LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - September 2018
Little Bluff cabin cam September 22 - rain, fog, and falling leaves - HAPPY FIRST DAY OF FALL!
***Space available in my last two photo workshops - for novice shooters - October 21st and 28th (gift certificates available!)
Journal updated on the 21st
Print Of The Week special (above)
09/01/18 About an hour after sunset while roaming around the back deck, I realized we could see more than the normal number of planets in the darkening night sky. Venus was SO BRIGHT as it was setting in the west. Then Jupiter, a planet I never really paid any attention to, was pretty bright. I've always known that Saturn was in the bright core of the Milky Way and have photographed it thousands of times, but I never really thought about it being all lined up with the other planets until now. And then there was Mars, not nearly as bright as it has been all summer, but still a faint red color, and brighter than most of the stars. All of these planets were visible from the back deck, from in front of the cabin, and actually from inside the cabin while standing in the prow (with all lights turned off). So we could see FOUR planets all in a row while sitting inside - perhaps we could do this at Cloudland too, but I just never realized it.
Here's a snapshot from the front of the cabin last night showing four of the six planets we could see. Mars is the bright one on the left (above Pam's studio). Jupiter is the bright one low on the right near the trees. Saturn is one of those brighter stars in the bright "galactic center" of the Milky Way just above the cabin. Off camera far to the left is Neptune (visible only with binocs or telescope). And Venus, the BRIGHTEST object in the sky until the moon comes up, had already set down to the right by the time I took this picture. And of course the sixth planet it is the one with the cabin and trees...
FYI, the planets, moon, sun, and constellations of the Zodiac all generally line up along a line called the Ecliptic.
AND NOW THERE ARE FIVE PLANETS! But the fifth one, Neptune, isn't nearly as bright as the others, and while it was UP in the eastern sky and visible at the same time as the others (before Venus set in the west), you couldn't really pick it out with the naked eye. In fact I needed a pair of binocs to even think that I saw it, I just couldn't figure out exactly which dot it was over there. But technically, we could see FIVE planets last night at the same time. WOW! Come to think of it, we could see SIX PLANETS - including earth, duh.
Last night my bride thought she heard footsteps on the back deck. Wasn't sure if she was awake or asleep. The dogs didn't perk up or throw a fit, so she didn't pay too much attention. This afternoon we figured out she must have been awake - she found two sets of clear bear tracks in the front yard. Most likely it was a momma bear and cub that I'd seen while taking a shower a couple of weeks ago. So far they have been no problem, although coming up onto the deck might be a problem. Hum.
Feeding bears is a no-no - wildlife biologists' motto is "a fed bear is a dead bear." This applies to folks who feed them dogfood, corn, or anything with human scent on it on a regular basis. My buddy, Greg H., and I spent one stormy day at the edge of Glacier National Park in Montana way back when photographing several grizzly bears stuffing themselves on the remains of a train car full of corn that had derailed (I think there were two or three cars off the track, and many grizzly bears). They would just sit there in the middle of a pile of corn - got so fat I don't think they would even move to eat, just opened their mouths and shoveled it in. The park service eventually blocked off the part of the highway next to the tracks so folks could not park there and watch or take pictures - people and bears and mountains of corn are a dangerous mix.
We got a short rain shower this afternoon, although we knew it was coming, kinda. It is true - we can smell when rain is approching - here's why.
09/04/18 It is just DELIGHTFUL outside this morning at dawn! Cool breezes with just a touch of bite, calm and quiet, and the eastern horizon is glowing from ear to ear as sunrise approaches. Soon the brilliant light of a new day shone across the landscape and everything came alive - trees, birds, and me too! I did a quickie run to a couple of nighttime shooting locations last night to capture my favorite spot of the Milky Way as it sinks into the horizon - the Milky Way is "up" all year long, but the brightest part - the Galactic Core center is only above the horizon from spring until early fall. I got one photograph just after 9pm and that was about it. At least I'm a happy camera that I was able to haul my camera equipment to the river's edge (my back is on the mend, I think). LOTS going on here this week and we hope yours will be a great one - Labor day is gone so HAPPY FALL!
