Sunday, November 24, 2013

Getting ready for the holidays

Met a young father of 4 small children this morning so I could show him how to find the cabin. Once again I'll be hosting a few "Santa Hunts" before Christmas. Parents with their small children take a hike after dark in the woods and 'find' a cabin where Santa is sleeping in a rocker by the fire. The children get to come inside and sit on Santa's lap while rocking in front of a fire. Pretty magical if I do say so myself. Wish I could share the experience with more but unfortunately it is by exception and only a few get to experience this special arrangement.

Still amazed how much light is generated by LED bulbs. Being off the grid, its important to have low wattage loads and at Christmas, it is great they now make these for trees and trim.

Tree is up and the cabin is decked out.
Picture from 2012 and the Santa hunts at the cabin

Dinner for 2 with a window seat

Cabin is ready for the holidays

A stocking for each of my 3 kids

Took the deer mount down so as not to scare the kids. Santa didn't kill a reindeer

Ready for the big guy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Busy days at the cabin

Posts on this blog clearly run behind and are failing to document all the activities ongoing at ManCamp and the cabin in the woods.

Much work has been ongoing preparing for inclement weather. Both 100 lb tanks of LP have been filled, firewood has been cut and the cabinets have been filled with food. There are plenty of  beverages and water for a weekend or week long stay.

Wood roaches were a real end of Fall problem that had to be addressed. Their decision to move into the cabin was strategically bad. Three gas treatments appear to have solved the seasonal problem. Clean up of their dead bodies has been reduced to the one or two finds under a table or chair; unlike the scene in October where a pint jar of dead bodies were sucked up in the vacuum.

The 2013 Christmas tree is now up and holiday decorations are sprinkled throughout.

Santa Claus has been using the cabin for filling out his good and naughty lists this year and I have been fortunate to catch him in front of the fire at work.

Santa has once again returned to the cabin to prepare for another Christmas season.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Overdue Update

With so much going on it is becoming difficult finding time to update this blog. The cabin is unchanged and traveling through time with the seasons. The good news to share is the cabin hasn't changed and is still every bit as welcoming today as it was 2 years ago.

We find time passes us by and our lives spin on at a fast pace while some things remain the same. Visits to the cabin remain special regardless of frequency, time or duration. Visitors continue to arrive; both those on two legs and 4.

So very thankful great aunt Beulah's family donated her chest of drawers as a cabin asset to cherish and protect from the weather of time.

Recent visitors include 1977 Waverly High School graduate, Mike Patterson who has made a career as an Air Traffic Controller in Indiana, Joe and Cathy Teeters, and my cousin Jerry Sergent from Ashland, Kentucky.

I can't close without thanking Chris and Ed Burkitt for visiting the cabin and bringing over 40 pickled eggs for the bar counter. They have always been good friends and favorite associates so their visit was very special; even Laura came to the cabin. This is the little lady's 5th trip in 5 years to my home away from home.

Mike Patterson enjoying Cabin Time

Two fine people in my life: Joe and Cathy Teeters.
There is nothing better than a big jar of pickled eggs on a cabin

Cousin Jerry hauled great aunt Beulah's chest of drawers from
Lost Creek in Willard, Kentucky to the cabin. What a beautiful
piece of furniture.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A cistern arrives

Building an off the grid cabin in the woods, at least for us, is a marathon; not a sprint. The goal is to never be done and to always improve which makes this week's activity worth mentioning.

Brother John had plans at his farm in Carter County Kentucky that included installation of an underground cistern up on a hill at a fresh water spring. The plan would provide fresh spring water at the house below. Unfortunately, after purchasing the cistern, the project was never completed and the cistern sat idle beside the barn awaiting a future use.

On Sunday, Kuma d.o.g. accompanied me on the 85 mile drive to Carter County to pick up the cistern for ManCamp. After much effort and struggles, it was loaded on the trailer for the trip back to Ohio.

