Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fairview, NC: Imladris Farm, visited by The Buncombe County Fruit Nuts

Have you ever heard of bio-char?

Here in Western North Carolina, both Kacy and I have suddenly become extremely busy with other projects and jobs.  Since we haven't had time to regularly post profiles of our interviewees lately, I'd like to copy/link a post from another great organization.

In March, I visited Imladris farm, a successful business focusing on rabbits and on berry jams.  An informal group, based in Asheville and calling themselves the Buncombe Fuit Nuts (formerly the more descriptive Buncombe County Fruit and Nut Club), organized a 30-person visit to Walter Harrill's small mountain farm, and I went along for the education and the photographs.  Walter is one of the more practical, warm, and generally nice-guy farmers that I've had the pleasure to meet!

Click here for the full post from the Fruit Nuts blog, and click the jump for a copied version of the post, with my photographs.

Fruit Nuts Visit to Imladris Farm

On Saturday March 19th, 25+ members (and a few potential members) of the Buncombe County Fruit Nuts spent a
fun and educational afternoon at Imladris Farm in Fairview.  This is a seventh generation farm, located in the Spring Mountain community of Fairview, was  established by the Marlowe family a looong time ago. Walter Harrill (one of them Marlowes), his wife, Wendy, and their son, Andy, owners of this beautiful place, hosted us. Walter gave us a wonderful two-hour tour of his operation.

The highlights of the tour included:
Inside the rabbit barn.
Observing an extensive field of Carolina Raspberries, and hearing Walter’s system for both maximizing the harvest, minimizing labor and keeping the ever-present perennial weeds at bay. Sawdust mulching, weed wacking and goats are involved. A smaller field of Chester blackberries were viewed and blueberries were discussed briefly. We entered a small and ancient barn currently used to house goats in winter. Walter explained how the cycle of straw bedding + goat droppings + chicken aeration + ground moisture makes this barn both a shelter and a wonderful compost factory.   A newly built structure housing lots of big rabbits was neat to see. The rabbits are a food and income source (sales to local restaurants and tailgate markets) and great fertilizer makers (their shit don’t smell, baby!)

Pile of raspberry canes we collected.

Making Bio-char.
The hands-on portion of the day involved gathering hundreds of pruned, spent, raspberry canes into a huge pile.  (Wow what a crew of 25 people can accomplish when working together for 30 minutes!) Then, in a highly scientific manner, we stuffed as many canes as possible into a 55 gallon metal drum and set them on fire. Whoosh! By closing the drum at precisely the right moment and letting the canes smolder for a predetermined length of time, biochar was produced. Marshmallows were not involved, nor was the local fire department. Check out this very informative video of Goodhearts friend John Rodgers making bio-char with a homemade unit here.  Niki found this informative website on biochar too.

The highlight of the day was a wonderful meal prepared by Wendy Harrill that included   rabbit stew, excellent green salads, herbal teas, homemade blueberry ice cream (a new product) and delicious blueberry/apple fruit leather. Thank you Wendy! We were also able to purchase frozen rabbit meat, fresh eggs and a variety of jams and preserves.  After dinner we gathered for a brief BFNC meeting.

Some of the items discussed were:
Tom K. has plans to add a blog onto the existing BFN Club Webpage(?) so members can hold discussions and show images there. He is also negotiating a Fruit/Nut visit to the Long Branch Environmental Education Center, possibly next month.

Andrew GB. Who has been keeping track of the temperature and bloom date of his fruit producing plants for a looong time now, said that although this early warm spell is causing plants to awaken a bit prematurely, we’re not too badly ahead of ourselves. Keep your fingers crossed, go out and talk to your plants and soil about slowing down. (And maybe dig the frost cloth out of the shed just in case?) Andrew is also considering a Fruit/Nut visit to his property in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Bill W is all het-up about quinces. He has a plan to get his quinces to pollinate better this year, and it may involve YOU. If you have quinces in bloom and can spare 5 to 10 cuttings of branches in bloom, bring them to the Earthfare parking lot (the parking area at the top of the ramp/driveway leading into the Earthfare lot). Meet there at 7pm on
Wednesday, March 23rd. Bill’s bees will do the rest, cross-pollinating with your quince blossoms and his and perhaps a good crop of fruit will be the result.

After this meeting the sane and reasonable Nuts left and those that remained got up to all kinds of mischief. Musical instruments and Mason jars of clear liquids were involved, but that’s all I know. In short, if you weren’t there you missed a hell of a great day!NikiB


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