CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - JULY 2017
Cloudland Cabin Cam, July 31 - soft light at dawn - HAPPY MONDAY..
Prints Of The Week Special (above - last couple of days)
07/31/17 Sounded like a BUZZ BOMB attack in progress. I ducked and slapped and kept turning around to see where the buzzing was coming from. Horse flies. BIGGEST I'd ever seen. There must have been a dozen of them this evening as we all took a stroll up the lane in the cool, sweet air just before dark. Try as I might, I never got a single horse fly - they are smart little buzzards. I never got bit either - guess I was not sweet enough. But one kept landing on Wilson's behind and taking hole, chewing right on into his fur. Poor guy.
A couple of nights ago it seemed like a crystal clear night was upon us - the first in a while. So I set up my camera gear to shoot a timelapse video in one of the darkest spots in all of Arkansas (in fact it is the darkest spot, or at least ties for it). The Milky Way was already up and shining by 10pm, but so was the MOON. A very bright moon in fact. Moonlight and Milky Way don't mix too well, but I knew the moon would set in a couple of hours, so I pointed the camera at both the moon and Milky Way and let the camera run all night, taking more than 1,200 pictures.
The scene was pretty bright until the moon set, then the sky darkened and the stars started to POP - quite a transformation in such a short time. The Milky Way stood tall and moved across the frame and then it too sank into the hillside just before dawn. You can see all of this happening in the timelapse, which ends with a gathering of clouds in the canyon below and sunrise - the entire screen is blown out to white.
You can see the 42 second video on our facebook page, along with a couple of other timelapse videos of clouds in the canyon below from this past week. (One of these days I may figure out how to post these videos here in the Journal, but at 80-120megabytes each, they take a lot of bandwidth to view - facebook makes that easy though).
As the month of July fades away tonight the volume of the summer bugs and frogs outside is EXTREME. I've managed to get through this entire month without using any exclamation points, but trying to describe the LOUD chorus outside begs for an entire string of them. But I'll wait until next month...
Temp is supposed to be in the upper 50's tonight as the calendar rolls over into August. This is Arkansas, right?
07/25/17 One of the casualties of not having TV (for more than a year), or paying much attention to the social gossip headlines, is that sometimes you miss stuff. Last night I read about how Kris Kristofferson's multi-year battle with advanced dementia had been cured - in about three weeks - once they discovered he really had been suffering with Lyme disease all along, and the medications he was on were making his dementia worse. (my mom died of Alzheimer's)
Right after reading up on all of that, I forgot to take my ten-cent sleeping pill before bed, and ended up being awake almost all night - a flashback to the past 60 years of sleepless nights. It did get me up and out of bed and outside about 3am, when I quietly set up the camera to photograph the last sparkles of the Milky Way, which was setting into the southwestern horizon. This morning I found my right were I had left it last night - the only one remaining in the Monday slot, ha, ha.
The pups and I took a two-mile hike this morning at dawn while my lovely bride started on the daily book business chores. They took off to play with baby rabbits, I got down on my hands and knees and looked closer at the "blue" persimmons I had noted a couple of days ago. Not really much to study about them, but it did give me the chance to take a snapshot. I had taken a little camera with me this morning with the intent of getting a picture of the summer woodland sunflowers that have been popping up along our hiking route. As luck would have it, I got the picture of the persimmons but forgot to take the sunflower picture - I must have Lyme disease (that might not be a joking matter since I've been bitten by tens of thousands of ticks over the decades, but seemed appropriate at the moment). BE SURE TO CHECK FOR TICKS, ALWAYS.
07/24/17 MUCH COOLER for the morning puppy hike today, although I only made it a mile before heading back to the cabin - I LOVE Mondays, and relish every second of work that needs to be done, so had to get to it. I can report the first persimmons on the ground of the season. Some of them were the typical rock-hard early green ones that you'd expect to find a couple of months early. They typically will be larger and full persimmon color by the first frost in later October, and ready to eating. There were also a selection of dark blue, almost purple persimmons on the ground - they looked almost like wild plums. Not sure what the means - probably one of the signs of a long winter ahead (like almost everything that is referenced these days). It probably really means there are dark blue-purple persimmons on the ground and nothing more.
