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Author Archive: "Kurt Timmermeister"

The Cows Are in Charge

I have a small farm up near Seattle where I raise Jersey cows, milk them, and make cheese from their milk . Just 13 acres, Kurtwood Farms is home to 15 of these beautiful bovines. Twice a day, I lead them down from the pasture into the milking parlor where I milk them. In the cool months, I then lead them to the barn for their daily ration of hay; in the warmer months, to the pastures for grass. It is a great routine — predictable and satisfying.

And yet, every once in a while, it is not predictable. This past week, the cows decided to push the system a bit. Routinely one cow enters the milking parlor when the previous cow is finished and exiting the parlor. It is a very simple, very easy system — one in, one out. Cows love routine. Unfortunately, they love grain more. The lure to get them into the milking parlor and to stand there for the duration of the milking procedure is grain. They love it.

This past Friday, the great lure of grain overtook one cow's sense of decorum and ...


Visions of the Author

Last night I did my first author reading in a bookstore. I read at my hometown bookstore, the Elliott Bay Book Company, a store that I started shopping at in 1974, just after it opened. In those days, just shopping there made me feel very grown up — very in the know, if you will.

Somehow during the past 35 years, I only attended one author reading anywhere, and it was at Elliott Bay Books. I wandered into a reading by Witold Rybczynski. I believe that I had just read Home or The Most Beautiful House in the World and I remember quite enjoying the books. I felt compelled to wander into the downstairs room to hear Rybcynski speak.

I never went to another reading. One was enough. Although I had loved reading the books, I was quite confused by the man standing at the podium reading from my favorite book of the time. The voice that ...


Bovine Gender Reassignment

Although I wish I could say my full-time job is writing books, at this point, my full-time job is running my farm on Vashon Island and making cheese, with a bit of time at the end of the day to promote Growing a Farmer. Although I had a large book-launch party scheduled for last night, the bulk of my day was spent with my cows.

Two and a half months ago, a calf was born during the worst storm of the year. Blustery, snowing, and cold, it was a storm to remember. Through all of the activity outside of the barn, inside one of the stalls one of my cows — Dinah 2.0 — calmly gave birth to a small calf. We named him Stormy.

On a dairy farm, there is a very definite value placed on females and a much, much lesser value placed on males. Females are kept on the farm, to be grown and, at the two-year mark, bred back to become the future milking ...


Growing a Farmer

My farm is located on Vashon Island, an island large in size, but thinly populated, just across the bay from downtown Seattle. Although only a short ferry ride from the city, it is a world away.

This morning just before the sun came up, I set out to milk the cows. Presently five are milked each day, twice per day, and the milk is used to make fresh, farmstead cheeses . Each and every day I head out from the house and over to the barn to attend to my bovines. Although the weather this morning was a balmy fifty-plus, last week it was a much more seasonal thirty and below. When the temperature drops to below-freezing temperatures, my morning chores change dramatically.

The cows are milked not by hand, but with a mechanical system. It is a small mechanical system and quite simple, but it relies on electricity and the normal functioning of a vacuum pump, a pulsator, and a great deal of rubber tubing. During the great majority of the year, all these ...


Lunch with Michael Pollan

Today, my first book is officially released. Growing a Farmer is the story of my turning this rough-scrabble piece of earth into a productive, verdant farm, and of my personal transformation from a slick urbanite into someone who milks cows twice a day and spends most of the year in mud boots.

As this is my first endeavor in the publishing business, I knew little of what to expect. I must admit that I had the same outdated, preconceived notions that many unfamiliar with the business have. For example, I believed that I would call my editor and we would have relaxing phone chats about ideas and literature, when in fact, whenever my cell phone would ring and display a New York City prefix, I would jump, fearful that I had missed a deadline or that I had disappointed everyone in that midtown office with the manuscript that I had sent.

I have also spent much too much time explaining to friends and acquaintances that even ...


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