Monday, June 30, 2014

Resolution complete: I milked a cow.

A lot of people get really into New Year's resolutions. I don't. Yet for 2014, I made one that I 100% intended to follow through on: I wanted to milk a cow. Many people have asked me why I wanted to do this so badly. Here is my reasoning:

2. It's good to try new things.
3. It would be an awesome experience to blog about.

I'm an urban girl. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the busy, typical, cookie-cutter suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. You know the opening sequence to the show, Weeds? Yeah, that's my hometown: the traffic, the strip malls, the Land Rovers, the soccer moms… all are very familiar things to me. I'm a city dweller to my very core, and I think that's why farm life fascinates me: because it's different.

Cue the Green Acres theme song.

I met Farmer John Dougherty of Farmer Johns' Cheese at the East Side Farmers' Market in May. I gathered that by his large variety of delicious cheese for sale, he likely had access to a great deal of cows. So I asked if I could milk one. He said yes! Two months later, I was off to the outskirts of Spring Green, Wisconsin to visit the official Farmer Johns' milking barn.

Let's get one thing straight: there's more than one Farmer John (hence the apostrophe). It's currently operated by a father and son (both named John), and before that, it was operated by the generations that came first (yup, you got it, also named John). This is a true family farm business, right down to the name.

My friends Cherie and Caitlin came along for the ride, which took us through some winding country roads to this really awesome waterfall:


Then, we arrived at John's milking barn. He walked us through the cow-filled building and told us all about his family farm, the milking process, and all things cows!

The lineup: Farmer John gets the cows into the barn by leading them in with corn (they love it).
See the pipes above the cows? That's where the milk goes.
After it goes through the pipes, it ends up in a huge tank.
We all climbed up the ladder to peek in.

It holds an insane amount of milk.

After our barn tour, we got to meet two baby calves, Jenny and Ryan:

Beyond adorable.
Then, it was milking time. The cows are milked by machine, but of course we had to start off old school. Farmer John chose Faith as the best cow for us to milk. He knew that her mellow temperament would work in our favor and that she was less likely to try and kick us (he has a lot of cows in this place, and many can get sassy at milking time). He noted that you always have to let the cow know when you're at her side and going to milk her. This way, she's less startled. Of course, I had to get the experience on tape:

Then Caitlin milked Faith!
And Cherie, too! 

Old school milking: check. Then, Farmer John let me put the milking machine on Faith. It's made of 4 little suction tubes that go from the udders to the pipes in the barn.

Just making sure I had everything right.
Voila! I attached the milking machine and Faith was ready to go.

A lot of cows had to be milked, so we went to the front of the barn to check in on the tank. It was very loud in there, but I fit in a quick video of "THIS IS WHERE THE MILK IS GOING! HERE'S THE MILK!"

The entire milking process takes about 30 minutes from the first cow to the last. The cows get milked twice a day (6am and 6pm), and Farmer John noted that he tries to keep the cows in the same order each time so that their schedules are consistent. I could really tell that he loves what he does and cares about the well-being of his cows, which of course makes me want to keep buying more and more of his cheese.

Speaking of the cheese, to purchase some amazing dairy goodness from Farmer John, he can be found at the Dane County Farmers' Market (near West Washington Ave), as well as many other local markets.

I'd like to send a huge thanks to Farmer John for letting us visit, Cherie and Caitlin for putting up with their quirky friend, and of course, this lovely lady:

Many thanks, Faith!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Playing catch up: three Madison things I meant to blog about, but didn't.

Alright, I'm trying something new.
I always take pictures of the awesome things I do in Madison, but sometimes they don't make it to the blog. Here's my way of catching up: a collection of mini blog posts that cover brunch at Manna Cafe, Lake Monona rollerblading, and my Harmony Valley CSA. Here goes:

Brunch at Manna Cafe
I had heard many people rave about the brunch at Manna Cafe, and I finally made it there with the Jones crew (Scott, Elysha, Abby, and Clementine). It's located in an old school strip mall in Maple Bluff, and though it's only a 5 minute drive from my place, I feel like I never would have noticed it if it hadn't been so highly talked up.

Manna Cafe lived up to the hype, and our brunch was fabulous: 

Awesome eggs!
Abby modeled her scarf while she enjoyed "The Weekend Nosher" from the kids' menu.
She also made it very clear that she was wearing a tunic, not a dress.
Lake Monona Rollerblading
As I have mentioned before, Madison is an isthmus surrounded by two lakes: Mendota and Monona. When the weather got nice, Cherie and I took her dog Obie on a nice rollerblading trip by Monona Terrace. We took to the bike path and rolled past bikers, fishers, and walkers. It was windy that day, but totally worth it for the awesome lake view (bonus: I didn't fall!).

Meet Obie, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever (roughly 95 pounds). This is his Aviva in Dairyland debut.

Obie pulled his mama along the bike path.
Loving the view!
Harmony Valley CSA
For the first time, I got a CSA. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it means that I'm part of a direct relationship between the farm and the community. My friends Caitlin, Cherie, and I are sharing a CSA through Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI. We just had our first week, and it was pretty awesome. They drop off boxes at pickup sites around the city, and we choose where we'd like to pick ours up. Then, we divvy up the veggies and go nuts. It's good encouragement for me to try more veggies and cook more in general (I don't really cook… I'm more of a stir-things-around kinda girl). Here are my CSA creations thus far:

Stir fry!
CSA ingredients: radishes, turnips, zucchini, asparagus, purple scallions
Trader Joe's additions: tofu and peanut sauce
I made pesto for the first time! But instead of basil, I used pea vines from the CSA.
Wrap it up
There, we're all caught up. So, how have you been?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beer tidbits from the girl who doesn't drink it.

I drink like a pretty little girl. The fruitier, the better. Wine? Sounds good. Cocktails? Really good. Blended? Sure. Umbrella? Epic.

Yup, I'll say it: I live in Wisconsin and I don't like beer. I've sampled many, and the only beer I really care for is Yuengling, which unfortunately isn't sold west of Ohio. Sigh. I'll have a hard cider, please.

But as I've mentioned before, Wisconsinites take beer very seriously. Here's what I learned while walking down Atwood Ave. today:

Words of wisdom outside One Barrel Brewing Company.
According to a seemingly legit article that was written last year, Wisconsin ranks 5th in the USA for beer consumption, and Wisconsin has the highest percentage of binge drinkers in the country. I'm not surprised.

There. That might the the most I've ever talked about beer.

To read about one of my visits to One Barrel Brewing Company, click here.
To read about that time I drank beer out of a boot, click here.