CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - December 2016
Cloudland Cabin Cam, December 30 - HAPPY FRIDAY!
Cloudland Cabin FOR SALE - see info here.
12/26/16 It is SPRINGTIME at Cloudland! There were spring peepers (frogs) out peeping early yesterday morning; last night while out hiking I found a TICK; and this morning we were awakened by the pleasant singing of a ROBIN, a sure sign of spring. So I guess that means our winter "break" is over and we're hitting the ground running this morning and on with 2017. Good thing I LOVE Mondays anyway - hope you have a great one too!
12/25/16 HOWLING winds this morning - if Santa tried to approach the cabin I suspect he's been blown to another state by now! Supposed to be near 70 degrees with rain today. Ho, ho, ho! (I love rainy days and fog!) Oh yes, and we have fog so thick that I'm afraid to venture outside without being tethered back to the cabin with a rope. (well, not exactly, but you get the idea)
My lovely bride is going to bake a two-pound turkey (breast only, just perfect size for us!), with stuffing, smashed 'taters, green beans, and rolls. And her newly-famous P. Allen Smith pecan pie - YIPPIE COYOTE! Otherwise it will be business as usual here at Cloudland today (we had family Christmas last weekend).
I was up early yesterday morning an hour or two before dawn, and when I wandered out onto the back deck I discovered a sea of clouds covering the canyon below (from a light rain the night before), STARS everywhere above, AND a crescent MOON rising just above the ridge to the southeast. I took a couple of snapshots with my snapshots, and they looked so good that I ran to the print room in the old gallery next door and grabbed my real camera to set up and take a few images. There is no way to capture the moon with any detail and the stars and landscape in a single picture, so I opted to concentrate on the stars and landscape exposure, which would blow out the moon, but I hoped it would still look "moon-like" and I think it did. Such a peaceful, colorful, breathtaking, and beautiful scene! It was a great way to begin Christmas Eve day.
Pam and I continued work on the water system testing throughout the day, and I dug through more than two feet of solid clay - it was quite beautiful clay too! When I was a kid and used to dig around in the dirt, whenever I came to a layer of multi-colored clay like this I would jump up and shout out that I had found the end of the rainbow! They clay here at Cloudland I dug into yesterday was indeed a rainbow of colors. By the end of the day we had concluded testing, filled the 1,000-gallon holding back up, and turned the water back on. Showers and clean dishes and laundry again, OH MY!
Dawn is approaching now as I'm typing this, and I think I'll strap on a pair of hiking boots and wander out into the fog and see if I can find Santa. Since marrying my lovely bride nearly 16 years ago I've already received every present I'll ever want or desire - so I just want to get Santa back on course. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE FROM CLOUDLAND!!!
12/23/16 I had a Cloudland Moment a couple of nights ago, and another one tonight. The one tonight was the result of me being not too smart. I had gone out after dark to check on something up on the hillside, and the fog was SO THICK that at times I was unable to see more than a few feet in front of me - not even to the next tree in the forest. That was some thick fog! There had been rain, and still heavy mist, so everything was soaking wet. After checking on one spot I headed farther up the hillside - it was then I realized that if my headlamp had gone out I might be in serious trouble. Trouble in that with the fog so thick and zero visibility since it was so dark with no moon, that I would have trouble finding my way back to the cabin - indeed I would have trouble even figuring out which direction I would be going. Not a good situation in the land of bluffs. I stopped and leaned up against a tree and turned off my light just to test how dark it would be. After ten minutes I could see nothing, total darkness. It was a weird moment - almost like I was being held hostage by the wilderness. Yet somehow comforting because it was so wonderful out there in the dark with the "feel" of the fog all around me. When I returned to the task at hand my steps were much quicker as I sped up to the top of the hill and then back down through the forest and back to the welcoming glow of the foggy cabin.
A couple of nights ago I was out digging into that very same mountainside when the clouds began to turn pink and red and orange. I'd already dug out a trench about two feet wide, six feet long, and nearly three feet deep - the deep was the hard part - every inch down at that depth was quite difficult, and often required me to get down on my knees and use my hands to scoop up dirt, gravel, and clay. Anyway, as I was down in there three feet deep those clouds kept getting more colorful, and more, and then more. Since it is fully winter now there is so much more of the sky to see because the naked trees allow an open view. There must have been a thousand individual puffy clouds up there glowing! The peak color only lasted a minute or less, then quickly faded away. I returned to my digging. A couple of minutes later as I reached out to pile handfuls of dirt on the mound, an even brighter and more COLORFUL sky greeted me - the clouds were not blazing as bright as I'd ever seen them, and with a forest silhouetted in front - it was just a magnificent view from my dirt trench! Wow. Just WOW...
