Monday, July 18, 2011

Blue Monday

Sometimes, even in paradise, you have one of those days. I had to capitulate today to reality, and it sucks. I had a mare that I really liked, she was drop dead gorgeous, moved like a dream, but because of my health issues I cannot ride her. I wound up in the hospital a couple years ago and nearly died just because she was playful and I broke my ribs and punctured a lung. A friend took her for a year and rode her, but I needed someone to get on her again for me once she came home. No one wanted to, so she just hung out for a whole year. I can’t risk getting on her unless I am sure she is not going to be playful anymore. The balance challenges and draining of my strength prevents me from doing at all, what I used to do for a living.

Being 5 hours from anywhere also makes it impossible to sell her. No one wants to drive 5 hours on a ‘maybe’. So I gave her away. I lose everything I invested in her, plus my dreams. Reality sucks. I am no longer the person I used to be, nor the person I want to be. That part of my life is over and yes, I am very sad. It's like letting go of a very important part of myself, that will never be reclaimed.

I locked the calves up last nite so I could milk both cows. I need cream, as my son and his family are coming and I want to make ice cream and a few other delicacies, plus I wanted to start making some hard cheeses. My milk room STILL isn’t up or functional, so once again, I milked outside in the hot sun, dust, flies and poop. The fosters my cows previously wouldn’t feed without being restrained, stood by while the cows sidled up to the fence and let them nurse. Mo and CWilly managed to squeeze through the boards and finish off what there was. Both cows were empty-uddered and neither would let down any milk. I got a few squirts out of Dolly, and for that, I had to spend the time washing out the milker. It is CLEARLY one of those days.

I take the last two gallons of milk left from before we started having to graft on leppie calves and proceed to enter the world of real cheesemaking. This will be my first hard cheese. I’ve never before used the cheese press, or the cheese ‘cave’ which is a little, used wine refrigerator I found on Craigslist. We were able to pick it up at a friends who was kind enough to go and get it and store it for us until we made it to Boise. There are good people in this world.

Reading and re-reading recipes, cheesebooks, internet forums and everything else I can get my hands on, I pour my milk into the pot and begin heating it. I put in the mesophilic culture which might already be too old, so the cheese may well be doomed before I even get started, but there is only one way to find out, and the thing about cheese is, you get better with practice, so no matter how this wheel turns out, it’s a learning curve. Besides, it would not interrupt the flow of my day if it did fail, I just won’t know it for a month.
 I stir in the culture, let it sit for 45 minutes to ripen and stir in the rennet. It sits covered for another 45 minutes to set up, while I brainstorm about how I can do this in quantity in the future, and what size containers I might be able to use...crockpot? roaster? 
Pressing takes awhile, but I do have two sizes of molds, so I can do up to 4 gallons of milk at a time. That’s a 4 lb wheel of cheese, which would actually last us a little while. I’m excited. You can make cheddar, Colby, pepper Jack, Gouda, Romano, Parmesan, and all those other wonderful cheeses at home! I look forward to the day when I can whip out a fresh block of Parmesan, aged for a year, and hand it off to my chef-friend to grate over one of his sensations. Better yet, I will treat him to one of my own.

It will feel good to gift someone some homemade cheese and soap. Something they can’t get just anywhere…gosh…that would go so well with homemade candles…I wonder…


  1. I absolutely love reading your blog, Petey, I may not always comment, but I read everyone. I've been following your cheese making with great interest. That sounds like something I'd like to try my hand at if I had more room. Your mare is gorgeous and had I been closer, I'd have given her a great home for you. Sad, though...take care, my friend!

  2. I've been following your blog the last couple of weeks. A refreshing change from The Pioneer Woman. I also live on a ranch in Oregon, although not nearly as big or remote. Thank you for showing what it's really like. After reading your butter making post I bought a half gallon of cream from the lady up the road, gonna try to make butter tonight!! Don't sweat the horse, they make lots of gentle ones.

  3. Oh Petey - I'm so sorry about your mare. I'll e'ya with more. God loves you so much - please remember that.

  4. Thanks and good luck with that Molly! Yeah, I have a gentle gelding. THis mare was just very special to me.

  5. I am sorry about your mare. She sure is pretty. It is pure he-double hockey sticks when we have to face the fact that reality is here to stay and we can't just go back a few (20) years. There are certainly good and bad points about living where you do - but I'm willing to guess that the good outnumber the bad by quite a lot. Keep us posted on your cheese. The only hard cheese I've made is Ricotta Salada and it was fun!

  6. The cheddar is in the cheese cave as we speak. The earliest we can test it is Aug its marked :)