Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wood Spryte Farm in Dimondale, Michigan

Tiffany Rich makes it all look easy!

Tiffany and her husband, Mike have a very small, 5 acre farm but they put it all to good use.  They raise their own meat (beef, chicken, quail, lamb), milk their our own cows and sheep, spin their own wool and they have their own business growing and selling garlic (

They have three children - Brandon, age 26 and Becha, age 23 both of whom are currently in the Army. (Brandon has been to Iraq 3 times now, and leaves again right around New Years.) and Robert, age 10.

Tiffany taught herself to make cheese (with our book, of course) and she has made a wide range of cheeses.  Now, she's actually teaching classes in cheese making.  She makes it look easy because she feels she understands the basic science of cheese:

I am really having FUN with the cheese.  At first, it was SOOO scary.  The whole process seemed so complicated.  And its not like I could call my mom, or a friend and say "HEY.. how do I do this?"  Being totally self-taught added MORE to the whole effect.  Then suddenly one day it hit me.  "I'M MAKING CHEESE.. and its GOOD." 

Then, it was like Angels playing a harp.. I GOT IT..  there is a learning curve to cheese, you can read it, and talk it, but until you understand "IT," then its still just a puzzle you're putting together and not understanding exactly what you're doing.  Just like baking bread.  Until you understand it, its OK.  When you realize your SENSES must kick in to make it right, then you make it great! 

So much depends on temperature, and TIME.  It amazes me how I can take one recipe for cheese, change the temperature, the time, and the size of the curd and VOILA!  its a totally different cheese, with different taste and texture.  Initially I didn't understand WHY, but when I got "IT" then I knew.  So now.. I am just having a blast - PLAYING, so to speak.

Tiffany has her own 12' x 16' "milk room" where she strains and jars her milk and where she makes her cheese, free from the hustle and bustle of her kitchen.  She has lots of counter top space, a stove, dishwasher, commercial 3 hole stainless sink, commercial sprayer, fridge (aka cheese cave) and a blast freezer for chilling milk quickly.  The room is climate controlled and in the winter her water is heated with their wood furnace.


What are you making?

Mozzarella, of course,  sheep milk romano, sheep milk Tomme, parm, a variety of cheddars (jalepeno, peppercorn/thai pepper, port wine and plain), camembert, baby brie, Montasio, colby (still perfecting this one), provolone, and stilton blue. 

Of course, cream cheese, sour cream, creme fresh, ricotta, haloumi, baby swiss, gouda, cottage cheese, yogurt cheese and the other soft cheeses. I'm just going thru the book.  The ones that are easier or so I feel, I will make more often, or the ones the family seems to like.


Baby Brie

Baby Swiss


Port Wine

Colby on the scale

Peppercorn Thai Cheddar

Peppercorn Thai Cheddar waxed

Tiffany prints her own labels at home.

This label isn't being used any more.

Provolone tied to hang

Baby Mirette

How did you get started milking your own cows and sheep?

We actually had goats (Nigerians) for about 15 years - milking and such, but the market sorta went out of them, so we sold the herd.  I am a spinner so I purchased some sheep, and was spinning.  I found I wanted to dabble in cheese years ago, but I worked MORE than full time at a doctor's office.  

We purchased our first herd share.  It was VERY costly and I soon discovered they were skimming the cream, but offering it as full cream - we parted ways.  We were driving more than an hour each way to get milk.  Mike and I were talking about the traveling in the winter on bad roads and I sorta half jokingly and half serious said.. Well.. if we are driving and spending an hour on the road, why don't we just BUY a cow and spend that hour in the barn?  

We decided a MINI Jersey would fit the bill nicely.  I searched high and low and couldn't locate a mini jersey for under $5000.  Since I had left my job (after a diagnosis of cervical cancer, and was battling RA. fibro and degenerative bone disease), $5000 was certainly OUT of the question. 

I stumbled upon a farmer, with a gentle heart  and begged him for a cow.  I didn't care if it was older -  we just wanted a smaller cow.  "Tiffany" he said, " I think I have just what you need."   So, we waited for 2 very LONG weeks to go meet our potential first cow.  Her name was Clarice... and she was a BEAUTY.  She was being placed because she had a bad foot that was making it hard for her to traverse the cement, and being smaller AND older, she was bullied by the others.  Of course, WHO could turn down that?  

We were told she was bred for spring.  SOLD we told him.  When can we get her?  He was going out of town and it would be a MONTH before we could go get her.  We were anxiously preparing a milking area for our new addition.  FINALLY we went to get her and, in passing, I said.. just to be sure, can we look up her due date so I know about when this spring we can be on the look out?  

It was mid September now.  We walked to the office, and took a gander at a HUGE breeding wheel on the wall and for 10 minutes we searched name after name.  FINALLY.. OH  here .. I said.. Clarice, right? Yes sir he responded.. then a puzzled look over came him and he was like.. ahhhh something must be wrong.. he didnt have his glasses and thought I had the wrong name. Nope it was right  and she was due in 2 weeks!!!  WHAT!  and we all looked blankly at each other.  So.. the rush was on for sure now. 

