Today I am so excited as I will be conducting my first ever blog interview. as part of the Writing 101 course. I will be chatting with the lovely Tonya, or Fourth Generation Farmgirl, as many of you know her, and am thrilled that she has agreed to take part.
Ever since I first came across this blog, I have been impressed with the genuine love for the animals, the farm and traditions that make up Tonya and husband Scott’s lives. Tonya is one of those people who seem to excel in whatever they put their mind to.
That is not to say she had her share of trials and tribulations, not least the almost rebuilding of her home, and losing her beloved chickens last year to a fox. She gets on with it though, picks herself up and keeps going. I admire her spirit and determination.
I am very nosy by nature, so fired off a few questions for Tonya in order that we can all get to know her and Green Hill Farm a little better.
- I would like to know how you manage to find time to work on the farm, make such beautiful recipes, and carry out your work as a speech and language therapist.
I write this blog mainly from my perspective as it is called Fourth Generation Farmgirl; however, let me just say, there certainly wouldn’t be a Green Hill Farm or a Fourth Generation Farmgirl without my husband Scott, a.k.a. Farmguy. We are truly partners in all things. I’ve encouraged, supported, and helped him in his career as much as he’s stood by me in my endeavours, the biggest endeavour–saving, restoring, and loving Green Hill Farm and all of its inhabitants. I’d like to take a moment to express how fortunate I am to have Scott by my side. First, he’s one of the smartest, hardest working, and most decent people I know. He advocates for and loves animals as much as I do and enjoys caring for our menagerie of critters. Days on the farm can be described as a marathon or a sprint, depending on everything going on in our lives; and, because the needs of the animals are constant, there is never a “free day.” That’s why we are also fortunate that my parents live next door and help out occasionally. There is ALWAYS something to maintain, repair, feed, clean, nurture, and love around here, but together, we seem to find a balance.
For me, the key to finding balance in daily life includes embracing simplicity, and this includes mealtime. One aspect of Fourth Generation Farmgirl is sharing recipes; some of these recipes are heirloom and have been in my family for many years. I’m not a gourmet cook by any means, but I do enjoy the creative process of cooking. My favourite thing to do is to invent as I go. Most times this turns out well, and on occasion, it doesn’t; however, the key for me is keeping it simple. I love straight-forward recipes that don’t take a lot of time to prepare but are easy and delicious. I hope the recipes I share on my blog meet this criteria. I understand that people are busy like us and are more likely to try a recipe, especially if it’s uncomplicated and calls for ingredients they already have on hand. This is even truer after a long day of work.
These days, I’m fortunate to have a little more control over my work schedule. For 18 years, I worked as a speech and language pathologist in a hospital, private practices, and public schools, providing therapy to both adults and children. During my tenure as a speech and language therapist, I mainly worked with children who have special needs–particularly, children who have autism spectrum disorders. I worked full-time, part-time, and recently as an independent contractor, coordinating my own schedule. I’m enjoying my position as an independent contractor as it allows more flexibility for my role on Green Hill Farm as well as Marketing and Client Event Coordinator for my husband’s business. I also appreciate having additional time to pursue civic and personal projects.
- You have also written a book. Please tell us more about it.
Thanks so much for asking, Judy. Clementine: The Communi-CAT, A Guide for Teaching Social Communication Skills is my first children’s book. It’s a story, a communication lesson, and a social communication activity book all in one. It features a tricolor cat as well as two young children who demonstrate different facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice through photographs and descriptions. The descriptive text and humorous, colourful photographs of Clementine engage children between the ages of 4-8 in a manner that creates interest, joint attention, and an increased understanding of social language skills.
This book provides a basic lesson in social language skill development that would be helpful to all children; however, it also addresses a need in a growing population of children who have autism spectrum disorders and significant difficulty with interpersonal communication skills. The CDC reports that autism spectrum disorders are the fastest growing developmental childhood disability: a research study from 2000 indicated that 1/150 children were diagnosed with autism, and more recently, a study from 2015 showed 1/50 children were identified with this developmental disorder. The concept of this book is based in research indicating that “animals encourage social interaction.“ According to a recent study by researcher Marguerite E. O’Haire and colleagues from the University of Queensland, Australia, “the presence of animals appears to encourage social interaction among children with autism. Including an animal in children’s playtime or home activities may be an effective way to encourage socialization with other children as well as adults.”
While Clementine: The Communi-CAT is an educational tool that could be used to advocate for and support children who have special needs, it is also a basic lesson in social communication with follow-up activities that would benefit all children. It’s my hope that this book will empower parents to advocate for their children by encouraging them to have better interpersonal communication skills; important skills that would help a child to make a friend or participate in group activities more confidently. Strong interpersonal communication skills are fundamental for building relationships and are directly related to a child’s success in school, both academically and socially.