With the cistern at Fosson Family Trail in Ohio, I'm now looking forward to digging a hole and installing it for rain water collection from the cabin roof.

The cabin continues evolving to a self-sufficient off the grid dwelling. Sometime soon, we will enjoy a sufficient supply of fresh water.
1200 gallon cistern for underground installation.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Summer's pace

Summer's pace has robbed me of evenings like this where sitting with a lager while watching wildlife oblivious to the cabin porch becomes a most peaceful way of passing time. Today I watched a beautiful red fox, a young doe and a crafty wild black and white cat visit the view below before the sun set behind the western ridge. I'm more than ready to slow down and enjoy fall's beauty. The cabin reminds me that most of what we must deal with on a daily basis distracts us from truly seeing God's creations.

Such a pleasure to hear the acorns falling and rolling down the metal roof above before being launched into the leaves for squirrels to find.

Fall is my favorite season and southern Ohio provides an opportunity to enjoy it's full beauty.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Porch Sitting

At a cabin, there is no rush to do anything. Personally, I actually find it hard to do anything except relax and just chill out. There is no better way than to kick back on the porch and just soak in the surroundings. The soundtrack from Last of the Mohicans with a glass of Merlot as the evening sun sets is all I need to put a busy day out of mind.

Time slows down on the cabin porch

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stress Relief

Stress can often become overwhelming when your career involves working in a highly regulated nuclear environment. Zero tolerance, verbatim compliance, audits, inspections, oversight and a constant focus on improving performance can weigh on you; especially when working 10-12 hour days.

Stress relief can come in many ways. Time away from work is always good but unless separation occurs, a pager and phone often means you are still fully connected.

The cabin is my relief. When there, I know there are no contacts but with nature and the beauty of God's creation. There are no bills awaiting or calls on an answering machine, just the peace and quiet of the trees surrounding those 4 walls. The sun provides enough energy to store hours of power in the utility room's batteries. It is a pleasure opening the cabin and knowing there is sufficient energy to turn every light on while choosing music on the stereo to fit my mood.

The cabin is very functional in many ways. Perhaps it's greatest value to me at this time in my life is to have a sanctuary where stress is relieved.

The peace of the cabin greeted me on a recent visit

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mid summer night at the cabin

This has been a strange Ohio summer with so much rain and cool weather. Until recently, it has been unseasonably cool without the normal high July temperatures. In Scioto Trails, we typically get heat, humidity and drought conditions with the woods surrounding the cabin wilting and screaming for a drink from nature's overhead nourishment. Not this year; a rain forest full of green foliage is everywhere and its obvious to a casual observer that we've had plenty of rain as bright healthy vines climb the cabin lattice.

Kuma d.o.g. once again accompanied me to the cabin for an evening's retreat and night's rest during this environment of climate transition. Thankfully, some things remain unchanged. Like the solar powered porch lights that twinkle on at the onset of dusk, or the cool air that greets us as we open the front door. And then there's the smell of the hickory floor and pine walls as we renew our primitive bond and enter for another visit.

Late in the evening there is little time to do much before retiring. Opening the windows, lighting candles, pouring a small glass of wine and settling into a comfortable chair to soak in nature's sounds, smells and breeze. There are televisions, radios, cell phones and computer tablets to entertain but all remain silent as the real enjoyment is just outside the screens in the shadow of a few dancing wicks.

An over weight Labrador stretched out on a hearth rug snoring to high heaven is enough to serenade anyone to sleep under these circumstances.

After swallowing the last sip of wine and extinguishing the last candle, I too find myself horizontal and ready for the peace of the woods.

Soon after total darkness is upon us, we both raise our ears and heads to the sound of a pack of coyotes howling outside. Knowing they are of little threat while passing innocently through their habitat, my companion and I return to sleep as we enjoy yet another mid-summer night at the cabin.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cabin Time

Work obligations have made it difficult to have time at the cabin over the past few weeks. Finally, I simply broke down and decided down time for rest and relaxation was in order and overdue.

