Alpacas vs Llamas: Telling the Two Apart

During the Nebraska State Fair, Garrett and I walked through the various barns. We found ourselves in the alpaca/llama/goat barn where we admired all the animals, and got a chuckle out of the costume contest going on.
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There was one alpaca (see picture) that was quietly and constantly “talking.” It was a bit of a groan mixed with a hum.
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Garrett, being Garrett, decided to talk back. I think they carried on the conversation for a good 5-7 minutes until a random man came walking by, looked at the alpaca, and said, “llama, llama, llama” very fast and very loudly, and then left. Garrett and the his new alpaca buddy, stared at each other shocked and appalled. You see, alpacas and llamas, while camelid cousins, are not the same.
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If you want to avoid calling an alpaca a llama and vice versa, there are a few signs to look for. Know the differences and avoid offending these guys. You’ll also prevent yourself from looking a bit silly like that llama, llama, llama man did.

Ears: Perhaps the easiest distinguishing factor between llamas and alpacas is their ears. Llamas have banana shaped ears while alpacas have straight, pointed ears.

Size: Alpacas are much smaller than their cousins, weighing around 100-200 pounds. Llamas weigh 250-450 pounds.

Fiber: Alpacas are known for their soft, luxurious fiber. A llama’s fiber is much coarser.

Purpose: Llamas are used as pack or guard animals. Alpacas are used for their fleece. Llamas are actually used to protect alpaca herds.

Temperament: Llamas are rather brave and bold, hence their purpose. Meanwhile, alpacas are shy and more docile.

Now, test yourself–is the costume class pictured above for llamas or alpacas?

I wonder if Garrett would be up for an alpaca now that he’s bonded with one? Good thing we live in an apartment, so it isn’t really an option 😉

 

Mason & Taylor: Engagement Session

Mason and Garrett were fraternity brothers and through various fraternity events, Taylor and I met as well. I’m so thankful that the fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho, brought us all together. Mason and Taylor are such a joy to be around, and I love watching the two of them together. I couldn’t be more thrilled for their engagement.

Just as the sun was rising on a Sunday morning, I met with Taylor and Mason for a sunrise session. This was my first sunrise photo shoot, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it went. The lighting was perfect, and Mason and Taylor were total pros in front of the camera. They chose to have their photos taken at Mason’s parents’ house. What’s really special about this location is this is where Mason proposed! How awesome is that?

We spent our time at the pier, had a photo bomber of the feline variety, and took more pictures at the neighborhood church. They wanted to make sure to get some photos at the cross, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate photo on a glorious Sunday morning.

Mason and Taylor are such a wonderful couple, and I am so excited to share their engagement session with you!

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Gus the Ram & Gideon: Winning on Hope

Seven. That was the final count for how many ram lambs we had born this year. As the saying goes, there’s always the one black sheep. This year, it was very true. Sybil had given us the only natural colored ram of the year. Born on a windy day, he was dubbed Gusty and Gus for short.

I’m not sure why, but Gus was friendlier than any other lamb that year. As such, Gideon formed an attachment.

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The “black sheep” of the bunch of rams, Gus was special to Gideon

“Don’t get attached. We don’t keep rams,” we continually reminded him. No matter, Gid is the king of making excuses. The final one he landed on was if Gus wins at the NC State Fair, we had to keep him. I just shook my head, but let him hope.

Gideon spent extra time on Gus the days before the show. He trimmed his “dreadlocks” from his face, and gave him a buzz cut. He washed him, and he put show sheen in his fleece. He even had a special halter picked out just for Gus, although I’m not sure why pink and blue was the choice (the halters would later get mixed up in the chaos of the show).DSC_6013

 

I had to admit, Gus looked good. He had one of my favorite fleeces of the group, and I couldn’t help but wish he had been a ewe.

When we arrived at the show, we walked the pens of sheep to scope out the competition and view the various breeds. I secretly told mom that night that it was tough competition this year. Don’t get your hopes up. So, we didn’t, but Gid did.

Because Gus is a ram, he couldn’t show in the junior show. So Gid showed his mom, and waited patiently to be able to bring him in the ring during open show. When it came time for Gus’s class, Gideon did a little jump and clapped his hands in excitement.

He won first, and Gid was grinning.

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Hugs in the middle of the ring for winning his class.

He then went in for champion Medium/fine Natural Colored Ram.

He won grand champion in that division.

Gideon came out of the ring with the biggest smile and said, “now we have to keep him…”

I told him not to let his head get too big, but he did a good job.DSC_6243Gus didn’t win overall champion ram, but he did win his fleece class.