After a 12-hour work day yesterday we had a delightful hour on the back deck enjoying quite a weather show that was spread out before us. Inside, there was rice and veggies for dinner cookin'. My lovely bride and I both laughed out loud at one point - I had set up two cameras to record timelapse sequences of the same part of the sky - due east of us - where I hoped clouds would dance around a bit. Both cameras were set to take a picture every three seconds, but they alternated - first one click, then the other click, then repeat. With the wind blowing pretty good those were about the only sounds we could hear. So there we sat with a terrific weather show in front of us, but the only soundtrack was click, click, click, click, click, click, click. You get the idea - one camera took more than 1,000 pictures, so there were a lot of clicks (see one of the timelapses on facebook here).
As the weather show progressed the temp began to drop, and eventually it was downright cool with rain falling - YIPPIE COYOTE. We lead a pretty simple life here at Cloudland - our Sunday dinner was cutup pieces of steamed yellow squash, onion, and green pepper over cooked rice, with just a few sprinkles of sharp cheddar cheese and a little ground pepper. And of course the clicks. As we sat there on the deck munching on veggies and rice, we realized that almost everyone we know is on vacation and/or on a trip somewhere, or just got back from one, or is about to head out on one. I guess in many ways Cloudland IS our vacation - that's the way I built it.
Later on, after the sun disappeared into the western slopes, the sky all around began to light up with a color and intensity that grew and spread. There were baby clouds being formed in the canyons below from the recent rainfall, with more clouds drifting around in the sky. The light was an odd and quite beautiful color, and everything was just surreal. This was not a photographable moment from our location, but we did stand there in awe for quite a while as the color peaked then faded into darkness. Wow, just WOW... It has been quite a month for clouds at Cloudland. Here's a snapshot as the color was going away, mostly to show some of the Woods Boy's handiwork with the new white-cedar deck railing they installed.
07/22/17 There was only a single lightning bug working the air at 4 this morning. I sat in the dark sipping a small cup of Iceland java and watched. Turn the light on, glide a few feet, turn the light off. Change direction. Turn on, glide a few more feet, then off. Reverse direction. Turn on, then shoot straight UP into the air, stay on and linger for a few moments, then turn off. I wonder if all the rest of the bugs were just sitting on weeds watching this guy too?
There were a few night bugs and frogs still up singing, but no bird sounds. And while I never saw them since it was pretty dark, I could feel and hear the rush of a bat past my head several times. We LOVE bats at Cloudland - they eat mosquitoes. Tons of them. Three or four live up in the vent at one end of Pam's "nest" studio next door, and she always greets them as she passes. We love bats here.
Some of the log rails around the cabin decks have seen better days, and today an expert team of workers replaced about 70 feet of railing with new white cedar ones. My lovely bride and her dad had already stained each rail and post, plus more than 80 spindles that connect them. The guys toiled throughout the warmest day so far this year to cut and fit each section of railing - they were like magicians, and now the rails are new and shiny and not wobbly again. Amazing work they all did, and we appreciate them SO MUCH (the workers and railings).
My bride left the cabin for an early meeting in town just as a giant ORANGE ball lifted above the distant ridgetop. Her pictures from the orange glow from that ball that filled Boxley Valley are quite stunning - hum, I think perhaps she set up that early meeting (with another painter) so she could drive through Boxley at sunrise in hopes of finding that beautiful light - painters are like that - almost as weird as photographers. I stood at the edge of the big meadow on the mountain near here and soaked in the same orange ball as it rose (left my camera at home). Wilson and Mia were chasing something off in the woods. One of Pam's -
We were on the road a couple of days this week. First, a quick trip to Little Rock to get a medical procedure done on my back at the UAMS Spine Clinic. I gotta tell ya - these people are VERY good at what they do. I'm not talking about the medical procedure (which I'm sure was fine too) - but rather how they treated PEOPLE. Every moment I was there a member of their staff was being polite, efficient, friendly, and also doing their job well without needing to be asked - and made me feel like an actual person instead of a number. I was impressed. This is how you should run a business and deal with your customers. (Other Medicalmedical facilities I go to with the same type of customer service are: Monfee Medical Clinic in Russellville, J. Bartlett Dentistry in Harrison, and McDonald Eye Clinic in Fayetteville - they all GET IT.)
We also made an unrelated and much-less-quick 12-hour trip to Kansas City and back. Next time we need to actually stop and eat some BBQ - I hear it's pretty good.