The joy of walking inside and feeling that coolness that only a cabin in the woods on a summer evening can share is very special. Everything in its place, not a bug to be found yet peace and relaxation is overwhelming as I look around.

Having recently purchased a Kindle Fire HD, I downloaded some videos I had never seen to watch at the cabin. I've heard so much about Modern Family, I thought I'd pour a small glass of wine and kick back in the recliner to enjoy it. After opening all the windows as the sun went down behind that western hill in front of the porch, I lit a couple of candles before settling in. Kuma loves the cabin so much it is truly her first choice of home life. She too likes knowing she has her own food and water bowl and a soft cabin bed in which to retire. With the sound of crickets and tree frogs just outside the screens, I began the episode that I'd been waiting for.

Long after the candles had melted down, I awoke in the recliner and looked at the Regulator on the wall; it was going on 3 am. The Kindle was still open in my lap and the glass of wine was still full.

The cabin has such power over the mind and body. Clearly, rest was needed and over due. Why I would even think I could watch a television sitcom while hypnotized by nature's sounds is beyond my own imagination. Someday I'll try it  again but for now, there is no place like a recliner at night in the breeze of a cabin to relax and rest. It has been long overdue.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weather Retreat

With summer weather finally entering the Ohio Valley, much time has been spent at the family home working on opening the pool and preparing the backyard for summer visits with family and friends.

Today after work, I found myself cooling off the 89 degrees in the 82 degree pool water. However, it wasn't long before clouds began moving in from the west to block the sun while followed by showers.

With the pool party abruptly ended by mother nature, there is no good place to retreat except to the cabin.

Always on the look out for cabin accents that reflect an atmosphere for relaxing and relieving work stress, I found a lamp at Cabela's web site for the side of the recliner that fits the decor of a cabin in the woods.

A glass of wine, a Kindle and rain on the roof is all that's needed to make worries go away.

Rain, wine, a Kindle

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where is the heat?

Last night Kuma d.o.g. and I spent the night at the cabin where temperatures dropped into the upper 30s. Had I not awoke and built a fire, there weren't enough blankets in the chest to keep me warm on such an unseasonably cold night.

I'm sure as June approaches, nights such as this will disappear and I'll long for cooler weather. That's what makes Ohio unique, you get a full blast of each of the 4 seasons.

Spring has sprung at the cabin

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Deep Sleep

I'm finally understanding an interesting phenomena I've discovered about my connection to the cabin. It involves sleep.

Months ago, when sleeping in the loft bed for the first time, I thought the cabin was possessed. As I went to bed staring out the skylight at lightening above, I fell fast asleep as rain danced gently on the metal roof. At some point later I awoke feeling an evil presence, weight on my chest, I couldn't move a muscle and I felt like there was a vibrating sound all around. This unusual sensation didn't last long at all but the emotional event was significant. So significant that I began searching on the Internet to better understand what I experienced. I found out it was not uncommon and it is attributed to waking during pre-rem sleep. Rem sleep is the deepest stage of rest where dreams occur. The body's large muscles are paralyzed during rem, perhaps to prevent us from acting out in our dreams. The sensations I felt were text book descriptions others had used to describe thinking their bedrooms were possessed. Once I understood the science, I never feared the loft or the chance of pre-rem awakening.

Yesterday during the afternoon rain, I stretched in the recliner and fell into a deep rem sleep where I began dreaming. A nap became a much needed rest event where a few hours passed and I awoke feeling I had traveled abroad.

Last night, I hiked to the cabin in a steady rain and darkness to the comfort of the couch for a night's rest. With all the windows open and that rain outside dampening the tree frogs singing above, I again fell into a deep rem sleep that lasted much longer than perhaps it should. Long adventurous dreams kept my mind active while the body was at rest.

