Category: gardening

Farm2Home 2015 – P. Allen Smith

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Farm2HomeLogoThis is the second in a series on Farm2Home 2015. Read Part 1 here.

When Allen Smith was 10, he earned a blue ribbon for a hen he showed at the county fair. This is not surprising, given his family heritage of farming and livestock and poultry raising.

A few decades later, if you called him “the crazy chicken man,” you might not be far off (sorry, Allen). With his first hen – not the white silkie that won the blue ribbon but a brown Leghorn that young Allen had to chase down on Main Street – he began a love affair with growing and preserving poultry breeds that has only become stronger with time.

Known for his design, cooking and gardening expertise, Allen (better known as P. Allen Smith) has grown a multimedia empire right along with those chickens he’s so fond of. (Eat your heart out, Martha.) He houses his fine-feathered hens in a structure of his own design, dubbed the Poultry Palace.

This “crazy chicken man” is crazy like a fox, though.

His knowledge of poultry breeds rivals that of anyone I’ve ever met. I might be able to find some PhD fellow with a more formal poultry pedigree, but I would have to search far. And I have a feeling that pedigreed poultry professor would be much less endearing, much less engaging, much less in love with the birds, and probably a lot boring.

Allen Smith is not boring.

When you’re passionate about a subject, your enthusiasm is infectious.

At the recent Farm2Home event at Allen’s Moss Mountain Farm outside Little Rock, Ark., I and 29 other bloggers were treated to a tour of his house and the grounds, including Poultryville, where he houses – you guessed it – poultry.

Allen’s love of this particular subject stems from his combined love of history, genetics and conservation. Cases in point:

  • Ask him about any of our country’s founding founders, and he’s sure to have a story for you. His knowledge is not based on “factoids” found by Googling but by a love of history he acquired from his family.
  • He created the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, which exists to preserve and support “all threatened breeds and strains of domestic poultry through the encouragement of education, stewardship and good breeding practices,” according to the website. I could spend hours on this website reading all the “breed profiles” – which include photos and extensive histories of the breeds, complete with bibliographies – and “ask the expert” articles and other information.
  • He designed and built a little village for his birds on Moss Mountain Farm. Listening to him talk about the birds at Poultryville – and watching as he shows them off – well, it’s just … poultry in motion. (I know: Groan. Sorry.)

But seriously, the man knows poultry.

If I had been taking notes instead of worrying about how much juice was left in my phone battery, I would’ve heard Allen tell what kind of chicken this is.

And he wants others to know about it, too. As we tromped along through Poultryville, he offered bits of information, trivial and non. I wish I could remember what Mediterranean princess he referenced in relation to the design of the Poultry Palace. She visited because she was interested in heritage poultry and had heard about Moss Mountain Farm.

I’ve used most of my allotted words here (y’all know I limit my word count, right? 🙂 ) talking about poultry, because, seriously, visiting Poultryville and hearing this man wax poetic about chickens, French geese, swans and all that – and to see them up close and personal – makes me love them, too! If you visited, you would be the same way.

C’mon. Take a gander at these photos from Allen’s blog and tell me you wouldn’t love to hang out with some of these crazy chicks. Seriously.

OK, so.

Besides poultry, horses, dogs (the farm dog and a Scottish terrier that Allen was dog-sitting for friends), sheep and some cute baby goats, we were treated to:

  • A beautiful house. Allen bought the farm (literally) about 10 years ago and built this gorgeously appointed Greek Revival-style house seven years ago. He said he wanted it to look like it belonged on the beautiful farm of 600 or so acres (give or take, with the whims of the Arkansas River, which was flooded when we visited). Y’all, there is no way to show you all the pictures I took, even with dying batteries.
The Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm is a Greek Revival-style house on about 600 acres along the Arkansas River.
The man decorates with books. This is my kinda house.

My friends, there were books EVERYWHERE. I asked Allen whether he’d read all of them. “Every one. Cover to cover,” he deadpanned. It took me a second to be sure he was joking.

A view from the kitchen.
The all-white kitchen appointed with white hydrangeas (and orange-clad blogger chicks).
  • Gardens: vegetables, flowers, trees, grasses. I had so many photos of flowers and veggies to choose from, I had trouble deciding. I’m giving you but a taste. (And if my camera battery hadn’t died before noon and my phone battery hadn’t died by 3:30 p.m., Lord, have mercy, I would have had even more pics!)
As we approached the vegetable gardens, Allen offered to let us pull weeds for him. (I’m pretty sure he was joking, although: FREE HELP. But do you see any weeds?)
I don’t know my flowers as well as I used to, but I think this is some type of sunflower. Anyone?
  • A pond with swans, frogs and at least one snake (viewed after my camera battery died, and it’s too bad because the swans were really cute – one of them talked to me!).

I wasn’t going to post this pic of Duncan (the visiting dog), but, as you know, I’m a dog person and can’t resist a good dog picture, especially when the pooch is doing something cute.

Duncan wasn’t playing hard to get; I think he’s just weird, like my doggie who likes to sleep under her bed.
  • Views of the Arkansas River.
A view of the flooded, muddy Arkansas River from Moss Mountain Farm’s sleeping porch. You get a glimpse of one of the gardens, too.
  • Food, glorious food! Everything was delicious and beautiful, and here’s my lunch. (I missed the beautiful watermelon breakfast snack that everyone else had earlier because I was busy talking to farmers outside and didn’t hear the bell; see previous post.)
If you visit Moss Mountain Farm, they’ll feed you meals from Allen’s latest cookbook, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden.
As you can see, the dessert (pecan cookie with strawberry-cobbler-type filling) was delicious! (I did leave some of the garnish.) And you may wonder how I managed to get two glasses of iced tea, with endless refills. I’ll never tell!
  • Bloggers. Thirty of us. Here are a few.
Wouldn’t you want to hang out with these chicks (and a couple of blogger dudes)?
  • Farmers. This is what Farm2Home was all about, ya’ll. Stay tuned, because I have more farmers for ya, but you’ll have to wait until next week. This is a series, remember?

But Farm2Home is not the only event on Moss Mountain Farm’s calendar. This beautiful place is host to classes, workshops, tours, parties, weddings and other events. Allen also “trials” specimens for seed and plant companies that sell their fare at garden centers around the country. And he shoots his TV shows there.

If you view this video from Allen’s website, you will want to make a reservation right now to visit Moss Mountain Farm. Unless you’re totally crazy.

Next week: Farm2Home 2015 – Big D Ranch in Center Ridge, Ark.

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