Do you ever think you might be a hobbit? I know that I have more than a few things in common with J.R.R. Tolkien’s diminutive characters. I love second breakfasts and elevenses. You’ll often find me walking barefoot in the grass with no concern about how dirty my feet are getting. I connect with nature better than I do with people. And, every once and a while, I like to go on a good adventure. No one has trusted me with a task as serious and grueling as Frodo’s, so perhaps the similarities end there. But now that I’ve stayed at Forest Gully Farms in Santa Fe, Tennessee, I feel as if I’m one step closer to living the hobbit life.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit captured the hearts of generations with their tales of classic struggles between good and evil paired with endless adventure. Middle Earth is full of magical wizards, bow-wielding elves, and loyal-to-the-end hobbits. Tolkien’s lands may be fictional, but Forest Gully Farms feels just as magical—and I don’t even have to leave Tennessee.
Surrounded by nature
I depart from Nashville on a Friday afternoon and it only takes a little more than an hour to get from my city apartment to this entirely different world. The drive takes me on winding rural back roads and through rolling countryside generously dotted with horses and cows. By the time I arrive in Santa Fe, it’s already dark.
I seem to be traveling backward in time—but I keep on, like any good hobbit on a walkabout would. And then, my destination appears like magic: Half-buried huts glow in golden yellow hues, framed by the pitch-black darkness; solar-lit stepping stones lead me to my home away from home for the weekend. I’m ready for my test run at hobbit life.
Sitting on 15 acres, Forest Gully Farms consists of three huts, which can accommodate a total of eight people. It’s the passion project of Jon and Mandy Giffin. Initially started as an experiment in sustainable living, the Giffins built Forest Gully Farms around the goal of living off the land. They strive for balance and diversity in their plantings and work to produce a holistic edible ecosystem.
Surrounded by nature, I think I could visit the farm multiple times and have a unique experience each time—and that’s intentional. All reservations include access to all three huts, a bathhouse, and the farm, including gardens, a chicken coop, and hiking trails. The huts at Forest Gully Farms are constructed of white cedar; they’re rot-resistant, with bamboo flooring and surrounded by a retaining wall, naturally insulated by the earth and protected from outside temperature changes.
Hobbit for a night
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” wrote Tolkien. “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
Hobbit homes, or hobbit holes, are traditionally places where friends and family gather to talk, laugh, sing, and—most importantly—eat. Hobbits are known for their love of food and ale, being homebodies and keeping to themselves, and enjoying the simple pleasures in life. All of this is easily achievable in this rural Tennessee oasis.
Before I settle in by the crackling campfire, I look into my own hut. Much like hobbits themselves, the interiors at Forest Gully Farms are tidy, unassuming, and simple with a focus on the extraordinary architecture. Two of the huts include sleeping quarters and the third is intended for cooking and hanging out. Inside each of the two sleeping huts is an AC and heating unit, three beds, and linens. The common area hut includes a kitchen stocked with a full-size refrigerator, basic cooking ingredients, utensils, and a coffee maker. Outside is a gas grill and a campfire perfect for making s’mores.
Over the next few days, I spend my time doing things the hobbit way—catching up on my reading, playing board games and cards with friends, and eating whenever my stomach demands it. I mostly graze on food made onsite, but I’m also able to make chili on a hotplate and roast vegan hot dogs over the fire.
When I’m not relaxing in the huts or sitting by the fire, I explore the grounds and take short trails into the woods surrounded by beautiful foliage, waterfalls, and hammocks. The expansive gardens near the huts are, just as the Giffins intended, a dense ecosystem full of useful plants and fruits (edible, medicinal, or both).
The guest book in my hut is full of entries from people who visited Forest Gully Farms from all around the world. Written in various languages, some even feature stunning drawings of the huts themselves—it’s evident that this magical place attracts equally magical people.