Monday, August 13, 2007

No cheese for you

I must keep reminding myself to have patience. Why? Because we're still looking for a place to buy in Yamhill County. We looked at five places. We saw a wide variety of places from a 1886 Victorian Farmhouse outside of Newberg to a 2005 humongous home next to the railroad tracks in Dundee. All of the places were fairly flat with 3-10 acres of land.

Our favorite place was the old farmhouse in Newberg. Why didn't we make an offer? It was a bit out of our price range, the land is overrun by blackberry canes, and it has narrow stairs. It is a two story house in great shape with five bedrooms and two baths. The closets had doors that were about 5'10" in height. In order to access the bathroom from the master bedroom one must walk through the closet. I had no problem entering the closets. Jim had to duck. I can just see him getting up in the middle of the night and wandering through the closet to get to the bathroom on the other side. I would hear a thump and he'd cry out in pain. Hmmm. Don't think Jim would do well in this place. Also the stairwell between floors appears to be narrower than 3 feet in width. Far narrower than the average stairwell. It also takes a few twists and turns before it spits you out onto the 2nd floor. Jim mentioned this in our discussions on Saturday night. Our bedroom set won't make it up the stairs! Ok. We'll keep looking. Too bad. The house is in great shape. It is also a shame that the property needs to be cleaned up. Blackberries are a devil to keep away once they get a foothold. I'd have to get some goats!

It was not a wasted trip. With every house that we see, we learn more about what we like and don't like in a property. That way when we find our place, we'll know it when we see it.

On Sunday we met the mastermind behind the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project. Tami Parr is a freelance writer who loves to write about cheese. We met her in front of the Ace Hotel and had hoped to get something to eat at their restaurant, Clyde Common. It is a new restaurant with lots of tasty looking things on the menu. It was 4:00 and they didn't open until 5:00 so we went down to Henry's 12th Street Tavern (as in Henry Weinhard) and got some decent appetizers and drinks. Tami, Jim and I talked for an hour and a half about cheese, the Portland food scene, Northwest cheesemakers, and what we're up to these days. Both Tami and I missed the American Cheese Society Conference this year. She was even a judge at last year's conference! We had a great time talking and the time just flew by. Tami's great and is a real asset to the local artisan cheese movement. It is always nice to make a new friend.

Speaking of ACS, Leelanau's Aged Raclette, my favorite cheese at last year's conference took Best of Show this year Here's a photo of their cheese from last July. You can also read my account from last year's conference. Too bad you can't get the cheese. They make very tiny batches that are only sold locally and via mail order. Gordon Edgar from Rainbow Grocery was a judge this year and wrote about his experience on his blog:
I am saddened by the news that Goat Lady Dairy didn't do well at the show. They had some shipping issues and the cheese got too hot. They're entries didn't look good and were not judged well. They still make some amazing cheese and who knows what the judges were looking for. They still sell out every week so that's the best judge.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A hunting we will go….

A hunting we will go….

Shhhhhhh. Be very, very, quiet. We're hunting HOUSES!

Here we go again. We're flying out of San Francisco tonight and heading back to Portland for a whirlwind tour of Yamhill County. Tomorrow we'll be walking around five different places, trying them on for size. Will one of them feel right? Will it meet our needs? Who knows? We've got some pretty specific requirements and I'm very picky. Let me restate my needs.

The new house has to be comfortable. Good light and a good layout are key. We're leaving a house that we've really made into someplace special. I love my kitchen and hate to leave it. I love our neighborhood and hate to leave it. I love being so close to the coast and the open spaces of the Bay Area. Our new house has some pretty big shoes to fill. I'm sure we'll find some new places in which to fall in love, just like we did here.

I thrive when I have a good view to inspire me. Things just flow out of my hands and brain easier when I have a pretty vista upon which to feast my eyes. Mountains, fields and trees make nice views. Good cheese comes from happy cheesemakers. This happy cheesemaker likes to have a good view.

