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Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's Not the Heat, It's the Humidity

The thermostat read 95 degrees in the shade of my porch but I had been in the house or car for far too long.  I needed to get outside and walk.  So I put a few items in my pack and pointed my face toward the woods.  Did I mention that it was hot?  Humidity enfolded heat in its arms and together they held nature hostage.
Determined not to be terrorized, I kept going, walking from shady spot to shady spot, dripping as I walked.  I carried with me a pair of loppers, those long-handled cutters used to cut growth a little bigger than my thumb.  I planned to use it to clear out some grape vines and small brush that were taking over an area where Jeff and I had planted trees a few years before.  I cut down some poison ivy vines growing up a poplar, wiped off the loppers in the grass and trudged forward until I came to Deerlick, a small spring deep within the woods.

Generations ago, someone had chiseled a small bowl out of the rock for the spring water to flow into.  Consequent landowners have taken care of the spring which now is under our care.  Not many years ago, ginseng grew nearby but loggers dozed and scraped the area enough that the red-berried plant no longer makes an appearance.  Once Deerlick came under our stewardship,  Jeff cleaned the mud, moss and brush away.  We then planted a couple hemlock trees, rhododendron and azaleas.  The deer quickly ate the azaleas, almost destroyed the hemlock during last year's heavy, long-lasting snowfall and have left us a few branches of rhododendron.  The hillside is steep, causing the protective cages we put around the plants to wash down the hill.  We are now pretty much sticking to Plan B which is to merely keep brush away from the spring and periodically clean it out.  That is just what I did this hot afternoon.
The steep damp hillside inhibits growth on the bank above the spring which would keep the mud from eroding into the bowl.  Even muddy, though, the spring flows continually and keeps the bowl full of water for wildlife.  Water overflows the rock bowl through a small channel and runs over the rock to a small creek below. Around its edge grow may apples, sarvice berry, pawpaw trees, violets, blackberries and multifloral rose, besides several species of deciduous trees.  In the mud around the edge of the spring I found only a few deer tracks.  It had rained the night before and early that morning erasing any other tracks.  I put the loppers to work, cut a few honeysuckle vines and a couple small pawpaws that were beginning to grow in our path.
I then started on the task of cleaning the mud out of the stone bowl.  I soon found an old flat board that Jeff had left just for that purpose and I put it to work splashing and digging the mud out.  Muck washed down the rock muddying the creek below.  
Once I had most of the mud splashed out it didn't take long for the water to begin refilling up the bowl.  While the water was still murky, I knew that what mud was left would soon settle to the bottom leaving clear water for the deer, coons and whatever else stopped by for a drink.   
I left Deerlick feeling like I had accomplished something, however small.
The day had not become any cooler but I was about as hot as I was going to get, so there was no reason to go home yet. An animal path lead me through briers and weeds until I finally had had enough and turned toward home.  My jeans were becoming heavy with water splashed from the spring and a large dose of perspiration.  The loppers, too, were becoming heavy and cumbersome to carry. so I was glad to reach the garden, put the loppers away then make one more small trip down to the Pool of Tranquility

The cool water flowed out of the ground through a small copper pipe into  1/2 whisky barrel then out through another copper pipe where it dripped with a comforting splash into another 1/2 whisky barrel again overflowing through a pipe into a small tub below.  The effect of that lightly splashing water and cool (relatively) shade convinced me to take off my shoes and socks and let my hot tired feet enjoy a short swim.  

First one. . . 

Then both. . .

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