You may or may not have noticed a new link at the top of our favorite links list over there on the top right of the page. You may or may not have noticed the photographs on this blog, but then again if you are like us, you look for visually appealing photos on blogs, because let's face it, a bunch of text and no eye candy is just plain boring. Yes, we know there are a few posts on here that do not have any images/photos but we digress.
Back to the subject at hand. The top link in our link list is to r.e.bird photography. The wonderful photographer in our group has finally opened up shop. If you love the photos on the blog, then you will want to check out Robin's work on her site. You may even be interested in setting up a shoot for portraits. How about purchasing some beautiful nature prints as well. Of course, there isn't a mechanism for buying nature prints online yet, but you can still contact her through the website if there are any prints you are interested in.
In the very near future though, there will be a means to purchase prints of her work online. So keep an eye out here and we will let you know once that is available. You can contact Robin in various ways through her website from the contacts page.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous. You know the type, sunny and warm in the middle of November. How did that happen? This is East Tennessee, it supposed to be cold, wet and miserably dreary out until at least April.
Anyway, it was indeed a beautiful Saturday afternoon and we (Tim, Robin, Kiddo, and the Beene) were itching to get out of the house as usual. I know what you're thinking, Saturday, November, East Tennessee, shouldn't we be somewhere watching the UT game? We say "Game Hell". Of course we had some tasks that needed to be accomplished, but they were taken care of in no time flat.
We finally headed out some time in the early afternoon in search of Hemlock Bluffs TVA Small Wild Area.You see, Tim came across this area earlier in the week while searching for someplace to hike. Considering it was close to home and we hadn't heard of it before, we figured why the heck not.
In our search, we ended up in Loyston Point Recreation Area. We thought we would stop by the lake and let the photog snap a few pictures. No sooner than we stopped Big Billy Bob Mr. Manager of the area comes driving up like he owns the place or something. Wants to know if we are planning on camping or something and proceeds to tell us to make sure we keep our dog on a leash. Needless to say, we didn't stick around and found it hard not to stop at his trailer and throw eggs at it. Of course we had no eggs so on we went with the sneaking suspicion that we would never grace the recreation area with our presence again.
We still hadn't found the Hemlock Bluffs and though for sure we are on the right track before we ended up at the recreation area. So back out to the end of the road we were on we went. We came back out to the road we turned off of to get to the bluffs and decided to go in another direction. This time we found ourselves at a dead end with a gate that lead to some Outdoors Club of Fountain City of some such other. So we turned it around and headed back towards Loyston Point Rd.
Instead of turning back onto Loyston Point Rd. we went straight and stop in front of a little church with a light house to gain our bearings. We saw a road that went back to a Boy Scout camp and that struck Robin's fancy so we decided to check it out. We found a troop back there spending the weekend camping and all the things boy scout troops do. We talked with a couple of the parents to see if they knew how to get to the area we were looking for. After consulting our map, their map and a GPS, they determined that we had been on the right track but didn't know for certain where it was.
It was then we had a suspicion that one of the gated roads had to be the way to the Small Wild. Back up Loyston Point Road we traveled and came to the gated road and looking on Tim's crackberry, we knew then that was the road. So we parked the car and started walking down the jeep road. Within a few hundred feet, we were certain we were in the right direction as we came upon a trail sign reading, well something like Hemlock Bl*ff Tr__l. You see the signs had holes in them. The are is a designated safe area, but a quarter mile back on Loyston Point Road there is a sign saying as much. Past that it is free range to hunters.
Needless to say, we weren't certain how safe it was to be back there but we didn't see anyone parked at the gate and only heard the sound of hunting rifle way off in the distance towards the hunting areas. We probably hiked the jeep road a good mile or more before we stopped and decided it was getting to late to venture any further and turned around and headed back out.
We never did make it to the designated wild area, however we have a pretty good idea, for the most part, how to get back to it. You know in Tim's researching, he didn't find much of anything on the place. On our way out we come to the conclusion, like we have so many times before that Robin has the better relationship with her boyfriend Google than does Tim. We also decided that we would come back some other time better equipped and much earlier so we could really explore the place. So stay tuned as there will be more on the Hemlock Bluffs TVA Small Wild Area.
Oh and one more thing, Robin consulted her boyfriend Google that evening and found that the trail is the Hemlock Bluff Recreational Trail and it's a 7 mile loop that starts in the Loyston Point Recreation Area, D'oh. I guess we might be back there after all.
