With hints of spring in the air, we’re antsy to play outside. And as the drought in California impacts the price of food, many of us are turning to gardening to supplement our grocery budgets. Where can you find inspiring gardens, workshops to learn homesteading skills, 300,000 daffodils in bloom, adorable baby animals, and a delicious farm-to-table meal? In Arkansas, visiting P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain farm, of course!
Moss Mountain Farm
When I was 7 years old, I grew my first obsession.
Little House on the Prairie.
I channeled Laura Ingalls. Seriously. I wouldn’t answer to any other name. I called my parents “Pa” and “Ma.” (My dad went along with this better than my mom. She really didn’t appreciate being called “Ma.”)
I scrounged some rope from the garage and tied my books into a bundle to carry to my suburban school, eschewing my cute book bag. I begged my mother to put my lunch in a pail, and she politely ignored my request. I read the books dozens of times. To further ignite my Laura Ingalls passion, the TV series arrived on our three-channel set.
But the ultimate euphoria for this Laura Ingalls wanna-be?
My summer visits to my Aunt Georgie and Uncle Hugh’s farm. The open fields, streams, and animals gave me an innate sense of peace and happiness.
I thought it was marvelous.
Perhaps it’s the freedom a farm inspires. Today, many kids—and parents—are overscheduled, and often the closest we come to nature is a walk by a city park. The longing for simpler times shows in the popularity of homesteading and crafting skills. In fact, many families plan farm vacations.
So, when I visited lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith‘s Moss Mountain Farm outside Little Rock, Arkansas, during a garden blogger event known as, appropriately, Garden2Blog, that unmistakable sensation of inner calm took over, much as it did each time I arrived at my aunt and uncle’s farm in Ohio.
P. Allen Smith and an Environmental Vision
Are you familiar with P. Allen Smith? He’s an award-winning designer, author, gardening and lifestyle expert, and host of three television shows, including “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home.” He’s also a genuinely nice guy who cares about the environment, encourages kids to pursue 4-H by offering top monetary prizes for shows, and plants more than 300,000 daffodils on the farm, allowing charitable organizations to harvest the blooms and then sell them to raise money.
He’s a true Renaissance man.
While I visited as part of a private group, Allen opens the farm to the public beginning in spring and offers tours and workshops until fall. While the $90 admission price may seem steep, you will leave with a full belly from the delicious farm-to-table meal—and a head filled with inspiration for your own home and garden. (Plus, the entire family will enjoy the farm animals.)
From the first glimpse of Moss Mountain, you understand the significance of Allen’s vision. A stately, enormous post oak tree anchors the property, with six sister oaks scattered throughout the acreage. The tree provides a dramatic focal point. In fact, Allen selected the site for the home based on the location of this spectacular tree.
It IS picture perfect. Not only does the tree add elegance and centuries-old authenticity to the eight-year-old farmhouse, it serves as a gathering place for entertaining.
Our first taste of Moss Mountain was exactly that–tasty. We gathered under the tree, resting our blistered feet and enjoying delicious beverages and treats, as Allen introduced us to Moss Mountain. Created on more than 500 acres of farmland, with the original farm dating from 1840, Moss Mountain’s Garden Home Retreat is designed to meld home and gardens. The landscape serves as an extension of the home, with garden rooms incorporated throughout the property.
While we sipped strawberry lemonade, Allen discussed his vision to create a sustainable garden home retreat. In fact, while the home sports a traditional American Greek Revival Style, it is also a showcase of modern green technology. In both his design of the home and the gardens, Allen believes in “living lightly on the land.” Not only did he incorporate energy efficient technology in the home, but he also used nature to help achieve energy efficiency. From the site orientation that allows natural light and cross ventilation throughout the home to harvesting rainwater and graywater, Allen combined the best of nature and technology in building Moss Mountain. Radiant heat under the roof, walls insulated with soy foam and denim, energy efficient windows and American made appliances, the home is a testament to Allen’s vision of environmental responsibility.
From the coral-hued porch furniture to the elegant interior, Allen understands comfortable design. No detail is overlooked.
Come Inside and Sit a Spell
Yet, even with every book and flower perfectly positioned, a guest feels like she’s in a friend’s home, not a designer showplace.
