Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fledging Crow and South End Arts District

Alrighty, so I'm still in Burlington - looks like I may stay until Friday or Saturday up here!  ....

So, I got into Fledging Crow farm (it's "fledging," - like fledgling minus the "l," as in the act of developing feathers to fly with!) at sundown, with some nice pink cotton candy clouds showing the way.  Lucas, who I'd met in Saranac, came up to greet me, and introduced me to Ian, the 2nd of the farming duo.  Totally warm welcome from these guys, they opened up their place to a basic stranger, gave me a nice loft to sleep in, offered the cooler's bounty in produce to snack on, and then brought out a full plate of dinner as I unpacked myself.  I went to bed knowing that my birthday on the 6th (the next day) would be a fine one!

I got up pretty early and walked around.  Astonishingly straight rows, 100+ ft. long with the full array of diversified vegetables (minus cucurbits) ... a dozen or so pigs who were tilling up a sizable chunk of field, some young grape vines ... all of this surrounded by an electric deer fence, and looked over by a little mountain of a couple hundred feet.  The barn, cabin, greenhouse, and apartment have all gone up in the last 2 years - there was a year living in a big tent, observing the land, and getting an energetic read on where to place things (there's a huge underground river, and a prolific aquifer directly beneath the land ... 22 gal/min well!).

My day consisted of this:
- Wash plastic veggie bins from the last week (a couple hundred or so), with Kyle, local dirtbike aficionado
- Dig half a row of potatoes with Kyle, with spading forks (they'll be getting the fancy machine soon that turns the whole row, without hand digging)
- Wash them potatoes (probably more slowly and deeply than was desirable ...)
- Pull, de-green, and collect storage carrots with Oliver, until Oliver gets tackled by Lucas (aka, "Lunch time rumble")
- Long and luxurious lunch!  Local beef and salad, pasta, red pepper sauce, ice cream cake, chocolate torte ...  Scottie, from down the road, filled us in on all the ways he shows cattle who's boss.
- Pick and de-green storage beets with Oliver
- Pick carrots and beets to bunch
- Wash bunched beets
- Pick and wash bunches of kale and chard
- Sit in on a CSA brochure design mtg with Lucas and Ian.
- Make dinner, tell Ian it's my birthday, celebrate accordingly!  Bela Fleck, dinner, beer, and stories.  Quite fine, to be sure.

All in all, it's a grand place to be.  Lots of vegetables moving about, lots of people coming in and out and through (Ian, Lucas, Ian's wife and child all live there, along with 2 adorable kittens ... then a bunch of regular and irregular help).  There's more masculine energy here than at Ithaca farms I know, which is encouraging I think.  And Ian and Lucas are simply sharp, funny fellows - it's no wonder their growing is going well, and their popularity is expanding (up there, it's a pretty unique operation they've got going on, so folks are picking up on it!).  Hard workers, with things in perspective.

The next day (Tuesday), I took my time getting settled before leaving, and got a route plan from Ian.  I was on the verge of heading toward a place to sky-dive, but that isn't in the cards just yet.  It was threatening rain, but nothing serious, so I set off south toward Crown Point.  I'd hopefully be to the ferry by late afternoon.  It was indeed a good route he gave me, with rolling hills and steep cliffs to the sides.  As I went on, though, I thought Crown Point might be too far, and maybe I did still want to go to Burlington (I could have gone straight across from Keeseville).  So I started heading toward the Essex ferry, a good compromise.

Before I could get too close, I began to notice a low tire, which turned to a flat tire.  First one!  I found myself in the middle of a hill in a big grassy lawn, so I sat down to grab some food and water, then set to it.  I had never changed a flat tire on my own before ... I got it off okay, and then eventually got the tube on and inflated ... maybe took 40 minutes or so!!  Then I noticed that the brakes were uneven, so I started to adjust the wires, until I realized that maybe the wheel wasn't sitting straight!  Oh, gosh, before that, I couldn't figure out how the chain wove around the chains on the back wheel.  That had me stumped and worried (could be dangerous if I messed it up ....).  So, after maybe 90 minutes of tribulation, the trip continued.

A few hundred feet down the road, I stopped at this fellow's antique store to ask for a bike pump.  No luck on that, but he was an amazingly chill guy.  Just seemed happy about life, even though all the shoppers were gone after Labor Day.  He told me the ferry left every half hour, so I had no more anxiety about catching it.  Then, I ran into a group of bikers with bright clothing on.  I talked to this one woman from VT (they were on a day trip), who was also amazingly chill.  Gave me a route to take, once I was in VT.  She went to catch up with her group, and I noticed a team of 4 horses in a big field, with the farmer sitting at the back, resting.  I stopped to say hi and admire the horses.  A third amazingly chill fellow.  These are the kind of folks that you have to just say, "Gosh, I'm glad you're alive and in this world!"  There's nothing more to it, no, "see you soon," or "let's do this together" ... just ... appreciation for good people.

