Home Sweet Homestead
Story Shannon Bardwell | Photographs Luisa Porter
Josh Stoll grew up in West Lowndes County, where he and his six siblings tended the family garden. Like many young people, Josh vowed that when he had his own place, he’d never work a garden again. After majoring in Industrial Technology, he became an airplane pilot like his dad.
Then, Josh began to dream of a future with a wife and their own homestead, where they’d share a good life. They’d have a milking cow, some chickens and a big garden. “I realized having a garden only makes sense,” he said.
The dream included children playing in the yard, maybe a lot of them. Not the kind of dreams you could share with just any young woman … not unless she happened to grow up loving the same things.
Twenty miles away in the Sessums community of Oktibbeha County, Amanda Tucker was driving a tractor by the time she was 8 years old. By 12 she was helping in the family hay business. Amanda loved the farm animals, so no one was surprised when she completed her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Mississippi State University.
Amanda and Josh met at MSU and enjoyed a storybook romance, committed from the beginning, their first kiss shared on their wedding day; then 14 months later, a son, Jackson, was born. It all sounded idyllic.
The newlyweds bought a 10-acre homestead over in Webster County. “The place had changed hands a lot, so we got it at a good price,” told Josh.
A bit far from idyllic, there was a lot of work to be done, especially for two people. A pole barn needed to be constructed, a paddock, and a milking chute for Sally, the cow.
There were pens and coops to build for their two pigs and 31 chickens. The barnyard was rounded out by a cat named Tango and a dog named Layla, and after some time a calf named Hey Dude came along.
Around the farm large vats are used for water collection. Josh figures the 31-foot awning on the pole barn with a 1-inch rain produces about 500 gallons of water for the livestock and gardens.
By their second year the orchards were planted — blueberries, cherry, peach and apple trees, and raised beds held cantaloupes, pumpkins, tomatoes, pole beans, squash, peppers of all kinds and potatoes.
The Webster County land is hilly, a mix of hardwoods and pines. Up on the hill behind the house, Josh installed a couple of bee boxes; a bit higher were more bee boxes. When asked why the boxes were separated, Josh responded, “It was a better place for them. I’ll move the first two when all the honeybees return. Everything we do here is mostly a learning experience.”
At the peak of the hill, there’s a panoramic view over partially cut timber. Josh hugged Amanda close to his side, “If it’s God’s will that we stay, we’ll build a new house here, further back from the road … you know, for the safety of the children.”