There's got to be good, sweet, clean water and lots of it. I'm making cheese and good source of water is essential. A strong well or spring goes a long way towards making tasty cheese. Oregon has no shortage of water. It rains a lot there, remember? I trick is finding GOOD water. Tasty water. Water that doesn't smell or leave tons of rust stains on everything including curds.

We need a site to build our cheesemaking facility. There's got to be space for a cheeseroom and aging facilities. I can retrofit a barn or milking parlor, but I'll need good drainage. It might be easier to start from scratch and get one of those metal ag buildings. They aren't the prettiest things, but they're modular and allow for expansion. I'm hoping the business will thrive, blossom, and we'll need room to grow. That's my plan.

We'll need room for a big septic system and draining field. I don't plan on sending my whey down the drain, but I'll need someplace to put that grey water. The driveway and road to the property needs to be able to handle a milk truck. Milk is heavy. The road needs to be able to take the weight. Can't live anyplace with a narrow gravel road or steep slope.

A fenced property makes a good property. I don't want my critter to wander away or be preyed upon easily. I don't want too many animals but I want the option of having a place to put a goat or three. Fencing is a must when you have goats, dogs or chickens.

I want a habitat pond. The water that heats and cools the pasteurizer can be reclaimed and fed into ponds to make fish, frogs and birds very happy. Goat Lady Dairy has a beautiful habitat pond along side of the barn. It is full of thriving wildlife. There is a pipe from the pasteurizer, under the floor of the barn and into the pond. Very smart. The pond can even be used as supplemental irrigation for the garden during times of drought (like right now.) The pond sits above the garden so you can easily run hoses from it and water the garden via gravity.

We're hoping to find something this weekend. Our flight is at 7pm tonight. Wish us luck!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Counter Spin

I've been putting in more hours at Cowgirl. It is another busy summer, full of visitors who want to see the sites and eat some fine cheese. The Ferry Building where Cowgirl is located has become quite the destination for folks visiting the city. It is in a prime location at the foot of Market Street, projecting into San Francisco Bay. Most of the building is supported by pylons, so the building is part of a large pier with water underneath it. Ferries still dock behind the building, taking people to Vallejo, Alameda, Oakland, Sausalito, as well as Larkspur.

We see plenty of ferry commuters as well as ferry employees, grabbing some cheese before they set sail across the bay. The rush usually begins around 4:30. Every day a few patrons will come up to the counter looking anxious. They will fidget and step from foot to foot waiting impatiently for their turn. When their number is called (Cowgirl has a take-a-number system,) patrons will ask us to please hurry because they only have five minutes before departure. We try to be quick, but it can be a challenge when the patron wants a bunch of cheese and doesn't know what they want. Fridays are full of commuters picking up cheese for parties on the ferries. The commuters become friends with others on the boats so they'll pick up some beer, wine, cheese and bread, take it on board the boats and have a party while dashing across the waves to Marin County. It is a great way to commute. I used to do it. But I never got to cozy with my fellow commuters. I usually took a nap.

I was working behind the counter last Thursday when Peggy Smith, one of the owners came dashing in. She was all smiles and happy to see me. "I didn't know you're back! I thought you were off somewhere making cheese," she declared.

"I am and I was," I replied. "Now I’m making an occasional guest appearance behind the counter." She was in the shop in order to do a special tasting with an esteemed visitor who was touring the Ferry Building. The new Secretary of the United Nations stopped by to try our cheese. He was accompanied by throngs of photographers, city officials and secret service security officials. It was quite exciting. Strobe lights from the newscameras made me feel like I was center stage at a movie premier. All business stopped while Ban Ki-Moon toured the place. He was very polite, trying our cheese and asking questions. Peggy explained a bit about what we do, where we make cheese and what we sell. The unsuspecting family that I was waiting on were blown away when I told them who was standing next to them. And in five minutes he was gone. Off to some other meeting, I suppose. It was almost as good as when Martha Stewart stopped by the shop.