09/07/18 Rain overnight and foggy, cool, wet, and WONDERFUL early this morning! Feels like we are morphing from summer into fall already, and each day of this is bliss. A damp landscape is a lush and color-saturated landscape, soft underfoot, with earthy aromas.
My lovely bride had two pastels in a small art exhibit at the Performing Arts Center in Alma that we went to last night. Kind of funny - literally on the other side of the wall that some of the paintings were hanging on, the Bellamy Brothers were having a concert! Amazing these days that 1) we can see some really terrific bands from the 60's & 70's at small local venues like this, and 2) that some high schools have such great facilities - like Alma and Clarksville to name two. We did not stay for the concert - long drive home in the rain and dark - but it was great to see other pastel artists, especially CHARLES PEER, one of the greats, and an Arkansas treasure. Here's a photo of Charles and my bride with one of his amazine pastels (my favorite of the show). Charles has had an impact of both mine and Pam's art careers and lives for some time now, and he is a genuine human being all the way around. (Recently ritired from 31 years as THE art department at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.)
09/08/18 HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY TO US!!! Not normally something you would celebrate, but it has been one year since we signed the papers and moved away from paradise. The two years leading up to that event were some of the most difficult we've ever faced, and at times we weren't sure we would survive financially or physically or mentally. Same thing with this past year, with so much negativity to deal with, and even now, we struggle to cope with some local sub contractors. But we have a roof and almost a complete house, and we'll be able to make it.
BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. And we are blooming - we LOVE our new property and home, and we intend to spend the next decades making life even better! So to celebrate, I opened one of the two beers I'm allowed to have each year, and spent several hours setting up and using our new wood-fired pizza oven. It took me a while to get a small fire going inside, but eventually I got the temp up to about 400 degrees and let it burn and cure for a few hours. Then when my bride got home from her book club meeting at the library in Jasper, we made up our first two pizzas from scratch, got the fire stoked up a little hotter, and baked them in the new oven - and they weren't a disaster so I count it as a major success! From this point forward it will take about an hour to get a fire going and heat up the little oven, and we'll be able to make a variety of baked goods - mostly small pizzas (and cinnamon rolls, shhhh) - and enjoy some quality time on the back deck cooking.
The meadow below the cabin continues to explode with bright yellow "sunflowers" (my generic name for them). They've been with us for a while and just keep on blooming and sharing smiles as they wave in the breezes. Lately, some of the bright yellow blossoms will take off and fly away - goldfinches have discovered our sunflower patch and love to play and feed in the meadow. Most of them are the males with solid YELLOW bodies and black wings.
Our first year here ended with light rain and cool temps, and my arms wrapped around my lovely bride - how could it get any better...
09/09/18 And the beginning of our second year ended with SWEETNESS! We fired up the wood oven this evening, let the coals burn down an hour, then baked what has to be one of the most amazing desserts I've ever had - and my mom was a EXPERT and professional pastry and dessert chef for decades (OK, everything she made was out of this world, so her desserts don't count here). Cinnamon sticks. Kind of like bread sticks, but, well, you know, made with cinnamon. Couldn't be simpler, but the key seems to be the wood fire. Kind of like cooking over a campfire, only we have it on our back deck. Hum, I believe there will be many extra pounds that I'll need to hike off in the coming months and years.
Today I was able to hike a mile for the first time in a while. Last week I took a tumble that smashed a knee, and moving around even a few feet has been miserable since. Actually getting out of the car has been almost impossible. But the pups really needed some trail time, and with the forest soaked and cool I figured the seed ticks would be back in their caves, so we hiked the loop around Little Bluff. It was SO LUSH and GREEN and BEAUTIFUL! And mushrooms of all colors were everywhere. White, red, orange, blue, yellow, green, and I even saw a black mushroom.
