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Introducing SweeTerra Farm! A New Farmer, Chickens, Rabbits, Goats, Turkeys and 2 Toulouse Geese!

I have a friend. His name is Tom. He is an architect. He has three grown daughters. One of his daughter’s is Catherine. This is a story about her.

A Chicken

A Chicken (trying to avoid me)

When I met Tom he invited us all to his house, and during that Summer a few years ago we visited again and again. It was true that he had a wife and three children but I did not meet them for nearly a year.

The Pond at Sweet Terra

The Pond at SweeTerra

What I love about Tom is his wide-embracing view of the world and his mixture of very conventional and wildly unconventional way of life. For starters he designed and build his own house, and as the years went by he kept adding on more “bits” Also, when an idea strikes him, he either invents something or buys the patent! There are a lot of posts with Tom in them if you are curious (here, here, here, here and here  and many more!)

Poor little bait fish

Poor little bait fish

So, where was this family he appeared to be ultra-close to, leaving him all alone in the middle of the countryside? We joked that he had made them all up, and for him to say that they were also in China seemed like a conveniently far-flung invention of his too!

Tom's fountain awash with lily pads

Tom’s fountain awash with lily pads

But, they were all in China as it turned out. Catherine armed with fluent Mandarin left for Hong Kong to work in the corporate world, cubicle and all! Then the youngest daughter B. decided that this was the best place to go to medical school, so off she went too.

Catherine the Farm Girl

Catherine the Farm Girl

Well, I said they were a close family so I am presuming after some time had gone by, the other sister Laura, missed her sisters so much she jumped on a plane to China to be close to them. All three sisters had left their home for presumably a very long time.

The beginning of something great: Sweet Terra

The beginning of something great: SweeTerra

So what was a mother to do? Their mother decided that the girls needed a maternal eye to watch over them and help set them up comfortably in their various accommodations and jobs. So you all  know where she went. It was during this time that I met Tom, and I must say he came across as a man quite content with this new arrangement. He could come and go as he pleased, eat when and what he liked, and sleep in any room in his topsy-turvy house.

The Cat preferred her own company

The Cat preferring her own company

Of course over time I did eventually meet the whole family. This happened over holidays like Christmas and impromptu visits, and we became close pretty quickly as we felt we had met long ago through stories swapped back and forth between the two families.

San Marzano tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes

Jumping a few years to the present they are all, save one, back at home, and I mean literally living at home. What happened?

My favorite thing there: crunchy radishes and lettuces

My favorite thing there: crunchy radishes and lettuces

Well Laura decided that China was not for her and moved home, followed less than a year later by Catherine who had grown weary of her little cubicle and living in a stacked apartment building in the heart of the city.

The Garden God

The Garden God

One day Tom told me that Catherine said she was moving home to become a farmer. “A what?” I said, “I know” was his reply in a not so surprised tone. He had no one to blame but himself. He raised three girls to think they could do anything they set their mind to.

Jaya, the Toulouse goose (named after my freind Jaya from Paris!)

Ide feeding Jaya, the greedy Toulouse goose (named after my friend Jaya from Paris!)

The bolt of lightning that hit Catherine happened when she went trekking around Europe with her sister this spring. They lived on the cheap, staying with friends (or friends of friends’) and ate in restaurants a little off the beaten path. Catherine thought she had died and gone to gastronomic heaven.



I could say that this only happened because the food she was used to eating in China appeared a little sterile and engineered by comparison but when she told me that her idea to grow her own food came to her while she was in Naples I have to disagree with that theory and say that it was the sublimely good Italian food that clinched it!

Tom was on the grill all day getting this lovely plate together

Tom grills everything!

I am from Ireland so you never see the words “grass-fed” cows on labels in the meat section. All cows are grass-fed and that is that. So much more of the food in Europe locally sourced and as far as my experience goes, Italy is pretty close to the top of the heap when it comes to eating close to the table.

Spinach grwon from seeds from Naples

Spinach grown from seeds from Naples

They eat seasonally and food is brought in almost daily to butcher shops and green groceries. I lived there last year for a stint and cooked almost everyday with ingredients from no more than a few miles to several miles away. The food tasted good above and beyond anything I did to it for that reason alone. Click on “Italy” to the side of this blog to read all about it!

Baby Turkey (There are two; Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

Baby Turkey (There are two; Thanksgiving and Christmas!)

This is what Catherine found out and she wanted that for herself. She is at that glorious point in her life where time is most definitely on her side and there was no better time to go off and be adventurous than right now. She also had Tom, and acres of land at her disposal. There was no way I could see him objecting. He is the best kind of push-over and it is most convenient if he happens to be your father!

Veggies i got yesterday from the Farm

Veggies I got yesterday from the Farm

After her decision, her mission was to buy as many seeds as she could find, and as she tramped the rest of Italy, and then France, she found what she could in flower and plant shops before it was time to get home and start digging.

Very Rustic Badminton was in full swing in between courses

Very Rustic Badminton can be played (and was!) while waiting on dinner.

She picked the piece of ground where her mother had always had a vegetable garden when she was growing up but made it a great deal larger. She then went about finding out how to be this person she wanted to become and started classes on organic farming, reading mountains of books and magazine articles as well as seeking out other like-minded agriculturers.

And the Drink of course (Joe on the poarch sampling some of the beer he helps brew!)

And a Drink is nice too (Joe on the porch sampling some of the beer he helps brew!)

I must say I am impressed. Her enthusiasm has not waned but excelled, and the more she finds out the more she wants to do. It truly is like watching a kid in a candy store.



When she talks about what she is doing and takes me on tours to show me how well her San Marzano tomatoes seeds are doing, or to see the new goat or the baby rabbits she just makes me happy. It is hard for her downright good humor not to rub off on you as you walk alongside her.

The Spread (or at least part of it)

The Spread for the Farm picnic at SweeTerra

She certainly doesn’t look like a farmer as she is usually wearing a strapless sun dress with a pair of bright yellow rubber boots, hair up, sometime with a ribbon, and not a complaint from her lips about being tired or jaded from all the hard work.

The doomed bunny

The doomed bunny

I would find out about a new animal arrival via a picture email from Tom. The kids would beg to see it and over we would trot (in fact after I write this we are going there for tea and to hold the new Toulouse geese!)

He also made this flaxseed-ridden bread!

A couple of Sundays ago we were invited to a Farm Picnic. This is when the  farm was introduced to the locals. Lots of people came and we all ate food from the garden cooked with enthusiasm and love by Catherine, Laura, Tom and of course the ever-always supporting Mom!

Preparations (after all, it's all about the food!)

Preparations (after all, it’s all about the food!)

Everyday more veggies are planted and more animals arrive. There is talk about 60 chickens and that scares me a little. It doesn’t seem to bother Catherine so rather her than me.

Time to clean up

The women on the farm favor white dresses

I am more than content to take surplus greens home and stop by for tea and a tour. This is the first of what I hope to be many posts about SweeTerra Farm. After all I haven’t even touched on her learning to butcher rabbits and her beehives!

As is the tradition at Tom's: the evening must end with a bonfire

As is the tradition at Tom’s: the evening must end with a bonfire

I’m sure Tom will get used to this.

As is the tradition at Tom's: the evening must end with a bonfire

GOOD LUCK SweeTerra!