Monday, November 05, 2007

Farm Report: A shot in the dark

When I heard the crack of the shot I levitated off the camp bed and hit the floor, scrambling for boots and jeans. Bam!
Had to be a rifle. Somebody was up on the dirt road at the far end of the high meadow, spotlighting deer in the field and shooting down my way.
We built a little shack down in the woods a few years ago that will be a workshop when the new log cabin is finished – if it ever gets finished. Until then, I sometimes stay in the shack overnight.
I was all set to dash out the door and away from the field of fire when I heard more shots. Bam! Bam!
Then I realized what it was: acorns dropping from tall oaks onto the sheet metal roof of the barn we built two years ago.
It’s amazing how loud they can be. And funny what things sound like in the middle of the night when you’re still groggy and can’t quite put two and two together. Those acorns were dropping like lead shot in the gentle breeze coming over the mountain. It’s one of nature’s little practical jokes. It certainly got my attention.
The adrenaline rush had pretty much taken the sleep out of the night so I put a pot of coffee on the old Coleman camp stove and waited for false dawn.
It’s usually pretty quiet in our woods, but they’re full of life.
There are deer – including a 10-point buck, one of our regular hunters tells me. There are black bears, wild turkeys and a growing number of coyotes on the mountaintop.
I haven’t seen the bears but walked up on seven whitetail deer nosing around in the grass the other morning. We watched one another for a while, but they got tired of it before I did and moved off into the line of trees down the hill.
This autumn wasn’t supposed to be that pretty, what with the lingering drought and all, but this one is special. When the sky first glows pink over the far ridge, then gives way to the first rays scouting for targets among the trees, it’s a breathtaking sight.
I built a deck on the shack facing east and south so I could watch the morning sun as it works its way over Bull Mountain and up the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge.
In a short while the woods go from black to murky to shades of gray, then begin to glow with color as the sun hits the back of the leaves at a low angle. The day lights up with gold and stays that way.
I love these seasons of change. A few weeks ago a green summer coat still hung on the maples, beech, oak and locust in these woods. A three-day storm 10 days ago stripped away a lot of those leaves and thinned out the woods.
Behind me the next ridge west is beginning to emerge from our tree line. When I come back in two weeks all the trees will be bare, and the way the land rolls and folds and rises and falls will be plain. There’s not much bright color in the winter landscape, but there are worlds of things to see.

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