On my farm

No wonder he wanted to go back! This is the view from Washington's porch, Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 2010.

No wonder he wanted to go back!
This is the view from Washington’s porch, Mount Vernon, Virginia, April 2010.

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”George Washington

Washington didn’t just say those words, he lived them.  At the close of the American Revolution, and again at the end of his presidency, he willingly set aside his power and returned to Mount Vernon.  Strolling the grounds of that beautiful estate, it’s easy to understand why.  Washington was a farmer long before he was a Revolutionary War hero or President, and that was the role he never gave up.

Today we honor the memory of Washington and another great President, Abraham Lincoln, who also was acquainted with farm life as it was lived on the American frontier nearly 100 years later.  While neither of these men found their way into the history books because of their agricultural activities, it seems likely the time they spent working under the rigorous demands of nature became an integral part of the strength that would define their leadership.

Today, on President’s Day, I hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy the timeless pleasures that still come to us from farms.  We can do one thing neither Lincoln nor Washington could do, powerful though they were: we can walk into a grocery story and buy fresh fruits and vegetables with literally dozens of choices, even though it’s deep into the winter.  That’s something any emperor in history might envy!

One year ago today:

Strength that will endure


  1. Julia, good morning! Beautiful view… I can understand Washington’s wish to return to his home… with a view like that, I would too. 🙂

    • Merry, the rest of the grounds are beautiful too, but that view is the best. I am so happy historical groups have come together to do the work and funding necessary to preserve these historic places for us to enjoy!

  2. raynard

    Julia, living here”In the state called “a small wonder”, We love when it’s our ( cough cough 12, 123 and “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.. I digress had a “senior moment there. Where was I? Oh as we head down the road to Lancaster PA. to go to Shady Maple.. I love going past the farms and the simpleness of life. BTW, next cake project, another gluten free but “with a twist”.. Just looked at one of your previous blog titles. You ever heard of a song titled”The Rivers of March’?. I finally have a day and going back to “normal work hours this week.I think we are suppose to get more snow tomorrow( higher temps by the end of the week 40-50’s) Be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, I hope you do get some higher temperatures and a bit more of a break soon! I have a song called “The Rivers of March” by Art Garfunkel; is that the one you’re talking about? There ought to be some gorgeous waterfalls to be seen this year! Good luck with the gluten free cake. We’ve never had much luck with baking anything gluten-free except cookies, but I hear they’ve come up with some pretty good alternative flours now. Jeff and I really want to go to the Lancaster area and enjoy the scenery there. Maybe we’ll get there sometime this year.

      • raynard

        I found a gluten free cake mix last year. So I doctored/Mcguiver it to make a strawberry vanilla cake that was very much liked. Getting ready to do a all sugar free cake.Its by request and will be a first for me.just found out today that all yogurts are not the same level of sugar wise. I got all this fruit I’m going to eat before it goes bad..We always take plenty of pictures when we go to Lancaster and I’ll make sure to send something your way. Oh I have not just yet brought my flower show tickets yet. Maybe this coming weekend it starts on the 1st of March.

        • Raynard, it’s surprising how much I find out when I start reading the fine print on those nutritional labels that come on food now. Jeff and I eat a lot of Greek yogurt, and we have found that there’s a difference (sometimes a significant one) in how much protein they have, as well as how much sugar. We like to buy the plain and mix it with the flavored kind – after doing that for awhile, all the flavored ones taste way too sweet. I’m glad they have to “tell it like it is” about what’s in our food, although when I go to restaurants and read the calorie counts I find out more than I wanted to know! 🙂 Hope you have a great week.

  3. Carlyle

    I’ve been catching up on your blog postings after falling behind during our blackout. Enjoyed them much especially the Valentine Day post. Today’s on Washington and Lincoln as farmers really struck a chord with me. I am hoping that my health will allow me to soon get back to “my farm” (garden). Nothing like home grown vegies..

    • Daddy, I hope so too since I get to enjoy what you grow when I come to visit! 🙂 I remember many years ago how Mama had her tiny garden behind the pool when we used to live in East Point, and people would ask her who she had buried back there! She was doing organic gardens before it was cool to do them. Everybody thought we were odd because we had to compost all our eggshells and banana peels, instead of throwing them away. I remember one time when Mom was mad at Al about something or other he said “I’m just going to go sit out in the compost and rot.” 🙂 Anyway, I’ll always think of you and Mama when I think of growing vegetable gardens. I’ve always felt lucky to have home-grown vegetables on the table and I too really hope that you will have a great garden this year!

  4. singleseatfighterpilot

    This man’s “farm” consisted of 8000 acres. Using the values in today’s dollars, George Washington “was worth” over a half billion dollars. Of course his true worth to Americans cannot be measured.

