A Fine Day Out

image of Jordandal Farm, Argyle WI

Cows! We went to see the cows at Jordandal Farm yesterday! Let me hear you say “Moo!”

When we go to the farmer’s market every weekend we buy most of our meats from Jordandal. We’ve never been disappointed by the food and Carrie and Maria have never been anything but friendly and helpful, so when we heard there would be a picnic lunch and farm tour at Jordandal sponsored by REAP, we signed up in a heartbeat.

REAP Food Group is a Madison organization devoted to promoting public support of local farmers and restaurants, and educating the public about what they put in their faces, should they want to know such things. Many people don’t, so it has the feel of a specialty group, which B and I like quite a lot. Besides the Day At The Farm event, REAP also organized the Burgers & Brew fest we went to last month (the one where we got soaked eating hamburgers in a downpour).

Jordandal Farm is a small, family-owned farm between New Glarus and Argyle, a corner of Wisconsin where we always get lost no matter how many times we ask each other, “Left or right on C?” Maybe there are iron ore deposits in the soil that make our internal compasses spin out of control, I don’t know. We navigated our way to Jordandal with no trouble, but when we headed home we got turned around and were halfway to Dubuque, Iowa, before we realized we’d gone the wrong way. Getting there took a little less than an hour; getting back took longer, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

REAP set up this Day At The Farm with a lunch prepared by chefs from several of the most well-known restaurants in downtown Madison using ingredients from local farms, because that’s what REAP is about. The lunch menu included a meaty drumstick, potato salad and a sandwich, all given a little extra zing by way of spicy Thai recipes. Even Sean’s culinary demands were satisfied, and that’s quite an endorsement.

We queued up for an early lunch so we could take the farm tour at noon. We were there bang-on time but somehow didn’t hook up with the tour until they were coming back from the chicken pens, so we hung out in the barn where Eric was showing off one of their cows and its newborn calf. B wanted to pet the calf but was too shy to shove aside the gaggle of two-year-olds clustered tightly around it. (I tried to snap a photo for you but it was dark in there and B wouldn’t hold still.)

Besides the cows, Carrie and Eric also raise pigs, turkeys and sheep. The cows provide rich milk that Brunkow Cheese near Darlington turns into some scrumptious cheeses under the Fayette Creamery label. We can tell you from the results of many happy cookouts that the pigs are especially tasty, and unless my memory has failed me B has prepared lamb from Jordandal at least once (it’s a very occasional treat). We’ve also ordered turkey from them before but it was a different breed than the one they’re raising now. I’m probably forgetting something; I’m still a little numb from the idea that two people can manage to take care of so much.

Because the weather was scorching and we were in that neck of the woods anyway, we finished our day out with a stop at the New Glarus brewery, one of those places we’ve been saying for years that we ought to visit because it’s practically outside our back door. The brewery, on a hilltop at the south edge of New Glarus, had a shaded garden overlooking the pastures of the Wisconsin countryside where we could sit and enjoy a cool afternoon breeze while we sipped our samplers. A better end to the day could not have been had if we’d planned it (we sort of did, but My Darling B, who’s all about options, pack so many contingencies into these trips that they always take on the character of an afternoon played almost entirely by ear).

image of intrepid explorers

The O-Folk became a band of intrepid explorers this morning when we paddled our tiny fleet of kayaks from the lagoon behind the Rutabaga Paddle Sports store, then down the Yahara River and across Mud Lake and continued on south through Lake Waubesa to the boat landing in the county park. I can’t tell you exactly how far that is, but I can tell you how far it feels like.

My Darling B, the events coordinator for the past week, wanted an activity that would appeal to the O-Guys so she looked around and thought: Kayaking! We’ll rent a bunch of kayaks from Rutabaga and paddle around on the lakes! It’ll be like The Three Stooges Go Fishing! Maybe it’ll even turn into a Tweedle Beetle Puddle Battle! Nice try, B.

We did have a pretty darned good time, though, and I learned that it takes one heck of a lot longer to paddle from here to there than I thought. We picked the kayaks up at ten o’clock and chose the half-day rental so we could have them until two-thirty. In that much time I figured we could paddle from Monona to the moon and back, but we hardly got halfway down the western coast of Lake Waubesa before we figured it would be a good time to turn back.

Our short stop at the boat landing on Lake Waubesa gave Tim the opportunity to show us how not to get out of a kayak when pulled up alongside a dock. Actually, I missed his presentation entirely as I was facing the wrong way, and I couldn’t get him to re-enact it even though he was already soaked, so I guess I’ll have to learn that lesson on my own.

image of Tim and Sean in kayaks

One other very important thing I learned was that tandem kayaks pretty much suck as far as watercraft go, or at least the one that B and I were paddling did. We spent almost the whole day out doinking around with the adjustments to the seats and footrests and never did get them where we felt comfortable enough that we could say we were happy with it. Neither one of us had enough legroom and the seats were designed by a sadist. I was all gung-ho about buying a kayak last summer, and now my aching butt and crippled legs are thanking me that I didn’t.

Tim, on the other hand, was really very happy with his kayak, so happy that he wants to buy one as soon as possible. He’s even already done a little research into accessories and found there are lots of changes he can make to the seat so it doesn’t feel like a rotweiler’s chewing on his rear end. If I were going to buy something to go paddling around in, though, I’m pretty sure that, after today’s experience, I’d go with a canoe, and I’m pretty sure B would second that.