Friday, March 24, 2006


I had to go to Lisa's to help pick eggs. Her father had to go into hospital for heart cathederization. I took Claire. I like picking eggs. I did it for the Tilson Barns while I was in college. The chickens were good about getting eggs out of the nests. Claire wants one so bad. We'll see how the summer sales of cheese go. If I can get a good winter holding pen set up and the whole Influenza thing doesn't seem too bad, we'll get some birds. I think it would be a good idea to spread the genetics around, rather than let all of the factory farmed birds die. They are also good animals for children to work with. Gives them a sense of responsibility.

Took some of the Quark that Aissa made to Circa. Tastes like chevre and has consistency of cream cheese. I froze the last bits. Couldn't sell retail. Wasn't anything like my quark. Only to restaurants. Not much of it left, but I'll be glad when it is out of inventory. I tested shelf life too. Not as good as mine. Cats hair after a bit. I never had problems with that kind of mold. I get the green stuff when stuff gets too old.

I ordered a Ta set up from Glengarry. I want to use that more. Not as into pH. Doesn't seem the meters are as acurate as I'd like.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cheese Consultants

I like the fact that there are cheese consultants in the US. Saves having to go through the expense of the apprentise programs offered at some universities. They aren't cheap however. They also have distinct ways of describing their craft.

I've learned that it is often better to get the opinion and knowledge for as many sources as possible. I've been to workshops with Peter Dixon, Margaret Morris, Patrick Anglade, Rona Sullivan and now hopefully Kathy Biss. I think it is a well rounded group. I've learned a lot. I'd recommend any of the above to anyone.

I'm also an avid reader of books on the subject. Dave thinks that is part of my obsessive personality. I am just intregued by this whole cheesemaking thing.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gary the Cat

My daughter has a cat. I don't care for cats. They aren't dogs.

Kyle Fredericks gave it to her. Nice girl. Babysat for a year or so. Her father is a dairy inspector. He is ok too. Bob (our old silo unloader) is her uncle. He found the creathure in Carl Stone's milking barn. Kyle does have a thing with animals and got it good start. Birthday present.

If it weren't for the hair and his habit of walking on my counters, I could get to like the thing. I don't like hair in and on everything. I don't like animals that walk in poo on my counters... Dave laughs, I bleach it down constantly. Maybe a cat was good for the counters. They didn't get bleached as often before.

People give you that look. You know, the "Gary?!?! What a name for a cat" look. The disclaimer is then needed. You know Sponge Bob right? Claire went through a Sponge Bob phase. The name fits the cat. It is also Claire's cousin's name. I hope he was ok with it. He likes cats and this one, apparently, is like the one he lost last year.

As far as creatures owned by a toddler to be little girl go, he is a Godsend. Boy he lets her do anything. Generally it is the two arm hold and run through the rooms. Today it was a bath in the sink "to get the stains off". Stains? He was wet and smelled of hand soap. She thinks there are no stains. Gary is now hiding. I see him, but I won't tell.

Joey (dog) likes the cat as well. Generally it is a stalking, what is the furry, I want to eat it but they are looking at me "like". They do play when we aren't looking. It is his obsession. Border collies need obsessions. Keeps them as sane as a border collie can be. Right now he is laying at the bottom of the stairs looking up. The cat is hiding up stairs and it is a dog free zone (except during thunder storms). He'll stay there until the dog dish is filled, he goes for his walkies, or I ask him to sleep in his bed.

I made Caerfili last night. A milkier whey than the other cheeses. I'm thinking it is the cheese Linda Smith wasmaking when I was showing Aissa how to make my Quark. That had a lot of milky whey and she only said it was a hard cheese. She could have said Caerfili for all I cared. I never follow recipes to the letter anyways. Have to adjust according to the milk and room temps, etc.

Very velvety curd. With the Aroma B addition in Margaret's recipe, it develops quite a lovely smell. I dumped the last of my pH buffer (moron) and had to wing it. I think I rushed things a bit. It looks fine. The trimmings from taste good, with a sour, creamy, I'm not done ripening British cheese taste. I'll have to tweek it a bit. Had to increase temps of cook a wee bit due to the cold temps in the room. Ordered the Ta deal from Margaret to switch to that. I'm definetly going to play with that one during the morning makes and when it is warmer out. I think I'll stick to feta or tallegio styles in evening makes. I'm too old for the 12:30 into the house for last time routine. I have a blasting head ache from lack of sleep this morning.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring is Here!!

Seems like a cruel joke to rural people in the north east to have the official first day of spring in the middle of March. Wayne at the gas station was cranked up. I guess he was tired of people telling him it was the first day of spring. Dave went in just as he was telling a customer that the official start of spring was to be at 1:30 pm and that the weather was to jump up to 75 degrees and leaves will magically appear on the trees. Well something like that. Bruce, Dave, Tim... everyone else we ran across had the same feeling about spring. Kinda like politics. They tell us the was is going great... we don't believe that anymore than we think the flowers will be blooming under 3" of snow and 20 degree weather...

