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Ron Fay, weathered sheep herder lives his creed …

Ron seeks higher ground before bringing his prize ramms to their feed lot

Ron seeks higher ground before turning his prize rams into their feed lot.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this herder from the completion of his appointed rounds” … adapted  from USPS.  Ron Fay, who with his wife Ann, created the Rising Meadow Farm in Randolph, County, NC over 20 years ago and donated a conservation easement to the Piedmont Land Conservancy to prohibit forever the building of a big box store on their farm.  They did all of  this because it was “the right thing to do.”

“We are proud of the quality of our wool, of our meat, and of our farm, ” they will quickly tell you.  “It all starts with the way that we take care of their animals.”

Taking care of their animals “well” is obvious.  Their shearing day was only days before temperatures plummeted into the single digits.  The best hay available and improved shelter with piped in classical music would make any human jealous of Ron and Ann’s compassion, respect, and care of their farm life of cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, guineas, llamas, and alpacas.

Ron in his first morning round puts out a fresh timothy hay blend for his prized ewes who are at this time of the year pregnant.

The llamas, guineas. and chickens share in the feast.

And we all know about closing the barn door ...

The tractor, which is used to haul feed to the rams on another part of the farm, gets a brush-off.

These prize rams have fulfilled their obligation of breeding the ewes in the preceding weeks and are kept isolated at their own "men-only" shelter.

 

For Kevin Ford, a sheep shear day …

Shear Day

Kevin Ford, international sheep shearing champion

 

Yes, there is an international sheep shearing contest, and the retro category that attracts the most spectators is the non-motorized blade shear category that pits man with two pieces of blade steel against beast.  One doesn’t have to go to Ireland or New Zealand to witness first hand but up-close and close to home in Randolph County a half hour south of Greensboro.

Rising Meadow Farm and the septuagenarian proprietors Ann and Ron Fay have been multimedia and still topics of mine before.  It is their culturally rich and affectionate lifestyle that attracts my wife and I as frequent visitors.

A visit is never a disappointment and the most recent was their “Shearing Day” where master shearer and author Kevin Ford boards for a multi day visit to hand shear all of the Fay’s sheep — just as he has for the last twenty years.  Kevin is no lamb as his thin stout figure with flaccid hamstrings and grisled and chiseled face are testimony to a man who knows exactly what he is doing. He knows his craft so well that he has been a consistent podium finisher in the World Shearing Championships – and author of the collectible and definitive text: Shearing Day: Sheep Handling, Wool Science, and Shearing With Blades (1999)

Andrew Jenner, who writes for Modern Farmer, has documented Kevin’s beginnings and Irish spiritual home where sheep outnumber people 7-1.

“Shearing Day” occurs annually on Valentine’s Day when lamb chilli and handmade soup are lovingly shared and served.

Kevin Ford, master shearer, hones his steel.
Shear Day
Shear Day
Shear Day
Shear Day
Shear Day

Kevin Ford, master shearer, hones his steel.

Preparing for the "take down"

Efficiency in motion contributes the most to removing the fleece all in one piece which one of the shearer's goals.

Almost done

Joy Moore, who apprenticed under Kevin and is now a bonafide blade shearer, grins from the catch of a perfect fleece.

Weavers who attend this event wait for the pay down and check out of their fresh fleeces which will keep them busy for the rest of the winter washing, dying, spinning, and weaving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Edgecombe County, NC – 2011

For all of our friends and acquaintances and for our friends and acquaintances that we have not met yet – Happy Thanksgiving 2014.

Houck and K.B. Medford

 

 

Collard Art

Collard_Art_Houck_Medford

 

An uncommon site in the Southern Appalachians is a well-organized garden tool rack … and the excellent calibre of field collard greens found in this garden is testimony to a great gardener!

We need to meet!

Fall is chicken stew time …

Chicken Stew Time!

 

When the weather begins to turn cold, stomachs churn for the warmth of soul soups and stews from derivatives of harvest.

