Cloudland Cabin Cam June 30, 6:43am - cool and quiet at first light

NEWS FLASH - our first egg!!!



Updated June 30th - quick update

06/01/10 A very soft beginning to June early this morning. Pastel sky with light hues of pink and blue. Lazy birds struggled to wake up, their voices slowed to a crawl. A very hushed murmur of the river far below drifted up through thin veils of sleepy clouds. But me, I'm wide awake with the anticipation of a new month ahead! And I'm hoping there will be LESS of me by month's end - I've begun my march to Iceland, a trip that will take place in August, and I hope to lose about 20 pounds along the way. I started the week at 190.

The holiday weekend was filled with work for us, and in fact yesterday my lovely bride and even Amber worked in the gallery building with me putting together canvas stretcher frames and doing other chores. I spent a great deal of the weekend making canvas prints for our upcoming show next week at the ArtsFest event in Bentonville - I'll have more news about this later, but I highly recommend anyone in the area come visit either Friday evening or Saturday morning. Besides many of my popular scenes on canvas, I'll have many brand new images that I've never printed before - it has been an exciting time getting to see the wonderful wilderness scenes come back to life on canvas! Oh yes, and everything will be on sale!

I'm off for a quick hike this morning out into the sweet morning air to get the week started off right. I hope you have a grand one, and the month as well!

06/02/10 It is so wonderful outside this evening that I really don't know whether I should sit and enjoy it or write and tell you about it! Then I realized that I could do both, so I grabbed the iPam and am now sitting out on the back deck with an amazing view, cool breezes, and soft light across the wilderness, and am typing in my lap. One thing that I notice this evening is that I can't hear any birds or frogs -oops, I take that back -there is a hoot owl calling off in the distance. Also I now hear a couple of little swifts - and now I see them up high, darting back and forth, playing tag with the wind and with the wind currents. Oh to be as free as a swift in the wilderness!

The wind is blowing hard enough so that the leaves on the trees are turned around backwards. I was told eons ago that this meant that a storm is approaching, but I really think it just means that the wind is blowing hard!

The summer greens have set in across the landscape -most things are the same shade of "forest" green. This evening we also have a light-blue haze in the air. The sunshine is off of all the hills now, and the landscape is in shadow, waiting for slumber to set in.

Above, there are thin pink clouds drifting slowly by <I wonder if any of them were born here, or if not, where they were born and what terrain they traveled over to get here). And above them, blue sky, a sky that awaits the coming of night, when it will be able to show off a zillion stars that it has been hiding all day.

As the evening grows older and twilight eases in, the clouds above grow pinker and the breezes cooler. I know a lot of folks don't like the hot and sultry summers here, but I rather enjoy the cool mornings nag evenings about as much as anything. Of course, mornings start at 5am or sooner - by the time most folks get up and outdoors, the magical part of the day is gone - same deal for much of the year really - the best light is early light! Folks always tell me that "their photos are not as colorful as mine" and a lot of the reason has nothing to do with skill or computer processing - but it does have a lot to do with simply being there when the light is magical!

I got up early this morning, put on my summer bushwhacking suit (long pants and shirt, boots, snake gaiters, and head net), and headed for a fitness hike down the steep hill to the river and back - first time this season for me. Even though the climb back up the hill can be brutal, I MUCH prefer that climb to going down the hill. When going down the footing is very bad with so many loose rocks in the way, slick spots, and general instability - it is easy for me to go down - FLAT ON MY FACE! Or break an ankle, etc. I'm in much more control when climbing, plus that is when I get the most out of the workout.

The forest was a jungle as thick as I'd ever seen it - at times I was making my way through brush so thick that I could not even see two feet in front of me anywhere from top to bottom. That was OK though - I had on my snake gaiters and so I was not too worried, unless I came face-to-face with a bear, but since I was making so much noise that probably not happen.

The hike back up the hill went easily - really? Yes! I made it to the top without stopping a single time, yippie! I discovered that I was in much better condition than I had thought, especially my legs and lungs - my biggest issue is the 20 extra pounds of fat that I need to work off. After I climbed the ladder, I went into "kick" mode and went as hard as I could up the very last steep bench until I was standing at the edge of Mom's meadow. The scene looking over towards the gazebo at the far end of the meadow was really nice and filled with thousands of backlit wildflowers. I stopped and dug out my camera to take a picture. As soon as I put the camera up to my eye to look through the viewfinder, the scene began to blur, I got really dizzy, and I fell over - OOPS! That big old hill reached out and slapped me anyway.

I spent the rest of the day in town running errands and having a look at the office space where we'll have our canvas prints set up for the Bentonville ARTSFEST next weekend. Most artists will have a 10' x 10' booth set up outside, but we opted for an inside location and I'm really glad we did. We'll have enough room inside to display 45-50 of the canvas prints at the same time (1200 square feet of space!) - it will be like we're moving our gallery to the Bentonville square! This looks to be a great event, and I highly recommend you come visit our gallery, as well as all the other artists and activities going on - LOTS of music, arts, and FOOD! It all starts Friday, June 11th at 5pm. We'll be open until 9pm, which is when the music stops. Saturday morning the Farmer's Market on the square opens at 7am and we'll have our gallery open then as well, until 1pm when everything shuts down. We will be located right on the northwest corner of the square, in the Green Analytics office - this is right next door to The Station Cafe, and only three doors down from the Wal Mart Visitors Center. Not only will we have all the canvas prints on display - including a bunch of brand new scenes that I've been printing this past week - but ALL CANVAS PRINTS WILL BE ON SALE FOR 1/2 OFF!!! You literally can save hundreds of dollars on a single print purchase. We'll also have the same special sale price on our picture books ($20 each including tax), and will also have a selection of the Black Mat Prints and a discount price ($50 plus tax). This will be by far the largest event like this that we have ever done, and it is going to take a mountain of work to move our entire gallery of canvas prints from here to Bentonville - please come by some so we don't have to bring them back home.

