Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tilly Mountain Farm

We left St. Louis on Wednesday, January 11th, but we left a bit later in the day than we meant to. The trip down to Tilly Mountain was uneventful, although we did get through the entire "alphabet game" almost two times. The first time through, the T was Tiger, as in the National Tiger Sanctuary. Who knew such a thing existed in southern Missouri? We decided we had to stop and check it out. For $50 each we could have fed the tigers and had a 1 1/2 hour tour, but time and funds precluded any big cat encounters.
And we thought our car was packed to the gills!
We arrived at Tilly Mountain Farm just after dark and were greeted by Bruce, the doberman mix and Gerald, the farmer. He had a brush fire going to help us find the farm in the dark. Gerald built the house we stayed in in the early '80s, and it had a lovely wood stove which kept us warm. Gerald is a thoughtful, kind man who is well versed in and keeps up-to-date with organic farming techniques, especially permaculture. He is very independent and capable, from doing his own plumbing and electrical work to baking his own bricks from clay on his land. He is full of great ideas to continue improving his land and infrastructure, but time and work force are often limiting factors. Trees and lumber have often been a focal point in his life, as he has his own portable saw mill and a long history of professional tree planting and clearing. On Monday, his wife Marge arrived to replenish our food and spring seed. She is the head nurse at a hospital in Conway, and is into alternative medicine. They are both very generous and made sure we had everything we could ask for.
While we were on his farm we helped him with various projects. We pruned his two kiwi plants and then built a nice trellis for them. Because of the unseasonably warm weather, we spent most of our time outside instead of in the greenhouse, though we still helped prep it and planted a variety of seeds. We also helped with a cabin he is building in the woods for future WWOOFers, Randy helped reinforce the walls while I cleared brush around the cabin, and we both cleared a space for a garden. The ground is incredibly rocky, and making a garden bed out of a forest floor is hard work, involving maddoxes, hoedads, and spudbars. It was on a slope, so we also built a rather impressive first attempt at a  rock retaining wall on the lower edge.
WWOOF usa arkansasWWOOF usa arkansasAfter a hard day's work we often watched DVDs that Gerald thoughtfully provided about farming and environmental issues. One night we successfully made raw milk ice cream in the little portable, spherical ice cream maker that Randy got me for Christmas. Since there was no vanilla, we used a vanilla-flavored meal replacement shake mix, but it came out delicious.
On Sunday morning we decided to go to church to get a feel for the town. The church made up half the town, both in population and in structure. The other half was a store/gas station/post office across the street. Everyone at the Tilly Missionary Baptist Church was incredibly welcoming and friendly. Two women immediately made us feel at home, and introduced us to almost the entire congregation. We were repeatedly told by churchgoers how proud they were that we had decided to worship with them, and told to come back anytime. The hymnals used shape notes, which was exciting for us because we had only ever heard of shape notes on NPR.
The iconic Tilly Mountain Farm windmill
Our stay on Tilly Mountain farm was a great first farm where we learned a lot and exercised the old farmin' muscles. Now we're off to Mount Ida, Arkansas to help out at Paradise Produce.

Monday, January 9, 2012

We're off!

  Although we are departing about six months later than we originally planned, it turned out perfectly. We both got to spend some more time with our families before leaving, and now we're primed for some sowing study and livestock learning! Right now we're both in St. Louis and are heading down to Arkansas on Wednesday the 11th. We've diverged a bit from the initial plan of a cross-country motorcycle trip, and are instead setting out in a 1988 Volkswagen Cabriolet, which has about the same amount of cargo space.
  Our first stop is a small farm in NW Arkansas which isn't close to anything except the Ozark National Forest. We anticipate a lot of greenhouse work this early in the season and are excited to finally be getting our hands dirty.
  Right now we're in the middle of the last-minute dash to get everything done--errands, packing, seeing friends and family, finishing books so we can return them to the library, and doing load after load of laundry.
  We have no idea if there is internet at the first farm, but if there is we will post again once we're settled.