Monday, April 5, 2010

Great things are on the horizon for Laurel Valley Creamery and I am lucky to know one of the great things personally.

Let me introduce my cousin Kristy, I have known her since she was born, but have never been as excited about knowing her as I am now. She is heading east from Portland Oregon soon, to Gallipolis. She is going to be running our mobile cheese cart and preparing farm fresh food, for you. I can't wait.

Kristy will be here soon and her list of things to do is getting longer everyday. Kristy will be taking on many roles here on the farm, blogging included. So look for her to chronicle her journey and provide a city girl perspective on life on the farm and in the cheese cart.

Without further adieu Kristy....

I last visited the farm just under a year ago. Celeste was still testing cheese in her kitchen and they were getting ready to pour cement in the cheese house. One afternoon, Celeste and I prepared to make some cheddar curds for dinner that night. She said, "do you want to do this part? You need to stir it for 30 minutes straight." 30 minutes? Dang. But I wanted to feel accomplished, I had never made cheese before. So I stirred and after 30 minutes was up I felt sweet wrist relief. The following conversation went something like this:

Me: Ok, the timer went off. What next?
Celeste: Alright, now keep an eye on the temperature and stir it for another 30 minutes.
Me (under my breathe): Jerk.

But it was so worth those 60 minutes of repetitive motion. Salty, refreshing little chunks of creamy goodness, dropped in some batter, and then fried.

During that weekend there was one moment that got me more excited than all the rest. That moment was when they showed me the food cart they purchased and told me about their plans to make and sell fried cheese curds from it. I remember thinking of the possibilities of how they could use the cart to market their farm and push their product. I pictured myself in it, making people happy with cheese, and started to think of how I could get her and Nick to employ me.

Finally, last month, Celeste called and asked me to move to her farm in Ohio and manage the food cart. I was so ecstatic and confused I couldn't even think or say anything. I had to hang up and collect my thoughts.

Why me? Well I can assume that it's because I share an enthusiasm for the locavore and organic movements. I love spending my Saturdays and lunch hours perusing farmers markets and figuring out which stand has the best cabbage or the best potatoes. I think learning the history of what I ingest is important and I try to keep a realistic view by understanding the life of the animals I eat before they hit my plate. And then using that knowledge to be a responsible consumer.

Additionally, I am an aspiring chef and a food cart enthusiast. I recently moved from Lansing, MI, to Portland, OR. Portland is the food cart mecca. I have been in sheer awe of the magic that happens in these little closets on wheels ever since I arrived. I am amazed by the quality and scale of what the carts can produce and provide at such a low cost. They are as affordable as fast food, but more delicious, healthy, creative, and environmentally sound.

Also, probably because I'm family. (Don't you wish your cousin made cheese like mine? Don't you?) This is one privilege I'm willing to exploit.

At heart, I'm a city girl. I've spent my entire life feeling like I need to move to a city bigger than the one I was living in at any given moment. I'll probably hear it for saying this but even during my 2.5 months in Portland, there were times that it didn't feel like Portland was big enough or diverse enough. If you had asked me one year ago if I'd be living on a farm, hauling trucks with trailers through Appalachia and pushing cheese for a living, I'd call you crazy. However, I am being completely honest when I say that I have never been so excited to do something in my entire life.

I am (oddly enough) looking forward to the long hours, physical labor, and learning to adapt outside of my element. Trying to imagine the diverse set of skills I will acquire during my time with Laurel Valley Creamery is overwhelming. I'm eager to get started and to share my passionate experiences and occasional struggles with you all! I can only hope that I provide my cousins and their farm with as much growth and sustainability as they are giving me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reasons Today was Great

  • I ordered seeds for this years garden
  • Lilah looks beautimus in her new dresses
  • We were invited to Earth Munch
  • I saw Granny and Jim
  • We hopefully will be feeding the masses at the Nelsonville Music Festival
  • Lilah napped
  • I sold cheese curds to Jackie O's !!!!!
  • We donated cheese to a great cause.
  • I talked to my wonderful cousin Kristine
  • My mom told me she got me a new skirt.
  • Potato Soup
  • We were named peoples choice favorite creamery at the IFO conference. (this didn't happen today, but I did find out today)
  • I caught up on emails and changed the inflations on the milkers. both overdue.
I am ignoring all of the reasons today wasn't great, and still trying to wake up Nick so I can top it all off with The United States of Tara.

Night all

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Food Freedom

I took the time to look through the most fabulous seed catalog I have ever seen and I am so excited I wanted to share. It is the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Catalog. Oh My. It is beautiful and it makes me yearn for late summer. I can't say enough. The pictures and some of the quotes are inspiring. We have picked out our melons and green beans, there are so many varieties this could take forever to decide. I pledge to not over think this and just make some decisions, get everything ordered by Monday. I can't wait to get the peppers started, we are going to grow all of the peppers to put in our pepper jack this summer. I can't wait to taste the results.

