CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - March 2016
Cloudland Cabin Cam, March 31 - clearing and warm today - lots of music from the Buffalo River below!
Journal updated Thursday the 31st
Print Of The Week Special (above)
03/01/16 SPRING must be on the way - the highways are littered with dead skunks! My lovely bride noted this fact last week, saying it seemed to her that when skunks begin to show up along the highways that spring is not far off. Turns out she was correct. While reading one of my most favorite books of all time - Cache Lake Country - the author (John J. Rowlands) in all his wisdom talked about this very thing - when skunks come out of hibernation with the approach of spring they wake up and begin to move around (this was in the Canadian wilderness, but the same holds true for Arkansas, although I don't know if skunks hibernate here or just sleep a lot during the winter). Anyway, they are certainly up and about and migrating across the highways right now, so be careful, and get ready to hit the "recirculate" button on the dash as you approach one of those black and white piles of fun!
And we saw the first bats a couple of days ago - in two different areas. I just LOVE to sit and watch their acrobatics as they work their magic in the twilight sky. Bats eat bugs - a LOT of bugs - and bugs usually don't come out until early spring, so with the skunks and bats now up and moving around, 'tis a sure sign of spring soon upon us.
The deep snow we got last week hung around quite a bit longer than I ever thought it would. We kept seeing pockets of crusted snow piles deep in the forest, clinging to areas on the north sides of the bases of trees and boulders that are protected from sunlight. But how can they hold on even when temps rose into the 60's? So much of Momma Nature is all about "holding on" until the very last moment.
On the opposite end of that spectrum, we have yet to see the first wildflower of the year up here on the mountain. I got out eagerly each day to search, and once a couple of days ago I even got down on my hands and knees and literally crawled along the forest floor with my head low to the ground - getting a worm's eye view of the terrain. But no flowers. Surely it will happen today - I'll be sure and post the first photo when it happens. Just for historical reference, the very first wildflower we've seen each year up here has been the exact same flower, or at least in the same spot in the forest. But usually she has lots of friends within hours.
The other day while bushwhacking through the forest with the puppies we came upon the body of a dead deer, an eight-point buck. Too recent to have been taken during deer season last fall, but the coyotes had already dined and had their fill. Turns out that puppies LOVE deer antlers as chew toys - you can even buy them for absurd prices at the pet stores. I noted the location and vowed to return later with a hack saw. The very next day there was a knock on the door of the cabin - it was the Woods Boys (of the waterfall fame). And guess what - they presented the puppies with those very same antlers - YIPPIE! I think the pups have at least a years' supply of chew toys now.
Speaking of Woods Boys Falls, the big snow last week and a nice jolt of rain a couple of nights ago have really refreshed the parched landscape. While I've not had time to get out and do any waterfall hunting, there is visually a lot more water in the soil - even standing in puddles along the road. Some waterfalls are running now, but everything is primed for the next rainfall (or more snow!) event, so get your waterfall shoes ready. And just yesterday while hiking though a low spot in the top of a ridgeline, I realized that the earth was very soft - in fact the forest floor sunk in several inches when I put my foot down. This was not a mud hole, but the wetness was below ground. Kind of a weird feeling. I'll have to recheck this location later in the spring to see about ferns.
One last note - we had a large group of mostly ladies for our weekly Monday night yoga class at the little historic Boxley Valley Baptist Church building in the valley. I'm pretty shy around social groups and so hug the back corner of the room. It was so interesting to listen to stories from everyone - it was the first chance everyone had to get together after the big snowstorm, and they all had individual tales of the snow - how much or how little they got, and what situations it caused. Such a warm and friendly group. And it was great to get to stretch out my body - I've missed the last couple of sessions due to allergy issues.
WATCH OUT FOR DEAD SKUNKS!
This is a photo from the back deck of our Cloudland Cabin on March 1, 2016. It was 44 years ago today that President Nixon signed the law that created America's very first national river - BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER - happy birthday!
03/03/16 FINALLY, we've seen the first wildflower at Cloudland! It was a trout lily as always, but this is the first year I can recall that our old friend little wildflower was not the first to bloom - it still has not even sent up leaves yet. Hoping it did not die of old age. There will be many hundreds of trout lilies on the hillside before the heavy rains set in next week. I may have to wander out and spend some time with them on the ground and find out how their winter went. I think we're in for a wildflower explosion in the Ozarks this spring, and being on the ground is often the best way to see and photograph them.
