Goats and such in Woodward, Iowa

After being on the road the past two weekends, I contemplated doing NOTHING this weekend except sleep late, drink coffee in my backyard, and attend the wedding of a friend’s daughter. But today was such an incredible fall day, and I keep thinking that one of these days this beautiful fall weather is going to end, so I decided to take advantage of it.

I started out this morning at Ledges State Park, where I ate a muffin and drank some coffee that I bought at Café Milo in west Ames. Then I hiked the upper part of the canyon despite the warnings that there were bow-and-arrow deer hunters about. Yuck! Fortunately, I did not see any hunters.

Ledges State Park is one of my favorite places, and it’s only about 15 minutes from my house, so I go there a lot.

After a quick hike, I decided to go to Northern Prairie Chevre, which is south of Ledges near Woodward, Iowa. I’ve been there before, because we did a VISIONS story on the three women who run the goat cheese business – Wendy Mickle, Connie Lawrance, and Kathy Larson. Since that story ran in 2004, they’ve added a gift shop and have frequent open houses, but I’ve never gone to one because I can always find their products at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market and at Wheatsfield grocery here in Ames.

I decided it was worth the drive this weekend because – sadness! – the women are calling it quits at the end of the year. They’re selling the business. I know there are other local goat cheese producers but I am going to miss this one, because it’s my favorite.

There were tons of people at the open house. I bought some goat cheese and toured the barn. I love the goats – one of them tried to eat my purse – and also the huge guard dog, Honeybump, a Great Pyrenees.

When I was buying my little tubs of spreadable cheese, Kathy asked if I was going to the other open houses in the area: Flowers by Donna Jean, Prairieland Herbs, and Picket Fence Creamery. Well sure, why not? My car was already filthy from the gravel road.

I followed the directions into downtown Woodward to the first stop, Flowers by Donna Jean. I’ve never been to this shop before; in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in downtown Woodward before. I was really impressed; the shop is a mix of flowers, gifts, antiques, and other home decor, all extremely well-priced. Today they even had samples of Olde Main Oktoberfest, my current favorite local beer. I bought a couple of pieces of pottery for a Christmas gift.

I got lost trying to find Prairieland Herbs (I missed the road after the golf course because the sign was covered by a tree). It’s on a gravel road, too, so by this time my car was really, really dirty. People were parked up and down the road, but honestly, I didn’t see much there that I was interested in buying. It did smell good, though.

From there, I toggled between S Ave. and Hwy. 210 a couple of times and ended up at Picket Fence Creamery. This is one place I’ve visited before (the next sample Sunday is Nov. 17, and there are two sample days in December). They have the most amazing ice cream there. You can find it at Hy-Vee and Wheatsfield, but I think it tastes fresher when you buy it at the farm. They also have farm eggs, milk, cream, butter, pie, Iowa wine, pumpkins, local honey, and a bunch of other stuff. It was so crowded I could hardly see everything that was in the store. I ate a sample of a pumpkin muffin and drank a little bit of apple cider and then bought a couple of cartons of ice cream. On the way out, I stopped by an apple vendor and bought a half peck of yellow apples.

I could do nothing fun on the way home because it was a race against time before the ice cream started to melt.

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