Couple creates idyllic setting in unlikely spot
Wood County does hold visual surprises. Sometimes one simply has to drive to the crest of a hill, or in this case, halfway down a long driveway to begin to glimpse a beautiful scene …
Couple creates idyllic setting in unlikely spot
Wood County does hold visual surprises. Sometimes one simply has to drive to the crest of a hill, or in this case, halfway down a long driveway to begin to glimpse a beautiful scene unfolding.
This specific driveway is one of many leading off of a major state highway traversed by thousands each day. Moments after turning out of traffic, however, and as one nears a mid-century brick home set next to an enormous elm tree, the view begins to change.
More and more of the land falls away in a moderate slope. A wood line is apparent and before it a good-sized u-shaped pond, surrounded by well-grazed pasture. A workshop comes into view to the north and tucked in at the wood line to the west an old low-slung working barn.
The home and property belong to Ladd and Angela Thompson, who have been working at improvements since purchasing the grounds from Mary Price in 1995. The view is simply too good to just walk by.
Although the topic at hand was the ample vegetable gardening efforts which the Thompsons undertake pretty much year-round, it was preceded by a discussion of the grounds. There was a ton of work.
As Ladd explained, “We knew we had to finance a tractor with the mortgage note.”
About half the property had to be cleared and filled, as it was literally, a swamp. The pond was dug with an old drag line and the dredged material used to create berms. As Ladd related, on the last scoop of the drag line, a healthy spring was disclosed. After clearing the overgrowth, a pair of riding horses were kept and yet today keep the surrounding area well-tended.
After having soaked-in the view, the couple led over to an outdoor sitting area located adjacent to the greenhouse and the elevated vegetable gardens.
Angela is a hometown girl and has what she called “sentimental memories” of her grandmother’s vegetable garden in Golden. She admitted, however, that there was no practical gardening knowledge on which she could draw. Like most gardeners, she began with tomatoes and experimentation.
By her own admission, once she sets upon a task, she is a driven woman. Initial success at gardening led to more experimentation, and more education, and more gardening. The cycle led eventually to her attainment of the Master Gardener qualification and research into a number of techniques.
The couple is versed in hugel gardening, no-till gardening and composting. Angela talks about her vegetables much like other people talk about extended family. She easily comments on them all, while pointing out particular qualities of each.
Most of her vegetables are in large feed buckets, Ladd having drilled holes for drainage. He smiled, “The older you get, the ground just seems to get further and further away.”
In addition to easy accessibility, using elevated gardens, and specifically feed buckets, has a number of advantages. It helps reduce pests, prevents rabbits from feasting and makes soil preparation manageable.
Walking around the garden is like going to a vegetable market – tomatoes, onions, various peppers, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, summer cucumber, cauliflower, purple hull peas, garlic, pinto beans, Trail of Tears beans, green beans, Christmas lima beans, okra, muscadine, cabbage, strawberries, corn, watermelon – it’s a long list.
In 2014 Ladd constructed the greenhouse almost exclusively with reclaimed windows and reclaimed industrial window shades. Today, the plant nursery inside is fully populated.
Angela is presently on her way to certifying as an herbalist, and a variety of herbs are present throughout the gardens. Among them is stevia, which offers an amazingly sweet burst of flavor in each leaf.
Angela offered some recommendations for anyone beginning a garden.
“You have to do your best to control things,” she offered. She explained that everyone has a finite space to work with, so maximizing the production for that space is very important. “With properly managed soil, you can plant vegetables much closer together than you think possible,” she added.
Both remain very active after long professional careers, he as an engineer from the highway department and she as a nurse. There is always a project (or two) in planning. Ladd’s next initiative will be piping water from the pond to the garden, while Angela maintains a YouTube channel, “The Chicken Coop Homestead.”
The small holding is a unique place, just steps away from commercial development but shared with two dogs, two horses, chickens, and a host of wildlife including fox, otters, bobcats and wintering wild ducks. The Thompsons take plenty of time to enjoy their piece of Texas heaven, and the fruits of their garden.