LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - DECEMBER 2017
Little Bluff future cabin site cam December 31st - chilly with light snow
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12/30/17 Almost balmy this morning with temps near freezing point, but a stiff breeze kept it rather chilly. The pups journey continued yesterday when they rode down to Little Rock in Pam's car after the truck service center called to say the camper was ready to pick up. Seven hours later we arrived back at Little Bluff and we all got to spend the night in our own beds. Several folks have asked, and the answer does not really make sense - but the camper van was shut down (while driving at 65mph) by a dead and defective engine starter battery (it was replaced under warranty). So we're happy to have our vehicle and bedroom back, but still don't know how a dead battery can shut down a moving vehicle.
The foundation footings for the new cabin were completed yesterday and now are curing under a cover of hay bales and plastic wrap. (concrete doesn't so much "dry" but rather "cures") Glad to be at this point before the end of the year!
After not seeing hardly any birds here at Little Bluff since we moved in on September 8th, the birds are beginning to move in - lots and lots of them. I think one reason is the word is getting out that my lovely bride LOVES birds and has a buffet spread out in different locations, and a heated bird bath too. The cardinals we're seeing right now are quite brilliant RED (we never had any at Cloudland).
Parts of the landscape here began to turn white today - "hoar frost" (AKA frozen fog) coated pine trees and got thicker and thicker as the day went on. So far the layer is at about 2075 feet in elevation - lots of frost above, none below. I'm looking forward to seeing how much more frost accumulates overnight, and if the elevation gets lower and consumes more of the forest.
12/29/17 We set off yesterday for Little Rock to attend what would turn out to be the social event of the season (we never attend social events). Our very good friend was turning 70, and to celebrate he rented an entire bar (Cajuns) and hired not one, but two rock bands to entertain. One of the bands was his. He's been playing in a band of one sort or another for 50 years (hey Ray, is that possible? Corrections invited.). At one point in his young career his band was hired to go on tour with and open for B.J. Thomas (right after the Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head song hit it big). Life took a turn for Ray right about then and he never made the tour (a GREAT thing for the rest o fus or we may never had met him). But we heard his band was a wonderful hit last night, and there is no finer American for that to happen to. CONGRATS Ray - you deserved it!
Turns out we never made it to his party last night. Our camper van home died about half way to Little Rock. The engine just quit and we rolled to a stop on I-40 and that was that. While roadside assistance was trying to locate a flatbed tow truck to take the RV to the big truck service center in North Little Rock, we were busy being told by ENTERPRISE car rental that they would NOT in fact "come pick us up." We could not find another car rental anywhere. As luck would have it, another good friend, known to Journal readers as Fireman Jason, finished putting out a brush fire in Clarksville in time to swap vehicles with his wife and come rescue us - and then drove us all the way back home! Way above and beyond the call of duty - but that was normal for both Firemen Jason and his buddy Fireman Jeff. (Jason works two firemen jobs - one in Russellville and also as a volunter fireman in Clraksville) When Jason dropped us off at the warehouse it was the first time we'd felt really homeless. (We were able to bum a place to stay at Pam's parent's house for the night through - YIPPIE COYOTE!)
So our poor puppy dogs - they started yesterday morning in the RV camper van, then moved into the warehouse during the day, then back into the RV for the trip to Little Rock, then into Jason's wife's SUV, back to the warehouse last night, then into my van, and finally spent the night on the floor of Pam's Parent's house. I got the pups up early this morning and back to Little Bluff for our daily multi-lap morning romp down to the cabin site.
Speaking of the cabin, after many delays, we found out yesterday they were breaking ground on the new cabin - dug all the footing for the foundation. And early this afternoon the first load of concrete arrived - another YIPPIE COYOTE! Construction of the cabin will begin later in January, expecting to take 4-5 months. We've not heard any report about getting our camper van back - hoping for a simple fix, but you know how that goes...
12/28/17 Still frozen here, but no wind at first light, so the 15 degree temp wasn't nearly as painful as yesterday. My MO these days has been to begin a series of "laps" with the puppies and myself - hiking down to the future cabin site and back multiple times until I am able to get an interesting picture. I usually begin before dawn (about an hour before sunrise) since that is often when there is great color. Sometimes nothing happens. Today there was only a tiny slit across the horizon for the sun to peek through - I hung my camera on a tree and continued doing laps waiting for the sun to appear in that slit.
On my third or fourth lap I detoured to one side of the ridge and noticed a line of BRIGHT orange spray paint slashed across the trees. WHAT? Who would do such a thing, and why so high up on the trees? Duh - it was SUNSHINE - the sun was peeking through the slit dummy! But I had no clear view of the horizon, and my camera was back at the cabin site. So a raced* through the woods heading into what was one heck of a spectacular and colorful sunrise. (*Raced is a relative term for me at the moment - I can't move nearly as fast as before, but I tried). The sun was just about to disappear into the cloud bank when I reached my camera, but I really wanted a different perspective so I stepped back a hundred yards or so, and POOF, the sun disappeared, probably not to return anytime soon. Oh well. I did get a snapshot of the purple sky that was left behind...
