My dear friends Joanna and Jacob are engaged! Joanna and I became friends at Campbell, where we suffered through many classes together, endured really late nights compiling the yearbook for Campbell, traveling with the ethics bowl team, and having late night talks and laughs. She has become one of my closest friends over the years.
Campbell is also where she and Jacob met. I’ve watched their relationship over the past 5 years, and they always have a great time together.
Jacob proposed in Florida on the beach underneath the stars. Let me tell you, I was beyond excited to get the text message of a sparkly ring on Jo’s finger! I was also super excited that Joanna let me take her engagement pictures.
Jo decided to take the photos at the NC State Fair, and we drafted our other college friend, Emily, to come and be a second camera. Thank the Lord Em came, because let me tell you, Marisa does not do fair rides. We battled crowds, walked a ton, ate some, and took literally 1,000 pictures. So, without further ado, I give you the future Mr. and Mrs. Shires.
Driving home from NC beaches, you may come across a sea of purple. Beautiful fields filled with flowering plants dot the sides of roads headed to the coast. These fields of flowers are not simply to look pretty, nor are they volunteer wildflowers. Rather, they are an upcoming crop for NC farmers. The flowering crop is clary sage.
Clary sage has roots (no pun intended) dating back to the Middle Ages. Used for its calming properties and benefits to the skin, it is not to be confused with the sage you may find in your kitchen spice rack. Clary sage, also known as salvia sclarea, is an herb that is found in many household items for its fragrance. Think dish soap, perfume, and detergent. It first must be extracted, though.
This is where a company in Bertie County comes in. Avoca Inc. is the largest extraction facility in North America for sclareol. They have been in the business since the 1960’s. They take clary sage and produce sclareol which helps fragrances have a longer life in items like soap and perfume. Avoca contracts with many farmers to grow a certain amount of acres. This is appealing for many farmers because so many other crops have huge swings in prices. Clary sage is more stable.
Planted at the end of summer (August) the perennial grows until winter. At this point it becomes dormant until warmer weather hits again. By Late May, early June, the blooms are in full force. Blooms can be purple, pink, or white, depending on the variety. Harvesting begins mid to late June.
The smell the crop produces is obvious. It makes sense, since it is in the fragrance industry. A special harvester is used that cuts up the plants into 1 inch cubes much like silage. The flowers have the highest oil content, but the entire plant is used. The harvest is sent to Avoca where they will extract throughout the year. Here is a video of harvesting:
Avoca contracts with over 120 farms, there are over 25,000 acres being devoted to growing clary sage in eastern North Carolina. North Carolina is definitely a major player in growing clary sage.
I was super excited to see all of the purple fields on the way home from the beach. So excited, I made Alec pull over on the side of the road so I could jump a ditch and take pictures of sage in the setting sun.
If you happen to see the purple (or white/pink) fields in North Carolina, know that they are much more than flowers. They are a farmer’s crop. So, roll down the windows to stop and smell the sage.
If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen where Alec and I traveled 1,200 miles and photographed/videoed 85 pigs at 12 farms all across the state for the Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale. We did it within 5 days and it was quite the adventure. Honestly, though, I loved it! After hours of editing videos and photos, they were posted on the online portion of the sale through Willoughby Sales. All there was left was to wait for the sale.
Alec and I both planned on buying a pig at the sale. We had each picked out our favorites and set budgets for ourselves. I was stoked. When we arrived at the sale, I was excited to see so many people there. This was the inaugural sale, and I wanted it to do well. Because there was an online portion, there would be bidders both on the grounds and over the internet. It was a big deal for NC show pigs. As far as I know, this was the first of its kind in the state. There was free food, free t-shirts for buyers, and a lot of great folks.
The problem with sales is you have to be strategic. I had 3 pigs picked out that I was interested in, but my favorite one was later in the sale line up. I was in the conundrum that I could wait until my favorite with the risk that it would go too high, and my other favorites would then be gone as they were earlier in the line up. I’m telling you, strategy and a bit of gambling is needed.
