Yokna(patawpha) Bottoms Farm is located at 26 CR 471 eight miles south of Oxford, five miles east of Taylor, and four miles west and across the Yocona River from the village of Yocona. The property is 18.86 acres and is essentially a rectangle with a pointed end (south) with a one acre section cut out of the corner (southeast) for a home site. The land includes approximately 12 acres (the north portion of the property) of bottom land on the Yocona River floodplain and 7 acres of grass pasture that slopes about 30’ from the flood plain up to CR 471. The property lines on the east and west sides of the property run due north. The transition zone between the bottoms and the pasture contains a small livestock pond (approximately 60’ x 30’) and a grove of about ten mature Red Oak trees next to the pond. An intermittent (late fall—spring) stream flows diagonally across the property (northeast to southwest) and is lined with medium-sized Cypress trees and assorted other hardwoods. CR 471 is also known as Belle River Road and up until the early 1960’s, it was the old Highway 7 between Oxford and Bruce. The Yocona River is ¼ mile north of the property and the iron remains of the old Highway 7 Bridge are still on the banks of the river. On the other side of the river, the old Highway 7 is now CR 403 and after crossing the current Highway 7, eventually becomes Lamar Street in Oxford. The property is approximately 600’ (north and south line) x 2200’ (west line), 2000’ (east line). Our neighbor across the road grew up living on the property (the elevated foundation of her childhood home is still visible at the entrance to the farm) and reports that her father had one of the largest and most successful farms in Lafayette County growin Cotton, Corn, Soybeans, Watermelons, Sweet Potatoes, and other assorted vegetables. She also reports that this is the best pasture and farm land in the county. Recently, my neighbor who lives in a cutout section of the property, James ….., raised cattle on the land for 15 years up until 2004. In 2004, James got out of the cattle business and the bottom land was placed in the Federal government’s Crop Reduction Program (CRP). Under the CRP, the bottom land was cleared (except for the grove of oaks and the banks of the stream) and 12 acres of pine trees were planted. When I purchased the land in 2007, I elected not to enroll in the CRP, meaning I am under no obligation to the program and am free to do as please with the pine trees.
My Stewardship of the Land
I purchased the land in October 2007 from Bill McGregor (local resident, business owner, and President of our local rural water association—Anchor Water Association) as a home site. In the spirit of Wendell Berry, I spent considerable time walking and sitting in the land to learn from it. My guiding principle was to leave it alone and do no harm. In the spring of 2008, based on the book “Yocona Puff Adder” by Gerald Inmon, I removed about 95% of approximately three acres of the planted pine trees between the stream and the edge of the pasture. Inmon is a retired forester from Taylor who penned an amazing novel of the lives of two boys/men who grew up in Taylor. Inmon includes in the novel detailed descriptions of the native flora, fauna and ecological systems along the Yocona River, and the damage done to this environment by man through agriculture and flood control (the dredging of the river by the US Army Corps of Engineers from a meandering river with deep, clear, slow moving water full of beaver dams, to a strait, fast flowing, muddy stream dumping into Enid Reservoir). Inmon also laments and is highly critical of the large-scale replacement and destruction of native hardwood trees with the planting of pine trees – especially in the river bottoms draining from the hill country into the delta. Thus, the purpose of my removal of the pine trees was both aesthetic and a desire to allow an area for native hardwoods to grow and natural wildlife habitat to emerge. Other than the construction and maintenance of some walking trails and possibly the removal of some of the blackberry brambles that are taking over, my long term plan is to disturb these 3-4 acres as little as possible. Over the past several months, we have been working on a network of scenic and functional trails that when complete, will provide easy access to most of the property.
In August 2008, construction began on my home. I spent six months selecting the home site. One of my guiding goals was to disturb (and remove from productivity) as little land as possible. I ended up locating the house on the far southeast portion of the property, 75’ from the road. The site is the highest point on the property and provided easy and inexpensive access to water, electricity, and phone service. The road (CR 471) drops steeply off above the house site making a gate at that location impractical; thus, I used the existing gate at the southwest corner of the property. I also decided (a strange decision to my builder and others familiar with common construction practices) to place the front of the house facing north (away from the county road—thus, to many, I built my house backwards); nonetheless, I wanted the house to face out onto the property. Because of this, I built a gravel road that takes a hard right after the gate, proceeds about 300’ along the south fence-line and then takes a hard left to circle around to the front of the house. The road ends with a two car garage/loft and parking space for additional 6 vehicles. The garage and house are surrounded with a 5’ high, 120’x120’ post and rail/wire fence. The area inside the fence is landscaped garden (no grass) including six 4’x8’ raised vegetable boxes (eight more will be added soon). The result was that less than an acre of land was used for construction of the house, garage, yard, parking and road.
Currently, my immediate neighbor to the west, John Levy, is cutting and bailing the remaining 6 acres of pasture for his horses. Last spring, I planted three Pecan trees, a Cherry tree, and Magnolia tree spaced at 50’ intervals along the east side of the pasture. These trees are a long term project but the Pecans should start producing in 8-10 years. I don’t expect the Cherry Tree to produce but I do like Cherry Trees. Last spring, I planted 5 Blueberry bushes inside of the year fence but plan to add many more along the road this spring. Long-range plans include fencing sections of the pasture for animals—we will not likely raise animals for consumption as part of the CSA; but, we may keep and raise animals eventually.