Ignore the Large Glowing Orb in the Sky!

Are you a Believer?

Ignore the large glowing orb in the sky! Dismiss historical factoids like the Thames Frost Fairs (Little Ice Age) or Vikings growing barley in Greenland (Medieval Warming Period). That is just recent history in geological terms. 

Frost Fair on Thames 1814

Frost Fair on Thames 1814

Go further back and you’ll find the Sahara was green or that my hometown (Swansboro, NC) was once at the bottom of the ocean as evidenced by the fossilized sea life in the marl beds.  What’s the point?  The point is that the climate changes, sometimes radically, and has done so since the beginning of time.  Some people might argue about the ‘rate of change’.  Just so you know, the average global temperature has not changed in the last 10 years. Yes, I know, in geological times 10 years is as insignificant as 100 years. Never the less, my opinion is that the Sun’s energy output has much more to do with climate than .03% of the atmosphere.  Others tend to agree.  Maybe you don’t.  That’s OK but before you banish me to the outer reaches of the Internet…Think about This.

Before I am Banished…

Let’s skip the politics and philosophy (neither allowed on my property).  I believe in conservation. My wife and I took a leap and purchased a forest back in the 80’s. Why? because I have always enjoyed forests and all of the benefits they provide: clean air, water and wildlife habitat.  Slowly, but steadily development is encircling our little forest.  As this development grows closer the importance of our forest grows correspondingly.  Likewise it is a scientific fact that our forest is a carbon sink.  So, if C02 sequestration is something that you are interested in pursuing…why not buy offsets from someone you can actually talk to who has land you can actually walk on?

You’ve Got to Be Frick’n Kidding Me!

Well as an active small landowner conservationist, I can sell you carbon offsets (yes, I am serious).  Our little 45 acre pine forest was purchased in 1987. The forest sequesters about 270 metric tons of C02 per year.  This makes my family carbon negative meaning that we sequester more C02 than we emit.  Also, guests who stay at our guest house, La Casita, enjoy carbon neutral travel. Both of our homes and our lifestyle emits about 50 tons of C02 per year.  Guest travel averages about 40 tons per year.  This leaves us an excess of, very conservatively, 180 tons of C02 sequestration per year.  What do you get.  Fresh air and if your in Swansboro, a tour of our family forest.  You also get discounted rates on our vacation house!

Got C02 Offsets?

Got C02 Offsets?

Got C02 Offsets?

Use the calculators at Native Energy to calculate your offset.  Like Native Energy, we will charge you $14 per ton of C02 offset.

Individual 6 Ton C02 Offset $84

48 Ton Household C02 Offset $672

So calculate your C02 emissions and decide how you’ll offset. The Paypal buttons provide an option of selecting Individual (6 ton C02 Offset @ $84) or a Household Offset (48 ton C02 Offset @ $672).  If you would like to purchase another amount please contact me.  Once you make your purchase don’t forget to start planning your trip to Swansboro!

A C02 Offset with a Difference

The difference we offer is that you can come and visit your Carbon Offset. Starting in 2018 you’ll be able to walk on the woodland trails, observe wildlife and walk through a forest that ranges in age between 25 and 100 years in age.  It’s hard to do that when you send your money to some nameless faceless corporation planting trees in South America or Africa. Plus when you purchase at least 6 offsets (enough to make most individuals carbon neutral) you will get a 10% discount when they stay with us at La Casita or our soon to be available rustic camp cabin, La Paranza. Read our reviews.
So buy a C02 offset from a real life forest owner.  When you visit I promise not to call you a poopy head and I expect the same from you…after all, there are birds to watch, wildlife to watch, and fresh air to breathe; all with the trees silently and majestically looking on.
Special thanks to Dr. Booker T. Whatley.  I never met him but his little book, “How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres” has always been an inspiration and guide. (You’ll find the book on the shelf at La Casita.

A Legendary Civil War Hero and a Little Iron Ball

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A Probable Civil War Cast Iron Canister Ball

Yesterday my Dad gave me some little treasures from his collecting over the decades. In the box were some arrow heads, pieces of spear points, some pieces of Indian pottery we collected at Jones Island in the White Oak River.  Then there was this one piece that he said I had found when I was a child…a small rusty iron ball.

