LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - JUNE 2019 (previous months)
Little Bluff cabin cam June 30 - a cool 68 degrees at dawn today, calm breezes and lots of birds singing. I'll be in Nighttime workshop mode until Tuesday.
Journal updated June 29th - slide show complete after the fifth master copy.
06/01/19 Crunch time - I'm locked away at the computer until I get the new book done...A huge THANK YOU to P. Allen Smith and his crew. They spent a day with me a while ago and part of that day was just posted on his facebook page P. Allen Smith.
06/03/19 Monday morning book update. I missed my deadline to get the new book done by the end of May. And missed the next deadline of May 2nd. But I worked through the night last night and have it almost completed, with high hopes of uploading more than 5 gigabytes of files to a server in California later this morning to get the printing process started, with an expected arrival date here in September. I'll make a note here when I'm done.
MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE - the new picture book is finished and upload completed late today, YIPPIE COYOTE! Here's the cover:
06/05/19 OK, book done. CHECK. And we were off to the next deadline - June 5th. That's when the cows would be turned loose onto the property where our little campsite is on the side of a mountain. We have a small electric fence set up around our camping area to keep the cows away during the summer, but a herd of elk spend a good bit of time on our property over the winter and early spring and always tear up our fence. So I have to return each summer before the cows arrive to mend the fence. As soon as the book files were uploaded to the server in California, we loaded up the photo mobile and headed to Colorado. Twice during the 15-hour drive we had to stop and upload replacement files because something was't correct. The second time I had to re-convert the entire book to PDF files and then upload everything again - which we did in a little city park in Guymon, OK. It was a nice break for us to make lunch and just stop moving for a little while. We arrived at our campsite last night.
This morning my lovely bride and I got to work fixing/replacing broken wire, replacing several fence posts that had been broken off at ground level by the elk - or by a bear - I found fresh bear scat about 100' away from where I'm typing this, just inside the fence area. Spring is just beginning to happen here - aspens have small tender and brilliant green leaves, the meadow is already 8-10 inches high already, and some species of wildflowers have begun to explode. I'm just going to make a wild prediction that there will be a superbloom in Colorado this summer!
Then it got cold and rained for a while and we took a nap. Had to finish the fence mending soon after, wearing rain coats. Pam has a meeting to go to in Albuquerque, New Mexico tomorrow morning and we'll have to leave here about 5am to get there in time. We got to sit and gawk at the amazing light on the mountains after the storm had passed as dusk began to creep in, but that will be it for us for Colorado for now. After Pam's meeting tomorrow we will probably head home. It was GREAT to see the high country again, even if only for a few hours.
Today I am remembering my oldest brother, Tom. It was the summer 49 years ago and we were out on Beaver Lake trying to teach me how to water ski. I'm a slow learner sometimes. Most of the time probably. And on this day a dozen times he would gun the engine, I would begin to rise up out of the water, and then go SPLAT! Head first. Or sometimes just gradually lean to one side until I bit the dust. Everyone in the boat groaned, again, and Tom would loop around and line up for another try. It seemed so easy, but I just couldn't get it. Then he hollered back at me "bend your KNEES." No one had ever told me to bend my knees - how could something so simple be the answer? Next run I bent my knees and was up in a second and never fell a single time the rest of the day. Well, maybe a time or two, but I never had any trouble getting up again. All I needed to know was one of the most basic things - to bend my knees. Seems like a lot of life is like that for me - I can be a slow learner, but often I just need to know one or two simple things first. My brother died the following summer in a horrific car accident on June 5th. He was one of the good eggs...
Here are a couple of snapshots of our campsite in Colorado. The top one is from the road leading into the 1500-acre ranch - with snow-capped Beaver Mountain towering over the property - the white outline is an approx area of our land, with the red dot where our little leveled spot for the camper is located (look close to see the lone tall white aspen that I show in pictures. The area above us and to the right is all national forest, and we are kinda at the back of the "ranch" - notice all the burned trees from the big 2002 wildfire - everything that is not green.
The second one is from inside the young aspen forest looking out to our camping pad with the photo mobile, nylon gazebo, and storage shed.
