Friday, August 12, 2011


As the sun was coming up this morning and I took Bob the Beagle out to potty, it was impossible to ignore the thick blanket of clouds that hung above the little town below.

In the first photo, although it looks like the sun rising, actually it is a drop of moisture that had fallen on my camera lens that I didn't notice until I saw the picture.

Peace to all!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baseball in Central America

It is 109 in my little piece of the world. The heat index is around 117. I have no words to say for any of this because like everyone else who lives here, I do not understand it and find myself wondering how we, our animals and livestock can continue to survive in conditions that are so foreign to our nature.

So, rather than whine about something of which I have no control, I shall share Dennis' recent trip with you. Enjoy the brief escape.

Dennis just returned from a trip to Nicaragua.

Like many other countries in Central and South America, it has a lush green landscape with breath taking ocean and mountain views. Above is a picture of the volcano near Managua.

The country has beautiful resort areas, and areas of dire poverty. He saw people sleeping on the sidewalks, with the fortunate ones building shelter out of any scrap objects they could fine.

But once he got to the ball park, he could have been in any city in the world. The kids, the excitement, the dedication is universal.

Kids swarming the Yankees scouts, wanting them to sign their caps.

A lone Nicaraguan player, coming to the stadium early to wait for his game.

Nicaraguan kids, excited to meet a Yankees scout. (Dennis is taking the picture. The scout in the picture is one of his translators)

End of the day.........

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reflections on the First Half of 2011

Now that we are well passed the halfway mark in 2011, I was thinking about what has happened so far this year.

Looking back through the blog, there was a lot of talk about the weather. Around here, that has been the focal point of most folks' lives. At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of snow and ice. Then came spring and we had an unprecedented amount of rain and several tornadoes. I will always remember this because for two months this Spring, a bull dozer sat in my yard. But it was only in operation about half of that time because the ground was so wet and the rainfall was so fierce.

Now we are in late summer and what we wouldn't give for some of that rain right now. Ponds are dry, lawns and fields are parched, and cattle prices are low because the market has been inundated with animals their owners can neither need or water.

I don't like the sound my boots make when I walk around the mountain. Each step I take is a constant reminder the grass is so dry and brittle, it breaks off down to the bare earth, leaving an ugly footprint in my wake.

This was the year we were to have grapes in the vineyard. It began very promising. Each row had an abundance of clusters and our mouths would water every day as we checked them and monitored the growth. Then the rains came and they stayed wet far too long. Mold and rot set in. We had hopes for the clusters that survived. Then the long hot dry summer came. Despite being watered every evening around sunset, many of the survivors simply burned up and shriveled on the vine. At the moment, the Cynthiana is hanging on. But I have learned not to be too optimistic when it comes to things controlled by weather. We are definitely not in control. I have realized this year I could not be a farmer...the uncertainty it just too much for someone like me with an overly-controlling personality. I have no control over this at all and it frustrates me. But.....there is always next year!

Despite the weather, some wonderful things have happened this year. We have made a lot of progress on the mountain. Our mission to tackle a major project each year (we are eight years in now) is rolling along. Because we chose outside projects this year instead of inside ones, the work we have done is more obvious.

We cleared some unusable land, built a pond (now we need rain!), and are almost finished with the outdoor kitchen and fireplace. We see deer almost nightly now in front and they are mesmerizing to watch. We are hoping the pond will be a water source for all types of wildlife, but because of the lay of the land, we can't actually see in it from the house, so the creatures who need to bathe or drink or just cool off will have an element of privacy.

Dennis has traveled the world this year with his new job. He has gone to places we might not have initially considered as travel destinations, but after being there, he always found something unique and interesting, and with the exception of the very dangerous environment in Venezuela, he would look forward to returning to each country.

So far, this has been an eventful year. I am hoping to have the projects finished by Fall, and Dennis home a wee bit more so we can enjoy them. We live our lives in increments......he will be home 3 days on the 10th, 2 days on the 25, etc. We have to pack everything into these tight containers of time, but we have been doing this for so long, we know no other way. I guess our "normal" is like everyone's what you become accustomed to.

I look forward to the Fall, my favorite time of year, and what it holds for us all.

Best wishes to you and yours!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Families on the Mountain

We are not the only family living on this 22 acre mountaintop plot of land.

Most evenings, usually between 7:00 and dark, another family comes out of the shelter of the deep woods to visit the salad bar that is the freshly planted grass on the cleared land in front of our house.

They seem to be getting braver as they spend more time in the open. I know they see me watching them from the upper deck, sometimes with a camera, but usually just in awe of their beauty and grace.

I wish they weren't so brave. They are in danger and don't realize it. There are people who live nearby who love guns and seem to love killing things. How someone could purposly take the life of something so beautiful and perfect for their own personal pleasure is beyond anything I can comprehend. It isn't a sport if the one being hunted can't shoot back.

