News and blog

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Posted 9/25/2016 3:36pm by Jeanette Wilson.

To say it has been a while since the blog was updated is a little understatement. When we last talked…the focus was starting to be on really pursuing things that brought deep joy in the process.    That was a great plan for almost a year, and then all of us here got to walk a path that instead led through a valley of sorrow – yet in the end there remains joy – and peace.  

As of this writing it has been almost exactly one year since my beloved, Frank, went ahead of me to be with the Lord. He endured a year of living with a serious form of cancer, one unlikely to be cured, so we pursued things that were in keeping with our longtime beliefs. And God was Faithful.  

We learned so many lessons and shared precious things along the way. Not just Frank and I, but our children and all our loved ones.

So what does the farm look like today?   Weedy in places. Still home to a sweet herd of black Gelbvieh cows and their young Bull-in-Chief.

It’s because of my brother that all this is possible. Phil and I lost our Dad a few months before Frank, and even though neither of us wanted the farm to wind down, Phil was the only one who could handle the kind of work that cattle require. So he did. And does. Despite many other obligations and joys in his life.  

We are not producing any calves for retail beef sales now. So no tailgate markets. And the garden yielded an amazing harvest of weeds of all sorts – at least my section.  

But Faith that is sturdy (and the Scriptures that support it) will hold even under pressure. Mine has.  

After realizing that I was at a real fork in my road, all the kids grown, one final year in college for our youngest – I decided to take a spin-off of Frank’s construction company and push it into a more formal cleaning business. Bluesparrowcleaning.com  

It allows me to pursue my favorite occupation of all, caring for people. So using the means of cleaning, I now get to care for customers, cleaning helpers, and those on my list of “care-targets”.  

I also decided to open up our home occasionally for folks coming to visit this area. If you are looking to stay right in downtown, this is not your place. But if a spot high above the pastures appeals to you, welcome.  Sparrow's Nest Farm Cottage

And on your way up the mountain, you will pass a grassy spot. There are a couple of stones there. One for a little son that years ago we said, “See you in a little bit” to. And another beside it marking a spot where a great man’s bones await the Resurrection. My name and birthdate are on there too. Not something to make me sad.

Ours was not at all a goodbye – just one more repetition of a favorite phrase –

“See you in a little while!”

Posted 3/19/2014 7:55am by Jeanette Wilson.

  What does it take to get hooked on something – a thing that consumes daydreams and causes you to spend money and effort to have more of it? How can it start so innocently and then become so driven by passion? Look no further, I can answer that.  

 

                               

A few years ago, Frank and I were busy trying to figure out what was best to do as we continue the farm here in Candler. We have a long and full heritage of crops and cattle raising.  We knew that folks are interested more than ever in the lives of small family farmers and we began to make changes to allow us to deal with more of those neighbors of ours.

We kept the cows, since Frank’s days have included handling cows for over 30 years now. I wanted to add some berries to our garden area, knowing those always sold with ease and were “superfoods”.  I also ordered some Dahlia tubers, a flower I had admired since childhood. (And this was a chance to get a few more at one time than I could have justified for the yard.)

The Dahlia order came. We planted them and they took root – as in deeply rooted in my heart from year one! Out of those homely brown shriveled tubers grew the most alluring flowers I had ever met.  And the varieties were endless. Some were soft pastels with faint shading, others were voluptuous saturated colors more exotic than any rose. (I hear you saying, “But tell us how you really feel!”)

So each year afterward, I added some more varieties and each made more duplicates of itself, until the vegetable garden was in hard competition, vying for space in my plowed ground.

As our youngest son, Anthony, left for college, we made a decision. We would give up doing Saturday tailgate markets with meats and vegetables, and be more available for all the people in our lives that we needed to keep up with. And each of us would focus on the parts of the farm we loved.

Frank has kept his happy bovines, and they just keep making copies of themselves in the form of calves.

I kept the Dahlias.

This summer and fall, I look forward to making fresh flowers available to those of you looking for lovely bouquets.  And this coming winter, I hope to offer some of those homely brown tubers for sale.  Prepare to battle your own addiction.

