Fennimore, WI June 26, Thursday
Our little jaunt to Wisconsin continues today. First off, we found breakfast nirvana; Timothy’s Restaurant in Fennimore. Most importantly, milk was $2.50 for a bottomless glass. The milk was cold, the glass size was at least 16 oz, if not 20 oz, and refills were free. Medium sized OJ was a large elsewhere. You could choose to have your bacon limp, medium or crispy. We were probably the only non-residents as everyone else was chatting with each other. It was the anniversary of the two owners so everyone was offered a free chocolate chip/M and M cookie. The rest of the food was good too.
After breakfast, we headed out to Plain, WI, the home of Cedar Grove Cheese. They have been in business for 125 years. We had a tour and will give you an abbreviated lesson. 130,000 pounds of milk from 33 farms are processed daily into 13,000 pounds of cheese. A vat of milk has bacteria added to it to clot the milk. The milk coagulates to the consistency of pudding and wire knives are pulled through the vat to cut it into tiny cubes. Bingo, you have cheese curds.
The curds are heated and whey (the watery liquid) is drained off, leaving the curds. After this step, they are stacked and rotated, losing more whey and acid. Salt is added. The curds are placed in liners, pressure applied and now you have 42 pound blocks of cheese which are put in wooden blocks and left to cure for months or years. Mild cheddar is aged for a few months, medium for three to six months, and sharp for six months to a year. Cheese is naturally white, but colored by adding the juice of the annato plant from South America.
The whey is spun in a separator machine and the spun off cream goes to a creamery to make butter. The remaining whey is trucked to a plant where the whey is powdered and used to make baked goods, candy, baby food, etc. The remaining water is used to irrigate alfalfa for the cows.
Cedar Grove would like you to know that their cheese is organic and rBGH and GMO free. Their wash water is cleaned with hydrophilic plants and natural microbes and returned to the nearby Honey creek crystal clear. We did purchase some string cheese and some muenster, not a lot due to a small cooler and very little ice.
After the tour, House on the Rock was our next stop and main destination for the day. Chris, Ed, Sarah and Deborah visited here before, decades ago. At least we think we took the girls here. We have a book from House on the Rock dated 1983 and doubt we would have come here without them.
How can one describe House on the Rock if you do not know about it. Well, it is complex, large, kitschy, a place stuffed with museum like items without the descriptive verbiage usually found next to the item, and an entertainment stop. It consists of the House as well as several large warehouse like structures internally configured into a complex of maze-like, dimly lit display areas, contrasting from narrow ceiling to four-story displays. One man, Alex Jordan, was responsible for its design and construction. He was born in Madison and worked in his father’s construction business. This house was his life long project.
The house was built first and consists of several rooms. The house is built on and around Deershelter Rock. Materials had to be hauled up by a hand powered pulley 156 feet from the forest floor. The ceilings are low,maybe 5’10”. Alex was 6’4″. Why the low ceilings? Don’t know. The house was built along the rock so the floors slope and it offers great views of the valley below. Bridges had to be built to connect various areas.
Rooms rarely offer a clear sight line to the next room although brief, tantalizing glimpses are offered. The house is dimly lit, frequently with colored lamps, usually Tiffany reproductions. One room is cantilevered out over the valley, similar to the Guthrie Theater’s Bridge to Nowhere, although Jordan designed this over 15 years ago.
The additional buildings have numerous display collections. I am sure I am not doing it justice since many small items pop up in the settings. There are huge collections of dolls, guns,calliopes, organs, doll houses, circus wagons, Asian art, sculpture interspersed with other artifacts. You walk one way through exhibits, up and down multiple levels so you view displays from different angles. It took us about 3.5 hours to go through the entire House on the Rock; yet we could have spent hours more if we were to thoroughly examine the items.
I do have to admit it was not quite as amazing as the first time we visited. We have been to many more museums and attractions around the country since then but we are still glad we came back. I think the carousel and calliopes/music box displays were the best. Everything is over the top. The “largest” calliope, the “largest” chandelier, the “largest” organ, etc.
On our way home we stopped in Dodgeville, home to Lands End. The one retail store they operate had summer clearance items but nothing that grabbed our fancy. We stopped at a local popcorn store and picked up some of their popcorn to compare with Candyland’s.
Tonight it is dinner again at The Silent Woman restaurant. We have already been greeted familiarly by a repeat local customer who was here last night. We have been seated outside the restaurant on the main drag working on the blog and he recognized us from last night when we were doing the same thing.
Below are a photograph of descriptive data of the carousel and a video of the carousel in operation.
Ed and Chris June 26 7:45 pm