Check out the full schedule of events here. COME SEE US AT ARTSFEST!

06/05/10 Aspen had some issues during the night so we've been up since about 2am. Just after 5 he and I were sitting out on the back deck as the first bit of light started to creep into the landscape. It was cool, with a delightful south-easterly breeze coming in. The air was filled with sounds of happy critters waking up to great the day. Just as the bright flowers down in Mom's Meadow below the cabin started to come into focus, I noticed a large brown blob moving around - it was a giant cinnamon bear! I called for my lovely bride to come join us, and we three spent the next several minutes in a prolonged Cloudland Moment as we watched the big bear nibble on Mom's flowers. The bear looked up our way a couple of times, but mostly never paid too much attention to us - the cabin sits high above this little meadow and the bear would normally not ever be looking up our direction anyway. There were times when I would have run for the bear gun, but this was a time for all of us to just be together and enjoy the moment. It is possible that this is one of the bears shown in my Arkansas Wildlife picture book - we have a lot of cinnamon bears around here. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a picture, but it was just too dark - plenty bright enough for our eyes to see well, but not the camera (I took a photo anyway, and it tured out OK afterall, thanks to the wonderful world of digital!). Mr. Bear eventually nibbled his way to the far end of the meadow and disappeared into the trees.


Something about the morning drew me off of the deck and out into the woods. Aspen and I just sort of wandered around a while - it was such a nice morning out there, with the cool breezes and soft early light and all. Eventually I looked up and saw that we were standing at the edge of another meadow - the Faddis Meadow. And a few steps later I was picking lunch from Benny-n-Mildred's garden! There would be steamed fresh squash, broccoli, and onions on our plates today! On the way back to the cabin I just had to chuckle - there I was, a half mile away from home, with an arm load of veggies, still dressed in my house slippers and robe!

A couple of days ago Pam brought home five new ladies with her - laying hens that we bought from a guy in Osage. I spent a good part of the day finishing their little outhouse coop (a one-hour job that took me six hours!), and the ladies seemed to like their new home. You should have seen Aspen's eyes when he first saw these birds! (he is a bird dog you know) Aspen will be the largest issue we'll have with the new hens probably - they will eventually be free-range and we're hoping Aspen does not have any of them for lunch! We're also hoping that Mr. Bear doesn't like chicken either.



I give a nod on this day to my eldest brother, Tom. It was 40 years ago today that he was killed in a car accident just outside of Festus, MO. He taught me a lot about life - thanks bro...

06/06/10 Just a short note this evening before I get back to book work I just returned from a brisk hike of several miles. I'm trying to hike with a backpack to begin the process of building up my back so that I can handle two long weeks of packing heavy camera gear during my trip in August.

Two hikes today and zero critters spotted. I have been seeing a lot of nuts and other fruit on the ground - almost like it's early fall. TINY hickory nuts covered the road in one spot. Lots of bright green "cowcumber" fruit in another spot (cumcuber magnolia). And while the delightful aroma of some blooming flower like wild rose filled the air for a while, I don't think that I've seen anything blooming.

Back at the cabin we've all been working hard on book projects and the Bentonville show on Friday. AND trying to figure out how to become chicken ranchers! So far all of our hens have been doing well, exploring a little bit more ground each day. And while it is a wee bit tight in their outhouse chicken coop, they seem to like it inside.

Shadows are stretching across the wilderness spread out in front of me as the sun drops into the west. I can hear the whisper of the river far below. A few crickets are coming alive now to play their evening music. Tweety birds dart about in the deep blue sky - catching lots of bugs I hope! Far off in the distance there is a woodpecker drumming, and it echoes from holler to holler to holler. Even farther away there is a barred owl calling out. Sounds like a typical summer evening in the Ozarks.

Time to go put the chicks to bed...

06/10/10 To say that I bit off more than I could chew would describe my situation right now - yikes! I promised myself that I would have the Autumn In Arkansas picture completed by June 1st. I'm about a month behind on that one. When I accepted the invite to participate in the ArtsFest event starting tomorrow I figured that I already had plenty of canvas prints to show so it would be no big deal - I had about 40 canvas prints in the gallery to pick from. Well, somewhere along the line I went a little nuts - so many new images I fell in love with and just had to print! When I did a final count yesterday of all the canvas prints, there were almost NINETY of them, oh my goodness!

