Traders Point Creamery

27 Aug

I pulled into Traderspoint Creamery on a hot Thursday afternoon, and it was bustling with activity. Steven directed me to a couple of possible tent sites, and I set off to explore the grounds.

TPC occupies a total of over 240 acres on both sides of Eagle Creek, where the farm and creamery buildings are located as well as the pastures for the milking herd. (Another 200 acres is leased to grow organic hay.) Like at Kilgus, the herd is grazed rotationally, depending on grass conditions, weather, and herd characteristics.

Bordering the public part of TPC is Eagle Creek – a nice path skirts under the trees, and I started my wanderings here. Eagle Creek is also a major Indianapolis watershed, which adds additional importance to TPC’s dedication to its cleanliness and organic runoff from the farm. I turned off the creek path and headed toward the cows, who were grazing in the far corner of the most distant pasture.

That’s where I found them again on Friday morning, just as dawn was breaking. Mark, Michael, Will, and I found each other in the darkness at 6:00, and by 7:00 the herd had made it up to the milking parlor.

TPC’s milking herd is made up of about 60 Brown Swiss cows, and they’re milked once a day. Cows at Kilgus and La Chevalerie (where I worked in France) were milked twice daily, for the cows’ comfort, but Michael said the calves stay with their mothers at TPC for so long and drink too much milk from their mothers to milk twice a day. TPC raises Brown Swiss cows, some crossed with Jerseys, because of their high butterfat content (third behind Guernsey and Jerseys) and their suitability as both dairy and beef cattle. They’re pretty, too, and they dance while they’re milked.

It took about 2 hours to milk all 60 cows. They’re fed molasses while being milked, because they love it and because it gives them good sugars, and feeding them even a small portion of grain during milking would contribute to a significant drop in essential CLAs, “conjugated linoleic acids” or “good fat.” I my opinion, the embrace of good fats is one of the greatest contributions of the organic movement to changing the way we think of healthy foods.

Traderspoint had the most thorough milking process of any dairy I have seen. Each cow’s teat is cleaned with a pre-dip of hydrogen peroxide and water, then “stripped,” which means the teat is milked briefly by hand to test for mastitis, a very contagious infection of the udder. If an udder is mastitic, the milk is clotted and yellow, and it really smells awful. According to Amy Rhodes, my tour guide and fantastic later morning hostess, 70% of confined, grain-fed dairy cows are mastitic. In TPC’s herd of 60, only 2 that I saw this morning had teats infected with mastitis. After they’re milked, each teat is dipped again in iodine to prevent infection.

The milk is cooled in the holding tank from body temperature of 105°F to 35°F until it is pasteurized and processed into bottled milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream. Like Kilgus, Traderspoint pasteurizes their milk using the High Temperature Short Time (HTST) method of keeping the milk at 163°F for 20 seconds. Neither dairy homogenizes their milk, either, a characteristic much more important to me when drinking milk or making yogurt, because homogenization breaks apart the milkfat molecules and reduces the product’s creamy taste and nutritional balance.

Traderspoint Creamery processes 150-200 gallons of milk every day. A herd of 60 milking cows does not product that much milk, so two other organic, grass-fed farms bring their milk to TPC in a co-op arrangement to meet demand. The demand is real. I sat on the front porch of the Creamery Barn after my tour and setting up for Amy’s tasting, shoveling the generous remains of blackberry ice cream into my mouth from a quickly-melting carton. Norm, the farm gardener and beekeeper, described mouthwatering ways to prepare omelettes and pasta sauce with TPC’s three flavors of creamy “fromage blanc.” And their two aged cheeses, Fleur de la Terre and a new raw milk aged Gouda, have been winning awards from organizations like the American Cheese Society since Fleur de la Terre was awarded Best Farmstead Cheese in 2007.

The demand is real because the food really is good. I ate a delicious dinner and lunch at the farm’s Loft Restaurant, splurging for non-fried food since I was oh so tired of eating fried on-the-road food all week. In addition to the cows, TPC keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red and White Rock chickens, which are pasture raised year-round, and whose eggs exclusively supply the Loft’s popular Sunday brunch.

They also, as all dairies should, have two pigs, Gwendolyn and Melinda, which I fed with Arturo after strategically skipping out before milking cleanup began.

Before I left, I spent some timing scooping ice cream and fromage blanc for a big event tasting, and I rewarded myself by taking a dip in the picturesque pond hidden right in the middle of the farm, then had a lunch of grilled cheese with a side of cottage cheese before biking into Indianapolis.

(p.s. Check out my chicken processing lesson on the daily post here, and more pictures of Traderspoint on flickr.)

