Saturday, March 4, 2017

Buttercup Footprints

In the country, during the early spring, before the trees leaf out, you can find buttercup footprints left behind at old homesteads.  They were planted long, long ago by forgotten gardeners; but they continue to bloom year after year even though the farms have disappeared.  Below is a straight line of buttercups in a field on the edge of town.  Did they originally line a sidewalk, a fence row or maybe a front yard flowerbed?  Someone planted them because they are in a long straight line.

In the picture below, only the barn has survived; however, if you look closely at the left side of the picture, hidden in the clump of bushes sits the rocks which surround the old well pump.  There was a house somewhere here long ago.

Often the houses are hard to see because the wooden structures were made from local trees so their colors blend in with the woods.  As soon as the trees leaf out, this house will be hidden.

The wooden structures usually rot and vanish first.  Many times the chimney or just a few foundation stones remain.  This chimney was built first with stone then higher up two different types of brick were used.  I wonder, was it repaired or did they run out of supplies and use what was available?

Usually, the old homes are easy to spot because they are close to the street since 150 years ago there was not much traffic.  A wagon rolling down the road was newsworthy.

This would have been the view of the road from the porch of this old house.  It was looking right down over the road and beside it is a creek.

This was the old driveway up to the house.  

This area would have been the front yard. Nature has a way of improving any landscaping a man might have done.

A soon to be old homestead.  This one still has the "modern television antenna" attached to the side of the house.

This home did not have many buttercups around it, but, given enough time, they will multiply as they spread.

While driving down another backcountry road I spied this large bunch of buttercups in a field close to the street. There had to be an old home somewhere close but I could not see anything from the car.  I searched the landscape and saw nothing; however, I knew the buttercups must point to something.  Curiously, I slipped out of the car and carefully crossed the open field toward the treeline.  I would not try this during hunting season!

My risk was rewarded!  

How old is this cabin?  How long has it been since anyone lived there?  Other than being seen by me while trespassing, how long has it been since anyone, other than the property owner, visited this place?

As time passes, each flower bulb slowly spreads and naturalizes.  Every single bulb becomes a larger clump.

Then the clumps spread...

and spread...

and spread.

If you are willing to search throughout the country, the footprints can be found hidden in plain sight.  They last only for a few weeks each spring but they will return year after year.  Long after the gardeners are gone, these buttercups will continue to bloom and cheer many future generations.   I wonder, what positive footprints am I leaving behind that will last so long?


  1. Jeannie,
    I loved the flower pictures and the old, rickety houses.

    Around here, we call some of these flowers daffodils. There is another flower we call buttercups, although I'm not sure that is their real name. It's very interesting how you are clear across the country from us, and there are a few differences in what we name flowers. By whatever name, they are sure lovely. I've been excited to see what's popping up here in our new yard. I have a few crocus, several kinds of daffodils, some things that haven't bloomed yet, so I don't know what they are, and some tulips that have not bloomed yet, either. I also have a lot of weeds I can't pull yet, because it's too wet. Soon, I hope.

  2. Well, you are right and I am WRONG! They are called daffodils and buttercups are an entirely different plant. Who knew! Well, obviously you did along with the whole internet. I have heard them called buttercups all my life. I learn something new everyday.

    Thanks for correcting me; but I think I will stick with calling them buttercups. It is easier to spell than dafodiles, daffoddils, dafodiles, dafffodiles, daffooddils, daffodyls.......BUTTERCUPS!

  3. Very impressive images. And I have many questions about them. Why are these houses left? Where are the owners? Are the no legal heirs or any successors ? Aren´t there any people who are interested to live in this region. Is it because there are no ways to get jobs ?
    For me there is a tinge of sadness. Such beautiful places, - with or
    without daffodils. But I saw cows on the last picture. That gives me a bit of hope. There must be some people who live nearby.
    By the way, -- the German name for daffodil is NARZISSE. Would that
    be an idea?
    Wishing you and your readers a good new week. (So you can start
    work in the garden)

    1. Oh Christel, what a deep question. I must go way back in history. America had a Civil War from 1861 to 1864. Many of the battles were fought in Tennessee. According to the census, 22% of Southern men between the ages 20 and 24 lost their lives during the war. And 13% of the males between the ages of 10 and 44 years old died. The men who lived through the war, returned to farms that had been completely destroyed by a scorched earth policy called “Sherman's March to the Sea”. Sherman marched across the South killing and burning everything. There was nothing for the men to return to so they left.

      Years later, many more families left, and migrated to the cities during World War II for factory work.

      Since then the land has been passed down in families or sold but rebuilding is expensive and the area has never truly recovered.

  4. I just figured that they were called a different name on the opposite coast!

    Asparagus is another plant that will come back for years and years. On our first farm, there were asparagus growing in a field that were from another house garden years previously. They just came up in the grass and weeds year after year. Amazing!

    1. I love fresh picked asparagus and getting a bed established takes years. What a wonderful gift someone long ago gave to you!

      So many plants are called different things in different areas, it is sometimes confusing in seed catalogs. Also, now we are getting vegetables from around the world and it really gets confusing since no one can pronounce some of the names.

  5. Bonjour Jeannie

    I enjoyed your post not as a simple story about buttercups and old cabins, but rather as a metaphor on human fate, heritage and biodiversity.

    Have you ever read any novels by Barbara Kingsolver? Your musings would certainly find an echo in her writings.


    PS: I can't see any "notify me" ( left/right/bottom or top page!!). It may be because my settings are old or whatever! Never mind!!

    1. No, I have never read any of her books but since you mentioned it I have looked her up on the internet. My library has some of her books and I am going to download one tonight.

      Sitting and reading a novel is NOT on my to do list. The vacuum cleaner is out in the middle of the floor, waiting for me to finish. Now I am downloading a novel.

    2. Laughing.


    3. I downloaded "Flight Behavior" and started reading late into last night. I had to make myself put it down because my Mom has been wanting a new post and I have been goofing off READING A NOVEL!
      Sophie-Marie, you are not good for me.

  6. Ok, now "Flight Behavior" is my favourite novel of hers.
    Knowing that I deeply love all her books.
    B. Kingsolver is one of the best authors alive. The lady is a gem. Yeah.

    Jeannie, my pleasure.


  7. Hi Jeannie, I love your pictures. Who doesn't love country roads and old, falling down buildings! Your spring is much earlier than ours here in SE Massachusetts. Happy Gardening!

    1. I hope it is FINALLY here; however, Mother Nature has fooled me before. I know better than to trust her.
      How do you handle the harsh winters up north? I would die of cabin fever.

  8. I see flowers growing beside the roads or at the edges of the woods and I think the flowers remember the people who planted them there, and they bloom to honor their memory

    1. Oh Lea, what a beautiful idea. Thank you.

  9. Hi Jeannie! I enjoyed reading your posts down to here, where I need to stop and get myself off of the computer. I love the wooded area where you live, but am sorry some of the trees have had such damage. Seeing these abandoned places makes me sad, and curious as to who lived in them in the past and what kinds of lives they lived. Thanks for your nice comments on my blog.

    1. Thank you Sue! I too wonder about the people who lived in these old homes years ago. There are clues all around us if we only look. People are fascinating, which is why I enjoy reading blogs...especially ones about gardens with pictures!