Newsletters

Our annual herd check up – June 2017

Our cows enjoying the full pastureIt’s has been a wet month in Morrison’s Cove so far. The grass is growing quickly, and the cows disappear into it whenever we open a new section for them to eat. It’s almost like they are swimming in grass!

Our annual veterinarian herd check took place this past week. Dr. Kendra Itle took blood samples from every cow on our farm older than two years old. The samples are tested for brucellosis. Dr. Itle also performed a tuberculosis test on each cow. We have to do this every year to sell raw milk and to ensure that all of our milk-producing cows are healthy.

After all of the tests, Dr. Itle checks each cow to make sure she is healthy after calving. Now that we are heading into June, it’s time to start breeding. During the month of June, we breed our cows via artificial insemination. Dave picks out bulls that are good for grazing, as well as having A2A2 genetics and good milk properties for cheesemaking.

We are down to only nine calves drinking milk. We have weaned all the bulls and older heifers off of milk. All of them are out eating grass and drinking the whey leftover from making cheese.

Last week was one of those weeks. On Monday we turned on the vacuum packer to package cheese and it wouldn’t work. Of course, it was a holiday, so we couldn’t call the repair person until Tuesday. After two days on the phone with him (the company is in Harrisburg), we decided it was the control board which they had to ship from California. There was a mix up in shipping and they lost the shipment over the weekend, so we were without a vacuum packer for nine days. We are grateful for Central Penna Scale Co. for tracking down the part and for Country Smokehouse who let us use their vacuum packer so that we would still have cheese to take to market.

While we were waiting for the part to come, we accidentally fried the scale that we use to weigh the wedges for sale. Luckily, we had an ancient one that Dave got from one of his uncles many years ago that we were able to use until the new scale came.

Four Leaf Clover – our matured cheddar – was our most popular cheese in May. Bruschedda is our second best seller at market right now. Everyone loves the pizza flavor that the basil, garlic, and dried tomatoes gives to our cheddar.

Our summer farmers’ market season is here. Boalsburg Farmers’ Market is in the Boalsburg Military Museum parking lot on Tuesday afternoons. Huntington Farmers’ Market is held on Thursdays. Juniata Farmers’ Market is inside the Station Mall in Altoona every Friday. Ligonier Country Market is every Saturday morning.

Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellar for the month. Would you like to get our newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

Outdoor farmers’ markets begin – May 2017

Running on tractor powered genoratorThe grass on our pastures is growing as fast as the cows can eat it. The trees in our yard have sprouted leaves last week and the flowers are growing around our buildings. We are back to running to three or four farmers’ markets each week. Even though we don’t enjoy going to market in the rain, we were grateful for the showers that keep the grass growing.

We don’t like the storms bringing the rain, though. A violent storm tore through Morrisons Cove on May 1st, blowing down trees and branches. One of the trees in our yard fell down and we had to spend one evening picking up branches so that we could mow the grass in our yard that’s growing like crazy. Another tree fell down over the entrance to the cows’ pasture, which we had to push out of the way for them to come in for milking Tuesday morning. We are still cleaning up two other trees that fell down on our fences this week.

The storm also knocked out our power for almost 22 hours from around 6 pm on Monday until around 4pm on Tuesday. We had an impromptu candlelight meal Monday night. Luckily we have a generator so that we could milk the cows and bottle milk on Tuesday morning. Between the storm, making cheese, attending three farmers markets a week and the regular farm work, we haven’t had time to get the newsletter out until now.

The oldest calves out on pastureCalving season is complete. Our last cow calved on April 30, so we actually had all of our new babies in March and April this year. We had right around half girls and half boys. We have 30 heifers and 25 bull calves. The bulls are for sale if anyone would like to raise some grass fed beef for next fall.

We moved the oldest 20 calves out to pasture two weeks ago. We are starting to wean them off of whole milk and transition them to eating grass and drinking the leftover whey from cheesemaking. Once they are weaned and used to fences, we will move them down to our calf pastures and move the next twenty calves out.