06/10/19 Today we mourn the loss of our dear friend SCOTT CROOK who died early this morning after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. Scott and his wife, Carolyn (owners of the Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville), have done more to create and support outdoor recreation in Arkansas for more than 40 years than anyone. While this is a huge loss to the outdoor community, he leaves behind a legacy of a zillion great outdoor moments, smiles, and memories - irreplaceable. Scott taught me how to play tennis, how to fly fish, how to play guitar, and how to become a better person. THANK YOU SIR. It was an honor...Our airwaves will be filled today with the music of John Denver and Peter, Paul, & Mary - two of Scott's fav's, and ones he loved to play - he was an accomplished acoustic guitarist. His music will be missed, but will live on forever...
Visitation will be on Thursday, June 13 at the Nelson Berna Funeral Home from 4 P.M. to 7 P.M. Nelson Berna is on the east side of Crossover (Hwy 265) just north of E. Zion Road in Fayetteville, AR.
Obituary for Scott W. Crook
Scott W. Crook, 72, departed this world for his next adventure June 10, 2019 at Willard Walker Hospice Home in Fayetteville, Arkansas surrounded by loved ones and family. Scott was born February 6, 1947 in Atlanta, Georgia to James and Mary Crook, who raised him, his brother and two sisters in an Air Force family moving all over the country during childhood. He was preceded in death by his parents, both sisters and his beloved pet squirrels throughout the years.
Scott earned a degree in Chemistry from Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, he moved to Fayetteville to pursue a post graduate degree in Organic Chemistry at the University of Arkansas, where he met and married the love of his life, Carolyn while she was pursuing post-doctoral research. They were married on September 30th, 1971 by Judge Cummings at the courthouse.
He loved the outdoors and animals. Scott’s father started him fishing from the time he could hold a pole, and he pursued becoming an Eagle Scout to be outdoors as much as he could. Growing up, Scott’s family always had small pets, including flying squirrels. Carolyn and Scott have kept up the Crook tradition of keeping flying squirrels as pet to this day. Barney and Simon are both about 10 years old.
After a backpacking trip with some friends in Wyoming, Scott and Carolyn realized the nearest outdoor outfitting store was over two hours away in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wanting to bring outdoor supplies closer to home, they opened their Pack Rat Outdoor Center in 1973. The Pack Rat is a Fayetteville icon and has become one of the most influential and philanthropic local business in the Northwest Arkansas region.
Scott was one of the original members of the Ozark Highlands Trail Association and with Carolyn, he remained committed to the outdoors with his involvement in the Southern Utah Wilderness Association, the Nature Conservancy of Arkansas, National Audubon Society, Trout Unlimited, the Sierra Club and a life-long member of the Ozark Society.
Scott made Northwest Arkansas and the world a better place because of his passion and devotions to the outdoors. His contributions will be remembered and missed.
He is survived by his devoted wife, friend and business partner Carolyn Jolley Crook; his brother Ronnie Crook, long time partners Chally Sims, Kevin Fendley and Rick Spicer, his friend and caretaker Samantha B. Mills and many friends.
Visitation will be held 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Thursday June 13, 2019 at Nelson-Berna Funeral Home.
Memorial Contributions may be made to the Southern Utah Wilderness Society, the Arkansas Natural Conservancy River program or the Nature Conservancy the Central Appalachian whole system and West Virginian program focusing on flying squirrel habitat conservation.
The family would like to express their gratitude and appreciation to the nursing staff at Washington Regional, Fayetteville Health and Rehab, Willard Walker Hospice Home and Ms. Kay Coley for their kind and compassionate care. We were truly touched by your words and actions.
6/11/19 It's quite eerie outside right now, just before sunset. The air is still, with a number of birds singing, and the landscape is holding onto the last bits of sunshine and long shadows. The pups have chased off into the tall weeds and disappeared below the hill several times, huffing and gruffing with the hair standing on their backs. They gave returned each time with my calls, but I had to lock the door to keep them from charging back out again. It feels kinda beary, and I expect one to step out into the yard at any moment. (But since I have a camera ready to take a picture, I doubt one will appear!)
As we were pulling up from our long drive home from Colorado we had to stop for not one or two, but THREE broods of baby turkey chicks and their moms that were trying to cross the driveway in front of us. All three moms and 2.5 of the baby flocks made it across OK, but five chicks stopped and froze in the tall grass. We watched as they began to move around a little bit, with mom on the other side pacing back and forth. Finally she charged across the road and started to lead the chicks off into the woods, then changed her mind and direction and chased them right on across the road in front of us to join everyone else and finally all were back together and disappeared into the woods. It was the largest bunch of wild turkey chicks I'd ever seen - at least 20 or more total.
