The Water Buffalo
The Water Buffalo has everything you need to effortlessly make beer or wine, grow your own organic veggies, make homemade cheese, pickle stuff, or grow a year's worth of mushrooms for a fraction of the grocery store price.
All the supplies can be found in the shop, 106 South Rodney Parham. If you want a bit more encouragement, The Water Buffalo offers free classes in all of those activities.
"I do like what I do. It's a lot of fun," Nolen Buffalo said. "This is a science shop. If you've got just a little bit of geek or a little bit of nerd, you'll find something you want to do."
The Water Buffalo is a family business owned by Mr. Buffalo, his wife, Sarah, and his parents, Doug and Sue Buffalo.
It is the result of "a string of hobbies gone amok," Nolen said.
"I recognized there was an extremely limited local supply of things I needed to do my hobbies." So he made a business plan, and with the help of his family and a local bank, he opened the business last November. "Bank of the Ozarks made it all happen, so I have nothing but good things to say about those guys."
One of Nolen's earliest hobbies began 17 years ago when he made his first batch of beer.
His shop carries a wide variety of beer and wine making supplies.
"We have probably the best selection of grains in 300 miles in any direction. We have lots of malted barley. We have a variety of hops in stock, yeasts."
Slang for some of his beer making kits is "Duncan Hines," because "they are about as easy as making a cake," he said.
There are lots of different beer-making kits he has put together at the shop, crushing the grains and using proven recipes. Kits are a good place to begin learning about making beer and wine.
"It takes the nervous energy out of people getting started."
Nolen considers wine making actually easier than beer making, because there is no cooking involved, but you have to have a bit of patience and wait for the wine to age a bit.
"With wine making, you are not cooking. It's like a cold soup. You assemble the wine, and then you have to wait for it.
"We have 22 different (pre-packaged) beer recipes and an infinite number of variables. We have maybe 50 different wine kits in stock ready to go."
The ingredient kits for beer range from $30 to $55, and for wine, $30 to $230. "The more expensive kits typically have more ingredients or ingredients of a significantly higher caliber," he said.
The shop offers a wide variety of utensils, pots, sanitizers and other items needed in beer and wine making.
It carries some pickling supplies, including "Pickl-it" jars, which are kind of like small "flip-top Mason jars with holes to allow CO2 to escape during the fermentation process."
The Water Buffalo stocks four types of kits for mak-ing cheese that range from $20 to $30.
Homemade cheese "is cheaper and it's better," Nolen said. "It's just so fresh, and it's so easy."
Some kinds of cheese can be made in as little as 45 minutes, he said, adding that cooks who use such quick batch cheeses, such as ricotta, should learn how to make them at home. "Mozzarella is the same way. It's easy and so good."
The shop sells molds, presses, cheese cultures and rennet.
More and more folks are wanting to grow their own veggies at home.
"It gets addictive, being able to provide for yourself is a pretty good feeling.
"Gardening is the fastest growing section of the store, for sure. We can talk about growing organically. We have the nutrients and the soil."
Nolen said hydroponic gardening, growing in water without soil, is becoming more popular.
"The fastest growing technique in the world is aquaponics. Aquaponics is growing fish, feeding them food and allowing their waste to feed the plants."
It's a symbiotic arrangement that is very natural. After the plants are nourished by the water from the fish, the plants clean the water, which is pumped back to the fish. When the fish are big enough, out comes the frying pan.
Nolen sells an aquaponics system that consists of a 55 gallon food grade blue drum and a 2 x 4 foot tray in which the plants are grown. It includes a pump, a timer and a little gravity-assisted draining. It may be used indoors or out.
If you grow indoors, the shop sells a variety of lights that vary in intensity, depending upon the crop.
One thing you can grow indoors without additional lighting is mushrooms.
"They are real simple, and you can grow them on the kitchen counter."
For types of mushrooms - elm oyster, blue oyster, shitake and lion's mane - in nutrients or on wood range from $22 to $25.
"It's going to grow until it runs out of nutrients. … Potentially, that's a year's worth of mushrooms."
All of the classes at The Water Buffalo are free.
"We teach you how to do everything we do in here." Nolen said. He teaches all of the classes except the pickling classes, which are taught by Christel Combs.
The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 725-5296 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit thewaterbuffalo.com for a schedule of upcoming classes.