Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: Waxing Philosophical

Yup, its been awhile. Lot of stuff keeping me away….

Visitors to the farm.

As a Lutheran, it is general knowledge that God has a plan. It is my personal preference that I am informed of said plan whereas I can point out the errors of the plan. So far, the Almighty has chosen to ignore my preference.

Last year I made a decision that left me with tremendous sadness, a profound sense of loss, anger and a crazy scary but exciting future ahead of me. I have spent the time clearing out a house after 27 years and working the farm best I could with winter running late this year. On March 7th, 2019, my brother in law, Greig, opted to stop the dialysis that was keeping him going, He was tired. The family, both in-town, out-of-town and one out-of-stater, rallied for a all family visit early on so he could enjoy everyone and say his goodbyes. We expected the end to come swiftly, a few days to a couple of weeks. Since I wasn’t running a cheese business, I was able to drop in with my suitcase and cooking stuff and announce I would stay until they wanted me to leave. My sister was caring for him at home. Amazingly, Greig stayed with us for 31 days and I was able to stay the entire time and help my sister weather the most difficult storm of her life. O’ ye of little faith…….(in the unrevealed plan).

garlic and shallots planted October 2018
Yup, time to mow, up to Matilda’s hood!

So now, I am back on track, working like a whirling dervish on the farm. The pasture gifted me with cereal ryegrass that I hadn’t planted, so I had to cut it down so the stuff I wanted could grow. The Jersey girls haven’t arrived yet so I am coordinating a cut and bale for the first round. Once the girls get here, they will keep it mowed down. I have a huge garden coming up, something I have missed for the past five years. The garlic and shallots planted last fall are doing amazing. I found blueberry plants from a farmer that ordered too many ( I LOVE Craigslist) so I am putting those in.

The good stuff – if you’re a Jersey Girl

The power is scheduled for next week, well work and septic shortly after. The USDA and WSDA came out yesterday to confirm we were on track to meet licensing requirements. Hopefully we will be up and crafting cheese by mid-summer.

Last Call variety Blueberries

So, I promise to be better at my updates. I am continually grateful for the number of past and new potential customers that have contacted me and continue to offer support for our journey. Thanks for joining us on this crazy, scary ride!


Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: On a roll with 2019

Welcome 2019! As always the beginning of the New Year is a time for introspection. While 2017 had given us some real zingers, 2018 took us by the hand and gently, but firmly, pulled us in a new direction. It has deposited us on the doorstep of 2019 and said, “Go forth and be joyful in your labors!”

Change is hard. One must grapple with the sadness of loss, the fear of the unknown. But we are blessed. While we have always had the love and support of our family and friends in our endeavor, our new direction puts us back at home among them. Even more exciting, since our return, our circle has widened!

We are grateful to have the continued support of our customers. When we announced our new direction, the first response from a number of them was “what can we do for you?” followed by “let us know when you are ready, we are here for you”. Thank You!

Look out 2019, here we come! Matilda, the tractor, is back on the road, I put in a garden seed order for the first time in four years (Blew my entire budget at Baker Creek Seeds). January means I have to continue clear out the house to be ready for working on the farm as soon as spring arrives. I have to continue haranguing the beleaguered spouse (who has that pesky day job) to beat down the honey-do list.

Thanks for stopping by!


Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Winter is slowly creeping in this year in Eastern Washington.  This was last Monday.  Finally today we have snow for the first time.  That really slows things down on the farm!

Matilda’s (the tractor) owie was a broken shaft to the loader so after a month and a half, we finally have the part.  We went up today, planning to put in the shaft and roast a hot dog in celebration.  But the rain had different ideas. The good news?  We’ve got hydraulics!  And we went drove home in the snow to cook the hot dogs.

I have been potting up plants from home to take to start at the farm.  I have hops, raspberries, grapes and other oddball plants.  I salvaged asparagus roots before I tilled the pasture so I expect to have a lovely patch established in the spring.

Looking forward to spring – we are working with Ben of Holt Creek Jerseys, Nebraska,  as our consultant on pasture layouts  and best practices for Jerseys.  Holt Creek specializes in Jerseys with grass based genetics, organic and A2A2 milk  (A topic for another day).  It is our hope will be able to build our herd from this lineage.  Ben has proven to be quite knowledgeable and we look forward to working with him.

This Thanksgiving we are counting the blessings that have come our way with the new Laurel’s Crown Farmstead.  Not to rush winter, but I can’t wait for Spring!

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Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: Waltzing Matilda (the tractor)

Oh Matilda, why art thou such a pain in my patootie?

I’m a vintage kinda gal (take that either way you like!)  It was love at first sight, A 1959 Massey Ferguson 65 sitting amongst the weeds in Touchet, WA. She started up right away despite being neglected for a time due to the elderly owner’s poor health.  My Dad, Bob, and his buddy Ron had brought the trailer to load Matilda and bring her home.  Dad restores tractors so Matilda was going to spend some quality time with him before coming to Chelan.