We've had quite a few birds filling the air and branches and lawn, sometimes dozens at a time and many different species. Yesterday evening while we were munching on dinner on the back deck watching all the commotion, we kept hearing this one particular bird singing - quite beautiful and haunting, with a pure, sweet melody. The music was pure and clear and obviously the bird was right in front of us, but for 30 minutes we could not see it, even with both of us scanning the trees with binocs. We've actually been hearing this bird the same way for weeks, never able to identify it. Then my lovely bride remembered a similar song we heard in Colorado one day and found it coming from one of the most COLORFUL wild birds we'd ever seen - a western tanager - oh my goodness, how BRIGHT the colors were!
So last evening Pam dialed up one of the two tanagers we have here - summer and scarlet - into her iphone and turned the volume up. As I learned from my days of shooting birds for my Arkansas Wildlife picture book, they are quite territorial, and often if you play their song they will appear immediately and fly in close enough for a photo (thinking you are a rival that they want to chase away). Son of a gun, within just a few seconds after Pam started to play the summer tanager song, a bright RED blob appeared out of nowhere and landed in the pine tree directly in front of us - that was him! This particular summer tanager was about as bright as a scarlet tanager, but clearly was a summer. Beautiful song. Now we know who's been singing it! (In fact right now most of the other birds are quiet but the tanager is singing loud and clear - we just can't see him.)
With the new picture book being worked on by the big printing house (for delivery to us in late September), I'm working on my next two projects - completing both of the 2020 Arkansas calendars. I was supposed to have both of them done BEFORE she got back from painting class in Arizona last month, but you know by now how I work. So my new deadline is to get them done before she LEAVES on a painting trip late next week.
In the meantime we're enjoying a delightful week of cool weather and low humidity back here in Arkansas - feels almost like Colorado in fact! No doubt the heat will return soon enough, but for now it is great to have all the windows open all night and day without having to run the AC. Hope you are having a cool week too...
06/13/19 It was an hour before sunrise yesterday, still mostly dark with a sky filled with fading stars and just a hint of golden glow on the eastern horizon. The air was still, no movement or sound. Then the music began with the lonely, lovely, melody of an Indigo bunting breaking the silence. His song rose up from the darkness and spread across the landscape. He would pause for a few seconds to let the notes soak in, then another round of music. A new day was upon us.
Later I realized my lovely bride was a BEAST on a tractor! I had the RV parked up near the gallery and was inside resting my back on a ice pack, when I heard some commotion outside (the bug man had just sprayed both the cabin and gallery and I can't be around the fumes until the building are aired out). I looked up just in time to see a green flash pass by (her tractor) and a loud WOOPIE!!! Pam was headed down to the cabin where the DIRT had arrived - two truck loads of beautiful almost-black dirt.
Pam's dad has been building her a set of flower and plant boxes around the front and northwest corner of the cabin, and also one around the base of the twin pine trees in back where the bird feeders are. They are simple boxes made of pretty-fresh railroad ties lined end-to-end (the front and side areas are also stacked, up to three high). They have a bunch of these ties for $15 at the Jasper hardware store and look almost brand new - by oh my goodness they weight a ton! (I guess - I can't touch them, but her dad has been grunting a little bit and the tractor almost can't pick them up).
Anyway, Ron has the big box done at the pine trees and Pam has been waiting on the dirt for a while, so she went on a terror yesterday afternoon. There is a fine art to scooping up a front-end-loader load of dirt, then turning around and taking it across the yard, and around the corner and then to dump it into the narrow flower box at the base of the pines. After a few minutes of instruction from her dad, my bride was a pro and raced from the dirt pile to the flower box, dump, then repeat. A couple hours later she had the first layer of dirt moved. It was a lot of work, and was kind of funny when she got off the tractor and looked back at the two giant piles of dirt and realized she had hardly made a dent - LOTS more loads to move, sorry honey! She LOVED it though - like a kid in a candy store. That first box will fill up with flowers soon.
