Thursday, September 27, 2018

Massenburg Shade Trees at Lighthouse Venue

Shade Trees at Lighthouse Venue
2018 grape sales were great
A short drive from Walterboro down Highway 63 leads to Sniders crossroads, revealing the rural fabric of western Colleton County. Anyone cruising down Sniders Highway in 2013 noticed the new vineyard grove that popped up in one of the old farm fields along the roadside. An initial plan to make wine from the grapes did not bear fruit, but the business has grown to include a wedding venue, and fresh grapes from the vineyard are now in season and on sale. New for 2018, a commercial shade tree operation is clearly visible on parts of the property, and is sure to grow this diversified business to new heights.
Owner Ralph Massenburg is a close friend with the folks in Ravenel who have an older established vineyard and grape sale operation, taking that knowledge and applying it here. Readers of the Colletonian recall that some bottles of wine were created for the initial First Wine Festival complete with live music in September 2013. Since then the Lighthouse Venue has become more wedding oriented, with a picture perfect setting that includes a pecan grove, hay fields and an old farmhouse.

“Coming into this venture I had 50 years experience as a landscape contractor,” said Ralph Massenburg. “This is our first year growing the shade trees in a commercial operation selling to customers in garden centers and to local landscapers. Our trees are in 15-gallon and 30-gallon containers now, and we will include 45, 60 and 100-gallon container sizes in the future. We grow magnolias, maples, crepe myrtles, river birch, Leland cypress and bald cypress. Our live oaks and sawtooth oaks can provide the acorns that wildlife watchers appreciate.”

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.

USA's Cade McCutcheon stops Custom Made Gun during Reining
Photo by the World Equestrian Games
The FEI World Equestrian Games only occur once every four years in Europe and the United States, and the 2018 event is currently being hosted in Tryon, North Carolina. Traveling up I-26 from South Carolina the first exit leads to Tryon which boasts a thriving equine community that is set for even more growth partly due to its favorable climate. Unusually hot and humid weather affected the endurance race prior to the tropical rains from Florence leading to weekend cancelations of events. A second week of competition with riders and horses from around the world will continue until their Sept. 23 closing ceremonies.

The eight core disciplines on the schedule for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) include show jumping, dressage, para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining. The Federation Equestrian International (FEI) is the worldwide governing body of equestrian sport. The last WEG event was held in 2014 in Normandy, France and the horses and their owners are known to travel widely in order to attend these games. Therefore the two weeks of equestrian games are projected to boost the local economy by millions of dollars including lodging for spectators and finding stables for the horses.

While the Tryon International Equestrian Center is tucked away in the N.C. foothills, viewers in the Lowcountry can watch for the daily TV coverage on NBC Sports networks. A record 57 hours of live coverage, mostly during the middle of the day, began with dressage grand prix on Sept. 12 and concludes with the Sept. 23 individual jumping competition. Videos and live scoring results can be found on the Internet at and the same handle will access their social media pages. The 2018 events are only the second World Equestrian Games held in the U.S. after Kentucky hosted the event in 2010.

To view the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from Western N.C. click on 2018 Saluda Coon Dog Day 

To view past blog entries about horses click on Georgia -  North Carolina - Corolla / OBX

To view past blog entries from the mountains click on Sassafras Mountain / SC - Smoky Mountains / Tenn - ColdwaterTrout / NC - Sky Top Orchard / NC - Lonesome Valley / NC - Ozarks / Missouri  - Green River Games / NC - South Holston River Lodge / Tennessee - Hazel Creek / NC 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Holland Hay Baling Demo at Snider’s Crossroads

Tethering and raking hay to dry it before baling
The intersection of Highway 63 and 21 in Western Colleton County is popular with those looking to find and eat Benton’s boiled peanuts. A 28-acre hay field at Snider’s crossroads owned by Benton Hay Farm welcomed New Holland Agriculture and Blanchard Caterpillar to a hay baling demo day on Saturday, September 11. Area farmers from across the Lower State were invited to come listen to New Holland product specialist Joe Hendrix from Kentucky, and to watch the Benton’s cut, rake and bale their coastal Bermuda hay.

Joe Hendrix with New Holland talks about new hay equipment
Big Rig including the Roll-Belt 450 hay baler
Hendrix is on the road marketing the latest products from New Holland for 2019 and just attended the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa two weeks ago.  “Our newest product is here today and pairs an automated hay bale wrapper with our Roll Belt 450 Series Baler,” said Hendrix. “Wrapping hay bales is already widespread in Europe and Canada, and this practice is gaining popularity in North America due to changing weather patterns. The baler and wrapper combo is not available for purchase until 2019, but we are glad to be here rolling out round bales today for everyone to see.”

Side arm hay cutter in action
“We think New Holland hay equipment is the best out there, and we also get great service right here in town at their office on Highway 15,” said I.M. Benton. “Our hay fields run from Shiloh to Canadys and we supply hay for horses, cows and goats. Baling hay is supposed to be a three-day operation cutting the hay on day one, tethering the hay on day two and baling the hay on day three. We try and get our second cut of the year done by Labor Day but the persistent afternoon showers have us running a little behind schedule. So its good for growing hay when rains are steady, but that same reason makes it not so good for cutting.” Make hay while the sun shines rings true for hay farmers, and that’s what they’ll be doing at a rapid pace this week ahead of any possible tropical rains drenching the Lowcountry.

To view the entire feature story in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entry about hay harvest click on 2014 Thanksgiving

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

O'Quinn on S.C. Crew Fighting Western Wildfires

Scott O'Quinn stands on scorched earth at 6690-feet in Colorado
The S.C. Fire Crew on duty in Colorado
Ample rains have kept the Lowcountry from drought in 2018, but the national news shows the Western United States has not been as fortunate. Wildfires burning out of control in several states have federal and local fire crews united in the cause of saving lives and saving homes. Experienced wildland firefighters from across the country go out West in two week shifts in order to provide manpower, and a fire crew from South Carolina was called up for duty from August 13 - 29. Colleton County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Scott O’Quinn accepted the call to go out West and fight fire with the elite 20-man crew from across the Palmetto State.

Cabin in remote area that S.C. crew saved from wildfire
“Scott O’Quinn is already at a supervisor level here at Colleton County Fire Rescue,” said Chief Barry McRoy. “His late father was a volunteer firefighter who helped establish the Hendersonville fire station, so Scott got interested at a young age in what we do. He works very hard for our community and is an asset for our department. Going out West peaks his interest in forest lands fires, and we are glad he returned safe and is back on the job here at home.”

The S.C. fire crew flew from Columbia to Denver, Colorado and brought their own boots, clothing and hard hats. A federal supply store provided them with firefighting hand tools. Their first deployment was to the Cabin Fire in Meeker, Colorado and their assignment was structural protection, and not fire containment. At 5000-acres the fire was already widespread and the 8020-feet elevation can affect fire behavior. They spent several nights in the outdoors ‘fire camp’ that provides portable toilets, office space, catered meals and resembles a military operation.

To read the entire feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.