Wednesday Webs: The Gales of November

turkeys

November is well upon us. What is it they say, the gales of November? I think of this on my morning walks when the air feels dark and the wind has sharpened. On a cozier note, November also initiates the season of togetherness. We tuck ourselves in, light a fire, and begin planning for the holidays.

A Recap of Fermentation Fest 2014

Adunate's design work for Fermentation Fest

Six months ago when I traveled to Sauk County to meet Donna Neuwirth and the Fermentation Fest planners, winter was only beginning to leave the land. Everything was stark, barren and brown. Back then we were just planting seeds of ideas for the festival’s promotional materials and the fruition of this project seemed so very far away.

Two weeks ago, I was once again in Sauk County, this time for the big event. As my husband and I drove through the countryside I couldn’t help contemplating this full cycle of seasons. Just as I’d seen my Fermentation Fest project from start to finish, so I was seeing Sauk County’s agricultural season from start to finish. I feel really blessed to be part of these rural rhythms.

Fermentation Fest Corn Maze

This year, my husband and I did the Fermentation Fest Art D’Tour,  a 50-mile, self guided extravaganza through the winding backroads of Sauk County. Along the way was this corn maze, complete with meditative phrases to serve as guides. We wound our way through the field to a lookout with an over-the-corn view of the scenic hillside.

Fermentation Fest Corn Maze

I did say meditative, didn’t I?

Tractors at Fermentation Fest

For many people, a lineup of tractors is beautiful art. There was a great exchange of stories going on at this stop.

“Is that an F-20 over there?” I overheard a woman ask. “I learned to drive on one of those.”

Drift, Fermentation Fest

Drift is a large-scale floating sculpture that, according to the artists, “functions both as an autonomous intervention in the landscape and a site for exchange with residents and visitors.”

Standing inside this gently rocking raft and looking to the sky through its pieced seams was quite mesmerizing. I started thinking I’d should lay down and float through the dreamy pond just like Lady of Sharlott (or should I say Anne of Green Gables).

Frermentation Fest food vendors

We’d be driving along and suddenly out of nowhere a Roadside Culture Stand would appear. These mobile food stands are works of art in themselves. So are the products they were selling.

Harvestore Bandshell, designed by John Shimone

A Harvestore silo turned serendipitous stage—is this cool, or what? The Harvestore Bandshell was designed by photographers John Shimon and Julie Lindemann, and staged a variety of Pasture Performances. We missed Shimon’s We Go From Where We Know, but enjoyed hearing this guitar trio instead.

What a beautiful day to stand in a farm field and listen to music!

Invasive Species, Fermenation Fest

As the afternoon wound its way down, our last stop was this old, abandoned farmhouse. It’s part of the artwork called Invasive Species, by Isabelle Garbani. Her colorful leaves crocheted from plastic shopping bags are shown creeping along this beautiful house. They’re “slowly choking it with their invasive growth,” according to the artist’s statement, just as our world is being invaded and choked by synthetically produced plastics.

You can’t see it here, but this house has great architectural lines and original character. I was so happy to see a building permit in the window and signs of restoration work inside.

The best way to wrap up an inspiring Art D’Tour is a dinner at the Food/Drink D’Tour. Which we did. What a tasty evening of culinary delights, put on by the finest foodies the region has to offer.

This is something I want to do all over again next year. Sauk County in spring—I’ll be back!

Wednesday Webs: A Great Rural Art Project to Support

Indiegogo project by Fermentation Fest and Shimon & Lindemann

I’ve been enamored by Shimon & Lindemann since I saw them years ago in their Unmasked & Anonymous exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Once, I even suckered my husband into helping me emulate them for a photography class assignment, which involved him sitting in a rocking chair outdoors in the middle of winter. So when Donna, of Wormfarm Institute, asked me to help promote the project they’re doing together, I was happy to jump on the wagon. The bandshell wagon, that is.

Harvestore Bandshell

According to their Indiegogo page, “Artists John Shimon and Julie Lindemann designed the Harvestore Bandshell as both an homage to Wisconsin’s agricultural history and as a unique and mobile performance venue.” This half-a-historic-Harvestore-silo stage will showcase poets, musicians and drama performances at the 2104 Fermentation Fest, a 9-day festival of art, agriculture and fermented food in Sauk County, Wisconsin.

In case you’re wondering, Indiegogo is one of those super, people-minded crowd funding organizations that enable even the little guys to pursue their greater purposes. Perhaps you might consider contributing to this very cool project?

