When most people think of countryside, they think of wilderness because it offers an escape from suburban sprawl. Somewhere in the American landscape there remains a wilderness for us if we could but outrun the tacky sameness that our cities disgorge.
There is, though, another countryside, just as rare, and far more overlooked. It is composed of small-holdings, and it is vanishing. Before the Wild West, there was the West of Thomas Jefferson’s America, which began at the Eastern Continental Divide. The farms founded before industry changed the scale of agriculture were incredibly diverse places. Here is one such:
In practice, each farm was like a little world, producing meat, dairy, plants, and fuel, as well as harboring fish, game, honey, stone and wild fowl.
I was lucky enough to spend the day painting at the Coggins Farm east of Asheville, NC. Not currently productive, the place is currently the center of local controversy over its future. You can read about it here, on the website of an enterprise to reconnect the land to its original developer’s purpose of long-term provision.
It’s a treat to stand where such a variety of work was once done by hand.