06/14/19 Former student and now mentor, Allen Wilcox, came out to the cabin late last night and we spent a few hours taking pictures of Jupiter and four of its moons, plus the 3/4 moon. Well, really it was Allen doing most all of the photos as I sat around and watched, then jumped up to look and snap a photo or two. He set up a giant tripod and telescope tracking base that about as heavy as me - that's that sort of equipment you need for really good astro photos, especially of planets. Jupiter has made its closest past to earth this week for a while, and so it was really clear and bright and at least four of the moons were visible - even to normal earthlings with just a pair of binocs or a spotting scope. My photo of Jupiter using Allen's monster 600mm lens with 2x converter turned out to be an OK snapshot, but we really needed one of the giant and expensive telescopes to get those amazing close-up photos you've probably seen online this week. But heck, I was a HAPPY CAMPER just being able to take this picture!
We also used the same setup to get my sharpest photos of the moon ever - my goodness you should see the detail in the craters of this 3/4 moon viewed on my big computer monitor! I think this is a first for me - you can get an 11x14 print of my moon photo this week, and if your eyes are good then you'll be able to see some of the zillions of craters on the lunar surface.
I've only known two people in my life who had pet flying squirrels. One was our dear friend, Scott Crook, who we all said goodbye to yesterday. At one time Scott and his bride, Carolyn, had the oldest captive flying squirrel on record. It was so much fun to visit and experience those little guys flying around in their living room! While most people have never seen a flying squirrel in the wild, they are actually the most common squirrel in the Ozarks. Huh, really? YES! We just almost never see them because they are nocturnal (only come out at night).
My first encounter with a wild flying squirrel was the first time Neil Compton spent the night at Cloudland. He and I were on the back deck after dinner, sitting in the dark chatting about the amazing wilderness spread out before us. All of a sudden there was racket right in front of us - we flipped on a light and lo and behold there was a flying squirrel on the big old red oak tree only a couple of feet away - GIANT EYES staring back at us! I'm not sure Neil had experienced this before either - it was quite a memorable moment.
It turns out that Allen Wilcox also had flying squirrels as a boy that he kept in his home - and he would allow them to fly around the living room just like Scott and Carolyn have been doing (these squirrels really DO fly from one spot to another). While Allen and I were out shooting the moon and Jupiter last night, we heard a noise coming from the big twin pine trees next to our cabin. As we approached the trees to investigate and turned on a flashlight, there were TWO flying squirrels staring down at us. That was GREAT! And then they started to chase each other around the tree, then LAUNCHED themselves into the air and FLEW over to the next tree! First time for both of us to see this happen in the wild.
Jupiter, the moon, and flying squirrels - it was a good night...
06/15/19 For the first time in a week the air this morning is heavy with humidity and warmer temps - I think our delightful cool spell is on the way out. Bummer. It's been a real treat all week pretending like it was early October air.
I made great progress on the 2020 Arkansas scenic wall calendar yesterday and hope to get it done today. 14 colorful photos that have never been published before. But before I get it finished, I'm off to town for MULCH! My bride was a beast again yesterday, working most of the day to complete delivery of dirt, remove all rocks, cover with weed barrier, and finally plant her first round of flowers. Just like my mom, Pam loves her some flowers!
Big concert tonight at Steele Creek with the backdrop of the Buffalo River and towering limestone bluffs (the band is National Park Radio, free and open to all). I hope many of you get to enjoy this terrific event - one of the best of its kind anywhere!
Pam's first flower garden almost done (above), adding more flowers and mulch (below)
Our huckleberry patch (wild blueberries) next to the cabin (above); fresh scones and Pam's completed flower bed (below)
06/16/19 Our new wall calendar is DONE - YIPPIE! (sent off to the printers today, available next month). All are new pictures taken since last October - one is from right off the back deck of our cabin.
06/18/19 There was a narrow river of fog far below that covered and followed along just above Henson Creek directly below us (1000' below us), which flows into the Little Buffalo River between Parthenon and Jasper. The break of dawn spread across the landscape, pink and orange along the horizon, with deep blue skies above. There was already music in the air, from dozens of birds of many sizes, shapes, and colors - though I could not see a singe one, their songs were many and varied.
We can see almost 180 degrees here from east to almost west, and today every inch of the scene was filling up with beauty. That narrow river of fog spread quickly, and within minutes the entire valley was filled with it, green ridges peaking up here and there. If you started looking towards the east where the sun was fast approaching, by the time your eyes had followed the river of fog all the way to the right the scene would have changed quite a bit. Then swing your gaze back left to the eastern horizon and more and more new scenes. I wanted to stop and soak just one portion in, but there were so many places to look and all ever-changing! It's sometimes exhausting just to sit here to enjoy the early moments of the day!
