Turtle Island Preserve Farm Chores

Turtle Island Preserve Farm Chores

Eustace Conway's Turtle Island Preserve (TIP) is a great place to spend a day or three. I like to go there to get back to my roots of working on a farm, which I did nearly every day of my youth. Plus, I needed to buy some firewood and replace my chopping block which had recently disintegrated from over-use. So, on Saturday, February 6, 2016, I arranged to go there for the day, get a load of wood and help with the farm chores.


There is an old saying to make hay while the sun shines - meaning to get something done during a narrow window of opportunity. Most of the time the chores at TIP are done by the three or four young interns on staff and in residence. During this cold February day all the interns were gone for various reasons, so Eustace and his office manager Desere were stuck with doing everything. My being there, along with one ASU student during the middle of the day, was for Eustace the sun shine. So, we worked practically non-stop from soon after sunrise to 3 hours after sunset doing chores.

Among our many projects:

Untying and storing a huge rope that Eustace and his friend Preston Roberts tied around a small building to attach it to tree to keep it from being washed down stream in the adjacent creek during a recent flood.

Forking and shoveling horse manure and urine soaked sawdust from the barn stalls, wheel barrowing the refuse to the compost pile and spreading clean sawdust back in the stalls.

Cleaning out and re-organizing the furniture and firewood stack in a cabin made out of straw and clay previously used by a recently departed intern.

Chain sawing down and stacking several dozen small trees near the basecamp kitchen to make room for picnic tables to expand the open air dining room.

Split and stack firewood, which are both more of an art and a science than I imagined; despite my cutting firewood off and on for all my life, Eustace taught me several things I did not know; for example, a line drawn from the center of piece of tree trunk to the round outer edge is a radian; a line drawn at a right angle to a radian is a tangent; a log will split along a radian (which I knew) and also along a tangent (which I did not know).

Load firewood into ricks (frame buildings holding dozens of cords of wood) and then load another part of a cord into my truck.

Eat a home cooked lunch of sautéd fresh vegetables and fresh pork.

Cut up freshly butchered hog meat and wrap some for the freezer and return some to the smokehouse for curing.

Feed the goats and pigs.

Notice an attractive, heavy-duty belt knife sheath Eustace is wearing is identical to a sheath I am wearing made for both of us by Eustace's buddy Preston Roberts, co-star of the Mountain Men show on the History Channel on TV.

Fix the hydro-power system that runs in a Turtle Island creek and produces a small amount of electricity.

Stoke the cabin wood stove.

Jump start a truck battery.

Attempt to fill a flat truck tire with air.

Observe the stars and point out Orion's belt constellation to Eustace.

Drive into Boone and pick up pig food buckets from restaurants and grocery stores.

Finally eat supper at 9 p.m., about 3 hours after dark.

That's the reason I don't have any photos of our work - we never stopped working! That, plus it was too cold to operate my pocket camera while wearing heavy gloves. Turtle Island Preserve has a web site on the Internet. Give Eustace a call if you would like to volunteer to work for a day - or just go visit.

Bob Laney

Written by:

Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.