by Judith Bailey on the Hidden Gem of the Island Farm
It has been really fun watching this place take shape everyday on my way to work.
It started with a house suddenly looking very old and interesting. Some sheep were added.
Then a log corn crib appeared. Then, a lot more buildings appeared. The sheep moved to the pasture across the road and everyone who went by on the bike path stopped to talk to them. One day, there appeared a sweet little brown milk cow. A day this spring I saw what looked like a draft horse.
I looked a second time. It was! I read on the Island Farm facebook page his name was "Clancey." The sheep were just not sure they wanted to share a pasture with an animal that large. They were all huddled on the opposite end, looking very worried. But the cow was thrilled and they became buddies from the moment they saw each other and were inseparable.
Fencing was changed, new buildings built, signs went up. And the dream the Outer Banks Conservationists had for years of re-constructing the old Etheridge homestead from the 1850's was finally a reality.
And what a place it is now! I have been to a lot of historical sites, since I am a history buff, but I have never been to one as well managed, staffed and provisioned as this one. For its size it out does places 10 times larger.
I visited recently and talked with all the interpreters -- all of them were friendly and informative. In the cookhouse I sampled some corn cakes with local fig preserves and chatted with the cook. Houses back then didn't have screens in the windows in the summer, so Clancey, whose pasture is beside the building, stuck his head in the window for a little treat. One of the chickens came in, too, to have a look around and let us know his opinion with a few crows.
There are 12 buildings all together: The main house, a slave cabin, an outhouse (3 holer, woohoo!), cookhouse, smokehouse, a dairy shed for keeping milk cool, a barn/chicken coop, a cow barn, a log corn crib and a blacksmith shop. There is also a visitor center with modern restrooms and period clothing you can wear while you visit the farm buildings.
The best treat of all was a new arrival, Charlie, the ox. I never knew this but oxen can be of any breed. All that is required is a steer (male, no bull, ha, ha) and a lot of training at harness and then you have an ox to plow your field or pull a wagon. Charlie is a real sweetie, a Jersey steer.
Admission is $5 but is worth twice that to see all that has been done. The main house is wonderfully furnished with country style antiques and a few fine pieces from that period.
How to get to the Island Farm? Take 158 to Manteo. Coming from Nags Head, turn right at the light and head through town, toward the Aquarium and Ft. Raleigh. But it is not quite that far. It is before Etheridge Road and after Buzzy Lane. The signs are small and white, so look carefully. The entrance is on the left side of the road. After your visit, be sure to stop and check out the downtown, as there are many fine galleries and restaurants along the waterfront.