Gideon thought he was done for the day, but there was still Overall Grand Champion Fleece yet to be decided. Back in he went with his prize ram—Gus, and out he came with the champion banner, a plaque, and the biggest grin you ever did see. Gus had won it all.

I smiled and shook my head at this (not so) little boy and his little ram, my heart filled with pride. I looked back over to see Gid on his knee talking to Gus, telling him what an awesome job he did.DSC_6290Believing in someone or something can go a long way, especially when hope is involved. Gideon and Gus won on that, and now, I think Gus is staying on Countryview Farm.

A Different Kind of Fair: 2018 NC State Fair Recap

Another year has come and gone at the NC State Fair, but this year was different in many ways. I had to travel by air this time to get there thanks to living in a new zip code, but I was willing to do whatever it took to be there. I’m pretty sure hell would have to freeze over before I gave up State Fair.Image-8It was different in more than the airplane ride this year, though. This is the first year in 16 years of showing at the fair that the Lintons have not shown a goat at the fair. What?! There was a time that I never thought I’d say that. Granted, there was a time when I swore I’d never own a sheep. Here we are, bringing 18 of them to the fair. Never say never. This was also the first year that Alec didn’t show. Adulting, man…it’ll get you. He was able to join us after the sheep show to help us load sheep and eat fair food.DSC_6328Yet another aspect that was different this year was that the fair closed the first day due to Hurricane Michael. Guess who had a flight scheduled to land that day? This girl. Thankfully, the storm had blown over by the time I arrived. Somehow, I managed to miss the five inches of snow Lincoln, NE got and the hurricane rains. I did bring fall temperatures with me (your welcome NC).

Anyway, there was a lot going on. Everything worked out, though. On Friday morning we headed to show Isaac and Gideon’s infamous pigs. The boys had a lot of difficulty with these pigs throughout the circuit shows, and it was killing me not to be there for them. Facetime and text updates were what I had to resort to. Aldo and Mack were stubborn and loved the rail (not a good combo for shows). The boys were nervous heading into showmanship drive, and to be frank, I was too. I felt like throwing up. Granted, this is normal for me when they are in the ring. I gave them a pep talk with a few pointers and in they went.

I could have screamed when Gideon got pulled for the final drive and was doing mental praise hands when Isaac did too. Our goal was final drive. Anything else was sprinkles. My nerves were still bad, though. Bad enough to give my friend and bridesmaid, Joanna, the finger. Not THE finger, but the “hang on/cannot deal right now” finger. Thankfully she totally understood and watched from the rail. Isaac ended up in the final 5 and did so good. Good enough that I was in tears (just think what it will be like with my own kids). While neither G nor I got a banner, they both ended up in top 6. They stuck with it, kept cool heads, and drove those pigs. I was dern proud.DSC_3879DSC_4613The rest of the day was spent catching up with friends and running around taking people’s photos. Thank you to all who entrusted me with taking pics of your kids. You helped pay for my plane ticket to be there!DSC_4590DSC_3873DSC_4585DSC_4634DSC_4226The day at the fair concluded with me showing in the performance hog show. Ya’ll,  I’ve been coaching the boys on showing pigs, but showing them yourself…man, I felt rusty. Nonetheless, I had a ball showing the barrow and ended up with a Reserve Champion Market Performance Hog for See Farms. My day was made complete with a trip to CookOut. They don’t have those in NE.DSC_4666The second day at the fair was a bit different than the first, but it was still busy. My Fit Bit let me know that I achieved 8,000 steps that day. Instead of showing, I was on the job for the Sale of Champions. I helped check buyers in, took photographs, and videod the sale with my partner in crime, Emily. It was a record-breaking sale, bringing in $190,000, some of which goes to scholarships. It is always a ton of fun to work the Sale, and I often pinch myself that this is my job! Once the sale was complete and the truck loaded, Emily and I headed to the Golden Arches for dinner at 10 at night followed by a tour of her new apartment. I got home around midnight to get up the next morning for a sunrise engagement shoot for some friends. It was early, but amazing lighting and so much fun!Image-6Image-10The next few days were spent washing and clipping 18 sheep. Let me tell you, this is no easy or speedy task. It took us a solid 2 ½ days to complete. The sheep, of course, despised us, but didn’t look like a hot mess for the show. One sheep, Cain, even did a flip in the air and landed in the mud—he got washed twice. Mom, grandma, Isaac, Gid, and I clipped until dark while Dad and Alec built a divider for the trailer. The guys also built a new sheep stand, that made much easier. Those nights, we didn’t eat until 8.DSC_5984DSC_5948DSC_5971DSC_5965DSC_5981DSC_6017Image-7Image-9On Wednesday, Mom, the boys, and I loaded up the truck with all our feed and supplies and put all the sheep in the trailer. By the way, that is simple to write, but not simple to do. Catching sheep isn’t always a walk in the park. Thankfully, I have brothers who are excellent sheep wranglers.Image-11We were off to the races…errr… show. The fair had decided to rearrange things a bit which meant no backing trailers for this girl. I approved of the new set-up. The vets were super helpful, and we got the 18 sheep checked-in in no time. After some last-minute touch-ups, we headed back home for some Brightleaf hot dogs (because you can’t get those in NE either), grabbed our bags, and headed back to Raleigh to stay in a hotel. The show was early, and we didn’t want to deal with morning traffic.