Tonight as I write, the volume of the summer bugs and frogs outside are reaching a peak - it is REALLY loud out. I wonder if they play louder when the temp is higher? They have the stage to themselves - I can't hear a single coyote or owl - they are probably off down to the swimming hole cooling down.
Something just occurred to me. I frequently hear adults tell me they've never seen the Milky Way. Really? How sad that so many people have never seen the stars. They are quite literally RIGHT THERE, above us. Guess I'm spoiled. Here, I'll show ya. I just reached over and turned off the light switch. It's about 10:45pm tonight, and the sky is clear. I'll step away from the computer monitor for a couple minutes, then ease on outside and stand next to that new deck railing. Look up. WOW...
07/16/17 Done. That's it. All over. We got all three new products completed and uploaded to the server of the printing company today, INCLUDING the new picture book, which is called ARKANSAS BEAUTY. The new book has 133 NEW pictures (you've seen many of them, but they've never been in a picture book before), including some that no one has ever seen but me. Many were taken this past year specifically for this new book project. It is always a huge mental and physical release to be done and off to the printer. Six weeks late, but DONE. I'll post cover photos of all three products later, and eventually will put up an online gallery with all the new picture book photos. We expect to have the calendars and book available sometime late October or so, and of course you will learn about them before anyone else.
I stepped outside a few minutes ago tonight (10pm) to see how clear it was (VERY CLEAR), and oh my goodness it was so LOUD with all the night bugs and frogs singing at the top of their lungs. They were so loud in fact that I could not even hear the pack of coyotes that is certainly howling just across the way - as they do every night. I'm gonna step back outside in about 20 minutes and take a picture of the Milky Way rising behind our log cabin in the wilderness. Sitting inside working at a computer most nights keeps me from being able to get out and enjoy the nights like I used to so much when I was a younger pup around here. But at least it is so nice to be able to just step right outside the door and see the Milky Way - we live in the darkest spot in Arkansas.
07/13/17 Just a quick update - I'm already behind this morning and it's not even 7am yet! We completed work on the second 2018 Arkansas calendar and got both calendars sent off to the printer. After several more days of computer time all the photos for the new picture book have been selected, sized and placed in the document, and most of the captions are written. I still have most of the other writing to do, then the editors will have a look at everything. In the meantime I'll be doing final processing and conversion to the special color space each digital image file needs for printing. My plans are to get this book done and off to the printer by the end of the weekend. Oops, was that my OUTSIDE voice? (internal thoughts that are made public by me frequently crash and burn...)
Still have lots of hawks soaring and playing in the air currents around the cabin. Summer sunflowers have begun to bloom - not the giant ones you eat, but rather the smaller meadow sunflowers with that intense yellow. Yesterday we saw the first dragonflies cruising around the meadow. Some summers their population explodes into thousands of them everywhere, but so far only a few.
Last night was one of the most clear and transparent skies I've seen in a long while - in fact I could see the Milky Way soaring above the cabin easily with the naked eye even with the front porch light on - WOW. An hour later one of the most ORANGE moons I've ever seen slowly eased up into the eastern sky - which then lit up the rest of the sky and the stars began to get washed out. But still, it was a beautiful night in the wilderness, as most are, one way or the other...
While on a hike this morning with the puppies, I rounded a bend in the lane and saw Mia standing in the middle of the road pointed to the left and sniffing the air. Directly behind her, about 25 feet away, was a buck deer, with antlers in velvet, pointing to the left and sniffing the air. They both jumped at the same time and landed with feet going the opposite direction. The buck disappeared with a single bound into the woods and Mia did not pursue him - she knows and respects the power and speed of whitetail deer.
For facebookers, I shot and posted another timelapse of clouds from the back deck here.
07/08/17 The skies were once again electric early this morning and I sat and sipped a small cup of Iceland coffee and enjoyed the view. Then I realized I needed to get up and WORK instead of just sitting there - what was I thinking? Turns out the only camera I had within reach one I could not focus accurately, nor could I see the pictures I had taken with it. So I had to set up the camera and take a series of pictures until it captured some bolts of lightning, then run into the cabin with the memory card to see if the lightning was in focus. The first eight or ten times it was not. I finally got it focused and then could sit back and relax and let the camera work. By then most of the lightning had stopped, but I did manage to capture one frame with some lightning. Most of the time, I only need one photo to turn out, but it sometimes takes me hundreds of tries!