If you remember correctly, we were wondering just the other day, what the Leonids meteor shower would be like this year, and whether or not we would get to see them. The big concerns included the moon, the weather, and school for the kiddo. As it turns out the weather was pretty decent for the occasion. The kiddo didn't want to miss school for reasons we won't discuss here. As for the moon, well let's just say that even if the Lion did roar, the moon light was far to bright to see much.
The night of the 18th we stayed up until 2am periodically going out on our back deck to see what was going on. Around 11pm there was nothing worth mentioning except that the moon was really bright. Again at midnight, nothing. Around 1:30am we were getting tired and the bed was calling our name. In a last ditch effort, Tim went out and stood for a good 15 minutes looking up at the sky. In that 15 minutes one Leonid flashed and skirted through the air in a matter of seconds. Just before 2am, Robin went out for the last time and stood for a good 15 minutes waiting to see one and was rewarded as well.
In looking at Spaceweather.com, it turns out that this year wasn't much of a show compared to past years when we actually got to go out and watch for hours. The average reported rate maxed out at about 25 meteors an hour at the peak in the wee early hours of the 18th.
Maybe next year will be a good year. All the stars will align properly and we can watch the Lion roar again. Of course a year is a long time to wait. For those that are looking for a good meteor shower, the Geminids are up next. Around December 13th, the Geminids should peak, and from early guesstimates, it should be a good show. You can check out EarthSky.com's Meteor Shower Guide for more information on the Geminids.
This concerns not the outdoors. Nothing of hiking or farming, yet all the same it applies to all things, I think. At work this afternoon, we had our special event for the quarter. It's something that we do every month, that usually includes food and some sort of team building event in most cases. Today's event was pizza and a movie.
As I said before this has nothing to do with the outdoors, however, the poem for which the movie was so aptly named has struck deep inside the character of my soul and I hope I can retain it for the rest of my life, for no matter what challenge is thrown in front of me, I am the captain of my soul.
The movie was Invictus. If you haven't seen it yet, then I would recommend it to anyone. I won't go into detail, other than it stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon as the captain of the South African Rugby team.
Now for the poet of the poem "Invictus", which is featured in the movie, William Ernest Henley. As I have learned he was diagnosed at an early age of Tuberculosis of the Bone which later spread to his foot. After having his leg amputated at the knee when he was in his twenties, he lead an active life with just the one leg left until he passed at the age of 53. It was while in recovery from the amputation that he penned the poem.
Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
~William Ernest Henley
It matters not what challenges lie before you, it only matters that you know that only you can decide to best the challenges that are set in front of you.
This seems to be the question we ask ourselves every year around this time along with wondering what the weather will be like. If it is anything like the last couple years (and looking out the window it likely is going to be), then it really won't matter if the Lion roars or not. However if we have clear night skies and the moon is not an issue, which from what we've seen of the moon phases for the month, it shouldn't be much of a problem some time after midnight. So all we need to do is to bundle up, bring blankets and chairs, and maybe something to have a small fire. Of course, let's not forget the most important thing of all...Coffee!!!
What we are talking about, in case you hadn't figured it out yet, is the Leonids meteor shower. It occurs every year around November 17 - 18, at least that's usually the peak time. This has got to be one of our most favorite meteor showers of the year. During a storm, one can expect to see hundreds of meteors shoot across the sky every hour. During calm years, you can still catch twenty or more an hour.
As we mentioned above we haven't been very fortunate enough to catch the Leonids in the past few years due to weather or moon conditions. However, this year could be promising other than it being a Wednesday and Thursday. This could potentially be a problem considering our yougin' has school in the morning and the best time for viewing the Leonids is usually well after midnight.
That seems to be the issue with any major astronomical event. You see these events don't take your time into consideration; rather you must take their time into consideration and plan accordingly. So this year we aren’t totally sure if we will be able to catch the heavenly show. Just keep checking here over the next couple of weeks and you will know if we were able to make it out.
If you plan to go out and take in the show, here's a star chart that we retrieved from Astronomy.com that you can use to locate the viewing area for the shower:
It's a Sunday evening, you've been to the grocery store, the pet store, and you've finished all your errands. You don't want to spend anymore money and you really don't feel like leaving the house again, yet you want to be outside. In this predicament, what else can you do? The answer was simple, we headed out back to have a fire and play with night photography.
We still have lots of maple wood left over from dad's tree that was cut down but a couple of months ago. We've been slowly doing away with it for him. This evening it was chilly, homemade potato soup was on the stove for supper, and we thought a nice hot fire would be a good way to warm the body and the soul. Even though it had rained just a bit earlier in the day, it wasn't enough to prevent us from having the fire.
After supping on simple homemade potato soup by the fire (because foods eaten outside from bowls are the best foods!) we got the camera out and started playing. Of course this was after the girls went and picked up cousin Jodi.