Sheep show day arrived. We were hopeful for many of our sheep, but also knew that it was a bigger show than years before, with new people. The next several hours went in a blur. While we brought 18 sheep, we showed many sheep more than once because they were entered in both the junior show and open show. All in all, we entered the ring around 50 different times! No, I’m not exaggerating. I just did the math. The boys didn’t show them all. I showed in the open show. Let me tell you…it’s weird having your name called Marisa See over the speaker phone…yet another difference this year.DSC_6070DSC_6081DSC_6265DSC_6267DSC_6165DSC_6271DSC_6196DSC_6199DSC_6203DSC_6182DSC_6258DSC_6147DSC_6144DSC_6125DSC_6068Ultimately, we couldn’t be more thrilled with how it all went. We came home with many top 3 in classes and a few champion banners! Our top honors included:

Junior Show:

  • Reserve Champion Junior Ewe–Georgette
  • Grand Champion NC Born and Bred Ewe–Georgette

Open Show:

  • Medium/fine White Grand Champion Ram–Churchill
  • Medium/fine White Reserve Champion Ram–Pierre
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ram–Gus
  • Medium/fine Natural Grand Champion Ewe–Stormi
  • Medium/fine Natural Reserve Champion Ewe–Georgette
  • Supreme Grand Champion Fleece–Gus

Gideon also came away with the Grand Champion Junior Showman and both boys placed in costume class.DSC_6398DSC_6320DSC_6317DSC_6303Each of the boys is attached to a certain sheep. It does my heart good to see them cheer on their sheep as much as I cheer on the boys. Isaac’s prize sheep is Astrid. While she didn’t win a banner, she did win top NC Born and Bred in her class. She is, and always will be Isaac’s Astrid. Gideon has bonded with Gus, our only natural born ram this year.  Well, Gid and Gus won not only their division, but took home the top honor of Grand Champion Fleece, beating out purebreds (we always get odd looks at our crosses, but we also get results) and people out of state. DSC_6162DSC_6243Alec was able to get off work early to meet us right as the show was ending. So, the whole family was able to head out on the fair to ride some rides (bumper cars and Ferris wheel being my only rides), and eating all our favorite food.DSC_6414DSC_6410DSC_6422DSC_6463DSC_6465DSC_6457DSC_6407DSC_6435DSC_6492DSC_6440Image-5It was a wonderful day! We packed up by 9, and headed home. I caught a flight the next morning at 10am back to NE. I now sit here in between the classes I teach, reminiscing on the 2018 NC State Fair and time with family and friends. While I wish I were back to be with them, I’m also happy to be back with my husband who had to lead a bachelor life while I was gone and deal with the very needy and moody Callie Cat. This was also our first state fair not together.Image-4Needless to say, this NC state Fair was a tad different than years past, but it still holds all the wonder as before. I still made memories with the people I love, and still enjoyed the fried food and livestock shows as much as ever. NC State Fair, you are worth every mile I traveled to reach you, and while there’ a lot of changes happening in life right now, you stood pretty constant.DSC_6473

 

 

 

A Weekend in Western Nebraska

With Labor Day approaching, the hubs and I decided to explore this state of Nebraska we now call home. Taking advantage of the long weekend, we made a plan, booked a hotel, and ended up having an awesome time!

After Garrett’s last class on Friday, we packed the car and began our 6 hour trip from Lincoln to Scottsbluff, NE. The landscape changed from flat fields of corn to rolling prairie filled with cattle.

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Scottsbluff greeted us with spectacular sunset skies that made a beautiful backdrop for Chimney Rock. We were starving by the time we got to town at 8:30pm so ate before checking into the hotel for the night.

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When in western Nebraska, the first thing you should do is leave Nebraska. No, seriously, that is exactly what we did. We drove the 45 minutes to Register Cliff which is in Wyoming. Register Cliff was a stopping point for settlers on the Oregon Trail. There are hundreds of names inscribed from those who had traveled the trail centuries ago. It was amazing to see the names and imagine who they were and what their story was. We even found someone with the last name of See…pretty unusual when we haven’t even met someone else with our last name before.

