Monday, February 14, 2011

Dairy Farm & Leavenworth

Dairy Farm Tour in Canada

Last week, Ben saw this "weird" deal on LivingSocial for half off a tour of Aldor Acres Dairy Farm. He mentioned it in our IRC hang-out channel, presumably to make fun of its weirdness. Too bad I thought it was awesome and knew that Forrest wanted to milk a cow. ;) They had me at "dairy farm tour," and later learning that it was in Canada only added to the crazy-adventure-ness of it. I quickly snapped up the voucher for a tour for two.

So Saturday, we drove up to Canada one last time before we move back to California. We got there with an hour to spare, so we stopped at a drug store to gawk at the strange Canadian products. Forrest bought a chocolate egg with a toy inside; inedibles inside edibles are illegal in the US, so he enjoyed his forbidden candy. He reports that the chocolate wasn't even all that good... except for its delicious forbiddenness, of course.

When we arrived at the dairy farm, we discovered (as Forrest had feared) that the tour was geared more for school-age kids than curious adults. However, the weather was rainy and icky, which scared off all but one other group: an older couple, who had helped their uncle with his cows when he went on vacation, bringing their three grandchildren to see the cows. Since the adults just barely outnumbered the kids, the tour guide / farm owner decided to give us the "adult" version tour (even if that mostly meant he put on the made-for-preteens educational video instead of the made-for-elementary-school-kids before the tour). Regardless, it was still pretty interesting and fun, so we're glad we went. Who says you have to grow out of curiosity, anyway?

After the silly video, he took us into the "milking parlor" to let us watch while they did their evening's milking. They have a machine setup to milk six cows at a time. With the machines, it took only a few minutes to ... drain? empty? milk! each cow. Whereas with hand-milking, he said it took a skilled farmer 20 minutes per cow, and the farmer can't milk them in parallel that way.

Once the farmer demonstrated how the machine automatically milks the cows, he taught us how to hand-milk a cow. We milked the Jersey cow you see in the photo. Turns out, you don't tug down on the teats like you see in cartoons. The cow will kick you if you do that. :P

What you're actually supposed to do is put the crook of your thumb and forefinger up against the udder, wrap the first two or three fingers of your hand around the teat, and then just squeeze. No pulling, no tugging, no kicking. It was surprisingly easy... on the other hand, I wouldn't want to spend 20 minutes per cow doing that by hand. There's a lot of milk in one cow!

Then we went out to the barn that's attached to the milking parlor to see the rest of the cows. There were half a dozen calves, one three days old and another four days old. The latter's mother was in the "hospital," as he described the pen to the kids. She apparently wasn't doing so well after giving birth; normally, they go back to hanging out with their cow buddies two days or so after giving birth. The farmer said they were giving her calcium and other things to help her get better.

After the calves' two days with their mother is up, the farmer bottle-feeds them until they're old enough to figure out how to drink milk from a straws-in-a-bucket contraption. He let us take turns feeding the calf with the bottle. Man, those calves can tug! It was likely playing tug-o-war over the bottle, and I'm pretty sure the calf was winning.

Then we fed the adult cows some hay. That was somewhat familiar, like feeding a horse. I kept my fingers away from their teeth. However, I hadn't expected the cows to lick me while trying to get all the hay. I don't remember horses doing that! It was slimy and icky. Forrest got back at the cow by telling her that her tongue would be delicious. (He likes lengua.)

We finished the tour about an hour later. Rather than drive straight back home the way we had come, we thought it would be nice to go through Vancouver one last time. We'd seen a sign that said it was only 50-odd kilometers away, which didn't seem too bad. Except we didn't count on super-slow Canadian speed limits. Or getting lost and ending up on city streets. Or an utter lack of signage directing us toward any city of any kind. So we drove west. 'Cause Vancouver is west; what could go wrong?

More than two hours later, we finally made it to the outskirts of Vancouver. By that point, we were hungry, irritable, and worried about making it back at a reasonable hour. We grabbed something to eat from a McDonald's, drove through downtown Vancouver until we recognized where we were, and headed for the border. When we looked a map back in the US (where data for our iPhones wasn't $15 per freakin' MB), we realized that if we'd turned left instead of right back before Vancouver started, we could have saved ourselves a fair bit of time. Le sigh.

But we made it back to the States. Not that the weekend's adventure was over...

Cross-Country Skiing in Leavenworth

As if the dairy farm in Canada weren't enough, we drove down to Leavenworth from Vancouver on Saturday night and stayed in a hotel there, ready to go skiing with Ben and Jerry Sunday morning! They had warned us that Stevens Pass through the Cascades had needed chains, but it actually turned out to be fine. Compacted snow and then some slush, but we did breaking tests and had fine traction. So we were grateful we (by which I mean Forrest) didn't have to get out and put chains on the truck.

We got in at 1 AM — wishing we had thought to, you know, bring a map to help us navigate the "foreign" country we'd just escaped — and went straight to sleep. In the morning, we met up with Ben and Jerry, where we realized that they had already eaten breakfast, whereas we had expected to all go out to breakfast together. They went on ahead to the ski area while we grabbed something to eat from Starbucks.

We met in the parking lot of the Icicle River trail, maintained by the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club. We put on all our gear, started off down the trail... only to find out roughly two kick-and-glides in that Ben's muscles (pulled during last weekend's skiing) was having none of that particular motion. It was apparently bad enough that Ben immediately turned around, went back to his car, and drove back to town to wait for us. :(

The three of us went around the trail in about two hours. We had gone here once before — it had been me and Jerry's second time skiing, two years ago. Now, it seems so... flat. Way easier than I had remembered, even though it was icy this time (and last time too, just ask Jerry). We didn't stop for lunch mid-trail like we usually do, wanting to hurry back to town to meet back up with Ben.

We found him in town and took him to München Haus, where we enjoyed tasty Bratwurst, Bier, und Glühwein. After lunch, we wandered around town for a while, checking out the random stores, sampling yummy pretzel dips and cheeses, and buying things like ChocoVino and cool gear clocks.

It's really too bad Ben wasn't up to skiing this time, but even so, I had a good time hanging out with him in town.

When we got back to Seattle that night, Jerry, Forrest, and I ended up at The People's Pub in Ballard, a German restaurant, where I ate lots of tasty, tasty spätzel. All in all, a fitting end to the evening.


John Cowan said...

Sometimes there's just no substitute for hard-copy maps.

On a similar tour, I remember being told that the size of the udder is independent of the amount of milk the cow gives, which I thought was surprising.