Today I want to talk about our raw milk cheese and cheesemaking. We have 4 different types of cheese and I am working on a 5th. I am so glad the small cheese cave is nearing completion so we will have a place to store all of them.
If you are new to the podcast, welcome. It’s great to have you. And a shout out to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. You all make this show possible. I have so much exciting news this week. Let’s get to it.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
This week I made an absolutely fabulous raw milk cheese – Clau d’ville cheddar. Well at least it looks good so far. Sometimes we have trouble getting the cheese to come together and close up so there are no holes on the outside of the cheese. This is important. If you have opening on the surface of the cheese, unwanted mold can get inside and ruin the whole cheese. This is the first cheddar that I have made this season and I am well pleased with it.
I started off the cheesemaking with creating a new cheese. The first wheel is nearly ready for tasting. It is a tomme-style cheese. Tomme is used to describe a generic group of cheese produced mainly in the French Alps and in Switzerland. This cheese is lower in fat than our other cheeses. It is made in a circular mold, has an earthy gray-brown natural rind and, hopefully, will have an intensely nutty taste. Additionally, in the last three of these cheeses I experimented with adding wasabi to the curds. The last one I made looked like the best one with the added wasabi. We shall see.
At this point I am into a regular rotation of making Ararat Legend (a Dutch gouda-style) cheese, Clau d’ville Cheddar, Pinnacle (a swiss gruyere-style) and Peaceful Heart Gold (a Danish Havarti-style) cheeses. I’ll be talking about the small cheese cave next. That’s where all of this wonderful cheese will be aged to perfection.
The creamery features two cheese caves. One is large enough to handle an entire year’s worth of our raw milk cheese. All of the cheeses we make are aged. That means we have them in the aging cave for a very long time. When we are in full production, the large cheese cave will have lots and lots of cheese in it all the time in varying stages of aging. At the present time, Scott is trying to get the smaller cheese cave ready for us to use. We are not at full production so the smaller cheese cave will be excellent. It will be a blessing to have more room and greater control of temperature and humidity. At first Scott was not going to put the tiles on the floor, but recently he changed his mind. Last podcast I said we would put it into use without the floor, but life changes daily on the homestead. This cave will have wooden shelves to house the cheese. These shelves are held up with cinder blocks. I believe his reasoning on going ahead with the floor tiles was the daunting task of taking all that apart to do the floor later.
He is working on getting those tiles glued down as I speak. The grout between the tiles will come later. It has to be a special grout that can withstand dramatic alkaline and acid fluctuations and harsh cleaning compounds. Fortunately, we learned about the necessity for this based on someone else’s issue. There is a lovely dairy about an hour away from us, Meadow Creek Dairy. They milk about 200 cows and make lots and lots of cheese. They make 20 times more than we ever plan on making. Originally, they started out small, just like us, going to farmer’s markets and selling to local stores. Now they sell wholesale cheese internationally. They even had one of their cheeses featured at a White House dinner some years back.
I know Scott would prefer working on the completing the roof but his priority is getting that cheese cave functional and he is nearly there. After that, nothing will hold him back from finishing the entire roof. And who knows what he plans after that. I’ll let you know when he lets me know.
We have new lambs. Our first lamb – well first scheduled lamb – was born on May 7th. There is one lamb that was the first week of February. The unplanned one that resulted from one of our oopsie moments. We moved the animals around and somehow one of last year’s ram lambs got sorted in with the girls. Fortunately, only one unplanned birth. Anyway, May 7th was the first planned one and now we have 6 altogether. Three more ewes still need to have their lambs. So far. we have 4 singles and one set of twins. From the round look of the still pregnant ewes, we are on a path to have two more sets of twins.
There have been no issues with any moms or lambs so far. We have no bottle lambs. Last year we had one. The mom of this year’s twins had triplets last year and one of them just wasn’t getting enough milk and attention. On day two or three we found him shivering and a little weak. I immediately scooped him up and brought him inside and got him warmed up. It took a little while to find the bottles and lamb milk replacer, but I soon had some warm milk in him. We had to keep an eye on him several times a day for a few days, but eventually, he perked up and is now in line to be our herd ram. We call him Lambert.
The cows are giving us plenty of milk. We had our cows tested for A2A2 genetics and about half of the herd is certified A2A2. Over the next few years, we will be moving to 100% A2A2 genetics. If you are not familiar with what that means, I have a previous podcast on the topic. It is called “What is A2A2 Milk?” I’ll put a link in the show notes. Or you can go to the website and click or tap on the podcast menu item. I recorded that one nearly a year ago, so scroll down a little way and you will find it. I also have lots of good information on why we drink raw milk and lots of other information about raw milk.
All of our raw milk cheese and dairy products are available via herd share. In Virginia that means if you want these products you need to own your own cow. We offer the opportunity for folks to buy into our herd via our herd share program. You pay a fee to get into the homestead herd and then a monthly service fee and we do the rest. We have lots of great people enjoying our milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. By the way, if you know of anyone in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area that is looking for these kinds of nutritious products, let them know about us. We can’t deliver across state lines, but they can certainly come to the farm and pick up their milk or butter or whatever. We welcome our North Carolina neighbors into our herd share program.
The quail babies are fully feathered. Their heat lamp has been taken away and they are getting acclimated to keeping themselves warm without the additional heat the lamp provided. I believe tomorrow is their debut in the cages outside. It has been a bit too chilly to put them out there. But the temps are changing tomorrow. And once they are acclimated, they will be fine. Their parents survived the entire winter and did very well. Sometimes I am surprised by the hardiness of barely domesticated animals. Quail in the wild have always been born and lived outside their entire lives. Nature is tough.
Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time in the garden. We have this lovely ground cover on all of the beds. The places where the seeds go in the ground are clearly marked and a hole has been cut in the fabric to allow the seed to go in and the leaves to come out once the seeds sprout. This new system we are trying this year, if it works, will simplify gardening for us. Weeds are always a problem for every gardener. And we just have too much else going on to spend a whole lot of time battling weeds. We hope this ground cover is the answer we have been looking for to bring joy back to gardening.
It will be at least another week or two before I plant my tomatoes and peppers out in the garden. Currently they reside in my living room with grow lights over them. In a normal year, I would have been planting them out in the garden but this year, it has been quite a cool spring. We actually had a frost a day or two ago. Typically, our last frost date is April 15th. That was three weeks ago. Oh well, as homesteader, we roll with the punches. Each year is unique.
On the bank just outside of the main garden is a bed of strawberries. At each end are alpine strawberries. They are very small and quite sweet and tasty. In the middle is an everbearing variety we got at Lowes. That bed is overrun again with weeds. We were going to put the landscape cloth there as well but haven’t gotten around to it. The result is weeds overrunning the strawberry bed. Sighhhh. It’s a never-ending battle.
On the bright side regarding fruit, the blueberries bloomed nicely and should bear some great fruit in about a month. The blackberries are blooming. It is one of my favorite times of the spring season. Blackberry blossoms and wild rose blossoms fill the air with a lovely fragrance. The blackberries will be ripe about mid-July. If you are interested in picking your own blackberries, let me know. I can arrange a time for you to come out and fill up a bucket or two.
I’m sure I left out something. There is so much that happens in a day and time flies when you are living the life and having fun. I’ll let you know how the raw milk cheese and cheese cave turns out. Next week I hope to have more lamb births to announce. And who know what else will happen in the coming seven days.
I hope you all can safely get back to work soon and get on with your lives. I cannot imagine what it must be like for you. Your lives upended. I hope my tales of the homestead are entertaining for you during this confined and uncertain time at home.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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