Happy Spring!        

Posted 6/14/2013 5:56pm by Jeanette Wilson.

What a pretty time of year!  So much to do that sometimes the work overshadows the beauty.  But not always.  

 

Posted 1/18/2013 6:00pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Its that time of year.  Since the word January is a derivation from the name of that old Roman god who supposedly looked both forward and backward, it is the perfect time for me to analyze what went well last year. And what I am ready to change.  

 

In the spirit of lists, here are some we made- or didn't.

Best Dressed of 2012 - Didn't make that one.  Too many stains and an unconventional fashion sense.

Worst Dressed of 2012 - Honorable Mention.  Comes from feeding hogs who sling mud unexpectedly, and attempting just a super-quick farm chore while wearing Sunday clothes.  What could go wrong?

Most Likely to Succeed on American Idol - Nope - not here. What happens on the farm stays on the farm.

Most Likely to Seed and Weed - Yes!  Especially the weed part.  Over and Over.

Herdsman of the Year 2012 - Should be Frank.  If there is one lesson our kids learned, it is that if you are eating and well-taken care of - every animal on this place better be as well!  He doesn't work with fanfare, but there is no slack bone in his hard-working body.  And this place is the better for it.

Sales Staff of the Year 2012 - Probably not us.  I have been to market, tired, forgetful, scatterbrained,

half-packed, sweaty, frozen.  With signs, without signs.  With change, without...you see.

Customers of the Year 2012 - OURS for sure!!!  We have the BEST folks who order online, take delivery, come to market, tell their friend, wait patiently, and send sweet and encouraging notes.  Makes all our other failures worth enduring!  Thanks.

And in the spirit of review -as all grade school writing teachers appreciate -

Here is what I did last summer - that worked.. A Big Bouquet to all our wonderful customers!  May this year be even better for us all.

 

 

Posted 6/30/2012 3:06am by Jeanette Wilson.

The forecast of record-breaking heat made us hit the ground running this week.  Our Friday mornings almost always start like a football team leaving a huddle.  Without so much as a "Break!" yell, the three of us are out the door at daylight starting our to-do lists.

Anthony, our last teenager, is off to do the morning feeding.  We can hardly do without him - he is such a help.  Frank is off to start the irrigation pump.  I grab buckets to start picking before the sun gets too hot.  Soon, we spread farther out - Frank and Anthony off the farm to their jobs, and I am here to continue checking the pump, prepping for markets, and twice, when my phone sounds a reminder, to gather eggs.  

At 9 am, the temperature is still in the high 70's.  Hens are fine.  By 11 am, it is 90.  Hens are panting.  Not good.  Since chickens don't sweat, it can get dangerous pretty quickly.  

Pigs don't sweat either, but they ours have their own ways of coping.  Now no one ever said a chicken was smart, but pigs are actually pretty intelligent.  And challenging.  Earlier this week, I am not sure which smart hog figured it out, but at least one realized that if you could bite the hose which comes to the automatic waterer, you could get some refreshment.  Let's just say by the time Frank got to them that evening, they had a broken hose and a large swimming hole in their pen in the woods.  And their expressions said "Come on in, the water's fine. "

But today, the hens had no such break.  So at 11:30 I texted Frank that I was going to turn them out to hit the woods.  Now he had already set up some extra shade for them in their usual lot, but they were suffering, and I decided, if it was me, I would rather take my chances in the woods with a fox and Providence, than expire from panting to death.  I opened the door and tried to put a little plank up to give them a walkway down the foot drop.  Chickens can be really nervous about new things.  (There is a reason kids call each other "chicken"!)  I left them to figure it out.  

Late in the afternoon we were all back at the farm doing the evening chores.  I was still in the packing shed near the barn at the bottom of the hill.  Frank had parked the tractor, when I heard gravel crunching up on the hill and knew Anthony was flying down the drive one more time today.  

