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A Local Farm. January 9, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Along the way yesterday, I came across a cool local farm.

OK, I didn’t exactly “come across” it – I hoped to get a few photos of this place, a very organic mix of buildings and animals along a dead-end road in Buckland.

Well, as it happened, I ran into the owner, who gave me a tour!  🙂

He had hogs in a little barn right off the road:

Hog Farm

Quite a few of them, from full-grown to this year’s model:

Hogs and Barn

They were cute up close, in a swineish way:

Snout

Gotta love that snoot!  🙂

…and cattle, including this painfully skeptical one-ton bull:

Skeptical Bull

Normally, one wouldn’t cross the fence to visit such, but his Farmer-Dude assured me he had been bottle fed by his Momma, and was gentle enough to approach.

This side-o’-beef licked and slobbered my pants into the next wash as I scratched his coarse head with one hand and snapped this photo with the other:

Bull's Eye

I dug it, though I stuck to my car seat on the way home.

There were also sheep, cute little buggers too, but when I tried to take their photo, their Guardian Llama reared up in my face:

Llama Alarm

Word had it he’d lost several of his little charges recently to coyotes, and he wasn’t in the mood to humor strangers.

I had a great time talking to the farmer, a kindred spirit who wasn’t shy about proclaiming himself to be a Socialist (!) in this land of hicks and hippies.

This was a cool interlude in my day, weaving between hill-town hicks and the hippy peace-niks.

Ah, Life in the Berks!  🙂

Classic Carriages In The Berkshires. November 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, poetry.
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This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending an event put on by the Colonial Carriage and Driving Society, a collective of folks who practice the fine but fading art of driving horse-drawn carriages.

It turns out that this is a time-honored tradition here in The Berkshires. Back in the nineteenth century, when the well-monied elite had beach-side properties in Newport, RI, The Berkshires became known as “The Inland Newport.” And why not? It’s an area of great natural beauty tempered with a pastoral placidity, with miles and miles of shaded country lanes. They’re a good deal hillier than many of the Southern haunts of horse-lovers, but then, meeting that challenge is a badge of honor among Coachers.

So vacation cottages sprung up, many in the towns of Stockbridge and Lenox (think names like Carnegie, Westinghouse and Vanderbilt.) You might not call these impressive edifices “cottages” if you saw them; they look more like mansions to me, but hey, I’m financially challenged.

Anyway, back to the present:

This event was held at Orleton Farm in Stockbridge. Our hosts were Harvey and Mary Waller, who are principals in the Colonial Carriage endeavor. They were most gracious to Susan and me, total strangers in this environment.

The Wallers have a stable of about forty carriages, not buckboards mind you, but rather splendid rigs with history, which aren’t just conserved  as in a museum,  but restored and used.   Perhaps their most well known carriage is Old Times, which didn’t come out this day, but I got a shot of its backside in their museum:

While many Colonial Carriage events are formal, with rather strict guidelines for the wearing of period clothing and such,  this was a more casual affair with participants and spectators alike clad in whatever was comfortable for the weather:

This pair of ladies had no intention of freezing on this dark and blustery Autumn day.

The Wallers’ contribution to the event consisted of tons  of tack:

…four beautifully matched German Warmbloods:

…and a carriage filled with enthusiastic participants, the entirety of which approached a weight of five tons, which is quite a lot to haul through the Berkshire Hills:

This was a magnificent sight, infused with the power of four-in-hand horses and, simultaneously, the simple elegance of a bygone day.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this in the future, and in particular their Winter Classic Sleigh Rally.

Thanks to the Wallers and the Colonial Carriage and Driving Society for this beautiful day in the Berkshires.

‘Tis The Season! March 4, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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It’s March here in Massachusetts.

And while it’s March in the rest of the known world, it means something a bit different here.

March is when the warmer days and below-freezing nights cause sugar maples to give it up for We The Peeps.

For centuries now, country folk hereabouts have set out on snowshoes on survivable February days to drill holes in sugar maples, drive in taps and hang buckets:

These galvanized cans haven’t evolves much over the years, though plastic surrogates and miles of piping have made their appearances over the years.

The tapping, though, represents only the tip of the iceberg of effort involved in sweetening our pancakes – there are uncounted cords of wood to be cut, hauled, split and stacked for drying, and once the conditions are right, so many gallons of sap to be retrieved, lugged to tractors or wagons, transported to sugar houses, and boiled over finicky wood fires for days, weeks, sometimes longer.  Forty gallons of sap thus transported yields about a gallon of Liquid Gold, and considering the labor and investment and pre-planning involved, it’s a steal  at $50 per gallon.

So it blows my mind and warms my heart to see it at roadside hereabouts, set out for passers-by to take as they wish and pay for as their consciences dictate:

This roadside barn corner says it all: serve yourself, we trust you.  Last year’s price was $11/pint, and that in the generic plastic jugs, not these gift-worthy glass bottles with ribbons and bows lovingly affixed.  Take what you want, put your money in that little box.

I try to imagine this paradigm being employed in a more urban environment, and come up empty.  We’re not that much different than the urban poor or the urban privileged; we’re just common folk trying to keep our heads and hearts above water from season to season.

The difference, if there is one, is that we see ourselves as being all in this together.  We’re not black or white, red or blue (though if you ask you’ll get an opinionated ear-full,) we’re just neighbors.

This is a big part of why I love it here, and have a hard time conceiving of living anywhere else.