This is the story of the farm that just got a new owner. Read on and see how it came to be, how it was built and what is included on this land.
In the beginning was the land. This was the only road into the seven acres we found and fell in love with. It wasn’t much to look at then but it is beautiful now!
We had planned to wait before moving to Tennessee but that camping trip set our minds on fire. We searched and found the house we wanted to build. We wanted a small place so we didn’t have to spend all our time keeping a house clean but we wanted room enough to hold all of our hobbies and interests. We found just such a place in the old mountain style home. It was in such homes that the early settlers lived and raised large families. We put our Georgia home on the market and went to the bank to get a bridge loan, then got a contractor to start building our dream. We were lucky and sold the house before we needed to pay the first draw and the building began. We rented a place in Spencer so we could go each day and watch the house go up.
Once the lot was cleared they began the building. I wanted a full cellar but this was a limestone mountain and if they ran into large rocks or ledge it would cost more to remove them to make the cellar and we had no extra money for that so it was agreed that they would make the cellar as large as they could without removing any ledge rock.
This cellar was dug and only one very small stone was found. Everyone was amazed, this was old farm land and had long ago been cleared of stones.
And so the house began. Each day we visited the site and watched it rise out of the side of the mountain. We got to ask questions and made decisions about the building.
When the moon is full this high window floods the room with light at night, it is so beautiful!! Winter was coming on but the weather remained good so work progressed.
Inside and out things took shape. We left Spencer to spend Dec. and part of Jan. with our family in Florida. When we returned the house was almost ready to move in.
The gas tank would be added here later to supply fuel for the fire place incase of power failure in bad weather. In seven years we have only had to use it once.
Now our work began. There was tile in the bathroom, we had carpet installed in the bedrooms and on the stairs and Norman installed Pergo flooring in the living room and kitchen. We moved in our furniture from storage and began work on the cellar. One half of the cellar was to be Norman’s workshop and the other half was my country kitchen for canning and other farm work. It had been all plumbed and wired for this. The whole house took shape now.
We worked on the cellar when it rained and worked outside when the sun shone. We found a place to get mulch by the truck load and put three loads on the yard/hill to help hold the soil until the plants and grass took root. Feb. and March were busy months laying out gardens and getting them planted. There wasn’t much to see at first but in three years things looked great! We put out six grapes, twelve blueberries and twelve raspberries.
That first spring we got everything planted but on April 21-23 we had the worst late freeze in the history of Tennessee. We lost all the new growth on the fruit trees, berries and grapes. There were no berries or apples in the state that year but we had hope and felt lucky that we only lost one peach tree and 8 of the raspberries. We replaced the peach tree and we let the raspberries spread and make new plants so that in three years my raspberry bed was full and we were getting all the raspberries we needed.
The roses began to grow but never did make it. I don’t know if it was because I know nothing about growing roses or if it was because we got them into the ground too late in the spring or if the crushed lime stone was too much for the plants. At any rate they all died and now we have grass there. The grapes did very well and we had grapes the second year. By the fifth year they were so big and heavy the arbor broke. We had to cut the grapes back quite a ways and build a new stronger arbor so the sixth year we didn’t get as many grapes. Last year we had our best crop ever and now we prune the grapes better so we will have a good crop every year.
The blue berries were a challenge at first but everyone is so helpful. We asked the farmers at the farmer’s market in McMinnville and the men at the feed and seed stores and found out how to get blueberries to grow even on a limestone mountain. We dress the bed twice a year with peat moss to raise the acidity and then fertilise with a 90% sulfur as well as 13-13-13 and for the last three years we have had a bumper crop of blueberries.
The raspberries are behind our grandson and his wife. The kitchen garden to beside them. There is not much grass, we have panted everywhere! This year we took the extra raspberry plants and started a raspberry bed for our son in Whitwell. Last year we gave a dozen plants to a friend that we swap produce with.