Day 12: Lebanon to Zionsville, IN

26 Aug

What a beautifully short day of 23 miles! I left Lebanon later than expected (or intended) and headed out of town and down the Interstate frontage road. Absolutely nothing to report.

I started reaching Indianapolis, and some freshly paved road, complete with the first hints of future bike lanes! Go Indy! I was naively hopeful.

I had said I would get to Traderspoint Creamery around 4, and since it was hardly lunchtime, I decided to head over to Eagle Creek Park for a little birdwatching, and a walk around the sanctuary.

It was a good decision.

I headed up to the dairy and pulled in to find it bustling with activity. Luckily, I had expectations for a pretty busy place – Traderspoint marketing is top-notch and ever-present, even in Chicago – so I introduced myself and started wandering around to scope out the best tent spot. I met a few farmers, then meandered over to watch Norm and Genie replace a super on one of three beehives nestled hidden at the end of the driveway.

Just my luck, Genie is in charge of the intern bunkhouse, and there was plenty of empty space for me, so I didn’t have to set up my tent anyways! I had a delicious dinner of chicken salad with strawberries and sunflower seed pate, finished with a bowl of strawberry ice cream, before heading over to set up my sleeping bag.

Luck struck again, because Genie informed me that the intern, Mark, was just down at the stable processing a few chickens! Beware, for those faint of heart, this is perhaps my favorite part of the trip so far, but there are a couple of bloody photos coming up.

(plenty more juicy chicken processing photos are tagged traderspoint chickens on flickr)

With a plan set for an early morning of milking, I got to bed early and happy, dreaming of tasty chicken pies.

Street life

26 Aug

One of the goals of this project is to encourage street life, and it’s something I feel very strongly about but which often gets overlooked in posts about headwinds and cows. So I will dedicate a post to just that – why I love street food and want to see more people out on the streets in their towns and cities.

Riding the ferry in Istanbul is the setting of one of the best “meals” possible, anywhere in the world:

On a glorious spring day, buy a simit (a sort of crunchy sesame bagel) and a packet of cream cheese from one of the dozen vendors yelling “Simiiiiiit!!! Buyurun!!” outside the ferry dock. Once on the ferry, choose a seat outside – my favorite is along the side, on the benches where you can put your feet up on the side of the boat, just feet from the water splashing up in the wake. Then, buy a glass of tea, served in real glass glasses, with a spoon and a lump of sugar. There is really no better way to experience Istanbul than eating a simit and drinking a glass of tea surrounded by others crossing the Bosporus for myriad other purposes.

Eating outside is the first essential part of my love for street life and street food. The best meals are often summer feasts at a restaurant with a beautiful terrace on a busy pedestrian street, but they are also just as often picnics in the park with nothing more than a watermelon and a good hunk of cheese. Simply being outside during a meal makes me feel like I am experiencing my environment completely. More important , however, is the inexplicable joy I find in eating outside — when the trees and fireflies and passing neighbors and friends are invited to partake in the feast of the senses.

Then there’s the element of those passing neighbors and friends. I’m riding my bike through the Midwest right now, and I’m meeting so many amazing people. Without these new friends and acquaintances – even the fleeting ones who question my destination or purpose in the parking lot of the library or gas station – I would most certainly have given up by now. It is for these people that I battle the headwinds and creep painfully up the hills, because my goals are always to inspire curiosity and communion with our environments. And by “environment” I don’t mean the trees and rivers and smog-filled air, although that’s a part of it. I also mean the human and built environments; who are our neighbors? How can they support us, challenge us, make us laugh? What are these streets and buildings that we live in? What stories have they seen, what events will they stage, what actions do they encourage, and what character do they lend to our communities?

Without populating these environments, and engaging others in them, we can never truly know the answers to these questions.

Holly Whyte wrote in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, “If you want to seed a place with activity, put out food…Food attracts people who attract more people.” And this is why I am so passionate about the Yogurt Pedaler inspiring street life; because bringing people together on the street, over food, is the best way to inspire new encounters with neighbors and visitors, to discover new uses for our built environment, new ways for cities to create spaces that nurture the people and businesses and homes that communities so need in order to survive and flourish.

We all recognize the spaces we love in our towns – they’re not parking lots, or tiny sidewalks next to busy roads, or dirty alleyways. Perhaps they’re tree-lined residential streets where children play on sidewalks and neighbors mingle on front porches. Or busy urban plazas where businessmen and tourists eat lunch, and perhaps there’s a concert in the evening. They’re neighborhoods where friends meet at the local coffeeshop, ramble down the street to the park, or up the block to the bookstore, and can buy their groceries or visit the post office along the way. They’re places where people feel safe, because they are familiar with the landscape, because there are other people around, and because there are spaces to do the things we like best. And doesn’t everyone love to eat?

Chambana press!!

