The blue truck logo for A Steve’s Professional Truck Mounted Steam Cleaning features a lion riding shotgun. While the instantly recognizable color is an obvious match to the real trucks you’ll see around town, the lion is remnant of a long-ago Valentine’s Day delivery to his family. When so many passing motorists smiled, waved, and pointed, it quickly became part of the team.
In business since 1982, Steve Short’s experience began when he “started knocking on doors” around town. Since then, the company has grown to include two fully equipped trucks capable of steaming carpets at up to 250 degrees and then vacuuming away the excess water. With his daughter and son-in-law on board as staff members, they “don’t have to turn down a job because within 2-3 days it can be done.”
A sense of community and civic pride leads them to seek new clients primarily via referral. This has built a solid customer base of residential, business, and property management clients seeking maintenance of upholstery, carpet, tile, vinyl, and cement flooring. They take the time to thank customers via Facebook as well as offering promotions that donate money to childhood cancer charities. With Steve’s young granddaughter, Alyssa, a survivor herself, the entire family team participates in fundraising events around the region.
Being a boots-on-the-ground small businessman, Steve is always willing to share his 30+ years of knowledge. He is able to provide quotes over the phone based on client’s descriptions and his personal expertise. Quotes are determined by the service needed and severity of the stain or damage. By providing such individualized care, clients return again and again. Says Ray Fraley, a retired insurance employee, “Steve stands out for his commitment to his business. His integrity is refreshing, and we find him just plain nice to do business with. I can, without hesitation, recommend him for anything, be it business or otherwise. If you have a chance to associate with him, do it! The world needs more like him.”
A Steve’s Professional Truck Mounted Steam Cleaning can be reached at 360-701-9544.
Today I can’t help but focus on milestones. My husband turns 40 this weekend. As a kid, I remember specifically when my parents turned 40. My daughter has already announced our impending “advanced age.” And, in the same moment, one of our ThurstonTalk.com staffers became a grandfather. We celebrated his new title yesterday. Yet, even with these new chapters, I don’t feel much different than I did yesterday. I suppose that’s the maturity part of aging. Oh, and the fact that it’s not MY 40th birthday. Cheers!
Here’s what is going on around Olympia this weekend.
Submit an event for our calendar here.
ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at email@example.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.
Celebrating the release of their new record!
Dirty Joe and the Brickwalls (Olympia)
By Gail Wood
Job duties for DuPont’s distribution center include boxing, shipping and stocking merchandise to customers. The job pays $12.25 an hour, which Amazon said is about 30 percent higher than the traditional retail store wage.
Amazon’s hiring is timely for DuPont. In October, Intel announced that it will sell its DuPont property and plans to layoff nearly half of its 690 employees at that site.
“We are excited to welcome Amazon as the newest member of our community,” DuPont mayor Michael Grayum said in an Amazon release. “We are focused on attracting new businesses, creating quality jobs and strengthening economic growth.”
Amazon requires applicants for these warehouse jobs to have a high diploma, be able to stand for long periods and to be able to lift 49 pounds. Interested applicants can apply online at workatamazonfulfillment.com. The center is expected to open this spring.
“We haven’t yet announced a time table for opening, but we usually start hiring a few months prior to the opening,” said Kelly Cheeseman, who works in Amazon’s media relations. “We are actively hiring right now. We have hundreds of full-time jobs available at the fulfillment center.”
DuPont is one of Amazon’s six packing and shipping customer centers nationwide that is currently hiring. The online giant is currently hiring for more than 2,500 full-time jobs across the country. Applicants for the DuPont job must have a high school diploma, can lift 49 pounds and can stand for several hours during an 8-hour shift.
“Today, we’re excited to announce 2,500 full-time jobs, bringing new employment opportunities to local communities across the country,” Mike Roth, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations, said in a recent release. “Last year, we hired more than 20,000 people into full-time jobs across our U.S. fulfillment centers.”
Besides DuPont, Amazon’s packing and shipping centers that are hiring are located in Chester, Va., Coffeyville, Kan., Columbia, S.C., Murfreesboro, Tenn., Petersburg, Va.
