Thursday, June 11, 2009
daily bliss: fabulous firsts
celebrate June, Wisconsin Dairy Month!
Every time I work at T and J's farm I learn something new, eat something amazing, and/or meet new people.
Today, I showed up around 9:30 a.m., under a blue-ish sky pricked through with pale sunshine, ready to plant tomatoes. While we waited for H and J to show up, I planted a row of lemon basil (so fragrant and citrusey!) and a row of thai basil (so licorishey and pretty!).
When H and J, good friends of mine and work colleagues, showed up, we piled our garden gear into T's car and headed out to the overflow farm at one of his friend's houses.
"Have you ever been to the Pine River Dairy?" T asked.
We all shook our heads no, and T delighted in driving us there straightaway, winding through the small industrial park, out past the home improvement mega stores, and into the hilly, verdant farmland outside the city. As we pulled up to the unassuming building, T announced that in honor of Wisconsin Dairy Month, the dairy was giving away *free* ice cream cones.
"Free?" I asked, as my stomach rumbled, and I had yet to do any actual farm work.
"Well, usually they're 25 cents, but they're free all month!"
I practically skipped into the shop, so excited to have ice cream before lunch. This was setting up to be a fabulous day.
T greeted all the women working in the dairy, who informed him that the ice cream was gone, snatched up by hordes of townies who drove out to the dairy *only* for the free ice cream. I shook my head, disappointed.
But only for a moment.
The dairy advertises that they sell 250 cheeses, and I was skeptical. As I wandered from case to case, bypassing the brightly colored, cow besplattered Wisconsin tee-shirts, and various foam cheese heads, coasters, and hats, my skepticism melted like all that ice cream on a much hotter day than today.
The cheese selection includes a number of local favorites and treats from around the world. I peered through a glass door to watch a woman working with a gigantic pile of butter. T opened the door and introduced us to the women working in the dairy.
I gathered up a few gems for next week's wine club fiesta: an aged white cheddar, port salut, Wisconsin parmesan reserve (a gold medal winning cheese!), and a chipotle cheddar (that one's to share with my brother L, who is coming to visit tomorrow).
I bought a glass bottle of milk, and two pounds of butter, one salted, one not, for $1.54 a pound.
At some point in all this dairy goodness, I jumped up and down and grinned at my friend H, as we reveled in the fromage possibilities heretofore hidden from us.
We all checked out, headed back to the car, and set off to the farm, snacking on fresh cheese curds that squeaked in our mouths and seemed just as cheery as our spirits.
Working together, we made fast work of planting 32 tomato plants--San Marzano, Cherokee Purple, Moon Glow, Venus. In a few months, they'll be bursting with sunshine and sweetness.
Satisfied with our work, we drove back to T and J's house, where T treated us to rhubarb pie he had baked that morning--another fabulous first. Ever since I baked a mini loaf of rhubarb bread for my parents in Kindergarten class (why, I wonder), I've steered clear of this strange fruit that looks like celery and needs a good dose of sugar to make it palatable.
Around these parts, saying you don't eat rhubarb is tantamount to craziness. As we settled onto the picnic table on their back porch, with a sweeping view of the river, I looked at the happy, pink and green tinged piece of pie T set down in front of me. With a crumb topping and a generous dollop of whipped cream, the dessert looked scrumptious. I took a tiny bite as I gazed out across the river, framed by lush green and softness, and I sighed into the sweet tartness of the pie.
So much goodness, so much deliciousness, and so much wonder, flowing around us, carving out new waterways and possibilities in every moment.