Moonbeam has graduated to standing cows in her cow surfing. Dave found her on 336, who stands next to Frosty. 336 is a smaller Ayrshire heifer we got out of Vermont. THe goat apparently jumps onto Frosty, then leaps up to 336's back. The cow loves it. She makes the lip movements she does when I curry comb her. It is a new service that is offered to the cows... Goat Massage. We'll see if milk production goes up.

Had to ship Harriette. I have to get the words to the song that Elizabeth Smith's interns made about her. She didn't breed back. Old cow. She was so crampy with arthritis in her back and hips. We loved her. Bull of a cow, but she was one of our characters.

Claire had a fit when Wayne (WrattenDVM) was doing the herd check. See, when a vet checks to see the reproductive health of a cow, he sticks his whole arm up a cows butt. Based on the feel of a uterus, lumps and bumps, where the CL is on the ovarie, etc. he can tell us if a cow is pregnant, missed a heat, not right... We checked on the Kerry cows as well. They are housed near the heifers because they are a smaller animal and to keep them cleaner, they are there. Claire's heifer is there. Her pet, Sun Cow. (Sun is a theme with Claire. Everyone has sun in the name lately).

After Wayne left, Claire had a talk with Dave about what she saw. She already knows that boy calves are sold to Unger. We keep the girl calves to milk. But the arm up the butt to see if she is pregnant was too much for her. She told Dave that he wasn't to breed Sun Cow. She didn't want her to have baby's. Oof. Poor Dave. She is only 3 1/2 years old and we have to explain aspects of the facts of life via the dairy barn experience... After that was cleared up, she then announced that we have to have the "sex semen". Sexed semen is new on the market. Kinda expensive. Through various patented methods, semen from bulls are sorted and dairy farmers can inseminate cows with semen that has a greater liklihood of having a heifer. Well. How did Claire figure that one out. I am not sure of the exact parts of the conversation, only making it brief, but some how she listens to us (selective hearing) and already understands that there is a way to make sure her heifer's babies are heifers and can therefore stay! I'm crazy impressed and SOOOO glad Dave had this conversation with her, not me.

Milk price is "going into the crapper". Our pay price is $14.10/hwt. this month. Going down. I'd like to see what the impact of rural communities will be economically with the Dairy farmers predicting $12/hwt milk again. Independants already dropped 12-20 farms regionally. Not so good. We know a metal guy who closed his doors due to high accounts recievables and our dairy supply man (Tim) was talking about how pay at delivery people are asking for credit. Harriette went, not just because she was old, but because we wanted to pay our electric bill on time.

We are making more cheese. So much for gradual shift to processing again. Already sold out. Found a 4# wedge of Honey Gouda in back of cooler. Circa wants it. Have a waiting list for April 8th cheese! Making Caerfili tomorrow and Gouda the next day. Looks like we can do twice a week cheesemaking. There is also call for cheese classes. With the milk price going down, it is a good time for offer these workshops. We want to pay off all working loans before Bush sends interest rates up again with his trashing of the economy.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sheep Surfing and the Big Wave

Often people who have sheep don't tend to know how many they actually have. I remember one such guy in MA, Cliff Thayer, who when asked how many he had said, "hundred or so. don't really know. If I actually counted them I'd actually know how many I have."

I think that for some goats are the same way. I register the Arapawa goats, so I know them and their birth date and the like. I can recite pedigrees on a number of animals in the barn. Dave, being a good cow man, keeps count for us. When I have more head of small stock than him, I generally get hints about possibly selling some sheep or the San Clemente Island goats...

I was suprised last fall when Dave, who had less head of animals actually got upset when I suggested I sell the ewes I had. He said sheep are like Maple Syrup for him. They lambs come in early spring and they break up the dreary days. We kept them and all but two ewes lambed out. The lambs and ewes went to the lower barn and we moved the goats to the calf barn to kid out. Sheep move with grain, goat... well they are goats.

Male goats are the most disgusting creatures known to man. Own one and you will know what I mean and I'm not talking about the musk scent they are known for. Knick (senior Arapaw buck) and Dave have this dislike for each other. I am the one who has to treat him or worm him.

Goat baby's do have this fun thing they do. They surf. Generally they sheep surf. They especially like it then the ewes have wool on the back to that they can dig their little feet in. Rowan the Goat (actually a sheep with horns and like for high areas) loves to have baby goats surf on him. Ruins the wool, but we use it for mulch under tomato plants anyways.

Only little Arapawa/San Clemente doe kid has decided to go for the big wave. She has started to surf one of our bigest cows, Frosty. Frosty is an Ayrshire, but she is more of a Red Holstein in size. Moonbeem jumps right up when the cow is laying down and runs up and down the old cow. I want to see what happens if the old girl tries to get up! Frosty doesn't seem to mind/acknowledge the baby goat.

