A few weeks ago my husband and I packed up his car, kissed the kids goodbye and hit the road. They were left in the capable hands of Grandma, who I knew would spoil them with homemade cobbler and all their favorite meals.
After some hours, we were in the mountains. The trees were tall and the roads winding. We were headed, not to a hillside resort or a house on the beach, but to a farm.
Well, first we were headed to a hotel. The drive was long so we got there the night before the event: The Spring Festival at Elisha Spring Farm in West Virginia. (So the title of this post should now click with you. If it doesn't, I suggest you brush up on your American folk music)
First thing the next morning, we showered, put on our jeans, laced up our work boots and headed out to the farm. Since we slept in as late as possible, I put on my makeup on the way. The husband said "You're wearing makeup to this thing?" Umm... I wear makeup everywhere. Does he not know that by now? Pulled a small pair of earrings out and put those on, too.
Anyway, ket me just say I'm glad he drove. Twisty roads with no guardrails do not induce calm in me. We were warned that the gravel driveway was steep and rough, and man were they not kidding. Bouncing along it reminded me of those old movies where people ride mechanical bulls in country bars. It was also narrow but again, I wasn't driving.
After check-in, we headed to the deck under the log cabin for breakfast. Neither of us are heavy eaters that early in the morning, so we grabbed some fruit and found a seat. I saw a few familiar faces and introduced them to my husband.
The next couple of days were lots of fun. I got to actually see an A-frame level in action and witness a swale being dug. I was surprised at how little time it took. Most of the work was in deciding where the swale should be and siting it correctly. After that Charlie (who lives at the farm full-time) used a tractor and two-blade hoe to construct the swale. The rest of us dug out the bottom just a bit, neatened up the edges of the swale, planted and mulched it.
Rolling out a hay bale to use as mulch
They had an unexpected treat for us that first night: a live band during dinner. When I asked who they were, I was told "The Neighbors." I thought at first that was the name of the band, but as it happened, they were literally the neighbors from the next farm over. They put all their stuff on a flat bed, drove it over and got to playing. They played a few bluegrass/country hits, including "Country Roads."
The lead singer had great stage presence--and the shiniest gray mullet you've ever seen. Wonder what kind of conditioner he uses?
I wanted to request "The Gambler", but alas, the hubs wanted to get down that treacherous driveway while it was still light enough to see, so I didn't get the chance. (Some adventurous/thrifty souls camped out on the property, but not us. We wanted to have a comfortable bed and take long, hot showers. Those who camped had to take quick showers and get out so the next person could get clean. Also, I didn't much fancy trekking across the grounds in my bathrobe and flip flops, carrying a shower bucket as I did when I lived in the dorms.)
Nick Ferguson did his misting bed presentation, we got to see Chris Prater demonstrate two ways of making knives (and caught his bee-keeping presentation) and attended a lecture on compost. I have no interest whatever in keeping bees, but Chris was riveting, and funny. Unfortunately I was a bit sleepy by the time we got to the session on compost, so I nodded off a little. What I did hear was interesting enough to lead me to purchase humic acid from the presenter, though.
Chris Prater showing how it's done
In between sessions and during meals there was plenty of time to chat. We got into a discussion of parenting teenagers with Patrick Roehrmann of MT Knives at dinner the first day, and Nick Ferguson had us all rolling with his airport security tales. Patrick's neck knives are de rigueur, by the way. More than half the attendees were sporting one, including Nick and Jack Spirko. I tried to get Patrick to make one with a red patent-leather crocodile case for me, but no dice.
Just hanging out. Don't ask that guy in the middle for a fashion-forward knife sheath, though.
We didn't get to walk the entire property because it rained too much on Saturday. Too bad, there were some swales up a steep hill I never got to see. I really liked the contour beds that had planted with all kinds of goodness like several varieties of lettuce. I may try that on a smaller scale here. It's a beautiful property with breathtaking views.
The view from the deck of the main house. You can see some of the vegetable beds off in the distance
We stayed for the barter exchange the second night. Chris Prater kicked it off by presenting custom boxes to a select group of key people. He gave a moving talk on the unique meaning of custom, hand made items. Then it was time to barter! Too wet for a good fire, so they pulled out a camp light instead. Unfortunately I missed all the handmade dragons brought by Callie, but there was still some good stuff. I scored some comfrey salve (which I've already had occasion to use) and some comfrey root.
After making the rounds for goodbyes, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day's journey.
By the way this is me with Nick Ferguson and his wife Catie (and thei bundle in the carrier) Purposely blurred because I forgot to re-up my lipstick and my twist-out isn't laying right. Next time I do one of these events I'll be sure to bring a mirror and touch myself up throughout the day