Chickens apply here – harvest doesn’t have to be vegetables.  The “make-ready” step of gathering the chickens is traditional for this family in Piedmont North Carolina.  If the chicken source is not Harris Teeter, Food Lion, or Earth Fare; then the more hands the merrier.  There is at least an hour of investment to in the sacrifice, defeathering, and dressing of one bird for the next to best part — the cooking part.

If you haven’t figured out the best part yet, it is the eat’in part.

You are invited to dinner!

Chicken Stew Time!
Chicken Stew Time!
Chicken Stew Time!
Chicken Stew Time
Chicken Stew Time!

Raising pens for home grown free-range chickens are at a distance from where they will be slaughtered and dressed.

A precise, quick beheading is followed next by ...

... a quick dip in near-boiling water to facilitate the plucking ... not too long, now, do you hear?

A good pluck job takes about 15 minutes for a whole bird ...

K.B. Medford shows her pride in her first-ever plucked chicken.

 

Photolucida competition finalist … but not Top 50

In August of 2014, I was notified of being selected one of the Top 200 Finalists in the internationally recognized photography advocacy organization, Photolucida, and their  Critical Mass Photography Competition.

I was and still am deeply honored.

Being the superstitious person that I am (I read my horoscope daily while I am looking over my shoulder), I told no one but waited until today when the Top 5o of the 200 were announced to tell anyone. I didn’t make the Top 50 list.

Critical Mass is an annual program that purposefully makes connections within the international photography community. Photographers (over a thousand this year)  at any level, from anywhere in the world, submit a portfolio of 10 images. They are judged on creativity and story-telling worthiness.

My submitted portfolio images (slideshow following) were from my documentary in progress, The Cotton Chronicle .

Competitions are a means for judging one’s work against others; but the greatest joy that I experience is seeing the work of others. I invite my friends, students, and photography family to take a few moments to explore the winning portfolios of some very imaginative and talented artists.

You will be impressed. I am.

Bates Houck
Bates Houck
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Bates Houck
Bates Houck
Bates Houck Bates Houck Bates Houck
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Bates Houck Bates Houck
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The six row cotton picker revolutionized cotton harvesting efficiency and is the stalwart behemoth of all cotton farms.

Patriarch of the family farm, Bates Houck, uses cell service to reach farm crew members, individually and collectively, wherever they may be on his 1,000+ acre farm.

Wells and mechanized irrigation remain the best investment for a farmer conscious about predictable production and yields -- whatever the crop.

Crew members are constantly mixing chemicals and fertilizers in large truck-borne portable containers to ease disbursement on the farm.

Farm crew are dedicated members of the team and may have been part of the family farm for generations.

"Top of the hood" huddles make farming days more predictable.

Maintenance and replacement of equipment remains one of those omnipresent challenges.

Fields can not be farmed efficiently when trees interfere with GPS guided planters and harvesters. Remaining sole pecan trees are often vestiges of an earlier farming era.

Family farms depend on succession with siblings to perpetuate lineage and ownership. Farming is regarded as a "life-style."

Perhaps the next generation will be inspired to carry on the traditions.

The Butter Bean … a new farm venture

KB_Butter_Beans_B&W

 

One of my strong remembrances about growing up was eating hand-picked, hand-shelled, home-cooked butter beans. In those days, there were no efficient mechanical harvesters so their fine delicacy reputation was bred into their preparation … much like a blackberry pie tasting it’s best when the berries are hand-picked – by the one doing the eat’in!

Southern brand recognition and family tradition goes a long way so imagine my personal delight when I learned that again in my lifetime I might eat from the golden pot.  Enough South Carolina natives recall that experience and the demand has been one where supply is only met currently via private reserve.

Congratulations to my Houck cousins for finding that a modern ag growing and harvesting approach puts this high-fiber best tasting vegetable on our dining room table in Winston-Salem.

A new series of images is being created and crafted to reflect and tell the story of our farmer’s ‘hands’ in both organic and non-organic food production.  My wife’s hands are used in this beta-project to showcase the butter bean.

Harvest time …

Will Wofford trims his peanut dump buggy

Will Wofford trims his peanut dump buggy

 

Once peanuts are dug from the ground, they are  left in the field to dry before being combined (peanuts separated from the dug plant), graded, and prepared for market. Optimal conditions are when the peanuts sun-dry for a few days on top of the ground. This reduces the need and duration of mechanical drying with forced hot air ($$ propane $$).

