Farmin’ Ain’t Easy…

But it sure is fun. And rewarding.

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Land for days.

If you like that sort of thing, I mean. If you don’t, then you probably won’t like it anyways. But look at the view! I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t dig this sort of thing?

Anyways, for the past week, Mandy and I have been volunteering (see, WWOOF) on a 130 acre organic farm out in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia called Evans Knob Farm.

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Penelope and Charlie, the littlest lambs.

Evans Knob is a Certified Naturally Grown farm that accepts interns and people through the WWOOF program  that are interested in organic farming and learning how to raise and maintain your own farm or homestead. Over the past twenty years, Reid and Kathy, the owners of the farm, have dedicated themselves  to raising an organic and sustainable farm without the use of antibiotics, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. In 2011 alone, they farmed over 6,000 lbs of vegetables on their land. They’re also extremely active in the local community, taking part in farmers markets and hosting craft nights at their house for friends and neighbors.

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This is where vegetables are born.

Mandy and I had entertained the idea of operating our own farm, but we really had no experience in doing it. Neither of us had put in a substantial amount of time farming, tilling, or anything, so after hearing about WWOOF-USA, we decided we would jump in and get our feet wet to see if this was the sort of lifestyle that we enjoyed.

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Mandy, with one of the four massive Great Pyrenees that guard the farm. They’re absolute sweethearts, except when it comes to cars.

Not such a big surprise, it was.

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John, attempting to wrangle Penelope back into the sheep pen after she escaped.

Kathy and Reid met us on our first day, as well as the current intern, Kathleen, who was going to be staying on the farm until the late Fall months. They showed us around, introduced us to the animals, answered the deluge of questions we had, then turned us into productive little mini-farmers.

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Penelope and Charlie coming to check out the newcomers, while Gabe the alpaca supervises.

Any trepidation I had regarding my lack of experience flew out of the window as Kathy showed us first-timers how to properly lay down irrigation, feed lambs, take care of ducks… She really instilled a sense of confidence in what we were doing there.  After our first day, we were a little sore and broken in, but absolutely in love with the farm.

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The greenhouse, where growing plants learn to be vegetables.

In our first week, we had learned to lay down irrigation lines, drip tape, put up a chicken wire fence, fix a barbed wire fence, milk a cow, take care of chickens (and ducks and lambs), and more things than I could probably count off the top of my head (Did I mention the Farmer’s Market?). Every day we worked had us doing something for the first time in our lives.

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On the farm, you quickly get into a routine where the day goes by in the blink of an eye. Every morning we’d have breakfast with Kathleen, work the farm ’til noon, break for lunch, work ’til about 4 or 5, then shower up and have a giant family-style dinner with Kathy and whoever else was around. After dinner was crafts and knitting (or reading, for me – Thanks, Nelson DeMille!), then bed.

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Prissy, one of many super-friendly cats you’ll meet at Evans Knob.

There’s something satisfying about waking up every morning and knowing that there’s an established routine, but it’s never the same thing in a day. Monday through Thursday is all planting, fixing, and hammering. One morning could see you shooing chickens out of the newly planted garden, another might have you fixing a broken fence, or moving animals from one pen to another. Fridays are all about picking tons of vegetables to wash and sell at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

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A batch of radishes from the farm, washed and ready for selling.
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Kathleen bundling the last bit of leeks we were selling.
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A portion of our haul from Friday, being sold at the Market. Not shown are twenty or thirty bags of fresh spinach, and mesclun mix. Every last bit of vegetable was sold by the time the market was over.

Besides the delicious vegetables Kathy and Reid grow, they also sell hand-knit and dyed rugs, clothing, and yarn made from the wool on the farm and dyed naturally, of course. Sundays are off-days, where the work is minimal and you can relax and rest. Our first week was tremendously successful, and we can’t wait to make it back to finish our second week.

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