A Room with an Ewe

20151127_182115 small

For the last month Christina and I have called Grandvewe Cheesery our home and place of work. Grandvewe is located about 40 minutes south of Hobart nestled in the hills of Birchs Bay. The name Grandvewe just about sums it all up. The cheesery is home to about 80 milking sheep, quite a few lambs, adolescents, older sheep, and rams (over 200 in all). Grandvewe is family owned and operated established by a a savvy business woman named Diane, her awesome her daughter Nicole, her son Ryan the head distiller and her partner Chris. The cheesery is located in a retrofitted house, where the dining room is where the cheese is made, the family room where the tastings are held, a small kitchen, and a terrace for patrons to enjoy the stunning view of Bruny Island and maybe some coffee or cheese.

Grandvewe Tasting Room
Grandvewe Tasting Room
Magdalie (France) working hard in the kitchen
Magdalie (France) working hard in the kitchen

From a WOOFers perspective Grandvewe is pretty idilic. In exchange for working a full 40 hours a week you get a free bed and food is provided all seven days of the week. The family also asks that woofers stay for at least four weeks since they train you to do a multitude of tasks from cheesemaking to caring for the sheep and lambs, preparing food in the cafe, or helping in the distillery. Plus all the odd jobs that come up on a farm. This requires the help a number of woofers to complete all the tasks.

During our four weeks there were nine other WOOFers, all of whom were fantastic wonderful people.

20151112_200114 small
WOOFers! top: Paul, Kieran (UK), Malaika (Germany), Florian (Germany), Yule (Belgium); below: Sarah (Canada) and Cheryl (Hong Kong) and a giant pan of lasagna
DCIM
Daily coffee break: Lydia (UK), Christina, Paul, *staff: Wiebke (Germany) & Pauline (France)*, Sarah, Kieran, Yule

The apartment for the woofers filled up quickly so Christina and I spent four weeks in a caravan parked under the Grandvewe terrace. This was only slightly inconvenient and cold, but did give us privacy which was lacking in the apartment.

Grandvewe Cheesery! wi
Grandvewe Cheesery! Our little caravan is tucked underneath the terrace.

Fortunately, the other woofers are wonderful people with whom we bonded over shared meals, drinks, board and card games, plus working eight hours a day together. These people enhanced our experience of Grandvewe in a way that is hard to put into words. In short, I am grateful to have met and got to know each and every one of them.

 

Farm

Sheep with doggies (Mylee & Rosie)
Sheep with doggies (Mylee & Rosie). Photo by Sarah Peterson.
Cheeky and her two new baby girls
Christina was the first person to greet Cheeky after she gave birth to two little girls, Itsy and Bitsy.
Christina getting pellets for the sheep. Photo by Sarah Peterson
Christina getting pellets for the sheep. Photo by Sarah Peterson
Paul & Christina milking sheep
Paul & Christina milking sheep. Photo by Claire Baker
Sheep derp
Sheep derp
'nuf said
Lambs!
Rams
Rams
Chickens!
Chickens. Paul named the one who liked to wander off on her own Beyonce.

Here’s a little video showing the milking process and more:

 

Cheese

We got to help make all sorts of cheeses, including roquefort, manchego, reblochon & camembert, pecorino, fresh, halloumi, ricotta, la mancha, crottin, extramadura. We helped make the cheese from the raw sheep milk, stir the curds, drain the whey, hoop the curds into molds, turn them, wash them with yeast (to make the rind), salt them (dry and wet), store them, cut and package and label them.

Diane, Yule, Christina & Pauline making blue cheese
Diane, Yule, Christina & Pauline making blue cheese
Yule, Pauline & Christina with curds and whey
Yule, Pauline & Christina over the vat of curds and whey
Finished products
Finished products

Distillery

On top of the cheese, they also make their own vanilla whey liqueur and the only sheep whey vodka in the world. I spent a lot of time down here.

Paul making Vodka
Paul making Vodka
Ryan and Paul with the new still
Ryan and Paul in the distillery. The new still arrived during our last week.

 

Days Off

Each week Christina and I had two days off together where we did our best to explore the surrounding area (or make a Thanksgiving dinner). Our first adventure was to the island visible from Grandvewe called Bruny Island. Bruny is accessible by car via a ferry which leaves from the town of Kettering ten minutes away.

