As far as I can tell, it would be easy to spend months at a time on a farm and never feel the need to leave. There’s always something to build, repair, or maintain, not including daily care of the livestock. And this time of year is especially busy with the animals. The pastures aren’t growing to their full potential yet so fresh hay needs to be fed daily. New lambs are being born left and right so you never want to be too far away in case a delivering mom needs assistance. Some of the newborn lambs are rejected by their mothers and need bottle feeding throughout the day. Also, as the amount of daylight increases so do the amount of eggs laid by the chickens and ducks. Only a few choose to lay in the nest boxes I built for them in the barn, the rest hide their eggs wherever they want in the upper pasture. Every day is like an Easter egg hunt. It’s all satisfying work but as some around here will tell you, “All work and no play is not good for the soul,” so it’s important to occasionally leave the farm for a favorite diversion: hiking in the woods.
Half a mile upstream (and away from the trail) we discovered a cold-running spring surrounded by the stone foundation of an old spring house. Built directly over the water, spring houses not only kept drinking water free of leaves and dirt but also provided a cool environment to help preserve perishables such as meat and milk. Essentially, a natural refrigerator.
A quick search around the spring turns up artifacts from an old homestead…a few pieces from an old crock jug and an earthenware plate. Maybe they were once used to store food in the spring house? And if there was a spring house, there must have been an actual home nearby…
Sure enough at the top of a hill above the stream is the house, or rather, what’s left of it. Old foundations like this are an example of the hard work and pride that people in the Southern Appalachians put into building their homes. The hand-shaped stones still bear the tool marks from whoever shaped them, and the corners remain crisp and plumb.
Daffodils planted by the original homesteaders still make an appearance each spring. Unlike the wood of the old house and even the foundation stones which slowly disappear back into the earth, the flowers continue to spread and flourish. They’re a bit of soul left over from the people who lived here. It’s easy to imagine the homestead’s occupants sitting on their front steps (visible in the background) for a little relaxation as they admired their garden and the beauty of the surrounding mountains.