The oldest calves out on pastureWe are making cheese two or three times a week right now. We’ve sold out of Pirate Blue from last year and the new batch from March isn’t ready until May 24. Smile key Galens was our most popular cheese in April. Uncle Joe’s popularity is growing this spring as well. Everyone loves the aged asiago flavor that twenty months of aging has developed.

Spring has gone by fast when we were busy with making cheese and taking care of baby cows. May is the month for our outdoor farmers’ markets to start. Boalsburg Farmers’ Market moved outside to its summer location on May 2. Huntington Farmers’ Market began on Thursday, May 4. Juniata Farmers’ Market is inside the Station Mall in Altoona every Friday. Ligonier Country Market’s first day is on Saturday, May 20.

Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellar for this month. Would you like to get our newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

Spring Showers & Green Grass – April 2017

Rain showers were falling on our farm as we wrote this newsletter. The grass in our pastures is turning green and starting to grow. We are hearing baby calves bawling in excitement to be fed. All these things mean that springtime is here on our farm!

a photo of Eyja
Eyja’s name comes from island in Icelandic

Since our first calf arrived on March 4th, we have been busy taking care of new babies. After the first week, they started coming quickly by ones and twos and threes per day. Right now we have thirty-six babies that we are feeding their mothers’ whole milk morning and afternoon. We have twenty cows that haven’t had their babies yet, but we expect them to calve by the end of the month.

Every year, we are asked how we come up with a name for every one of the new calves. Our answer is lots of imagination and some inspiration from our friends and our experiences. This year we named a few with some Icelandic words because of our trip in February. Eyja is the Icelandic word for island; Kyr means cow (original, we know). The names of cheeses are also a source of inspiration. This year we named one of our calves after Epoisses, a stinky French cheese. Another custom that we follow that sometimes helps and sometimes makes choosing names harder: we try to pick a name for each calf that uses the same first letter as its mother. That way we can keep track of families in our herd.

This year we decided to only milk once a day during calving season to give us more time to take care of the new babies. The green grass is allowing the cows to produce plenty of milk to feed the calves. The extra raw milk that the calves don’t drink we bottle or use for making cheese. Everyone (including us) is happy to have fresh milk to drink again.

a photo of Epoisses
Epoisses is named after a stinky French cheese

Beginning this week, we will be making cheese twice a week. We’ve already made a batch of Pirate Blue cheese, a batch of Uncle Joe’s, and of Clover Cheddar. We are getting back into cheese making mode again. Anthony spent several days this week reorganizing our cheese carts to give us room for new cheeses.

Dave attended a cheesemakers’ meeting in March with the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture and the sanitarians from the PA Department of Agriculture covering the new regulations regarding testing for antibiotics. We have always tested every batch of cheese for antibiotics with a visual color change test, even though we don’t put any antibiotic treated milk into our bulk tank. Originally the new rules read that we would need an official lab to complete antibiotic testing and get a printed paper result before starting any part of the cheese-making process. However, we pump our milk from the milking parlor directly into the cheese vat to start the process. We thought that it would be safer to start the cheese-making process with good cheese cultures rather than wait hours for a test result, allowing other things to grow in the milk.

We were pleased when the PA Food Safety and Laboratory Services directors listened to our concerns and responded with a reasonable and rational enforcement plan. The new regulations state that a PDA certified lab has to return test results for our milk before we sell the cheese. We legally need to age our cheese 60 days before selling it, so that gives adequate time to send a sample to be tested and get the required written results back. We are grateful that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is supportive of raw milk cheesemakers and willing to listen.

a jersey calfSpring goes by fast when we are busy with making cheese and taking care of baby cows. Soon it will be time for our outdoor farmers’ markets to start. Boalsburg Farmers Market moves out from its winter location on May 2. Juniata Farmers Market remains indoors during the summer but will now be held every Friday. Ligonier Country Market’s first day is on Saturday, May 20. Huntington Farmers Market begins on Thursday, May 4.

