Mary Dunn & Alan Johnson||Prom 2016

I was so excited when Mary asked me to help her get ready for her prom (I’ve secretly been dying to get my hands on her gorgeous locks) and take pictures. This girl is my neighbor and like a little sister. I’ve watched her grow into a beautiful young lady who is accomplished and stays super busy with 4-H, livestock, school, and the community. Accompanying Mary to her prom was fellow showman, Alan. My first memory of Alan was him as probably a cloverbud asking a ton of livestock questions. Today, he’s mentoring the cloverbuds.

I couldn’t be more proud of either of these two, and was so glad I got to have a part in their evening!

Although there was rain, with rain comes rainbows, and that is exactly what we got. I hope ya’ll enjoy these!

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It takes a village

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Ya’ll looked wonderful! Thank you for letting me be a part in your lives today and all the other days too.

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Lambing Season- 2016-

When it comes to animals being born on the farm, I think I get the most giddy over the lambs. There is something about those little wooly babies and their over attentive mommas.

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Aspen was the first ewe to go. We walked outside to 2 little black girl lambs.

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Meet Lace….

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and Silver…

I just knew it would be a short time before the next lamb would arrive. I checked several times a day and through the night. Alas, it was like watching a pot boil. Finally, Aspen’s sister, Fiona, had a super splashy baby girl that is all diva. Meet Paisley…

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We now had 3 more mommas to lamb. I made my predictions as to who would go next. Of course, they decided to spite me and go in all sorts of orders. Our old girl Duff, was the third one to lamb. Once again, we had another little girl, but this one was white! Meet Eve…

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We were down to our southdown sisters. Sybil went first and had a super black little girl. I’m somewhat partial to Sybil, so this baby was really exciting for me. Meet Georgette…

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The last arrival was Edith’s little white lamb. Once again, we had a girl. While we just missed her birth, we caught her right after, so she was still getting cleaned off by mom. Meet Evelyn…

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We are so in love with our 6 little girls. They are all very different, and have way cool wool. We can’t wait to show them at State Fair. They have already been on several field trips to visit kids and tell everybody about wool.

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Now that lambing season is over, shearing season is about to begin, so stay tuned! For now, enjoy all of the cuteness.

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Southern Snow

Although yesterday was the first day of winter, here in North Carolina, it is a balmy 70 degrees and super wet(Santa, you might want to bring your swim suit). I have never seen a white Christmas. Well, there was that one time it snowed the day after Christmas, so I counted it, but still.

There are places here in the South where fields of white can be seen. I’m talking about cotton. It is a southern snow if you will, and it is beautiful.

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Not only is it beautiful, but it is also pretty important to America. Cotton is the number one value-added crop in America, bringing in $5.3 billion just at the farm level and more than $120 billion in annual business revenue.

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Cotton isn’t just about the fibers. All parts of the plants are used. The seeds are processed into oil, meal, or hulls. Oil is often used in shortening and salad dressing. Meal and hulls are a great protein feed for livestock.

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America’s currency is 75% cotton.

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OneĀ  bale of cotton weighs about 480 pounds.

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Weather affects the quality of the cotton. If the bolls (the balls of cotton) have opened and are rained on before they can be picked, the cotton sprouts and reduces the quality of the lint.

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Cotton quality is determined by taking a sample from the bale where color, cleanliness, staple length (length of fibers), and strength are analyzed.

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Thomas Edison used cotton fibers for filaments in his first light bulb.

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America is the third largest grower of cotton, and Texas is the top state.

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Eli Whitney’s cotton gin invention changed the face of cotton forever. It was able to process cotton 10 times faster than by hand.

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Cotton is truly the snow of the South. I must say I’m partial to it over the real deal. Actual snow wreaks havoc. Everyone freaks out a bit, roads are on gridlock, schools close, and bread and milk fly off of the shelves. Not to mention, here on the farm, it gets to be a mucky mess. So, now that it is officially winter, I will not complain about my balmy weather (however I would appreciate a lot less water), and will embrace the snow of the South…cotton.

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Sources:

Cotton Campus

National Cotton Council of America

 

Got to Be NC Show Pig Sale–We Are No Longer Pig-less!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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sale5It 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.

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I am pleased to introduce to you my gilt, Alice:

 

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And, Alec’s barrow Gus:

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We should be getting two more pigs for the boys soon too, so stay tuned.

Through My Lens: 2015 Livestock Show and Sale

After two days of showing, a day of clean-up, some ribbons, lots of goats, pigs, and cattle,many great showmen, and 800 pictures later, the 2015 Wayne County Junior Livestock Show and Sale is over. Yes, I did say 800 pictures later. I won’t say I went crazy with being the designated photographer; I’ll just call it thorough. While I have to go through those 800-some pictures, I won’t make you go through them all. Rather, I wanted to highlight my favorites and tell the story that I see in those pictures. The Show and Sale has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year, and many of these photos capture why it means so much to me. I hope you enjoy the show through my lens.

Shave and a Hair Cut…

After everyone has weighed their animal in, the barn is buzzing with the sound of clippers and water is flying in the wash pits. You can see kids helping fellow showmen with their fitting and hear a lot of laughing at various animal antics. Washing pigs typically ends up with the showmen just as wet as the pig, yet somehow smellier than their porky friends. Cows come away fluffier, and goats whiter and slicker. You could say it is the time of makeovers.

