Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Gals

Our two Big gals in the barn. The one on the right is Maggie and on the left is Terri. Right now they are the ones milking the most. Terri had 126 lbs a day and Maggie had 118 lbs a day. If you want to see them in person come and visit us.

Friday, March 27, 2009

And then, it got bigger!

This is the new garden space/the rest of our yard. It's going to be that you walk down the path, and basically have a fence on both sides, all of the way down (except for the flower bed to the left.) It's a little bit hard to see in the picture exactly what is yard and what is garden because the sod isn't all turned over yet.

Trav planted peas today, and the branches he cut off of the red bushes are going to be, what he calls, the "pea sticks"- for the peas to grow on. Its a different approach, so we'll see how that turns out. I am so craving a seven-layer salad right now, and have been for about two weeks - I guess it'll be another 68-77 days (according to Trav)!
I wish I had some knitting to blog, but it's top secret, so it'll have to wait. Seems like gardening is all that's on the brain here anyways, so welcome to my world :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fresh Dirt

Travis has officially started digging ~ this used to be our yard...


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 3: Essential Principles and Practices of Cheesemaking . . . The Last Day

Today was the last day with the original group. Sadly, about half will not me returning. The group that remains, however, should be fun. But, never mind the sad part of today, I shall only continue with the fun and good things.

We started out in the classroom again, finishing up on the basics with how to measure pH, salt content and moisture in our 'green' cheese (cheese at ~1 day old before aging) and the importance of these measurements. Then we made some Queso Blanco (which I've made at home - I learned a lot despite this) and finished up on our "bloomy rind" from the day before. We finished up with last minute questions and some basic troubleshooting tips. Then we got our certificates and it was done. 

The two men from New York (up state, fairly close to the Canadian border), Andy and Shaun, invited Sam, a boy my age from Missouri, and me on a field trip. We stopped first at the Dancing Cow. Steve, the owner and man we met, is apparently a city-boy turned farmer. He has a 50 head herd that he milks only once a day. It didn't start out this way, however. At first he had a mainly Jersey herd and was selling fluid milk. About 3 years ago he changed to making some cheese and selling about 1/2 of his milk fluid. He discovered that the test (protein and fat) from his herd wasn't cheese-quality since he was shooting for quantity rather than the correct fat/protein ratio. Now he feeds only a few pounds of feed with mostly alfalfa/grass. The once a day milking helps the cows shift their production towards protein and fat production rather than fluid quantity. He makes some of the best cheese in the area, which was interesting to see coming from such a motley crew of milked-once-a-day cows his jersey herd is now very mixed with Dutch Belted, Normandy Red, Holstein, Gurnsey, Ayrshire, and Brown Swiss. He said he was "tired of the bug jerseys" - very obvious since all of his cows are about half as tall as ours at home. They're very happy looking cows despite the vertical challenge.

The parlor is a beautiful setup. Steve really wants to minimize the amount of water and energy he uses - especially the water when it comes to bacteria-prone areas. Thus he has a 'dry', single-4, step-up parlor. With automatic take offs it seems like a beautiful set up to milk with 1 or maybe 2 people: it is clean, efficient . . . it doesn't even smell like a barn. The cheesemaking set up is in a room next door with the warm milk headed straight to the cheese room. They make cheese 7 days a week, one batch a day. There are 2 others buildings, we only visited 1, in which the cheeses age. They are still being perfected, one is quite new, but are built exquisitely. Overall it is  top-notch artisan, farmstead cheese operation. 

We continued further from Burlington and deeper into the dark hills of wild Vermont. We ended up on an 80-90 head dairy that milked primarily Ayrshires. They sell fluid milk but make cheese anywhere from 5 -10 days a week. They only make 2 different kinds, and are a little more commercial than Steve's setup, but it was clean and well managed. I was glad to see some small-scale cheese operations not only up and running, but very successful and established. Through this trip, listening to the others in the class that are close to running their own operation, and the class itself, I'm starting to realize what I don't know, and am starting to understand the planning, thought and dedication that goes into artisan cheesemaking.

