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Serving Orcas, Lopez and San Juan County

WEDNESDAY, July 23, 2014  VOL. 47, NO. 30  75¢ 

MUSIC | Doe Bay Fest tickets available for locals [2] LOCAL EVENTS | Emmanuel’s Market Day is Saturday [3] OPINION | When does memory loss mean trouble? [7] VIKINGS | Lady Vikings win basketball tournament [8] ARTS | Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival coming up [9]

A story of nuns and cheese Shaw monastery brings farmstead cheeses to Orcas by MEREDITH M. GRIFFITH Sounder contributor

To hear Tari Gunstone tell it, everything began with “The Cheese Nun” of Connecticut, Sister Noella Marcellino. “She’s a microbiologist, so she really knows her stuff,” says Gunstone, this summer’s “cheese apprentice” at Shaw Island’s Our Lady of the Rock Benedictine monastery. Marcellino shared her expertise with the Shaw monastery’s Mother Prioress (Mother Thérese), and now shoppers at the Orcas Farmers’ Market can enjoy artisan farmstead cheeses ripened from the raw milk of the monastery’s two Jersey cows. This is the first time the monastery’s cheeses have been sold anywhere outside of Shaw. Gunstone, a native of Portland, Ore., is a professional photographer who chose an internship at Our Lady of the Rock as the path to a perfect summer. “I’ve always considered myself a spiritual seeker,” she said. “There’s something about monasticism

that I’m drawn to; the self-denial of consumerism and the pettiness of the outside world is intriguing to me. I’m trying to make my life more contemplative and inwardfocused.” Gunstone hopes to someday create a book photo-documenting the monastic life in a wide variety of monasteries across the country. And since her family used to summer in the San Juans on her parents’ boat, she knew the islands were a beautiful place to begin. Based on Gunstone’s interests, the seven “mothers” of the monastery assigned her to cheesemaking and caring for the monastery’s Cotswold sheep during lambing season. Her fellow intern, Holly Kemp, has been dubbed “The Fiber Queen” due to her interest in working with wool. The mothers also raise Highland cattle, alpacas, llamas, chickens and turkeys. Gunstone said she’s really enjoyed the monastery’s approach to her internship. “It’s been really amazing to experience the mothers learning

Teri Gunstone photos

Above: Some of the monastery’s cheese. At right: Mother Prioress milks a Jersey cow. to trust me and give me responsibility with the farm work,” she said. “They really allow for a lot of autonomy with the work.” She said the lack of micro-management has allowed her to grow and learn through trial and error. Cheese was once traditionally aged in caves, but the monastery’s cave is too wet for cheese-making. So the mothers use a full-sized wine cooler to maintain a steady 55 degrees. The simple farmstead cheese wheels are made using only “a bit of salt” and vegetable rennet, no mold or added cultures. “The cheese just takes on the

natural flavors of the milk that day and the molds that ripen on the outside,” said Gunstone. “Each one is different.” It takes four gallons of milk

County council ponders levy renewal SOUNDER STAFF REPORT

The San Juan County Council was slated on July 14 to discuss whether to place a property tax measure on the November election ballot. The current county property tax level was established in 2009 during an economic downturn. The county reduced staff, mandated furlough days and cut operating hours to offset shrinking revenues and rising costs at that time. The ‘09 ballot measure guaranteed funding for programs such as public health, parks, senior services, and 4-H programs and passed by a wide margin. “Thanks largely to the 2009 lid-lift, the county’s budget is not in crisis now,” San Juan County Manager Mike Thomas said in a press release. “But increases in the cost of everything from fuel to building maintenance

to employee health insurance have kept our budget tight.” The ‘09 measure is slated to expire in 2016 if not renewed by the voters before then. If the ‘09 levy were to lapse, county property tax revenue would drop by more than $1 million dollars. “A loss of that magnitude would force us to make severe budget cuts,” Auditor Milene Henley said. “And non-mandated programs, including the ones saved by the voters in 2009, would inevitably be hit hardest.” To maintain the current level of revenue in future years, the property tax levy would be set approximately 19 cents per thousand dollars of value above what the rate would be without the levy lid-lift. “We’ve worked hard to find efficiencies and keep a tight leash on the cost of providing

essential services,” Council Chairman Rick Hughes said. “But we couldn’t take a milliondollar drop in property tax revenue without serious reductions in the type and quality of services we provide.” According to Washington State Department of Revenue, San Juan County has the lowest average property tax levy in the state. In 2013, the average tax rate on property in San Juan County was $6.76 per $1,000 in assessed value, 28 percent below, at $1.94, the average rate of the next lowest county, and 84 percent below, at $5.72, the average property tax rate statewide. If the council agrees to proceed with the proposal, a draft of the ballot measure will be available online at the county website http:// before the July 31 public hearing.

to create three pounds of aged cheese, and though the cheese is made weekly, it must age 60 days before sale. The cheeses are regu-


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Islands' Sounder, July 23, 2014  

July 23, 2014 edition of the Islands' Sounder

Islands' Sounder, July 23, 2014  

July 23, 2014 edition of the Islands' Sounder