Fifteen Acres Of Paradise

Introduction To A Country Journal

Pamela A. Henel

© Copyright 2003 by Pamela A. Henel


Photo of a country scene.
“A hill, a creek and a view” were the words I used when the real estate agent asked me what I was looking for.

“Not too far from home. Not too far from medical care,” said my ever practical and wise husband.

“Not too far from snowboarding!” clamored my children. I silently add, “and skiing! And nature waiting outside our back door...”

So today I am standing on the threshold of a dream, fifteen acres of paradise. Trying to buy a dream means you’d better be sure you want it. We fell in love with the first property we looked at, on Utley Road. It was rural but not far from town, a “Little House in the Big Woods” type of place. A tiny stream cuts across the part of the land closest to the road, and beyond the stream the hill, open space sloping gently upward toward the forest which beckoned us. “Climb up, climb up!” The forest invited us in a whisper.

Missing the magic voice of the forest we rudely chalked up this piece of land as a “maybe” and left. After miles of driving through Cattaraugus County looking at other parcels of land, trudging through mud, over ditches and learning that a lot of country land was being sold as subdivision lots - ugh! We drove back to Utley Road. The forest forgave us and again invited us to “Climb up!” So, we did!

The view is not spectacular but it is comforting and serene, undulating hills, the road winding neatly through them, everything ethereal in the mist and fog. I feel at home here. I gaze at the forest and can imagine myself living next to it in a cozy chalet with my rosy cheeked children, a crackling wood fire going and hearty minestrone soup simmering on the stove. Away from the city lights, we will go outside into the shivery night and see the stars shining brightly, looking for Orion and the Big Dipper. It reminds me of a place in the next county where, as a child I learned to love the outdoors.

As children we grew up loving to spend time “out in the country,” as we called it. Several times a year my brothers and I had the privilege of accompanying my father to his Uncle’s dairy farm in Wyoming County, N.Y. Mother joined Aunt Bea in the cozy farmhouse kitchen for a beer and to catch up on family news while the rest of us were off and running. My brothers headed for some cliff climbing first. I joined my older cousin Ruthie as she went about her chores. I wasn’t much help, but provided her with some laughs. She brought the cows in from the pasture as I clung to the barn wall for dear life, positive I would be trampled to death if I fell. Ruth laughed as I squealed with delight at a calf licking my hand with its sandpapery black tongue. Getting down to business then, Ruthie got the milking machines going and managed to entertain me along the way by squeezing a cow’s teat and sending a stream of warm milk into the open mouth of the nearest cat.

Tired of following Ruth around, I headed outside to the creek . There my brothers joined me for wading in the sparkling chilly water, turning over rocks to look for crayfish and observing as many other inhabitants of the stream as we could find. By the time we got bored, our father was calling us to our favorite activity of the day - a long hike over hills, through woods and brambles, across meadows. Our powers of observation were wonderfully enticed by this adventure. We found deer spoor, sometimes glimpsing the deer themselves, the white flags of their tails flying as they bounded away from our noisy party of explorers. In the fall we would discover trees bearing wonderful crisp yellow apples, a treat more welcome to us than any candy! We munched on them eagerly, juice dripping down our chins, as we continued on our trek. We reached the abandoned sugar shack, imagining it filled with steaming vats of sweet maple syrup. Our father told us the story of how he fell asleep under a tree while deer hunting. When he awoke, there was a deer, looking right at him! He never told us if he shot the deer but it must have gotten away safely, my father being much too surprised and sleepy to fire his shotgun! In winter our hike was shorter so we had time to toboggan down the hill which was covered in corn the rest of the year. We trudged up the hill dragging our toboggan, breathless when we reached the top, and breathless again when we reached the bottom of the hill, descending swiftly, wind in our faces, laughing and landing tumbled in a heap.

My husband and I sit and plan - Where do we begin? What has to be first? A driveway over the ditch near the road, a bridge over the tiny stream and a garden with room to grow the huge hubbard squash we so enjoy, will be our first projects. We will walk in the woods, watch the fog roll over the top of the hill into the valley, enjoying the hush as it envelops us with it’s quiet. And we will dream, of a snow house, a cabin, a summer retreat, and smile at the stars winking down at us because they see their sparkle reflected in our eyes.

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