Visit our website-in-progress:

Saturday, May 25, 2013


For a while, seemed like all we were growing were flat tires--two on my van, one on the pickup, one on the tractor--but the farm is lush and beautiful with all the spring rain, and today looks like we're growing a wedding!

Nathalie and Ki have been a central part of the farm project, cooking, organizing potlucks, eating our produce, and Ki has been a big help putting up the hoop house.  And this afternoon, to the lilting
sound of Kathleen's harp, they were married in our pasture, a circle of mowed grass, shaded by an old oak.

Natalie was lovely, in a dress that looked like clouds and feathers, and Ki and Tom were decked out in dueling seersucker suits.  Friends, family, the farm band, rows of white chairs, Mary Oliver's poem about peonies. 

I'm thinking back thirty years to the start of all this--our own wedding on the front porch, with Jill and her All Boy Band for dancing after, and fireworks, and barbecue.  And last year, Katie, who was about three at our wedding, in a little white dress and a circlet of flowers in her hair, was married herself on the front porch. 

Dabbing at my eyes.  Darn allergy--must be the grass. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This week: Friends of friends of daughters

Inja: While you are lolling around Southern California, we are having our token sprinkling of snow, just enough to count. A far cry from the old days when the ponds would freeze and we went sledding down the Ingle's driveway.

About your friends: The count is now 21. One of them called Tom, but, alas, I was not here, and he left no contact info. Please pass this along, where he may or may not read it--

Welcome to Sulphur Creek Farm--any friends, or friends of friends, of India are friends of ours. Her people tend to be quite self-reliant, so I have few concerns. I hear you're having dinner at Monell's--great place!--and will be rolling in afterwards. Here are your choices for bed and shelter:

Down at the farm shed/pasture, to the left of the drive: There is cold running water, a stove and space upstairs and down for sleeping bags. The--uh--composting toilet (it flatters this structure to call it such) requires beating a path through the grass to the right of the shed and very likely holding one's nose. If you choose this option, please keep the gate shut so the cows don't get in the garden. And be aware there is a pit at the back to the left--our developing water storage cistern. Use flashlights! The cat's name is Moko. Our current farmers are Eric, Dylan, and Loran, but none are living in the shed at this moment.

Pasture: Feel free to put up tents anywhere. Potential hazards: cow patties and the cows themselves, who might be curious. Do not fear--they are very gentle and won't hurt you. The dogs, Ollie and Balthazar Jack, might also be snuffling around. Also harmless.

Up at the house: We're fine with sleeping bags inside the house itself, but am not sure we can accomodate all. The pavilion is open to weather, but has a roof, and if you push the tables back, is pretty good size. There are also porches, front and back, and lawn. I think all the beds will be occupied by India's sister Rachel and her friends, who will also be visiting. The cottage is off limits, unless you make friends with Dylan, who is living there.

Welcome to bathrooms and kitchen. Tom is sometimes a bit crotchety mornings, but is a charming guy, you'll find. You will be dear to his heart if you admire the succulents and his New Zealand rocks. (Don't ask--all will become clear in good time.) I'll probably be off to the hospital. Wish I could have breakfast with you all.

Brenda B., aka India's mom
Sulphur Creek Farm and Hostel for Wandering Tribes

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mail Man, Bells Bend Style

Haven't seen much of our mailman, being as how he's on our road pretty much at exactly the same times that I am striding through the halls at Stallworth or Vanderbilt. 

Came home early during the holidays, though, and he followed me up our driveway.  The dogs rushed over, and so did I, reassuring him that they were harmless.  "I know, they're looking for their treats," he smiled.  "Here's yours, Jack, and yours, Ollie", tossing them dog biscuits. 

Dale, his name is, and he's been tending our mail for ten years, coming all the way up to the house to put packages on the back porch and spoil the dogs.   He doesn't drive one of those little square mail rigs--he has an ancient something, with a fanbelt and pulley system connecting the steering wheel to a wheel on the right side--the mailman side.  I don't know how the pedals are adapted.  He bought the car already changed over, and I now have many unanswered questions--mileage?  Does he ever unhook the pulley system and drive sitting on the left?  How ARE those pedals adapted? 

Kathleen heard my story and just laughed.  Just last week Dale brought EricTheFarmer's packages, all properly addressed to his place down on Cleece's Ferry, and left them at Kathleen's,  6 miles up the road, telling her to tell Eric that his mailbox was full.  What's a mother to do? 

A peripatetic local treasure I didn't even know.  Dale, this one's for you--you're too cool!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Farm Day Meets Rube Goldberg

A week ago, Bells Bend Park, Farm Day:  Our farm and Kevin's had produce for sale, we had Friends Of Bells Bend information, baked goods, barbecue, hayrides, a horse, a goat, and slides shows of the farm. 
Beautiful day, with folks trickling in all day--a total of about 500, picnic lunches, and great music by a lineup of teen bands. 