We watched yesterday as one storm after another rolled on through - big and beautiful thunderheads and entire lines of billowing cloud formations, many with curtains of rainfall beneath them. But all we got here was blue skies and sunshine - not a single drop of rainfall. My bride went to yoga class at the little white Boxley Baptist Church and Community Center, and she got rained on all the way home just before sunset, but when she topped out at Low Gap, the rain stopped and the pavement was dry. Missed us again! But all that moisture on the landscape surrounding us is climbing into the air this morning and that's where the river and now sea of fog is coming from.
And almost as soon as the river arrived, widened, and grew into a sea, it is now evaporating into thin air with the rising sun and birth of a new day.
Speaking of scones (well, I was THINKING about them), I'm trying to get my basic scone recipe down so that I can make a small batch of four scones - one for my bride and I and each of our friends Ray and Susan - and be able to make them in the little oven in our camper van. The four of us will be taking a trip later this year and I'm hoping to be able to contribute fresh-baked scones once or twice a week. I can do them at the cabin no problem - but the problem is my recipe calls for about 16 scones, and I usually end up eating at least a dozen of them! I think I've got the recipe down about right, but I keep forgetting the cinnamon and nutmeg. Last night we tried a special "healthy" ice cream mix using only sweet cream, Kefir (watered down yogurt), and a protein shake, with no added sugar, etc. It was WONDERFUL, but only when covered with a special "extra creamy" whipping cream foam. Hum, come to think of it, it was the whipping cream that was WONDERFUL and the healthy ice cream was not very good, kinda sour in fact. We have had one of those little ice cream makers that doesn't use rock salt so it is easy to make ice cream, we just need to keep experimenting until we find a healthy one that tastes like ICE CREAM should taste! Suggestions welcome.
Today is ENGAGEMENT CALENDAR DAY! I'll spend most of it glued to a pair of computer screens going through a couple hundred images that I've been picking out, and will eventually select about 56 photos - all of them brand new and shot within the last 9 months. In fact all the images from our three new publications this year will have been taken within the past 12 months - some will be in a couple of the publications - the book and one or two of the calendars - but all will be "fresh off the farm" and never been in a slide show before. Oh, speaking of that, our first slide show this year is on July 29th (instead of mid-November), SO I've got to get my fanny in gear and start working on it - as soon as the engagement calendar is complete, hopefully later this week......
06/20/19 First I stopped at the open patio door to listen. Dead still and quiet - not a critter was stirring, or at least making noise. No wind, not even the slightest breeze. In all my years of being outdoors in all sorts of weather, day and night, night and day, twilight and dawn, if there is a moment complete calm and silence, it will be just before the dawn. Knowing I would not be alone for long, I crept across the deck and sat down in a chair, propped my feet up on a small table (I have to do this for my back - can't sit normally in a chair anymore), then leaned back and just sat there to enjoy the moment. It was 5:10.
The total silence lasted until 5:11, when a lone tanager began to sing high in a tree next to the cabin. Probably the same guy I hear most every morning during this brief period when it's just he and I. It's about ten minutes later now and I bet there are 30-40 birds singing, different songs from different species in different parts of the forest that spreads out for miles before me.
There's a 3/4 moon hanging in the southwestern sky, still shining brightly even though that sky is rapidly turning from a dark blue to a light blue with the approach of day. Below the moon is a blanket of white fog that is spilling over a low spot in the ridge way over there - creeping into our valley from the Little Buffalo valley at Parthenon - that low spot is Keys Gap. A few minutes ago I could see tiny headlights making their way along a narrow gravel county road that runs through dense forest from the gap down to the highway between Jasper and Parthenon - must be headed to a job in Harrison. He was up before the tanager or me, already taking his cup of java and well on into his day.
The tanager is singing louder now to try and be heard above all the rest. I wonder if anyone ever answers, or if he is looking for an answer - perhaps he is just celebrating the dawn of a new day and wanted everyone to know.
The engagement calendar is coming along slowly and the first draft is done - 56 photos have been selected and sized and placed. Today I'll write captions for all of them (I hope) and begin the tedious process of the final processing and converting each photo file to the specific CMYK color profile that the printer in Illinois will use to lay down the ink. My goal is to get it all done by tomorrow night. Many of the photos will be the same ones from the new book, but many will also see the light of day for the first time - all photos are brand new and have been taken during the period from October last year until two weeks ago, when I took the last picture of a wild rose (it will be the cover photo).