Six of my fingers and thumbs are split, and not only is it quite painful to do most anything with them (like trying to type), but my hands look really funny with all the bandages. The splits are the result of winter dryness and my digging in the trench with almost bare hands.
Mia has had a much worse week though. She scratched the side of her head back open and Pam had to take her into town for treatment before the Clarksville show on Monday. She's been wearing one of those cone collars ever since to keep her from scratching (Mia is, not Pam). It is both comical and sad to see her try and navigate through the dog door to go indoors or out - I usually run over and open a door for her - poor thing. She does not seem an worse for the wear though, and always ready to tear off into the woods when we allow her to - which we don't right now - only on leash.
We've been conducting some water tests at the cabin and have had the water turned completely off now for almost three days. I've been getting lots of exercise carrying buckets of water from our small hot tub down on the lowest deck to refill toilets and dog/cat water dishes. (We have plenty of bottled water for us.) It's easy to take daily personal water use for granted - shut off your water for a few days and you will understand.
The winter woods have been beautiful this week, and roaming about with the cooler temps has been invigorating. You can simply SEE so much more of the landscape this time of year. And the naked trees have a great deal more personality - I think winter in a mild climate like the Ozarks has many advantages over other seasons, especially if you take the time to get out into the outdoors and look around. I hope to be doing a lot more of that as the days and weeks roll on into the next year...
12/19/16 Still some snow in the shadows early this morning - blue snow tinted by indirect light from the clear blue sky above. It's a crispy 8 degrees, but with all that sunshine it should warm up nicely throughout the day. We had maybe a half inch of snowfall Saturday night, enough to cover the ground for a slightly "White Christmas" on Sunday morning. I say that because yesterday was the family Christmas celebration at Pam's parents house in Mt. Sherman. With the weather moving in Saturday evening after our Holiday Open House at the new gallery, Pam spent the night at her parents, along with most of the rest of her family who made the trip down from Missouri a day early to beat the weather. I returned to Cloudland from the gallery since the puppies were here, and to deal with some other issues at the cabin (our caretaker, Joseph, went home for the holidays). Turned out the pups and I remained here all day Sunday due to the bad roads and other issues, but since it was Christmas over at Mt. Sherman, I declared it a White Christmas* here at Cloudland!
*My lovely bride and I plan to spend the actual Christmas day here at the cabin, just the two of us, all wrapped up in front of the fireplace - being thankful for all of you.
We survived our second marathon run of programs and the open house, and now have just one more program tonight in Clarksville - then we'll be able to begin the process of trying to catch up from the past couple months of being on the road (which will probably take us until next program season, ha, ha!)
The trip home from the Benton program was the longest of the year, but we managed to make it home about midnight and without hitting any of the thousands of deer along the roadways (well, maybe only hundreds - no probably just dozens, but it SEEMED like thousands of them!). It was a scramble all day Friday to recycle and get ready for the big show in Harrison Friday night, but then it was a great surprise to greet nearly a packed house at the Durand Center for the program. Since we had to pay for this show out of our pocket, there was no organization to sponsor us nor to do any advertising (and media does not accept public service announcements from private folks like us), we weren't expecting many folks to show up. It was a great crowd and a very nice facility for us to do this event at - so we're hoping we'll be able to afford the Durand Center in 2017 as well.
Back home again late Friday night and up early Saturday to recycle and retool and get things set up for the last Holiday Open House at the new gallery, and that too went well despite me nearly losing my mind and forgetting even the most basic of things I really needed there (like a power plug for my computer, and also for the primary printer and the backup printer - DUH!!!). And without having eaten anything but a couple of great cookies during the event, both Pam and I were starving when 3pm arrived - she left for the heavily-snack-laden confines of grandma's house, while I spent an hour breaking "camp" at the gallery and then driving home to the puppies. Everything worked out for all of us and we were thankful for that.
Anyway, we have a full plate today before heading south to Clarksville for the show tonight - including making a trip up to Missouri to get a part for the cabin. It is MONDAY, my favorite day of the week - and I hope it is for you too!!!
12/12/16 Foggy and cool this morning, no wind at all, and just delightful out in the forest! I took an early stroll at dawn with the pups - Mia treed a couple of squirrels and it was great to hear her barks echo through the foggy landscape once again. My lovely bride and I had time for a short cup of tea and calm before we had to hit the treadmill with a to-do list as long as my arm. I LOVE Mondays - always have - mostly because it give me all week to get stuff done! Usually by Friday I still have a long to-do list and only one day left to get it all done.
