Touring Hill and Valley Country

By Amy M. Pine 

This month’s second annual Hill and Valley Exploration Tour in northern Richland and Sauk counties promises to be a lovely start to your autumn.

Nestled in the gorgeous corners of the Driftless countryside are “different hidden gems that you wouldn’t normally be able to find,” Lisa Buttonow of the Branding Iron Roadhouse in Lime Ridge shared with me. Lisa said her rural community has enjoyed various tours like Fermentation Fest and the Baraboo Art Tour, and the Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 13-14 Hill and Valley Exploration Tour is just a continuation of this agri-tourism community. Hill and Valley partnered with the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce as a way to help people connect with 13 unique and beautiful farms, artists, wineries and markets that are hidden out there for all of us to find and enjoy. I was delighted to visit with two of the participants, hearing a little about the tour and their lovely local offerings.

Artist Patricia Duren is participating in the tour for the first time and is excited to share her new studio in Cazenovia. For more information on the tour, see Explorehillandvalley.com and Facebook.

The Branding Iron Roadhouse, 16 miles southwest of Reedsburg, is a historic restaurant with roots in the restaurant business that go back 70 years. As I stepped into its upbeat and contagious atmosphere, Lisa cheerfully greeted me and told me about their delicious menu. Gourmet burgers are the center point of their diverse fare. Their burgers are freshly made with local beef, Carr Valley cheese, Amish buns and farmers market tomatoes — really farm to fork, she said. They offer wood-fired pizza in unique flavors, even using fresh goat on their Mediterranean pizza. She sees this collaboration as a beautiful thing and the philosophy behind her restaurant: her neighbors and customers supporting her and vice versa. Lisa has been serving at the Branding House Roadhouse for seven years and, together with her partner, Steve Fearing, proudly offers monthly and seasonal dishes: tacos once a month, ribs on the last Saturday and, of course, the traditional Wisconsin beer-battered fish fry every Friday night. The Hill and Valley Exploration tour is a good opportunity to buy the “freshest food available” and it is really right out your back door.

Lisa told me that many are looking to find the local agricultural community, and the Hill and Valley Exploration Tour is a great place to start. Find out where your food comes from locally while enjoying apple cider, art, hay rides, farm walks, delicious farm-to-fork meals, fresh honey, wine and more. There is so much to the rural community. It’s not just farming; it’s a celebration of everyone involved in rural products and traditional charm.

As a change of pace and after a delicious meal, step into the quiet, peaceful, airy studio of artist Patricia Duren in Cazenovia, 20 miles west of Reedsburg. Soft jazz music drifted over me as I gazed at her beautiful pastels and oil paintings under soft light. Tricia shared with me that this is her first Hill and Valley Tour and her excitement about her newly finished studio was inspiring.

Lisa Buttonow and her partner, Steve Fearing, welcome guests to their Branding Iron Roadhouse in Lime Ridge during the second annual Hill and Valley Exploration Tour the first two weekends in October.

Tricia retired from her graphic design work and is diving more into her art, which she has loved creating since she was a little girl. She told me that she sees a lot of people returning to the kid in them and reconnecting with their creative side. It’s fresh and contagious. Tricia does both in-studio work, using her photographs as reference, and also works en plein air — painting outdoors on site. I was fascinated to learn how she does her in-studio work, cropping and adjusting her photos, dividing them into grids on a transparent cover. She then transfers that to her canvas, working beautifully grid by grid. She shared how she came from a small studio in Madison, moving to this area to be near her husband’s roots, and is very excited to use her new expanded space to work with larger pieces. She works in oil pastel, soft pastel and oils — her work ranges from vibrant celebrations of life to soft, contemplative pieces that calmed my spirit. She hopes to go bigger in size and looser, experimenting with emotions. She’s excited to share her new studio and art with the public.

Lisa, Steve and Tricia are just a lovely, small slice of the wonderful places and people the Hill and Valley Exploration Tour features. I dipped into the website, noticing things like honey and buckwheat, cheese, German immigrant art, berries, wine, heirloom and historic apples, a scenic bed and breakfast, art classes, and hands-on educational environments.

Clear your calendar and check out these wonderful treasures on the weekends of Oct. 6-7, Oct. 13-14! For more information and to read about these lovely places, see Explorehillandvalley.com and facebook.com/ExloreHillandValley, call (608) 571-4077 or email explorehillandvalley@gmail.com.

Amy M. Pine lives in Wonewoc and enjoys exploring the connections between faith, relationships and nature, and reading and writing while sipping dark coffee. She is grateful for each day, and for flashes of beauty that spur her on her way. Join her at ampine-hearthridgereflections.com.