I had to start cutting out a few and so some will be left behind, but right now the count is 84. We'll probably only have room to display 40-45 at a time - so I'm not sure if we should just try to cram all the rest onto the wall or line up along the floor, or keep them tucked away until and unless a print sells and frees up some wall space. I'm sorry, I just got a little carried away. I'm kind of like the Duggars of Tontitown I guess - got way too many kids and I want to show them all off to you! I'm still not sure how many we will actually be able to pack into our special covered trailer that we bought just to transport canvas prints, nor how much actual space we'll have to hang them - and more importantly, how many lights we'll be able to use to light them, which is very important. But there will be LOTS of canvas prints to see at ArtsFest tomorrow night and Saturday morning (we'll open at 7am on Saturday). Oh yes, did I mention that all of these great canvas prints will be priced at HALF OFF the normal price? I've added a bunch of smaller sizes too - 11 x 14s and 16 x 20s - with prices as low as $100 - the air must be getting to me up here!

The weather has been playing tug of war this week - very cool and pleasant in the morning (like it is now just before sunrise), and then hot and humid and downright uncomfortable in the afternoon - in short, typical Ozark summertime weather. And the other day it was really strange - very cool and crisp in the afternoon, and then a big storm rolled in from the west and the temp went up 20 degrees and the humidity went up about 40 points - it is supposed to be the other way around!

Pam's chickens have been doing great and getting used to their new surroundings and are a lot of fun to watch as they dig and scratch and explore. We bought older hens so that they would begin to produce eggs sooner (in about 5-6 weeks from now) instead of buying chicks that would take many months to mature (plus, the chicks would probably just become snacks for Aspen - the older ladies are a little too big for him we hope).

And the day lilies in our front yard have been going nuts this year - these plants are probably 100 years old but have just begun to bloom once we moved them out of the deep forest and into sunlight. That single clump has mushroomed into a patch that produce a couple hundred blooms a day - all big and bright and beautiful!



That is pretty much about it from Cloudland - canvas prints and chickens, daylilies, and no new bear sightings. COME TO ARTSFEST, and tell all your friends! There will be a ton of other neat things to see and do besides the canvas prints, but if you've ever wanted to some to one of our open houses to see the prints but did not want to make the long and rough drive, now is your chance! I will either see ya at ArtsFest, or online next week...

06/13/10 I was a young whippersnapper when I first saw it more than 30 years ago. I was driving through a fresh foot of snow - in fact I broke trail all the way from about Elkins on past Fallsville on Hwy. 16 - it was a Sunday morning and no one had been out on the road yet. I came around a sharp corner and there it was, standing bright and tall and just glorious against a pure blue sky, blanketed and surrounded by beautiful, sparkling snow. It was an old, rustic, classic, Ozark barn, sitting in the middle of a hay field. I was not driving very fast to begin with in the snow, so it was easy to just stop, and I left my little Subaru right there in the middle of the road. I got out and made my way through the deep snow to the fence line, set up my camera and tripod, and took the first of what would be a very long love affair with this old barn. You've seen it many times here - lately the photos have all been during the night as I practiced my new light-painting technique with a sky filled with pinpoint stars or star trails. The last image I took of this old friend was an eight-hour exposure, perhaps one of the very first exposure like this done in the world with a digital camera. As I drove home from Bentonville yesterday afternoon, I came around that very same corner and began to shed tears - the old lady had begun to crumble. We've been watching the boards fall off (or swiped) as the months have rolled on since the barn was given to the national forest service a couple of years ago, and knew it was just a matter of time. Now that the first corner has fallen, I expect the rest to go quickly. If you happen to be up in the Ozarks in the near future, I recommend that you make the effort to make the lovely drive between Pettigrew and Fallsville and stop and have a last look at this rustic icon.


It took us a full four hours just to pack up all of our stuff yesterday afternoon at the end of the ArtsFest event in Bentonville - one of the most exhaustive 24 hours we've ever spent doing anything. I literally did not sit down for more than 30 seconds while signing a picture book or two from 6am until 5:30pm when I began the long drive home (9pm before everything was unloaded), and I don't think I stopped talking that entire time either! It was SO WONDERFUL to meet so many Journal readers who stopped by to see the prints and chat (and especially to meet you, Chanci!). We were SO LUCKY to have been indoors, and to have to much space to display. We ended up being able to display ALL 84 canvas prints, and had three bins filled with 54 different black mat prints - everything on special sale prices. We moved all of the special black pro panels from our gallery building here and set them up along one wall of the Green Analytics office, and also had four additional rooms with canvas prints up everywhere. In the end, we REALLY hated to take everything down since it looked so good!

We have a private program and canvas print showing in Harrison tomorrow night (Monday) so will have to load up 30 or more of the big canvas prints and do it all over again for a few hours. After that we will return everything to the gallery here and it will be open for private showings by appointment. We'll have a month-long show at the Mena Art Gallery in November, and then a month-long show at the new art gallery on the square in Harrison (next to the Lyric). AND we will have at least a couple of open houses here at our gallery during November and December.

For the rest of this month both Pam and I will be glued to computers working on my new AUTUMN IN ARKANSAS picture book, and Don Kurz's new ARKANSAS WILDFLOWERS guidebook.

There is little for me to say or add to what has already been said about the tragic events on the Little Missouri River early Friday morning. I spent two summers building the hiking trail from Little Missouri Falls to Albert Pike in the late 1980s and fell in love with the area. It is one of the most scenic spots in this part of the country, and I hope folks continue to flock there and enjoy all the great natural beauty. Natural disasters are a part of life, and we humans will never be able to understand the whys, and will always be powerless to do anything about them. Life is fragile, treat it with care...

