ANZ's Farms

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Visit Back in Time to High Ground Farm

It was my pleasure and good fortune to visit Deborah at High Ground Farm yesterday. The consummate hostess, she extended a warm welcome to our mutual friend Anne and me on a cold winter's day. I expected a brief visit, a stay no longer than the 45-minute drive to get there. I hoped for a short walk around her homestead, a passing howdy-do to her heirloom chicken flock, and a quick overview of how she markets her eggs and garden produce to Whole Foods Market and local chefs. The four hours we spent with Deborah felt like 45 minutes, and was a leisurely visit back in time to a by-gone era meticulously recreated and joyfully lived.

This picture from her blog at shows the Harrington-Dewar House, the late 19th century restored farmhouse which is the centerpiece of High Ground Farm. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (

There is so much to say about our visit that it is hard to know where to begin, except to start with Deborah herself. The word most fitting to describe her is the one she uses to describe herself ... purist. Whatever she does, her desire is to do it well and right, always with the aim of giving back. One of my first questions to her was about the restrictions placed on her home since it is listed on the National Historic Register. As most homesteaders seem to be free spirits who like doing things their own way, I wondered how she managed to restore this house, for which she paid $500 in 1977 and moved almost 5 miles to its current location, according to National Register Criteria. She quickly pointed out that she would never violate the history of the home, registered or not. From the rocking chair front porch to a small rear kitchen with an arched-opening fireplace, past walls made of painted hand hewn boards and wooden floors that sometimes creak under foot, Deborah has tastefully decorated her home with beautiful vintage furniture, dishes and utilitarian pieces that trick one's senses into believing it is 1860 again. The Civil War era ambiance continues on the grounds, which are landscaped with stone walls -- made from stones removed from the heirloom tomato garden -- and split rail fences, fashioned by an 85-year old gentleman from a nearby town, using trees harvested when the pasture was created. Although not in bloom, the climbing roses, fruit trees and perennials bespeak history and legacy.

Deborah's purist nature is evident in her choice of chickens. Wanting to do more than just produce eggs, she chose to raise Javas, an endangered heirloom breed, pictured left in an original oil painting -- another of her talents. Their coop is deluxe, to say the least, complete with piped-in music for them and a rear trap door to simplify cleaning and composting for her. They free-range on clover pasture and enjoy scavenging in the bordering woods. Deborah has recently been awarded an Animal Welfare Approved grant for predator control. The grant will fund completion of the fence and the purchase of a guard dog. She lamented that she lost a hen during the night before our visit, so the grant will be put to good use.

To my surprise, I learned that she really has no marketing strategy -- Whole Foods contacted her as a result of her memberships with American Livestock Breed Conservancy and Carolina Farm Stewardship. She delivers these beautiful eggs twice a week to Whole Foods in Cary, and she reports they fly off the shelves at $6 per dozen. Together with a neighboring farmer, she grew 750 heirloom tomato plants as well as seedlings, basil, and other vegetables and herbs which she sold last year. She also sells cut flowers, zinnias being one of her favorites.

A recounting of our visit would not be complete without telling you how she fed us homemade soup and fresh-baked bread made from flour she milled herself. Occasionally she rose from the antique farm table at the center of her kitchen to stoke the fire and add a log. Conversation flowed as we shared stories of our lives and family, friendships, beloved animals, nursing careers, hobbies and favorite books (both Deborah and Anne are Anglophiles). We even discovered we have other mutual friends and marveled how small the world really is. Dessert was iced molasses cookies with a hot cup of tea; she introduced me to the smoky flavor of Lapsand Souchong tea. Delicious!

It was hard to leave this new friend and the slice of afternoon that was suspended in time. As we drove homeward, first along the tree lined gravel road, then on isolated country roads and finally back into the city, we both commented how the trip covered more than distance. It transported us forward in time, back to the 21st century and our awaiting responsibilities.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a dream! How special to get to visit such sweet-sounding woman and her amazing home! I feel as if I've been there after reading your blog. Thanks for sharing :-)