Three Graces Farm and the Crooked Path of Dreams

Three years ago on my birthday, just months after that person filed for divorce, I bought a piece of land a lone short mile from the Smokie Mountain National Forest. I loved that tract woods and century-old poison ivy, with its steep hilly inclines littered with remnants of old ‘shining stills, and the shaded creek in the crevasse that became my refrigerator, and hideyhole for the liquor given to me by the old mountain men who liked to court me, jar after jar carefully packed in milk crates and held down in the creek bed with flat rocks dug from the sides of the ravine.

I christened it Three Graces Farm, brought in some pigs to clean out the snakes and eat the underbrush, planted a large plot of garlic and onions, and spent a year gathering herbs and bark and mosses in the forest that, along with a favorite hidden creek up the road and the Little Pigeon River to play in with my dogs, became my home….Then the Chimney Stack fires swept up like a demon’s broom, and most of Cocke and Eastern Sevier Counties, Tennessee, were blanketed with choking smoke and acrid ash. Nearly a thousand private homes were destroyed, and many businesses were lost, including some that I sold soap to. With a new housing crisis, I lost my plot when the man I was buying it from sold it out from under me to a developer for a hotel…after I had already invested more than $20,000.000–far more than the land was actually worth. I lost everything that I had built there, as that conniving old man let strangers come in and take my belongings without notice.

When my sister died this past September just three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, I found myself with animals all over the country, and a business without a working studio, starting over completely from scratch yet again.

I’m too old for this shit. In my heart I am still 12-years-old. In my mind, I’m just a girl, barefoot, strong and fierce. But years of abuse and neglect and living on other people’s terms has laid waste to my health and my stamina. I can only handle one more do over. I mean, really! Just how many times can a heart be broken before it gives up and turns to dust?

My friend Scott told me he thought I was looking in the wrong places for a new piece of land–a search that had stretched from months into a full year. Following his advice, however, turned out to be a serendipitous stroke of fortune, as I found my new farmstead on the very first day of searching, quite literally an hour after I gave up on ever finding anything worthy of calling home again.

It’s everything I could possibly hope for: 40 acres of fallow pastures, a dense stand of healthy woods up behind my ramshackle house clad in pink asphalt siding fifty years ago long gone, and a creek down below near the main road. The landlord is 81 years old, a stubborn Polish man with a kind heart that has pooped out and nearly killed him three times already. It’s a serious gamble to “rent with an option to buy” from a man like this; a veritable crapshoot, and I’m not certain that my own heart can survive another disaster. But I want this land; I want to be a part of it, and for it to become a part of me…as familiar as the lines in the palm of my hands, and I want to be healed by it, too. So, I paid the rent 13 months in advance so that I can concentrate on film school and turning this place in to a productive, profitable farm, with staked goats mowing the grasses, and my pigs and donkey being rotated through the woods like happy little gremlins of necessary destruction. I haven’t figured out how to get my two Brown Swiss cross cows up here from Tennessee, yet, and I still have to fence the upper and lower pastures away from the central acreage, but I am hopeful for the first time in a very long while.

Miss Robin has kept a massive clutch of doves for me, and my faithful helper, Katie, is bringing my cats, Dominic and Butters back to me from college at the end of May. My black labs, Mazie and Lizzie, are still in California, but Cecil Leo (aka “Baby”) and Sissy Peaches are here to get me out of bed in the mornings and keep me honest to my tasks.

I still have not found another car that I can afford, and have been borrowing one from Scott’s mom, and making minor repairs on it to get it ready for her to sell in exchange for its use. I need a farm truck, and I bought a hay wagon at the farm store a few weeks ago so that I can haul hay and straw and chicken tractors here and there. I have been working on unpacking my things for the first time in many years since Mary Alice started being strangely paranoid and obsessed with boxes, making our last four years at Gilbert House feel like a never-ending move to madness. My little farm kitchen is almost put together, and the living room is mostly organized…but piles of boxes still clutter the soaping studio, and fill the garage to the rafters.

It’s a work in progress like most things in life. Still, I am hopeful. I’m not happy, but I am content and, as things fall into place, I am looking more and more towards whatever future I might have left on this Blue Jewel of GOD’s imaginative making.

According to the internet, I now live in one of the most polluted counties in the United States, but you’d never know it by being here. The air smells like new moss and sweet fresh-cut grass, and the hills around me are covered with a blanket of emerald green and the whooshing sound of the ocean in the trees. I am planning terraced herb gardens in my head, all up and down the property, dreaming of once again filling my apothecary cabinets with colorful harvests and making good medicines without needing to buy this or that from someone else. I am looking forward for the first time in three painful years, and I can envision the sunlight peeking through the clouds that have lost so much of their menacing blackness.

Tomorrow might actually happen. And Three Graces Farm rises with me from the ashes.

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