Monthly Archives: October 2009


Yesterday was so pretty that I spent a bit of time wandering around Craftsbury. I went over to the library and fell asleep in a patch of sun in one of the rocking chairs on the porch and then I walked down to the Sterling Farm and picked up some hay and played with some baby goats. Then I made some tea and took it out to the hammock and read a little bit of Dune with Micah and then Byron, Micah and I went to capture one of the bald-faced hornet nests I’d been eyeing over on The Common. I climbed up a big tree and took it down…


How COOL is that!? It’s pretty amazing. I brought it into the apartment and hung it up until two wasps woke up and crawled out of it this morning. If I was by myself I’d probably have just left it in the apartment but Joe and Micah made me put it on the porch until the rest of the wasps died. They should have died by now because we’ve had a couple of frosts, but apparently there are at least a couple still clinging on in there. Meh.

Micah and I went over to the apple tree by the kitchen and horked some apples for a pie. The apples were at least 1/2 pound each and the size of large softballs. They were really hard to knock down though, even though Micah was beating at them with a broom. We made a pie last night and then I used the rest to make a big batch of applesauce this afternoon for lunch.

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Linus and I went for a walk around the yard in the sun. It was so nice and he stayed near me for the most part. I told you there would be a lot of Linus for a while, now didn’t I? Yep, I did…DSCN0654

Yes, I Know… it’s Snow

Hey, guess what?! It’s been cold here at night, even in my little yurt with my stove. In fact, on Tuesday morning I woke up to 1/4 inch of snow all over everything. Who ever heard of snow before Halloween? It was so pretty and crisp that it was hard to grumble too much while I hiked down the hill all bundled up and cozy.   DSCN0597DSCN0606

And then I got to wrangle the sheep into the milking parlor and milk them for a couple of hours. That wasn’t any fun in the cold, but over all it wasn’t too bad. It was so pretty watching them move around the hills to the barn that I might have even smiled a little.


Everybody waiting to be milked.


Later that day I went out to feed the lambs in Greensboro. There’s about 120 of them out there and by the time I drove the twenty minutes the snow had melted and it had turned into a really pretty day. Wednesday was the last day that we milk sheep for the season, so no more early morning milkings, wrestling with udders or complications with cleaning solvents. Yes…

Corn Maze

Joe organized a trip to a big corn maze last weekend. We all hopped into a van and drove about an hour away along some twisty, dirt “highways” and finally got to a five acre field full of corn. Everyone split up pretty quickly and started in on what would turn out to be something like a two hour bit of frustration. I’d never done a corn maze but I like mazes in general… what I didn’t take into consideration is the fact that in a paper maze, you’re just moving a pencil around and you can see the whole thing. In a corn maze you have to walk it all in a little bit of mud and you can’t see more than 20 feet in front of you.

Snap. It was a long day.DSCN0583

In the middle of the corn maze they had a boat on a platform so that it looked like we were sailing through the corn. Majestic and fairly epic.DSCN0586

We found this after about an hour of wandering around. Probably more than that though because the frustration was already building.


DSCN0587After two hours (AT LEAST) we finally found the “Bell of Success!” Oh my, so long and so good. I don’t know if I want to do another one, but it was definitely worth going to at least once. Joe used to work at one of the Sauvie Island corn mazes so he spent a bit of the car ride talking about how he had corn mazes down… but we didn’t look at the aerial map before we went in and it was a several mile long maze. In the end it was mostly guesswork and luck, you should try it some time…

Linus Part II

Do you remember how it was when I got Monty up to Olympia about two years ago (TWO YEARS! WOW.)? Well it’s going to be like that with Linus for a little while. That means pictures, and lots of them. Joe and I took Linus out on the common today and walked around the teeny farmers market this morning. We bought a cinnamon roll, some burritos and homemade donuts and then we ambled over to the bookstore where I got a used copies of The Home Craftsman and The Mushroom Hunters Field Guide for a few dollars. It was a good morning. Linus rode in a pack basket Joe made last year and said hello to a couple of people before we took him over to the grassy area in front of Merlin to roam around.

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Linus and Joanna looking perplexed. DSCN0546

He looks so dopey-happy about that leaf. It’s got to be one of the tastiest dead leaves around.


These days

Wanna see something purty? This is the view from my yurt these days. It’s fairly epic with alla them trees.


DSCN0478 And here is the one picture I took at the Sheep and Wool Festival. It was an utterly awesome display of wool roving and there was a booth with these infinitely cute bunny slippers on display, but there wasn’t a whole lot to take pictures of. I bought some things, but I’m not telling you what until later and I’m justifying buying things by telling myself that they’re for Christmas presents.

Oh so good…

What to do With all that Milk?

It’s been almost another week at the dairy and now I’ve made both the hard and the blue cheese, the two primary cheeses we make with all of those sheep squeezin’s. On Monday we made a batch of blue cheese and I took some pictures of the process so that you can get a pretty good picture of what it takes to make cheese. Appreciate cheese! It takes hours and hours of milking plus lots of cooking and hours of preparation to make it. I guess it’s really like anything handmade, it’s a long process that’s worth it in the end (probably).

In the morning, right after milking the sheeps Neil drives the bulk tank of milk full of three days worth of milking to the cheese house just down the road. The milk is gravity fed through a little port in the side of the building into a big cooking tub.


