The winter weather notwithstanding–we are taking our first baby steps–or rather our first bulldozer runs through our property making a driveway to the house site. This has not been easy for a couple of “tree huggers” who feel the loss of the trees keenly. One would think that 38 acres of trees and woodlands on the side of a mountain would be enough–yet we continue to find ourselves torn over a poplar here or an oak or maple there.
The large trees pushed over by the bulldozer were pulled onto a small rise and laid there waiting for us to come back. And we did come back yesterday and began to cut them up with chain saws and stack the wood for future use. Some of our guilt is assuaged by the knowledge that we will use this wood in the future to keep warm on cold winter nights.
I learned to use a chain saw again! It has been a very long time since I first did this. My husband called me Paula Bunyon, as he watched me cutting the smaller logs while he used the larger saw to cut the trunks of the bigger trees. I found myself thinking of times with my father, splitting wood in the back yard together. And the countless trips to the wood piles in my childhood bringing wood in to burn in the fireplace.
While we work, our Golden Riley plays and watches us and we laughed as the longer we were there–the muddier and dirtier she became, along with us. Winter snows have left the land very soggy indeed and mucking about in it caked our shoes with heavy mud. The saving grace was the saw dust we created where we worked.
We finished work and took some pictures to chronicle this stage of the journey for prosperity and I see yet another small type of moss growing on a log we had just cut, so I take a picture and vow to look up that species as to remember what it is.
We have decided to name our place Bear Paw Trail as there is a unique form of moss that grows on our eastern slope of the mountain known to locals as Bear Paw. In all my 56 years, I have never seen it before, nor had my husband. But here it was growing as low ground cover along the entrance and hillsides close to the house site. In this Southwest Virginia area of Appalachia it grows in the moist soil and thrives in undisturbed forests. Other names for it are ground cedar or crows foot.
I had many discussions with my husband before the dozer came regarding my passion for this newly discovered plant on just where to put the drive and septic and the other necessities of living and building on this site. I hated the thoughts of loosing any of this gem. But it truly does grow abundantly here and our small footprint won’t do the Bear Paw any permanent harm. It is just one among many treasures we feel bound to protect here as we put down our own roots with them.
I wonder about those who lived on this mountainside and hills around us–did they pause before cutting the first tree to build their cabin? There is evidence of a log house or its stone foundation close to the spring that runs though our property. There were no chain saws then, and no bulldozers to move the stumps or pull the logs from where they fell to the house site. There is much to imagine….