June 2nd, 2011

Interlude: Urban and Rural Delights

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I live in an older neighborhood in midtown Nashville. Mature trees and jungle-like overgrowth create a shady enclave in my backyard, and the postage stamp front “anti-lawn” has a sunny plot devoted to growing a few herbs and vegetables.

A true urban dweller, I do glean pleasure from the natural world in small ways:

From keeping up with the flurry of bright yellow and house finches at my backyard feeder,


to babying the first tomato (!) in my garden patch out front.

These interactions not only pull me out of kitchen world, or off my home office desk chair. They help keep me grounded in the day-to-day, keep my heart open.

But, when I make rare trips to the country, I experience a larger sense of place.

Quite simply, I am awed by the dedicated–and gritty–work of small family farmers. Theirs is not a life I could lead, but a life I admire. They are heroes, integral to the workings of a healthy planet.


On a recent road trip, I visited InTown Organics in Monteagle, Tennessee. (It is “in town” for Monteagle, but nonetheless a rural setting on the South Cumberland Plateau.)

There, the Wilson family–Jess, Nate, Eli, and Stella–have created a sustainable working farm, with abundant vegetables, herbs, and salad greens. Livestock too! We saw chickens, ducks, and turkeys; some goats (and a companion dog who thinks he’s a goat) and oh-so-prolific rabbits. What they don’t need for the family they sell at the Cumberland Farmers Market, or to area restaurants.

Following are few images I want to share with you from my visit, glimpses of life on the Wilson’s farm that may bring a heart-opening moment to your day too.


Meet Stella. Yes, she’s a little shy, but she does have this young bunny to look after.

She’s Jess and Nate’s three-year-old daughter, and Eli’s sister. While Eli is in school, and Nate teaches at the University, Jess and Stella keep things moving on the farm.

Like any child, Stella loves to play. But she also helps her mom in the garden. Impressive, particularly for one so young, Stella knows chard from kale from beets from carrots…and how to hold a carrot-loving bunny, with care.


This is Stella and Eli’s special garden. Stella was quick to point out which plants were hers, and which belonged to her brother.


You couldn’t miss this boisterous fellow. Tom Turkey paraded about the barnyard, tail-fanning and holler-gobbling at any creature in his purview. Jess laughed, “He always has a lot to say. All day long!”


Perhaps it was because his mate, this demure young hen, was nearby nesting, in long and patient wait until her eggs hatch.


Can’t forget the chickens! While it’s impossible to know what this hen was considering, but she had an assured (cocksure!) look in her eye. (No doubt, unaware of the workshop on chicken slaughter that Jess would soon be conducting.)

Those who raise chickens tell me that they are far more interesting to watch than television. Indeed, there is something endlessly fascinating about the movements of these birds.


This baby rabbit came as a double surprise. Part of an unexpected litter, (apparently the doe bred almost immediately after giving birth. It’s true what they say about rabbits!) he is the only black one. Stella especially loves him.



With thanks to Jess for a giving us a warm farm welcome and to our Sewanee guide Sherri for leading the way.

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15 Responses to “Interlude: Urban and Rural Delights”
  1. Faith Says:

    What a fun post! Those finches are gorgeous and that looks like a great bird feeder. Love the farm pics, and Stella is a little cutie!

  2. Nancy Says:

    Hi Nancy – thank you for this heart-warming post. I feel as though I went on a farm visit today :)

    Glad to see that many lovely things are sprouting up in your anti-yard! I aspire to have one of my own someday.

  3. Maggie Says:

    Hey Nancy, thanks for sharing your farm visit! I can see the love!!!

  4. Barbara Says:

    What a delightful post! I could watch birds at the feeders all day.
    And your farm visit made my day. I so agree about the importance of farms like this. They are indeed heroes.

  5. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Stella is a cutie and seems a pretty wise 3 year old. I love the kids having their own special garden — very cool. This was fun. Thanks!

  6. wendy Says:

    I loved the pictures—we had such a good time and your photos were like being back in beautiful Sewanee.

  7. Tracy Says:

    Cheers to open hearts!

  8. Betsy Cossuth Says:

    People raised in cities really find it difficult in their wage earning years to carve out the time it takes to have a garden. I am an 80 year old retired lady and no way, if I was working, would I have time to grow what I love to grow-fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.

    That was a delightful visit you shared with us –I hope the young family have crops that yield sufficiently to make it worthwhile not only for their own fresh foods, but to share with others and bolster their income.

    We are in a terrible drought and watering enough in sandy soil is a big challenge. Hasn’t been a good winter which is our main planting time.

    Hope springs eternal and I shall keep at it.

  9. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Thanks, all, for indulging me in this little interlude–back to the kitchen next post.

    Tracy-yes, cheers to open hearts!

    Betsy, thanks for your thoughtful comment. It’s true, I wasn’t able to devote time to even a postage stamp garden until recent years. The weather is a constant challenge, and I wish you success with your garden during the drought. The Wilson family works incredibly hard, but it was clear when we visited how much they love what they do. That means everything.

  10. Tammy Says:

    Thanks for sharing these Nancy. Stella is adorable.

  11. Renee Says:

    Stella and the bunny are so sweet. What wonderful photos!

  12. Juliana Says:

    Nancy, the pictures are great, thank you so much for sharing them..I enjoyed all of them and sure made me smile.
    Have a great week ahead :-)

  13. FOODESSA Says:

    Nancy, for some reason, I always very much connect with your posts. Before now, I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why that was. Yes, your captures of your fine food and writing lures me in…but it’s mostly your incredible love of nature. I too, need this green serenity to keep me grounded. I constantly seek peace and quiet within non-urbain spaces.
    Loved this little escapade of yours ;o) It’s always refreshing for the soul to get away into the country-side. Glad you take the time to spoil yourself.

    BTW…I peeked at your post on risotto…I was trilled that you used the Carnaroli variety and very envious that you snapped it up at TJM. My last bag was purchased at a specialty Italian boutique and I wasn’t thrilled that the King of ristto rices was so pricey. Anyhow, I can’t pass it up any more…I’ve pretty much left Arborio in the dust ;o)

    Glad to be back to visit you again.
    Ciao for now and have a fabulous week.

  14. Teresa/foodonfifth.com Says:

    There is nothing nicer than to be in the country on a beautiful summer day. What a lovely eden you were visiting. I would go crazy if I couldn’t dig in the dirt which is something so many of us urban gardeners have in common. Carry on and keep us posted.

  15. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best Says:

    What a delight! Stella is adorable, and that rabbit she is holding is quite special. One of these days I’ll have the space to raise chickens, I’m very curious about their behavior too.

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