I have finally finished up the re-do of the web site for the farm and it includes a blog there. I will be shutting this site down soon, so head over there to read up on the goings on around this bit of ground and keep up with the lives of Daisy and Byron and the herd lead by Boo and Dinah 2.0 and Luna and the rest.
It is a beautiful day in March here on Vashon Island; unseasonably warm and sunny. I planted the first early potatoes in the garden this morning and now have the time to write about the cows, the farm and the cheese.
I have time because even though Saturday is usually a make-day, today I am not making cheese. I am off to Seattle to bring an additional delivery to Madison Market. They need more cheese and I need a reason to head to the big city.
I wish that I could say that making cheese is always fun and exciting. Rather it is often tedious, frustrating and fraught with problems. When the final product is great, it makes it all worthwhile. This morning I got the treat of reading this blog from Boston:
Reading comments like this makes the annoying days in the creamery all okay. After these little white disks of milk spend their first twenty five days in my care, they are delivered out to a variety of shops and restaurants. I really have no idea what happens to them. I fear that a few get lost in the back of someone's refrigerator for weeks. Maybe the odd one is found in the back seat of a car, having fallen out of the grocery sack. But for the most part, they end up at cocktail parties, picnics and dinner tables.
Here they often end up with a different fate. This is Byron, resident bad boy of Kurtwood Farms. Here he is pictured with a nice covering of cow shit. What often happens here in the main kitchen is that I will pull a few cheeses from the creamery to taste. Six Dinah's of varying ripeness are laid out on the table, unwrapped and then I take a slice of each. I tend to walk away at that point and go on to a new project. Byron has leaned that if he sees the tell tale white cheese papers on the counter and smells the pungent cheeses that if he can gentle grab the edge of the paper he can bring down a satisfying meal for himself. Generally I return to find a selection of wrappers lining the floor and a very satisfied dog in attendance.
Yesterday, Joe got out of his paddock and roamed among the general population of cows. Joe, you see, is a bull and lives alone in a large, expansive paddock fenced off from the female cows of the farm. Since he entered these confines some nine months ago, he has never ventured out. By my choice, not by his own. Until yesterday.
I was up town doing errands, enjoying the sun. I rode my bicycle down the long driveway to the house and caught a glimpse as I passed the curve of a much different cow in the far pasture. The bovines are always in my vision, even if I am not aware of it. When one black cow was in the midst of the small herd of fawn colored cows, I knew something was wrong.
Joe was born with coloration very much the same as the others here. He had light brown, tan maybe even taupe colors. Nothing different or special or unique. As he grew older, however, his hide changed its colors. Now he is distinctly different: black. He is not solid black, like an angus cow, but rather highlighted with black. Even from three hundred feet away, he is different.
I left my bike by the side of the road and headed up pasture, through the gates, through the muddy low areas and up into the main pasture. In fact, there he was. And enjoying himself. Quite.
Thankfully food is the great motivator for animals. I returned to the barn for supplies. With a flake of hay I proceeded to lead the cow who he was the most interested in to the bull pen. Dinah 2.0 gladly went along with this plan. Sex is good and all, but food is better.
Joe followed his young amour back into his residence and enjoyed a bit of the extra hay as well, but his interests continued with the lady. I decided to keep her in the bull pen for the afternoon. She needs to be bred and I was happy to keep them together in that goal.
What was fascinating about this entire, predictable bovine story is not that the bull had an interest in the cows, but rather how it all came about. When I came up to the bull pen I realized just what had happened. Cows have a few skills, but the ability to back up or to grab anything and pull it toward them is not one of them. The gate of the paddock was pushed in as was the fence surrounding the enclosure. Joe simply walked out to the waiting ladies. He had nothing to do with the tearing down of the fencing nor the opening of the gate. Presumably Dinah 2.0 had pushed the gate in, pushed in the fencing, ripping the heavy, metal staples out of the fence posts. It was she that wanted to get to the man, not he trying to get out.