We ended up eating at a café in a town near Burlington. It was a very good meal, for far less than Burlington fare, in good company. Sam is from the suburbs of Missouri - he has little to no experience on a farm or making cheese, but has a year long internship at one of the few goat cheese farms in Missouri. Andy and Shaun are hilarious, kind, insightful and brilliant. So, overall, it was another magnificent day in Vermont. I feel as if I am in a "Burlington Bubble" and am afraid for when it will pop and I have to return to the world of college and work. I am anticipating a summer full of cheese, however, with new knowledge and new cheeses.

- Love to All - Katie 

Day 2: Essential Principles of Cheesemaking . . . continued

Last night I went to supper with Luca (the italian) at Trattoria - an italian restaurant in town. We ate well, as italians do, with some antipasti (antipasti misti: grilled vegetables and aged meats, burschetta: tomatoes on bread with olive oil and herbs, prosciutto: aged ham with mozzarella melted in the middle) la prima piatta (I had gnocchi with a tomato sauce, Luca pasta with a white wine creamy sauce and porcini mushrooms, which he let me try) with, of course, three different wines throughout the meal, of which he also allowed me sips. He finished with an espresso, but I was almost too full to make it out the door a good hour and a half after we had begun. I listened to Luca's story, injecting bits of my own at his request, but mostly listening. He was born in Italy, his grandmother owned a hotel and restaurant, his grandpa was a cheesemaker and bee keeper. he has a younger brother who was studious and is ambitious. He is now the head firefighter in the south of Italy. Luca, on the other hand, has been in and out of various school - hotel management, bartending school . . . He moved to the U.S. in 2003, working for a ski resort I think in the restaurant part of the resort. Those in charge were too money driven, however, and he soon transfered to San Fransisco. Soon after he moved again, this time to Santa Barbara where he again worked in a high end restaurant, I believe in the management and probably cooking end of the business. His partner was unwilling to change to become more organic/sustainable/local, so Luca found roughly 5 acres in Massachusetts. He moved there in October, leaving behind a house he still hasn't sold, 2 weeks left to work at the restaurant, and a bee hive he will bring back after he returns to CA to finish work.  He plans to create an entirely self-sustaining farm but plans on making mozzarella, caciocavallo and another italian cheese to make money until eventually he can become completely off grid. He may start a B & B type business (or an agritourismo as is popular in Italy) to get more funds until he can eventually kick everyone out and live by himself. He is friendly once approached, but a little wary at first. He has some interesting views and concepts on religion involving Mary Magdalene and Jesus having a daughter that he elaborated on later in the night, but I did not completely understand them. Overall, it was a fantastic and fascinating night.

Today in class was more cheese - we explored cultures (or "coutures" as my french instructor Marc says) and made a 'bloomy rind' cheese (think along the lines of brie or camembert). We will finish that tomorrow. We also learned a little about basic aging from Monset, our spanish teacher. Now, I think a description of Marc is in order . . .

Marc went to a premier cheesemaking school in his homeland of France. He has worked in various parts of the food industry - he worked at Nestle, a large creamery, and other places he has not elaborated on. When he talks about cheese he gets very excited, a lot of hand gestures and bulging of his already buggy eyes. He 'styles'  his hair with half of it flattish and one side gelled up in a disheveled manner. His handwriting is awful, and sometimes he doesn't understand our questions, but tries his hardest to give us an answer. His teaching is based more on how this should feel, but backed up with chemistry and science. His uses ridiculous analogies that somehow make a bit of sense, but most of the time just make us laugh. While making cheese, he was so excited about each stage. He would say "I want you to come feel this . . . feel the curd . . . stick your hands in this . . ." of course in a thick french accent while caressing or squeezing the curds and giving us a big, goofy grin. 

