Considering that finally this year I am LEARNING how NOT to be lost in the woods, and considering that somehow my “No Trespassing” signs have all vanished from one end of the property (put up in the fall), I think this memoir snippet is perfect!
On a side note, we try to rotate cameras on this end of the property thanks to people and animals trespassing. And I’m going to take my stack of signs out with me today while checking sap buckets. Might need to do 2 per tree . . .
An exert from the book Six Kids, Four Months and One Camper
October 11, 2013
Since hay season was done, and I’d processed the deer, the lawn was done growing for the year and Erik hadn’t assigned me anything to do that day, I had some free time. “Free time” . . . as if that were ever really such a thing when you have a baby AND live on a farm! I decided to go staple some “No Trespassing” signs up. Signs can be expensive, but a company near us makes some great, bright orange, heavy stock paper signs that are super cheap. They only last a year or two, but then so do the nice plastic ones! I stocked my camo fanny pack full of signs, a staple gun, and extra staples then strapped Earen into his front carrier and walked-off.
It was a long walk.
I finally managed to make it to the side corner of the hay field. Our property here began to run behind another neighbor’s farm field. This was also where the barbed-wire fencing began that bordered every other part of our property. The farmer’s field didn’t seem to have anything growing, but it was freshly tilled. The whole border of our property line on this side was scattered with standing deer blinds. The gentleman who owned this property didn’t hunt, but his son did. His son happened to live diagonal from us on the street, and his kids rode the bus with our kids. From the sound of things, he was NOT happy we had bought “his favorite hunting ground”. The kids had argued with our kids that the land was really their Dad’s because he had hunted it so many years. The guy would get a nice reminder that we had BOUGHT the property and if he wants to use it, then we’d be happy to SELL it to him. Otherwise he needed to stay off!
Mature oaks lined the fence between our properties, so I stapled a sign every 20 feet or so. Nothing made me more furious than someone getting something for free. Just like the jerks hunting the guy’s property at our old house. People seem to think that it’s up to other people to buy stuff for them to use as their own. We had spent a nice chunk of change on this land, and if someone else wanted to use it, then they could make us a nice offer to buy it!
I continued on down the fence, eyeballing the blinds standing on the very edge, wondering if he was hiding up in one. I finally came to the next corner of our property and the fence began running back into the woods. I figured as long as I stayed on the fence I wouldn’t get lost.
I was completely wrong.
My first problem, was the fence disappeared. Because it was so old, and this portion of the woods so wet, the posts had rotted away – especially the ones in the swampiest areas of the woods. My second problem was the angle. For some reason what I THOUGHT was a continued course south was more of a diagonal line into my neighbor’s property. I finally remembered that I could use my previous “No Trespassing” sign as a fence marker, and would look down the woods for the signs to line up, then I would look around on the ground for the fence remains of barbed-wire. This seemed to work much better. I was chugging right along, trying my best not to smash baby Earen’s face into the trees as I stapled the signs up high. Soon, the fencing changed from 3 strands of barbed wire, to the square cattle fencing. I didn’t stop to think about this as I continued on the line . . . until I found a different set of “No Trespassing” signs!
These were yellow plastic, and decently new within a year. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have a fence on the back property line where it made the end corner and began to run westward. I suddenly felt like a total jerk, stapling my signs all over someone else’s property. I had been getting nervous, baby Earen was due for a nap and I was still putting up signs. But now as I looked at my embarrassing mistake, he was fast asleep, head lopped over and dangling down. I groaned, but knew it was for the best. I could finish this and by the time I got home and really wanted my own nap, he’d be back awake and ready to roll! It didn’t help that I’d also been getting nerved-up seeing MORE hunting stands on the edge of our property. Every single one had a window facing our land – who’s to say they don’t shoot whatever they see, wherever they see it? I had made certain to put my name and phone number on several of the signs. I hoped that they’d call me if they shot a deer and it ran onto our land. Legally you are required to ask permission before seeking a shot deer anyway, but most people are not concerned with the law. Otherwise they wouldn’t be shooting on someone else’s land in the first place.