And it sounds like WATERFALLS will get back up to running full tilt again next week if the predicted 6-8 inches of rains come - YIPPIE COYOTE! I'm working on two book projects that will take me to many waterfalls I hope over the next several months, and I'll post a few of them here along the way. It is a great journey to get out and visit waterfalls - large, fat, tall, or small, it really doesn't matter - they are a joy to see. And especially if you sit down and spend some time with them in quiet contemplation - let the cool waters refresh your soul, and the sweet breezes carry your sorrows away...
Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, but we will finally be making it to Branson next month:
03/05/16 Up at 4-something this morning when I rolled over to gaze out the window at a sky filled with a ZILLION stars! One of them was a lot brighter than the rest, and I soon realized it was the crescent MOON rising. Always a special treat to be able to look out the window and see such things without even having to get out of bed.
A little while later I started to wonder around the cabin - I usually keep all lights off so as not to wake my sleeping bride (although this morning she was also awake - probably too many stars peeking in the window!). We have a lot of windows up high in our cabin, and so we see a wide portion of the night sky - and while moving around, the crescent moon looks different through each one.
I stopped in the middle of the great room and began to stretch my weary bones a bit - eventually getting into what they call a "sun salutation" in yoga. It's just a series of moves in order that I like as it allows me to stretch using a known formula. I'm not much into the spiritual or breathing parts of yoga, but I do enjoy the great stretching and some muscle toning it provides. I've been stretching most of my life - learning how to at an early age while getting ready for 6am plunges into cold outdoor swimming pool at the city park for swim team practice.
Kind of a funny note - when I'm doing the weekly yoga class at the little historic Boxley Valley Baptist Church, I usually close my eyes for the entire hour and a half - just because. I found myself doing the same thing this morning - alone in the middle of the cabin, in the dark. And when I ended the routine and opened my eyes, I realized that I could have kept them open the entire time and it would have been just like they were closed! So I started over and went through the routine again - and it WASN'T the same! I was able to see a lot of neat stuff - namely STARS and the crescent MOON. So I figured what I was doing was not a Sun Salutation at all, but rather a Moon Salutation! Turns out there is already one of those, and I just watched a couple of them on utube. Go figure. Anyway, it was a great experience, and I would say certainly was a Cloudland Moment.
And then I just had to slap myself up side the head - HEY DUMMY, RUN OUTSIDE WITH YOUR CAMERA and take some pictures of that MOON! And so I did.
It was one of those scenes when the crescent part of the moon had grown pretty small, yet the shadowed part of the moon was still visible - in fact I could see details like craters in that part. This is known as "earthshine" and is caused by the reflected glow of the earth lighting up the shadow part of the moon.
And then another Cloudland Moment happened. Besides the low rush of the Buffalo River from below, the rest of the wilderness was pretty quiet - just me and the moon and stars. But then a group of voices joined in. A flock of geese begin to rise up from somewhere down on the river - their honking increased both volume and pace as they got higher. Soon I could see a flock of geese flying downstream out in front of me above the ridgetop. They rose up enough to pass directly below the rising moon. WOW, I'd never seen anything like that before - the music of the river, the moon and earth shadow, and the geese, all kind of in rhythm early this morning.
Once the geese left and the moon rose and the sun shone it was time to get back into a long day of Spring Cleaning. We are about 20% through the process I figure, but we made some great headway today, filling not only our covered trailer with items for a garage sale, but also filled up the van too! I don't know when this sale is likely to be, but just one note from today that it will include not one but THREE backpacks that I used to use - not "book" packs, but fullsize backpacks that I've used for many decades of backcountry travel throughout Arkansas and in many other states. Sure hate to see them go, but I've moved on and use a different backpack now (although I almost never get to go backpacking any more - hope to change that in the years to come). And time has come for us to downsize.
Also included in this sale will be an iconic piece of gear from my early days of wilderness travel - a very special down sleeping bag, handmade in the USA by the Holubar company - it is rated at 40 degrees below zero, and took just about every cent I had to my name when I bought it way back in 1973. It remains one of the best cold-weather down bags ever made, but I have one that is a lot lighter for use these days, so the old one will go for a song to some lucky future cold-weather camper.
As we were loading up to take the trailer over to Pam's parent's house, Billy Woods stopped by for a little while. One thing led to another and soon I got him talking about many of the amazing places in the wilderness that was spread out before us, and his experiences during a lifetime of growing up and working in that wilderness - which was to his family, just the back yard. Some of the places I'd been to and seen and we compared notes; his descriptions of many others really peaked my interest and I kept asking questions. Part of all this was research for my new picture book, which will contain new images all taken "in my own back yard" - within 12 miles of our Cloudland Cabin. SO MANY things and places I've never been - but I believe Billy has been to most of them. Anyway, whenever you get the chance to talk and listen to folks who grew up in the places you treasure, always best to fine tune your ear to them as they have a lot of smarts to pass along. Calvin Neff too...
