I was anxious to finish clearing the new riding trail, so the next day I returned to the creek and began searching for the right spot to exit on the opposite bank. It seemed best to head upstream, where I could see another inviting sand bar around the bend.
Wanting to give Robin a break, I rode my other Tennessee Walking Horse mare, Dandy. Miss Dandy is a sweet little fireplug of a horse — bright and chubby with short little legs that seem almost out of scale with her body. Sure, a taller horse might have been useful in the creek, but short can be handy out on a trail, and Dandy has such a willing attitude. She waded up the creek when I asked, ready to give it a try.
Looks were deceiving in this case. The sandbar did not offer a way out of the creek, having a high bank behind it. So we continued upstream around the bend, to a bank that, although sharply cut by the current, seemed lower. Now, if there was firm footing at its base and the water wasn’t too deep…
As if she had read my mind and already had the answer, Dandy started to balk. She was almost up to her belly in the creek by this time (though I think that says more about her than the creek) and was anxious to retreat.
I pressed her to go nearer. She took one more step, then shouted “Absolutely not!” in her most convincing horse body language, with surprising energy for her size. I can tell you there was a lot of splashing.
Sometimes it is best to listen to the horse, and I thought this might be one of those times. We had gotten just close enough that I could tell the water at the bank was indeed deep (Dandy already knew). We headed back downstream where I hoped for better luck.
Downstream the creek was wide and smooth as glass as it coursed around the next bend. My limited creek-navigating experience told me that meant deep. We hugged the near bank where I could almost see the bottom. Dandy seemed to have forgiven my earlier lapse in judgment and went boldly, soaking us both as she plowed through the water.
After what seemed like 200 yards — it was more like 50 — I spied another sandbar along the far bank. At the far end of it, I saw just the bank we needed, sloping and not too high. I just hoped it would not come out too far away from the fields I was trying to reach. I looked for the shallowest spot and crossed.
I tied Dandy under a tree, and stepped up on the bank to get a better look.
Yesterday’s work had been on the shady north side of the creek where nettles flourish, but today I would be on the south side, and I could see it was a very different proposition.
No satisfying swish of a scythe blade would happen here, no juicy stalks giving way without a struggle. Most of the growth this time was of the sun-loving variety: trumpet vine, ragweed, pokeberry, thistles. Coarse, woody stuff.
I’d had a hunch this would not be a scythe-friendly job, so my tool of choice today was a pair of long-handled pruning shears.
Not that the scythe couldn’t handle tough weeds — it certainly could — but I didn’t have the heart to try it. Now that I had experienced the feel of a scythe working as it should, I couldn’t bring myself to use it on woody brush.
Once I started, though, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Nipping at these plants with pruning shears was much slower than the scything had been. Fortunately I didn’t have nearly as far to go this time, so on I went.
Proceeding directly away from the creek toward the sunlight, I cleared a roomy path onto a field, taking out lots of deadwood as I went. My last obstacle was a group of tall pokeberry plants with stalks nearly two inches thick. It was a struggle to get my shears around them but I kept at it. As they started to fall, I could see at last exactly where I was. And what a happy sight!
I had come out where I had hoped, directly across from the old road that would lead into the far woods and the fields that lay beyond.
Once back on Dandy, we rode around the field to the base of the road, and started up.
At the top, the road opened into a wide, grassy glen that serves as a kind of hub, opening onto a number of beautiful, gently rolling fields, all with generous and well-maintained borders. As I continued to explore, I realized I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go riding!
For me, all of the hard work it took to get here was worth it, every bit.
Already I have spotted deer, pheasants, and turkeys on these remote, peaceful fields, and I look forward to seeing how flora and fauna transform as the seasons change. Lots of peaceful riding and nature watching ahead, I hope.
I also have more plans for my scythe, now that I have a feel for it. I hope to be putting up a little hay next year, and maybe even use my old dump-style hay rake that has been sitting idle for too long. My horses have done a little pulling, and I would love to use them in the haying process. In any case, I know I have much to learn, and I can’t wait for the next adventure to begin!
Did you miss the first post in this set? Read it here: http://wp.me/p6fhR-5Ex