It’s Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. For 11 days, anything you want to know about fermentation, there’s a class (or lecture) for that. But it’s not just fermentation. There’s also ecology and art.
I know. Sounds weird. Ecology I’d expect, but art in Wisconsin? Whodda’ thunk it? But somebody did and their names are Donna and Jay. They’re from Chicago and they came out here about 20 years ago to farm, which seems sort of random to me, and I don’t know the whole story behind their decision, just that they did it and 20 years later, they’ve gotten grants and have made this wonderful thing that combines food, ecology and art.
For the art part, basically, you get in your car (or on your bike) and there’s a 50 mile loop of art on the side of the road. Farmers agree to let the artists do their installations on their land, some farmers even contribute some of their own art, and when combined with the beautiful landscapes and fall colors, well, it’s something special to be sure. A couple of girlfriends (Gail and Mary) and I piled into a car and we joyfully cackled the whole way through it.
The first piece we saw was called “What’s on your plate?”
OK, I thought that was pretty cool. Then, the next one was “Consider This.”
Then, we saw “Ruminant, (the grand masticator)”
I cannot possibly do Ruminant any justice. This one is hard to show in it’s entirety. It’s cool enough with the stained glass BUT at night, it’s all lit up. I don’t have any shots of that though. I wasn’t expecting to see anything interesting and didn’t have my camera with me the night me and my cousin stopped to see it. Just know that at night, it’s SPECTACULAR.
Then we saw “Plenty”:
Ok, that one was only so-so. Still though, a giant cornucopia in the middle of a field, not to uncool.
Then there was this thing sculpted out of hay. HAY! It didn’t have a name. I think one of the farmers did it. How cool is that dog’s red tongue? Also, I was told there’s some sort of, I dunno what to call it, battle? conflict? competition? between red farm equipment and green farm equipment. The green stuff is John Deere. The red stuff is International Farm Machines (I think that’s the name. I can’t remember. I’m from Brooklyn for heaven’s sake.) When I asked which was the preferred machine, Gail said “Oh, it depends on the farmer, the time of day, the time of the year, whatever. This is Wisconsin.”
(Oh, and also keep in mind that anything that is spoken is said with a Wisconsin accent. Which is to say, any “O” sound sounds like “Oh” Soh, when it’s cohld in Wisconsin, I’m tohld, the farms are covered in snohw.)
OK, onward we went. The next one was called “Entrenched”:
All along the way are these beautiful hand-carved signs that describe different things like wood, art, water, and how they fit into farming, landscape, lifestyle and conservation.
His name is Homer Daehn and he’s also a pretty cool guy. He’s done a lot of work with the Barnum & Bailey museum, restoring some of the old circus wagons. Right next to this wagon was a woman selling beer jelly. Jelly made from beer. I had to buy one of those. I mean, Beer! Jelly!
Who could resist such a thing? I certainly couldn’t. I mean, now I can say I’ve played at least eight bars of the “Moonlight Sonata” on a pasture in Wisconsin! Of course, Gail and Mary talked me into climbing on top of the piano.
Anyway, then there was “Sound Barrier”:
You could go and bang on all that stuff to your heart’s content. After the piano though, none of us felt like climbing out the car. Lazy hens. Then there was this hay cover that looked kind of like a train.
Which looks different depending on where you’re standing. Of course me telling you that and not showing you that is completely meaningless but I was honestly too lazy to run back and take a shot of it from another angle.
Throughout the whole ride, we were treated to beautiful views like this
We did the tour on a Thursday which means we didn’t see any performances and the food vendors weren’t open. It also means we didn’t have traffic or crowds to deal with. Maybe, if I talk myself into the Kombucha class, I’ll see some of the performances. To be determined.
Any way, next year, if you’re anywhere near this part of Wisconsin during October, it’s totally worth the effort.
Oh, almost completely forgot, there are a lot of Amish farms in the area and while I could’t take any photos of them, we did see the most adorable bunch of kids going home from school on something that looked like this internet picture:
Except the one we saw had a few more kids on one of the kids was totally messing with his little brother. But it was a miniature wagon pulled by a pony just like this. How adorable is that? Pretty damned adorable.