EVENING UPDATE. We passed many Newton County sheriff's deputy cars, park service trucks, and other search and rescue vehicles that were speeding towards Cave Mountain as we were heading into Jasper with the trailer late this afternoon. A couple of hours later as we were getting home they were just about to complete a successful rescue and evacuation of an injured hiker from the nearby wilderness area. The gentleman we spoke with on the scene reported a 19-year old male had slipped and fell along a trail, probably had a broken leg, but that he was in "pretty good shape." They already had hauled him up the steep hill and within 100 yards of the awaiting helicopter as we passed through. KUDOS to everyone involved in the rescue! There were dozens of vehicles and no doubt 40 or 50 folks helping - one of the quickest and well coordinated rescues we've seen. FYI, this was not at Hawksbill Crag, and he did not fall off a big bluff. Hope he is resting comfortably tonight with family and friends and makes a full recovery.
03/08/16 Two photos from today. One of Wilson being Wilson - he seems to really enjoy his afternoon naps:
And this one that was taken a few minutes after sunset, when the sky just opened up and was flooded with an amazing burst of color - if you look close you can see a few baby clouds down in the valley just beginning to rise up:
This is Amber's old "Honeymoon Cabin" that we no longer own. The daffodils always shoot up to signal the beginning of springtime here on the mountain - and they always have a broad smile on their faces!
03/10/16 We FINALLY got some good rain today - a couple of inches that was a nice, long, soaking rainfall - that's what the landscape really loves and makes it smile! The Buffalo River has been singing a lively tune all week, but never really got muddy or flooded. Probably by tomorrow it will be it usual rich green again.
My day began at 2:20am when I woke up and realized I'd never gone to bed - then I had to climb the stairs into the loft and crawl into bed for a few hours of shuteye. What happened was that while working late last night I took my six-hour sleeping pill, then wrapped myself up with a large ice pack, put on one of those (tiny) TENS machines, and laid down in the guest room for a few minutes - hoping to soothe my aching back. It usually takes a while for my little pill to take effect, but I guess the vibrating TENS and coolness of the ice put me right to sleep. When my lovely bride tried to cover me with a blanket later on, I woke up and realized what I'd done. Turned out I slept another four hours in my own bed, so it was a long night of good sleep!
I woke up before dawn this morning and worked more than eight ours outside in the rain - more spring cleaning. We have a lot of wind here, and so most anything that gets put down on the deck eventually will end up flying off the deck and down into the woods. Today I spent many hours down there - much of it on my hands and knees - picking up every little scrap of whatever. And lots of big stuff too - but the satisfaction of dragging a large object to my waiting tractor in the meadow below is so much more than spending five minutes chasing a little bit of insulation around!
I LOVE being out in the rain working - getting soaked to the bone is no biggie - you just have to keep moving and the warmth is easy. I would come into the cabin for a break now and then, shed all the wet stuff, then curl up with that big old ice pack for 15 minutes. That was just enough time for my soaked clothes to dry in the dryer, so besides getting a nice "ice nap" I also got to put on warm clothes!
By the end of the day the clouds and rain began to lighten up a little, and my energy had drained right on off the hillside. I stepped inside while my bride was taking the pups on a nice long hike after she had been slaving away with her own spring cleaning chores. By the time she arrived back home I had already showered, had a load of laundry going, and was nearly to the bottom of a mug of bourbon and coke - this was of course purely for medicinal purposes to easy my then shredded back.
Oh, but just before the bourbon I had a Cloudland Moment. I lingered and soaked a while in the hot shower, then stepped out into the sun room - which was quite cold actually since there had been no sun. I climbed up onto my hang-upside-down machine and flipped myself over upside down. It didn't take long for the hot shower to reverse into a COLD steel backrest of the machine - YIKES, that felt FRIGID! But it actually fell really good at the same time since cold (as in ice pack) helps reduce the pain of an ailing back. So as I hung there and looked directly above me out the sunroom roof, three buzzards began to hover nearby. They were the sure sign that the rains had ended for the day I'd not seen them or any other bird all day while it rained. So they had come out to feed and play in the better weather. Or could it have been that they had been watching me all day and realizing that I was growing old and week and it was almost time to come in for the kill - and heck, they already had me hanging upside down and ripe for picking!