DuPont is the second warehouse Amazon has built in Pierce County. Two years ago, Amazon opened a distribution center in Sumner that is half the size of DuPont’s. In addition to its hourly wage, Amazon offers a healthcare plan that begins on the first day of employment. Amazon also offers a 401K matching retirement plan and a Career Choice program where the company pays 95 percent of tuition for employees wanting to go back to school after being employed for a year at Amazon.
With the growth at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, DuPont’s population has ballooned, increasing from 592 in 1990 to an estimated 8,808 last year. With the opening of Amazon’s warehouse, the once sleepy little DuPont is going to continue to grow. The new distribution center is reportedly expected to create as many as 900 jobs.
Amazon, a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, reportedly spent over $100 million on the project. The online giant bought the 92 acres in DuPont for $26.1 million.
Amazon has a military recruiting program and last year exceeded its goal to hire 1,200 veterans nationwide and expects to hire veterans again this year. That’s key for DuPont since it neighbors Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“We are excited to increase our presence in the state of Washington with this new fulfillment center,” said Dave Clark, vice president of Amazon global customer fulfillment. “We appreciate the state and local leaders who have helped us make this site in DuPont a reality.”
DuPont has a long partnership with big business. The town was purchased by the DuPont company in 1906 and an explosive plant was built there. Within four years from when the plant opened, DuPont had grown by more than 100 homes. Business continues to shape the city today.
Cheeseman said the number of people hired at the DuPont warehouse will depend on how busy the distribution center is and how many products are bought and shipped. At the center, workers will pack and ship large items like canoes and televisions to customers.
Duke Reality, a commercial real estate developer based in Indiana, built the distribution center in DuPont.
Submitted by The City of Olympia
The City of Olympia’s Saturday Drop-Off Site opens for the season on Saturday, March 1, 2014. The site is located at the City’s Maintenance Center, 1401 Eastside Street, SE. The site is open every Saturday through November 22, 2014, from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. We accept scrap metal, yard debris and traditional recyclables at the site. The site is open all holiday weekends.
Recycle Non-Appliance and Clean Scrap Metal
Are you cleaning out your barn or garden shed? Have any metal waste, such as tools, fencing, fenders, wheels, posts, tanks, wire, car parts or outdoor furniture? Bring them to Olympia’s Saturday Drop-off Site, where we accept clean, non-appliance scrap metal. There is no fee for scrap metal disposal. Please note the following:
Yard Debris and Waste
Olympia residents may bring grass, garden clippings, prunings, brambles, brush, and branches. Wood is also acceptable as long as it is untreated and unpainted (nails are okay). Rates are assessed on load size and type of material, cash and check accepted. Customers are required to unload their own vehicles, so bring only what you can physically handle.
Do you have extra recycling from a special clean out, a recent move, or simply more than your cart can hold? Olympia garbage customers can now bring their extra recyclables at no charge to the Saturday Drop-off Site:
Visit olympiawa.gov/satdropoff for additional information and resources.
The physics students of today are tomorrow’s scientists, engineers, medical doctors, high school teachers and college professors. Even economists, psychologists, writers, and many other future professionals often take an introductory course in physics. A basic knowledge of physics is a key component of a well-rounded education.
Saint Martin’s University boasts of engaging physics classes that encourage students of various disciplines to think differently about problem solving. This approach is attributed to the two physics professors, Dr. Stephen Parker and Dr. John Weiss, who have brought an enthusiastic, active learning and accessible teaching methodology into a challenging course of study.
Saint Martin University’s physics classes consist largely of engineering students as well as those majoring in chemistry or biology. Currently, Saint Martin’s University does not offer a physics minor or major. However, Drs. Parker and Weiss are hoping to change that. Dr. Parker comments that with the addition of Dr. Weiss within the last year, they now have the faculty depth to teach a greater number of higher level physics courses, which he explains “will lead more immediately to a minor in physics. Hopefully as our numbers grow and we start getting more people interested in the wonders of physics, this might lead to an eventual physics major at the university.”