It was a marvelous day in July when Matilda arrived.  Dad had given Matilda a new paint job and a new tractor seat as my birthday present.  We hauled her to the farm and attached the newly purchased used mower to attack the multi-year growth of grass and weeds.     And we started to mow…..then, the first sounds of discontent.  Cutting out, gasping, stalling……….so Dad made the trip back to Chelan, this time hauling his MF 135 to trade so we could keep mowing while Matilda languished in Yakima.  After getting the fuel line reemed out, he brought her back and took the MF 135 home.   Now it was time to till……..put the tiller on, egads! the clutch has decided to die as well as the hydraulic 3 pt lift!  BACK he comes, with MF135 and Matilda gets to meet the great guys at Yakima Implement.  Each time Dad came up, he committed himself to 4 hours of tractor work.  He is a farmer at heart. I am convinced the MF135 was silently screaming, “please, take me home!” since up to this point, it has put more work into the farm than Matilda.

So far, he has made 5 trips to Chelan to help with Matilda and this doesn’t count the HOURS of phone calls for diagnostics. Many thanks to wife Ruth and buddy Ron for making these trips with him.  The Entiat Pub and Grub (which has amazing food and beer, by the way) has become a favorite stopping place.

Matilda currently has ANOTHER owie, but this time my beleaguered spouse, MJNeal, has opted to take on the challenge.  The positive side to this (yes, I can always find one!), at Matilda’s age, not many more things can go wrong.  She is pretty basic, no frills and I love her.  She fits my style.

We have all the facility trailers moved into their permanent places now.  This is a photo of my new view from the cheesemake room.  I can’t wait to get started!

Until the next adventure – thanks for stopping in!!


Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: Planting Munchies for the future Jersey Girls

The latter half of July and the month of August were pretty busy at the farm. As I mentioned before, the pasture had not been orchard since before 2010 and the resident grass and alfalfa that had blown in over the years had been cut and left to decompose.

Originally I planned to broadcast the organic seed into the existing surface without tilling.  Given the thickness of the layer and the cost of organic seed, tilling was the best option for a good start.  Tilling also added quite of bit of organic material to the soil.  Soil tests had revealed a shortage of organic material and the soil tends to be quite sandy.

It takes a village I have found in this journey and the wealth of knowledge folks have on board amazes me.  A few shout outs in this posting:

Cameron and his sons, who spent two weeks digging up and repairing irrigation lines (fun to see Laura out as well!). The guys shortened the risers from 14 ft orchard height to 6 ft to make it easier to repair (The tractor and I have had a few mishaps with sprinklers, I am getting very good at repairs!).

Dustin at Welter Seed in Iowa who helped finalize the seed blend needed for the 100% grass-fed rations.

Jim at Central Washington Equipment for his knowledge and equipment availability.

Both these gentleman helped me through the process of determining I really needed to till for best results.  Jim has been patient with answering ALL my questions on equipment.

Robert for loaning us tractor implements, the rake and tiller, both critical but expensive to buy.











This series of photos chronicles the process of getting seed in. I tilled the entire acreage (actually my dad helped, but he will get his own post for his contributions), the rented seeder dropped the seed in rows then covered them.  Finally after two weeks, we have grass!

The weather has been perfect, Greg, the irrigation watermaster, has been diligent in making sure plenty of water has been available while seed germinated.

The next photo indicates visitors to the pasture, since all the 8 ft. fences are in disrepair…….I wonder if a “No Trespassing” sign will deter these these en”deer”ing guests……

Next post – tractors and mice!




Crafting Cheese From The Ground Up: Welcome!

Welcome to the next chapter of Laurel’s Crown Cheese life!  After 4 years of crafting cheese in Othello, WA,  Laurel’s Crown is transitioning to a Farmstead operation in the Knapp’s Coulee, about 6 miles SW of Chelan on Hwy 97A. This transition has put Laurel’s Crown Cheese on hiatus until the Summer 2019 when we are able to produce our own 100% grass-fed, organic milk and begin crafting cheese again.  In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do!


Photo facing SW toward Wenatchee and Columbia River

Knapp’s Coulee is located at the top of the tunnel on HWY 97A, approximately 30 miles North of Wenatchee.  We have been fortunate to find 13.5 acres. Approximately 10 acres is former orchard land, which has not had apple trees on it since the early 2000’s.  Here and there, we find persistent remnants of it’s former life but for the most part it has been a grass cover that has been mowed and left to decompose.  We were thrilled to discover through soil testing that lead/arsenic in the soil is so small, it is virtually non-existent.  It was a bit shy of organic matter but all that grass cover was tilled in to help improve the situation.

What is a Coulee by the way?  Here is a great definition from the Nature Conservancy:

“Geologically speaking, a coulee is a gully or a ravine that is usually dry and was cut by water action. The term coulee comes from the Canadian French word coulée, derived from the French wordcouler, meaning “to flow.” (”

I have so much to share with you! It is however, way too much for one posting,  Thank you for joining us, buckle up – the learning curve is going to be steep for us and it should be a wild ride!

Laurie Neal, Laurel’s Crown Cheese