Here’s the tub with the hose running into it. I’m not going to be able to give you exact numbers (like gallons, pounds, hours) but I’ll try to guestimate. Once the milk is in the tub we put a floating thermometer in it. Then we run piping hot water between two layers of metal in the tub which slowl heats the milk to 97 degrees.DSCN0490

Oh so steamy! Here is the tub, it’s about 1/3-1/2 full of milk. While it’s heating up we stir it every 10 minutes or so, just to keep things moving. It takes about 1 1/2-2 hours to heat the milk up to temperature at which point the culture and then, later, the rennet is added. This makes the milk curdle and turns the whole vat of milk into a huge rubbery block of whiteness. Imagine a cross between jello and hard boiled egg whites. It sort of tastes like hard boiled egg whites. It rests and does it’s thing for a while and then Neil cuts the curd with several different paddles.DSCN0498

He’s slicing it into about 1 inch cubes with the paddle and then we roll up our sleeves and get up to our elbows in cheese curd. We slowly and carefully flip all of the curd, seperating it into the 1 inch pieces and then we start to flip more agressively which breaks the curd into smaller pieces.DSCN0500

Everything is sliced, but it hasn’t been flipped yet.DSCN0503

Here it’s been sliced into smaller bits but hasn’t been flipped yet. You can start to see some of the whey separating (it’s the yellowish liquid).


Now everything’s been flipped and stirred quite agressively over several short periods with longer and longer rest times in between. The curd has settled into the whey here.DSCN0516

When we’ve gotten the curd into small enough pieces we drain the whey into a another tank (to feed to the piggies later) which is what’s happening in this picture. The whey is going out through that mesh barrier on the right and the curd is staying in the tank to be scooped out by hand in a minute.

When most of the whey is out we set up a ramp in between the tub and the table next to it. The curd is dumped in small batches onto the ramp and fluffed up to get some good contact with the air and also to separate it from the whey some more. After that we layer it in handfuls between the cheese molds.DSCN0519

Here’s the whey in the molds. We filled 24 of the plastic containers which are about 12 inches high and 12 inches in diameter. Yes, it does look like popcorn but it doesn’t taste like it.DSCN0518

The cheese sits in these containers over night and gradually settles and compacts down into…DSCN0532

These! The next day the cheese is taken out of the molds and allowed to air dry. We flip them every day for a few days and then I scraped the outsides to promote some sweet mold action. These probably weigh at least 5 pounds each, if not 6.DSCN0534DSCN0539


And here are past batches, cooling their heels in the cooler a hundred feet from the cheese house. We flip these every three days, all of them. The small rectangular blocks weigh about 2 pounds and the big round wheels weigh about 5. You can see how much shrinkage goes on as they cool and age. DSCN0483So that’s the cheese. All handmade from start to finish. I helped make the less moldy ones you can see in this picture (they look less moldy, but there’s a bit of something going on on all of these) and if I didn’t help to make them then I for sure touched all of them when I’ve flipped them. There’s a fairly specific smell that goes along with the cooler and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smell of mass quantities of mold cheese. Mmmmm…


It’s officially been two weeks! It feels like so much longer though… I’ve started milking the sheep on my own in the mornings. Usually the same person only milks the sheep maybe two days in a row, but this week I did three and when you’ve seen that many udders so early in the morning everything can start feeling a little crazy. You’re by yourself with sheep in a cold milking parlor for about three hours… what can happen, right?  DSCN0366

You can name a sheep Madonna because of her crazy-shaped udders. I mean, c’mon look at those things! Just look back to my other post about sheep udders and you’ll see how they’re supposed to look, essentially it’s really unusual that their teats point straight towards the floor from pyramid-esque udders.


And this udder/tail combination looked like a droopy nose face to me. Do you see it too? I giggled for a while when I was milking her… it looks so sad!


Tressa came out to help me feed the piggies and collect eggs from the hen house the other day. She brought one of her babies just like her Mommy does but it got pretty cold so we went inside before her little fingers dropped off. DSCN0382

And I’ve got a wood stove! It’s called the “Intrepid II” and it’s a teeny, sturdy little thing. It’s not hooked up yet because we need a super insulated pipe so that it doesn’t melt the yurt bits. It’s going to be so nice. My Aunt Carol gave me some extra blankets and I’ve been camping out under them and staying nice and toasty when I do. But whenever I pop my head out in the night I can see my breath so the wood stove is coming none too soon.

I baked an apple-zucchini bread and made some applesauce on the stove this morning. It’s a good day to be huddled in the apartment, out of the rain with a new bunny and the warm smell of cooking apples.


Oh SNAP! I’ve done it again… Monty has a new soon-to-be best friend, Linus. Yes, I got a new bunny. I got Linus (FOR FREE!) from a lady over in Morrisville who bred her angora rabbit and then got overwhelmed with the amount of work it took to adequately groom six angora rabbits every day. She tried to sell them but no one seemed interested so she decided to just give them away. I got Linus and three other girls at Sterling picked up three of the others. Now there are four angora rabbits hanging out in Merlin… but I think Linus is the sweetest. He’s an albino, 9 month old angora rabbit with a really sweet (but pretty shy) disposition. I think he and Monty will get along famously. I decided to shave his fur off when I got him because he has an old bunny bite on his leg that’s almost healed and I wanted to make sure that was all the troubles he had hiding under the massive amount of fur he had going on. I left his face all fuzz-tastic though. As it grows out I’ll start to groom the loose fur out and spin that as it comes off. Oh I’m so excited! Right now Linus is living in a pretty sweet setup under the kitchen island where the stools used to go in a cage I got from Bonnieview. All I had to do was buy about $7 worth of food and $4 of bedding and he’s all comfy and cozy. Anywho, that’s my big news, when do you want to meet him!?