You can also come see us and sample our cheeses at several events this month. We will be at Bear Creek Mountain Resort’s Spring Wine Festival on April 8 & 9. Ag Awareness Day at Penn State Altoona is on Thursday, April 20.

Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellar for this month. Would you like to get our newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

 

Iceland Winter Vacation – March 2017

We can tell that spring is on its way. We enjoyed one week of balmy 65°F weather at the end of February. Then as soon as the calendar turned to March, we woke up to a half inch of snow on the ground, and single digits in the morning. Looks like the weather should be more moderate this week.

Moana wearing her vestThat’s good news because we have baby calves to worry about now. Our first one arrived on Saturday morning, March 4th. Of course, she wasn’t born from any of the mothers we put in our maternity pen. She was running around the barn with her mom and all of the other dry cows. We decided to name her Moana. We dressed her up in a vest to keep here warm during the cold night. But a little boy arrived Monday to keep her company, so she should stay warm now.

To all of our raw milk customers, remember that the first three days of milk are reserved for the calves. This milk is full of antibodies to help the build up the babies’ immunities. After that, the babies still have priority for the milk, but we should have some raw milk available at the farm by the end of this week.

In the past month, we sold a few of the cows that were due in early summer. This winter, as we were planning for the year ahead we realized that we had too many cows. We aren’t selling cheese quickly enough to process all the milk they would give into cheese. With the reduced herd numbers, we are expecting just under sixty new babies due between now and the end of April. Spring is our busiest time of year. We are dealing with feeding new babies, milking cows every day again and preparing to resume making cheese.

 

one of the waterfalls in Iceland and some of the cows from the farm we visited While we took a break from milking in February, Dave, Terry, Austin and Vannika took a week’s vacation and traveled to Iceland. They toured a family dairy farm, visited a farm right at the base of one of Iceland’s volcanos and covered in ash in 2010, walked through a milk processing plant, and even brought home a few Icelandic pieces of cheese. Vannika loved the cold, northern lights, and getting to see big snow storm (since we didn’t have one here). Austin dreamed of some day playing piano in one of the beautiful Harpa Concert Halls. Dave wants to learn how to make Icelandic skyr once we have milk again. Terry enjoyed the waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, and the Reykjavik flea market

We try to not plan too many events while we are dealing with all the new babies, but we will be at Uncork the Alleghenies on Saturday, March 18 at the Blair Count Convention Center. We will be returning to farmers markets on March 14, with the Boalsburg Farmers market. We will also be at the Juniata Farmers market in Altoona on Friday, March 17th.

Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellar for this month. Would you like to get our newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

Vacation month – February 2017

We are still waiting for our first significant snowfall. We had a little over an inch the other week, but it only lasted about four hours until the sun came out and melted it all. Our thermometer read sixty degrees this week, so we are wondering if Punxsutawney Phil is a little wrong this year. It looks like we might get some snow tonight, and then warmer weather for the weekend.

We will stop milking the last group of cows this weekend, to start their month’s sabbatical. All our milk customers have been buying extra milk to freeze enough to make it until March. Unless we end up selling a few of the cows due later in April and May, we will have 70 new baby cows born this spring. The first calves are due the second week of March. However, just like humans, sometimes they choose to come early or late.

While we take a vacation from milking, it’s time to plan our new cheesemaking year. We look at our sales and inventory changes over the past year. Using that data, we see what we need to make more of and what we need to make less often. We also go over our recipes to see how we can improve each step of the way.

While attending a meeting between the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture sanitarians, Food and Drug Administration inspectors, and the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild last fall, we learned that the Pennsylvania code of regulations regarding raw milk cheese is much more restrictive than the federal code. We were told that raw milk cheese is legal after aging 60 days at not less than 35°F. The Pennsylvania regulations includes only hard cheeses as defined as less than 39% moisture and more than 50% milk fat solids. According to those regulations, our Alpha and Omega, Pirate Blue, and Galen’s Good Old cheeses may not be allowed to be sold as younger cheeses in Pennsylvania.