I heard, down by the antique tractor display, a noisy pff-pff-pff-pff-PUTT-pff-pff sound and had to check it out.  Might have known! 

Mike Flowers' can-crusher was hard at work, and I just had to laugh and laugh.   Mike had found the engine, an old rusted block of iron, in his front pasture, and had carefully restored, repainted, and etcetera, until the 1921 Hercules ran again.  Somebody told me it is called a "hit and miss" engine, and fires only when the flywheel slows down, therefore very economical to run.  (Somebody else said all one-strokes sound like that:  I don't know enough about engines to tell, but would rather have a "hit and miss" engine than a one-stroke, and so would you.) 

This was connected to a maze of SQUARE gears--yes, they work!--machined at Nashville Tech, and all that power eventually jammed a piston into a coke can, which, obediently crushed into a tidy package, fell into a bucket. 

Rube Goldberg, eat your heart out.

Gotta tell you--the best entertainment, a fabulous day in the life. 

Mike Flowers' Rube Goldberg square gear 1921 Hercules hit-or-miss can crusher

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Outstanding! In the Field.

Well, that dinner that Tom had mentioned a couple of times:  This afternoon-- 150 foodies in our front pasture, nibbling on venison rillettes with caramelized onions, basking in the cool October sun, and touring the garden. 

The Outstanding in the Field people organized this dinner, as they do around the country, to bring cooks, food-lovers, and their farmers together.  To their shocked surprise (and ours) this event sold out in one day, the moment it opened, back in March. 

We caravaned down to Ellen's place, where a beautiful lo-o-o-ng table stretched across the lawn, from driveway to oak tree, looking across George's bottom land to the hills on the other side of the river.   And dinner was simply heavenly: arugula salad with Benton's ham and Kentucky cheese, radish salad (this was so gorgeous, just brilliant pinks and greens) with spicy sausage, crispy fried Mississippi quail with cubes of sweetpotatoes and winter squash, tender beef with grilled veggies (carrots, tiny turnips, bok choy), and a dessert of cornbread with apples, rhubarb and buttermilk dressing.  With paired wines.  Oh, I forgot the creamed greens--had to have a bit of a second helping of that! 

Tyler Brown, the chef extraordinaire from the Capitol Grille, was the featured cook, with much of the dinner coming from our own Bells Bend Farms and from Tyler's farm at Glen Leven.  (Tom took his spader over there last spring to help prepare the soil, and JeffThe BarefootFarmer has been working with Tyler, too.)

It was cold, though, but folks were clustered at the table, lit by little oil lamps in canning jars, chatting and laughing and not really wanting to pull away. 

It's been quite the weekend, entertaining 500 people in two events, both of which were managed flawlessly by other people.  OK, make that 505--counting Zach, who is now living in Liz's room for a while, and Tom's college friends. 

You know, cultures, in the scientific sense, are all about multiplication of an organism. A culture seems to have taken root around here, that is warm, hospitable, welcoming, and social.  May it multiply and may you all come to enjoy something like it, wherever you are.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hops Festival and Barn Dance

Yes, yes, I know the summer has happened since last I wrote here.  Nonetheless.

Walking up to the house in the rain late last night, I left the HopsFest and BarnDance still in full and literal swing, a hundred celebrants still dancing in the drizzle to the tune of the Bells Bend String Band.  

We had a couple of Tom's Davidson classmates here visiting, and about three hundred other folks dropped in.  Yazoo's Linus Hall and his family handed out this year's Bells Bend Preservation Ale (very "hoppy", my beerfans tell me--I liked it!), and Stewart Orchard set up a cider press.  The legendary Martha Stamps made chili and roasted our fall veggies. 

Odle (one of our wonderfully rascally neighbors), Matt Walker, Patrick, Julia, the Cobles, and a string of kids-we-have-known-now-grown-up were here, as well as King Carlos, a friend of the Bend who was crowned by one of the five kings of a miniscule territory in Micronesia this last summer. 

But what really knocked me out, when I wandered to the back of the kitchen for a view of the band from backstage, was the drummer.  Thin, intense, in a newsboy cap, he was arranging a semicircle of market baskets around the box where he sat, between drying garlic and a pile of pumpkins, tapping with his drumsticks as he tuned this makeshift drumset, and then lit into the music, his complicated and precise riffs perfectly framing the squaredance band.  Between songs, he pulled a somebody's folded metal chair--or was it a tripod?-- into the mix, which gave a little metallic edge. 

Mark tells me he's a brilliant fusion drummer.  I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm totally convinced. 

I thought the whole evening was a brilliant fusion event. Whatever that means.  As I walked home in the rain.