This past weekend Georg and I went with D. and S. on the farm tour! Forty local farms open their gates to visitors for the weekend. One afternoon isn't nearly enough time to visit 40 farms, and we only made it to three.
We started with lunch at the Chapel Hill location of Allen & Sons. I have to say, that was some of the best barbecue I've ever had. The smoky flavor was so intense, I didn't even bother to put sauce on it. Good tea too, and since we all ordered tea, they brought us a pitcher.
The first farm we went to was Maple View. Which, in retrospect, I wish we had skipped because to prevent hoof & mouth disease, they don't allow anyone into the actual farm. Instead they sent us to an educational area which was kind of like the ag displays at the state fair. I like those displays at the state fair, but we were there to see actual farms.
Out back something funny happened: they had pens with a few animals for people to look at. The first pen had goats, and I noticed that about a half dozen people were inside petting the goats. I figured maybe they were taking small groups into the pen to see the goats. We moved on down the line to see the rest of the animals, and then a few minutes later I heard an employee come running out and yell, "You're not supposed to be inside the pens!" By that point there had to be at least 20 people in there. It was kind of hilarious to see them all filing out one by one.
Our second stop was the Dancing Pines Farm. It's a small farm and we got to talk to the farmers about their method for keeping lettuce alive during that really cold snap we had over the winter. The best part though was the beekeeper! He did a little demonstration where he opened one hive and showed us the bees. And he let me put on a long sleeved shirt and a bee hat and go with him to the hive! He didn't have extra gloves so I couldn't do anything, just got to stand close and watch. Still, it was So! Cool!
The beekeeper was just what you would expect. An older man who loved bees & was so in tune with them. He brought out a comb full of baby bees so we could see the nurse bees feeding them. While we were watching, a baby emerged from its cell and started trying to open its wings. You could hear the joy in the beekeeper's voice when he saw it.
I have some interest in beekeeping and I asked him lots of questions. He confirmed my suspicion that we don't have enough land to raise bees in our yard. But he said that it would be easy to find a farm which would let us keep bees on their land. Maybe when we get our yard under control, I'll look into those free beekeeping classes that I think the county does once a year.
Our last stop of the day was Fickle Creek Farm. They have a really interesting system of using the animals instead of equipment or chemicals to prepare fields. For instance, when they wanted to plant up a field, they let pigs root in it for five years to destroy the weeds. Then they let chickens live in the field for two years to fertilize. Then they were ready to plant! It was inspiring.
Unfortunately, I was being my usual graceful self that day: I lost my balance while dipping my foot in the disinfectant bath and fell on the hard gravelly ground. I got a scrape on one leg which looked terrible, but was actually shallow once I cleaned the blood off. The bigger problem was landing hard on my right hand. The heel of my hand got pretty bruised, though it took a couple of days for the bruise to come up. Today I've got a nice big purple bruise that wraps around my hand. At least it doesn't hurt much anymore.
Between me falling and the general heat of the day, we were all done in by then. We stopped at the new Weaver Street in Hillsborough for lemonade -- and can I say, it was a rare and wonderful experience for me to be the one person in the car who had any idea where we were going. I have such a bad sense of direction that it doesn't happen often! -- then headed back to Durham.
A really fun afternoon. I definitely want to go on the farm tour again next year.