On a warm September afternoon, Don and I followed a scenic gravel road that took us to this beautiful, post-and-beam barn.
Not Just Cows
I was excited about seeing the Jersey cows, since the farm's focus is on cow-milking and cheese-making. But before I laid eyes on a single cow, we were greeted by Robin, the Border Collie and Molly, the Mastiff. I eventually counted about 11 cats. I was in heaven.
H.H. Brinkman Homestead
Across the road from the barn was the original limestone, Brinkman House from 1867. Martha and Tom own the farm and live there now.
A Few Barns
After we met the dogs on the barn's porch, we met Tom and Martha's daughter-in-law, Randas. She shared a little about the property and pointed down the hill to 2 other barns. I love barns.
The Brinkman Barn from 1857
The barn furthest away, was built 10 years before the Brinkmans built the house. What a thrill to see the barn still in use today.
The day that I was born, the Brinkman barn was already 100 years old. That's a really old barn. I can't even imagine how many sweet critters have called the barn home!
Where are the Jersey Cows?
I love farms and I love cows, but I am extra fond of Jersey Cows! Randas pointed down the road to the pasture, where the Jerseys were grazing.
Pond and Pasture
Don and I headed down the gravel road to watch the cows grazing in the pasture's mix, of grass and clover.
Looking at the setting, I couldn't help but think, if I were a cow, this is where I'd like to live. At the barn later, I saw that the cows were treated more like pets, than livestock. Yep, I'd want to live at the Brinkman Farm, if I were a cow.
There were at least 15 soft, brown Jerseys grazing in the pasture. A few mooed at us, but most ignored us. I couldn't stop smiling. My special love of Jersey cows has a little something to do with my mom... and her playful nickname, Jersey Mother. It's a story too long for this write-up, but Mom would have loved this farm.
Up in the Loft
Don and I were excited to take a look at the 3,000 square foot hayloft, where we would be sleeping. As we climbed up to our space above the cheese making and milking areas, I was met with just a hint of a barn smell. Don didn't even smell it, but memories of horse stables when I was young, began to surface. It's a smell that I happen to love.
In the large common area, I spotted farm decor in every nook and cranny. Even hanging from beams, I saw a chandelier made of some kind of "hay claw" thing. The light over the table was made from a clear, plastic milk container.
The 18 foot ceiling made the space extra roomy. There were 4 guest rooms, but we were the only guests staying that night. That meant Don and I had all the games, books, comfy chairs, TV and popcorn, just for ourselves.
Art and Wine
I loved studying the wall, filled with farm-themed art. I also noticed the wine glasses and they made me thirsty.
Don and I couldn't resist the complimentary popcorn, so we made a batch and opened up the wine we had with us. But, once we spotted the small milk bottles, we left the wine glasses on the dresser.
Drinking wine from a milk bottle is something you don't do every day. Cheers to Brinkman Farmstead!
The Rhode Island Red Room
We probably should have forked out a little extra to stay in the Jersey Cow Suite, in honor of my mom. But our chicken themed room was plenty large! The bed and lounge chair were extra soft. There was even a rolling barn door, leading to our bathroom.
Looking Up at the Rafters
The ceiling was so high above the bed, I could have done a few trampoline flips without head bumping concerns!
I skipped the trampoline tricks and counted chickens instead. That seemed be the safer way to let my kid-side enjoy the room. I counted about 30 chicken images in our large space.
Evening on the Farm
Around 6:30, Don and I came down from the loft to enjoy the cooling temps. The porch on the west side of the barn was getting nice and shady.
Calling The Girls
Ben and His Jerseys
Randas continued calling out, encouraging The Girls as they headed towards the barn. Her husband Ben, spoke to the cows one on one as they meandered up the hill.
I asked Ben if he had a favorite. He looked up from scratching "Elizabeth" between the ears. "This one." He said with a smile. Since Elizabeth is my real name, I had to agree that she was mighty fine.
45 Minutes of Meandering?
I was surprised how long the walking process took. I was also surprised at how relaxed and patient Ben and Randas were with the animals. They chatted and patted each animal. They shared about life on the farm and how different it was in the winter. They talked about how each cow had its own distinct personality. We learned that a mama cow was about to give birth, any day. I hoped...
We also heard that Ben and Randas were recently married in a nearby sunflower field. They laughed about how hard it was, being away from the animals during their honeymoon. Pretty sweet!
I was excited when we were invited to help with the milking. Inside the milking parlor, Ben got everything ready below and then headed back to bring in the Jerseys. Then Don and I climbed down, so Randas could show us the ropes.
Bringing Back Memories
I had a quick deja vu as I stood listening to instructions, wearing a red bandana, as I did in 1977. The only other time I ever milked a cow, was also in Missouri. But I sat on a stool that time and did a pretty lame job of squeezing milk into a cup.
It was about 8 pm by the time Ben lead 4 Girls into their separate stalls. They each had a metal bowl of yummy nibbles to distract them. Randas demonstrated with one cow and then guided me with another.
Standing a level below the cow, I cleaned the teats with a moist rag, then disinfected with iodine, then attached the milking device... which looked an awful lot like some scuba gear I've used in the past.
I got a little tangled with the equipment and a little giggly when the device grabbed hold of the teats and began making sucking sounds.
Where Does the Milk Go?
Randas filled up 3 gigantic baby bottles and we turned the rest of the milking over to Ben. By this time it was pretty dark. Don and I followed Randas and a parade of cats, over to the old barn.
We could hear a little mooing from the cozy, wood and stone barn. Three calves, (less than 3 weeks old) were eager for their dinner. A few chickens, a bunny and a couple kittens hung around for the show.
Luckily Don was able to snap a quick photo and then grab the third bottle. The little calves were very impatient and just about yanked the bottle from my hands.
The bigger calves made a lot of noise on the other side of the barn. Randas filled a large feeding dish and the little crowd gathered with their mouths all eating at once. Moslty, it seemed like the youngin's just wanted a little attention.
Scratching the Forehead
We learned so much during our short visit to the farm. We learned about sustainable farming and artificial insemination and cheesemaking. But I really liked the tip about where cows like to be scratched... on their furry little foreheads!
Morning in the Loft
We woke to a beautiful blue day! The view from the loft was lovely and the spread of food on the counter was amazing! First we had juice, fruit and yogurt, along with a board of meats and cheese... made from our dear Jerseys' milk!
We sat below the milk bottle light (that we now recognized from the milking parlor) and we pigged out!
Then, Ben arrived with another tray of food! There was bacon and some kind of baked egg dish and some fruit & cheese blintz kind of goodie. Colorful dishes and cloth napkins, made it taste even better.
Since we had already showered, we decided to take our coffee down and just enjoy the morning ritual, without pitching in.
We watched Ben and Randas go through the morning routine, lining up the cows. I was struck with how peaceful and content they seemed, never rushing the sweet critters.
We watched the Jerseys gather for their milking and then we visited with some of the other pets.
Cats and Dogs
Don got his cat fix and I snuggled with Robin.
We had a chance to meet Ben's dad, Tom. He told us some funny stories about Molly. She leaned into him as he spoke, as if encouraging more stories.
We had to say good-by to the cows before we drove off. I spotted the Belgian horse for the first time. One night was obviously not enough time, to get to know all the animals.
I was genuinely surprised to see how much this family loves their animals. The dogs, cats and even the Jerseys, all seem to be a part of the family. I know that running this farm and making cheese (which I didn't even get into) and running a B&B, must be hugely exhausting. But there was something calming about watching these folks interact with the animals. We had an unforgettable stay, for sure.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!