Happy Birthday, Milk Pail!
Wednesday February 11th 2015, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Spinning

Milk Pail turned 41 today and Steve threw a cheese tasting party in celebration and that it wouldn’t be the last. We got the invite.

Seeing the Wensleydale with cranberries, I said, “I’m going to tell you something I bet you don’t know.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

I told him that Wensleydales ate too much for how much wool they produced and so the commercial flocks pretty much had vanished except for one flock (actually might have been two, come to think of it) hanging on preserving the breed. And then the handspinning market found out that there was this rare really cool lustrous wool to play with and that was the start of its comeback.


Milk Pail is the little shop that spent years and finally successfully fought off a developer who’d wanted Steve’s land. The problem being that Steve had had an agreement to share parking with the other businesses surrounding his but one by one they had all sold out to said developer, who proposed building eight to ten stories in a solid block around Steve’s till he starved and sorry about that, pal. The mayor even told the guy’s rep to shorten those in the plans so that they could make better use of Steve’s land when they got it. Charming.

They did a test run by illegally cutting off another small shop from its customers, and its owners caved and sold.

Not Steve.


City council meeting protests. Standing-room-only turnouts, again and again. Appeals to reason. Because Steve had owned his place so long (the distortions of long-ago Proposition 13 being the unspoken elephant in the room) he could keep his prices very low; a new owner would have to pay current-market-value-rate property taxes in one of the most expensive parts of the country. Local zucchinis at fifteen cents? Ears of corn at twenty? Triple-creme brie? Manufacturing cream for your chocolate torte, which no one else sold? You want local, Steve even owns his own cows now, having saved someone’s family farm.

You had the most and the least well off in Silicon Valley calling the eclectic little place their favorite shop and coming together in their day-to-day, being human together no matter their circumstances. And that is no small achievement.

Steve knew our car situation and that there had been times when Richard had taken time off work so I could go to those city council meetings, and he made a point of telling Richard how grateful he was for that and that I’d not only gone, I had told him when I wouldn’t be able to make one.

It told him the fate of what he’d poured his whole life into mattered not just to him. That had meant far more to him than I had ever had any idea of.

And, he continued, “Have you seen the video? You’ve got to see the video!”

I cringed but I quoted: “If. You. Shaft. Steve!” and we laughed together at that moment when I’d stood at that podium. “Yeah, I kind of lost it.”

“You should show it to your kids! Save it for your grandkids!”

“Four, two” (almost), “and one month.”

“Yeah, okay, a little young yet,” he agreed. “But still. Who would have guessed it. I mean, with your religious background, and you’re a…knitter! I mean-! He grinned, “You really took them on!”

“Yeah, she can be a real rabble rouser,” said Richard, and we both kind of explained our Washington DC/political family backgrounds: you speak up when you see an injustice. You just do. (But then, one does anyway, I would hope.)

And I remembered the city council meeting where I had cast on at the start and cast off at the hours-later finish, wound the ends in with my knitting needles and presented Steve with a hand knit hat to tell him the community was behind him. It was later that I would be telling that city council how good they had it to have a business like Steve’s creating some of the better moments in Silicon Valley and with that memorable phrase announced that my family and I would take it as, then they didn’t want our business. Any of their businesses. Anywhere in Mountain View, if those politicians pocketed that developer’s money and looked the other way. “We have our own,” and I stormed off before their timer even beeped.

Totally earned Tiger Mom cred in his eyes that night. He was unfailingly soft-spoken and kind but someone needed to stand up for him and give it to’em like they needed it given to’em. Darn straight.

I handed out a few Peruvian hand knit finger puppets to two sets of parents for their toddlers tonight.

We had a great time, and let me tell you, that Wensleydale with the cranberries? I have a new favorite cheese. Clearly it wasn’t just the handspinners. I can’t wait to go stock up at the shop.

4 Comments so far
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A lovely story. Too many of us do not stand up for something–then it is too easy to fall for anything.

AFSP is gearing up for the Boise walk–this is a community walk, not the overnight walk.

Comment by Sherry in Idaho 02.12.15 @ 9:11 am

A few years ago, our son’s Christmas gift to our extended family was a cheese tasting party. He did extensive research on line, and then, with the assistance of the Whole Foods cheese specialist, selected about a dozen cheeses to try. The Wensleydale with cranberries (along with the lemon Stilton) was also my favorite. And the Wensleydale wool is, thus far, my favorite to spin. I guess that would be the breed to own, if I ever have sheep. 🙂

Comment by Nancy G 02.12.15 @ 1:26 pm

I couldn’t seem to find the link to the video . . . .

Comment by LauraN 02.12.15 @ 3:40 pm

You go girl! That cheese sounds delicious. When we lived in CT and my husband commuted to NYC he used to stop at a store that sold every cheese imaginable! I miss that place.

Comment by Jody 02.12.15 @ 4:04 pm

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