After finishing up with class (late, as usual - I don't even know why they gave us an upper time constraint) I was talking with 2 sisters from Georgia. They intend to start up the Calyroad Creamery (look at their pictures: Both are in their 50's (just a bit younger than you, Mum and Dad) with children. Robin, the younger of the two, was flight attendant for years until she got married. She now has 2 sons - a 13 year-old who rolls his eyes at his mother's "cheese project" and a 10 year-old who is their self proclaimed marketing agent. The older sister, Cathy, has an older daughter, and maybe some other children. She is starting her 3rd career -first at Home Depot (traveling often and far), now as a real estate accessor or something, and now as a cheesemaker. We decided to go to a French restaurant in downtown Burlington for supper. We started with a cheeseplate of 3 different cheese from area cheesemakers: a fresh goat chevre; a stronger, bloomy rind type cheese (also goat) with ash on the rind; and an aged, raw milk cheese similar to a young parmesan. We decided that if Calyroad makes Chevre (which will be their first cheese) as good as what we had, they will sell out in no time. I then had a stuffed quail while they feasted on halibut and scallops. All was delicious. We talked about everything from goat herd management (they will be using goat milk from a nearby farm of 19 goats) to what I do, we discussed the class thus far and much, much more. In short, if they lived near us, they would fit right in with Tim & Lisa, Bill & Linda, Brian & Ruth as wonderful, interesting neighbors and good friends. We exchanged contact information so we can see how one another does. I'm really looking forward to seeing how their business goes - they start soon once their milk supply starts coming. They have everything but a bulk tank. On the way back to our hotels we got a little lost and almost went to New York!!! (we would've had to take a ferry, but we saw the sign) Reminds me of some other lost travelers we know . . . 

Well, that's it for now. Love much from the Green State (especially on St. Patty's Day!!!!) - Katie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Here's our newest "baby." It's a Caterpillar 301.5 Mini Excavator. We unintentionally sold the truck upon which it is perched which helped to pay for the new purchase. Of course Brad's making changes to the "Mini" immediately. He is extending the "stick" (which is the part of the boom directly before the bucket) by 2 feet to make it more effective for digging graves and we found a cheap bucket that will make digging go a lot faster. As it is right now, 1 bucket digs about the same amount of dirt as 4 shovels full - but at a slower pace than it takes to empty one shovel. He also changed the controls so that they are more to his liking. It seems to be very easy on the lawn, too. Alton Newgaard - watch out! (just kidding)
Well, I think we've bored you enough. We'll see if we can find something more exciting to write about next time, but who can compare with KT's excursions in Vermont?
Hope you "dig" it as much as we do,
Liz (and Brad)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 1: Essential Principles and Practices of Cheesemaking

So much happened today that i can't even imagine condensing it into verbs and nouns - even if I succeeded in that, getting it to fit onto this page. I'll try my best. . . . I walked to class, underestimating the time it would take to cross the road (I waited 3 red lights until I figured out that it would help to press the walk button to get my "walk" light to allow me to cross the bus highway). Anyways, I made it to class just a hair-bit late (in Wiste fashion), but not too late for introductions. There are 14 of us in all, all there for different reasons, different visions, but a similar desire for knowledge. Next to me sat Kate, a chef/caterer with children, from the Burlington area (although not originally). She makes her own sausages, brats, etc. but wants to maybe start dabbling in cheesemaking as well. Behind me sit three older adults, I didn't chat with them too much, but all are just beginner cheesemongers with no commercial goals in mind. One is a chemist, already apparently quite skilled with brewing fine beers. His friend next to him was kind, but that's about all I know her. The last man in the row is an amateur chef. In the last row on my side are three men. Two of them, from New York (snow country, apparently, where the received +200 inches this year "A good year for snow," as one of them said), are two leaves of the same tree, on the same branch. Both look a little rough and uncouth, but are extremely intelligent. They could be brothers -they have the same thickish build, hard-worked hands, graying beards, quick wit and humor- but are really just neighbors. The story one of them told (his name might be Alan or Dan, the other is Shaun) with their introduction was about a batch of milk that had sat overnight without the cooler on. They were milking 50 cows at the time and the tank was full, but a tester who had come by the day before had forgotten to turn the tank back on and the creamery figured it'd better not go in with the rest of the truck, just in case. So, they turned what could have been an absolute disaster into a mass of curds, washed/cooked it with hot water they piped in, and made themselves a giant batch of gouda. Using 5 gallon pails as forms, they pressed and aged the cheese, them fed their church congregation on their Accidental Cheese for weeks. The one who told the story also worked on large wind turbines and has actually worked in Le Roy on the ones out there and has been through Spring Grove, Lanesboro, and the surrounding area. He even has some friends down in Highlandville. Shaun manages to raise dairy heifers for a farmer while being a paramedic and traveling to Europe occasionally on Church missionary work. He was in the Ukraine and said their cows look somewhat like Devons, a little beefy, but not so pretty. A young man, who came in even later than I, sits next to them, but he missed the introduction so I know very little about him. He seems to know his way around a cheese curd, just by his contributions and questions in lecture. Across the aisle are three more interesting folks. Electra, a small blond who, if she has any, hides her super powers very well. She has been quiet during class, and is there because she enjoys cooking a lot. Perhaps we shall talk tomorrow? An older lady, also from New York, is next. She currently runs a small goat operation, but in the hills. This has been a struggle, she made a point of telling us, and so might abandon said location and move to a location more geographically inclined to a farm. Luca is next, an italian man I'm thinking is in his 40's with whom I will soon have supper. I approached him after class, a little awkwardly, explaining that I am studying italian and wondering if we could converse a little in his native language. After he dropped me off at my hotel we arranged to have supper around about now, so I will return tomorrow with more news. Love all - hope the goats/cows/weather are/is healthy and beautiful. **Katie

