Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cattle trails

Most of the land we live on is wooded with oak, hickory, pecan, and walnut trees. Cattle trails wind in and out of the forest and provide us with a way to explore the farm. Lisa and I followed one last night through the back pasture and across to an area of the farm where a spring runs and fills several ponds. It's beautiful. Crab apples are ripening, as are the persimmons, filling the air with hints of fall.

The woods never look the same. No matter how often we walk the trails there are places that seem new and unfamiliar. From the lush greens of a rainy spring day to the stark absence of green in winter, the woods show a new face each time we hike. I'm struck by all the life that makes its home in the woods. Last night I walked through something, some tall grass perhaps, and came out with a dark brown patch on my leg. I bent down to investigate just in time to see dozens of tiny little bugs scatter across my leg. Lisa thinks they are chiggers. I'm not convinced, but I brushed them off furiously just in case, and then wiped down with alcohol and showered when I got home.

Our walk last night started with a hike out through the back pasture to close the gate. A cattle trail led us through a part of the farm we hadn't explored before. After a few minutes we reached a place that's familiar, a fork in the path where we'd always turned north. We headed down the familiar path to our favorite pond. The pond is lined with reeds on three sides. There's a beautiful clearing to the north, with a perfect canopy of shade on the edge. We'd like to camp there some day, and hope it will happen soon. Until a few weeks ago, cattle roamed freely through the woods. Neither of us wanted to camp there with them around. As friendly as they are, I wouldn't want to wake up to them checking out our tent.

I love this time of year, when the farm is slowing down enough to allow time to explore. The evenings bring cooler temperatures and the sun's light softens, inviting me to shed the office and spend some time outside after work. There's a sense of urgency in it. Soon, darkness will set as I drive home, giving the last glimpse of light on the western horizon as I pull into the driveway.