Once the raspberries get going good the blue berries start getting ripe. At first we get a quart or two each day and we eat all we want and freeze the rest. We froze 6 gallons this year and ate some fresh every day. It is the blue berries that keep our eye sight good. We started picking them the middle of June and picked all through July and into Aug. The best part of the blue berries is having the whole family help with the picking and eating. This year they were here for a week the end of July. This is Gina and her brother Colby picking berries. You can just see a part of James and their Dad behind Gina. I am on the other bush and her mother and grand mother are behind Grandad who is taking the picture. They got a two quarts that day to take home as well as eat all they wanted to while picking.
When the blue berries are just about done the grapes are ready to harvest. First we pick them.
These are the grapes once they are cleaned up and ready to juice. Some of the juice I turn into jelly, that is why we pick them while there are at least 15% green. The green ones have more pectin so they jell better and they give the jelly a nice tangy flavor. For jelly you add a cup of sugar for each cup of juice for juice you put in one cup of sugar for each two cups of juice and then mix this juice three water to one juice and you have the best grape juice in the world.
These are the concentrated juice we canned last year plus we made 20 jars of grape jelly. This year we didn’t get quite as much because we lost so many to the black spot but we had a good crop.
We have two peach trees that have produced well for us. It took a couple years and lots of advice from other farmers to get the the trees to produce nice fruit with no worms but we made it. We have two pear trees and had some pears this year for the first time. We have two apple trees and this year had some blossom but no apples so we asked for help again and tried something new, we will see if we have solved the problem of the apple trees We have had apple on the crab apple tree for a couple years and use those for jelly. There is only one cherry tree so there is no fruit as we need two for cross pollination.
The first four years we had strawberries at the top of the hill The first couple years we had all the strawberries we needed but then the wild violets got into the bed and I just couldn’t beat them so we gave up on the strawberries and let grass and violet have the area under the apple trees.
We put in many flower gardens and flowering bushes as well as a small vegetable garden. And that first summer Norman built a gardens shed to hold the garden tools.
It took me a long time to find this bush!
These two bushes I brought up from Georgia in a pot. The snowball bush is growing well and getting larger each year. The lilac come from New Hampshire as a single stick and is a very slow grower but last year it bloomed for the first time and hopefully some year it will be a big bush.
The strawberries between the forsythia and the apple trees. They are no longer there.
The dogwood is sprinkled throughout the woods. We have been very careful not to cut those down as we have cleared out the trees to let the sun in. We found wild grapes but could not cultivate any so far. There are many wild blueberries also and those we have had luck clearing out and getting them to grow. Wild blueberries are small and the best for making muffins.
Each year Norman built a new building. The first one was done with plywood from the lumber company. The second two were built with rough cut lumber from the saw mill in Spencer- solid oak.
The barn now houses Norman’s large tools and most of his building is done in the barn to keep the saw dust is kept out of the cellar.
This section of the barn is lower than the rest of the barn. We had planned on making this the hen house but then we decided we did not want to stay in Tennessee all winter, we like going to Florida for the holidays so could not have any animals. The cat you see here is a wild cat we called Old Yella. He was very beaten up from all the fights he had been in. He stayed at our house for three years and then just didn’t come back. He never got tame but once in a while we could touch him.
That is another of the cats that tried to adopt us. We finally fed them outside so they would not live in the barn. We also had a family of grey foxes that lived near the house and visited every day but now there are no wild animals that live near us and that is just as well it takes a lot of time to clean up after them and some of them such as the deer get into the gardens and help themselves. We had to put a fence around the gardens to keep them out.
The last building Norman made was my studio. I have written several books and stories and like a quiet place to work, so he made this for me to work in and to keep my mess out of the house!! The second year here Norman put a third porch outside my country kitchen so we had a nice place to have our morning break without having to take off our gardening cloths to sit and have a cup of tea.
We began clearing out the forest. At first it was just making it so we could walk through the woods and then cut out the smaller trees, brush and briars. As we could see the farm taking shape we cut more of the large trees so the sun could get in for larger gardens. Many of the small trees we left stumps like this one and put a bird house on them. This one was the biggest success. It is near the barn and every year a blue bird nests here. We love seeing the little one leave home. The fly catcher nests on the rafters on the lower deck and they raise two broods each year and they keep all the flies and mosquito out of our yard. We have never had to think about screening in the lower deck in order to sit out there and enjoy the yard. I put in small gardens in the area to the right of the bird house. There isn’t much sun in this area but it is pretty to walk and enjoy.
