Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hibernia and Wyebrook

Kali on the Rim Trail
Seeking out something different to do for the Labor Day weekend, I suggested to Kali that we combine a short hike with a visit to a sustainable agriculture farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania, about an hour west of home.  Kali liked the proposal - in concept.

In practice, the reality was a bit different.  Getting Kali out of bed on a weekend when she isn't obligated to get up early is virtually impossible.  The farm was only open until 3 p.m., and because we might buy some meat at the farm, we had to go for the hike first.  (If we had hiked after visiting the farm, the meat would have sat in the hot car.)  So, I had to roust Kali to get on the road at a reasonable hour, and finally managed to do so about 9 a.m.

After breakfast, we set off for Hibernia County Park, a Chester County, Pennsylvania park.  The park was an old estate along the West Branch of the fabled Brandywine Creek, the stream most often associated with the Wyeth family of painters who lived and worked along its banks.  We had not previously visited  Hibernia, and hiked three miles along a route recommended by a "best hikes near Philadelphia" guidebook.
West Branch Brandywine Creek
The first 1.2 miles were on an old rail bed converted to a trail paralleling the creek.  Then, the trail veered off the rail bed, climbed a modest hill to the east, and backtracked parallel with the rail bed but on the middle part of the slope above the trail.  This midslope trail was very rocky, and it wasn't long before Kali was complaining about the poor footing.  Finally, we reached the point where the trail descended steeply from the slope and footing got really tricky, which enhanced Kali's mood even more.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) fruit ready for southbound avian migrants
We are in the midst of a severe drought, and many of the woodland shrubs were wilting, especially on the dry, rocky slope.
I'm lichen this image
Once we got back to the rail bed level, we added another short loop hike, this time through meadows and woods.
Mantis on an Eastern Bluebird nest box
We finally returned to the creek, where we stopped for lunch and watched flyfishers casting for (stocked) trout.
Flyfishing the Brandywine Creek
After we completed our hike, we drove 15 minutes to Wyebrook Farm.  This farmland was slated to be subdivided for McMansions, but a stock and derivatives trader with no agricultural experience bought the farm and turned it into an organic sustainable farm that raises free-range cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, chicken and turkeys.  The farm also has a butcher shop that sells its meat products, and a cafe and restaurant featuring its meat as well.  All of these activities are concentrated in a beautifully restored 18th century stone barn.
Kali outside the Wyebrook Farm barn
This beautiful stone farmhouse is adjacent to the barn
After we bought two steaks and goat milk cheese, we took  a short walk down the hillside below the barn to see some of the animals and the property.
A Monarch - alas, none too common this year
Hints of late summer and early autumn along a farm road
Destined for the butcher, but enjoying a free-roaming life for now
A pond on the property
I barbecued the steaks for dinner that evening.  They were a bit chewy, but it was nice to know the meat's origin.  Kali and I enjoyed the steaks, but we both felt like they were indulgent.  We hardly ever eat red meat any more, and the steaks just felt decadent and a bit irresponsible.  I did remind Kali that, if people didn't buy meat from the farm, the acreage could easily become a subdivision.


Mark P said...

Another investing thing near where you live. I really need to start checking around here.

packrat said...

Can't get over how beautiful those buildings are, Scott. Great shot of the Monarch. "I'm lichen this image"--indeed! :)

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Ah, I know all about theoretical walkers! Personally I'm a theoretical house-cleaner so I somewhat understand their position. I've often wondered, Scott, is it possible to have sustainable, organic farming without the availability of farmyard manure?

robin andrea said...

Looks like a nice hike there. I'm glad to see sustainable meat practices, even though I gave up eating red meat 45 years ago. We see cows destined for butchering in our extended neighborhood here. They have lots of big fields to roam and are often visited by egrets and geese who join them in the wetlands. I think of Jared Diamond's "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race"and wonder what the planet might be like if our early human ancestors hadn't taken this path.

Scott said...

Mark: Our local public television station has a show on the first Friday of each month called "Friday Arts." The show profiles local artists and food artisans, and Wyebrook Farm was once of the places featured on the show. That was my source and inspiration. The Wyebrook Farm restaurant has been reviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer and got a decent but not spectacular rating; in addition, it's pretty pricey.

Scott said...

Packrat: The stone buildings at Wyebrook Farm are, indeed, extremely handsome. The owner must have done very well on Wall Street to have been able to undertake the stonework restoration like he did.

Scott said...

