As a preface, I would like to say that though it may appear this way, today is not a continuation of last post’s pity party. Really, it’s not. Appearances can be deceiving. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that? It’s true, you know.
The pity here has packed up and moved out and restlessness has taken its place, suitcase and all. (The amp-carrying gig is still in the application process, which is to say somewhere distant and in the unforeseeable future.) It is a restless party around here these days. Restless parties, in case you’d like to know, involve a type of visceral wanderlust, and tend to happen on the tail end of excessive bread-baking. They involve relatively unplanned road trips to Vermont. And cheese, they involve cheese, precisely half way between your house and your destination of Burlington.
I’ve found that reliably, cheese makes everything better. Especially when it’s Vermont Shepherd cheese. And when you pass their farm at exactly lunchtime and the people there have a batch of fresh ricotta going as you awkwardly let yourself into their cheese house, well, it just gets better than better.
The farm was exactly what you’d expect from rural Vermont: skinny dirt roads, sweeping pastures and stonewalls, more sheep than people visible to the passerby. It was the kind of place, hospitable and with a familiar smell, that made you feel as though you were visiting an old family friend: your mother’s aunt perhaps, someone you had never met yourself but felt a vague connection to.
The farm is in Putney. Which, if you think about it, sounds happy and docile and sheep-like all on its own. If you’re in the neighborhood (or if you, like me, are restless and are in need of a road trip), I highly suggest you go.
If you’re lucky, you’ll run into David Major and Joe Sawyer, and they’ll be making a fresh batch of ricotta. If your luck continues further, they’ll give you directions to the Cave. You’ll then drive there, a place that resembles a dwelling straight out of Tolkien: there is red door built right into the middle of a stonewall exterior. There you’ll meet Tanya, brining and flipping the cheeses as she does twice a week, and she’ll tell you which cheese is good for picnics and with what beer.
Completely convinced and won over by these people and their farm, you’ll buy cheese. You’ll go back to the cheese house to check on the progress of the ricotta, and David Major will scoop some, finished only minutes before you got there, right into a container for you to take home. Your mouth will water. Eaten with bread and apples and your fingers as utensils, the ricotta will make at once the most sophisticated and the most humble road trip snack you’ve ever had.
My friend Katherin and I left Vermont Shepherd with our hands full of cheese, our cameras full of pictures, and with a new favorite place in Putney, Vermont. It’s the kind of town, the kind of farm, where people still trust each other enough to ask that you pay for your cheese before you go, but in a bucket on a shelf in an unlocked shed. More importantly though, the cheese is just that good. Make the trip.
A hearty thank you to all of the people at Vermont Shepherd, who kept themselves composed even when they saw two girls, in a car with Connecticut plates, poking around their farm. You made our intrusion feel welcome.