Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Daffodils from another time
I've read that you can lose a farm field in as little as two years if you don't mow every year; what we've found is that nature starts reclaiming the edges first. Every time there's an ice storm the tree branches sag a little lower, making it harder for tractors to mow to the old edges of the field, and before long you realize you can't even see the original fence line.
So it is with the field bordering our leaky pond. In the 1990s I brought a canoe up from Raleigh and kept it on some old saw horses by the rusty barbed wire fence -- bobwar, we called it when I was a kid, not knowing there was more to it. We sold the canoe long ago to friends, but left the sawhorses by the fence. Not long ago, as we were cutting back the saplings and hawthorn and locust and greenbrier, I found the remains of one of those sawhorses, and realized that nature had taken back more than 20 feet of the field in some places. We were just getting there in time.
We've watched, too, as the daffodils down by the old house began putting out green shoots, then faintly yellow buds, and in the past few days bright yellow blossoms. They're short-stemmed daffodils, perhaps 5 or 6 inches at most, a hardy variety to stand up to the harsh winds that blow up the narrow notch from where the creeks converge half a mile down the way. We've been watching those daffodils reappear each spring for decades now, and often I wonder who planted them and what life was like on this old farm. The old house hasn't been occupied for at least half a century, but years ago met some folks who had lived in the house in their youth. It was a good place for a kid to grow up, Buford Wood told me a few years before his death -- hard times, but a good place to learn how to shoot, how to hunt and how to live on a little.
But outside the daffodils by the rock foundation bring a fresh look to the old place each year. I imagine a farmer or perhaps his wife put them in the ground, perhaps as late as the 1950s, possibly even earlier. If so, that would make these old bulbs at least 60 years old and still growing strong. I can't quite fathom what those farmers' lives were like in these hills and hollows, but it surely would have been a struggle some years to scratch a living from the land, especially after the chestnuts died off. But I'm grateful to them for the apples that still provide bright red fruit every few years, and the daffodils that come up each spring, heralding the end of a long winter -- and sometimes a short one.