December brought some travel for our crew, but that is nothing unusual. There were several days we were able to enjoy the mild South Carolina weather. Christmas Day turned out to be one of those days. We walked to the back of the farm and down to the swamp. The spring was bubbling away at the swamps edge, it was quiet and peaceful (before the girls arrived). We all enjoy the sounds of birds and frogs that are down at the waters edge. You never know when a giant Pileated Woodpecker will sound a warning call in a tree above you.
Chas and the girls traveled to Kentucky to spend time with her grandparents, and I made a separate trip to North Carolina to spend time with my family. The small amount of farm animals we have (rabbits) require someone to be here so it is hard for us to take longer adventures without someone to critter-sit. It was nice to spend Christmas Day with our girls. A camp fire made the day complete…
We left the North Carolina Mountains after spending Christmas with my family. Our goal was yet another new experience for us, we were headed to South Carolina to dive in to our first WWOOFing experience. WWOOFing, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a very similar program to Workamping. One of the coolest things about WWOOFing is it is an international program, so there are a bunch of countries that participate. Every farm that participates in the program has different expectations from their WWOOFers, and they offer different benefits to program participants. We happened to find a farm that was accepting of our large crew (we had another adult couple traveling with us that we met in Oregon, they worked the beet harvest and Amazon with us too) that included pets and kids. We arrived at Halve Ewe Herd late one evening after a cold trip from the mountains (when we left Boone, it was in the single digits with very high winds). This picture was taken during our overnight stay at the Boone Walmart before we left.
The day we arrived at the farm, the weather was cool but much better than what we left. We took some time getting settled in, then we went to work over the next few days learning about the operation of the farm. Working with Joe turned out to be a great experience. He was born in a tenant house on the property, and has basically worked on the farm his whole adult life (except for a few years). He is a wealth of information, and an awesome person in general. Here is Joe working in one of the gardens with Louis (one of the adopted travelers that came with us) and Lydia. Also, some of the beautifully tasty Red Russian Kale in the garden.
Since this is the first time we had spent time on such a large piece of property, we had to explore the vast expanse and discover all of the cool spots to visit. First on the agenda was a spring located at the back corner of the property, along the border with the Santee River Swamp. The spring at the edge of the swamp had abundant amounts of crystal clear water bubbling up out of the pearly white sand on the bottom. The water flows out and turns black around 100 feet away as it becomes part of the black-water swamp. It became a favorite place to visit during our stay. Vaughn and Thomas are showing everyone the hollow cypress tree at the spring, and pointing out wild edible plants along our journey. Vaughn is the property owner (khaki pants), and Thomas (camo pants) a longtime friend of Vaughn’s is the current WWOOFing coordinator for the farm.
Shortly after we arrived, Vaughn and Thomas wanted to show us what fresh seafood was like in Charleston. We zipped over to Bowens Island Restaurant for some local oysters, and they did not disappoint. It is a great experience and highly recommended if you are in the Charleston area. I do have to warn you, the oyster shells are sharp, but it is worth the pain.
Back at the farm, one of the first projects we were involved in was tearing down one of the old tenant houses (not the one that Joe was born in, but it is scheduled to be torn down too). We used a tractor to pull the exterior walls down, but the final collapse was a little harder to come by than we expected. Louis (one of our traveling caravan) and Shaun, Joe’s nephew, had a plan (Note: I never said it was a good one) that finally worked. I guarantee Louis had never ran that fast in his life, and hopefully won’t ever need to again…
We spent a lot of time in the farm house (one of the perks of WWOOFing here), it became a community space for entertainment and feasting (Did I mention that Thomas is also an awesome chef). The meals we had around the huge table in the house will always be remembered, this is just a portion of some of the goodies we shared. Some of the more musical in the bunch entertained us on a regular basis, laughter was a great way to pass the idle time.
The weather this past winter was very unpredictable all across the country, and the South Carolina Low Country was no exception. January had some great mild days that we could harvest and plant goodies, and the first ice storm of the two we would endure that winter. The picture of Chas and Lilah with the kale baskets was taken 2 days after the photo of the bus covered in ice. Even though it got cold at times, it didn’t stay that way for more than a day or two which was nice. The last picture is the beginning stage of a rabbit house I designed and built from wood we salvaged from the house we demolished.
I had a ton more pictures and videos from January at and around the farm, but these are the highlights. I will be updating the blog with a month by month update during our time in South Carolina. When we arrived at the farm, our plans were to stay until the end of January. Then we were going to Louisiana to another farm for a while. I was asked to stay and work on the farm as the Farm Manager for the season, so we decided to stick around a while. We had lots of new experiences and made many new friends in the area. Come back and check out the other posts soon….
We rolled through Wyoming and made it to South Dakota to our campground, which happened to be within sight of the Crazy Horse mountain. We didn’t go to the monument since we could see it from our campsite, I am sure it would have been interesting for the adults, but the kids weren’t excited about going.
We drove Boober from our campsite to Mt Rushmore to spend a few hours checking it out. Our first glimpse of the mountain was made a little more exciting due to the presence of some mountain goats that were chilling just above the road.
The museum had lots of interactive exhibits, so we all took our time checking out the place. It was neat watching the girls soak in all of the information that was very well presented to them. I am amazed that more lives weren’t lost in the making of this monument, it was truly an amazing undertaking. Our visit to Mt Rushmore only lasted a couple hours, we were tired from all the traveling and I was ready to get to our spot in North Dakota for the beet harvest. We did enjoy some vanilla ice cream that was supposedly Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe before we left though.
Badlands National Park was our next brief stop on this leg of our trip. I wish we had more time to explore this area, it is amazing how stunningly beautiful weathered piles of dirt could be. As we were leaving the park, the storms that were rolling across the countryside were dropping visible bands of rain. You can see these in the last picture of the Badlands section below. I don’t think I remember seeing this before.
Wall Drug has got to be on your list of things to do as you are driving across South Dakota. Don’t worry, the crazy road signs tell you how far you are away from there so you don’t have a chance of missing it. It is touristy for sure, but it was a nice stop on a hot day of traveling. They have excellent root beer floats and ice cream (the ice cream seems to be a trend on this post).
Our last stop in South Dakota was the World’s Only Corn Palace. This is another stop I recommend, it is unique and full of great information on one of the most valuable commodities in the world. All of the art work outside the building, and around the inside, is made from different colors of corn. They were finishing up this years designs the day we arrived so you can see one of the masterpieces coming together. The girls loved being able to run around on the gym style floor, so we let them burn some energy before we got back on the road.
We were only in South Dakota for 3 days, so we took a lot in in a short time. I knew sugar beets were in my future, so we headed to our campground for the next month. This year would be my first year as Night Shift foreman at the Hillsboro Sugar Beet Yard, and only my 2nd year at the harvest. Beet posts will be coming soon, stay tuned…