• Ellen Hopkin

God, Green Fingers and a 1901 restoration project - Zan Goss

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Welcome to the Creative Life, Happier Life Blog, thank you for agreeing to this interview! Tell us about yourself...

My name is Zan, I am a British-American living out my dreams in a 1901 fixer upper farmhouse on 10 acres of land in SE Tennessee called Five Arrows Homestead Farm. I live with my husband, our 5 beautiful children, 2 dogs, a cat, a flock of chickens, 2 horses and a pet caterpillar named Grace. I spend my days homeschooling our eldest children, toddler taming our Irish twins, restoring our old house and pottering in my potager.

Here at CLHL we believe that creativity comes in all forms, from accounting to crochet! How does your creativity manifest itself?

I believe the popular term used to refer to people like us is ‘homesteaders’. We very much live in the modern world, but we aim to provide for our children and ourselves a simple existence that draws us close to God and his creation. For me, I find my creative juices really flow in the potager (kitchen garden). It’s the place I go to unwind, de-stress, find peace, look upon beauty and grow food for my family and I to enjoy. Even in its half finished state it is a place of tranquility.

How do you think using your creativity enhances your well-being?

As you can imagine, life as a family of 7 can often feel quite overwhelming. The dishes are piling up, the children are squabbling, the dog chewed up my favorite blanket, the laundry has become it’s own life form and dinner is still not prepared. Moments like these pile up and up and up and I can’t breathe… it’s at that moment I know I need to go and water the potager and pull up some weeds or simply take a walk about it with a cup of tea. No matter the day I’ve had, my potager always welcomes me with open arms and I can feel my body relax and any tension just gets left at the gate. Trowel in hand and gloves on I can tackle anything!

How do you think using your craft helps you to connect with God?

When I sat down to design my potager, the goal I had was not simply to “put out a garden” as people here would say. Growing food for my family is a greatly rewarding activity, but it was not and is not for that purpose that I wanted it. For me, it had to be a thing of beauty, a picturesque retreat. Unsurprisingly, when I was researching ideas for my design approach, I discovered that the earliest kitchen gardens in history were designed to recreate the Garden of Eden and to draw those in it back to God. In fact, in Western Europe the traditional 4 quadrants with a water source in the center as a design evolved from the gardens of Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia and Babylon.

The Persian gardens in particular were said to be spectacular and our word “paradise” comes from the Persian word pairidaeza. Greeks later visited these gardens and were so enamoured by them that they adopted the word paradeisos. Greek translations of the bible used this word for the Garden of Eden. This was the goal. To get back to the original, perfect garden and to walk with the Lord in it. Truly it is a place of peace. Living in this fallen world can take its toll on a person but I find that in my potager, I can take a step that much closer to God’s intention for how humanity were designed to live.

Do you think God works through your skill? How?

The calling on my life is to raise my children and to set them on a path towards the Lord. Especially right now, in these younger years when they are so very dependent upon me (for EVERYTHING!).

Everything I do somehow comes back around to being about them. My potager keeps me at my best. Without that source of creativity I would burn out hard. God uses it to keep me sane! God also uses it to help me teach my little ones about his creation. There is nothing more heavenly than seeing your children dance about between the raised beds surrounded by butterflies and dragonflies and stopping periodically to smell the flowers or pick a bunch to display in a vase. Or seeing their little faces glow when they harvest the vegetables they grew “all by myself”. The potager teaches more life lessons than I could ever teach them sitting inside at a desk with a workbook. It is the place we learn about anything from how to grow food to how to handle frustration to the pay off of hard work. The conversations seem to flow easily out there among the roots and shoots. I’m sure even when my children are grown up with children of their own that many of life’s challenges will be tackled within the safe haven of mama’s potager.

It’s also a wonderful way to interact with our neighbours. Believe me, when tomato season rolls by anyone who comes down our driveway will not leave without a bag of those babies. It’s a beautiful way to bless others.

Do you have any tips or golden nuggets of wisdom for any of our readers who may like to try accessing your creative skill?

The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be done almost anywhere. From a perfectly designed, expansive potager like mine to a few pots on a balcony. It all counts! We’ve lived all over the world in apartments, houses and now a farm… tending a plant brings life no matter where you are or what your situation. Pop to the local nursery one Saturday morning and gather a few supplies. It doesn’t take much. A pot, some dirt and seeds and you’re off! Believe me, when you see those little seedlings start to grow, it will stir up something within you. I defy it not to.

Where can we find you using your creativity?

If you want to follow along with our journey here at Five Arrows, follow our blog at www.fivearrowshomestead.com or come see us on Instagram @fivearrowshomestead

We’d love to have you along for the ride!

QUICK FIRE ROUND! The stuff we all really want to know!

Pen or computer? Pen

Home or abroad? Home.

On your bucket list? Take kids to England

Who would play you in a movie? Anne Hatheway

Skill you’d like to learn?


Favourite bible verse? Romans 8: 38-39

Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate. No cheese. No chocolate. No cheese. Dangnamit. Can I choose wine?

Thank you Zan! So there you go, perhaps getting some seeds and a planter may be a new way for you to explore creativity?

If you try out any of our contributors skills, pop it on Instagram (@creativelifehappierlifeblog) and give it the hashtag #CLHLblog

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