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Our next stop was off of the same road as Register Cliff. The Guernsey Ruts are wagon ruts carved into rock. Hundreds and thousands of wagons made the trek west, and their mark is branded into the ground that they trod. I was amazed at what humans did. Guernsey Ruts has an easy, paved trail that made a loop. It also has a lovely picnic shelter with great views. We ate lunch there with the lunch food we had packed for the weekend (ham sandwiches, BLTs, boiled eggs, pasta salad, popcorn chicken, and cookies).

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After lunch, we headed back the way we had come into the town of Fort Laramie. Here we drove to the old Fort Laramie. Originally established as a fur trading fort in 1834, it transformed into a military post. It housed soldiers until 1890 when it was sold at auction to homesteaders. Eventually, there were efforts made to preserve the many buildings at the fort. Some of the buildings have been redone, but others lie in ruins. It took around two hours to make our way around the fort and through the different buildings. It was truly fascinating. Fort Laramie is a bit of civilization in the middle of nowhere.

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We enjoyed our time in Wyoming, but it was time to head back to Nebraska. We stopped at a few places like a gift shop for ice cream in the town of Fort Laramie and down a dirt road to an access point for the Platte River. We also found the Army Iron Bridge. It was built in 1875, a bit too late for many of the settlers to use to cross the Platte, but just in time to be used by the military. Simply, we just explored anything interesting along the way which made for a wonderful day.

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Army Iron Bridge

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Platte River Access Point

Day two was hike day. Our biggest hike we scheduled for the morning to avoid the heat and so we were fresh. Scotts Bluff National Monument was a landmark for those on the Oregon Trail on their way west. Prairie grasses give way to a large rock formation guiding them on their way. Entering the park costs $5 for a seven day pass. We hit the trail to the top of the bluff. It was 1.6 miles one way and straight up. It was a nice paved path, but steep in areas. For those who don’t want to hike the trail, no worries, you can drive to the top. It was a fabulous walk with amazing views and a tunnel through the bluff. I’ll admit, I was glad to get to the top, though. Your girl was a bit winded. At the top are some .5 mile loops with various views. We walked those too and walked back down. Tip: don’t forget sunscreen. We had to put some on at the top of the trail.

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Once a bit sweaty and sun-kissed, we meandered down the road to Chimney Rock, 30 minutes away. We ate lunch in the parking lot (it would have been better to eat at Scotts Bluff in hindsight). The Chimney Rock visitor center costs to enter the museum and viewing center. We decided that it wasn’t worth it, so we just grabbed some pictures outside and went to our next stop. It is important to realize you can’t hike to Chimney Rock.

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We hit the road once more and traveled to Jail and Courthouse Rock. This one is off the beaten path a bit. We drove past it at first, but turned around to head down a dirt road lined with sunflowers. It leads to a dead-end road. There is a small footpath that goes up to the rock figures. There are no signs, so we were cautious, but absolutely loved the seclusion and adventure. Highly recommend this stop.

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Our last stop of the day was a random place Garrett found called Riverside Park. It has a campground, zoo, and a great path along the river with informative signs. It was a great way to end the day!

Our last day on vacation, we drove an hour north to Agate Fossil Beds. Make sure you fill up your gas tank before heading up there. Gas stations and cell service aren’t a thing.

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Agate used to be a ranch, but the rancher found fossils in the 1890’s. Originally, the land was Lakota Sioux territory. It is a gorgeous area with a fabulous museum. The rancher was a big friend with the Lakota and a room filled with gifts given to him are on display. There are two trails on the premises. One is short, but shows fossilized burrows. The other trail is a little over two miles, but paved with great views and old dig sites! We picnicked at the base of the trail.

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This is a fossilized burrow.

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Leaving Agate, we turned on a dirt road that we took for about 30 miles. The remoteness was astounding, and we even saw pronghorn!

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On the way home, we stopped at Carhenge in Alliance. It was a short stop, but it is fascinating to see a man’s imagination and artistic ability. We took HWY 2 home. These were more back-roads but some great sights. The biggest issue is there aren’t a lot of options for food, but with proper planning, it isn’t an issue.

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While many Nebraskans will tell you to leave Nebraska to go on vacation (and technically we did that the first day), the state of Nebraska has some amazing places just waiting to be explored.

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We made a u-turn to take a picture of this beauty. Props to Garrett for being the photographer.

Passion of the Percherons: Getting Ready with Young Living Horses & Team

Cyclone, Bode, Huey, Tuff, Ice, Jag, Elk, and Rocket.

