Making Hard Cheese- A Great Class

Is this not beautiful?
Is this not beautiful?

I spent Saturday at Falster Farms in Winnsboro, Texas learning how to make hard cheese.  Nancy Falster taught the class and she and her husband, Karl, own and operate Falster Farms- a sustainable family farm growing food that is “fit to eat.”  These are great people who are passionate about living in such a way that there is a better piece of land left for the ones who come behind them and in the mean time, they are raising and growing wonderful food.

I learned so much in this class about food in general.  Nancy shared so much more than just steps A-D, so to speak.  Not only did we learn the process of making hard cheese, we made several soft cheeses, learned of ways to preserve the cheese and got to sample several different kinds.  There is a whole world of cheese out there and I am so excited about getting into it!  Now, after the class, I feel that I can order the cheese making supplies with confidence knowing what each ingredient is and what it’s purpose is in the process.  Nancy also shared some tips on choosing equipment such as presses and thermometers, of course lots of experience that was gained from what didn’t go as planned.

Chef Nancy Falster at work on the cheese.
Chef Nancy Falster at work on the cheese.

One of the best parts of the class was lunch or dinner you would call it if you are from the South.  Dinner happens mid-day and super is the evening meal.  It was so good, a Shepard’s pie made from grass-fed beef raised on their farm, local sweet potatoes and other goodness.  One of her class helpers and good friend brought this heavenly homemade bread to share with us.  The bread was just as gorgeous as it was delicious and we even got the recipe.  There was a wonderful salad and of course some great cheese.  Desert was wonderful, this blueberry thing that I can’t remember the name, but it was so good.  One thing that we all tried was fermented food- onions, radishes, relishes and such, done in the whey left from the cheese making process.  I had never had this before and not only did it taste good, I learned about all the health benefits of live food.

This bread was so good!  I could have made a meal out of the bread and cheese.
This bread was so good! I could have made a meal out of the bread and cheese.

Needless to say, the class is certainly worth the money and the drive.  We started at 9:30 and the class was wrapped up about 2:30.  There were about 10 of us and we all had such a good time.  Friendships were made and knowledge shared.  We chatted about raising honeybees and learned that cows like cabbage- but only the first bite out of every head in the garden!  Chef Nancy also teaches cooking classes and she and Karl offer consulting services for those interested in sustainable farming practices.  You can learn from all they have learned in their years of farming.  So, if you are looking for a cheese class, I suggest you give Nancy Falster a call!  You can reach her at chef@SouthernGrace.Biz .

Do you make cheese?  What is your favorite cheese?  Feel free to share!

Babies, Babies, Babies!

A rare Barred Holland chick.

Wow, what a day yesterday was!  Spring may be springing a little early this year, as we have babies coming and going.  This is the part of farming that everyone enjoys, there is just nothing cuter than baby animals.

Thursday began with a call before dark from the post office letting me know that my chicks had arrived.  I love getting that call, no matter how many times we have ordered chicks- it never gets old.   I can’t really explain why, but you feel like you are on some kind of secret mission as you drive through town in the dark with downtown so quiet and the streetlights reflecting of the damp pavement.  Then you get to the post office and you are the only car in the parking lot and entering a government building during the un-open hours can make you feel like you are committing some crime.  Once inside you ring the little door bell, I did not even know this doorbell existed until I started ordering chicks by mail.  The half-door opens and the post lady hands you a box of chirping chicks. When it is cold I run the heater full blast and then set the box in the floor board so they can get warmed up.  Before I leave the post office, I always open and check for dead chicks.  Thankfully, in all the chicks I have ordered, I have never had a DOA.  However, you must check before you leave so that the hatchery can refund you for any that did not make the trip.

Sierra and a Silver Penciled Hamburg.

We chose Barred Holland, Silver Laced Penciled Hamburgs, Black Australorps, and Minorcas.  Jonathan wanted the Hamburgs because he thought they were so beautiflul.  They are beautiful and supposed to be excellent layers of white eggs.  A lot of people think white eggs means the chickens are in commercial egg farms, however, egg color is simply  a genetic trait like blue eyes.

Savannah named this one “Clarice” because she thinks she looks elegant.

After the chicks were settled, Tony and I went to the dairy sale in Sulphur Springs.  That sale was very nice and clean, I was really impressed.  We have been looking for a pair of bull calves so we can keep our home grown meat coming.  Also, I have been looking and researching about what breed of family cow I want for about 2 years.  I finally decided that a Jersey is for me.  I am happy to report that I got a jersey heifer and a jerseyXholstein cross heifer.  I am very excited.

The cross is a little older and already knew exactly what a bottle was and just took right to it.  The other 3 are younger and we have had to teach them what to do.  This is quite messy, but fun.  So, between the lambs and the four calves, it is bottle central around here.

One happy farm girl and Tawanda

In 24 months, my heifer will give birth and we will have milk!  The jersey heifer is named Tallulah, we love Cool Runnings, the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team.  That name just makes me smile.  Due to the fact that when we put the little cross heifer in the stall and she decided the gate should be open and began to ram the stall door, we gave her the name “Tawanda”  Love Fried Green Tomatoes!

My jersey girl, Tallulah
Bottle feeding has its hazards, in a second she is going to butt my butt looking for an udder.

Waiting 24 months seems like a long time, but by starting with a bottle baby I will have a family cow that was raise on our place.  She and I will know each other and trust each other by the time I start setting down to milk.  And as I have gotten older, 24 months just aren’t as long as they used to be!!!

Got Milk?

Rylie trying her hand at milking

One of the best things about having a farm and all the animals that go along with it, is getting to share them with my nieces.  Katie & Rylie are frequent guests and are always so excited to tag along with their cousins to do morning chores.

Usually, Rylie goes with Sierra and Katie goes with Jonathan.  This is a good match up because of the different personalities.  Rylie is four and fearless.  You never really know what is coursing through her brain waves – which are very numerous.  Sierra is 12  and has a good grasp of good ideas versus bad ideas.  I like Rylie being with Sierra because I am confident that Sierra can anticipate Rylie’s thoughts enough to head her off at the pass if she is about to do something dangerous.  Jonathan, on the other hand, is a 10 year old boy who comes up with things his sisters NEVER thought of doing.  Katie, age 6, is thoughtful and cautious- so even if Jonathan had a hair-brained idea, she would probably stand back and watch to see what happened.  Jonathan would protect his younger cousins with his life if he thought they were in danger.  The problem is that what would spell danger to you and me, does not register as danger with him.  Thankfully, we have never had anything more serious than an ant bite.

Rylie had helped my 16yr old daughter, Savannah, milk before and informed her she was touching the goat’s hienny. No matter what Savannah said, Rylie was convinced that she knew better.  Today, I got to milk with Rylie.  I guess a little time was all she needed.  Rylie helped me milk and I was quite thankful that Salsa, my lamancha dairy goat, was so understanding.  I told Rylie about Salsa’s udder- which Rylie has refered to all day as her “gutter”- and showed her how to squeeze her fingers to make the milk come out.  Her little chubby fingers were so cute!  However, her little hands were just a little to small to get it to work, but that didn’t stop her from trying.  Salsa never even fussed, she just kept eating her oats.  I loved every minute of it!


Rylie brushing Saphire

Goin for a swing