Dad said I had found this old iron ball on the Tram Road when I was a little boy. The Tram road is the lumber railroad bed I’ve written about before that transects the property we now own.  I thought, well, could this be some sort of ball bearing…no it’s really rough and it appears to be cast iron which simply isn’t a good material for bearings.  Dad heard me mumbling.  He said it’s probably a Civil War canister ball.  I said wow.

Holding this little iron ball sparked my curiosity.  So, I measured the ball.  It’s about 1.5 inches in diameter.  Then I got to looking at tables and charts about cannons and ammunition from the Civil War era.  Bumbling along the Internet I learned that some 12 and 32 pound cannons shot a cannister round that contained cast iron balls the same size as the little iron ball on my desk.  Interesting.

Well, I knew that there had not been any great Civil War land battles right here in the Swansboro area…at least not any that I know about…but the Union had captured Swansboro in 1862, had burned the salt works and had destroyed the Confederate fort at Huggins Island.  I wondered if the ships that participated in the siege were armed  with 12 or 32 pound cannons?

So, meandering through the Internet maze looking for US Navy ship actions in Eastern NC

I stumbled across the account of the sinking of the CSS Albemarle in 1864.  The Albemarle was a Confederate Ironclad.  The sinking of this warship opened up the Roanoke to the Union Navy and pretty much secured the rivers and sounds all the way from the Virginia border to just outside Wilmington for the exclusive use of Union forces. The sinking of the Albemarle was a mission conceived, led and executed by W.B. Cushing. Cushing had flunked out of Annapolis and had begged and pleaded to be allowed to serve in the U.S. Navy in the Civil War.  Giving him his commission was fortunate.  The sinking of the Albemarle was a significant personal achievement as well as a strategic blow to the Confederacy in North Carolina.

W. B. Cushing

I had read that the ship Cushing commanded during his Albemarle mission had been armed with a 12 pound cannon.  Since he had personally outfitted this ship specifically for the mission maybe he had experience with the 12 pound cannons in other exploits. Had Cushing had ever participated in any Union actions around Swansboro? He had. Cushing had earned his bona fides right here in Swansboro on a ship equipped with a 12 and 32 pound cannon.

 

“The captured gunboat Ellis” (from The Long Roll)

The gunboat Ellis, to which Cushing was assigned and would eventually command, was assigned to blockade Bogue Inlet and Bogue Sound.  Gunboats like the USS Ellis were equipped with 12 and 32 pound cannons.   Here’s an excerpt from the book, Three Wisconsin Cushings, Wisconsin Historical Commission, 1910.

 

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“You see I have a sort of roving commission and can run around to suit myself.  If under these circumstances I can not stir the rebels up in more places than one, it will be strange indeed.”

I can imagine the young Lt at the helm of his gunboat ordering cannister fire in the direction of the homes and businesses.  Being ruthless but still a gentleman he probably didn’t want to intentionally hurt any women or children so he had his crew aim a high warning shot over the town and the little iron balls fell harmlessly in the outlying fields and forests.

A couple of decades or so later it was likely former slaves and their sons who dug the rail road bed for the Swansboro Land and Lumber company.  The little iron ball could have been in a wagon of fill dirt or could have flown a mile into the forest right when it was shot from the cannon…we’ll never know how it ended up on the railroad bed.  In any event the men unknowingly made this little asterisk in the fight for freedom part of the lumber railroad bed.  Then, about a hundred years after it had flown out of a cannon, a little boy playing along the abandoned railroad bed found the now rusty and pitted little iron ball and gave it to his Dad.  A little iron ball that may have been shot from the cannon on a gunboat commanded by an intrepid American hero.

Who knows if there is any truth to my story? Judge for yourself.  Whatever your opinion, I highly recommend reading about the exploits of Cdr W. B. Cushing. There are many books written about him and his exploits.  In one book he is called the “Civil War SEAL”. He was the real deal who fought and won just about a mile down the street in Swansboro.  The stories one little iron ball can tell…are simply amazing.

Tips to Protect Your Chickens!

About 10 years ago I bought a little house in a development that adjoins my 38 acre forested property called Redbay Farm.  One day my Dad asked if I wanted some

Our first chickens

chickens.  I said yes.  Thus began my often times painful journey in raising chickens. The crux of this article is to provide information that will help new chicken owners from repeating the many mistakes I made.  The number one point I’d like to make is that If you don’t protect your chickens your chicken coop will become a predator buffet.