These are the names of the 8 wonderful gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Nebraska State Fair. They all had dark hair and were well over 6 feet tall. It isn’t often I feel as if I’m in the presence of giants since I’m fairly tall myself. However, these guys have a way of making you look up and feel small.

Now, you are probably wondering who these guys are. With names like those, you may think I met some sort of band. They aren’t a part of a band, but they are all stars. These 8 gentlemen are the Percheron horses of the Young Living Exhibition Team.

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Young Living is a company (you may have heard of it) that produces essential oils. Their founder, Gary Young, loved horses. It only made sense to combine his passion for essential oils and horses together. At their Whispering Springs Farm in Mona, Utah, they have over 120 horses and focuses on draft and Fresian horses.

A handful of those horses are able to travel to various fairs and shows to compete and represent the Young Living brand and products. The 8 horses I met do not compete in shows, but do show off at fairs as the exhibition team.

Each horse is filled with personality. They may look very similar, but they are each unique. Those who get to handle and care for them can tell you all about each one.

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Here enters my friend Bradley Glover. Bradley and I grew up in the same county and showed livestock together. Bradley loves draft horses. He has interned with the large Clydesdales at Budweiser and helped drive wagons in Yellowstone National Park. Now he is living in Utah with the Young Living Percheron horses.

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I got a text from Bradley asking how close I was to Grand Island, Nebraska. Garrett and I then made plans to drive up to see Bradley (Garrett and Bradley worked together at NCSU) and meet the horses at the Nebraska State Fair.

Bradley not only helps feed and care for each of the horses with four others on the exhibition team, but he also helps prepare each horse for their performance.

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It takes about 2 hours to braid and comb the horses manes and tails. In addition, they add boots, paint their hooves and make sure they are clean. They also tack all the horses up in harnesses and gear that weighs about 100 pounds per horse. This sounds heavy, but each horse weighs around 2,000 pounds. Huey may weigh a tick more…he likes his food.

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After they are decked in their purple splendor, they are practically itching to go. It was so funny to see the horses nodding their heads and straining to get into their harness. They love their job and love to perform. They were ready!

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After they are harnessed up, they are hitched to the wagon. In a 6-horse hitch, there are three positions: lead, swing, and wheel. Typically the largest and most trustworthy horses are placed in the wheel position. These are Tuff and Jag. The swing horses must stay in their spots and help round corners. Elk and Cyclone are swingers. Finally, the lead horses are often the flashiest horses who really like to prance. Bode and Huey are the guys for the job.

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And what about the man behind the reins? That would be Jason Goodman. He has been around draft horses about all of his life. His wife Rose, who is also on the team, has a long history with draft horses as well.

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No matter what your position on the team, everyone pitches in to get the job done. That job is making those 8 gentleman looking spectacular, and that job involves shoveling manure, cleaning equipment, braiding hair, feeding, washing, and so much more.

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Thanks to the hard work of all the team members, the horses do indeed look spectacular in the ring. With Jason Goodman guiding the team, they trot, make figure eights, dock, and full on run. Their time in the ring seems like a blur, and I do believe the horses wouldn’t mind one bit if they could go around the ring once or 3 times more.

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They will soon do it all over again, though, showing crowds that big doesn’t mean they can’t be agile or graceful. They proved to me that, although lovable and goofy in the barns, they are all business and style when it is show time.

Cyclone, Elk, Bode, Huey, Rocket, Jag, Ice, and Tuff, you guys are amazing!

Bradley, Jason, Rose, Cole, and Henry, thank you for letting me capture your normal. I so enjoyed soaking up your knowledge and witnessing the passion you have for draft horses.

Garrett, thanks for carrying my camera bag and reaching up high for a couple of photos. I think we found your size of animal.

Young Living, kudos to you for what you do with these horses and sharing them with the public.

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More Than a Feed Mill: Nahunta Feed Supply Tour

DSC_9476Every week, just about, someone in our family drives to the Nahunta Feed Supply to buy feed for our livestock. It isn’t just a store where we pick up a few bags of feed, though.DSC_9415It is a place where we and everyone else are greeted with a smile, a “Hey!! How are you?!”, and maybe even a token word of friendly advice. The Nahunta Feed Supply is warm and inviting. The office is filled with homey touches and tons of pictures of friends, family, and youth who the feed mill supports. There is always a candle burning, so it smells more like a house than a mill. DSC_9416DSC_9421DSC_9417DSC_9423Most days, Mrs. Gale is at the counter to check you out. Somehow, she seems to make writing a check more enjoyable. Her husband, Roger, runs back and forth between their farm and the mill. DSC_9418My family and I have loved getting to know the Pittmans and those who work at Nahunta Feed Supply over the years. So, before I moved, I wanted to capture the mill, store, and the people behind it. In typical fashion, they were accommodating, gracious, and more than welcoming.