Part of my day was to be down on my backside cutting out trail corridor through very thick briars, honey locust trees, and some other plant with very lethal spikes all over it. The trail led down the hillside from the cabin into Mom's meadow, and then across the meadow to the Amish gazebo that I had built for our wedding ceremony way back in 2001. The meadow has already begun to green up, with the meadow grasses bright green and 2-3 inches tall. We plan to use that gazebo more this summer than usual - it is a grand place to just sit in the swing and watch the Buffalo River far below roll on by...
03/12/16 Another early day yesterday found me back to work at spring cleaning by daylight. The temp had dropped about 20 degrees overnight but it felt great to be outside - and the landscape all around seemed to have dried out overnight - humidity must have been very low. I was working on the hillside that faces east, and literally within a couple hundred yard (as the crow flies) was the Buffalo River - straight DOWN about 600 feet though! The rhythm of the music of the river made the work just skip right on along.
Later on I got to spend a little bit of time at one of my most favorite spots in all of Arkansas - Pam's Grotto Falls. The big floods never really hit this part of the Ozarks, but the amount that did fall was pouring off and quite beautiful - just about the perfect flow I think. Flooded waterfalls are usually not very scenic. It had been raining off and on all day, with mist in the air in between - and that made the landscape lush and saturated - oh my the GREEN moss everywhere was just stunning! But I only had time to shoot one scene of the falls.
My position was way back up in between a gigantic boulder that has separated from the big bluffline that forms the waterfall - there was just enough room for me to set up my tripod and big camera and get a view looking out from inside the crack to the falls. The falls were glowing. But one thing I found quite funny - it was RAINING back up in there! I not only had to set up my special tripod umbrella to protect the front element of my camera lens, but my personal backside was getting soaked so I had to put on a raincoat - that rain was pretty COLD!
This waterfall was named after a unique and wonderful young lady - my lovely bride. After nearly 15 years of almost constant contact with her 24/7, she just keeps getting better!
In all of my yoga, spring cleaning, and general trying to get and keep myself into better physical condition, I've now reached my target weight of 160 pounds - the lowest I've been since being on the Razorback swim team. But I did stumble just a little bit on the way home from the waterfall shoot - I had to detour through Clarksville to get diesel for my van, and the silver beast somehow wound up in the McDonald's drive-thru lane and then with a big of french fries on the seat - OH MY those were WONDERFUL!!!
And when I got home I discovered that an elf had been working at the cabin while I was gone - a skylight that we've been unable to stop from sometimes leaking on certain rainy days had been removed and replaced with a solid metal roof that was just BEAUTIFUL - supurb craftsmanship! (Due in part no doubt to the fact that I was NOT here to supervise!) We are making progress. In fact this week we've had help from Jason, Billy, Aaron, Bryce, Bob, and of course Pam's dad. It takes a village to clean up all my junk!
Spring cleaning continues for us this weekend - and for the rest of March. But it should be a terrific weekend to be out exploring Arkansas and I hope everyone gets the chance to go find a waterfall or two, or perhaps just that special little spot in the forest to sit down and soak it all in...
03/13/16 It's like a washing machine up in the trees tonight - the wind is going crazy! High winds are common here, and tend to change directions a lot. But tonight it's like there are a dozen different wind machines all coming from different directions at the same time. I would love to be up in a tall, skinny pine tree holding on!
My lovely bride must be wondering about me these days. Just yesterday I spent some time trying to educate her about proper rock and roll from the early 1970's while blasting each cut from a classic Black Oak Arkansas album ("Lord Have Mercy On My Soul" and "Hot & Nasty") - they will be performing at the city park in Jasper next month. Last time I saw them and heard this music up close and LOUD was in Barnhill Arena at the UA in Fayetteville in 1972. It was quite a powerful show then - probably won't be quite the same in Jasper, but it might be great to listen to this music of the time again.
And then tonight, I was watching a video as the music from Joel Sebag drifted up into the loft. Followed by Miranda Lambert (I only know the one tune of hers, but that's all it takes).
There was a lot of weather in Arkansas today, but most all of it missed us - only some light rain this afternoon, and of course all the wind. But the big storms went to the north and south of us. Looks pretty calm for the rest of the week with fair weather getting cooler each day.
Yesterday POPcorn trees began to POP up here on the mountain. We have a five-mile view out across the wilderness from our cabin, and there are now dozens of these beautiful white trees in full bloom - easily spotted even from miles away since they are the only trees in bloom right now. They begin the march of spring, and I think it will be a grand one.