    • Yes, and his wife, who was a wealthy widow when he married her, probably added even more to his estate. Still, he was far from an absent, distant investor. It’s interesting to learn about the many ways he was active in the building and running of Mount Vernon. For example, he rusticated the exterior to appear as stone, but actually it was a wooden house (see point six of this interesting list of details about the mansion itself). In this way, he preserved the actual structure of the more modest home his father built. It has become fashionable to bash historic figures and try to de-bunk their greatness with the benefit of hindsight, which is unfortunate. No one disputes that the heroes of American history, from the beginning up to the present, have had their faults. However, their abilities and accomplishments were truly remarkable, and worth remembrance.

  5. Jack

    At least Lincoln of these two great men was characterized by his ability to articulate grand vision with a brevity and clarity rare then and more so now. Washington’s legacy is, at least to me, all the more brilliant for what he did rather than what he said. Maybe we could use a few more politicians like that?

    • Jack, what makes Lincoln and Washington all the more remarkable in terms of their ability to be concise is that people were arguably much better at listening in those years. Each of the seven Lincoln-Douglas debates went on for three hours, with each speaker talking without breaks or interruptions. Can you imagine such a thing happening in a Senate campaign nowadays? Even though Lincoln lost that election, he obviously made an impression since he ended up in the White House not long afterward. YES definitely, today’s politicians have a lot to learn from both Lincoln and Washington, although it’s fun to imagine how these two icons would have handled the media onslaught that all elected officials and candidates have to live with (and live on and live by) today.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I love it when there is a ” family reunion” here. The comments of Mr. Carlyle and Eric just made your farm topic that much more special. We have so much in common that I can’t imagine if we get on the subject of farming and garden vegetables, Silver Queen corn, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, etc., just to name a few. Happy President’s Day! 🙂

    • Thank you Sheila, OH MY, Silver Queen corn! I have been craving some of that lately. In fact, I’m craving any sort of corn on the cob. Jeff’s Daddy used to grow that Silver Queen (or something very like it – delicate white corn) and I could never get enough of it. Corn in any form is my true weakness. Cornbread, corn sweeteners, corn chips, tortillas, tamales, cornbread dressing, on and on I could go. And butter beans and sliced tomatoes aren’t far behind. You just described my ideal meal!!

  7. I love this view. Both times I have been to Mount Vernon it was well into winter and I thought, “I bet it is lovely here in spring and fall, I must come back.” I even bought a season pass. Ahhh so go the days I guess. Maybe we can meet there one day and walk about. Have a great Presidents day. Thank you for sharing.

    • Amy, I’ve been tempted to get a season pass myself, especially since it’s literally only a few minutes away for me. But I keep putting it off “until…” You know, until I get caught up, clean my house thoroughly, catch up on correspondence, etc. But I might just rebel and get a season pass anyway; they’re a pretty good buy. If I do we’ll have to plan some trips there. Then we can drive the GW parkway up into Old Town Alexandria and pig out at La Madeleine! We need to sit down with our calendars and plot some dates…

  8. Thank you for pointing that out about the grocery store. I do think about how wondrous that is, to be sure!

    • Same here! I find myself complaining about the grocery store far more often than I should. In reality, it’s stunning how blessed we are. As my brother Al and brother-in-law George like to point out, to say “we live like kings” is really an understatement. Most Americans have a diet that even the kings of old would have envied! And I must admit, the grocery stores are getting so much more attractive in recent years that even I enjoy going to them! 🙂

  9. Is it possible today, that people who’ve never lived in the country or on a farm couldn’t possibly appreciate the allure? Once a year, I used to invite my office out to the lake for a BBQ and boating. They’d show up saying, “holy, you drive that everyday?” Followed by, “WOW, look at your view!” Akin to Washington, we had to be willing to make sacrifices. We couldn’t have made more of a change when with a 360 degree turn when we moved from the country to downtown, I’m still adjusting. There are virtues on both sides. In a perfect world, it’d be nice to have both. A weekend place in the country that someone does all your chores at and I just show up and a city place that’s close to theatre, cinema’s, restaurants and markets. Since that’s not a possibility, we’re embracing the next chapter of our lives as city dwellers. But I can totally understand George Washington’s longing to be back on his farm. xoK

    • You just described what I often thought of as the perfect life; weekdays in the city and weekends in the country. Right now we have a vague resemblance of that with what I call our “urban suburban” home in Alexandria, and our “rural suburban” home in York. Nobody to do all the chores though 🙂 but that’s OK by us. I think you are right to just enjoy your city life for now; chances are whenever you move elsewhere there will be many things about it you will miss. As you say, everything is a trade-off and there are gifts that go along with most everything. That’s one thing we were forced to learn when we had to move every few years in the military. It’s not a bad lesson. We are definitely happy for all our experiences in different places.

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