Nahunta Feed Supply used to be known as Pierce Farms Center, which is Mrs. Gale’s side of the family. It started as a cotton gin, and grew to be a lot more.DSC_9429“Daddy continued to grow with land and business and expanded into a feed mill, growing hay, and selling fertilizer. He would buy crops from the farmers too,” said Mrs. Gale. DSC_9501The feed mill is at least 60 years old and is filled with history and heritage. In January of 2007, Gale and her husband Roger took over the store and mill and renamed it Nahunta Feed Supply. DSC_9493Today Nahunta Feed Supply provides feed, hay, and other supplies to the local community. They also serve up smiles and joy. It is evident they love what they do.DSC_9427DSC_9424DSC_9428DSC_9468DSC_9454“I get so attached to my customers. I do really like it because I get to interact with people, and they become like your family. My customers are my family, and I love the country life,” said Mrs. Gale.DSC_9434DSC_9432DSC_9431You can find the Pittmans at local livestock shows, supporting their customers who enter the ring. They love to see how the kids take the feed they purchase from the mill, feed it to their animals, and then show those animals off, and sometimes win! Not only do the Pittmans like to watch, but they have also made it a point to support the shows financially. No one can say that they do not give back.

We (my brothers tagged along, because shouldn’t all good livestock showmen know where their feed comes from?) toured the mill and learned how the feed was made.DSC_9471DSC_9440DSC_9437DSC_9435DSC_9436DSC_9439DSC_9451DSC_9457We learned lots of interesting facts; for example, we discovered corn is ground more coarsely or more fine, depending on the type of feed and animal being fed. DSC_9447DSC_9444DSC_9445DSC_9450DSC_9446In addition to touring the mill, we also saw various types of equipment and the warehouse. A lot of the feed at Nahunta Feed Supply is made from crops grown by the Pittmans on their 687 acres they tend. They also grow and sell a large amount of hay for customers (182 of their 687 acres is hay). DSC_9458DSC_9496DSC_9497If I have come away with anything from my many visits to Nahunta Feed Supply, it is that it is much more than a feed mill. It is the people inside who run it, the passion in which they work, and the care in which they show to all of us who visit!DSC_9502

 

 

 

Honeymooning in Scotland: Last Day

And then, it was our last day…

How did today get here? Weren’t we just arriving? Wait! There’s so much more to see. And yet, I was glad. So glad to get home because, well it’s home and normal…except it wouldn’t be normal because I would be moving across the country to a new home in Nebraska. Trading in one adventure for the next. You know, I was okay with that.

We awoke early in Fort William. The town was much more charming and scenic in the daylight. Before exploring the town, though, we headed straight for the Glenfinnan Viaduct, aka the Jacobite Train, aka the train from Harry Potter!!

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We planned the time to go based on when the train would chug across the Viaduct. After parking, we hiked (yes hiked) to the scenic overlook. It was a nice path and not too hard, but there was bit of uphill, and we were still recovering from Skye.That being said, I found a lovely rock to perch on that provided excellent views.

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Path back down

Then, we waited…and waited. It felt like ages, but in reality was probably like 30-45 minutes of wait time. The longer we waited, the more crowded the hill became. Everyone wanted to watch. Be sure to get there early!

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Through the pass, we saw smoke billow. Then, we heard the classic train whistle and waved to the passengers on the train. It was pretty magical. I’m sorry to say, though, that it wasn’t Harry Potter magical. No wizards here.

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Seeing what we came to see, we headed back to Fort William for lunch in the city centre. The cobblestone streets were so quaint, and the shops so cute. Ice cream was excellent as well!

We decided it was too hot to hike the 2 hour trail to a waterfall we had originally planned on seeing. Instead, we headed to Locky Castle. It was in a bit of ruins, but still quite fascinating. When the owner tried to fix part of it for an upcoming visit by Queen Victoria, she said that it was quite a disappointment after seeing the alterations. Ooops!

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After the last castle of the trip, we headed to Glencoe. I found a folk museum visit in town. It was in a cool thatched roof, but wasn’t worth the 3 pounds each we paid for admission. It had an eclectic mix of antiques more than anything. I will say, it explained the MacDonald Massacre well and had an interesting exhibit on that.

Before heading out of the town, we stopped at the Glencoe Cafe for some cappuccinos. So delicious! If I could go back, I would have definitely have grabbed the shortbread to go.

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As we winded our way through the beauty of Glencoe, we stopped all along the way for pictures, because, well, it’s criminal not to capture and enjoy the splendor. Garrett said that he really wished we had more time to explore this part of Scotland. I don’t disagree.

