Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rain, Rain….

In my post about the Tillamook Cheese factory I alluded to the fact that weather in Tillamook, OR might be less than ideal. I mentioned that there are 55 completely sunny days per year. Yikes! In addition, with the help of Google, I discovered that between Oct and March, Tillamook receives far more rain each month than I experience in my area of Colorado in a year!

I visited the air museum in Tillamook. The museum is housed in the huge wooden blimp storage building erected during WWII to protect blimps that were used to escort Navy ships out to sea while scouting for submarines. The base was in operation from 1942 until 1948. This poem was posted in one of the displays. Apparently Rosenbaum and Tartas (the authors) were not thrilled with the assignment!

Oh, Little Town of Tillamook
(tune of Little Town of Bethlehem)

Oh, little town of Tillamook
How still you always look.
There's never anything to do,
I guess I'll read a book
Among thy big cows splendid,
The Tip Top and Tillahoe,
Where milk and beer is blended,
But it doesn't agree with me.

Oh, land of trees and ocean breeze,
And all kinds of smelly cheese,
Your lousy rain gives me a pain,
I'm sick and tired, oh Jeez!
On they dark street standeth
The everlasting dudes,
Of mice and rats and dogs and cats,
And marine and sailor feuds.

Oh what did I do to get me here,
I can't stand milk or beer.
If I don't leave here pretty soon,
I'll die of thirst, I fear.
And now this tune has ended,
I think I'll close the book,
But all our fears are that all our years,
Will be spent in Tillamook.

Rosenbaum & Tartas

I can imagine, with all of that rain, life might have been a bit dreary!

Two hangars were constructed in 1942. To preserve steel for ship building, the hangars were constructed of wood. One hangar still stands. The hangars were 1,072 feet long (almost 3 football fields could be fit inside, end to end!), 296 feet wide and stand 192 feet tall. The hangar is the largest, clear-span wood structure in the world!

The motorhomes stored at one end of the hangar give a good feel for the size of the structure.

In addition to housing blimps during the war, and now housing an air museum and RV storage, the structure has been used in the past as a saw mill and a building for hay storage. (The 2nd hangar was destroyed in 1992 when hay being stored inside, caught fire from spontaneous combustion.

The air museum has plans to move to Madras, OR, so the hangar can take on a new life. Care to lease a HUGE building?!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Say "Cheese"!

Sing along with me if you remember the old ditty about turning grapes into raisins...

You start with the grass, 
under the sun (Homefacts web site lists only 55 completely sunny days each year in Tillamook)
Let out the cows, (there are about 26,150 cows in Tillamook County and only 4,942 people)
One by one. 

Earlier this week we toured some attractions in Tillamook, OR. Of course we had to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, a farmer-owned co-op.

Do you remember hearing about Tillamook cheese years ago? I do. I remember hearing that the cheese was rich and creamy and simply fantastic, but it wasn't available in our area of the country. Those were the days when you couldn't get everything, everywhere, like you can today.  Sometimes I wish our country was still a place where one could find unique goods only in specific areas. For example, Vidalia Onions could only be found near the Georgia town known for this particular sweet onion; or Coors beer could only be found in the west… and Tillamook Cheese could be enjoyed by those fortunate enough to be traveling along the west coast. How much more treasured and appreciated would these items be? But, on the other hand, how lucky we are that we all can find Tillamook cheese in just about every grocery store, just down the aisle from Coors beer, which is around the corner from the Vidalia onions! But, I digress….

Over 1 million visitors make the trek to the factory to see the process of packaging the cheese from upstairs viewing stations. (Tours of the processing area were discontinued in 1967 due to health and safety concerns.)

Here are a few views from the observation area. I apologize for the odd color created by the glass.

Here you can see three of the 8 vats  where milk is made into cheese. Each vat holds 53,500 pounds of fresh milk. Three batches of cheese are made each day.

It takes10 pounds of milk for each pound of finished cheese. Here is my Math question for the week.... If more than 1.7 million pounds of milk is processed at the plant each day, how many pounds of cheese are processed? The answer, a lot! 
This row of machines presses the newly made cheese into 40-pound blocks, and drops them on the conveyor belt.

The blocks are wrapped in plastic, and go up the spiral chute and into an area for aging. Blocks will be  aged up to 9 months, depending on the sort of cheese.

In another area of the plant, the 40 pound blocks of cheese come in on a conveyor after they have been through the appropriate-length aging process. 
Wow! That's a lot of cheese!

The cheese is cut by hot wires, and the blocks are separated by workers. The worker on the lower right collects scraps in the bin. The workers on the left place the one pound blocks on rollers.

Each block of cheese is weighed. If the block is underweight or overweight, it is shuttled to one side. The single block on the lower edge does not weigh enough. The worker will reach over and place a slice of cheese on its top, and move it back into line.

The blocks continue down the line where plastic wrap is placed around the cheese, sealed and cut (I think with a hot wire) and later will be processed (either by heat or suction) so the wrapper tightens around the cheese.

The worker on the lower left of the picture will occasionally place blocks of cheese with poorly shaped or dirty wrappers in the blue bin.

At this point the blocks of cheese moved on, and out of sight, to an area where it is packaged in cardboard boxes for shipping. 

We moved on… to the tasting line!

And then, enjoyed some ice cream…
another specialty of the plant.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

As we traveled along I-84 in Oregon, we noticed acre upon acre of trees, all planted in perfect rows.
Row after row. 
Tall ones, 
not so tall ones, 
and some had rows of alternating tall and not-so-tall trees.

The trees are all part of Boardman Farms operated by the GreenWood Resources operation. This is the largest contiguous irrigated tree farm in the US, and one of many sustainable, environmentally certified tree farms developed and managed by GreenWood. What we were seeing from the Interstate is just the tip of the iceberg of a 25,000 acre operation of 7.5 million trees! Unlike most tree farms, this operation works from start to finish. The operation grows, harvests and processes 100 million board feet of poplar wood each year. The company works on developing better trees that grow faster and produce better wood. In fact, one web site had a comment that the trees are growing faster than they can be processed!

Fascinating! I would love to see if they give tours!