06/15/10 The canyon below was filled with lots of baby clouds early this morning. Each one moving slowly, rising, expanding, upward and onward to their appointed task for the day. Born as the result of a summer thunderstorm just as daylight was beginning to creep into the landscape. We awoke to hard rain, yet when I looked out the window, I saw nothing but blue sky to the east. A big red blob was sitting directly on top of us and would soon pass. The rain has stopped now and the world is fresh and sweet and lush - and noisy too as the songs of a hundred birds have replaced the pounding raindrops.06/15/10 The canyon below was filled with lots of baby clouds early this morning. Each one moving slowly, rising, expanding, upward and onward to their appointed task for the day. Born as the result of a summer thunderstorm just as daylight was beginning to creep into the landscape. We awoke to hard rain, yet when I looked out the window, I saw nothing but blue sky to the east. A big red blob was sitting directly on top of us and would soon pass. The rain has stopped now and the world is fresh and sweet and lush - and noisy too as the songs of a hundred birds have replaced the pounding raindrops.

06/16/10 Very weird clouds floating overhead this evening. The kind that look like they proceed a tornado or big hail or something like that, although at the same time they are very soft and silky and probably would not harm a fly. Strange, beautiful, BRIGHT light now shining in the east - hum, shouldn't that be in the west? And the temp dropped about 20 degrees a little while ago, in fact just before I headed out with my backpack for my second fitness hike of the day. We had stereo rumblings much of the day - first, to the north all afternoon; and then this evening to the south - I had bass drums following me all the way out to the mailbox and back! But nary a drop of rain on the mountain.

When I headed out this morning the sun was just peeking over the ridge to the east, lighting up everything with a soft glow. A momma deer stepped out of the woods to my left, bounded over the road, then just stood there in the forest with her eyes focused intently at me. I stared back. She was wearing one of her most beautiful coats - bright brown and white (turns gray in the wintertime). And there was a sheen to her coat, and a sparkle in her eyes.

A few steps later and there were two big old tom turkeys feeding at one end of the Faddis Meadow - looked to me like their beards were dragging the ground. On the way back from my hike this morning I found a thousand ants - all of them inside the warehouse! Time to get out the bug bombs, and also to turn on the de-humidifier.

The sun has set now this evening but the eastern sky continues to glow - there are clouds in the west but there must be a break over there somewhere to let some sunshine out up higher, which is what is lighting up the clouds and sending beautiful warm light back into the landscape around our cabin. And now as that light is just about faded away, I can still see the little old chicken coop, its rustic oak boards just beaming.

Oh, and what is that I hear? The first CICADAS of the season! Last night the tree frogs were so loud I needed ear plugs. But tonight it sounds like the classic bugs of summer will take over the airwaves. Ahhhh yes, the quiet and solitude of the wilderness!

I've made some progress on the new Arkansas Autumn picture book - I think the front cover has now been selected (always a chore), and I continue to find and process more and more images for the inside. My goodness I found a batch of images this afternoon that I took one very rainy day last fall while hiding from the raindrops far back under a bluff shelter. The rain was coming down so hard that it was even raining in the back of the overhang, and I remember having to use my umbrella to protect the camera while I took pictures. Fog rolled in, which just intensified the rich colors of the forest. I think two images from that stormy spot will make it into the book. I'll be getting into book marathon mode now for the rest of this week and next...

06/18/10 It wasn't until I put the radar map in motion that we realized what was about to happen. There was a HUGE blob of expanding RED on the radar just to our south, and it was barreling down on us - looked like we only had a few minutes to react. And so we did. I ran across the compound to shut down and unplug the computers and printers over in the gallery building while Pam did the same at the cabin. Unplug EVERYTHING from the wall, and unplug EVERYTHING from the phone cords - that's the only way to protect electronics during a big storm like was approaching.

And we got everything shut down just in time. The wind began to howl, trees swayed back and forth, and then the rains came - very large drops and plenty of them - only thing was they were blowing horizontal, along with leaves, sticks, furniture, and other assorted things that were not nailed down. And oh yes, the CHICKENS! Seems like they enjoy rain, and take every opportunity to head out into it to forage - I guess rain brings up worms from the ground. So the chickens were out in the big blow and seemed to be having the time of their lives. The rain started to pound the cabin from the south, and anything that was outside on the decks well under cover got soaked, even with a 12-foot overhang.

Right in the middle of it all the chickens finally decided it was time to take cover - they seem to be herd animals and so they all ran to the coop at the same time, although one of them could not make it inside - she kept running around outside looking for the entrance hole while the three of us tucked safely away back inside the cabin watched. Turns out that I had left their water dish right in front of the little door and there was a traffic jam there and so everyone could not get inside. So at the very height and most powerful part of the entire storm, I put on a jacket and headed out to the chicken coop to rescue one of our prized hens. It actually felt great out there in the howling wind and blowing debris, and at last all the chickens were inside and safe.

Pam's parents were not so lucky - for the second time in the past month they got hit by lightning and it fried all their phones and computer. The phone lines seem to be the worst offender these days, and it is amazing how much damage can be caused - even things inside the home can catch on fire from lightning coming through a phone line (our warehouse almost caught fire several years ago due to this). I wonder if storms are most powerful these days, or if burying phone lines in the ground like they all are around here has caused a dramatic increase in lightning damage - I suspect that is the issue. And I also suspect that our electronics are much more sensitive to such issues - and again, surge protectors do nothing, and their insurance won't pay off when things are damaged - the wild claims they make on the product are simply false.

