Sunday was the day they ran this year's Daytona 500 race down in Florida. Fifteen or so years ago I might have been in Daytona Beach covering the race from the pits and the infield turns. It was fun to do, but that business went away. I did get to shoot some motorsports in Grays Chapel, however. Neighbor Brandon McMasters and his friends (Mike Routh above) got together on his dad's farm and did a little rock crawling. Basically, take a four wheel drive vehicle with big tires for clearance and a very modified suspension and drive up a very big rock without destroying the truck or turning over. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Traditionally, when most folks think of barn colors, they think red. In Randolph County, North Carolina, most of the older barns are unpainted. There are a few red ones, however, like this classic dairy barn just east of Ramseur.
While watching Kevin Ford work was a definite pleasure, the shearing weekend was by no means a one-man job. Along with Kevin, top blade shearer Emily Chamelin from Maryland did her share of the shearing as did Joy Moore who was learning from two masters. Of course, Rising Meadow Farm owners Ann and Ron Fay were there moving sheep and inspecting, weighing and cleaning the fleeces with help from the Walls family.
Thursday and Friday of last week I spent several hours at Rising Meadow Farm in Grays Chapel, North Carolina, watching sheep being sheared during the farm's annual shearing weekend. It was a new experience for me, for while I was raised on a cattle farm and I am familiar with pigs and goats as well, I have never been around sheep and had never actually witnessed one being sheared. What made the experience even more fascinating was the folks doing the shearing were doing it with hand powered shears or “blade shearing”. To top it off, the lead shearer was Kevin Ford, from Charlemont, Massachusetts, arguably the most experienced blade shearer in the United States and one of the top shearers in the world. Kevin has written “the” book on blade shearing, he gives workshops, and he competes in shearing contests in this country and internationally. He also shears commercially, traveling from Massachusetts south to North Carolina every year shearing flocks along the way.
Blade shearing is slower than shearing with electrical clippers, but it easier on the sheep and leaves a little more wool on the sheep for protection. There seems to be more control and finesse involved with hand blades, and it was fascinating watching Kevin work with a sheep. The control he had over the blade and the sheep was amazing. I felt very lucky to be able to watch a master at his profession work the first time I was witness to it and I am appreciative of Kevin and the folks at Rising Meadow Farm for letting me get close to the action and to answer all my questions.
This weekend was the annual shearing time at Rising Meadow Farm in Grays Chapel, North Carolina. I spent several hours on Thursday and Friday watching the sheep being sheared, a unfamilar but fascinating experience for me. I grew up around southern livestock, cows, pigs, horses and the occasional goat. Sheep are new to me, so I enjoyed watching the master blade shearers work, and, I must have asked a thousand questions. I hope to post several images this week, so please check back.
I'm continuing my posting today with more architectural shots. Millboro is a community near my home in Grays Chapel, North Carolina that grew up on a spur line of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad as a supply point for local textile mills. The railroad also provided access for rich Northerners to bring their private railroad cars for bird hunting in the 1920s at the Halliday Hunting Lodge. The shot above is of a wooden water tank used at the hunting lodge and the image below is of the old Millboro Store.
As I wander around Randolph County, I use a copy of a book, "Architectural History of Randolph County, N.C." written by attorney and friend Mac Whatley. It is an extensive guide of the interesting and important buildings in the county. Unfortunately, Mac wrote the book in 1985 and as I search for many of the structures, I learn that more and more of them no longer exist. It's amazing how fast these great pieces of architecture can disappear. I haven't counted, but as many as half or more of the structures in the book are gone. In addition, the railroad line that once ran through Millboro is itself gone, having been torn up and removed several years ago.
Cousin Thomas Routh works in his greenhouse on a warm afternoon last week in Grays Chapel, North Carolina. Thomas and his wife Lula Mae raise a large tract of vegetables they sell at the local farmer's market. This year they are branching out into hanging flower baskets as well.