Monday, March 23, 2009

On the Farm

This past weekend was a doozy in many ways. But the best dooziness occurred on Saturday when my family and I visited our friends at Taylor Farm in Londonderry, VT. The Taylor Farm, located on Route 11 (not too far from downtown Londonderry), is a 500 or so acre dairy operation run by Jon Wright and his wonderful family. They keep on the order of about 100 dairy cows (Holsteins and New Jersey’s), milk them twice a day, and make Vermont’s best and only raw milk Gouda cheese. They produce several varieties including traditional, chipotle, smoked maple, caraway, nettle, and a prized aged Gouda, to name a few. They also keep draught horses, regular horses (I’m not a horse guy so I don’t know the terminologies), pigs, ducks, geese, and lots of chickens that squawk around and crank out eggs every day. Dogs, cats, bugs, birds, bees, ….what else? That might cover it.

I first met Jon Wright last year when my sister, Priscilla, and I took the kids for a tour around the valley between Stratton, Magic, and Bromley mountains. I had read about the Taylor Farm in a review in the Boston Globe the week before and being a farmer, and a cheesy kind of guy, I felt that this was probably going to be a good destination. Upon meeting Jon’s sister, Mimi, in their small, rustic retail shop, I knew we were in the right place. We bought all kinds of cheeses and goodies for the kids, then off on a one hour sleigh ride behind two cool draught horses. We stopped at a small Adirondack shelter out in a field somewhere where he started a fire for the kids so they could roast marshmallows and make samores. He provided hot cider and while the kids were toasting the solidified corn syrup the three of us ensued in conversations that spanned farming, oysters, global sustainability, and Vermont. In short, we had a great time with him out there. And afterward I promised to come back after he explained that they rent out their guest house throughout the year.

So I kept my promise. Last summer our family made the trip up to Londonderry and rented out the Wright’s guest house for a few days. We had an amazing time: the kids were off and running, helping with chores, exploring, and getting completely filthy with mud and manure. As promised, I brought a bag of oysters and it disappeared from sight within seconds. Last summer’s trip to the Taylor Farm was one of life’s best memories – especially because Max and Jane were so into it and not one second was devoted to any type of electronic device. I even got to fix some plumbing in the bathroom.

So last weekend we descended upon the farm again. This time with my brother-in-law, Chip (who you may have read about on this blog), and one of Jane’s friends, Katiana. The place was mobbed due to a kid’s birthday party (sleigh rides, etc.). But I managed to find Jon and spend a few minutes catching up. Unfortunately the visit witnessed the bad news that the Wright’s encountered over the winter. In February their dairy barn, a massive structure, collapsed under the asymmetrically-placed weight of the season’s snow during a nighttime wind event. Two cows were killed, the rest were rescued overnight (in bitter cold) by several members of Jon’s family and community. Even 6 weeks later they were still preparing the barn roof to be raised back up in several sections. It looked to be a monumental task. But Jon’s spirits were high and he had the help of his friends and neighbors. They’ll be fine I think. A large bash is planned for May to celebrate the restoration’s completion and I think I’ll go.

So we did our part and bought lots of cheese, milk, goodies for the kids, yarns, hats, and other stuff from Mimi in the shop. I presented Mimi with a bag of fresh oysters and this was received with a large smile. Then off we went, passing Mimi in the driveway running back to the shop with a lemon in her hand, “..for the oysters!”

Two more stops – a maple sugar shack and a woodworking joint. Great stuff. Then back to the house on the mountain.

Dinner was absolutely magnificent: oysters and cheese with wine for appetizing us, then steaks on the grill and some of Chip’s best side dishes to date. There was a berry pie from Taylor Farm for dessert. We ate, then put on the Who live at Kilburn (1977) on the high definition Jumbotron over the fireplace and carried on throughout the evening with the aid of Brooke’s brother Tom (who lives in the area) and our friends Lynn and Eric (from CT) who, by sheer coincidence were staying only a half mile from our place. As I watched Pete Townshend jump, jig, and jam I looked around and felt a distinct appreciation for life.

See how much fun it is to support local farms? Now back to the oysters… Now back to the real challenges.

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