Once again, sleeplessness is the impetuous for another Tipi Tales post! Indigestion is my least-favorite pregnancy side effect, and has me unable to fall asleep tonight. So, here you go – sorry it’s been so long since I wrote one of these! If you haven’t read one of these yet, you should go back and read my previous installments found here. In this post you will get an idea of the layout of our land, and learn the names and titles we gave to our very own landmarks.
Continued from Episode Seven: Spring on the Homestead
The first chance we had after the initial settling into our campsite, we stole an afternoon to explore. The boys and I finished our chores, making sure there was sufficient wood for the fire, and then gathered what we would need for an adventure. Joel got his bow saw and Swiss Army knife. Jordan made sure he had his coon-skin cap and a sturdy walking stick. I found a basket in which to put any treasure we might find. Mom put Baby (Anneke, then just 5 months old) in a baby backpack, left some soup on the stove to simmer, and joined us kids the first exploratory tour of our Land. The boys, Joel (15), and Jordan (10) set the pace out front, while Mom and I (13) each held the hand of one of my younger sisters, Anja (8), and Olivia (5).
As I have said, the tipi was set up in a corner of woods that jutted out into the uppermost meadow of our property. Just a few yards from the ‘doorstep’ you could survey most of our land, which was spread down toward the road and all to your left. The driveway wound down 1/4 mile through this main meadow to Turner St., our road, which was one step up from gravel when we moved there. Meadow is such a more poetic way to refer to a field, but that is all it was – overgrown in many places by goldenrod, Russian olive, and many other weeds. It had been many years since a cow had got a healthy lunch off of our ‘pasture land’. It would take several years of brush hogging, mowing, and fertilizing our meadows for them to become productive again. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the wildflowers that grew, and the tall brush you could hide away in. Running across this meadow from edge to edge, intersecting the driveway, was an interesting feature in the landscape – a long, continuous ‘bump’ which we later learned had been made by a previous owner to facilitate better drainage in the meadow. Often the up hill side of this bump was damp and puddles formed in wet weather. Being dutch, we imagined this was our very own Dyke, protecting us from flooding, and that is what it was called from then on.
In the center of this first large field, which we called the Upper Meadow, was an island of trees. This was our first stop. Forever after referred to as The Island, this little clump of trees and rocks beside the driveway was home to many a memory over the next few years. It was a place to find shade in the middle of a hot summer day if you were out in the fields, and it had a feel of history about it. The first time we visited, we tried to guess what its purpose was. On pushing through the brush growing thick around the perimeter, we found that the ground was covered with stones – an old foundation? we wondered. But no – there was no pattern or order to the stones, and we had to conclude that they had simply been dumped here, in the middle of the meadow, part of the process of clearing the fields to plant crops. Perhaps it was too far to carry them to the edges of the fields, which the farmers had lined with stone walls, built from more of these field stones. Over time the rocks had given protection for brush, then trees to sprout and grow, and the spot had become a bit of a dumping ground for other unwanted items. We found several pieces of rusty metal, including an old pair of sheep shearing scissors, and we carefully tucked them away in our treasure basket.
Leaving the Island and the driveway behind us, we veered off to the left, heading toward a line of trees that divided this meadow from the next. This we decided to call The Barway. Here, too, stones cleared from the field had been collected. These had once been a stone wall, but now most had fallen down until it was simply a long pile of rocks, with more brush and some full grown trees growing along it. Rounding the corner and entering what we named the Lower Meadow, we headed for the woods that grew along the left side of the field, as there was a large stand of trees we had all wanted to get a better look at. Coming closer, we were awed to find that this clump of trees, over 40 feet tall, was actually one tree at the base! Each trunk was at least two feet in diameter and the stump branched into a total of 9 separate tree-sized branches. The boys identified it as a Basswood tree, and were excited to know they had a good source for carving wood. We stood under its gray bulk and discussed a name. I forget who proposed Nueve, the Spanish word for nine, but we all agreed it was a splendid title, and moved on.
We headed back into the meadow now, toward another island of trees and stones. Perhaps we were running out of poetic ideas, for this we called simply the Second Island. This one was a little spooky in my opinion, the large tree in the center having low, overhanging branches, causing the whole thing to be deeply shaded in the summer and somewhat mysterious. Taking a quick look around for more treasures, we hastily made out for the last stop on our route.
We did not have many coniferous trees on our property, and the last thing we had wanted to pay a close-up visit too was the single pine tree that had met our views as we drove up and down the driveway. Way at the end of the Lower Meadow was a thick tree line that divided this meadow and a third, smaller meadow at the edge of our property. In the early spring, the only green to meet our view yet was a small pine tree snuggled up in the center of this tree line. On we marched through the thick, dead grasses, packed down into mounds by the heavy winter snows. Finally we reached the tree line and assured ourselves that we did, indeed, own a pine tree! When we first met him, the Lone Pine was only 5 feet tall, but eventually he grew to a proud 20 feet and was large enough that he could spare a few branches each December when I harvested pine boughs for wreath making.
Finally, having trekked nearly a half mile, and still not coming to the end of our land, we were filled with pride and satisfaction, and headed back up the hill toward the tipi and our dinner. Further walks would take us into the woods that sided the meadows and comprised 1/3 of our property. Here we would find an old foundation, an abandoned well, cool, refreshing springs, a stone wall cleverly built over the creek, and – one of my favorite spots – and ancient family cemetery.
Continued in Episode Nine: What’s Cooking?