One funny moment happened while down with the 'schrooms. I had to get really low for a picture, down on my belly. Then I couldn't get up (stiff knee). So I ended up rolling over and trying to let my momentum give me a boost. It gave me a boost alright, and I went rolling right on down the hill! A big ol' oak tree came to the rescue and I piled up at its base. The trees were laughing out loud.
I've been sitting up late waiting for the planets and stars to come out, but so far the sky is blank. There has been a rainfall so light happening that I have to stick my head out from under the porch and point my face skyward to be able to feel the raindrops. Good sleeping weather with temps in the 60's...
09/11/18 Here's a six-foot-wide canvas print that just came out of the printer this morning (that table is 4'x8' - "Bubba"). And we've announced the holiday open house dates for October (20th), November (10th & 24th), and December (8th & 15th).
09/12/18 We just received the advance copies of our new calendars - they will be available about mid-October -
09/14/18 A new five-foot-tall canvas print fresh from the printer...(GALLERY OPEN HOUSE DATES)
09/15/18 While sipping a cup of java several mornings ago on the back deck I thought I was seeing things. I've only twice before seen Zodiacal Light, both being in the spring in Utah. Since that view faces towards Jasper I wondered if it was just the glow from there, but it looked quite different than I'd seen before. Maybe different atmospheric conditions? I saw it again the next morning, and the next, about the same time - 90 minutes before sunrise.
Today I decided to see if it was real or just Jasper lights, so I got up at 4am to see if I could still see them from the cabin - nope - just a very faint glow from Jasper. Hum. Maybe spiked coffee before? I loaded up the van and drove to the other side of Jasper and on top of the world along Scenic 7 National Scenic Byway and parked where I had a clear view to the east without any city lights. Still nothing. But by the time I got my camera gear out and set up the weird light I'd seen before began to slowly appear. No question - it was indeed classical Zodiacal Light - I've never seen it in Arkansas before! So it does happen here. Sometimes.
Here's the Wikipedia version - Zodiacal light (also called false dawn when seen before sunrise) is a faint, diffuse, and roughly triangular white glow that is visible in the night sky and appears to extend from the Sun's direction and along the zodiac, straddling the ecliptic. Sunlight scattered by interplanetary dust causes this phenomenon.
09/16/18 It's an hour or so before sunrise and there's an orange glow along the eastern horizon. I'm sitting on the back deck in between the prow and wood-fired pizza oven, leaned back in a thickly-padded deck chair, with my feet up on a small table. That orange glow that's intense along the horizon gets fainter as I scan up, yellow, then almost white, then light blue, dark blue, and probably purple and it all melds into stars. One star that is especially interesting to me right now is Antares, which I first noticed early yesterday morning as it was twinkling green and silver - did so again this morning. SO MANY wonderful things in our dark skies here in this part of Arkansas!
About an hour ago my camera and tripod were set up a few feet from here and I was taking pictures of that same Zodiacal Light - one of the more unique and beautiful light displays we can see from earth, and it's right here from our back deck! Actually we could see it from inside the cabin looking out the prow too. Our new home continues to amaze me, as does our planet! Zodiacal Light from the living room - how EXCITING!
Construction update. The sheetrock finish guys made four trips last week and got the sheetrock in the garage all taped, sanded, mudded, and finished, with the standard textured ceiling and walls. My bride and I had covered the floor with heavy brown paper before, and so cleanup will be a breeze (later today I hope - wanted to wait until all the mud dried). Now the painting guy can finish his job of staining all the wood outside (rear porch ceilings, front porch ceilings, all the wood and timbers around the front porch area), and painting the inside of the garage. THEN we'll be able to start setting up the garage with storage for tools, etc.
