We've recently discovered the Franklin County "Extension Office." Like most states nationwide, North Carolina has an "agriculture and mechanic arts" land grant university, and here it's N.C. State University. Sure, they're the "Wolfpack," and they have a basketball program that some people are vaguely aware of. But more importantly for most people's purposes out here, they offer important advice and services to farmers--even, we've happily discovered, small-scale farmers like us.
The first thing is soil samples. Earlier today, Rosemary and I packed off soil samples from throughout Kleinshire for free analysis.
We took samples from the front garden, from the front and back of the back pasture, and from the front pasture. We're particularly interested in our soil composition because as we work to improve the forage for our horse Tarcy and for the fast-growing goat herd. It's also important because a sheep farmer down the road--Mr. Cheves, after whose grandfather our road is named--recently stopped by and told us the reason our tomatoes are doing so poorly is because the previous owner of our property made heavy use of an herbicide that is poisonous to nightshade variety crops (most importantly in this region tobacco, but certainly tomatoes as well).
So, we're eager to find out what our soil is like. And we were happily surprised to find that N.C. State will provide a soil analysis free of charge via the Extension Office in Louisburg, the seat of Franklin County.
The other discovery via the Franklin County Extension Office is 4-H. I was involved in 4-H throughout my childhood, showing chickens at the local Rosholt Fair back in Wisconsin. I'm excited that my own children will have a similar opportunity here in North Carolina. Cyprian is currently old enough for Cloverbud projects, and a few days ago he traveled to Wake Forest with other kids from the area to a paint studio. He's proud of his first project:
There is a local club in Bunn--the "Dirt Club," sponsored by Ray Family Farms. Cyprian won't be able to join until they open enrollment at the beginning of the next year. Nonetheless, he will be able to show goats at a 4-H fair in Henderson this coming September as an "at large" 4-H-er. We're excited about that--and he is too.
The last thing to reflect on at present is the neighborliness of our neighbors here. Besides Mr. Cheves stopping by with his gardening advice, just the other day I stopped by the hardware store in Bunn to find a socket with which to wind an old clock that I had purchased in Louisburg. It's a really cool clock, most likely from the woodwork dating to the mid or late nineteenth century:
Unfortunately, the winding mechanism fell right between two socket sizes. BUT, the gentleman at the hardware store said that he thought that he had an old clock key at home, and that he could bring it in tomorrow. To my surprise, though, he stopped by this evening to drop off the key. Now, Wisconsin is not the Northeast, but even back home I can't imagine a local hardware employee stopping by my house back home to drop something off. That's a positive reflection upon Southern hospitality, and upon the rural culture here in North Carolina in general. We're a long way from home, to be sure. But sometimes it's nice to be where we are.