I tend to get overly ambitious when planning the garden every spring, anyone else? It's not as if I forget everything it takes, it is just that it all looks so good. The days get longer, that means there is more time right?

On another note. Ants? Already? Give me a break.


"What is is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
-Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Monday, March 8, 2010


Nick and I have been talking about plans, goals, and priorities; I thought I would share them. Where to start?

*In no particular order

Organic In order to be certified organic our cows need to eat 100% organic food for one year. They are currently eating 80% organic feed and 20% conventional. We are planning to grow enough corn starting this season and to feed the herd year round. That will enable us to feed 100% organic feed without having to transport feed from up north. Goal: to be certified organic by fall of 2011.

Sales Our goal is to be selling 2000 pounds of cheese per month at local farmers markets, restaurants, and other retail locations.

Charity When we reach our sales goal we will begin to give 3% of our gross sales to three local organizations. I am currently researching which three.

Cheese I want to continue to develop my cheesemaking skills, and produce a wide variety of fabulous cheeses that reflect the seasons, the weather, the grass, the cows, the kids and calves and love, everything that is our farm. Our cheese is going to grow and change and progress, like our family, like me, like you and yours. Together. Better.

Green I want to be able to improve and get more efficient, at everything. We make as many sustainable and ecologically sound decisions as possible, we grow most of our own food, cloth diaper, drink tap water, compost, recycle, use a sustainable woodlot, but there is so much more we would like to do. We have the capacity to grow a fuel/feed crop, make biofuel, feed the byproduct to the cows, and have a carbon neutral fuel to produce and distribute our cheese. We plan to harness the hydro power of Raccoon Creek to generate our own electricity and get chickens. We also would like to use methane digestion to heat our boiler and our home.

Homeschooling maybe

Night all


PS: I made* poutine, so should you.

*and photographed, but I’m rural and have to wait until I’m in town to email pics from my cell phone.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pizza Night

Thought I would try a pizza (or three) with a couple of our new cheeses, Farmsteader and Chedgar.

Shredding the cheese just takes a minute, I'm experienced with a box grater.

The crust was easy, a package with some flax seed mixed in.

Sausage, yum. Raised, butchered, seasoned, ground, fried and eaten all here on the farm.

Olives and Mushrooms, need I say more. Oh, how bout I'm too lazy to walk to the freezer for banana peppers.

My pizza assembly man, young man.

Ready to go, except I forgot the sausage. Taking pictures throws me off. I got it on before it was too late.

Ready to eat.

Him too.

Me too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Many Topics

It is pretty sad when Mom wants a snow day more than the kids do. Actually I would like a 2 hour delay; it would allow me a bit more sleep in the morning. It’s only 9 pm and I am already anticipating how tired I will be tomorrow. It’s been a long day here. I made/ am making fresh cheddar curds today. Someone tell me why? No, I know why, they taste good and sell good, but they are the hardest thing I make. I shouldn’t say that, when I make curds all of the work happens in one day that is why it seems harder, they go from milk to cheese, packaged and ready to sell in just one day. When I make hard cheese I just spread all the work out over a longer period of time. So I guess it’s not harder, just different. I took the slabs out of the vat, but still need to get them milled (cut up) and packaged tonight. I’m taking a break to get the kids in bed (as ready as I am for Lilah to stop nursing, I think if she does I may never get to sit down again) and blog, simultaneously. I finished reading the book Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder tonight. It was great, right up their ally. I’m so lucky the boys have the attention span for chapter books, it makes reading to them so much more enjoyable for me.

I am excited to flavor the curds tonight. I got my order from frontier co-op today, a huge box of spices. Yes I get excited about spices, especially these; they are all organic and most are fair trade too. I can’t get over how reasonable they are priced too. I mixed up the seasoning for the Cincinnati Chili Curds this morning, I added some dried tomato’s to the mix, I know they say if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but I’m tweaking. No harm in that. I am going to do taco flavored curds tonight as well. I’m looking forward to trying that one, and then the staples, BBQ and Ranch, making them too. Well now that you know tonight’s agenda, I guess I can get to it. Maybe, if Lilah ever goes to sleep.

I would like to start adding pictures to my blog posts, and I will, I just need a new cord to connect the camera to the pc. I will blame the kids for the state of the current cord. When the cord stopped working, I took it as a sign I needed a new camera, it was just wishful thinking though. A new cord is only going to cost me five dollars somehow that doesn’t justify replacing the whole camera.

