A Tour of Moss Mountain Farm

Buff Orpington wandering around at Moss Mountain Farm

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a group of garden bloggers invited to Little Rock, Arkansas, for P. Allen Smith’s fourth annual Garden2Blog event. (Check out the highlights from this select conference — all in the form of a music video!)

Do you know P. Allen Smith? I actually learned of him a year ago when I started writing for KCET’s Living blog.

Allen and me

Allen (just Allen, ’cause we’re friends now) is a celebrated garden designer, bestselling author, and TV and radio personality. His show, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, is syndicated on KCET, our Southern California PBS affiliate. Every week he talks gardens, home designs, and how-to projects, and offers glimpses into the expansive estate he owns on the south bank of the Arkansas River — an estate that is basically his testing ground for those very gardens, home designs, and how-to projects on his show.

The estate is called Moss Mountain Farm and encompasses the P. Allen Smith Garden Home, terrace gardens, rose garden, apple orchard, stone fruit orchard, a one-acre vegetable plot, a field full of hundreds of daffodils, and the aptly named Poultryville, where Allen works to conserve heritage breeds.

I knew all this heading into Garden2Blog because of his show, but to see this place in all its glory is something else.

Now, I could easily make this post all about the Garden Home, of which I took too many pictures and felt like I was a tourist going through an open house. It’s hard to put the camera down when there were so many things I wanted to add to my “future home” filing cabinet…

The new Garden Home

Like these separate fridge and freezer units. Need!

Kitchen necessities

And my dream sleeping porch. This one’s fully screened in to guard against those monster mosquitoes in the south.

Sleeping porch

And this gorgeous copper bathtub that sits on the other side of the sleeping porch… for when you want to take a soak and slide right into bed.

Copper bathtub

And this view of the Arkansas River from your bed.

View from the sleeping porch

An outdoor kitchen, complete with a red brick oven.

Outdoor kitchen

An art studio right in the middle of the garden, with said view of river. (Would you ever tire of all that inspiration surrounding you??)

Allen's art studio

Allen's art studio

And this beautiful, grand old oak, which I considered the anchor of the whole property.

My favorite oak

But despite wanting to spend the rest of the afternoon under that tree, sipping some kind of Southern bourbon cocktail, my favorite part of the farm was the farm itself — all the different “garden rooms,” as Allen calls them, that feel like you’re exploring an outdoor home.

Behind the Garden Home are the terrace gardens, filled with beautiful flowers and shrubs of all kinds (spring was a good time to visit!). Can you picture yourself getting married here? Apparently, you can! We saw two weddings getting set up on the property for that weekend.

Flower garden

Flower garden

Tranquility

Here you can see the upper sleeping porch. The bottom porch is a dining and lounging area.

The new Garden Home

Flower garden

Swan lake

Farm trail

The farm

Stone fruit orchard

While I can appreciate the beauty of a flower garden, I get really, really excited when it comes to a vegetable garden. And Allen’s one-acre plot of edibles did not disappoint. The garden is filled to the brim with brambles, herbs, and vegetables in raised beds, with plenty of plants left to bloom for the pollinators.

Herb garden

Herb garden

Got an old, rusty wheelbarrow that no longer works? Turn it into a planter.

Wheelbarrow planters

Cabbage bed

Raised beds

Lettuce

Onions and kale

Vegetable garden

Flowering brassicas

Vegetable beds

Chard beds

So what does Allen do with all these vegetables? He eats them, of course. And he sells them to restaurants in Little Rock. And as you might have seen on his show, the garden serves as a testing ground for various organic gardening methods and a breeding ground for new varieties of plants.

From the vegetable garden, we made our way to Poultryville, whose architecture included these rather rudimentary chicken tractors…

Chicken tractors

Until you get to the big mamba jamba, aka the Poultry Palace. It was so big, I couldn’t even get the whole thing in frame. And it serves as Allen’s chicken coop, though to call it simply a coop is highly underrating it.

P. Allen Smith's chicken coop

The Poultry Palace

Inside the Poultry Palace

Allen founded the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, whose mission is to preserve and support threatened heritage breeds and strains of domestic poultry.

For the most part, commercial broiler and layer farms (which produce the chickens you eat and the eggs you buy) raise only a select handful of breeds. These breeds have been crossed and created to be highly efficient as fast growers or productive layers, and rarely is an industrially raised chicken both.

That leaves the many, many other breeds of chickens — like my beloved ladies — to decline in number as their genetics become lost in favor of what’s “bigger and better.” Think of it as the chicken equivalent to the heirloom veg versus hybrid veg scenario: If it weren’t for generations of farmers saving seeds and preserving their favorite varieties of ribbed, speckled and scarred tomatoes, all we’d ever know are those perfectly uniform, red and round tomatoes we see in the store. No character. Less flavor. Same with chickens — there’s a noticeable difference in how a pastured heritage chicken cooks and tastes. And even if you don’t eat them, heritage breeds produce some of the most beautiful eggs in all shades of brown, pink, green, and blue.

I saw so many gorgeous, showy roosters at the Poultry Palace, I almost considered getting one for my backyard. Almost.

Heritage chicken

Heritage chickens

Heritage chickens

Chicken pens

These little fellas haven’t moved into the Poultry Palace yet — but they’ll get there soon!

Chicks

Allen also raises and preserves heritage ducks and geese.

Ducklings

Can you believe these are ducklings? They grow so fast! And are adorably clumsy, constantly tripping over their own feet.

Ducklings

After a full afternoon of touring the grounds, it was back to the Garden Home for happy hour under the tree.

The new Garden Home

Happy hour entertainment

The happy hour spread

Majestic oak

This is Arkansas farm life? I’ll take it.

Disclosure: Hortus, Ltd. and its sponsors provided promotional products, airfare, accommodations, and meals for this event. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation.

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June 3 2014      18 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Viajes

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  • Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    Wow! I would have loved being there. If I ever went missing from the group, you could’ve found me on the sleeping porch, no doubt.

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      Haha, I was tempted!

  • Laura

    You lucky, dog. What a fabulous trip! Thanks for sharing. Gave me some nostalgia. I grew up in Little Rock, but never tried gardening there. Now that I live in Colorado, I wish I had; but I don’t miss the humidity and bugs. Love the wheelbarrow idea. I’ve got a busted one that I think I’ll turn into a lettuce or herb garden.

  • candace

    this post of yours couldn’t come in a better time. I have been thinking about you these few days as I didn’t get any of your posts lately, wondering if you are ok, then here came your post :) Lovely farm tour, thanks for the post :)

    • http://www.gardenbetty.com/ Linda Ly

      I appreciate your concern. :-) Did you not get my Five Things Friday post from a couple of days ago? I’ve been bogged down with my forthcoming book, but now that the hard part — submitting the manuscript — is behind me, I can focus on the blog again! (And more details to come on the book, too.)

  • http://mysavoryspoon.blogspot.com/ cheri

    What a wonderful farm tour Betty, thanks!

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