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Finding our Farm in the Mountains

Author Photo
By Judith Gallagher-Howell | Mar 27, 2018

All my adult life, I’ve felt an affinity for mountains. They seemed to draw me towards them, and I left their company feeling renewed and refreshed. The Smoky Mountains, in all their mysterious beauty, seemed to move me most. It was always a dream to find a homeplace there, but during my working years, it was just that; a dream. I would spend my work breaks cutting out real estate listings in magazines, of beautiful mountain lands or cabins or farms.

Amid all my life’s shakeups, I sought refuge in these mountains. They provided me peace and hope. Then in 2012, I married the love of my life, and we especially wanted to be married in our beloved mountains.

We came back to the area six months later and were blessed and surprised to find our homeplace. We knew immediately, as we drove up the road to see it, that it was “It.” We quickly bought it, and then made plans to move there as soon as possible.

What drew me to the property was the fact that it was an old family farm, largely intact. The old farmhouse still stood, there were fields and meadows, streams, an old canning shed, and an old tobacco barn. The owners before us had purchased the property from the original owners, the Grasty’s. The Grasty’s had built the small farmhouse, raised cows and chickens, canned food from their abundant garden, and raised tobacco.

As we walk our property, we’ve found the old chicken coop, the fencing of barbed wire that marked the property’s borders, and an old springhead. In the stone canning shed, was Becky Grasty’s vegetables, put up with pride. We marveled at how many cans were still there, their vegetables still pretty in the jars, and the work involved of putting by food.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in a typical suburban existence, knowing nothing of gardening or canning or raising animals. But it was something that always interested me; intrigued me. As I was driving to work to my law enforcement job, I would dream of living in the 1800’s, running a large household, putting up food and living largely a homesteader’s existence. In my mind it seemed a fancy, a folly. Not reality, at least not mine.

As I worked in my chosen career, I always, and I mean always, wanted to be home. Doing what, I did not know. I passed it off as being lazy. But now I know. Now I realize…this was the life that I dreamed of. I could never clarify the reality of it, but all of my life has led to this point.

Now, retired, I live the life that I dreamed of all those years. I garden, I marvel at the herbs that I grow. I spend my time reading books or blogs, learning the ancient secrets of the herbs. I raise my chickens and learn how to care for them. I stare at the mountains all around me and try to discern their mysteries. I wish that Becky Grasty could stand by my shoulder and impart all the wisdom of her lifetime. I wish she could school me while I do my canning, put up my vegetables, dry my herbs.

I think about the things she knew, now forgotten. I think of her old-fashioned, wood burning cooking stove, now gone from the kitchen. All the meals it prepared, the kettle it kept warm, the eggs it fried. It pleases me to still use her old apron sink, and to dry my herbs in her stone canning shed. I hope someday to gain her knowledge.

I welcome the peace of my homeplace and feel at home at last.

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