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It seemed to take us forever to get to Edinburgh, but we made it to our last hotel of the trip. This was our only hotel during the entire trip that had ac! We felt so spoiled. We ate at the hotel and had delicious food. After packing, we were in bed by 10:30 to be up at 6:40 am for our flight home.

Nothing really to report on the flight home other than our plane got down-sized so Garrett lost his extra leg room, but they did give us chocolate ice cream so that made it better. I will also say that Garrett’s broken shoelace was a nightmare to deal with in security, especially at JFK where everyone seemed to be in a rather bad mood. However, we and our luggage made it to RDU safe and sound.

I must say that we have no regrets about our honeymoon. We loved every second (even the times I thought I would die) and every one of the 1,000 miles we drove. I’m so glad we not only chose Scotland, but we chose somewhere neither of us had been and somewhere that had loads of exploring opportunities. To me it was the perfect mixture of wonder and relaxation that a honeymoon should contain, but also great team-building exercises that helped us learn to work together.

Now, we have memories that we will forever cherish.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 7

Day 7 was quite the series of events. It was our last day on the Isle of Skye, which was a bit of a bummer. The day started with Garrett breaking his shoelace. This was only the start of a series of unfortunate/interesting events. Despite these events, it makes me smile and was so fun!

We started with a tour of Dunvegan Castle. It is the longest continuously inhabited castles in Scotland. Because of this, it was not in ruins, but did have some nods to other centuries. It was a combination of a castle and Biltmore Estates in NC. The MacLeods had a lot of family history in the castle which was very interesting. Outside were impressive gardens complete with waterfalls. They had been developed throughout the years. While the most expensive castle to tour, it was worth it in my mind.

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After eating lunch at a cafe that overlooked a loch, we headed to the Fairy Pools. This was another favorite place of mine on our trip. It is a popular destination, so go early or prepare for some crowds. We had to park a quarter of a mile down the road and hike to the trail head. Keep in mind we were pretty dead from the day before; however, this hike was very pleasant.

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The trail follows water that leads to the Fairy Pools. These pools are deep, crystal clear, blue, and very cold. Many were swimming in the pools. We didn’t go swimming, but we did take our shoes off and dip our feet in. While there were a lot of people, we were still able to find secluded spots to enjoy the scenery. The hike back was equally as pleasant until we reached the hill to the road. That sucker was steep. I was sweating and out of breath by the time we reached the car.

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We found real fairy homes

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I will note that by now, Garrett is driving like a local and even made a 3 point turn on a one lane road. Today, though, his driving would be truly tested as we headed to Fort William. Little did we know that it would take an extra 4 hours to get there.

 

As we were heading out of Skye, we were remarking on how funny the mist looked up ahead in the mountains.

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As we got closer, we realized it was billows of smoke! This was confirmed when were stopped by the police and told to turn around due to a wildfire that had spread to the road and was quite large. He was very nice and even apologized for the inconvenience. We thanked him for not letting us get burnt!

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After getting directions from him, we headed back down a very curvy narrow one lane road to Portree. We had just been down that road that morning. It was much more busy now. Also, meeting a tour bus on such a road is a bit nerve-wracking. Garrett did great, though on the hour detour. As we were finally leaving Skye, you could see the line of fire run across the hills. I’m glad we didn’t get trapped on the Isle. There aren’t but so many roads.

Before we could make it to Fort William, we hit traffic on A85. People began turning around. A bus driver rolled down his window and told us there was a wreck ahead and there would be a 5 hour delay!! We were only 45 minutes from Fort William. Our choices were to hope it wouldn’t be a 5 hour delay or drive an hour to Inverness to go 2 hours to Fort William. We decided the 3 hour detour to Inverness was safer than waiting. It ended up being the right decision.

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We went to Inverness and ate at La Tortilla, a restaurant we had seen but didn’t go to a few days ago. I had a hankering for Mexican and was really hoping for some salsa and chips. Yeah… that’s not what this place was. It was Spanish. No chips and salsa. Just bread and an odd menu that we weren’t sure what was what. We asked the waiter how this works and ended up ordering 2 bowls of potatoes with spicy sauce, 1 bowl of chorizo sausage, and a bowl of garlic chicken. It ended up being cheap and very delicious. And yet, our adventures for the day were not over.

The alternate route to Fort William took us down a very scenic, but was very narrow and curvy. I was nervous, especially when on-coming traffic came. This was a two lane road, but the narrowness and curves made it scary. Garrett did good, but also scared me. I was white-knuckling it. What made it worse was it was 50 miles of it! It was all made more scary by impending darkness. Finally, we made it to Fort William.