In my experience, teenagers doing less-than-pleasant chores are either mopers or hurryers.  Thankfully, Anthony is not a moper.  But in the pickup truck, hurrying can be overdone.  I heard him bounce over the cattle guard and literally slide past the henhouse on the hill above me of a distance of about 1/8 of a mile.

In a vague memory, I seem to recall the farm-kid pleasure of giving a car gas and feeling that cheap thrill of that gravel slide followed by some fish-tailing, and then a recovery to travel on down the road.  

(Under pressure I would neither confirm nor deny having had such an experience.)  Today, as his mom, I just threw up my hands and Frank heard me say " Honestly - That Boy!!  So Frank met him at the barn to discuss his "Leave no stone unturned" driving methods.  We weren't too hard on him and it was nice in the shade of the mulberry tree for a moment.  Then we spotted her.

One little hen.  How did she get here?  It was way too far down the hill for her to have wandered.  And no other hens had come along.  Hmmm.  Apparently, during the truck thrill ride- when I heard a bunch of squawks like when cowboys ride into a ranch in a John Wayne movie -  Henny Penny had gotten enough lift to sail into the back of the truck. Her friends probably saw her rise in a cloud of dust and disappear.  She was unexpectedly carried to the barn where she unloaded herself. Finding herself in  totally new surroundings, she just hung out with the folks she knew pretty well.  She was so tame, I picked her up and held her on my lap in the Explorer when I drove up the mountain to our home.  She nestled in my arm until we got to her henhouse address.  It was nice.  And boy does she have a story to share with the girls on the roost tonight.

Posted 3/23/2012 7:47pm by Jeanette Wilson.

I am not sure when some traditions got started.  Like what year was it that employers expected the workplace to be too dominated by college basketball playoffs this month to get anything productive accomplished?  It must have come after the invention of the light bulb but before the Iphone.

 

And where were we during those Marches of our history?  Probably bent over planting potatoes.  Or onions, broccoli, lettuce, or some favorite greens.  

We may have been running the last bales of hay before spring grass growth comes to the pastures.  Maybe we were cleaning out the bedding in the henhouses.  Quite possibly, we were looking for a weather forecast to predict the next spring storms - so we could figure our next tractor time.

One of us was probably coming from the farm supply store or watching for the UPS man to get a part needed to repair a waterer or hay mower.  The other one was likely potting up transplants in the greenhouse or trying to pull the string on the tiller, mower, or weedwhacker.  

And when the sun set - we were having one last round of that game, Receipt Hide and Seek, before tax time.  

 

Honestly, its not that we are not interested.  Our teams are playing this weekend.  But probably all we will get is a text message telling us the final score - complements of some TV watching loved one.  

We will be wrapping up the feeding , right down to the tiniest biddies.

Just another day at the office.  (Go State!)  

Posted 2/24/2012 8:13pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Just a quick look at what raising great beef begins with - a good mom.

 

Sometimes on the way to somewhere else, you get to see the best sites.  I think this gal beats all those milk mustache commercials!  Great momma cows make our work much simpler.

Posted 1/20/2012 6:36pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Well, it's time to make those New Year plans and analyze what is going well and worth continuing.  It's the time that we look at every acre and see if we are doing what is best for that particular piece of land.

 

It's is this time of over-thinking that causes me to think about the value of land in general.  Some places in the world are so high-value that the real estate commands incredible prices.  These are the places where important decisions are made every day which affect millions of people. Places in these, usually urban settings, are recognized as the ultimate real estate purchase, a testimony to the owners' success.  

What does that have to do with a little mountain farm in Western North Carolina?  Only the word association game in my mind connects them.  High-value - best crops - best return - most nutrition per serving - grows well in our climate - heirloom variety... see where I go with this?  What is the best way to use our small acreage?  Why give animals so much room to walk around when we could pen them all up for cost and efficiency savings?  Why use organic treatments in our fields when we could use a cheaper and faster synthetic solution for bugs and disease?

Why even pursue a business with so much risk as to be heart-stopping?  Because of the high value of it all!  What farmers do daily seems pretty mundane, even unpleasant at times.  But when I think about the neighbors and families we serve, they strike me as being important - and the methods we use provide a different kind of produce and meat.  It reminds me how unique our opportunities are to keep the best and freshest and purest foods available in our own community.