I decided to walk back down the property line and see where my own line changed directions. I had walked way off. I had to go back quite a ways before the fencing crumbled into the swampy ponds. This time however, I noticed something new. Pink survey ribbon. It was tied both into a tree branch and around a small sapling. Usually an indicator of a property stake. So I began looking around on the ground. Boom! I found it! The yellow cap stuck up only 1 inch from the ground, tucked up between a big tree and a dead stump end.
I stood on the marker, facing down the neighbor’s fence line, then turned my body one quarter turn to the right. Somewhere should be my property line. I stapled a sign onto the tree with the marker at its base, and tried my best to walk straight west. It was nearly impossible to do however. This direction also had plenty of swampy water holes, and the depth of some were very questionable. Not to mention one boot seemed to have acquired a hole and would randomly leak water in. My signs were now zigzagging back and forth, and I really hoped whoever saw them wasn’t upset if I accidentally got one on their side of the line, nor that they assumed our property line MUST be another 20 feet in since that’s where the sign was.
I continued on, seeing a clearing and light up ahead. I could see a farm field of corn! And a deer camp. The deer camp was kinda cool. There was what appeared to be an outhouse, a fire pit, several deer blinds and a massive wood pile.
And a few large roads running back into my property from their camp.
By this point I HAD picked-up a new fence line, this one possibly newer as it was marked with metal t-posts. No doubt someone had attempted to rip the fencing down since the posts were still standing tall but the wire was buried into the dirt and there were no trees nearby to have fallen onto it. As I studied the road running onto our property, I noticed the fence picked-back up along the farm field. But my stomach was churning seeing the roads onto our property, for it looked very much like deer camp used our property as their private hunting reserve. I held Earen’s head steady with one hand as I clumsily dragged a fallen log over the “access road”, and then a few more. There were a few other “access points” that appeared to be used by quads so I drug tree tops over those. If I came back another day and found the small branches smashed up, I’ll know they were driving back here. Hopefully they’d see my signs and realize someone had bought the property and stay off.
It was almost 4pm and I was getting exhausted walking with a 20 lb baby, tripping and stumbling over branches. I made the poor decision to try walk back home by turning to the north and walking straight. I walked for 20 minutes and somehow circled back to the field. I tried again and walked for 10 minutes and circled back to the field. I felt like I was in an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. I tried again. This time I walked for 30 minutes . . . and came right back to those plastic signs!
By now I was swearing-up a storm. Earen was still somehow asleep, but I had visions of Erik finding my body half-eaten by coyotes the next morning. I couldn’t call anyone for help, no one knew the woods so no one could figure out where I was, and in any event, my phone battery was nearly gone! I began praying in my head for God to lead me back home.
I was crying, not just crying, sobbing! Not because I was “lost” and would never get home, but because I was “lost” and exhausted and had a big baby on the front of me, and because I HAD to get home before Erik did. He didn’t want me in the woods “scaring the deer away”. If he came home and I came sulking-in from the back property he’d know I’d been in the woods and I’d certainly hear about it!
I sniffled as I walked, tears streaming down my cheeks. I picked-up a big maple leaf and blew my nose into it. This proved not very useful so I just used my sleeve. Why does everything crappy always have to happen to me?! I was too busy crying as I walked to see the tree branch in front of me. I stabbed myself in the face with it. I cried more. I had always prided myself on my good sense of direction and never getting lost. Yet here I was, lost as could be!
I sat down on an old tree stump and cried. All I wanted to do now was curl-up into a ball on the ground and be left for dead. I most likely would have too if baby Earen hadn’t been stuck on my chest. Why should he have to suffer for my poor judgement? I let out a frustrated wail and stood up.
Then my brain cleared a moment and I suddenly realized that all I needed to do was follow my own signs home. Apparently exhaustion had severely clouded my judgement! So I followed the cattle fence back to my orange paper signs and followed the line of them.
Nope. Wrong way. I was back at deer camp! I doubled back on my path and followed them the other direction until I could see my next set. I followed these all the way out of the woods, and then back along my neighbor’s fields until I could see our hay field. My rubbery legs struggled to drag us back home, and by the time I crawled into the camper Earen was wide-awake and crying for food! I pulled my carrier off and fed him, and passed out on the sofa for 20 minutes while he ate. Or at least tried to. The kids were busy fighting and running in and out and Erik came home just 10 minutes later. But at least I’d made it home before him. Thank-you Jesus!