Monday, June 14, 2010

surprise valley

We took a ride — "we" being Mr. Betty, Darling Daughter and I — out to Surprise Valley Farm on Saturday. It was the one day each year that SVF a.k.a. the Swiss Village Farm Foundation opens its grounds to the public.

There were a few steps involved: go out to Fort Adams, board the trolley (something I/we rarely do but should do more often, as the Newport Trolleys are so efficient and adorable and important), disembark, wash your feet.

Yes, wash your feet. SVF is a "biosecure area" involved in the cryogenic preservation of rare animal breeds, so it's important not to drag in ... well, whatever you might drag in on the bottom of your feet.

Once inside, it's another world, not just biologically but geographically. SVF looks and feels like the rolling, stone-walled English countryside. To me, anyway; that's what I always think when I ride my bike out in that direction. In fact, it's a replica of a Swiss village built in the early 20th century by a doting husband for his wife who pined for the Alps. Or something like that; click here for the full story. It involves much history and all manner of lore — architectural, familial, nautical, all that good Newporty stuff — but, in the interest of time, I'll stay focused on the present.

Yeah, right. Fat chance. I could have stopped right there, where we were washing our feet, and focused on nothing more than the assorted footwear so reminiscent of my own familial history being dipped into antiseptic solution.

But I kept moving. To the chicken house, where there were indeed some rare-looking breeds. And cute chicks. Interesting shingles. Disquieting signage. The most appealing stone cottage imaginable turned out to be the slaughterhouse. Honestly, it was perfect to the point of Disney-esque ... but with a morbid twist. That's farming, I guess.

Needless to say, I kept clicking away. Much to Mr. Betty's and Darling Daughter's dismay. I can't possibly cram all we saw into one day. Suffice it to say: the master and the mistress used to sit on that hill (though clearly not in those precise chairs) and watch the cattle trot home across the bridge they built, so picturesquely situated in the whole little world they built ...

Put another way: they sat watching 'til the cows came home.

Except, yesterday, there were no cows — on the bridge, anyway. Just some strangers (and a whole lot of water) under the bridge. A few fenced-in sheep. Modern vehicles in historic bays ...