12/27/17 BILLY NED would have his long-Johns on this morning I bet! It was kind of balmy yesterday afternoon, bright sunshine and no wind. A very pleasant day to be outside working. And then just about dark the personality of the air changed, the wind started to blow, and soon a frigid gale from the north swept across the landscape and right into my bones! I took the pups out for a hike just before midnight and the temp was down near 20 already, with a wind chill well below that. The pups didn't care, but I had to put a little extra speed in my step in order to keep warm. I discovered a while ago that while the first 1/4 mile of hike from our cabin at Cloudland was uphill, the beginning of my hikes were are downhill. UPhill tends to warm the body right away, while downhill doesn't, so it takes longer to maintain yourself. But the downhill on my route is pretty short here, and before long I loop around at the cabin site and head back up the incline, which gets my heart pumping and heated blood throughout.
It is 16 just before dawn here this morning, with a wind chill quite a bit south of that. I'm about to bundle up and head out for a few "laps" to see if I can work off some of the ice cream and pizza I had for dinner lat night...
12/17/17 The forest was soft and silent as we made our way through the lush landscape early this morning. Several hours of light rainfall during the night wasn't enough to produce any surface flow or feed waterfalls, but it sure spread a wet smile across the parched countryside. A layer of dense fog had settled in, releasing a few more raindrops that landed with pitter-patter hues. The pups and I roamed around our little ridgetop paradise for an hour or more at first light - they stopped to sniff each and every tree in hopes of finding squirrel scent. I savored each breath of the cool, moist air. When we passed through the cabin site near the far end of the ridgetop, the fog lifted a little, giving us a grand view down into and across the valley. My lovely bride spent the night just down the road at grandma's house, where the family Christmas will happen today. I'll join them in a little while after I find a pair of bright red bows to put on the puppies collars. BBQ for lunch - YIPPIE COYOTE! (well, actually not BBQ coyote, but you know what I mean...)
Here's a snap of Mia hiking towards dawn on the 14th
12/13/17 Just had one of the finest hours ever tonight. We were working late when my lovely bride suggested we take a break to go out and see the stars - tonight was the middle of the Geminid meteor shower. We hiked part way down the hill towards the open-sky area of our future cabin site, following wagging tails of puppies as best we could. About half way we stopped and turned off the small flashlight. Pam said she "couldn't see a thing, not even your hand" that I was waving right in front of her.
As the minutes past she gradually could make out the silhouette of a large pine tree we were standing next to - and especially see the star-studded sky above. "There's ORION!" Yup. We started to walk slowly, feeling each step in the darkness, clutching each other arm-in-arm for stability. (Try talking through the woods with your eyes closed at night - WATCH OUT for those tree limbs!) With each few steps the gravel lane at our feet gradually began to become noticeable - first just a faint lighter portion on each side where there was white gravel, eventually both sides and a grass median were pretty easy to see - or at least see enough to keep going, knowing we would (probably) not slam into a tree.
As we approached the open cabin site we began to see not only the outlines of towering pine trees, but also more and more detail of their branches. And then, A BRILLIANT METEOR streaked across the sky - oh my goodness, it lit up the entire forest!
That really got us excited.
We made our way out to the open area and laid in the dirt where our fireplace will eventually be. HOLY MOLY, the heavens were just SPECTACULAR! The longer we were in the darkness, the more of the Milky Way we could see - literally from one horizon to the other. Meteors fired up and raced across the sky one after another, sometimes only a minute or two apart.
So there I was, laying in the dirt with my girlfriend and mate for life, wishing on each shooting star. Each time I wished, I looked over at her and realized my wish had already come true. THIS is the best time of my life right now. We are only 17 years into it - I can't wait for the next 33 (I'm hoping she'll put up with me for at least 50 years of marriage.). And I thank the heavenly stars above each and every day for her...
12/05/17 We have to scramble some mornings to get the mail out since it is now picked up about 8:30am instead of sometime in the afternoon. I've been up since 4 this morning - not really sure why - but was able to get all print orders from yesterday printed and packed up in time to go out today. My bride did her book and calendar processing and packing in her jammies - her dream job (sorry honey). We got home about 11:15 last night from our slide program in Dover.