A sun drenched field also creates dust storms which farmers had to endure before there were closed cabs. Here, Will Wofford of Houck Farms, dumps a load of peanuts into an open top tractor trailer which when full is driven to the peanut yard for grading and storage.

The Carolina’s battle that changed the course of the Revolutionary War …

OVMT

Each year, Revolutionary War re-enactors  march from Abingdon, Virginia and Elkin, NC to commemorate the march of the frontier patriots over the Appalachian Mountains to defeat the Loyalist army at the Battle of King’s Mountain (S.C.).  A portrayal and interpretation site is at the Bright’s Cemetery on the Unimin Quarry property in Avery County (near Spruce Pine, NC) where almost 400 school children are bused annually to witness the tribute to Captain Robert Sevier who was mortally wounded in battle.  The celebration includes the retelling of the story of the Overmountain Men victory march, the firing of the muskets, the presentation of an inspiring prayer, and the paying of respects at graveside.  A lunch is provided by the Unimin Corporation , the local mining operation which produces most of the world’s quartz and silica for computer chips..

Captain Robert Sevier is the brother of  Colonel John Sevier who is credited in leading the charge defeating Loyalist Major Patrick Ferguson.

OVMT
OVMT
OVMT
OVMT
OVMT
OVMT
OVMT

"Hip-hip-huzah!"

Honorary tribute, the firing of the muskets

Tribute to Major Robert Sevier

Reaching the cemetery requires over a mile walk along the East Toe River.

Re-enactor, Ralph Martin

World Triathlon Championships … The Story in Front of the Images

World Triathlon Competition 2014
Triathlon Worlds 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014
World Triathlon Competition 2014

Joining hands for the finish ...

The Divine Touch. Sister Madonna Buder, the 'Iron Nun', now at the age of 84, is the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman Triathlon. She is a frequent participant in races where K.B. Medford appears, and there is this gesture of reconnecting friends.

With Canada being the host country for this competition, youngsters gained the advantage of riding on parents shoulders during the "Parade of Champions" for the opening ceremonies.

New Model Bike Rack. The total value of bike's like these in the transition zone was more than the GDP of some countries in the world.

Pomp and Circumstance. Each age-group competition cluster was led to the swim venue by a Scottish bagpiper.

No Straight Lines. The competition venue was so large that there were no straight lines for getting from one location to another. Staircases over the running and biking courses were a necessity.

Family Support. The para athlete competitors were the most visibly supported of all the competition groups, as represented by this young Austrian family.

Canadian Honor Guard at the Opening Ceremony

Chlorinated Duck Pond - Safe? The swimming venue was transformed from a silted duck pond with the removal of over 900 truck loads of sediment, the addition of a 25 acre pool liner, and the titration to "safety" with tons of pool chlorine.

Friendships New and Old. Competitors known or unknown to each other at venues like this become instant friends.

Old Glory. The USA Team marches in front of the sunlit Edmonton Museum of Art during the "Parade of Champions."

Out of the Water. Professional elite division athlete completes swim, leaving for bike leg.

 

World Triathlon Competition 2014

K.B. Medford – top finisher

3,000 athletes from 73 countries participated the recent World Triathlon championships in Alberta, Canada … my wife was one, finishing in the top 10 in her age group, and my reason for attending the event as her domestique.

A sense of wonder prevailed in all the venues and served as a testimony to the human conditions of genuine goodness and joy – a welcome relief from the news which we left at home before beginning our journey – and a topic that I have editorialized about before.

The supernatural para athletes were well supported by family and friends;  pomp and circumstance added a new dimension to our experience unseen at the local level;  and national pride was amplified and ubiquitous.  Personal stories abounded.

Innovation and creativity was part of the mix as evidenced by the transformation of a sludge-filled duck pond into a world class swimming pool.  This was a transformation made possible by the removal of 990 dump trucks loads of sludge, the placement of a 25 acre pool liner, and the judicious application of over a ton of pool chlorine.