10 Slices
Medium 9781607321507

SIGNATURES

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flow’rs
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, THE WINTER’S TALE

We are in the redemption business: healing the land,
healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.

—JOE SALATIN, WEBSITE FOR POLYFACE FARMS

MUCH OF THIS BOOK looks at the many similarities that exist between the two valleys—nearly the same climate, nearly the same landscape, nearly the same cultural, social, and economic commitment to a place. But each of these places, and really every place on earth, has its own idiosyncratic qualities. I see these qualities as “signatures,” those things that are essentially unique to a person or a place. And like a person’s signature, some are easy to read and others are nearly incomprehensible. Because the two places have many signatures, I have chosen one from each of the valleys—they were the easy ones from a possible long list others could create.

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THE FINISH / C’EST FINI

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new
landscapes but in having new eyes.
(redux)

—MARCEL PROUST

I REPEAT PROUST’S QUOTE because it was an appropriate start to the book, but it is an even more suitable closing. The basic characteristics of landscapes have been outlined innumerable times and in various ways by geographers, anthropologists, and landscape architects. But basically, a landscape has three core elements, including the foundation—the geomorphology and geology of the earth; the biota (mostly vegetation) supported by that foundation; and the human influences, impacts, and alterations of these two physical factors. This is pretty prosaic stuff. The poetry of landscape evolves through the myriad ways we humans sense it—metaphorically, by having new eyes looking upon the land where we sense the place and put it into our own personal context of understanding.

These “new eyes” can perceive and interpret the land in good ways or bad. It would be the epitome of Pollyanna-ness to assume that new discoveries will always be sanguine. In this light, in Out of Eden Alan Burdick observes that the world in Darwinian terms of the individual is nasty, brutish, often deadly, and short. Yet the world of the aggregate is remarkably “quiescent, functional, persistent, and durable.” The two worlds of the Coulon and the North Fork are just such landscapes—the brutal, severe one at the individual level and the much more sanguine, holistic aggregate. One can see the combination and interaction of all the living things and the environmental base upon which they depend and relate. We can see the bucolic whole; unless we get close to the ground with our senses, we probably miss the intense nature of life on the edge in some remarkably harsh places. But the juxtaposition of the harsh, wild uplands of the piñon-juniper woodland and la garrigue and the fruited, fecund farmland of the valleys is one of the things most endearing to me as a viewer of the landscape and most strikingly similar between these two places. It is also a testament to the grit and resistance of human occupation of both of these lands and landscapes.

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HIKING

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Walks. The body advances, while the
mind flutters around like a bird.

—JULES RENARD

I HAVE JUST BEEN LOOKING AT A HIKING MAP for the Grand Mesa—the big, flat-topped, volcanic mountain that defines the northern horizon of the North Fork Valley. The map was produced by one of the world’s great geographic organizations, and I have nothing but respect for all of their publications. But what struck me immediately after having spent a month living and hiking in Provence is the paternalistic tone the map’s information section takes. The map’s extensive legend section includes the “10 Essentials” for being prepared. Such things as bringing food, water, a map and compass, sunglasses, and matches are on the list. Then there are six suggested hints for planning ahead, such as preparing for emergencies and scheduling your trip during low-use times. On top of that, there is a list highlighting travel and camping details, a list on how to dispose of “waste” properly, a list telling you what not to take from the area, a list telling you how to minimize the impacts of campfires, and a list telling you how to respect other hikers. It is exhausting to memorize all the lists and their exhortations. I feel as though I need a list of lists to keep track of the lists I am supposed to adhere to. Whatever happened to the simple mantra “Take only pictures, leave only footprints?”

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WINE

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

I offer thee Mirèio: it is my heart and spirit,
The blossom of my years.
A cluster of Crau grapes, with all the green leaves near it,
To thee a peasant bears.

—FRÉDÉRIC MISTRAL, MIRÈIO: A PROVENÇAL POEM

Make me poor, I will make you rich.

—THE VINEYARD TALKING IN AN OLD PROVENÇAL PROVERB

SOME PEOPLE ACTUALLY READ those large, detailed tomes written about wine. These several-hundred-page volumes usually try to cover all major wines from around the world and look at every significant wine-producing region. Thousands of places need to be discussed, some in great detail and others only in passing, as wine is one of the most widespread and complex commodities produced globally. I admit, I am a wine nerd who reads these books—many of which are very well written, some even funny, and usually intensely informative. But never have I seen more than a quarter of a page on the wines from Coulon and never even a mention of the wines from the North Fork Valley. There are no Château Mouton Rothschilds or Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Papes in the two appellations in the Coulon Valley separated by the river—the Côtes du Ventoux and the Côtes du Luberon. And absolutely no one would confuse the North Fork with Napa Valley—not a faux château to be found. Fame and size tend to drown out mention of smaller or newer or less glitzy wine regions. As far as I am concerned, that is a good thing. If the two landscapes discussed here were already famous for their wines, it would leave very little for this curious, thirsty geographer to discover. I am most assuredly not a wine expert, but I love wine and I love trying to understand landscapes, which is where these two disparate passions merge.

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FOOD

Thomas P. Huber University Press of Colorado ePub

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking
if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.

—VOLTAIRE

How we eat can change the world.

—ALICE WATERS OF CHEZ PANISSE

THE SHARING OF A MEAL with friends or family is one of the most universal joys nearly all cultures possess. Something about a communal dinner, lunch, or even breakfast often brings out the best in conversation, interesting discussion, laughter, and thought. This might be because food is such an intimate thing—we humans literally take it into our bodies as we take in few other things. Numbered among these rare items are water, air, and the occasional glass of wine. Maybe this is why the communal meals we have had in both the North Fork Valley and the Coulon are so memorable and almost always bring a smile to our faces.

The laughter part began early during one communal meal we had with Yvon, Joanna, and other guests at the Leroux Creek Inn. Yvon gets most of his food for these meals from the gaggle of organic farmers and ranchers in the area. This particular night Yvon was making roast pheasant, which came from the pheasant farm up on Redlands Mesa. Yvon claimed with a straight face that for a few days before the meal he had driven up on the mesa at very high speeds in hopes that he might get some roadkill of escaped pheasants. He swore that this was what we were eating that night. Whatever the pheasant’s provenance, it was delicious. Even if Yvon had not spent hours aiming his truck at birds on the mesa, these meals are never simple affairs. They always start with a selection of aperitifs—calvados, white wine, sherry, or some other product made into alcohol. Conversation, aperitifs, and hors d’oeuvres can last a long time—an hour or two at least. It is interesting that the French seldom use their own term hors d’oeuvres—instead, they usually call appetizers les entrées.

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