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Like every good Midwesterner, I love dairy products. My love for cheese particularly may boarder on the side of obscene, but I will not be shamed. So, I was understandably excited when my family and I elected to visit the Tillamook County Cheese Factory, home of, you guessed it, Tillamook Cheddar.

This cheese is quite delicious, but the industry is also an edifying pursuit. Tillamook is a co-op that was founded in 1909. Dairy farms in the region decided to pool their efforts instead of completing with each other.

Which gets me to thinking about Big Dairy. After speaking with an industry insider, it seems that it’s just not cost effective to run a small scale creamery. This is partly due to the large overhead costs associated with running a creamery, but the other bigger issues revolves around the location and contract nature of the dairy industry.

Much like meat, most dairy farmers are contracted suppliers for large creameries, such as Nestle, Kraft, and Land o’ Lakes. A small scale creamery will have difficulty competing with the big guys, by sheer economy of scale. Nestle tops the list of the Dairy 100 this year, with it’s American division reporting over 11 billion dollars in sales. The entire list boasts sales exceeding $100 billion.

I find it interesting to note however that 3 of the largest 10 dairy processors are producer owned co-ops, much like Tillamook, that includes Minnesota’s own Land o’ Lakes, which occupies the number 5 spot on the list.

The response to this quandary for those interested in breaking into the cheese biz is, not surprisingly, my favorite animal: the goat.

The popularity of goat cheese has grown quickly and steadily over the past decade. Is there anything goats can’t do?

Goat cheese and barrel aged honey. Specialty food market, I’ve got you cornered.

Annachronistic

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I was at my cousin Emily’s wedding reception, and someone spilled their drink on the dance floor. I wanted to make sure the dance floor was safe and nobody slipped on the puddle of liquor, so I asked the bartender for a rag to clean it. As I placed the cloth on the floor and quickly tried to dab the liquid up using my foot, a male voice from behind me said “You’ll make a great wife someday.”

I was taken aback to say the least. What does a woman say to that kind of statement? Thank you? Fully aware of the cultural differences involved, I simply shrugged the comment off, smiled and finished cleaning up the mess before someone got hurt.

DSC01515 (2) My placid reaction needs a bit more context in order to make sense. The wedding reception took place in my cousin’s hometown in Central Minnesota. The ceremony was beautiful…

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! In the spirit of the day, while everyone is enumerating what they are thankful, I thought I would turn the conversation toward a much more cheery topic: murder.

Today, 45 million turkeys will be eaten. Which means that 45 million birds were killed. That is 1/6 of the annual turkey consumption in the US, which averages about 13.8 pounds per person. And I was an active participant in this nationwide poultry extermination. The bird my family consumed was a free range bird from Quail Hollow Farm in Nevada. I know how she lived and how she died. And I feel pretty good about that.

The following pictorial log chronicles the fate of Joyce, our thanksgiving turkey.

Joyce and her friends frequently decided that roosting on the High Tunnel Greenhouse was a better fit for than their roost.

Joyce and her friends frequently decided that roosting on the High Tunnel Greenhouse was a better fit for than their roost.

The turkeys are hung here while awaiting their execution

The turkeys are hung here while awaiting their execution

After the deed.

After the deed.

The recently dispatched birds are "scalded", that is, put into warm, sanitized water that opens the skin folicles for easier plucking

The recently dispatched birds are “scalded”, that is, put into warm, sanitized water that opens the skin folicles for easier plucking

Plucking Joyce. Turkey feathers contain pigment that will  stay isometimes remain in the skin. Though relatively harmless, it does not appeal to most buyers who would like umblemished flesh. Pluckers will take this piigment out by hand.

Plucking Joyce. Turkey feathers contain pigment that will stay isometimes remain in the skin. Though relatively harmless, it does not appeal to most buyers who would like umblemished flesh. Pluckers will take this piigment out by hand. This is also why most large commercial operations use white birds.

