A visit to Tuscawilla

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Tuscawilla Farm is the ancestral home of two families: the Knights and the Carys. Our forthcoming title – Tuscawilla: Stories of a Farm – gives a history of the families and their work between about 1860 and about 1960. The book originated as a pile of handwritten stories on legal tablet written by my great aunt, Jane Cary, better known as Big Jane. My mother, who grew up on Tuscawilla, had them transcribed and edited and compiled the stories for publication. The result is a fascinating mix of family and local history, descriptions of farm life and work, and recipes.

My mother has been talking more and more about life on the farm, and in preparation for publication I thought I needed to see it again with fresh eyes to get a sense of the place and the layout, so on a Sunday in early July we went to Lewisburg and out to Tuscawilla.

The lane up to the farm from Route 219 is lined with thorn hedges, and when I was little and they were in full force, I thought it was like the way to Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

We parked at the flower garden, near one of the barns. The formal flower garden was designed in the 1920s by a Mrs. Bell from Cincinnati. My mother can remember it being full of peonies, delphiniums, daisies, roses, Canterbury bells, and always impeccably tidy. The house she grew up in faces the garden, and I suspect this was a significant influence on her own love of flower gardens. I remember helping Aunt Jane to tidy the beds with my useful small hands, and once when my cousins were visiting, my cousin Tyler and I left her younger brother in a tree in the garden.

The farm buildings are much closer together than I remember them being when I was a regular visitor. The brick house is at the top of the lane, then the flower garden to its right with the chauffeur’s house behind it, then one of the barn complexes including apple room and milking parlor, and then the Cary house, which was built for my great-grandfather’s family. And then, fields in all directions. I remember when the pens near Aunt Jane’s house were full of pigs, that would come up to the fence when they saw people. I always tried to talk to them in pig grunts.

I went into the barns for the first time—not in active use, it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it was in Aunt Jane’s time—and saw many pieces of old farm equipment she describes, including the cider press and manure tub, the milking parlor, the apple sorting rooms, and many holes my mother fell through as a child.

Back outside, the view from behind Aunt Jane’s house is exactly as I remember: two ponds, fields, a few scattered buildings, and mountains. The sawmill was in this direction, and the orchard, though at one time apple trees were in the fields right up to the houses. I remember Aunt Jane taking me to the orchard on her tractor when I was four or five. My mother’s favorite view of the gap from the back windows of her home, showing Greenbrier Mountain, Kate’s Mountain, White Oak Mountain, and Muddy Creek Mountain, is what she envisions Heaven will look like.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for my family’s history and home while working on this book and been reminded again and again of what an interesting, knowledgeable, and loving person Aunt Jane was, and how much she is missed. Publication will be later this year; pre-order here.

In other news…

The book launch for I Piped, That She Might Dance, has had to become a Facebook Live event, due to ongoing Covid-19 related restrictions. Follow us and The National Piping Centre on Facebook for details; the recorded event with author Iain MacDonald and Professor Hugh Cheape of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will be available for viewing from August 9. Pre-order here for publication in August.

We are pleased to announce the winner of our first-ever cover contest: Zabrina Romero Renfrew’s design was the favorite of our social media followers. Congratulations Zabrina! We think it will make the perfect addition to our diverse collection of bird-themed short stories, and look forward to seeing the cover in print. Also, a massive well done to our other brilliant finalist, Chloé Harmsworth. Pre-order here!

Cover by Zabrina Renfrew

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