Monday, April 23, 2012

Swan Creek Farm

WWOOF usa north carolina
Our amazing barn/apartment
     We arrived at Swan Creek Farm with our pants still caked with cave mud. Catherine greeted us and showed us around her 3 acre herb and vegetable farm. Catherine and her husband Bill beautifully restored two big old barns on the property, and we stayed in the upper level of one of them. Our apartment was incredible. There was a lovely deck area with comfy patio furniture, our own bathroom (with a bathtub!), a little kitchenette, cable TV, wifi, an inviting couch, and a nice big bed. We like to leave the places we stay cleaner than we found them, but in this case the immaculate accommodations made that impossible. We were looking forward to spending two weeks in the lap of luxury.
WWOOF usa north carolina
The inside of our abode
       The farm was beautiful and quite scenic with the barns, a pond, and flowers everywhere. It was also on both the Yadkin Valley wine trail and a scenic byway, and Catherine and Bill were planning on capitalizing on the tourist flow with a farm stand. Catherine is experienced in agritourism, having had a successful and popular herb farm for over 14 years. They currently own a medicinal herb business specializing in Chinese herbal formulas. We were able to learn a great deal about herbal medicine from Catherine while working there. We not only learned about Chinese herbs, but also the beneficial local "weeds." For instance, it turns out that all the sorrel we were pulling at Paradise Produce is also called yellow dock, and is used to cure digestive ailments.
WWOOF usa north carolina
ageless herbs WWOOF usa     We helped plant thousands of seeds and seedlings, including mugwort, various types of salvia, goji berries, gumweed, sage, safflower, and calendula. Catherine will ultimately transform these and many others into herbal formulas. We also installed over 4,000 feet of drip irrigation, it took a little while to get all the kinks worked out, but it will be worth it in the heat of summer. We also did the usual weeding and bed preparation, and some greenhouse work. Swan Creek Farm was a really well organized and well cared for farm, and the beds Catherine described as weed-choked were probably the most pristine beds we've seen.
This farm was also the first officially Certified Organic farm we've been to so far on this trip. Because of her herbal business, the red tape and hefty fees of getting certified were worth it.
     The Yadkin River Valley was a beautiful and interesting area, and we enjoyed our days off. The nearby library hosted an annual yard/rummage sale one day where we picked up a few things. The library was also handy when we needed to file our taxes from the road. That night, Catherine and Bill had a BBQ and shared yummy chicken, squash, potstickers, and grilled tofu with us. They made a great chef team with her prepping the food and him grilling it.
Sketchy flea market vendor
     The next day we went to a nearby flea market, which was huge and slightly overwhelming. It had a festive atmosphere, bolstered by a flurry of color and a multitude of delicious aromas. Amidst the bouncy house and labyrinth of tents we found everything from cactus pads to couches to "dermal implants" to fighting roosters, as well as the less glamorous work gloves that we were looking for.
     After the flea market we headed to Stone Mountain State Park.
Catherine and Bill had met there, and suggested it as a good place to go hiking.
200 ft waterfall

On the way there we scoffed at the name, because what else would a mountain consist of? But, we found that Stone Mountain is actually made of one huge exposed stone. At first it was crowded, being a beautiful sunny Sunday, but as our hike progressed it thinned out a bit. Although we ran out of water on top of the mountain, it was a nice long hike and it felt good to get out in the woods.

A mountain of STONE!
View at the summit
Next time you sunburn, make sure your tag's not sticking ou
 There had been little rain for a while, but an impending storm later in the week spurred us to get as many seedlings in the ground as we could. After a particularly hot, long day of rototilling and planting seedlings in soil resembling the dry, jagged, red surface of Mars, we were treated to Carolina burgers. This regional treat is composed of a huge sirloin burger covered with chili and coleslaw, and man were they good. After the rains came the next evening, the soil lost its hostile disposition, pulled in moisture, and welcomed its new inhabitants.
     To satisfy Randy's need for boardgaming, he found a local group of gamers in nearby Winston-Salem. The Camel City Gamers met that Tuesday night and Randy went into town to meet up with them at a local pizza place. Holly stayed back on the farm because she had a skype date with old friends, but Randy had a great time playing Age of Empires III.
Tapping a pint
Taking a break from farming by playing Agricola
     On our last weekend, we went back into Winston-Salem for a day on the town. Our first stop was a blood drive at Pinedale Christian Church. It had been a while since we'd donated and we were glad to have another chance. While making the appointment we'd been told they had good food, but we were still expecting the usual assortment of cookies, crackers and juice. Instead a huge church potluck buffet was laid out before us, and, being the food enthusiasts that we are, we were wicked excited. Everyone at the church was incredibly friendly, giving us the directions we needed for the rest of our errands, and offering advice on where to get the best BBQ. Next we checked out the nearby Goodwill outlet store, before heading back to the pizza place for more boardgaming. After playing a few games we ran some errands, and then wrapped up our thrilling day in the big city.
     The two weeks flew by and soon we found ourselves having to say goodbye. Swan Creek Farm felt like Circe's isle, Aeaea, where great feasts and a life of ease could make travelers contentedly remain there for a long time.