Speaking of that view, I don't know why I've never done this before, but I had a Cloudland Moment tonight, and also had to thump myself upside the head for not having done it before. I stepped outside onto the back deck and did yoga. Wow, that's something I never thought I would do or say. But it was quite DELIGHTFUL! The wind was blowing, there was a big storm moving across to the south and many of the thunderheads were all lit up by the last of the sunshine. And the music of the Buffalo River pulsed through everything. I think I'm going to like this.
I remember once when Mike Shirkey (The Pickin' Post) stood on the lower back deck here late one afternoon, looked out with a wide grin and commented how he would love to bring his dulcimer back to play. And Effron White who wanted to come spend time and write songs at Cloudland (he played here all afternoon when we got married in 2001). Cloudland is that sort of place, with lots of music to be made. Yoga and great music - hum, now we just need some BBQ and homemade ice cream!
Speaking of ice cream, tomorrow is International Pi Day (3.14). To me that means PIE, and nothing goes better with hot apple pie than homemade ice cream. (Do you see the line of thinking around here...) Hope you PIE DAY is a great one!
03/18/16 It is just after 4am this morning and I can see flashes of lightning. They are distant, but I was amazed when my bride pulled up the radar and discovered the thunderstorm we were seeing was more than 80 MILES away! Oh how far light can travel in clean air.
We are having all the decks around the cabin stained - more than 2,000 square feet of decks. All the windows and doors are covered on the outside with plastic except for the tall windows up high. From inside the cabin it kind of looks like we're surrounded by thick fog - something that happens here from time to time normally. Yet we can look up and see thousands of brilliant stars through the upper windows (no plastic covering them), plus the 1/2 moon shining through. Moonlight and fog - sounds like CLOUDLAND!
Wilson and I got to spend some quality time together a couple of nights ago. We were nursing a brush fire up in Aspens meadow, and it was almost a surreal experience. That same moon shone down and lit up the landscape pretty good. The fire cracked and danced and matched the brightness of the moon on the forest at the edges of the meadow. Below the moon were zillions of stars - you know the night air is quite clear and crisp when you can see so many stars with a bright moon shining too. Wilson's face was also lit up by the firelight, and he looked very stoic and wolf-like.
Anyway, Wilson and I wandered around in the forest and through the high meadows up here quite a bit during the night, circling back to check on the fire now and then. There were a lot of coyotes out too, and while Wilson never called out to them in reply, the coyotes kept up a running commentary of yips, wales, and howls - they were literally howling at the moon. Wilson would stop, stand very still, and just listen. I could see moonlight in his eyes, and I bet he could feel the connection with his brothers out there in the wilderness.
We came upon the shadow of a big hickory tree - we were being "followed by a moon shadow." I just LOVE tree shadows in moonlight. I stopped to look closer - the detail of the branches were so clear on the ground, it was amazing. In one section the branches reached over and touched each other and reminded me of the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of the fingertips touching (I know this has a name - The Creation of Adam - but I just call it the "fingertips" painting). Funny, but it was while sitting at the base of that very same hickory tree alone one moonlit night 17 years ago that I made the decision to get another puppy, Aspen the Super Dog. Wilson follows in his footsteps quite well.
Later on Wilson and I were crossing a large open tract of forest, when we both noticed something on the ground a little ways up the slope. As we got closer to it we looked at each other with a "what the heck is THAT?" I reached down to pick it up, and was baffled by what I held in my hand. It kind of looked like a little bird, a very FAT little bird. Only it was soft and fuzzy - well I guess that would be like a little bird, but it was not feather fuzz. I pulled a tiny viewing light out of my pocket and turned it on and SHOCK - it was indeed a fat little fuzzy bird, brilliant RED AND BLACK AND WHITE! A stuffed animal toy that somehow found its way out into the middle of the wilderness - and it was just sitting upright on the ground looking out over the landscape. Wilson and I both agreed to adopt this little bird and carry him along with us on our travels.
I had a Cloudland Moment of sorts yesterday while standing in the kitchen of the cabin waiting for our little coffee machine to brew an "Iceland" cup of afternoon coffee (4 ounces in a small cup). I got to counting the pairs of shoes/boots under the bench near the staircase, which is where we keep our shoes here. There were a total of eight pairs, all neatly lined up in a row and all pointing the same direction. You know how women are with their SHOE collections. We'll, my bride only owns two pairs of shoes - the tennis shoes she was wearing, and a pair of hiking boots that were in the line beneath the bench. The other SEVEN pairs of shows on the floor were MINE! So the shoe count here is Pam - 2 pair, me; at least EIGHT pair, and probably more if you count the boots in the van, boots in the RV, and boots and waders and other assorted pairs of footware around. How many pairs of shoes/boots does one guy need?
