The Orphaned Woods, Flowers, Feathers and Neighbors

“I really shouldn’t be walking in the woods this time of year,” I said to Jon as I pulled another tick off of me.

But I knew there would be wildflowers and the trees are budding.  I could walk on my neighbor’s paths but then I’d be missing what’s happening in the Orphaned woods behind the farm.

It was last week that I realized I could begin to identify more trees when I saw the tiny pinkish-red bouquets that littered the ground.   I didn’t need binoculars after all, I just had to wait for the flowers and catkins to fall.

The Red Maples were the first to scatter their clues at my feet.  Every time I saw the small red flowers, I’d look around me to find bark that looked like Maple.  I have a good feeling for it now, but there are so many kinds of Maples.   I’m still now sure I could identify a Red Maple just by its bark.

Red Maple flowers that conveniently (for me) fell on the bark of the tree it came from.

The next thing I saw was the Marsh Marigold growing along the bank of the little stream.

Marsh Marigold

I knew there would be more wildflowers, so I kept my eyes to the ground.   These bright orange mushrooms were growing on a dead Black Cherry Tree that had fallen along the boundary of our woods and our neighbors.

There’s so much new life in the woods this time of year.  But so much of it, like these mushrooms, come from another species dying.  I wondered if we interrupted someone’s meal when I came across a dead chipmunk, that someone had obviously started eating.

Then there were the feathers, mostly gray and white, but a few with a swatch of purpish blue.  At first, I thought it was from a Blue Jay but they didn’t look like the Blue Jay feathers I’ve found in the past.  And they were much more purple.

I put one feather in my hat and was surprised when I spotted the thin white fur, not too far away.  It was hardly visible laying with the pine needles that were a similar size and shape.  I thought at this point that my eyes must be keen to seeing the stories of the woods.

The thin strands of animal hair in a small pile

I had a feeling there would be more flowers.  First, there was the purple one.  I can’t figure out what it is. But I bet someone reading this knows. The buds coming up close to the ground were covered in soft fuzz.

Then I found a cluster of what I believe is Rue Anemone.  It’s hard to distinguish the flower, but the leaf is telling.

Rue Anemone

I had seen the new posted signs as I walked through the woods and assumed they were put up by our new neighbors.  When Moise and Barbara Miller, visited us a couple of weeks ago I told Moise how I walk through the woods that lead all the way to Lake Lauderdale.

“Then you must walk in my woods,” he said and told me I was welcome there.

It was just last fall that I walked through the Miller’s cornfield for the first time. At the time,  I didn’t know it belonged to them or that our new neighbors were Amish.   I did see the big white house that was being built and not visible from Route 22.

Today as me and Fate and Zinnia took one of the paths leading home I saw two of the Miller kids in the cornfield with their dog, and two draft horses pulling a stoneboat.  They were too far away to even wave to, but I imagine they were picking rocks from the field.

In all the years I’ve been walking in these woods, I’ve only seen other people a few times.

That may be changing.  The Millers will probably log the woods in the winter.

But still,  I’m grateful that our new neighbors are farmers and millers who care about the land and not developers who clear-cut and build houses.

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