So, I will protect these beautiful creatures as best as I can and hope the evil nearby can not see over the fence and find out find out they are here.

I am so grateful they let me look...........hope you are too!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have five good friends, scattered about the country, each of whom is a very gifted painter. I anxiously await emails containing their new work and I am always spellbound by their ability to take an ordinary subject and turn it into a thing of beauty to be seen in a more vibrant and thought provoking way.

So it is with a bit of reluctance on this quiet Sunday morning that I decided to share with you these lovely lilies I found in my rock garden early this morning while out taking a walk. Any one of those five extraordinary people could paint the subject with more identity and imagination. I cannot draw a stick man that would be recognized as a stick man.

But I, with my modest (meaning inexpensive) camera could not pass up the opportunity to capture these beautiful, fleeting treasures from the earth because I wanted them to be seen by eyes other than my own. I hope you agree.

Peace to all!

Friday, June 3, 2011


When I took Bob the Beagle out to potty before bedtime tonight and noticed we had a visitor......

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Vineyard and What It Brings

For the past three years, since the day we planted the tiny little fragile vines in the ground, I have entertained a fantasy about our first harvest.

Dennis and I would work in the hot sun, side by side, snipping clusters of grapes from the six rows of vines as we discussed politics, music, mutual friends and current events. In my vision of that day, we would be so excited to see our dream come to fruition after over five years of planning that we could hardly contain ourselves as we carried the buckets of fruit back to our kitchen.

I think about that day a lot.

Two weeks ago, the Chardonnay grapes were abundant and beautiful as they began to blossom and hang down from the cordons. The quantity of the clusters was almost overwhelming.

But then on May 23, we got an enormous amount of much rain it sat on the ground for days. Soon after, we noticed a distinct change in the beautiful green grapes. Some of them began to turn dark.

After consulting the professionals, we learned two very distinct and somewhat disappointing things. First, all of the grape clusters that were discolored would have to be removed. And secondly, our plan to grow organically would have to change in order to preserve our fruit.

So, today in 93 degree temperatures and without Dennis, I had to do what was technically the first cutting to protect future growth. And it was sad.

At the end of the afternoon, after carefully examining and clipping two rows of Chardonnay, vine by vine, branch by branch, I ended up with these two buckets full of precious grapes that we could no longer use.

But there always is an up side to a dismal situation if you look hard enough. And my up side was surrounding me.

This mountain really belongs to the many inhabitants that live deep in these wood...we are just the caretakers. I don't see them often, but their presence is always with me. Sometimes, I feel their eyes on me as I work and there is evidence of them everywhere.

After my disappointing harvest today, I decided there was only one thing that could be done to justify our loss.
So tonight, when my fellow mountain inhabitants come out to search for food under the protective blanket of darkness, they will find a surprise. Deep in the woods, in various locations, the table will be set with a feast of Chardonnay grapes........ all they have to do is show up.

And my long walk back to the house this evening wasn't near as sad as the walk I had made earlier in the day to the vineyard.

UPDATE: So far, the rows of Cabernet and Cynthiana grapes are doing fine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Sensitive Side of Teddy

I have no idea what this is all about, but I suppose it makes sense to him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I am pretty sure this little guy's family has lived on the mountain much longer than mine.......

Thursday, May 19, 2011

misleading photo......

I would love to title this photo DOG IN THE DESERT..........

But in actuality, it is just my dog Teddy, standing in the front yard where we have cleared about 45 years worth of brush and I haven't replanted with grass seed yet.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Path of Water

I really REALLY want to be writing about something other than rain. Unfortunately, that is all I have at the moment. More water than I need, and more water than this place can contain, but I am hesitant to complain, because I know with true conviction that Arkansas summers can be brutal and in a matter of months, I will find myself longing for it with fond memories. So, with this knowledge, I am trying to concentrate on the beauty and mystery of it all.......and just be extra cautious where I step and drive.

Back in the day, the Little River Band came out with a beautiful song that I always felt was just for me, even though obviously I knew it wasn't. The title was "Cool Change" and it was about an Aquirus (like me) and the importance water played in his life. "I was born in the sign of water, and its there that I feel my best...........". I completely "got it" when I lived on the Gulf Coast and found I could stare at the ocean for endless amounts of time and never lose my fascination with it. The sense of peace and calm it brought were very therapeutic.

Maybe that is what I am trying to recapture with my little pond project here....who knows? I suppose I don't get upset about the mess that this is right now because I look at it and see, not what it is right now, but what it will be one day soon. And that mental image takes be back to the days sitting by the water on the beach.

So indulge me through these little challenges that make the story more interesting. I PROMISE......a thing of beauty will be at the end of the story.

