Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Xmas Eve

An exceptionally cold Christmas eve and morning in upstate NY.   Snow showers and temperatures in the single numbers.   Warm inside for the traditional lobster dinner.

Yelverton clan

4 generations

Susquehanna River

Thursday, December 19, 2013

moonset at dawn

Keeping some odd hours on the bluff this week.   Playing guitar to the setting full moon.  

A cold breeze, owls hooting, and the thunder of the Laurel Branch, rushing hundreds of feet below.
These are the dark days, the solstice is near.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Feels like winter in Sewanee

This week, a Monday night rain turned to a frozen glaze on Tuesday.  Took a cell phone photo of the frozen wonderland on my walk through Abbos Alley.

Clearing skies provided some sunny days and stunning sunsets.

I hiked down to the roaring Laurel Branch Falls below my bluff and was reminded how treacherous the terrain is.  Locals have told me not to go 'down there' alone.   bah!

Last night's sunset looked like an erupting volcano.  There was one moment that was awe inspiring.  So grand, that many who saw the picture doubted it's authenticity.   Fortunately, I have a time lapse video of the sunset showing the momentary explosion of color.

Playing the Handel Suite and Albeniz' Mallorca at All Saints last night amid the holiday decorations was inspiring.  Have finalized my concert program for Feb.  Will be playing concerts in Sewanee and at MTSU in early-mid Feb.

Enjoyed the Folk Music concert at St. Luke's Thursday night ... some good Czech and Yiddish accordion music.


Icy trees
Laurel Branch Falls

Monday, November 25, 2013

Weekend projects

Built a few more oak tables now that Hans has ended his wood embargo.  Also, enlarged my woodpile.  Been using the new splitter every weekend.   Been burning a lot, was really cold this weekend.  17.8º here on Saturday night.  There was sleet this afternoon.  Got some good practicing in and finished learning Mallorca by Albeniz, quintessential lush Spanish romantic music.  Hung out with my neighbor, Dan, also John and Nancy.  .Despite the conditions, I did pry myself away from my comfortable chair by the fire to bust butt on the track.

I made a larger table for my bedroom with an lower shelf, where I can throw my travel bag on when I come in.  It's about 42" x 23".   I also made a small lamp table for the guest room to go with the comfy love seat I put in there.  It looks like a real guest room now.  I also replaced the busted pressure treated lumber handles on my wheel barrow with solid oak.   That should last a while.  

The best finish for the oak table tops is food grade mineral oil.   It doesn't have an odor and it really brings out the wood grain on sanded wood.   Also, all natural, non-toxic.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Notice the saw mill markings on the table top.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sewanee weekend photos

After a foggy cool Saturday, and a warm rainy Sunday, Monday was sunny and nice... mid 50sº.  So, I got some wood cut, some training on the track in, and some guitar practicing at home and in All Saints church. Just a small dash of color remains after the stormy Sunday... the day of tornados in IL.

Emma Visits

My cat Emma may be in her last year.  She had reached the skin and bones stage, weighing just 4.4 lbs before I brought her to the vet.  After being de-wormed and de-fleaed, she was given fluids and vitamin supplements.  She now has gained a half pound and is recovering and eating well.  I took her to Sewanee for the first time to keep an eye on her.  Wow, she is so tiny.  She'll be 16 yrs old in April.

New Recipe

I also made Kind Bars.  Amazingly easy and good.  Too good.  Can't make them too often because they're addictive.  Really much better than cake, cookies or flour based pastries.  Since they have no flour, they have no gluten and are low carb.... but high in 'good fat' and sweet.  Basically just dried fruit, nut and honey.  So much better to me than any traditional cookie, and so much more healthy... not to say this is 'health food' ... but relatively speaking.  Cooking with parchment paper was a first for me.  So easy to make, so good.   Looking forward to trying the apricot coconut almond variety.  Amazingly, after eating most of 2 batches of these, I didn't gain any weight.  Well, maybe a lb.  I gave some to John and Nancy P.  They totally approved.  The second batch came out more crispy crunchy.

Hope my cat makes it through the winter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cold snap

What a difference a day makes... look at my previous post.  Temps have dropped about 30º since yesterday and late this morning, a pretty good snow shower moved through Champion Cove.  Forecast is 18º tonight.   This afternoon, the clouds cleared and the sun came out.  The clear cold air and the sun angle made the colors really vivid on the moist leaves.

First snow of the season comes early.  No accumulation, but wow.  Supposed to be back up near 70º by Monday, thankfully.

The season's first snow shower

Sunny and cold

Monday, November 11, 2013

Picture perfect fall days

The last bits of fall color on this wonderful weekend in Sewanee.   

The weather on Sunday and Monday this second week of Nov. were nearly 10º higher than predicted.  This sunny facing bluff hit 67.5º today while stations in the towns of Sewanee and Monteagle struggled to get to 60º today.   Something about the late afternoon and evening thermals of this southwest facing exposure give this location warm fall and winter evenings compared to the town.  As I write this, it's 56º at 6:50 pm here at Sky Castle while Sewanee is reporting 49º in town.  The air is completely still, hard to believe a wind advisory is in effect for tomorrow and sub freezing temperatures for the next 2 nights.  Hopefully, the cold snap will arrest these lady bugs swarms we've been having.

Friday night was the awesome A. Shankar Indian music concert, and Sat., a great party here at Sky Castle with lots of musicians.   I think, out of 18 people at the party, all but 2 or 3 were musicians.   Great time, great music, and nice turnout.  We partied from sunset to late.  Should have taken some photos but didn't think of it.

