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Agritourism with an organic twist - Hickman County's Briarwood Gardens

Ivan and I attended the open house this weekend. Denise and Charles conducted garden tours - sharing their special gardens with visitors. Above, using an old door as a winter protector made sure the Berryhills had fresh lettuce while the rest of us were still buying it at the store - grown far away in who knows what sort of conditions.

The Berryhills sell heirloom seeds for organic gardeners, too.

Briarwood Gardens Annual Gardening Weekend

Sat. May 23rd 11-4   Sun. May 24 1-5

My love affair with herbs began in the late 1970’s, a year or so after Charles started organic gardening. It wasn’t just any love affair but the beginning of a life long indulgence of the most abundant kind. But let me tell you how it all began.

Charles and I had our first date in June of 1970, married in June of 1971, and had our first daughter in May of 1972, pretty fast work for a couple of kids right out of high school. We were kindred spirits from the very first. We talked about the demise of the environment; the massive cutting of trees, the chemicals polluting our water and air, and the need for a more conservative outlook. Feeling the way we did about being responsible for the next generation, we had definite ideas on how we wanted to raise our children. So when Michelle and Melanie came along we started to put some of our ideas into practice. 

I was raised on a farm and my family raised nearly everything that we ate—cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, geese, eggs, and a very large vegetable garden full of sweet corn, beans, peas, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, peppers, onions, you name it, my dad and granddaddy probably raised it. There was the old apple tree near the driveway that my grandmamma used for dried apples and seven giant pecan trees in the barn lot. Mom and grandmamma froze and canned all our vegetables so we had good stuff all year. 

Charles came from a family farm too. His grandmother and parents had a garden that they enjoyed during the summer so we were both accustomed to home grown vegetables. 

Now comes the problem, as we saw it anyway—both families used chemicals. My granddad and his father loved Seven Dust (actually a chemical that flea powder is made from). Most anyone who lived during that time knows Seven. People still use it lavishly today. We didn't like the idea of putting that stuff or anything like it on things we were going to eat so Charles started looking for alternatives.

He started reading Organic Gardening and he became hooked on the idea of growing things in healthy soil and reaping healthier foods. He studied and studied and learned about the gardening methods that organic gardening used. He came to understand about microorganisms and trace elements in the soil and how most soil today is basically dead soil. He liked the idea that insects preferred unhealthy plants better than healthy plants that had these trace elements and he started a garden the organic way.  

It wasn't always easy for we lived in Mayfield and not only did we have clay soil but subsoil too, as our topsoil had been scraped away. But little by little, year by year, Charles made our garden soil absolutely delicious. He did this by adding compost that he made from kitchen scraps, grass clippings, anything he could get that would rot and turn into soil. Each fall he went to town and got as many bags of leaves as he could find to put on our garden. Our garden became a thriving place for earthworms and healthy bacteria. We were able to grow 90%+ of all our vegetables for the entire year. 

Now to me. One summer day I was in the kitchen cooking and sprinkling something over our scrumptious fresh squash and all at once I realized I had no idea where this herb had come from...and I was horrified that I was probably giving my children chemicals after all. This led me on my hunt. 

I started the very next day looking for herbs that I could use in cooking. I thought this would be easy, after all herbs are just plants, right? I had a dilly of a time. I hunted and hunted and finally found the first five plants that began my first herb garden: mint,thyme, sage, oregano (inferior tasting plant but I didn't know any better), and chives. Did you know they were called perennials not herbs? Anyway it started from there. My love for herbs grew and found their way from the kitchen to the sick bed to soaps and finally herb products. 

We live in Hickman County now and our gardens haven't had any chemicals on them since 1978—the last time we used chemical fertilizer. Charles makes the biggest compost piles you ever saw to use on our garden. Our worms are sometimes as big around as your small finger and grow to a foot or bigger. Our soil is teeming with life and we are positive, grow better, healthier food. My herb gardens help us in everything—cooking, medicine, fragrance, beauty, and even insect repelling. 

Each year we open our gardens for people to come explore and buy herbs and heirloom plants, heirloom seeds, and herb products, and my jewelry, Earth's Creations. Come and learn how to garden without a tiller or plow. Experience raised bed gardening. We want you to look and use our old and new tools that will make your gardening easier and your soil better. And everyone is invited to bring a lawn chair and sit a spell while we talk about Organic Gardening for Beginners and Recipes from the Gardens. We hope that they will take some idea or plant home with them and learn to embrace the organic lifestyle. 

Editor's note: Below:  Earth creations jewelry is beautiful and eminently affordable. The necklaces shown below are made by Denise and sold with matching earrings.  That's her daughter in the picture. She's a terrific salesperson.

Here's how to find us: 

Directions: In Arlington, KY ( Hwy 51 between Bardwell and Clinton) turn west onto Hwy 80, go approx. 1/2 mile. Turn left onto St Rd 1772 and drive approx 2 miles (just past the 3 mile marker). Turn left at the very bottom of the hill.  briarwoodgardens@windstream.net           270-254-1143 or 270-254-1208

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