ON SATURDAY will go on as normal (tomorrow was the only time slot available for the surgery, go figure). The canvas gallery will be open from 10am-4pm this Saturday, with all canvas prints for sale at half price, plus a selection of black-mat prints available for the $50 sale price, PLUS we will have autographed copies of ALL picture books available at the special $20 program price, and all guidebooks will be available (guidebooks will not be autographed). I will probably NOT be available at the gallery due to pain issues from the surgery, but I will limp on over if I am able to do so for a few minutes at a time. We don't expect to be home from surgery until very late Friday night. But Pam, her dad, and the girls will be staffing the gallery and everything will run as normal, I just won't be able to personalize any books.

This will be the last Journal post for a while - I've been a touch typist ever since 9th grade and being reduced to a one-handed hunt and peck typist will take some getting used to, but I will try to peck out a message sometime next week - not sure what day. I did a test this morning and am able to take the deck cam photo with only one had just fine, although I'm not sure what the computer situation will be so we'll just have to wait and see - may not be any photos for a few days. I probably will not be able to answer e-mail much in the next week or two, especially things that require long-winded answers, ha!

We will continue to process and ship 11 x 14 prints - Pam has gotten pretty good at this printing process, and I will be able to give moral support when needed. If you place an order for something and we are unable to get it done we will notify you asap of any issues.

I will see you on the other side of the gas mask.....

12/20/10 The winds are howling this morning - screaming, whistling, swirling, tossing trees about. A large bald eagle went sailing by a few minutes ago. It is dark and forbidding out, and seems like a tornado type of storm a brewing - until you step outside and get blasted in the face with the ARCTIC cold! The eagle was a surprise - normally soaring and graceful, but this one was out of control and hanging on for dear life. Seems like we/re already had more high wind this winter than normal, and winter does not even begin until tomorrow.

I have mostly been locked away down in our concrete bunker basement recovery room and never even heard a sound from all the folks who visited the gallery over the weekend. My home down there has been and continues to be an old dark blue recliner that has most of the cover worn off - but still has all the stuffing, and now including me stuffed on top! My left arm is in a cast that is held about 8 inches from by body so sitting just about anywhere won't work since the cast gets in the way. Pam has been an absolute saint through all of this, going way far beyond the call of duty - and she has had so many duties to do, including keeping the businesses running at this most busy time of the year. Amber too, and of course Pam's parents.

The girls were able to take a short break yesterday as they made the trek to grandma's house for the family Christmas. I could not travel and so stayed here and held down the old chair, and mostly slept my surgery hangover off. E-mails continue to stream in and I appreciate the well wishes - please know that each keystroke is painful and so my answers will be short, if at all.

The surgery went well, but the doctor ended up finding a lot more damage than expected and so it was a more serious surgery than expected - which means a lot longer rehab (3 months), and recovery time (6-12 months), but I know was something that had to be done and we are thankful to have had it done now. The worst part of it all will be the first few treatments this week - they have to straighten my arm out and get it up over my head - triple YIKES!!!!! The first and last 7.5 miles of each trip over the rough road will be new adventures as well - I cannot imagine how painful this was for my lovely bride during all of those trips with her horrible back.

We have some wonderful and very heavy cedar deck furniture that was made for us by a terrific man down south - it is right now - for the very first time - being blown back and forth across the deck as the winds reach higher and higher speeds. I figure if that furniture takes flight then it may be time for to abandon ship too!

THANK GOODNESS it is Monday - the best day of the week - I hope you have a grand one!

FYI - the holiday sale on all canvas prints in stock will continue - no shipping available, but you can come out to pickup at any time we are here. Many of the canvas prints are still available - e-mail if you are interested in one or more..

12/25/10 It is SNOWING this morning - a white Christmas at Cloudland! The girls are on their way to Missouri, Aspen is sitting on the rug chewing the holiday treat that he just swiped from Lucy, and I am at my cabin desk trying to type with my one good hand on the keyboard, and munching on my all-time favorite packaged snack - Bar Harber Mix from Back To Nature (IMpossible to find in stores so I really savor each bite). It looks very cold outside but I have orders not to go out for fear of slipping on the ice - otherwise this is the sort of weather that I love to be out roaming around in.

I don't like to dwell on such matters, but just to answer a few questions here since it is time-consuming and painful to sit and type a reply to each e-mail I hope this will do. I have nine body piercings - stainless steel staples in my shoulder to close the wounds from surgery - those will all come out on Monday at the doc's in Bentonville. My left arm is strapped into a soft but rigid brace/cast that holds my arm level and at a 45 degree angle out from my body - my hand is almost a foot out there, which means I have to be very careful when walking around so I don't bump into anything. I'll be in this brace for about six weeks - can't drive since the brace won't fit under the steering wheel!

I've been to rehab in Harrison twice already and will continue to go twice a week for six weeks at least - the travel to and from over the rough dirt roads is about as much fun as the rehab! I've been spending most of my time both awake and asleep in our old reclining love seat in the basement. That is the only place in the cabin where I can be without too much pain. Speaking of pain, I've been on max pain killer up until yesterday when I started to cut back on it and supplement the heavy narcotics with ice and Tylenol - it is best to get off the heavy drugs as soon as possible.