With the fire stoked and the tripod setup, flashlights and glow sticks were whipping around and about like crazy. We were getting a feel for what it would be like before we decided the flashlight would be best for doing some light graffiti. We all took turns trying to perfect our names (try writing yours mirror backwards!) and then did some other silly things by flinging light. After we were done with that, the girls all headed into kiddo's room for some dark room long exposure photos. What turned out is pretty darn creepy.
So the next time you have nothing else better to do, ya know 'cos you spent your last dime on food at the store, head outback. The backyard, or the front yard for that matter, can be a blast especially at night with some lights and a camera.
Tim and Robin
P.S. Check it out! We picked some of our sugar snap peas yesterday. We have a couple dozen out on the vines now. Our hamster, Q, will be the happy benefactor of our first small harvest.
If you remember correctly, a couple posts back we promised to share with you our projects around the house and how they are coming along. I may or may not have mentioned that we are working towards turning our homestead into a farm. It's a very slow process considering that Tim works a day job in a cube farm Monday - Friday and Robin plays wife, mom, daughter, photog, etc. However, on the weekends that we aren't out exploring our world, we can usually be found working outside on the farm.
Some of the current projects we have completed or are in the middle of include building a woodshed out of wooden pallets, clearing some land to plant blueberries, and raising winter crops. So far our crops are doing well. We have only 2 small kitchen gardens and a garden box at this time. The kitchen gardens are roughly 4'x8' and contain spinach, lettuce, parsnips, and sugar snap peas. The garden box stands between the two kitchen gardens at about 3 foot tall with the dimensions roughly 3'x2'. In it we have some carrots growing wonderfully. Over the last couple of weeks we winterized our gardens complete with hoop houses and hay. It's a good thing too, as we've had some frosty mornings this week. If we hadn't got that done when we did, we wouldn't have peas ready for picking now.
As for the wood shed, we've cleared a spot and mostly leveled it to begin construction on it. We still have to level the ground a bit more and get the bolts, nuts, and washers before we can really start on that project. Hopefully we can do some of that over the next couple of weekends, if it isn't too cold.
We also have half of the little pasture cleared for blueberries. We still have to clear the rest of it and remove all the little tree stumps before we can even begin to think about planting.
So that's about it for the time being. There is plenty of work to be done before we can really call it a farm but, you have to start somewhere.
We hope our friends, Janet and John, won't mind us using their café’s catch phrase as the title for this post. It seems rather fitting. We’re pretty sure they will be fine with it.
Where exactly did autumn go? Just last week the leaves were on the trees, showing off their wonderfully brilliant colors. The weather was pleasant: not too hot, not too cold. The sun sparkled low in the sky, signaling the end of summer, and apparently letting us know it wouldn’t warm us much for the next 5 months. All around our area we’ve been hearing reports of a dusting to several inches of snow. Of course, all we got was a touch of sleet yesterday - thankfully. In the higher elevations of the Smoky Mountains reports of 8.5 inches of the white powdery stuff was received from the folks at LeConte Lodge. (Seriously?) Don’t get us wrong, we love the cooler temps, but this is much sooner than we anticipated.
So what’s a family to do when it’s the first real chilly day in autumn? What else? We ran errands. Garbage had to be run to the dump. Sinuses needed taken care of, (all the Claritn-D was gone; that stuff is like gold around here). A few other odds and ends needed to be picked up as well, and we needed a small gift for Janet and John’s grand opening of their “Groovy Dawg Café”. We also had to make a side trip to pick up Jodi, as the kiddo wanted some company this evening ('cause at 14, we just aren’t as cool as we used to be).
It was great to see Janet and John again. The last time we saw them was at one of the Secret City Sounds concerts at Bissell Park in Oak Ridge. They had one of the “Groovy Dawg” hot dog carts at the show. Their café is just a natural progression from the carts, and is absolutely wonderful. The “dawgs” are quite delectable, too.
So if you find yourself wondering what to do on a cold afternoon and you have a crazy hankering for some hot dogs, or BBQ, burgers, etc., head on down to the Groovy Dawg Café. The atmosphere is delightfully warm and the staff is full of southern hospitality that just won’t quit.
We hope that you are all staying cozy and warm on this chilly autumn day. If you are like us then you are sitting back relaxing with a warm cup o' joe. We just wanted to stop in for a minute and let y'all know that we have a new page on the blog. It's the "Featured Parks" page. Every so often we plan on featuring a new park, forest, wilderness area, etc. This month our feature is Cumberland Gap National Historic Park which straddles the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. So take a moment and hop on over to the new page, give it a look-see, and let us know what you think.