It is with a heavy heart that I write this post today. The words have been circling around in my brain for days, but I have been unable to sit down and put them together.
There is no way to sugar coat this news. We have made the decision to close our farm, sell our cows, and I have accepted a job offer that moves our family out of state.
We have poured our heart, soul, and savings into this venture. We have faced and overcome many trials and set backs over the past several years. This past year hit us with the loss of some of our best cows and hay that was put up wet. The resulting milk shortage was severe; we tried dropping several products, including our raw milk sales, in an attempt to maximize profits and with the hope of surviving this year. But, it was not enough. Sadly, as winter loomed closer around the corner, we faced it with no reserves or savings, many bills from last year still unpaid and many more from this year past due. This coupled with Andy and myself being physically and emotionally drained, the most logical decision for our family is to call it done. Our children need us more available to them, we need time to regroup and reconnect.
Please know how very much we have appreciated the support all of our customers have shown us. We have loved getting to know so many of you and will miss you.
I would like to send out a special heartfelt thankyou to our chefs/restaurants who supported us month after month, year after year. Chef John Rea from Paragon Dundee and M's Pub, Paul and Jessica from Block 16, Chef Diana Browder from The Holland Center For Performing Arts, Chef Thomas McKinney-Stehr and Chef Jeffrey Miller from The Lied Lodge.....
Special thanks also to Lawrence Butler of The LIC and Daddy's Neighborhood Grocery and to the Slow Money Group Omaha Chapter for your support! One final thank you.. to Amy and Nathan Kramer... you have not only supported us but have helped lift our "spirits".
We cannot say thank you enough!
First off.. its spring ya'll! The grass is a growing and the cows are happy!
Wrapping up a fabulous week! Ciara flew in for a mini visit... and we escaped for a few days of no-kids girl time! She was an awesome sport and spent her first two days here cooking food and serving at Earth Day Sarpy County. Then we snuck away to a hotel for three nights of fun!
We spent one day walking around the Old Market, hunting for antique treasures and vintage clothes. Day two we found a pop up shop dinner and ate some absolutely amazing food for dinner! Our hotel had an indoor pool and hot tub.. we were sure to get our time in there! (Btw... If you are looking for a quick get a way.. check out Aksarben Suites! They are in the middle of renovations.. we got an awesome suite for $63 a night! )
The threat of severe weather put our alone time to an early end... and my kids joined us at the hotel. Ciara had brought her daughter ( and Alex's bff) Whitney with her as a surprise for Alex.. so we had a room fulla kids!
Ciara flew home on Wed... and the kids and I decided to stay one more night and Andy came up and swam with the boys for the day while the girls and I went shopping.. And by shopping I mean hiding in the tornado shelter at Dillards. Anyway.. we had a relaxing night, kids swam, we went out to dinner and then headed home back to reality.
Yesterday I was invited to appear in the Omaha World Herald's radio news show "The Bottom Line". I was quite nervous but it actually ended up being pretty fun! Here is a link to the segment if you want to listen:
Thanks for reading!
I am feeling rested, rejuvenated, and ready to take on another market season!
Thankful for my dear friend who is willing to schlep herself and her kids halfway across the country to keep us all close.. and sane.. I swear that woman keeps me sane! Love you Ciara!!!
Love all of you too! ~ Laura
Seriously??? I think I forgot all about it! Even with all the reminders from friends and families..I was shocked to look tonight and see that it has been almost TWO YEARS since i have written anything here. Wow. Time to get myself in gear.
So.. what has happened in two years? A LOT! We launched ice cream in 2015 for one thing! We narrowed down our yogurt flavors and then went a little nuts playing with ice cream! I have a new ice cream machine so am beginning to play with even MORE ice cream!
Cheesemaking has taken over... we have created many different types of cheese.. and I have loved every moment of it! Hannah has become quite helpful and has learned tons. She is my right hand woman! Our mozzarella is made by her and she sometimes makes our cheddar bites and yogurt as well! The kid is quite talented! <<mama pride!>>
We launched our Cheese of The Month Club last fall... we used Kickstarter to kick it off successfully. I love this! It is the perfect answer to my obsessive need to try new cheeses! Woo Hoo! I get to play with cheese!!! I am totally in my zone here! Last month's shipments were so much fun! We focused on Valentine's Day and sent our Heart shaped Creameaux, a heart shaped chocolate fromage, Havarti, and a new chardonnay washed Reblochen- style beauty.