Alec’s first pick pig went too high for his budget, so he moved to the second, but when it got in the ring, he decided he didn’t like it. So, on we went to the third pig which went too high also. At this point, I’m getting a little squirmy for Alec. Our top 3 pigs for him were gone, and now it was a matter of picking one as they came through. One little guy came through the ring, and I nudged Alec that I liked this one. Alec watched him for a bit then bid. He got in a slight bidding war with another guy, and ended up calling it quits once he hit his budget. Dad and I finally talked Alec into going another $25. That won the pig.
My bidding was much less eventful. I decided to pass up two pigs I liked to wait for my favorite and got her with no competition. I was stoked!
Overall, I think the sale went well, especially as it was the first year doing it. Sure, there were some no-sales, but that’s alright. I hope to see it grow, and more people support it in the future.
It is truly exciting to see a great group of NC pig farmers come together to provide quality stock. Most of the pigs will be at the NC State Fair competing, so be sure to stop by the pig barn at the fair. For now, though, I would like to introduce you to our newest additions. I am no longer “pig-less”! They LOVE marshmallows.
I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:
And, Alec’s barrow Gus:
We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.
I love when a few of my favorite things combine together to make a fun day. Last Saturday, my family and I went to the Got to Be NC Festival.
This event is held at the NC State Fairgrounds and hosts a ton of North Carolina vendors and products. There is a tractor parade, flea market, rides, and games. One of my favorite parts (actually it was the BEST part) was trying lots of food. One of the great things about the event is you can pay $2 for all-day access into a giant building filled with food vendors that are giving away all sorts of free food. FREE FOOD! After writing that, I’m realizing that the $2 negates the free part, but it is basically free and so very worth it. Even cooler was the fact that all of the food was NC based. There were peanuts, hot sauces, mints, wine, dips, Bright Leaf hot dogs, and so much more. My favorites had to be Cherry Orchard Food’s pretzel dip mixes (we got the buffalo bleu and chili, cheese, bacon flavors) and the pickled green beans and Bloody Mary mix by Bruce Julian. Of course, I could have stayed at the Bright leaf hotdog station forever, but I feel like that is a given. Gideon was in heaven with all of the hot sauce samples (the boy absolutely loves hot sauce and has never found one he couldn’t handle). Isaac was obsessed with Sunshine Energy drink. Thankfully, he didn’t get wound up off of the samples. All in all, the $2 was absolutely worth it!
I paid another $2 to try some very odd food. I ordered deep fried sweet tea. It was essentially a doughnut drenched in very syrupy tea. While it wasn’t bad, it was too sweet for me. Daddy ordered frog legs. Now, if you know me, you know I HATE frogs. I am utterly petrified of them, yet somehow, for some reason, I ate a bite of the frog legs.
I know. I may be going insane, but it wasn’t half bad until I actually thought about it. Then it wasn’t so good. I can cross it off my bucket list, though (not that it was really on it). Adding to the craziness, was our photo bomb guy. Do you recognize him?
He is Anthony Anderson, an actor. He has played in movies like Transformers. He was at the festival, filming for a food show, and he totally photo bombed us! Too funny!
Our main point in being at the event was not food, believe it or not. My brother, Alec, and I both received NC State Fair Livestock scholarships along with 22 others and were invited to come to the shin dig for a ceremony. The scholarship is brand new, and was started with a change to the NC State Fair livestock sale. A percentage of the proceeds of the Sale of Champions goes to the scholarship fund. Awesome, huh? Alec and I were very honored to receive the scholarship and participate in the festivities. We met the NC Commissioner of Agriculture and got to ride in the tractor parade. Our families were able to ride in the parade too. It was perfect.
It was also a nice final hurrah. Garrett and his family (he and his sister also received the scholarship) were able to come to the festival. Garrett was leaving that day to drive to Illinois where he would be working as an intern all summer for Maschoff’s, a large hog company. I’m super proud of him, but it was bittersweet to see him go.
I jokingly told him I was now single for the summer. No worries, I’ve only gone on one date so far. They were short, blonde and cute. Don’t you agree?
The rest of the day was spent walking around and enjoying everything.
So, there you go–a quick recap of some of the happenings around. I strongly recommend the Got to Be NC Festival and definitely the $2 entry to try all the NC based foods.