The cabin is my dream world. Nights there are always filled with adventure.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Somethings in the porch ceiling

The cabin porch ceiling is 6' x 24' and boxed in.

Well, sort of; it's supposed to be boxed in.

Procrastination resulted in the north end, which is about 17' above the ground, being left open awaiting a final section of paneling.

It should come as no surprise that this dry sanctuary from the spring rains would attract a tenant or two.

For the past two evenings as the sun drops below the western hill and the string of porch lights twinkle to life, something nocturnal begins stirring above my head and above the porch ceiling.

At first I thought this mystery may be the infamous Ninja squirrel but not knowing the life cycle of a squirrel, I had my doubts he was still alive to taunt me again.

It is clearly bigger than a bread box and walks around as if to exercise before going out for the night.

I wondered if it was a troll or an elf as each would be more welcome than a destructive gangsta 'coon. I have yet to see this creature and although I sit with a Winchester Model 92 32-20 rifle at my side, I'm not motivated enough to erect a ladder to inspect this dark, foreboding space.

One evening as I sit in the dark, it will reveal itself.

Until then, I will sit and wonder as it walks above.

Something is living above the porch ceiling

Failing to close the north end just invites guests to make a new home

Monday, May 06, 2013

Spring Rain

Unless you have new plants in the ground or recently sowed grass seed, weather like today's leaves little to enjoy outdoors less there is a cabin in your life.

At ManCamp, from the back depths of the front porch, raindrops managing to find their way onto the wooden slats below are far removed from dry sock feet as they spray on contact from their fall.

Hearing the gentleness of a constant early May shower as it disrupts new leaves in every direction around is as relaxing as a child's bedtime lullaby.

Torn between spending time on the porch or in a loft bed beneath the metal roof above is a pleasant set of options.

Love of the seasons in the forest is hard to separate into most or least favorite. Each are unique and offer so much to ease the mind. Winter's soft yet silent snowfalls are as beautiful as one could imagine yet an early spring rain my mom would call a 'good soaker' brings out the color and life of the woods for another year. Summer's relentless heat is rewarded by iced down beverages on the porch as a symphony of tree frogs, whip-poor-wills and life on the forest floor entertains casual observers. Fall delivers the colored, falling foliage, cool evenings and the crisp smells.

How blessed I am that I can come here and distance myself from all the advancements of civilization and time if only for a short period.

This is nature; this is where we evolved and where we all shall clearly return.

God's creations.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Whip-poor-wills return

So easy is it to forget why we labored so hard to build it when life's commitments distract and take precedence over quality time at the cabin.

A date night with Kuma d.o.g. this evening included a trip to the local Walmart where a shopping cart was filled with bird seed, suet, corn and squirrel food for our neglected friends in the woods.

A stop at the Wilson Run grocery en route for the coldest beverages in the state and a handful of SlimJims made both of us happy as we arrived at our sanctuary for some much needed peace and relaxation.

Inside, finding the cabin guest book out of place with new entries reminded me that our youngest son had unfettered access and could come and go as he pleased with new converts to cabin time.

After filling the feeders and taking our places on the porch, we witnessed nature's transition from day to night on this Spring evening. Chirping birds above were silenced by sounds of tree frogs and a symphony of bull frogs in the distant pond.

Hearing numerous whip-poor-wills in the surrounding forest brought it all home again; just like 1965. What a joy to hear them sing!

As I struggle to write under the solar porch lights a hoot owl injects an opinion of the upcoming darkness.

How I love being here once again and hearing these sounds.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Neglected Cabin

So many distractions over the past couple of weeks resulted in few cabin visits. No specifics, just lots of competing priorities have kept my trusted companion and me from spending any quality time in the woods.

This afternoon I finally took Kuma d.o.g. on a date and a long walk traipsing around the farm that ended in the cabin. She was so happy to just go in and curl up on the sofa that I realized she loves these visits just as much as I do.