Protecting your chickens is a full time 24/7 365 day a year job.  There are no exceptions. Sure you might get away with leaving the coop open for maybe a night, or two or even a week or more but soon enough a predator will be dining on your chickens.  I have lost chickens to raccoon, opossums, foxes, owls, hawks, snakes and probably coyotes (yes, we have coyotes in Swansboro).  These predators are common in almost every suburban, urban and country setting.  For example, coyotes have even been seen in Manhattan. The predators are always watching and waiting for a delicious chicken dinner.

The most effective means that I have found for protecting chickens is a chicken tractor made with a hardware cloth enclosed chicken run and a secure nesting/roosting area. The chicken tractor gives the chickens a semblance of free range living.  To remain effective and for hygiene, the chicken tractor must be moved regularly. Moving a chicken tractor around everyday is a chore that requires discipline and time. Chicken tractors are a great tool for raising chickens in a suburban yard or garden.  I still have the old “doghouse chicken tractor” I made several years ago.  I never lost a chicken that has stayed inside this nice secure chicken tractor. The doghouse is long gone and is replaced by a little chicken house made of plastic barrel pieces, trash can pieces and some scrap tin. You can purchase expensive versions of this type of chicken tractor or make one yourself. The key feature of the doghouse chicken tractor are hardware cloth which even keeps snakes out and a small roosting/nesting area suitable for about two regular sized hens.  Chicken tractos are only good for level ground otherwise there

Dog House Chicken Tractor

will be large gaps under the rails which will allow predator access.  If you do want to make a “doghouse chicken tractor” just visit my chicken tractor page which also has a materials list and plan I put together years ago.

The next level for raising chickens is the chicken coop with an attached run.  Most folks who have more than one or two hens probably gravitate toward a chicken coop with a run that is permanently sited in their yard or garden. Since chickens don’t enjoy being cooped up even with a nice run or even in a chicken tractor most chicken owners are inclined to let the chickens free range at least a little bit before sundown.  This is great for the chickens and the owner because the chickens become somewhat self sufficient and really help to keep insect control around the yard. But, letting chickens free range is dangerous for the chickens.

If you are not going to keep your chickens locked up in a chicken tractor or secured in their coop you need to be aware of the different ways chickens are susceptible to being eaten. I’ve put together four scenarios based on personal experience that will give you an idea of what can happen.

Scenario one: “Look at the chickens going after the bugs in the yard.” said my wife.  “That hen is so cute!”, she said as we shared a bottle of wine on the patio.  Later that night we heard chickens making all kinds of racket.  I ran out to the coop with a flashlight. I had left the door open on the coop.  There on the ground, laying headless, was the cute little hen. I got to sleep on the couch.

Lesson  #1 – Always shut and lock the door of the coop.

Scenario two: I put together a makeshift chicken pen for the chickens using a dog kennel with a tarp over the top held down with bungee cords.  Inside the dog kennel was a small chicken house.  It was a bit difficult to access the nest for egg collection but other than that the improvised chicken pen seemed to work ok protecting the chickens from hawks and other predators.  One night as we slept soundly a raccoon family climbed the chain linked fence and worked their way under the tarp into the pen. All of the chickens were dead.  I slept on the couch again.

Lesson #2 – Build a secure coop.

Scenario Three: We were eating Thanksgiving dinner.  We looked outside and found that a hawk was also celebrating Thanksgiving by eating one of our pullets! It seems cockrells are just not as tasty. Ah, Thanksgiving day memories.

Lesson #3 – Protect chickens from hawks and owls (yes, I have also lost chickens to Great Horned owls)

Rat snake eating a baby squirrel.

Rat snake (AKA chicken snake) eating a baby squirrel.

Scenario Four: I went to the coop to take a look at our young chickens.  Of course all of the cockrells are accounted for…but the one pullet was now a lump in a snakes belly. Chickens attract some varieties of snakes.  My career raising chickens was beginning to look more dubious by the day.