Pam's nephew, Tyler, was down from Springfield Friday and Saturday to begin work on our walk-in shower in the master bathroom (wheelchair accessible for when I become a real geezer). No one seems to want to do shower tile around here - not even the tile stores will install tiles they sell. And we've been waiting months and months for something to happen. No tile yet, but the space is prepped and ready for tile - although we're not sure who is going to install it still - we're hoping maybe by CHRISTMAS!
The main contractor will return later this week to finish up his punch list of items that still need to be done (install a couple of cabinets, outdoor stair railings, install permanent supports in the crawl space, etc.). And we still need to get a little bull dozier work done to smooth out around the side of the cabin, then get a propane tank and line installed outside and connected to our little fireplace in the great room. And once all of those little chores are done, we'll be able to sit back and, wait - no we won't - you new house is NEVER done is it?!
Speaking of houses, my brother sent us a link to the house we all grew up in in Fayetteville that is on the market for sale. My parents moved to Fayetteville (from Springfield, MO) after WW II and built this house on the outskirts of Fayetteville. I arrived a few years later and spent my youth running around the northwest parts of town - which was mostly woods at the time. We sold the house after mom died in the early 2000's. It was a very small but cozy home on a tiny lot (actually it was on two lots, so we had some room to run around even after the neighborhood started to be developed. I don't know what the actual construction cost was back then, but probably $5-$10k, something like that. Anyway, the house has recently been basically gutted - in fact perhaps even taken right back down to the foundation, and an entirely new structure was built that looks like a home from another planet -
"Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired" they say. We've not seen it in person, but the pics look pretty darn amazing. I can see from the outside view the windows of the three rooms I grew up in - started off with my brother and I living in the same bedroom as our parents - a little tight but probably normal for the 1950's. Anyway, the list price is $500k. WOW!!!
The dawn here this morning has been lingering on for an hour now after the Zodiacal Light disappeared, the orange band on the horizon is spreading upward. There's a small band of baby clouds that have joined forces and stretch along and cover up the Little Buffalo River far below and a couple miles distant. Many different species of feathered friends are coming to life - first there were a couple of hoot owls while I was shooting the Light, now a band of crows are making the rounds, and many other species are beginning to wake up and sing back in the forest. A chorus of crickets are getting louder. It is quite calm and soothing across the landscape. Bugs are beginning to land on my head though, so it is time for me to move over to the other side of the back deck and take refuge in the screen porch.
Today I plan to build myself a computer desk. We've looked at dozens in stores and online, but everything is so expensive - and all I really need is a desk top. So I'm going to build a base from one of the many piles of left-over lumber we have in the yard, and use a countertop piece that we've been using in the "kitchen" in the gallery as my desk. Then I'll be able to have an official workspace in a small corner of our new cabin so I won't have to run up to the gallery everytime I need to do something. In the meantime, we hope you have a CHIRPING good day!
HOLY MOLY I just looked at the star photos and realized there is a PERFECT GREEN METEOR in one of them!
09/19/18 Well, best-laid plans of mice and men, you know. I didn't get the desk built - spent most of the day cleaning up the garage after the sheetrock finish guys, but did end the day with a CLEAN GARAGE - yippie! I didn't get the desk built until yesterday, and I'm happy to report that I'm typing on it right now. I didn't exactly get everything square and plumb, but so far, so good. At least the price was right - $0.0!
I seem to be going backwards with the new pizza oven. The last two bakes were failures - not in the sense they were not edible - we ate every crumb - but rather the crust is not nearly as good as it should be. It takes quite a bit of effort to get this wood-fired oven up and running, and I expect nothing less than perfection. But since I've declared this as my "hobby" - to bake things in the new outdoor oven - I will keep trying. Funny, but the first couple of bakes that turned out pretty good were using store-bought dough, but now I'm using a special pizza dough and following the directions exactly - hum, maybe I'm not.
