Last week I was squinting at my phone trying to identify some fuzzy little creatures that a friend had posted on Facebook - kittens..no...no..goslings..no...muppet babies? - turns out they were newly hatched chicks being raised by Brooke Kornegay and students at the ASU Sustainable Development Farm. I had been wondering which local farm I might visit first this growing season but after seeing these fuzzy hatchlings my next farm photo mission was clear.
Brooke who has managed the farm since its inception greeted and showed us around the grounds. She explained that it was still early days on the farm so not many things would be growing in the fields besides cover crops and some German hard-neck garlic.
The 359+ acre farm was a gently rolling landscape with an imposing old condemned barn, farm house and 1970's brick rancher.
I love old barns - especially the condemned kind - remnants of cattle tack hung from old beams as bright morning light seared through leaky chinking and worn herringboned timbers - and sort of making me feel as though a Close Encounters style spacecraft might be landing in the adjacent field!
Since ASU acquired the property from Beulah and Reeves Vannoy in 2011 as part of the Blue Ridge Conservancy many more structures have been built including hoop houses, hen houses, outhouses and this strikingly designed shed made by Sustainable Development students.
One hoop-house was filled on one side by starter trays for arugula, chard and various herbs.
And on the other by cultivated rows of kale and clover frothing from richly earthed beds.
We then returned to Brooke's office where the sounds of chirpy chick-lets shrilled the air. Luna vigilantly guarded their softly lit enclosure and eyed me suspiciously as I attempted to capture their chaotic maneuvers. Every once in a while one of them would suddenly doze off on its feet.
They were a feisty little brood comprised of Javas, Domininques, Silver Spangled Hamburgs and one lone Sylkie. Occasionally they had choice words for one another!
In the hen house the egg laying action was in full swing led by one very focused Cuckoomaran.
The hens strode confidently around their netted yards taking drinks from an old water feeder and basking in the morning sun.
Brooke explained how they worked hard to create super rich soils by composting and the vital support of nature's best enrichers - worms. She then proudly heaved a large tub from her office to show us in glorious and horrifying technicolor the worms at work. Warning! - Look away now if you fear what transpires in the dark heart of the Mother.
I pulled out my macro-lens for a really grisly close-up!
It was an amazing and revitalizing morning on the farm and I can't thank Brooke enough for showing us around. I promised to return in the fullness of Summer to capture the farm in a harvest kind of way.
And thanks as well to Luna for her sweet tempered tail-wagging company!