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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lulu: Farm Dog

Lulu: our sweetheart of a teacup mastiff ( even though she can eat off the table without standing on her tiptoes, she's small for breed)--now garden Persona Grata (or would that be Canina Grata?), since her capture and kill of a marauding groundhog.

The Barefoot Farmer

Jeff Poppen, the Barefoot Farmer, is a bit hard to explain. Some people, who ought to know, claim he's the best organic farmer in Tennessee. Seems like organic farming is more of a team sport-- cooperative, rather than competitive, so I'm not sure exactly how we would decide, but a few things are known for sure.

Jeff's been farming at Long Hungry Creek in Red Boiling Springs for 30 years, and currently feeds a large CSA membership here in Nashville, plus whoever else seems to need feeding. His five acres under cultivation produce more than 50,000 pounds of produce each year, with Jeff and a couple of part time workers plus whatever volunteers show up. I'm sure he'd list as co-workers the cows that are pastured on the rest of his 300 acres, since it's that manure that fuels the garden.

There are a few other pertinent facts about Jeff: he's certainly what used to be known as a hippie, with flying hair and a twisty long beard, he is certainly barefoot, and is known as much for his celebratory shindigs ("Poppenstock") as for his farming. Music and laughter and a crazy good time seem to follow him around, even while he is laying out the finer points of compost, which varieties of corn and tomatoes produce best, why a disk plow doesn't work well for clay soils, and on and on.

It's all about the dirt, for Jeff--"If you take care of the earth, it will take care of you". Seems to have worked quite well, so far.

Jeff's darker side: well, you pretty much don't know exactly when he'll show up, driving his rattletrap Mercedes, or when he'll go home. Or who exactly he'll bring along. Which pretty much doesn't seem to matter. Or, if you are a groundhog, he would be pretty much all dark side, a roaring god of garden revenge and sudden death.

I ran into a neighbor last week--a lady, like some of us (not me, of course), of an age where most people are considering retirement. She's pretty remarkable in many ways, but I had no idea that she even knew Jeff. "Oh, yes," she laughed, " I went up there to his place and that's when I decided to quit being a military wife and become a hippie!".

Jeff's quite excited about farm property down in Bells Bend--lush, accessible, compost nearby, old hay, and a young farmer. He sketched out his plans: party farm farm vegetables party farm hay cows farm farm party music party. This is resonating very favorably with our pack of young workers.

It doesn't sound all that bad even to us old puritanical fundamentalists.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms' first CSA delivery is scheduled for this Tuesday! We have pickup points in Sylvan Park and at our place, Sulphur Creek Farm.

I don't have the full list of items, but the lettuce has been fabulously tender. EricTheFarmer is also tied into what seems to be an organic potlatch: farmers adding excess produce to the delivery baskets of other area growers. We couldn't get early spring crops in, since our brand-new garden wasn't ready, so we are mostly on the receiving end.

Jeff's philosophy is that we shouldn't keep track much, when it comes to food. People who are here, people who work here, our neighbors, our CSA members, and pretty much anyone else should just eat. And so they do--we usually have between 2 and 10 extras at our table every night, generally producing gales of laughter rolling into the night from the Church of Outdoor Dining.

Last night: turnips and apples (this is actually really good--tastes like it ought to be dessert), beet tops (we roasted the beets for today), sauteed spring peas, and tag ends of chow-chow.

Last time I looked our CSA still could accomodate a few more members. Alan is our distribution manager--you can reach him at Or bring your checkbook by for supper.

groundhog war

Our garden has a whistlepig plague. These cute creatures, otherwise known as groundhogs, are eating our sprouting bean plants, and the war is on.

Lulu the English mastiff, strictly banned due to the size of her footprints in the lettuce row, is now very much Persona Grata, after she dropped a mass of groundhog fur at Jeff's feet. And Jeff, that pacifist hippie biodynamic farmer, launched an anti-groundhog tirade, complete with wardance and demonstrations of his slamdunk pitchfork lance-throw--"I just pinned that sucker". (Note to self: Do NOT threaten Jeff's vegetable patch.)

Even EricTheFarmer, striding up the driveway, is now armed with George Wests 1908 Remington.

But the word went out to the neighbors for the ultimate weapon, and DiAnne's HavaHart trap is now in place, baited with canteloupe, which research indicates is the ultimate groundhog comeon.

The groundhog war is now all about relocation of enemy forces. We will hold our territory against all odds.


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