2016 has promised much growth for our farm... we are participating in some new larger CSA programs... Tomato Tomato and Daniel's Produce. There are other exciting things under wraps as well! It is also a year where I am endeavoring to find more balance... to learn to work smarter and not harder and to think outside of the box a little more. The LIC opened just a few weeks ago and so far is keeping me quite busy making ice cream! This is just the kind of account that offers stability to a farm like ours... right now I am keeping them stocked with sixteen flavors of ice cream!
Looking forward to this year! Will endeavor to post more often.... or at least post at all! Certainly not waiting two years again! Will do better.
-- love, laura
Its been about five weeks since we gave up grains and sugar... I figured it is time for an update. Long story short.. I don't think I have ever felt better! Kids are doing great as well!
We have worked into some standby meals that everyone loves and are easy to create and this certainly helps! Our lunches generally consist of a hot pot meal.... cabbage and other veggies sauteed in good ole bacon grease with bacon.. sometimes I make a curry sauce, sometimes a pesto or red sauce.. sometimes no sauce at all. Everyone loves it! Who can complain about bacon.. right??? Honestly I am quite excited about when we have our own bacon back in the freezer.... oohhh it will be scrummy then! Dinners have been basically meats and veg.. simple ideas like a roast covered in salsa ( green salsa is awesome on a pork roast!), then a stir fry up of veggies and a sauce. We love curry... been doing that a lot! Even Andy seems satisfied. The coolest thing we found is a little invention that turns squash into spagetti noodles! I just fry em up with butter and then toss with meat and sauce... and spagetti! My kids never cared for spagetti squash much ( I never understood that) but they love zucchini and yellow squash as pasta!
Our sugar-free stevia yogurts and chocolate milk help a lot! Pop the yogurt in the ice cream maker and voila.. frozen yogurt! The biggest and best thing I have to report on is my lack of pain level! My ankles dont hurt.. my swelling is gone.. my energy and mental focus so much better its ridiculous! Jamie doesn't complain of her tummy hurting anymore. It's been good at my house.
With my newfound energy and mental stamina I found the time to revamp our webpage. Our website really did not reflect our new focus on dairy alone and needed a complete overhaul. Take the time to check out our new site and let me know what you think about it. As we are starting to get into stores with our yogurt and cheese I needed to have a site that reflected who we are today, what we stand for, and what makes our milk different.
I am on a new quest to find the perfect yogurt flavors! So... I was challenged to create as many flavors as I possibly could think of.... so how does 50 sound? Starting this week, I will have a new flavor each week for the next year. They will be a one time appearance on each... unless we get a strong response to keep a flavor and replace another one with it. This should be fun! Each Tuesday I plan on posting on facebook the photo and caption of that week's flavor and each month I will add a poll to find out what everyone thought of the flavors. I am hoping that people will comment as they try them and let us know what they think. My plan is by the end of the year we will have decided on five or so flavors that will stick and seasonal flavors to rotate.
This week's flavor? Sugar Free Mid Day Mocha yogurt. Let me know what you think! Looking forward to this weekend's markets and the response to our new 50 Shades of Yogurt campaign!
Its been a long time since I sat down here at my desk and rambled.... its long overdue. The reason why it has been almost half a year since I blogged is not difficult to guess... its TIME. Our cows began calving in February and March and I went from making cheese once a week to 14 - 16 hour days seven days a week! I have enjoyed myself thoroughly, even though I am pretty exhausted. Its been fun to take my ideas and turn them into food... even more fun to watch some of my cheeses age out, and see how they tasted!
We now have a full plate of cheese available... fresh cheeses, raw milk aged cheeses ( my personal favorite!), snacking cheeses, yogurts, and even puddings from time to time. Never a dull moment around here!