Early this morning I got to looking at the wall were we hang our coats - it is kind of a vertical mud room since we don't have an actual room. Once again, I beat out my wife by a mile - she has two coats, I have at least a DOZEN hanging there - oh my gosh! Pam is packing up the winter coats for storage.
There is a sawmill near Berryville I visited a couple of days ago. It is usually a one-man operation, but a very large one, with piles and piles and piles of logs/planks/rails neatly stacked - some already milled, others raw and ready to be rough-sawn. Everything was red cedar - that's all he works with. Think about that for a moment. A 100% red cedar environment inside that shed. It was like sticking your head into a hamster cage - the aroma was HEAVENLY!!! (We are having to replace one of the deck railings here at the cabin and the cedar rails I'm having him make are a very close match to what we already have.)
Spring cleaning continues. It feels really GREAT to downsize!
Here is Pam's sewing room (above), and the upper back deck (below)
03/23/16 HOWLING winds of 40-50mph continue this morning - been that way since early yesterday. Some gusts in the afternoon reached 50+mph - some of the highest winds ever at Cloudland. It was amazing to sit and watch how much some of the mature trees can bend in these high winds without so much as a single branch coming off. Trees are built for wind!
Last Saturday morning my lovely bride realized that our 15th wedding anniversary was going to arrive a full day early this year. You see, knowing how bad us guys are at remembering dates like this, we decided to get married on the first day of spring - an EASY day for me to remember since it doesn't involve an actual date! (usually on March 20th, 21st, or 22nd though) So we always celebrate our anniversary on the first day of spring, no matter what date that is.
This year however, it turned out the first day of spring was on Sunday in some time zones, and on Saturday in other time zones, including here in Arkansas. Spring officially began at 11:30pm Saturday night the 19th. So when my bride got up Saturday and realized this, she immediately headed out to the store and returned with what I can only say was the BEST STORE-BOUGHT ICE CREAM I've ever tasted! Unfortunately she brought an entire half gallon of it, and I considered it my duty to consume the entire tub on our anniversary - so by midnight Saturday the tub was empty! FYI - Blue Bunny Chocolate Mint Chip.
What did I get her? Rocks. Just a bunch of rocks. Most women want a big rock for the finger (a clear one made out of carbon), but mine wanted lots and LOTS of rocks (dirty rocks made of limestone). So that's exactly what I got her - a new driveway (see photo below). (My bride has always been kind of weird, but what do you expect - she married ME!)
Just one quick reflection on our 15th - those 15 years have really gone by FAST - and they've been far and away the best of my life. I can't even imagine life before Pam. And while I only signed up for the 50-year marriage plan, I'm thinking I want to renegotiate that - 50 years won't be nearly enough time for me!
And to think - so many people said this would "never work." Ha, ha...
We are nearing the end of spring cleaning at Cloudland - another week to go and we should be in pretty good shape. All of the decks are getting a deep cleaning and re staining, and the lower back deck railing is being replaced - you might remember last summer when a bear broke through the rail - that old bear cost me dearly!
REDBUDS are beginning to emerge - many of them are quite dark, almost a maroon color. Serviceberry or "popcorn" trees continue to bloom as well - best year in a while for them. And the dogwood that guards the Ray Scott Memorial Outdoor Shower here is showing signs of budding out pretty soon. Kind of a weird spring here - some things are a couple of weeks late coming out, while others are happening early. Some areas there are already trees leafing out, but up here around the cabin most of the trees remain in their full naked winter dress a while longer.
One (of many) Cloudland Moments from our 15th anniversary on the first day of spring Saturday. We were making an afternoon hike around the loop when we came upon a plum tree that was in full bloom. Pam got to it first, and buried herself in the blooms. I joined her - the sweet aroma of those fresh blooms was almost overwhelming. Which kind of sums up our first 15 years together - being married to my lovely bride is like having my head in the middle of a blooming plum all the time - with a little blue bunny mint chocolate chip thrown in.........
