Timber Slash Removal as the First Step in a Farm Renovation

Erin Green noticed one of our ads and knew immediately that she had found a company that shared her passion for land and understood the huge sense of responsibility she felt with regard to the renovation of her property.  Erin was more than familiar with the long-term effects of poor grading and drainage installation and wanted to make sure everything was done right the first time.  Erin’s goal was to create a sustainable farm out of the timber slash mess left by irresponsible loggers, with versatile cross-fencing and quality grazing.  In addition, she needed a large, carefully designed barn with appropriate stalls, breeding pen, shearing facility and hay storage.

Erin and her husband Brandon live on the family’s four acres in Weaverville NC with their one-year-old son Jacob and her grandfather, who built their home in 1970.  Erin, a trained veterinary technician, started farming by keeping sheep and goats on her mother’s Last Penny Farm in nearby Alexander.  However, her “eureka” moment came when they got their first alpaca.  She says she knows that she will always have alpacas – “they are regal, elegant, and somehow mystical.”  Alpacas are a smaller cousin to the llama, originally imported from Peru where they are prized for the fiber from their coats.  Alpaca fiber is as soft as cashmere, and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool.

Erin works extremely hard, balancing many roles every day.  With Erin’s growing family, and as her mother became less able to run her own farm on a daily basis and Erin inherited greater responsibility, the idea of renovating their four acres and moving Last Penny Farm home took root.  The property is sharply rolling, and had been partially logged a year prior, leaving large hardwood stumps and timber slash and significant standing timber.  It had been a low-quality timber extraction, the logging crew gave little thought to the impact of how they left the property.  The photographs clearly show the amount of work required.  The plan was to remove all stumps, a long and tedious job, but one that would speed the process of converting the area to pasture, and make it immediately tractor accessible for mowing and maintenance.  The remaining material would be mulched and left on the ground to provide erosion control and eventual soil improvement.  The Greens also planned a road to access the barn, the epicenter of the new farm.  As the process unfolded, following the removal of the remaining timber, it quickly became clear the budget would need to expand.  The proposed barn more than doubled in size, consequently changing the size and location of the barn site as well as the road.  In turn, drainage requirements and structures required re-thinking as well.  Another of the hiccups we encountered was unexpected but not unwelcome.  The Green’s property is blessed with deep rich topsoil, in some places up to 20’’ thick.  This is a bonus for pasture, but a problem for grading.  Any road or barn site requires a compacted subsoil base free of organic matter.  Consequently we had to remove over 200 tons of topsoil from the areas designated for the road and barn, grade those areas with enormous quantities of delivered fill dirt, and then re-spread the topsoil out on the pastures and road banks.  As the project moved toward completion we could truly see the farm taking shape.  Upon completion of the barn we moved in for the final road dressing and anything else we could do to help the Greens realize their dream.  We are grateful for Erin and Brandon’s considerable input, patience and of course their original decision to choose V&V for such a technical and demanding project.  Last Penny Farm offers boarding, shearing and alpacas for sale.  Erin and Brandon travel to local farms to offer custom shearing, and toe and teeth trimming services.  The Greens have an Open Farm Day once a month when visitors are able to observe the workings of the farm, see the babies, and check out alpaca products.  Erin and Brandon are an incredible source of information on all things alpaca, and Last Penny Farm is a great place to learn about humane and sustainable animal husbandry.