Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cheddar King

When opportunity knocks on my door, I invite it in and offer it some Southern hospitality.

Such an opportunity knocked last month when Nature's Harmony Farm decided to offer a 2 day cheese making class. This is a class I have been wanting to take for a very long, long time.

Nature's Harmony just doesn't make mediocre cheese  and they have a cheddar, Georgia Gold, that has won awards and praises world wide. Yes, please let me learn a smidgen from the Cheddar King.

My mom and her dogs kept me company by driving me to Elberton, GA for this class. It is not a long drive from here but I was very happy to have the company.

Nature's Harmony Farm and its owner, Tim Young, are tucked away along several back roads. In fact I wasn't entirely sure we had found the correct farm because the farm sign didn't say "Nature's Harmony." Nonetheless, I found the cheese shop, farm and class, and despite the sign we were all welcome.

One of the things I really love about this cheese operation, versus the many others that exist, is that the owner milks his own cows and makes the cheese using more hands on methods. There were no huge tanks of milk being shipped in, but rather a smaller herd of Jerseys were milked twice a day and each cow has a name.

The cheese making room was not fancy and there were no automatic stirring arms for the milk and cheese. Young stirs the milk and curds by hand and this lends a more artisan approach to his cheeses.

The class size consisted of small number of homesteaders and cheese makers/hippies like myself. This not only allowed Young more one on one time with each of us (we all had special cheese questions and issues) but everyone was able to visit and get to know one another. There were folks who came from as far away as California!

The first day of class we crafted Camembert and Blue Cheese. I especially needed help with the blue cheese and Young was very happy to help me address my cheese making challenges. I feel very confident that I can make a good blue cheese now.

The second day we made cloth bound cheddar, a specialty of Nature's Harmony. Using methods that we could use in a home setting we crafted a very fine wheel of cheese.
Today I am actually making a wheel of my own and I plan to age it on wood for 10 months, just like cheddar royalty.

Young also showed us his cave and walked us through the steps of rind washing, brining and aging.
He was a very gracious instructor to allow us so much information, and he truly does enjoy teaching and interacting with folks.

Did I mention he let us help milk his cows? Yes! It was great for someone like myself, who would like to one day milk more cows, to see how it is done on a more commercial scale. Plus, who doesn't like being around these beautiful beasts? His cows were very well cared for and were very healthy. His management practices are clearly top notch, and they are a grass based dairy too.

If you ever get a chance to visit Nature's Harmony Farm, I suggest you do! His cheeses are fantastic and his methods of hand crafting artisan cheeses exceptional.

Of course he also sells his goods online as well in several stores throughout the Atlanta area.

You can also follow them on Facebook. This is the best way to keep up with classes. In fact, they are offering up a holiday class where the students craft and take home 3 Camembert cheeses. I promise that will be a great class!

Finally, I will part with a few more pictures of my class and all of the wonderful classmates!

 Happy cheese making ya'll!!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Count it all Joy

So my plan was to write a post about the sheep. They are looking great and getting sheared in a couple of weeks.
I also have pictures and experiences to share from my latest artisan cheese class I attended.

That will all have to wait for later this week.

One day last week was National Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.
Ironically I suffered a miscarriage on that day. So ironic.

I have never gone through this journey before and I must say it was difficult, even at just 10 weeks.

We lost a baby and we lost future dreams and plans. We lost something big. The emotions I have gone through and the emotions I am still experiencing are complex. The last 10 weeks have been filled with excitement and joy...and of course morning sickness. Now that is all over.

It was just a random miscarriage. The doctor saw nothing abnormal in my body and that gives me some relief.

My body is also trying to heal, and my hormones are trying to regulate. I am anemic and tired, and I ache.
I pulled myself together enough on Friday to spend the weekend with my mom. She knew exactly what to say. "I am sorry." Then she just listened to me sort out my feelings.

She never told me ,"At least you have 7 healthy kids." or "Well, it was for the best if the baby had a defect." or "Well, you are a little old to be having kids anyway."

She never hinted at anything other than empathy.

Today I am still trying to adjust. My body and hormones are a mess, but I am getting better each day. Deep down, although I am sad, I count it all joy.

I know my trials are not as tough as some and I also know that when a door closes, one will open.
I also have faith that this trial is part of something bigger in my future. I can't know what is down the road, but I am sure I shouldn't worry. I used this verse from the Book of James when my dad died too.

 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,   knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 

So I needed to tell everyone that my baby #8, the baby we joyfully craved, will stay heaven-side....with my dad.

That fact alone gives me peace.

Thank you to everyone local and far away for your incredible support!

Later this week...I promise a happy post about artisan cheese and sheep!


Friday, October 10, 2014

A Farming Romance

I think at some point in time, everyone has a picture perfect image of farm life.
                  ****My 4 geese patrolling the back yard****

The fresh eggs, fresh milk, crispy bacon, quiet solitude on the front porch each evening.
In many ways life is sweeter on a farm.
My kids are growing up learning how to care for many animals while they use their free time to explore the woods and land around us.
We enjoy fresh eggs, milk and meat that we raised ourselves and that I know is free from chemicals and drugs.
We don't need to worry too much about keeping a landscaped yard, but we always make sure we have firewood stacked for the backyard fire pit.

                        ***The puppy, Delconno, must walk on a leash as he still wants to chase chickens!***

When the lawn gets too tall we just rotate the cows across the yard with electric fencing to graze the grass down.
When we host outdoor parties and movies we invite everyone because, well, we have the space.
Yes, it's romantic being a farmer.....except when it's not.

That's the part that gets a lot of folks. There's a huge part that is not romantic, in fact it's hard and sad.

Just this week a friend of mine lost her dear dairy cow. Her cow was due to calve in 2 months and the entire family was excited to welcome a new calf and equally excited to have fresh milk again.
This is the romance side and it is what makes farming worth it, especially when tragedy occurs.

Her cow suddenly became ill and died. She had a blockage between her rumen and first stomach that would not pass. My friend now has to face burying her beloved family cow and her calf. Tragedy.

This post isn't meant to depress or discourage. In fact, what I really want to do is to ENCOURAGE!

Life can be tough. Farming can be tough. Don't let the tough days make your entire endeavor seem fruitless. Press on. Learn from mistakes. Help a neighbor. Remember on tough days that there is still some romance left if you only look around.

Life and death is a constant cycle on a farm and in life. If you are lucky enough to be on a farm, then you are lucky enough. Embrace it...tragedy and romance.

Happy, Happy Weekend Ya'll!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Captain's Birthday

Last Saturday was Fletcher's 4th birthday! We decided, however, to celebrate it Tuesday when it was easier for cousins and grandparents to come over for a family party.

Despite the lingering morning sickness, I was able to accompany Fletcher and Devin on a mid morning outing. Fletcher really wanted a balloon for his birthday so we took him to pick a special birthday balloon out, as well as a toy.

We also picked up groceries for the party and ingredients to make cupcakes. Everything was ready for a party by dinner time, and the cousins and grandparents came to help celebrate.

It's hard to believe this kid is already 4! It is also impossible to imagine life without him and his bubbly personality!

So now we have a month break before the next rounds of birthdays, but I can assure they will be filled with fun and family too....and hopefully I will no longer be feeling sick by then!

Why do I call Fletcher Captain? I've had a few folks on FB ask me this question.
His full name is Fletcher Pike Martin.
Fletcher is a family name from my side and Pike is from Star Trek. We named him after Captain Pike. I often times call Fletcher "Captain" or more often "Puppy." When he was a baby he followed me every where like a puppy.
Today Captain seems more fitting for my growing boy!

Happy Birthday!!!

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