We had a great trip to Little Rock yesterday and the largest crowd ever at the Nature Center, and we got to visit with lots of old friends and new ones. Something we've noticed especially this year - more folks are coming to multiple shows. Hum, not sure what that means, but we always enjoy listening to your comments. One old friend yesterday noted after his second show that I must have "added" more photos to the program since he saw it the first time a couple of weeks ago - said he noticed a lot more things the second time around. I've seen the program literally hundreds of times and still see new things as the images move across the big screen, so I understood. (no additional photos, just more exposure time overall)
The woods here in the wilderness are silent this morning, partly due to the heavy fog, but also because the landscape seems happy and content with a little recent moisture and good weather. It is just a great time to be a tree in Arkansas I think! (or for that matter, to be a hiker in Arkansas) Hope your week is a grand one...
12/10/16 There's a HOWLING wind tonight that would do any pack of coyotes proud. It's the sort of wind where you can just stand there and lean into it so far without falling over that you can almost touch the ground with your outstretched hands. And oh my goodness the TREES are making music as fast as they can. It's a hopping Saturday night in the wilderness for sure!
I was up at 3:30 this morning to pack and get ready for our Holiday Open House today. By 7 I was over at the new gallery building near Jasper unloading canvas prints and adjusting the spot lights and setting up a printer and computer system. Pam's dad arrived and working on putting out directional signs so folks could find us (this new location is only one mile off the highway - YIPPIE!) Pam arrived and put out title labels, straightened all the prints (49 gallery-wrapped canvas prints and five pastel paintings of hers), and set up the book sale table area. Her mom brought plates full of fresh homemade cookies and made coffee and cider. While we didn't have many people today (Gave us more time to spend with folks who attended, which was great!), there were visitors all day - and many commented how nice it was to be so CLOSE to the highway! Today was the first flush on our new property - there is water to the gallery/book warehouse now, and a working indoor toilet!
I shut down the lights and headed home just as the last rays of sunshine lit up the wilderness - including a large herd of deer being attended to by a monster whitetail buck. My lovely bride and I got about 30 minutes to enjoy dinner before we both continued with our work day. It's almost 10pm and she just shut herself down for the day and hiked on up to the lost for bed. I've shut down computers and printers and about to follow her lead. We're up early to pack the van and head south for our program in Little Rock - we'll be all set up by 1pm at the Nature Center with the new slide show to follow at 2pm. We'll also have programs this coming week on Tuesday in Ft. Smith, Thursday in Benton, and Friday in Harrison (at the Durand Center). Then we'll have our final Holiday Open House on Saturday (at the new gallery building near Jasper). Our year will wind down after that with only one more program, in Clarksville on the 19th. We'll probably go into hibernation for a week or two and try to catch up on both sleep and normal cabin and business chores - 2017 is just around the corner!
Mia is doing much better and they upper her medication after her swelling got so bad. She is one tough little puppy dog.
The replacement shipment of new DVDs arrived yesterday from California and between them and us burning individual DVDs as needed, we should have everyone covered for the holidays and beyond. Pam has been keeping up with orders - getting everything shipped within 24 hours. Just one note that many book orders are shipped via Media Mail, and that can sometimes take several days or even weeks to get to you - if needed by Christmas, be sure to request (order) Priority Mail shipping. We just delivered books to DOG-EARED BOOKS in Russellville and NIGHTBIRD BOOKS in Fayetteville, as well as WORDSWORTH BOOKS in Little Rock. Look for our publications in many other bookstores, outdoor stores, and park visitor centers - or order direct from us with free shipping! HAPPY WEEKEND TO ALL...
12/07/16 Another quick update. We have eight major events in the next ten days beginning tomorrow - our second marathon of the season. And then we will be done for the year. Progress on the new gallery has been slow - each time I go over there to work I don't seem to get much done, but Pam's dad continues to paint walls in the warehouse side and make other improvements. Our second Holiday Open House will be this Saturday, December 10th, with pretty much the same art on the walls as two weeks ago - 49 canvas prints (all DISCOUNTED 50%), and five of Pam's original pastels. PLUS all of our publications will be ON SALE at program prices! (DVDs too.) There will be hot cider and cookies. We won't have a "grand" opening until probably springtime. Until then please pardon our construction debris.
Mia has had another accident - "blunt trauma" and a concussion last Saturday - one side of her head is swelled up big-time. The vet has her on three different medications, and we are trying to keep her from making matters worse. Problem is that she still wants to run out and chase anything and everything, and we can't leave her alone. Wilson is not much help - he just rolls over and wants his belly scratched.
