All posts by Nevile Maina

LOTT FARM & APIARY

2016-07-01 11.06.22

LOTT FARM & APIARY


That man over there, the quiet one who works with bees and vegetables and mushrooms and songs, his name is Paul Lott. He’s smiling because the world is almost round or that today isn’t effortless or about a hive taking to a queen or because he enjoys his doing. Out on his farm, that man over there said, “The work is my pay. I go to sleep at night knowing I love what I did and gave it my all.”

Some farms are big for a fact while others show their size in the variety of things grown and tasks undertaken and interests explored. Lott Farm & Apiary in Waynesville, North Carolina, does vegetables and fruits and honey and gourds and woodcrafts and mushrooms and herbs. The weather is two weeks ahead of normal, warmer than normal, and here among the buckwheat and berseem clover Paul Lott stands looking at his apple trees and beehives. “Each has a role to fulfill, why I love them.” Paul is talking about bees. He speaks casually from his knowing about queens, colonies, gestation periods, drones, sugar-candy water, larvae, nectar flows, cycles and time. There is a craft to keeping each hive healthy, a long learning and honing and patience, the humility to be awed by things.

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With ties to Jacksonville, Florida, and Louisville, Kentucky, the Lotts moved to Haywood County in 1996. Paul arrived two years later to take care of his convalescing parents, Oscar and Gail, both of whom recently passed. There are sunflowers throughout the farm. Oscar Lott planted sunflowers at the end of each row because he believed one had to plant something for the soul. Paul does the same. Rows of vegetables end in booming sunflowers as tall as men with faces aloud. Some minutes from now, Paul will say, “It’s the difference between a sure thing you kinda do versus the unsure thing you love to do.”

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The dog follows us beyond a gate where chickens range under pockets of jewelweed in flower. Paul shows us the leaves and the stems and the roots. Jewelweed is a botanical remedy for poison ivy and poison oak. Nearby are neat stacks of logs and a deeper air smelling of damp and dirt. Paul became interested in mushrooms when looking for herbal remedies that would alleviate his father’s pain. He speaks casually from his knowing about lion’s mane, moistures, inoculations, shocking the logs, mycellum, rotation, tradeoffs, cycles and time. They reveal themselves, these arcs of curiosity that begin and bend and delve through knowing and not knowing.

There is a studio on the farm where Oscar Lott painted and sketched and carved. The walls are full of paintings spanning impressionism, German expressionism, abstract, and idyllic landscapes. On the easel sits an unfinished portrait of the young woman in Renoir’s “Dance at Bougival.” Oscar Lott could paint. Paul describes his father the way a proud son would of a man who lived to be 87 years old when the doctors said he would die in his boyhood from a medical condition. Oscar made it through World War II and the shipyards of Jacksonville. Here is a painting of a winter scene with stark tree limbs under a brittle sky. Paul loves the way his father used purple in the sky and blues in the snow. Later when he sits us down in his home, Paul Lott picks up a guitar and plays and sings. “Once I lived the life of a millionaire, spent all my money, I just did not care. Took all my friends out for a good time, bought bootleg whiskey, champagne and wine…” A good song. Paul plays the guitar warm and pure, doesn’t beat the strings or cane the chords. He sings low and true, this man.

Fiddlehead Farms and The Growth of the Soil

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Named after the curled frond of a baby fern, Fiddlehead Farms in Clyde, North Carolina, was founded by John Michael and Stacey Thompson in 2006. Inspired by a friend, the couple made the leap from an organic home garden to an organic market garden in 2010. Since that time, they have made available their harvest and wool products through the Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market.

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John and Stacey met at Clemson while studying animal science and horticulture respectively. The day before he left for the Appalachian Trail, John told Stacey what they both knew. There were fiddleheads along the trail, packages from her at resupply points, and step by step good friends became something more.

Three-year-old Hazel is planting flowers this season. The smiling boy with keen eyes is Conrad in his eighteenth month. Watching his son play on the grass in front of Hart Theater, John says, “It’s really not about growing vegetables but about growing the soil.” The  farmstead is also home to five sheep, two alpacas, and a guard llama named Secret. At the edge of their booth is a bundle of wool with the picture of a sheep named Jonas, one of the first Shetlands at Fiddlehead Farms. Through the hows and whys in our conversation, Stacey recalls her grandparents’ farm in Iowa where her grandmother taught her how to spin and crochet, treat fabric with natural dyes, and waste not want not. She says, “I learned to mix yellows with indigos to find green.” These days it is about soil that can’t sit still and not enough hours in a day. Even so, the inspiration is always family. John hands thin slices of green apple to Conrad while Hazel eats her sandwich. Before the children awoke, John and Stacey gathered today’s fare to make sure it was fresh for the market. What is out of sight are those hours before dawn picking radishes and additional hours at other jobs for the sake of the farmstead. Also unknown to most is how much John likes Pink Floyd, that Stacey weed-eats the gardens with a flame, and that the lady buying radishes at the booth was Conrad’s midwife.

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The market day is almost over and people are packing up their wares. Stacey: “What’s great is that if we don’t have what someone is looking for, we feel safe recommending other vendors.” And you wonder about words: the honest kind you tell a friend before you hike the Appalachian Trail; the grandmother ones that teach; the soothe sounds for a child; and the grateful kind to those growing theirs and others soil.