August 28, 2014
The Reverie cheese that we made three days ago is in the brine in the cave on Westminster Road. Emily is working there this morning. She will turn the wheels in the brine so they can freely absorb the salt. If cheeses are touching each other for too long while they are in the brine the salt will not penetrate through those spots and leave low salt areas that may develop gas pockets during aging. Gas producing bacteria do not tolerate salt as well.
Sam is in the cheese house today starting a batch of West West Blue. This cheese will take two days to make into wheels. Today, the first day, is fairly quick as the drained curds will be gathered into large cheese cloths and then left on the drain table until tomorrow morning. Another, larger vat of milk will be turned into curds tomorrow. All of these curds will be milled and mixed together to form around 25 wheels that weigh 1620 pounds. The process of making this Gorgonzolastyle cheese was originally developed on farms. Curds were made after each milking and wheels of cheese were made every day after the morning's batch. Our next step in the process is to move the wheels to the cave where they will be surface salted for the first time. These large wheels require anywhere from three to four saltings so the entire salting process can ake up to a week.
Yesterday as I was driving home from the cheese house I passed a truck loaded with hay, which was hauling a hay wagon. It was the crew from Patch Farm at work. The hay will feed sheep that will make the milk for Vermont Shepherd cheese. I immediately thought about times I spent haying as a boy growing up on our farm in Dummerston, VT. I remembered hot summer afternoons in the fields working with my dad and a large contingent of French Canadians, the LaTulippes and the LaBelles who had immigrated to Brattleboro, Vermont in the 1970s. Achille (Archie) LaTulippe (or as my brother jokingly called him Achilles the Tulip) had injured his shoulder doing heavy construction work and was a patient of my dad. Archie was a short, swarthylooking man with a small pot belly.
He always wore a pork pie hat and a smile on his face. He had struck up some kind of business arrangement with my dad, maybe involving a barter for services because we had a small herd of Angus cattle show up on our farm around the same time as Archie. He had been a farmer in Quebec and must have milked cows by hand because he could milk our family Jersey cow, named Jewel, out in what seemed to be no time at all. He was a livestock dealer in the area and kept some of the Angus on our farm in exchange for helping with the haying and other farm enterprises.
When we were haying Archie's wife Be a, son Martin, and daughter Linny, were always present as were some of the LaBelle family members and a few tag alongs. Their cackling Quebequois would ring out across the fields as we worked. My dad was usually on one tractor raking and another man would be on a different tractor running the baler.
Martin, who was twelve like me, would usualy be installed behind the wheel of the big International truck that we used to carry the hay bales. Archie would put it in low gear and instruct Martin to steer along the rows of bales. I would hear "Baile, MaRten," ring out occasionally but mainly it was quiet except for the low gurgle of the trucks engine. I was always the stacker because for some reason I had developed an aptitude for building loads that didn't fall off of the flat bed. Archie and the rest of the men would jab their pitchforks into the bales and lift them up to me. In this manner we spent many a long summer afternoon.
The field work was my favorite. I like being outside the most. Stacking hay in the barn was usually hot, sweaty, dusty work. The elevator, which carried the bales would clank and rattles each bale made its way up from the flat bed to the opening to the hay mow.
Most likely I'd be in the barn ready to carry a bale to its allotted place in the ever increasing stack in the upper story of the timber frame. Inevitably there would be an afternoon where the thunderclouds would come rolling in and there would be a race to get all of the hay picked up and onto every available flat bed truck and wagon and put under cover before the heavens opened up.