03/26/16 It's late tonight and I just had a Cloudland Moment. I was downstairs on the lower deck looking at all the stars - the main winter constellation - Orion, The Hunter - is over in the west right now and soon will be gone until next winter. The sky was pretty black as the moon had not risen yet. The soundtrack of the night was the music from the Buffalo River rising up and engulfing the cabin. (I don't know of another property where you can look down on the Buffalo River fromyour deck , see the emerald waters, and hear it singing - quite amazing.) It has been a steady symphony for quite a while now. No summer bugs or frogs out yet - WAIT, we did have spring peepers out a couple of weeks ago, but I guess the frigid weather drove them back to sleep.
Then I went inside the sun room to make like a bat and hang upside down for a while to try and ease my ailing back. I don't go all the way upside down in the machine, but enough to get my spine stretched out and it feels great! Orion was right there with me, along with many other stars. Then a bright light hit me from the other side, and I looked over and saw a BRILLIANT moon rising over the ridgetop to the east. It was both an odd and delightful sensation at the same time - seeing the moonrise upside down. I had the windows open and could hear the Buffalo too - yet when the moon first rose it was as if the world went silent - or held its breath like I was doing. It was such an incredible sight to experience, even upside down!
I was up early this morning to harvest a batch of morel mushrooms that we've been watching grow for the past several days - and they are right in the FRONT YARD! Neither of us like mushrooms, but my mom-in-law LOVES them, and I try to score some points by delivering a mess of morels to her each spring. So I drove them to their house in Mt. Sherman and I think they were soaking and soon into the pan by the time I returned to Cloudland. She delivered homemade brownies to us the other day, so I guess these morels were MY brownie point paybacks!
My lovely bride and I took the pups on a short ramble through the early spring forest this afternoon. Warm sunshine was doing wonders for thousands of wildflowers - mostly small ones like toothworts and spring beauty - they seem to be especially beautiful this year. Pam spotted several large-mouth bass in Kennie's pond - shhhh, don't tell him or there won't be any left for Pam to catch!
Miss Mia (our little female springer spaniel dog) spent some quality time with a group of buzzards. This was on a steep hillside near where several buzzards were roosting. The wind was blowing pretty good, and when Mia would start sniffing around the base of their roosting tree, one or more of the buzzards would hop up into the wind and just soar there right above treeline. Mia would follow them on the ground, always looking up as she went. I believe both buzzard and puppy had a good time playing with each other.
We have many pages of long lists for the spring cleaning project now underway, and the first two items at the top of the first list are "Clean out the carport #1" and "Clean out the carport #2." Typical of me, I'm way behind and don't have these checked off yet. I'm hopeful that tomorrow I will finally be able to cross those first two items off the to-do list! (A special thanks to Benny and Mildred's grandsons for doing some heavy lifting to move our deck furniture back onto the deck - you were a BIG help!)We have to get everything done on all the lists by this coming Friday, April 1st. I intend to sleep all day Saturday. Then work on my new Arkansas picture book project will resume... SUNDAY UPDATE - carports are both CLEAN at last! Check...
03/28/16 So, we've owned this parcel of land a few miles from our home at Cloudland for a while - it is pretty close to my lovely bride's parent's house at Mt. Sherman, which is near Jasper (Arkansas). We bought the land thinking one of these years we would want to move closer to her parent's and to town - for a multitude of reasons. And also to have our gallery and warehouse closer to pavement and easier for folks to visit. The other land is not Cloudland, but it is all wooded on a hilltop with long views and very secluded - AND only 1.1 miles from pavement! It is also very peaceful and quiet. If we ever did move we would need to DOWNSIZE quite a bit. We have five buildings here at Cloudland now, but we would need to downsize to just TWO buildings - one would be our residence (a smaller cabin than we have now), and the other a combination gallery/warehouse. That would be a LOT of downsizing!
So, we have decided to begin the process, and step one is to build a warehouse/gallery building on the new property. It will be a very simple frame building on a concrete slab with only one window and two doors, but it should serve our needs well. The warehouse is where we store pallets of books, and is our wholesale distribution shipping facility with almost-daily UPS pickup.
The gallery part will be like our current gallery here - where I process images and prints and conduct photo workshops, with canvas prints of Arkansas and other wild places on display. It will only be open for special Open House dates and by appointment - we won't be keeping daily office hours - those are no fun! Our goal is to have this first building complete and in operation later this summer - at least the warehouse part of it - not sure when the gallery part will be in operation, but most likely in time for our annual Holiday Open Houses this fall.
