Friday, May 13, 2011

Cheese and more...

Close your eyes and are breathing cool crisp air of the hills and vales, so crisp that it goes *crunch* when you attempt to dig your teeth into it,
listen to the tiny swallows flying past, the magpies and bulbuls outdoing each other, the ladybird scratching its back, the grasshopper hopping on the lush green soft blades of grass covered with dew, cows mooing while they graze lazily on the hills, the cackle of the geese and the quack of the ducks, bees buzzing while at work on the zillion blossoms, a distant rooster echoing a cock a doodle doo. Now that you are with me, slowly open your eyes. See what I see ?

Out at a distant farm are a few quaint cottages belonging to a warm hearted farmer (erstwhile Bollywood fraternity, director, producer) Mansoor Khan who runs AcresWild ( As luck would have it we got in touch with him early on when we were still planning our holiday. The farm has 6 cottages - the first where his family resides, the second the dining and entertainment space, the third the Cheese cottage where yummy cheese is made conscientiously by his family and support staff, the other 3 cottages are let out to *starved of nature, eager* urbanites like us. The farm houses a pond full of fish, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, cows and some. A tiny stream of water cuts across most part of Acreswild.

Ours was the Cheddar cottage with the most breathtaking view. Lined by tea plantations and at the edge of a valley.We could not have asked for more.
Our brush with the wild was when we came across a group of bisons involved in a brawl and late in the nights watching wild hares hopping across the beaten path. Every cottage, pond is at a different level of the hills and so it is a lovely nature walk from one avenue to the next. We tried to have at least one meal at the dinning hall which was uphill and that meant we get to work up an appetite as make our way up there.

We did not realise how harsh the sun was until I had a sun burnt nose ,P had his hands all tanned, or should I say burnt.?! The temperatures were clearly only 25 - 15 deg; so the harshness of the UV was evidenced much later. Nonetheless, that still did not take away the charm of the place

The cottage where the family resides has a herb & vegetable garden where our little one sowed beet and beans. Some of the other vegetables that we saw growing - peas, cauliflower, cabbage, radish, knoll coll, amaranth, coriander, spring onions and some herbs - chives, rosemary, fennel, thyme. Farming can be fun! :), when the fruits of the effort are visible.

Sowing beet

Peas in a pod
Fennel for 'indian summer'

Jalapenos, for barbecuing with cheese
the pink radish

Knoll coll - tastes great if stir fried the chinese way

The little one also participated in the milking of cows and her description of it ...
"I milked the cow. It was very sticky (that is because they oil the udder). And it tried to move its rear legs and tail (as they tie it to prevent any injury to the person milking)"

Feeding the ducks and geese
Looking yonder

As there is abundance of milk from the well bred and well fed jersey and holstein cows; cheese making is a choice they have made to put it to good use. The family runs an organic cheese making course on the farms as well. Neither of us is a cheese connoisseur, but we liked what we saw and tasted. There was soft and hard cheese. We preferred the soft variant as it spreads well over the bake. Our personal favourite was the Herb cheese and Indian summer.

Some pics of cheese making - soft cheese follows the shrikhand technique

We spent some lazy hours at the pond feeding the birds and watching the cows graze.

Little did we know that we will be witness to a bison brawl. Whoa! it was scary.
'Spot the bison' - we couldn't go any closer, or we would be part of the brawl

As I always say, with Pari there is never a dull moment. So our few days there were choc-a-bloc. We spent lazy hours at the farm, fed the fowls, milked the cows, spotted some wild life, looked out for some birds, caught up on some reading...
visited the stables at Wellingdon,

In the wee hours of morn
They mix barley in their waters
He was a runner, although he was epileptic

some regular site seeing at Ooty/ Coonoor which included visiting SIMS park and shopping for some home-made chocolates @ Ooty.

The outlet is close to a Dominos and is called Jai's home-made chocolates. Loved the soft centre fills - strawberry, coffee, orange dipped in molten chocolate. Not just met but exceeded expectations. Visited needle craft embroidery at Erin villa- an outfit that sells beautifully hand embroidered, but expensive ware.

Erin villa

We accompanied Pari to his home which he loved and lived in 2 decades ago. He shared with us some of his treasured moments ; which were enjoyable.

The hosts and guests at the farm were warm and nice. It was mostly during meal times that we got to catch up with them. One of them also mentioned that the cook had spotted a leopard in the wee hours of the morning, but we had no such luck :(...tut tut

On our way back, we took the hill train that winds through the hills of Coonoor and reaches Metupalayam,

Thomas - or so T called it

visited the Perrur temple and the Dhyan linga - Isha centre on the outskirts of Coimbatore.

Dhyan -linga we spent 20 mins in a semispherical structure (much like the Auroville meditation centre). The high point was the instruments that were played in those 20 mins while all assembled and kept their mouths mum a la meditation. The first was a wind instrument made out of bamboo - atleast 4 feet in length and the other too was bamboo based and had some seeds or stones inside which when rolled made some amazing sounds....almost like water gurgling in a stream. Magical sounds!
PS : special thanks to Pari for the lovely pics he has contributed to this post.

The trip left us happy to have been a part of sylvan surroundings and met some interesting people. There is nothing like some fun times spent with loved ones in completely serene surroundings........

I leave you with a few words from Wordsworth...

HEARD a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
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