My book is on sale locally at Little Dickens Bookstore in Lynchburg, Virginia and very soon will be available on-line with Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
Clementine: The Communi-CAT is currently available through the following website: www.clementinethecommunicat.com
- Blogging, writing books, or acrostic poems? Tell me your favorite.
I love the creative process of all three. I wrote my first children’s book/ therapy guide last year and enjoyed seeing it come together: from the initial spark of an idea, development of a concept, photographing the story sequence, and finally, the finished product. It was all very exciting! While writing the text and photographing the subjects of the book was a lengthy process, writing acrostic poetry is a little less time-consuming. I learned to write acrostic poems years ago in 10th grade English class, and one or two of my poems ended up in the high school literary magazine, Collage. I really like writing this kind of poetry— figuring out how to make it come together; and, for some reason, it comes easily for me. Last winter, after spending most of the morning shovelling snow, I composed a poem about a shovel on the way to the grocery store. It’s fun to create a poem in a short amount of time compared to working on a project, like a book, that takes a lot longer. I guess instant gratification is at play. But, of all three, blogging is probably my favourite. Fourth Generation Farmgirl is fairly eclectic as I address the following areas in my posts: farm life, recipes, family stories, photography, personal reflections, poetry, crafts, wine, etc. I also find the variety of subject matter and the potential for creativity very gratifying. I’m always enthusiastic about choosing a subject for my next post.
- What is your favourite time of year on the farm?
I enjoy observing all of the seasons on Green Hill Farm as each one showcases the beauty of the landscape as well as the animals in it–both wild and domestic. I love looking outside in the winter and watching the bright, red Cardinals flit about against the backdrop of snow, or seeing the woolly sheep resting on a carpet of newly green pasture in the spring. Summer is lush with everything in bloom and a bounty of bunny rabbits, nibbling on clover and rolling around in the raised beds of my kitchen garden. And, of course, there’s the glowing warmth of fall: temperate days and foliage the colour of fire–perfect weather for taking Maud and Dash for a walk.
Although, if I had to choose my favourite time of year on the farm, I’d probably choose spring. Spring is my choice for two reasons. First, winter on the farm, while beautiful, is brutal. We actually refer to the farm as “The Tundra” in winter: it’s cold, the wind howls, and it’s grey and dark most days. This isn’t bad if you can stay inside where it’s warm and cosy, but we’re constantly outside caring for our animals. By the time spring rolls around, I’m incredibly thankful for warmer days and greener pastures. Second, spring is simply a glorious time of year on the farm—a treat for the senses: pastures take on a greener hue; the sky is blue with big, fluffy clouds; trees begin budding out and flowering; birds are singing, daffodils are blooming, and a sweet fragrance from Grandma’s lilacs, irises, and sweet shrub fill the air.
Most importantly, gone are the days of being accosted by strong, cold winds that whip about as I step onto the porch; but instead, warm, gentle breezes greet me as I go about my farm chores. And, for this, I am always happy to see spring.
- What is your favorite heirloom recipe?
My great-grandmother’s recipe for tomato soup is definitely my favorite. It’s very simple and unassuming, but delicious. It only requires three ingredients: homemade tomato juice, milk, and baking soda (to keep milk from curdling). It can be served casually, in a mug with some oyster crackers, or served more formally as a first course, using nice China along with a garnish of basil leaf. Either way, it’s wonderful on a cold day. I have many fond memories of Grandma Rieley and Dad making this family favorite. http://fourthgenerationfarmgirl.com/2014/11/09/heirloom-recipe-tomato-soup/
- You seem a perfectionist. I love the way when you showcase a recipe, it is not just the food that looks beautiful, but also the presentation, the linens used or the crockery. Would you agree?
First, thank you for the compliment, Judy. Your observation is accurate. 🙂 I am a perfectionist. Sometimes, I drive myself and Farmguy up a wall with my pursuit of perfection, but I’ve tried to tone it down over the years. It’s important to me to do a good job and present things in the best possible way. I really love creating something beautiful and knowing that others will get enjoyment from it. When I photograph my recipe sequences for a post, I definitely put a lot of thought into making it look attractive. You mentioned the crockery and linens earlier; very often, I use my grandmother’s antique plates and vintage linens in photographs as a way to remember and pay tribute to her. Grandma Rieley was a wonderful cook and loved antiques, and I think she would have liked that I use her special belongings in this way.
Judy, thank you for the opportunity to share Fourth Generation Farmgirl with your readers. I so enjoyed answering your questions.
Thank you Tonya for taking time out of your hectic life and sharing life on Green Hill Farm with us. I have enjoyed it immensely.
If you want to find out more about Green Hill Farm, Tonya’s mouth-watering recipes, wines, the animals and much more, then please visit her blog Fourth Generation Farm girl.
Please note: All photos are property of Fourth Generation Farm Girl and have been used with permission.