Christina at The Neck. This tiny stretch of sand connects North and South Bruny Island
Christina at The Neck. This tiny stretch of sand connects North and South Bruny Island. It’s also the home of dozens of little penguins, who come in every night after dark and wattle across the neck.
Lighthouse
Lighthouse *NOTE* this is the farthest SOUTH we’ve been on the whole trip!

At the lighthouse we took photos, had lunch, and took a look inside the small museum that explains a little about the history of the lighthouse. The only thing that I remember is that at the height of the lighthouse before electricity, the lighthouse burned a pint of sperm whale oil an hour. After lunch we took a walk that lead us to one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen so far, Jetty Beach. Jetty Beach was much like the beaches we have back in Northern California with seaweed and other cold water plants.

Jetty Beach
Jetty Beach
20151116_145702 small
Beautiful seaweeds

Later that night we set out from our campground to find the animal that we came to the island to see, the fairy penguin (smallest species). The small penguins make their way from the water to their nests once the sun has set and it is quite dark out. The only way to see the smallest penguin in the world is by using a red light flashlight. Luckily, Christina had one on her headlamp so we were able to see these cute critters really well as they shuffled under the boardwalks and into their burrows.

The next day we took a short hike in Adventure Bay. Here we saw some really amazing dolomite cliffs as well as a boat touring around below us as we walked down from the top of the hill to the shore. And another adorable echidna 🙂

Christina at Fluted Cape
Christina at Fluted Cape

On our next weekend out we headed up to Hobart to check out the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The MONA opened in 2011 and is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. Curator David Walsh is a Tasmanian millionaire who made his money through gambling. MONA is difficult to describe.

All trash bins should be labeled such
All trash bins should be labeled such
Christina jumping on a trampoline connected to lots bells
Christina jumping on a trampoline connected to bells

The museum itself is actually underground to preserve the beauty of the surrounding area (and the winery). The exhibits inside are diverse and at times very strange—mostly centered around sex and death. The exhibit that MONA is probably most famous for is the Cloaca Professional, a machine that is specifically designed to recreate the human digestive tract—culminating in real poop. It’s fascinating and smells foul.

Cloaca Professional
Cloaca Professional

We also made the best of our evenings when there was something interesting to do. We were invited to a pirate beer party by one of the full time employees at Grandvewe, a wonderful and generous young french woman named Pauline. She knew the owners of the brewery and knew that I have an interest in brewing, and wanted me to meet the brewer.

Christina, Paul Pauline
Christina, Paul & Pauline at the pirate-themed beer party

The next evening we went to a traditional bush dance in the town of Woodbridge, a two minute drive from the cheesery. We weren’t sure what to expect from a bush dance, but we knew we had to go and find out. So, we packed six people into the Subaru and headed out for the dance. Whatever our expectations were, I can say for a certainty that none of us were disappointed. We arrived fashionably late to find that the whole town had turned out for the bush dance.

Cheryl and Christina at the Woodbridge Bush Dance
Cheryl, Claire & Christina at the Woodbridge Bush Dance

The dance was held at the Community Hall, which was 125 years old. There were people of all ages there from babies all the way up to eighty-year-olds. The bush dancing was all choreographed by one man who lead the group through the steps of various folk dances and partnered those looking for a dancing partner. It was a moment of pure bliss when you let go of all inhibition and just have a good time dancing with strangers and friends alike. And yes, I even danced for a little while.

For our last weekend Christina and I spent our time cooking pies and the rest of the trappings for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Our hosts were kind enough to by us a turkey breast and most of the rest of the ingredients we needed to make two pumpkin pies, an apple pie, potato boats, candied sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and vegetables. For many of the woofers this was their first Thanksgiving dinner and everyone enjoyed the exercise in over eating. We still have stuffing leftover from that meal!

Paul & Christina making Thanksgiving Dinner. Photo by Claire Baker
Paul & Christina making Thanksgiving Dinner. Photo by Claire Baker

Overall we’ve had an incredible time working for food, helping out a family business, and interacting with people other than just the two of us. We’re both going to have a hard time leaving this place, the view, the people, and the sheep and lambs. We’ll miss them all. Thank you to everyone who made this an experience of a lifetime.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1137.

Advertisements