The trip south was through HEAVY fog down scenic Hwy. 7 - some of the thickets I've seen in the daytime. Naturally there were tailgaters most of the way, but I just don't get it - why speed ten feet from the back bumper of a car when you aren't going to pass them, and the chances are high that car ahead is going to slow down even more for curves, and when a deer cross the road - GUESS WHAT - brake time you IDIOT tailgater! (Sorry, was that my outside voice?) I have no idea how we managed to make it off the mountain without being smashed from the rear. The trip home was much nicer - still heavy fog and wet highways from the rainstorm that passed through, and still many deer on the highway - but the tailgaters were all back home, or in the ditch somewhere.
We did have a glorious thunderstorm that raged on during our slide program dumping about an inch of much-need rainfall across the landscape. No waterfalls in sight - that will take many more rainstorms - but the landscape is indeed smiling this morning and we have standing puddles of water at Little Bluff - YPPIE!
It was after midnight when I took the pups out for a walk down to the cabin site - the sky was beginning to break up and the big moon shone through rippled clouds above - just enough to light our way. Well, light MY way - the pups could run full speed ahead through the darkest of dark forests and hardly ever bump into anything. Although Wilson has been lugging around a skull and full set of upper teeth from some poor critter that passed away a while ago. He is in fact quite proud of his haul.
But it was Wilson who let out a bark at 4am and woke me up - he has been sleeping in the front seat of our little camper van where he has a commanding view of the forest all around. I never knew what he had barked at, but I figured it was time for me to get up and start working on those prints - and take the pups for several loops down to the cabin site and back (overcast, but the landscape was pretty bright due to the moon above the clouds).
Oh yes, the TEMP dropped about 40 degrees and I had so many layers on this morning that I could hardly move my arms. Funny, but there is a large rip in the lower half of one leg of my jeans, and oh my goodness each step this morning brought in a great deal of that frigid air that blew right up into my shorts! I need to find some good duct tape today and see if I can stop the cool breeze.
We'll be in Hot Springs tomorrow eve. at 6pm for our first normal slide show there in more than a decade - we hope to fill the library auditorium with smiling faces - please pass this info on if you know someone in the area who might like to attend.
It's almost 9am now - I've had two breakfasts and one dessert and think it's time for a nap...
12/04/17 Warm and windy at first light this morning - feels like RAIN on the way - YIPPIE COYOTE if it comes true. The landscape remains parched and dusty, with crunchy leaves.
Last week turned into another marathon one that ended with a pair of really long days with almost no sleep. We vowed to take off at least several hours on Sunday, so we got some much-needed rest. What did we do? My lovely bride spent her rest time doing laundry (sorry honey). And I took the pups on a ramble around our Little Bluff property in search of a lost spring.
We don't know exactly when our property was lived on, but it most likely was from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Just an old root cellar or some other dugout structure is all that remains. We'd always wondered where they got their water since there isn't a well anywhere on the property. But I've never had a good look around below the old homeplace and yesterday seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so - warm and sunny and lazy for a few hours.
We followed a small drainage downhill for only about 100 yards before we came to water - WATER! Most of the landscape is very dry with nary a drop. As I stood there looking at the little water hole trying to figure out its place in the world order, I realized I was standing on what once was a well-worn man-made trail that had been dug out once upon a time many moons ago. The trail led away from the "spring" on up the hillside, the curved around and ended at the root cellar. So that little watering hole had to have been their water supply. No doubt it had a lot more water flowing 100 years ago or they would have never settled on the hillside - or would have dug a well.
So the mystery of their water supply has now been solved with the discovery of what I'm going to call the Curtis Spring (named after the folks who homesteaded the property).
The pups and I continued on around and across the side of the very steep hillside until we came out beneath our new cabin site. Holy Moly it is STEEP on that hill!!! Our property goes on down the slope quite a ways - 200-300 feet in elevation.
It was GREAT to get out and roam around a little. Then the pups and I returned to "camp" and took a long nap.
Before my bride headed out to do laundry, we tried out her bum knee and made a short trip over to visit the pedestal rock section of the bluff near the cabin site. The pedestal is not nearly as large or exciting as the real ones at Pedestal Rocks, but heck, this one is ours, and we love having it. There area has a series of sandstone blocks that make up that section of Little Bluff, with nooks and crannies and crevasses and lots of places for kids and puppies to explore.
Today is another catch-up and recycle day before we head down to Dover for our program tonight (7pm at the high school). Tomorrow we'll begin to get ready for the next HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE this coming Saturday the 9th. Wednesday and Thursday we'll be on the road to Hot Springs for our program there at the library. The next week we'll have our last FIVE slide shows in Little Rock, Ft. Smith, Russellville, Harrison, another Holiday Open House, and Clarksville.
12/01/17 We're up early getting work done and organized and packed for our trip to Springfield for two slide shows today. Another 18-hour work day for us. Show in Bentonville tomorrow. Hope to see many of your smiling faces! HAPPY WEEKEND...