•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Old Farm Road & the Problem of the Bees


I've been driving past Hill Farm since I moved to the area, and I began shooting images of it from the public road as early as the winter of 2005. It was a magical vista to me always - a destination along a tour when friends visited, and one of the ultimate subjects for "a pretty picture." Meeting the owners and getting permission to explore the property made me aware how little of the magic I'd seen. As to this picture, I'm still hoping for a truly clear sky before the clover starts to turn.

Hill Farmstead (not the one in the picture) sits on a shoulder of land just below the main ridge. The dirt road climbs steeply before it turns right and passes through the middle of the main farmstead. After it leaves the farmstead it turns left and climbs higher, then turns to the right and passes over the ridge. Viewing this image, that farmstead is about 45 degrees off camera, to the left. The spot where the dirt road crosses the ridge is about a third of a mile to my left and near the farmstead. The farmstead commands the long valley before it, farmlands and hills for as far as the eye can see. It has stood here since before the revolution, and it has looked the same much of that time. At the height of Connecticut farming it must have been quite an operation.

The farmstead in front of us, part of the Hill Farm operation, is on the banks of the river which flows through woodlands beyond the fields. Among this farmstead's features is a mail-order barn (the big one in the picture) and two pens with stone walls 9 feet high and 3 feet thick. That's where they penned the bulls. The upper barns are horse barns now and probably were then. These lower barns must have been cow barns. It makes sense. The owners of a fine farm like this wanted their transportation nearby, but they might not be so keen on having the tons of manure produced weekly so close to their noses.

Once this field and all the fields in view were cultivated, probably for feed. It's clear that this one is mowed, but my guess is that it has been all clover for awhile. The aroma as I shoot images is a heady concoction that ought to be bottled. One can't help in places such as this to feel the great life force which, left on its own, powers forth this frenzy of blossoms. All around me here nature is exuberant. Of course, the blossoms are not there to tempt and intoxicate me, and that is the problem. It seems to me that this place should be buzzing as loudly as it is chirping and singing, but in the 3 or 4 days I've walked up here, in weather both chilly and sweaty, early and late, I've only counted three bees.

Perhaps the more deeply moving photo will be when the clover turns. I'll keep you posted.