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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Say cheese please!

We are experiencing a cool warm up to spring in Vancouver Island.

We had thought that by now we would be seeing double digit temperatures most days, but instead of double digits, we seem to be stuck at 7C-9C, with evening temperatures of 1C-2C.

All of last evening we got walloped with rain. The rain came down in buckets and we had high wind gusts too!

When we woke up this morning we thought we would call Pheasant Glen Golf Resort and cancel our tee time as we knew that after all of the rain we had overnight, the course would be ‘cart path only’. When we called we were informed that the course will be cart path only until mid-April, so we will not be playing Pheasant Glen this time around, as there is no way we want to be renting a cart at $44, to play cart path only. We have a morning tee time tomorrow at Qualicum Beach, but again the weather forecast does not look good, with a 90% chance of showers and the possibility of thunderstorms and hail in the afternoon!

We decided to take another drive up to the Meadowood subdivision outside of Qualicum Beach as we had seen a new listing which looked really interesting. As we were driving up to see the listing, we drove every side street, with the purpose of looking for a view of the mountains and the sea. We came to the end of a dead end road and found a nice view of the mountains and the sea on a piece of land that recently had a well drilled on the property.

A hazy kind of day on Vancouver Island, but what a great view!

After visiting the Meadowood area we decided to head down to Parksville to visit the ‘Little Qualicum Cheeseworks’. We had seen the sign for the ‘Cheeseworks’ many times off the Coastal Hwy 19a, but had never had the chance to visit the operation. We were not sure what to expect, and to our surprise, the ‘Cheeseworks’ turned out to be a full blown farm with live animals and cheese being made on site.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks operates on Morningstar Farm. The story of the Cheeseworks is an interesting one. In the late 1990’s Clarke and Nancy Gourlay returned from years of living overseas in Switzerland, to French Creek (Between Qualicum Beach and Parksville). The location was idea to raise their family and to explore their dream of making Swiss-style artisan cheese on their own farm. In 2001 they received their final approvals and founded ‘Little Qualicum Cheesworks’ on a leased dairy farm, milking a handful of cows and making cheese in a renovated school portable. In 2004 the Gourlays were able to purchase their own 90-acre farm in the same area, now known as Morningstar Farm. Their vision was to welcome the general public onto their farm for what they called ‘excellent tastes, products and experiences’. The farm is open 7 days a week and visitors can meet the herd of 50 mixed-breed dairy cows, watch the live-stream of their robotic milker (DeLeval VMS) in action, interact with the calves and a variety of petting farm animals like chickens, sheep, goats pot bellied pigs, horses and ponies. The cheese plant has an outside deck for watching the cheese making in action. During Covid, they have had to shut down the tasting station for the cheeses unfortunately.

The old original farmhouse on Morningstar Farm.

Look who I found working on the farm!

Maternity ward for cows. This cow will soon give birth.

Cows chomping away at hay.

The robot pushes the hay closer to the cows for them to be able to reach the hay to feed on it. I will post a video of the robot on Facebook.

The cow spa! When the cow leans against the yellow brush, the brush spins and gives the cow a good back scratch! The brush also helps to keep the cow clean.

Milk filling station.

The Gourlays were eager to keep growing and changing and recently installed Canada’s first milk-on-tap dispenser where visitors can bring a reusable jug or purchase a glass bottle from the store, and fill up on fresh whole, non-homogenized milk right from the farm. The milk is still pasteurized just as all other milk in Canada, but they’ve found a growing number of people who want the direct farm-to-table experience of seeing the cows in person and picking up some fresh milk at the same location. We saw some folks sanitizing their hands and then filling their own bottles with fresh milk. The fat content in the milk is 4.25% this week. The cream in the milk will rise to the top of the milk.

While we were at the farm we decided we had to visit the cheese shop.

Farm store.

Inside the Farm store. Richard is checking out the cheeses!

We picked up a few interesting cheeses today. We’ve already tried the cheese curds and they are delicious!