If you enjoy our cheeses, please consider writing a letter to:
Secretary of Agriculture Russel C. Redding
2301 N. Cameron St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Ask him to change the Milk Sanitation Regulation 59a so we can continue to produce and sell these cheeses.

Because February is our slowest month at the creamery, we decided to offer a Valentine’s Cheese Lover’s Special. Any cheese ordered on Valentines Day and paid at delivery or before shipping will receive a discount off the current price.

We will be attending the PA Garden Show of York on March 3-5. While our cows are taking a vacation, we are also taking a short break from our farmers’ markets. Anthony will not be back at the Juniata Farmers Market in Altoona until the third week of March. Terry will be at Boalsburg Farmers Market this Tuesday, Feb. 14, and then she won’t be back until the second week of March.

A New Year Begins – January 2017

Our youngest daughter is waiting for winter to arrive at our farm. We’ve had a few light snowfalls, but nothing that has lasted long enough for her to go sledding. The cows and those of us that have to spend time working in the snow and clearing the farm lanes are happy for the warmer weather. Most of our experience this month is mud and mist, with the occasional ray of sunshine.

Right before Christmas, we sorted out around twenty cows that were still giving the most milk. Segregating them in the shed, we could feed them some of the higher quality hay. Those twenty cows have been giving almost as much milk as fifty-five cows were giving on dry cow hay. We plan on milking through February 10, when we’ll give the last twenty cows a sabbatical while we rest until we start having new babies in March.

The production area of our creamery is in shutdown mode for a few months. We made our last 2016 batch of cheese the week before Christmas. Those thirteen wheels of Bruschedda, taking our production total for the year to almost 26,000 pounds of cheese. We produced over 2900 wheels in 2016.

Jesse and Anthony spent a morning during the first week of the new year weighing all the cheeses in our aging rooms for our year-end inventory. We have over 18,000 pounds of cheese in our coolers. Two of our styles, Uncle Joe’s (our aged asiago) and Four Leaf Clover (our matured cheddar) are in their eighteenth month of aging. We made those back in August of 2015. Let us know if you’d like some seriously sharp cheese!

Looking ahead in January, we will be helping out at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Cheese Competition booth. We will be selling our cheese and answering questions on Monday, January 9 and Wednesday, January 11. We will be attending the Groundhog Trail Wine and Cheese Fest on January 28th at the Clearfield County Fair Grounds.

Our winter farmers markets continue. Boalsburg Farmers’ Market is every Tuesday in the basement of St. John’s United Church of Christ. Juniata Farmers Market is the first and third Friday of every month at the Station Medical Center in Altoona.

Slowing Down for Winter – December 2016

A photo of the Rice family from winter 2016Winter weather is slowly arriving at our farm, letting us and the cows know that it is time to start slowing down for the winter months. There have been expectations of snow, but our pastures are still slightly green and mostly bare. We have spent several cold mornings thawing out the milking system when the temperatures dropped below freezing. Now that the system is freezing in the mornings, we will switch to an afternoon milking time (we are only milking once a day). That way we are milking during the warmest part of the day.

A few of the cows have decided it’s time to start their break before calving and stopped giving milk. We are down to milking 55 now. We will dry about half of them off soon after Christmas. Those are the ones that will be calving early in March. The others won’t be calving until mid-April, so we’ll dry them off around the first week of February. That break gives the cows a rest period from giving milk before they have their babies.

Those cold mornings have frozen our gravity flow system for feeding water and whey to this spring’s calves. Their pastures are all gone. We’ve been giving them hay to eat. Last week we moved them into the shed. We have a feed bunk to give them hay and a winterized water trough that won’t freeze. We don’t want them to tear up the pastures for next year’s calves. Once we dry the cows off after Christmas, we’ll move the calves to our heifer barn and bring the yearlings home that will be calving this coming spring.