Speaking of electricity, we've had two major power outages this past week where the power has been off for many hours - neither due to the weather. This rarely happens any more (used to be frequent, almost daily). The power company has been busy clearing the utility right-of-ways this summer, and if you travel to Newton County you may see open views that you have never seen before. They are using a combination of several GIANT pole saws and grinding machines that are doing a really neat job. Ours have always been neat and clear and are mowed a couple of times a year, but others never touch theirs and after a few years of jungle growth get pretty thick. Clear power line right-of-ways help reduce power outages so I am all for this.

We had very nice pink and blue skies early this morning with a thin layer of baby clouds in the canyon far below. It was cool and calm at first light, the airwaves filled with the morning music of lots of tweety birds. Speaking of music, the cicadas that I noted a couple of days ago seem to have disappeared already - I think they crawled out of the ground and realized they were being overpowered by all of the FROGS everywhere, so they simply crawled back into the ground - not a peep out of them last night, or at least nothing that we could hear over the roar of the frogs.

The sun is about to arrive so it is time for me to upload this post and get out on the road - I'm trying to do a fitness hike twice a day now, once with my heavy backpack and once without. So I'm off to work up a little sweat. Later today I'll make a quick run down to restock the Hastings store in Russellville, and also to delivery guidebooks to the little bakery in Pelsor - you'll be able to get the guidebooks there after today, yippie! (I won't be able to eat any of their baked goods since I'm on a major diet - this will be a good test for me!) I hope you have a grand weekend!

06/21/10 We are well entrenched in the depth of summer, with hot and sultry days and nights. But early mornings and late evenings continue to be quite pleasant. And if you don't mind a little sweat, even the middle of the day can be just fine and dandy if spending it out in the woods!

We had our annual Ferguson Family Float Trip on the Buffalo River yesterday (Pam is a Ferguson). Since I'm still unable to paddle with my wounded elbow I served as shuttle driver and boat hauler. After waving goodbye to all at the put in place (the boaters promptly sailed to the first gravel bar and cracked open a juicy, cold watermelon to feast on), I put on a small pack and headed up a nearby hiking trail to put in some miles. It was a short float, so I hiked quickly, and ended up with just sky of seven miles of hill hiking. It felt GREAT! My hiking right now is along mostly-level gravel roads since I've determined the steep route down the ladder trail to the river had too much risk while wearing a heavy backpack (I LOVE climbing up that mountain, but going downhill is not good right now).

After the boaters reached the end and we got all nine boats loaded, we headed to a nearby restaurant to feed. I LOVE veggies, so ordered the veggie plate, which interesting came with a large bowl of HAM and brown beans - wow, it was quite delicious, but I've never seen a vegetable pig before!

(Speaking of food, and my diet, we had a cookout here on Saturday night and I grilled burgers and dogs for a slew of kids. Few things in life are as good to me as a thin, burned hot dog on a bun. It has been a long time since I had one, but I was bound and determined to cook the perfect dog for myself. My lovely bride purchased a new bag of dogs - long and SKINNY (most dogs you buy these days are way too fat - seems like they keep getting fatter and fatter, but I like mine thin and well done all over). I took my time and grilled mine to perfection - slightly charred all the way around - then left it on the grill to cool down and shrivel up a bit (I can't eat hot food). And at just the right moment, I bunned the dog, added a tiny amount of honey mustard and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, and then oh my goodness - PERFECTION!!! In fact the dog was soooo good that I grilled myself a second one. Oops, I'm on a diet, but I just had to. OK, back to Sunday.)

I still felt like hiking a bit after we got home, so I strapped on my big backpack and headed up the road. About a mile into the hike I came upon what I first thought was a bear sitting beside the road. It turned out to be a lost hiker. He had just bushwhacked up the steep hill from a trail below, and since he has shorts and no shirt, he was a little cut up and bleeding. I brought him along with me and headed in the right direction, then I turned around and started back towards the cabin.

Just after the next turn in the road I heard what sounded like a large tree beginning to crack - and that was because about fifty feet in front of me a large tree had begun to crack, right next to the road. I watched as the entire tree twisted right on its stump, then promptly broke off about two feet above the ground and landed, butt end first, about a foot into the road. Then the giant tree slowly fell over - right across the road - and bounced a time or two. It all happened in slow motion and actually was a thing of beauty to watch. Hum, now the road into and out of our cabin was blocked with a large tree! I hiked back to the cabin and fired up the tractor, then promptly moved the tree out of the road (I was too lazy to dig out a chain saw).

I'm back indoors today working on the new picture book and setting the gallery back up for visitors. Most of the day on Saturday was spent selecting and processing the photos that will become two-page spreads in the book (nine of them, including the table of contents page). And then I printed out a couple hundred of my "five-star selects" and let my lovely bride sort through them and throw out any that she did not like. I need to get the final count down to 120. She handed me a big pile of prints, but unfortunately the pile of rejects was only FOUR prints! I'll have to get serious about tossing out photos pretty soon - this is one of the most difficult parts of the entire process for me - I want to include them all!

