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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