Sunday, July 24, 2011

Holy Cow! She Said Teat...

Indiana is a wholesome, homey looking state. Driving through the back roads is like driving through a Norman Rockwell scene. Everything seems ordered and neat, the front yards of whitewashed farm houses are well cared for, but not showy or fussy. The houses look as if a round, smiling, green-thumbed grandma lives there. In honor of this image of wholesomeness I bring you Fair Oaks Farms.  Because what’s more wholesome than milk?
Fair Oaks Farms is a working dairy and tourist trap attraction in north-west Indiana. It’s no small operation either; they produce over 7 million gallons of milk a month from their herd of 30,000 cows.

That's a cow's eye on the tour bus.
I'm the one with all the teeth.

We have visited Fair Oaks Farms several times, they have all the things a trucker needs: a huge parking lot, right off the interstate, and lots and lots of cheese. And ice cream. And milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, you should just  skip the cafe, but it’s still an interesting place to visit. You can watch cheese being made, do a tour of the farm, and watch a calf being born.
We go for the grilled cheese sandwiches. Thick crusty bread, tons of their own cheese (pepper Havarti is best) then sprinkled with Asiago, and smashed between a grill press until gooey, melty and yummy. Hang on, let me wipe the drool off the keyboard. 

Let’s talk cows.
* A cow spends about 6 hours a day eating. Me too.
* Cows eat 90 pounds of food a day. Me too.
* A full udder holds 25-50 pounds of milk. Uh. I know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme song.
* One cow can produce 200,000 cups of milk a year.
* When the cows are too old to give milk, they are sent off to a huge pasture, with lots of thick grass, and a great health plan, to live the rest of their lives in comfort. (They didn’t actually *say* this, but I know it’s true.)

In the birthing barn we sat in a theatre, on concrete stadium seating and watched a mama cow give birth behind glass. They told us that they have an average of 80 births a day, so you’re virtually guaranteed to see a live birth any day you visit. Holy cow that’s a lot of cows!
We did the bus tour to the working part of the dairy, which was really interesting but maybe summer isn’t the best time of year for this. A bunch of screaming kids on a hot bus, who snicker every time the tour guide said "teat". Ok, that was me snickering, but still I think the fall would be a better time to visit.

The best part is seeing the cows line up and get on a giant record player. If you’re under 40, that’s a machine that the dinosaurs used to play their iPods. Anyway, the cows walk up a platform that spins slowly, someone hooks up the cow business to the milking machine, the milk gets pumped out and by the time the record player goes around once the milking is done and the cow walks off.

Cow spinning.

More than you ever wanted to know about cows? Maybe. But the Tumbleweeds are willing to eat as many grilled cheese sandwiches as it takes to provide you with a glimpse of America and her fine attractions. 

You're welcome.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And That's How Liberace Rabbit Was Born

Today is the one year anniversary of Confessions of a Tumbleweed. Who cares, right? I haven't won the Nobel Prize for blogging, *yet*, but still, it's a milestone, and I'm having fun doing it, so there you go.

This is me making the 1,357,975th
sandwich of the year.
In that year we have travelled over 103,000 miles on America's roads, bought $48,000 worth of diesel fuel, showered in 269 different places, and peed in 40 states.

We have zip-lined above the trees in West Virginia, walked around New Orleans, been to towns that smelled of Beenie Weenies, had a conversation with a truly crazy person while folding underpants, paid $600 to park overnight in the wrong place, and hauled everything from Red Bull and Starbucks Coffee to torpedo wire and railroad spikes.

Here's an idea of the ways I avoided bookkeeping creative endeavors I did before I started blogging.

Meow Meow Rabbit

My mother likes to buy strange things at garage sales and send them to me. She once sent me a green and red octopus made of yarn, with bells tied around its neck. I use it as a Christmas tree topper. These were plain stuffed rabbits, for what purpose I have no idea, but I was learning how to sew and thought it would be fun to make outfits for them. Meow Meow is wearing a kimono of my own design and Liberace Rabbit has his own song, set to the theme of Little Shop of Horror. Don't judge me.

Liberace Rabbit

Did you know it took up to
18 months to design some of 
Liberace's costumes?

I made this costume in
about 3 hours.

I have a very short attention span, so I never made more than these two outfits, but I have been blogging for a year and I love it. 

When the Nobel people call to tell me I've won, I'll be ready. I may even make my own acceptance costume.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wide Open Spaces

Himself and I moved to Wyoming eight years ago from Florida as kind of an experiment. We needed a change, there was a job opportunity, and it sounded cool. Unlike a lot of life choices I have made based on cool factor, this move was a good choice.

Five Reasons I Love Wyoming:

Wyoming is sparsely populated. I love people, in a theoretical, stay-out-of-my-bubble kind of way, so to move to a state that has half the people of my former city? Well, that's a good thing.

About 30 miles south of town, we escape to the
 Laramie range and Medicine Bow
National Forest.

Wyoming has sky and lots of it. There's room in the Wyoming sky for everything and yet there's nothing in it but sky. It's as if, in other places, I'm standing in a box with a beautiful lid on it that's painted to look like a sky, but when I come home to Wyoming, the lid is taken off and the real sky is revealed. I imagine Dorothy felt much the same when she landed in colorful Oz after being ripped out of black and white Kansas. I need some ruby slippers.

Himself and Jas doing some rock walking.

People in Wyoming are friendly. This is most likely due to the fact that they're aren't many of them, but whatever the reason, it's true. People look you in the eye and say hello, they wave from their cars, (and not just with one finger, like in New Jersey), and they make good neighbors. Whether you need a cup of sugar or a box of thirty-aught-six, they've got your back.

There is no traffic in Wyoming, except for the occasional cow or tumbleweed stampede. Actually, it's so windy in Wyoming, the tumbleweeds aren't a problem, since they are usually going faster than the cars. I have been passed by a tumbleweed on the way to the grocery store. (Me, not the tumbleweed. I don't think tumbleweeds shop at Safeway.)

There are rocks in Wyoming that are easily climbable. These are so fun to climb around on, feeling all Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible-ish, without all the hassle of skill, athleticism, or that weird religion.

Nothing is better than a picnic at the top of the world.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summertime, Fireflies and the Green Machine

It's firefly season! We have been seeing them for a month now and they never fail to make me smile.

Summer childhood ritual.

They start glowing just as it starts to get dark outside. We see them in cornfields, ditches on the side of the highway, and patches of woods next to truck stops. Silent fireworks every night for free!

They aren't much to look at when they aren’t glowing their little hearts out. A small, plain beetle that would go unnoticed in the daylight, really puts on a show around dusk. And it's all about sex.

I'm glowing because I'm happy to see you.

Hundreds of them gather in an area to flash and glow, trying to get some lightning bug action. The males flit around flashing their abdomens in a macho way, while the females gossip about who has the biggest flasher. When a female is suitably impressed by a lit up Lothario, she perches on a blade of grass and flashes back to him, in her best come hither manner. If she's not in the mood, she doesn't flash, so the males can't find her. It's always ladies night in the Lightning Bug Lounge.

If you listen closely, you can hear Barry White
singing softly in the background.
Learn more here.
I hate to hit them as we're driving, since they make me so happy, but they do leave a pretty awesome streak of glowing goo on the windshield as they die.

*Side note*
All this glowing green reminds of the coolest thing I ever had as a child; the Green Machine. A thousand times better than that pansy, the Big Wheel, the Green Machine had stick-shift steering and racing slick rear tires that made me the envy of the neighborhood.

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Not just for guys who like to race really fast Marx Toy Company!!