It is early Monday morning here and the sun has just appeared in the east. As you probably know, I LOVE Mondays, YIPPIE! I have all week to get work done, and this week that will include the final preparation for my photoshop class on Saturday here. Photoshop is one of those programs (like most) that the more you use it, the more you learn about it. Since I'll be neck-deep in processing images for the new picture book all week leading up to this class, my mine will be filled with photoshop techniques for the class - hint, hint - we still have a space available!

TEACHER FROM HECTOR/DOVER - would the teacher who contacted me last month about this class PLEASE CONTACT ME ASAP!

The girls are up and ready to head out the door for a day of volunteering at the school in Jasper. I'll probably defer my morning hike until this evening and get right to work over in the gallery. I hope you have a wonderful Monday, and enjoy it as much as I will...

06/24/10 I've just returned from a lovely morning fitness hike with my lovely bride - I love the fact that at this time of the year you get to hike and take a shower all at the same time! (I always come back SOAKED in sweat.) I wanted to share a secret with you all - the post below is from today ten years ago. It was a day that would change my life forever - I'll tall ya why at the end.

<<06/24/00 They were calling for a 20% chance of rain today, but it sure felt like rain when I got up at daylight and slipped into the hot tub. As I drove on towards Lake Leatherwood in Eureka Springs, it began to pour. The radio said we now had a 70% chance of rain - why do they even bother trying to predict the weather!!!

It was still raining when I reached Lake Leatherwood, where I was to lead a hike along the trail around the lake there. I wasn't surprised to find a good group of folks at the trailhead, patiently standing in the rain. We had twenty in all, and no one even thought about not going on the hike (well, at least not out loud). Just as we got started, the rain quit, and we had a delightful hike.

This group was almost too large for this dayhike, mostly because the trail was so narrow, and when I wanted to stop and talk about something, it was tough to get everyone gathered around. We found a number of wildflowers, including several that I had not seen before. About half way through the hike, the sky opened up once again and the wet stuff came down. I don't think anyone cared.

When it is wet outside, the colors are richer, the smells are more fragrant, and you just feel better. At least I do. Walking in a summer rain shower is one of the best things that you can do.

Aspen didn't like it much though - I made him stay on the leash, so he couldn't run wild as I know he wanted to. Too many people, and too much mud.

The group got strung out once we crossed the dam and headed back towards the trailhead. Part of the trail is on a road there, but most of us stayed down along the lake. Not too many fishermen out on the lake, but there was a boat or two. Sometimes the fishing is really good during a rainstorm - I think the fish know that there might be some juicy bugs washed off of overhanging limbs and right down onto their dinner plates.

The rain quit by the time we finished the hike. And, what, blue sky? Yep, the clouds were beginning to break up. But I was glad we got to hike in the rain.

Most of the group went on about their business. We had folks from many places on the hike, including Little Rock; Conway; Bella Vista; Springfield, Missouri; Fayetteville; and of course Cloudland. It was great to get such a diverse group together enjoying the trail.

After a quick stop at the McDonalds drive-thru in Eureka, I headed for the Shaddox Hollow trailhead at Beaver Lake State Park, where the second hike would be. The clouds were all swept away, and we had blue skies and sunshine for this hike. The group was smaller, but we had a grand time just the same. In fact, we were forced to graze a couple of times on bushes that were simply covered with ripe huckleberries. They make a nice snack.

Another great hike, and all too soon it was time to go home. The sunshine remained, so I couldn't use the excuse of seeking out another waterfall to take pictures of.>>

BACK TO REAL TIME. Why did this hike change my life forever? It was because as soon as I got to the trailhead that morning, Aspen ran over to the group of waiting hikers, jumped up and placed his large MUDDY paws squarely on the chest of a beautiful young lady that neigher of us had ever met - he looked back at me and said "I WANT THIS ONE!!!" And so did I. Tens years later the three of us, plus Lucy, were out hiking once again. Today was the day that I met my life mate, although we did not really get together until the end of the summer, but it all started with Aspen. (We would return to that very same spot the next year to get married.) Good dog Aspen!

06/25/10 We had a nice rain shower yesterday afternoon that brought along a cool, sweet air mass with it. This morning there are baby clouds down in the canyon, and a thin layer of clouds high above, pink now, backed by blue sky. The landscape is all blue-black. Blue and pink seem to go together quite well in the coolness of early summer mornings around here.

A couple of days ago my lovely bride kicked me out of the car, said I was too fat, and that I should walk home - we were in BOXLEY at the time! No problem, I was prepared. I started my hike next to the mighty Buffalo River at the base of Cave Mountain. The river was bone dry, showing only a silent rocky bed. As I left the highway and hit the gravel road a crow flew overhead and called down to me - actually I think he was mocking me. Crows are one of the few living things that I've found nearly every place in this country that I have ever set foot on. I also think that just like cockroaches, they will survive when all of us are gone!

But also with the mocking crow there were tons of wildflowers all around, bright blue, yellow, and white. And a single lowly cow elk out in the field. She was just standing there, like she does all day, not knowing quite what to do - or perhaps she is deep in thought trying to decide which part of the field she would lay down in. As I started up the hill an airplane passed overhead.