So when I am checking my field maps and making plans and seed orders, it helps to recognize that even way out of the centers of power, where appraisers don't always see much than some bottomland, or hillsides, or timber, there might be something valuable.  In a way, it reminds me afresh of the entire feeling of doing the best with the role we have been given in this life.  Now that's a New Years ambition!  

Soli Deo Gloria!

Posted 11/10/2011 7:24am by Jeanette Wilson.

Our seasonal adventure with the farming reality project, The FARMERS FILM has affected us all in unexpected ways.  Since the project is almost finished, there is quite a bit of publicity happening, and that makes one feel possibly more important than one really is.  I was reflecting on the images I used to have of “film stars” and decided there were some possible misconceptions.  So, here, with a good dose of sarcasm, are my lessons learned.

 

1)       For film stars, the day begins with makeup and wardrobe!

Not here.  Our days begin with the regular chores.  In the dark, cold, or precipitation.  From the footage, it looks like Wardrobe staff has not shown up in the last couple of decades.  The reality of our lives is that farming tends to wear away at ones good clothes, or our standards are different.  Call that personal style.

My style is reminiscent of those great fashion icons – Ma Kettle and Aunt Bee.  Since I come from a long line of dress-wearing, apron-covered women, I have embraced that style as well. (It was my childhood experience that behind a serious apron was a woman of substance.)  And as for makeup?  It just isn’t the style of our guys.

 

2)       Movie stars are surrounded by great gourmet food.  This is literally TRUE!  We are among the fortunate who are surrounded by gorgeous vegetables, the freshest of everything.  Steaks if we want ‘em!  We are missing those personal chefs, though.  Around here, if you want it, you have to cook it.  From scratch.  After you are done with work.  It’s still good – just a different reality.

 

3)      The camera adds ten pounds.  That’s a tricky one.  It could be the camera, the apron, or the great food.  Could be more than ten. Whatever.  Either way, some of us looked awesome and others just too “reality”.  I couldn’t tell if any extra poundage showed up on the pigs or cows.  The bull looked a little heavy.  One of us seemed to look way younger than our years.  (But he’s taken.)

 

 

4)      There is lots of DRAMA when you work in the film industry.  I think we were under-average on that part.  I know that it makes a show more interesting, so we considered having a real knock-down drag-out over some fictional produce tension.  But it really isn’t us.  No one gets overwrought here very often, and what we actually do is pretty repetitive.  Feed, pick, load, unload.  No marriages came apart, no insults were hurled, and no tempers flared.  The closest we came was when Frank was trying to ask me something with his earplugs still in from being on the tractor.  We weren’t filming, though, and only one surprised farm visitor witnessed our high-volume exchange. 

 

We won’t see the finished project for a couple more weeks yet.  And with the completion of filming comes some relief.  No longer will we hear each other say the phrase which was oft repeated this fall – “Oops, sorry, were you filming that?”

Posted 10/14/2011 6:27pm by Jeanette Wilson.

It's been several weeks now since we began participating in the FARMERS FILM project.  First, the folks producing it gave us a camera and told us to start filming our days.  They did that for 3 other farms as well.  The purpose?  To let folks see more of the real issues facing small, sustainable farms.  

 

As the weeks are passing, we have been forced to think hard about what is good and what is not-so-great about our farm endeavors.  We realize that the camera may truly add more than ten pounds (just kidding), and that much of what we do happens over and over and over.  

 

Since we are trying new things like raising pigs, we are putting ourselves out there somewhat, and letting others see what we are optimistic about.  After being told that they love "drama" we confessed that we try to live as "drama-free" lives as possible.  Once in a while something still gets us though, and a little of that footage made it in lately.  

So check out the webisodes (little samples) that have been showing up all fall at farmersfilm.com

and stay tuned.  In the end these will get to be longer episodes and let a pretty wide group of folks watch our failures and even better, our successes!