We are almost to the point where we can fill milk jugs out of half of a week’s milk and make the rest into cheese, reducing our cheese making to once a week. Fall and winter milk is so rich that our cheese yields are very high. Even though the milk quantity is less, we still end up with a large number of wheels. These we have to try and squeeze into our full cellars. We only have a few more batches of cheese planned for this year. It looks like we will make a little over 26,000 lbs of cheese in 2016.

the pumpkin that we added to our uncle joe's to make pumpkin pieWe don’t have any new cheeses this month, but we did try a new recipe. For one of the smaller batches we made in November, we tried a true Romano recipe. Now we just have to age it until next fall (Romano is typically aged at least 12 months) and see how it turns out. We still have a few pieces of the Pumpkin Pie cheese left that we made for Thanksgiving.

In the winter months, we are only attending our two year-round farmers markets. Boalsburg Farmers’ Market is in the basement of St. John’s United Church of Christ on Tuesday afternoons. Juniata Farmers’ Market at the Station Mall in Altoona is the first and third Friday of every month.

Well, that’s all the news from our farm and cheese cellars for this month. Would you like to get these newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? You can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

Thankful | November 2016

November is here and with it comes bare trees, crunchy brown leaves coating everything, and shorter daylight hours. Even with the arrival of autumn weather, we are thankful that the sun has warmed the pastures enough this past month to get a little more growth from our grass. The cows’ milk is looking yellow enough to for them to be eating spring grass. We are still feeding them hay at night, so we don’t wear out the pastures too quickly.

October was the month of our final veterinarian check up on the cows and yearlings that will be calving next spring. We are thankful that we have 73 cows calving next year, which is a few more than we would like to have. If anyone is interested, we have a couple of cows that will be calving in May that we are looking to sell.

This fall we’ve found ourselves bringing back some old favorites in the cheese cellars. We were able to connect with our mushroom purveyors again this fall to get some chanterelles for our Wild Mushroom. When it is this young, this cheese is wonderfully creamy with just a few subtle notes of earthiness and onion.

honduranWe were happy with how the sweet potato cheese turned out so we decided to bring back Honduran Harvest for good. At this point, we are cutting everything up right away, so it is only available in 1/3 pound wedges. We are thinking of trying something with pumpkin spice this month to tie in with the Thanksgiving season.

We are thankful that our cows are continuing to produce almost more milk than we can turn into cheese this fall. Probably because of the fresh grass that we mentioned at the beginning of this post. We are running very low on storage space and we don’t have as many farmers markets to keep our old cheeses moving out as quickly as we produce more.

October was the month of tour visits to our farm. Mid-October we had sixty homeschoolers come take a tour of our farm and cheese cellars. They all got to see how we make cheese, where we milk the cows, how we manage the cows’ pasture and several of them even rode Isaiah the Ox.

img_0010At the end of October, an enthusiastic class from St. Francis University helped us make a batch of Pirate Blue. The class was learning about fermentation and wanted to come see cheesemaking in action. It is always fun to make cheese with someone who has never experienced it before. It reminds us how special it is to see a vat full of milk turn into several wheels of cheese.

Now that we are in November, we are only attending our two year-round farmers markets. Boalsburg farmers market has moved inside to the basement of St. John’s United Church of Christ for the winter months. Juniata farmers markets winter schedule is the first and third Friday of every month. We have a few fall festivals coming up in November as well: the Winter Winefest in Winber on November 12, the Bishop Carroll Wine Festival in Ebensburg on November 12, and the Ligonier Christmas Market on November 26.

Finally, we are thankful to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Well, that’s all the updates for this month. Would you like to get these newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? you can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page.

Dave & Terry Rice and family

Autumn is Coming – October 2016

Well, we spoke too soon about the rain last month. After that shower, our pastures dried up again. We had a few rainy days the first weekend of this month, but now we won’t really have enough sunlight or warmth for the grass to grow. The cooler autumn weather is wonderful, for us and the cows, a sign that fall is finally coming. The trees on the ridge behind our farm are starting to lose a few leaves. They are slowly changing from green to yellow, orange, and red. Usually mid-October is the height of the colored leaves for our area.

