Springtime in Wisconsin has finally sprung. After wintry weather the end of last week we were blessed to have a Sunday with highs in the 70’s which took me to the woods to check fence. Before the cattle can be “let out to pasture” each spring, the fences need to be checked. Our 160 acre farm borders the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and if our cattle would find their way off the farm – there are 8,000 acres which they can wander; so each spring we walk theline fence checking for fallen trees and gaps in the fence that have “magically appeared” since last fall.
With all the rainy weather David is behind getting the disk and plow ready, so I went packing with a napsack full of staples, wirecutters, pliers, plus a couple of rounds of barbed wire in one hand and the fence stretcher in the other. Within 150 yards, I decided the winter had made me out of shape, and while I was delighted for the sunshine had worked up a sweat by the time I spotted the first real sign of spring – Dandelions! These delightfully delectable flowers always make me smile. I remember being a young girl and making dandelion necklaces. These beauties were nestled against a small “Mellen” flower plant which is a perrenniel that is known locally as “”poor mnan’s tobacco” which gave me a brief break from the hike, as I paused to fish out the cell phone and snap this picture.
On up the hill I walked – and all was well until I worked my way into the woods, and found a hole that certainly was large enough for an angus cow to wander through, and while it wasn’t a line fence it needed to be fixed, so off with the pack, and out with the fencing tools.
Patching fences is different then placing a new fence. When you patch, you are using mostly the existing material, splicing it and tightening it to create a barrier that is discouraging for a cow to go through. Pausing for a moment I took in the beauty of “Bloodroot” which is a native plant – whic was used by the native americans for respiratory problems. I finished cutting, splicing and restapling the fence, and decided to try to see if the stretcher would fit in the napsack. . . . well it fit, but kept bonking me on the back of the head, so perhaps it was a blessing that I found another patchable hole to fix. The south line had 6 holes in all, the west, north and east lines were all solid, only requiring minor tightening and tweaking here and there.
As I worked through the woods, stopping to patch the line, I enjoyed more signs of early spring, spotting Mayapples, Trillium and Spring Beauties. At one spot I marked what may be a lady slipper coming up. I will check back over the next few weeks as the native orchids come to light. It is amazing that these plants grow and are quite prolific in an area that has been under pasturing since the late 18990’s. Clearly there is some synergy – probably because cattle don’t care for flowers, but they are sturdy and with stand the light traffic of our pastures.
I will leave you with a view of the farmstead from the edge of the woods where I started. I thank my lucky stars, to live in a place as picturesque as the Kickapoo River Valley.