The tanager has ceased operations for now this morning, and finches are beginning to gather at the feeders, along with upside-down-birds working the pine trees nearby (nuthatches). The eastern horizon has gone from dark to red to orange to now almost white as the sun is about to pop up. Today is the last day of spring - summer begins tomorrow!
06/22/19 Mr. Tanager and I have taken turns being a slacker. This morning I was up and at my post on the back deck promptly at 5:10am to listen to his lovely melody to begin the day, but - nothing. Only silence. Actually it was quite loud out with winds in excess of 30mph. But songbirds have a vocal range that cuts through all of that. So I had plenty of wind noise, but no Tanager lullaby. He did finally strike up the band at 5:18 and oh my goodness it was loud and beautiful and crystal clear! It was like there was no wind sound at all. Within minutes the airwaves all around were filled with bird songs.
Yesterday I was the slacker, and by the time I arrived at my post at 5:17 Mr. Tanager was already singing loud and proud - I think he was actually sending waves of music towards my empty chair wondering where the heck I was. Even the other birds had beat me up this day - there was a chorus of whippoorwills way off, tweedy birds darting all over and tweeting (Taylor Swift birds - "Swiftes"). AND for the first time this year at the cabin there rose a loud and constant and nonstop twang of cicadas (or whatever you call it). And you know what the cicadas bring - HOT weather, and it was indeed hot and humid already at down, vs. the sweet cool air we've had every morning for a long time. (heat index was supposed to reach above 100 during the afternoon)
I spent most of yesterday going back and forth from the gallery office down to the cabin, making final tweaks to the weekly engagement calendar. The printing company in Illinois was trying to figure out how to print it the same we we've had it done overseas all these years. At one point they had me reformatting the entire document and resizing all 56 photos by .01118 of an inch. And by their close of business yesterday they still had not figured it out. (for those who know printing business, it has to do with the inside page bleed and trim). This is the only one of our publications in more than 30 years that has never turned a profit for us - just not enough people using them anymore, but we still love them and so do a lot of our customers, so we get the minimum number produced, which are very costly. To me they are not only a useful physical record that a lot of folks keep and are able to refer back to for years to come (I still have them going back to the early 1980's), but it is a mini picture book of Arkansas, and this year will be filled with brand-new images - all taken within the last nine months. Anyway, I'm done with all my work on it - including both versions for the printer, but now we have to wait and see if they can make either one of them work. CHECK THAT ONE OFF!
Last night I had major success at the wood-fired pizza oven. For the first time ever, I created TWO great pizzas! I've only been satisfied two or three times with a single pizza in the past, but could never get two in one batch to cook correctly. This oven cooks in the 500-700 degrees F range, and it is very high strung and just opening the door can cause the temp to plunge. My formal education about how to prepare and cook a wood-fired pizza in the outdoor oven consists of about an hour of classroom work last summer - we ordered a pizza at Three Barrel Brewery in Del Norte, Colorado, and sat at the bar in front of their giant pizza oven and watched them prepare and cook our pizza, and about 20 other pizzas. I've been trying to match their perfect pizza ever since. I'm done it a couple of times, but that's been about it - my pizzas have never quite lived up to the real thing. However, I must admit that the one pizza my bride and I ate back at the mother ship in Colorado a couple of weeks ago did not quite measure up to their high standards either, so I felt a little better about mine. (their pizzas only come in 10" size, which is perfect for our little outdoor oven)
But last night somehow I got the right combination of everything and both pizzas were every bit as the best one's we've ever had, anywhere - YIPPIE COYOTE! Funny that it takes so much time and preparation - including about an hour to get the wood fire going and the brick oven heated up and at a constant temp. Yet once the little pizza is slid into the oven it only takes about two minutes of cooking and it's DONE! Amazing to stand there and watch through the open door and flames as it comes to a golden brown right before your eyes.
Perhaps the perfect pizzas were a result of the moment. My sister has always supported my quest for perfect pizza, and each time she visits she brings us lots of different pizza items (Dorcas lives in Illinois, so does my brother, Terry, a few miles apart.) One of those ingredients was the key to success - fresh packaged mozzarella cheese! It makes quite a difference in the taste and texture of the final product, but we've had problems finding it in stores - the shredded bag cheese just doesn't cut it. My bride recently discovered the secret location at Wal Mart stores where they keep this fresh cheese, and so now I'm able to use it always. THANKS SIS! Last night was special since I was cooking in honor of her. She was in a terrible auto accident last week and remains in serious condition at the intensive care unit, Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. She has issues with a lot of body parts but they are addressing each one and she continues to improve each day. If I were a really good supportive brother I would take her a slice of perfect wood-fired pizza, but unfortunately I could not trust myself that it would survive the trip to St. Louis without being eaten...