Lesson #4 – Young chickens require protection from snakes

Integrating the my lessons learned into your chicken defenses

Aerial photo of Redbay Farm and La Casita

Upper Left hand corner shows Redbay Farm and La Casita

If you are new to raising chickens I recommend that you carefully plan how you are going to secure and protect your flock.  If you already own chickens you might find some of my recommendations helpful to mitigate any predator problems you might have. As you plan your chicken defenses evaluate what predators and pest will be trying to eat your chickens. The list varies by geography.  Here in NC our main predators are raccoon, opossums, hawks (various types and at various times of years), Great Horned owls, foxes (red and gray), domestic dogs, bobcats and rat snakes (commonly called chicken snakes).  You can do a search for the internet for how to identify the predators in your area…better yet go talk to some folks who raise chickens in your local area. Predator activity can vary greatly from location to location.  My chicken coop is surrounded by over 100 acres of forest and swamp habitat…perfect habitat for a thriving predator population. In the aerial photo above, you’ll find La Casita and Redbay Farm in the upper left hand corner. As you can see our place is nearly surrounded by forest.  Our chickens are kept behind La Casita.  If you live in the city or suburbia then your predator population may not be as active or as large as it is here at Redbay Farm and La Casita. What ever your situation try to follow my painfully learned chicken protection tips. I think you will dramatically minimize the possibility that predators will kill your hens. My chicken protection tips follow:

Tip # 1 – Build or buy a Strong Coop with fully enclosed run AND install an Automatic Door (This is the minimum your chickens deserve)

This could be a chicken tractor or permanently sited coop.  It is very likely are not going to keep your chickens cooped up at all times so you’ll need to build or buy a strong predator proof Chickenhousecollagecoop. My predator resistant coop has a covered run (protection from hawks/owls) and is surrounded by electric fence. I installed an automatic door for the chickens.  No matter how diligent you are you or someone in your family will forget to close the chicken coop door for the night. I strongly recommend an automatic light actuated door for your stationary coop or chicken tractor. I purchased a VSB  Electronic Door Keeper on Amazon. The device costs about $240.  Sounds like a lot money but the cost to replace a laying hen is about $20 dollars and a predator can wipe Covered chicken runout your whole flock in one night. The door is powered by 4 AA batteries. The collage shows my coop.  The vents at the top of the coop are secured with hardware cloth. Also, I also have electric fencing on the outside of my coop as an added incentive for predators to not mess with my chickens. The electric fencing on the coop is secondary to the electric fence on the perimeter of the field where I let my chickens “free range”.  My combination chicken coop and goat shed won’t win any beauty contest but it is very effective doing the job of protecting my chickens.

Tip # 2 – Fence the Perimeter of the Area Where Your Chickens will Range

Good fences help keep predators out.  Chickens that free range in an unfenced area are just fast food for predators. Permanent non electrified fencing is merely a Billyjungle gym for most predators.  A raccoon or opossum will climb almost any fence with ease.  Snakes will go through most yard fences.  Foxes (gray foxes will climb), coyotes and other predators will go under the fence.  Perimeter fences are inconsequential to hawks and owls.  In a suburban or city setting a yard fence will help to keep your chickens safe from domestic dogs.

The best fencing option I can recommend for the perimeter of  a yard or garden is an electric fence about 4 inches off of the ground with another strand at about 12 inches and another at about 24 to 36 inches.  I use an intermittent pulsing electric fence since I have lost chickens to a continuously pulsing electric fence in the past.  Pulsing electric fences shock the predator and create a psychological barrier.  An electric fence, if you can install one, will be a great step forward in saving chickens. Please check with your HOA, town or city to ensure that you can have an electric fence.  If you can that is great and you’ll have a ring of defense around your chicken coop.  Make sure your neighbors know you have an electric fence.  You don’t want them to be shocked when they find out about your new electric fence.

Grazing behind La Casita

The goats and chickens at the back yard fence of La Casita

Pulsing electric fences are of little danger to people.  In fact I have had guests staying at La Casita accidentally touch my well marked electric fence.  I have been shocked on more times than I can count. If you have an electric fence you will get shocked. You’ll find the shock of the electric fence is much more invigorating than a cup of coffee! It is unpleasant but if intermittent the danger to you or your animals is low.  If you install an electric fence install it right.  Visit my Electric Fence Installation page for installation tips. Correct installation is very important. Additionally, an electric fence requires line maintenance.  I walk my roughly quarter mile of electric fence every couple of weeks checking for breaks, limbs lying on the line and to trim grass/weeds.  Many fence controllers or fencers have an indicator to show if the fence is shorted out.  My fence controller is a Fi-shock 1000SX AC current powered 20 mile fence controller. I have a backup 12 volt battery powered DC fencer just in case of an extended power outage.

