Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kicking and Screaming

Photo: Mateo Kehler, cheesemaker at Jasper Hill Farm, and Peggy Smith, owner of Cowgirl Creamery plating cheese.

Woo hoo! No turning back now. We're going for broke. Literally.

We now own two homes. One in San Francisco, California and one in Dundee, Oregon. I am very pleased with how things have turned out. The house closed smoothly. We bought a tractor. We've hired an orchard manager to take care of the six acres of Filbert/Hazelnut trees. We toured a dairy to see if we could get dairy contacts from them. We opened a bank account and registered to vote. We've been changing addresses on our subscriptions, We've driven 11 hours between houses, moving our precious belongings.

The movers show up in NINE days!!!!!

Personal rant time: We're packing. We've got so much stuff. A few friends have come over to help and now one side of our garage is covered in boxes from floor to ceiling. The garage is just about packed. What a pain the neck. This is a major sore point for me. I'm pretty good about purging stuff that I no longer need. Essentially, I self edit. My husband is a copy editor by trade. He cannot self edit. He's a HUGE pack rat. We've boxes and boxes of magazines that he just cannot get rid of. Isn't there a name for this kind of hoarding behavior? We have five years worth of Mojo magazine, Rolling Stones from the 70's and 80's. Heavy Metal from the 70's. Bam magazine from the 80's. Ugh. All of this stuff adds up to a lot of excess weight and baggage. If we should die, I feel sorry for whoever has to throw this stuff away.

I have a Vespa scooter (1980 P200e like the one pictured in this ad from the era). He wants me to get rid of it. I made him a deal. He gets rid of the magazines and I'll get rid of my scooter. Yes, my scooter has been sitting idle for 15 years. I used to have a Lambretta and a Heinkle scooter. They're long gone. I've only got my original Vespa that I bought from an engineering professor while I was attending the University of Missouri. At least my scooter is useful and can be tuned up easily. He never re-reads the magazines. They're in no kind of order, nor are they archived. They're just in boxes. This really grinds my gears. Moving brings out the best in folks.

I have visions of delivering cheese on my scooter to restaurants and markets. Will this happen? I don't know. But I like the mental image it creates. End of rant.

Photo: Making Mt. Tam in the creamery in Petaluma, California.

I've been fortunate to take a bit of time to spend with my friends at Cowgirl Creamery. Sue Conley came over from the warehouse on Tuesday and gave me a tour of the new creamery in Petaluma. It is so fun to see a shiny, new creamery in full operating mode. It still has that "new creamery smell"!

They've been making cheese since March in the new location. Mt. Tam, the bloomy rind triple cream is the sole cheese being produced in the new facility. Soon their seasonal cheese, St. Pat will be added to the list of cheeses coming out of Petaluma. Red Hawk will continue to be produced in Pt. Reyes. It is just the perfect environment for it. The flavor is in the air. They've got plenty of room for aging, and even room for more growth. One of these days I wouldn't be surprised if they start making a firm, aged cheese.

Photo: Sue Conley, owner of Cowgirl Creamery, holding a perfectly ripe Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farm

Sue invited me to an event sponsored by the California Artisan Cheese Guild on Thursday. She was hosting a cheese tasting and lecture given by herself and special guest Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm. The event was called "Cave Dweller of the 21st. Century." They talked about their big projects. Sue discussed building the new creamery and Mateo talked about his massive cheese aging facility that's partially up and running on his farm in Vermont.

For me, this was an update and a refresher course. When I visited Mateo in December, the massive, vaulted cheese chambers were not up and running. Now two of them are filled with Cabot clothbound cheddar, aging gracefully. More vaults are nearing completion and will be filled with cheeses from around New England. It is an ambitious project that excites and inspires me. The complexity and the numerous hurdles needed to be overcome in order to build seven cheese cellars are enough to make anyone throw up their hands and say "forget it!" The folks at Jasper Hill Farm are overcoming those hurdles and showing us that anything can happen if you put your mind to it.

The lecture also featured a nice selection of cheeses from Jasper Hill Farm and Cowgirl Creamery. On the cheese plate we got to sample a Mt. Tam produced at the new creamery. The rest of the cheeses were Jasper Hill's Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farms, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cowgirl's Red Hawk, Jasper Hill's Winnimere, and Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue.

Each cheese was perfectly ripe and vanished quickly.

Since Cowgirl changed method of production for Mt. Tam, I was really curious to try some the the cheese produced in Petaluma. I was more than satisfied with the results. The new creamery produces some exceptional Mt. Tams. The rind is a bit more delicate, the flavors of cream, mushroom and salt all are have more balance and nuances. I thought is was one of the best Mt. Tams I've ever had.

I met a fellow cheese blogger named Bryce. His blog is called Canyon of Cheese. He's got a good description of the lecture on his blog, as well as the sold out "Raw Milk" panel hosted by the Commonwealth Club earlier in the week. The event was a great opportunity to catch up with Mateo, as well as others attending the lecture. Friends I've made from the Cheese School of San Francisco sat next me. It was nice to see so many friends from the local cheese community one last time before we make a run for the (northern) border.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Signed, Sealed, (and almost) Delivered

Photo: Our house in San Francisco. The yucca is in bloom out front. The blue bushes are ceanothus a.k.a. California False Lilac.

Photo: Our new driveway in Dundee, Oregon.

Done deal. The house is ours. The tractor is ours. The orchard is ours. I own 12 acres in the Red Hills of Dundee!

Now we just have to haul up stakes and get settled in our new home. This isn't as easy as it sounds. We've got a lot of STUFF. Jim has a ton of albums. We're talking 12" vinyl records from decades of record collecting. I've got some records, too. My big guilty pleasure are books. I've got lots and lots of books. Cookbooks, cheese books. reference books, fiction, guide books, field guides, biographies. Lots of books. Our kitchen is crammed full of stuff, too. This is scary.

Here are more photos to keep you happy in the meantime.

This is our new home, with lots of red soil. The red hills of Dundee make some mighty fine wines. Hopefully, they will make some mighty fine cheeses, too.