Anyway, I know I’ve been orating endlessly on the Fermentation Fest (when I take on a project I give it my all, including in-your-face, excessive promotion of my client!). I’ve talked about the food, but have I mentioned there’s art? One of the highlights of Fermentation Fest is the 50-mile, self-guided tour—DTour, as it’s been branded—through the rolling farmlands of Sauk County. But it’s not just farmlands. There’s art. Like 3-D art installations in the middle of hayfields. And performances—Pasture Performances—in, yes, animal pastures. And artisan food stands in the middle of nowhere.

This week my list of Wednesday Webs is a sampling of art in Sauk County, either during Fermenation Fest or any other time. You’ve got to come and see!

Pasture Performances at Fermentation Fest:

Sauk County Art Attractions

How You Can Preserve the Good Food Movement

Garlic cloves hanging in old barnI just can’t tell you how good our barn smells right now! Last week we harvested garlic and now one the hand-hewn beams of our Fachwerk barn is fully lined with this earthy delight. If former lives were such a thing, I’m sure I was an Italian maiden and my brick barn presided over an old-world villa. Do ya think?

Like everything else from our garden, this garlic is so-o-o-o much more flavorful than anything you buy in the grocery store. If there’s a disadvantage to raising your own food, it’s that you become acutely aware of just how tasteless and removed from its natural state our retail food has become. Call me a snob (or an empty-nester who can now afford to spend more), but more times than not I’ll go out of my way to shop at Willy Street Cooperative in Madison, and other such stores, simply because its food is organic and/or locally-grown. Think fresh, flavorful and healthy. (Unfortunately, I know I’m using more time and fuel — it’s not easy being green.)

Have you ever read Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé? I first ran into this book while working for the Youth Conservation Corp in the late 1970s. Such ecological food practices were revolutionary back then and, while some of her theories have since been refuted, Lappé is still credited as being an introducer to the active food movement we have today. What I find interesting is how 40 years later, her forewarnings of an unsustainable food system are now here to haunt us. And she was right. Today we have declining health, depleted soils, and a problem of affordably producing quality food, simply because the good food movement is not as much of American life as it should be.

In his article Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers, Bren Smith, a farmer himself, offers suggestions for preserving the good food movement we appreciate today. He writes of political agendas, like supporting affordable health care and shifting subsidies from factory farms to family farms. But guess what, there are also things we can do at the grassroots level that are as equally important for supporting good food—simple things that not only benefit ourselves but society as a whole.

  • Be willing to spend more for better food, and better health.
  • Support small farms instead of factory farms—research the farm, maybe even take a drive to the country to see it.
  • Buy a CSA share from a farm near you.
  • Support food cooperatives—become an owner for greater discounts.
  • If you don’t have access to grocery stores that carry local and organic food, ask your grocer to do so. Do the same with the restaurants you patronize.
  • Become a farmer yourself: grow a garden.
  • Speak up! Write about it. Talk about it on social media. Make people aware of what you or others are doing with good food.

Wednesday Webs: An Artful List to Enrich Your Life

Kandinsky This week I had the opportunity to see Kandinsky: A Retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’ve always been drawn to this modernist’s colorful boldness and the exhibit was a super representation of his work—130 pieces, to be exact. Interestingly, the exhibit ranged from Kandisky’s early years of self-discovery, including Impressionism and Art Nouveau (my favorite); to the bold abstractions we normally associate with him; to his final watercolor works in the 1930-40s.

I love the Milwaukee Art Museum with all its splendor of art and architecture. But lately I’m giving nod to a less formal presentation of art—rural art. It’s one I really appreciate simply because for the past 2-3 months it’s all I’ve been working with.

Fermentation Fest's Rural Art
Not that I’ve mentioned it at all (cough), but my recent project has been an event guide for the upcoming Fermentation Fest. Okay, I admit I’ve been a bit obsessed with it. It’s food. It’s art. It’s two of my great loves—an exciting event you simply must check out!

Anyway, in doing this project I’ve become aware of many organizations that greatly enrich our lives.

Here they are:

  • Art of the Rural is an group of rural Americans working to promote rural arts and culture. Every other year it sponsors Year of the Rural Arts and 2014 is one of those years!
  • Looking for a grant? To date, ArtPlace America has given $56.8 million in support of the arts, including several grants to Fermentation Fest’s very own Sauk County, Wis.
  • If you watch even a little PBS television, you’ve heard of the National Endowment for the Arts. This federal agency also provided funding for the Fermentation Fest.
  • Wisconsin Arts Board, another supporter of Fermentation Fest, has a great list of Wisconsin art tours.
  • Arts Wisconsin regularly posts cool artsy happenings and news on its Facebook page (bringing much more positivity to my day than political posts).
  • The Wormfarm Institute started out as a farm (but not a worm farm) and is now a non-profit working to integrate agriculture and culture. It’s currently accepting applications for its artist residency program.