You can imagine curling up with a book and a piece of to-die-for pecan pie in this home.
In fact, several bloggers had no problem making themselves cozy.
(Oddly, there are no tumbleweeds of dog hair billowing across the living room floor. I don’t understand. Do people truly live in homes without dog hair?)
Each level of the house made me fall in love just a little bit more.
From the kids’ rooms in the attic to the “seven fanny kitchen,” each room drew “ahhs” from us all.
But the sleeping porch…
…oh, the sleeping porch! If I could add one thing to my ultimate home wish list, it would be the sleeping porch with its spectacular views.
Can you imagine falling asleep to lightning bugs and waking with the soft sunrise?
My inner Laura decided she would never leave.
But wait–we haven’t even visited the farm and gardens yet!
Exploring Moss Mountain Farm Gardens
As you view the meticulously maintained terrace gardens from the house, you’ll find Allen’s art studio to the left…
…and a summer kitchen to the right.
Our garden tour began in the terraced garden, which follows the natural contours of the old farm, curving around the side of the hill. A mixed border of shrubs, roses, perennials, and annuals frame the upper terrace, while the lower terrace includes flowers for cutting, herbs, and fruit.
(Some day, my cutting garden will be grand enough to fill every room with bouquets, all year long.)
The Moss Mountain orchard includes plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines, while 1,700 blueberry bushes in more than 60 varieties outline the orchard.
The one-acre vegetable garden is the perfect example of blending edibles and ornamentals into beautiful, delicious designs.
Yum. (What does Allen do with all of this food? Besides using it in the kitchen at Moss Mountain, it’s sold to restaurants throughout Little Rock.)
We continued on to the rose garden, a popular wedding site.
My favorite part of the gardens?
Allen gardens organically, ensuring that his gardening practices are safe for the Earth, his farm animals, and wildlife.
We strolled along a wildflower field, purposely planted to attract pollinators, until we arrived at Poultryville. Allan works tirelessly to preserve heritage breed animals, including chickens, which is a cause near and dear to my heart. My animal crazy kids spend hours deciding which breeds to add into our small backyard flock, and they’ve selected several heritage breeds. While I cuddled the largest rooster I’ve ever seen, another friend held her first chicken—and promptly received a wing to the face, causing her to drop the bird and run. (Chicken holding hint: always tuck the wings under your arm. Laura Ingalls taught me a thing or two about farm life.)
I admit–after touring the gardens of Moss Mountain, I came home, looked at my poor, neglected, weed-laden gardens, and felt a bit like Laura when she envied all of the possessions of Nelly’s.
Moss Mountain is an enviable, beautiful home.
But it’s also extremely motivating. I may not own a 500-acre farm, but I can apply some of Allen’s techniques to make our little less-than-an-acre suburban farm more charming.
Baby steps, right?
Open House Days
With the arrival of spring, Moss Mountain welcomes visitors to Open House Days, opening from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. each Thursday and Friday throughout the spring and summer. Visitors can tour the house and farm, enjoy a farm-to-table lunch prepared from Allen’s cookbook, and stroll through the gardens, discovering the seasonal blooms. As his schedule allows, Allan attends the Open Houses to meet his guests. Daffodil Days kick off the season, and kids of all ages will enjoy the chicks, lambs, and goslings arriving throughout spring. Allen also offers homesteading and backyard poultry workshops throughout the season.
Tickets for Open House Days and workshops are $90, plus tax. Tickets can be reserved online or by calling 501-519-5793.
Moss Mountain is located at 2700 Ross Hollow Road, Roland, Arkansas.
Wear comfortable shoes, your FitBit (because you will log many steps), and sunscreen. Make sure to take your camera, because Moss Mountain truly is picture perfect.
My inner Laura feels the need to buy a farm…but only if Allen will design the house and gardens for me.
Oh well, at least I have his recipe for his pecan pie. Enjoy!
(Disclosure: As a guest at Garden2Blog, my transportation, accommodations, and meals were provided…but all opinions are my own and in no way influenced by the scrumptious food or delectable drinks provided by my host…honest! Although, that pie is rather influencing…)