I have no sense of direction and often get lost. Ask any of my friends or family members. It used to drive my boys crazy. Always turing around. I have a hard time reading maps and I don’t trust GPS systems. With good reason. I programmed in my destination this morning- Blowing Rock to Banner Elk- even though I know how to get there (I really do). I thought there might be a better or more scenic way to go. Better, not necessarily. More scenic, definitely. I ended up on a dirt road where I saw one house-
met three cars, ran over one big black snake (he was right in the middle of a one lane road- he might have already been squished by another car) and saw no bears. Thank goodness.
I was listening to Balsam Range‘s latest CD, Mountain Voodoo, and singing along. Maybe that kept the bears at bay?
I saw this tree all of sudden- seems to be signaling a fork in the road, right?
Non. I kept on going, sure I would end up on the right highway eventually. And I did. I ended up in Banner Elk where I roamed around for a few minutes before getting back in the car to find Apple Hill Farm. I read about it in High Country Magazine. I was supposed to get on 194N and somehow ended up on 184N until I realized that I couldn’t possibly be on the right track. Turn around… not always easy to find a place to do that on mountain roads, I might add.
Signs should be this straightforward–
Lee Rankin, a single mom, saw an alpaca, fell madly in love, bought an abandoned apple orchard and turned it into a farm. God bless her. It is a beautiful place. Mountains views on every side. I took a tour of the place with about 10 other folks from Florida, NC, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Yvonne was our guide, wearing this t-shirt-
Ag teachers from several counties were there for a workshop and Lee was helping them learn how to help their students.
We met Mr. Pickles, the pig. He is a rescue pig who was bullied by the other pigs he was hanging out with on another farm so Lee took him in. Snickers the cat is his BFF, but Snickers didn’t come to meet us.
There is a chicken coop. Lots of hens, one guinea and two roosters kept in separate coops. You know how roosters can be.
A couple of guard donkeys, Chip and his daddy. Meet Chip, who was quite friendly and a touch pushy with his dad. He literally pushed him out of the way once or twice.
Next up, Napoleon the shetland pony/horse. Prized for his studliness.
Maybe the ladies like the long shaggy hair/mane that falls over his face.
Angora goats. Beautiful and incredibly soft.
This one accidentally got pregnant. Teenagers. What can you do?
These two babies are twins.
There are guard llamas as well. It seems that a mountain lion got into the fence one day and killed several of the alpaca so Lee had to put several layers of protection into place, the donkeys, the llamas, and an electric fence. Meet Carly.
There is also a llama to guard the goats. What a sweet face.
The main attraction are the alpaca. They were shorn two weeks ago for their prized wool and to keep the cool in the summer heat. This is the only one who came close enough to check me out. They are skinny without all that lovely wool.
They are native to the Andes Mountains and although they can no longer be imported to the United States, there were several well-established herds before the ban was put in place so there are thriving farms of alpaca now. They seem to do well in the mountains of North Carolina.
This one’s legs weren’t sheared. The curly wool is prized- guess they are letting it grow a bit longer.
Lee has a garden, bees, and plenty to keep her busy. Pretty impressive. I learned that alpaca poop is called beans and is excellent fertilizer. It doesn’t smell and it doesn’t attract flies. Who knew?
I challenge you to throw that out into a conversation sometime. Did you know, by chance…
A few other photos-
I enjoyed my time at her farm immensely.
I then set off, turning on the GPS again, trying to get to Foscoe. I passed by this spooky abandoned house. The stuff ghost stories are made of, right?
I was looking for Grandfather Vineyards and Winery. I found it with no wrong turns on a road with many twists and hairpin curves.
There’s not much room to grow grapes here, so the winemaker brings grapes in from the Yadkin Valley as well as Lodi, California. I’ve been to Lodi. It is well-known for Zinfandel. All of the wines are made on site. The winemaker works with the fermentation classes at Appalachian State University to come up with a couple of his blends. They didn’t have that class back in the late ’70’s! I tasted dry whites and reds and then sat by the creek for a little bit and sipped a cold glass of verdelho, a grape I had never heard of before today.
I watched little kids doing what little kids are supposed to do in the summer- play in the creek. That restored my belief in kids. And parents.
I love this drawing that was done of the owner, Steve Tatum, and his dog. It graces the label of some of his wines. It is a family run operation, with Steve and Sally’s son, Dylan as the winemaker and general manager.
It started to rain, so I got in my car and headed back for my last retreat night. That’s Grandfather Mountain in case you can’t tell. You will just have to take my word for it.
I head for Mama Mildred’s tomorrow morning for the second part of my adventure.
Bonne route! Et bon appétit to all! Get lost once in a while. You never know what is just around the bend. And splash in a creek next time you get a chance. At least put your toes in!