A new cheese cave is interesting to watch.... and control. I keep introducing the molds I want and watching my cheeses change as I do. I have experimented with different methods and have decided that my favorite is the old English style of traditional cloth-bound cheeses. Not only are they beautiful, but the moisture is retained and the exterior mold well controlled. It takes a bit of time to wrap each cheese but I enjoy the process and love the results.
My blue cheese cave is beginning to bloom well. Three new blue cheeses inhabit it, and keep me busy. I think that L'Enfant Bleu is my favorite... a tomme style blue with just a sprinkle of blue inside. Our Lil' Blue Chevy made a nice transition into Old Blue Chevy..a deep blue laced cheese with a pungent kick ( too strong for my taste buds.. more Andy's style of cheese!) .. but exceedingly creamy and awesome smeared on a nice piece of rustic style bread. Now.. to work on a more blue marbled cheese.
The summer has been different from last year's heat and drought... so far it has been mild ( yesterday excluded!) and lots of rain. This has brought on its own strain of challenges. Andy and I are often reminded of how little we still know about farming and animals... and both are ready to teach us new lessons. We lost two cows due to the combination of heat and rain. One slipped in the mud, and we never could get her up.. first the mud from ten inches of rain made her slip and then the heat was more than she could handle in her comprised condition. Another cow ( one of our heifers that was born on our farm, and had just had her first calf) drowned in the pond... no idea how or what happened other than a guess as to why she drowned. It is so frustrating and sad for us when we loose an animal... when we try everything we know, do everything we can and still we loose them. Working with animals is so unpredictable.
I think we are about a third of the way through the market season. We have been bottling milk, making chocolate milk, yogurts in lots of different varieties and enjoying yogurt with granola every morning for breakfast. This sure made my life easier.. no more eternal questions of "Mommy.. whats for breakfast?" Andy and I are usually up way before the kids so when they come on down to the barn we are in full swing work mode.. so yogurts make a quick breakfast a no brainer. We keep lots of it on hand so the kids can just grab one out of the fridge and off they go to chores! Then... Andy and I get a wake up call about grains and sugar.... so time for some re-formulations. And just when I had everything down pat! Last week was our first grain-free, sugar-free week. I played around with different stevia's and xyitol and found an organic stevia extract that tastes great in our yogurt and chocolate milk.... so on the fly we launched a new sugar-free line of yogurt and chocolate milk. Like I said, never a dull moment.
Life without grains and sugar is an adjustment... but one I am looking forward to. Our future health depends on it. The habits we teach our children will last a lifetime, and I don't want to hand them habits that will reduce their life expectancy and/or quality of life later. In short... grains and sugars create rampant inflammation in the body, which creates an environment perfect for cancer, autoimmune issues, weight gain, insulin imbalance, and a host of other problem. If you would like to learn more about the effects of a diet full of simple carbohydrates there is a great movie that puts it all into perspective... Cereal Killers.
I am going to begin posting about our journey in food along with recipes and tips that we find helpful. If anyone out there has grain free sugar free recipes that they would like to share.. please send them to me.. I will post them online... If for no other reason.. this project will help keep me focused and on track. Ya'll help me out! Keep me accountable!
So... week one... we are feeling great. I had a small bout with low carb flu symptoms... but I really think I just wasnt eating enough. The last several months I have not been eating enough period.. often skipping meals just because I am too busy and then late at night.. its just too late to eat. Bad habits I need to break. Not having the option of a quick meal of toast and jam when I am starving (sad to admit how often Andy too ate that for dinner) it is forcing me to think about meals. Breakfast now consists of our stevia yogurt ( 16 oz per person) with a handful of macadamia nuts tossed in and a few berries. Lunch... we eat a lot of salads loaded with greens, meats, cheese and dressing made from either olive oil, balsamic, and spices.. or we take our plain yogurt and add ranch seasoning ( Soup N More makes a great one that mixes right into a 32 oz container of our plain yogurt!). Dinner has been a grilled or pan fried meat and garden veggies smothered in butter or roasted in lard... roasted cauliflower rocks!!!! Desserts/treats ... our stevia sweetened chocolate milk! This week I will work on some more treats....
So, in closing.... PLEASE share with me your go to meals/treats! I will post them here weekly! Jump on this train to health with us!