And so, on the eve of St. Valentine's day, I look at love a bit different. Or at least lust. I try not to judge what is truly going on. I like to be surprised. You never know who is pushing in the gate of love.
Okay, this is way late, I admit it. I found these photos in my iphoto and realized that I had never posted them. I still like them though, even if they are a bit tardy. A lot tardy.
Last summer, back when the sun was shining and I was wearing just a tee shirt, I walked out of the kitchen, down the sidewalk and nearly stepped on this turtle. Scared the hell out of me actually. There it was on the sidewalk in front of my house. A turtle.
Oddly, I had just walked by this little patch of concrete moments before and had no seen any sign of such a beast. It just appeared. I picked it up, sheepishly, looking around for fear that someone might notice me plucking said turtle up. It just seemed so damn exotic that I was convinced that it was a fantasy of mine; that I couldn't truly have such a lovely animal here in my front yard.
And then I had a very active, strong willed turtle trying to get away. I grabbed a cardboard box and placed it gently in the bottom, convinced that this would hold him until I could come up with a plan. My only thought at this point was that it was a pet, brought to the island from a tropical country, to live out its life in an aquarium in one of my suburban neighbors' homes. I have a few kids around so I went from fence line to fence line, alerting my neighbors that I had indeed found their young child's pet and that they could retrieve it from me now.
I found no one who would claim this beast. He was now my charge. Thankfully, the internet has made it an easy option to find out that in fact he -- I was at this point convinced that he was a he by his strong resolve -- was in fact an inhabitant of this corner of the world. I felt that his shell was far too flashy to be of this region. Our natives tend to be more drab and dull, then this bright orange and black striped turtle.
I determined that the only thing to do was to walk him over to the lower pond and lead him to the brush that surrounds it, and let him free. He quickly scurried into the thickets and I never have seen him since. I like to think that he had emerged from that pond and simply lost his way, that he has a rich, full life just feet from my house and that from my sheer ignorance I never noticed his existence. I may never know for sure, but come spring in a few weeks, I will look into the reeds, confident that a clutch of small baby turtles will emerge and I can welcome them to the farm.
In the hopes of giving readers a better feel for the Farm, I have started writing biographies of each cow. Actually, I am afraid I will forget this information if I don't write it down. The herd has grown recently and my memory is taxed to keep it all in my head.
The first one I choose was Luna. She was standing in the front, so I picked her. No favorites here. Born on January first of last year, she just passed the one year mark. We have been putting her in the paddock with Joe, the bull, but I am not sure that it has taken yet.
Luna is of course a female, born of her mother Dinah 2.0 and a bull whose presence was made in the form of a straw of frozen semen. Not sure that I even know his name, but I think it was Ayatollah. Yes, I too thought that was an odd name for a prize winning Jersey bull. This fine calf's name comes from the white marking on her head. Looks kind of like a moon. I go back and forth between thinking that her many white markings on her body make her distinctive and special, and preferring the solid, fawn colored hide of the other members of this fine herd.
With a bit of luck, Luna will be bred here in the next few weeks. The gestation period for cows is nine months and a few days and my goal is to have her calve for the first time on her second birthday. If I have done the math right, her conception day needs to be in the next few weeks.
Difficult to see in this photo, but Luna still has her horns. Although the popular misconception is that male cows have horns and females do not, actually they all are born with horns. The horns are burned off when they are a few weeks old to prevent myself from being gored from a head shaking cow. Luna's horns never really came in on schedule, however, and so I just left them there. They are still rather diminutive even after her twelve months of age. I expect that her horns will be left on her, giving her an unfair advantage over the other, less horned, members of this tribe.
Next cow up in the bovine trading card series: Boo.
The weather these past few weeks has been rather dreary to me. The rains have been incessant, although I must confess that the temperature has been a most pleasing fifty degrees. While cleaning out an old computer, I found this quick video. It reminds me of summertime here on the farm. The cow in question is Boo, presently the head cow and nurse-maid to Marta and Teddy. Im the less than sober guy.