We arrived at the cutest hotel, but had to park in the last parking spot–a bus spot at that. Inside the hotel was newly redone and very nice. We had to climb a narrow steep staircase to our room. It was certainly hot in our room (no ac) but the view out the window was over the water.

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Our adventurous day was over. It was absolutely crazy. To think, it all started with a broken shoelace.

Tips:

  1. If you go to Dunvegan and are a student, be sure to show your ID for a discount.
  2. If you can, go early to the Fairy Pools
  3. When the weather is warm, pack a swimsuit to the Fairy Pools and take a dip.

Honeymooning in Scotland–Day 6

I was really excited to start this day out. It was going to be all about exploring and hiking. Disclaimer: Garrett and I took charge of planning different parts of the trip. Today was one of the days I had planned. I may have overestimated my abilities. You’ll find out what I mean in a bit.

Our first stop of the morning was Fairy Glenn.

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We weren’t sure if we were in the right place at first. It was also a bit sketchy considering it was a one lane road. By one lane road, I mean that it is a two-way but there’s only room for one car so you have to pull over onto special passes. We’d get really used to these type of the roads as our adventures in Skye continued.

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Cattle guards  on a one lane raod

Needless to say, we ended up in the right place and it was truly magical. You could really imagine fairies in the glen.

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After a quick jaunt, we headed to Quiraing. Wow! The scenery was gorgeous!

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We were amazed at the amount of traffic. You have to park on the side of a single car road. There aren’t large parking lots or car parks as they are called, so the side of the road it is. We would learn that sometimes that mean parking on the edge of a cliff or half a mile from your destination, and that’s not in peak tourist season.

The Quiraing was a wonderful hike. While we didn’t go to the very end, we hiked for over an hour on a trail that was just cut into the cliff.

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Garrett teased me a lot because I would often get distracted by all the sheep that were able to just graze anywhere it seemed. They often shared our path.

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I wanted to take one home. This pic is the closest I got to taking a sheep home.

We made the quick stop to Kilt Rock and the falls before eating burgers at a cafe.

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The next point of interest was Brother’s Point, also called Rubha nam Brathairean. We almost skipped this stop, but I had read on the Earth Trekkers blog that it was worth it and not as touristy. They were right! There was a small car park just past the Glenview Hotel. We had to cross the street and walk down the road just a bit to get to the trail head. We went down what looks like someone’s driveway, entered two gates into a sheep pasture.

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Don’t forget to close the gate behind you. Sheep are inside.

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We certainly were doubting if we were in the right place, but noticed a few people down towards the bottom. We also saw signs directing our path.

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We found ruins, lots of sheep, barnacles, and the most gorgeous of views. What’s better is it is secluded and not crowded. The hike is not too strenuous either. From here, you can also see Kilt Rock in the distance. We didn’t walk all the way down the point, but even still it would become my favorite place of the entire Scotland trip! I cannot recommend it enough!!

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Behind the scenes of the photo above.

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Our final stop was Oldman Storr. It was completely opposite experience than Brother’s Point. I straight died. Don’t believe me? Garrett documented:

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The trail to Oldmann Storr is all uphill, no shade, and a long way. In fact, we didn’t make it. I looked up at Garrett and said I can’t. In my defense, my foot ankle was not happy, I had a slight cold, and poorly planned a long hike at the end of a full day of hiking. I absolutely hated to call it quits, but I know my limits. I think Garrett was a bit relieved too. Moral of the story, rethink planning all major hiking on one day. That was my bad. I also suggest bringing sunscreen. You wouldn’t think that would be needed in Scotland, but we were blessed with warmer than normal weather and full sun.

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This is where we were supposed to go, but never reached.

After calling it quits, we went back to Portree to shop where I got some things for the boys. In my journal my exact words to end the day were, “we ate at Isles and called it early for bed. We wrote postcards and planned tomorrow. We are pretty dead.”

And that is the end of day 6 on Scotland. It was my favorite, but also the most taxing physically.

Tips:

  1. In order to plan different parts of the trip, but still collaborate, we used the website Inspirock. It was fabulous. It not only allowed us a venue to plug in our plans and information, but also gave suggestions. This is a great tool for any trip anywhere!
  2. Bring lots of water hiking.
  3. Visit Fairy Glenn in the morning before crowds hit. It makes for a more intimate experience that adds to the magic.
  4. Don’t hold out for a parking spot in a parking lot. Just go ahead and park on the side of the road.
  5. Kilt Rock was cool, but will only take you 10 minutes to see it. Plan for that as you travel.
  6. Make the time for Brother’s Point. You can also find dinosaur footprints.
  7. Beauty lies everywhere. Even on the side of the road. Stop to see it.DSC_0505DSC_0510