So ... I made it to the ferry, and it was the best $5 I've spent in a while.  A 20 minute boat ride that made the leaving of NY seem far more momentous.  As I gazed out at the shadows of the Green Mountains, lake spray blowing at me, I finally felt the significance of this boundary.  I'd never been on Champlain, that I can remember, and I always love being on lakes.  This one is spectacular, with Adirondacks and Green mountains in the foreground and distance to both sides of the long N-S lake.  2 other bikers gave me more things to think about, and also helped me pump up my tire, once we got to land.  Thanks guys!

Up a hill and into the countryside, and Charlotte, VT.  I eventually came to the quaintest darn market/cafe/deli you've ever seen, and I got some food, plus directions.  The woman running the place sent me up a little ways to a road that would go all the way to Burlington without taking the highway.  There were other customers, but she explained to them, "I'll just be a minute, we don't want him getting lost," which drew nonchalant understanding ("well, he'd just end up back here, and that wouldn't be so terrible!").  A young lady said she was telling me lies of directions!  But sure enough, the map she drew me was perfect, and I began the 12-mile journey from "Vermont" into "Chittenden County," which I take to be similar to "10 square miles surrounded by reality."  Burlington isn't quite really Vermont, though it is also very much so.  Did I mention that as soon as I started biking in VT, I felt like a living citizen again?  Cars would slow down and give ample space to feel like your life isn't perpetually on the line.  There was even a bike path for the last couple miles into Burlington.  Actually, starting a few miles outside of town, I passed bikers nearly every minute or two.  Pretty intense.

I passed through UVM, then went down into the city (via the sidewalk ... poor choice, for the tires' sake).  Got off at Church street, the many-blocked pedestrian mall, and walked the whole thing.  I was looking for "Pine St." where Marie said her studio would be.  Plus I just wanted to check in with the center of things.  I wasn't really feeling it, actually ... the same way I don't get that excited when I walk down Ithaca commons these days.  Not the kind of pure liveliness you hope for ... and plenty of judgment.  But I had also had too much sun, and apparently another flat tire that I hadn't realized.  Made pushing the bike significantly harder with a flat back tire holding 50 lbs of bags.  I went down pine a ways, then gave up finding the studio.  Walked back the many blocks to a park, and set my bike up to work on.  I got this tire changed in much less time.  Marie called, and I had a place to stay for real!  I got on the bike, tried to pedal, and - forgetting that I had it in a hard gear to change the tire - fell straight down to my left.  Not even any forward motion, just up-down, bam!  Played it off like I was stretching and relaxing under the tree.

Met Marie and Aaron, got my tent up, ate some dinner with them, used the computer, and slept.  It was nice and thunderstormy, though the rain was light.
It occurs to me that blogs are maybe supposed to be extremely engaging and well-written, and thought-provoking.  Well, this blog is more of a drab description of what I've done ... it's kind of the way i write in journals, and then never get to the juicier thoughts I've been having.  I'm not sure how to reconcile this ... does anyone have any ideas?  I feel like chronicling the details of what and where, but the majority of my deeper thoughts are forgotten about.  Well ... for now ...

I really took my time this morning getting settled ... showered, laundered, cooking, load-lightening ....  Then biked to the waterfront.  There's this place, Locomotion, that's right on the waterfront bike path, and is dedicated to bicycling information and rentals.  Real sweet woman who helped me a lot with maps, bikes, and traveling ideas.  Then I went to Marie's studio (touring the local foods market/grocery/bakery, first) to help with some projects.  There's this event called the Art Hop on Friday, and it's "Bigger than Christmas" to the artists community.  The South End Arts District is a bunch of artists with studios down that way, and are hoping to get the city's recognition as an official "district."  The Art Hop is like an elaborate gallery night, where everyone pulls out all the stops.

In the studio, it was just lots of excitement and fun and delight at projects coming together.  I ended up down in a glass studio, drilling holes with a diamond-coated bit into iridescent glass discs.  They'll hang on a bike-wheel sculpture and a SEAD sign.  I got to play artist for a good long while!  I'm even doing the hanging arrangement for the bike piece.  Contributing artist right here!  Ha, but it really feels good to just freely get into the excitement of visual art, when I've taken such little part in it since ... middle school I guess.  I went to Aaron's studio, which is in the same building as the juried displays (which Aaron and Marie have pieces in - media, license plates and polymere clay, resepctively.  Vermont and Sunflower, respectively.  Classy and stunning, respectively).  So, anyway, I think I'm staying here until Friday night for the event, and there's plenty to explore and play with in the meanwhile.  Fun fun, life is good!

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