Hello, readers! I am SO excited about this blog post because today, my photographer buddy Gavin and I teamed up to bring you a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite cheesemakers: Bellwether Farms, maker of delectable sheep’s milk yogurts, scrumptious cheeses, and my favorite basket ricottas! They also make jersey cow’s milk cheeses, including their illustrious Carmody, sourced from Mountain View Jerseys’ milk just down the road.
I am happy to report that our building permit is FINALED! It was Aristotle who said "patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." Yeah...I wonder if he endured a creamery build-out, because that pretty much sums up what it is like. Just to recap, we started the permitting process with the County of Marin back in September 2012; they finally issued a building permit to us on January 15th; we were done building the creamery and got licensed by the state of California 40 days later on Feb. 23rd; it took another 60 days after that to wrap up the septic issues in order to get the final blessing from the county; so from permit issuance to permit final, it took exactly 100 days. The County of Marin has lifted all the holds, done their last site inspection, and given their final approval, closing the book on this project once and for all....at least as far as they are concerned. We, on the other hand, still have a long to-do list!
Recently, Elaine and I took a trip to Rapidan in Virginia to visit Dr Pat Elliott at Everona Dairy, where she has been producing both raw and pasteurized sheep's milk cheeses for the last fourteen years.
Dr Elliott is now in her eighties and in addition to making some award winning cheeses, is still a practicing MD at her doctor's office adjacent to the farmhouse. Her adventures in the dairy world started after first buying a small number of sheep to keep her Border Collie occupied. Then, while researching ways for the sheep to earn their keep, she tried her hand at milking them with a view to making cheese on a commercial scale. In the late 1990's, after taking a cheesemaking course and traveling overseas to learn more about cheesemaking, Dr Elliott began cheese production in earnest at Everona.
Today is January 15th. This is the day that I’d originally hoped the creamery would be completed. So of course, in a remarkable case of situational irony that no one could have predicted, today was the day that we finally obtained our building permit. You just can’t make this stuff up! This morning, Dave drove to the County of Marin offices to present the final piece of paperwork, an authorization for our project from the County Fire District. After paying more fees, they issued our building permit. Dave and I took a moment to celebrate with a couple of pints of beer over lunch today but before we toasted, I made him show me the permit. It felt a bit like the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie shows his family the Golden Ticket, and overwhelmed with happiness, they break into song and dance. We didn’t have time for singing or dancing because Dave had to rush off to check on some creamery work that is already underway….but maybe later.
Let’s just get this over with: NO, we do not have our building permit yet. We are still waiting. I’ve entered the New Year with the realization that our creamery will not be completed by my fantasy deadline of January 15th. I’ve accepted this, but here’s hoping for February 15th, which is more than the original 100 day goal (by 30 days), but we’re sticking to the $100,000 budget no matter what!
I’m glad the holiday season is over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scrooge or a grinch, but the holiday season is not very compatible with a construction project. Building a creamery requires the full focus and attention of not only the proprietors, but also the various officials, professionals and vendors associated with the project, and the holidays are both distracting and non-productive. Places and offices have limited hours, or days when they’re totally closed, and people take extra days off on top of that. It’s 2013 now, so let’s get to work!
It's getting cold in Tomales!
Which means it's almost Winter, which means it's almost January 31st, which means it's almost time to build the creamery if we want to stay on track!
Amazingly, Seana and Dave finished composing all the drafts for the Building Dept. to review before being officially submitted. To me, this feels like a huge step forward. Also, the cheese vat is due to arrive soon! It feels like waiting for a baby to be born...is it here yet?? Have we reached the due date?? I'm sure it's even more exciting for Seana and Dave, since it's really their vat and their creamery being developed. But ultimately I, too, will use the space (hopefully sooner rather than later), so I feel pretty elated at the progress. It doesn't actually feel real yet, as most dreams-come-true probably don't at first. But I bet once the jackhammer hits the concrete, reality will hit me, too.
This blog will chronicle the planning, permitting, financing (including exact dollar amounts) and building of a micro creamery on a ranch in Tomales, California. It will feature alternating posts from 2 different people, Seana Doughty and Marissa Thornton, who have joined forces to help each other achieve their cheesemaking dreams and goals. Allow us to introduce ourselves.....
In the wake of the California Artisan Cheese Festival, publisher Stephanie Skinner and I took a trip out to visit Joel Weirauch at his eponymous Weirauch Farm in the hills of Sonoma County, California.
Joel's holding Irene, who was bottle fed at home for the first month—her mother had udder problems, so Irene got very comfortable around people. She's one of the older lambs: some of the wee ones in the barn were only a few days old, but they all have names that start with "I"; Irene, Iris, Ivy, etc. Nex year, every lamb will have a "J" name, and so on.
Joel and his wife Carleen are making humane, organic, farmstead sheep cheese in an old-fashioned, new-fangled way: bootstrapping their way into the business, renting land and using recycled schoolhouse trailers for aging caves. Never throw anything out, eh?
Ladies and gentlemen, this month's toast of the Internet, Champis, the sheep herding dwarf rabbit. Chapis lives at Gardsbacken farm (?) perhaps in Sweden. Swedish readers, check out their blog and tell me what the heck else is going on.
Cheesemonger Ray Bair, of San Francisco's Cheese Plus, puts out an occaisional newsletter for customers and fans of his wonderful shop. His most recent note caught our eye: besides featuring a great roundup of NYC-area cheese shops, he also described his visit to Marcia Barinaga, maker of our fall centerfold, Baserri. He graciously allowed us to reprint it here:
A Tale of 2 Thursdays, part 2
Back home in San Francisco, my niece Stefanie is visiting from Arizona. Still jazzed from my fast tour of Manhattan specialty food stores, I arrange for a tour of Barinaga Ranch near Point Reyes while she is visiting. Coincidentally, it's the following Thursday.