Just past the cattle pasture and crop fields, the terrain changes suddenly and dramatically. We’re heading through an oak forest, down a narrow gravel and dirt lane toward the river bottoms. There are tall, treed hills on either side of us and a meandering creek following us on the left. Everything is carpeted in frosty leaves. I’m scanning for deer, turkey, owls – whoever may call this their home. At the bottom of the lane we stop at a field to continue on foot.
The river bottom is a large empty field flanked by hills and on three sides and the river to the left. It is a bowl of fertile soil. There are spent corn ears and pieces of stalks and leaves left over from the harvest. I scan the edges. No one in sight. In the distance a rooster crows.
It’s just after sunrise and the light is slowly peeking through the trees on the hill. The field is still in the shadows. The air is crisp and dry, a cool winter morning without the biting cold that will come in January. There are tracks in the soft ground along the edges of the plot; deer, raccoon, coyote. They’re here. Maybe watching us right now, but they don’t show themselves.
The frosted oak leaves lie in captivating patterns along the creek side, near to some of the biggest a cornsive ever seen. The acorns are so big that at first I didn’t recognize them as acorns. I can hardly take two steps without stopping to inspect the next cluster of leaves, pile of acorn shells or foot prints.
At the bend in the river we quietly peek through the trees across the river into another empty crop field and then retrace our steps to walk up the opposite hillside. There are unmistakable wildlife trails along the forested side of the creek here. Squirrels and their big leafy condos are all over the tree tops. There must be owls here, too.
I can see a canoe resting near the top of the hill. In this middle of these hills and fields, it seems odd. As I crest the top of the hill, I see the canoe is resting along side a sizable lake. What an unexpected element on this family farm.
There are small fish softly breaking the surface near the shore. All else is quiet. More frosty leaves, mushrooms, chestnuts and hickories.
An open gate further up the hill leads to the last field on the farm. It’s a popular spot for turkey and deer who are all elsewhere this morning. I walked through the trees down the steep slope back to the parked truck.
Back at the barns, the cats are finding their morning sunbeams.
I could spent another hour, or more, exploring these old barns , their treasures and the stories they tell. That will have to wait for another day. Coffee and company are waiting.