Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of a tour of the home and gardens at Moss Mountain Farm, P. Allen Smith’s ferme ornée, or ornamented farm, in the Arkansas River Valley near Little Rock, Arkansas.
I took an embarrassment of photos and wanted to share some of them with you.
At the beginning of the tour, we assembled in front of Smith’s Georgian era-inspired farmhouse (new and green-built, but it looks like the real thing) He gave a gracious welcome to his home, complete with an overview of the concept of a ferme ornée (think Monticello) and a brief history of the home’s construction from concept to reality.
We entered through his classic southern front porch beneath a haint blue ceiling (dual purpose: keeps away evil spirits and discourages insects).
He escorted us inside for more graciousness and a few words about the design of the interior.
I could show you so many pictures this page would take a week to load, but I’m going to break it down for you to its essence: books, art (particularly portraiture & landscapes), and antique casegoods. He draws the line at antique seating; if you can sit on it, it’s a reproduction. As Mr. Smith points out, he never sat in a comfortable antique chair. Come to think of it, neither have I.
Mr. Smith entertained us with anecdotes. His walls, as I mentioned, are filled with portrait paintings. Arguably the most striking of these is a looming painting of the Osage Chief Black Dog in full tribal dress complete with scalps and carrying a tomahawk. In his mild-mannered drawl, Mr. Smith related the time a visitor inquired as to whether or not the featured subject was one of his relatives.
My favorite part of the house must be the porches. This is how we do porches in the south: screened, baby, screened, as you can see from this view of the back of the house:
Imagine the cool breezes from across the river valley, the summer night noises, and the expanse of stars on a clear evening.
And in case you feel the need for a little al fresco bathing, the porch is complete with its own bathtub.
Sleep in, wake up rested, and contemplate the gentle, diffuse light from the north window:
And make your way downstairs for breakfast:
With a view.
Past the outdoor kitchen. Yes.
And one of the outdoor fireplaces. It, and all of the fireplaces are Rumford. The Rumford fireplace design has special meaning to me as it is the type my father put in his and my mom’s last home. It’s incredibly efficient and puts out heat like nobody’s business.
Hm. What would be a fitting residence for chickens as adorable as these silkies? Think. Think.
Of course, a Chicken Palace:
The espalier fruit trees were inspirational. I need to learn more about this craft to make sure my baby espaliers get off to a good start. Look at these clusters of bloom:
The raised bed vegetable gardens were beautiful. Guard chickens?:
Meet the donkey on the way to Chickenville:
Mr. Smith founded the Heritage Poultry Conservancy to promote and preserve threatened breeds of domestic poultry, and his chicken barn is worthy of the epicenter of this undertaking. With interior stalls that back up to outdoor paddocks all fanning out from a central interior aisle, it has the feel of a horse barn, only on a slightly more petite scale.
On looks alone, I think the Light Brahma had to be my favorite of the day.
Not far from Chickenville, between the livestock pasture and the home, is this metal-framed folly, wrapped in burlap and covered in living vines. From a distance it has the look of a stone hut. The roof is covered in sheets of moss, and the effect is inviting.
The stone fruit orchard:
A few beehives in an out-of-the-way corner near the orchard:
I have to show you the sky that day. This color in this pic hasn’t been boosted.
Espalier isn’t foolproof. And if something goes wrong, all is not lost. Use the carcasses to ornament the dining barn.
It was a beautiful day and a very successful tour. I would like to thank Mr. Smith for opening up his Garden Home Retreat. When I got home, I was asked what was the most meaningful thing I learned, and what was the most surprising.
Good questions, both. The most meaningful thing I experienced was a new affirmation of the power of the personal sharing of our homes/gardens. We do this informally among friends, showing guests the way we live at home and what is important to us. It’s a powerful portal into who we are.
The most surprising thing was Mr. Smith’s openness with his home, his desire to share with us. Moss Mountain Farm is a monumental achievement, a home of great beauty and taste, the culmination of much thought and research and education, not to mention labor. It is a rare thing to take what is in your heart and mind and make it a reality from the ground up, and it requires remarkable determination.