The DVD fiasco is almost over. We were shipped 300 bad disks and some of them made it into customers hands. We've been replacing those we've found out about, and pulled all the rest - less than about 40 disks were sold. In the meantime I've been burning DVDs individually for programs and online orders, and also for replacement orders. We should get replacement DVDs on Friday, although I have a feeling we'll want to test each and every one before sending any out. I've had a system set up in the print room using two computers and DVD burners; then bringing the disks over to the cabin for Pam to run through our printer, one at a time; then package into a jewel case. We've thrown away about 250 DVDs, plus another couple dozen that I've dropped on the floor or something like that during production. We LIKE being able to offer these DVDs, and hope to be able to do so again. In the meantime, you can get your own copy of the new program here.
SNOW! The road into our new property was covered with snow this afternoon, with flurries blowing through the pine trees - it felt GREAT to be outdoors, if only for a few minutes at a time.
Russellville, Little Rock, Ft. Smith, Benton, Harrison, and Clarksville (sounds like a Johnny Cash song) - hope to see ya at one of these programs in the next week, or at one of our Holiday Open Houses, or both!
12/06/16 There is a special crispness in the air tonight - the temp is heading down, taking a winter plunge in the next couple of days. During one of many trips over to the print room and back to the cabin tonight I made a slight detour and found myself out in the middle of the forest. This seems to happen more and more frequently the busier we get. I stopped and leaned back up against a tall hickory tree, then reached up behind my back and put my arms around the trunk, grasped my hands on the other side, and stretched up and up. The airwaves above were filled with honking geese on their way south - the music of approaching winter.
12/05/16 We've had great crowds for our programs these past three days in Springfield, at Bentonville, and in Rogers. One more show today in Dover and our mini-marathon will be complete. Then one of our largest programs on the year will be in Russellville this coming Thursday, and it will probably set a record for the COLDEST temp for a show, ha, ha!
Days and nights have been just spectacular out here in the wilderness this week, although it sounds like the deep freeze is headed our way. One thing I noticed last night - the COYOTES have returned. They've been the most prolific - and musical - we've ever known in the canyons below this fall, but all of that came to a halt during the wildfire. We didn't hear a single note of beautiful howling music until just last night - we think the pups left the area during the fire, but we are so glad they have returned.
We also heard (very rare), and Pam then later saw, a bobcat near the cabin a couple of nights ago. .
12/02/16 Growing up as a kid - and as a young adult too - I dreamed of living in a fire tower high in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and being a fire lookout for the forest service. Long days scanning the horizon for smoke, lazy nights under a blanket of zillions of stars with the girl of my daydreams. Well, I've been living out that fantasy for many years now in real time. From our log cabin deep in the wilderness we can see more than five miles in two different directions, plus more than a mile in a third direction. There's a lot of wild country within that view. Ever since the recent fire below the rim I've been spending more and more time on the back decks scanning the horizon - and the Buffalo River below. Not so much for fires, but just because this is the time of year when so many landscape features become visible after being hidden from view by leaves on the trees for the past six months. We can see individual giant sandstone boulder blocks several miles away, and I often wonder what it would be like sitting on top looking back. Hum, think I'll go investigate a few more of those distant boulders in the months to come.
In the meantime we have a pair of marathon slide program schedules coming up - beginning TODAY when we travel to four different towns in as many days - two shows in Springfield this afternoon, Bentonville tomorrow, Rogers on Sunday, and Dover on Monday. We'll have one big program in Russellville next week (plus and Open House); than go on another run with programs in Ft. Smith, Benton, Harrison, another Open House on the 17th, and our final program in Clarksville on December 19th. WHEW!!!
Our caretaker, cousin Joseph, moved out and went back home during the fire and Thanksgiving, but he has moved his little RV back in now and will be here until almost Christmas.
A quick note that we offer FREE SHIPPING on all orders right now, and Pam gets them out the door usually within 24 hours. Still PLENTY of time to fill your Christmas list - just tell us who to autograph books to and we'll ship directly to them if you like...
12/01/16 There was a faint glow along the eastern horizon as I stepped out into the chilly morning air. Dawn was happening, flooding the forest with golden light. Each tree seemed to be coming alive with a smile, and with the promise of a new day filled with sunshine! My steps were almost silent as I sunk into the wet leaves that covered the trail. We've had an-almost continuous leaf-fall for the past couple of weeks, and the forest floor is a deep carpet of leaves.
The air in my lungs was cooler than I thought - with just a little frigid edge to it. And then I realized - it IS December, one of my most favorite months of the year to be out wandering in the woods, so the air should be brisk. As brilliant sunshine struck my cheeks I leaned into the hill and picked up my pace - we will have to pick up our overall pace as this month speeds on past - we'll try to soak up as much as we can along the way. HAPPY DECEMBER TO YA!