Jesse has moved to Lancaster Bible College to finish his communications degree. He was taking online classes last year.  We really miss having the extra person around to help set up break wires for the cows or run check the heifers. We’ve been missing our other helpers over the last month too. Vannika and Austin are back into schoolwork for the fall. They are home-schooled, so they can still come out to the creamery for a few hours on cheese making days or when we have big orders to go out. They still help with two or three morning milkings each week. The rest of the time Anthony and Dave and Terry have to take turns doing the farm and cheese work.

photo of Honduran HarvestIn honor of Ebensburg’s PotatoFest at the end of September, we decided to try a sweet potato cheese. We took two wheels of Uncle Joe’s cheese that we made back in July. Using our cheddar mill (french fry cutters), we cut the two wheels into tiny pieces. We mixed in sweet potatoes and spices and then pressed the mixture back into wheels. Once they were pressed into wheels, we cut them up into wedges and labeled them as Sweet PotaJoe. We were happy with how well the Sweet PotaJoe turned out, so we did the same process with some dried habaneros and cilantro to make some Honduran Harvest again.

Our new blue cheese pokerWe made our largest batch of Pirate Blue the beginning of September. Previously, we were making smaller batches because it took so long to poke each wheel to get the blue molds to grow. Not anymore. We designed a handheld blue poker and had our local welding shop create it for us. Now we are able to poke a 40 wheel batch in the same time as it took to do 10 wheels before.

Events coming up this month: October 8th is Hartslog Day in Alexandria which is one of the autumn festivals that we’ve been attending since we started making cheese. We will also be attending Mt. Nittany Winery’s harvest festival on October 15. The Harvest Wine Festival at Bear Creek is the following Sunday afternoon on October 23. Anthony will be attending two Altoona autumn festivals one in Juniata on October 22, and the Healthy Harvest Fest at the Heritage plaza on October 30. If you want to see all the events we are doing each month, visit our events calendar on our website.

Well, that’s all the updates for this month. Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Always learning something… – September 2016

misty-morningWe finally received the rain we need in the last few weeks of August. We’ve been mowing our yard weekly again and we haven’t had to feed the cows any hay the since the first of September. As we head toward the cooler fall months, we get to enjoy misty mornings that also help the cows stay cool and the grass stays green!

During the first week of August, Austin and Vannika did well in with their 4-H animals each winning first place in their classes (don’t tell anyone that they were the only entries in their classes). Vannika even won Junior Champion and Supreme Champion trophies for the Milking Shorthorn breed with her yearling Sweet Dreams.

We are still making cheese twice a week. Now that we have plenty of grass for the cows to eat again, we may have to make an extra batch a few times in September. We had almost more cheese than we could fit in the press today. We are also running out of aging space, so we need to keep selling more cheese.

img_20160817_165719Anthony spent three days mid-August in Bedford county attending a cheesemaking class with the PA Cheese Guild. He and the eleven other attendees made seven different styles of cheese with Jim Wallace. He learned several new methods that we have been trying out since he came back. It is always educational just to sit around and talk with other cheesemakers. Everyone learns something and shares the things that they have experienced.

We’ve been playing with our Pirate Blue recipe, trying to get the blue molds to develop more consistently. We’ve gone back over the recipe we learned from Dave and Terry’s trip to Argentina several years ago. We are just cutting up the batch from our first tweaked recipe. Come try it out at market and let us know what you think!

We will be attending Potato Fest in Ebensburg on the last Saturday of September. You can also find us at Sandyvale Wine Fest on Saturday September 10, the Downtown Altoona Night Market on September 11, and the Patton Library Wine Tasting on September 18. Let the fall festivals begin! If you want to see all the events we are doing each month, visit our events calendar on our website.

Well, that’s all the updates for this month. Would you like to get these newsletters every month via email along with our monthly cheese inventory? you can sign up for our monthly updates via the form at the bottom of our How to Purchase page. Thank you to all of you who support our family farm and allow us to keep making great products.

Dave & Terry Rice and family