We first noticed the little yellow flowers along the stream banks only a few years ago. I mistakenly called them trout lilies, but soon learned that these little flowers were primroses. Primroses I am familiar with are not really a wildflower but are cultivated in home gardens and bloom in midsummer. So, what were they doing blooming in late April on the banks of the brook that runs alongside Campsite Road? (I am not sure what this brook is called. Tim Foote once referred to it as the Schoolhouse Brook. )
Mermer Blakeslee cleared up the mystery of their origin here. She told me that they were originally planted by Hazel Kelly in her garden up in Laraway Hollow. The house in Laroway Hollow was where Rudi Mayer lived for years. It is located about a mile up from the Beaverkill Road and has no electricity, central heat or running water in the house. It is still completely ‘off the grid’, with cell or radio service.
John Kelly wrote about buying this “Hardscrabble Farm” in our (FOBC) book, Stories of the Beaverkill.…..
“About all that was left of the farm when we took ownership were a rotting shed, sheep fencing around the perimeter, now welded into the maples and a peril to chain saws, and an inordinate number of horseshoes in the area around the barn site.”
John described the kitchen: “There was a large kitchen stove. . .that leaked smoke to such a degree that it could well have flavored a bird, . . There was also a large oblong heating stove, a “schoolhouse”, in the living room that could accept very large logs and branches and provide glorious, if brief, heating but which leaked even more than the cookstove.
”Hazel and John and their two daughters, Clare and Krista, enjoyed summers up there. There was a beautiful meadow, pond (with pet trout) fed by a spring of pure water, woods, and multiple fruit trees
Hazel was a great flower gardener and they also had a vegetable garden. John built beautiful structures and maintained the pond, creating a lovely small waterfall cascading down toward the Creek. Here in the small meadow, Hazel planted the primrose. However, John says they called it Cowslip.
High water and spring floods carried the primrose/cowslip down the brook all the way to the banks of the Beaverkill river where It continues its march for miles downstream.
It’s fun to think of these flowers as cowslips and be reminded of the song, in Act 5 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It is sung by Ariel, a spirit, who is told that soon he will be freed from the service of his master Prospero,
Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
John and Hazel still own the property with their daughters. It is wonderful to think of Hazel and John who took such loving care of their place in Laraway Hollow and brought the cowslips we all enjoy.
Submitted by Patricia Adams – 8 May 2020