The multifocal lens of farmstead dairying in spring
These days, I often feel like a super-8 hand-held camera filming in time lapse. Early morning texts announce the arrival of newborns, often prompting Wes to slip into his coveralls and help the morning milking crew. The kid totes ebb and flow with still-wet babies barely born to those demanding their bottles. The kid barns are nearly full, as we round the homestretch of kidding season. Our yearling first fresheners have begun to deliver their babies; most with little fanfare—one minute their heads are buried in the hay, the next, they have moved to the back of the barn with a birth sack bulging from their backsides.
Today six yearlings kidded, most had twins and one had triplets! Sometimes, I am called in to work my magic on the “problem eaters;” the kids who just don’t want to nurse. Sometimes, they just need time to transition from life in the womb to life on the outside. Sometimes, I pretend to be a momma goat and let them hide in the folds of my jacket, giving them a protected nook where they feel safe to suckle.
From the kid checks, I make my way to the milking parlor for a quick peak at the udders of the new mothers. Then, it’s on to the milk house where the milk is stored in refrigerated tanks, awaiting its transfer to the cheese vat. I check the temperature and volume of milk in the tank destined for cheese making, then I hook up the hose for transfer. Moving into the creamery, it’s lights on, hair net secured, lab coat and apron fitted, hands washed and sanitizer made. Then, it’s on to cheese vat set up, transfer pipe inserted and back to the milk house to pump the milk into the cheese vat. The day is underway, the pace is set, and there’s little room for deviation. Each movement has purpose and builds on the movements before it. Fluid milk flows to cultured milk to coagulated milk to ladled curd to salted cheese in the span of three days.
While I labor inside the sterile walls of the creamery, messy new lives are delivered on the straw bedding. The milking does venture out to the pasture (if the weather suits them) to graze on the tender emergent greenery. Supplies arrive to keep the farm in business; parcels containing cheese and accompaniments are boxed and loaded onto the bed of our pick-up to make their way to eager customers. The milk is the metronome; it sets the rhythm for the dairy and the creamery; its pace is quickening, and we struggle to keep to the beat.
How to get our products in this era of pandemic/social distancing
Our local independent retail food stores have really stepped up to the plate to carry many local farm products, including our cheese. We thank the following:
Common Ground Food Coop (Urbana)
World Harvest -Strawberry Fields (Urbana)
Harvest Market (Champaign)
Green Top Grocery (Bloomington)
Sous Chef LLC (Peoria)
Fair Shares CSA (St. Louis, MO)
Down at the Farms (60-farm aggregator via Spence Farm-Fairbury IL)
Local Foods (Chicago)
Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks (Niles, IL)
Roger’s Park Provisions (two locations)
Potash Markets (Chicago)
Marche Glen Ellyn
Carnival Foods (Oak Park, Lincoln Park)
Whole Foods (Lincoln Park, Lakeview and South Loop)
Sweetgreen (River North and North & Clybourn locations in Chicago)
We are packing many, many 6-oz. containers to meet their growing needs.
ONLINE FARM STORE HAS EXPANDED OFFERINGS
In addition, with the launch of our online farm store a little over a week ago, the orders are streaming in. We are still working out the kinks of transforming our farm store into a fulfillment center, but overall, it’s going quite well. We’ve added a few new items to the online store, so check them out.
I’m especially excited about “The Perfect Bite” of chevre, local fruit leathers made by Jeff Hake of Funk’s Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains and Potter’s Crackers. The chevre, local honey and baguette package is pretty great too.
We offer shipping (1-2 times per week), as well as weekly farm pick-ups (Saturdays from 1 to 4 pm). We’re calling it our “cheese drive through. Place your orders by end of day Friday, and we'll have it bagged and ready to hand to you when you drive up to the farm store. It's easy!!