Andy and I have been doing much thinking and talking together recently about the farm and the store. The timing is funny... there have been a few clips and articles circulating around Facebook regarding raw milk dairy farmers and the costs of raw milk.. so we must not be the only ones taking a long hard look at our business. These articles resonated with us....and I would like to whey in on the issue. (pun intended)
Andy and I want to make decisions that will allow us to be sustainable.. to be here with your milk for years to come. It seems that more and more small raw milk dairies are shutting down all the time. The trend is alarming, but as farmers ourselves.. also quite understandable. Rising feed costs, and the hours and dedication required make this a lifestyle that is physically and emotionally draining. Dairy farming is hard.. its hard work, its hard on families too... cows have to be milked 365 days a year, regardless of whether its a holiday, a snow day, a sick day, or someone's birthday. It's also financially draining at times. Cows are unpredictable, as most things in nature, they rarely choose convenient times and places in which to have their babies.. they seem to prefer the worst days and the most difficult locations for their caregivers! As we know all too well.. cows die. Sometimes its a slip on the ice... finding the slippery slope on a creek bed, freaky things happen with livestock... and the cost to the farmer can be financially devastating. Imagine waking up one morning to discover a $2500 loss in your checking account with no explanation... it's kind of like that. It can be hard to recoup from a hit like that. Cows don't always get pregnant or have babies when we need them to.. we are currently experiencing this side affect right now. We have 13 babies due by the end of March! Never would we have planned it that way! Consequently at the moment we have an all-time low in milk production! But in the next few weeks I wont be able to make enough cheese to keep up! I am just thankful we have the creamery... all that extra milk won't go to waste!
There has been much discussion about the costs of raw milk. We charge $8.50 for a gallon of our milk. When we sit down and figure all of our expenses.. the truth is it costs more like $10 to produce each gallon of milk and this is without our paying ourselves a paycheck. It is because of this realization that we moved to the new farm and built the creamery and store. Rather than keep raising the cost of our milk, we focused on adding value to our milk in the form of cheese and yogurt and we added the store so that our customers have the opportunity to not only support other local farmers and crafters.. but to help offset our expenses. By shopping in our store.. converting a small portion of your grocery budget you are helping to keep your milk price down. Everything in the store is here on consignment with us with a 20% commission rate. For every $6 spent in our store we make an additional $1.30 which just about helps us meet expenses for one gallon of milk! Purchases of cheese especially help as 100% of that sale stays with us and helps offset milk prices. We are asking everyone to convert your spending dollars..not add on. Not seeing what you need or want in the store? Let us know! Have an idea of something we should get in? Let us know! It is our hope that we will grow the store to generate enough income to help us be here for the long haul without having to raise our prices to make ends meet.
Being sustainable, to be here for years to come, involves more for us than just our financial bottom line. We also need to manage our time so that exhaustion is not such an issue for us. We have spent the last year spending every free moment working on the creamery and store. This has begun to take its toll on us. In years past we always operated on a self service, honor system basis. We are not able to run our business this way any longer because of the need to keep raw milk sales and store sales completely separate. This means that while our store was open six days a week.. we have had to be 100% available all that time... farm chores have been difficult to complete, family time has been non-existent, and we need to make some changes to avoid burnout. Beginning on March 1st we have changed our availability to give us more time to work the farm, care for animals, and our family. We have spent weeks discussing this, looking long term, and we feel confident our new schedule is one that we can maintain for years to come. It feels much more sustainable and manageable.
We are blessed! We LOVE what we do and we have the absolute BEST customers in the world! You have supported us through a rough and rocky couple of years. If it were not for YOU we would not be here today. We came so close to closing down last year and it is only because of the support of our donors, volunteers, and cheerleaders that we pulled through and completed the creamery! As we are nearing completion of our project we cannot tell you how very thankful we are and how much we are looking forward to being here for many years to come!