Dr. Parker further explains that Saint Martin’s has a new Engineering Building (Cebula Hall). “We have many people who come to Saint Martin’s to become mechanical and civil engineers, who typically take physics during their freshman year. I, along with my mathematics colleagues, help them learn what it will be like to be in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field, and hopefully, give them the foundational knowledge they will need to succeed in their engineering classes. “
“Chemistry and biology majors are also required to take two semesters of introductory physics. Although branches of chemistry and biology can rely more and more on the fundamental principles of physics as they advance in their field, one of the most important lessons I feel I can impart to these students is how to ‘think logically’ about problem solving,” adds Parker. “The ability to figure out what you know and then what you can do with it to solve a problem is a critical skill in science and these skills are honed during their physics classes.”
“One of my goals is for students to become better writers when explaining their solutions,” adds Dr. Weiss. “I hope that they’ll almost reflexively use verbal explanation to support their figures and mathematics.”
The growth in the Saint Martin’s physics department has not only allowed for expansion of more upper-level physics classes, but also physics classes geared towards the non-scientists such as Dr. Weiss’s class on the development of physics and astronomy from the Greeks forward. “Teaching students how to think in a different way is a large part of what a liberal arts education is about. Physics teaches non-scientists to make data-based and quantitative arguments, something that I think is vitally important to our society,” says Dr. Weiss.
Another opportunity for students to “think differently” will occur this spring when Dr. Weiss co-teaches a class traveling to Paris and Florence. He explains, “We’re focusing on the history of science and the connection between science and culture. The trip is aimed at science majors, a group that is often underrepresented in study-abroad trips. We plan to read some of Galileo’s writings, but we’ll also discuss the history of art and the science of food. I think it’ll be an excellent exposure for the science majors to see their disciplines in a broader historical and cultural context.”
For those staying on campus completing upper-level physics courses such as classical and computational mechanics, Dr. Weiss has the students building and modeling trebuchets. He explains, “They’ll be made out of toys, but they’ll be functional and we’ll have a contest to see how accurate they can be and how far they can fling their projectiles.”
Also on campus is the well-attended “Sunday Night Tutoring” for physics where as many as half of the students taking introductory physics show up. It is an opportunity to work on homework with each other and get help from the student tutors or one of the physics professors. Dr. Parker states, “They have been hugely successful, with the students who attend always saying they get a lot out of them. It is one way we help our students through what can often be a difficult subject.”
There is an obvious commitment to the study of physics yet there is an equal commitment to teaching at a small school like Saint Martin’s. Dr. Parker shares, “I love the interaction with the students that the small school environment brings. Being able to see the ‘I finally get it’ on their faces after struggling with some physics concept is one of the reasons I became a teacher in the first place. I wanted to teach where I could make connections with all the students. I love playing intramural sports with the students and being able to get involved with various activities around campus, from the Frisbee Golf Club to International Education Week. It’s the students of Saint Martin’s that makes my job so enjoyable.”
Submitted by Rob Rice Homes
Yes, that’s right. We offer 15 different kitchen counter tops to choose from, all standard selections for us, no additional cost for our buyers. There are many options for kitchen counter tops such as tile, quartz, marble, and concrete but granite continues to be the favored choice of our buyers. The benefits of granite are:
Granite is Affordable. Because of its elegance, availability and durability, granite has become the counter top of choice. That popularity, in turn, has lowered the prices.
Granite is Sanitary. Granite, like any raw natural stone is porous. However, once granite has been polished and sealed, its hard mirror-like glaze makes germ and bacteria penetration impossible. A warm soapy water wash then a clear rinse is all that’s required to keep it gleaming and sanitary.
Granite is Strong. Granite’s diamond-like hardness makes it the strongest counter top material available. Granite is heat resistant and nearly scratch and stain proof. Hot dishes and pots can rest on it. Sharp knives won’t scratch it.
Granite Will Remain Number One in Counter Tops. Granite counter tops are not a trend. Because of its wide range of shades and colors, and capacity to match and complement any cabinet, sink, and appliance material, granite will remain at the top of the list well into the future.
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Submitted by Dr. Anna M. Gunn, O.D. for Clarus Eye Centre
For most people in the work place, it is impossible to go through a day without spending significant time on the computer. I often get asked if long-term computer use can damage the eyes. The good news is that eyestrain from the computer is not associated with any long-term consequences. However, it can be bothersome and uncomfortable.
