STATS – Day: 59 | Distance: 6585.20 miles | Location: Osseo, Wisconsin | Money Spent To Date – Gas: $699.68| Food: $793.67| Play/Misc: $262.73 | Lodging $696.50
I’m half way through my 4-month journey across the county. What a ride! Here I am, day 3 on a dairy farm in Osseo, Wisconsin. As a kid, I spent my summers on a dairy farm in Bandon, Oregon and was super excited to check out a farm in Wisconsin. What fun, getting up early, yelling “HiYaa” to the cows and getting them in the barn. What I forgot was that Dairy Farming is HARD WORK! The cows have to be milked twice a day EVERY DAY. No vacations, no “oh, I’ll do it tomorrow”, no forgetting. And oh what I wouldn’t give for just one more inch in height. Hefting those milk cans to fill a tank that already comes to my shoulders. My legs, back and arms are screaming!
Tonight I will sleep like the dead.
My host is local celebrity, Inga Witscher, who in addition to running her 30-acre organic dairy farm and making cave-aged cheese with her father, has a PBS TV series called “Around the Farm Table” where she travels the state of Wisconsin gathering ingredients from farmers, learning about their farms, and then prepares a fabulous meal at the end of the show. Educational, entertaining AND promotes community supported agriculture!!! She is one tough and spunky nut! Inga’s on screen persona is this wholesome, dimple-cheeked, sweet mid-western gal. Off screen she is all those things AND she smokes, drinks and swears like a sailor (okay, swears like a dairy farmer). Ah Wonderful Inga!
I had a fan-damn-tastic time during my stay learning all about her farm, her life, her adventurous spirit, her neighbors that all band together to help her keep the farm going while she’s on the road. Within my first moments on the farm I entertained 4-year old George, while Inga and his grandpa literally did some “shit-shifting”, taking cow manure from outside the dairy barn and spreading it in another field.
During my days I took her truck out to pick up hay bales to feed the baby cows, walked the fields careful not to step in cow-pies (yes, that’s cow poop) and bring the cows in for milking. I’d help Inga with the milking by carrying in the milk cans after she milked a cow and pour them into a huge tank. I should have had Inga take my photo because it was quite a comical sight!
We cleared out a bunch of ragweed, and a few times I fed the chickens in this real sweet chicken coop, very pretty to look at and it had wheels which made it easier to move. The hens laid a steady stream of eggs which we used to make home-made pasta. I thought it would be really difficult, making pasta, but it isn’t! I’m going to be making my own pasta when I get to Oregon. I hope it turns out! Inga explained that when the hen lays an egg, a protective coating is on the outside shell that protects the egg from bacteria. If you don’t wash the egg, it can sit out on the shelf for a month or more.
In the evenings we’d sit on the porch steps, drink beer and talk about absolutely nearly everything. We found out that we were both West Coasties who migrated to Virginia (I came from Oregon and she came from Washington) and lived only about an hour away from each other until she moved to Wisconsin in 2006. Small World. It was nice to talk about the DC metro area without having to explain everything. We’d just talk and say “…well, you know…”. One of the many highlights of my stay was watching the Green Bay Packers win their first football game of the season, in Wisconsin, with brats and sauerkraut!
The grass is always greener where you water it. – Neil Barringham
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