Early Monday morning, this was the stream flowing out of the hole that was put into the side of the pond to prevent it from overflowing. As water will always do, it took the path of least resistance.....down the bank into the ditches that run along the sides of my narrow steep driveway.

And as the morning progressed, so did the water. The ditches soon overflowed and water and debris flowed down the mountain and it spilled out over the road.

Had the stream's path not chosen to cross the middle of our road, I might have had more appreciation of this natural occurrence. But even despite this, there is a certain elegance about it all.

The sun is out this morning and I am about to take my morning exploration walk to see what has changed overnight. As I told my sister yesterday, there is nothing wrong here than can't be fixed with a bull dozer and some sunshine.

Wish the rest of life were so simple!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More of the Same........

Wish I had something new to report, but once again, it is a cold, rainy, stormy Sunday afternoon on the mountain.

The floor of the pond was not finished when the torrential rains came two weeks ago, which definitely complicated things. Last week, because of the possibility of an overflow eroding the new, very steep outer bank, Sammy had to come with the dozer during a brief break in the rain to knock a hole in one of the smaller banks to give the water a place to drain off. So, right now, this unprecedented weather has provided us with a large muddy containment area with banks so slippery that staying upright while walking them is quite the challenge. So far, so good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Enormous Amounts of Rain

To give you an idea how much rain we have had here on the mountain, the picture below was taken on April 21st, 2011.

This following picture was taken April 27th, 2011.

This dark area on the left side of the pond is not a mini-BP oil spill. It is debris blown into the pond from the high winds.
The muddy water is a combination of enormous amounts of rain pounding soft fresh earth and a muddy pond bed. We have a series of unfortunate events at the moment........all of which can be repaired when the rains stop and the sun comes out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stuck in the Mud, Exhibit #2

My husband returned from the beautiful tropical climates of Miami, Puerto Rico and the Dominican to an unprecedented six consecutive days of torrential downpours, sustained winds up to 60 mph and tornado sirens blaring throughout the nights. He described the amount of water we have received as "Biblical proportions" and said the weather reminded him of hurricane seasons during our ten years living on the Gulf Coast. Big difference though.....hurricanes PASS THROUGH. This stuff doesn't seem to be going anywhere!!!

And, those of you who know me well will not be surprised at all to learn we are right in the middle of a major excavation project up here on the mountain. Lots of clearing, digging, rearranging of earth........which, combined with an enormous amount of water = MUD! Mud everywhere..........more mud than you can possibly imagine and as far as the eye can see.

I am a klutz. No big secret there. Everyday walking for me is an adventure. So, picture if you can my early morning walks, through the mud to see what the previous night's storms have brought. Every step looks like this!
If I step too quickly, the sucking power of the mud is much stronger that I am and I step right out of my boots. However, if I linger a fraction of a second too long, I just sink deeper. So walking through this is a very delicate balance..........but a fun challenge, nevertheless!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mudding is NOT Fun!

Last Friday afternoon, every vehicle you see in this photo was STUCK in the mud in my yard!
The stump grinder's big yellow machine got bogged down in the mud. We got my black 4-wheel drive truck to pull it out. My front tires got stuck in the mud. So we got the stump grinder's green 4-wheel drive truck. Both driver's side wheels buried up in the mud. Then we got Dennis 4-wheel drive side-by-side to try to pull it know where this is going.
Fortunately, the man in charge of this project is the sweetest guy EVER. He left his daughter's track meet to come up here and pull us all out with his bull dozer.
I sort of expected him to ban me from proceeding with any projects without his supervision. But I got off with just a "look" know, the kind of look a parent gives a child who has really screwed up and should have known better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bo and His Feminine Side

The storms were pretty bad today........lots of rain really quickly, dramatic lighting and high decibel thunder.

I opened the kitchen door that leads to the enclosed upper deck so the sounds and smells of the rain could come inside. I went outside briefly and when I came back in, I caught a a slight movement out of the corner of my eye.

Bo is my 100 pound alpha male dog who hates everyone but me who lives on the upper deck and to my knowledge, has never stepped a foot into the house. Bo is a tough guy and is not shy about reminding people of that fact. But, he loves me dearly and would protect me through thick and thin so I have had to fight keep him throughout the years, due to his many undesirable antics.

Apparently Bo was seeking a shelter from the storm better than his dog house and sleeping bag on the deck. He never moved and inch or even blinked as I walked toward him, asking what the heck he thought he was doing. I assume he thought he was perfectly camouflaged.