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Day of Wandering

The day started out sunny and warm, a beautiful day for a walk. I walked down to a diner nearby and ate some blueberry pancakes and then headed for downtown. The walk there I started to think that it didn't seem all that different from Wisconsin - the pine trees, their faint scent in the spring air, the soil, too, seemed somewhat sandy. But then, through a break in the trees appeared something that never appears in  Wisconsin: Mountains. After this startling and jaw-dropping discovery, they seemed to be surrounding me as I made my way to the University. When I got to the University I felt like I was on top of the world for it is situated above downtown Burlington and the city flows down from the top of the hill to Lake Champlain. The campus itself is beautiful. The buildings are almost too picturesque with their dark, antique bricks and dark green roofs. There are a few new buildings, but have been built to match their older and smaller counterparts. I was then walking down what seems to have been the UVM's version of "Frat Row" when I saw the Lake, or just a glimpse. 10 minutes or so later I was there, frozen lake in front of me with mountain tops, hazy, but towering in the back. I walked along the edge for a while, watched some kids climb on the rocky shoreline, and soaked up some sun before wandering through the houses of Burlington. The houses and people are not much different than any other town -some as pristine and mountainous as the surrounding peaks, others barely managing not to roll down the hill and into the Lake- but there seems to be a special something about it. A little more fresh, or something. Maybe everyone is just happy to be living in Vermont? I then stumbled upon Church Street, the 4 blocks of Burlington devoted entirely to people and commerce. No cars allowed, just the hipsters, hippies and high-class that only an ultra liberal city like Burlington can handle. I ate at a bustling sandwich called the Red Onion and decided it was about time to go back to the Hotel, seeing as I had been walking for hours. I returned to my room, coat in hand because it was so warm and sunny, and that was it for the day. Cheesemaking tomorrow - - I can't wait!!!

Cute, Cute, Cute

Click the link to see Angela fishing in a kids' contest.

