By CHRISTINE TAILER
It will be 10 years this spring since we first stepped foot along the banks of Straight Creek. It might seem that 10 years is a long time and that we have done a lot with our land over the past years.
We have built our cabin home, a barn, sugar shed, and a shop. We have fenced in the goat yard and built multiple goat houses. We have picked rocks out of the fields and worked the soil. We have walked the creek and seen it change with the seasons.
But no matter how much we think that we may have done, I really know that we have not even scratched the surface of this creek world.
We bought the farm in the spring of 2003, and that first year I set my very first, nursery-bought, tomato plants into the creek's second bottom ground. I found what I thought was a perfect plot of land up by what was then just the cabin foundation, and pulled back the grassy topsoil.
I ran our hand-held cultivator across the dark soil. I then knelt down by my small patch of tilled ground and began to dig six small holes in the freshly tilled ground for my first six small tomato plants.
The soil smelled fresh and earthy and my trowel easily sank into the dark brown ground. On the third hole, my trowel clanged against a rock. I reached my fingers into the soft soil and pulled up a smooth piece of worked flint. It was about five inches long and fit perfectly into the palm of my hand. One end was rounded, so as not to chafe against my skin. The other end was beveled into a scraper blade.
As I rubbed off the dirt, I noticed that the working end of the tool was burnished to a beautiful smooth patina, no doubt the result of many hours of scraping deer hides.
I sat back on my boot heels, holding the flint tool. I looked up at the hill behind our half-built cabin. I could hear the creek flowing behind me, south to the river three miles downstream.
I felt amazingly warmed by the knowledge that someone I had never known had once worked where I now worked and had harvested life-sustaining food from this same creek valley ground.
I imagined that a young man had knapped the scraper out of a light brown rock of creek flint, flint that had been carried by the glacier and then washed farther downstream by the creek, flint from somewhere far up north.
I imagined that the young man had given the scraper to his wife, but only after he had worked the stone ever so carefully to make sure that it fit into her hand just right. He had then hunted the abundant creek valley deer, and had brought them to her, and she had scraped the hides clean with the tool I held, and had made clothes to keep them warm in the winter.
Over time, as she used the scraper, its sharp flaked edges had dulled, and the leading end had rounded. Perhaps she had asked him to sharpen it and he had, but it had dulled again, and she had simply left it behind one day, when they moved to a new camp down by the river.
She had last held this scraper, thousands of years before me, where I had found it as I put my trowel onto the ground to plant my first tomatoes. Time narrowed and I felt connected not only to the creek valley, but to the people who had lived here such a long time ago.
I looked at the scraper as a welcoming gift, reminding me to be humble, and ever so thankful that we can call the creek valley our home. I have placed it now in a wooden bowl, along with several other flint tools that we have found over the years as we work the fields.
Greg built a wooden display case that holds what we think of as the most beautiful of the flint points, but we have saved every piece of worked flint that we find. As we bend over to pick up each piece, it is as though our neighbors, from long, long ago, are reminding us that they once loved this land as much as we love it now.
Our wooden cabin will certainly not be standing thousands of years from now, but some things, like our love of this land, will somehow be a part of this valley forever.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.