Before we started cleaning up the wooded areas it looked like this.
Once we cleaned t up we could walk through the area with ease and it is here that we put in several gardens like that first one.
We then worked beyond this going down to the cleared area where we tented that first year. We took out all the trees there. Before we leave the house area let me show you the flower gardens.
The first flowers to grow in the spring are the spring bulbs and as the late spring comes they are hidden by the lilies, iris and hosta.
These are the first flowers to grow. They will even come up through the snow. There are two big hellebores or sometimes called the lenten rose. This garden goes the full length of the house on the north side and gets very little sun so I had to find flowers that did not require sun. It starts with the hellebores, then the bleeding heart, the English primrose and a couple host and lillie of the valley and end the year covered with black-eye susans. The whole garden is covered with vinca major and coral bells.
In the spring there are spring bulbs here, followed by a few iris and Chinese lanterns but by mid summer the mums appear and end a long summer with lots of color. Now back to the woods and the lower gardens.
We have a separate garden for the vine vegetables so they have room to roam and not bother the other plants They get planted in May.
This is the kitchen garden ready to plant. This is the first garden we plant, we plant lettuce, spinach, onions and swiss chard here as soon as we get home the end of Feb. Then we get the potatoes and onions in the ground, followed by the other vegetables as the weather warms up. By April we are starting to eat from the garden. Before that we have to rely on the things we canned and froze the fall before. You can see the raspberries still sleeping. Soon they leaf out and need to get their last pruning before they set their berries.
A last look at the house before we leave. We are not going to enlarge the gardens anymore, there is not enough time in a day to make them any larger.
Spring 2014- We left the farm the second week of Nov. and have now returned the last week end of Feb. We always return at this time so that we can begin the early planting. This was a very hard winter here but the the farm was protected by the plateau and Baker Mountain so there was no storm damage here. Last year when we returned there were spring flowers in bloom . The first to bloom is the hellebore and last year they were in full bloom but this year I had to pull the leaves off and hunt for the buds.
This year they are just now starting to bud. The old leaves are still there and the new leaves are just starting to grow. They are about three or four weeks behind last year. Every year is different in the garden.
Last year the crocuses were almost gone by but this year they were just coming up. This is the first to bloom, there are several more buds now and some haven’t even gotten their buds yet.
The daffodils last year were in full bloom and this year as you see they aren’t even budded yet. Last fall we took time to get the gardens all set for winter and left them all weeded and mulched. You can see we came back this year to well manicured gardens. I did have to take out the old hosta leaves in this garden but that took less than five minutes. So far there is no sign of the wild violet so maybe the mulch will keep them out. The first job was to till and plant the kitchen garden. The weeding we did in the fall really paid off here, so it was just to till and plant, sugar peas, lettuce, spinach, and beets. We had a few old onion seeds so we put those in with the spinach, if they come up fine, if not there is nothing lost.
Now we are working on the lower garden. This is where all the work is done. Norman has tilled up about one-third of it so we can plant 30 pounds of seed potatoes and all our onions. He used the small manis to till the garden as the soil is so good here now, there are no stones or roots so he does not need the heavy duty pony any longer. Lets take a walk from the kitchen garden to the lower garden and back and look at the farm as it is in the early spring. We will walk down the road that we use if we need the truck to go down.
Leaving the parking are and walking north you see on the right the wood land area. We cut out about half the trees here and all the brush and briars. Now we have a nice woodland path to the other end of the property. As you see each spring we have some branches to pick up and burn. Later in the spring the flowers we planted start to come up and boom which looks very nice in the woodland setting.
