Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Farm Bulletin: The Roots of Ayers Creek Farm

The following post was written by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm for Big Picture Agriculture, an excellent blog about trends and developments in agriculture, food and farming.

"Anthony Boutard, born in Massachusetts, grew an early appreciation for plants from his father who was a renowned botanist. Educated as a biologist with a graduate degree in Forestry, Anthony and his wife Carol moved out to Oregon in the early 1990s for Anthony to work with a company called 1000 Friends of Oregon, which focuses on land use and landscape preservation. After a few years in Portland, Anthony and Carol decided to take up farming and purchased a 144-acre working farm out in Gaston, about 30 miles from the city. Their philosophy is simple: to grow what tastes good and does well on their land."

The photos below are "lantern slides" taken c.1900 in a beautifully rugged region of Switzerland. Anthony assumes that the photos were taken by his Danish great-grandfather, Ernest Boutard, an engineer who had a patent partnership in Copenhagen, but whose heart was at home in the mountains. He studied at the Polytechnic in Zürich. His grandmother's family was from Graubünden, Switzerland.

[Anthony provided the captions to go with the photos. Click on a photo to see a full size version.]

Käs wägen in der alp hütte ("Cheese weighing in the Alpen hut"). The man weighing the cheese is carrying the cheese to market in the next slide in the series. This places the hut near the village of Schwand, in the Canton Oberwalden. [Anthony notes: "The cheeses of Switzerland remain exceptional because they still adhere to the practice of moving the herds to the high pastures where the lactating cows graze on the alpine flora, the same intensely flavored vegetation used to produce the amaros (kräuterlikörs), bitter liqueurs that I savor as much as the cheeses."]

Öberefahre, Appenzell. The Öberefahre is the Appenzell procession celebrating the move of the herd from the valley to the high pasture. This Swiss tradition of shifting the herd to the complex vegetation of the high alpine pastures during the summer months gives Swiss cheeses their distinctive character. The hornless Appenzeller goats are led by children, followed by three cows with large, carefully tuned ceremonial bells and led by the herder with his decorated milk bucket slung over the shoulder. Today the procession follows the exact same pattern as seen in this photo, but with a bit more pizazz for the tourists.

Harvesting wine grapes, most likely in the canton Ticino. Note the tile roof on the buildings. Ticino, bordering Italy, is the mildest region of Switzerland.

A building for storing grains. The flat rocks between the granary and its supports keep rodents from entering the stores. Yes, that is the Matterhorn in the background.

Strada per Promontogno ("Road through Promontogno). This is the Val Bregaglia in the Canton Graubünden (Grisons). The mountain peak is Piz Badile which sits on the border between Italy and Switzerland. The trees are chestnuts in bloom, so this photo was taken in late June. Chestnuts only grown in the southern-most valleys of Switzerland. This large Canton extends from Lichtenstein to Italy, and has three official languages: German, Romansh and Italian.

Ziegenherde bei der sennhütte ("Goat herd near the goat dairy"). Somewhere in the Canton Graubünden. Horned goats are typical of the canton. Two breeds, ‘Chamois-colored' and 'Grisons Striped’, are endemic to the canton. I love the chaos that attends the group of goats while a doe milked by her herder in the midst of it all.

Engelberg am Wegr. a. Schwand ("Engelberg on Wayside to Schwand"). Canton Obwalden with the Uri Alps in the background. The peak Grosse Spannort on Right. The peak of Brunnistock is on the left. The man weighing the cheese is now carrying the wheels to market along the footpath to Engelberg, an alpine town and the site of a Benedictine Monastary. (The mountains in the background remind me of the Dents du Midi.)

Alpsegen auf Belalp ("Alp blessing on Belalp"). The chapel is still there. The Canton Valais is a predominantly Catholic canton. Note the rosaries. It was tradition to have an open-air blessing when the people and their livestock returned to their alp, the mountain pasture. The term “alp” properly refers to these pastures and not the peaks, but language has a way of drifting.

Thanks to Big Picture Agriculture and Anthony Boutard for allowing me to share this essay.

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