Extending the Foliage Season: Easy Walks Goes to Tennessee

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View from the bluff’s edge at Stone Door State Park, Beersheba Springs, TN

More than half our grandkiddos live on a farm in Tennessee, Solace Farm Homestead, to be exact. Since we live in New England, it’s an effort to travel to see them, but such a joy spending time on the farm.

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Bright colors in the sunshine in Wrentham just before Halloween

When we left New England the foliage around here was at its peak, so I figured we would see little if any foliage that much farther south.

We flew into Atlanta Hartsfield airport and as we rode the skytrain to the car rental agency, I was stunned to spot bright red maples here and there. The more I looked, the more foliage was evident. As we drove up into the mountains we saw foliage, and more foliage, bright reds, yellows, and even some oranges, the orange mostly spotted in graveyards and next to houses.

We took a day with the older kids to visit nearby Stone Door State Park in Beersheba Springs. A number of other nearby state parks make up a whole system of beautiful natural areas nearby that are open to the public, but we keep returning to Stone Door because it has such an easy path out to amazing views on the edge of a bluff, overlooking Savage Gulf.

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Beautiful views of the limestone cliffs, filled with fall foliage

The first half mile or so of the path is a handicapped accessible trail out to a viewing platform. Newly installed since we last visited are stationary binoculars with a filter to help those with color blindness to better enjoy the beautiful colors of the area. The day we visited, these  made the reds, yellows, and oranges really jump out. If only my camera had a filter that showed what our eyes could see.

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Having fun along the trail

The older boys enjoyed a lot of independence on the trail out to the bluff’s edge, about a one mile walk.

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Balancing on a fallen tree next to the trail

Additional trails continue past where we stopped, and by the folks carrying loaded backpacks who passed us, many were planning to spend more than a day on the trails.

This was probably the first visit when I have not been too warm walking. Until late October, the temperatures in the area remain in the 60s and often the 70s,  but during our visit we enjoyed temps in the 50s and 60s, better suited for what I need to walk easily.

At Stone Door we found blooming witch hazel,

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Witch hazel filled the woods in some areas at Stone Door

as well as some streams flowing toward the edge of the bluff.

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Taking in the colors along the trail

We heard the large waterfall that was quite nearby, but did not get to visit the falls on this trip. Maples glowed red and orange, and sassafras offered lots of yellow in the understory as we walked. Nut trees filled the woods with bright yellows.

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Finding something to do on a rainy day

The visit was, as always, too short, but we read lots of books, pieced together puzzles, took walks, and even did some fossil discovery on the farm, in an area where they recently dug a trench through rock for water pipes.

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Hunting for fossils (bike helmets optional)

The boys understand that their land was once a lush tropical swampland. Formerly a strip mining operation, (for coal) the land is being reclaimed through intensive grazing by their animals.

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Fossil prints found on the farm

We discovered multiple fossilized fern prints with just a few minutes of looking,

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More fossilized fern prints

confirming the geological story of the land’s past.

As their nights grow colder, the farm’s season shifts as well. The high tunnel hoop house shelters banana trees and figs during warmer weather, but the mountain’s cold winter temperatures will be too much for the bananas.

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Father and son digging up banana roots form the hoop house

Farmer Caleb (with help from son Malachi) dug up the banana roots to let them sleep in the cellar for the winter, ready to be returned to the hoop house in the spring.

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Getting ready to hunt for sweet potatoes (before the bananas were dug up)

The garlic and sweet potatoes will be fine with the cold,

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Even the littlest ones pitch in to help search for sweet potatoes

and will get an early start in the spring as soon as the ground warms up.

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Mom and baby alpaca

The cold weather will help grow lots of warm fur on the alpacas at the farm,

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Some color near the farmhouse

as well as the sheep, cows and goats.

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Amy processing alpaca wool, to be spun into yarn to knit various items

Farmer Amy turns the sheared wool from the animals into thread that she knits into varied products. She also makes soaps incorporating goat milk. Sheep milk cheese is a delicacy they enjoy on the farm as well.

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Farmer Caleb helps get some extra nourishment into a young calf while Momma cow stands nearby

The animals enjoy the lush grasses that are growing where only wasteland stood before.

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Everyone works at the farm (most of the time…)

Even in times of drought, their farming methods have kept the animals eating healthy grasses much longer than other farms in the area.

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Getting ready to say goodbye…

Our visit, as always, was too short, but I am already counting the days till we can return in the spring, when the animals will be having babies, and the farm’s cycle of life continues.

Marjorie

beech cliffs 2018Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed three guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,”  “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts,”  and edited “Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! Marjorie is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Walks-Massachusetts-2nd-Northbridge/dp/0989204340

http://tinyurl.com/MTH-More-easy-walks

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Walks-Paddles-River-Watershed/dp/1985377012

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

4 responses to “Extending the Foliage Season: Easy Walks Goes to Tennessee

  1. It sounds like a lovely visit and another reason why I should try to make a trip out to TN!

  2. Gorgeous landscape, and I love the photos of the farm and the grandkids. Are the dogs livestock guarders and/or herders?

    • marjorie561

      The dogs, for the most part, are livestock guarders. Fences keep the animals rounded up pretty well, with buckets of food to lure them on into the next enclosure.

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