So, here is the CLOUDLAND JOURNAL READERS EXCLUSIVE SCOOP - step two will be to put our Cloudland property on the market for sale. GULP! We can't afford to build a new cabin until and unless we sell Cloudland first. Nobody knows this yet so this is hush-hush - but Cloudland will be officially for sale on Friday, April 1st (no joke - it just worked out that way). I don't have the realtor info or links available to share yet - I will post all of that here on Friday. But in the meantime, if you or someone you know has always been saying - "If they ever put Cloudland up for sale, I will BUY it!..." - that chance will happen on April 1st. Someone will have the opportunity of a lifetime to own paradise.
With this potential move we are investing heavily in Arkansas, in Newton County, in our beloved Buffalo River area, and so we won't be moving anywhere else. In fact we have five new picture book projects and three guidebook projects in the works, and all will be in Arkansas. Kind of funny - the current picture book project I am working on right now is the "In My Own Backyard" project - all photos taken within 12 miles of Cloudland. The other property is within that circle, and it has a waterfall on it that just might end up in the new book! (not large, but quite beautiful) Cloudland will remain our base of operations for this picture book - or if Cloudland sells quickly, we'll be homeless and living in the bookmobile for about a year, and our base will still be within that 12-mile circle. We LOVE it here and don't plan to move away - we just want to be closer to family and to medical services when needed.
So there you go - who would have thunk it - Cloudland for sale.
SPEAKING OF CLOUDLAND, I don't believe I've ever seen our cabin or property more beautiful than it is right now - tough to beat springtime in Arkansas, and this one is already proving to be one of the most scenic in a long time!
03/31/16 SPRING PEEPERS are peeping early this morning before dawn! These are the small frogs that bring so much music to the landscape. We've not heard them in a while, but the soaking rains yesterday and overnight seems to have awakened them - I believe they are now ready for full-on SPRINGTIME!
We were out in the woods yesterday when the first hint drifted through the forest - that unmistakable aroma of RAIN!!! Then a few giant drops fell, each with a welcome SPLAT. The lightning that followed added a bit of drama, but we never got any of the hail or very high winds - so this was mostly a rain event, one that we all enjoyed and needed so much. And for once the puppies were CLEAN when they ended a reckless play session - not sure how that happened - they are usually covered with mud.
Popcorn trees seemed especially bright yesterday, and more and more wild plums are coming out with delicate pink color instead of just being white. Individual trees are emerging from their winter slumber and can be spotted a mile or more away while looking off the back deck here at Cloudland - pop, pop, POP! Soon there will be a sea of green all around, but for now the landscape kind of looks like a teenage boy at that awkward stage as he moves from childhood into being a teenager. (I guess the same would apply to a young girl, but I didn't want to sound sexist!) Bottom line is that the wilderness and the view changes constantly throughout the day, and each day will bring an entirely new canvas of shapes and colors. I don't know of another season on the planet that is as welcome and beautiful as spring in Arkansas.
Speaking of spring, our cleanup around Cloudland continues, and I got the tractor shed emptied and swept out and now there is room to actually park the tractor - go figure! We've only got one major building left to clear - the book warehouse. Seems like we always are in a hurry when up there processing and packing orders that ship out to retail stores around the region - we never know when the UPS truck is going to arrive, and I always want to be ready for him. So a lot of times I leave quite a pile of cardboard and packing paper and empty boxes in my wake when I'm done. TODAY we will get all of that in order, and reorganize the pallets so perspective buyers will be able to at least have a look inside without fear of getting lost.
One funny note about all of this cleanup and the process of putting Cloudland on the for sale market. I'm not very good at taking indoor PICTURES! Go figure. My sister (who has been in the real estate business for 40 years) recommended that we hire a professional real estate photographer to document Cloudland, but we simply could not afford it - nor could I get my head and ego around hiring some other photographer to come into my living room! But of course she was right - no doubt someone else would have done a much better job than I'll be able to do, but at least I'm cheap and easy, and I'm about all we can afford right now. Here is a sample showing the staircase going up into the loft - that "rock" print is a 6' x 8' gallery-wrapped canvas print for scale. Oh, and if you look really close you might find Wilson hiding under Pam's desk - he doesn't like tripods.
A walk through the forest today will be over soft earth and smiling trees after all the rainfall. Creeks and waterfalls should be flowing well and making a lot of beautiful music. Later, sunshine will break through the clouds and flood the landscape with warmth and LIFE. 'Tis a great time to be out wandering in the wilderness.
Oh, one Cloudland Moment from a hike with my lovely bride a couple of days ago. It was a warm sunny afternoon, and as we walked along we were showered with the "spring leaffall" - beach leaves that had been holding tight and glowing gold all winter were being pushed off their branches by new spring growth. Smiles all around...