25 Aug

Thanks guys!

I met two great yogurt fans outside of the post office in Champaign, and I just got a link to their blog, where they posted a freecrappyportrait of me. Check it out!

Also, one of my hosts Kelly is a writer for the Champaign-Urbana independent online newspaper, Smile Politely, and he wrote a great piece about the Yogurt Pedaler.
Check it out here.
Thanks, Smile Politely, Kelly and Emily, and all the folks at the Bike Project.

A celebration and an appeal to readers

25 Aug

First, the celebration. I would like to propose a toast – of electrolyte drink, your choice of flavor – to public libraries! Since much of this tour has been about updating readers on this website, I’ve taken full advantage of the libraries in towns that I’ve passed, and I’ve been very impressed. Champaign’s two-year-old library was grand and shiny and new, and their wireless was great. The Urbana Free Library has a fantastic stone porch on the east side, shaded by flowers and trees and an awning, and I sat for hours at the tables and chairs scattered outside the cafe. Today I visited two libraries – Danville’s was easily the highlight of the town, and I hope residents take advantage of it more than they do the other old, vacant buildings I passed. But Covington, Indiana, wins my prize for most picturesque library. Nestled on a tree-lined street corner a couple of blocks from the main square, its huge stone steps were the perfect place to send that forgotten email, and there was a steady stream of people filing in and out the door, despite Covington being a remarkably small town.

Next, the call to arms. I am sure some of you readers are practiced at yoga, and I would like your advice. What are your favorite poses or stretches that will ease the tension in my neck and back, strengthen my shoulders and abs, and stretch out my hips and knees without straining them? At the end of the day, and the beginning, I yearn for a peaceful balance and strength and flexibility that my volleyball stretches are just not getting me.

I see a lot of views like this these days...

Day 11: Hillsboro to Lebanon, IN

25 Aug

While today’s physical conditions may have been comparable to yesterday’s, my mental state was polar opposite and made it a much more pleasant day. I rode almost 35 miles in about 4 hours, bringing my total mileage up to a crazy 365 miles!!!

Most of the day, after passing through Crawfordsville, and leaving the hills behind for the moment, was spent on Highway 32. This unfortunately and unexpectedly meant most of my day looked like this:

But somehow, I had the spirit with me today, and it moved me forward.

I made it to my hotel in Lebanon, reminiscent of my hotel in Gilman last week, and settled down to an afternoon of internet and digital updating. The desk clerks – ironically they have Middle Eastern accents – were kind enough to do my laundry for me, and I got to walk across the Interstate to get BBQ for dinner. Lucky me!!

Day 10: Kickapoo State Park, IL to Hillsboro, IN

24 Aug

I woke up at dawn this morning, eager to get on the road early, through Danville, and all the way to Crawfordsville if I felt as good as I did Monday. The campground was still asleep and misty as I walked back from the bathrooms, and the 6 or 8 deer who had lingered in the evening were bounding through the campsites, between tents and over picnic tables.

I rode out of the park to Hwy 150, my intended route to Danville and to Hwy 136, my route almost all the way to Indianapolis. But when I reached the intersection, there was no way I was biking on it; cars were flying by at 60 mph, it was a divided highway with no shoulder, under construction, and the cars and I would be heading straight into the morning sun.

The kind folks at the gas station were unfortunately no help – the only other way into Danville, according to them, was I-74. I scrutinized my maps – luckily I had three that included this part of eastern Illinois – and spotted a mysterious road that seemed sometimes to parallel Hwy 150. Time for another map searching phone call! Mom rescued me, mostly, and I only had to ride on Hwy 150 for about a half mile. Without these calls to folks with computers and internet, I honestly don’t know if I would have survived this trip this far. The state of my three maps was honestly ridiculous; none of them agreed with each other OR with what I found on the roads themselves. Come on, geographers, some of us still use paper!

Danville, by the way, was worth skipping, except for the much-needed grocery store stop, the post office, and the great library for a blitz email session. I continued on my way, and discovered that I’d be riding with much more traffic than before, and again into a headwind.

This means it was a tough day. I stopped for lunch in the lovely Covington, beat onwards to a milkshake in Veedersburg, and battled the hills to my campsite at Charlarose Lake and Campground, just east of Hillsboro.

I did make it to Indiana, though, so that’s a significant victory!

Charlarose Campground is the kind of place people set up their trailers year-round and spend the summers or weekends with their camp neighbors. And as last night my critter friends were deer, tonight they’re rabbits – two herds of them bound and nibble their way around the nearby trailers, snatching animal crackers from your hand and scooting away before you can reach over to pet them.

Today’s ride was long – over 42 miles – and it felt like it. Tomorrow is on to Lebanon, a hotel room, and an evening of much-needed laundry!