Tip #3 – Use Visual deterrents, alarms and provide good cover:

streamer

Close up of the scare tape. Note the duct tape used for reinforcement

The last recommendation is to utilize visual deterrents and audible alarms.  Visual deterrents are overhead streamers, pulsing lights and perhaps a predator decoy (owl decoys seem to work for some people).  I use a streamer made by predator guard that is suspended on a cord about 8 ft high between my shed and coop and the coop and a tree. I place about a 3 to 5 ft long streamer about every 2 or 3 paces along the overhead cord. The purpose of the string of streamers is to physically block flying predators and confuse them with reflections and noise.  I use Predatorguard “Scare Tape” which is a foil product that makes a lot of noise, reflects a lot of light and moves easily in the wind.

Predatorguard Deterrent Light

Predatorguard Deterrent Light at work

Predator Guard Scare Tape streamers

Streamers made with Predator Guard Scare Tape strung between buildings and trees.

For nighttime defense I use solar powered Predatorguard Deterrent Lights which flash a pair of red “eyes” intermittently throughout the night.  I place these on the coop. One up high to deter owls and one down low to deter four legged predators.  Lastly, I keep a rooster.  My rooster, One Eyed Willy is the survivor of a coop attack by a raccoon.  Despite being blind in one eye he is alert and devoted to keeping his 11 girls safe.  If anything looks out of place he sounds the alarm and the hens run for cover. The hens stay close to treed areas, under equipment, under their coop, or under the shed when resting or taking a dust bath.  My coop was intentionally built elevated to provide a hiding place for my hens in addition to being a great place for a dust bath or resting out of the hot sun.

hens at dragonfly pond

My flock of chickens at Dragonfly pond behind La Casita

Another physical deterrent and alarm you may want to consider are crows.  Crows will drive off hawks and Great Horned owls.  If you have crows in your area and you raise chickens thing carefully before trying to drive them off.  While the crows may eat some pecans, corn or even raid bird nests for eggs and chicks (even in the hen house) I believe that generally their faults are outweighed by there predator deterrent benefits.  Put a little corn out for the crows every once in a while.  They are great watchers, alarms and will drive off a hawk or owl.

Enjoy your flock!

I hope my tips have been useful to both current and future chicken keepers.  So, far after several months of operation I have lost 1 bantam hen to a hawk.  After which I put up the scare tape streamers.  Since then each morning after the door of the coop opens One Eyed Willy leads his girls out to forage.  I enjoy watching them in the morning as I drink my coffee.  As I watch I know that just outside the wire of the electric fence the predators are watching and waiting!  The job of protecting chickens is never done.  Good luck protecting your flock!

All the Best,

Jim Hamrick

Next Article: Making Your Own Charcoal

Our New Solar Shower

There are few things more relaxing than taking a shower au naturel  in an out door shower. I had wanted an outdoor shower for years especially since I live near the beach, do a lot of heavy outdoor work, and have received constant “encouragement” from my who tired of me trudging through the house in my dirty clothes to the shower.

I thought about hooking into house hot and cold water supplies but I was intrigued by setting up a solar shower. Originally I was going to build the solar shower like the one Kurt Anderson describes in his article How to Build & Enjoy An Outdoor Solar Shower. I really liked the plan but after I tallied up all the expenses I decided to look at other alternatives.

I googled solar showers and found all sorts of iterations of the idea. Most commercially developed solar showers are a 6″ to 8″ diameter PVC pipe that is vertical and contains many of the components shown in the illustration from Cabinlife.com . I purchased one of these solar showers from Best pools.com via Ebay.

Best Pools sent the solar shower promptly but without directions and without a complete hose adapter. I had to jury rig the adapter to a piece of hose to complete the water connection. Best Pools sent an adapter but it didn’t work so I just double hose clamped the jury rigged connection which stopped all leaking. Our newly installed solar shower is already being used by guests at La Casita…and they love it!

La Casita's solar shower

Ourdoor solar shower with La Choza de Caza (The Hunting Shack) and Redbay Farm in the distant background.

I installed the solar shower along side an existing fence. First I dug a trench to install a 3/4″ water line from an outside spigot to where I wanted the solar shower would be installed. Then I built a partition about 6′ high and 6′ by 8′ for the enclosure. The solar shower is mounted on the stringers for the partition. For the floor I decided to build platforms on about a 3″ gravel bed spread over a weed barrier. The shower drains from the shower via a French drain into a drywell.

