The road leading up to the house is rocky, slow. It allows you to take in the surrounding landscape, the way the sun pushes off the grass, expands its eye toward the rest of the land. In front of the house are two trees twined around each other, one a hackberry, one a mesquite, hence the name of the property: Twining Tree Farm.
Owned by Dawn Dowell and Dave Wallace, the homestead that sits in Mathis, Texas, and borders the Nueces River contains 12.1 acres of land that had always been somewhat on the periphery of the couple’s imagination, a sentiment that may have started in theory, but quickly became a practice of love and patience.
“It was always [Dave’s] dream to own land, but I kind of hopped on,” Dowell said.
“There’s something about the isolation of it,” Wallace said. “Self-sufficiency, I guess—that appeals to me, and has since I was a kid. My expertise is in environmental theory and literature, and I’m really conscious of how much we use all the time. I thought that it would be nice to have a lifestyle that sustains itself.”
Though they started raising chickens a few months after moving to the property, they’ve steadily been gaining traction for selling their eggs and sourdough bread, thanks to word of mouth from customers, local markets, and social media.
A quick scroll down their Instagram page immediately leaves the online peruser yearning for simpler times: a brisk walk through the trees, a lazy afternoon in a hammock, the sound of roosters crowing in the distance, the smell of fresh sourdough permeating the wood. However, life on a homestead is anything but lazy, especially for two working people doing it completely by themselves.
“We’re both full-time teachers, so time is a huge thing,” Dowell said. “Above time, is money…it’s not cheap to buy property, especially for people with a lot of college debt.”
“A lot of farms we follow on social media or things we read, there’s this idealized version of what it means to build a sustainable farmland, and it seems like they only present the lifestyle of farm or back-to-the-land movement as a done deal,” Wallace said.
“It doesn’t show how much the tractor costs, the fencing costs, the time and the labor of those things,” Dowell added.
Though right now, the couple is only focusing on selling bread and eggs in an effort to not overextend themselves, they reiterate that this is just phase I of a long plan to see the farm become something bigger, greater, and more self-sustaining.
“Phase II is setting up hydro farming, aqua farming, a greenhouse, and get some goats [to expand to cheese and butter],” Wallace said.
And though the couple has many dreams of what they hope the farm can one day become, they’re under no illusions that it’ll easily happen overnight. However, the desire to teach has extended beyond the classroom and onto the land itself. “We are learning from scratch,” Wallace said.
“Maybe if someone sees us trying to figure it out, then they’ll want to figure it out too,” Dowell said. “I’d love to teach everyone to bake sourdough and teach everyone to raise chickens. Small steps, but teaching people those things is very valuable.”
@twiningtreefarm | twiningtreefarm.com