Sitting and looking around, it seems like its been so long since it was built; I can't help but wonder how we did it with such limited skills and tools. It just proves the you can achieve your goals if you focus attention and persevere.

I'm still amazed how quiet it gets even during the day. The ring in the ears and an occasional woodpecker or the wall clock is all you hear while  sitting on the porch on days like today.

Spring is all around where new life is blooming every where you look.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Spring visitors

Sunday at the farm brought out many hungry mouths for the Breakfast Club. I counted at least 15 and nobody went away hungry. The highlight of the morning was a trip to the cabin for those first time visitors or those that haven't been on cabin time for some time.

Mark and Angela Snodgrass on their first visit to the cabin


Nephew Nathan Childers and his friend Kristi

Jim Snodgrass with his son Mark and daughter in law Angela
My aunt Helen and uncle Earl

Nephew Michael with his wife, Beth and their children

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring Thaw

That short period of time between winter's freeze and spring's awakening has got to be the least enjoyable time of year in southern Ohio. The forest trails become sloppy mud ruts that are not only impassable except for the hardiest 4x4s but are unsightly and filthy too. Hidden beneath an appearance of solid earth is an oozing slop that quickly overtakes a vehicle's tires. Should a trail rise under such conditions, the chance of successfully passing is greatly reduced, as was the case last night.

After watching the Ohio State men's basketball team fall in the NCAA tournament, the best way to put the sting of defeat out of my mind was to grab Kuma d.o.g. and head to the cabin. So late at night, a hastily assembled travel plan meant throwing on some pants and t-shirt, donning worn out,
hole-filled sneakers (absent socks) and a light sweatshirt. After all, it was late and we were just going out to enjoy a quiet night of sleep in the woods to put the game out of my head. In haste, I forgot a cell phone.

The Liberty Jeep was chosen because of its availability and past success. As I approached a decision point in the dark where alternate trails could be selected, the quickest, shortest one was picked to save time; unfortunately, it was not a good choice. As I begin ascending, traction was lost and the Jeep came to a stop with all 4 tires spinning. Even the lowest gear failed to help so I attempted to back down for another run. As luck would have it, the Jeep went sideways and over an edge in even wetter, deeper soup that resulted in being stranded about 300 yards from the cabin. No egress route from the warmth of the Jeep was without deep, pools of mud. As Kuma jumped out and sank mid-leg, I could only imagine how dirty she would be upon our arrival. We both were mud covered as I felt the intrusion of it's cold around my toes in the worn shoes.

As we finished our walk, I couldn't help but think of how significant the error of not carrying a phone was. With Easter Sunday just hours away, the chance of summoning a ride in the morning without a phone was lost. Our absence wouldn't be recognized until evening when Laura would be serving up Easter dinner for our family. Only then would she call and realize my phone was still at the house.

Now, after midnight, there was no time to worry about such minor inconveniences; stripping wet, muddy clothes off on the porch and finding wet towels to clean off a mud caked dog was a higher priority.

Fortunately, our little issue of being stranded did not prevent getting a good night's sleep; the cabin's magic still delivers even in the worst of times. A light rain on the roof was a gentle reminder that the Jeep's status wouldn't be any better in daylight.

Awakening to a pot of fresh ground coffee took my mind off our plight as Easter's morning in the woods was alive and filled with the sound of birds singing. Perhaps they too were filled with the joy of His resurrection.

A trip to the barn provides yet another opportunity for my brown companion to enjoy a run through the mud. Thankfully, a cold diesel tractor started and a tow chain was available to wrap around the Jeep's axle. The escape plan hatched over a pot of coffee was coming together. If it wasn't for having to get on the wet, sinking ground to reach a tow point, it would have been flawless. I'm getting proficient at this routine even when working alone. The 4x4 tractor had no trouble pulling the Jeep onto solid ground where it could finally make it on it's own.

Laura was quick to notice the mud on Kuma and my clothes as we finally returned home just before noon. After stripping in the laundry room and once again wiping down my dog, we were no worse for wear.