Solar shower exterior

The solar shower showing the nice privacy wall. The top of Redbay Cottage is in the background.

If you plan to build a solar shower like this plan to spend about $500.  The shower costs about $180. The rest of the materials included 3/4″ PVC waterline, pea gravel, treated lumber and fasteners.

I’ve used the solar shower several times as have my guests.  Very enjoyable! Hopefully my guests and my family will enjoy this solar shower for years to come.

Sold: an Old Meadows 20″ Stone Grist Mill

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Old Meadows Mill in pieces

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Main shaft showing belt pully and top outside of rotating mill stone

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Face of rotating mill stone. Grooves appear are about 3/16″ deep. No visible cracks.

DSCN3216

Stationary stone with grooves about 3/8″ deep. Stone and bedding cement are intact with no visible cracks.

DSCN3218

Photo shows belt pulley, cast iron frame and shuttle mechanism. All cast iron parts seem to be solid and not cracked.

The Mill is sold: The Mill was purchased by a gentleman from my state, North Carolina, who intends to restore the mill to original condition.

I’ve added more pictures at the request of an interested party.  The pictures show close up photos of the stationary mill stone (grooves about 3/8″ in depth) and rotating stone (groves about 3/16″).  Neither stone appears to have any cracks.  I’ve also provided some additional pictures of the square cast iron frame, shaft and mechanism of the mill.

Original article.

It doesn’t look like much but it is an old Meadows 20″ Stone Grist Mill I hope to sell to someone for parts or restoration.  I am selling this old stone grist mill on Ebay. These mills were apparently sold through Sears and International Harvester or directly by the Meadows Company. From the Company Video, “Meadows Mills has manufactured stone burr mills since 1902. Meadows stone burr mills, also referred to as grist mills, are designed to grind all dry, free-flowing grains and corn into flour, meal, or grits.” These little wood encased belt driven grist mills seem to have been built from the early to mid 20th Century. Tractors or small “hit and miss” engines were used to power the little mills with a belt so that farmers could produce their own stone ground corn meal, grits or cracked corn for livestock.  Mills made today by Meadows Mills are powered by electric motors and made of stainless steel.  Yes the Meadows Mills company still makes mills right here in the USA in North Willkesboro, NC.  As a coincidence I was getting a haircut today and the barber was from North Wilkesboro and was very familiar with  Meadows Mills which is still in buisiness today. He even knew the owners name.  It is a small world.

Meadows Mill sold by Sears

A Meadows Mill sold by Sears

The Meadows mill I have is in pieces but may have value for the right buyer who needs parts or would like to restore one of these historic pieces back into working condition.  As mentioned earlier these little mills freed the family farmer from having to make a trip to a large mill like the picturesque Brock’s Mill in Trenton, NC. However, even these little farm mills went unused as large centralized industrial mills produced meals, flours and feeds that were inexpensive and readily available at the local grocery store.

As I was doing some research to learn about these mills I found some wonderful examples of restored mills.  Most of these mills are collectors items and displayed at fairs or tractor shows.  My favorite find is the Survival Schubert video.

Survival Schubert: old Meadows mill powered by a 15 hp hit and miss engine. This Meadows mill looks to be a match for the mill I am trying to sell.

Meadows Mills put together a nice YouTube video about their stone grist mills.  In the video they even make it a point to say that they restore their mills.

The old Meadows Mill I am selling is an interesting piece of Americana. I hope that a buyer gets it and restores it…that would be cool!

 

Hammocks Beach State Park

Going to Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island is the top thing to do fHammocks Beachor people vacationing in Swansboro (according to Trip Advisor reviews).  Our La Casita guests agree! This article provides a bit of information on how to get to the park and some history on how the park was established.

How to get to the park: Hammocks Beach State Park is about 3 miles from La Casita. The park is on the right near the end of Hammocks Beach Road at 1572 Hammocks Beach Road, Swansboro, NC 28584. At the park you’ll take the ferry over to Bear Island (a Southern Outer Banks barrier island).  Bear Island is undeveloped and can only be reached by boat.  We have had guests stay at La Casita for a week and they have gone to Hammocks Beach State Park every day. Guests routinely tell me that Bear Island is among the best beaches they have ever visited.

