A few days ago I walked in to a place I haven’t visited in several years, but is actually one of my favorite areas. It’s an old farmstead that is fairly remote now, but must have been really isolated when it was cleared many, many years ago.
The farmstead is shown on an 1873 map of the township as being the residence of S. Miller, so the land must have been cleared even earlier.
The old histories don’t mention S. Miller, but a search of old deeds might disclose when the land was cleared. By 1939, when the first aerial photographs were taken, it appears that active farming had ended while rows of apple trees were still quite obvious.
Even then the old farmstead was surrounded by publicly-owned forest land. The northern and southern cleared areas (which may have been part of a second farm) were added to the state forest and were planted with conifers. But, the large central portion of the cleared area remained in private ownership. In the 1980s that land also became part of the state forest.
My walk took me up the old road that shows on the 1873 map –
And past an old cellar hole in a plantation of Norway spruce –
Red squirrels live in conifer stands and are especially common in older spruce plantations with their abundance of large cones. A red squirrel had gathered a batch of spruce cones in the cellar hole –
Many people don’t realize that red squirrels spend a lot of time underground; that’s demonstrated here where a red squirrel lives among the rock walls of the old cellar and has created a pile of discarded scales from the cones it had opened to feast on the seeds inside.
Nearby was the farm's hand-dug well whose walls are still intact after all these years –
On to the remaining open land of the old farm and the enduring trees of what had been an orchard; trees which have a good crop of apples this year–
The old fields are being managed for wildlife through a cooperative arrangement between the Bureau of Forestry, Game Commission and the Wild Turkey Federation. Replacement apple trees have been planted, some of which are also bearing a crop of fruit –
The fields have been planted as wildlife food plots and are rotationally mowed –
Unfortunately, wildlife sightings were scarce when I was there. A common yellowthroat protested –
As did a house wren –
How many generations of wrens must have protested the presence of humans in the years since this old farm was cleared? And what must life have been like for the people that lived on this land?