Tag Archives: Bonnieview

Sheep and Kombucha

The fiber arts class took a trip down to the farm to sheer the sheep Sterling has on loan from Bonnieview. I got to step out of the office for a little bit, step into my work pants and check out some of the action.

It had been a while since I’d been down to look at the lambs. All of the sheep have had their babies now (all adorable) and there were quite a few little black lambs (pretty obviously from that handsome fella McCain/Fabio). This particular black lamb was having a great time climbing up his mother and leaping off into the air over his siblings…

Amanda wrestled one of the sheep into the first shearing position almost all by herself. It was great to see people working with sheep and trying to figure out how to wrangle them.

Amanda wanted to make sure her sheep was ok with this whole “reclining” thing. She was rubbing her tum tum and crooning to her while she waited to shear.

In other news, Joe and I have been experimenting with Kombucha. We got a mother from someone at Sterling and made a batch. Which tasted like fizzy apple juice! I think it’s amazing that we can take black tea and sugar and turn it into something that tastes like cider without the alcohol or the apples! All natural and pretty cool to watch.

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.

One Day

It’s been one week since I started at Bonnieview and I’ve gotten to milk sheep, make cheese, harvest sunflowers and potatoes, collect eggs, feed chickens and pigs and live in a yurt. It doesn’t sound like much… but it adds up to a long, happy week. I found my camera yesterday so I took some pictures throughout the day yesterday so you can get a glimpse of farm work in rural Vermitt.   DSCN0288

Liza and I milked the sheep yesterday morning at 8. I start milking them on my own next week. These sheep are a mix of several breeds, one of which is a Tunis (I only remembered that because one of the Tunis rams is named Tuna and has one of the coolest faces I’ve ever seen).DSCN0290

Here are twelve sheep standing on the milking stand. You can milk six at once with the setup we have. The sheep put their head in the headlocks where the grain is and the whole thing slowly (oh so slowly) pushes them back to the railing so that we can reach them. We wipe their udders and then stick the cups on and then spray them with a disinfectant after wards to keep their udders happy.


Here’s an udder before it’s been milked. Liza and were joking that we should make a memory game where you have to match the pictures of their udders to the sheep’s faces because we know them all by their udders but there’s no way we could recognize who is who when they’re staring us in the face. DSCN0293

And here it is post-milk squeezing. Saggy baggy udders…DSCN0294

After milking I herd them back to their field about 1/4 of a mile away on a dirt track. You can see the guard llama in the background there guarding his sheeps. DSCN0298

Everything you see here is Bonnieview farm land, it’s so pretty and rolly out here. After I herd them down I head back up to the farmhouse for breakfast (which usually turns into an extended lunch) and then out to do the piggies!DSCN0334

Penny and Roger eat everything that we don’t plus the whey from the cheese making process and a wee bit of grain. I try to avoid them at all costs because they’re very tall (up to my waist) and I’m more than a little afraid of being eaten.


Penny was trying to suss out whether my camera was food or not… turns out it wasn’t.DSCN0308DSCN0312

One of my other chores in the afternoon has been harvesting sunflowers. That looks like me attacking them one at a time with a pair of hand clippers then gathering in bunches of about ten and tying them together with bailing twine then hanging them in the greenhouse to mature and dry. They’ll use them to supplement the chicken feed in the winter.DSCN0314

These are all the sunflowers I’ve done so far. It’s about three afternoon’s worth of work and about 1,000 sunflowers. There’s still 1/2 a field left to do and it’s so overgrown with weeds that it can be a little tough to negotiate.DSCN0320

I found this spider when I was tying up a bunch of flowers yesterday. I have no idea what kind it is but it looks very much like a mushroom and a spider were amalgamated together to form a wicked cool little critter.DSCN0333

And here are the babies! These little guys just reached their official birthdate the other day and they’ve been so cute and squirmy that it’s been hard not to sit there and stare at them all of the time.DSCN0340

And here’s their older sister, Tressa helping us harvest three bushel baskets of potatoes from the garden. She’s been so helpful and sweet, you’d never know that she just gained two little sisters and one brother just a few weeks ago. DSCN0345And my favorite chore of the day is collecting the eggs from the henhouse. I usually get about 20 every evening which then get washed and sold at the farmers markets in the area. There are about 50 chickens but some have gotten out and successfully made several batches of baby chickens. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be one of my jobs to round up the chickens for winter so they can roost in the greenhouse where it’ll be warm.

That’s it for now. I think we’re making cheese on Monday so I’ll try to get some pictures of that. Until then you should close your eyes and imagine all of the smells and adventures with poo that you’re missing because you’re not here with me.