Yokna(patawpha) Bottoms Farm is located 8 miles south of Oxford and the University of Mississippi in Lafayette County. Nestled in the gentle North Mississippi hills (elevation 300-400 feet), the region has a rich local history.
The 19.8 acres of land was purchased by Doug in October, 2007. The land includes 12+ acres of alluvial soil on the Yocona River floodplain and 7 acres of grass pasture on the slope of the valley. It gently slopes North back away from the house and the road into the Bottoms, where water collects around a few marshy fields, a small stream and an old cattle-pond. Just beyond the property line, the Yocona River winds along hunting camps and cotton fields. South, the land rises steadily to climb over a heavily-forested ridge into Water Valley. Plans for the land include building a “green” home, guest houses, a space for community gathering, and community organic agriculture. In addition, we hope to repair and restore a small section of the nearly destroyed natural ecology of the Yocona River Bottoms.
According to the University of Mississippi’s Faulkner Glossary, Yocona (pronounced “YOK ´ nuh“) is the name of both an actual river and the community nearby. The word is an apparent abbreviated form of the Chickasaw term Yoknapatawpha (pronounced “Yok ´nuh puh TAW ´fuh“). The name “Yoknapatawpha” is apparently derived from two Chickasaw words: Yocona and petopha, meaning “split land” and is the the setting for most of William Faulkner’s novels and short stories and patterned upon Faulkner’s actual home in Lafayette County, Mississippi. Some early maps of the area referred to the river as the Yockney-Patafa, a transliteration of the river’s native name. According to Faulkner, Yoknapatawpha means “water flowing slow through the flatland.” Arthur F. Kinney, however, postulates an additional possibility for the origin and meaning of the name. In Go Down Moses: The Miscegenation of Time, he suggests Faulkner might have consulted a 1915 Dictionary of the Choctaw Language in which the word is broken down as follows:
ik patafo, a., unplowed.
patafa, pp., split open; plowed, furrowed; tilled.
yakni, n., the earth; …soil; ground; nation; …district….
yakni patafa, pp., furrowed land; fallowed land.
Hence, Kinney suggests, the literal meaning of “Yoknapatawpha” in Choctaw would by “plowed or cultivated land or district” (21-22).
We plan to grow food at two locations using two different methods.
The first is based on traditional raised bed gardening. We’re using raised herb boxes by the house (there will be 14 this growing season). The boxes will be the home to an extensive culinary, medicinal, and aromatic herb garden, providing extracts, dried herbs and seasonings, and fresh herbs throughout the 2012 growing season.
The second method will expand on our original 2 acre garden. We’re in the process of clearing an addition 3+ acres of pine adjacent to the original space to make room for large volume crops like soy, cowpeas, beans, watermelons, irish and sweet potatoes, and corn. This land has easy access to the road (a private section of the old Highway 7) and has not grown crops (other than the pines) for at least 20 years. The alluvial floodplain topsoil is rich in macro- and micro-nutrients, though to ensure productivity, the soil will be built up with compost, mulch and manure prior to planting. Last season we installed an in-ground irrigation system which distributes well-water throughout the original garden-space. This season we’ll enlarge the system to include the newly opened farmland.
Currently, the only animals living on the farm are our three dogs. The fields behind the house are frequented by wildlife and the evenings are filled with calls from distant coyotes. It is our hope to have a chicken-coop built by spring and, if this season’s lessons in raising poultry for eggs goes well, we hope to include an egg option as part of our 2013 Food Share.