More work yesterday on the new engagement calendar, and by the end of the day I had completed about 99% of it (I've actually been working on it for weeks, but finally sat down and put it all together). Most of the photos have never been published before, although a few are from previous publications, including one that was the cover of my very first picture book. For some reason that one just popped into my head one day and seemed like it would make a nice cover for this calendar, which is really a mini-picture book of Arkansas scenes. Many of these no one has ever seen before, unless they had crawled into my computer and had a look around.
Today I will begin work on the new picture book project. I've already narrowed the image selection down to about 300 photos, none have been published before in a picture book of mine, although some may have been in calendars and many have been used in this Journal. But there are some really nice images that showcase the great natural beauty of Arkansas.
My first step in the picture book photo selection process is to pick all of the two-page spreads. I kind of got anxious and already earmarked a couple dozen, but when I started placing them in the book file late last night I realized I can only have 9 in the entire book, so about half of the ones I wanted to use I won't be able to - they will probably end up as normal-size pictures in the book. I guess one of these days I need to make a book of just two-page spreads, but the problem is that you can only really use one every 16 pages. These books are printed on very large sheets of paper, front and back, then folded and trimmed into what is called a "signature" - 9 signatures are sewn together to make the book. Each signature has 16 pages, but the only two pages that are connected when you look at them in the book are pages 8-9 of each 16-page signature - two-page picture spreads on any other pages are cut in half and don't always line up, so I limit mine to the middle of each signature.
It is cool, wet and breezy this morning and FEELS GREAT - the air is very sweet. Bet it will be warm and humid again this afternoon, so it is time for me to get out and stroll around in the sweet air while I can. Hope you have a HAPPY WEEKEND wherever you are...
07/07/17 Today is the anniversary of a watershed moment in my life - 44 years ago we opened Blanchard Springs Caverns to the public. We had about 7,000 visitors. Free BBQ, folk music, and cave tours. I was a recent high school graduate working underground during the hot summer months and getting paid what I considered a small fortune at the time. I got to wear an official forest service uniform (which I still have in my closet), a badge, and a name tag. It took 11 hours to get everyone through the cave. I got to TALK to people all day and into the night - a month before I was shy and terrified to speak in front of another person, yet from this day forward you couldn't get me to shut up. I wanted to be a forest ranger working alone in a fire lookout tower in Montana - OOPS. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLANCHARD...
While working away at my computer yesterday evening on the 2018 Arkansas scenic engagement calendar, my lovely bride suggested that I take a break and step out onto the back deck. There was another brilliant thunderhead lit up by the setting sun (we are getting LOTS of those these days). I ran to get my camera gear when I saw the 3/4 moon rising behind it. CLICK... A couple hours later this same thunderhead was producing quite an electrical storm over central Arkansas.
The view this morning was a classic answer to the question many folks ask - Why is it called CLOUDLAND? (see above and below)
07/06/17 Drifted to sleep late last night to the pitter-patter of gentle rain on the metal roof. Woke up early this morning to a sky filled with glittering STARS. As daylight approaches now there is a sea of new clouds in the canyon. An Indigo bunting sits on a branch at the edge of the meadow sings a lovely lullaby in harmony with the hushed roar of the river far below. We've had several inches of much-needed rainfall this week.
CHECK ONE OFF. I completed work on the 2018 Arkansas scenic wall calendar last night. It has 14 all-new unpublished images of mine, including several you've never seen before (the others you may have seen in this Journal as I shot them, or were Prints Of The Week). While the editors look the calendar over, I'll continue working on the weekly engagement calendar, which will have 55 photos - many of them brand new too. I hope you like them... (The new publications will be available in October.)
7/05/17 The pups and I were outside wandering around at 4 this morning and holy moly there was a LOT of activity going on in the air. Lightning, lots and LOTS of lighting - both bolts and bugs. It was total cloud cover so not much light, but the lightning bugs were so numerous everywhere that they lit up the forest and it was pretty easy to move around without running into things - well, at least not running into trees - I did manage to stumble a time or two over rocks, sticks, or other items on the forest floor.
