On the Farm Tour: Turtle Run Farm

TurtleRun-sign.jpgEver since using the “Use-Yer-Foot” hand washer at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Music Festival in 2007, I’d wanted to visit Turtle Run Farm, home of the inventor, Kevin Meehan. This year on the Farm Tour weekend, I was once again out at Shakori Hills, surrounded by Use-Yer-Foots, contraptions made of PVC pipe and water jugs that allow for an un-wasteful flow of hand-washing water, controlled by one’s foot—first soapy, then clear. (See them at http://useyerfoot.com/. ) So on Saturday morning, I packed my tent and gear onto my bike and pedaled northwest to Saxapahaw.

TurtleRun-greenhouse.jpgThe roads that took me there—White Smith, Castle Rock, and Lindley Mill—were consistently beautiful and peaceful. I passed by the Lindleys’ Mill, the original building now painted a pale blue, the newer tall storage silos sitting practically on the roadside.  The whole place was quiet for the weekend, not humming like the last time I went out there to buy flour. And finally I was pulling up at the gate of Turtle Run Farm, flanked on both sides by cars parked on the grass and marked with a hand-lettered sign.

TurtleRun-compost.jpgA nonstop tour was going around the farm in a circle—I joined the group at the greenhouse, a triangular frame building built into a low hill, where plants grew in trays on tables and also right in the earth floor. Next the tour walked past fields to the worm compost pile, which looked like an ordinary leaf pile. The family puts compostables in one side, covering them with leaves to keep the worms’ temperature nice. The new food scraps lure the worms in their direction; as the worms progress, munching on the compostables, the whole pile slowly migrates around the yard. Finished compost is pulled out of the pile’s backside—Kevin demonstrates this, first showing the quiet group a handful of worms he has pulled out, then reaching into a different spot to extract a handful of compost. The pile had recently run up against a tree; Kevin described how he’s placing food scraps around the side of the pile to lead the worms around, until the pile is clear to move in a new direction.

TurtleRun-Kevins-hat.jpgEverything at Turtle Run made sense. The garden rows alternated with vegetables and a tall grassy cover crop. Kevin demonstrated how he walks on the cover crop, weaving the dried grasses together with his legs until they lay flat. These woven grasses are out of the way of the vegetables and make an ideal hideout for predator bugs who keep the insect pest population down. There were buildings made entirely out of reused materials, and a homemade heating system involving a huge vat of water that’s heated by the sun and later carried under the house in pipes. It works so well, the family only had to use the wood-fired-stove backup four times the past winter. “We’re heating with yesterday’s sunshine!” Kevin told visitors with a grin.

TurtleRun-useyerfoot.jpgAs we neared the greenhouse once again, someone arrived to buy a Use-Yer-Foot, the last one left. I felt sorry that future visitors would miss seeing it, but it was fascinating to watch it being packed up: the water jugs and basin were removed, and with one quick motion their stand was folded up; every pipe had a place to go, a cord to hold it in place.

The only disappointment at Turtle Run Farm was the Mulch Mobile. I’d long wanted to ride on it, but it turned out to be a toddler-sized wagon full of hay, with large off-road tires for rolling across the rugged farm terrain. As I left, a couple arrived with a toddler, and Kevin called out, “Do we need the Mulch Mobile?”

Enjoy the Mulch Mobile while you’re little enough! Visit Turtle Run Farm on the Farm Tour.