The following are signs and symptoms of eyestrain:
For most jobs, it is impossible to limit time on the computer. Instead, I recommend focusing on some habits that can help limit the stress placed on your eyes. Think about some of these tips if you have been experiencing any symptoms of eyestrain:
I hope these tips will help alleviate any computer eyestrain. However, if your symptoms still persist, don’t hesitate to get your eyes checked.
By Gale Hemmann
Banjo. Fiddle. Mandolin. Guitar. Whether you are a seasoned bluegrass aficionado or totally new to the genre, you want to hear the music of the Oly Mountain Boys. Serious about music and fun, the Oly Mountain Boys (OMB) are happy to provide you with an introduction to bluegrass, Pacific Northwest style. The five members of this high-octane group share a love for bluegrass music that is infectious, and their musical chops have helped them gain a strong following in Olympia and beyond.
The band invited me to stop by their weekly rehearsal to interview them and hear them play. Arriving at Josh Grice’s home in West Olympia, Grice (fiddle) and Tye Menser (lead vocals and banjo) invited me to sit down and talk before rehearsal started. They shared with me the band’s history, passions, and current projects.
OMB formed in 2008, and they’ve worked a robust performance schedule ever since, as well as producing several live and studio albums. The five musicians come from diverse walks of life (Menser is an attorney by day; Grice works for the Washington State Department of Ecology), but they all bond over their shared love of bluegrass music.
The band members are especially excited to talk about their forthcoming album, White Horse (planned release in spring 2014). A major undertaking and a ground-breaking conceptual album, White Horse tells the life story of a fictional Washingtonian named Charlie McCarver. The album will be accompanied by a booklet with art and writing about Charlie McCarver contributed by local artists. The project aims to honor the historical tradition of bluegrass singing about the lives of everyday people, while in a local Washington setting. To the band’s knowledge, this is the first time such a project has been undertaken, and they are clearly excited. Menser wrote the first three songs for the album over two years ago, and the band will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to support the album in February.
As Menser and Grice talked bluegrass and set up their instruments, the rest of the band members came in for rehearsal: Phil Post (bass, Dobro, vocals), Derek McSwain (mandolin and vocals), and Chris Rutledge (guitar and vocals). An affable and laid-back group, you can immediately see why the five musicians enjoy playing and hanging out together. The band began picking and singing, working on songs from White Horse. They throw it down with style and soul, making you want to get up and dance (even the bluegrass novice will find themselves instinctively tapping their toes).
All of the members of OMB are passionate musicians. They each bring years of musical experience to the table, from an eclectic variety of genres. In addition to playing with OMB, Post (who hails from the Ozark region) also plays with the klezmer band Erev Rav. A classically trained musician, Grice plays violin with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, and Rutledge is a former electric guitar player.
The band has worked hard to get where they are. They have served as regular performers at several local venues over the past six years, including the McMenamins Spar Café, Tugboat Annie’s, and their current spot, the Pig Bar at South Bay BBQ in downtown Olympia. (They play regular Thursday-night spots to a filled-to-the brim house.) While they love these local gigs and consider their local fan base the absolute backbone of their success, they are also excited to have the opportunity for even broader exposure. OMB will be embarking on their first West Coast tour in February 2014, playing several shows in Oregon and California. Though the instrumentation may be complex, their mission is simple: spread the love of bluegrass to as many people as possible.
As Menser notes, bluegrass is a distinctly American musical genre, originating in Appalachia in the 1940’s out of country music roots. It has since been infused with musical influences ranging from rock to jazz, and the genre saw a revival in popularity in the 1990s, drawing many younger musicians into the bluegrass scene. Today there are many different schools of bluegrass, including traditional, progressive, bluegrass gospel, and even “newgrass.”
When asked if they identify with any particular genre of bluegrass, OMB says they eschew traditional labels in favor of their own blend of bluegrass – a little rock ‘n’ roll, and described by the band as everything from “revolutionary bluegrass” to “dreamgrass.” They perform a good number of traditional songs (about half, by Menser’s estimate), but are sure to mix it up at their shows with their original compositions.
When asked about their future vision of the band, Grice and Menser agree that the band wants to keep playing music together for as long as possible. Menser would like to see the band continue getting opportunities to play new audiences and gain exposure; Grice hopes the band will “keep reaching further” with their music. McSwain loves touring, and Rutledge loves playing local shows. Menser noted that in today’s era, the band can write and record music in Olympia, and still get exposure to a broad audience: “There are no limits. We just want to let the band take off.”
