Another lovely day (for a change);
but one containing sunshine & showers, news-wise. We finished the chores early, which was particularly gruelling as we had to complete our monthly check on the milk each individual goat produces; for a record of the amount, plus butterfat & protein – particularly important factors in cheesemaking. This was followed by a business meeting to discuss suitable types of flooring for use in the cheese dairy; & whilst this might seem a small detail, it really is surprisingly important. Firstly the floor must have the capacity to be so clean that you could eat your dinner off it; secondly, it has to have be completely seam-free so as not to trap any nasty germs; & thirdly, it has to be sufficiently ‘slip-proof’ that you don’t need ice skates to wash it down after making your cheese each day. So our ‘very nice man’ from Cambrian Coatings – John Pearce – gave us a detailed explanation of the options open to us; & we settled on a suitable surface which should keep everyone – Environmental Health, Dairy Hygiene; Health & safety etc etc – content. All we have to do now is choose the colour (how girlie!) – but actually this too is surprisingly important, as different areas require different standards of cleanliness; ergo for ease, they are delineated by varying colours (i.e. red for highest standard required etc; amber/yellow for less important areas …) thus proving, that nothing in life – or indeed cheesemaking – is ever that simple.
Talking of ‘things cheesy’, I checked up on my batch of Bordeaux Chevre, draining off the excess whey (which will be fed to the piggies) which has accumulated since I packed the cheese into its’ infinite variety of moulds, yesterday. Having started this particular batch a couple of evenings ago (see my post on xx Sept 07 for the recipe), I was delighted with the volume & consistency of curd it had produced; subsequently filling more moulds than I’d anticipated. However the ambient temperature & humidity have been higher than I can control in my modest farmhouse kitchen environment (roll on, o ye purpose-built cheeseroom!) so some of the cheeses seem to have ‘collapsed’ & over-shrunk during the last 24 hours. However, the two logs still appear to be of good shape & volume – although I did pay more attention to them, & ladled the curds more carefully, packing them more tightly therein as a soft, log type is my ‘goal’ for the time being.
Next on the agenda, was a private ‘doggy school’ lesson, for Nanuk & Tony; however, here the ‘showers’ came in; as whilst the sun grimly shone over the Ffarm, many grey clouds mentally piled in as I was given the completely unwelcome & unexpected news that our trainer has just been diagnosed with cancer & imminently requires major surgery. She called me later, herself; to inform me that Sunday’s lesson was going ahead regardless – what a brave & indomitable lady. Wish her all the very best because this selfless, strong stalwart deserves every support in her affliction.
Instead of the anticipated lesson, after Tony had taken Nanuk for a walk & popped into town I flitted through some paperwork & had a chat with Inge, a researcher for BBC TV who wanted to discuss a ‘pilot’ programme for BBC 2 on start-up artisan food producers. Then, as Tony undertook the evening chores, I made my way up to Parc Cam to turn the field’s external row of hay, giving it the necessary boost to dry it prior to baling, for the final time. Thankfully the evening cool made this a more pleasurable & less dusty job; especially when, halfway round, I paused to catch my breath but found it almost taken away with the beauty of the sunset; that great orange-red globe of the sun steadily sinking below the mountainous horizon & deep down into the sacred dark-green of the valley’s ancient woodland, the stars just starting to glow in the deep inky blackness overhead. I was joined in my travail by Moriarty the ‘mystery cat’, who insisted as ever that this was playtime; rather than hanging round Tony in the milking parlour, he’d evidently decided that it would be more far more fun to dive disruptively beneath each forkful of hay as I deftly flipped it, & grab the prongs as they plunged into the next pile of sweet-smelling grasses; pretending, no doubt, they were dangerously delicious mice who just had to be chased. I put even more energy than usual into my work, deep in thought about life, love & living your dreams – all, too short a lease. Yesterday, the great tenor Pavarotti, died; tomorrow, the British countryside is rejuvenated with the welcome news that finally the FMD restrictions are to be lifted at midday & we can all breathe a huge, collective agrarian sigh of relief.
And there was a strangely familiaral connection to my efforts as the day drew to a close over my lone figure, striving to do my best for the ffarm & the future; as Mum had mentioned that turning the hay by hand used to be a regular chore for her too, as a girl growing up on Archer’s Wood Farm in Cheltenham. So many years, & so many sunsets, between us; yet separated only by the measured heft of the haft of a pitchfork in time – but together for all we are, & who we are: family.