Then take the ferry to Bear Island: To get to Bear Island you will have to take the ferry or a private boat. The park ferry is a large passenger only pontoon boat. It is wheel chair accessible. The ferry makes runs to the island starting at 9:30 AM every day in the summer. There is more limited service in the Spring and Fall.  There is no ferry service in the winter.  Throughout the year Bear Island is always accessible by private boat.

Ferry Fees

  • Adult roundtrip — $5
  • Senior Citizen (62 or older) roundtrip — $3
  • Children ages 6-12 roundtrip — $3
  • Annual Ferry Pass — $50
Aerial View of Hammocks Beach State Park

NC Coastal Federation photo

On Bear Island you will find a Beach Pavilion which has showers, bathrooms and a concession stand. There is a life guard at the beach.

For more information on Hammocks Beach State Park schedules and amenities visit the park website.

Hammocks Beach State Park has an interesting history: The park is much more than the beach at Bear Island. For more information about the park history and a recent land acquisition I recommend the reading the articles found at the links listed below:

 

Mark Simmerson’s History of Bear Island, 2004 which provides a wealth of information about Dr. Sharpe and John Hurst and how those names are entwined in the history of Hammocks Beach State Park and Bear Island

More about Huggins Island…another part of Hammocks Beach State Park and location of the only remaining intact Confederate earthworks fort. – Swansboro History Website

Jones Island (the island you see in the middle of the White Oak River north of the bridges) … yet another part of Hammocks Beach State Park – North Carolina Coastal Federation

$10 million sale adds 290 acres to Onslow County coastal park – Raleigh News and Observer

Deal Could Add Land to Hammocks Beach (pre land deal agreement but provides useful background information on the park) NC Coastal Federation

Visit Hammocks Beach State Park: Hammocks Beach State Park is a great destination that is enjoyed by many people who visit Swansboro.  You, your family and your friends will have a great time!

 

Shoaling of Swansboro’s West Channel

Aside

Once the Longleaf forests lost their economic value as a source for Naval Stores they were clear cut.  Very little of the virgin Longleaf forests remains.  The Longleaf ecosystem of trees neatly spaced on a grass savanna stretched from Virginia all the way to Texas. There an old picture in one of Jack Dudley’s books that shows Dr. Sharpes house on the Hammock.  There is one tree in the photo, an old live oak, everything else is fields…the sandy soils in the Swansboro area erode rapidly.   An indicator of the impact of deforestation and subsequent silting in of waterways can be found in  The Annual Reports of the War Department…1897

“A steamboat to draw 8 feet is being built at t e Swansboro Lumber Company’s mill for carrying the product of the mill to Northern markets. There are two routes from Swansboro to the inlet. One, the western or old ship channel, has now 5 feet at high water and is not much used at present. It is claimed that over twenty years ago vessels drawing 10 and 12 feet used it freely. The other, the eastern channel, carries 5.8 feet at high water and is used by the lighters generally and by the steamboats and sharpies going up Bogne Sound. The cause 0f the deterioration of the western channel is a shoal which has made out from the southWest point of Dudleys Island marsh and now extends across the channel. The depth of water in sloughs over it varies from 2 feet at times to 7 feet. There was 5 feet at time of examination. The object of the Swansboro Lumber Company in applying for an examination was the removal of this shoal, which at time of a publication was thought to be the only one having less than 8 feet at high water from the ocean to Swansboro.”

Swansboro Lumber Company around 1900

The photo above shows the view looking from the top of the hill down on the Swansboro Lumber Company near where Spring Street is today…it was a corn field in around 1900.  Navigation was already difficult in Eastern North Carolina but deforestation subsequent cultivation of sandy hills and resulting erosion made ports like Swansboro impassible except for sailing sharpies and other very shallow draft vessels.

Great Guests at La Casita

LaCasitaVistorsWe’ve hosted people from far and wide at La Casita.  We’re lucky to be hosting another great family from the Midwest of the United States. They’re  having a great time at La Casita and enjoying the local area and all of the amenities that come with a stay at our little 5-star destination.  About a fifth of our visitors come from the Midwest of the United States.  The chart shows where all of our visitors come from.  While we thought we would host some folks from around the country we never

Eastern North Carolina

La Casita is located in Swansboro which is in Onslow County, NC.

expected to host European visitors.  I don’t know why we didn’t…anyway, now, for example, I know the difference between a tea pot and a tea kettle.  I learn something new with every guest.  It has just been a real pleasure being a host and introducing our guests to all of the natural beauty and history to be found here in Eastern North Carolina.