We brought Clarice home and got her settled.  We spent countless hours with her, brushing and primping her - trying to get her to trust us - especially important because I soon had to milk her.  I knew how to hand milk from the goats, but this was going to have a learning curve - and a learning curve it did have.

Clarice delivered OUR first calf, a little bull named Porter (porterhouse).  I watched the whole thing in awe.  Needless to say, suddenly we had MORE milk than we could deal with, so we contacted a few friends from the local farm market.  We started a VERY small, one cow, cow share program.  

We had approximately 17 gallons a week going out.  Then we realized, we could NOT go back to store milk, and our clients expressed the same concern. WHAT would we do for the 3 months Clarice was dry?  Well DUHHHH we simply needed ANOTHER COW!  HAHAHAHAHA... well, one thing let to another, then another and well, another.  

We now have:  Clarice, age 11 in March of '13, Reba and her daughter Ruby, our PRIZE milkers producing approximately 72-76 pounds a day EACH (over 8 gallons), Ruth our Amish cow, and we recently added Bonnie, another splashy Amish heifer.  Bonnie is very small in stature and is being bred to a mini Jersey bull for a mini Jersey % calf.  

We are still very small in the scheme of things.  Our girls are all tested as A2/A2 and are all 100% Jerseys with wonderfully sweet temperaments and beautiful FULL fat cream.  Shortly after our second cow purchase, my husband lost his job of 20 years.  I now work part time out of the house on a second shift and Mike is the all around milk man, farm hand, hay getter.  I milk, track all breedings, deliver calves and am the medical person when needed.

So, while we had a small farm, and always had SOMETHING... chickens, sheep or goats... we didn't really begin in this whole thing until 3 years ago when we received the greatest gift, Clarice.  She remains our spoiled lady.  But they are all somewhat spoiled.  They have fly masks so they don't have to deal with flies in their eyes, brushed 2x a day on the stand, special treats such as zucchini, and corn and watermelon from the garden.  We believe you get back what you put in, so we always work hard to feed them the best we possibly can, and in return, we get the sweetest creamiest Jersey milk. Clearly a MATCH made in heaven.

So, while I guess many people will say they were raised on a farm and just took over or it's what they knew.. its not that easy for us.  Mike grew up a city boy (small town actually).  I grew up in the country, but remember listening to my dad tell stories of his childhood, growing up on his grandpa and grandma Creyts farm, milking the cows and slinging the manure.  I was enamored with it as a child and I still am.. listening to the OLD ways.  I am an old soul and am finding my roots on my own farm.  While money is scarce, we BOTH love what we do, we love our ladies and wouldn't change a thing.. well, cept maybe NO droughts!

Their ram lamb, Victor

How did you learn to make cheese?

Does Luck and a Prayer work??  LOL - too much milk was the reason.  I was dabbling some but just on occasion. Then we TRIED some of it.  The first one was a cheddar, that I swore I would NEVER make again, and then a not very Gooda gooda.  LOL  and some other stuff I don't even think had names.  

I took it to Christmas with my extended families and suddenly it was GONE!  People were begging for more and made me promise to bring that as my dish to pass from now on.  Cheese and raw milk.  We built a milk kitchen, so we call it. This suddenly made it very easy to make cheese.  I had room to work, no dogs to trip on and no family to interrupt, so I began this past fall really cranking them out.  

I had taken a class about a year ago.  But found that I already KNEW what he was teaching and I honestly found the class didn't TELL me what and why happens when making cheese.  So, I have begun cheese classes.  Yesterday, I had a couple that had taken the SAME class as I had, and still felt as I did.  They loved the class, and thru my explaining things I have learned thru trial and error, they left feeling educated and I was so happy.  They loved their cheese and finally understood the process.  (As much as I do, anyway.) 

As I browse books, and your site, and when I get the newsletters, it challenges me to continue to forge forward and improve my skill.   I have finally lost my fear of cheese, and I am now beginning to develop my own cheeses, on paper so far - researching what I want it to resemble (texture and taste wise) and putting my own UNIQUE spin on it.  I am very anxious for fresh sheep milk, as I am planning some mixed milk bloomy /ash rinds. 

Viktor's chocolate wool
What do you do with all the cheese?

For the most part, we eat it.  When ever I have someplace to bring a dish to pass, I bring cheese.  This year I'm stocking up and making cheese baskets for Christmas gifts.  I occasionally barter with friends and share holders for other goodies I don't have - like GOAT MILK.  Since I wax the cheese, it pretty much stays good for ever, as it's aging.  Though most of it is pretty young.  In winter the production goes down and I don't get much extra for cheese making, so I have to work fast in the summer.

My main goal is to get people INTERESTED and CONNECTED with their food.  Teaching classes on cheese making, canning and other methods of preserving food, as well as being SELF sufficient.  This is a wonderful thing to happen, as people out there can see you really CAN make it happen.

WoodSpryte Farm
Finnish Landrace Sheep & Garlic

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