Our neighbor that has a deer baiting station and hunting stand on our property sent us come photos yesterday from a few critters that have visited his baiting station the past month. Some of them we've seen on our own security video cameras (bobcats and deer) - or in the case of bears, in person here at the cabin. He sent us photos of two GIANT bucks, a GIANT wild hog, and a long black bear. They all seem to be coming into his baiting station - hope they don't cause problems with our pups or with US.
We continue to have amazing night skies this week, although I've not see any more of the Zodiacal Light. That was a rare treat and something most folks will never see since it happens only briefly long before sunrise and you have to be looking for it without any lights on nearby.
We just realized yesterday that we'll have a direct view of the sunrise from now for the next six months - while sitting inside the cabin in the prow. The sun has been moving to the right since the summer solstice in June, and the sunrise has mostly been behind the trees on the eastern side of the cabin. But now it is moving into the open area in the southeast - it will continue to move to the right until the Winter Solstice in December, when it will reach its farthest point to the south, then it will begin to move back to the left/north until it gets to the point where is it right now, which will be in March, when it will begin to rise behind the trees again. Fall Equinox happens in a couple of days, and the Spring Equinox in March - these dates are when the length of the day and night are about equal to each other, and signal the beginning of autumn and spring respectively. Since we have a LOT of glass in our prow, when the temps are cold outside that sunshine will be welcome since it will help heat up the cabin; but when the temps are warm outside (like now), that same sunshine will turn up the heat inside, taxing our cooling system. So we're doing a "cool dance" this week. Come on autumn!
09/20/18 Venus. Neptune. Saturn. Mars. The moon - all in a row tonight, right to left. And then at the far left and down low, very low, is a light I've not seen from either of our cabins in more than 20 years - the blue flashing light of a police car. It's several miles from here down on the highway between Jasper and Parthenon - we can see a small section of that road from here. I hope everyone is alright.
Otherwise it is a BEAUTIFUL night with lots of wind in the pines, summer bugs and frogs singing, and temps getting a little bit cooler. Our AC quit working a couple of days ago and the temp inside the cabin is 86 tonight. A metal supply pipe inside our AC unit sprung a leak somehow and all the coolant leaked out. They can't replace it until next week. GOOD THING that fall begins on Saturday, and along with it we'll have much cooler temps - YIPPIE COYOTE!
Our builder was here yesterday working on his final punch list of projects. He got about half way through and had to leave, but he completed several major items and many other small ones. We are inching closer to being done, but still a couple of major things to finish up.
My bride doesn't cook every day, but when she does it is usually REALLY good. This week she sent a heavenly aroma out for miles and miles as she did 22 hours of Kalua Pork in the slow cooker - and OH MY IT IS GOOD! I've eaten more than a pound already.
The blue lights are gone now and I'm left with the planets, the moon, and lots of stars beginning to appear. This next week will be the transition from summer to fall, one of my most favorite weeks of the year. Supposed to be a few days of rainfall too, which will be wonderful. I'm hoping to spend a good bit of time this next six or seven weeks out shooting fall color from beginning to end. I already have the first picture location picked out - just waiting for a little moisture to ripen up the scene.
Kind of funny, if I close my eyes tonight the wind and the pine trees sound exactly like being in HAWAII! And I've got Hawaiian pig too - life is good...(well, except for no AC)
09/22/18 HAPPY FIRST DAY OF FALL! And oh what a difference a season makes. Couple of days ago when it was summer the temp inside the cabin was 86. Today the temp is 56 inside and I've got jeans and a flannel shirt on. A dense layer of fog has been upon us since before daylight - I just LOVE fog! And even though it rained all night and into this morning, and with all the flash flood watches out, we got about 1.5" of rain total and I'm happy to report our little creek is wet (but not running), and our waterfalls is bone dry. The pups and I took a loop around the trail early, and it was just DELIGHTFUL! I didn't get to take a picture that I had noted in my last entry - the brilliant red sassafras leaf had turned brown by this morning. But there were many bright RED black gum leaves scattered across the forest floor - such rich, saturated color with all the moisture.