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Family Affair

 

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Bath time also includes treats and compliments

 

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“We want out! Water is absolutely no good!”

 

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Oh, so you guys were white pigs. I thought you were brown…

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Pigs have a lot more hair than you would think
Pigs have a lot more hair than you would think

 

Yay for cooperative pigs!
Yay for cooperative pigs!

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Show Time!

The jitters are strong, but the excitement has never been higher. It is show time! The goat show was first on the list followed by cattle. The next morning was hogs. I think everyone did an amazing job, but most importantly, I saw a lot of smiles in the ring.

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One of my favorite parts to watch is the novice division. These munchkins are not only cute as a button, but they are serious too. They know their stuff and can out show some older kids!

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These two kids had major guts. Their calf outweighed them by a lot, and the calves were not always cooperative. Despite one getting loose once and a lot of prancing, these two stayed focused and never gave up. I was impressed with them, for sure.

Always, keep your eyes on the judge…

Our judge for the show, judged all three species and did a great job with the kids. While you show each species of livestock in a different way, there is always one rule that applies across the board–keep your eyes on the judge at all times. I think every child in the show had at least a little conversation with the judge, answering his questions, or just telling him about their animal. I always love the facial expressions that the kids make, and I can’t help but try to read their lips to see what they are saying to the judge.

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Banners and Ribbons

While showing livestock is a competition, it goes far beyond the ribbons and banners. As the quote goes “ribbons fade and buckles tarnish, but the friendships and memories last forever.” I couldn’t agree more. I was always taught by my parents that we weren’t in it to win, although we strive to do our best and winning is nice. We do it for the lessons, the memories, and the pure enjoyment of it. Showing livestock is not a money making activity. Trust me, we go in the hole almost every time. We do it because we love it.

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I absolutely love the camaraderie in this photo. The smile and embrace says it all.
One of the most prestigious and meaningful awards to me is the Sportsmanship Award. The recipient is voted on by their fellow showman for exhibiting exemplary sportsmanship.
One of the most prestigious and meaningful awards to me is the Sportsmanship Award. The recipient is voted on by fellow showmen for exhibiting exemplary sportsmanship. This includes helping others, congratulating fellow showmen, working with their animal, and just having a good spirit.

champCity Slickers and Costume

A fun aspect of the show is the costume class and city slicker class. Costume class winners are chosen by the audience. There are always some really creative get-ups. City slicker class is for anyone who is not able to show or just wants to experience the world of livestock showing for a few moments. They are paired with a showman and get to take a spin around the ring, learning about showing. It is great to see the mentorship of the showman, and the excited faces of the “city slickers.”

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SOLD!!

After the costume and city slicker classes, the sale begins. The barn is filled with people, as the auction begins. Every child walks through the ring with their animal, to sell. The way our sale works, is there is support price and sponsorship money. Support price is the price per pound of the animal. For example, the hogs weighing from 273 to 280 pounds went for .50 cents per pound. After support price is established, every child brings in their animal for sponsorship money. Sponsorship money are donations given by individuals and businesses in the community to the child. These sponsors do not buy the animal, but rather, bid on the amount to give the child. This helps kids earn money for their livestock project next year, and many use it for a college fund. I want to thank all the buyers for their support. You have made a contribution that goes beyond the ring. You have made a difference in all of these kids’ lives!

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My favorite pictures often come from behind the scenes. These are the pictures that represent the day to day happenings of the show. It is here where the best faces are made, where competitors turn into friends, and the bond of the youth and their animal shines through. The majority of the show happens outside of the ring.

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These two competed against each other in cattle and goats, but remain best friends sharing a fellow passion.

 

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Family is an important part of the show, and is often a multigenerational ordeal. For many it is a tradition that has been passed down for years.

 

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I love this photo for personal reasons. These are my parents. For 13 years they have helped at the show, getting there early and leaving late. They wrestle animals, shovel poop, answer questions, and still help us with our animals too. They represent the many people who make this event happen. They just happen to be my favorite.
Paperwork and auctioning
Paperwork and auctioning
What would we do without our ringman to break up pig fights?
What would we do without our ringmen to break up pig fights?

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Cleanup, cleanup, everybody do their share…

The last thing that has to be done is cleanup. All pens have to be shoveled and aisles swept. Goat and cattle pens are done the night of the show, and others come back the next morning to clean the hog pens after the pigs have left.

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cleanHeaded home…

After a total of 4 days of setting up, showing, selling, and cleaning, the show is over. Months of preparation and hard work has come to a close. Another year has passed, and it is time to go home.

headed homeBefore we know it, the Show and Sale will be upon us again, but for now, I think I’m going to put my boots aside, and reminisce over the week. While I hope these images have given you a glimpse into the week, looking through the lens does not do the reality justice.

It was n”ICE” to have a good day!

Around two inches of ice covered the landscape today. While it was pretty gross to do chores in, it made for some pretty pictures. Enjoy!


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Apparently, Rocket is adverse to going in his shelter.
Apparently, Rocket is adverse to going in his shelter.

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Our little fighter, made it through the night. We have been tending to her throughout the day, giving her bits of milk. While we were amazed that she made it this far, we are not out of the woods yet. The next few days will be crucial. She does not like to suckle on the bottle, but we are working with her. Time will tell, but until then, she is a little miracle that I like to snuggle with on the couch. 20150217_173910[1]