~Mom & Becky

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vermont at Long Last

I've finally arrived!!! After a seemingly endless bus ride aboard the "Megabus" - a double decker bus that goes frequently from Minneapolis to Chicago - I made it to the city of Chicago itself. Breakfast at some Pseudo-French place was delicious after seemingly endless hours of riding with cramped legs (the dude in front of me had his chair all the way back). I walked around to try to see some places my friend Martin (who's been to Chicago several times) suggested I see. The Sears Tower was pretty much right next to where my bus unloaded, so i got to see it, along with many of the city's over-friendly pigeons at 6:30 in the morning. I then took a subway a short distance and visited the John Hancock Observatory (although it won't be for long . . . some Englishman just bought it and will inevitably rename it) but didn't go to the 94th floor - it cost money and took more time than I wanted to spend. I visited the Holy Name Cathedral with its exquisite stained glass windows, but it was under renovation so I wasn't able to go in. After seeing most of the Chicago Tribune building, which as stones imbedded in it from all over the world, I stumbled upon a large group of people gathering at the river. I soon learned that I had showed up on the day when they died the river green. I think most of the city must have been on the banks of the river and, with copious quantities of beer flowing before 10 AM, a crew of 2 or 3 boats began to dump a red die into the river, which actually turned it a florescent green (as opposed to the dull, dirty green it already was). On my hurried way back to the Subway system (it was getting about that time that I should be making my way towards the Midway Airport) I stumbled upon some gorgeous government buildings (I think) and the new Trump Tower. I made it to the airport well ahead of time, through security, and then waited while reading/napping/people-watching. I waited longer than my 2 flights combined, for I had to make another stop in Detroit with a 2 hour layover. The Detroit Airport has a strange underground tunnel to get to the B and C gates. There are lights flashing to a bass-heavy, wild music. Amusing but bewildering to a tired traveler. All in all I had a wonderful time in Chicago and would love to go back - - although as my plane flew over Chicago in parting, I got to see an overview of the rest of the city, the part I had not (and the part most people don't) visited. It looked dirty, crowded - quite unlike the pristine buildings I had just lugged a suitcase around all day; a testament to the dirty deeds Chicago is notoriously built and thrives on. It was dark as I landed in Burlington, but I look forward to exploring tomorrow after a good night's sleep.
Love- Katie

It must be Spring!

Pre-garden update - the Brassicaceae have been planted.
Kohlrabi basking in the sun while cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli look on...
(The ancho and big bertha peppers, egg plant, pok choi, and iceberg lettuce are still undercover. Basil is being sown as we speak.)

Onion Shooters

It was gorgeous out today, especially compared to the past week. The little neighbor kids were out playing on their swing set all afternoon, which I think has really been the first time this year - that's when I can tell that it is really almost Spring. (When they get their garden hose going in their little pool, that's when its almost Summer - those kids absolutely love water, more than anything.) They did stop playing long enough to stare at Travis when he scooted by on his new/old scooter...
Travis, scooting around the neighborhood

One more sign that its getting Springish...
The first carrots of the year (some of which were obviously planted a little too close together)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm Back on the Beam

I recently went to Champagne, Illinois to compete in an intramural gymnastics meet. I was a lot of fun, but a lot of driving (16 - 17 hours). Our lone boy to compete, Brian, placed on floor and vault. We were all very excited for him since it was his first ever meet (he taught himself gymnastics in his barn at home and thus has had very little training). We also had a couple of girls place on floor, bars, and in the all-around. I, myself, didn't place, but I was satisfied with my routines (I did all but the floor). Stay tuned for my next gymnastics adventures on the 28th of March in Iowa.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Western Minnesota

Trav and I went out to see his family this weekend. I always love the drive to go see his grandma. Its so scenic, and I got lots of good knitting done! There are fields and fields of windmills now, and they are working on hooking up the huge power lines to transport the energy. It was really windy out, so its crazy to think of how much energy they were creating as we drove by. We could even see the windmills from our bedroom window at his grandma's. Its hard to capture just how impressive they look, but Trav was game to stop for me - I was too chicken to walk right up to one though, maybe another trip.

Now, on to Percy's new kitchen...
I know you guys are waiting to see pictures.
We did tons of baking, so note the delicious doughnuts on the island. We made plain, sugar, cream filled, and raspberry filled. We also helped make homemade Oreos, chicken wings (that were marinated), and homemade ice cream. Obviously we didn't go hungry, and Percy is enjoying her kitchen.
We were also excited to see Trav's sister this weekend and had fun playing dice and cards, watching Cash Cab - along with more knitting! (It was fun to have someone to knit with - Trav's sister is making a beautiful babyblanket following the Log Cabin design in Mason-Dixon knitting.)
And for your viewing pleasure, this is the kitchen floor (wood) and entryway.
Thanks for having us and for all of the goodies :)