A journey started a year ago. A few bumps in the road.. to put it lightly. But thanks to the support of many of our friends, family, customers, and folks we didn't even know we are now making cheese. It is hard to believe that we are finally here! There were so many days when I thought we would never get here. This time last year, I spent entire days watching the driveway for the construction material delivery truck that I was told would come but never did. A sick feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that something was wrong but then feeling horrible for not having enough faith. No one could be so cruel... it all HAD to be a misunderstanding.. and somehow my fault I was sure. But in January I had to face the truth... it was time to call the authorities. What now? Where were we to go? What were we to do? I felt so lost and hopeless. Insert one amazing woman who determined that it would not end this way. She took our situation and saw an opportunity to get others involved.. and well you all know the rest... but I am still amazed that we are here. I am humbled when I think of all of the people who have taken our little farm to heart and donated their time, money, and skills to help us. People who helped for a day, those who came for entire weekends - camping here, becoming like family and blessing us in so many ways and to whom we can never say thank-you enough. We are so grateful for everything that so many have done to help us realize our dream.
Earlier this month our dream came to fruition! Orchard Hill Creamery became an official cheese plant licensed by the state of Nebraska! I immediately got busy! I have made cheese almost everyday since. Feta, cheese curds, Mamasita, Hot Mama! all back in stock. I cannot begin to explain how wonderful it is to make cheese right here on the farm. To be closer to my family.. here and available for all boo-boos, joys, and aggravations.
Happy Mama am I!
As you can see I have been having way too much fun! There are some surprises to come soon but for now, I am overjoyed to unveil our newest cheese this week! . Couer de Bray.
While not the most famous of the Normandy cheeses, Neufchâtel is certainly the oldest dating back to the middle ages. This cheese bears the name of a large market town of the "Pays de Bray" in upper Normandy. It comes in many shapes and sizes depending on the mold. The Heart shaped is called Coeur de Bray (heart of Bray) : the legend goes that farm girls created it to show their love.
Covered with a white bloomy rind, the paste has a grainy texture with an aroma of mushrooms. The flavor is dominated by a distinct salty taste that is an integral part of its character. Neufchâtel is enjoyable at many stages of maturation as its flavor evolves from delicate and herbal to strong and fruity. French Neufchâtel is not to be confused with American Neufchatel which is basically a low fat version of commercial cream cheese with a few other questionable ingredients.
This lovely little heart shaped cheese seemed like the perfect cheese for me to make! This farm girl is making it to show her love. I hope you enjoy it as much I have loved making it, tending it, and sharing it with you.
Trixie and The Nooners
It has been suggested a few times (LOL) that we should make Farm Fest a yearly event! What a wonderful idea. But next time lets just make it a celebration.... cuz the barn will be all done.. right???
We had a farm full of activity, friends old and new, great food, fabulous music, and we actually got quite a bit of work done on the barn too!
I made 60lbs of pulled pork, and salad. Ty's Amazing Kitchen came along as well and made gumbo with our cajun sausage! YUMMY! He also helped us roast our corn! Corn was donated by Abie Vegetable People and from Schoolhouse Gardens.
Upstream Brewing Company donated two kegs of their amazing beer and Trader Joe's in Lincoln donated a case of yummy wines! Bands played all day and into the night.
A late night bonfire complete with marshmallows and campers ended our first day and we all woke up ragged and tired but happy and ready to get back to work.
Day 2 was all about the tin. We purchased some second hand tin for the interior of the cheese room but it has to be sanded so it can be repainted. Most of the morning we were roughing up the tin with scouring pads. Looks like fun... right?
We had a lot of fun! I was more exhausted than I thought possible afterwards but what a wonderful weekend!
Andy and I are so thankful to everyone who came out to help and for those who donated. Without you we would not be this far along.
Work party #2 planned for next weekend (Aug 17)! We still have an untapped keg of beer and wine left! Work still to be completed.... join us next weekend. More info to come as I get it. But I am so looking forward to it!
I needed to post today to properly thank everyone who has donated, volunteered, mentored, and supported us! It is hard believe we have come so far. As of yesterday, we are once again a Grade A Inspected Dairy! This absolutely would not have happened without your support and help. Getting our Grade "A" at the new farm is the first step in making cheese again!
I have been all aflutter looking at cheese moulds, forms, tools, and getting incredibly excited! So many choices! It is both fun and a little overwhelming.
My teeny tiny cheese vat!