It will take the better part of a week to restore the Jeep to its pre-trip condition though due to the spring thaw.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bird Watching

Today was overcast and cold for mid-March with winter not wanting to yield to spring which is just a week away.

Sitting inside I have a clear view of the recent arrival of feathered friends that enjoy a cabin's hospitality and free treats that fill the feeders.

Even with the Regulator on the wall ticking seconds away, the silence inside is so complete that my ears ring. As a breeze blows just beyond window glass separating nature's wonder from a camera lens, I sit comfortably in the recliner capturing images of God's creations. Nothing can be heard except the passing sounds of time.

Not a sound but that of time as it ticks away

Blue jays are always getting their share of food

The male cardinal is so beautiful and proud

Cardinals were always my mother's favorite bird on the farm

The eastern bluebird is so very beautiful

How can anyone not like these beautiful little birds

Winter must surrender to Spring's arrival

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mid-Night Surprise

A late night walk with Kuma through the woods came to an end on the cabin porch.

After a long week I was too tired to do anything other than stretch out in the recliner for about an hour before migrating to the sofa for a quiet night of sleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night I was awakened by a heavy rain on the roof. Once I recognized what it was, deep sleep returned quickly. There are few sounds as pleasant in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mid March Visit

A mid-week cabin visit without family, friends or trusted companion, Kuma d.o.g., fills a personal, nagging need. An uncharacteristic absence driven by obligations, stress, and fatigue is finally overcome by shear desire to do my own thing, my own way, on my own time as I return once again.

While I've been away, the youngest son took full advantage of our cabin creation. At an age closing in on 21, who could blame him?

Parental instincts influenced an inspection to confirm order was maintained in my absence. To my surprise there was little evidence of wear from sharing our hideaway. Empty wine glasses in the sink, a well burned fireplace candelabra, a lingering scent of incense and a young ladies' signature in the guest book adorned with hearts was all that remained.

It was clear the cabin served a purpose that extended beyond my personal needs.

A passion for quiet time alone was the primary objective of my visit. Raiding the fridge, a Coke was tapped to mix with the last ounces of Honey Tea to accompany peanut butter encapsulated pretzels found on the bar.

The recliner waiting by the fire forms to a middle-age spread as shoeless feet reach beyond it's length to the warmth overflowing from the hearth. Music breaks the silence as it streams from a favorite station on the airwaves.

Content, with no desire to leave, reality reminds me this mid-week visit will be cut far too short.

After absorbing as much as I can, acknowledging the return to the world I live and work includes recognition of how special these opportunities are.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Special Place for Rest

One of the symptoms of a tendon tear in a shoulder's rotator cuff is discomfort when trying to sleep. Although days are now filled with nagging pain, it's not until bedtime that the pain intensifies where sleep evades the body. At the end of a long sleep deprived day, hiking in the woods with Kuma d.o.g. at my side provides a much needed distraction as we navigate the creek bank and climb the thawing, muddy hill to the cabin lane.

Once on the cabin porch, I remove my muddy shoes and wipe the wet earth from my companion's four paws before entering our evening sanctuary. Inside, I check the thermometer on the wall and am satisfied with its report. Powering up the inverter was as simple as flipping a switch that instantly powers lamps, the fireplace garland, furnace blower and the radio.

Finding a bottle of Red Stag Honey Tea that accompanied me home from Jim Beam's Kentucky distillery weeks earlier, I pour a shot as I kick back in the cabin recliner. Kuma d.o.g. paces in circles repeatedly before settling in a curl on the fireplace rug.

