Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Farm Story Published in the Courier News

Thought a little history background might be the way to begin the year 2015. . . 

Local history celebrated at area farm

When she was growing up as part of a farming family in Dell, Dru Duncan dreamed of moving away from the flatlands of Mississippi County. Yet, after having made a life for herself elsewhere, cotton farming country is exactly where she ended up settling. Dru and her husband, John Holt, met in Colonial Williamsburg, where they were both working as historical re-enactors. Following her choice to end a long career in cytotechnology and a recent divorce, Dru had come to Williamsburg for a job in the place where she had wanted to work since she visited there as a child. John had also been married and divorced, and had left his job with an architectural firm to begin trying to get work as a re-enactor, and was finally building a career as a self-taught historical storyteller, auctioneer and even actor in period movies such as "Cold Mountain" and "New World."
Shortly after the two met, Dru's parents fell into ill health, and after the loss of her mother, the couple found themselves traveling back to Dell to care for her ailing father.
According to John, it took almost no time for him to "fall in love with this land."
"When we crossed the bridge in Memphis headed into Mississippi County," he said, "that was it. I looked at all this open land, all the agriculture -- and I just fell in love. It smells different here -- so open and I can just smell that soil. I never wanted to leave."
The farm that Dru's family had built from the ground up in the 1930s was still operational, but many of the old buildings were in disrepair, and Dru shared her desire with John to restore the place to its original working glory.
The couple decided to end their work in Colonial Williamsburg, and John came to help Dru care for her father in the final nine months of his life. During that time, they learned as much as they could about the history of the farm and how it ran in the days when it was just beginning.
The next seven years were spent in constant work. Mostly on their own, Dru and John repaired, restored, and breathed life back into all of the buildings which sat on Dru's family land. With the knowledge that they gained as professional historical re-enactors in Williamsburg, they collected donations of antique items and have created the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District, a living look back into a Delta cotton farm in 1938.
"We want to teach people, mainly children, what farming was like, how it was the lifeline of this part of the country for so many years," said Dru. "I remember shotgun houses and outhouses -- this was how people lived."
Featuring several shotgun houses that the couple are working to turn into a B&B, or "bed and barbecue," a craftsman style tenant house, a period farm manager's home, the Widner and Magers barns, a farm shop, a corn crib, and other outbuildings, even a "company store" with a historical post office and other artifacts, the farm shows visitors exactly how their ancestors in the Delta would have lived the agricultural life.
Dru and John greet visitors on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, wearing 1938 period clothing and in character as a period farming couple. Guests are then given a tour as if the farm were really working in the post-depression era.
Special demonstrations are scheduled throughout the fall on Saturdays, wherein the couple demonstrates their talents and shares things that made the 1930s farming way of life unique. Upcoming demonstration days include:
-- Oct. 22: Rag rug weaving
-- Oct. 29: Native American storytelling
-- Nov. 5: Sewing with a treadle
-- Nov. 19: Delta Utility Quilts
-- Nov. 26: Cooking pumpkin butter
The couple has also partnered with Arkansas Northeastern College to offer several noncredit courses on things like open hearth cooking and professional archeology digging.
"We want children in this area to understand that history is living," said Dru. "When I touch the old boards in these buildings, someone else touched them, someone that had a life here just like I do. This farm is also an example that every person has a hidden talent, and if you have a passion for something, you can make it happen."
Courier News, Friday October 14, 2011

It's an older article but full of details about our dream for the farm. . .Schedules and workshops change each year and will be updated as necessary at: DUNCAN FARMSTEAD

We do have our internet back. . .Looks as if it might stay on for a while. . .Winter is definitely here. . .The cold north winds are howling. . .We are working on a few indoor projects that I'll be sharing soon. . .Til then. . .Remember. . .LIFE IS GOOD. . .