Mike, our host and master carver, carving the first Thanksgiving turkey in his new home.

Mike, our host and master carver, carving the first Thanksgiving turkey in his new home.

All that remains of Joyce's body after the meal.

All that remains of Joyce’s body after the meal.

From here, my father would traditionally would take her remains and make her into soup. But this year, we are going to use what remains as bait for crabbing. In that sense, she will continue to feed us for many days.

So, to give thanks, I will say thanks to my friends and family, and Quail Hollow for making this Thanksgiving so wonderful. And special thanks to Joyce for the meals, the learning, the entertainment, and the memories at which she was the center.

UPDATE: photos are missing from the evisceration process. Bloody, fatty hands are not conducive to photo documentary.

One question I get asked a lot is “Where are you?” The answer is either “I don’t know.” or it’s some town no one has ever heard of.

The best answer I can give anyone that makes any sense is: I am somewhere between major city A and major city B. And sometimes those cities are states apart. Because I have been somewhere between Las Vegas and Portland for 2 days, and there is not a whole lot that is going on between them.

I genuinely don’t mind being in the middle of nowhere. I don’t miss “civilization” at all. But it really slams home when I get to town and find out that world has gone on without me. I am not sure how to reconcile that with my chosen lifestyle.

Hey also, it’s super late, so this post is a tinsy bit weak, but the sun has set so it’s Bed Time.

I am not cut out for Las Vegas. I gambled away a dollar and stayed out past dark. At least I think I did. We had a hard time figuring out where the outside began. There is a large outdoor screen that covers the real sky for the sake of digital fireworks and patriot quotes, which made the whole ordeal extremely overwhelming.

There were middle aged men in speedos and tennis shoes, Toby Keith playing over loudspeakers and 14 year old boys giggling over misogynistic blow job t-shirts. This is what the world does when it’s trying to punk us.

But the mojitos were great, and the showers were fantastic. Plus going to bed at 9 really helped the overall mood of the group.

It’s hard to reconcile a place like Vegas, with the Overton farm, only an hour away. But driving through the rest of Nevada has demonstrated in great detail, that without any people to feed, there aren’t any farms.

I am excited to see my family and all that. And was glad not to struggle with the milking machine today, but I miss the goats, and not knowing if I am going to be on another farm like Quail Hollow is kind of bumming me out. But, as the experienced traveler knows, you can never recreate perfect experiences, and it is a silly to try.

I have about 6 weeks left in my journey. I have been to 4 farms, and 4 national parks. I have had two friends come visit, in two different cities. 9 states, 1 flat tire and one speeding ticket. I have spent all but 7 nights in the trailer. I have killed and processed chickens and turkeys, and milked 11 distinct goats. And I am only on my 3rd bobby pin and original hairy tie thingies. (Secretly, that’s what I am most proud of.)

This will also be 53rd blog post. I am starting a new phase of my walkabout, where I am going to start reflecting and writing a more long form article about what I have learned.

But in the meanwhile I am going to spend some time in Vegas, seeing my family, and maybe getting some tatts.

Right now, I am about an hour north of Vegas. Which makes for a pretty wild and crazy Saturday night.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how much money did I lose at the casinos? The answer is none. My Saturday night was spent fixing breakers to get the milker to work, feeding bunnies, and of course, checking the incubator every few hours to find this:

This seems like a really good use of my time. The little peeps are hatching in an incubator, and when they fluff up (i.e. dry out), they get transferred into a cardboard box with a heat lamp. And, much like Skipley Farm, they are kept in the living room.

These little guys are awaiting their compatriots to hatch throughout the day, and are about the size and weight of an egg. (surprise, right?)

So, to make up for the lack on content in this post, here are two neat facts I learned about chickens on my Saturday night: A hen can lay over 250 eggs per year. AND, chicks can breathe through their shells. The shell has pores that are large enough to pass oxygen through.

I feel as though I had a very productive Saturday night. And I got to bed by 9, which may have been the best feature.