Here are some of today... been really enjoying my evening tea by the fire on the porch.

Tea time - 4:00 pm

Monday, November 4, 2013

So, that's what it was!

In the Smokies at high elevation, two birds buzzed the tree tops at high speed creating a sonic blast.  I'd never heard anything like it.  Thought that it might have been a falcon or something.   I had no idea what I had witnessed, but now I know.... it was the dive of the Nighthawk.

Listen at the 18 sec mark of this video.  It was actually pretty frightening.  Privileged to have seen and heard it.  Twice.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Firewood ... the final solution

Yes, I built a 16' x 6' woodshed ... by myself.   8' tall.   No easy task, working with 16' lumber and 4'x 8' sheets of plywood... with no one to hold the other end.  It took me about 16 hrs to build and paint it.

Then... I finally did it.  Bought a splitter.  A Husky consumer model, 22-ton.   Wanted an Ariens with a Honda engine, but this was $400 cheaper and I bought an extended 4 year warranty that even covers normal wear.   How much can I use this a year?  Kind of felt silly about buying it but... it will save time and save my hands with the manual splitting I've been doing.   I decided not to build my screen house so I justified the cost that way.   Aside from the USA-made Briggs & Stratton engine (know for their mediocrity), it is a simple and heavily built solid steel machine.   It weighs 534 lbs, but it's fairly well balanced, not too much of a struggle to move.   I hope I don't roll it off the bluff by mistake.  It cut even the knurliest hardwood with ease.  It makes a nice compliment to my Stihl chainsaw.  

I got a helluva workout.  Especially my glutes, core and back.  As hard as any resistance work I've done.   Lifting 80lbs logs onto the trailer, rolling even heavier ones uphill and through the woods.   Although the wood was long dead, half of it was stringy and wet.  Good that it will be at the bottom of the pile.  With the splitter, I can produce a face cord of split firewood from a felled log in less than a half day.

Since I abandoned the screen house project, I upgraded my porch fireplace with the nice Preway I had intended for the screen house.  Tried it out last night.  Awesome.  It's going to make sitting outside, even in winter, nice.  Still want to add some heat shielding for the floor and deck rails, but it's great.

OK... project finished, now back to playing guitar and training on the track.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Oct. 20.  Morning low of 36º.

No, not getting tired of the view...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fontana Lake, NC, Oct. '13

It could not have been better. The weather was perfect. 5 days in the Great Smoky Mountains with temperatures in the 70ºs everyday, no rain.   The boat ran great.

The Government shutdown made the park extremely quiet, but all seemed normal here at Fontana Lake, NC. You'd never know there was a park shutdown. No rangers, but Fontana visitors center was open, a few campers arriving by kayak in the park.  However, only saw one hiker in 5 days and 35+ miles of hiking...  a girl through-hiker on the AT, coincidentally, a recent college grad from Sewanee.  We hiked with her to Shuckstack tower.

The big hike was Monday, the 16 mile hike to High Rocks with a 3500" climb.  We started a bit late and walked the last hour in the dark, but we were prepared.  The summit view was great.   The old ranger cabin at the summit was severely deteriorated, the roof had fallen in.

The Friday hike up the Lost Cove trail out of Eagle creek to Shuckstack tower was spectacular.  The weather was clear and it made for some really good photos.

Overall, we saw 5 bear... all in trees and coming down fast to flee from us.

Check out the photos...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Woodfire culture... that time of year again

With temperatures dipping into the 40ºs on the bluff again tonight, fires took the chill off... both on the porch and in the bedroom.   Feels good.   Been eyeing some log splitters... no, I better not.   I think I'll build a mondo sized wood shed in my woods, rent a splitter, and produce a years worth of firewood in a day.   I have 3 large standing dead trees on my property.

I love the culture of wood.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Firey Gizzard hike

Not the longest but the most rugged and tiring hike in the south Cumberland:  the Firey Gizzard gorge hike to Raven Point.  Just 10 miles, but a lot of up and down, difficult footing with boulder crossings.

It was as beautiful as I had remembered it, the lush forest primeval with ferns and giant hemlocks. We did this hike on Monday, so Roya and I had Raven Point to ourselves.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

project: porch awning - updated ... again

A new porch awning on the Sky Castle porch made from recycled metal roofing.   Added a futon with an all weather cover and a steel fireplace/grill.

The fall sunsets will be spectacular from here.  Oh, the view!  

UPDATE:  I stained the beams and added a sunshade.  Now it's a 'sleeping porch'.
(see below)

Second Update:  I added a large field stone under the fireplace, a full width color matching shade, a table/wood bin, and a 90º elbow on the stove to divert smoke away and keep water out.  I slept out here twice this weekend.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Livin' in the trees

On my sacred tree... Tibetan prayer flags and friendly plants.  
My deck in Sewanee over looking the quiet wilderness of Champion and Lost Coves.
Gorgeous weather... dry and cool nights, warm but not hot days.

Riding, racing, loving nature

After my morning race in Chattanooga, I took an awesome ride at Jackson Point.

This is a point on the Cumberland Plateau that has been cleared for development unfortunately, but like Myers Point, has not sold.  In one week they are selling 230 acres of this spectacular land in an absolute auction.

At the end of the point, there is pinnacle where there is a 360º view with Sweeton Cove on one side, I24 and the TN River on the other side.  From there,  I watched the sunset.

The new road down to Sweeton Cove is amazing, it drops 800' down into the beautiful Sweeton Cove community.   What a ride.  It an off road cyclists dream... lots of flower lined trails through the woods, all fairly close to my house.

And I get to come back to an even better view... without the distant noise of the highway.