Ever since I got home I've been wearing one-piece shorts and short-sleeved Hawaiian shirts - soo much easier to live in those loose one-hand operation clothes than anything else, however when I do go outside it is REALLY cold since I can't put on a jacket fully. You should have seen me the other day in Harrison trying to walk from the rehab facility over to the grocery store (I got out of rehab early and told Pam to meet me there) - an ARCTIC blast of wind pushed me all the way and I was a freezing hunched over old man - a store never felt SO WARM!

The snow is coming down pretty heavy here now - YIPPIE!

Pam has managed to keep up with all book orders and I have been able to spend enough time in the print room to fill all of the print orders - so we never got behind and all orders were shipped out within 24 hours. We had folks coming out as late as yesterday to tour the gallery and purchase canvas prints and books. Our one-half canvas print sale will continue through next week - check out the online gallery to see what is available (and/or call or e-mail for an appointment). I won't be able to produce any new canvas prints for a while, although traditional photo prints are no problem.

I've hit the end of the time I can sit and type for now so will close with two thoughts - THANKS A TON for all of your well wishes; and we wish all of you the happiest of holidays!!!

HEAVY SNOW now and the ground is white - and it's not just my meds!

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12/30/10 The wind is HOWLING this morning, and I suspect trees are dancing to the music - too dark to see. Must be the weather gods talking about the big warmup that is headed our way - 60 degrees or higher by this afternoon. That will seem rather balmy, especially with higher humidity due to recent rains and lots of fog. We may open up the cabin and let it air out and soak up some of that humidity, which has slipped into the mid-30s inside the cabin and things are getting pretty dry (due to the heater running so much in the past week or so from the cold). We have a whole-house humidifier but it can't quite keep up sometimes - vastly better than a smaller manual unit though. I remember in the good old days when using the fireplace on cold winter snaps when humidity levels would drop below 10% - things like logs and skin used to crack at those levels.

We had THICK fog much of yesterday, and I mean so thick that you could hardly see to walk much less drive. The girls went into town for one last day of fun together before Amber turned 18 (TODAY). I remained back at the cabin with the pups and chicks and cats and tons of birds.

By mid-afternoon the cabin fever got to me - not so much begin stuck inside the cabin since I really love it here - but rather because I REALLY love being out in thick fog like it was. So I made up some excuse for myself that I needed to visit the warehouse up on the hill to check on something. But first I had to figure out a way to put on an actual shirt, and I was quite pleased with myself when I managed to do so without hurting myself - oh the small things can be so important sometimes! This was the fist shirt I have been able to put on since my surgery.

A cold blast met me at the front door, and the conditions were so miserable that both dogs decided to stay behind and guard the cabin instead of heading out into the woods with me. The cold was no biggie for me - I draped a heavy fleece coat over my back and head and put one arm through a sleeve and was all set. It was not cold enough for ice and the ground was soft so the footing was perfect for someone like me that had to take delicate steps and be sure to dig in - any slip or fall would not be good.

The swirling winds blew the fog into my face - I closed my eyes and let it wash me clean, and took deep breaths to fill my lungs with the thick air. Just something about fog that I love, and I need it inside and out. I don't think that fog like this has an odor, but perhaps the purity of it does have its own aroma - the smell of pure wilderness!

I moved on ever so slowly, placing each foot firmly before trying the next, going from one black tree trunk to another - the only way I had to gauge my progress. I was surrounded by towering trees that all seemed to be looking out for me. WOW, it felt GREAT to be outdoors in the forest and the fog at last!

A little while later I realized that I had absolutely no idea where I was. Surely I was not too far from the cabin since in my weakened state I could not cover too much ground, but with the fog so thick and so many trees I just did not recognize anything. And that fog seemed to get thicker and the forest darker. But which direction had I come from? And which direction did I need to go next? These moments of uncertainty when you ponder if you are actually lost or not can be daunting.

And then I saw some movement near the ground right out in front of me at the edge of the fog - or at least I THOUGHT I saw some movement. There it was again, only off to the side - just a fleeting glance of something dark and low to the ground. And another, almost behind me. What the heck? For a moment my mind flashed to visions of the pack of wild dogs that has been roaming around Cave Mountain lately. It doesn't take much to get your mind to thinking such things. And then there it was again - something dark moving near the ground just ahead of me, but the fog was so thick that I only got one quick glance. And then another off to one side again. I was not sure if I needed to simply stay put and see what happened, or move towards one of the objects the next time I saw one. I decided it was time to deal with the chill running down my spine and took a step forwards, or was it backwards - who could tell in the thick fog!

And then I'm sure they could hear the laughter for miles around when the first critter finally came into complete view, and then a second one, and a third, and a fourth - I had been completely surrounded by our very own CHICKENS, HA, HA!!!!! I had not traveled very far from the cabin at all, and ended up not ever making it up to the warehouse - but no matter, it was the journey and not the destination, and a fine trip it was!

By the way, after trying several different methods using various chairs and lap boards and other things trying to figure out a way that I could use a keyboard - all failed miserably and were quite painful - I found one solution that might work, at least for short periods. And it was so simple - a laptop computer in my lap! I am able to slip my injured wing out of the bulky brace and rest my arm on a pillow next to me while sitting in my poor old love seat in the basement, and am able to type for a little while on the laptop keyboard. So that means that while I won't have much to talk about since I won't be venturing out into the wilderness (I'm afraid of running into more chickens!), I will at least be able to type a bit and answer e-mails.

Here is a snapshot mede by my lovrly bride yesterday as I tried to take the deck cam photo:

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