John: Kali is also a theoretical house-cleaner; I end up doing everything around the house--and I do mean everything.

If the soil is not replenished with nutrients in some form, it will eventually wear out and become depleted of critical nutrients. Manure returns those nutrients to the soil organically. Large, standard farming relies on chemical fertilizers. Kali and I belong to an organic community-supported agriculture farm. (We buy a share at the the beginning of the season and get produce every Friday.) As far as I know, the farm doesn't add manure, and it certainly doesn't add chemical fertilizers, so I don't know how they maintain the fertility of the soil. Our soils here are naturally very fertile, but there's still a limit. Next time I see the farmer when I pick up my vegetables, I'll ask him about how he maintains soil fertility. I'll report back.

Scott said...

Robin Andrea: The hike was nice, but I doubt that we'll repeat it (because of the rocky nature of a portion of the trail and because it was nice but not exceptionally nice). Kali and I feel so ambivalent about eating meat. As I said, we rarely eat red meat (beef or pork), but we do eat a lot of chicken. In some ways, I feel better about eating chickens because they are much more efficient at converting vegetable matter to meat than are cows or pigs, but we're still killing animals. At least half our meals are vegetarian and I look for ways to make meat recipes with vegetarian ingredients (like substituting vegetarian sausage for meat sausage [which we actually like even more than the meat sausage!]).

Gail said...

Hi Scott - oh my,such a beautiful adventure - the pictures captured the beauty of nature despite the drought - What i would give to be able to go on such a hike. And the steaks? You earned a decadent meal - Happy almost Autumn and for sharing this amazing adventure.
Love Gail

Scott said...

Gail: It's good to hear from you. Kali and I take such walks without giving them much of a thought; it's nice to be brought up short by a comment like "What I wouldn't give to be able to go on such a hike." It makes me realize how blessed we are to be able to enjoy the outdoors like we do. Despite the nice walk and the visit to Wyebrook Farm to buy some fresh-off-the-hoof steaks (deserved or not), Kali and I are both ready for a change of scene; we discussed this while we were walking. We're going to retire to the Rocky Mountain foothills (God willing) in a few years, and are looking forward to views of arid mountainsides instead of lush green (albeit a bit droopy because of the drought) valleys. By the way, it's finally raining today (Thursday)--the first time in 19 days. Hooray!

Gail said...

Hi again - your retirement dreams sound wonderful and will be beautiful and life giving. The Rocky Mountains are breath taking - good for you both!! We are into retirement. Skipp is still working 3 days a week, 4 to 10. He hopes to stop working in two years. We live just a mile from the waters of lovely Long Island Sound - we find our way to the shore in all seasons - I love the shoreline in Winter the best. We have adjusted to the limits my having MS has placed on us and so too we celebrate our freedoms. Funny, as our reality changed so did how we defined adventure. Every step, hug, laugh, song sung, ride in the car, visit w/friends and or family, every laugh, tear,smile, sigh, barbecue, shared meal, that feeling of a glass of good wine, snuggling, intimacy, all of it is a gift, an adventure, a blessing. And so too you and Kali are blessed with the adventures your reality and freedoms allow - hallelujah! And it is raining here too, the sound is glorious.
Love Gail

Scott said...

Gail: Thanks for your follow-up! I know a lot of "retired" people who continue to work part-time. In fact, if I could continue to work in my current job part-time I might never want to retire, but that's not going to work--my organization is too small and our budget is too tight to carry an "extra" part-timer. Our planned retirement home is outside Fort Collins in the foothills, but we're too far from town to make a daily commute feasible for a part-time job; it's possible that I'll want to take on something 2-3 days a week (perhaps teaching at Colorado State University in Fort Collins or the University of Wyoming in Laramie, which is about an hour away). But, it's equally possible that I won't want to work at all. We'll just have to to play it by ear. I think we'll be okay financially even if Kali and I don't work.

I didn't realize that you had moved so close to the shore. It's interesting that you bring this up now because I just borrowed the classic "The Outermost House" from the library. It was written in 1928 by Charles Beston who spend a year on the Great Beach on Cape Cod. I know it's not Long Island Sound, but it's not that far away. I'm enjoying the book, but the language feels just a little bit stilted to my ear.

I used to run (I even ran three marathons) and I used to think my life would be "over" (for all intents and purposes) if I couldn't run. Then my right knee gave out on me in 2005 and I had to stop running, but I haven't "died." It's interesting how your expectations and perceptions change, isn't it?