The Oly Mountain Boys are quick to extol the many virtues of bluegrass music. Menser says it is “timeless,” because it is social music, can be played anywhere, and unites people around the common human need for music with lyrics about everyday life and a soul-stirring sound. Bluegrass offers room for improvisation along with underlying instrumentation and song structures that are unchanging, making it “a dynamic soundscape,” as Menser notes.
I, for one, am a bluegrass convert.
To support the Oly Mountain Boys, you can visit their website for a list of upcoming shows, sign up for their newsletter, and read more about the White Horse album. You can also join them on Facebook and catch some of their music on YouTube.
From today's inbox:
In the first week of March 2014, Greenpeace and South Sound Rising Tide are organizing a Pacific Northwest road show featuring two of Asia’s foremost experts on the impacts and economics of fossil fuel development in Asia, as well as members of First Nations whose lands are immediately impacted by Transportation and export of US coal to Asia.
When: Wednesday, March 5th 2014
Where: The Evergreen State College Longhouse
Date/Time: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Sponsors: Evergreen Political Information center (EPIC), Professor Peter Bohmer, in cooperation with South Sound Rising Tide and Greenpeace.
The US anti-coal movement has succeeded in vastly decreasing the amount of coal consumed in the US. However, the rise of US coal exports proposals, and the continuation of devastating mining in places like Appalachia and the Powder River Basin, demonstrate the need for a united movement capable of stopping the coal industry globally. To build a stronger global anti-coal movement, anti-coal advocates around the world need to mutually understand what it means to fight coal in disparate places like China, India, Appalachia, the Powder River Basin, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere.
Locally, we know that coal exports can only be stopped once and for all if we build a stronger and more diverse multi-sector, multi-racial, and inclusive movement. By more broadly understanding the scope of destruction that the coal industry is responsible for, as well as the legal, political, and economic factors that support coal’s continued dominance in much of the world, we will strengthen our campaign tactics and messaging to ensure that our movement reaches across borders to wherever coal is mined, transported, and burned.
CHINA: Huang Wei, Greenpeace East Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner, Beijing China Office.
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By Margo Greenman
New York Times bestselling mystery novelist J.A. Jance will be visiting South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minneart Center for the Arts on Friday, Feb. 28, at 1 p.m., to talk about “Moving Target,” the newest tale in her popular Ali Reynolds series. But, before she heads out to sign copies of her new book, she sat down with ThurstonTalk and told us a little bit about her new novel and why she writes.
Murder, mystery, trans-Atlantic travel, computer hacking and more all find their way into the ninth installment of the gripping Ali Reynolds series. After accompanying Leland Brooks to England to meet with his estranged family, Reynolds finds herself investigating two mysteries. A computer-hacking teenager back home in the U.S. who has found himself hospitalized after a malicious juvenile detention center attack sparks the attention of Reynold’s fiancé, B. Simpson, while Leland Brooks seeks Reynolds help in uncovering the mystery behind the decades-old murder of his father. Joined by her fiancé, B. Simpson, and friend, Sister Anselm, Reynolds sets out to uncover the mysteries surrounding these unsolved murders.
During our interview, Jance said she’s looking forward to her fans reading “Moving Target” and seeing how the book shows the way in which small incidents occurring decades ago can still resonate with us decades into the future. “We’re all a product of everything that happens to us,” she says, explaining how her relationship with her own past subconsciously influenced her first published book, “Until Proven Guilty.”
“An instance from my childhood resonated with the first Beaumont book that I wrote. I put that character into the book without really being conscious of the origin of that character’s history,” Jance says.
While exploring the theme that the past is always present, Jance is reminded of an incident from her days in college as she celebrates her 50th published book. In 1964, Jance was attending the University of Arizona. As an English major in her junior year, Jance attempted to get into the creative writing program at the university, only to be turned away when the professor for the program would not admit her because she was a woman, saying women become teachers. “But here I am, celebrating my 50th published book – it’s a surmounting of incredible odds,” Jance says, looking back on that time in her life and how she overcame it.