Tipsy Jill is a semi-soft cheese with red wine in it. Mt. Moriarty is a stronger cheddar. Bleu Claire is their strongest cheese and is a blue cheese and of course cheese curds are awesome on poutine!

We enjoyed visiting Morningstar Farm today and seeing the very automated farming operation employed on this farm. We love trying out new cheeses and its always nice to support a local business too!

And on that note of supporting local businesses, we had heard from our friends St. Stephen and Karen that a local clothing company in Parksville did a lot of very cool Vancouver Island themed t=shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts, so while we were in Parksville, we decided to make a visit to ‘Westcoastees’.

The Westcoastees store in Parksville

Very interesting graphics on their t-shirts.

Checking out the baby stuff for our grandson, Owen.

Westcoastees was started by 2 graphic designers who live in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and produce all of their product in the Valley too. The company was started in 2015 and has only 12 employees. Their graphic designs are very cool and we ended up with a few things today from this neat store in Parksville.

How appropriate for our winter here on the Island “Happy Glamper, Vancouver Island”.

Richard liked this waffle weave with the map of Vancouver Island and a Coastal Douglas Fir on the chest.

Richard also liked this long sleeved shirt with the fish bones on the sleeve and fishing lure shaped like Vancouver Island on the chest.

I liked this sweatshirt of Sasquatch looking for his tent in the forest.

We bought them all in size XL since our washer is also a dryer in Newman and things seem to shrink in it. We also decided that they are unisex so what’s mine is Ricahrds’ and vice versa. We even joined their loyalty club. Check them out at:

After visiting Parksville, we headed back to Qualicum Beach for a walk along the beach at low tide. We hadn’t gotten out of the car before to walk the actual beach in Qualicum Beach so today was our day! We had walked the boardwalk before in Q. Beach, but there is something about walking on a sandy beach at low tide that is neat!

Sandcastle on Qualicum Beach. With a temperature of 9C today I could see how it would be fun to build sand castles on the beach.

I love the tide pools on the beach at Qualicum Beach. The light bouncing off the tide pools, changes the colours of the pools.

The seashore at Qualicum Beach.

Using the long lens for the beach shots.

I think its time for a haircut Richard!

Qualicum Beach looking back towards the town. Nothing but sandy beaches everywhere! I can see why this beach is so popular with tourists in the summertime!

We enjoyed our walk on the beach in Qualicum Beach, even though the bald eagle I had been tracking before we stopped for our walk, never did make an appearance on the beach.

As we were driving home to Fanny Bay I could smell someone had a fire going and the smoke smelled so good. I said to Richard “We should make a fire in our fire pit when we get home as we have so much wood to burn now thanks to our neighbour Tim.” Just as we were heading down the Highway into Fanny Bay, didn’t it start to rain and the wind had come up too. Not an ideal night for having a fire with a glass of wine.

So instead of sitting around the fire with a glass of wine, we are cozy in Newman with our red wine this evening from Naramata, B.C. A lovely red from the Okanagan.

A delicious red wine. A blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier priced at $40 for the bottle. This award winning winery won best red wine in Canada at the 2019 All Canadian Wine Awards and has won many, many awards for their wines. Daydreamer offers free shipping with all online purchases (6 bottle minimum) direct to your door. This family run winery is taking pre-orders on some of their new releases. I would buy a case of this is that good! We were recommended this red wine by a private liquor store in Penticton which we had visited when we were having some repairs done on Newman last November. What a treat to pull this wine out this evening for dinner with our steaks, sweet potato, grilled mushrooms and first of the crop spring asparagus!

We may have to finish our meal with a little cheese to go with this wine or perhaps some of the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks blue cheese on top of the triple A grilled strip loins we are doing on the Napoleon scissor BBQ! It is so nice to shop and support local on the Island and while we didn’t get to the Farmer’s Market today in Qualicum Beach, we are definitely enjoying the ‘fruits’ of B.C. this evening for dinner!

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