Looking north from here you see Norman planting onions. Note the wire around the garden and the white lace hanging from it. This is to keep the deer out of the garden. T his was the only way we could keep them out of the gardens or the blueberries and it works great. We just have to remember not to plant things so close to fence that they grow up and over the fence- that tempts the deer too much and they get in. We have the sonic traps to keep the mole, voles, and ground squirrels out. Now all we need is a sure fire thing to keep the woodchucks and crows out. We will try a scare crow this year, I hope it works.
This is the part of the garden we now have tilled and ready to plant potatoes and onion. We got seven rows of potatoes planted yesterday. It took Norman two days to till this much of the garden, it isn’t hard tilling but tilling is a hard job anytime. I think he does great for 83 years old don’t you? I help but am not able to work as long as he does, I use the cooking duties to get out of some of this harder work.
The best part of corn is watching the twins work their way through the corn picking out their own ears. The coons didn’t have as much trouble picking out which ones they wanted. luckily we had enough so everyone got their fill, even the raccoons.
Just north of the garden is the burn barrels. This is where we burn all the brush and trees we cut down or clean up around the farm. We burn all our paper or burnable trash and all the dead plants from the garden so that any diseased plants are not spread to another year in the garden. Just behind is the wooded area. Notice we have clear the front part enough to let the sun in- it is here that the wild blueberries are coming back to life. In the distance you can see the light through the trees, this is the bluff that looks down into the McMinnville Valley, we own right up to the bluff. We have been clearing out here so it makes a nice walk to the bluff.
Looking east from the garden you see the untouched wooded area and beyond this is the goat farm. They only have four goats now and are our closest neighbors.
This is Norman planting onions. He tilled about 1/3 of the large garden and we put in 7 rows of potatoes. We had 30 pounds of them cut up and ready to plant but ran out of space in this garden as we did not want to put any more of the garden into potatoes so we raked up the old compost pile and planted the last of them in that area. The dirt there looked very good so they should do well there also. Yesterday we went to McMinnville and got the onion sets,leeks and the cabbage family in plants and planted 150 onions and about 60 leeks. I left room in that double wide row for some garlic. It is forecasted to be in the 20’s tomorrow night so we will wait until Friday to set out the cabbage family seedlings. Now it is time to walk back up to the house. We will walk up by way of the woodland area and I will show you how nice that area is.
As Norman cut down the large trees, he cut and split the wood and stacked it up for fire wood. He gives some to the neighbors, we use some in the wood stove in the studio and some we bring to our kids when they go camping. There are several of these piles drying in the area. This area was once as thick a forest as the one you see behind this and the garden.
This is the woodland path to the house up on the side of Baker Mountain. I have planted several small flower gardens in this area that will bloom later in the spring and summer. It is such a quiet, peaceful place to walk.
This is the blue bird house that sits alone the path. Every year we have a family of blue birds that nest here. We are very quiet as we go past here. They don’t mind the tractor but if you talk loudly as you go past the mother comes flying out so we are quiet.
Just to the left and down the hill a short ways we see the barn. Notice the two benches in this picture. Norman used the large logs sliced for legs and rough cut lumber for the seats. He place these benches for me though out the woodland area and in the woods where I like to walk.
As we get near the house we came to the asparagus bed. This was planted over a three year period. You may be able to see the three different sections. The long narrow one in front was the one we planted two years ago and that should be ready to eat this year along with the other two that we have been eating from before. We love asparagus and never seem to get enough of it to freeze. We have had five different farms in our 63 years of married life and on each one we have started an asparagus bed and each time it get producing well we sell the farm. I guess the same thing will happen here as this year we should get enough asparagus to eat fresh and if we find the right person to love this farm we will sell this also.
Under the porch is the lower deck and beside that is the compost barrel. We compost all our wet garbage in this and Norman empties it every couple months onto which ever garden is being tilled up.
Next to the asparagus bed is the blueberry bed here on the right and the raspberries on the left with the cloths line in-between. I have to prune the raspberries three or four times a year to keep them off the clothes line, they really like that spot. Plants have a mind of their own and will only grow well in a spot they like. Some of them I have had to move several times to find the correct spot but the raspberries have been happy from the first year. And so we are back to the house. We will take this walk again in June when everything is in bloom.