Alabaman day one

Tuesday, January 21st
The Chastain Farms
Winterboro, AL

We will be spending the next two weeks on the Chastain Farm, right off of Chastain Road, which is lined with land and homes of Chastains past and present.

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The Chastain Farm land is owned by Jimmy Chastain. He used to have a dairy farm on the land, as well as a small grocery store. Then he sold off his cattle to some guy who offered him a great deal, and lost his store when the road out front was to be expanded into a 4-lane highway and they eminent-domained it out from under him.

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He lives in a house on the corner of the land away from the rest of the buildings, works at the school across the road. He is around a lot and helps with various things, but the main point man on the farm is Nathan, Jimmy’s son-in law – although he may have an equal or superior in the main point woman, his wife Rachel. Both have full time jobs, although Nathan’s computer-work job’s hours are highly flexible. The General in the field is Kimm, the couple’s close friend and the Farm Manager in all but actual title (she says shes an Office Manager, but that is far too narrow a title). She probably has actual boots on the land here for more hours than the other three combined, from what we can see so far.

Then there are kids and dogs. (Cats too, but they are wild & unnamed.) Nathan and Rachel have a 7 year-old son named Coleman and an Italian Mastiff named Moose, Kimm has a 14 year-old son named Jason, and Jimmy has his wife’s deceased son’s deaf-and-almost-totally-blind-yet-still-active-17-year-old cattledog named Speck. There are two other WWOOFers here, 20 year old Etti and 18 year-old Billy, both from southern California.

kitchen Kim
Kimm in the kitchen

 

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Morning reveals that the weather around us is changing yet again, as cold air moves in, via lots of intense wind. The winters in the South are not all that cold, but they are very dynamic. Windy weather means no greenhouse work – the plastic sheeting would fly away, perhaps with us attached.

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Every morning the animals must be fed. First, we give 2 scoops of sweet feed and one little scoop of minerals to the sweet, elderly horse Blossom – living out her retirement from a camp for the deaf and blind.

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Then a scoop to each of the three different groups of chickens, and whatever food scraps have accumulated for the four pigs, augmented by  a scoop or two of food as scrap volume necessitates.

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If anybody needs water added or de-iced, we do that. If we can find where the chickens are hiding their eggs today, we bring them in (other than the questionably-effective lure egg in the easy to get to location)

That didn’t take very long, and was a nice way to connect with the space and the animals – I can see it becoming a fun morning pre-breakfast ritual, like our morning walk down to the chicken coop at Yokna Bottoms.

Next we cleaned up a few rows of the garden – removing dead weeds and bean plants from a couple plastic-mulch-stripped rows, and pulling up said plastic from another row.

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Then we hiked back to the rear of the property, way back beyond the pigpen, to check out the “camphouse” – which we had hoped to be able to use as our sleeping quarters. However, it had no heat, no windows, and no electricity or plumbing – and it was getting cold at nights … while still well above zero, unlike the temps back home, they were still nothing we wanted to sleep out in. But the walk was pleasant, the woods were gorgeous – huge oaks with sparse pine understory and almost no undergrowth – and there was a scenic meadow clearing and pond beyond it.

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After lunch, the four of us set upon some piles of corn stalks and dried up bean plants, using a variety of axes and choppers – our goal being to manually break it down as much as possible for  the farm’s use in compost. (We personally prefer a more laissez faire approach, back home.)

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finely chopped corn stalks for compost
hey finely chopped corn stalks, can I axe you a question?

Kristin made chicken & dumplings with green beans for dinner, and Kimm made chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

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We set up a box fan to blow over the woodstove, across the pipe, and toward our room in the back. Etti was sleeping in the “coffee shop” next door, so we pushed the bunkbeds together and made a blanket cave out of the bottom two, using sleeping bags, pads and blankets from the van.

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It was a wonderful first day – we both went from skeptical to really liking the farm quite a bit, and being confident that we would enjoy our time here.

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