Thursday, February 14, 2013

Serious Cheese

I have been hand milking cows for over three years now. I make a soft creamy feta that is as good as any I can buy. I've made brie that is better than any I have ever bought. I've also thrown away some soft cheese, but really, only the successes matter, right? But if you want be to be a real cheese head, not one of those people that just mess around with soft cheese and yoghurt, if you want to do some hard cheese, you need a cheese press

I have a very clever mate who works in steel who has helped me out with a few things round the farm over the years. Miiiitch ( you have to say his name like a hotted up hatch accelerating hard, then changing gears ) and I worked up a design ages ago, with two different size barrels, a 20kg spring and a draining board, it was to the deluxe of home cheese presses. Miiiitch had worked out all the little problems and with Dolores giving a good 7L+ every day I was keen to give it a try.

In some ways the making of hard cheese is easier than soft cheese. You can be a bit more vigorous with it as a smaller curd size is desirable. However there is all the turning, wiping and waiting. Oh yes the waiting. Even the smallest wait is two to three months.

The first cheese I tried is one I'm hoping will be our staple hard cheese. Similar to a supermarket cheese it will be only aged a few months and be good for toasted sandwiches, grated cheese and snacks for The Boy. We go through a bit of cheddar, or what the supermarkets call cheddar at Lantanaland so it will be a good thing to supply our own. The next cheese is one that I use bucket loads of. Parmesan. We eat a risotto once a week here and I'm always using it. So laying down a few kilos of that seems like a smart thing to do. Tomorrow I am going to try a firm blue that is aged for just a month. I love blue cheese and a month is an acceptable time to wait to see how badly I stuffed up or lucked out. That's the beautiful thing about cheese, even a rank amateur like me can sometimes pull out a magic cheese.

You can't have a good cheese without a cool fromage label and I thought to honor Miiitch I'd design a label around him. Miiiitch loves the summer dance festivals so he can get his shirt off, sunnies on and show off his wicked abs. So I decided to name all Lantanaland's hard cheeses the Shirts Off Cheese, with the label to match. Hope you like it mate.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sleeping grass

Lantanaland has woken up. After months of baking heat that dried off grass that was already too short, last weekend we got rain, in flood proportions. We always get flooded in here, the bridge down the hill, despite being 6M above the little stream that is normally the Albert River usually goes under once a year. This year it really went under, the river went up 10M, transformed into this brown wide beast. I'm never that worried, as long as we don't lose power I always have milk and bread (I buy flour in 20kg bags) and there is usually eggs and something in the freezer. It'd have to be a good couple of weeks before we went hungry.

The rain was like a match thrown by a bogan on a car doused in petrol. It has come roaring out of the ground. The small paddock above the house is fenced because its too much of a slope to get the ride on mower in there, so the cows get to do the work. It is higher than belly high on Dolores already and the difference is startling. 9L in a late milking this morning and the cream content has shot up. She is even happier than I am to see the green grass.

The big wet and wind did do some damage and make me consider some things. The bales were slapped together when I first got the cows and have had a selection of tarp covers over the years. The latest one had a bamboo frame and had been doing a sterling job until the wind shattered the bamboo and tore the tarp to shreds. The bales are also in a bit of hollow that gets very boggy with a big bit of rain. Rather than just fix them up, it might be time to build a proper milking shed, with yards that has a through line so I can milk more than one cow if I need to. A lot of my farm design happens this way, slowly learning the lessons from the mistakes I've made then refining my design. Adding in skills like welding also make a difference to your thinking, because you can work in different materials and design different bits.

So at the moment I have no cows on the main block. Laf and her calf are trapped in the neighbours yard, ready for a small bit of attitude adjustment for the calf and a Contiki Cruise for Laf. (A short journey, followed by sex with a stranger). It's good to let that's grass get a bit of recovery. Dolores will shuffle between the three small paddocks I have round the house. The fruit trees are thriving. Nothing has broken into my veg patch and destroyed it, this week anyway. All in all, it's just so damn uplifting to see a bit of green around the place.