Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hidden paradise where the deer sleep

This corner of the yard didn't look so unique at first.
(Click any photo to enlarge as desired)
Yesterday Gordon discovered a hidden road just over the edge of Valhalla's front yard, some 200 yards or so from the house. He'd been scouting around to see where another pond could eventually be constructed (one that could be used not only for ducks and fish but also in case of fire) and decided to explore the ravine just beyond the tree line.

It was apparent that nobody has used the hidden
 road for many years. It's doubled as a natural
drainage system for dozens of acres around the
house - water that could be diverted to a new pond.
Then he found the abandoned interior road below. He followed it down for a city block or two and found where it flattened out by a creek, where a big doe suddenly burst out of nowhere and ran right in front of him before disappearing. Then he heard a buck snorting and stomping somewhere nearby across the creek before the buck ran off. Since he was wearing shorts he didn't want to walk through the tall grass full of ticks to cross over, so he returned to the house to tell me what he'd seen.

Flattened out grass shows where deer have slept.
There's no doubt they feel very safe down here.
So this morning while it was cool we both went back down the old road leading to the creek. For some odd reason the cats, Vixen and Joker, decided to come hiking with us. When we reached the creek we saw the first of many places where deer have been sleeping. It's a beautiful little area, extremely quiet and peaceful. Since it's in fact very close to the house it might be the site of a micro-cabin some day, if the drainage issues were resolved.

The creek is still running despite this summer's long drought, an indication that it will rise considerably with rushing waters and probably become impassible on foot during the winter months. There's countless numbers of trees of all sizes everywhere however, including right by the creek, so cutting down a few to build a sturdy foot bridge shouldn't be a problem. 

Vixen crossing the creek to show how low the water is right now, although that will change in the fall.
More flattened grass probably used by several deer.
We were surprised to then find several acres of meadows across the creek and it was obvious that dozens of deer have been frequenting the area for years. Game trails criss-crossed into the trees while freshly flattened patches of tall grasses tell the story of recently slumbering deer. And the little piles of deer poop scattered here and there were definitely fresh.

The cats crossing the first small meadow.
Due to the proximity of not only fresh water and the house, this first small meadow by the creek might be the perfect future location for a small animal barn for sheep, goats, and poultry. It would be necessary to fence off the creek and have a foot bridge suitable for use by both people and animals, yet it wouldn't be difficult to get building materials and run electricity down the old hidden road. 

Old animal fence with rotting posts.
We weren't the only ones to have this idea since at the back of that small meadow we found the remains of a very old fence that had once been used to corral farm animals. The posts were rotten and most of the fence wires were laying on the ground covered with grasses.

The second meadow, larger than the first and
potentially could be good for small animal grazing.
And just beyond the rotted fence: a second, much larger meadow with perhaps a couple thousand cattails growing from the marshy ground. But the smaller meadow hadn't shown signs of water saturation or drainage issues, and this larger meadow is on higher ground. 

So where was the water coming from?

Gordon discovers the old well behind a metal fence
just above the second meadow
Gordon found it, and solved a mystery at the same time. There is an old farmhouse located below Valhalla's largest pasture. For safety reasons that old farmhouse will eventually have to be removed since it's falling down and perhaps the only things holding the roof up are masses of wasps nests. 

Then we'd heard there was an very old artisan well somewhere behind the farmhouse... but we never could find it, and nobody has been able to tell exactly where it is. 

So now we know.

The lost well isn't lost anymore. It will need to be cleaned up and restored, but what a great find!
The hand-built well has clearly been abandoned for many, many years and is attached to broken pipes as well as hoses that have simply rotted away. Water has been dripping down the hill to where the cattails are growing probably for decades. It needs to be cleaned, restored, and have its water tested - but what a find! Once the old farmhouse is removed, the remaining site would be perfect for building two or three straw bale or cob cabins that would then have access to their very own well. 

Glimpse of the old farmhouse beyond the trees
as seen from the fence in front of the well
We'll be thinking about what to do about our discoveries from this morning and invite any comments or input. The three most obvious options would include:
Vixen and Joker following us through the grass.
They kept pace and hiked with us all the way to
the well, impressive for two cats who we
thought could never be tamed.

A. Plant feed plots and scatter around some corn to encourage the deer to continue to frequent the meadows. The problem with this idea is they would be about 100 yards from where the raised beds for vegetables will be.

B. Set up a small animal barn in the first meadow past the creek, run electricity down to it from the house, fix the fences, bring in some goats and sheep, and set up food plots for the deer away from the area (and much farther away from the planned vegetable gardens).

C. Wait until the rest of the Valhalla property can be thoroughly surveyed this fall and winter before making any decisions. The truth is, we haven't seen a single square foot of the northwestern 80 acres since it's too overgrown to get into, and dozens more remain mysterious and unexplored. It may be best to wait until the first Valhallans arrive to scout out all areas of the property after the trees lose their leaves. At that point it will be much easier to see what Valhalla has to work with.

If you have any suggestions or ideas on this subject, either email us at or leave your comments here.

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