History Lessons Before and After


In the 1860's, Ulysses S. Grant had a farm near St. Louis named "Hardscrabble" because of how hard it is to farm in the Missouri Hills. It's said that the only thing that grows well are rocks and we do find plenty of them! Southern Missouri is the northern extreme of the Ozark Mountains. This is a very ancient mountain range, worn and eroded but still mountains for all of that.

View of the Ozarks from the highest point in Missouri - Taum Sauk Mountain

My Darling and I love the Ozarks and used to be frequent visitors to campgrounds back when we were still city dwellers. We haven't felt the need to go camping since we became an agritourism business of our own. We can look out the window and see the foothills any time we want to look up slope or down slope!


The horizon at the farm after a storm.

This land was originally settled in or around 1850 by a man named Cox. The one room cabin he built had an attic above and a cold cellar below and a fireplace. Later, he added a bedroom to the north and another bedroom above that. In 1944, another owner built the addition that is the great room, bathroom, and deep front porch. He also sheathed the log cabin in white siding.

The Old Cox Place when we bought it - the fencing was already here.

Windy Thistle is perched halfway up a hill or down a hill depending on your take on hills. It sounds a lot worse than it actually is. You can get your exercise climbing the upper woodland meadow or going down to the creek in the campground woods. There is a nice in between place to rest - a bench out by the woodland pond.


Looking straight up our driveway, you can see the slope.

I say woodland the way I do because these are as old a woods as we get in these parts. Missouri has several natural resources that were exploited over the years - wood, granite, and iron ore, among other things. The woods around Windy Thistle were logged during the late 1800's and into the 1950's and have been let go since then.


The view from the front porch

Before air conditioning, the homes were built for the climate. Missouri has cold wet winters and hot burning summers with wet springs and falls. Windy Thistle's log cabin has walls between 10" and 14" thick depending on the log. The kitchen and bathroom are the only places where the original log cabin shows. It was sheathed and sided in 1944 and the addition is fully double bricked, also 10" thick. We only need heating and cooling during the extreme winter and summer.

From the kitchen to the greatroom before we moved in.

That corner of the kitchen now.

The other side of the kitchen and the wicked stairs to the Garrett Bedrooms

Also in 1944, the thermal mass fireplace was built that warms the great room completely. This huge fireplace gets very warm and keeps the warmth for hours. This room is the gathering place on the farm for the evening. We put in a HVAC when we moved in but otherwise kept the original knotty pine paneling, seashell ceiling and the mass stove.

How it looked before we moved in.

A cozy place to gather, now!

There are a pair of bedrooms at the top of the wickedly steep stairs. One of them is a traditional room and the other is this red and white brilliant room that is the Children's Bedroom. We've had a great time decorating this room to be attractive to kids of all ages.

The attic above the kitchen.

Furnished room with a trundle bed for kids now!

Missouri stone is used all over the farm, lining garden beds, making flagstone and cobblestone walks. We use pea gravel to make the footing nice around the campfire rings and making up the main BBQ pit. We'll be paving the new Bonfire Pit area with our own natural flagstones, too. This is the big project for 2021.

The first summer, looking up towards the house from the lower paddock.
Things have changed, beehives, chicken coops, garden beds, all added by us.

We've brought in compost and top soil to make our gardens fertile. Lots of stones still make it to the side of the garden, anyway. Rocks roll downhill, after all. We've added beehives, new fenced in pens for the goats, built two chicken coops and three goat sheds. We have dragged a lot of trash out of the woods over the winter for disposal. It's a mess but we're working on it.

Trash we had to drag out of the woods. We'll be having this hauled off.

Water is the other vital thing about a hill farm. The original owner who cleared this land understood needing to funnel the water away from the cabin. He built a series of berms and swales that channel the water around the house and down to the creek. It's one of the projects on the farm now to channel the water around the gardens properly without them washing out.


Our first chicken coop and the wonky fence from water runoff

The Waterworks can be seen running next to the fence.

Currently, the water is trying to take out the fence by the chicken pen. We're shoring that back up and will be reinforcing it after the spring rains have finished. It's going to take concrete and rocks to build a retaining wall right there. We'll be building a drain to go around this spot, so the water won't take it again. It's always a work in progress but it is also a labor of love. Come visit us and bring your kids to meet our kid, Aster!


French Alpine Goat Kid: Aster

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