Caromont Farm 9.28.2007

September 28, 2007
Caromont Farm, Esmont, VA
5:00 PM

I arrive through a dusty sunset and see a couple of wild turkeys on the long gravel road leading to the home of Gail Hobbs-Page and Daniel Page and their goats, dogs, cats and chickens. And a peacock. When I walk in the open door, loaded with the requested ‘vegetables’ (local oyster mushrooms from Sharondale Farm, okra from the Farm at Red Hill, baby kale from Double H, and two bottles of Rausse 2006 Merlot, bottled about a week ago) Gail is tuned into the local NPR affiliate, listening for a piece about her and her farm and her cheese. While we stay by the radio for an hour or so, the piece doesn’t air, perhaps bumped due to the slaughter of 200 monks in Myanmar. This holding pattern does give us a chance to appetize with Vermont Shepherd’s cheese and an apple from Vintage Virginia. Mmm. We gaze out over this year’s ‘babies’; female goats born this spring that will be bred on site in the coming months. Gail has also brought home a new baby named Bear – a female Great Pyrenees who is a formidable, fluffy four months old. Her eyes sparkle with intelligence.

We adjourn to the temporary milking barn, a small shed with two raised plateforms (weightlifting benches?) that the mama goats eagerly jump on, ready to eat and to be milked. Gail describes a recent unplanned change in their feed formula, which she is manually correcting; she mentions ideas for different packaging for her cheeses; she asks about the recent abrupt end to my job and its repercussions; all the while she sterilizes the teats and hooks up the milking machine, loving on the girls as she goes. Since their milk is tapering off for the year this task is less time consuming than usual, and she finishes just after dark.

I adjourn to the dairy building to help Tara wrap cheese for market the next day. In compliance with state law, we leave our outdoor shoes at the door and step into indoor clogs; we cover our hair with disposable hairnets; I thread new shoelaces through a brand stinking new rubber apron (stinking being the key word, as they are made of smelly heavy-duty plastic). Tara weighs out deli containers of fresh Farmstead chevre, and I fill out ingredient labels and affix a Caromont label atop each one. The task is repetitive and we chat as we go, getting to know one another and discussing our similar interests in the food community and our shared plight as single women ‘trolling for men’. Gail enters in time to suggest a few likely candidates and we all have a good laugh and share some gossip.

Gail and I leave Tara to finish the cheese wrapping in favor of cooking up some dinner. Gail pulls out several large, cheap jars of Mexican condiments (judging from the prices purchased directly from one of several stores that serves the Hispanic community here), a package of ribeye from Gryphon’s Aerie, fresh garden tomatoes (“This is the last of the tomatoes, ladies – I’m gonna make a little salsa…”) and garlic, onion, butter, hot peppers, refried beans, handmade tortillas…I pour the wine and chop a few things, mostly picking Gail’s brain for business ideas and waiting for the inevitable pearls of food wisdom to drop from her lips. More wine?

The tacos turn into burritos, stuffed with beef, beans, sour cream and whatever else we can find and garnished with fresh pico de gallo and salsa verde from a jar. Gail sautees the baby kale in butter and garlic and it has got to be the most delicious incarnation of kale I have ever had; I tell her the story of my old boyfriend who once called her Kale Hobbs-Page and we laugh and laugh and think about calling him. He would think we had too much wine, and we did.

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~ by a local notion on November 26, 2007.

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