An old house in the country.
And land all around.
A sanctuary for all who dwell here.
Those were our dreams for the 1835 farm.
And, though the original land had been cleared decades earlier when it stood proudly as a 100-acre tract, the pastures on these remaining fifteen had long grown wild. Creek beds, once again, filled with sycamores and hickories. While the old oak marking the far property line spawned a stand of new, young trees beyond the pond.
The elderly owners had wished for it wildness, and touched very little in their fifteen-year stay.
Untouched land reclaims even stone houses.
And the damage from neglect shown as rot and decay.
Shoring up the old house consumed much of our first years’ efforts.
Looking to the land, we began by removing fences. Creating a connected space, through which wildlife could easily move. From the pond to the oak woods, from the woods to the field—many tracks ran about on the soon well-worn paths. Regrowth had begun to restore the once-farmed land.
Last week, another dream.
Julie Zickefoose, who literally wrote the book on creating safe places to both attract and sustain birds and butterflies, "The Bird-Friendly Backyard : Natural Gardening for Birds," walked the property with us. Her years of experience on her own land, just four hours east, and wealth of knowledge far beyond birds alone, were a privilege to tap into, even though, on this afternoon, the skies revealed very few, if any, birds to watch.
Bullfrogs? Who knew the hundreds lurking in the shallow water edging the pond might be a problem for songbirds? Doesn’t everyone have this many?
And suggestions for creating a nest site for turtles—the many curled white shells, evidence of a predator’s attention.
That evening after dinner, we relaxed around the table by the fire—catching up with Kathi and Susan, fellow bloggers and travelers along the dark country roads leading to the old farm.
Charming a small Black Rat snake found earlier, sunning on the lawn.
Enjoying the company of Chet Baker, Julie’s Boston Terrier, loved by all who meet him and a celebrity in his own right.
I spent the following afternoon with Baker, while Julie led walks and programs at a nearby middle school. On one of the last gloriously fine days of autumn we fell asleep, stretched out in the back field, warmed by sunshine.
Time to walk.
And time to talk.
I marvel at this generous woman who makes herself so accessible to so many. And whose passion for the natural world spreads wildly--lingering in those she touches long after she has gone.