Tag Archives: Cheese

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…

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.

From Here to There: A Small Eternity

So, I moved. Yep, I’ve mentioned it before but now it’s suddenly become real. The bags were packed, the car washed and there was a map created. YES! A map! I went from Sandy, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah over to Omaha, Nebraska up to Champagne-Urbana, Illinois on up to Rochester, New York and finally over to Craftsbury Common, Vermont. It’s almost been a week since I got here. I’ve gone out to Bonnieview Sheep Dairy twice to milk sheep and make some cheese and I’m moving out there into the yurt officially tomorrow morning.

This is the dairy… or at least the majority of the outbuildings and the house.DSCN0270

And this is the yurt! It’s perched way up on a hill (I think it’s about 1/4 of a mile from the house up to the yurt which means it’s very very quiet and pretty).


This is the inside. It’s less bare-bones than I thought it would be… but there’s no running water, electricity or outhouse so it’ll be an adventure living there.DSCN0272

And this is the view! You can see the farm house peeking out through the tress down there… that’s how far away I have to trundle in the mornings. Not too bad.DSCN0263

And this is one of a pair of ox that live at Sterling College. I don’t know what his name is but he has managed to wrap his tongue all the way from one side of my face, under my chin to the other ear when I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll definitely get some pictures of the farm, the sheep, milking and cheese making and post them eventually. The internet has been incredibly spotty and I get no cell phone reception here. But I do have a PO box and some sporadic internets so we’ll see how that goes. Oh I’m so excited!