I got wonderful news today too. I love the song “Ohio” by Over the Rhine and thought it would be great if we could use it on our website so I emailed them for permission. Permission granted. I received a thoughtful and complimentary email from Karin. I will get the link and the song up asap.

It’s snowing outside and any inclement weather out here puts a damper on my communications, it slows up or stops my internet connection and does the same to the school bus and back in the day, when we were shipping milk, the milk truck too. Another reason I am grateful for the cheese house, I don’t have to worry about the milk truck making it in and out. We just have to get the milk moved across the road. Come rain or snow or sleet or hail Nick Nolan will move milk, he is handy like that.

Well I’ve got the baby in bed and the internets back. Better get to it.

Night all

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It has been a busy and exciting couple of days here on the farm. I say on the farm but most of the excitement has came from the computer here in my living room. Where to begin? I know, the beginning. I met Andrea Levasseur in dance class in Bay City Michigan when I was 4 years old.... Ok maybe that is to far back. Andrea and I have been friends forever, we are not the kind of friends who talk everyday, but we keep up. Andrea and her husband Todd Tue first visited us on the farm long before we started full time farming. Over the years they have been here a few times and every time they were we discussed shooting a documentary about the farm. We talked goals and music and message, but it was mostly talk. Until the last visit. It was right after we got our cheese making license. Todd brought cameras and equipment and we were doing it, shooting footage for a documentary. Todd and Andrea captured us, doing what we do. It is a good thing it happened fast and when we were crazy busy so I didn't have time to worry about my hair or what I looked like, looking back I wish I had at least considered it. Now we have a start, but it is just that a start. Todd and his production company Milk Products Media have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a full fledged feature Documentary about our farm and our newest endeavor, turning grass into cheese. It's exciting, well everything is exciting, the cheesmaking, the cheese selling, but mostly the positive feedback on our cheese, our goals, our family, our farm. I feel renewed, spring is coming. So watch our video if you haven't or watch it again just for fun.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Without Topic

I've thought all evening about what I should write about here tonight, I guess I should have started thinking about it earlier, because I haven't came up with anything yet. At some point I would like to give you some back story about the farm and our family but I'm not feeling to inspired tonight.

Nick and I went to a meeting about Gallia county's new farmers market, it was encouraging and for all of you locals, I will share information as it becomes available I have nothing to report as of yet.

Attending a meeting did mean that I made it up over the hill and out the end of the road. It was the first time in 6 days, and I really wasn't to stir crazy, I probably could have made it till Monday, but I was glad to get a few groceries. We raise and grow most of our food, but I still need Foodland to keep me in junk food.

I still have lots to do to get ready for Saturday's market in Athens. I have to cut and package cheese and get our coolers ready. Sounds easy, but it is a time consuming job. Tomorrow is a make day out in the cheese house and I plan to try a new recipe. I am going to make a raw milk monteray jack. In the past I have made a non aged pasteurized monteray jack that was good, but not great. I really think using the raw milk makes all the difference. The cheese has so much more flavor, better texture, and melts better. One of the other benifts of using raw milk is that it doesn't take near as much energy. We heat our home, the cheese house, all of our hot water and the milk with a wood fired boiler. Cutting firewood is a never ending task, and the raw milk cheeses use less wood. One of the harder things about making cheese is the waiting. I won't know how this cheese I make tomorrow will turn out until the middle of April. Talk about delayed gratificaiton. This may be helping me with my paticence.

Edgar and Hunter will be going back to school tomorrow. Hunter is looking forward to it, school is like a vacation from farm work, and Edgar, well he's never ready to go, but he get's to miss breakfast because of the delay, so he does have that to look forward too.

Hopefull I will get into a blogging groove and have something worth reading to say. I encourge you to comment and or question me. often.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's Offical

So here it is, my first blog post. I've been writing these in my head for literally years now, so I hope I can capture both your attention and my thoughts.

I have spent the last week or so, mostly ignoring my required tasks in order to get our new web site up and running. Ta da. I believe I have done it. We are now just waiting for it to be live, and since we are waiting on Host Papa, we will probably be waiting for a while. I will say, with each new thing that I attempt I learn something, most of the time it is what not to do next time. with web hosting what I learned is not to use Host Papa. Oh my I have a forum.

We made cheese today, a batch of Gallaswiss. About 160 lbs. I have lots of hands in the cheese house, Edgar and Hunter have been out of school for what seems like weeks, so I have all three little kids in the cheese house and Nick has extra hands out at the barn. Snow days have both benefits and drawbacks, and today was the 8th school day off in a row. Need I say more.

I still have some work to do in the cheese house this evening so I had better get to it.

Thanks for reading, Enjoy your day and eat some good cheese.