With no memory of falling asleep, I awake with an empty shot glass in my lap hours after kicking back for a little rest.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Beulah rules the cabin kitchen

After late word Friday that the pain in my shoulder and arm was due to a torn rotator cuff tendon, I finally knew why I was only getting about three hours of sleep a night due to discomfort. It also identifies the root cause of an unfortunate fire drill I went through at a hospital ER this week after asking to have someone evaluate my condition. Unfortunately, when male, mid-50s and 'thick', hospitals assume you are having a heart attack when you show up at their door step complaining of pain radiating down your left arm. After 2 days that included blood draws, stress tests, blood thinner shots in the belly, a romp on a treadmill and an afternoon in an MRI tube, they let me go; I left radioactive which wasn't so unexpected since I'm a nuclear worker and familiar with Technetium-99. The 10,000 counts per minute decayed off within 3 days leaving me no worse for wear.

With a sore shoulder and knowledge my heart was fine, I took Kuma d.o.g. to the cabin for some much needed rest. Stretching out before a fire in the peace of a dark, silent, winter night in the forest was just what I needed to finally get a full night's sleep.

While on cabin time, I've learned to appreciate the work horse of the kitchen, our wood stove affectionately named Beulah. Although it was 29 degrees outside, a small arm full of fuel was all that she needed to heat the kitchen to a balmy 80 degrees. Her hot oven cried out for a pan of chocolate chip cookies that I couldn't resist accomodating.

With all that is wrong in the world around us, its good to know there are sanctuaries off the grid to go and relax.

As Beulah rules the kitchen, Kuma and I enjoy the bounty of her labor.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A mid-winter's eve

Loyal companion Kuma d.o.g. greeted me upon my return from work with her big brown puppy-dog eyes and deep whines that could only mean one thing - cabin fever had set in and she desperately wanted to go to the woods.

The warmth of yesterday had given away to wind, rain and falling temperatures today after which I had planned to stay home where warm and dry.

After acknowledging Kuma's relentless pleas to take her along, we made another mid-winter trip to the forest. As the sun set and wind picked up, our hike in the sub-freezing temperature seemed much colder as I had but a hooded sweat shirt to keep me warm.

Upon arrival, the cabin was but 49 degrees inside yet felt warm away from the chill of the wind blowing strongly outdoors. The smell of warm vanilla sugar still lingered from an extinguished oil burner now cold from our last visit.

With the inverter on, the stored energy from the day's sun provided more than enough energy to light the garland hanging on the fireplace and a stereo tuned into National Public Radio, 104.1.

A 2010 bottle of Raven's Glenn Riesling pulled from the wine bush poured freely into a stemless glass retrieved from the kitchen's cupboard.

In the half darkened cabin with music now streaming beside me, Kuma crawls slowly up on the sofa with a half-eaten rawhide bone in her jaws as I recline in my favorite chair. A warm fleece throw covers me from sock feet to neck and is all that is needed to aclimate to the cool temperature inside. I slowly sip the coolness of white grapes bottled three years earlier.

Today's problems and priorities soon fade away as night's darkness greets us through the skylight above.

As Billy Joel slowly plays his piano on the air waves, Kuma, curled up against a sofa cushion is sound asleep and gently snoring.

Cabin time has now taken our stress away on a mid-winter's eve.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Private Selection

Looking forward to weekends at the cabin for peace and quiet makes it difficult to pass on an opportunity that awaits. However, sometimes events arise that one just can't miss such as our annual visit to Nashville with many good friends.

On our trip this past weekend, we stopped at Jim Beam's distillery for a tour and bourbon tasting. The trip was made that much more special as a private selection of Jim Beam bourbon made it's way back to ManCamp shelves for those special occasions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shades of Gray

After a long mid-week day, I was content returning home to a hot supper, my easy chair, and Internet access catching up on friends and world affairs.

Unfortunately, one cannot ignore the power of persuasion of a fat brown dog who awaited all day for an evening walk; I succumbed to her demands for an evening road trip to the woods.

The sun had already set on this mid-February day and an afternoon winter squall had deposited 2-3" of new fallen snow still untouched by man or beast.