Why the name Redbay Farm?

Our place Redbay Farm is not in Red Bay, Alabama.  It’s not in California.  It’s not in Ireland.  We don’t own horses.  Our place is in Swansboro, North Carolina.  So why the name Redbay?

Perseaborbonia

Redbay Leaves and Fruit ( the leaves are used in cooking just like bay leaves you buy at the store)

Our forest is called Redbay Farm is named after the Redbay tree,   Persea borbonia.  We have a nice specimen in the back yard of La Casita that is currently flowering…the Redbay is an important honey tree.  The tree is also an important food source for deer and turkeys.

According to Wikpedia the Redbay is slowly dying out…” due to an invasion of redbay ambrosia beetle in the Southern United States the tree is slowly dying out. The beetle was discovered in 2002 near Savannah, Georgia and it carries a laurel wilt fungal disease that is responsible for killing Redbays. However, foresters agree the species will likely not go extinct in the southeastern U.S. since it appears to rejuvenate to some degree on its own. Additionally, there appears to be an invitro programs that have been successful in one study area in Georgia”

I picked the name Redbay for my tree farm because I love the smell of the leaves and wood. Mostly I chose the name because the die out is emblematic of the similar fate of small forest and farms.  Small forests like mine comprise about half of privately owned forests.  These forests are slowly being fragmented, developed and are repeatedly cut over.  In fact La Casita is built part of the 78 acre forest that was for sale back in the 1980’s.  At that time we were only able to afford to buy 28 acres of the forest.  Subsequently we were fortunate to be able to purchase an adjoining 10 acres in 1990 and then another separate 7 acre parcel in the mid 90’s.

La Casita was originally going to be our temporary home while we built ‘the home of our dreams’ on Redbay Farm or on Lone Cypress (our little 7 acre creek front lot currently for sale since we have no intention of ever building on it…contact our realtor Mary Rawls if interested).  However, suburban convenience and our purchase of next door Redbay Cottage in late 2012 scuttled those plans.  We became somewhat accidental vacation home owners and now I am a vacation home manager.

Persea_borbonia_range_map

Range of the Redbay Tree

Since we purchased the forest in 1987 my goal has been to preserve our forest and demonstrate that such forests can be economically sustainable.  We cut the forest in 1994. Today our forest is over 20 years old and we have no intention of cutting it again in the near future.  Why?  That question leads to La Casita.

La Casita has become the mechanism I was looking for to provide regular income that is needed to sustain private forest land. Redbay Farm and La Casita are in a symbiotic relationship.  Redbay Farm absorbs about 270 tons of CO₂ per year offsetting all of our and our guests carbon footprints.  Even if we sell the 7 acre Lone Cypress parcel we’ll still be able to offer our guests a carbon neutral trip. We are fortunate that La Casita provides the revenue to pay the taxes, insurance and maintenance costs for itself as well as the overhead for all of of the parcels of property that comprise Redbay Farm.  As long as La Casita is making a profit the roar of the chipping mill, chainsaws and logging equipment won’t be disturbing our neighbors. Although I understand the economics, It is so sad to see a forest be clear cut so that wood pellets can be sent to the stoves and ovens of Europe.

So, on a very circuitous route we have established La Casita which is the only vacation home I am aware of in Swansboro where you can spend a carbon neutral vacation thanks to a little tree farm that is named after the Redbay tree.  When you stay with us you are demonstrating your devotion to the value of privately owned forests and a commitment to maintaining environmental quality.  Those perks are on top of just getting to stay in a unique little ‘near sea’ vacation house where you can watch wildlife, feed our goats see the fat hens waddling about the pasture and fall asleep as you listen to the frogs sing you a lullaby…all after a day at the beach or on the water which is only minutes from the house.

We hope to see you soon at La Castita…part of Redbay Farm (a humble little tree farm named after a humble little tree).

By the way.  If you are interested in purchasing dried leaves of the Persea Borbonia (Redbay Tree) for culinary purposes please let me know.  Its a cinch to dry a batch in my dehydrator. The price is $4.00 an ounce plus shipping and handling.  The leaves will be personally selected by me on my tree farm…Redbay Farm.