With fifty books under her belt, Jance has no intention of losing steam – but, that’s because she’s doing what she loves. Jance always wanted to be a writer. From the minute she discovered Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” series as a second grader, she knew she wanted to be a writer. Now, a bestselling author, Jance says, “Writing is what I always wanted to do. Although I’m working, it doesn’t feel like work. Finding your passion is the whole secret to living a happy life.”
And, at the rate she’s going, it’s a good thing she likes her job. Jance says it takes about 100,000 words to write a book, and she writes two per year. Fifty published books later, that’s five million words that she has written, professionally. As for writer’s block, the seasoned author says the only way around it is to push through it and keep on writing.
With as much experience as Jance has, she knows what her readers like. Jance describes herself as more of a storyteller than a writer, and says she attributes the success of her books to the characters that she puts in them. “The people in my books are pretty much regular, ordinary people. They’re not superheroes, but they’re ordinary people who do extraordinary things. There are people in my books that my readers can root for,” Jance says. Taking this approach in creating her characters, Jance is able to invent characters that people can relate to and get excited about. “I tried to create characters that people can care about. My characters are people first and law enforcement officers afterward,” she says.
As Jance celebrates her 50th book, she is reminded of the people in her own life that have inspired characters in her books. Whether it be physical, personality traits or both, she has entwined characteristics of real people into some of her characters, but that these characters take on their own personas and are an overall “outgrowth” of her imagination.
Jance says that imagination and creativity are key in writing, but that your expressive side can, at times, be more “aware” then you are yourself. “The creative part of you is sometimes in touch with things that you’re not aware of. That’s the magic part of writing. And no, I do not understand it. I know it exists, but I don’t understand it,” she says cheerfully.
To find out more about Jance and her new book, join her during her “Moving Target” Tour on Friday, Feb. 28, at SPSCC’s Minneart Center at 1 p.m. The free event is sponsored by Timberland Regional Library in partnership with South Puget Sound Community College. To find out additional dates she will be in the area, visit her website for a full list of tour dates.
The Capitol Campus is flush with activity. The legislative season brings bustling activity to downtown Olympia. Pedestrians cruise the pathways – meandering between state office buildings or walking to get a cup of coffee or sandwich. Today, I’m not walking. I’m riding along.
Eugene taps his brake which brings the DASH shuttle to a gentle stop. A group of well-dressed men and women disembark. We maneuver through the campus. Eugene makes a right turn around a car whose back end is sticking out.
Bob Zych takes the seat across from me. Zych works in the General Administration Building. I tell him about my story focused on what it’s like to ride DASH and he agrees to be interviewed. We don’t have much time. Zych uses DASH a few times a week to shuttle between his office and Franklin Street. “If I walk it takes me seven minutes and when I get there I’m out of breath,” says Zych. He laughs and then adds, “I won’t walk in the rain.”
Zych’s experience is one example of how easy it is to get from Point A to Point B in downtown Olympia on the free Dash shuttle.
Two minutes later I say my goodbyes to Zych. A handful of people get on and we make our way downtown. The DASH runs between the Olympia Farmers Market and Capitol Campus. DASH is a free service of Intercity Transit. “People can hop on and hop off at any point along the route,” says Donna Feliciano, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Intercity Transit.
The buses are impossible to miss. They’re brightly colored with the word DASH sprawled across them in giant letters. The ride is quiet and fast. I didn’t have to wait long which is good because it’s winter. The service currently runs weekdays, every 12-15 minutes between 7am and 6pm.
Jeanne Carras owns Bonaventure Shoes on Fifth Avenue. As a small business owner she’s grateful for the flexibility DASH provides. “The DASH enables my customers to make the most of their lunch breaks by catching the DASH at the campus, get downtown to shop, grab some lunch, and get back to work within their lunch time,” says Carras. “Previously they spent their time getting to their cars, driving downtown, searching for parking, having little time to eat or shop, and then rushing back to work.”
Of course you don’t have to work in the area to benefit from theservice. It’s easy to picture a couple strolling through the Farmers Market and then catching DASH to get coffee at Batdorf & Bronson. Parents can ride with their kids and get off a few steps away from Wind Up Here.
