Things are slowly but surely settling down here in the quiet city of Fairhope. Our boxes are all nearly unpacked, and though we have two entire rooms still awaiting their design destiny, the majority of our living space is ‘completed' and clean. Two very important aspects to comfortable living.
I'm slowly (very slowly) getting used to finding a dead palmetto bug or two on the floor while I'm sweeping.
I'm slowly (very slowly) getting used to driving around on new highways and am slowly acquiring a sense of direction for all important destinations: church, the school, the grocery store, the bank, the nearest coffee shop, and the farmers market.
Our refrigerator is also finally starting to get full of good food again. Man, what an expense! Having to repurchase stock items all at once is stinky.
But we did secure a pastured chicken supplier, though they won't be ready for harvest until early fall.
And we also are securing the purchase of another quarter steer for the deep freeze. Originally, we had decided against purchase more beef, as we thought the seafood here would be plentiful and rich. Instead, we've found local sources of seafood to be quite difficult to come by. I was quite angry when I went into a small local fish supplier to find imported farmed shrimp from Thailand. Come on, people! The water is 50 feet away! Regardless, the culinary versatility that comes from a freezer full of delicious, grass-fed beef is hard to beat. Plus, purchasing in bulk is so much more economical than purchasing from the store!
One of the very important items on our list to find a good supplier of was cheese (HERE is a great post on the benefits of eating raw cheese). Unfortunately, the five pounds of raw cheddar I insisted on packing in a cooler for the long trip down here did not survive the journey and we were left cheese-less for a few days.
Cheese-less is not somewhere I ever want to be again. It was horrible, my friends.
I shutter to think.
Anyway, behold the power of the great internet – with a little homework, I discovered there was a cheesemaker close by! And not just any cheesemaker. These cheesemakers have a herd of 15 Guernsey cows that graze on their own pasture land all year. They milk them and make the cheese right there on the ‘farmstead'. Even the shop where you buy the cheese is right there, next to their pasture and chicken coop.
I must admit. I semi-contemplated renaming the blog ‘The Elliott Farmstead' after visiting. What a fabulous word!
From our house, it's about a forty minute drive to their farm. Not bad, considering we'll only have to make it once…maybe twice…per month.
Once we arrived at the farm, I began to google at the grass…the cows…the chickens…the pecan trees….the vegetable gardens…the old truck…the smell…the (well, you get the idea)…
I was so busy coveting this beautiful farm I had trouble focusing on the cheese! Until I tasted it.
Seriously, I really don't mean to be all food-snob-dramatic or anything but HOLY COW.
(Get it? Cow? Milk? Cheese? Ha.)
This cheese was superb. So incredibly flavorful, I found myself satisfied with a far smaller portion than normal. As I savored each cheese I tasted, the lady behind the counter began to laugh at me. “You must really enjoy your cheese”, she chuckled. I guess my enthusiasm was obvious.
Or maybe it was the tears of joy that ran down my face that tipped her off.
I left with three pounds of raw, grass-fed cheese. A pound of ‘Southern Fox', a pound of ‘Bama Jack', and a pound of Elberta'. Each distinctly different and incredibly wonderful.
What a wonderful place. I dream of one day owning a home just like it. It was so comfortable and self-sufficient. To be able to create such an incredible product…right there on your land from start to finish…I mean, what a blessing.
On top of the incredible cheese, I find the conversation with locals at places like these to be so encouraging. They are so often willing to offer their thoughts and advice to a novice, such as myself.
For instance, at a local home-run-farm-stand yesterday, I learned that figs are running three weeks earlier than normal this year because of the mild winter. I also learned that the middle of September is a good time to plant lettuce, cabbage, beets, and kale for a late fall/early winter harvest. And that muscadines will be our new ingredient for wine making.
I know that most people wouldn't drive forty minutes out of their way for cheese. And I understand that. But I am so thankful for this wonderful passion that the Lord has given me for growing and appreciating His created goodness – it's been a wonderful way to slowly begin to feel comfortable in our new home. Pushing ourselves to discover these fantastic local farms and stores has, in a sense, really helps to make me feel like I'm appreciating all that this particular piece of our country has to offer.
And for the love of dairy, that cheese is so ridiculously good.
If you've got the time, I'd love to hear about your family's dairy diaries and all the goodness you've found around your local town. I could talk about this for hours. And hours. And hours. Email me. Text me. Comment, er, me. Let's talk cheese, baby.
I may, or may not, have a new found obsession.
As always, send help.