Now, on to focusing on finishing up the cheese rooms! All that is really left is putting the tin on the walls, hooking up the sinks, an finishing the cave. Simple.. right? My cheese vat arrived a few weeks ago. I stop in and say hello to it daily.. cannot WAIT to get to using it! It is a 30 gallon cheese vat.. small enough to work with as little as four gallons of milk up to thirty gallons. Perfect size for me!
So, how do we finish? Well, a good friend made an awesome suggestion. Let's have a work party! Heck, let's take it one step further and have a work party / mini festival here at the farm! So.. August 3rd and 4th Farm Fest 2013!
We have bands offering to come play all day Saturday and some on Sunday too. We will provide a farm fresh dinner on Saturday (pulled pork anyone!!). Potluck lunch on Saturday.
Many hands make light work! With a little help from our friends we can finish this whole dang barn! Don't like the idea of working in the barn? We could also use help in the garden! A little work and a whole lotta fun is what we are planning. Come, bring the family, enjoy the music, help out on the farm, eat some fantabulous grub and if you are up to it... bring a tent and stay the night! We can have a bonfire and roast marshmallows, relax and enjoy the countryside.
What to bring? If you have a drill, bring it, if you have a ladder grab that too, gloves, a camp chair, dish to share for lunch, to save on trash bring a plate, bowl, utensils, and a cup, swimsuit for the kids.. they can play in the sprinkler, and anything else that springs to mind. Feel free to set up camp if you want to stay the night. We have plenty of room!
As bands confirm and we get a schedule together I will post on Facebook and our website. We also have a facebook event set up. This is a party in progress!
Can't come but want to help? Our online donation is still active, and there are still many supplies needed.
Again, we are so thankful for all the support everyone has shown!
Here we are mid February 2013 and the barn that was supposed to be built in November is still just a slab of concrete. Remember our grand opening celebration that was scheduled on December 8th? Obviously it has not happened.
To add insult to injury we discovered that what little work was done... was sabotaged by the contractor. I wish I had known what footings were when they were pouring that cement pad... because there are NONE there. We kept asking about the lack of floor drains in the cement and the contractor kept saying "Trust Me... I have been in construction for 15 years." He spoke of some magic roto-rooter device that would create floor drains after the building was placed on the slab... little did we know he was full of it. The picture above shows the cement pad and where we have begun to have the concrete cut for footings.
After missing yet another deadline of Christmas for construction completion, another long line of more excuses from Mr. Allen, and with the end of January fast approaching we decided to fire this contractor and requested a refund. We had discovered that the cement pad would require thousands of extra dollars to repair and bring to code. We learned that Mr. Allen had not paid the cement contractor, and the electrics that were done on the house were all wrong. We needed to basically start over.
Since then we have had nothing more than empty promises to refund the money paid Mr. Allen. We contacted the authorities and a Deputy came out to take a report, and things were beginning to feel pretty glum. Then yesterday my phone rang. It was Tonya Ward from Energy Rescue, a local non-profit. She is a dear friend and we had spoken about our situation a week or so ago. Tonya offered to orchestrate a giant fundraising and volunteer effort to raise the barn! Needless to say, I was blown away and brought to tears.
Tonya got right to work! She contacted news stations and Fox 42 was the first to jump at the opportunity to broadcast our story. For those that remember.... this is the same station that aired the story about the tornado that took the barn two years ago. In fact, they sent the same reporter, Curt Casper. I believe the story will air after American Idol tomorrow night (2/13).
Right now, we do know that the barn kit will be here Saturday. We need help with cement work, we need a septic tank, water needs to be run to the barn and electricity, materials for the inside of the barn and general man hours to get everything completed. We have been granted until the end of Feb to get off the Elmwood farm so timing is crucial... there is much to be done and little time.. and no funds left.
Tonya is working hard to secure financial and material donations and volunteers to help us get this creamery completed. Andy and I borrowed $10,000 from a friend last week and this will cover the cost of the new building I ordered. We are operating under the assumption that there will not be a refund in the foreseeable future but if there is we will use all funds to the rest of the project.
It is our sincere hope that his coverage will encourage Mr. Allen to refund Lowell the money he was paid.... nearly all of it since what little work was done is going to require significant expense to correct.
I will share more info as I have it....
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..