Afteroon update. And to go with leftover pizza today for lunch - wild blueberries picked this morning from the yard with cold cream...
06/24/19 Jupiter is peeking through the windows in the prow tonight. The air is cool and sweet outside, and lots of stars coming out. It's pretty quiet for a summer's eve - cicadas were wining an hour ago, but I guess they went to sleep.
Yesterday afternoon I lined up about 12 waterfalls in three groups in different areas that I wanted to shoot. Most I had been to, although one group would be new for me. I don't like taking pictures of flooded, muddy waterfalls - I like to wait until the next day, although the way the earth has been soaking up water lately I didn't have that luxury. There were thousands of waterfalls everywhere, but these 12 would suit me just fine, if I could get them.
Rain and thunder-boomers greeted me at the first stop, but I would have been soaked within a minute anyway because the landscape was thick and dripping from 3-4 inches of rain already. The hillside below where I parked dropped off steeply, but the underbrush was pretty open and it was a beautiful trip down, down, down. Soon I had landed on a swollen creek that was nearly dry the last time I had been there about a month ago. It felt GREAT to be back in the woods after so long sitting in an office chair at the computer!
Thank goodness my legs and back still worked. The rain picked up a bit and I had to use my felt hat to shelter the camera while taking pictures. All four waterfalls were running well, but not too high or muddy. But it sure was DARK. The hike back UP the steep hillside felt great too - I much prefer going uphill than down - more control over yourself that way, and goodness I need control over my body parts!
The next stop a couple of counties over didn't go as well. In fact it didn't go at all. My access was via a forest round a couple of miles next to the Big Piney River. Oops, the river had risen so much that it covered the forest road and there was no way I could get to where I needed to be. Perfect water and light conditions, but these new waterfalls would have to wait for another time.
That was it - I headed home so I could get to bed early. The alarm went off at 3:30 this morning, and I gulped some coffee while making a my standard veggie-turkey-swiss wrap (which I wrapped in foil and stashed between the seats of the van), and also while making my standard 32-oz. proteinpowder-fruit-veggies-yogurt-milk smoothie (which I took with me and drank along the way). I was rolling by 4am sharp.
My plan was to try and get a photo of a group of waterfalls I'd been trying to get for more than ten years. I'd found what I called "waterfall jumble" many years ago when I first found West Lacey Creek Falls. Actually it was the waterfall jumble area that I had seen from Hwy. 10 that first led me 2/3'rds of the way up the south face of Mt. Magazine (where I found Lacey Falls). The terrain was just too thick on that day for any pictures of the jumble (plus terrible light). I hadn't returned until I took Fireman Jeff there several months ago - but that time the water was too low and while I did get some photos of the waterfalls, they were not the best.
Everything seemed good for early this morning, and I was at the base of Mt. Magazine by 6:30am. I was planning to hike/bushwhack up to the waterfalls, but first I wanted to see what they looked like, so I used my aerial camera. Turns out that would be the best view of the day, and is one I could not have seen from the ground - I've tried!
I spent the next hour or so trying to reach the bottom of the group of four waterfalls that I call the waterfall jumble (aka Rock Creek Falls). They were running well and quite clean. But as always the terrain all around them was rather THICK and quite inhospitable. I'd waited a long time and I dug in my heels (held on for dear life was more like it!).
Tough to describe unless you were standing right there, but I could never get a view of any two of the waterfalls at the same time. So I photographed each one individually, working my way around as best I could. I ended up climbing up to the very top and off to one side to reach the fourth falls. I was in a bit of a rush since clouds had begun to break up and blue sky and sunshine was happening - not good for me!
And just as I was about to get everything set up to take the final picture - while hanging over the edge and holding onto a stout tree - I got quite a fright. The fellow below was no more than three feet from my feet and camera bag, and even though I had to have stepped directly over the top of him, I never saw him until now. YIKES!!! (timber rattlesnake)
Being in kinda in a compromising position, and not wanting to make any sudden moves that might throw myself off balance - or provoke the snake - I simply continued with my work and got the picture I needed. Mr. Rattler kept a close eye on me but never moved a stitch. When I was done I carefully packed up my gear, shouldered my camera backpack, and backed away and up the hill, looking carefully before each step for his relatives!
