Being a parent means experiencing the change of seasons vicariously through our children. It seems like our senses are either dulled by age or maybe they are intensified in youth.
On our family farm, my four children are the sixth generation to explore and embrace this land with their heightened five senses. They are free to roam from the rolling hills and sprawling fields down to the new, modern bridge that sits across Little Beaver Creek.
Together, they walk the dog through the woods and down into the valley. For decades, it was the same daily destination of their great-grandfather, as he led his cows to pastureland.
Maple syrup adventure
In my basement, I see winter gloves discarded after maple sap season came to an end. My kids had stomped through the woods, weaving between trees, hoping to find their buckets filled to the brim. My youngest carried a cup with him, starting the process with a refreshing swallow of nature’s sweetness.
Bugs were scooped off, and the buckets were poured collectively in a barrel. Angry words gave way to teasing, as siblings noticed the inevitable tipped bucket. The sound of laughter echoed up as one sister slid down the hillside far past her intended sugar maple. Between the four of them, they had collected enough liquid gold to smother their pancakes for weeks.
With the changing of seasons, my kids still need their muck boots, as this year’s rainy season continues. Their ears have picked up the sound of spring’s anthem, spring peepers. Scientifically, the tiny frog is known as Pseudacris crucifer, and a group is called an army. Their trilling sound is an anthem to our winter-weary ears. This army’s camouflaged chorus echoes out of the swampy lowlands and hints of warmer days to come.
Nightly spring walks
Longer hours of sunlight make evening walks a nightly ritual. Our eyes delight in wildflowers, spring beauties and Hepatica liverwort, popping up along the trail’s edge. Soft colors add beauty amid brown leaves along the muddy path.
Suddenly, my sinuses are assaulted by a horrid stench coming from my boys. Boots sinking into the muddy valley floor, they tear leaves off skunk cabbage and lunge towards each other. The skunk cabbage, vivid green in color and obnoxious in scent, has come back to life after a dormant winter. Only two boys could find joy in such a rotten setting.
In contrast, my girls are carefully leaning over the ground near the creek discussing that Mayapple sprouts resemble asparagus. Past the Myrtle that carpets the treeline, my hikers tiptoe around the tiny umbrellas, knowing in a few weeks flowers will bloom.
While my girls appreciate the aesthetic value of the wildflower, physicians have found medicinal value to the acid found in the flowers. A meticulously concocted salve containing podophyllum was used to treat plantar warts. My girls do not care much for stories of wart cures and can even find some small reason to dislike spring.
They are on the lookout for ticks, possibly the tiniest uninvited guest of spring. We taught them to tuck their pants into their socks and spray their boots with bug spray. We also dab geranium oil behind our ears to ward off the innumerable, resilient creatures.
Young turkey hunters
The cast-off mittens by my basement door have long since been replaced with camo pants, hats and jackets. My fierce hunters are determined to shoot an old tom with a beard long enough to make old man winter jealous. If bickering and guffawing were integral parts to a turkey hunt, these two would be able to lug back the most desirable butterball.
As it turns out, turkey hunting requires patience and maturity yet to be developed. These two brothers were not successful enough to have a tall tale of a captured Tom but were able to describe in detail the rat-a-tat-tat-tat of a red-headed woodpecker and the oo-week and jeebs of wood ducks on the creek.
Soon it will be time to put away the muck boots, as the heat of summer rolls over the hills and reaches all the way down to the creek bottom. Bare feet will soon wiggle in the sand not far from the deep part of the creek, the old swimming hole of generations past.
From the cool waters and hot hay fields to tantalizing berries and sweet corn, my four kids are sure to experience the farm as a culmination of their five senses and with a heartbeat for family, six generations strong.
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