On The Farm
Leaves whirl off the trees, darkness comes early, the briefly lighter mornings darken too. The sun rises closer to the south, and at noon gets lower every day. A walk through the woods is a walk through lots of leaves, before they start breaking down to leaf litter. The last of the apples come off the trees, a rich cider smell rises, reproaching us for the apples we didn’t pick. I saw a robin, bold and curious, with that intensely sweet song, sitting on the wall in a watery gleam of sun, king in his own territory, now the noisy summer visitors have gone. The fallow deer finish their rut, that disembodied roaring, a challenge to other bucks, and I guess alluring to the comfortable groups of does waiting the outcome with complacency.
It's November. My goal is that the creamery will be ready to rock on January 15th. We have yet to obtain ANY permits. Needless to say, I’m feeling anxious and frustrated with the slow pace at which things seem to be moving. On Monday I had a massive migraine for the first time in many months, hmm… I wonder what could be the cause.
Lots needs to be done to get the creamery project moving, but daily life seems to be getting in my way. Fortunately Seana and Dave are dedicating a lot of their time, and are making most of our progress!
We’re currently trying to obtain permits for plumbing, electrical, and water use. I actually thought this part of the process would go much quicker than it has, since the structure is sound and not too much needs to be done, relatively speaking. But permits take a lot of planning and negotiating. And you have to be willing to revise your plan and negotiate more. So while it’s a full-time job to get these things figured out and crossed off the to-do list, we go to our real jobs during the day, and work on permits in the hours between.
I am beginning to realize that patience may be the most important skill that I learn this year. When we were first discussing building a creamery two years ago, there was little question about hiring a contractor to do the work -- it's just not who we are (plus, our labor is much cheaper). Now, I'm beginning to see the benefit! Since my husband, the mastermind of the building part of this project, works full time, and is already kept busy by the constant flow of projects and problems that come with 150 acres and 200 year old buildings, things are progressing rather slowly. Slowly, but surely.
This blog will chronicle the planning, permitting, financing (including exact dollar amounts) and building of a micro creamery on a ranch in Tomales, California. It will feature alternating posts from 2 different people, Seana Doughty and Marissa Thornton, who have joined forces to help each other achieve their cheesemaking dreams and goals. Allow us to introduce ourselves.....
I pretend it’s not happening until autumn is right on top of us. The unstoppable, overwhelming green tide of growth turns round and meekly disappears into the ground. We get a fiery display as the leaves drain of green, going out in a blaze of glory. Let’s hope for more of the glowing light of September to give October that incandescent quality. The wet, cold summer gave extraordinary growth to cool country plants, and things that need warmth suffered. Less insects - the cows never got besieged with flies - meant all those insect-eating birds did not thrive. A friend said most of her first hatch of swallows died, the second hatch stayed late, hoping to fatten up on early autumn flies. They’ve gone now, and the skies are quiet. The difficult summer for insects seems to have made the wild boar niggly; so many slugs to eat would make anyone grumpy. A neighbour phoned, concerned that the wild boar were chasing the fallow deer.
We've seen a lot of adorable animal videos in recent history, but I think this one might just top the charts. It has all the attributes of a good film: cute babies in need, heroic deeds, and cruelly apathetic bystanders. (That IS the formula for a blockbuster these days, isn't it?)
Fair warning: you might cry
Anyone following Martin Gott (@martindongotty) on Twitter will have read that this week they started making St James cheese again and tomorrow, I will be making it again myself. It will be an interesting and challenging day in equal measures balancing the sheeps milk make and the cows milk make. After finishing with sheeps milk in November, I wonder how it will be using it again and how used I will have become to the cows milk texture when it sets. Will I cut the sheeps curd too soon? Will I drain it with enough pressure? The time, therefore, has come to introduce St James properly.
A fortnight ago the first lambs were born on Holker farm. At the moment it’s the youngest sheep, the first time mothers, that are giving birth and this means a higher degree of problems than the more experienced ladies who should start at the end of next week. It’s a natural part of the cheesemaker and dairy farmer’s year; no young uns, no milk. We tend to consider birth to be an entirely natural part of any animal’s life and especially because we as humans have such ready access to medical advice and support, we forget that it’s a major undertaking. While having lunch up at the farmhouse, I saw Nicola’s notes for the first 2 weeks.
Last April I moved from a life in the bustling capital of the UK, London, to a windswept and rain-lashed hilltop just outside Ulverston in the Southern Lake District in England’s North West. I now make cheese with Martin Gott and Nicola Robinson at Holker Farm, just outside the village of Cartmel. They have a flock of Lacaune sheep and a few Dairy Shorthorn cows, with what must be the only cow/sheep milking parlour in the country. At this time of year, it’s the end of the sheeps milk season. They started to give milk shortly after lambing as early as February and as more and more of the flock gave birth, the milk quantity increased until it reached its peak in June. Since then, they began to give less milk as the ones that had lambed early started to slow down on the milk production and the others followed suit.