This immediately reminded me of people who park in other people's clearly marked parking spots. Obviously, this boy can not read.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Storms and Tornados Tonight

8:09 PM
The skies over our little town are very active tonight.
Warning sirens going off, regular television programming is off and stations are only reporting weather conditions.
This is the view from our upper deck.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pond and Vineyard Update

I have a new found respect for the men who operate heavy equipment. I have never seen a job description for this sort of work but I am positive it must include the following: *Must have nerves of steel, but a steady hand *Must be able to command a multi-ton machine with ballerina precision *Must be adaptable to work in extreme heat and cold in undesirable surroundings *Landscape architecture degree/experience required *Must be able to tolerate daily minor cuts, scrapes and bruises *Must not fear snakes, bear or other natural inhabitants of the environment in which you work. I have witnessed all of the above and for anyone who doesn't believe the enormous amount of skill required to do this job, come spend the day here, observing. There is a tiny margin for error in this work, and it is definitely not a "walk in the park" so to speak.

For some strange reason, when this pond was originally built in 1967, there was no back side. After the water reached a certain level, it just spilled out into the woods, finding its way down the mountain into the lowest elevation. That plan made for nice waterfalls and streams but is an odd concept for a containment pond. As you can see from the photo above, there is a distinct delineation in the color of the soil on the outer right side bank and the back bank. This is because the entire back bank had to be built from the ground up. This is the area where the water previously just flowed out into the woods.
Obviously, this is not complete, but for those of you who have asked for an updated photo, I think you will find this progression impressive, considering we are only seven days forward from the picture taken in the earlier post at the beginning of the project. on the vineyard.

For those who have followed this project, you know we are five years into this venture that few expected to be successful. The first two years, Dennis spent studying the sun patterns, the water drainage, tested soil samples, read countless books, attended wine schools from the University of Arkansas to Paris, France, talked with growers across the country, and prepared the plot of land. Before he got sick, my dad would come up here and listen to Dennis explain the plan and how he felt it would work. More than once, I could see a look on dad's face that clearly said "This city boy is off his rocker". Fortunately, Dennis never made that translation.

Three years ago, the tiny little Cabernet and Chardonnay sprouts were shipped from California and Audry House called from Altus to say the Cynthiana (Norton) cuttings were ready. And we have waited patiently, through drought, record cold and icy winters and extremely hot summers for the past three years to see what would happen. Dennis has tended these fragile vines in 100+ temps, sometimes hauling water by hand because our wells were so low. He has babied them when they were covered in ice so thick we feared they would break under the weight. But his spirit, nor the tiny little vines never did.

So, to see them doing so well is a delight we can't even describe. And this may just be the year we know what all of that means. If anyone deserves a reward, in this case healthy grapes, it would certainly be my husband who refused to give up or believe this couldn't work.

This rock wall is also a five-year labor of love. It is a long way from being finished, because it is literally being built, ONE ROCK AT A TIME. In the tradition of the centuries old vineyard walls in Italy and France, the rocks are stacked with precision, using no mortar. Each rock as come from the woods of the mountain and the four sides of the wall are very long. So this may be the project that never ends. But each rock has a history and together, they all tell a beautiful story.

I sort of like the idea that it is ongoing.....

From day one, this project has been a hopeful one........each phase has given me hope for the next one to come.

I have come to realize that these projects are really just metaphors for our lives. I believe we all have a need to leave something behind that is just a little better than the way we found it. Whether it be children, land, the environment, or living conditions for those around us.......we need to justify our time here. Otherwise.........what is the point?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Amber's New Bed

Amber with her Teddy Bear and Skunk....... This really is the size of a small sofa without legs. But then, she really is the size of a 135 pound person!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Giving an Old Pond a New Life

Continuing with my "Spring State of Mind" theme....... After years of planning and months of waiting, today is the day we begin the process of bringing new life to an old pond. When my dad built this house circa 1966, he also had a beautiful pond built. It was nestled gently into the woods to provide a peaceful sanctuary for not just it's two-legged admires, but also for the many four-legged ones that lived deep in the woods and had no water source except the small streams that flowed down the mountain after it rained. But 45 years of neglect by mountain inhabitants, and the lack thereof, had turned the once beautiful pond into an overgrown and dangerous marsh. After a good hard rain, the now tiny containment area would hold only a double-carport-size pool of water which always drained through the root compromised outside bank and down onto our road. An eyesore and a hazard in the best possible description. But today is the day that will all change. The bull dozer has arrived to begin the painstaking process of rediscovering my dad's original vision. And as you can see from the photo below, this is not going to be easy. When you can barely see a giant bull dozer among the overgrowth, it is a pretty good indication this will be slow going. It has been suggested that it would be much easier to just start all over and put the pond elsewhere. But this is where my dad put it, and this is where it belongs.So, please indulge me as I chronicle the process. And it will be a bitter-sweet one. I want so badly to retrieve my dad from the long-term care facility and bring him here to see that this thing he first built will have a new life again. But the danger of that outing combined with his severely altered state of mind will prevent that from ever happening. So, I guess just knowing this is the right thing to do will have to be good enough. Updates to come.........