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.
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....
Much thanks to Rod Adams... friend of Andy's that came out for a farm photo shoot. He snapped some amazing shots of the kids and animals.... we are super thankful. (fyi... anyone interested in his services his email is on our links page) I will try and sprinkle some of the pictures throughout this post. I have also updated the webpage including many of his photos not shown here. Its such fun to have new fall photos to share!
Ashley came home for Thanksgiving! I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it was to have her home again for a few days. We have all missed her so much. I have come to the realization that, for me, letting go is the most challenging stage of parenting. While its awesome to see the person she is becoming and watching her make her way in the world... its challenging at times and a bit sad.
November was exhausting... Andy finally had his knee surgery so I had to step in and milk the cows. The first day it took me almost six hours! Thank goodness we are just milking once a day now! Mom arrived a couple of days later.. and not a minute too soon. By day three Hannah was helping me milk and we had it down to under four hours and then to three (which is how long it takes Andy). By Thanksgiving Andy was back milking.
Andy's recovery was amazingly fast! His knee is almost the same size as the other one now. Andy was hit by a car about three years ago and had suffered from knee pain ever since. His pain is far reduced now and for that we are all thankful.
Our milk supply is good now... we finally figured out what was wrong.. .and it's CRAZY! There was an electric waterer in the field that was putting 110 volts into the ground. Every time the cows went to drink they were getting zapped...even though we were not using the broken waterer... our water tank was acting like an antennae. We also have a small stray voltage issue in the milking barn that we are sorting out. But it's one volt and minimal. We are back up to 20 gallons of milk a day and most thankful.
Winter is setting in and we are discovering that our barn is not insulated enough... so we are planning some additional work for the next few weekends. Anyone bored? Need an activity? We can put you to work!
I am looking forward to Christmas and the approach of the new year. Spring holds new calves and the return of cream... glorious cream.
Until then we will keep warm and snug... enjoying cuddles in bed with the kids, hot cocoa and look forward to spending more time together. Spring also brings the return of twice a day milking!
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..