Then another plane flew over. And another. And another. And another. And another. And another. I leaned into the hillside and tried to keep my pace up as the terrain reached maximum tilt. About 20 airplanes later I was standing on top of Cave Mountain - a mile of solid and very STEEP climb! And it didn't hurt at all. In fact I rather enjoyed it - this was the reason I was out and walking, to climb a steep hill, to test my legs and my lungs and my heart rate. All passed with ease. Another airplane flew by. And then another, and then, well, you get the picture - for some reason there were all these planes flying by this morning - all going the same direction, all single engine, high-wing planes. Very odd.

The planes and I continued, however once in a while I would have to stop and chat for a moment when someone would drive by and ask if I needed help. Saw nearly everyone who lived up on the mountain during my two-hour hike back to the cabin. Everyone was going to work, or to the car repair place, or to the dentist. I was just walking, sweating up a storm, and having a great time. Seven and a half miles later I arrived at the cabin. It was a great hike! This one was done without a heavy pack, but the next time I trod up that steep hill I would have my heavy backpack on just for good measure.

OK, now back to real time on Friday morning. I'll head out with that big old pack on today, but not up the big hill, just out and away from the cabin and along the not-so-steep Cave Mountain Road. It will still be great exercise, and I suspect I'll wave at a neighbor or two as they get up and out. And my lovely bride may even pass me on her way into town to do chores in advance of our photoshop class out here tomorrow.

Last night when I was out on my evening stroll - it was just about completely dark - I stopped by Benny's cabin to pick up a bag of new 'taters that he had just dug and put out along the road for me. The darn bag was about 25#, YIKES! I hoisted it up onto my 40-pound pack and limped on the rest of the way home. Benny and Mildred's garden is coming in now and we'll have veggies a plenty to feast on for the next few weeks.

Yesterday the chickens roamed far and wide, and got brave enough to jump up onto the deck. The hens must have spotted one of our pet king snakes - we heard a terrible clucking and thought the chickens were being attacked by Aspen (who turned out to be fast alsweep in a big leather chair). We found them all up on a boulder, but never did see a snake. The hens ate a ton of feed during the day, and also a ton of bugs we hoped. I'm thinking this increased activity is just them ramping up for egg production, which should begin any week now - Pam put out nesting boxes yesterday. I was going to play a joke on her and put a store-bought egg in the nest and write "eat me" on it, but figured I did not need an egg thrown at me! I'll keep you posted when the first real one does appear, which will be a major event here at Cloudland.

I have finished the layout and design of the new Arkansas Autumn picture book - MAJOR YIPPIE!!! I've done nearly all of the writing, and on Sunday I will continue processing the images. Sometime next week the book should be complete and ready to send off to the printers, only a month late.

Speaking of being late, I had better post this and head out with my backpack - Benny might have more veggies waiting for me...


Lunar eclipse on Saturday morning - that is the Buffalo Fire Tower on the right

06/29/10 A lovely cool morning to day with a heavy blanket of new clouds covering the canyon below. Lots of birds singing, including at least one that I have never heard before - the birds mostly hide in the thick forest and sing and don't come out so I can't tell what this new bird is. Speaking of birds, our chickens continue to get braver and explore new areas of our yard each day - always going everywhere as a group. We never expected all five to survive this long (hawks, owls, skunks, raccoons, Aspen - all could have easily had a quick meal), but they are doing great and seem to love it out here in the deep woods.

We had a wonderful photoshop class over the weekend, and I survived talking for nearly eight hours straight without losing my voice! A new version of the software that we all use to process images continues to amaze, and in some cases yielded a beautiful photograph from a student that was thought to have been totally unusable due to high "noise" in the image. I never throw any image away - you just never know when new software will come to the rescue! Two problems I had during the workshop - one, a favorite student of our brought TWO CASES and a cooler full of chilled Starbucks MOCHA, nectar of the gods! And I was forced to crack open a bottle, which is not on my diet list! And then my lovely bride brought over not one, but two plate fulls of warm homemade Cloudland oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - but I was a good boy, resisted, and only had five of them - oops! By the way, we only have ONE SPACE AVAILABLE in our fall weekend photo workshop, and have added a new one day workshop the weekend before.

The rest of my days have been spent with mostly just two scenes in front of me - a large computer screen, or the ground six feet in front of my legs. I've been pulling some marathon days and nights doing the final placement and initial processing of images for the new Arkansas Autumn picture book. WHEW, got the first go around done last night - yippie! That involved sizing and processing every single image from scratch. But that is just the first part - now I have to go back through each image and convert them to the special color space that is used by the printer, which is only able to use a fraction of the colors that my own printer can do when making fine art prints - there is a point in the process where I will have to click on a button that folks fondly refer to as the "make your picture look like CRAP" button. And then my job will be to figure out how to tweak the image to help bring some of the original beautiful colors back - sometimes images simply cannot be reproduced in books with accurate color, and then I'm forced to abandon the image and pick something else. Even though I have almost 400 five-star fall photos sitting on the bench ready to be substitutes, it is not always easy to find just the right replacement photo. This will be hell week mentally for me!

And the other view of the ground just ahead of my feet - I've been pounding the local roads during my fitness hikes, up to eight miles in a single hike, all while wearing a heavy backpack. I have to get somewhat into a mental zone to do this sort of thing, knowing that when I start out it will be nothing but hard-packed gravel road for a long time - and that hard road really gives your body a beating. I hike at the same speed no matter what the terrain or the load I'm carrying - even up a very steep hill like coming out of Boxley, like I did last night - just lean into it, suck it up, and GO! Sometimes I will get deep into though and rhythm that I will look up and realize that I had hiked completely past this or that landmark without even noticing. I watch the ground directly in front of my closely to make sure of where I'm stepping - with that much weight on my back and as fragile as my ankles are I can't afford to step on a loose rock, and there are plenty of them on our road.