Eugene pulls the bus over at the stop across from Sylvester Park. I thank him and make the short walk to my car. I parked in a spot with leftover minutes on the meter – there’s plenty remaining. Eugene pulls away and heads back toward the busyness that is Capitol Campus.
By Jennifer Crain
Vaulted ceilings and a cheerful fire in the wood cook stove greet me in the tasting room at Domina Dairy and Creamery. John and Sheila Ahmann say the space isn’t done yet, but it’s plenty finished enough to enjoy a chunk of their homemade bread, as far as I’m concerned. Ham from one of their pigs is sizzling on the stovetop. Sheila pops open a bottle of the pink wine she made a couple of years ago. She shows me a set of World War II photos – her father served in the Philippines – that hang on one of the wood-paneled walls, behind the counter. John leans over a twelve-pound round of cheese, working a double-handled cheese knife through its middle.
Outside, a face appears in the small window to the right of the stove. When I ask which cow it is, Sheila smiles.
“It’s Jules,” she says. “She knows we’re in here.”
Though the Ahmanns built the creamery on their farm in Chehalis only a year ago, John has been making cheese for a more than a decade. He grew up on his family’s dairy farm, a 75-cow operation just eight miles from here. For seven years, John leased the dairy on the property from his retired parents, making cheese on the premises until they sold the farm in 2010.
By that time, John and Sheila were living on a portion of the farm where Sheila and her sister grew up. When John decided to continue making cheese on site, they scaled down and built a micro-dairy so they could stay closer to the chores on the rest of the property. Sheila has boarded dogs there since 1996. They stopped keeping pigs but they still have a pony in the barn. They also keep two beef cattle that are of the same bloodline as her father’s herd.
Sheila led me out to a covered area between the kennel and the creamery, where the cows are milked. Walking back, I looked out on the open yard where the cows were milling about, in grass studded with the kind of mud patches you expect to see in the middle of winter.
I swashed my boots around in a tub of bleach water before entering the creamery’s production room. It’s small and efficient, with only two tanks to store and chill the raw milk. Commercial sinks line a wall on the opposite side of the room near the pasteurization tank and a simple cheese press from the Netherlands, the region from which John sourced all of his equipment.
“I couldn’t find any in the United States that was only fifty gallons,” he says.
The prevalence of large-capacity equipment is indicative of the state of farming in the United States: everything about commercial farming is big. John tells me that these days, a dairy farm with 1,000 cows is a little on the small side. That means the system isn’t set up for a tiny operation like Ahmann’s. There’s a lot of paperwork, he tells me, and a lot of regulations that a similarly sized goat or sheep farm wouldn’t be required to abide by. Still, he keeps making cheese.
Though John no longer sells milk, he makes both pasteurized and raw cheeses, processing it himself by hand. Most of his cheese is the raw version. John says it’s more popular because it tastes better.
I can see why when I try a bite in the tasting room. Cut open, the cheese is a glowing yellow and smells like butter. Smooth and well-rounded, it has enough tang to make it interesting without sacrificing approachability.
John’s career as a large-animal veterinarian means he’s always on call, traveling to dairy farms around the region to care for the cows. But when he has a free morning, he takes the milk from Bella, Jules, and Princess (Big Rose is retired) and turns it into four rounds of his classic-style farmstead cheese. Sometimes, he’ll get up as early as 2:00 a.m. to start the process.
If at first glance the creamery appears compact and modern, in the next it’s clear that the facility is spotless. John’s background as a microbiologist plays a significant role in the functioning of the creamery. Not many people, for example, are allowed inside the ripening room, a temperature-controlled space with rows of wooden racks holding dozens of aging cheese rounds. Decreasing the opportunity for contamination is a big part of his practice.
As a veterinarian to many of the milk-producing cows in the region, John has a unique perspective on feed, the living conditions of dairy cows, and how each affects milk and all its incarnations. Like most food artisans, John won’t reveal everything about his process, though he says it all starts with what the cows eat.
“You have to feed them right. And you can’t feed them byproducts and silo feeds, that’s kind of the golden rule,” John tells me. “They just get grass and dried hay and alfalfa. The rest is kind of my secret.”
Photo credit: Jennifer Crain
Domina Dairy and Creamery
John’s cheeses are available at select locations in the Chehalis area. They are also for sale by the round by contacting the farm.