LUMBERTON — A little more than two years ago, Susan Noble left the city for life in a charming farmhouse with chickens inside and out.
Noble and her mother, Jean, are from a family of city dwellers going back generations, but life on the farm has proven inspirational. As for chickens, the live ones are outside and the ornamental ones decorate the inside of their Folly Farm home.
Folly Farm was featured this year by Our State magazine in a special feature edition titled “Homes We Love.” There is a lot to love about Noble’s house and grounds, which are largely a product of her own design.
There is a name to consider before touring the property. Noble says Folly Farm is named after an English farm she visited many years ago.
“Skeptics?” she said about city folk moving to the country. “There were some, my mother for one.”
The skeptics are long gone, as Noble continues to work on Folly Farm. The chickens, five in all, came to the farm this past spring and are expected to start laying this month.
The grounds continue to evolve, but the house has evolved several times already.
“My mother has owned this farm for many years,” Noble said. “We’ve always called it ‘the farm.’
“The family would come here to hunt and ride four-wheelers. I wanted a bathroom, so I built a small house. It wasn’t meant to be fancy.”
Noble took a Southern Living house plan that began with a house and a picket fence and she improvised, adding on to it two times. A front screened porch became a sunroom, and a former widow became an entry to the addition.
A hallway, or dogtrot, runs the length of the house. The dining room features a cathedral ceiling, and an upstairs loft hosts overnight stays by family members.
The house exudes charm. It is full of sunlight and decorated with family collectibles, especially chickens. The floor, which was installed over her contractor’s objections, is yellow pine.
Because of the windows and porches the inside moves seamlessly outdoors. Noble is a big fan of P. Allen Smith, a Southern designer who believes in integrating outside elements inside.
She has worked hard on the gardens, which are protected from foraging deer by a tall fence. The fence also serves as trellises for climbing vegetables and flowers, such as coral honeysuckle.
The 10 raised-bed garden is overflowing with green in the full August sun and blessed with recent rains. Noble plans to garden year-round.
“We’ve been eating well,” Noble’s mother said.
It’s been a challenge adjusting to eating vegetables in season, she said. Green beans every night can be tiresome, even when they are fresh from the garden.
Ten raised-bed plots have yielded plentiful herbs and vegetables. Some, like potatoes and dried peppers, are stored in the pantry/workroom.
Also in the pantry are a few jars of moonshine (legal) mellowing with peaches. What’s a farm without little moonshine?
The yard features young fruit trees, including three types of figs. Grapevines, a greenhouse and a restored tobacco barn are on the drawing board.
The five chickens, Barred Plymouth Rocks and Buff Orpingtons, all have names. The Rocks are so tame they will sit in Noble’s lap. Eggs, Noble hopes, are a week or two away as the chickens mature.
“I’ve read every chicken blog there is,” she said. “The coop is varmint proof, I hope. I have a jungle gym for them to play with.”
Folly Farm is a work in progress, or as Noble says, “I like a project.”
Her contractor and groundskeeper have become part of the family.
Two years ago last March, Noble moved to the farm from a Lumberton suburb and her mother from a retirement community. They have few regrets despite the lack of city amenities, such as trash collection and high-speed Internet.
“We packed a suitcase one Friday, and that was it,” Noble said. “Now, we have to plan to go to town.”
Folly Farm is only minutes from Lumberton, but it seems a world away. Noble said she has yet to put up bathroom or bedroom curtains.
“I had flowers and a garden in town, but I wanted more,” Noble said.
There are opportunities at the farm that space and restrictive covenants would not allow.
She wants a pool made from a livestock watering tank. “I just play,” she said.
A former home economist with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Noble believes in planning and study. It shows.
The house and grounds are picture perfect, although not everything Noble has tried has been successful. A sunflower crop got mowed down accidentally.
Some heritage farm ideas are not on the drawing board. There won’t be a hog killing this fall, and the chickens will never find their way to the Sunday dinner table.
Some things have not changed, as Folly Farm still hosts family hunts and four-wheeling.
“If it has wheels, we’ve got one,” Noble said.
Noble and her mother are very comfortable in their farm house. Susan gardens every day and roams the house barefoot, proving there is a little country in every city girl.