He kinda startled me a little bit and the forest was not nearly as nice as it had been all morning. I decided that rather than bushwhack back down through a mile or more of jungle where I could not see my feet, I opted to claw my way farther UP the hill where I knew there was a 4wd trail. It was a couple miles of pretty easy hiking from that point, and no big rattlesnakes in my way (although I bet they were watching from the sidelines, and having a good laugh at me).
Not sure which of the photos I'll use in the waterfall guidebook update - which now looks like it might be later this year or even next spring before I can get it completed. Maybe one from the air and several from the ground. Not many folks will ever see this group of waterfalls, but whenever they are running like they were today, it's an amazing spot for sure!
This was typical jungle terrain - most of those plants are devil's walking sticks with sharp thorns covering their stalks.
06/26/19 This is SLIDE SHOW PRODUCTION WEEK! (about four months early) I need the new slide show done by this weekend, and have been locked in the computer room working on the photos (got them all done and ready for the show - still working on several timelapse videos and short video clips that I want to include). Now I'm working on the music, and spent much of yesterday going through 247 musical selections that my bride culled down from many thousands available on a special web site where we pay to use the music in our slide shows. Late last night I got that list down to about 25 songs, eventually will narrow down further to just six or seven or eight. Then I'll run a marathon session and put all the photos with the music and hopefully get everything to sound and look and flow well. First program is July 29th (private meeting in Bentonville), with the first public show to be in early November, then most of our normal venues to follow between then and Christmas. But it all hinges on what I do this week - my main goal is to bring tears to someone during the program because they see and feel something so beautiful! So that means I have to PRODUCE something beautiful out of it all.....
I snuck out last night and shot a Milky Way photo. One of the fireflies got a little crazy...(not really)
06/28/19 my lovely bride got back home after being in Michigan with a friend from Canada painting all week - YIPPIE!
06/29/19, 3:21am. YIPPIE COYOTE! I just completed the first version of the new slide program and now have a "show copy" of the program I could use this fall. There will be many mini revisions before a final master will be made, but this is one of those "moon landing" events (grab a pouch of lunar soil quickly in case something goes wrong) and it feels great to get it done. Besides the brand new 132 photos from this past year of shooting, there are seven new timelapse and normal videos, all mixed in with eight new songs. I have a feeling you're gonna like it.
Part of my night was also spent down on the river shooting Milky Way, limestone bluff, and Buffalo River pictures - just a few to make sure all my mental and physical gear were working and ready for workshops that begin on Sunday. I was out last night shooting as well, up on top of Cave Mountain in fact. And the night before. And maybe the night before that too.
This is my push-my-clock-forward week and I'm trying to stay up a couple hours later each night so that I'll be used to staying up all night for the workshops. Tonight my bedtime will be 4am, when I hope to nap until about 10am. So far, so good.
A couple of nights ago I was standing on top of the giant sandstone bluff that surrounds the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area on Cave Mountain. Hedges Pouroff was running well and its music shot out across the wilderness. There were lightning bugs everywhere. Recent rainfall created a sea - no make that a river of clouds that covered the landscape below - I had gone up onto Cave Mountain to get out of the fog so I could get to the Milky Way, which was beaming brightly over everything. I was down on my belly in the mud trying to compost an image of all of that scene, plus the old weathered and twisted juniper tree that lives on top of the bluff and that I've photographed many times over the past several decades. It was an amazing sight and feeling to be standing there with it all spread out before me (even if I was actually down in the mud!).
My lovely bride has been in Michigan all week with a friend from Canada on a painting trip and she just got home yesterday. I don't know how the puppies and I survived without her, but we managed. She brought them a big bag of what looks and smells like chocolate chip cookies (but not really since dogs can't have chocolate), and brought ME dark chocolate cherries - double YIPPIE COYOTE! Did I say it was good to have her home?
EVENING UPDATE. I've made five different slide show masters with revisions today and think I'm a happy camper with #5. Ready for prime time...We'll have the full fall slide program schedule posted later this summer - mostly it will be about the same as in previous years, with a new location in Conway, a show in Jefferson City, Missouri (Nov. 9th), and a show in Little Rock (Nov. 12 for LifeQuest).
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