Bean2Blog 2013 with P. Allen Smith and the Arkansas Soybean Promotional Board
Because I am a native Arkansan, one of the details I appreciate most about garden and lifestyle guru, P. Allen Smith is his love for our home state of Arkansas.
Bean2Blog is all about support for Arkansas, which is why Allen continues to host it. He designed and built his Garden Home and its surrounding Garden Rooms at Moss Mountain Farm to be a teaching tool for people of all ages, and it has certainly succeeded in fulfilling this purpose. In addition to gardening, home and interior design, Moss Mountain Farm is a place to learn about raising poultry, raising vegetables, living an ecologically sustainable life, farming in Arkansas and cooking healthy vegetables with the seasons.
All of these disciplines are steeped in history and tradition, and new projects are constantly emerging.
The Rose Garden is the latest garden installment, and it is still evolving as Allen continues to collect antique rose varieties that will be in bloom during different months of the year so that the garden shines with color for as much of the growing season as possible.
I mentioned last week that there is so much going on at Moss Mountain Farm at once that it can be dizzying at times. Even while a group of us bloggers were there for Bean2Blog, Southern Living was also on the property shooting images of the gardens.
Because his days are so full and events seem to be happening simultaneously, Allen’s willingness to give us (and Arkansas farmers) his undivided attention for the day at Bean2Blog was all the more endearing to me.
Part history teacher and master storyteller, as well as gracious host, Allen led us first through the gardens, which are arranged symmetrically around the Garden Home. And all the design leads back to the focal point, which is the 350 year old oak tree in front of the house.
We wandered between terraced beds full of all manner of flower and fauna, through trained wisteria trees that were saved from an area being plowed for a strip mall, around a one hundred year old fig tree that commands the center of a garden room and along a pond with gorgeous swans named Wilma and Fred.
Then on we went to the Rose Garden, which sort of beckons to you from below.
Next was the Vegetable Garden where we planted edamame seeds and enjoyed seeing all the veggies, some ready for harvest (Swiss Chard and leafy green lettuces) and some just getting started (tomatoes and squash), as well as all different kinds of berry bushes, including 22 varieties of blueberry.
Someone asked what kind of blueberries were in the garden and Allen answered that almost any word or phrase you can think of that has blue in it is probably a blueberry variety.
Past a field that is home to a horse, a donkey, some sheep and two excited Anatolian shepherds named Smudge and Squeak, is what Allen calls Poultryville. This is home to the many heritage breeds of poultry he is working to preserve.
They all have distinguished names, such as these Silver Laced Wine Dots, and at first glance, you can tell that these chickens are special. Last time we were here, Cole told me how much he loved that Mr. Smith kept his chickens, ducks and turkeys so well organized. Neatly lined rows of pens house these pretty birds, and we got to wander in and around them while Allen told us all about this part of the farm.
It began to rain on us in Poultryville, so we moved next to the house. It did not matter that I had been on the Home Tour before, or even that I had been cooking in the kitchen the week before, I still sat in awe as Allen shared with us about the house.
Each well-thought detail amazed me. (Lyndi caught me mid-gawk.) I am a cook, not a decorator, so I appreciate those who can create spaces in their minds and then execute their designs. I can do this with food but not with furniture.
Even with the divine kitchen, I would have to say that the porches of the Garden Home are my favorite spaces. The front porch, the back porch and the sleeping porch all have soothing color schemes and comfy spots that call out to you to just come and rest for a while.
Q & A with P. Allen Smith
After the tour, before and during our wonderful lunch in the barn was the portion of Bean2Blog dedicated to hearing from our farmers. This part of the day needs its own attention, so more on that to come!
But after all that, we got to hear from Allen one last time during a Q & A session.
We asked him all our questions and he patiently answered each one. The best questions were the ones he answered with a story.
He would start a story and I would settle into my chair like a spellbound toddler at a library story hour. Even if I had heard it before, I was all in. Our favorite stories are the ones we love to tell and to hear over and over again.
For Allen, these are the stories of a childhood farm, of finding and chasing his first chicken into a women’s clothing store, of discovering a piece of antique furniture in New Orleans and of bidding on a painting that turned out to be much bigger than he had anticipated.
A little rain soaked and full of yummy treats made with soy, we were all a bit sad when the day was over. I could have listened to stories until bedtime, but we crawled back into our cars and rode home all aglow with our peek over the fence of life at Moss Mountain Farm.
Special thanks to P. Allen Smith and the whole team out at Moss Mountain Farm, as well as the Arkansas Soybean Promotional Board for the invitation to Bean2Blog and for an amazing day!
Also thanks to my traveling buddies, fellow Dogtown Bloggers, Jerusalem and Sarabeth, who always make a road trip more fun!