Dave is actually warming up to the goats with Moonbeam surfing cows and him saving Pomegrant. Heck I saved Penny the Hooch and the dog has been my nemisis since I met her. I think we are both softies at heart and appreciate all of our animals.

Friday, March 17, 2006

baille nach t'na faille paudrig

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
I'm not sure if I remember the spelling correctly.

It is a cold day. Very windy for the parades tomorrow. People will have plenty of excuses to drink whiskey over the weekend. Saw an ad for Smithicks beer when I was back in MA. I drank that when I was in college in Dublin in the mid-90's. Didn't see it anywhere though. Maybe only by the pint or something...

There is an old saying my Irish Grandmother had, "Glad to see you, glad to see you go..." At first you'd wonder if she had an afliction that rendered her immune to social interactions, but as I grow older, I truely understand that saying. Family is great. I miss them when Dave, Claire and I are alone and I miss being alone when I am with the families.

Dave saved an Arapawa buck kid. Pomegrant almost died. I tubed him and he was doing the dish rag, cardboard legs head swinging back lip up death thing. Dave pronounced him un-saveable and after loosing Peg last week he thought I should leave for MA earlier than planned. The poor thing was breathing when he went for chores that night. He gave him the Karo syrup and 5cc of goats milk via tube. He is so small that I am actually using a dog catheder for the urinary system. To say the least, Dave performed miracles. The little guy is still alive. He has him up to 1 oz. of milk. Today we put him back on his mother and will supplement him with sheep replacer. We'll see. Se shots and Karo syrup. Have we finally found the secret to these rare goats?

Made no cheese last week. Made no cheese this week. Plan to do some tomorrow. Brine came back negative for coliform. Donna suggested I may not have pressed it enough. I will calibrate the press again (put scale under it and see what the press is). Who knows. I kept the cheeses and will send in a half block to the lab before c&w.

Sold some Honey Gouda to Old Creamery in Cummington. Glad to see Alice and Amy. Nice women. Brought some to the "party" at Mom's house. She took some to UMASS to let proffs try it out. Guess they liked it. I learned that even with mucor bettles in the one cooler, I can make some damn good tasting cheese. I liked the moisture and everything. Nice eye development. The beeswax is so fragile. Cracks in delivery. I have to devise a way to ship these wheels without developing cracks in the wax coating.

New restaurant in Caz. has cheese too. Circa. Nice chef, Alicin. I sold her a 6# wheel. I hope she can sell to the Madison County crowd. Guess there is an uproar because she is selling a burger for $10. It has local organic ingredients. I don't see the problem. It got her some Syracuse press through. Good on! Dave and I want to try to go there soon.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Peggy Sheep Passed Away

I never thought I'd miss an animal so much. Well another one after Gale dog. Peggy was a smart sheep. She was black, brown and grey. Only a few white hairs on her forehead. She knew how to get into and out of most anything. She tolerated goats and taught disrespectful border collies a lesson or two. She was about 20 when she died (last Thursday). I had to have Wayne put her to sleep.

I was folding cloths on the bed in the back room when I saw her laying in the doorway to the pole barn. I knew that wasn't right. We had to help her get out from under the hay feeder earlier that week and I had to help her get up the week before. I pulled her from the doorway. She was on her side and could not get up. I tried to get her onto her sternum. She was bloaty and laying upright would help relieve some gas. She didn't have the strenght. It is amazing how heavy an animal is when they are so sick or dead.

I ran to the dairy barn to tell Dave what happened. Claire had to go to school and I wanted to make sure she could go to the barn while I waited for Wayne. I rang Wayne and he came about a long hour later.

Cecil and Jenny were up, so I asked Cecil to help me get her out of the sheep pen. I didn't want the yearling ewes to trample her if they got stirred up. The poor old ewe deserved more respect than some stupid ewes looking for chaos. We moved her to the workshop and I tried again to get her to sit up so that she wouldn't be in so much pain. It didn't work. I talked to her and stroked her front legs. She never liked it when you touched her face, but I use to stroke her front leg when I needed her to sit still for some reason. She stopped grinding her teach and didn't thrash so much when I did that.

She did go peacefully. I only wish she didn't have to go through the pain of bloat. The curse of a ruminant on their side for too long. Poor Peggy. Dave burried her in the knoll near the stream that runs down the field behind the barn. It is near the spot that a doe (deer) has her kids in the spring. We burried a calf there last year, a twin bull who wasn't right and died too young.

I'll miss her. We kept her last Ram, Peter Sheep. Lisa borrowed him this fall and she has Peggy's grandchildren coming out her ears. Peter Sheep did a GREAT job. Dave Knackley has a ewe lamb that was born in Chesterfield, Curley. She was like her mom, lots of lambs and crafty. Good genes. I also have Rowan the Goat. He is actually a sheep, but he has horns and likes to stand on things, so we call him Rowan the Goat. He is a whether. Fat, keeps rams/bucks company and lets Claire scratch is nose.