Ezra grew up in Ashe County, NC, an agricultural community with lots of small homesteads and sustenance farming. Growing things for aesthetic and for the tables and cellars was a part of daily life for most. He didn’t feel an immediate connection to horticulture as a removed facet of homesteading, but in retrospect those vegetable gardens and the culinary heritage were very important to him and central to his enjoyment of the life.
When Michelle was seven years old, she moved with her parents and brother to Raleigh, NC from Rush Co. Dublin, Ireland. She grew up hearing of her dad working in his family’s fields of daffodils or growing potatoes to sell at markets across Ireland. The Ruigroks were one of the Dutch families that brought their horticultural practices to North County Dublin in the 1930s. Belgians also brought glasshouses, and Michelle’s mammy grew up working in those glasshouses and fields. On road trips around Ireland, Nana Byrne would mess around and talk about robbing a cow from the fields, or seeing how many sheep they could cram into the boot of the car. Back in America, Michelle’s mammy raised the family on farmers markets and home-cooked meals that nourished them with the love and care that she poured in.
When Michelle couldn’t stand being in school at UNC-Chapel Hill anymore, she met Ezra, a “mountain man” whose childhood with limited “modern day luxuries” intrigued her because many aspects of it were similar to those bits of her parents’ upbringing that she romanticized (while ignoring the hardships that came with living in Ireland back then). She knew he would bring her childhood memories back to life one day, and knew she couldn’t do it without him.
Ezra saw right away that Michelle had a quiet thoughtfulness that has made her the perfect partner to learn alongside, and the glimmers of pragmatism and humility that he saw in her that day have fleshed out into someone who seamlessly moves between being a fount of knowledge and a curious learner.
We are a team. Ezra makes Michelle think bigger and better (and to survive on less sleep), and she tries to keep up by weaving more tasks into her daily routine on the farm while making time for cups of tea. He loves learning all of the small solutions she comes up with every day, and reminding her that they are what build a beautiful big picture. It’s been a joy and a grounding distraction to learn the personalities of every creature under our care. And, while we may not have Michelle’s mammy’s green thumb, we do have thumbs stained black from working with tomatoes.
When we met Greg and Stacy and learned of their vision for the property at Winding Stair Farm, it seemed too good to be true. We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by people whose approach isn’t to wonder what it would be like to do this or that, but instead to go ahead and DO this and that.
Greg and Stacy‘s enthusiasm for learning-by-doing, combined with their seemingly endless patience with our experiments along the way make for a powerful duo. In just two years, the five-acre field has been completely transformed. We often wonder what the chances are of the four of us finding each other in Franklin, NC, of all places. Michelle dreams of moving back to Ireland one day but, until then, there’s no place on this planet she’d rather be than right here.