Some of the aromas in the air are wonderful out here, including a couple of fields that I pass by with fresh-mowed hay - oh my goodness, I LOVE that! And there is a single mimosa tree that is in full bloom right now along my route, right at the top of a small hill next to the road. I can only smell it in the morning, but the deep fragrance alone is worth my charging up the hill to reach it. In fact, each time I come to this tree I am transported back to an incredible morning during my early photo career. I used to help teach underwater photography workshops in the Virgin Islands. We would spend ten days on sailing ships roaming around the US and British Virgins, stopping for the night in a hidden bay of some deserted island. Over the side we'd go to gather lobster, conch, or whelk for our dinner. It was a glorious time, though always had to come to and end. And on the very last morning of my last trip down, we had a Sunday morning FEAST high atop a hill at an outdoor restaurant in St. Thomas. I had eggs Benedict with generous amounts of Mimosa, a drink made of chilled champagne and fresh-squeezed orange juice - OH MY GOODNESS that combination was incredible! Anyway, each time I pass this mimosa tree out here I remember that meal - and I have figured out why they call the drink that - because it seems the mimosa tree out here only send out its amazing fragrance in the mornings, which is when you normally drink a Mimosa - for brunch!

Perhaps charging up steep hills is a bad habit I have - when I come to an incline, my pace quickens, and I don't let up until I have reached the top. That fact nearly did me in yesterday afternoon after Pam dropped me off at the foot of Cave Mountain in Boxley. I got out of the car, put on my heavy backpack, and started right on up the one mile, 17% grade (they put up the highway warning signs at 6%, so this hill is nearly three times as steep!). I did not let up until I had reached the top, and it nearly killed me! But I kept on going, and made it the 7.5 miles to back to the cabin without stopping even for a moment. But I was one tired puppy, and of course am sore from heat to toe this morning.

I've always had trouble with my feet - never have found a boot that would not beat my feet to death. Until now. At my wife's urging, I ordered a special pair of shoes with built-in springs in the soles - supposed to absorb impact. They were very expensive and made all sorts of wild claims - something I rarely pay any attention to since this is almost always just sales hype. But I got a pair of their walking shoes and wore them for a couple of days and son of a gun, my feet no longer hurt. But that pair soon started to wear at a dangerous angle, which did cause great pain to my feet - in fact I had to take them off and hike back to the cabin barefoot! But then I discovered that this same company made a hiking boot with the same design - $179 plus shipping - yikes! But I was desperate to find a solution to my sore feet, so I ordered them. They never arrived. Turns out the company had discontinued this style. Bummer. But then I found a store that had a pair in stock, and at only $109 shipped - what a deal, so I ordered them. They arrived and I've been wearing them ever since. Hiking with a backpack on hard-packed roads like I've been doing - especially in the 90-degree heat - is very abusive to your feet. And theses hiking boots have performed flawlessly and my feet have survived! But I know I'll have this pair all chewed up by the end of the summer, so I looked into getting a backup pair, and son of a gun, they were running a special on them and I got two more pair for almost half price each! (Spira Azimuth Leather Hikers) But I think that is the end of the line - no more of this style available. Since they are not waterproof I may not wear them for normal hiking in the woods, but for what I'm doing they are the answer to my prayers - finally, after 50 years of sore feet.

Pam has been working non-stop on Don's new Arkansas Wildflowers guidebook, and we are about done with Don's text and ready for him to begin his final edit - once that is complete (and I get my picture book done), then I'll get to work on all of Don's photos. We hope to have all of our book and calendar projects completed and off to the printers within the next two weeks - yippie!

Speaking of that, I need to get to work and start using that special button that I love to much...

06/30/10 I am HAPPY to report that the picture book is now almost complete and the conversions went really well yesterday! I hope to post a snapshot here later today that will contain all of the photos from the new book (and then an online gallery will soon follow).

I got up early this morning - a couple hours before the sun. I sat out on the back deck in the soft glow of moonlight and listened to the silence. There were a few drops of dew coming off the roof, and a lonely coyote moaning way out there under a distant bluffline. It was very cool this morning, and dare I say it - there was a hint of "fall" in the air! The landscape seems to be suspended in time, just waiting on something to happen - or perhaps it is bracing for another round of heat and humidity! Cool or hot, cloudy or sunshine, I'll take it all and love it. I used to hate summers in Arkansas, but that was before I lived out here in it, and now that I do, I cherish each hour, although will admit that sometimes the sweat can be a pain - but only when I need to be around other people, otherwise I don't mind being soaked to the bone!

It will be another day of book work for us, and Pam will begin work on the 2011 Arkansas calendar. Once I get the last page of text written for my picture book, I'll make match prints on my big printer, then will get to work selecting the photos for the new calendar. Once that is complete then I'll dive head first into processing all 400+ of Don's wildflower photos - man he was some terrific stuff! My goal is to get everything done by early next week, but that will take a few sleepless nights. Oh well, I'll always have the moon and a coyote or two for company...

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