As Kuma d.o.g. and I began our trek as we so often do around the frozen pond, I was reminded of my own color blindness while trying to make out darkened images ahead. With the day's sun now set and only dark gray sky above, the white of the snow against the contrast of trees ahead provided a gray tone view absent any color the sun would reveal. I thought of my canine companion who science says is also color blind. The optical illusion continued until arriving at the cabin door.

Once inside, the lamps energized by the sun's stored gift illuminated our surroundings in a burst of colors making the shades of winter's gray disappear.

Shades of gray

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Mother's Wisdom

On this Sunday afternoon in February, I was surprised to find temperatures outside in the 50s as Kuma d.o.g. and I finally left the comfort of our city home to venture out to the cabin for some much needed exercise and peace of mind.

On such a beautiful pleasant day, driving the final distance would be such a waste of opportunity so I parked the Jeep and we hiked the last few hundred yards as we've done so many times in the past.

Circling the still frozen pond, I wondered what life was beneath the ice as tracks like vapor trails in the sky were visible just under its surface. Cracks and breaks in the ice left evidence of some living mammal comfortable in such a fridged environment surfacing here and there. Perhaps a beaver had taken up residence in our little pond; an animal that loves water year round with no concern of winter's chill.

Once at the cabin, filling the feeders for both feathered friends and furry little rodents that frequent where treats are always present relaxes the soul as I realize once again that life among nature is as rewarding to the dependents as those providing them nutrition.

The wine bush in the cabin offers a bottle of Dancing Bull Merlot to accompany me to the porch on a this winter's evening. The kitchen cabinet surrenders a fresh box of Hot & Spicy Cheez-It crackers to compliment my beverage while awaiting the arrival of my dinner guests.

In the distance, and at least 4 miles to the east, the sound of a Norfolk & Western railroad train can be clearly heard as it hauls West Virginia coal to the north.

My late mother always told me when the train could be heard so loud as if it was just beyond the nearest eastern hill, a heavy rain was not far behind.

As I sit and enjoy this February evening I'm again reminded of my mom's wisdom and those happier days left behind.

By the time we departed, a heavy rain began to fall.
An evening on the porch.

The wine bush.


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Where Friends Gather

The past two weekends have been filled with opportunities to share cabin time with my two sons and their friends. So how does an old man like myself entertain young men in their 20s? The short answer is "food, guns and movies".  One might think alcohol would play a role but surprisingly, it isn't a factor anymore than a cold glass of milk. I've found the most important element is good food and a place to just hang out. However, if guns are available to shoot targets, then everyone gets very happy.

Today, Brandon and his friends Chris and Jamel wanted to visit and do some target practice. I've always took pride in being a good host so knowing in advance they were coming allowed time to put a pot of chili on Beulah, pick up shells, and something to toast our friendships.

I may be getting old but by the end of the day it was apparent these boys had a great time and enjoyed the hospitality.

Toast to our friendships

Brandon with the Smith & Wesson .38 Special that was his great, great
grandfathers. I recall hearing stories of my grandfather squirrel hunting with this gun.

On a cold February day covered in snow, its easy to get wet feet. Beulah's low
heat burners are just right for roasting the cold and wetness out of socks as a pot
of chili slowly simmers.

Jamel rolls toilet tissue before shooting a .40 caliber S&W while Brandon awaits
with his own tissue in his ears.

Jamel Rider enjoying his second large bowl of chili with Cheez-Its.

Chris with his own .40 S&W and a .22 rifle

Inside by the fire, bowls of chili and a movie hits the spot.

It didn't take Chris long to eliminate an old bird house with his semi-automatic .40

Nobody leaves the cabin without a Kodak moment in front of the fireplace

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cabin Chores

The daily chores on a cold winter's evening are now complete; ashes removed, wood split, fires banked, feeders filled, floors swept, candles lit, wine poured. Now to relax and go on cabin time.

Picked up a few things while out today; always looking for little touches to dress it out.
Saturday night on Cabin Time

Picked up a new owl

A wine buddy

Another duck