And there was a lot of lightning, the electrical kind. At first I was puzzled since there was nothing about thunder storms in the forecast, and I returned to the cabin and unplug the computers. When I pulled up the weather radar I was surprised to find nothing - not a speck of storms on the radar screen. I went back outside to confirm that I hadn't just been seeing things - and sure enough, not only was there lightning, but also an almost constant rumble of thunder. But I realized it may be farther away than I first thought, so back to the radar to zoom out. And son of a gun, there it was - a great deal of RED storm activity - but it was way down south and southwest in a line that stretched from Hot Springs to McCalester, OK and beyond. Amazing how far we can really see from our perch up here in the wilderness at Cloudland )the red X).
Speaking of seeing, I posted a 32-second timelapse yesterday of the view from the back porch that included about 1,000 pictures taken back-to-back over an 80 minute period (my memory card filled up at that time). When we get intermittent rain showers/storms like we've had lately, the place really lives up to the name CLOUDLAND as new clouds are born and dance around in the canyons below - often you can't really see what is going on without doing a timelapse like this one I posted. It short video is posted on our facebook page - I don't know how to post it anywhere else, but this is an open group so if you are not a normal facebook user you still should be able to see it, I think. Anyway, that's what it looks like from the back deck here often (our facebook page).
Our holiday yesterday was mostly spent working - I at the cabin computer still working on selection of photos for the three new picture projects that I must get done in the next two weeks; and my lovely bride working on her art materials. She was just notified of a new show of plein air works in Cave Springs that had to be delivered TODAY (email notifications are great, except when they don't work, ha, ha). And she also walked from her "nest" studio back into the cabin in the afternoon with a BRAND NEW and incredible pastel she had just created of godbeams on a Kansas prairie - oh my goodness it was just AMAZING.
I love working on holidays - the phone never rings and there are long stretches of completely uninterrupted time, and I'm able to get a lot accomplished.
We took a break to walk up the lane towards the top of the hill in the afternoon in between rain showers, and discovered that hickory nuts are beginning their second round of shedding right now. The first one was about a month ago - TINY hickory nuts all over the ground. Yesterday the nuts were larger, but only about half size. It will be another couple of months before the remaining nuts in the trees grow large enough and finally drop their final load. Seems like they do this every year - thinning out nuts to allow more nutrient to reach the top nuts so they will grow large (just a guess). And we saw a couple of young black gum trees with brilliant red leaves already. Plus red mushrooms and white mushrooms - but I've not found any blue mushrooms yet - we almost always see red/white/and-blue mushroom around the 4th of July.
Today will be another long day of work for both of us - my bride will be on the road most of it delivering her pastels to the show in Cave Springs and scouting out new locations to paint in that area - and I'll be buried in the computer monitor, looking at hundreds more photos. My goal was to have both of the new calendars completed by yesterday, but now that target has moved to late today or perhaps even tomorrow - time is getting short - and there is not nearly enough time to get outside and explore for blue mushrooms or more lightning bugs...
07/02/17 The canyons below are filled to the brim this morning with a sea of clouds. A solo Indigo bunting hops up on a naked branch in an old hickory nearby and breaks the silence of dawn. His is a happy song, calling out to all who will listen - HAPPY MORNING TO ALL (or perhaps, he is just trying to reach that shy young chick sitting on a flower stalk down in the meadow).
Yesterday evening my lovely bride and I got to marvel at evening thunderheads that really lit up after sunset. The back deck at Cloudland is one of the very best spots in the state for weather watching. And, of course, for holding hands with your mate while the day drifts into night...
07/01/17 Oh my goodness, what a wonderful start to July. Rainfall overnight produced canyons of baby clouds this morning. We sat on the back deck as sweetness of the day began, those clouds rising up and moving around and around before us. Indigo buntings and tweety bird songs filled the air, along with the hush of rushing water from the rivers below the mist. I lingered a few more moments than I probably should have to savor the moments and recharge my frazzled brain.
Today begins our annual book and calendar production cycle - one that normally takes a month to six weeks of solid work. But in typical Tim Ernst fashion, I'm already a full month behind with only TWO WEEKS left to complete all three projects. My lovely bride has done her work on them - she's the one who formats and collects all info for both calendars - a chore for sure, and one that has helped immensely.
FYI, I heard that ! points are being overused - I am guilty and I agree. Some folks I know put one at the end of every sentence and every post on social media, and it is rather annoying. While I can't promise complete success, I vow to use less of them. This won't mean life in the wilderness has gotten less spectacular or exciting, just my attempt to not follow the norm as much.
*I just posted a brief recap of the last week of June - link to the June Journal is below.