...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Garden Pilgrimage: Heigh, Ho, the Dairy-O

This time of year, I'm antsy to start on those garden pilgrimage posts, but unfortunately, no plant switch suddenly flips "on" at the beginning of March (though my heart feels it should.) No matter, I just have to be a little creative in my definition of a garden...just for another month or so. Today, "garden" meant pasturage for grass-fed milk cows at the nearby Traderspoint Creamery.

This creamery involves a working farm (which visitors can tour) and cheese, ice cream and yogurt making facilities (which visitors can't.) The milking parlor does, however, offer the public a hands-on milking option. We didn't visit at the right time of day for that activity, so we may have to go back for that one. What we did arrive in time for was lunch. Lunch! As we perused the menu, we studied their mission statement. Just reading it made us feel like we were destined to experience a health food bonanza, no matter whether it tasted superior to commercial dairy offerings or not.

But the benefits spilled over into the taste realm as well. Garden Helper dressed his "fancy milk" jar with some Mardi Gras beads, and it did taste festival-worthy. In fact, when we brought a quart home and gave a sample to older brother, his eyes grew wide. "Holy cow!" he said. Holy cow, indeed.
But not only was milk, that humble beverage, a taste treat; likewise that beggarly entree: the grilled cheese sandwich received a Cinderella treatment in the farm's kitchen. Mine was dressed with fresh spinach leaves and paired with an amazing side of curried cauliflower, while Garden Helper opted for the more classic bacon and cheese with a side of kettle chips.

Who would guess that after such a glamorous meal we'd be trudging into nearby mud pits? The farm proper is behind the restaurant and country store. Garden Helper donned his sanctioning badge and studied the farm grounds map before we set out on our self-guided tour.

First, we learned about these interesting chicken coops. Chickens make some of the best manure available and with 60-90 milking cows needing healthy pasturage, high quality manure is surely a must.

I first read about these mobile coops in a book on grass-fed cattle farms. I've never mucked out a chicken coop to appropraite the manure as fertilizer, but I can nevertheless appreciate these little chicken RV's. The floor is basically open, so the droppings fall directly on the ground intended to be fertilized. Then the coop is moved and another patch of ground is nourished.

The chickens by day roam free. Only one big gorgeous rooster--almost as tall as my hip--was camera shy. When he saw us approach, he ran behind a shed; but the rest were happy to pose and even crow a few times for us.

On the other side of the farmyard were the cow pens and milking parlor. We saw a couple of farm hands muscle a cow down a hill toward the pasture, but most of the cows were feeding from troughs in their pen considering much rain lately has shifted the farm's fields into their watershed function for a local creek.

Although the cow pen was too dark to photograph well, just behind this curious cow were 8 or 10 frisky calves being "ushered" into a stall full of fresh straw where their mamas waited.

I mentioned the chickens are free range? Well, one apparently considered himself the guard rooster, coming over from the chicken coops to stand just inside the cow pen and crow at us.
We decided it was time to head back. We finished our pilgrimage in the farm store, buying quarts of milk and yogurt and choosing the first two seed packs for the new season. I've decided to allow my garden to rest from the heavy feeders, but will still grow some light feeders and a few plants that are more in the nature of green manure. These seeds say I can plant them early in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Hmmm...the next garden pilgrimage may be to my own backyard.
Happy chugging!


  1. Thanks, Erin. You know, I'm seriously considering taking some of these that feature local businesses and bundling them in a query to our local paper...see if they'd like a periodic feature. The one on the soil and water conservation office got me started thinking about it.

  2. of course, they'd have to be modified some, but still...

  3. Hi Deb,

    I've been to Traders Point Creamery and it's a great place to visit. My friends and I were on our way to Southern, IN to pick up some bees, and we decided to stop. They weren't busy so the owner gave us a full-on tour. It was wonderful.

    Cindy Bee