By Lee Noles
MONROE – On a breezy late July afternoon, among the hustle and bustle at the farmers market in Monroe, Valerie Greene stands with her daughter at their booth, selling her items and talking about two things she enjoys doing.
Farming is one of them. It started as a child on her family farm near Fairview and grew when Greene and her husband, Mike, began raising beef cattle on their own land in nearby Anson County.
“I love their personality,” Greene said of her cows. “I don’t know if that sounds weird, but I enjoy raising them.”
The other love for Greene are handmade signs and decorative ornaments that she creates out of left over horseshoes from her husband’s business as a farrier. Greene has been making an eclectic group of signs, which can range from the initials of local universities to seasonal symbols like pumpkins and Christmas trees, for nearly six years. She sells them in an assortment of ways, including bringing them to the farmer’s market along with the beef from her farm.
“I can’t draw. I have bad handwriting, but it was like, wow. I can do this,” Greene said of making the signs. “I can put horseshoes together and make it look pretty.”
The horseshoe hobby began as a way of getting some downtime from raising cattle. Greene was 8 years old when she started raising and caring for cows on her own. It helped pay her way to North Carolina State University, where she majored in animal science.
Greene and her husband bought roughly 20 acres 14 years ago in Anson and began raising their first herd of cows. They added to the property, which has grown to 85-acres and houses around 50 cattle. The job has proven to be around-the-clock work with Greene, her husband and two children doing chores morning, noon and night almost year-round.
The constant work has Greene enjoying the time she can get to work on her horseshoes.
“At night after the kids are in bed, I can go to the place away from the house, crank up the music, have my dog in there and work in there for a couple of hours,” Greene said.
The horseshoes are usually covered in dirt and nails when Greene gets them. She proceeds to wash and clean them off before taking them to an anvil where she hammers them into their original shape. Greene then lays the horseshoes out and welds the pattern together. Finally, she cleans them again before spray painting them.
The holiday season is usually her peak time with Greene making up to 60 arrangements a month between October and December. In addition to Christmas trees, Greene also makes snowmen and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer during that time. She can also create flowers for spring and summer.
“I don’t get bored with it,” Greene said. “I think to myself ‘I haven’t done a flower in a while, or a pumpkin,’ and it gets me into the mood of the season.”
Another big time of the year is graduation. Greene doesn’t like anything more than spray painting horseshoes red for her alma mater, but she has a more humorous approach when someone wants Carolina blue for UNC.
“I’ll take 10 dollars from a Carolina fan any day,” Greene jokes about the rivalry. “I just think, ‘Really, are there that many Carolina fans out there?’”
Greene’s talent isn’t going unnoticed. On Saturday at the farmer’s market, Bekah Foley bought several designs of the words “amazing grace,” forming a cross.
“I love how unique they are and that they are handmade and local,” Foley said. “They are beautiful. She makes wonderful stuff.”
The reaction from Foley is normal, according to Greene, except some people don’t realize how much the horseshoes can weigh.
“They are like ‘This is 25 pounds?’” said Greene when someone picks up a heavier arrangement. “They are really heavy.”
Want a horseshoe design?
If you would like to get your own horseshoe design, visit the farmers market on Saturdays between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or contact Greene at 704-221-5227.